HC Deb 18 February 1948 vol 447 cc1260-7

(1) Where a building which was constructed or has been adapted for the purposes of a single dwelling house, or as to part thereof for such purpose, and as to the remainder thereof for any purpose other than that of a dwelling or residence, is occupied in parts, the valuation officer, in preparing or revising a draft valuation list or in altering a current valuation list, may, if he thinks fit, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, including the extent, if any, to which the parts separately occupied have been severed by structural alterations, treat the building or any portion thereof as a single hereditament, and a building or portion of a building so treated as a single hereditament shall, for the purposes of rating, be deemed to be a single hereditament in the occupation of the person who receives the rents payable in respect of the parts.

(2) Section seven of the Representation of the People Act, 1867, and Section twenty-three of the Rating and Valuation Act, 1925, are hereby repealed.—[Mr. J. Edwards.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. J. Edwards

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

In accordance with the undertaking given in Standing Committee, this Clause does no more than apply to London the law as it is outside London. It also avoids making reference to earlier parts of the Bill.

Mr. Walker-Smith

This Clause does not, as I read it, constitute any change in the law, and has the advantage that words will be put clearly into the Bill so that legislation by reference will not be required. That being so, I am sure it is one that we on this side would wish to welcome.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

NEW CLAusE.—(Hereditaments shown as railway hereditaments, etc., but not in fact occupied by British Transport Commission.)
5 (1) Where, on the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and forty-eight, the whole or any part of a hereditament which is shown in any valuation list in force at the said date as a railway hereditament within the meaning of the Railways (Valuation for Rating) Act, 1930, or as a transport hereditament within the meaning 5 of that Act as applied by a scheme under section ninety-two of the London Passenger Transport Act, 1933, is in the occupation of some person other than the British Transport Commission, such amendments may be made of the valuation list (by way of proposal under Part III of this Act, of proposal under the Rating and Valuation Act, 1925, or of provisional or supplemental list according as may be appropriate) as
10 are necessary to secure that that hereditament or, as the case may be, that part thereof, appears as a separate hereditament in the list as if it had not been shown in the valuation list as being, or forming part of, a railway hereditament or a transport hereditament.
15 (2) For the purpose of the liability of any person (other than the British Transport Commission) to rates, an amendment made under this section shall, in relation to any rate (including any rate for a period which has already elapsed when the amendment is made), have effect as from the beginning of the quinquennial period under the Railways (Valuation for Rating) Act, 1930 (or, as the case may be, under that Act as applied by the London Passenger Transport (Valuation for Rating) Scheme, 1935) current at the date of the passing of this Act or as from the date on which the hereditament ceased to be in the occupation of the British Transport Commission or, as the case may be, the relevant body specified in the Third Schedule to the Transport Act, 1947, whichever is the later date; and the amount underpaid shall be paid and may be recovered as if it were arrears of the rate.—[Mr. J. Edwards.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. J. Edwards

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

This Clause, to which I referred when I moved certain Amendments anticipating it, has been put down to meet an undertaking which we gave in Standing Committee to deal with let-out properties, about which Members on both sides had strong feelings. As the Bill stands, it would not be possible to bring let-out properties, at present regarded in the valuation lists as railway properties, into assessment until the new valuation machinery is in operation. Assuming that this is some time next year, rates will become payable on such property from 1st April, 1949. As the new railway roll has not come into operation, the properties which have been let out since 1st April, 1946, have not yet come into rating. If the new roll had been confirmed rates would have been payable back to 1st April, 1946, or the date when the property was let-out, if that were since that date. All the Clause does is to enable the rating authorities to deal with such property as from 1st April next and to collect rates respectively as they would have done under the Railways (Valuation for Rating) Act, 1930.

Clause read a Second time.

Mr. O. Poole

I beg to move, in line 6, after "is," to insert: or since the first day of April nineteen hundred and forty-six has been. This Amendment seeks to remedy a defect in the new Clause, which I am sure we all welcome. It seeks to ensure that there should not be an allowance for those hereditaments which were leased before April, 1946. If these are excluded the local authority concerned would lose two years' rates on them, and we think that the right hon. Gentleman has overlooked this point in his new Clause.

Mr. Bevan

As I understand it, what is worrying the hon. Gentleman is that certain properties might have been let out and then restored. If they are still let out they are, of course, dealt with, but if they are returned they are not. I sympathise with the hon. Member's intention, but I am wondering whether there is any practicable way of rating people who are no longer in occupation. If we could do it, it would be desirable, but we might not be able to find them. I do not suppose there are many cases, and I do not think there will be a substantial loss, but in any case our difficulty is to recover rates from people who may not be in occupation.

Mr. Poole

There is some point in the right hon. Gentleman's comment, but perhaps it might be possible to make a suitable Amendment if the matter is discussed in another place. If the right hon. Gentleman will keep an open mind on this matter, I am quite prepared to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause added to the Bill.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Bevan

I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

I move this Motion in order to make a statement about the progress we are making on the Bill. I think Members in all parts of the Committee will agree that we have made reasonably good progress, and that we are all in a good temper, which we want to preserve. I do not think we ought to burden ourselves at this time of the night with a Debate on the new Clause (Provision of entertainments) which stands in my name on the Order Paper. Such a Debate might run for some time, and I think it is better that the controversial issues which will no doubt arise upon it should be taken when we are fresh, and when all the principles involved can be properly considered. I propose, therefore, that I should not now move this new Clause, but that I should put it down again tomorrow, and that we should finish the rest of the recommittal stage this evening. I think it would be agreeable to the Committee if we started off tomorrow with that new Clause.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

I think the right hon. Gentleman's proposal is reasonable, and one which commends itself to hon. and right hon. Members on this side of the Committee. The entertainments Clause, as the Minister said, is one in which there is keen interest in the country and in which many hon. Members are interested. I think that it should be taken when we are fresh and can apply ourselves to it. If we can clear the remaining matters on the Order Paper, with the exception of this Clause, tonight, we on this side of the Committee would be reasonably willing to do our best to accelerate the business, so that consideration of the Bill may be concluded at a reasonable hour tomorrow. If the Minister wishes to suspend the Rule for safety's sake, we would make no objection, but I think that we should be able to conclude at about the normal time. Therefore, I agree to the proposal and com- mend it to right hon. and hon. Members on this side.

Mr. Beechman (St. Ives)

On behalf of all Liberals in the Committee, I am very ready to fall into line with the proposal made, although I rather regret it, because this Clause which we were about to reach I find rather attractive. I had hoped that it might go through without much difficulty, but since it appears to be the wish of the Committee that is should not be taken tonight, and since it is the attitude of Liberalism that personality should express itself freely and as It may desire, I gladly acquiesce in the proposal.

Mr. Mitchison (Kettering)

May I call the attention of the Committee to two points? We have heard the views of the National Liberal Party. The views of the other section of the Liberal Party on this weighty matter have not been vouchsafed, and the views of the back benches have not been vouchsafed. Many of us came here prepared to consider and discuss this new Clause. The temperature and attitude of the Front Benches on both sides have been so happy that it would be a pity if that happy attitude were lost until tomorrow. We do not know what the Front Benches may do in the interval. While I am sure we would not wish to divide the Committee on this question, as back benchers we like to take things in the order we had expected to take them, and not be cut short in our intentions by these nefarious agreements.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I would like to make a few comments on the unexpected suggestion of the Minister that we should by-pass this new Clause until tomorrow. Far be it from me to attempt to assess the relative importance of this Clause as against the other 100-odd Clauses in this most important Bill. I cannot assess their relative importance, but I think that I am not altogether unqualified to assess their relative complexity. The Committee will agree that however important this Clause may be, it is a good deal less complex than many of the other Clauses which we have to consider Therefore, the logical thing would be for the Committee to take in the afternoon and early evening the more complex and technical Clauses which impose a greater strain on our cerebral processes, and to take at the present hour the important but less complex and less technical Clauses.

I cannot help fearing that if this Clause is left over until tomorrow, and is advertised in the Press as being discussed tomorrow, public interest in it will be stimulated, and the Debate on it may run a long time—perhaps, from the point of view of the Bill as a whole, a disproportionately long time. That will leave the complex and technical Clauses and Amendments on the Report stage of the Bill to be dealt with late tomorrow night by a conscientious minority of hon. Members. With great respect to my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) and to the Minister of Health, that does not commend itself as being the most practical way of arranging the Business of the House in regard to the remainder of the Clauses.

Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, West)

I warmly approve the Minister's suggestion and the support given to it by the right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot). It is all very well to talk about other Clauses being important—they are—but the issue referred to in this long new Clause is of considerable importance from many points of view. The point of view on which I should wish to speak would be of considerable importance. For that reason, I think that the Minister has got us out of a very real difficulty. His suggestion will enable us to deal with this matter at a time when people outside as well as hon. Members, will be interested in it. I hope that the suggestion which has been happily agreed to by the two Front Benches will be warmly accepted by all hon. Members.

Mr. E. P. Smith (Ashford)

I must protest against the Minister by-passing this Clause in this extraordinary way. Some of us are peculiarly informed upon these matters and are here specially to lend our contribution to the discussion on this Clause. Now we find that we are without a Clause to discuss. We do not know that we may be here tomorrow, although we hope so, but we never can tell what tomorrow will bring. I hope the Minister will reconsider this rather arbitrary and last-minute arrangement.

Mr. O. Poole

With regard to the point made by the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith), I submit to the Committee that whereas there are many extremely complex and difficult points in the Bill, they are, in fact, being discussed in the main by those Members who sat on the Standing Committee and some other hon. Members who have taken a considerable interest in the Bill. This proposed new Clause is of very wide interest and many other hon. Members will wish to discuss it. The Amendments on the Order Paper do not give a clear idea of the amount of business that is to be taken tomorrow. It has been intimated, Major Milner, that most of our Amendments on the Order Paper will not be called, and, therefore, we shall not have a great deal of business to take tomorrow night. I should have thought that from the point of view of getting the best quality of debate, the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman and supported by the right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) represents the best way of dealing with this matter. I hope that the Committee will not resist the proposal on the speeches which have been made, because I suggest, having given my whole attention to this matter on the Standing Committee, that this way is the best.

Mr. Walker-Smith

Does the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. O. Poole) suggest that the views of hon. Members on this or any other subject can be of any value to Parliament if they do not take the trouble to come and express them at 8.40 in the evening?

Mr. Bevan

When I am attempting to meet the wishes of the Committee and trying to get subjects of very considerable importance discussed at an appropriate time I should not be resisted. We have now taken a quarter of an hour on this proposal in which we could have made considerable progress with the New Clause. The benches opposite are not as full as they might be on this matter, and I could quite easily demand that we go through the Bill in the ordinary way. In that connection I appreciate the point raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), but I do not think that that is the best way of getting important business discussed. Therefore, I hope that this arrangement will commend itself to the Committee.

The Chairman

The hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. O. Poole) referred to certain Amendments which he suggested I did not propose to call. I should like to point out that as the Amendments arise on the Report stage they will be a matter for Mr. Speaker and not for the Chairman of Ways and Means. In the second place and with regard to the suggestion by the Minister, and assuming it has the approval of the Committee, as apparently is the case, the proper procedure is for the Minister to ask leave to withdraw the present Motion, move the First Reading of the Clause formally, and then move that further consideration be postponed until tomorrow.

Mr. Bevan

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn