§ 42. Mr. Hannan
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that tenants of abandoned properties, the 772 owners of which cannot be found, are now being asked by local authorities for payment of owners' rates in addition to occupiers' rates; and if he will take steps to stop this practice until the Sorn Committee on Valuation and Rating has presented its report.
§ Mr. J. Stuart
Under Section 349 (4) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947, a local authority may demand the payment of owners' rates from the occupier if they are unable, after reasonable inquiry, to ascertain the name and address of the owner and if there is no known factor, agent or person drawing the rents. In such a case the occupier is not liable to pay any sum in excess of what he would have had to pay in rent, and the payment is deemed to be a payment to account of rent. The matter is not one in which I have any power to intervene.
§ Mr. Hannan
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in this situation tenants are having no freedom of choice but are being made compulsorily owner-occupiers of dilapidated property for which they do not even hold the title deeds? Is he further aware that they are responsible not only for owners' rates and occupier's rates but property tax and repairs? Would he therefore consider the matter?
§ Mr. Stuart
They are not asked to pay-more in rates than they normally would be asked to pay in rent. This is the law under the 1947 Local Government Act. I suggest that we should wait the report from Lord Sorn.