§ 11.17 a.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. Ramsbotham)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 26, to leave out "is on that day," and to insert "was on the first day of April, nineteen hundred and thirty-six."
At present the appointed day, namely, 2nd October, is the date on which the differentiation as regards the gross annual value of tithe rentcharge and the rate of redemption annuity as between agricultural and non-agricultural land takes effect. The usual test in practice to decide whether land is agricultural or non-agricultural is whether or not it is de-rated. The beginning of the rating year is 1st April, and, therefore, for administrative reasons, it is desirable that the beginning of the rating year should be taken as the date for this purpose. But it is even more desirable than that. The House will realise that the probability of the tithe-payer getting relief on 1st October is a very considerable advantage and concession, but tithe is paid in arrear, and therefore tithe charges run from 1st April. It is therefore clear that the date for the differentiation between non-agricultural and agricultural land should be 1st April and not 1st October. There are two reasons. One is founded on the rating year and the other is that tithe charge is accruing now, and, therefore, I suggest that, for those two reasons, 1st April is a better date and more favourable to the tithe-payer than 1st October.
§ 11.19 a.m.
§ Mr. DENMAN
The Minister will remember that in Committee the problem of the criteria for the division between agricultural and non-agricultural land was raised. Though I have no objection to the present Amendment, the Minister will realise that it does not at all meet 2124 the points raised in Committee. I should be glad of his assurance that the consideration which he promised to give to this subject will still be given, and that the acceptance of this Amendment does not mean that the matter is at this moment closed and will not be capable of further consideration in another place.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
This is simply administrative and a concession to the tithe-payer, and I think that it should be accepted. It does not prejudice any other considerations.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. RAMSBOTHAM
I beg to move, in page 2, line 28, to leave out "is on the appointed day," and to insert "was on the said first day of April."
§ This Amendment is consequential on the first Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 11.21 a.m.
§ Mr. R. ACLAND
I beg to move, in page 2, line 34, at the end, to insert:(4) No stock shall be issued in respect of any tithe rentcharge which has not been collected and for the recovery of which no proceedings have been taken during the five years previous to the first day of February, nineteen hundred and thirty-six.In this Amendment I am concerned mainly with the very small tithe-payer. One of the most savage features of this Bill, and certainly one which will be most unpopular on the country side is that of the provisions which stiffen up the method of collecting tithe rentcharge and which convert for the first time tithe rentcharge from a charge upon land to a personal debt recoverable from the individual, in respect to which he might, in certain circumstances, be sent to prison. When you couple that fact with the compulsory, powers of redemption for small tithe charges, there is a serious danger. There may have been cases of small tithe-payers where in the past it has not been worth while to collect the money. In the case of a large tithe-payer there is a great deal to be said for the force of authority having such power as may be at its disposal to ensure that payment is made, but should the Church be given the benefit of these increased powers in order that they may receive money which they would not 2125 otherwise have received? I think that only quite small sums are involved one way or the other, but a small sum to a small man creates just the same sense of grievance and injustice as a large sum to a large man.
Where there have been small sums owing and it has not been thought worth while to collect those sums, at any time, within the last five years, it will arouse great feelings of injustice if this Bill comes along as a sort of steamroller to squeeze money out of these small people, and they find that these charges against them are not only revived, but that they are revived in a form which they cannot possibly resist, and are very likely compulsorily redeemed. To extort from these people charges away in the past amounting to a shilling or two shillings a year might run into several pounds and be a very severe burden indeed. I would ask the Minister in general to explain to us what is to happen if, in the course of the tearing up of the whole of the tithe problem, old and long forgotten tithes are discovered. What is to happen in that case? Perhaps the Minister will deal with that point?
§ 11.25 a.m.
§ Mr. RAMSBOTHAM
The hon. Member realises that he is here dealing with the question of stock and not with the question of annuities. In regard to the question of stock he wishes to know what would happen in the case of long forgotten tithe rentcharge. It will be the duty of the Commission to examine most carefully and meticulously whether tithe rentcharge is owing and to find out whether the tithe is statute barred. The carrying out of that duty will to some extent prevent any long forgotten tithe being unjustly claimed again. During the last few years there has been considerable difficulty in getting tithe in, and we all know the reason. In many cases certain tithe-owners have been compassionate towards the tithe-payers and have not claimed it, and it would be most unfair if as a result of a tithe-owner adopting that generous attitude because the tithe-payer could not pay he should, because of this Amendment, be deprived of his annuity for life and lose forever the stock which he would receive 2126 in respect of that annuity. The hon. Member stipulates a period of five years. That is perhaps a long time. I am sure that the last thing he would desire would be that the tithe-owner who has treated his tithe-payer fairly and generously should be penalised in any way. The hon. Member is concerned for the small tithepayer, but I can assure him that there is no intention that the Commission in collecting these small sums in the future should press unduly on the small tithepayer; for one reason, the cost of collection would not make it worth while. The hon. Member would not wish to produce a state of affairs which would cause great injustice to a man who has treated his tithe-payer decently and fairly in a very difficult time. I hope, therefore, that he will not press the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.