Marquess of HARTINGTON
I beg to move, in page 48, line 39, to leave out the words "in connection with agricultural land."
The object of this Amendment is to do away with what is undoubtedly a very great injustice in the Bill as it now stands. If I have your permission, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, I should like to discuss this and the consequential Amendments standing in my name. The effect of the Amendments which I have put down would make the Clause read as follows:As from the first day of April, nineteen hundred and thirty, the gross value for rating purposes of a house occupied and used as the dwelling-house of a person who—
- (a) is primarily engaged in carrying on or directing agricultural operations whether on land held under the same ownership or tenancy as the said house or on other land; or
- (b) is employed in agricultural operations or on work in connection with an agricultural estate and occupies the house by virtue of that employment, either on a tenancy from his employer or as a service occupation."
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)
Do I understand the Noble Marquess wishes to discuss the whole of his four Amendments on the first Amendment?
Marquess of HARTINGTON
It is really not possible to take these Amendments apart. The object of them is to do away with what I have already said is undoubtedly an injustice under the present system. The Bill as it stands allows the valuer, when he is valuing a cottage occupied by an agricultural labourer for rating purposes, to take into account the rent that that labourer pays only if the cottage is a tied cottage. Houses that come under that category will be valued for rating purposes not according to the rent which might conceivably be received in the market, but according to the rent which is actually received. So far so good; that is obviously just and fair. But that provision does not apply to a house which is not a tied cottage. Such a house might equally be occupied by a farm labourer, and it might under the new valuation be assessed at a very high value, perhaps many times in excess of the rent which the farm labourer is paying for it or which the landlord is receiving in respect of it. One of the objects of this Bill is to secure a uniformity of rating throughout' the country, and the object of my Amendment is to help the Bill by providing something like uniformity in this respect. Obviously, if the Clause is carried unaltered it will perpetuate a very gross inequality. It is obviously unfair and wholly contrary to the principles of equality that one cottage merely because 103 it is let with a farm should be rated at, say, 3s. per week while another cottage occupied by a man receiving the same wages and paying the same rent should be rated at a very much higher value.
The practice throughout the country is not by any means uniform. In some parts of England, it is customary for farm labourers' cottages to be let with the farm, and they are commonly called tied cottages. Hon. Members of Opposition parties have very often strongly objected to the principle of tied cottages. That system is not universal. There are other parts of England where it is customary for the labourer to live, not on the farm, but at a cottage near by. I am inclined to think that that is the better system. In the one case the tied cottage will be valued low and the untied cottage, the free cottage, may be rated very high indeed. It is to alter that anomaly that I am asking my right hon. Friend to accept, at any rate, the spirit of this Amendment. I hardly expect that he will be able to accept the whole of it. For various reasons, there are, I quite appreciate, very great difficulties. It is the principle of the rating system that it is the house which is rated and not the tenant, and there are difficulties in the way of my right hon. Friend accepting the whole of my Amendment. I very much hope, however, that he will consider the matter very carefully, and I am convinced that if he will do so he will accept the spirit of the Amendment.
Since putting down these Amendments it has occurred to me that it might well have been better and simpler if I had attempted to re-draft the Clause instead instead of attempting to amend the rather clumsy drafting of the Clause as it stands and it had been made to read:That cottages occupied by persons who come within the scope of the Agricultural Wages Act,and then go on from the word "shall" in line 4, of page 49. That is to say, wash out the whole of the first part of the Clause and merely make it apply to persons coming within the scope of the Agricultural Wages Act. Again, I do not know whether my right hon. Friend would be able to accept that suggestion. I hope that he will realise that the present system does inflict a very great injustice. The farm labourers' cottage cannot com- 104 mand a high rent. It is about 3s. on the average. It is clearly unjust and unfair that it should be possible, as it is possible now and will be possible under this Bill, for the valuaton officer to come along and say: "Here is a cottage which, if not let to an agricultural labourer or to a man employed on the estate who is essential for the upkeep of the land, could be let to a man who might come down to the country for the week-end. Therefore, I am going to value that cottage at 16s. or- 17s. a week." I know from my own experience that that has happened.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will accept the spirit of the Amendment and that, if he cannot accept, anyhow, some part of it, he will consider the suggestion which I have made, that the exemption that Clause 57 provides should be extended to persons coming within the scope of the Agricultural Wages Act. If he will give an assurance that he will do his best, I have no desire to press the Amendment. I am convinced that, if he will consider the matter carefully, he will realise the justice of it. Under such circumstances, I should be justified in withdrawing the Amendment.
I rise to support the Amendment. It seems to me that, probably unintentionally, this Clause, as it stands at present, marks a retrograde movement in legislation appertaining to farm cottages. It has been recognised now for a great many years that the tied cottage is not an advantageous system. I do not know whether the Committee have appreciated that the Clause, if it passes into law as it is at present, puts an actual premium upon the tied cottage system. Under the Clause as it is at present, the tied cottage is to be rated substantially lower than a smaller cottage not tied, but which might be occupied by a person in exactly the same position of life as the occupant of the tied cottage. It seems to me that that is entirely a retrograde step, and that the true test for the basis of assessment of agricultural labourers' cottages should be the former occupation of the tenant, irrespective of whether the cottage be attached to the land which is tilled by the labourer or whether it be occupied by a tenant free to move from the service of one farmer or landowner to another. It is for these reasons that this series of 105 Amendments is moved, as it is apprehended that unless some modification is secured there will be a distinct advantage in converting cottages to the tied system. The effect of that, one imagines, might very well be that it might be to the advantage of agricultural labourers who are at present in independent occupation of their own cottages to transfer their cottages to their landlords in order that they might come. within the ambit of the Act.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Sir K. WOOD
My Noble Friend the Member for West Derby (Marquess of Hartington) has put forward this Amendment with his usual clearness and lucidity. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Luton (Captain O'Connor) has certainly put his finger upon an objection which is likely to be raised from one point of view of the proposals contained in the Bill, but I would remind the Committee that the Clause with which we are now dealing is, as it is entitled, a consequential provision upon the relief which has been approved by the House in Clauses 44 and 45. We are really in this particular provision preserving in the case of farmhouses and tied farm cottages a special basis of assessment provided by Section 5 of the Agricultural Rates Act, 1896, which will otherwise cease when, on the 31st March, 1930, that Act will be repealed. A promise was made during the passage of the Apportionment Act that this particular provision should be carried into effect. What we are doing in this provision is simply to preserve what we call the status quo. The Amendment seeks to extend the present special basis of valuation in two ways, first, to any dwelling-house occupied by a person whose primary occupation is the carrying on or direction of agricultural operations, whether on land occupied in connection with the house or on other land, and, secondly, to the dwelling-house, wherever it may be, of an agricultural labourer or a person who is employed on work in connection with an agricultural estate. The difficulty, as my Noble Friend hinted, so far as the Government is concerned, is that if we accepted the Amendment it would give the benefit of the farmhouse basis of assessment to the dwelling-house of any proprietor of land, who might easily claim that his primary occupation was the 106 carrying on of agricultural operations. In such a case, a claim might be made in respect of a very large and important residence, not remotely resembling a farmhouse.
Another effect of the Amendment would be to give the benefit of the special basis of valuation to every cottage, wherever situated, occupied by a man who is an agricultural labourer or an estate worker. As regards the second matter, the noble Lord realises that it is entirely contrary to the principle of rating law to take into account the trade or occupation of the actual occupier of premises. In estimating the annual value, which, it must be remembered, is the rental value to a hypothetical tenant, it is impossible for the Government to consider favourably that part of the Amendment, because we might very well, if it were carried into effect, have this position, that there would be cottages in the same village street, occupying equal accommodation, one assessed, according to the proposal, at a materially lower figure than the other, simply because the occupier for the time being happened to be an agricultural labourer or an estate worker, while the occupier of the other was, say, a cobbler. Every member of the Committee will agree that that would be a very difficult position for any Government to substantiate or stand by, if they were to accept any such proposal.
There is one point which my noble Friend raised which certainly demands further consideration from the point of view of the Government, and that is the last of the four Amendments, which seeks to prevent a differentiation between a cottage occupied on a tenancy or as a service occupation. I think I can undertake that in that particular connection we will consider between now and the Report stage whether we cannot put on the Paper for the consideration of the Committee some words which might help. I think that would go some way to meet my noble Friend. I will endeavour to confer with him and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. O'Connor) as to how far we can meet them in that connection before we put the Amendment on the Paper. That is as far as the Government can go. I hope that on that assurance my hon. Friends will feel that something will be done as a result of their efforts, and in 107 those circumstances perhaps they will not consider it necessary to press the matter further at this particular moment.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
This Amendment illustrates the difficulties into which the Government have landed themselves by this Clause. I did not realise when I read the Clause how much depended upon it. This Clause is to put the farmhouse on a much better footing as regards rates than exactly similar houses which are not used as farmhouses—on a materially lower basis, I think the right hon. Gentleman said. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, before we part from this Clause, how far lower it will be I have talked to many people who are on assessment committees in the counties and none of them has the faintest idea how the values are to be put on the farmhouses. If the principle laid down was what the house would let at in its present condition and what it would let at if put for an open tender, people would know at once and the assessment committees could decide what the proper assessment for the farmhouse would be, but the adoption of this Clause means that it depends absolutely upon the assessment committees as to what value they shall put on the farmhouse. They have no guide whatever. I have heard it said that in some cases the farmhouse will be put on as low a basis as 2s. a week. Under this Bill, the farmers not only get off all rates on the farm buildings and all rates on the farm land, but nearly all the rates on their houses. For an ordinary house, not let, in connection with land, it is perfectly easy for the assessment committee to find what rent is paid, and to base on that the gross and net assessment of the property, but when the house is let in connection with land and the rent includes a large area of land as well as the house, there is no guide as to the rateable value apart from the land.
The only possible guide as to the annual value of a house is what the house would let at to somebody else who is not a farmer. If it was let not in connection with the land there would be some guide to go upon, but if this Clause goes through, there will be no guide whatever as to what annual value can be put on the farmhouse. Now the noble Lord asks for a very material concession, the degree and amount of which we are completely 108 unable to determine and the Government cannot tell us. We are asked to extend the concession to the estate hands working on a big estate and to the agricultural labourers who live in the villages, and to everybody connected with agriculture. The only part which the right hon. Gentleman has accepted is that relating to the estate hands, so I understand. They are to have their house property assessed not on its letting value but on some imaginary fictitious value which is undefined and undefinable. That is an example of what happens when you take a completely exceptional attitude towards agriculture, or towards any set of ratepayers. You destroy the whole system of assessment, and treat the farmer as a specially benefited form of ratepayer. He is escaping an enormous amount of rates in connection with his land and his farm buildings. Why, in addition, should we give him the privilege of occupying a house and paying rates on that house on a much lower scale than the ratepayers next door? It is nonsense to say that the farmer is harder up than the blacksmith or the shopkeeper next door or any of the other village people who occupy houses, and yet he is to be given not only exemption in regard to rates on his land and his farm buildings but hi3 house is to be assessed on an artificially low valuation.
Throughout the country to-day, house property is being re-assessed. If the right hon. Gentleman does not know, he ought to know that the re-assessment of house property is being shoved up on the present owner-occupier, and the Government, at this particular moment, are assessing the house of the farmer on an artificially low scale. His assessment is to be reduced below any figure that is based upon a rental value of the property. I think the Government are digging their own grave. There is a sense of injustice throughout the whole countryside that the Government are treating the rich farmer on a scale of generosity which makes the hardships of the other householders in the district appear to be the more flagrant. While I have no objection to their extending the concession to estate hands, and I can see some advantage in that, there ought to be some limit to this bribery of the agricultural interests to vote Conservative at the next election, in spite of the National Farmers' Union.
§ The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Guinness)
I think the right hon. and gallant Member is under a misapprehension as to the effect of the Clause.
§ Mr. GUINNESS
No, but I would ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to read it. He would then see that there is no new concession on these houses of farmers, and on the houses occupied by their workers. If he will look at the end of the Clause he will see, if he compares it with the words which I will read, that it repeats the law laid down for the valuation of these premises under the Act of 1896.
§ Mr. GUINNESS
No. The Act of 1896 made provision that in order to give effect to the agricultural rates relief the farm houses should be valued on exactly the same basis as that laid down in this Clause. The valuation had to be split so that the farmer could get the benefit of the remission of half his rates on agricultural land, which he would not. get if when you split the assessment you placed an excessive valuation on the residential parts of the hereditament.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
By the words "excessive valuation," I take it that the right hon. Gentleman means a just valuation as compared with other property.
§ Mr. GUINNESS
What I mean is an excessive valuation as compared with the proportion that that valuation bore to the total value before the concession was made. The right hon. Gentleman says that we are giving a new concession. That is not the purpose of the Clause. It is to maintain the existing system, under which this particular form of house property is given the favourable assessment which it has possessed ever since 1896. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will look at the words at the end of the Clause he will see that they are practically a repetition of a Section of the Act of 1896.
§ Mr. GUINNESS
The Act of 1896 says: 110Where any hereditament consists partly of agricultural land and partly of buildings, the gross estimated rental of the buildings when valued separately, in pursuance of this Act, for the agricutural land, shall, while the buildings are used only for the cultivation of the said land, be calculated not on structural cost, but on a rent at which they would be expected to let to a tenant from year to year, if they could only be so used.The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has no foundation for the suggestion that this Clause is in the nature of a bribe—I think he used that word—to farmers. It is merely maintaining for them an advantage which they have possessed for the last 32 years.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
The right hon. Gentleman has suggested that the only purpose of the Clause is to maintain the status quo. Does not that mean that whilst the assessment of all other properties will increase under the new assessments that in this particular kind of property a concession is preserved for a particular section of the community? Is not that the intention of this Clause?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
In effect, then, the Clause is intended to retain the status quo for a particular kind of hereditament while all other kinds of property are finding their assessments constantly increasing. I had a letter from a constituent of mine in which he puts the question as to whether the fact that agricultural property and land is now being de-rated has any connection with the colossal increases in business premises in his particular town. He says that locally the Tory people are trying to create the belief that the two things have no relation to each other. The fact remains, however, that while you are retaining the status quo for property of the kind described in this Clause, all other hereditaments, and particularly business premises, find their assessments increased by 1 per cent. up to 300 per cent., and it requires a great deal to satisfy us that there is no connection between the two. I am perfectly satisfied that this preservation of a particular assessment for a certain kind of property is a concession to a certain class of individual, and made quite obviously at the expense of the rest of the ratepayers.
111 I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman two questions. During the Norfolk dispute over wages in 1924 one large farmer purchased several houses in the town, not hitherto occupied by agricultural labourers, the purpose being, of course, to get rid of the existing tenants and put new farm labourers in the houses recently purchased. Ordinarily, the assessments would be much higher than the assessment of an ordinary cottage occupied by an agricultural labourer. I want to ask, does this Clause mean that all these houses will be assessed on the basis of the agricultural labourer's cottage? In another case we have the farmer who has no tied cottages, whose labourers are living perfectly free in the tenancy of their homes. It may be that their rent is higher, or that the house is not close to the farm, but the man performs the work of an agricultural labourer. Will that kind of property receive the same benefit as the ordinary tied cottage? Further, there is the individual who, unable to find other kinds of work, has taken the tenancy of 10 acres of land, which does not occupy the whole of his time. He resides in an agricultural village, and owns his own house. Will that individual be entitled to the same concession which this Clause preserves for all agricultural cottage property? If the right hon. Gentleman will answer the question, we shall be much better satisfied before we take a vote.
Let me remind him of this: I have a case in mind, which is typical of many, where what was yesterday purely an agricultural area has become to-day partly agricultural and partly mining, and you have a mixed population of agriculturists and miners. You have a miner residing in one house and an agricultural labourer in the next. Are we to understand that under this Clause the house tenanted by the agricultural labourer will be assessed at a lower figure than the house immediately adjoining where the tenant happens to be a miner? If that is the case. obviously, an injustice is being done. Why should there be this discrimination? It may be that certain sections of agriculture are sorely depressed, but it is generally recognised that there is no industry more depressed than mining, and certainly thousands of miners find it impossible to pay the rents they are charged. If you are preserving a conces- 112 sion for agriculture it seems to me that it is not unfair to insist on the same concession being granted to the mining population. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us why there should be this discrimination and will answer the three questions I have put to him.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
May I explain to the Committee what I think the Clause means, and then what the Amendment means, because it is most important that we should know where we are. The Clause grants the possibility of an abnormally low assessment on the farm house and the tied cottages on the farm, and only to the tied cottages on the farm. I will not argue as to the justice of that. The Amendment seeks to extend that artificially low assessment to other properties—namely, to the cottages of farm labourers whose cottages are not tied, which, for instance, are in the village. That has been turned down by the Government. The Amendment also seeks to extend it to the houses of people employed by large landowners. There are two kinds; the bailiffs' houses, and the stewards' houses. The bailiff of a big property is a man very much in the same position as the farmer, except that he is paid a salary instead of making his profit from the farm. Up to now the bailiff's house or the agent's house, a gentleman's residence, has been assessed, like other houses, on what is called the full annual value, that is the amount for which the house would let. As I understand it, the concession made by the Government is that in future the bailiff's house shall not rank as a gentleman's residence, but as a farm house, and so get the benefit of this artificially low assessment.
Do I understand that the Government are also making a concession in the case of the farm labourers' houses on the gentleman's property but not in the case of the farm labourers in the villages? If my assumption is right the Government are making things much worse. If I let one of my cottages for two shillings a week to an estate hand, I fix that artificially low rent because I pay an artificially low wage. If I charged the man a full economic five shillings or six shillings a week for the cottage, I should have to pay him four shillings a week more wages. At the present time that kind of house is assessed at less than £10 a year. I may be wrong, but 113 I understand that all cottages in rural areas, assessed at £10 a year or less, already escape three-quarters of their rates under an Act that was passed two years ago. If that be so, surely that concession is quite as much as we need to make to the big landowner who farms his own estate but has a bailiff or agent. I ask the Government to state what concession they have made. We shall have no chance of voting on it on the Report stage. Will the concession apply to the agricultural labourer living on the gentleman's estate and working for him as an estate hand? Will it apply also to the well-to-do agent or bailiff living in a gentleman's house'5 How far is the concession going? We must ask now because we shall never have a further opportunity of doing so.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
We do not want this Amendment to be withdrawn because we think it a very just Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman and others have not met the point made by the Noble Lord and by the hon. Member for Luton (Captain O'Connor), and that is that under the law as it stands certain privileges are granted to certain people in certain cottages tied to the land. The object of the Noble Lord's Amendment was to give the labourer who lives in a cottage that is not tied the same advantage as is received by the other people. That point has not been met and no one has said why it should not be done. We would not have brought in any of this sort of legislation, but, things being as they are, we think that the cottage that is not tied has as much right to privileges as has the cottage that is tied. For these reasons we shall vote for the Amendment and not allow it to be withdrawn.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I do not want the Committee to be under any misapprehension. I thought I had made the position of the Government perfectly plain. I am rather surprised, after the speech of the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) to hear the hon. Member who has just spoken say that he and his party are in favour of the Amendment. The whole of the speech of the right hon. and gallant 114 Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme was devoted to attacking and criticising the Amendment, but the last speaker says that he is in favour of the Amendment because that is a just Amendment. This conflict puts the Committee in a little difficulty. The position of the Government is this: We accept the suggestion made by my Noble Friend in the last of his Amendments and say that we will consider between now and the Report stage whether we can do anything to meet him. Perhaps, therefore, the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme will await the terms of the Government's proposal, for without considering the matter further I am not able to say what our proposal will be. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman must not be too pessimistic in the matter. The right hon. Gentleman has had a fair opportunity to-day and he may have an opportunity again to deal with the proposal on Report. When any Amendment that we propose is put on the Paper the Opposition will be able to decide whether they are for or against it. With regard to the three questions which have been put to the Government, I must respectfully decline to give opinion on individual cases. What the hon. Gentleman who put the questions must do is to apply them to the definitions in the Bill. He will then see whether the particular case mentioned isin connection with agricultural land and used as the dwelling-house of a person who—So long as that house is so occupied and used the consequences of this particular Clause would follow. The hon. Gentleman will not expect me to give opinions on individual cases. Probably he has in his possession full particulars which I have not got. Those particulars must be considered in relation to this Clause. A wrong impression may be gained from anything that I said now on incomplete information. No doubt the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) and the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme will go into different Lobbies if we divide on this Amendment. All that we do in this 115 Clause is, as I have already said, to preserve the status quo. On the one hand the right hon. and gallant Member for Neweastle-under-Lyme wants to take away something from the beneficent provisions for the agricultural industry, and on the other hand the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley thinks that the Amendment is just and reasonable. With all those considerations before them I hope the Committee will be able to come to a decision on this important matter.
- (a) is primarily engaged in carrying on or directing agricultural operations on that land; or
- (b) is employed in agricultural operations on that land and occupies the house by virtue of that employment."
§ Mr. POTTS
I cannot agree at all with what the Parliamentary Secretary has stated. What he has said indicates that the existing law is to be undone entirely. What will be done in the case of all such houses will be this: Whatever the actual rent may be, they will have to be rated, "not exceeding the rent." I have been a member of a rural authority for more than 30 years, and as such I have valued property. I can mention a case in point. It is that of Lord St. Oswald and all his ground. He had people who worked on his ground and lived on the main road side in very fine houses. But the rents were fixed at a nominal £6 a year. They claimed that the rating should not exceed the rent less 15 per cent. The assessment committee did not accept that rendering of the law. We viewed the property and assessed it, having regard to its convenience and so forth, and in comparison with other similar property in the union. I suggest to the Minister that he should strike out the wordsif it could not be occupied and used otherwise than as aforesaid,and insert instead the words:having regard to similar property in close proximity.That would give the safeguard that in cases of this kind the assessment committee would view the property as they are in the habit of doing to-day. Very often a man who is working for some individual is allowed to have a house at a very low rent, but that is taken account of in the man's wages. There are many cases where the rents are low but where the wages are lower than they ought to be. I suggest that words should be included here which will enable assessment committees to make comparisons with similar properties in the union and fix the rateable value accordingly. If that were done, you would give equality 116 throughout the whole country but under this proposal you are going to give a concession which is a departure from the existing law. I hope the Amendment will be pressed unless the right hon. Gentleman promises to take these points into consideration.
§ Mr. MARDY JONES
I wish to ask what is the actual position at the moment of all properties of this class under the Act of 1925 which is a product of the present Government. I think the position is that under the statutory deductions allowed in the Schedule of that Act these cottages get 40 per cent., or it may be 60 per cent. deduction. There is a substantial reduction already and that applies to property of this class all over the country. Now we are asked to differentiate in favour of a particular type of property. To do so would be to upset the basis of the rating law. The Act of 1925 repeats the provision of the Act of 1836 which has been the foundation of our rating system from that time until now. If we are going to differentiate in regard to agricultural property which is used as dwelling houses, it will upset the whole system and it will be quite logical then to demand similar preferences for other properties. The new assessments under the Act of 1925 are now being published and generally speaking they will show increases of anywhere from 20 per cent. to 50 per cent. If the assessment committees do their work properly and without fear or favour there will be enormous increases in many counties. When the demand notes are served on the tenants and owner occupiers this Government will get its notice to quit. That will come in good time for the General Election, and, if nothing else serves to turn out this Government, that will do so.
Why interfere with the Act of 1925? You are introducing a legal fiction, a hypothetical tenant, something which does not exist under the rating law at present. If this proposal is pressed it will be possible logically to claim that the same thing should be done in respect of all cottage property throughout the country. The agricultural industry has got this benefit because a sympathetic Government is supporting a sympathetic industry, but if agriculture is entitled to this advantage because it is going 117 through bad times, the mining industry and other industries are equally entitled to it. You are giving industrial properties in these depressed areas 75 per cent. reduction of their rateable burden. If you can do that for the employer, why do you not do it for the worker who has to live on the spot and whose wages will
§ be reduced by the employers' policy unless something of the sort is done?
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 197; Noes, 107.119
|Division No. 105.]||AYES.||[8.44 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Gates, Percy||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Albery, Irving James||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Oakley, T.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Greene, W. P. Crawford||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William|
|Apsley, Lord||Hacking, Douglas H.||Penny, Frederick George|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Hamilton, Sir George||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Atkinson, C.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Perring, Sir William George|
|Balniel, Lord||Harland, A.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Hartington, Marquess of||Pilcher, G.|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kenningion)||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Berry, Sir George||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Radford, E. A.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Raine, Sir Walter|
|Bevan, S. J.||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Ramsden, E.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. Sir Vivian||Remer, J. R.|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Brass, Captain W.||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Ropner, Major L.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hills. Major John Waller||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hilton, Cecil||Salmon, Major I.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfast)|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Burman, J. B.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, whiteh'n)||Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Campbell, E. T.||Hurd, Percy A.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hurst, Gerald B.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Cassels, J. D.||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Clayton, G. C.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Streatfelld, Captain S. R.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston).||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Tasker, R. Inigo.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Knox, Sir Alfred||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G L.||Lamb, J. Q.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Lister, Cunliffe-. Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Crooke, J Smedley (Deritend)||Loder, J. de V.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Tryon, Rt. Hon George Clement|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Lumley, L. R.||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Waddington, R.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Macdonafd, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Wallace, Captain D. L.|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||MacIntyre, Ian||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||McLean, Major A.||Warrendar, Sir Victor|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Macmillan, Captain H,||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Drewe, C.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Malone, Major P. B.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Margesson, Captain D.||Withers, John James|
|Ellis, R. G.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Meller, R. J.||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Wragg, Herbert|
|Fermoy, Lord||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Nall, Colonel Sir Joseph||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Nelson, Sir Frank||Major Sir William Cope and Captain|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Neville, Sir Reginald J.||Bowyer.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland)|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Harris, Percy A,||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
|Batey, Joseph||Hayday, Arthur||Sexton, James|
|Bellamy, A.||Hayes, John Henry||Shaw, Rt. Hon Thomas (Preston)|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hirst, G. H.||Shinwell, E.|
|Broad, F. A.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Bromfield, William||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Bromley, J.||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Stamford, T. W.|
|Charleton, H, C.||Jones, W. N. (Carmarthen)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kelly, W. T.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Compton, Joseph||Kennedy, T.||Sullivan, J.|
|Connolly, M.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lansbury, George||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lawson, John James||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Lee, F.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Lowth, T.||Tomlinson, R. P.|
|Duncan, C.||Lunn, William||Townend, A. E.|
|Edge, Sir William||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)||Viant, S. P.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|England, Colonel A.||Mackinder, W.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||MacLaren, Andrew||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Fenby, T. D.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Forrest, W.||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||March, S.||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Morris, R. H.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Gillett, George M.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Mosley, Sir Oswald||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Greenall, T.||Naylor, T. E.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Palin, John Henry||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley||Paling, W.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Potts, John S.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Groves, T.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. A.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Riley, Ben||Barnes.|
Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The two Amendments to this Clause in the name of the right hon. and gallant Member for New-castle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood)— in page 49, line 4, to leave out the words "so long as the house is so occupied and used"; and to leave out from the second word "year," in line 6, to the end of the Clause—I am in some doubt about. It appears to me that the first would be in order, but I cannot say that I think that, if taken by itself, it makes any difference. In fact, I think the words, if put in, would be superfluous, but it is possible that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman may want to move the two Amendments as one and argue them together. In that case, it appears to me, on the face of it, that that would really negative the Clause, and that, if they were carried, the Clause would then cease to exist. The matter is not quite clear, and I do not wish to dog matise upon it if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman cares to argue it.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Of course, I am taking the two Amendments together, as they are consequential. The position is rather peculiar. The law as it stands, if this Clause was not in, would remain as passed in 1896. That is to say, this 120 Clause as it stands is more or less declaratory of the law as it exists to-day. If we merely negative this Clause, we leave the law as it was passed in 1896. If, on the other hand, we carry these Amendments, we then make a fresh declaration, namely, that the practice of 1896 comes to an end and all farmhouse property is to be treated as other house property. Therefore, I submit that in this particular case the moving of these Amendments is not the negativing of the Clause, and that, if we did not take these Amendments, it would be impossible to state our case on a mere negativing of the question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ The CHAIRMAN
I understand that the case of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is that the Clause as it stands only affirms the law in case of doubt and does not make any change, but that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman wants to change the law. The case is not quite clear, and I will give him the benefit of the doubt.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I beg to move, in page 49, line 4, to leave out the words: "so long as the house is so occupied and used."
121 The whole country knows that at the present moment property is being reassessed, and I expect that my experience of the practice of the assessment committees in Staffordshire is similar elsewhere. What they are doing all round is asking every tenant of a house in the country, not in the town, what rent they are paying. You have to fill in a form stating the weekly or annual rent which you are paying for house property, whether it be a cottage or a house. Then the assessment committee collects together all that material obtained from the tenants and the landlords of the actual amount of rent paid for a particular house. The gross annual assessment is not generally the full amount of the rent, but something like 5 per cent. or 10 per cent. less than the full amount of the rent actually paid. Then they take property which is not let but occupied by the owner, and they compare that with other property which is let, wherever they have the record of the amount paid, and to-day throughout the country they are screwing up assessments so that the gross annual value of every property is really as near as possible the full rental value of that property.
In the old days that was never the case, and it was least of all the case in farm property. These properties were generally assessed far below the full rental value, but now all house property is screwed up to the full rental value. In 1896 farms were treated differently from other properties. The house was given an estimated rateable value, and now, when all other property is being treated uniformly throughout the country, the farm properties under this Clause are to continue to have the exceptionally low valuation provided for them in 1896 At this moment, when we are giving to the farmers the enormous benefit of the remission of rates upon their farm buildings and their land, the farm houses ought to be brought up to the level of all other property in the country, and they should be valued exactly like other properties on the full rental value in its present condition, that is to say, what anybody would pay to live in that house irrespective of how it is used. This would have been a good opportunity to do that, but in this Clause the Government seek to continue the manifestly unjust system of treating two sorts of 122 property owners completely differently. This Amendment would bring it to an end, and cause the farm house to be valued exactly like any other house. The Clause would then provide that the value of the farm house shallbe estimated by reference to the rent at which the house might reasonably be expected to let from year to year.9.0 p.m.
That is the basis on which all other property is estimated, and I submit that we are justified, when we are giving this enormous bonus to the farming industry, in asking, them to put their houses on the same basis as other people. This is just the moment to do it, because, when other property is being raised 40 per cent. and 50 per cent. in value, the remission of rates on the farms will mean an enormous increase in the rates of other people. Looked at from another point of view, the increased assessments of ordinary house property will mean a decrease in the rates actually paid on the farm property, and, if you brought farmhouses up like other houses, the farmer would be actually paying probably no more than he is paying now. You are raising to a new standard ordinary house property—most unfairly, as every owner of house property thinks—and consequently the actual amount of rates paid ought to go down. It should go down on farm property, but, in spite of that, the Government are still continuing this discrimination between farm and other property. I am sure that the Minister would have made this Amendment if he could, but I can imagine the resistance of the Ministry of Agriculture. I am only sorry that in the Minister's natural wish to do justice and to make his rating and local government reform clean and clear-cut throughout, he should have been over-persuaded and beaten by the Minister of Agriculture. He knows that in the country areas particularly the injustice which is engendered by the different treatment of the farm property of the richer farmer and the property of the poorer tradesman next door will create an enormous amount of bitterness and be prejudicial to the acceptance of the Measure.
The right hon. Gentleman has moved an Amendment, the effect of which will be to negative the operation of this Clause, and in justification he has made a number of statements 123 on the strength of which he assumes that I am, contrary to my better judgment, acting in deference to the wishes of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture. That is not so at all. It is quite true that I wish to see justice done, and, if this Clause were going to perpetuate an injustice, I should certainly not have given my support to it. I would like to remind the Committee of the circumstances which lead to the inclusion of this Clause. In 1896, the Agricultural Rates Act was passed. That made a distinction between agricultural land on the one hand, and agricultural buildings and farmhouses on the other. Up to that time the farm had been valued as one unit; the farmhouse, the farm buildings, and the farm land were all taken together and valued as one unit.
When you separate for purposes of valuation land and other parts of the hereditaments, you introduce a new division, and it was felt at that time, and I think with justice, that it would be better, because you made that separation between land and other parts of the hereditament, that you should value the farmhouse on a different basis from that upon which it had hitherto been valued. It had hitherto been valued as part of the hereditament, namely, as something which was used for purposes connected with the farm. The division for the purposes of valuation does not in any way alter the conditions attached to the use of the house. The house could only be used in connection with the farm, and therefore it was provided, in making that alteration in the division of these hereditaments, that although the house was in future to be valued separately from the land, that should not mean that the house was to be valued as though it were a house which it was open to anybody to go and live in apart from the occupation of the farm. We are repealing the Act of 1896, but, in accordance with the promise I gave when the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Bill was before the House, I have included this Clause to continue the old conditions. How can the right hon. Gentleman say that that is unjust? It is not true to begin with.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
It must be regarded as unjust by those people who 124 do not enjoy an artificially low assessment.
The opinion of some people who would like to have their hereditaments differently valued is another matter, but I am not talking of the opinion of prejudiced people; I am talking of abstract justice. It does seem to me that abstract justice is on the side of the farmer. It is not true, as the right hon. Gentleman says, that all property has been screwed up. What we are doing now is re-valuing all property throughout the country, and in future that has to be done every five years.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
As I understand it, other property may be reassessed and pushed up, but the farm remains at the figure which stands in the assessment book to-day.
Oh, no, not necessarily so. The Clause does not say anything of the kind. It is not true that all property is being screwed up. What is true is that instead of rating authorities being allowed to value when they please and, as a matter of fact, sometimes allowing property to remain for 20 or 25 years without any fresh valuation, all authorities must now value at the same time and at certain stated intervals. The result is that all will value more or less on the same basis; whereas previously one authority valued at present day values and another authority valued at the values of 25 years ago. It is obvious, I think, that property which stands at the valuation which was its proper valuation 25 years ago must be improperly valued to-day.
When the right hon. and gallant Gentleman says that assessments are being screwed up, what he really means is that the valuation is being brought up to date: but it is not true that all property has risen in value in the last 25 years. You will find some property which has not. I am sure the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, if he has investigated the subject, must know that where there has been no valuation for a long time most of the property has increased in value, but that there are some properties which have not increased in value and the assessment of which has not been raised. I have instances within my personal knowledge. [Interruption.] 125 No, not of farmhouses, but of residential houses in quarters which have become less fashionable than they were, and where houses do not command a higher rent than before but a lower rent. In those cases the valuation has not been raised. With regard to these farmhouses we do not say that farmhouses are always to remain at the same valuation—not at all. What the Clause says is that in any valuation which takes place the farmhouses are to be valued on the understanding that they can only be used as houses in connection with the farms on which they are situated. That does not mean that their value cannot be raised. If the value of the farm had gone up I imagine that that would necessarily bring an increase in the value of the farmhouse, because the person who was going to occupy that farm would be willing to give more for the farmhouse if ho could make money out of the farm than if he could not.
Perhaps it maybe impossible to get a calculation which would find universal acceptance, but it is not impossible to calculate; that is a necessary process which always has to be gone through in a re-valuation of any kind. I think the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that this provision is giving a special favour to farmers is really not justified by the facts. It is only recognising what are the facts of the case. It is a provision which is fair to the farmers and not in the least unfair to any other class of ratepayers.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
The right hon. Gentleman says we are dealing with a matter of abstract justice. May I ask him what were the instructions of his Department to the local authorities in the mining areas, where a considerable number of new houses have been erected in the past few years? What directions were given with regard to assessing houses which are now tenanted by miners? Obviously the old practice of assessing on the basis of the hypothetical rent or the cost of the house could not be followed, and, therefore, some artificial basis of assessment had to be produced. Because the mining industry is so sorely depressed and miners find it impossible to pay normal rents, did the Minister 126 indicate to the local authorities that in assessing these council houses tenanted by miners the same considerations should apply as he now says are to apply in the case of these houses? If that is not the case, will he tell us what he means by abstract justice? Does he mean merely abstract justice to agriculture, ignoring all other industries, in spite of the depression which exists? It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman has merely repeated what the Parliamentary Secretary said previously.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Which indicates that there is at least identity of thought between the two right hon. Gentlemen, and is, perhaps, a compliment to their Department and themselves. At least they both argue that they are merely preserving for one industry what existed some 30 or 32 years ago. They say that because special treatment was accorded to that one industry 32 years ago, therefore, in spite of any changes which may take place in other industries, the same special treatment is to be employed in the years to come. That is the Minister's interpretation of abstract justice. It may be perfectly true to say that following the 1896 Act certain changes were necessary and that subsequent Acts of Parliament are only preserving the intentions of those who passed that Act, but when we are perpetuating a special concession to one particular industry, we ought at least to have some regard to other industries which are suffering equally badly.
I should not justify my existence here if I did not remind the right hon. Gentleman that the majority of the miners living in the division which I try to represent are paying more in rates weekly than is paid in rent and rates for the majority of houses which are dealt with by this particular Clause. I see no reason why miners who go home week after week, after working the full number of days available, with less than a sovereign for the maintenance of their wives and children, should have extra burdens imposed upon them for the purpose of preserving a concession given to an industry 32 years ago. When the right hon. Gentleman refers to abstract justice, he ought to qualify that by saying abstract 127 justice to a particular section of the community with no sort of relation to any other section of the community. In the new valuations in the future the continuance of this system will preserve for one industry benefits for which men in other industries are obliged to pay. I suggest that this abstract justice ought to be available to all industries, and not to one only.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
On this question of abstract justice I should like to mention a class of workmen whose wages are not much more than those of the agricultural labourer—I refer to the road workers in agricultural districts. They constitute a class of workers whose wages in the main will be about the average of the agricultural labourer, but under this scheme their rates will be higher and I do not see why the road workers should suffer at the expense of someone else.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I should like the hon. Member to explain what connection his argument has with the Amendment before the Committee.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I was following the course which the Debate has taken, but I will come now to the question of the farm house. Hon. Members opposite declare that the prospects of the farming community are distinctly worse, and that is why the Government have introduced these proposals. It does not seem to me that under this Measure there is any prospect of a reduction of the assessments of various kinds of properties other than those dealt with in this Measure. Let me give an illustration. Suppose a farmer pays 10s. per week for his house and a wheelwright pays 10s. Let us suppose that they are both equal as far as this world's goods are concerned. In that case, tinder this Bill the assessment of the wheelwright will go up 50 per cent., and the amount to be raised in rates must remain the same. On the other hand, the assessment of the farmer will fall in like proportion, and therefore the farmer is in pocket both ways. If the Minister of Health is out for abstract justice, will he try to reconcile those two cases? The farmer not only escapes a higher assessment, but he gets de-rating as well. I think, if 128 the right hon. Gentleman really wishes to establish abstract justice, he should try some other way.
§ Mr. MARDY JONES
I understand that a new assessment will be made every five years under this Bill. Suppose a particular farm ceases to be a farm and is occupied for some other purpose by a person in some other occupation who can afford to pay a higher rate than the farmer. Will the assessment committee in that case be empowered to reassess that property at any time during the five years?
The hon. Member knows perfectly well that an assessment does not stand for five years, and it is always open to the local authority to amend an assessment.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
In the case of the sinking of a new mine let us assume that there is a house occupied by an agricultural labourer, and assessed under the special assessment provided by this Bill. If that particular cottage is occupied to-morrow by a miner, will there be a reassessment?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to tell us what would happen in that case?
The Minister of Health is not responsible for the assessing of property throughout the country. That is done by the local authorities, and I cannot say what local authorities would do under those circumstances. I suspect, however, that they would make some change in the conditions.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The Clause we are discussing has no effect whatever on cottages of that kind. There would be no benefit whatever to the tenants under this Clause which refers solely to farm house property.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Clauses 58 (Removal of limit on borrowing powers of local authorities) and 59 (Adaptation of enactments imposing limits on expenditure of local authorities) ordered to stand part of the Bill.129
§ CLAUSE 60.—(Adaptation of enactments relating to water rates.)
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I beg to move, in page 50, to leave out from the word "the" in line 7, to the end of line 8, and to insert instead thereof the words "gross annual value for Income Tax purposes."
This is a somewhat difficult Amendment to follow, but I think the House will agree that it is a sensible one. This Clause adapts the new rating system to the old water rates, and it says:.—(1) Any provision of any enactment directing that the amount of any water rate shall or may be determined by reference to the rateable value of any property as appearing in the valuation list for the time being in force, shall, as from the appointed day, have effect as if for any reference to that value there were therein substituted a reference to the net annual value as so appearing.Take the case of a farm in which the new net annual value is going to be the basis of the water rate. In that case, the farm land, being no longer rated at all, the annual yalue of the house alone is not a fair criterion of what the tenant ought to pay in water rate. Sub-section (2) provides that in the event of any dispute the water rate shall be determined by two justices of the peace as disputes are now determined under the Waterworks Clauses Act, 1847. Therefore, the object of this Clause is to give the decision as to the rateable value of the farm for water rate purposes to two justices. Why should not the Government take the perfectly simple method of basing the water rate upon the gross annual value of the farm for Income Tax purposes? The farm is still of the same value for Income Tax purposes. It is true that you have spoiled the annual rateable value and cannot take it as the basis of the water rate any longer, but you can take the gross annual value for Income Tax purposes, which still remains the same after as before the change. I submit it would be better to take a uniform valuation made by Somerset House, which has always in the past been a more just valuation than the local valuation, and that you should take that as the basis of the water rate rather than drag in this new system of employing two justices, who are generally overworked men, to go round and value farms when they have no experience of that sort of valuation.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip)
I am very glad to be able to try to inform the right hon. and gallant Gentleman as to the purpose of this Clause. The purpose is merely to preserve the existing basis of payment for the water supply which, as he is aware, is sometimes supplied by meter and sometimes according to rateable value.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Rateable value will now be replaced, for the purpose of measuring the cost of the water supply, by net annual value, which will be the same thing as the old rateable value. The old rateable value is now to be replaced for the purpose of measuring the water supply by the net annual value.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I am not sure what the right hon. Gentleman means. If the water is supplied not by meter but according to rateable value, it will in future be supplied by what is called net annual value. The net annual value will be the same as the rateable value to-day, so that the purpose is merely to preserve the status quo and not to allow a person who consumes water to get the benefit of any alteration which this Act makes in the relief of rates. He will have to pay for his water on the same footing as he does to-day, and it is in order to adapt the existing law to changes which are made under Clause 55 that the words "net annual value" are substituted for the words "rateable value." Therefore, there is no change at all which will affect anybody. It is merely to preserve the existing system, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see that the only object of his Amendment would be, for some reason which he has not yet explained, to add to the burdens which the properties concerned would have to bear, because presumably the words "gross annual value for Income Tax purposes," are more than would be implied by the words "net annual value." If they are not more than that, I do not understand what his purpose is in taking those words in preference to the words contained in the Clause as it stands.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I am afraid we are at cross purposes. Either the hon. Gentleman did not listen to my speech or he has merely read his brief, which deals with something quite different. I am talking of farming properties. In future there will be no record whatever of the net annual value of the land or buildings, the only thing recorded being the net annual value of the house itself.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
That is exactly where the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has gone astray. There is no longer to be any record of rateable value but of net annual value. All that is necessary is met by inserting the words "net annual value" in order to take the place of the old rateable value which has now disappeared.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I should point out that under a certain Clause of the Bill, the actual recording of the annual value of land, whether net annual value or net rateable value, is excluded.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Yes, the net annual value for Income Tax purposes. The right hon. Gentleman does not quite appreciate the point.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Now I understand perfectly clearly. That is what I wanted, that it should be for Income Tax purposes instead of the other way. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman what is the point in Sub-section (2)? I thought in that Clause there was some peculiar method of dealing with farm property and I do not see that the Sub-section is necessary if you are taking the net annual value for Income Tax purposes, which is universal.
I do not quite follow what the right hon. Gentleman's point is about Sub-section (2). It says:Whereby any enactment, including this section, the amount of any water rate is to be determined by reference to the gross value or the net annual value of any property as appearing in the valuation list for the time being in force, then, if the value referred to does not appear in the valuation list, it shall, as from the appointed day, be determined in the event of any dispute by two justices of the peace.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
I beg to move, in page 50, line 8, at the end, to insert the words:Provided that as respects any property which is an industrial or freight transport hereditament or part of such a hereditament, elsewhere than in the County of London, whereof the rateable value would, if it had continued to be ascertained under the provisions of paragraph (c) of subsection (1) of Section twenty-two of the principal Act or of any scheme made under Section sixty-four of that Act, have been taken to be the amount produced by making any deduction from the net annual value, this sub-section shall have effect as if the words the net annual value as so appearing meant the amount produced by making from the net annual value the like deductions as would have been made under the said provisions.I want to move the Amendment only for the sake of getting a statement from the Minister. I understand that the point raised in it, which is a question of docks and harbours and land covered by water, is not quite met by the form of words in my Amendment. I, therefore, wish to ask the Minister whether a statement can be made upon the point to be met. I understand it is admitted that there is a real point of substance to be met and one which was intended to be covered by the Amendment which I am moving.
There would only be substance in the Amendment if it were the fact that properties of the kind referred to, land covered with water, docks and so forth, were rated for water upon their annual value. I am informed that there are no such cases and all properties are rated for water, not upon the annual value, but by meter or in some other manner, and that up to the present, no instance of anything else has been forwarded to the Minister. Therefore, in the absence of any evidence that anything requires amendment, this does not appear to be necessary.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
I am very much obliged to the Minister for his statement. I will go further into the question of the dock and harbour authorities, and see whether they have any proposals to put 133 forward. I thank the Minister for his statement, and beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.