HC Deb 21 August 1940 vol 364 cc1421-3

Notwithstanding anything in any local Act, or in Subsection (5) of Section thirtyone of the Land Drainage Act, 1930 (which contains a saving for the powers conferred by any local Act in relation to arrears of drainage rates),no distress for arrears of any rate made under the said Act of 1930 shall be levied after the commencement of this Act on the goods or chattels of any person other than a person from whom the arrears may be recovered by virtue of Subsection (1) of the said Section thirtyone, and no proceedings, whether by action or otherwise, for the enforcement of any charge on land for securing payment of arrears of any such rate created by any local Act shall be commenced after the commencement of this Act.

8.56 p.m.

Mr. T. Williams

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

The object of this Clause is to deal with a situation which has arisen in certain parts of the country where it is impossible to let farms owing to the existence of heavy burdens in the form of arrears of drainage rates which would-be tenants are unwilling or unable to shoulder. Drainage rates are recoverable by drainage boards under Section 31 of the Land Drainage Act, 1930, in the same way as other rates are recoverable under the Rating and Valuation Act, 1925, that is to say, by distress levied on goods or chattels belonging to the occupier. In certain areas, however, there are local Acts of Parliament dating back to the end of the eighteenth century under which drainage boards are entitled to recover arrears by distress levied on goods belonging to any person occupying the land, irrespective of whether that person was in occupation at the time the rate was made. The effect of this Clause is to put these drainage boards in the same position as other drainage boards and leave them with the same remedy under Section 31 of the Act of 1930. The effect will be to remove the difficulty that at present exists in obtaining tenants for the land and in getting it used for the production of food during the present emergency and we hope in the future.

8.57 P.m

Mr. J. Morgan

May I ask who in fact will have to pay the former charges due on land of this kind? Are those charges to be in abeyance? Are they to accumulate and he recoverable at some future date, or what is to happen? Will the Minister create a new charge which will have priority over the old charge, or just what is really involved in this proposal? One knows that people have ceased to cultivate land in some cases because of heavy charges like tithe or drainage rates. Is that the class of land that the Minister has in mind? If so, how are these charges that are to be set aside to be met eventually? Are they to be recovered by the Minister on behalf of other people, or are those other people to stand aside and wait until the war is over to recover them?

Mr. T. Williams

It must be clear that this new Clause is introduced only because land is available for cultivation, but no one is willing to become the tenant unless the arrears of drainage rates are dispensed with. The new tenant when he comes in will have no arrears of obligations to face. To that extent he will be a free tenant and able to meet the liablities that accrue during his tenancy. The Drainage Boards who have imposed drainage rates in the past and have failed to collect those rates from the tenants at the time when the rates were imposed, will either have to collect them from those tenants or, I am afraid, will not be able to collect them at all. So far as the new Clause is concerned, it deals with the new tenant only, who starts with a fair field and no favour. I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree with that principle.

Mr. Morgan

Then the charges are wiped out, so far as he is concerned. Will they still remain to be charged over the whole drainage district and can then be recovered by a fresh charge? Do they still remain on that particular land or are they wiped right out? If they are wiped right out, it is very satisfactory.

Mr. Williams

It is a matter for the drainage board to determine, but I should imagine that in most cases the arrears will he wiped completely out.

Question put, and agreed to.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

A Special Entry will be made in the Journal.