§ Any ratepayer may, as from the date of this Act, apply to the rating authority for a special rate of deduction from the rateable value in respect of structural repairs done or required to be done to the premises in consequence of damage directly attributable to traffic passing by the premises, and it shall be lawful for any rating authority on such application, if satisfied that such damage has occurred, to make such special allowance as may in their opinion be fair and reasonable in all circumstances of the case.—[Mr. Rye.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.110
§ Mr. RYE
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
I have put down this new Clause to enable the ratepayer whose premises are affected and damaged by heavy passing traffic, to have a right to go to the rating authority between the periods of assessment and to ask for a special allowance. It is a reasonable Clause, because it is well known that nowadays heavy motor traffic, particularly lorry and omnibus traffic, seriously affects premises which in the ordinary way would stand for a great number of years, and in some cases it has been necessary to rebuild them. I will give an instance of damage done to premises by this class of traffic. I refer to shop premises in Eden Street, Kingston-upon-Thames. There, some two or three years ago, it became necessary for the owner of three shop premises to rebuild a considerable proportion of the front at a cost of £2,000. The damage done to the premises was undoubtedly attributable to the very heavy motor traffic that passed in almost continuous streams at certain periods of the week, particularly on Saturday and Sunday, through Eden Street into the Portsmouth road. I could give other instances. I can cite the houses in Beak Street, Regent Street, a number of which have recently been,condemned by the district surveyor. In such cases it is only reasonable that, where the ratepayer can prove or is in a position to satisfy the rating authority that damage has been done by that class of traffic, he should have an opportunity of going before the rating authority and asking for a special allowance in the nature of a reduction of the assessments.
I can refer to another case which, however, is not within my personal knowledge. It is a case where the traffic authority or the police authority—I am not certain which is in the position 111 to decide these questions—has directed omnibus traffic down a street which previously had not had to bear the burden of such traffic. The result has been that premises have been affected. I am told that ceilings have fallen and that generally the annual value of these hereditaments has been reduced. At the present time there is no redress. It is true that when the next period of assessment comes round it will be open to the ratepayer to claim that, by virtue of the disadvantage of the heavy traffic and its consequence, there is a reduction in the annual value, but at the present moment, although that damage is continuing, the ratepayer is quite powerless. I hope, therefore, that the House will agree that this new Clause should be accepted. Indeed, if the Minister of Health will not accept it, I trust that if the matter goes to a Division the Clause will be carried by the House.
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Chamberlain)
I cannot help thinking that my hon. Friend, in moving this Clause, has forgotten that the object of the Rating and Valuation Act, of which this Bill is an amendment, is to insure that there shall be uniformity of valuation throughout the country. He has taken a particular case where, he says, values may be deteriorated by reason of heavy traffic in the neighbourhood, but I think my hon. Friend will remember that when we were discussing the Rating and Valuation Act in Committee, there were other classes of cases that were raised, which might be the subject of similar argument. There was, for instance, the question of subsidences in mining areas. It was in connection with subsidences and the effect of subsidences in South Wales that a Clause of a similar character was moved in Committee. Parliament objected to that view, and I think rightly. It is obvious that you can find a very large range of local conditions which might be said to affect the value of property. If it were to be admitted that a special deduction from the gross valuation were to be made in such cases, you would have the very thing that we have at last done away with, namely, each rating authority making its own rules 112 for the deductions which were to be allowed for special conditions, and you would no longer have uniformity of valuation, hut each area would be doing what it pleased. Therefore I must ask the House, in the interests of uniformity, to reject this Clause. The ratepayer who has suffered or is likely to suffer such damage as is contemplated by my hon. Friend can take the matter into Court, as is done in other cases, or must wait until the revaluation takes place, when he can put in a reasonable claim for a reduction of the gross value.
§ Mr. RYE
I would call attention to the fact that the case of the subsidences is not on all fours with those that I have cited. Since 1925, when the matter was discussed in Committee, there has been a considerable recurrence of the trouble to which I have referred. With very great respect, I still think that it would be only fair if a ratepayer were allowed, between the periods of valuation, to go forward to the rating authority and say, "The annual value of my premises has been materially reduced by the happenings that have occurred, and in the circumstances I ask for a reduction of the assessment." I cannot see that that would destroy uniformity in any way. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that it would, but I do not follow his argument. If a ratepayer in Kingston, for example, went before his rating authority and obtained a reduction of the assessment, it would not confer a right on other people all over the country. It would be a case of dealing with individual case as and when events occurred. It would be only justice, if they, can show that their annual value has been reduced, that they should have a reduction in the assessment and a corresponding reduction in the rates. If that cannot be done, I suggest that the time has come when the burden ought to be put on the Road Fund so that people in the position I have described should be able to obtain some compensation.
§ Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and negatived.