HC Deb 19 February 1948 vol 447 cc1450-2
Brigadier Prior-Palmer

I beg to move, in page 35, line ii, to leave out from "be," to the end of line 12, and to insert "prescribed."

This Amendment is designed to embody in the Bill an undertaking given by the Minister in Committee, that information called for by valuation officers should be prescribed in detail by regulation by the Minister. I think this is in accordance with feelings expressed on both sides of the Committee, and I hope the Minister will accept the Amendment.

Mr. Turton

I beg to second the Amendment.

Mr. Bevan

When this matter was raised in Committee I pointed out that the instructions to be given would result in a reasonable amount of uniformity throughout the country; but I pointed out also that an obligation to do so in the Statute would be unduly restrictive, that it was an administrative act, and that we proposed to do it by administrative action.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

We had a long discussion on this point, at the end of which, after being pressed from both sides of the Committee, the Minister said: As I have said, there will be the regulation prescribing.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 22nd January, 1948; c. 266.]

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

I should like to press the Minister a little further. The difficulties were perhaps a little exaggerated in Committee, but they were real difficulties, and the Minister did not see any difficulty in our contention. He merely did not wish the regulations to be too rigid, and wanted a certain amount of flexibility in the proposals which he was to make to the officers concerned. We thought that we had met this point by saying that they should be prescribed, and I am not yet very certain whether the Minister is rigidly setting his face against our proposal. I hope I misunderstood him, that he was merely explaining that, but saw his way to do what we were asking, and that we on this side had been a little obtuse in not grasping that he was really conceding our request.

Mr. Bevan

I can speak again only with the permission of the House. What I had in mind was that, normally speaking, instructions would be laid down for the valuation officers, but these instructions would have to have some degree of resilience because it might be necessary for the valuation officer to have additional information with regard to a property in order to enable him to arrive at a proper valuation of it, whereas if in the general instructions given to him no such authority were given, he would be frustrated in his task. As I said in Committee, this seems to be a matter for intelligent administrative action rather than words in the statute.

Colonel Dower (Penrith and Cockermouth)

The whole object was to prevent an officer from making a unreasonable request. What security is there against that?

Mr. Bevan

Again, I can speak only with the permission of the House. Any ratepayer can refuse information if he considers that the request is unreasonable, and the valuation officer then has to take action. There is adequate protection in every case.

Amendment negatived.