§ Mr. E. BROWN
I beg to move, in page 44, line 36, after the word "providing," to insert the words "police or other."
I am moving this in order to get a statement from the Secretary of State. This is an important matter from the point of view of four statutory dock authorities: Leith, Dundee, Aberdeen and Greenock. I will put the case from the point of view of Leith, which really illustrates the difficulty. I gladly acknowledge the intentions of the Government in the insertion of the Sub-section in the Clause, and the House will see that it is intended to meet the special difficulty of certain statutory dock authorities. The position may be viewed from three points of view; the point of view of the State, the point of view of the local authorities and the point of view of the statutory dock trusts. The difficulty arises in this way, that under various Acts of Parliament these dock authorities provide certain services which are normally provided by the local authorities, the cleaning of streets, lighting and policing, but because these statutory authorities are not recognised by the State as local authorities in the ordinary sense the police expenditure does not rank for grant.
Our position is this. Under local Acts, because these dock authorities provide these particular services, there is already a remission of rates amounting at the moment in the case of Edinburgh and Leith to 75 per cent. of the normal assessment. There is a double difficulty to be rectified. The Government have power under the Clause by Order tomake such modifications of Amendments of the provisions of the local Act as are equitable in the circumstances.The words are vague. What we desire is a definite statement from the Government as to their intentions. There is perfect good feeling between the Edinburgh Corporation and the dock authorities at Leith. If they could make arrangements to meet the difficulty, they would do so. Since the docks are presently de-rated, the total assessment of the Leith dock will not rank for grant for loss of rates on the standard year under the Bill; and since the State does not recognise the police service—amounting to £13,000 a year in Leith—as undertaken by the local authority, that does 504 not rank for grant. So that even if there were an arrangement now inside this year, unless something special is done by the Government, neither the sum granted for the police on the one hand nor the loss of rates on the other will rank for the purposes of the Bill.
I would like to argue the whole case as to what I believe is the double reason for the present situation. It is first based, I believe, on an official fallacy that these particular dock undertakings are private profit-earning undertakings. They are nothing of the kind. They not merely do the watching and lighting and cleaning within their own boundaries, but actually have some streets that are used by the public outside those boundaries. Secondly, I believe the real problem has been the view of the Treasury from the point of view of Treasury stringency.
I beg to second the Amendment.
The position as regards Aberdeen is this: Certain services are rendered, in the way of police, which do not rank for grant, and if we do not get our way this proposal will cost Aberdeen £3,000 a year. Moreover, these same services, although exactly the same as ordinary police services, do not rank for police grant. It is too late for us to readjust matters, because the standard year is drawing to an end. Will the Secretary of State consider the question of an equivalent grant, and under Sub-section (2) will he make an adjustment which in equity is right although technically wrong?
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
Either the Amendment adds nothing to the Clause, or else it is out of order, because it will alter the amount of the compensation. If it is merely useless, which I think it is, we certainly cannot accept it. I understand, however, that the purpose in moving the Amendment is to ascertain what is the intention of the Sub-section. It is quite clear, in the first instance, that it cannot affect the standard year. Secondly, it gives power in effect to rewrite the local Act. As I understand the Sub-section, it gives the Secretary of State power to re-write the local Act so as to express in full what is really the truth of the transaction, that is to say, that a service is provided or paid for which the local authority would otherwise provide, and 505 the cost of that service is reflected in a reduction of the rates.
Will the Government use all their powers, so far as Aberdeen is concerned, to remedy what is admitted to be an injustice?
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
The powers will certainly be used in fair cases, but there are cases, of course, where it does not necessarily follow that the service which is provided is one which the local authority would either be bound or likely to supply itself.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.