HC Deb 25 November 1926 vol 200 cc623-38

I beg to move, in page 19, line 19, after the word "not," to insert the words "able to be."

Our reason for this is—and I think it applies all over Scotland—that since the War there has been a very grevious shortage of houses. Yet you have had at times houses standing unlet. There have actually been owners not letting these places to people who wish to occupy them. This has happened not only in the case of houses but with offices and other property. One often sees in places like Glasgow offices and shops to let. During that period, according to the Bill as it now stands, although the factor or owner might be able to let it, he is not asked to pay any rates on that property, although his refusal to let it is depriving the city of just rates and throwing a burden on the ratepayers of increased rates because this property is not let when it could be let. I cannot see any reason why the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Lord Advocate should not accept this Amendment. I could understand our opponents opposite refusing to accept an Amendment which declined to allow the owners any rebate on property that could not possibly be let. When there is no demand for that property, I could quite well understand the Secretary of State for Scotland saying it is unjust to the owners of the property for any person to compel them to pay rates because they cannot let the property. In this case it is a totally different thing. We are saying "Where it can be let." That is the only case in which we ask that rates should be paid.

On the outskirts of Glasgow—in Pollokshields for instance—it is quite common to see notices "House to be Sold." The owner could let the house, but rather than let it he chooses to put up a notice "House to be Sold." Under the Bill, as it now stands, the owner, although he could let the property and be the means of raising rates for the city, chooses to keep the house unoccupied and is not asked to pay any rates. The Lord Advocate and even the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) must agree with this. In a previous speech he said that property like houses do not need the same police protection as moveable property. I am not going to dispute that. What I say is, that an unoccupied house needs more protection than an occupied house. When I was a boy in Glasgow we were delighted if we could enter an empty house, and we did things we should not have done. The police had to be constantly supervising empty houses and shops. In the old days, before the house shortage in Glasgow, owners of property, rather than let a house go empty, would give to it a reduced rent because they recognised that property occupied was better looked after and better preserved. Unlet property throws on the police an extra burden. A ease might be made out where they cannot get rid of the property. What we are asking is, where they can let the property they aught to pay the rates just the same as if it were let. Why should they get all the police protection and not be asked to pay their quota towards town or county taxation? I think this is a reasonable Amendment.

My notice was drawn to a case the other day in the centre of Glasgow of an unlet office. A gentleman in the legal profession went to try to take the office. He was prepared to pay the rent and show a bank gaurantee. For some unknown reason, possibly it was because of his political convictions, which were the same as mine, the factor said, "I am not going to let this office. I am prepared rather than let it to a person of political opinions with which I do not agree to have it stand empty." Actually, in the centre of Glasgow an office upon which a rent could be paid and taxation to the city secured is standing empty because the owner or the factor on behalf of the owner refuses to let it because of a particular political conviction. Here we are with cases of people refusing to let property and depriving the city of rates and we are saying they should not have any responsibility for rates. Here is a common experience in Glasgow. Very often adjacent to empty houses or shops are occupied houses or shops. The police have constantly to watch the empty house or shop because it is very often used by burglars as a means of making an entry into occupied dwellings or shops. The police have to watch the empty shop far more than the shop which is used because of people wishing to use them for access to other shops. I hope the Lord Advocate will remember that there are still some few Opposition Members from Scotland in this House and that we are entitled to at least some concessions of a reasonable kind on this Bill. I do not want him to depart from his political principles, but I do ask him to give us on this side the fairness which I am sure he has given to his own friends on other matters.


I beg to second the Amendment.

In doing so, I would like to draw attention once more to the lack of essential justice. I am always getting back to that phrase. Every time that in the City of Glasgow or elsewhere public money makes an improvement which enhances the value of these subjects that are let for rent, and every time that we spend public money and increase these values, not only are those who own the property ready to take all the value created by the socially spent wealth, but they are ready to say that since they do not require to pay rates on a subject that is not let, they will let the property stand empty until necessity compels their acceptance of a rent. It all comes back to this, that if a community spends the money of the whole of the citizens in order to improve local conditions, why should two advantages accrue to the holder of what is called property? He first gets the advantage of an enhanced value through the expenditure of public money, and then he gets, by this Bill, a right to withhold the letting of a place because he is not compelled to pay rates on it while unlet. If we were saying that where an individual had unlet property the rate ought to he trebled, we should be nearer doing what is just and fair in the conditions in regard to housing that prevail to-day.

In Glasgow and in other cities we have been spending huge sums of public money in making roads, and just as soon as those roads are made, up go property values, but instead of our putting a rate upon the owners of houses to compel them to have their houses occupied, we say we will not compel them to act as other people are compelled to do in similar circumstances. Men who own other things are compelled to do something in order to get money in certain respects, but here, because this is property, the god of the Tory party, while we have people going without houses in Glasgow and four or five families living in one house, we have a Government that encourages the holding up of empty houses by saying that the owners of them need not be asked to pay rates on unlet property. Is there anything more unjust than that? I cannot think of anything more cruel to people requiring houses, who cannot afford to buy, but who can afford to pay rent, and yet the Government dare to come forward and protect still further this god of theirs. They ought to say: "The conditions are such that we must see the people housed, and if you are, not going to let this house, we are going to treble the rates upon you, because we must have some way of compelling you to bear your fair share of the expenditure of the city." It is of no use saying that property that is unlet does not require police supervision. It requires more supervision, and why should it be exempt from any portion of the rates? In the constituency of one of the occupants of the Treasury Bench, the Government are prepared to give these immoral rights to so-called owners and to use the rates of the poor people to pay the rates of the rich, and I ask that member of the Government to consider his position, because before long he will be down there facing the music.


I regret that I cannot accept this Amendment. The purpose of this Clause, which deals only with and affects only houses under the House Letting and Rating Act, 1911, is to make clear a doubt which arose as to whether, if an owner who by that Act was forced to collect the tenant's or occupier's assessments, got a partial payment, it might have been claimed that he was bound to treat the whole of it as rates and was not entitled to split it proportionately into rates and rent in the proportions which those two subjects bore to each other. All that this Clause does is to make clear that any partial payment shall be appropriated in proportion, as it really ought to be. The particular part of this substituted Subsection to which this Amendment relates reproduces the old provisions of the Act of 1911. As I said, this Clause only affects houses under the House Letting and Rating Act, and the owner of any unoccupied house in Glasgow, or elsewhere in burghs, is not liable for occupier's assessments except under this Act. Why, because you collect the occupier's assessments compulsorily under this Act through the owner, are you to make him liable for an occupier's assessment which would not otherwise be payable under the general law operating in the burghs? I quite appreciate such arguments, however irrelevant to the scope of the present discussion, as to the taxation of land values, to which the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie) has referred, and I quite appreciate arguments as to whether owners ought to be forced to let houses, at whatever rent may be fixed, or that some Court should fix it or not, but this is not the means by which that can be done. It would be quite inappropriate and also ineffective, and, if I understand the hon. Members' arguments correctly, it would not touch the type of houses which they have in their minds, and it would certainly have only a very limited operation. For these reasons, the Government is opposed to the Amendment.


While I recognise the difficulty which the Lord Advocate has in acknowledging the relevancy of the Amendment to this particular Clause, it is time to emphasise such a striking anomaly as exists under the present housing conditions in our cities. The Government have a powerful enough majority to have gripped this kind of thing if they had had the disposition, and we can only urge the importance on the Government and on the whole House of seeing to these things, when we have empty houses that ought to be made available at the present time for the necessities of those who are having to get wooden houses, steel houses and ail sorts of houses. Then again, from the taxation point of view in itself, it is a very striking anomaly. I think it. right, therefore, at this juncture that we should emphasise these questions.


I am surprised at the Lord Advocate declining to accept the Amendment merely upon the ground that this particular Clause refers to houses under the House Letting and Rating Act. In Sub-section (3) he will find how closely the words proposed to be inserted deal with the question which the Mover of the Amendment sought to bring to his attention. I shall not seek to apply the principles of the taxation of land values to this question, but I want to deal, purely and simply from the point of view of the occupiers of houses, with the question of a house which is not let for a certain period of the year. The Sub-section as it stands in the Bill deals, as the Lord Advocate says, with a period of the year when a particular house may be vacant, and although the owner or estate agent or factor may have received certain payments, which would include a certain proportion of the rates for a part of the year, still he would or might be expected to pay the rates for the entire year. Bat the Lord Advocate has to bear in mind that this Sub-section deals with houses vacant, not for an entire year, but for a portion of the year, and consequently it may seem a little more complicated than where a house has been vacant for an entire year. I, like my colleagues, represent a constituency where houses are small, and rents are paid sometimes weekly and sometimes monthly, where a house can be easily vacated by a tenant, and where the pro- portion of the rates collected by the factor may not be in sufficiently large amount, even for a monthly let, to enable him to pay the whole of the occupier's rates for the entire year.

The right hon. Gentleman must bear in mind that the house factors in Glasgow and the owners in Glasgow take up a certain line with regard to applicants for vacant houses. A house may have been occupied for three months of the year, and three months' rates may have been paid by the outgoing tenant. The house may have been vacant for a couple of months, when another individual makes application, one who in normal circumstances would be thought a perfectly reasonable tenant. But we know, and the Secretary for Scotland knows, perfectly well there are certain factors who prefer that houses should remain vacant for months, rather than that they should he left to certain individuals to whom they take exception. You may have the case of certain agents who refuse to allow people to have vacant houses unless they are prepared to pay £2, £3, or £5 for the key, and who hold the house vacant for a month, or even three months, until a tenant comes along who is willing and able to pay what is called key-money to obtain the house.

All that this Amendment seeks to do is that where such an estate agent or factor refuses to let a house, and holds up a house for key money, or prefers that the house should remain vacant until he gets the kind of tenant he thinks suitable to him, the owner shall, during the months which the house has been kept vacant because of his refusal to let it, be required to pay the occupiers' rates for that particular period. Surely that is no very great hardship on the owners. Surely it is not asking any great thing of this Government that they should require that where a house owner or factor deliberately refuses to let a house to a tenant, he shall be required to pay the rates of that house during the period that the house remains vacant. That is all we ask the Lord Advocate to do. If it seeks to do other than that, he ought to have told the House where my hon. Friends erred in their Amendment. He has not done so, and I can only conclude that my interpretation is the correct one, and his is the wrong one. I hope he will see that something is done to compel the indi- vidual who holds out against the letting of a house to pay the rates during the time that the house is vacant.


I think this Amendment is a much more important Amendment than the Lord Advocate seemed to think. He said that the houses we had in mind were, possibly, some of those large houses which were once occupied by well-to-do people, but which, in many cases, are not occupied to-day, and that we thought those houses should have to pay an occupier's rate, and that there might be a hope of getting working-class people in them. We did not make that assumption. It is true we do think there is gross injustice, in view of the housing conditions in our big cities, that such houses are often allowed to remain unoccupied. But the primary reason for our putting down this Amendment was to endeavour to secure protection for those small householders for whom the House-Letting and Rating (Scotland) Act, 1911, was passed. In my own division, on more than one occasion, I have had people coming to me and telling me about the desperate circumstances in which they were placed. There were, possibly, nine of them in a single apartment, and they knew of a room-and-kitchen house to let. Yet the property owner or the factor would not let the house. The reason they gave was that there had been left on the house a debt charge by the previous tenant, who had possibly gone away without paying his rent, and unless the person proposing to become a tenant was willing to take over and pay the amount of rent outstanding, he would not get the house. I have spoken to the Lord Advocate about this matter privately on more than one occasion. There is always the difficulty which he has to face of netting evidence which will allow him to take action in connection with the factor. I admit there is that difficulty, but I submit that by means of this Amendment, which will only apply to those small houses which come under the 1911 Act, we shall give protection to these people. I think the Lord Advocate will agree with me that this Amendment would only apply to the small houses under the 1911 Act, and if the Government could see their way to accept this Amendment, it would mean that so much Protection would be given to these people.

I want also to stress the point with regard to houses standing empty for a certain time. The Lord Advocate seemed to consider it an injustice that the property owner should be called upon to pay an occupier's rate for the house during the period that it was standing empty. But when you set the terrible housing conditions in some districts in Scotland against the possibility of an injustice to certain property owners, I think there is very great reason indeed why this Amendment should be accepted. The small houses which are covered by this Amendment will not stand empty if the property owner is a decent man. The need for houses in our Scottish towns and cities is so great that no decent property owner can fail to let his house immediately, in view of the large demand there is for this type of house. Consequently, the only people who would really be adversely affected by this Amendment are those property owners or factors who are not playing the game as far as the House Letting Acts are concerned, but are trying by one means or other to get key-money or payments to which they are not entitled.

It seems to me, on the Lord Advocate's own showing, that the small houses under the 1911 Act are the only houses that will be dealt with under this Amendment. I have also put it to him that there is this great dearth of houses in our towns and cities, and that every decent property owner can let his house within 24 hours without any difficulty. Consequently, the property owners who might be prejudiced by the acceptance of this Amendment are property owners who are not disposed to play the game with the working people in those districts, and are not prepared to let the houses without some illegality in regard to key money and payments, though it is difficult to catch them and to convict them. Consequently, on behalf of all these poor people, I do press upon the Government to accept this Amendment, and give us something that will afford a certain measure of protection, not against the decent factors or the decent property owners, but against those rapacious wretches who pray upon the poverty of the people, and use the terrible needs of the people in order to try to extort a little more out of the miserable houses which they let.

I do hope the Government will meet us to some extent in regard to this Amendment, or even consider the possibility in other place of putting in something in order to make it more difficult for that section of property owners or factors to take these illegal payments. If the Government would give us some such assurance as that, we would be satisfied, but we do think that there should be some concession from the Government, that something should be done to afford a measure of protection to these poor tenants against that section of property owners or factors who are not playing the game with the poor people.


I would appeal to the Lord Advocate to accept this Amendment. Some time ago we had power to compel people who in a time of need were keeping houses empty to do something. The Members of the Tory party may think we are pressing this matter a little too much, but I would assure them that the stories which have been told here do not apply to the cities only. There are people, who are not friends of the Tory party, any more than they are friends of the Labour party, who keep houses empty, it may be in order to try to get a particular tenant, and I wish the House to understand the kind of tenant they want to get. A man with a big family does not suit the factor. What he wants is to secure as tenants a young married couple or people with no encumbrances, and while the house is kept empty other ratepayers are suffering; and all the time the Government are being asked to speed up house-building in order to meet a want which could be satisfied if only existing houses were let. I hope the Lord Advocate, who knows the conditions as well as we do, will accept this Amendment, which will do no harm to anybody, because it is only in cases where a house is wilfully kept empty that the rates will have to be paid. If it can be proved that the owner is unable to let the house, the Amendment will not apply.


I sincerely trust we shall have some reply to the arguments which have been submitted. Where a house is being deliberately kept out of the market to suit the purpose of the landlord, in obtaining a particular type of tenant, no one, surely, can justify a system which involves the other ratepayers in additional burdens. I would point out also that this additional charge will have to be borne by the tenants, because no share is to be paid by the owners. The whole Bill seems to be drafted for the purpose of putting the largest burden possible on householders, instead of trying to share the burdens equally.


I have already replied to the arguments of hon. Members, and so far as I have heard their speeches, no fresh argument has been adduced, although the points may have been put in a different way and somewhat more forcibly, in some instances, by some of the later speakers. The only thing I want to add is this—the wording of the Amendment would raise very great difficulties, and it would be quite impossible to enforce it. Who is going to settle whether it is possible to let a place or not?


The local authorities are doing that now.


Oh, no.


The sanitary authority in Glasgow does it.


As I have already explained, I do not see how we can insert a wide provision of this kind in a Clause which is merely introducing a slight amendment in the class of houses which are under the Act of 1911, and I am afraid I cannot accept it.


Does not this particular section of the Bill before the House alter the House Letting and Rating (Scotland) Act, 1911? Surely, therefore, when we are amending that particular Act we can go still further and confer wider powers upon the authorities.


May I ask the Lord Advocate what is the authority in Edinburgh or in Glasgow which determines that a house shall not be occupied when it is unfit for habitation? He has said there is no authority. I say there is.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 71; Noes, 162.

Division No. 502.] AYES. [7.52 p.m.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock} Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Amman, Charles George Hardie, George D. Ritson, J.
Baker, Walter Hayday, Arthur Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland)
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Hirst, G. H. Scrymgeour, E.
Barr, J. Hudson, J, H. (Huddersfield) Sexton, James
Batey, Joseph Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose) Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) John, William (Rhondda, West) Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Bromfield, William Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Stamford, T. W.
Bromley, J. Kelly, W. T. Stephen, Campbell
Buchanan, G. Kennedy, T. Sullivan, J.
Charleton, H, C. Lansbury, George Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Cluse, W. S. Lawson, John James Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Lee, F. Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Connolly, M. Lindley, F. W. Thurtle, Ernest
Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh) Lowth, T. Viant, S. P.
Day, Colonel Harry Maclean, Neit (Glasgow, Govan) Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Dennison, R. Maxton, James Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Dunnico, H. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Westwood, J.
Fenby, T. D. Naylor, T. E. Whiteley, W.
Gardner, J. P. Oliver, George Harold Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.) Palin, John Henry Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Grundy, D. R. (Glamorgan) Paling, W.
Grundy, T. W. Ponsonby, Arthur TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Potts, John S. Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. T.
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Purcell, A. A. Henderson.
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T. Balniel, Lord Broun-Lindsay, Major H.
Albery, Irving James Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton) Berry, Sir George Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James
Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Birchall, Major J. Dearman Burman, J. B.
Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W. Blundell, F. N. Butler, Sir Geoffrey
Atholl, Duchess of Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Campbell, E. T.
Atkinson, C. Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart Cautley, Sir Henry S.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Bowyer, Captain G. E. W Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Brocklebank, C. E. R. Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton
Chapman, Sir S. Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy Rees, Sir Beddoe
Charteris, Brigadier-General J. Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Remnant, Sir James
Christie, J. A. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Rentoul, G. S.
Clayton, G. C. Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiten'n) Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Hume, Sir G. H. Ropner, Major L.
Conway, Sir W. Martin Hurd, Percy A. Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.
Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L. Hurst, Gerald B. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Isllngtn, N.) Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's) Rye, F. G.
Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l) Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick) Jacob, A. E. Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Curzon, Captain Viscount Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington) Sandeman, A. Stewart
Davies, Dr. Vernon Kidd, J. (Linlithgow) Savery, S. S.
Dean, Arthur Wellesley Kindersley, Major G. M. Skelton, A. N.
Eden, Captain Anthony King, Captain Henry Douglas Smithers, Waldron
Edmondson, Major A. J. Little, Dr. E. Graham Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Ellis, R. G. Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley) Sprot, Sir Alexander
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.) Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green) Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F.(Will'sden, E.)
Everard, W. Lindsay Loder, J. de V. Stanley, Lord (Fylde)
Fairfax, Captain J. G. Lougher, L. Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Falle, Sir Bertram G. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere Storry-Deans, R.
Fielden, E. B. Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.
Finburgh, S. Lynn, Sir R. J. Streatfield, Captain S. R.
Ford, Sir P. J. MacIntyre, Ian Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.
Forrest, W. McLean, Major A. Templeton, W. P.
Foster, Sir Harry S. McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)
Foxcroft, Captain C. T. Macquisten, F. A. Tinne, J. A.
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Margesson, Captain D. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Globs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham Merriman, F. B. Wallace, Captain D. E.
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Bt. Hon. Sir John Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark) Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Grace, John Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden) Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Greene, W. P. Crawford Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)
Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London) Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr) Wells, S. R.
Grotrian, H. Brent Moore, Sir Newton J. Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.
Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury) White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-
Gunston, Captain D. W. Murchison, C. K. Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)
Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Hanbury, C. Nicholson, O. (Westminster) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington) Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.) Wise, Sir Fredric
Haslam, Henry C O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh withers, John James
Hawke, John Anthony Oman, Sir Charles William C. Wolmer, Viscount
Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley) Penny, Frederick George Womersley, W. J.
Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle) Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings) Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Perkins, Colonel E. K. Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)
Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)
Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Assheton TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone) Price, Major C. W. M. Major Cope and Mr. F. C. Thomson.

Amendment made: In page 19, line 34, leave out the word "assessment," and insert instead thereof the word "assessments."—[Sir J. Gilmour.]

The following Amendment stood on the Order Paper in the name of Sir J. GILMOUR: In page 19, line 42, at end, insert— (2) Sub-section (6) of Section seven of the House Letting and Rating (Scotland) Act, 1911 (which relates to the deduction to cover cost of collection to be allowed to owners from occupiers' rates levied and recovered from the owners), shall have effect as respects occupiers' rates paid for a period after the commencement of this Act subject to the following Amendments:

  1. (a) The words 'In the City of Glasgow two pounds ten shillings per centum; and elsewhere,' and the words 'Except in the City of Glasgow' shall he omitted; and
  2. (b) The words 'five pounds' shall be substituted for the words 'two pounds ten shillings' wherever they occur."

8.0 P.M.


On a point of Order. Regarding this proposal of the Government, I desire to have the ruling of the Chair on this Amendment. This proposal provides for an increase of the allowance to owners to cover the cost of collection of rates of the tenants from 2 per cent. to 5 per cent. In our judgment it is perfectly clear that that could only be done by increasing the charge to the great masses of other people who have to contribute to the total produce of the rates. If that be correct, then I submit that this Amendment is out of order in view of a ruling which was given at an earlier stage of the Bill, Sir, by your predecessor in the Chair. That ruling, as we understand it, given by Mr. Deputy-Speaker, said that the Government must recommit that part of the Bill if there were variations in the incidence of the rate. I venture to submit that, at the very least, this proposal is a variation in the incidence of the rate, and accordingly it would be covered by the ruling given by your predecessor. But I take the view also that this is rather more than that, and is, in fact, an increase of the charge for a very considerable section of the people and therefore the Government must, in order to comply with the ruling already given, recommit this part of the Bill.


I submit that this Amendment is in order. In the first place it is clear that it has nothing to do with the incidence of the rate at all. The question here is for the owner who collects on behalf of the Corporation of Glasgow, shall we say, the occupiers' rates. It is a question of what commission he is to be allowed to keep for that collection. It is not a question of the amount of the rate at all. I agree that it is a question which may deal with the net amount involved, but it is not a question of the increase affecting directly the people concerned with the rate.


May I submit on that point that the Lord Advocate has conceded my case as to variation of incidence? I leave it respectfully to the Chair to say if this Clause must be recommitted.


I would like to submit that in regard to Glasgow this Amendment would mean an increased payment of £22,000 and would therefore necessarily involve an increase in the rate and on the ruling given by Mr. Deputy-Speaker earlier in the afternoon—and that ruling was given on a Clause which the Lord Advocate said was in order but which was ruled out of order on precisely the same grounds—I submit that this Clause is out of order.


May I say a word on that point to make perfectly clear what this Amendment really is? The effect of this Amendment is to secure that the owners who collect on behalf of the Government shall get nothing more than its costs them, they shall not get a bonus. In other words, they really are acting as the servants of the corporation, in the case I have put, for collecting this money, and the object of this Amendment is not to give the owners anything at all; it is simply to reimburse them for the task they do on behalf of the corporation. It is true that if the actual cost amounted to the 5 per cent., the figure involved would be something like £22,000, but the Amendment, as framed, provides for something not ex- ceeding 5 per cent. It is only a question whether the work is done by the owner or by a servant in the rate collectors' office. It is a question of ordinary current expenditure, and I submit that this Amendment is not out of order.


On that point, I submit respectfully that the Lord Advocate is quite wrong in submitting that this is a definite amount which is simply the cost of the expenditure on the part of these people. There is a commission that is charged by the factors in this collection. There is this additional charge being made upon the people, and it will mean an increase in the rates in the City of Glasgow.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)

This is rather a technical point, but as far as I can make out from what the Lord Advocate has said there is no direct charge on the rates by this particular Amendment, but, at the same time, no doubt the effect of this Amendment would be to relieve the burden on one portion of the ratepayers and to inflict a heavier burden on another portion of the ratepayers, which obviously could not be done on the Report stage of the Bill.