HC Deb 26 July 1951 vol 491 cc777-8

Motion made, and Question proposed. That the Draft Local Government (Payments by British Transport Commission) (Adjustment) Order, 1951, a copy of which was laid before this House on 11th July, be approved.—[Mr. Lindgren.]

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)

Could the Parliamentary Secretary give us some explanation of the Order?

10.1 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Local Government and Planning (Mr. Lindgren)

I did not want to be discourteous to the House, but I did not desire to delay hon. Members, particularly in view of the business which still lies before us.

By the Local Government Act, 1948. British Railways, the London Passenger Transport Board, and the canals were exempt from the payment of local rates. but the Transport Commission were required to pay a sum into a pool. The Minister of Local Government and Planning has the responsibility of distributing the sums paid into the pool on the basis of local rateable value.

The Order, which the House is being asked to approve this evening, is an agreed measure between the Transport Commission, who are the persons who pay the rates, and the local government associations, who act on behalf of the local authorities who receive the rates.

There is a precedent for the formula in the Order, and that is to be found in the British Electricity Authority. The general structure of the Order for the payment of the rates by that Authority is a standard varied annually, first of all by the average level of rates throughout the country; and, secondly, by the units sold.

In the case of the railways there is a similar basis, the variation again being the average level of rates throughout the country plus the variation of passenger journeys and freight tons. Both of them are adjustable figures: the sale of electricity in the case of the Electricity Authority, and railway journeys and freight tons for the railways.

The standard year is 1947–48, and the standard amounts are for England £1,810,000 and for Scotland £113,000, and the basis of the standard amount is rates paid in the year 1947–48. The standard year for passenger journeys and freight tons is also 1947–48. The variation up or down is the variation in the number of passengers and freight tons carried. To avoid violent fluctuations in the amount paid annually, the variations are reduced to a fifth, the variation of one-fifth up or down being according to passenger journeys and freight tons. Having given this explanation, I hope that the House will give us the Order.

10.4 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

We make no objection to this Order. It is an interesting departure which we hope will be extended to the ordinary citizen, for it is an agreed sum between the body paying the rates and the body receiving the rates. That might be of interest to all of us in our private capacities. As the Minister has said, it is subject to a very complicated formula, which I think it would be quite wrong to go into tonight. We make no objection to it, save that it is linked to the amount and the level of rates throughout the country, and that in future years may be a matter which the Minister and ourselves might have more to talk about.

Question put. and agreed to.