§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Colonel YATE
I beg to move,That the Bill be now read a second time.I raised this question first in 1913 and 1914, but then I had no luck in the ballot, and the Bill which I presented never got a Second Reading. I have had luck in the ballot this year, and I trust that the House will now give me a Second Reading Since 1914 the situation has been considerably changed, because the principle for which I was fighting in 1913–14 has been applied by this House in the Increase of Rent Act of 1915. Clause 1, Section 1, Sub-section (6, b) of that Act lays down that where the increase in rent is on account of an increase in rates the landlord has to serve on the tenant a statement giving particulars of the increased amount charged in respect of rates. This Bill makes that statement compulsory, not only where there is an increase in rates, but also where there is a decrease. This Bill ensures that in compounded houses the occupier shall be informed clearly of the amount which he is paying in rates for the house which he occupies. As showing the importance of this matter, I have seen it stated that in Leicester, out of the 60,000 houses upon which rates are levied, no fewer than 43,000 are compounded for. The question of compounding for houses was discussed greatly in the Press between 1911 and 1914, and the Leicester papers, especially the "Leicester Daily Post," the Liberal newspaper, largely favoured the total abolition of compounding. In October, 1911, the latter paper described compounding asan unsound and demoralising system which strikes at the root of true efficiency of local administration.I have various other cuttings, but I am not here concerned with compounding. The law on the subject is well known and is clear, and it rests with the Government to take action to abolish compounding if they think fit. Therefore I do not touch on that question in this Bill. In February, 1912, the "Globe," referring to London houses, had an article in which it said:When rents are raised because rates are higher tenants of landlords who have com- 2410 pounded suppose the increase to be due merely to the grasping avarice of the latter, and naturally enough vent their annoyance upon the wrong people. We should like to see an Act passed directing all demands for rent to be made in writing or in print, and compelling the landlord to state as precisely as possible how much of the demand is really for rent and how much for rates.That is what this Bill proposes to do.
When I first introduced the Bill on the 13th March, 1913, the "Leicester Daily Post," on the 2nd April, 1913, commenting on my proposal, described it as "an Amendment so far as it goes," but addedthe misfortune is that it does not go far enough, so long as it spares compounding at all.I simply introduce this Bill as an Amendment, and leave it at that. I do not wish to touch compounding. All I ask is to make it incumbent on all owners of property to have at least two columns in their rent demands, one for rent and the other for rates, so that the occupier may know exactly how much he pays in rates. At present they are all lumped up in one sum. Very often the occupier has no idea that he is paying any rates at all. Such a state of things is a drawback to the success of local government, and I am simply trying to remedy it in the simplest possible manner. This system which I advocate of having a double column in the rent book, one for rent and the other for rates, has already had success in various parts of the country. I have here specimens of rent cards which I would like hon. Members of the House to inspect. The first, described as the modern rent card has been in use a great deal for houses rented at from £8 to £20 a year. On the back of each card there is a table showing the exact amount of rates payable either by the week, month, or year, according to the rate levied per £ of rateable value. Another variation of the cards is called the Cottagers' Rent Card, which is used chiefly for houses in parishes in the country, rented at from £3 to £8 a year. I have numerous cuttings, including cuttings from papers in my own county during 1918. I have here a leading article from the "Leicester Daily Post," of 9th March, 1919, stating:As a matter of general principle and in the public interest we should like to see the compounding system abolished altogether and direct payment of rates by every occupier. If that is not possible, then collection by the landlord with some recompense for his labour, but the rate in every instance compelled to be shown on the rent book and the rent, of course, advancing or declining automatically as the rates rise or fall.2411 The Conservative paper, the "Leicester Mail" on 25th March, 1918, said very much the same thing:Before the War broke out we more than once advocated a sliding scale of terms for tenementary property based on rent plus rates, and it looks as if such a method is now within the range of practical politics. We pleaded that whether the charge for a house was 2s. 6d. a week, or 10s. a week, the agreement with a new tenant should set out clearly what proportion of the total sum represented rent and what proportion rates, and that the latter should automatically rise or fall as the rates went up or down during the occupation.I mention this to show how very much the country is interested in this question. When my present Bill was introduced in March last all the notices in the newspapers regarding it were universally favourable so far as I saw. I have here one from the "Western Daily Mercury," published at Plymouth:Towns like Plymouth, where rates are largely compounded in the rents of the great number of premises, will be interested in the 'Statement of Rates Bill' introduced by Colonel Yate and backed by Mr. Walter Long among others. It provides that every demand for rent or rent receipt shall state the amount of rates paid or payable in respect of the premises. That is a most reasonable proposal. It is a just claim that the occupier should know exactly what he is paying for rent and what for rates.It does not matter whether a man is living in a large town like Plymouth or in a small country parish the effect is the same, and I think it is a most reasonable proposal. In addition to the cards I have already mentioned, I have lately received specimens of a fresh kind of rent card. There is one from Nottingham, entitled "The Up-to-date Rent Book," and another from Cardiff called "The Reform Rent Book." These are still more modern than those I have previously shown, and I mention this to show how general the use of these books is becoming and how very easy it would be to make the system universal. I trust the House will give a Second Reading to the Bill.
§ Sir. F. BANBURY
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman would say why he does not extend this Bill to Ireland?
§ Colonel YATE
I have applied it only to England. If the hon. Baronet wishes to extend it to Ireland, he is welcome to do so, or to Scotland. I dealt with the country with which I am principally concerned.
§ Captain Sir BEVILLE STANIER
I beg to second the Motion.
2412 The more you go into this Bill, and the more you study it, the more you will find it is clearly necessary, and wanted not only in Leicester, to which the hon. Member referred, but all over the country. The Bill is simple and concise, and I think I shall be able to show that it is non-contentious. The purpose of the Bill, as stated on it, is to provide for the information of the occupiers what amount of the rates are paid for the houses they occupy. I contend, and I do not think that any hon. Member will say that I am wrong, that those who pay rent with rates do not know, if the rates are compounded, what rates they are paying. I have just stated that the Bill is non-contentious, and, in proof of that, I would point out that the original supporters of the Bill in March, 1913, included Mr. James Mason, Sir Gilbert Parker, Mr. Whitehouse, the hon. and gallant Member for Melton and myself, and at that time also the Minister for the Admiralty who was not then Minister. Of course, it is not in order now for a Minister to back a Bill, but I think that was done through misunderstanding. I think you will see that the names I have mentioned embrace all parties. That is the spirit in which we bring the Bill forward to-day for the consideration of the House. The object of the Bill is to amend the law relating to the recovery of rents in respect of hereditaments for which under the existing law the owner is rated instead of the occupier. The Rating Acts of this country are many and very complicated. Though the hon. and gallant Member said he was not going to touch on the question of the compounding of rates later on, I hope to say that I am thoroughly against the compounding of rates. The Bill is brought more home to us now because of the Act that was passed in 1915 referring to the increase of rents on dwelling houses and the increase of rates thereon. The part we want to touch is that referring to the increase of rents. As things stand at present, a person who pays rent on a small house which includes the rates may not, and in many cases does not, know how much he pays for the rates. He may receive demands for increases in small amounts, but perhaps the rent is not decreased if the rates are lowered. We want to see that the rent should be stated on the cards and also the rates clearly defined. My hon. and gallant Friend has mentioned the system of cards and I have some here.
§ Sir B. STANIER
I do not think the hon. Baronet would be so colour blind as to do such a thing. I contend it is not the colour that the man would look to, but the rate on the card, and if this Bill were passed he would find there clearly and definitely stated what the rent was and what the rates were. The Increase of Rent Act gave a great exception in cases where the landlord pays the rates chargeable on, or which, but for the enactments relating to compounding, would be chargeable on, the occupier of any dwelling house, etc. It is most clearly denned that this great exception should be on this question, and we bring forward this Bill to enable that to be carried out in a clear and concise manner so that the occupier should know exactly what he is doing. Is it not right, especially at this moment, when the rates of this country are rising practically everywhere, that it should be known. It is only right that the people of this country should know what the different Government Departments and local authorities are doing and what they are spending, and I do not see how it can be clearly defined unless on a card somewhat on the lines described by the hon. and gallant Member. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) seems to think that the colour is everything in this card, but with all respect I submit that it is the writing on the card.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I had nothing to do with the colour, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite said that for every pound of rent there would be a differently coloured card.
§ Sir B. STANIER
That is quite correct. Each of the cards, for the sake of the person who is filling them up, is slightly different in colour, but they are so worded that on the back it is clearly stated that the house is situated at—, is let to—, on the terms for rent and rates as stated on the inside. The cards are worked this way. We will take the lowest card, of a house rated at £8 per annum. If the rates are from 6s. 3d. to 6s. 9d. in the £, that works out at 1s. per week payable by the tenant, and it is so stated on the card, over and above the rent. As the rates rise the next figure is 7s. 4d., and the amount goes up to 1s. 1d. a week, and so on, right away until you come to the rate, if it 2414 ever gets there—and it is so in certain places; I know of towns where it is no less than 16s. to 16s. 6d. in the £, where the amount payable is 2s. 6d. per week, and would be so stated on the card. If you go through the different cards the £9 house is slightly different, and so on up to the last card, which is for the £20 house, where you will find that if the rate is from 7s. 9d. to 7s. 11d. it is 3s. payable weekly. You will see, therefore, how the tenant can clearly and easily see what he is paying for rent and what he is paying for rates. We contend that this is a matter which can be easily adopted and worked out if these cards are procured, and they are very easily procured. They are entered at Stationers' Hall, and can be got by anybody, being very cheap. They enable the tenant to know what he is paying; but more than that, they will be of use to the estate management for those who have to carry out the duty of collecting rents. I said just now that I was against the compounding of rates, where the landlord pays the rates on the different hereditaments, where I think hon. Members will consider that the occupier should certainly pay the rates, and it should be allowed for by the landlord. I think I am right in saying that the first time that this compounding came before the House of Commons—
§ Sir B. STANIER
It is the compounding that enables the landlord to pay the rates, which he again charges to the tenant.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Gentleman who introduced the Bill said he did not intend to deal with this question in the Bill, and there is nothing in the Bill relating to it. We all know what is the compounding of rates, but I think the hon. Gentleman must limit himself to the Clauses of the Bill dealing with the system of notation of rates.
§ Sir B. STANIER
I will not detain the House longer, because I only rise to support the hon. and gallant Member for Melton, but I think that this is a Bill which is wanted to enable the Rent Restriction Act of 1915 to be carried out, and to prevent fraud, and also to make the tenant take an interest in the rates. I therefore hope the House will give this Bill a Second Reading.
Sir J. D. REES
My hon. and gallant Friend is to be congratulated on the 2415 Meltonian manner in which he has taken this fence, and I wish him all success; but in his country there is generally on one side of the fence a ditch, which, if you do not leap wide enough, brings you to grief, small as it looks from the train and the railway embankment. I hoped my hon. and gallant Friend would have taken his courage in both hands when taking the fence, and dealt with compounding also, because that is the root of the whole thing. But as you have ruled that out of order, Mr. Speaker, I cannot, of course, do more than merely mention it. My hon. and gallant Friend says that the absence of some such measure as this is a great obstacle to sound local administration. That is so, but I think his Bill might be defended on the far higher ground that the absence of some such provision as this leads to wholesale waste and extravagance all over the country, because the majority of voters are those who pay rates in this way. They have nothing to show what is rates and what is rent. They never realise that, while they vote for the most extravagant schemes—anything that is labelled "social reform"—it is a positive boomerang, which comes back and hits themselves and empties their own pockets. It would be a very good thing, and this Bill, I think, would do a great deal to bring it about, if the majority of small householders realised that it is quite impossible to have extravagant schemes, which are lumped together under the all-embracing name of "social reform," without to a considerable extent emptying their own pockets. I remember, during the election, I was continually told by electors—Socialist and so on—that a country which could provide £8,000,000 a day for slaughter could afford 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 houses on its head, without thinking about it. It is that attitude which this Bill would do a great deal to correct. The ordinary householder has not the slightest idea, when he votes for his ward candidate or Parliamentary candidate and asks him to support every conceivable extravagance, that he himself is not only going to pay but he is bound to pay, and no ingenuity can prevent his paying his share of the extravagance of which he is in favour. Only yesterday or the day before an hon. Member opposite said he would like to see something analogous to the baths of Caracalla in every ward of every town in England.
§ Sir MARTIN CONWAY
I want to correct the hon. Member's view of what I said. I did not suggest that all these beautiful structures should be erected at the public expense, but that miners should put up their forty millions of extra wages, and spend them in a better way collectively than they could individually.
Sir J. D. REES
The hon. Member misunderstood me. It is not my objection to baths that they should be beautiful. Baths can be as beautiful as any that the most distinguished Roman architects designed, if you like. My point is that the attitude which his speech illustrated is all-pervading and is absolutely fatal. It induces the monstrous extravagance which rules in this country, and my hon. Friend's Bill, pro tanto, would be a corrective of this national calamity, this rushing to ruin, of which I myself see signs in every direction. My hon. and gallant Friend quoted in his interesting speech from newspapers supporting his proposals. Leicester, where there are encouraging signs of repentance, supported my hon. and gallant Friend, but stated, as I do, that he should have taken his courage in both hands, and dealt with compounding, instead of the mere statement of what rates are as distinguished from rent. My right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) has poked fun at the many-coloured cards with which the cottager and others will have to deal in future. I do not think these will be any real obstacle; in fact, they will serve the most useful purpose. I would only ask my hon. Friends in the House to look at them. I read upon one here:The landlord acts as collector of rates to save the tenant being troubled by the rate-collector, and to avoid additional expenditure being incurred by the assessment authority in collecting small amounts.What an admirable provision! I think this really will do more to educate a cottager in his duties as a democratic elector than all the election addresses and all the local lectures that ever were delivered in the whole of his life. I read on:The rent and rates together constitute the whole charge for the premises—I fancy they knew that before—The rent is a fixed amount, and cannot be altered except by agreement.That is a most important matter to bring home to the cottager. He is under the impression that every increase of rates is the work of the wicked landlord— 2417The rate is a variable amount, which is determined by the ratepayers themselves through their representatives on the local authorities.That is most important. You cannot ram that home too often or too strongly. They do not realise that when they return their local representatives to support almost any proposal, for expenditure which may be called an improvement, that expenditure comes back upon themselves. So much for the slate-coloured cards. I think we are rather accustomed to slates in connection with collections. Now we come to a brown card. Here again the modern rent card is most distinctly an improvement upon anything now in force. You have on that also an exceedingly valuable admonition to the rentpayer to watch his rates and to watch his ward member and the actions of his council and board of guardians. This is positively priceless advice, and if he takes it, and it sinks into his brain, I undertake to say he will be a far wiser man and a far more useful member of the commonwealth than he has ever been before. The pink card, so far as I can make out, has no special features distinguishing it from those of the other colours I have mentioned. My hon. and gallant Friend upon these benches said—I do not agree with him, but I hope he is right—that this Bill was uncontentious. I shall be agreeably surprised if the professed social reformer is not heard before this Debate is over in opposition to this Bill. I do not know exactly how they will explain that opposition, but I am inclined to the view that it will be in the vein, I have ventured to indicate to the House. In my opinion, quite frankly, a time like this is not the time for private legislation, but if there is any subject that should come before the House just now above all others, it is the one which would inculcate into the people the very necessary knowledge that there is a relation between expenditure and revenue. If they could only realise that, in this matter, the resources of the country are in the main rates and taxes, and that these come from other people's pockets—if, I say, this could be brought home to the public, we should, I think, have an end to the unrestrained and extravagant expenditure from which we are suffering. The effect of the franchise has been to extend—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is getting a little wide of the mark. Perhaps he would confine himself to the provisions of this measure.
Sir J. D. REES
I apologise, Sir. I only meant to say that I thought that the necessity for bringing this matter home was greater now that the electors were more in number.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I rise to say a few words in support of this measure. The hon. Member for East Nottingham managed to be humorous on such a matter-of-fact proposal as this Bill contains. I must congratulate him upon having been able to address the House in such a merry mood on such a dry and ordinary subject. I would, however, warn him against the revolutionary tendencies manifested in the declaration in the opening part of his speech in which he proclaimed the limitations of this Bill, saying that it did not deal root and branch with the whole subject, but with only one part. The Bill is a small step along the road to rating reform. As was explained by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who submitted the Bill, it deals not with the whole subject of rating and compounding, but with just one troublesome and contentious aspect of it. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman had introduced a Bill covering the whole area, it would probably have been pointed out to him that he had wandered outside the sphere of the efforts of the private Member, and that so big a subject ought to be taken up by the Government itself. The discussion, therefore, has shown that within these limits and apart from the larger proposals, there are very many difficulties of machinery. These, however, are rather points which can be exhausted better in Committee than in discussing them on the Second Reading. I suggest that the House ought to give its wholehearted approval to the measure now before it.
Hon. Members behind me, therefore, wish me to say that they fully approve of the principle, because it removes a great many doubts which exist in the minds, especially of simple folk who, and which are not before the mind of the hon. Gentleman who last addressed us. The Bill does tend greatly to simplify administration, and enable those concerned to overcome the present difficulty, which leaves them in a serious state of doubt as to what exactly they are paying and why they are paying it. I personally support this Bill because it is quite in keeping with the principle of direct taxation. That, however, I know belongs to another subject, and I am not going into it. But 2419 the Bill is in the direction of enabling people the better to understand what they are paying and in what way they are called upon to pay it. As to the objection addressed in an interruption by the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London, I think that in discussion it can be shown that the conditions of rent payment and rent arrangements in Scotland and Ireland as compared to this country are so different that it is better to deal with them in different proposals, and not seek to cover the whole area of the United Kingdom in one Bill. Therefore, without going fully into the details, I desire to inform the House that we are warmly in agreement with the principles of the measure, and trust that it will receive unanimous support.
§ Mr. SIMM
I am not interested in the colour of the cards shown by the hon. Member for East Nottingham, but I do want, in a few words, to support the attitude taken up by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. The underlying principles of the Bill have at last been made quite clear. We had from the hon. Member for East Nottingham the general effect if this Bill were carried. It is quite an easy matter for a man with an income of £2,000 or £3,000 a year to provide himself with a good bath or a good bedroom. The hon. Member for East Nottingham says the country is going to ruin. For the last thousand years we have been seeing it go to ruin. Why are we going to ruin? I suppose because in the last half century, in particular, we have spent money collectively on education, on improvement of housing, upon the provision of parks, baths, and so on. Men with an income of £2 or £3 a week cannot afford to provide baths and other objects which cost perhaps two or three hundred pounds. Therefore, if improvement is to be made it will have to be made in a kind of collective way. This brings it down to every man and woman in the home who are paying, exactly how and for what they are paying towards the public services. Therefore, I entirely agree with the Bill. I do not think it would check what the hon. Member for East Nottingham apprehends. As a matter of fact, I believe that once people know what they can get by paying 6d. or 1s. collectively, you will have more collective action than ever before. Not quite, therefore, from the hon. Baronet's point of view I support the Bill.
2420 I want to give one further reason. I happen to have spent the greater part of my life in a colliery district. If this Bill gets a Second Reading and goes upstairs, I should like to follow the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite that we should amend and extend it. I want to deal with a body of men who, in their social conditions, have been very prominently before the country in the past few weeks—I refer to the mining community. I should like to see upon every pay-bill in the mining areas, where the miners are supposed to live rent free, what amount out of their wages is, or ought to be, allocated to rent and to rates. As they stand to-day in Northumberland and Durham we have the most deplorable housing conditions, and where very little public expenditure has been incurred the result is doubly bad, not only for those districts but for the nation as a whole. Therefore, I would like to say that when the miner draws his wages at the week-end he should know how much is calculated for rent and how much for rates. There is no such thing as free houses, and nobody gets off without paying something towards the local rates. For these reasons I entirely support this Bill. If hon. Members in country districts think that when a man in a rural area sees 6d. or 3d. a week put on his card he assumes that this will be a check upon local public expenditure, I think they are entirely wrong, because I believe the effect would be in the opposite direction. These men would know that they get so much for the spending of this extra 3d. or 6d., and they know that they would get a great deal more than they would obtain by individual action.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I think the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down will find if this Bill goes into Committee he will not be able to explain its provisions. The object of the Bill is "To provide for the information to occupiers of the amount of the rates payable for the houses which they occupy." Therefore any Amendment introduced which goes beyond providing information to occupiers and the amount of the rates would be beyond the scope of the Bill, and consequently the advantages which the hon. Member thinks might arise will not occur. It has been said that the conditions in Scotland and Ireland were different, and that it would be better to have a separate Bill for Scotland and Ireland. I would like my hon. and gallant Friend opposite to give us his reasons for 2421 not including Scotland and Ireland, because I was under the impression that in Scotland there was a different system of rating. I never was able to understand what the difference was, but I know that in Ireland there is no difference in the manner of collecting either rent or rates except that in Ireland there is sometimes very great difficulty in collecting either, and possibly you may find yourself on the ground with a bullet through you if you attempt either. If you try to collect information I am afraid it would be still more dangerous.
I would like to congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Melton Division (Colonel Yate) upon the extremely pleasant relations which exist between himself and the Press of Leicester, because they seem to be lost in admiration of the splendid efforts of my hon. and gallant Friend in regard to the introduction of this Bill. I do not know whether my hon. and gallant Friend has read the reminiscences of Sir Edward Clarke or whether he is following his example. Perhaps the House does not know that Sir Edward Clarke when he was in the position of my hon. and gallant Friend found that some papers were not altogether favourable to him, and he solved the problem by buying those papers. I do not know whether my hon. and gallant Friend has become a shareholder in those papers which now approve so much his great efforts.
§ Colonel YATE
The right hon. Gentleman is entirely misquoting me, and he is absolutely wrong from beginning to end. Every one of these papers was urging the application of the system which I have just introduced, and in applying this personally to me the right hon. Gentleman is absolutely wrong.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am very sorry to hear that, because I thought my hon. and gallant Friend had impressed Leicester with the way he had done his duty to the advantage of the party to which we belong.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Now I understand the hon. and gallant Member is only a delegate, and that is a different thing altogether. He has stated that the principle of this Bill was accepted in the Restriction of Rent Bill of 1915. I hope 2422 I am not now misquoting my hon. and gallant Friend. May I point out that that Act was, in the first place, a temporary war measure, and it is hardly right to found measures which are going to be permanent upon the same lines as a war measure? What does that Act do? I have not had time to look up the Act, but my hon. and gallant Friend says under that ActThe landlord has to give a statement where an increase of rent is demanded owing to the increase of rates.All the landlord has to do is, if he is asking for an increase on account of the increase of rates, is to say so, which is totally different to compelling everybody to put this information on a receipt or on a card stating the amount of the rates.
§ Major Earl WINTERTON
The exact amount of the increase in the rates has now to be shown on the card to be presented to each person whose rent the landlord wishes to raise, and that is the same under this Bill.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Quite so, but for a different reason. I am very sorry if I have not made my meaning clear, but this Bill is for all time. I hope we shall in a few weeks' time have peace. The Bill to which my hon. and gallant Friend has alluded was a temporary measure introduced during war-time, and it dealt with quite a different set of circumstance than those which are arising now. I must not go at any length into the question of compounding because that is not in the Bill, but, as my hon. Friend has already said, that question ought to have been in the Bill.
If that question had been in the Bill, I might not be so strongly opposed to it as I am at the present time. What does my hon. Friend think that he is going to do with his coloured cards? I gather that the idea is that everybody would at once see that he has to pay a certain amount in rates, or rather that in his rent is included a certain amount for rates. Hon. Members seem to consider that the effect of that would be various according to the view that they take. My hon. Friend below me (Sir J. D. Rees), who is not a very ardent supporter of social reform, thinks that it would be a check upon social reform. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Clynes) opposite seems to think that it would encourage social reform, and that everybody when he saw one of these cards would immediately think that he ought to have a bath.
2423 My hon. Friend has quoted the "Globe," which apparently approves of the Bill. You must not look at it, however, from the point of view of London or Leicester or any other large town only; you have to look at it from the point of view of England, which I gather from the Bill includes Wales, and therefore from the point of view of the country districts where it would be very troublesome and do very little good. I am very much surprised that my hon. and gallant Friend (Captain Sir B. Stanier), who has a great knowledge of the country, supports the Bill. I hope to be able to convince him that he is entirely wrong, and to induce him to go into the "No" Lobby. It may be all very well in London or Leicester, but let me take a simple illustration. We will presume that an engine driver is asked to pay his rent, and that he gets one of these cards and sees a great number of calculations and a variety of statements in it. Do you think that he will look at it? He will be too tired with his day's work, and he will say, "What does it matter to me? I have got to pay £7 and that includes the rates." It does not matter in the least whether the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Yate), who is receiving the £7 has to pay £2 or £3 in rates. "It does not matter to me; I am not going to pay it." If my hon. and gallant Friend has said that the occupying tenant must pay the rates, then I would have been with him, but the tenant already knows that he does not pay them and that the landlord pays them, and to tell him that over again on a different coloured card with a large number of figures back and front will not make the slightest difference to him. Now let us come to the country. I happen to own a few cottages in the country and I compound for them. I have not the remotest idea what is the amount of rates on each cottage. The overseer sends me in a demand note for a lump sum. It is no use saying that he is a poor overseer. You have to take facts as they are. The cottages are let at low rents, one I believe at one shilling per week to the postmistress, and I should rather think that the rates on that cottage are as much as the rent. How am I to find out the amount of rates on each cottage? Am I to go to the overseer and ask him, instead of sending me one demand note, to send me twenty-five, and, if so, how about economy? You will want another overseer.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
He may have it in his rate book, but he has to send twenty-five demand notes where he now sends one.
§ Major S. G. HOWARD
The overseer will give you the amount at which each cottage is assessed when the list is made and he will give you notice when the assessment is altered. In the meantime you only want to know the amount of rate in the pound.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Who is going to calculate it? Am I to calculate the rates? It varies every six months. Supposing I am wrong, shall I be liable to a fine of 40s.? I should have to check every calculation on this card, and there are a large number. I maintain that the landlord or his agent and the overseer will be put to an immense amount of trouble and labour for no result whatever. Is it to be supposed that an agricultural labourer, coming in after a hard day's ploughing, or between, say, twelve and one, to have his dinner, would not throw that card away without looking at it, and just pay his rent as usual?
§ Sir F. BANBURY
He would be digging in his garden—a much more useful occupation. It would be perfectly useless to him. It does not concern him in the least, because the landlord will continue to pay the rates, and whether the landlord has to pay less or more does not concern him in the least. I certainly consider that it is a mistake that any person who lives in a house should not be obliged to pay his rates. I think it is absolutely necessary, if we are going to have economical administration, that every person who occupies a house should himself pay the rates. If the hon. and gallant Member for Melton can enlist the sympathies of the Press of Leicester and other places in favour of that proposal, I will support it, but I believe this is only a pin-pricking device, which will do no good to anyone. It will not secure either economy or extravagance. It will leave things exactly as they are at the present moment, while it will put the landlord, and especially the landlord in a country district, to considerable trouble in actually ascertaining 2425 the amount of the rate. It might easily arise that a cantankerous person—though this would be more likely in the town than in the country—might refuse to pay his rent, and give any amount of trouble, on the ground that the particulars of the rate have not been correctly given. As I read the Bill, though I may be wrong, if the particulars of the rate are not correctly given, the tenant may refuse to pay the rent. It is only a sort of rough estimate, and a small error might easily be made. But if there were an error of only a penny or a halfpenny the tenant might say, "You have not given the correct particulars, and therefore I shall not pay," and all these calculations would have to be made again. I am glad to see that the hon. and gallant Member who represents the Board of Agriculture (Sir Arthur Boscawen) is here. He will be able to deal with the agricultural point of view. I do earnestly trust that the hon. and gallant Member for Melton will be content with his efforts so far, and will not proceed further with the Bill. Perhaps on another occasion he will bring in a Bill really dealing with the subject, and providing that the tenant shall pay his rates, rather than allowing all the responsibility to rest on the landlord. I think that is most essential, in these days when all tenants have votes, and if he will bring in such a Bill, I think it will do some good, and I shall be glad to support it.
§ Mr. A. GREEN
In rising to make a maiden speech in this House, I venture to claim the indulgence of hon. and right hon. Members, and I feel that the atmosphere of the House on this occasion is such that I shall at least have its support. I am opposed to the recommendations contained in this Bill. It seems to me that the object behind the Bill will not be achieved in the way that is proposed. The only way in which this matter can be really brought home to those to whom it is desirable to bring it home, is by eliminating the compounding of rates. There are many difficulties connected with the proposal now submitted to the House. In the county borough of Derby, for which I have the honour to be one of the Members, we have a water rate. Shall we want another column in this rent book, so as to set out the amount paid for water rate, in addition to the local and district rate? The whole thing bristles with difficulties. It will be necessary, if we are to carry out this 2426 proposal in its exactitude, to go into decimals, and I cannot see how the advantage is to be gained by the proposition which has been set forth. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London and the hon. Member for East Nottingham have stated that they do not understand social reform. I can well believe that, because they have confused social reform with social extravagance. That has nothing to do with this Bill, because the necessary social reform and improvement in the conditions of the people will be carried out whatever the cost, and the fact that the amount paid in local rates is entered in the rent book will not in any way interfere with those very necessary projects which are being carried out up and down the country. The only people who, in my opinion, stand to benefit by this particular Bill are, perhaps, the Government themselves, who are responsible for British Dyes, Limited. We shall want a great many more cards to indicate all the differentiations in the charges, so that, perhaps, the Department which is responsible for British Dyes, Limited, will give the Bill their support, should some other member of the Government be opposed to it on real economic grounds.
§ Colonel YATE
May I interrupt the hon. Member for a moment to say that there seems to be some misunderstanding as to the question of the colour of these cards. These cards are merely submitted as specimens, and, simply for the convenience of the occupiers, it was suggested that they might be of a different colour for each difference of £1; that for £8 the card might be of one colour, for £9 another, and so on, so that the occupier of a compounded house might know the amount at which his house was rated. If they were all of the same colour it would make no difference; it is only a question of convenience.
§ Mr. GREEN
There will still be great complications in making these differences up and down the country, especially where the rates vary in houses of different rentals, and I do not think we should gain any particular advantage from accepting these suggestions. If it is desired to point out to the tenants how much is paid in rates, why not carry the thing right through to its logical conclusion, and start, with a gross rental of a certain amount? You would have a column for your local rates, water rates, and your Income Tax, 2427 and finally a column in which you would enter the full amount which the landlord has to pay in order to show the difference between that which he receives and pays away. I think that we shall not gain any benefit by bringing legislation of this character into operation at this particular period. We are passing through a very trying period, and the work which will be entailed in making this alteration would be so great as not to be worth the experiment. I trust the hon. Member will see his way to withdraw this Bill and bring in a Bill which will achieve the object he has in view in a much simpler form.
§ Notice taken of the fact that forty Members were not present. House counted, and forty Members being found present—
§ Major HOWARD
I had no intention to intervene in this Debate. It is the first time that I have addressed this honourable House, and I do so with some diffidence, but it will be for a very short time. I should not have intervened in the Debate had it not been for the inconsistencies of the last two speakers opposing the Bill. We had from my right hon. Friend who is not now present, the Member for the City of London, a very interesting and very amusing speech, but, while it was full of interest, it was also full of inconsistencies. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down showed the same inconsistencies. Both of them said that if this Bill had not been a Bill simply showing to the tenant the amount of rates he is paying, but had been a Bill to do away with compounding, they would have supported it. Their great objection to the Bill was that it would give a great deal of trouble to overseers. The Member for the City of London mentioned that twenty-five or thirty demand notes would have to be issued in place of one. I happen to be in a similar position to the right hon. Gentleman, the owner of cottages in the country, and I see no difficulty at all. The Bill says, as far as I can see, that every demandshall state either the annual, half-yearly, or quarterly amount of such rates paid or payable in accordance with the last demands received by the owner.It does not complicate the thing with weekly payments of rates. You only have to show to the occupier the amount that you had demanded from you by the over-seer in the last demand. They were very nervous about the overseer having to do a little more work. It would not increase 2428 the number of demand notes, or the work which the overseer has to do, and it was to point out these inconsistencies in the speeches of these two hon. Members that I rose to address the House. I would like to say now that I think this is a step in the right direction. It is no use trying to close your eyes to the fact that the occupant pays no rates. He pays rates in his rent, and I think he is entitled, like other ratepayers, to know what he is paying in rates. He would like to know, and he would be interested in knowing, the amount he is paying, and I think the cottager is entitled to know. It will give the cottager an interest in local affairs. We lack in our villages the interest of the cottagers in local affairs, and the best way to rouse that interest is to point out to them from time to time what money they are being called upon to pay in rates for the maintenance of their village—whether the county rate or the district rate, as the case may be. When they have that information before them they will take an interest in local affairs, and it is because this Bill will supply information to the occupiers that I support it.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down for the very excellent maiden speech he has delivered, which I regret a larger House did not listen to, because, if he will allow me to say so, he put the case for the Bill in a very concise form, and he showed what is really the important principle. Certain hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, for reasons which I do not question, treated this Bill rather as a joke. I think a very important principle is involved, and as one who has as wide a knowledge of this particular question as anyone in the House, as president of a ratepayers' association which represents over £3,000,000 of capital, and as a very considerable owner of small-house property, both in the town and country, I should like to say that the Bill is all to the good. I would like to make one reference to what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for the City, who I regret has left the House so soon after the interesting speech he delivered. He said in the course of his remarks that the Bill would be all right if it made the tenant pay rates. Knowing what my right hon. Friend's views are on all questions of social reform, and not having agreed with anything he said in his speech, I was delighted to see that 2429 he said that personally he had no interest in social reform. I never heard a statement in the House which more honestly expressed the true feelings of the speaker. He never has had any interest in social reform, and therefore he is not likely to approve of this Bill which in our judgment will lead very probably to a great improvement in local administration and, therefore, indirectly to social reform. The right hon. Gentleman said that if the Bill made the tenant pay rates, if in other words it dealt with the question of the compounding of rates, he would have been in favour of it.
Personally I should not be in favour of such an alteration in the law as would make the tenant pay the rates. What I am in favour of, and what is the principle which this Bill carries out is that of making the tenant of all property realise what the correlation is between rent and rates. That is what in effect this Bill does carry out. Hon Gentlemen have spoken as if the ordinary tenant of small house property was an idiot. They pay a very poor tribute to the intelligence of their fellow countrymen. If the ordinary tenant of property, small or great, can be shown in a simple and concise form what the rise or fall in the rates is, and consequently what the co-relationship between rent and rates is, it will have a great effect on his mind. The trouble at present is that the vast majority of tenants of small property have not the slightest idea when the rates rise or fall. I have some knowledge of this subject. Let me give the House an example. I know a certain estate in London. The rates in that district have gone up during the War by no less than 10s. in the £. A short time ago the owner, under the Rents Restriction Act, presented a demand to his tenants for the rise in rent. He was approached by a large number of the tenants who said that they did not object to paying it but that they had not the slightest idea that the rates had gone up to that extent, or, indeed, at all. If it were shown to the tenants of small property in a simple and concise form, as it will be under this Bill, they will be able to understand it. They have not been able to do so simply because there is no machinery for acquainting them with the position.
I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Clynes) support this Bill. In a speech, with which I found myself in considerable sympathy, he said he 2430 was in favour of the Bill because it was quite in keeping with the principle of direct taxation. It would not be in order to discuss that principle on this measure, and I therefore make no statement as to whether or not I am in favour of that principle. I am in favour of the Bill because it will clarify the cause and effect of local taxation as represented by rating and will show what proportion the rates bear to the rent that is being paid. No one who is interested in local government or in social reform can deny the value of encouraging an interest in the question of the co-relation between rates and rents and co-relation between rates and general local government expenditure. Some hon. Members have said that the effect of the Bill will be to make the tenants of small house property careful by their votes at local elections to keep the rates down. On the other hand, one hon. Member has said that the Bill will have the opposite effect and that many tenants of small houses will be in favour of putting the rates up. I am not concerned with what the effect will be, whether it will lead to greater or less local expenditure. That is not a point which can be properly discussed within the comparatively narrow compass of this Bill. It is in the highest interests of the State and of the individual, both landlord and tenant, that more people in this country should realise the co-relationship between rates, local government expenditure and rent. At present they do not. It is of tremendous importance that they should do so.
The right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London made what I can only say was an amazing statement of his own ignorance of the assessment of his cottages in the country, an ignorance which I hope is not universal among owners of property. I believe the majority of them have some idea of how their property is assessed. That statement was an amazing one from a gentleman who is a director of a great railway company and also of a bank. He went on to say that this Bill would involve an enormous amount of extra work on owners of property by reason of the fact that they would have to acquaint themselves with the changing assessments every six months and that they would have to make out cards at frequent intervals to show the tenants what the position was. He said it was an altogether unheard-of proceeding and could not be compared with the law as 2431 it stands under the Rent Restriction Act. What is that law? At present, if the landlord of property under a certain value which comes within that Act wishes to raise the rent in consequence of a rise in the rates, he has to make out a card or form, which is furnished by a Government Department, for every single tenant on his estate, on which he has to state clearly the amount of the rates on the 4th August, 1914, and the amount at which the rates stand to-day. He can only claim the increased rent when there is an increased rate. A large number of owners of property have availed themselves of that Act. I know an estate, with which I am closely connected, containing over six hundred houses which, in peace time, had a large estate office. During the War the majority of the persons working in that office went on service. Notwithstanding the shortage of staff, they were able simply and easily to make out these cards in order to recover the increase of rates during the War. There is no reason why that should not be done equally well in peace-time. The opposition to this Bill is based on a misconception of its effect. That effect is simple, but very important. Until the Rent Restriction Act was brought in there was no machinery for showing the tenants of small properties that they had a responsibility—a selfish, individual responsibility as voters in local elections—in seeing that there was some control over the rates. Until that Act was passed there were no means of explaining to the ordinary tenant of small property that he had any interest whatever in keeping down the rates. I want to make it clear that I am not concerned with the keeping down of the rates, especially in view of the somewhat reactionary speeches which we have listened to this afternoon. As one who prides himself on not being reactionary, my reason for supporting the Bill is not based on the belief that it will have an effect in keeping rates down. In some respects I am not in favour of keeping the rates down. I support the Bill because I want to see the general public and the tenants of small houses realise that they have an interest in local expenditure. Speaking as the president of a large ratepayers' association in a certain part of England, which represents £3,000,000 capital, I can say that since the Rent Restriction Act was passtd there has been brought home 2432 to the tenants of small property the co-relationship between rates and rent, and we have found a very much greater interest taken in the proceedings of the association and many more small people ready to join it. After all, whatever views you may have on local expenditure, there can be no one who will quarrel with this contention, that it is highly desirable in these days, when it is so often testified in all quarters of the House that expenditure of all sorts is going up by leaps and bounds, that the man who has after all to bear the expenditure in the long run, that is the public, should know what he is getting for his money, and how that money is being spent.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Yate) has every reason to receive the congratulations of the House on the successful way in which the Bill has been introduced. It is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. It is essential that people should know what is the cost of local improvements. Although I agree with so much that the Noble Lord has said, I am afraid I differ from him on one point. I still believe that one of the chief objects of a ratepayers' association is to keep down and not keep up the rates.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I think the object of the ratepayers' association which I mentioned, as set forth in the constitution, is to see that the ratepayers get due value for their money.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
My experience is that the general effect is to bring the rates down tremendously. I support the Bill on that account. I think it will have a tendency to reduce increases in the rates which come from time to time. I believe if you see your rent is going up you will take more trouble in the local administration. You will see that the greatest expenditure does not go on, and you will think twice before you even take the prospective benefits which are offered to you which involve an increase in rates. I am fully in favour of the Bill. I shall be very pleased if it will be possible to extend it in Committee. My right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) thought it would be outside the scope of the Bill if the Amendment indicated by the hon. Member for Northumberland were inserted, but I differ from him. The title of the Bill is very wide indeed. It isTo provide for the information to occupiers of the amount of the rates payable for the houses which they occupy.2433 That is as wide a Bill as you could possibly have. It is true in its present form the Bill is, as far as I understand, intended to be restricted simply to cases where the rates have been compounded. If that is the intention of the Bill I should certainly support in Committee the extension indicated by the hon. Member. Of course it is more vital possibly in the case of smaller tenants, but the principle applies to a very large number of other people as well. There is a very large number of people a long way above the compounding limit in London who take not the slightest interest in the rise or fall of the rates because they pay a rent which includes rates and taxes—flats and dwellings of that kind. I think this principle could well be extended to those houses as well as to those cottages in which the rents have been compounded. I have no idea as to the number of houses, quite apart from compounded rates, or flats which exist in London. I believe there is a very large number even of low rented dwellings in which a lump sum is paid which includes rates, even in those cases where there is not necessarily compounding. The words to which I am calling attention in the Bill are these:which includes any sum for rates paid or payable under the existing law by the owner instead of the occupier.The ambiguous words are "payable under the existing law by the owner instead of the occupier." I think that is probably meant to be restricted simply to cases in which the landlord has compounded the rates under the existing law. If it is restricted in that way I should support an extension rather than restriction of the Bill in Committee and I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will consider the point. Some of our Friday Bills are very harmful, but I cannot think this is harmful. The worst that has been said against it is that it will cause a certain amount more trouble to a certain number of people in giving out forms. No one likes forms less than I do, but I think there will be a definite return in this case in bringing home to every occupier of a house that when rates go up it is probable that, sooner or later, they will fall again—not immediately, but at some future date. At present we are meeting reckless extravagance at every turn and the ratepayer is certainly not getting value for his money. In these days economy is the one thing which we need, both in private and in public life. I am very glad my hon. and gallant Friend 2434 has brought in the Bill. Far from opposing it, if he wishes to see it extended in Committee I shall help him.
§ Sir GEORGE YOUNGER
I welcome this Bill. I carry back my mind to 1911 when we had the Scottish House Letting Bill to deal with, and when for the first time in the case of great and small houses in Scotland above £4 the rates were compounded. We made an attempt in Committee to secure just what my hon. and gallant Friend is now proposing, that with the rent paper there ought to be a distinct statement of the portion which represented the rates as distinct from the actual rent, with the object of keeping the ordinary occupier in the closest possible knowledge of what was going on and of the expenditure incurred by the local authorities. In Glasgow, where compounding under that Act had been in force, there has been a lack of interest in that matter. Tenants do not know when an increase of rates arrives and they very seldom have the advantage of any decrease, so that they do not have the same interest in controlling the expenditure and criticising those who make it that they will have when they know what these improvements, and everything else which are nowadays so very extravagantly carried out, cost. Therefore I very much welcome the Bill. There are difficulties when the rates are increased or reduced, but after all that can be got over. You can always make up a statement with regard to the rent to be paid including rates, and if you can do that you can very well say what part is rates and what rent. Anyhow it is a step in the right direction, and I hope the House will accept the Bill.
§ Lieutenant-Colonel Sir A. WARREN
If the purpose of the Bill is to bring home to the ordinary occupiers throughout the country the amount that is paid in respect of rates with the view of impressing them with the importance of the rate question, I am entirely in favour. I know there will be difficulties in regard to huge quantities of property throughout the country where the rents are collected weekly and where the rate alters every quarter. I speak with some experience in relation to the East End of London, where the rates have gone up beyond all expectations, and where it has been constantly affirmed that it did not matter if the rates were 20s. in the £, so long as quixotic ideas in regard to this, that, or 2435 the other were given effect to. In my judgment this Bill does not go far enough. I would have it, if it were possible, and I suppose most things are possible to this House, that each occupier should pay their rates direct, and that they should feel the full onus of responsibility of the rates imposed, because until that time arrives the large rank and file of our population will never appreciate the burden of the rates in the particular localities in which they live. I know there are objections to that proposal. Local authorities would say, "How are we going to collect it?" That is their concern, but I would have it that each one should feel apprised of the burden and realise the importance of this question of the rates. The real purpose of this Bill, I take it, is to bring home to the people what the rates really mean. I do not know whether they will be impressed, and I do not know whether it will lead to any altered demands upon their part as to what the local authorities should do for them. If it has that effect, then, in my judgment, it will be of the greatest possible value. This question of the increasing rate is a great and overweening burden in many directions, and I do not think anyone will controvert that. Therefore, if this Bill is for the purpose of educating people as to the real importance of the rates, and what they really mean in relation to the premises they occupy, I shall give the Bill my very hearty support.
§ 2.0 P.M.
§ Mr. J. F. GREEN
My hon. and gallant Friend who brought in this Bill read various extracts from the Press of the town which I have the honour to represent, and he himself represents a neighbouring constituency. He also read extracts from the London Press, and as I happen to be a Londoner by birth and residence and a representative of Leicester, I feel I should like to give my blessing to this measure. May I join with the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge University in congratulating my hon. and gallant Friend on the chorus of praise which has been sung in favour of this measure. It is true that the right hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) and my hon. Friend and namesake who represents Derby, opposed the Bill, but on the whole the speeches have been in support of it. I support it, and I notice that the first words of the Bill 2436 say that it is to provide for the information of the occupier. I should always be in favour of any Bill which was to provide information, because there is such a large number of people who are ill-informed that the more information you can provide by Parliamentary or other means, the better. Seriously, on this part of the question I want to endorse what has been said by other hon. Members as to the importance of bringing home to tenants the effect of the rates and letting them know really what it is they are paying for rent and what they are paying for rates. I think, therefore, that it is extremely desirable that this Bill should pass, for that reason. I agree with what the right hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Clynes) said, and I should be prepared to support a Bill which went a good deal further than this. Perhaps Amendments may be made in the Bill when it goes to Committee, which will make it an even larger Bill than it is. I am always in favour of getting half a loaf if I cannot get a whole loaf. I believe in the truth of the proverb that half a loaf is better than no bread. I know there are some people who do not think so, and who, if they cannot get everything they want, will have nothing. I am not of that way of thinking. Therefore I support my hon. and gallant Friend in getting half a loaf. I endorse what has been said by several hon. Members as to the advantage that this measure, if it becomes an Act of Parliament, may, by bringing home to the occupiers of houses that they will know exactly what they are paying in rates, serve as a curb on tremendous extravagance.
There are those, and there are some in this House, who are quite reckless as to what is spent, but I maintain that after the huge expenditure of this War it must be obvious to everybody that some sort of curb must be put on the vast expenditure which is provided for in some of these Bills. The hon. and learned Member for Cambridge University pointed out, in reference to a remark by my hon. and gallant Friend, that he did not think that ratepayers' associations as a rule would support a measure that was likely to lead to a rise in the rates. There are those who do not mind that. I remember hearing a story which I believe is perfectly true of a very distinguished man, the late William Morris, who, when he took a 2437 house in a district of London, was invited to attend a meeting of the Ratepayers' Association. They thought, seeing that he was occupying one of the highest rated houses in the parish, that he would be in favour of a reduction of the rates, but he threw a bombshell amongst them by saying that he had heard a great deal about the importance of reducing the rates, and that he wished to see them go up by leaps and bounds. That may have been all very well in the days when William Morris used that phrase, but some curb must be put on extravagance now and I cannot imagine a way in which that is more likely to be brought home to people than by the knowledge as to what expenditure means in regard to the rates. As this measure is intended to bring home these facts to the people, showing them what they are paying in rates, it is a measure which should be supported.
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Sir Arthur Boscawen)
I think we have had a very interesting Debate and at times a very amusing Debate. I wish to indicate the attitude of the Government. We do not intend in any way to oppose the Second Reading of the Bill; we leave it to the House. We feel that this is a very proper Bill to receive a Second Reading and to go to a Standing Committee, where the whole of the details can be carefully threshed out. No doubt the Bill might be improved if it went a bit further. Its whole bearings must be carefully considered, but that is a matter for Standing Committee. All we can do to-day is to allow it to get to Committee. Speaking personally, I agree with what has been said by hon. Members, and particularly by the hon. Member who has just spoken, as to the importance of bringing home to the electorate of the local authorities their responsibility as regards the rates, what it is they are paying, how much is rent and how much is rates. That will be a good thing. That is not because I want to limit the expenditure of local councils on bond fide social reforms. Far from it. Nor do I want in any way to reduce rates unnecessarily, nor again do I want to see any unnecessary extravagance. But the present position is that a man pays his rent in a lump sum which includes rates. He goes to the poll and votes for this or that candidate at a local election, and has not got the slightest conception how much rates he pays, nor does he know of the various expenditure incurred by the 2438 council, and whether the money is being well spent or not. In the interest of seeing that the rates are properly spent, that value is got for the money, that there is no needless extravagance, shall I say, in the appointment of officials or something of that sort, and in the interest of bringing home responsibility to the individual elector who is responsible for the election of the council, this Bill from that point of view will certainly do good.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I quite agree with what the hon. Gentleman says. but how is the fact that somebody else is going to pay the rate going to induce economy on the part of the voter?
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
If I understand the Bill aright, it will be stated on one of these cards how much is rent and how much rates. If the rates go up there will be an increase in the amount paid, and that would bring home to the elector the fact that if the rates are increased the amount he has to pay is increased.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I understand that that will be the effect, and if that is so I think it very desirable to make the ratepayer feel that he is responsible for the vote he gives at the next election. If that is not the effect of the Bill, that is one of those points that can be carried out in Standing Committee. Under the present temporary Act there can be an increase in rents if there is an increase in rates. This Bill will, so to speak, regularise the procedure and show the individual ratepayer precisely what the increase in the rates is, and how he will be affected by an increase in the rates. I understand that if there is a reduction in rates the amount he has to pay also would be reduced.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I do not think that that is so. The only effective Clause is Clause 1, and all it does is to say that every demand note shall make a statement of what the rates are.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I am informed by the promoters of the Bill that that is the effect, but what the Government say is that it is a proper Bill to be given a 2439 Second Reading. If the point raised by my right hon. Friend is not clear in the Bill, that is an additional reason why we should send it to a Standing Committee. As far as I can see the Bill can do no harm, and if it brings home to the individual ratepayer what he is paying in rates, to that extent it will do good, and will tend to more efficient local administration. The Parliamentary elector returns a Member whose duty it is to look after the finance of the nation. It is quite true that we do not always do it as efficiently as we should, but still the Parliamentary elector knows when the Budget is brought in and by the demand for Income Tax and other taxes whether taxes are going up or down. The local elector has not got that information. It is not brought to his knowledge. If this Bill brings it to his knowledge it does some good, and puts him in a much more clear position, the position of the Parliamentary elector at the present time. For these reasons the Government leave the Bill to the House which I have no doubt will see fit to give it a Second Reading.
§ Sir P. GRIGGS
I desire to say a word in support of this Bill. For instance, in my town if local improvements are carried out and the rates go up a shilling in the £1 there will be some grumbling about it, but if the ratepayer knows the cause it will be more satisfactory. The intention is to build new baths and a new library and to make an extension of the town hall. I support this Bill, because it shows what the expenditure will be for.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.