HC Deb 10 December 1928 vol 223 cc1871-5

Resolution reported, That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to amend the Law relating to the administration of poor relief, registration of births, deaths, and marriages, highways, town planning, and local government; to grant complete or partial relief from rates in the case of the hereditaments to which the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act, 1928, applies; to discontinue certain grants from the Exchequer, and provide other grants in lieu thereof, and for purposes consequential on the matters aforesaid, it is expedient—

(1) To authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of such grants and other expenses (including salaries) as are by or by virtue of the said Act made so payable; so, however, that the amount of the General Exchequer Contribution by reference to which the amount of any of the said grants is under the said Act to be calculated shall not in respect of any year exceed the sum of the following amounts:—

  1. (a) an amount equal to the total losses on account of rates of all counties and county boroughs in England and Wales calculated in accordance with the said Act;
  2. (b) an amount equal to the total losses on account of discontinued grants of all counties and county boroughs in England and Wales calculated in accordance with the said Act;
  3. (c) as respects any year in the first period for which the General Exchequer Contribution is fixed the sum of five million pounds, and as respects any year in any subsequent period such sum (not being less than is provided in the said Act) as Parliament may determine;

(2) To authorise the payment out of the Consolidated Fund or the growing produce thereof of such sums as are by the said Act made chargeable thereon for the purposes of—

  1. (a) paying to the Road Fund in respect of each of the years beginning on the first day of April, nineteen hundred and twenty-eight and nineteen hundred and twenty-nine, the sum of five hundred and thirty-six thousand nine hundred and fifty-four pounds and eight shillings;
  2. (b) making advances to the cattle pleuro-pneumonia account of Great Britain;
  3. (c) making payments towards the rates on certain tithe rent-charges and payments in lieu of tithe;

(3) To remit the interest on, and in certain cases part of the principle of, so much of any loan made before the twelfth day of November, nineteen hundred and twenty-eight, by the Minister of Health to a Poor Law authority under Section three of the Local Authorities (Financial Provisions) Act, 1921, as amended by any subsequent enactment, as shall not have been required by the Minister of Health to be repaid before the first day of April, nineteen hundred and thirty."

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."


I rise to remind those who are responsible for the direction of Government procedure that there was a very clear understanding which I shared—an understanding arrived at by agreement—that this Order was not to be taken to-night.


I think that this Resolution ought not to go through, for one very vital reason. It has not escaped the attention of many hon. Members that during the discussion of the finance embodied in this Resolution there was one major issue which was never discussed, and which indeed, from the point of view of the Government Front Bench, has never been raised. I refer to the effect of the Resolution upon the yield of a penny rate through the loss of rates owing to de-rating. I do not intend at this hour to detain the House for more than a few moments, but I ask whether in the next day or two we may expect some facts as to this yield. I beg hon. Members opposite to realise that this is a very big issue, because the general guarantees under the finance of the scheme seem to me to be based on a fallacy. As I see the working of the formula, whatever case may be made out for the factors of the formula as applying the money to be made up for the loss of grants, in so far as they are successful in making up the loss to local authorities they may be unsuccessful in making up for the loss of rates in the very same area.

Many local authorities, in the months preceding the bringing forward of this Resolution claimed that a clean cut should be made between the sums applied to making up the loss of rates and the sums applied to making up for the discontinuance of grants. We are entitled to ask whether the House, before going into Committee on the Bill and before parting with this Resolution can be assured that we shall have some daylight thrown on the effect on the yield of a penny rate. In a town which I have in mind a penny rate at the moment raises £20,000, but I am assured by the financial authorities there, that after the passing of the Resolution and the Bill, it will only yield £18,400. It will be seen at once that that will be a very serious thing should any new charges come upon the local authority which are not met by the general guarantees in the Bill, or if that local authority should come within the category of the three out of 10 ratepayers, whom the right hon. Gentleman the Minister admits may lose. [Interruption.] If hon. Members interrupt I must take longer to make my point clear. I regard this point as of great importance. The smaller the parish, in my judgment, the more dangerous the loss on the yield of rates. The county, the county borough, the non-county borough, the urban district, the rural district and the parish all lose rates, and if it be an agricultural parish, where nearly all the rates have been remitted through the de-rating of agricultural land and if there should come on that agricultural parish some heavy local charge, bearing purely on the local rates, it may fall with great severity on the remaining ratepayers who are left to pay. I hope that the Minister will guarantee to give us what the Government know by way of illustration—I do not ask for more. As they have given an illustration of the working of the formula on the grant side, some illustration should also be given as to the actual effect on the yield of a penny rate in these various areas.


I beg to move, "That the Debate be now adjourned."

It is rather a serious matter, if business is to be conducted by understanding, that a distinct breach of understanding has occurred. The Eleven o'Clock Rule has been suspended, and the Standing Order says that it may be suspended for any specified business. According to the strict reading of the Standing Order, the Government should specify the business. For instance, they should say, what we understood to be the case, that it is suspended for the Appellate Jurisdiction Bill and the Superannuation (Diplomatic Service) Bill but, instead of that, they put in words to the effect that Government business should be exempted. I have more than once raised this point to the Chair, and I have been met by the statement that it was an understanding between the parties that certain business should be taken; but, if we are to be tricked—because it is nothing less than a trick—in this way, the Government would be at liberty to take every Order on the Paper. It affects every private Member, because unless hon. Members are warned what business is likely to go forward, their rights are likely to be jeopardised at any moment. Therefore, in view of the form of the Motion and seeing that it certainly takes the chief Opposition Whip by surprise, as well as many hon. Members on this side, I move the adjournment of the Debate.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I beg to second the Motion.

At the time the business was announced no specific Orders were mentioned by the Prime Minister, who said that the business to be taken by the Government would depend on the progress made. A few minutes before the Orders were read out by the Clerk at the Table I asked the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. T. Kennedy) what business was being taken, as I was interested in this particular matter. My hon. Friend told me that he had arranged that the first four Orders on the Paper should be taken, and that No. 7 Order, the Consolidated Fund (No. 1) Bill, Committee should he taken and the Northern Ireland Land (Money) Resolution. The House would have been up by now and all these four Orders would have been taken if that agreement had been observed. However, I understand now, from signs, that the adjournment Motion is to be accepted.

The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Commander Eyres Monsell)

The Government have no intention of asking the House to sit late. We have a certain amount of business to conclude by Friday. We did not get through the business, as the right hon. Gentleman knows very well, that we expected to get through last Friday and we have some extra work, therefore, this week. All we have to do is to get the Report of these two Bills. We wish to get them by the end of the week, and I think if the Opposition will give us the Report stages of the Local Government (Money) Resolution and the Local Government (Scotland) (Money) Resolution on Friday we shall be quite content to accept the Motion for the Adjournment.

Otherwise we have to take these Reports some day this week. If we do not take them to-night after 11 we shall have to do so to-morrow or the night after. Hon. Members opposite know quite well that the Report stages of money resolutions are always taken after 11, and the Government are perfectly in order in asking for this to-night. I shall be quite willing, if hon. Members opposite will give an undertaking to let us have these two on Friday, to accept the Motion for the adjournment.


indicated assent.

Debate to be resumed To-morrow.