HC Deb 21 June 1920 vol 130 cc1958-66

(1) This Act shall apply to Scotland, subject to the following modifications—

  1. (a) "Mortgage" and "incumbrance" mean a heritable security constituted by absolute disposition qualified by back bond or letter; "mortgagor" and "mortgagee" mean respectively the debtor and the creditor in a heritable security; "covenant" means obligation; "mortgaged property" means the heritable subject or subjects included in a heritable security; "rateable value" means yearly value according to the valuation roll; "rateable value on the third day of August nineteen hundred and fourteen" means yearly value according to the valuation roll for the year ending fifteenth day of May nineteen hundred and fifteen; "assessed" means entered in the valuation roll; "land" means lands and heritages; "rates" means assessments as defined in the House Letting and Rating (Scotland) Act, 1911; "Lord Chancellor" means the Court of Session; "rules" means act of sederunt; "county court" means the sheriff; "sanitary authority" means the local authoritity under the Public Health (Scotland) Act, 1897; "mesne profits" means profits; references to levying distress shall be construed as references to doing diligence, a reference to section five of the Housing, Town Planning, &c. (Scotland), Act, 1919, shall be substitutel for a reference to section seven of the Housing, Town Planning, &c. Act, 1919, and a reference to section one of the House Letting and Rating (Scotland) Act, 1911, shall be substituted for a reference to section three of the Poor Rate Assessment and Collection Act, 1869:
  2. (b) Sub-section (5) of the section of this Act relating to permitted increases in rent shall not apply:
  3. (c) Nothing in the law relating to tacit relocation shall prevent the landlord of a dwelling-house to which the Acts repealed by this Act applied from obtaining any increase of rent to which he would otherwise be entitled under the provisions of this Act:
  4. (d) Where dwelling-houses have been taken possession of by a Government department during the war under the Defence of the Realm Regulations for the purpose of housing workmen, this Act shall apply to such houses as if the workmen in occupation thereof at 1959 the passing of this Act were in occupation as tenants of the landlords of such houses.

(2) This Act shall apply to Ireland subject to the following modifications:—

  1. (a) A reference to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland shall be substituted for the reference to the Lord Chancellor:
  2. (b) A reference to section seventy-five of the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890, shall be substituted for the reference to section fourteen of the Housing Town Planning, &c., Act, 1909, and a reference to section fifteen of the Summary Jurisdiction (Ireland) Act, 1851, shall be substituted for the reference to section one of the Small Tenements Recovery Act, 1838:
  3. (c) The expression "mortgage" includes a charge by registered disposition under the Local Registration of Title (Ireland) Act, 1891:
  4. (d) The expression "rateable value" means the annual rateable value under the Irish Valuation Acts: Provided that where part of a house let as a separate dwelling is not separately valued under those Acts, the Commissioner of Valuation and Boundary Surveyor may on the application of the landlord or tenant make such apportionment of the rateable value of the whole house as seems just, and his decision as to the amount to be apportioned to the part of the house shall be final and conclusive, and that amount shall be taken to be the rateable value of the part of the house for the purposes of this Act but not further or otherwise:
  5. (e) The medical officer of health of a dispensary district shall be substituted for the sanitary authority under section two of this Act and the issue of certificates and the payment of fees in connection with applications by tenants under the said section shall be subject to regulations to be made by the Local Government Board for Ireland:
  6. (f) This Act shall not apply to any dwelling-house provided by a local authority under the Labourers (Ireland) Acts, 1883 to 1919, or under any of those Acts.

Amendments made: In Sub-section (1, a) leave out the word "means" ["'Lord Chancellor' means"] and insert instead thereof the words "and High Court' mean": After the word "Sheriff" ["means the Sheriff"] insert the word "Court."—[Mr. Munro.]


I beg to move in Subsection (1, a) after the word "profits" ["mesne profits' means profits"], to insert the words The Board of Agriculture for Scotland shall be substituted for the Minister of Agriculture; the twenty-eighth day of May shall be substituted for the twenty-fifth day of June, the reference to the county agricultural committee shall be construed as a reference to the body of persons constituted with respect to any area by the Board of Agriculture for Scotland under Sub-section (2) of Section eleven of The Corn Production Act, 1917. The first part of the Amendment is purely one of draftsmanship. With regard to the next part, the proposal is that the 28th day of May shall be substituted for the 25th day of June, which is the date proposed at which the operation of this Bill shall come to an end. The 28th of May is the term day in Scotland and in substituting that date I am only following the precedent set in the former Act of Parliament, when the termination of the English Act was on June 25th and of the Scottish Act on May 28th. That is obviously the more convenient date in Scotland, and in moving this Amendment I am accepting the suggestion made upstairs by the hon. Member for Tradeston (Major Henderson). The last part of the Amendment with regard to the Agricultural Committee is of a merely drafting character.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1, a), to insert a new paragraph— (b) Nothing in paragraph (b) of Subsection (1) of the Section of this Act relating to permitted increases in rent shall permit any increase in rent in respect of any increase after the year ending Whitsunday, nineteen hundred and twenty, in the amount of the rates payable by the landlord other than rates for which he is responsible under The House Letting and Rating (Scotland) Act, 1911. 3.0 A.M.

Clause 2 of this Bill allows the landlord to put all increases of rates for which he is responsible on the tenant. As the law stood in Scotland until the 1919 Act passed in Parliament, the landlord was responsible for certain rates and the tenant was responsible for other rates. When the 1919 Bill was in the Committee stage, the Secretary for Scotland introduced a Clause applying the Bill to Scotland, and under that Clause any increase in the landlord's rates after 1914 was placed on the tenant. That is to say, he really altered the law of rating in Scotland. Now I am not going to argue as to whether Scottish Members had an opportunity of discussing that or whether they had not, as there are things to be said on both sides, but the Secretary for Scotland in justifying his action on that occasion alluded to the Hunter Report of 1918. Now the Hunter Report which applied to the whole of the country said there should be equality of treatment in this respect as between one part of the country and another. We who argue this question, as opposed to the Secretary for Scotland, maintain that as house property of the same kind and class is dealt with in this Bill, there is equality of treatment in this respect as for similar property there is a limit of £90 in Scotland, and only a limit of £78 in the rest of the provinces. Therefore any increases allowed under Clause 2 are proportionately higher for the same class of property in Scotland than for the same class of property in England. Therefore, the Scottish landlord is obtaining a compensation equal to what the English landlord is getting. It has been argued with regard to this point that the year 1914 in Scotland was a bad year for property, but if anyone is acquainted with the Hunter Report published in 1915, which had to do with Scotland only and, had nothing to do with the other report, it is stated there that 1914 was not a bad year in Scotland for property at all. It was a normal year. Therefore to take 1914 as the date is not unfair to landlords in Scotland as a whole. There is one particular point about this increase which is extremely injurious and unfair, and that is that the assessing authorities in Scotland propose to take these increases in landlords' rates which are thrown on the tenants and count them as increases of rent. Therefore, in a subsequent year, that increase will be counted as rent and will be assessed accordingly. The assessment will be slightly higher and the result will be that the landlord's share of rates will be slightly higher and he will shift it again on to the tenant. That will result in a fresh but diminishing increase in assessment next year and so on until the Act ceases to operate. That is the snowball effect this Bill will have in Scotland if it is allowed to stand as it is at present. I am sure the Secretary for Scotland when he introduced this Clause did not understand this point.

The Clause as it now stands will result in constant little increases being made in later years, a source of constant annoy- ance to the tenants, and of no advantage to the landlords or assessing authorities. When this point was raised in Committee it was defeated, and the Secretary for Scotland said that after having considered the thing carefully last year it would be impossible for him to go back on something so recently put in an Act, although it does not come into operation until six months after the War, and has not therefore come into operation yet. I can understand his attitude from that point of view, and I can understand certain other arguments brought forward, but I do not want him to think that I have in any way altered my opinion in this matter. I think it would be really better if the Amendment next in order on the Paper were put into operation and carried, but having been defeated on that in Committee I think it very unlikely that we would be able to carry it on report. The Secretary for Scotland promised to consider any Amendment brought forward as a compromise which would stop this question of increases in the landlord's share being liable to assessment. I have tried in this Amendment to effect a compromise between his point of view and the point of view of the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham). I have tried to stabilise the increase and say that after 1920 any further increase shall be paid as formerly by the landlord while any increase between 1914 and 1920 shall be paid by the tenant. It is certainly very rough justice, but it is better than if we left the Bill to stand as it stands at present. In the hope of getting something out of the Secretary for Scotland, I move this Amendment.


I beg to second the Amendment.

It requires a great deal of courage to start to argue a question of Scottish rating at this hour, and I shall be purposely brief. We would not press this Amendment at all but for the great importance of this matter as we regard it north of the Tweed. I second the Amendment because I am quite content briefly and shortly to dispose of the Amendment on the Clause I have on the Paper. In Committee upstairs when our Amendment was rejected my right hon. friend the Secretary for Scotland indicated that the object of this proposal was first of all to give effect to an agreement which had been reached under the 1919 Act. In the second place, it put the Scottish landlords substantially in the position of English landlords, and he disagrees, as I understand, with our view that this amounted to a fundamental change in the Scottish system of rating. There cannot be the least doubt that if there had been a small increase in rental and a small rise in rates this question would be of minor importance, but I can make it plain that this means a very serious burden to Scottish tenants, especially when we keep in mind that in Scotland a different system of rating obtains from that which we find in England. In Scotland we divide the rate in varying proportions between owners on the one hand and occupiers on the other. That is the system which has been followed for a considerable number of years now. In some of the leading Scottish burghs between 1914 and 1915, the rating year, and 1919 and 1920, the increase in owners' rates in the case of Aberdeen has been, for example, 1s. 6d. in the pound. In the case of Clydebank the increase is practically 2s. in the pound on owner's rates in the same period. In other centres in Scotland it ranges from 1s. 6d. in the pound to 1s. 10d. in the pound, and figures of that kind. It is rather an impressive fact that the largest increases in owners' rates are found in the West of Scotland, where there is more or less violent opposition to this measure. We are exposing Scottish tenants to an endless liability, and one that is not in keeping with the rating system of the country, and it is going to make them liable for limits of rental that it is impossible for them to foresee. I recognise that there may be certain cases for putting Scottish landlords in the position of English landlords, but we submitted in the Committee that the way to do that was not the way which has been adopted in this Bill. I understand that at one time the question of differential percentage was considered, but that it was discarded as impracticable, and that this present method was adopted. The method proposed at all events limits the mischief, and if it were adopted probably we should be inclined to accept that for the time being, although I am afraid that that would not meet the Opposition, so far as this side is concerned. I do trust that when my right hon. Friend replies he will say something on a proposal which undoubtedly he himself made in Committee. I remember distinctly he said that it might be possible "to find some method of stereotyping these increases." Many of us have applied our Scottish powers of analysis and criticism to this question, and we have been utterly unable to devise any stereotyping method of this kind. I hope, in seconding the Amendment—for the future of which I entertain no optimistic hopes—that we shall get some satisfaction in what many of us feel is not only an unjust policy to the tenant, but is a fundamental change in our Scottish system of rates.


My hon. Friend has raised what I recognise to be an important question of principle and policy, and a very intricate question. Accordingly, I hesitated to intervene until I heard the two speeches delivered by the Mover and the Seconder of the Amendment. The justification for the legislation of last year, to which reference has been made, is exceedingly simple. In England all rates are levied upon the occupier. In Scotland, on the other hand, a part of the rates is levied upon the landlord and a part upon the occupier. The argument which prevailed with me in 1919 was this, that if the landlord was precluded by the Act of 1919 from raising the rent, then that rent should not be further reduced in his hands by a rise in the rates. If that rise took place in England it would have fallen upon the occupier. Accordingly, if the restricted rent paid to the landlord in Scotland was reduced by an increase in the rates, that would operate more hardly against him than against the landlord in England. Therefore, from the point of view of parity, it seems to me that the 1919 proposals were entirely probable. However, in deference to the view expressed with force and eloquence upstairs I did state that before the Report stage of the Bill I would consider whether it was possible to arrive at any compromise. My hon. and gallant Friend behind me has put down this Amendment which is the nature of a compromise. It is a compromise which limits the increase of rents to the amount of any increase which has already taken place, and this really would mean what was said upstairs, stereotyping the increase of rates at the present amount. I have felt a considerable amount of difficulty with regard to this particular Amendment, but on the whole, and as the hour is late, I propose to accept it, and thereby disappoint the pessimistic expectation of my hon. Friend opposite, Mr. Graham.


I cannot agree with any of the speeches I have heard. I am surprised at the position of my hon. Friend, Mr. Munro. It has been said that the Bill changes the system of rating in Scotland. It does nothing of the sort. The rents of the houses are fixed in Scotland as anywhere else. If there had been no restriction on those rents they would have gone up. The whole argument falls to the ground. It does not interfere with the rating system in the least degree.


I cannot agree with the hon. baronet who has just spoken. His argument is not correct. The incidence of taxation in Scotland, as has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh, is entirely different from that of England. We have occupiers' rates borne by the occupier alone, and then we have certain rates borne by occupiers and owners. Reference has been made to the fact that rates in my constitutency have been increased by 2s. in the pound. That is in excess of some of the others, but that is accounted for by the fact that under new legislation the water rate in my constituency is borne part by the owners and part by the occupiers, instead of by the occupiers alone, as in some other parts of Scotland. I am glad that the Secretary for Scotland has seen fit to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Tradeston, although I would rather he had accepted the Amendment of the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh. It is only right that it should be pointed out in this House that there is great unrest on the West Coast of Scotland over the whole of the question of this increase of rent. In the borough of Clydebank 2,000 people have signed a Covenant, following the bad example set them in some other places, that they will not pay any rent whatever if this Rent Restriction Act is passed and any increase in rent is allowed under it. If in addition to any increase of rates, we are going to have any of the landlords' rates hitherto borne by him transferred to the shoulders of the tenant, then I think I can say that that protest will be very justifiable. However, as the hon. Member for Tradeston and the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh have accepted the proposal of the Secretary for Scotland, I have nothing more to say.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move in Subsection (1), to leave out paragraph (d).

This Amendment is consequential to the one I moved on Clause 12, which relates to the same class of property.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In Subsection (2, b) to leave out the words "A reference to Section 75 of the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890, shall be substituted for the reference to Section 14 of the Housing, Town Planning, etc., Act, 1909, and."

At the end of Sub-section (2, b), add the words "and a reference to the Agricultural Wages Board for Ireland, shall be substituted for the reference to the county agricultural committee."—[Mr. D. Wilson.]