HC Deb 11 July 1923 vol 166 cc1491-4

  1. (1) The Secretary for Scotland shall ascertain and certify with respect to the local financial year ending the fifteenth day of May, nineteen hundred and twenty-four, and each succeeding local financial year:
    1. (a) the amount which is to be taken as having been raised during the year by each rating authority by each rate 1492 leviable by the authority, and the portion of such amount which would represent the owners' share thereof if this Act had not passed; and
    2. (b) the whole valuation of the rateable area of each rating authority for each rate, and the portion of such valuation which represents the valuation of agricultural lands and heritages.
  2. (2) That part of the owners' share of the amount to be taken as having been raised by each rate which represents the proportion borne by the valuation of agricultural lands and heritages in the rateable area to the whole valuation of the rateable area shall, to the extent of three-eighths thereof, ascertained and certified by the Secretary for Scotland with respect to each local financial year, be the amount payable with respect to that year to the rating authority in respect of that rate out of the Local Taxation (Scotland) Account, and a sum equal to the aggregate of the amounts so payable in respect of each local financial year to all the rating authorities ascertained and certified as aforesaid shall be the amount of the additional annual grant for Scotland in respect of that year.


I beg to move to leave out the Clause.

The point here is an exceedingly difficult one. I am not quite sure that I understand it myself, and, therefore, I am not sure that I can explain it to the House. I understand, however, the Solicitor-General has a hazy idea of what it means. Before 1899 certain rates were payable by certain owners in the counties. By Section 27 of the Local Government Act power was taken to get the sheriff to fix an average of 10 years for these rates. It was called the average rate. In most counties in Scotland there is a certain proportion where the rates are levied half and half. Under this Bill in regard to the proportion recoverable from the occupiers the rating authority will lose upon the average rate for the year, and it will be recovered by the Government subvention from the three-eighths paid by the owner. The remaining one-eighth, however, will cause a loss to the local authority on account of the subvention on the average rate.

I do not know how much money this means to the county council altogether, but so far as my information goes, unless it is safeguarded in this Bill, it means a net increase in the loss which must be made up by the local rating authority, and I understand that it will amount to about £6,000. I know that is not a very large sum, and it is to be spread all over the counties in Scotland, but all the same it is an injustice, and an added burden which was never intended to be put upon the county rate. I understand that a case was stated to the Scottish Office pointing out this grievance and that Department replied quite sympathetically, but they stated that they could not suggest an exact form of words which would abolish the grievance and save the local rating authorities from being compelled to pay the average portion of the one-eighth. I am moving to omit this Clause in order to enable the Solicitor-General to see if he can suggest a form of words which will remedy this grievance.


I beg to Second the Amendment.


I am afraid that it will not be possible now to find a form of words that would not have the effect of increasing the charge, because it would involve the raising of an extra sum of £6,000.


I understand that this Amendment will impose a charge and therefore it cannot be in order at this stage.


I pointed out to the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Johnston) that his Amendment would involve a charge, and I suggested that he should move to leave out the Clause.


The owners paid all the county rates up to 1889 when the county councils were set up. It was provided by the Local Government Act of that year, that owners in the counties should in the future pay all the rates up tothe amount of the average rates payable in each county by them for the ten years previous to the passing of the Act, and that beyond that amount county rates should fall half on owner and half on occupier. It is, therefore, the case that, to a very small degree, the owners in the county are paying a greater proportion than the occupiers, and to that extent there is this deficiency of one-eighth of the average rate. It is a small matter of £6,000 spread over the whole of Scotland, and in any case it would only average about 2d. in the £. The Dunedin Committee recommended that this system of the average rate should be abolished. Their proposal is that, in future, the county rates should be equally divided between the owner and the occupier. This anomaly coming down from past times was considered by the Dunedin Committee and they recommended that the stereotyped average rate should be abolished. Therefore, in any scheme of rating reform which may be proposed, it is most likely that the owners' stereotyped average rate will be abolished, and it will be provided that the rate shall fall equally on owners and occupiers. I am thoroughly aware of the point which has been raised, and I admit that there will be that very small deficiency due to a system which we hope very shortly to abolish. It would be impossible to deal with it now without imposing a charge.


I think it is a pity that this particular matter did not receive consideration in due time, so that it might have been dealt with in the Financial Resolution. If the House had been favoured with a correct exposition of the state of matters in the White Paper which was circulated we should then have been in a position to have realised that what was now being proposed was not substantially correct. I trust that we shall have these matters correctly stated in the future, and put before the House.

Amendment negatived.