§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. William Watson)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This brief Bill covers two points on which Amendment of the Rating (Scotland) Act, 1926, has been found in practice to be necessary. I have already dealt the other evening with the first part, and it might be convenient if I were to restate once more the difficulty that has arisen. The second point is a very short point on which I will attempt to give seine explanation also. The first point relates to the calculations of the Treasury grant which is to be given in each year to Scotland to make up the cavity or deficiency caused by the relief given to agricultural people under the various Acts which have been passed, and, if I may take the matter somewhat chronologically, it will explain, perhaps, a little more clearly how the difficulty has arisen. To go back to 1896, under an Act of that year relief was given as regards rates to agricultural occupiers. That relief was that they were to be rated only on three-eighths of their valuation for the purpose of local rates. In order to compensate the rating authority for the shortage brought about by this reduced valuation of agricultural occupiers, the Act provided for a Treasury grant being given which was to be brought into the Local Taxation (Scotland) Fund, and distributed from that in the correct proportions to the various rating authorities. Unfortunately, the amount of that grant, or the basis on which it was calculated, was stereotyped by the amount of rates calculated for the financial year to Whitsunday, 1896, and the proportion of those rates which had been borne by agricultural occupiers.
The result was that, as time went on, a very large gap was left uncovered by the Treasury grant, and in 1898 the gap had already begun to develop, and an additional £20,000 was added to the grant of 1896. When I talk of the 1896 grant, perhaps the House will understand I am also including the increase of 1898. By 1923 the condition of things was that, the normal rate being leviable in Scotland on 248 the counties, half on owners and half on occupiers, the relief which was given to the agricultural occupiers under the 1896 grant at that time—I am giving illustrative figures taken from the condition of things in 1923—amounted in round figures to £431,000. That was the amount which, it was imagined, the Treasury grant would meet; in fact, the Treasury grant at that time only amounted to £69,000, and the difference—what I call the gap or cavity—between the relief obtained by the agricultural occupier and the actual amount of the Treasury grant was a sum of £362,000. That was a deficit in the rates not made good by the Treasury grant, and which required to be rated for by the rating authority in addition to their normal rates. That was the effect of it. In 1923, when the amount of relief given to agricultural people was somewhat extended, and greater relief was given to the occupiers and a certain amount of relief was given to the owners, at the same time there was provision made in the Act of 1923 to try to fill up this shortage of the Treasury grant which gave rise to the deficit of £362,000, of which I spoke.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
It was the total value of the relief given to agricultural occupiers under the 1896 grant. The sum of £431,000 is what it came to in 1923. I am taking an illustrative figure, but of course it varied. That is five-eighths of the agricultural occupier's valuation from which he escaped in 1896. There always had been a shortage, but, of course, the rates in 1923, taken all over, were rather a different proposition from the rates in 1896, and, therefore, what we want to know is the situation in 1923–1024. In order to fill up that gap, an additional annual grant was provided for under the Agricultural Rates Act of 1923, and the basis of calculation of that grant was this. In the first place, it was based on the relief given to owners. The basis of calculation is prescribed under Section 10 of the Act of 1923, and it was not stereotyped as in 1923, but was to be ascertained from time to time under the certificate of the Secretary for Scotland, so that the old form disappeared. What fell to be done under 1923 was to take the total amount of rates levied as if the Act of 1923 had not been passed— 249 that is ignoring the 1923 relief fund—and to find out from that total rate levied the portion of it which the owners—that is all the owners—including the agricultural owners, carried. Having discovered that portion out of the total rate, which gave the actual burden falling on all the owners, you then found out the portion of the total owners' rate or burden which fell on the agricultural owners, and, having got that figure, the grant was calculated on the basis of three-eighths of the agricultural owners' share of the total rate.
If the House has followed me so far, one point I hope I have made clear is that the basis of the grant was the actual burden falling on the owners, and consequently the actual burden falling on agricultural owners. Under 1923 the relief—I am talking for the moment of the relief given and not the grant—was 50 per cent. of the valuation to the agricultural owners and 50 per cent. of the valuation to the agricultural occupier, but the agricultural occupier could recall or get over from the owner 25 per cent., so that in effect the agricultural occupier got 75 per cent. relief and the agricultural owner only got 25 per cent. That was the condition of things, and it worked out quite well until the Act of 1926. That Act was not intended to and did not, in fact, affect the relief granted, although it put it somewhat differently, but it saved the roundabout method of the occupier recovering from the owner and put it directly, 25 per cent. relief to the owner and 75 per cent. relief to the occupier. We are not concerned with that point, but the Act attempted to simplify incidentally the basis of calculation of the grant of 1923, and it assumed, erroneously, that the owners' share of the total rate for the purposes of the 1896 Act was just the normal share of half the total rate—half occupiers' and half owners'. But it has been forgotten that this gap which I have spoken of, which existed before 1923—that is the £362,000—when it came to be rated—because the Treasury have not made it up—fell, not half on the owners and half on the occupiers, because the 1896 relief to the agricultural occupiers was given effect to, with the result that the occupiers' valuation on which you were rated for this purpose being decreased by 250 this relief, the owners' liability bulged over the half into the occupiers' half.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
You say the addition of one portion of the rate had been forgotten in 1926. Forgotten by whom?
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
If you please. It was a very natural mistake to make. Equally, the Opposition were not right. I do not want to argue the point. I want to explain the difficulty first.
§ Mr. MAXTON
You recognise that the Opposition have not the advantage of learned legal advice as the Government have.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I do not assume ignorance, certainly not on the part of the hon. Member. In 1926, for the purpose of the grant, a shorthand method was prescribed of taking the owners' share, as the basis of the calculation of the grant; as being half the total rate. The result was that we altered the amount of the grant to the Scottish agricultural owners from the Treasury detrimentally, and if you look at the last page of the White Paper—I do not want to trouble the House with actual figures too much—the difference between finding the actual share of the total owners' liability in the rate as levied under 1923 and taking the rough method of counting it as being half the total rate means a difference, on the illustrative figures I have taken, of £200,000. That is to say, the actual owners' share of the total rate exceeded by £200,000 the half of the total rate, and the result is that in calculating the grant a sum of £200,000 is missing from the basic figure, namely, the total owners' share, and equally the corresponding proportion of the £200,000—you find these figures on the last page—of the agricultural owners' share of the total of the owners' rate is £60,000. The grant under the Act of 1923 is three-eighths of the agricultural owners' share. If you are looking at the last page of the White Paper, that comes out at £22,500. 251 That is the loss that this drafting error involves.
Apart altogether from any question of fault, we are concerned at, any rate to see that Scotland does not lose anything. In fact, of course, the 1926 Act did not come into operation till last Whitsun. We are in the middle of the first year of its operation, and up to Whitsun the old 1923 rule has applied. This error was discovered early in the current year. The Treasury meantime is still following the 1923 rule on the footing that we are to get this Bill. That is the reason why the Clause is worded "shall have effect and be deemed always to have effect." That is so that it will cover the current year, which is the first year of the operation of the Clause we are amending. I have done my best to make clear what is certainly not a very easy subject, and I hope that the House has followed me fairly well.
I come now to the second point in the Bill, which seeks to amend the definition of rateable value. This relates to the question of lands which are entitled to total exemption. In the 1926 Act it seemed a reasonable measure not to bother about the valuation of these lands at all, but to enter them as nil in the valuation roll right from the beginning, and therefore we made this provision in this definition of rateable value, directing the assessor in making up the valuation roll—because that is what in effect it means—to enter land entitled to total exemption from rating at nil. In practice, a difficulty has emerged, and it is this. Again, I will do my best to make it clear. The question of total exemption from rates is a, matter which falls to be decided at a stage when rating is done, and that is a later stage than when valuation is done. That is to say, the assessor makes up his valuation roll and then it becomes available for the rating authority to make their assessment. That is the second stage. It is not until the assessing stage by the rating authority comes up that, if there is a dispute about the right to exemption, it really arises, and the proper, persons to decide that in the first instance are the rating authorities. The House will see at once that one effect of directing the assessor in making up the valuation roll to enter properties at nil is that he has to consider 252 the question of exemption. He has to find out which properties are entitled to total exemption, and the result is that you anticipate in that way the decision of the rating authorities.
Of course, there is no harm done if the assessor decided that the property was not entitled to exemption and put in a value, because when the roll came to the rating authority a person claiming exemption could go and say, "It is true I have a value on my property, but I am entitled to total exemption, and you cannot rate me." The assessor's action in that case in no wise prejudices the decision by the rating authority. But if the assessor took another view and made up his mind, wrongly we will assume, that a particular property was entitled to exemption and simply put in nil opposite it, and then the roll had gone to the assessing or rating authority, which decided, we will say rightly, that the claim to exemption was bad, they would have no value on which they could assess. That was a consequence not foreseen at the time of what otherwise would have been a perfectly reasonable and sound method, to simply enter exempted property at nil, but the result has been that there has been some talk as to whether this did not amount to a statutory direction to the assessor to decide the question of exemption. We have no intention or desire to take away the right to decide that question from the rating or assessing authority, and it is in order to make clear that that is not interfered with, and to restore the position, that we insert this second Clause, simply taking out the excepting words in the definition of rateable value in the Act of 1926. I hope that may be a clear explanation, and I shall ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I do not like confessing to stupidity any more than any other Member of the House. I have sat here and tried to look as wise as other Members, but, I am too honest not to be prepared to admit that in the understanding of this Bill I am just as much in a fog as I was at the beginning, except on one point, that this House obviously trusted the right hon. Gentleman opposite in the passing of the 1926 Act to make a workmanlike job in matters of this description. We hold the view, where they are technical, and where 253 there is no real party issue involved, that when we pay very handsome salaries to the right hon. and learned Gentlemen for very special legal knowledge—
§ Mr. MAXTON
I do not know. I do not want to enter upon any argument with the right hon. and learned Gentleman about the line of demarcation between legal business and political business—
§ Mr. MAXTON
I do not mind if the right hon. and learned Gentleman leaves the responsibility for this Bill to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State who is sitting beside him. I am not really concerned. There are four right hon. and hon. Gentleman who represent the Scottish Office in this House. I want to say that I am glad and pleased to see them all four of them, sitting on the bench opposite at one time while a Scottish Measure is being discussed. I hope this is to be interpreted as meaning that, although they have made a gross mistake which has caused great trouble, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate has explained, to local assessment authorities, to landowners, and the occupants of agricultural land, they are at least prepared to come before the House and accept responsibility for that mistake.
Since they have made that mistake, I think it behoves the Opposition to take very great care that they do not allow a similar mistake to occur on this Measure. Frankly, the explanations of the right hon. and learned Gentleman have not satisfied me that the new Bill now being presented fully rectifies the errors that slipped into the Act of 1926. Let me say this further. The one thing that sticks out clearly even to the most simple-minded Member of this House in reading the Bill, and the White Paper explaining the financial Resolution and after listening to the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman is this: What a tremendously complicated business is the whole system of raising rates for local purposes, and the whole system of giving grants to those local authorities in relief of certain parts of their 254 expenditure. How the ordinary citizen can understand where he is on this matter it baffles me to know. It ought to be the principle of rating and taxation—and I think it is accepted as the principle by the experts on this subject, both as regards rating and taxation and the method of imposition—that the incidence of it should be clearly understood by the persons who are responsible for paying these rates and taxes. I put it to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that if Members in this House who are in the habit of examining Acts of Parliament of various types find it impossible to follow the ramifications of this Bill, it must almost be impossible, or quite impossible, for the man who has actually to pay the rates to understand where he is. I put it to the Government that it is bad that a man should simply be handed a paper and told "You have to pay that," and he says, "How is this arrived at?" that he should be told that the basic principle is laid down in the Act of 1896 which was amended by the Act of 1923.
§ Mr. MAXTON
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is denying now the one thing that he had explained to me in the matter of this legislation, that he had to go back to 1926. I will go back to it myself. I have the Act here. The first sentence in his Memorandum explaining the Financial Resolution is:The Agricultural Rates, Congested Districts and Burgh Land Tax Relief (Scotland) Act, 1896, provided that, for the purpose of the agricultural occupiers' share of the rates therein mentioned the annual value of agricultural lands and heritages should be held to be three-eighths of the value appearing in the Valuation Roll.Then it goes on:It provided Further"—and, I think, this certainly has to be known to get an understanding of the position—for the distribution of an Exchequer Grant among rating authorities affected, which was contemplated to be equivalent to the deficiency in the produce of the rate due to the reduced value. The Grant actually available, however, did not equal the deficiency. A further grant was provided by the Local Taxation Account (Scotland) Act, 1898. The combined grants vary within very narrow limits and for many years have been less than the deficiency, the amount by which 255 they fell short having had to be raised from the rates.Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman still shake his head or will he now shake it up and down?
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I shook my head at the suggestion that the Act of 1896 was amended by the Act of 1923 as regards the grant. On the contrary, the 1923 Act gave an additional grant.
§ Mr. MAXTON
The argument that I am making is that the person who is asked to pay rates ought to know how the amount for which he is asking is arrived at. To understand that, he has to go back to the Act of 1896. Having gone to the Act of 1896 and having read the appropriate Sections there, he has to come to the Act of 1898, read the appropriate Sections there, then come to the Act of 1923 and read the appropriate Sections there, next come to the Act of 1926, and finally come to the amending Bill which we are now discussing in this House.
§ Mr. MAXTON
It is no good the right hon. and learned Gentleman shaking his head at that statement of the position. It has been outlined in his own speech, and it is in the White Paper issued by the Vote Office for our financial guidance on the matter. I put it to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that, instead of coming forward with this trifling Bill, he ought to have said: "Oh, this cannot go on." The new amending Bill makes a confused position worse confounded, and we have to get right away back to the very foundations of our rating system and produce a new Bill that will be simpler and clearer and will place the burden of local expenditure on the proper shoulders in the various districts, will relieve that local expenditure by that proportion which ought properly to be taken out of the national Exchequer, and will be in plain, simple language. It is not beyond the wit of man, not even beyond the wit of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, to bring forward a Measure in plain, simple language that plain, ordinary people can understand and that will not involve everybody concerned, those who are responsible for the valuation as he has pointed out, those 256 who are responsible for the collection, the members of the local authorities, the Treasury officials who are responsible for sending down the grant-in-aid, the assessors who are responsible for imposing the rate, in tremendous complications. All this tremendously complicated collection that was instituted by the original legislation has been added to by the Bill which is being introduced to-day. There is a very general impression throughout this House, and throughout the country, that if we simply get sufficient money that is all that Scotsmen or Scotland as a nation want and that we do not inquire too closely from whence it comes.
On the occasion when I was opposing a Financial Resolution in the early hours of the morning an English Member said to me: "It is only to give Scotland money." We are expected to say: "Oh, yes; it is all right: as long as it is money, we will take it." I do not know whether I am speaking for anyone but myself on this subject. but I hope that I am speaking for right hon. Gentlemen opposite when I say that we want our money clean and that we want it definite. I think that the story which has grown up by tradition about the Scotsman's meanness has only this kind of foundation, that the Scotsman is willing to pay money very freely provided he knows that it is due from him and provided he knows that it is the proper amount for the article or the service that he is obtaining He wants to be thoroughly satisfied about these things—whether he is giving money or whether he is receiving money.
I put it to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that this Bill places the whole of the Scottish people in the position of not knowing whether they are getting something to which they are entitled, how it is assessed, how it is totalled up and how the official calculations and details are arrived at. It reminds me of the arithmetical sums that the youngsters used to give to one another in school Think of a number, double it, add two, subtract five, add four and divide by 10, and your answer is nothing. That is exactly the type of calculation that is involved here. I think it is shameful that the right hon. and right hon. and learned Gentlemen should first of all allow the mistake to arise in the Act of 1926. Their 257 predecessors in 1923 were grossly careless in producing the Measure of 1923, instead of producing a, Measure to deal with Scotland and make it sensible and readable. But I think they were guilty of an act of gross carelessness in 1926, and they are not remedying that carelessness in any way by producing the miserable Measure they have produced to-day. I oppose the Second Reading.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
Like my hon. Friend the Member for the Bridgeton Division (Mr. Maxton), I earnestly endeavoured to follow the statement of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I thought that I had ordinary capacity for following a financial statement, but I must confess —and I want to say so very respectfully—that, at the close of the statement, I was almost as poorly informed as when the right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke the opening sentence. It is all very well for us this afternoon to dismiss this admitted blunder of the Government in a jocular mamnner; but I am sure the Lord Advocate is quite aware that it has been a costly blunder for many people in Scotland. I would like to know how many appeals are pending as a result of the bad drafting of the Act of 1926. I would like to know how much has been involved in costs.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
Has there been no appeal from the decisions of the local valuation committees in regard to this matter? Can the Lord Advocate say that?
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I think that, if the right hon. and learned Member would make inquiry, he would find that he is not perfectly informed as to the state of affairs in Scotland. Admittedly, there has been a serious blunder made in the Act of 1826, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton has pointed out, the Act of 1926 was only one of a series of Acts dealing with the same subject. There were Acts in 1896 and 1898, and the 1923 Act cancelled certain provisions of the Act of 1898, and created the difficulties with which we are dealing to-day. The House has to remember that the same legal 258 advisers and the same Government who were responsible for the Act now before us, were responsible for the Act of 1926. I would like to know whether the Government have consulted practical people in Scotland. They must have assessors in Scotland who are dealing with these cases every day, and whose advice and knowledge are at the disposal of the Government. It is not good enough to come forward and say, "We made a blunder in the Act of 1926. We intended the Act of 1926 to be capable of doing something for which it has not proved capable. Why did not the Opposition come to our assistance and with their legal advice see that we did not land the rating authorities into this difficulty? "Is that a reasonable proposition to put to the Opposition? Has this Bill, before it, was submitted to the House, been submitted to the legal advisers of the Opposition, so that they might peruse it, and, if necessary, advise the Government of its defects? I submit that nothing of the kind has been done.
Is it any wonder in view of what happened in connection with the Act of 1926, when we have to waste our time this afternoon in trying to remedy the defects of that Act, our minds are enshrouded in doubt as to the complicated provisions with which we are dealing. I would like to have some assurance that some more responsible people than those who drafted the Act of 1926 have looked into this Measure, and have assured the Government that it was one with which the House could go forward with every confidence. I do not think it is asking too much to have that assurance, and to have an assurance from the Lord Advocate that if he discovers as a result of inquiry that people in Scotland have been involved in costs as a result of this blunder, he will see that the Government will compensate them for their losses. It is not good enough that a blundering Government should impose on people who need assistance in relief of their rates, comparatively poor people, losses directly due to their own incapacity as a Government in doing work for which they are paid, and for which the country looks to them in their official capacity. While I cannot go into the Lobby against this Bill, I do feel a good deal of doubt and hesitancy, in view of all that has passed, in accepting the right hon. and learned 259 Member's assurance that we may safely pass this Bill.
§ Mr. SULLIVAN
I would like the House to consider this Measure very carefully before they give it a Second Reading. I have a feeling that everything is not as straight as the Lord Advocate would have us believe. It may be that there is some difficulty in fixing the valuation of land; but the right hon. and learned Gentleman has omitted to tell us anything whatever as to the fixing of the valuation of the land. He has told us the amount to which the owner was entitled in the way of remission, and how much the occupier obtained by way of remission. Those two remissions put together, he told us, amounted to a given sum, and now he says that the grant was not as large as the amount of the sums to which these people were entitled. Am I right in suggesting that the grant was not sufficient because of the method adopted in fixing the amount for the benefit of the owners? The amount payable by the owners was deemed to be a certain proportion of the rate levied. I wonder if the method adopted is a means of trying to relieve somebody of something which they ought to pay. I notice that the Lord Advocate does not seem to be treating this matter very seriously. He says that we have been suffering for many years in connection with the points which he brought forward in his speech. I am wondering whether we have been suffering for many years, and that we had to wait until he arrived to discover that we were suffering.
I am very suspicious about this matter, and about anything done by hon. Members opposite in connection with the rates of agricultural owners, because those rates have come almost to the vanishing point, by one means or another. I know that in connection with the Rating Act in 1926 one hon. and gallant Member who is present to-day put down an Amendment to secure a remission of 75 per cent. instead of 25 per cent.; but the right hon. and learned Member who is in charge of the present Bill had to refuse that Amendment, because he said it would mean a gift to agricultural owners in Scotland of £300,000 a year. When an owner has the audacity to put forward an Amendment 260 that would have benefited his class by £300,000 a year, are we not right in thinking that, although the Government were right in refusing that Amendment at that time, they may have had pressure brought upon them from some quarter, with the result that this Bill is now put before us?
If I felt clear that this Bill only meant a sum of money coming to Scotland of which we had been cheated, as a result of the Act of 1926, I should be more satisfied; but according to the statement which has been made we have been losing money for many years. We are entitled to know how much we have lost each year and how much worse off we are as a result of the Act of 1926. It is not enough to come forward in this way. We require to know more about the Measure, and if we do not get the necessary information we may feel inclined to vote against the Measure. During the little while that I was at school I was taught that one ought to be aware of the Greeks when they come with gifts. In regard to any gifts from hon. Members opposite, I feel much as I did in regard to gifts from the Greeks, which I was taught to watch. When the present Government come with gifts, I want to examine them very carefully, lest we be trapped in this Bill, as it appeared we were trapped in the Act of 1926.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I would like to ask the representatives of the Government what they mean by coming here time and time again to amend Acts. for which they have been responsible. It is not a fortnight since the Lord Advocate was in the same position as he is to-day. Is there anything we can do in order to draw attention more than we do to the stupidity of the present Government? This is a serious business. Had such a blunder been made by a workman in the employ of the Secretary of State for Scotland—the right hon. Gentleman is a big landowner, and this Bill affects his class—he would have no hesitancy in dispensing with his services. The Government throw cold water on the points that we raise in Opposition, and that is why Bills are not properly amended when they are before the House. Nobody knows better than you, Mr. Speaker, that unless it will suit the convenience of the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Lord Advocate, they 261 threaten us that if we proceed with our objections they will withdraw their Bill. That has been done again and again. Is that not the case? They come before the House now and say that we have been Tax in our criticisms and that we have not straightened out matters when Bills have been before the House, and yet when the Bills are before the House they will not give us a proper opportunity of amending them.
Is there no way of checking the action of these right hon. Gentlemen? They do not represent Scotland. Scotland is not a nation so stupid as that. If we had our Parliament in Edinburgh, do you think our nation would tolerate men behaving in this fashion, that they draft and design a Bill, with all the brains that they have, such as they are, and then they come back here and use up the time of the House in amending the Bills which they have drafted. We represent the people of Scotland. We represent the working classes of Scotland, the people upon whom the country has to depend. While this Government find time for amending Bills in regard to which they have made blunders, while there is no time to deal with the position of the working classes, they find time for something that is going to help the landlords. The Lord Advocate and the Secretary of State for Scotland come from the landowning classes of Scotland. The finest parts of Scotland, the best agricultural parts of Scotland which could produce food, they keep lying fallow as beautiful parks for themselves, and then they come here in this fashion and simply do it on us. They take advantage of the good nature of this House when we should be doing more serious business in trying to ameliorate the conditions of the folk we represent. No matter where go I do not see the folk as hard up against it as the people of Scotland. I have seen working folk comfortable in Germany, Switzerland, Belgimn and France, but in my own country the working folk, who are the salt of the earth, are up against it at the moment. I have never seen such starvation and degradation as there is in Scotland; yet we cannot find time to bring in a Measure to ameliorate these conditions. The present dispensation in charge of Scotland ought to be chased out of the country.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I hope the Lord Advocate can explain what is meant by agricultural land. I have been through the original Act and I can find no definition anywhere. I want to guard against making the same blunder than was made on the last occasion. I want to know what is meant in the case of agricultural land situated 100 miles from a population of 10,000; and what would be the value of that land if it was near a growing city?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That does not arise on this Bill. That is a question of the general rating law. This is only giving more money out of the Treasury to rating authorities for a specific purpose. We cannot debate the general basis of the original Act.
§ Mr. HARDIE
May I call your attention to Clause 2 which says that the interpretation Section of the Act of 1926shall have effect as if the following words in the definition of 'rateable value' were omitted 'except that in the case of lands and heritages with respect to which there is total exemption from all rates the rateable value shall be treated as nil."'If those words are to be left out we are going to put it on the basis of the rateable value, and I am trying to guard against making the same mistake that has been made already. I should like tile Lord Advocate to give us some definition of what is meant by the words "agricultural rates grant." Why agricultural rates grant? Why not general rates grant?
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.