§ Captain BOURNE
I beg to move, in page 4, line 38, to leave out Subsection (3).
157 As far as I can make out, unless this Amendment is accepted, in the event of an assessment being altered merely, and not a new assessment being made, there will be no obligation on the part of the assessment committee to give notice to the occupier. I am not easy in my mind about it, however, and I want to be quite sure that this is the effect. In his speech on the Second Reading, my right hon. Friend explained Sub-section (2) of Clause 5 as being an economy and as being intended to prevent serving notice on the occupier where the owner was asking for a reduction. But I am not quite clear what is the point in Subsection (3) and whether it may not mean that in a certain case the occupier is not entitled to notice when the assessment is increased against him. It is in order to get an explanation on this point that I move this Amendment.
§ Colonel Sir GEORGE COURTHOPE
I beg to second the Amendment.
I do so, because this Sub-section will inflict a very definite hardship upon one single class of ratepayers, namely, the railway companies. Railway companies are rated in a very large number of parishes where they have no office or place of business, and ever since 1864 they have, under Section 5 of the Union Assessment Committee (Amendment) Act of that year, been entitled to receive notice of any alteration of assessment that is made upon them in all cases where they have no office or place of business in the parish where the assessment is altered. That Section of the Act of 1864 was repealed by the Act of 1925, which set up in place of that a right for all ratepayers to receive notice of any alteration of assessment, but that right is abolished under this Sub-section. I do not think it is a hardship on the general ratepayers, because that part of the Act of 1925 does not come into force until the 1st April of this year, and so the general ratepayers are losing nothing which they have in fact enjoyed, but that is not the case with the railway companies, because they are losing, not a new right which they have not enjoyed, but the old right which they had since 1864, and it is very difficult for a company which has no local office, like a big railway company, to keep in touch with 158 the continual changes of countless valuation lists in the countless parishes in which it contributes to the rates.
I am not surprised that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne) has not been able fully to ascertain what the particular effect of this Sub-section is, and I will try to make it clear. It does not apply to a case where an assessment is being reduced, where the occupier does not require notice. It refers to the case where an assessment is to be increased, and we are now suggesting that in such cases the occupier shall not have the notice provided under the Act of 1925. Of course, that does sound as if you were taking away from the occupier his opportunity of putting his case for having no alteration in the assessment, but the reason why the Schedule was drafted in its original form was that it was taken from the practice in London, because when the 1925 Bill was before the House, we were in effect trying to assimilate the procedure in the rest of the country to the procedure in London. In London it was necessary to have this notice given to the occupier because, if he did not take the opportunity and the assessment was altered, he was fixed with the increase in his assessment for another five years, but that is not so in the country, and it never was so in the country. In the country the ratepayer had an opportunity at any time of putting in his protest, of making his representations against an increased assessment made upon him, and that right has been preserved to him under the Rating and Valuation Act in Section 37. If at any time he is aggrieved by the fact that his assessment has been put up, he can make what is called in the Act a proposal, namely, a proposal for the alteration again of the assessment, and that can be taken to the assessment committee in the usual way.
Therefore, if, public notice having been given generally, without notice having been given to the specific occupier, and the occupier has not seen the public notice, or if he has neglected that opportunity, the first intimation that he will get is the demand for his rates, and when he gets that he will have an opportunity of making his proposal for an alteration. We have found that, in the case of certain authorities who have already 159 made a new valuation under this Act, this necessity of sending out notices to occupiers in every case has resulted in the unnecessary expenditure of very considerable sums of money. In one county borough we found that 240,000 notices of increased assessment had to be sent out, which entailed the employment of a large temporary staff, involving the expenditure of over £2,000. Really, this was of no particular benefit to the occupier where his full rights were reserved to him, and we ought not to allow the authorities to be involved in this unnecessary expenditure, once it was found that that was the result of the Act.
Another point has been raised by the hon. Member for Rye (Sir G. Courthope) with regard to the railways. The assessments in their case are revised by negotiations between the railway authorities and the associations of local authorities, and that will no doubt go on until we are able to introduce a new Measure for the rating of railways in the future; so, while I think it is true that this does do away with their rights, in practice it does not mean that they will suffer any loss, because their head offices will have particulars of any assessments that will have been made.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.