HC Deb 22 December 1925 vol 189 cc2193-228

Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [21st December], "That the Lords Amendments be now considered."

Question again proposed.


I should like to ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, on these Amendments which have been sent from the other House. You will see that there is an Amendment to Clause 4, to leave out Sub-section (4) and to insert instead a new Sub-section containing four new paragraphs. I should like to ask you whether the Lords are not exceeding their powers in suggesting what is practically a new Sub-section in this particular Clause?


If the hon. Member will allow me, I will deal with that Amendment when we reach it.


Thank you.

Question, "That the Lords Amendments be now considered," put, and agreed to.

Lords Amendments considered accordingly.

CLAUSE 1.—(Rating authorities.)

Lords Amendment: In page 2, line 14, leave out the words "rating area being a rural district," and insert "rural rating area."

The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Neville Chamberlain)

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

In view of what has just been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. A, Henderson), I do not propose to make any explanation of Amendments which are really purely drafting or consequential, unless anybody should desire me to do so. I will merely state that they are drafting Amendments. This one is a drafting Amendment.

Question put, and agreed to.

CLAUSE 2.—(Levy of, and provisions as to, general rate.)

Lords Amendments down to page 3, line 13, agreed to.

Lords Amendment: In page 3, line 20. leave out paragraph (b).


I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."


Might we have an explanation of this Amendment? I am not quite certain as to what its effect will be. Paragraph (b) states: The provisions of Section eleven of the Poor Relief Act, 1814, shall not apply. If these words be taken out, and if similar words to those of the latter part of the paragraph, namely, A rating authority shall have power to reduce or remit the payment of any general rate on account of the poverty of any person liable to the payment thereof, be put in at the end, as proposed in the next Lords Amendment, it seems to me that there is going to be a substantial alteration in the Bill, because, as I understand it, Section 11 of the Poor Relief Act gives to Justices the power to relieve persons from rates, and I understand that now that power would go. I may be wrong.


The hon. Gentleman is quite right, but it will be seen that the Poor Relief Act. 1814, is repealed under the Eighth Schedule of the Bill, and, therefore, the words which it is proposed to leave out are unnecessary.

Question, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment," put, and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendments down to page 6, line 6, agreed to.

CLAUSE 4. (Operation and incidence of rate.)

Lords Amendment: In page 6, line 13, leave out Sub-section (4) and insert (4) The following provisions shall have effect with respect to the assessing of persons to and their liability in respect of a rate—

  1. (a) a person who is in occupation of the hereditament for part only of the period in respect of which the rate is made, shall, subject to the provisions of this Sub-section, be liable to be charged with such part only of the total amount of the rate as the number of days during which he is in occupation boars to the total number of days comprised in the said period:
  2. 2195
  3. (b)a person who is in occupation of the hereditament for any part of the said period may be assessed to the rate in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (a) of this Sub-section, notwithstanding that he ceased to he in occupation before the rate was made;
  4. (c)a person who is in occupation of the hereditament at any time after the rate is made may be assessed to and shall in the first instance be liable to pay if he was in occupation at the beginning of the period the whole rate, or if he came into occupation subsequently a proportion of the rate calculated on the basis that he will remain in occupation until the end of the said period, but shall, if he goes out of occupation before the end of the said period, be entitled to recover from the rating authority any sum paid by him in excess of the amount properly chargeable against him in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (a) of this Sub-section, except in so far as he has previously recovered the sum from an incoming occupier."


I should like now to have your ruling on these proposed new paragraphs, because, it appears to me that here the Lords have exceeded their power.


I think not, I have examined the precedents very carefully in relation to this Bill, and I find that, from the time of Speaker Abereromby onwards, it. has been held that, where legislation dealt with rating and valuation, this House could not insist on a rigid interpretation of its privilege. Therefore, this is not one of the Amendments to which I propose to call the attention of the House. There is one further on which would make a substantial change, and in that case I shall draw the attention of the House to the Amendment as a matter of privilege.


I understand it is not a question of money one way or the other. Is that the reason you do not propose to take any action in the matter?


I think it is one of those matters in which, for nearly 100 years, the House has not taken a rigid interpretation of its privileges, and I propose to follow precedent.


By leaving out Subsection (4), are we not leaving out a money transaction?. It seems to me to he upsetting the whole position of affairs to take it out entirely, and to substitute these other provisions which are recommended from the other House.


I think that is a matter for the House to deal with on its merits. The Minister, no doubt, will explain the Amendment in moving whatever he has to move


I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This is really a drafting Amendment only. There is practically no change in the (substance, but there is a rearrangement of wording. May I read what was said by Lord Parmoor, who has some knowledge of drafting, and is a member of the hon. Member's own party? I have studied the new drafting very carefully. It deals with a complicated subject, and I agree that the new drafting is very much better than the original Subsection. Therefore I think the noble Marquess is quite justified in moving the Amendment. I think that should satisfy hon. Members that there is nothing sinister about this rearrangement.

Question put, and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendments down to page 8, line 10, agreed to.

CLAUSE 7.—(Demand notes for rates.)

Lords Amendment: In page 8, line 22, leave out paragraph (g).


I beg to move, " That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."


I want to oppose the House agreeing with the Lords Amendment. It is worth while examining actually what the paragraph did and why it is being taken out. As it originally stood, it provided that in the rate demand note there should be inserted the amount in the £ intended to make good any deficiency in any trading account. As far as I can see this was inserted by persons who are violently opposed to municipal trading in order that they might get as much as possible advertisement of the fact that in certain cases municipal trading had caused a loss. When this matter was in Committee I moved that it should also show where the rates have been relieved by an amount transferred to the rates from the profits of municipal trading. and the Minister naturally, as a man of very great ex- perience in successful municipal trading, and also possessing a sense of justice, accepted my Amendment in a slightly different form, and accordingly the rate demand note has now to show both where there is any loss caused and where there has been a profit which has inured to the benefit of the ratepayers.

Of course, anyone who really understands anything about municipal trading knows that the vast majority of the cases show a profit, and therefore what happened really was that this paragraph, originally put in as an advertisement against municipal trading, was now going to be an extraordinarily good advertisement of the efficiency of municipal trading, and so one is not surprised to find that some people got a little excited over it, and it is quite characteristic that in the other place it should have been Lord Banbury who moved to make the best of a bad job and to strike out this paragraph altogether. There was some discussion on that in the Committee stage and it was not until the Report stage in the other House that this was accepted, and it was then more or less passed over as really rather overloading the demand note. We are told by people who vehemently oppose municipal trading that it is absolutely necessary that the ratepayers should know all about it and should have the fullest possible information about the finance. Why did they move to cut it out? What are they afraid of? It is clear that this was slipped in somehow, probably at the suggestion of some anti-municipal society. They have been hoist with their own petard, and they do not like the consequences. I propose that we keep it in.


I do not really think this is a matter of very great substance or importance. The objections that were raised in another place did not seem to me to be entirely well founded, but to be based on some misapprehension of what was intended by this paragraph. It appeared to be thought by a Noble Lord in another place that a ratepayer ought to be able to get from his demand note a balance sheet of any municipal undertaking situated in his area. That, of course, was not the intention or the object of the paragraph. The object was that the ratepayer should see whether the local authority which was running a municipal undertaking had credited itself with contributions to the rates from the undertaking or whether the rates were debited with a loss. That is not the same thing as a profit and loss account or a balance sheet, and therefore I do not quite see what my Noble Friend's difficulty was. I have said I do not think this is a matter of much substance or importance. May I remind the House that in Clause 58 the Minister is given the power, after consultation with any local authority or association of local authorities with whom consultation appears to him to be desirable, to-prescribe anything which by this Act is to be prescribed, and the form of any demand note. If this paragraph is omitted it will no longer be absolutely necessary that every demand note should contain this particular information, but on the other hand it is still open to me, after consultation with the local authorities, to prescribe and introduce in the demand note the substance of what is in this paragraph. In those circumstances it hardly seems to me to be worth while to stand out for the insertion of the paragraph.


I rather doubt the validity of the only argument the right hon. Gentleman has put before the House for accepting the Lords Amendment. He says in principle the particulars which were to be given to the ratepayer ought to be given, and at any rate there is nothing objectionable in that. I have only risen because he has suggested that Clause 58 gives him in any event the power to deal with these matters. I think that is not so. Clause 58, it is true, gives power to make rules, after consultation with local authorities, prescribing anything which may be prescribed by the Act. If this specific power, which does not now exist in the law, to demand particulars in the note of the effect of municipal trading were not carried as a substantive power, I believe that any modification in the demand note under Clause 58 would be beyond the powers of the Minister.

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN indicated dissent.


That is my opinion. The right hon. Gentleman would be dealing with the form of matters in the demand note where there was no authority in the Act to deal with the matter at all. How far would his argument lead the right hon. Gentleman? If he is right that Clause 58 gives such extended powers, he could introduce an obligation to put something in the demand note which does not now exist, and which would not necessarily show municipal trading. Any fantastic thing—1 use the word with every respect—which the right hon. Gentleman or a local authority thought ought to figure in the demand note could be put in under Clause 58. It would not necessarily be a matter relating to municipal trading. It might be a question—to take an absurd case—of the political complexion of the local authority, showing on the demand note how many Members belong to the right hon. Gentleman's party and how many to our party, or anything else you like.

Clause 58 simply deals with the machinery of rating. If there be no new power given under the law to deal with the accounts of municipal trading as such, and its results, I am quite satisfied that, as a matter of law, the wording of Clause 53 will not cover the point. Therefore, one comes hack to the question of principle. If the right hon. Gentleman has changed his mind and he thinks it is undesirable in principle that the ratepayers should have knowledge of the financial results of municipal trading, that is a matter we can discuss. I have merely risen to speak, with every respect, of what I believe to be the bad law of the right: hon. Gentleman, when he thinks that Clause 53 will save the situation. Let us either have this power or not have the power in the Bill. It has never been suggested in the Committee stage of the Bill or by anybody at any stage that Clause 58 gives that power.

If the power is given by Clause 58, which I dispute, I object to the use of Clause 58 in this direction, because if Clause 58 is to be so used it means that the Minister will have discretion in the matter. It means that one municipality may be required, after consultation, to make out its returns in one way, and another municipality may be required to make out its returns in another way. If we consider the principle to be good, then let it stand firmly in the Bill as a matter of general principle. If it be bad, let us have nothing to do with it. I object to this extraordinary bureaucratic power under which the Minister can prescribe from time to time from area to area the form of the demand note. If the argument is to be put up against this House maintaining its position—


Where does the hon. and learned Member find that I can prescribe different forms in different areas?


In this way. Clause 58 provides that The Minister, after consultation with any local authority … with whom consultation appears to him to be desirable. may by rules prescribe," etc.


"or association of local authorities."


I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will not suggest that I am leaving the words out in order to confuse the House. What difference can it make whether he consults the urban district of Hendon or jointly with the urban districts of Hendon and Finchley?


I think the hon. and learned Member is running off on a false scent He is stating that I can prescribe, under Clause 53. different forms for different areas. .I say that I cannot. The fact that I have to consult associations of local authorities -that is, local authorities who are associated from all parts of the country- proves that it is not contemplated that there shall be different forms for different areas. There may be a variation in the form, but the form when fixed must apply to the whole country.


It is curious that the right hon. Gentleman should make this point. I draw exactly the opposite conclusion. If he had not the power or the obligation to consult with different local authorities, it might be argued that his powers once exercised would operate automatically over the whole country. The mere fact that he has to consult local authorities or with associations of local authorities makes it clear that the fruits of consultation may be applied only to a particular authority, or at most to an association of local authorities. It is for that very reason that I think Clause 58 makes it clear that it was intended to be elastic. In many cases it may be wise that it should be so elastic. It is concerned with form and not with matter and is not appropriate to support an entirely new system of demand notes. It does not mean that if the right hon. Gentleman consults with Finchley as to the subjects in the demand note, that the form of that demand note are to be fixed upon Gloucester or Bristol. It must be local in its object, and can only be so carried out in the circumstances.

Here is a serious proposal that the results of municipal trading should be stated in the demand note. That is a proposal which should either be accepted or fall on its merits. The right hon. Gentleman says he has no objection to it on its merits, but he maintains that Clause 58 gives him discretion to deal with the matter. I say that Clause 58 gives him no such discretion. It is not an enabling Clause, but merely machinery for dealing with the law as it exists. If at did give him discretion, it would be highly undesirable. For these reasons, I hope he will state to the House one way or the other whether the Government on the merits of this proposal are or are not prepared to stand by what they accepted, in Committee.


Clause 7 states: Information with respect to the following matters shall be included in the Demand Note. Then follows an enumeration of the statements that must be made in the note. This matter was very fully discussed in Committee, and the hon. and learned Member is incorrect in stating that it has at no time been suggested that other matters apart from those enumerated in Clause 7, shall be included, or may be included, under Clause 58.


I said that it was not suggested that Clause 58 in itself would enable you to take a power which you do not get in any other part of the Bill.


It was most distinctly stated again and again in Committee, and was explained both on Clause 7 and on Clause 58 that, apart from the matters enumerated in Clause 7, there might be certain matters which should be included is the demand note, if the local authorities thought that it was desirable. Hon. Members who attended that very long Committee will, I think, confirm my statement when I say that we had various suggestions as to what should be included in the demand note. Various hon. Members had very strong views as to what should be included, but it was pointed out that if we added them all, it would have made the demand note almost impossible. Therefore, we came to an agreement that, at any rate as far as the matters stated in Clause 7 were concerned, they should be included.

With regard to the other suggestions made, my right hon. Friend and myself undertook to consult with the local authorities and see whether it was desirable or not to include any other matters in the demand note itself. You might very well defeat the whole intention of the demand note by crowding it with various items, with the result that nobody would read it. When we come to Clause 58, I will ask the House to look at a phrase which the hon. and learned Gentleman missed, or did not refer to, and upon which we rely and which gives my right hon. Friend the power to incorporate in the demand note other items. It says: The Minister, after consultation with-any local authority or association of local authorities with whom consultation appears to him to be desirable may by rules prescribe anything which by this Act is to be preseribed and the form of any rate, demand note, valuation list, statement, return or other document, etc. This provision, I am advised, gives us ample power to prescribe everything we desire, even after leaving out the paragraph to which Lord Banbury objected. We could prescribe that there should be an item on the demand note to show gains or losses in connection with the tramway service. This is permissible, and due authority is given to the Minister to do that.


Over the whole country?


Over the whole country. It. is said that this is bureaucratic. But the hon. and learned Gentleman has forgotten to read Clause 58, Subsection (2), which says that in every case-where, the Minister prescribes under this particular Section the rule must be laid on the Table of this House so that any hon. Member who wishes to do so can challenge it. Therefore, there is no justification for stating that there is anything of a bureaucratic nature in this proposal. In the first place the Minister has to consult the local authority before he can do anything; and secondly, if he takes action after consultation, the matter has to be laid before this House so that anyone can make an objection. That is the answer to the technical and legal objections raised. On the merits, if you look with a, critical eye on this paragraph (g) you might very well say that certain other alterations should be made in it. For instance, it might well be that before an accurate account could be given as to whether municipal trading is being run at a loss or a profit, the balance sheet for the year must be available. But it may not always be available at the particular time when the demand note is sent out, and in that case provision ought to be made by which the local authority would be able to make an estimate. I hope that the House will not consider this a matter of great substance.


This Debate reminds me of the old saying, "When doctors disagree, consult the patient." In this case the patient, is the general ratepayer. If you want to know the law, do not go to a lawyer. If in this House experienced lawyers can disagree at this stage on a Bill which has taken up more of the time and attention of hon. Members in Committee and on the Floor of the House than any other Bill during this Session, what is the layman to think about it? The optional power in Clause 58 ought to be compulsory by the retention of this paragraph (g). I also, as n layman, have read Clause 58 to mean that it is open at any time for any one local authority, or any two or group of local authorities, to press the Minister for power to insert in the demand note any particular item that they think of importance to their locality. I thought that the main object of this Bill was to introduce uniformity into the system of rating. This optional power does not. bring uniformity; it introduces diversity, and encourages local authorities to introduce all kinds of fads with regard to what should be in a demand note.

I am surprised to learn that this Tory Government, which has always been a super-critic of municipal trading, should object to the retention of this paragraph (g), One would have thought that every Conservative Association in the country would have demanded the retention of the paragraph, because it provides a splendid opportunity for them to test the efficiency or otherwise of municipal trading. As a matter of fact, the motive in moving the Amendment in the Committee stage was to limit the statement in the Demand Note to cases where there was a, loss on municipal trading. The Tories thought that they had got us, and that with then-mighty steam roller majority they would get such a provision inserted in the Bill. They thought that in every part of the country where on occasions there was a loss on a given municipal undertaking, that fact would be brought, out and be circulated in every club of the country. That was the motive. But when an appeal was made to the sense of fairness of some Members of the Standing Committee, when it was pointed out that if a loss on municipal trading in any area was to be announced where profits had been made they should also be shown, that was carried.

Having been beaten by their own friends, some hon. Members have sheltered behind another place, a place that has no position in the electorate of the country, an unrepresentative body which I shall always discount as unworthy of consideration in the sense of getting at the will of the people. We hope that the Government will reconsider their attitude on this point. It is a glorious opportunity for the Tory party to keep the Labour party in the wilderness for many years to come They always tell us that municipal trading is a failure and a burden on the rates, that it is a form of municipal Socialism. There was a glorious opportunity in these demand notes to show us up in that way. As a matter of fact hon. Members opposite know that municipal trading on the whole has been a great success in ill s country, and that it proves our contention that what we can do municipally we can do nationally by the, introduction of Socialism for the benefit of the people. Every ratepayer is entitled to get this information. He ought to be encouraged to ascertain at first hand from official statements whether municipal undertakings are carried on efficiently or not.

It is all very well for the Minister to say that if any particular local authority or any association of local authorities wishes to get the information inserted, it can come to him and ask for that permission. That is not uniformity. It simply means that in some progressive districts the request will be made. The Minister's time will be taken up with numerous requests of that sort, and the time of this House will be taken up in giving sanction or otherwise to any rules that he prescribes in the matter. Why should the time of this House be wasted in that way? Here are a Bill and a paragraph which give the power. This House has already voted in favour of it, but another place dares to interfere with the will of this House, and this mighty Tory Government, with a 200 majority all the time pays closer attention to what a few people in another place think right than to what the elected Members of this Houser have approved. When this particular item was before another place, both on Report and Third Reading, there was no discussion at all upon it. I have the OFFICIAL REPORT of the proceedings here. The Mover of the Amendment was not in his place; Lord Banbury was absent, and another Lord moved the Amendment in his name, He simply moved it without giving any reason.


In fairness to Lord Banbury, I should state that I heard him speak on the subject myself.


Not on the Third Reading.


No, but when he moved the Amendment.

12 N.


I am referring to the Third Reading. The point involved in this matter is a vital one. The demand note is. the one protection which the ratepayer has and his one assurance that the money which he hands over to the local authority is being used wisely and well. How is the ratepayer to get value for his money unless he is given the necessary information? One of the chief reasons why municipal electorates have been so indifferent for the last generation is because they have not been given the firsthand information which they require. If this paragraph (g) is retained they will get that information in the demand note and it will be a means of stimulating interest in municipal affairs. If ratepayers discover from the demand note that one of their municipal enterprises is not paying they will begin to worry the local authority and they will speed up the permanent officials in order to wipe off that loss.

I submit the Government are taking up a weak-kneed position and are running away from this proposal simply because of the action taken in another place by 50 Members, only 32 of whom were out-and-out in favour of this deletion. Why should this House be guided by that handful of nobodies who are in no way responsible to the electorate of this country, who pride themselves upon their ancestry but outside that have nothing on which to pride themselves in a democratic State? These people seek to interfere with the considered judgment of this House. I hope we shall have a Division upon this Amendment so that each constituency may find out what its individual Member thinks about this matter and so that each hon. Member's constituents will have an opportunity of asking him questions when he next visits them. Whether hon. Members opposite like it or not this is going to be as big a test question for Members of this House as anything which has happened in the last Session. Many hon. Members opposite have given lip-service on the public platform and during elections in regard to this matter of municipal trading. Here is the test. The record will be kept and the recording angel will see what hon. Member have done in this matter.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir JOSEPH NALL

I hope the House will not be led into overemphasising the importance of what is actually a very small matter. I do not think it necessary to reopen the Committee stage again, but I should point out that the paragraph in question deals with the accounts of various utility undertakings, and I suggest that the practice in Private Bill Committees in recent years has tended in the direction of eliminating the carrying of either a profit or a loss to the general rate. In most recent cases provision is made, in regard to the profits of any such undertakings, for carrying a stated sum to reserve; the reserves accumulate and are available in succeeding years to meet any losses which may be made from time to time. To insist that a fractional figure showing a loss or a profit, as the case may be, in the terms of so much rate in the pound, is beside the point. These utility under- takings depend more and more on supplying districts outside the area of the authority to which they belong and those authorities who derive supplies from the central authority strongly object to a profit being made.

One result is a tendency not to make any profit at all out of utility undertakings. That is illustrated in cases like that of the Manchester tramways out of which at one time substantial profits were carried to the relief of rates. That is no longer the practice. The authority of its own accord has given up that method. I suggest to the House that this paragraph, which might have been of some importance previously, is of very little importance in the light of recent practice. The tendency to make profit is declining and recent legislation enables balances, adverse or favourable, to be carried forward either to reserve or into the general balance of the undertakings concerned, and the real situation in respect of any particular undertaking owned by a local authority is to be found in the separate accounts which that authority has to keep and produce for the information of its own ratepayers and of other consumers or users outside the area of the owning authority. I suggest that this point is of no importance in relation to the general body of the Bill.


I am less concerned with fine technical points than with the fact that there is a test and a challenge involved in this question, and I hope the Lords Amendment will not be accepted. When paragraph (g) was first introduced it was with the idea of compelling local authorities to state upon the demand note any loss upon municipal trading, and it was obviously put forward because members of the Conservative party believed the fiction which has gained such prominence in the Press, that municipal enterprise docs not pay. When they came to investigate the question, however, they found that municipal enterprise did pay, and one of the reasons why the Labour party are taking their present attitude on this question is because they want to protect local authorities against the dishonest campaign which has been directed from the Conservative Press and platform against the principle of municipal trading. I would point out to the House how much we are prepared to con- cede in the discussion of this matter. As the last speaker said, there is unquestionably a tendency—and there should be a tendency—in municipal enterprise to eliminate profits as far as possible, or to give the advantage of profits to the service rather than to the reduction of rates. That is perfectly in line with the principles of the Socialist party and the ideal of Socialism. It shows how sure we are of our case with regard to municipal trading when we are prepared to concede that point, but we are prepared to concede hon. Members another point.

We are asking that the demand note shall state how much the rates have benefited, if at all, by municipal enterprise, and how much the ratepayer has boon injured by municipal enterprise if a loss has been incurred. That does not state the whole of the case however. There is the question of redemption. In a large number of cases throughout the country enterprises have been municipalised by means of loans which have to be paid off through a redemption fund. We have always taken up the position that so long as redemption fund is being paid the amount so paid ought not to be regarded as debt any more than the capital of an ordinary private company is regarded as debt and that the real test of whether a concern is paying or not is whether there is a surplus of receipts over expenditure or not. In a vast number of cases where there is actually a charge on the rates for the time being, there is, nevertheless, an excess of income over expenditure which proves that the enterprise concerned is paying from a practical business point of view.

That consideration does not come into our proposal, however. We are, prepared to leave that point on one side, and to submit our whole case to the test whether the rates have beer, reduced or otherwise as a result of municipal enterprise. We are prepared to dc so because we know-that municipal enterprise pays in this country, just as State enterprise and municipal enterprise, pay in our Dominions and in other courtries. The case for Socialism rests upon the practical experience of this country and the world. and we are prepared to accept the business test and the challenge, which is involved here. As I say, I hope the House will reject the Lords Amendments not only because of the points to which I have referred, but also because this House had already agreed on the matter. Here we have an obvious case of hon. Members opposite waking up to the fact that the insertion of this paragraph would prove the case for municipal enterprise put forward by the Socialists. They are afraid of their own action, and afraid of the Press and party platform campaign against municipalisation.


I desre to support the remarks of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nail), and I suggest that not only is the paragraph a matter of comparatively small importance, but that the information which it proposes to give is likely to be misleading. The question of the success or otherwise of municipal trading does not depend upon whether the accounts of that trading show a profit or not; they may show a profit by reason of the enormous prices charged or by reason of the very inadequate service given. That being the case, the insertion of this paragraph is not only not required, but is, as I say, apt to result in misleading information being given. In the interests of simplicity and in order to give the unfortunate ratepayer a shorter form and less to read, we might well leave out this paragraph. Further, in our own interest we should not at this stage of the Session disagree with a Lords Amendment unless we have serious reason for so doing.


I submit to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health that, according to his own explanation, if this paragraph be removed, the Minister will be left without certain power which he himself desires to possess. Clause 58 reads as follows: The Minister … may by rules prescribe anything which by this Act is to be prescribed and the form of any rate, demand note, valuation list, statement, return or other document whatsoever which is required or authorised to be used under or for the purposes of this Act. Clause 58 gives the Minister power to introduce any details prescribed by this particular Act. Surely an Act of Parliament can only contain what is in it, and if you remove paragraph (g) it will be out of it. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh. I am not a lawyer, but I think I am able to understand that if you remove the power of the Minister to do anything that is not prescribed by this Clause 58, he will not be able to do what is to-day in paragraph (g). Therefore, I want to7 direct my remarks to appealing to the Minister of Health that, firstly, in respect of the fact that this House itself was responsible for this Clause, and spent many days and nights on the Bill, there-appears to be at present no earthly reason why we should fall in with the views expressed by hon. Members opposite. The fact of the lateness of the Session and that the other House has sent this down to us, is not, I think, a sufficient reason for us to agree with it.

The Minister of Health a few weeks ago—if he will take this remark of mine as not unfriendly—in a speech delivered by him at Birmingham, said he had put West Ham in its place. He was referring, of course, to his pressure on the guardians. I hope this agreement with the Lords Amendment is not the result of his careful plan to keep West Ham in its place. I want to put before him, not a mere opinion, not something based upon the musty records of a precedent, but something which is of practical experience where I live and which will prove the utility of paragraph (g). These who read the newspapers will think that we in West Ham have peculiar red letter days, such as, firstly, the R.O. payment and, secondly, the days when the people dodge the landlord, if possible, but, believe me, one of the best days in the working of our borough is the day when the local citizens receive the demand note for the payment of rates. You may think the people in our borough receive it with consternation, but they do not. The ratepayers of West Ham are as ready to pay their rates as the people are to pay rents. [Laughter.] It is all very well to smile, but hon. Members opposite know that there has been very little litigation with regard to the citizens of West Ham being taken to court for non-payment of rent, and very little litigation with regard to the ratepayers there being taken to court in order that the borough should collect its rates.

On the day when the local officers bring round the rate demand notes, you will see the shopkeepers and other people, like" myself, who serve on the borough council or in Parliament, in a sense inundated by people who call upon us and ask us to explain. Is not that a wonderful sign? Is not that the reality of the life of a member of a borough council I Is not that the proof that the powers under paragraph (g) are of utility? There is an old saying that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I believe that the proof of the pudding is in the amount that is on the plate. [Laughter.] I hope my own side at least will give me audience. Mirth will be necessary about Friday, but it seems to be here already. I want to prove, and to be serious in proving, to this House the utility of paragraph (g). In West Ham for some years we have had to carry on various services, such as tramways, costing the ratepayers from £50,000 to £60,000 a year. We used always to put that on the demand note, and explain to the people why the rates of West Ham were so high. We, the councillors, were compelled to go into details and to explain these things to the citizens of our borough. What has transpired? Of recent years, we have developed a wonderful electricity department, and the profits, or rather the surplus, of that department in West Ham are nearly to-day balancing the deficit on the tramways, a deficit consequent upon the War, when, owing to a large number of local men having to go into the Army, we could not reconstruct the roads, but now that the men have returned we are doing our

best to rehabilitate the system, which is, as I say, costing some £50,000 or £60,000 a year.

We are carefully building up our great electricity department, which is showing a profit, and when the rate demand notes go round, we illustrate the public health service and what it costs to run the local police force, the medical health services —which, as the Minister knows, characterise the great public work of the Borough of West Ham—and the services to and for the children. We are not ashamed of that, nor of the dried milk given to poor children and nursing mothers. The explanations we have given on the rate demand notes in our borough have been of vary great utility. It is sometimes ask same to members of the council to explain them, but that is the glory and part of the honour of being a public representative, and I want to say, quite seriously, that we have proved in our borough that paragraph (g) has been of practical utility and benefit. Therefore, I trust the Minister, on behalf of the Government, will go into the Lobby and defeat the Lords Amendment in this case, and uphold the prestige of the British House of Commons.

Question put, "That this House doth agree with the Lords; in the said Amendment."

The House divided: Ayes, 173, Noes, 46.

Division No. 506.] AYES. [12.24 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood) Ganzoni, Sir John
Ainsworth, Major Charles Christie, J. A. Gates, Percy
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C.M. S. Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham
Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Churchman, Sir Arthur C. Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon, Wilfrid W. Clarry, Reginald George Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Clayton, G. C. Greene, W. p. Crawford
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Cobb. Sir Cyril Gretton, Colonel John
Barnett, Major Sir Richard Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.
Barnston, Major Sir Harry Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. k. Gunston, Captain D. W.
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Cope, Major William Hacking, Captain Douglas H.
Betterton, Henry B. Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe) Hall, vice-Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)
Birchall, Major J. Dearman. Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Hammersley, S. S.
Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton) Crookshank, Col. C. de W- (Berwick) Harnnon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Blades, Sir George Rowland Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro) Harrison. G. J. C.
Blundell, F. N. Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert Hartington, Marquess of
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Curzon, Captain Viscount Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)
Boyd-Carpenter, Major A. Davies, Dr. Vernon Haslam Henry C.
Brassey, Sir Leonard Dean, Arthur Wellesley Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxfd, Henley)
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive Eden, Captain Anthony Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.
Briscoe, Richard George Edmondson, Major A. J. Henn, Sir Sydney H.
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Elliot, Captain Walter E. Hennessy, Major J. R. G.
Brooke, Brigadier-General C.R, I Elveden, Viscount Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)
Bullock, Captain M. Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s-M.) Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)
Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Everard, W. Lindsay Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.
Campbell, E. T. Falle, Sir Bertram G. Hogg Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)
Cassels, J. D. Falls, Sir Charles F. Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy
Cautfey, Sir Henry S. Fermoy, Lord Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard
Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City) Fraser, Captain Ian Holt, Captain H, P.
Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Galbraith, J. F. W. Hopkins, J. W. W.
Howard, Captain Hon. Donald Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Stanley, Lord (Fylde)
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.
Hume, Sir G. H. Murchison, C. K. Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.
Huntingfield, Lord Nail, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Hurst, Gerald B. Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's) Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G.(Ptrsf'ld.) Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H. Nuttall, Ellis Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-
Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l) Pennefather, sir John Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William Penny, Frederick George Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Kennedy, A. R. (Preston) Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings) Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
King, Captain Henry Douglas Philipson, Mabel Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Price, Major C. W. M. Warrender, Sir Victor
Lamb, J. O. Ramsden, E. Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)
Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Rawilnson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk Peel Wolfs, S. R.
Loder, J. de V. Rentoul, G. S. White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple
Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman Rice, Sir Frederick Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Lunley, L. R. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus Salmon, Major. Wise, Sir Fredrie
McLean, Major A. Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham) Wolmer, Viscount
Macmillan, Captain H. Sandeman, A. Stewart Womersley, W. J.
Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm Sandon, Lord Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)
McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John Sassoon, sir Philip Albert Gustave D. Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)
Macquisten, F. A. Savery, S. S. Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)
Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel- Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange) Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Making, Brigadier-General E. Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby) Wragg, Herbert
Malone, Major P. B. Sheffield, Sir Berkeley Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Marriott, Sir J. A. R. Skelton, A. N.
Merriman, F. B. Smith-Carington, Neville W. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Milne, J. S. Wardlaw- Smithers, Waldron Captain Margesson and Captain
Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Somerville, A. A. (Windsor) Bowyer.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Gosling, Harry Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Ammon, Charles George Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) Potts, John S.
Attlee, Clement Richard Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Saklatvala, Shapurji
Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Groves, T. Scurr, John
Barnes, A. Hardie, George D Sitch, Charles H.
Beckett, John (Gateshead) Henderson, Rt. Hon. A, (Burnley) Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield) Snell, Harry
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Stephen, Campbell
Broad, F. A. Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Thurtle, E.
Bromley, J. Kelly, W. T. Viant, S. P.
Cluse, W. S. Lee, F. Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Dalton, Hugh March, S. Windsor, Walter
Davies, Evan (Fbbw Vale) Montague, Frederick Wright, W.
Day, Colonel Harry Morris, R. H.
Dennison, R. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Dunnico, H. Palin, John Henry Mr. T. Kennedy and Mr. Hayes.
Fenby, T. D.

Question put, and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendments, down to page 13, line 14, agreed to.

CLAUSE 11.—(Rating of, and collection of rates by, owners.)

Lords Amendment: In page 15, line 13, at the end, insert ; and (b) The rating authority, if they are the owners of any such hereditament: as aforesaid, shall in the case of any hereditament which is of a rateable value not exceeding that specified in the resolution and which is occupied by the owner, make to the owner (subject to the amount of the rate chargeable in respect of the hereditament being paid by the owner within the time fixed by the foregoing paragraph) an allowance corresponding to the amount, if any, passed on by the authority to the occupiers of hereditaments owned by them in respect of the allowance to which the authority are entitled under this sub-section, and, unless the contrary is proved, an amount not less than five per cent. of the amount payable in respect of rates shall be deemed to have been so passed on by the authority.


This is an Amendment to which I must call the attention of the House. It makes a substantial change in the incidence of the rating, although it was foreshadowed by the Minister before the Bill left this House. If the House accept the Amendment from the other place, I shall cause a special entry to be made in the Journal.


I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

I hope, in view of the expression of opinion in favour of an Amendment of this character in all parts of the House, while the Bill was passing through its later stages, the House will not raise any question of privilege upon it. On the Third Reading, I made some allusion to a discussion which had taken place in Committee about allowances to be given to owner-occupiers, and I indicated to the House a possible method of meeting the opinions expressed in Committee which appeared to me to receive general approval. Therefore, the Amendment which is now before us has been framed upon the lines that I have suggested, and the only thing to which I need call attention is the provision to meet the case of the owner-occupier who might find it very difficult to prove what amount of allowance had been passed on to the municipal tenants by the local authority, and, that being so, it was unfair to put upon him the onus of proving exactly what was passed on. We propose, therefore, that he should have the minimum allowance of 5 per cent., and if the local authority passed on more, he would, of course, be entitled to a corresponding allowance.

Subsequent Lords Amendments, down to page 22, line 2, agreed to.

CLAUSE 16.—(Assessment areas.)

Lords Amendment: In page 22, line 4, after the word "Minister" insert on a representation made by any assessment committee or rating authority and.


I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

I think I ought to say a word about this Amendment. In the course of a discussion upon the Report stage, one or two criticisms were made of what was thought to be the unrestricted powers given to the Minister in particular parts of the Bill. Looking at the Clause again, I think it was drafted more widely than had been intended, and that it is desirable to put some sort of restriction upon the power of the Minister to make a new scheme, so to speak, off his own bat. The case where that would happen was where there had been a dispute between the local authorities, and they could not agree upon a scheme in general. In that case, we want the Minister to be able to come in and solve the problem, and what we are proposing here is that he should only have power to do that, and to make a scheme, where representation first of all has been made to him by one of the parties in the case. That is a restriction on his power which, I think, is quite proper to put.

Subsequent Lords Amendments, down to page 25, line 37, agreed to.

CLAUSE 22.—(Ascertainment of rateable value.)

Lords Amendment: In page 26, line 37, leave out from the word "the" to the word "undertook," in line 39, and insert "rent at which the hereditament might reasonably be expected to let from year to year if the tenant."

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—[Mr. Chamberlain.]


May I ask the Minister if he will state why this change has been made? I understand it is to leave the definition identical with the definition in the present Act. If that be the sole reason, I have no objection.


That is so.

Subsequent Lords Amendments, down to page 30, line 18, agreed to.

CLAUSE 31.—(Appeal to Quarter Sessions.)

Lords Amendment: In page 34, line 24, after the word "just" insert

and (b) where the appellant is the county valuation committee or a local authority, the occupier of the hereditament to which the appeal relates may at any time before the hearing of the appeal instead of appearing as respondent give notice to the Court that he desires to be called as a witness in the case, and if he gives such a notice shall, unless called as a witness by any party to the appeal, be called by the Court as a witness, and may be cross-examined by or on behalf of any party to the appeal.


I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This is an Amendment which is designed to protect the interests of the small-owner ratepayer, to meet a case in which the ratepayer may have satisfied the Assessment Committee, or no question has been raised by the Assessment Committee in respect of his particular property, but there is an appeal against the Assessment Committee's decision by a County Valuation Committee, or some other local authority, and, incidentally, of course, this ratepayer might be affected under this decision, and he might be deterred from resisting the appeal because of the cost that might be involved. Therefore, it is proposed here that he may be able to appear without being subjected to any cost whatever. That is probably an Amendment which will be agreed to on all sides.

Subsequent Lords Amendment agreed to.

CLAUSE 32.—(Procedure on appeals.)

Lords Amendment: In page 37, line 36, leave out Sub-section (8).


I beg to move, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This is the one Amendment which has been thought likely to give rise, perhaps, to some considerable discussion in this House. The House will recollect that the particular Sub-section which is to be left out was not in the original Bill, but it was accepted by me on the Report stage sifter hearing several speeches on the subject as to whether a solicitor should have the right to appear before the Quarter Sessions. The ground on which I recommended this House to accept the Amendment was not that we were con-corned with the privileges of the Bar or of the profession of solicitors, but we were concerned to get a cheapening of the processes of law for poor people, who could not afford high fees, but who were just as much entitled to justice as those who are better off. The Amendment was accepted without a Division, but in another place it was thrown out, and the case against it was put so concisely and so admirably, if I may say so, by the Lord Chancellor, that perhaps I may be allowed to read to the House what he said: As one who had long experience at Quarter Sessions I should like to confirm what Lord Charnwood has just said, that the rating appeals are perhaps the most complicated cases with which Quarter Sessions have to deal. Many special points are raised which require skilled advice in order to deal with them, and if Quarter Sessions had not the assistance in rating appeals of advocates who are fairly skilled in that special branch of the law they would, I believe, be put in real difficulty. The Sub-section that it is sought to strike out applies not only to the committees of Quarter Sessions, who practically, for this purpose, will be Quarter Sessions, but also to the Recorder, who will have no committee, and who himself will be the Court of Quarter Sessions. Therefore, to adopt this Sub-section would be to make a substantial change in the law, which, I venture to submit, had better not be made on a Bill directed to another subject. The only criticism that arises on that statement is this: Are these appeals to which the Lord Chancellor referred properly typical of the sort of appeals that we are likely to get in the future? In other words, is it a fact that small people are deterred from prosecuting their appeals by reason of the expense? At any rate, that is the consideration which occurred to me. But a Bill of this sort ought not to effect a substantial change in the practice subsisting in the two branches of the law. We do not want to do that. But I do want to make the process of appeal as cheap as possible for the poor man, where, after all, the value may not be intrinsically high. I have tried to see whether it is possible to secure our object without exciting hostility and without re-inserting the Sub-section in its original form. I have consulted the Lord Chancellor on the subject, and, so far as he is concerned, he says that the proposal which I am about to put before the House would meet his point. Perhaps I had better read my proposal now, or read the paragraph as it would appear. It is as follows. In the original Sub-section (8) to leave out all words after the word "On," and to insert new words so as to make the Sub-section read: On the hearing of an appeal by a Committee of Quarter Sessions under this Section, any party to the appeal may, if the rateable value of the hereditament to which the appeal refers, and as it appears on the valuation list, does not exceed £100, appear by solicitor, instead of in person or by counsel. I would draw the attention of the House to two points. First of all, that it is only proceedings in Committee of Quarter Sessions, and secondly, solicitors may appear in these particular individual cases where the value of the hereditament does not exceed £100. Hon. Members will note that the valuation is as it appears in the valuation list. Perhaps we may now expect that this proposed Amendment will be accepted here, as I believe it will be accepted in another place, as being a reasonable compromise which allows us to cheapen the cost of proceedings in the smaller cases, and which does not make the larger change that has been referred to. Therefore, if this House will disagree with the Lords in their Amendment, I propose to move instead the Amendment which I have read out.


The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has suggested that this is a very fair and reasonable adjustment of a difficult problem; I agree. Substantially the limit of the right hon. Gentleman is the limit which obtains already in County Court jurisdiction. We are not, therefore, disturbing very seriously the existing position. I do not want to go into a long discussion at the moment. I hope the House will accept this proposal. I would just say this: that it would be extremely undesirable to discuss the question whether there is a reduction of cost in not employing the two branches of the profession on appeals dealing with rating. The question of the relation of the two branches of the question may have to be considered, but this is not the occasion for it. I think it is a very excellent way— if I may say so—of getting out of what promised to be a very real difficulty, and I hope the House will accept the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman.


As the Mover of the Amendment in this House which the Lords have not accepted, I must say that I am not at all satisfied with the compromise offered by the Minister of Health. It seems to me that it is a compromise really conserving the rights of the Bar, rather than conserving the rights of the ratepayers. It is true that my Amendment was down in the interests of the small ratepayers, because I realised that in the future we should have a large number of occupier owners of small property who would, from time to time, have possibly to appear before Quarter Sessions on appeal against assessments. I also put the Amendment down in the interests of another class—that is the shopkeeper class of the country, and on behalf of the National Chamber of Trades representing some hundreds of thousands of those shopkeepers. These are the people who have in the past had a great deal of trouble with assessments and are likely to have more trouble in the future; particularly under this new valuation scheme. Putting it at £100 will undoubtedly cover the position of the small property owner-occupiers. But it will not by any means cover the position of the shopkeeper class.

As regards the question raised by the Lord Chancellor, that question of rating will require barristers to deal with them —-I quite agree. That is the reason why in my Amendment I left in the words That an appeal shall be heard either in person or by a barrister or by a solicitor. I agree with the Lord Chancellor that in intricate points of raving law it is much better to be represented by a barrister, but the majority of cases that fall to be dealt with are merely questions of value, things that can be settled by people with local knowledge and by a solicitor much better than by a barrister. That is the reason why I desired this Amendment originally passed by the House to be adhered to. I have had a good deal of experience in local administration and in rating matters, and I only remember one case where an appeal was made to Quarter Sessions, and that was by a very wealthy man who appealed against the assessment of hi;; garage. A system less costly and cumbersome will meet, the case of the smaller ratepayer. I do not want to see brought forward in this new Bill similar conditions to those which have obtained in the past. I noticed in the Lords that when this Amendment to delete Sub-section (3) was brought forward it was not brought forward till the very last moment. It was not brought forward in the Committee stage. The Leader, the Marquess of Salisbury, stated in his remarks to the House: I must say that upon this Bench we ourselves are divided as to the merits of the Amendment. If your Lordships will observe that the great array of legal talent which sits around me all belong to the barrister branch of the profession' you will not he altogether surprised. I am not concerned with any quarrel or difference of opinion between the two classes of the legal profession, or about the statement made by one noble Lord that another was acting as a blackleg. I do not want to be a blackleg to the ratepayers. That is the reason why I should like to adhere to the Amendment as originally put down on the Order Paper by myself. To my mind it is a fair and reasonable suggestion. It is not limited to £100, because that is a question for the House to decide. What, however, I do ask the Government to do in this matter is to give us the same privilege that they gave to the Members of the other House, and that is a free vote in this matter. Then, at any rate, we who represent the ratepayers will have the right to vote as we think best.


I think it is due to this House and to both branches of the legal profession that a word should be said on this matter as to the position taken by the general body of solicitors on this question. To my knowledge as a member of the Council of the Law Society, and from inquiries I have been able to make since yesterday afternoon among my colleagues, I believe that the Minister's proposal meets entirely with their approval as it does with my personal approval. I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman has found this way out of what might have been a difficult position. There has been a vast amount of misunderstanding as to the Sub-section which was originally put into the Bill by this House, and which has been struck out by the Lords. I think it is right that it should be understood that that sub-section was not put in either at the instance of, or for the purpose of benefiting, the solicitor's profession.

Reference to the proceedings of the Committee will show how the matter exactly came up. The original idea of the Bill was that there was to be an appeal to Quarter Sessions. It was urged that that was an expensive matter for the small ratepayer in small cases. The Government was faced with suggestions that there should be in smaller cases an appeal to Petty Sessions. The objections to that were obvious. Without, however, going into them, I may say that that point was met by the Minister in charge promising to reconsider the point, and to see what could be done on Report stage to deal with the appeals of small ratepayers in comparatively small cases. It was, therefore, agreed that these appeals should be heard by a committee of Quarter Sessions, which should travel, and not merely sit in the ordinary quarter sessions town, but should sit in all places where the petty sessions sit, and that solicitors should have a right of audience before that committee.

1.0 P.M.

The Council of the Law Society took up this matter, not as a case for looking after the solicitor's point of view, but that, of the clients. The Council of the Law Society has always taken the position that in relation to these Parliamentary Bills it is their duty generally to look after matters of legal procedure affecting clients as a whole, and not only after the interests of a particular profession. For that reason alone the action was taken. That, I think, is shown by the fact that we are very glad indeed to accept the Amendment proposed by the Minister. I desire to remind the House, in accepting it, that prior to this Bill the great bulk of these small cases of rating appeals were appeals to petty sessions and were, therefore, appeals taken by solicitors. Therefore, in this case there is no extension of the privileges of solicitors. I would like to assure my hon. and learned Friends in this House that, so far as the profession generally is concerned, there was not the slightest idea of making any encroachment on their privileges. A poll recently has shown that the great bulk of the profession are against fusion of the two branches, and they are also equally opposed to any undue extension of the rights of advocacy to solicitors. I hope that under the circumstances the Minister's proposal will be accepted as one which entirely meets the case which we have been anxious about, namely, the cases of the small ratepayer and one which under the circumstances is satisfactory to both branches of the profession.


I think the House will welcome the statement made by the hon. Member for the Watford Division (Mr. D, Herbert) on behalf of the solicitors' profession. As a member of the Bar, I should like to express the view that we recognise in that statement the customary public spirit and disinterestedness of the solicitors' profession. From the point of view of the Bar, I regard the proposed Amendment of the existing Clause as entirely satisfactory. I am deeply convinced that it is in the interests of the administration of justice that we should preserve the division of the legal profession between the solicitor, who is in close touch with the client, and the barrister, who argues the case in Court. I believe that division assists us in many ways, though I agree with the learned Solicitor-General that this is not an occasion for a discussion on that interesting question. At the same time I believe the whole House, and, I think, the Bar as well as the solicitors, are agreed that in small cases the policy which has been in force for so long in County Courts of allowing solicitors to have audience in small cases is a highly desirable one, and I see no reason why that policy should not be extended in the modified way proposed in this compromise Clause.


I must say that the understanding that has been come to between the two branches of the law is of considerable—


There is no understanding.


The Minister in charge of the Bill gave us the impression that there had been some consultation behind the scenes.


That was between myself, who am neither a solicitor nor a barrister, and the Lord Chancellor.


I accept the Minister's correction. I am quite sure he has agreed to the arrangement in the interests of the ratepayers, and not in the interests of the legal profession.


I would just like to say that it was not until I heard the statement by the Minister in charge of the Bill that I knew of the proposal.


I am more concerned with the interests of the general ratepayer under this arrangement than in the understanding between the two branches of the law. I think it is high time the two branches of the profession should, if I may respectfully suggest it, apply for affiliation to the Trade Union Congress. I am not sure whether they would then affiliate with the Amsterdam International or the Washington International; but the unity which has been displayed here speaks volumes for the harmony of the season of the year, and I hope the trade unions of the country will copy the example set by the legal profession.

I think the Minister has done very well in this compromise to take the rateable value of £100 as the level up to which a solicitor can appear on behalf of the ratepayer. What we are chiefly concerned about is to protect the right of the small ratepayer to have a legal hearing of his case without undue expense, and the compromise certainly meets that, because up to £100 the limit will cover practically the tenant-class and the very small shopkeeper class. From what I can hear in my division, and in South Wales, generally, I think they will be fairly satisfied with this arrangement. I am not quite so sure that all the shopkeepers and tradesmen will be satisfied, because the unfortunate thing about the £100 rateable value limit is that while that sum is a substantial figure in some districts, it will be very small in others, and there will be many a small struggling shopkeeper who will not get the benefit of this arrangement. However, I appreciate the point of the Minister that whatever figure was taken there would be some criticism as to its level, and as far as the very small shopkeeper and tenant class are concerned, I think it is a very good arrangement, and I shall support it.


I would like to ask for a further answer to my question, Does the figure of £100 represent the gross or the rateable value? The answer I received just now was that it represented the valuation which appeared in the valuation list, but it is quite possible for both gross and rateable value to be inserted in the list, and where the gross value is over £100, the rateable value may be under £100. Would the right hon. Gentleman clear up that point?


The answer is, the rateable value. I think the case of the small shopkeeper which has been referred to is very largely met. If the hon. Member will look at the Schedule he will see that it would be possible for the gross value to be £125 if regard be had to the deductions provided in the Schedule.


I have listened to the legal experts giving us a definition of their differences which have been so amicably settled. The lion has lain down with the lamb, and I expect eventually they will both dine together in perfect consanguinity. There is an old adage which says that when certain people fall out honest men do not come by their own. Some of us have been members of overseers' bodies, on which we have had to listen to appeals by poor ratepayers. We have been able to settle, 90 times out of 100, any difficulty in which ratepayers find themselves. I would like to ask hon. Members opposite, who seem to be so pleased with this arrangement, to give the same amount of consideration to the dispute likely to arise in connection with the Government's new scheme for building houses in Scotland. There we have a question as to the line of demarcation between bodies of workers.

Mr. DEPUTY - SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)

We cannot now discuss that question.


I am not discussing it, I am only bringing it forward as a horrible example. A solicitor may be the best man for a job, because a barrister is not so well acquainted with the local circumstances of ratepayers in a particular area. The solicitor is the man who in the first place ascertains all the facts connected with the case, he lives in the locality, he knows the property and knows the history of the property; and as an ordinary layman who has been a member of local authorities, I have the opinion that the solicitor is better able to represent the interests of the ratepayer than any barrister can be, because the barrister is generally a kind of travelling showman. Whatever the compromise may be, I feel it does not deal with the real facts of the situation so far as the individual with a grievance is concerned. I know very well that when the Lord Chancellor con- descends to agree to anything he has got the best end of the stick. So far as we are concerned, we regard this as a compromise accepted by mutual arrangement between the lawyers on both sides; and we can do nothing else but sit and grumble—except foot the bill. Whether a man is successful or not. I know who will have to pay the bill.


I want to say a word of protest against this compromise, because it still leaves the position such that, if the case has to go to Quarter Sessions, a barrister will have to appear. There is nothing in this compromise which enables a solicitor to appear in the case if it comes before the Recorder. He may appear before the Committee where committees are in existence but not before the Recorder. I cannot understand the minds of people who consider that when a rase has to be heard in a certain Court only those who have gone through a certain legal training are capable of appearing and appealing. We had examples of the disadvantage of that during the War period. Then this House enabled even laymen to appear before munitions tribunals—even on appeal, which was not to the High Court but to the Appeals Tribunal. Once the case entered the High Court we saw the spectacle of Judges saying they could not hear; they were extremely deaf on those occasions. But when we had to appeal to the Appeal Tribunals, laymen were able to appear even against counsel, and in most cases the layman secured the verdict as against those of the legal profession on the other side. I cannot understand why solicitors should be debarred from appearing at any stage in these rating and valuation appeals, and I want to voice my protest against the bar that has been put up against them by the compromise accepted to-day.


Would the Minister in his reply clear up a point as to the solicitor not appearing before the Recorder's Court even when the rateable value is under £100?


It is only before the Committee.


Then may I point out to the Minister that I rather thought—


Order, order! The hon. Member has already exhausted his right.


It is only a question.

Amendment made in words restored: In page 37, line 36, leave out from the word "On" to the end of the Sub-section, and insert the words the hearing of an appeal by a committee of Quarter Sessions under this Section any party to this appeal may, if the rateable value of the hereditament to which the appeal relates, as appearing in the valuation list does not exceed one hundred pounds, appear by solicitor instead of in person or by counsel."—[Mr. Chamberlain.]

Subsequent Lords Amendments, down to page 43, line 42, agreed to.

CLAUSE 45.—(Inclusion in one proceeding of separate hereditaments.)

Lords Amendment: In page 45, leave out lines 32 to 34.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—[Sir K. Wood.]


It appears to me that the words which the other House proposes to leave out are words which have for their sole object the simplification of legal procedure in these appeals. We ought to aim at more simplification, as at present it is complicated enough. Is there any objection to leaving these words in?


This Amendment is purely a drafting Amendment. On examination it will be found that these three lines are unnecessary, because if different properties are in the same valuation list, they must be in the same rating area, and therefore under the jurisdiction of the same Court.

Subsequent Lords Amendments, down to page 90, line 39, agreed to.

EIGHTH SCHEDULE.—(Enactments repealed.)

Lords Amendment: In page 91, after line 16, insert:

13 & 14 Geo.5, c. 39. The Agricultural Rates Act, 1923. In subsection (2) of section six the words from "and section nine" to the end of the subsection, and the substituted definition of rateable value in Part II. of the Schedule.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—[Mr. Chamberlain. ]


While it is perfectly true that a large number of these Amendments are merely drafting Amendments—and I think the Government may count themselves fortunate that they have got them so easily through the House—this one seems something more than a mere drafting Amendment because it proposes to repeal a part of the Statute passed as recently as 1923. and therefore I think we should have some explanation of it.


I am always ready to give information when it is sought. This particular Amendment is to provide for the repeal of the definition of rateable value in the Agricultural Rates Act, 1923, which does not now apply, because it has been abolished by this Bill, and has therefore become superfluous.