HC Deb 09 July 1953 vol 517 cc1501-37

Amendments made: In line 2, leave out first "and."

After "garages." insert: and private storage premises."—[Mr. Marples.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

4.0 p.m.

Mr. Marples

I think I should say a few words on Third Reading. I want to express the thanks of my right hon. Friend and myself, first, for the reasoned Amendments and suggestions made in Committee by hon. Members opposite, who have great knowledge of this subject. There is no doubt that they have helped to make this Measure a better one. Most of the Amendments put down on the Report stage resulted from discussions in Committee upstairs. I also thank hon. Members opposite for the spirit in which they took part in the debates. They were opposed in principle to some of the steps we proposed, but they contributed to the debate in a spirit of helpfulness and brevity.

Although they are opposed in principle to this Measure, they have not yet been able to offer an alternative which would work, as the hon. Member for Sowerby frequently pointed out. If it is not impertinent, I should like to thank him for that. He became a kind of assistant unpaid Parliamentary Secretary to my right hon. Friend and, in the absence of my right hon. Friend in hospital, I was wondering whether the hon. Gentleman might care to come over to this side of the House and assist me in the final stages of this Measure.

I want to make it quite clear that this Bill does not alter the main structure of the rating provisions of the Local Government Act, 1948. There, the rating valuation was transferred to the central Government by hon. Members opposite, in the days of the Socialist Government, and we have kept that quite intact. They then decided to abolish the rating of electricity undertakings and railways, and that has not been affected. They also decided that the valuation of properties, other than dwelling-houses, should be left under the provisions of the 1925 Act, on current values. This Bill does not affect that. All that we have provided is that the rating of houses shall be on the 1939 basis, as hon. Members opposite proposed in their 1948 Act. But we have had to alter the definition of that basis because it proved to be the only way in which it would work.

On Third Reading, it is inevitable that we get a certain amount of repetition. It would not be right for me to pursue some of the topics which were raised on Second Reading, which ranged far and wide. We had the help of a wealth of talent, not only in this House but from experts outside, such as Henry George, Mr. Neville Chamberlain and Mrs. Hicks, all of whom made a great study of this matter, but it would be out of order to go further into their views now.

The purpose of this Bill is a narrow one. We hope it will work. So far, nobody has shown that any other method would work. Criticism has been directed against this Measure on certain grounds, and I admit that it has its disadvantages, but nobody has put forward an alternative solution. It may be that this is a choice of evils.

Mr. Hugh Dalton (Bishop Auckland)

The hon. Member said that nobody has suggested an alternative. "The Times" contains a very interesting leading article this morning, the short purport of which is to say that we should make a great effort to arrive at a basis of current values, and cut out restrospection.

Mr. Marples

"The Times" also had a leader when we were on Second Reading, but it was misconceived. I agree that we should get on to current values as soon as possible, but it is not possible at present, because there is not a free market for current valus.

Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)

There never has been.

Mr. Marples

It is a question of degree. In 1939 it was very much more free than it is now, although it was not free then. One thing is quite clear; it is not free now—it is worse.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

As a matter of fact, "The Times" went further. They said not only that current values should be taken, but actual values. In saying that they had no doubt been persuaded by me.

Mr. Dalton

The Parliamentary Secretary should read "The Times."

Mr. Marples

On this issue they misconceived the position. They have not always been sound on this question, or on the question of the new towns, as hon. Members opposite pointed out in the Second Reading debate on the New Towns Bill, the Committee stage of which is following this Bill. If I say that they have erred on this occasion, I hope they will not hold it against me on the subject of the new towns.

I should like to reciprocate the reasoned speeches which the hon. Member for Sowerby made. When this Bill gets on to the Statute Book, I hope that a reasonable opportunity, free from criticism, will be given to the valuers, whose job is not easy. It was not easy to interpret the cost of construction method, which was laid upon the Inland Revenue by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). They performed a noble task on that occasion, and I would appeal to all hon. Members to give the valuers a fair crack of the whip and a chance to make their valuation before they are criticised.

It would only be fair for me to help the hon. Member for Sowerby, after he has been so good in helping the Government. With those words I commend this Bill to the House and end, as I began, by thanking hon. Members opposite for the kind way in which they have co-operated in the various stages of this Bill.

4.7 p.m.

Mr. John Edwards (Brighouse and Spenborough)

I begin by saying how much we regret the circumstances which prevent the Minister from being here today. We were all glad to learn that he has had a successful operation and I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will wish the Parliamentary Secretary to tell him, from us, that we hope the operation will be a complete success and that he will make a speedy recovery.

I was glad that the Parliamentary Secretary thought he could give us such a complimentary account of our behaviour. I am glad to have it on record that, at least on this occasion, we have been reasonable. I thought we were always reasonable, and that the trouble was that the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members opposite would not always listen, and it was the defect in hearing on their part which occasionally caused us to be a little troublesome when our good advice was not taken.

The hon. Member has told us that the main structure of the 1948 Act is unchanged. That is true. What we are concerned with here is the basis on which people are to pay rates. Although this matter has not excited very great interest so far, outside technical circles, I prophesy that it will excite much greater interest when the rates come to be levied, on the first lists. At the moment people do not appreciate what is involved. Only the valuers and technical people have so far exercised their minds about it.

In the Second Reading debate I made what I hope was a reasonable and very full case in favour of the Government giving us the fullest possible information, first, about the circumstances in which they had found that the provisions of the 1948 Act—Sections 74 to 82—were inadequate and, secondly, the circumstances in which, as far as they could tell, their proposals would operate.

It is true that the Minister gave us a little more information about the alleged failure of the provisions of the 1948 Act, but nobody could say that that information was adequate. Even if I give the Government the benefit of the doubt as to the provisions of the 1948 Act, I cannot give them any benefit of any doubt in respect of their own proposals. We are now reverting to the hypothetical tenant and, to boot, the hypothetical house.

Nothing that the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister have said has dispelled in the slightest my anxieties about the proposals contained in Clause 2 of the Bill. We know that the Parliamentary Secretary has had the benefit of the preliminary valuations conducted by the valuers. He said so. In another connection there has been a row about that, but I am not concerned with whether the work should have been done; I am concerned solely with the fact that it was done. It was the basis upon which the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary introduced the Bill, but neither on Second Reading nor in Committee, or now, have we had a single word to indicate what the likely consequences of valuation on this basis would be.

On certain occasions I have speculated a little, on the basis of such evidence as I can get—and, I think, on the whole fairly good evidence—about the likely consequences of valuation on these lists, and I have been concerned, as have my hon. Friends, to try to obtain some safeguard. At one stage I hoped that we might find a safeguard by way of alterations in statutory reductions, and the right hon. Gentleman said he would bear the point in mind. I hoped it might be possible to have a gap between the publication of the list and the levying of the rate, but my new Clause on that point was out of order.

All my attempts to secure this safeguard have failed and I am left with a most uneasy feeling that there will be a change in the incidence of rates as between various classes of house property. That kind of thing will cause a lot of trouble, and I do not look with any equanimity on being a member of a future Government which might have to deal with this problem. Whether I were in office or the present Parliamentary Secretary were in office, as a Department we should have the most unholy trouble in front of us when the rates came to be levied on the new lists if those lists disturbed the incidence of the rate burden. It is because of that and not from any party interest that I have been primarily concerned to expound those anxieties and to try to get some assurances or safeguard.

I do not think I need say more. I do not think the Government have met us by giving us all the information they could have given. For that reason, and for the reason that we are extremely anxious, as we have been throughout, about the final results of the Bill, we shall feel bound to ask the House to divide against its Third Reading.

4.12 p.m.

Sir Geoffrey Hutchinson (Ilford, North)

The right hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. J. Edwards) said that this Bill has not hitherto excited much anxiety in the public mind. He went on to predict that when the time came to levy the rate on the new valuation lists, the excitement likely to be aroused would be a great deal more serious. That is true. But if I recollect it correctly, the right hon. Gentleman advocated, both on Second Reading and in Committee, that valuation should be based upon current values.

Mr. Dalton

Agreeing with "The Times."

Sir G. Hutchinson

The right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) confirms the impression which I got from his right hon. Friend and fortifies himself with "The Times," which is often a source of strength to him, although at times it proves to be a source of weakness.

What would happen if my right hon. Friend proposed to value dwelling-houses on current values? There is a scarcity factor at present. Suppose the valuers set to work to ascertain the rent which a tenant might be expected to pay for a dwelling-house at current values, with all the scarcity factors taken into account. I was glad to see the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) assent, by nodding, with this proposition a moment ago.

Suppose that had been done. The right hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough said there would be an unholy row if the rate burden were disturbed by this Bill. Holy or unholy, the row would have been much greater if my right hon. Friend had accepted the suggestion that we should try to value dwelling-houses today upon current rental values.

Mr. Sparks

Is the hon. and learned Member correct in saying that this suggestion was originally made from this side of the House? It was, in fact, the view of his party in 1948 that the current value should be taken. The evidence on that point can be seen from the Standing Committee Report. Why have they changed their view?

Sir G. Hutchinson

I was not in the House in 1948—a temporary absence. If we have changed it—

Mr. Mitchison

I hope that if we are to consider what is not in the Bill, the hon. and learned Member will state the whole proposal. It was said that a considerable adjustment should be made to current values either before or after arriving at the gross rateable value.

Mr. Speaker

I must warn the hon. and learned Member for Ilford, North (Sir G. Hutchinson) against accepting the advice of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), for that would be out of order.

Sir G. Hutchinson

I am grateful for your guidance, Mr. Speaker, although I would gladly have dealt with the point had I been in order in doing so.

The problem which confronted my right hon. Friend was to find a basis upon whch a new valuation list could be prepared. It is true that this Bill adopts one basis of valuation for one class of hereditament and a different basis of valuation for another class of hereditament. That can never be satisfactory. I think we all recognise the difficulty. But my right hon. Friend was driven to that decision. There is really no practical alternative to going back to 1939 values.

The Bill provides a temporary solution to this difficulty. I was glad that my right hon. Friend accepted an Amendment which I moved on behalf of a number of my hon. Friends in Committee which restricted the 1939 basis of valuation to the next valuation list and to that list only. When the new valuation list has been prepared and deposited, then the Government of the day will have to determine upon what basis subsequent valuation lists are to be made. If I may say so to the Parliamentary Secretary, the decision to accept that modification was a very wise decision.

The fact remains that although the Bill is not a satisfactory feature in some ways, the course which my right hon. Friend has taken was the only course open to him when we take into account such factors as rent control, decontrol, re-control and the general scarcity of dwelling-houses, together with all the other factors which affect residential hereditaments at present. If all those factors were taken into account, it would have been an impossible task to have attempted the valuation of dwelling-houses on current values.

Whether this Bill will produce a greater measure of uniformity than exists at present it is difficult to say. I do not share the enthusiasm of my right hon. Friend for central valuation. I should have preferred to see the task of valuation go back to those authorities who performed it for so long. But there it is; my right hon. Friend has decided otherwise. I do not think there is any very marked lack of uniformity as between one hereditament and another in the same rating area or even as between one hereditament and another in the same county. The serious lack of uniformity in valuation is not between hereditaments but between counties and county boroughs. There there is a very serious lack of uniformity.

It is not astonishing that that should be so, because when the Act of 1925 was passed it mattered very little whether there was uniformity between counties and county boroughs or not. That matter only became of primary importance when the Act of 1948 made the distribution of the Exchequer equalisation grant primarily dependent upon rateable value per head of the population.

It is this lack of uniformity in valuation between counties and county boroughs that is serious today and will continue to be serious until the new valuation lists are deposited. It may be then that we shall find that that lack of uniformity as between counties and county boroughs has been adjusted. I do not know. But, unless it is, it is clear that the working of the Exchequer equalisation grant can never be equitable. We have now got certain proposals for temporary adjustment of these difficulties.

Mr. Dalton

On a point of order. There is no provision in the Bill touching the Exchequer equalisation grant. If the whole subject is to be opened up there is much more to be said. I submit that the hon. and learned Gentleman is totally out of order.

Mr. Speaker

The right hon. Gentleman is correct. My attention was momentarily diverted, otherwise I would have checked the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Sir G. Hutchinson

The Bill deals with valuation. The distribution of the grant depends entirely on valuation. One of the grounds on which this Measure is commended to the House is that it will establish that degree of uniformity as between different rating areas which does not exist now and which is essential for the satisfactory working of the present system of distribution of the Exchequer equalisation grant.

Mr. Speaker

In so far as that is relevant it may be referred to. But if the fact that the grant depends upon valuation were to permit discussion of the Exchequer equalisation grant on this Motion that would widen the scope of the debate enormously, because a lot of other things depend upon valuation in addition to the Exchequer equalisation grant.

Sir G. Hutchinson

This Bill is a temporary solution of the rating problem. It will be three years—1956—before the new valuation lists can be deposited. During that time my right hon. Friend has an opportunity to conduct what I believe is most urgently needed—an investigation into all these rating problems and the problems which have now become allied to rating. It is nearly 50 years since the final Report of the last Royal Commission on local taxation and expenditure was published. Since then the situation has completely changed. All these problems, though, in fact, separate, are really part of a general complex of interrelated problems none of which can be satisfactorily solved in isolation.

My right hon. Friend, or anybody who may find himself in his office in future, would be assisted in arriving at an acceptable solution of these problems if he was fortified, not only with the advice of "The Times"—and here "The Times" is on my side—but with the advice of a Royal Commission which has examined fully and comprehensively, in relation to one another, these difficult and complex problems.

4.25 p.m.

Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)

I wish to express my regret that the Minister is unable to be here. I sincerely hope that he will soon recover his full health. We appreciated the good humour and charm with which he piloted the Bill through the Committee. I should like to repeat a comment I made on Second Reading, which was also made during the Committee stage. It is true that the difficulties of the valuer are great—they may or may not be improved by this Bill—but the difficulties of the ratepayer will undoubtedly be greater, especially the ones who wish to appeal.

I hope that the Minister will consider this matter. Some ratepayers will get nasty shocks when the new valuation lists are published. Those who wish to appeal will find themselves in great difficulty. I hope that some consideration will be given to removing some of the difficulties in the way of the ratepayer who wishes to appeal.

The Bill does not remove the existing lack of uniformity. I shall not discuss the Exchequer equalisation grant. I am thinking not only of the difference between one type of dwelling-house and another but also of the disparity between different classes of property—between dwelling-houses and industrial premises, agricultural land and agricultural property, and between premises which are derated and shops and offices which are not. It is difficult to see how this new system will work out, but it would appear that by comparison, the occupiers of shops and offices will come off worst of all—when the new valuation lists come out.

The maintenance of this illogical state of affairs can be justified only on the ground that it is temporary and that it is necessary to introduce this temporary Measure to enable valuation lists to be completed. I had intended, during the Committee stage, to move an Amendment to delete the words, "and subsequent lists." Unfortunately, I was unexpectedly in hospital. I was glad to see from the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) that Members of the two major parties rushed to the support of the Liberal Party when this Amendment was called. I am pleased that the Amendment was accepted by the Minister, but the fact that the words "and subsequent lists" have been deleted and that the Bill now reads: For the purpose of making or altering the first valuation lists made after the passing of this Act … emphasises the temporary nature of this Measure. It is merely a stop-gap Measure. A case has been made out for it because the existing system has broken down. I believe that the Government have made out their case but this is only a temporary stop-gap.

I hope that the time that will be available before subsequent valuation lists are drawn up will be used in working out a radical reform of our rating system. It would scarcely be appropriate to enter into a discussion about the kind of reform which I think would be most fitting, but I would observe that we can never have a satisfactory system which is based on either real or estimated rental values. It would be far better to base our rating system on site values, and, indeed, we now have an opportunity to consider the whole matter very carefully. It would be possible, before subsequent valuation lists are prepared, to introduce a new system of rating based on site values rather than on estimated rental values.

So long as rates are based on estimated or real rental values, it is inevitable that those who improve their properties will, sooner or later, be penalised by the fact that their rates will be increased since by improving their properties owners or occupiers increase the rental values. I urge the Minister to take this opportunity of considering the whole question of our rating system, and I sincerely hope that the passing of this Bill will not be regarded as an excuse for shelving a radical reform of an antiquated and illogical system.

4.31 p.m.

Mr. Skeffington

Surprise has been expressed from this side of the Chamber that so little interest has been taken in this Bill outside the House. That is an astonishing fact when one considers that practically every household in the country will be affected by its provisions, and many industrial premises. After all, the local authorities in England and Wales raise more than £300 million a year from local rates. We often spend much greater time and possibly express ourselves with much greater vigour on matters the financial consequence of which are not as great as in the case of this Measure.

I said on Second Reading that it was a little difficult to understand the almost unholy haste with which this Bill has been put through. It is quite clear that a remedy would have to be sought to the existing situation, but, in view of the difficulties that have continued since 1934, it would have seemed not unreasonable to have waited another six or nine months while the Minister and his officials studied the problem further and produced a more fundamental scheme. It seems to me, and, I think, to some of my hon. Friends, that the Minister has lost an opportunity of making a really important contribution to municipal finance.

We can at least hope that this Bill is a little better than it was originally, and some of us welcome the provisions made in connection with what the Parliamentary Secretary called the "storage" Clause. There are nearly 8,000 of these adjuncts to hereditaments within the County of London alone, covering some 500 assessments, and the fact that they are now being included and fairly assessed is a very great improvement.

With regard to Clause 2, however, we must still express considerable doubt as to whether this return to 1939 values is not only fair, but whether, indeed, it is workable. I wish very briefly to repeat what was said by the right hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. J. Edwards). He said that we have had no evidence that 1939 values are to be a workable basis for assessment. Most of the technical evidence seems to be opposed to it. I shall not weary the House by repeating what I said in Committee upstairs on the view of the "Property Owners' Journal" on this point. The Minister has always seemed a bit vague himself concerning whether it would work. He said during the second day's Sitting of the Committee that it was up to the valuers. When I asked him about it, he said during the third Sitting of the Committee, that he had, perhaps, made the observation in a somewhat frivolous way. He then went on to say: What I meant was that Ministers are but dim and transient phantoms who flit across the stage, and these men who are unhappy enough to have devoted their lives to valuing will have to carry out this work long after I have forgotten all about it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee C, 30th June, 1953; c. 113.] One cannot help feeling that there was a certain sense of irresponsibility about this Bill as far as the Minister was concerned. Indeed, on one occasion he said that it was a great nuisance to have a Bill of this kind at all, and that he wanted to get on with other matters.

Mr. Houghton

I am sure that my hon. Friend has not overlooked the fact that the Minister is in the "Daily Mirror" gallup poll for the succession of the Premiership, and may have had that in mind when he was speaking.

Mr. Skeffington

Well, he talked about dim and transient phantoms which, of course, is a phrase capable of various interpretations and which, I am certain, would be out of order if I pursued them now.

I wish to refer to two other matters before I conclude. The first is one to which reference was also made by the right hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough and by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade)—the difficulty with which ratepayers will be faced when they want to contest the valuer's findings. Even with all the difficulties of the 1948 Act, people knew what the formula was. There was a certain definite measure of fact over which the dispute could range. But, by returning to 1939 values, it means that it is to be a valuer's opinion and guess work as against a ratepayer's opinion, and the facts may be extremely difficult or impossible to determine. I only hope that before the Bill becomes effective it may be possible to make public some of the instructions to valuers which the ordinary ratepayer can see so that he may have some idea how his rate will be assessed and how the valuer's interpretation of 1939 values is to be made.

The second matter to which I wish to refer is one which I raised both during the Second Reading debate and in Committee, when I ventured to give some of the figures which resulted from a very careful investigation into the Hayes and Harlington district to find out what would be the effect of returning to 1939 values. The figures which I then quoted seemed to indicate a very considerable shift in the basis of assessment. In other words, the domestic ratepayer in this type of district is to be asked to bear a greater share of the rate burden.

The Minister was good enough to say that he would look at them, and I have taken the opportunity of sending all the figures to the Parliamentary Secretary. It may be that we made some mistakes in our calculation, but, as Hayes and Harlington is a district composed very largely of new houses, I think that our valuations are likely to be right. It would appear that domestic properties are now to bear a greater share of the rate burden whereas industrial, commercial and licensed premises are all going to bear a lesser share. That seems to be a most extraordinary position.

Sir G. Hutchinson

Has the hon. Gentleman any data which would show the additional burden that would fall upon the domestic ratepayers if current values instead of 1939 values were used?

Mr. Skeffington

We have some evidence regarding that, although the analysis that we made was based on the present position which, of course, is based on the old pre-war 1925 Act; the valuation under the 1948 Act and the valuation under the present proposals. If we had current values, although there would be some shift in added burden upon the domestic ratepayer, there would be still more on commercial, industrial and licensed premises.

Sir G. Hutchinson

The hon. Gentleman does appreciate, does he not, that under the 1948 Act and under this Bill industrial and commercial hereditaments are valued at current values?

Mr. Skeffington

Yes, of course, but I do not think the hon. and learned Gentleman has got my point. What is to happen under this particular set of proposals is that the incidence of assessment will shift still further against the domestic ratepayer. The domestic ratepayer will be paying more than he would have done under the 1948 Act or than he does at the present time.

Sir G. Hutchinson


Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)

Order. We are on Third Reading now.

Mr. Skeffington

I have given way on two occasions, and I think that in the interests of the House I ought to bring my remarks to an end. All I hope is that the Parliamentary Secretary may be able to make some reference to this matter in his reply.

Mr. Marples

Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, I would remark that he was kind enough to send me a letter in which he emphasised his remarks in the Standing Committee. The conclusion which he drew about the effect of the Bill on his own constituency was not quite right. I did not think Third Reading was the time to give detailed reasons why he was wrong, and I shall, with his permission, write him a letter to show that it looks as though the rate burden on houses will be slightly reduced under the Bill from what it is today in Hayes and Harlington; but only slightly; not violently to cause suffering in other respects.

4.41 p.m.

Mr. Henry Brooke (Hampstead)

A point on which I agree with the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) is that we did a good job in the Standing Committee when we took steps to bring to the attention of the Government a difficulty which might otherwise have arisen over the pram sheds and storage sheds. I think all London Members will be grateful to the hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) for having moved that Amendment. As he truthfully said, it is not only L.C.C. flats which will benefit, but Metropolitan borough council flats and possibly a number of private blocks of flats where there are these outlying buildings which might otherwise have had to be valued on a different basis.

However, the most important step we took in Committee was to delete words which would, in effect, have made this a permanent Measure. We now have the immense advantage on Third Reading of examining it purely as a temporary one, and all of us on both sides of the House must be a great deal happier about its provisions on that account. The existing situation which this Bill is designed to alter is, by almost universal consent, not wholly satisfactory, and yet few of us, surely, would suggest that the 1939 valuation for dwelling-houses introduced in this Bill is a remedy to which we ought to give any sort of permanent approval.

Quite frankly, I agree with the line that the Government have taken. I do not see any other practical alternative, but I am one of those who most sincerely hope that the 1939 basis will last for one valuation only, and that nothing will intervene, as events have intervened on previous occasions, to prevent us, after the next valuation, from passing legislation which will get the whole matter of valuation on to what I can only call a more realistic basis.

I disagreed profoundly with the hon. Member on the Liberal Bench, the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade), who seemed to maintain that an altogether greater degree of certainty would be introduced into valuation if the rating of site values were brought in. The truth is that in all these matters of valuation for rating purposes we are inevitably moving in a somewhat conjectural field. That is one of the disadvantages of the whole rating system. It is having to carry an immense burden of local government finance now, and whereas in older and simpler days the burden could be managed, the possibilities of unfairness and uncertainty are now so great that one must feel much diffidence about continuing with the present rating arrangements as the sole basis for local government finance. Like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Sir G. Hutchinson), I regret that neither this Government nor any previous Government since the war have taken steps to institute a thoroughgoing, objective inquiry into local government finance and the action which, I am quite certain, this House will have to take about that before many years are up.

I have indicated that I look upon this Bill purely as a temporary solution. I agree it is odd how little attention the provisions of the Bill seem so far to have attracted, outside the technical Press, even though a great many people are going to be affected by them. In my own contituency it is not so surprising as it may be elsewhere, because Hampstead Borough Council, all the time it was a rating authority, was more meticulous in enforcing accurately the provisions of the law than, I would venture to say, some other authorities have been in past years, which have tempered the wind considerably to their own ratepayers and by this means lessened the contribution that their local citizens have had to make to county funds. For that reason I do not regard this as a Bill that is going to make a fundamental change affecting my own constituents. It will make some drastic changes elsewhere.

I cannot at all follow the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington when he suggests that this Bill is going to shift the balance more against the occupier of the dwelling-house and in favour of the commercial occupier. It seems to me that the Bill is going to leave us with the next valuation definitely favouring the private house occupier as against the commercial occupier. But that is one of those difficulties from which there is no practical escape, because of the present artificial situation in the values of dwelling-houses, thanks, on the one hand, to the housing shortage, and, on the other, to the operation of the Rent Restriction Acts. It is quite impossible under these artificial conditions to achieve a wholly fair basis for everybody.

I do not see any reason why the Government should be chid for having acted in any way hastily in introducing this Bill. I should have thought it was to everybody's advantage to have had a new basis for valuation on the Statute Book as soon as possible, so that present uncertainty could be brought to an end at an early date. I have no great liking for the provisions of this Bill, but I have heard nobody suggest better.

4.50 p.m.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

This Bill is a very poor thing but it may have very serious consequences. I hope that, although this is the Third Reading of the Bill, the House will give it the consideration it deserves and will not pass over lightly the serious defects which are prominent in it.

I notice that from each of the three speakers we have had from the Government benches including the Minister himself, we have had apologies for the Bill. Each of them felt he had to say that the Bill was imperfect and inadequate, and the Minister tried to console himself by saying that if it served any purpose at all, it was merely a narrow one. This is a piece of patchwork legislation. It has been brought in for the purpose of postponing urgent problems and, as an expedient, to try to dispose of the present very serious situation in regard to valuation for rating. It is, therefore, not surprising that it fails in its purpose. As the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke) said, it is not a permanent Measure, and it is quite obvious from its contents that it is not going to be of service even as a temporary Measure, for reasons which I shall give.

I think that a good test of whether the Bill is a good or a bad one is the reaction to it from the local authorities. I believe that it is accurate to say that hardly any local authority welcomes this Bill and that practically every local authority has criticised it. The cool and chary response to it from that quarter may be no doubt to some extent due to the fact that the local authorities want to revert to the basic Rating and Valuation Act, 1925. They would like the system under that Act substantially restored. They also want to see the derating provisions of the Local Government Act, 1929, repealed. But these matters are not in order on the Third Reading of this Bill.

A very serious defect in the Bill is a matter which I put to the Minister earlier while he was moving an Amendment. That was the question of when the 1939 rateable values are to apply. This is very important if we are not to add many more difficulties to those we already have. It seems to me that the Bill as it stands means this: That all proposals for inclusion of new houses which come in before the new list is made are to be based upon the present rental values instead of on the 1939 rental values which it is the object of this Bill to secure, and that, therefore, for some time to come this particular remedy contained in the Bill, which has been put forward as urgent and necessary, will not apply. We shall have the alleged defects of the present system multiplying instead of getting rid of them.

It was obvious that the Minister saw that difficulty himself because he could not give a clear reply to the question I put to him on this point. In other words, instead of having a rental value basis as the Bill proposes, we shall have the cost basis which is operating at the present time. What makes it worse is that there is not even any certainty at all that the next quinquennial revaluation will not be postponed.

Therefore, if that occurred, the whole value of the Bill and of these proposed remedies in it, would be completely lost. The main object of the Bill, as the Minister said in the Committee Stage, is to get a fairer method of assessment. I have every sympathy with the Minister in that objective, but unfortunately each new change in the rating system, instead of getting rid of injustice, has only added to the injustice. The attempts which had been made to get uniformity have merely resulted in more non-uniformity, and that will again be the effect of this Bill. Not only are we not going to get uniformity here, but we are not even going to get any form of consistency.

This Bill will have precisely that defect because it provides the 1939 rental value as the basis for one type of hereditament and the current rental value as the basis for all other hereditaments. The Bill provides no yardstick at all for uniformity. That is one of the fundamental criticisms of the Bill. If we are to have some basis of uniformity, it seems to me that the local one would be much better than the doubtful one which is in the Bill.

The Bill, in my submission, is vague and general, and it cannot possibly secure an equal or equitable measure of fairness in the system of valuation for rating. That is a very great defect in the Bill. I am sure that the Minister realises it. It was pretty obvious that he realised it when the Bill was in Committee. The Bill's general yardstick is absolutely useless. I put it to the Minister: How can he possibly say that the value of a house, for example, in Gloucester is necessarily going to be of the same value with an identical house in Manchester. It is impossible to say that. The same difficulty would apply if he were to value a cinema in Gloucester at X and say that it had the same value with an identical cinema in Manchester. He could not possibly say that those two cinemas necessarily had the same value for rating. That is one of the serious defects in this Bill.

I quite agree with the hon. and learned Member for Ilford, North (Sir G. Hutchinson) that it would be far better to judge this question of valuation by a local yardstick rather than by a general one. I have pointed out that as regards the 1925 Act uniformity failed there. In the 1948 Act the cost basis also failed, and now the Minister is asking the House to go back to the system applicable in 1938 which, he says, has also broken down. That is the melancholy situation created by this Bill.

The defects of the Bill are enormous, but I have not the time required to go into all of them. I should however like briefly to mention one or two of them. First, there is no clear system of safeguard under Clause 2 at all. When the Minister comes to reply I should like to hear him state any such system. He cannot do so. There is no safeguard that the 1939 rental value will be fair and workable. The Minister has in Committee admitted that there are disparities in the present rental value system, and it is clear that Clause 2 is not going to remedy that. There is no safeguard to relieve hardship in connection with the older houses, in which the Minister has admitted that the less prosperous people reside. Clause 2 in no way ensures that increased assessments will be fairly borne between different classes of houses, and the Bill gives no remedy to ratepayers to make the valuation list equitable.

For those reasons and many others, which I hope will be mentioned by other hon. Members, I hope that the Opposition will divide against the Third Reading.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Gibson

I hope the Minister will not regard what I have to say as too ungracious in view of the way he met the points that I made during the Committee stage. Although the Amendments made then considerably improve the Bill, the Bill does nothing to ease the problems which bother local authorities and local ratepayers.

I am glad that we have retained the central valuation system. If we had not done that, all hopes of anything approaching equity in valuation and assessment would have gone. But I am sure the valuers will have headaches when they are told to assume the 1939 rent—to assume that the present economic and social conditions existed in 1939—and then to determine what the rent should be in those circumstances. That system seems to contain as many difficulties as the one which is being discontinued.

Surely in any fair system rates ought to be levied on the principle of ability to pay. Those who are very poor ought not to be expected to pay as large a proportion of their small incomes in rate charges as those who are well off, but that is what will happen under the Bill. Under the old system, the burden of rate charges fell very much more heavily the poorer the man and his family were, and the Bill means that we shall return to that system. I do not like the Bill because the position of the poorer ratepayer will be worse.

As has already been said, the whole local government finance system should be looked at. There ought to be a full-scale inquiry. If present conditions continue for very many more years, local government finance will break down completely, and no one wants that to happen. I want local authorities to be given greater freedom to manage their own affairs, and I also want them to have greater freedom to raise their local income. I want that system to be fair to everybody, very much fairer than any rating system that we have so far had.

Although it may not be in order on this Bill to make suggestions for completely new systems, we may note that in other parts of the world, and in parts of the British Commonwealth, rates are levied on site values. We should solve the financial problems of our local authorities if we got rid of the derating of industrial premises. It has been a curse to our local authorities. I am told that the borough which I represent loses £104,000 per year in income as a result of the derating of industrial premises. That is wrong. The borough has to spend the money, and this means that the income has to be raised from the poor devils who live in the small houses in the back streets. The Minister has chivvied us for not having proposed an alternative system. If it had been in order, some of us would have suggested alternatives.

The point has been made that we have not had full evidence to justify a change from the 1948 system. There is a complaint to be made about this. We have had a lot of figures, but they have not been given to us in the form of a White Paper so that we can study them. We have been told that the system of valuing on the basis of the cost price of building and the cost price of land has failed, but none of us has been convinced by the evidence produced, and we certainly have not had time thoroughly to digest it. Time after time during the course of the Bill we have asked for that information, but we have not had it.

On that basis alone, we are right to indicate our objection by voting against the Third Reading. I hope that in the near future we shall have a Government which will tackle the financial problems of our local authorities and bring about a radical reorganisation of their finances and our local government set-up as a whole.

5.8 p.m.

Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)

I wish to register a mild protest about the amount of time which has been devoted to the Bill. We have had seven or eight days to discuss the Central African Territories and related matters, but this Bill, which affects every householder and every ratepayer in the country, has had only about five and three-quarter hours on Second Reading, and three-quarters of an hour of that time was taken up by a couple of Scotsmen discussing English rating. If I intervene next week during the two days which have been allocated to the Scots. I hope that Mr. Speaker will not let any sense of tradition blind him to the fact that I have certain rights.

The Scots have departed from their usual parochial attitude and have taken a wider interest than that of their own country, but neither of the hon. Members who gave us the benefit of their gratuitous advice on Second Reading were members of the Standing Committee. The Scots often suggest that they are badly treated here, and my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has suggested that the two-day debate for the Scots next week should be held in Edinburgh. I am sure you will agree, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that I am in order in saying that, generally speaking, it appears to be the English and not the Scots or the Africans who suffer in the allocation of time in this House.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman. The allocation of time in this House does not appear in the Bill. It is a rating Bill.

Mr. Pannell

I hope I am allowed to reflect upon the attitude of the "usual channels" to the allocation of time, which, after all, reflects the importance of the Measures which come before the House. It appears that two days are necessary for Scotland, but only five and three-quarter hours on this Bill, during which two Scotsmen gave us the benefit of their advice for three-quarters of an hour, are considered good enough for the ratepayers of this country.

This Bill is an important one. It is not so dramatic as some other matters, but it will be dynamite when the new valuation takes place. Whenever revaluation has taken place in the past, despite all the speeches made on Second Reading, there has always been' a terrific scuffling and shuffling and much political, national and civic cowardice in facing up to the issues. As I have just heard an hon. Friend remark, it is cowardice all round.

Mr. Houghton

There is no cowardice among tax-gatherers.

Mr. Pannell

No, because a Minister is prepared to get up in this House and defend his staff. I am not, however, going to go far into that question. I see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport has just arrived. I may be tempted to go into the subject of driving tests, but I should certainly be out of order to raise that subject.

This Bill is one of those Bills about which we can talk very glibly, but it will be reflected in the local authorities' finances. This Bill retains the principle of central valuation, and here as a good local government man I want to say that I agree with that. But central valuation, when it was introduced, was an indictment of the local authorities themselves, as it revealed their complete failure and incapacity to deal properly with this matter. I see the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Ilford, North (Sir G. Hutchinson) smiling, but he is looking at it from his lofty position as one of the vice-presidents of the Association of Municipal Corporations. I am speaking as a past chairman of a rating committee of one of those places like Hampstead, which has been referred to, that had the courage to levy a proper rate and has suffered a disadvantage thereby.

The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Ilford, North said that the kernel of the problem is not valuation between county districts or counties but between counties and county boroughs. That is an under-statement. The kernel of the difficulty is between county borough and county borough and between county and county. It is no use talking about counties and county boroughs. What we have to face today is the difficulties meeting local authorities. I have had some experience of county valuations. We could not now take back the valuations from the central authority and give them to the local authorities. I remember when I was chairman of the valuation committee of the Walthamstow Borough Council—and that was 25 years ago—we carried out our rating duties in an exemplary manner, while in the borough of Ilford a few miles away they were very lax in this matter.

Sir G. Hutchinson

I do not know what the hon. Member knows about Ilford, but Ilford was always most careful to carry out the law, and I fear that we may have suffered for it since.

Mr. Pannell

The hon. and learned Member was never a member of Ilford Borough Council, was he? What does he know about it? I am talking about the days when I was a hard-working local politician, and it was a fact that the difference between Walthamstow and Ilford was all the difference between good and evil.

In the old days there was considerable interference with local rating. There was what was known as sympathetic valuation, and all sorts of things cropped up. It was very difficult in the county to get an authority to make a proper valuation and so make its proper contribution to the county rate. It would have gone over to the Inland Revenue at some stage or the other, and it was handed over to the Board of Inland Revenue largely because of the proposed Exchequer grant.

I remember hearing Mr. Henry Willink, when he was Minister of Health, saying at a local government conference that the finances of local government at the outbreak of war amounted to about £600 million as a global figure, £200 million being from rates, £200 million from trading undertakings and £200 million from grants in aid. What we have now, and what is effected by this Bill, is a great shift all round. Many of the industries have been nationalised, which has affected the rates and the whole basis of subsidy. As a matter of fact, we have got to the ridiculous position that, by derating, the local authorities have lost about £60 million, while the national Revenue has secured £27 million in Income Tax.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I think the hon. Member is now outside the scope of this Bill.

Mr. Pannell

With very great respect, I do not think so. As I understand the rules of order, on the Third Reading I can speak of anything that is in the Bill itself, and surely we cannot consider the question of rating of houses and garages apart from the general rating system. If I went into a specific question like the equalisation grant, which is an ancillary subject, I would be out of order. I think it is well to point out that it would give colour to the Bill if it were not for the fact that we have got this curious sort of business of a subsidy in reverse. While the local authorities lose £60 million, £27 million is paid to the Treasury which ought to be going into the revenues of local authorities themselves. But in view of your warning, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I will leave that subject alone.

What are the difficulties of the present rating system? Generally the amount paid is in the inverse ratio to the benefits received. Let me give an example. The highest sewerage rate in the country is at Burton-on-Trent, where it is three or four times higher than the average for the whole country. That is because there are so many brewery interests there, and this state of affairs arises through derating. That is why I say that the amount paid is the inverse ratio of the benefits received. The present rating system is based on an unfair and unscientific basis, the hypothetical rent paid for a certain hereditament, and to arrive at that figure we have to go back 15 years. The date in the Bill is the 30th June, 1939, and, of course, there is a different scheme for industrial hereditaments and shops. Because of that inconsistency, it cannot be said that the system is rational.

The present rating system has no regard to the income of the person who is liable for payment. Since 1830 the rating system has been based on property. In the 19th Century the type of house which a man lived in was, broadly speaking, a reasonable reflection of his wealth. Nowadays, people might prefer service flats, motor cars, and all sorts of other things to big houses, and the type of accommodation that a man occupies is, therefore, no longer a reflection of his ability to pay. A man who has a large family of children will be taking the children's allowances with one hand and paying it away in rates with the other hand.

Many people who vote do not pay rates. If they do, they do so only indirectly and with no conscious knowledge of the amount that they pay. When the basis of voting for local elections was altered, it was done on the basis of the enormous subsidies that go into local government, and that all paid taxes. In effect, the rating system is now no longer linked to people who are immediately interested in the figure of the rates.

Nobody can deny that administratively the rating system is shockingly clumsy compared with P.A.Y.E., which laps up the tax money each week from the man who works hard but allows the big Income Tax dodger to go free. The present rating system does not provide a uniform level of local government services throughout the country, because the rating capacity of an area is subject to local economic disturbances, such as unemployment. No one can say that the present rating system can provide sufficient money for the present range of local government services without a wide variety of local government grants. Directly a central Government grant is given, the autonomy of the local authority is weakened. That is the difficulty that we are in.

I remember introducing a local authority Budget in 1938 for a small county district, which at that time controlled 54 per cent. of the expenditure on the rate demand. Eleven years later, my successor was levying a rate only 27 per cent. of which was controlled by the local authority. That loss of revenue and diminution of rate control indicates the rot that has set in with local government.

Government grants give a volume of administrative work both locally and nationally and lessen local freedom of action. The system by which the Government pay an increasing part of the burden by way of Government grant, while local authorities are denied the revenue to pay their own part, has resulted in an enormous increase in administration, notably among the white collar boys. Broadly speaking, the country must be built up economically by the people and the wealth that they produce. Every business efficiency expert would agree that the overhead expenses must be kept to a minimum.

What we want is a system which is economic in manpower and in collection. I shall vote against the Bill as a protest against its being merely another factor in the disarray of the design of local government which we have had twice before, and in the hope that before the next valuation a saner and more scientific system will have been introduced for the benefit of the ratepayers.

The Minister speaks about the reform of local government in 1955 or 1956. In effect, the whole of his philosophy is never to do anything today in local government if it can possibly be deferred until tomorrow. That is the sort of thing that we must protest against. The rot set in some time ago, and radical reforming is needed, and this matter brooks no further delay.

5.26 p.m.

Mr. Houghton

I shall not follow my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell) in his grand sweep across the economics, finances and complexities of local administration. I shall try to confine my remarks to the Bill, and to make them brief. I thank the Parliamentary Secretary for the compliment that he paid me in his opening speech. I do not seek to deny him any good natured glee that he may have derived from the embarrassment which he undoubtedly caused me. I have throughout consistently expressed my point of view on the Bill. I have declared my interest in the staff who are employed in connection with the valuation, and I hope that the House will bear with me while I make my concluding remarks on the Bill.

The first thing I want to say concerns a remark of my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) regarding the haste with which he suggested this new Measure had been brought forward. I remind my hon. Friend and the House that it is now 18 months at least since my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) suspended work on the valuation of dwelling-houses and switched the considerable staff employed on that job to the assessment of business and similar premises.

That work of assessment of business and similar premises is now far advanced. Were it not for the clearance which the Bill will give to further progress on the assessment of dwellinghouses, a wasteful period of inactivity would be confronting the valuation staff. My hon. Friend will, therefore, appreciate that to delay this Measure for another nine months would have been very uneconomic of the time and effort of a very large staff. Some 5,000 people in the valuation offices of the Inland Revenue are almost wholly engaged on this task.

Reference has been made to the lack of public interest in what the House is doing in the Bill. We can excuse the public for their inability to be interested in something which is rather shielded from them. The public do not know what the 1948 Act would have done to them, and they do not know what the Bill will do to them. Our difficulty has been to disclose, for the information of all interested citizens, whether technical experts or ratepayers, precisely what we are having to discard, why we are having to discard it, what we are putting in its place, and what change we are bringing about.

The first thing in that connection which we must stress again and again is the change from local to central valuation, which the Bill retains. I am supported in graphic terms in this matter by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), to whom I would frequently go for doctrine, even if not for administration. In Standing Committee B, on 16th December, 1947, my right hon. Friend said: As I tried to explain on Second Reading, in dealing with rating and valuation, especially of cottage property, we are not talking about objective, mathematical, dispassionate principles of valuation. Valuation is as much an art as a science, and we want to ensure that the same kind of artists are applying the same kind of criteria all over the country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 16th December, 1947; c. 1725.] Here we have it. We retain the central control and direction of the artists and, in this Bill, we replace the dual criteria for one criterion so far as valuation of dwelling-houses is concerned.

Some hon. Friends have criticised our return, as they put it, to pre-war values. We have never escaped from pre-war values in regard to the valuation of dwelling-houses. The only single particular in which Part IV of the 1948 Act departed from pre-war values, whether of costs, hypothetical costs, building costs, or site values, was in regard to the hypothetical value of the post-1918 local authority house. All the rest, the hypothetical cost of construction and the hypothetical site value were related to pre-war prices. The basis of valuation of the pre-1918 house was related to the prevailing level of pre-war rents. We have never escaped from pre-war values; therefore there can be no going back to something we have never left.

It is true that we have altered the basis of pre-war valuations for the purposes of this Bill, but the only current values in the whole structure of valuation under the 1948 Act was the valuation of business and similar premises, and this Bill does nothing to disturb that. An hon. Member opposite referred to shocks which people would get, but there will be more shocks under the 1948 Act, which still retains the 1925 basis of valuation of business premises, than shocks for the occupiers of dwelling-houses.

Mr. J. Edwards

May I ask how my hon. Friend knows that?—perhaps he will give us some figures.

Mr. Dalton

There are no figures from the Government, perhaps my hon. Friend can help us.

Mr. Houghton

The one criticism I have to make of the Government in this matter is that they have not given the House the benefit of the abundant material at their disposal to prove their case absolutely up to the hilt. They have not been doing these pilot surveys for all this time without having gathered a very substantial body of evidence, of which we have seen only the smallest sample. My right hon. Friend asks how I know—there is a simple test to apply. The valuation of business and similar premises on current values under the 1925 Act in the hands of Inland Revenue valuers means current values. Any occupier of business or similar premises who likes to make a comparison between his rate demand note and the rent he is paying will see the sort of shock that is coming to him. We need not put it any differently from that.

Valuers will be assessing premises on the current values and the index to current values will be current rents. There is no mystery about that; one does not need to have inside information to be able to tell the business community what sort of change is coming to them on the current value for rates. But when hon. Members see a shift of the emphasis of the rate burden from business premises to the occupiers of dwelling-houses, I say that there is nothing of the sort in the Bill. It follows from the fact that we are retaining prewar valuation for dwelling-houses as against current values for business premises that the shift is going to be all in the other direction, which I think will make for greater equity in the distribution of the rate burden. At present the occupier of a dwelling-house is bearing a disproportionate share of the rate burden because the assessments of business premises have not been brought up to date. I do hope we shall get this into its proper perspective.

Some reference has been made to a leading article in "The Times" this morning. I read "The Times" every morning and, like my hon. and right hon. Friends, I agree with it when it suits me and disagree with it when it does not. But who has ever said that "The Times" newspaper is an authority on rating? Since when have they qualified to pontificate to the world about the basis of valuation? I know that they hanker, as we all hanker, after putting the valuations on a more realistic and more up-to-date basis. But I pose the simple question without going into a lot of technical detail, what would be the basis of valuation of an owner-occupied house today if we applied current values? Would it be the controlled rent of the house next door, or the uncontrolled rent of the house next door but one? That is the sort of question which obviously would send us into hypothetical values or into averaging out values, if we were to take current values as the basis of valuation.

We come to the stage when we part with the Bill with all its imperfections and possibilities of trouble for the future. I said in the very short intervention I made on Second Reading that this was not a perfect solution, nor did I think it could be a lasting solution to the problem. The change we have made during the Committee stage upstairs by deleting the words, "in subsequent lists" emphasises the fact that, after the first lists come out, we can all take fresh stock of what we have done and see whether we have a workable basis or not.

That, I think, will have to satisfy all reasonable people on a Bill which, I agree, the Minister had to introduce because of the problems he encountered and which my right hon. Friend encountered in the operation of the 1948 Act.

If there is anyone who can make a good workable job of this difficult task I think the valuation staff of the Inland Revenue will do it. At least they will try very hard to produce a satisfactory solution. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Since that is likely to be the only applause I shall get from the benches on this side of the House, I think the time has come to conclude my speech.

5.38 p.m.

Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)

I think it would be very unfortunate if the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) were the final contribution on the Bill from this side of the House. I do not mind my hon. Friend supporting the somewhat wavering flanks of the Parliamentary Secretary, but what I do not like is the great enthusiasm and pleasure he gets from doing so.

I wish my hon. Friend had addressed himself a little more carefully in Committee and in the debate today to the real gravamen of the criticisms made in considerable detail from this side of the House on the Bill and what it sets out to do. It is all very well for him to laugh at "The Times" and those of us who are laymen, and ask what we know of valuation. Our job is to know what should be done.

We can only do that on the basis of information but neither my right hon. Friend nor the Parliamentary Secretary has given that information and we cannot make an evaluation of the difficulties and the best way of dealing with them without information. The only specific piece of information about valuation which we have been given by the Parliamentary Secretary is that the 1948 Act produced a fairly coherent system within the class of the houses it deals with. That is the only consistent thing there is over this whole field, the rest of it having been distorted on entirely subjective and political grounds.

My hon. Friend has given the impression that this Bill is something going back to a clearly defined thing called 1939 values, something which people will understand. But that is not the case. The Bill cannot go back to 1939 values because it would be quite anomalous. In two substantial respects it has introduced a quite arbitrary conception, in the case of the newly developed area and the idea of a hypothetical town existing in 1953 which did not exist in 1939. It is nonsense to say to the unfortunate ratepayer who wishes to understand on what basis he is rated that he will be able to look at the rent book and find the answer. He will have to look back, make a comparison with 1939 and, it may be, see who was his next-door neighbour, That is not valuation, it is crystal gazing. It is a guess at the answer.

The other material factor introduced into the Bill in Committee and which causes distortion is this adjustment of scarcity value. An adjustment has to be made on the 1939 figures to see what they would have been had there been a scarcity value due to the existence of rent control on other houses. If the House finds this difficult to understand I do not think that is my fault, for it is an exceedingly incomprehensible subsection.

Our complaint is if all these subjective, arbitrary variations are to be introduced why should not the Government pluck up courage and make the whole basis that of current values, with the various qualifications which have to be made in any case. That would be somewhere near achieving uniformity of values for all types of hereditaments with a reasonable chance of carrying them on in the future.

How far are the figures coming forward due to valuation being carried out centrally? Whatever system of valuation has been introduced, the change from local to central valuation was bound to introduce anomalies and a sense of annoyance among ratepayers who are badly hit. However right the system may be, once adjustments are made from local to central valuation there are bound to be complaints from people who say that their houses previously had a low valuation

and now have a high one, because instead of there being a quiet local assessment committee there are now the valuers from the Inland Revenue. How far that causes trouble is one of the things that the experts have not bothered to tell us.

Sooner or later we have to bring valuation up to current values; we cannot go on indefinitely anchoring them to 1939. At some time we must face these problems. What went wrong with the 1948 Measure was the assumption that 1948 post-war values were temporary and that we should get somewhere between them and the pre-war level. Now we know that is not so. We have a permanent and completely new scale of values and sooner or later we have to bring local taxation up to those values. That is bound to present an extremely difficult problem.

Instead of facing up to the problem the Government have tried to compromise. They have introduced a completely individual personal assessment of value instead of something which is clear and easily understood. It will cause a sense of injustice among ratepayers, who will feel that they have been valued not on something which can be measured, but on something which exists only in the inflamed imaginations of Inland Revenue valuers.

Question put, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

The House divided: Ayes, 193; Noes, 162.

Division No. 220.] AVES [5.46 p.m.
Aitken, W. T. Butcher, Sir Herbert Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Butler, Rt. Hon R. A. (Saffron Walden) Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M.
Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton) Campbell, Sir David Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J Carr, Robert Fell, A.
Arbuthnot, John Cary, Sir Robert Finlay, Graeme
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Channon, H. Fisher, Nigel
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead) Fleetwood-Hesketh, R.
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.) Ford, Mrs. Patricia
Banks, Col. C. Colegate, W. A. Fort, R.
Barber, Anthony Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)
Barlow, Sir John Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)
Baxter, A. B. Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd
Beach, Maj. Hicks Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. D. E. Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Crouch, R. F. Graham, Sir Fergus
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Gridley, Sir Arnold
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Grimond, J,
Bishop, F. P. Cuthbert, W. N. Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)
Black, C. W. Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.) Hall, John (Wycombe)
Boothby, Sir R. J. G. Davidson, Viscountess Hare, Hon. J. H.
Boyle, Sir Edward Deedes, W. F. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Dodds-Parker, A. D. Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)
Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N. W.) Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead) Donner, Sir P. W. Harvie-Watt, Sir George
Brooman-White, R. C. Doughty, C. J. A. Heald, Sir Lionel
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm Heath, Edward
Bullard, D. G. Drewe, Sir C. Higgs, J. M. C.
Burden, F. F. A. Dugdale, Rt. Hon Sir T. (Richmond) Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)
Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E. Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Marlowe, A. A. H. Scott, R. Donald
Hirst, Geoffrey Marples, A. E. Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Holland-Martin, C. J. Marshall, Sir Sidney (Sutton) Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Hollis, M. C. Maude, Angus Snadden, W. McN.
Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich) Maudling, R. Spearman, A. C. M.
Hope, Lord John Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Medlicott, Brig. F Stevens, G. P.
Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Mellor, Sir John Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)
Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Molson, A. H. E. Storey, S.
Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Morrison, John (Salisbury) Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.) Neave, A. M. S. Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E' b'rgh. W.) Nicholls, Harmar Studholme, H. G.
Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M. Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham) Summers, G. S.
Hylton-Foster, H. B. H. Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.) Sutcliffe, Sir Harold
Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P. Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)
Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Nugent, G. R. H. Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Jones, A. (Hall Green) Nutting, Anthony Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)
Kaberry, D. Oakshott, H. D. Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.
Keeling, Sir Edward O' Neill, Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.) Touche, Sir Gordon
Kerr, H. W. Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D. Turton, R. H.
Lambton, Viscount Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare) Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Law, Rt. Han. R. K. Partridge, E. Wade, D. W.
Leather, E. H. C. Peake, Rt. Hon. O. Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Peto, Brig. C. H. M Wakefield, Sir Waved (St. Marylebone)
Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Peyton, J. W. W. Walker-Smith, D. C.
Linslead, Sir H. N. Pilkington, Capt. R. A Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Pitman, I. J. Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Pitt, Miss E. M. Wellwood, W.
Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. D. L Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Longden, Gilbert Raikes, Sir Victor Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Redmayne, M. Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
McCallum, Major D. Rees-Davies, W. R. Wills, G.
McKibbin, A. J. Remnant, Hon. P. Wood, Hon. R.
Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Roberts, Peter (Heeley)
Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Roper, Sir Harold TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Maclean, Fitzroy Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Mr. Vosper and
Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Russell, R. S. Mr. Richard Thompson.
Maitland, Patrick (Lanark) Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.
Albu, A. H. Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.) McKay, John (Wallsend)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Follick, M. McLeavy, F.
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven) Foot, M. M. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)
Awbery, S. S. Gailskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Manuel, A. C.
Bacon, Miss Alice Gibson, C. W. Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.
Bartley, P. Glanville, James Mayhew, C. P.
Bence, C. R. Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Mellish, R. J.
Benn, Hon. Wedgwood Grey, C. F. Messer, Sir F.
Benson, G. Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Mitchison, G. R
Beswick, F Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.) Moody, A. S
Bing, G. H. C. Hannan, W. Morley, R.
Blackburn, F. Hargreaves, A. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H (Lewisham, S.)
Blenkinsop, A. Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.) Moyle, A.
Blyton, W. R. Hastings, S. Neal, Harold (Bolsover)
Boardman, H. Hayman, F. H. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Healey, Denis (Leeds, S. E.) Oliver, G. H.
Bowles, F. G. Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis) Oswald, T.
Brockway, A. F. Herbison, Miss M. Paget, R. T.
Brook, Dryden (Halifax) Hobson, C. R. Palmer, A. M. F.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Holman, P. Pannell, Charles
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Hoy, J. H. Pargiter, G. A.
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Hubbard, T. F. Parker, J.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.) Hudson, James (Ealing, N.) Plummer, Sir Leslie
Champion, A. J. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Popplewell, E.
Clunie, J. Hynd, H. (Accrington) Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Irving, W. J. (Wood Green) Proctor, W. T.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Pryde, D. J.
Cullen, Mrs. A Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Pursey, Cmdr. H.
Daines, P. Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.) Reeves, J.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Johnson, James (Rugby) Reid, Thomas (Swindon)
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Rhodes, H.
Davies, Harold (Leek) Keenan, W. Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Deer, G. Kenyon, C. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Delargy, H. J. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Dodds, N. N. King, Dr. H. M Ross, William
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Shackleton, E. A. A.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse) Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Lewis, Arthur Short, E. W.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.) Lingren, G. S. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Skeffington, A. M.
Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury) MacColl, J. E. Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)
Fernyhough, E. McInnes, J. Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)
Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.) Thornton, E. Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)
Smith. Norman (Nottingham, S.) Tomney, F. Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Sorensen, R. W. Turner-Samuels, M. Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)
Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank Weitzman, D. Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Sparks, J. A. Wells, Percy (Faversham) Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A
Steele, T. Wheatley, Rt Hon. John Wyatt, W. L.
Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.) Wheeldon, W. E. Yates, V. F.
Strachey, Rt. Hon. J. White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.) Younger, Rt Hon K
Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W
Sylvester, G. O. Wigg, George TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth) Wilkins, W. A Mr. Wallace and
Thomson, George (Dundee, E.) Willey, F. T. Mr. John Taylor.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.