HC Deb 09 July 1953 vol 517 cc1496-500

3.43 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Ernest Marples)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 11, after "garage," to insert: or private storage premises.

This Amendment is the first of a string of Amendments which are designed to meet the point which was raised by the hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) in Committee. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government gave an assurance that the Bill would be amended to provide for the assessment on 1939 values, and not current values, of cycle, perambulator or store sheds where they form a separate rateable hereditament. As the Bill stands, if a shed is within the curtilage it is valued at 1939 value, but if it is outside the curtilage and forms a separate hereditament it will be valued at current value.

The hon. Member for Clapham, quite rightly, pointed out that in the case of London municipal flats, where the occupant of a flat had a storage shed or perambulator shed outside the curtilage it would be unfair on the occupant of that flat if he had to pay on a higher assessment than he would have to pay if the shed were within the curtilage. This Amendment, therefore, has been designed to meet that point.

One of the other Amendments defines the words "private storage premises."

3.45 p.m.

Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)

I only rise to address my thanks to the Minister for having so completely met the points which I raised in Committee. This provision will be of very great help to tenants not only of London County Council flats but of flats which are being built in many other towns and boroughs where additional amenities of this kind provided for the service of tenants are well away from the flats in which those tenants live.

Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)

As one who was associated with my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) in advocating this course in Committee, I should like to thank the Minister for meeting the points which were then raised.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Marples

I beg to move m page 1, line 18, at the end, to insert: Provided that this subsection shall not apply in a case where that rent exceeds the amount which would be the gross value of the hereditament if ascertained by reference to the said definition. This is a drafting Amendment, which is aimed at brevity and simplicity, something which hon. Members are always pressing upon the Government of the day. It affects Clause 2 (1), which says that the gross values shall not be ascertained by reference to current values and consequently that the gross values, for rateable purposes, shall be ascertained as laid down in Clause 2 (2), that is, shall be the 1939 values.

The 1939 rateable values are acceptable to those houses where the 1939 value is lower than the current value, but, of course, it is unfair and, ipso facto, unacceptable to those houses where the current value in 1953, 1954 and 1955 is less than the 1939 values. The type of house which my right hon. Friend has in mind is a house that has lost its letting value since the war. It may be in a war-damaged area and worth less than it was in 1939 and, therefore, it would be unfair to say that it should take the 1939 value. It is right and proper that it should take the current value, if that value is lower. So that category is an exception to the rule of 1939 value.

Clause 2 (7) of the Bill contains about 14 lines of almost incomprehensible words to me as a layman, and it is those words that make this exception. It was found that if the 14 lines were omitted and the four lines on the Order Paper inserted in their place those four lines, which are comprehensible, would carry out the same purpose. This Amendment, therefore, does not alter the effect of the Bill. It makes it simpler and shorter, and, I hope, more comprehensible It inserts four lines which can be understood by a layman in place of 14 that I do not think can be understood. I hope that the House will accept that explanation and will agree to the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Speaker

I understand that the next three Amendments on the Order Paper are consequential.

Mr. Marples

I beg to move, in page 2, line 13, to leave out from "time," to "and" in line 14, and to insert "of valuation."

I do not think that the three Amendments are consequential, Mr. Speaker, but I think that it would be for the convenience of the House if, with this Amendment, we took the Amendment in page 2, and in page 3, line 15.

The first two Amendments are preparatory to the third, which is designed to meet the point raised in Committee by the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), who asked what was the meaning of the words: … at the time when the gross value [...] being ascertained; … There seems to be some doubt about it and the hon. Member properly raised the matter. My right hon. Friend undertook to look at it. It is not quite clear whether this denotes the time when the new list comes into force or when the proposal to alter it is made, or whether it might denote a later time when, perhaps, the courts were determining the dispute. This Amendment leaves the legal position as it is at present. That was decided in the case of Barratt v. Gravesend, a very famous case in 1941, to the effect that the material date for valuation is that at which the proposal is made.

There has been no decision as to the date in connection with the new list, but I think it is common opinion among the valuers that the material date is that at which the list comes into force. Therefore, this Amendment leaves the law as it is today, namely, that the operative date is the date when the list comes into force. If there were an action in the courts and the matter dragged out for some time the operative date would be the date when the list came into force and not when the court came to a decision.

Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)

May I thank the Parliamentary Secretary for meeting this small point that I made in the course of our discussions upstairs? I must not be critical, but I will offer a reflection on the use of the English language because I see that we are to amend paragraph (a) in this subsection to read: … subsists at the time of valuation; and, at the same time, are to say that the time of valuation is not the time of valuation but the time at which the valuation would have fallen to be made. I suppose we get there in the end, but it is one of those exercises in time in which the scientists have been indulging for many years and in which, apparently, we also indulge.

Mr. M. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)

I should like to know whether the effect of this Amendment will be that valuation for rating in respect of new houses before the new list materialises, will be based on current values or on 1939 values.

Mr. Marples

The new list will, of course, be made out on the basis that is laid down in this Bill when it becomes an Act, which is, in effect, the 1939 value, except in those cases which are called "white elephant" houses, which have lost their value, in which case it will be the current value if the current value is lower than the 1939 value.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

Perhaps the Minister would like to consider this. This is a very important matter. I wish to know, in view of this Amendment, so far as valuation is concerned, whether proposals that are made now or at any time before the new list materialises are based on present values and not on 1939 values.

Mr. Marples

No assessments will be made except on the provisions laid down in this Bill. It has proved quite impossible to make new lists on the basis of the 1948 Act. That is the reason for this Measure. Therefore, the basis of valuation of the new list which will be deposited will, of course, be on the 1939 values except, as I have said, in the case of "white elephant" houses.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 2, leave out line 23, and insert "of valuation."

In page 3, line 15, at end, insert: (7) For the purposes of this section the time of valuation, in relation to any act done or proceeding taken for the purpose mentioned in subsection (1) of this section, shall be taken to be the time by reference to which the gross value of the hereditament in question would for the purposes of that act or proceeding have fallen to be ascertained if this section had not been enacted.

In page 3, line 16, leave out subsection (7).—[Mr. Marples.]