HC Deb 16 December 1929 vol 233 cc1164-8

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Order made by the Secretary of State, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1929, entitled the Local Government (County Districts, Valuation of Railways, etc.) Order (Scotland), 1929, which was presented on the 31st day of October, 1929, be approved.

1.0. a.m.


By Section 76 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1929, it is provided that the Secretary of State for Scotland may bring the provisions of other Acts into conformity with the Act of 1929 where that, is required, provided that within three months from the date of his making such an Order he brings before this House for approval a Resolution in justification. On the 16th day of October last such an Order was laid upon the Table of this House. It has been agreed to and passed through another place, and we now asked for the formal Resolution approving of it here. The purpose of the Resolution is to permit the apportionment to the various county districts, to be formed under the Act of 1929, of the proper share of the valuation of the railway property. The late Postmaster-General the right hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir W. Mitchell-Thomson) has been good enough privately to suggest that in the Order laid on 16th October, the date 15th May, which has been substituted for 31st July in Section 5, is somehow or other not in order. The Resolution now, and the Statutory Rule and Order 976, in no way, as I understand it, demand the Amendment of any previous Act. It does not demand an Amendment of a single line or word in a previous Act, but simply declares that in the Resolution of this House, under the Statutory Order to be laid, any change to bring the Act of 1929 into conformity with the previous Statutes and Acts of this House, shall be made clear. That, I claim, is made clear in the Order laid on the Table of this House on 16th October, which has been formally passed in another place.


I do not want to keep the House any time, but there is a point I would like to raise with regard to paragraph (3) of this Order. I understand that the Under-Secretary of State laid stress on the fact that this Order was passed in another place. That seems an extraordinary argument from those benches. They sometimes say that the other place does not matter. I am afraid that the other place has not been so careful as it ought to have been in safeguarding the interests of all sections of the community in Scotland so far as this Order is concerned. I fail to see how this is not an Amendment of the Valuation and Lands Act of 1894. We have laid down certain dates. Section 2 says that the assessor is to make up the valuation roll of railways and canals annually on the 15th day of March. This says that the date 15th March is to be altered to the 31st day of May. So we have the date 15th March being altered about 10 weeks. All the dates in the Act are brought on by about 10 weeks. The Act of 1894 amended the earlier Acts of 1854, 1867 and 1887 and altered the dates then. In the previous Acts the date was 15th August, and that date was brought back until May, and now it is altered back to March. I would like to draw the attention of the House to Section 2 of the Act of 1894. The Section says that for the purpose of the Valuation Roll to be made up by the assessor … for the year ending Whitsunday, one thousand, eight hundred and ninety-six, and subsequent years, in place of the fifteenth day of August … there shall be substituted the fifteenth day of March as the day on or before which the assessor shall inquire into and fix incumulo the yearly rent or value of all lands and heritages in Scotland belonging to or leased by each railway and canal company … and in place of the fifteenth day of May as provided in the twenty-third Section of the said first recited Act, there shall be substituted the fifteenth day of November previously as the day on or before which intimations of the desire of any water company, or gas company having any continuous lands and heritages liable to be assessed in more than one parish, county or burgh, to have such lands and heritages assessed, shall be made to the sheriff. When the roll was made up on 15th August, they could appeal until 15th May. When the date for assessment was brought back to the middle of March, the appeal was brought hack to the previous 15th November, and now I want to draw attention to the Order. In all cases we have everything brought on by 10 weeks. If the Order was proper and looking after the interests of all, the date, 15th November, ought to have been about 31st January. That would have given these companies a chance to apply to have their lands assessed. Why do you leave out this part and not give these people an opportunity of having their lands assessed?


I am very glad to see that the Act of 1929 is being found useful, and, in particular, the power which was classed in England as the Henry VIII Clause and in Scotland the James VI Clause. No doubt the Lord Advocate will pick up the historical reference. On page 2 of this statutory Resolution it states that Section 5 amends the Schedule and mentions the Act of 1894. The 15th May is mentioned and also Whit Sunday. The ex-Postmaster-General has brought to my notice that, while you substitute 31st July for the first 15th May, you cannot substitute it for Section 1, for you cannot have Whit Sunday for any other day. There is a proved error and the order should be corrected. If we could have an assurance from the Under-Secretary we should be satisfied. I hear cries for the Lord Advocate. We should be greatly honoured by his intervention. But I understand he desires to reserve himself for some great occasion in which he could make his entrance in accordance with the dignity of his great office. One's maiden speech is a task difficult and delicate. I should not ask him to make his maiden speech on a subject such as this. He shows an exaggerated deference to this House in refraining from speaking on things which must be to him common-place handling. We know that Under-Secretaries for Scotland are a virile race. I have no doubt the task which has appalled the Lord Advocate will be tackled in the Under-Secretary's stride. If he says that this has been fully dealt with, I shall be content to let it drop. We all want to get to bed, but let us have a simple statement from the Under-Secretary of State when these points have been considered.

Commander WILLIAMS

I think I am entitled to have one or two points made perfectly clear. I want to know what it exactly means: And whereas the boundaries of the County District will not be determined in time to allow the said Assessor if he includes the particulars aforesaid to prepare and complete his Valuation Roll for the year beginning on the 16th day of May, 1930. I want, to know why this delay has been caused and who caused it. I want to know from the Under-Secretary why it is that the original date is or has been prolonged. My desire is to know whether the real reason for this delay is that the administration in Scotland is not quite as good as it might be, and may I suggest that, instead of carrying on the delay, the proper way would be to have a few thoroughly efficient and up-to-date Englishmen to carry on this work; because we do know that the Scottish, particularly at this time of night, are not a very mobile race. I wish to raise another point on the fifth line down of the second page in the "Statutory Rules and Orders," where it talks about the Roll and the subsequent transmission of certified extracts therefrom. I want to know who certifies these extracts. This is really a most important question, because it may have a legal significance which may quite easily affect the well-being of very many people in Scotland. For that reason, I do not think that a mere Under-Secretary should be the only person to tell us. This matter, I think, should be clearly expounded to us by the legal representative of Scotland. He is here in full, strong and robust health. There is another purely technical, legal question upon which I have not been able to find any information, and that is what is actually meant by the word "landward" in the second paragraph. It is, I presume, a purely Scottish expression, but we have never had it explained to us during the whole course of this Debate. It would be easier for us to form a proper estimate of what was the value of these Orders if these few legal definitions could be explained to us. I am sure the legal representative for Scotland is going to get up and tell us what it is all about.


The only comment make upon the hon. Member's charge of lack of mental ability is that it should be levelled at the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot) so far as this Order goes. I am sure I should be nut of order if I elaborated or set out to elaborate upon the precise meaning of the word "landward." It hardly rises upon the Motion which is before us to-night. We are asking that an Order laid on the 16th October should be formally confirmed by a Resolution of this House. I can assure the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove that there is no attempt to interfere or to amend his Act of 1929 or to do anything else than to exercise the duty imposed upon us by that Act of 1929, that is, the laying of a formal Resolution on the Table of this House, and to ask this House to support it to enable the Act of 1929 to function properly. I am sure with that explanation that we shall have the unanimous vote of the House.


Can I have a reply to the point that I put?


The hon. Member cannot speak again.


On that point, may I ask, with the permission of the House, for a reply to perfectly specific questions? I think I am entitled to a reply by the leave of the House.


If the Under-Secretary chooses to answer, that is another matter, but he cannot repeat his speech.

Resolved, That the Order made by the Secretary of State, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1929, entitled the Local Government (County Districts, Valuation of Railways, etc.) Order (Scotland), 1929, which was presented on the 31st day of October, 1929, be approved.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

It being after half-past Eleven, of the clock upon Monday evening, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at twenty - two minutes after One o'clock.