HC Deb 30 June 1955 vol 543 cc515-51

3.50 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

I beg to move, in page 11, line 1, to leave out subsection (1).

The Chairman

I think it would be convenient if, at the same time, we dealt with the next two Amendments, in page 11, in line 3, in the name of the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren).

Mr. Mitchison

These Amendments relate to the important subject of invalid chairs. The Bill as it stands exempts from rates the structures that are put up to accommodate invalid chairs, provided that they either belong to the Minister of Health or have been supplied by him. It does not exempt any more than that. Therefore, it does not exempt an invalid chair which the sufferer may himself have provided, and, while it exempts these structures, it does not exempt another kind of invalid accommodation to which my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) referred on the Second Reading, namely, the kind of hut that is necessarily used, for instance, by tuberculous people.

Our first doubt is whether these matters ought to be dealt with at all by exemption from rating, and it is for that reason that we have put down this Amendment which would simply strike out subsection (1). But if we are to assume that these matters will be dealt with to some extent by exemption from rating, then we are perfectly clear that this exemption is too limited. There is really no logical reason whatever for exempting the homes —if I may use the word—of invalid chairs that have had some connection with a Government Department, and not exempting the homes of invalid chairs that have not been so connected.

It appears to be a matter of inter-Departmental comity or something of that sort that the Clause does not do what I am sure the Committee would like to be done, namely, that if the housing of one invalid chair is exempted, the housing of all of them should be exempted. After all, the ground for exemption is the simple one that these are necessary things for invalids, and the huts that they are kept in are necessary for that purpose. This applies to any kind of invalid chair, whoever supplies it and whoever owns it.

Similarly, it is obviously illogical to exempt the home or the hut of an invalid chair and not to exempt the hut of the invalid, in the sense that it is something that he requires and has to have, no doubt, upon medical advice, for the proper treatment of the illness from which he may be suffering. I am sure that tuberculosis is the case that occurs to all of us. There is not much more to be said on these Amendments, and, having regard to what was said when we rose on Tuesday last, that we would do our best to complete the proceedings on this Bill by about 10 o'clock, I shall say no more.

Captain Christopher Soames (Bedford)

On Tuesday, when we were discussing a previous Clause, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government referred to charitable houses and said that the only reason why church halls had been exempted was that they were attached to churches which were already exempted and that, therefore, something new had not been brought into the Bill by exempting church halls. That was his argument in support of the point that village halls and various other charitable buildings should not be exempted from rates.

This question of the housing of invalid chairs is surely something new. We are all, no doubt, in agreement with the principle of this subsection. Nevertheless, this Amendment proposes something new. Various other facilities are given to the users of these invalid chairs, such as cheaper petrol, the cost of which is borne by the Government. Here is a burden which is being imposed on the local authority by the Government who say that these structures must be exempted. If the Government decide that these structures which house invalid chairs should be exempted from rates, I wonder whether it is not the duty of the central Government rather than of the local authorities to find the money. I should appreciate it if the Parliamentary Secretary would consider that matter.

Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)

I should like, briefly, to support the Amendments. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will not be deflected by the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bedford (Captain Soames) from at least seeing that the structures for disabled persons' vehicles which are provided by the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Pensions shall be exempted from rates. It is quite clear that the purpose of the Clause will be warmly supported on this side.

We are all agreed that the provision of invalid chairs, whether mechanically propelled or otherwise, has been a great asset to the recipients. It has been thought to be unfortunate and unfair that if a structure were so provided, the valuation of the disabled person's hereditament would be increased and that he would, as a result, be paying higher rates. Whatever is said, I hope that there will not be any departure from that first principle of this Clause, because this is something which will ease the burden of those whose load we should try at every stage to relieve, particularly when they are war disabled.

The purpose of this and the other Amendments is to extend that provision to those whose sheds or structures have not been provided by the Government, but have been provided by others. Some of the disabled have made praiseworthy efforts and have built their own huts. Others have been provided by voluntary organisations like the British Legion and other bodies which do this kind of useful work. It would be anomalous and unfair to suggest that those who have been helped by other voluntary bodies or those who have helped themselves should have to pay additional rates because of the voluntary effort made.

I would have thought that there was nothing in the point of cost made by the hon. and gallant Member for Bedford. The total loss in rates to the local authorities from exempting these structures would be almost negligible. We are not dealing with anything in the nature of water undertakings or great corporations. These are merely a few structures in the areas of most local authorities. The loss in rates would be practically nothing to them, but it means a great deal to anyone living on a pension. Consequently, any question of the introduction of a new rating principle here need not be taken seriously.

4.0 p.m.

The second Amendment relates to structures used wholly or mainly for housing invalid chairs. We should guard against the possibility of the rating officer considering, if other articles were kept in the structure, that the exemption could not apply. It is well known that in sheds of this sort disabled people may keep their lawn mower, a few tools, or a sack of coke. It would be unfortunate if the rating officer took the view that the law had to be rigidly applied, which he might well consider it his duty to do, and the consequence would be that the exemption intended by the Government would not be granted.

As the financial value of the concession is so small in relation to local authorities but would mean so much to people who are already severely handicapped, I hope that the Government will be able to accept the Amendment.

Mr. Kenneth Thompson (Liverpool, Walton)

The suggestion by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) that this is a matter which should be measured only in terms of the amount of money which local authorities stand to lose is wrong. In the provision of assistance to disabled people we have got ourselves into a frightfully confused position. Differing types of people suffering from precisely the same affliction receive differing degrees of assistance from different sources for no logical reason and according to no logical pattern.

We have decided that the war disabled shall receive assistance in the form of the provision of self-propelled vehicles, and that they shall be further assisted by the provision by the State of garages or hutments for the vehicles. We have also decided that they, and they alone, shall be given assistance in the use of the vehicles by the provision of petrol or a petrol allowance.

It is merely a logical extension of that kind of provision to this small and specially selected group of people for the State to meet whatever additional rating cost is involved in having a garage or hut. It is entirely wrong that to enable the owner to enjoy the use of the vehicle we should distort our rating pattern and write a special subsection into a Bill of this kind when the purpose which can more properly be served by another more regularly used means. I very much hope that my hon. Friend will take the subsection out of the Bill but will, at the same time, use his considerable forensic skill to persuade his right hon. Friend at the Treasury to make the necessary provision through the proper medium.

Sir Frederick Messer (Tottenham)

I cannot understand the logic of the speech by the hon. Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson).

Mr. F. Blackburn (Stalybridge and Hyde)

There was none.

Sir F. Messer

There was no suggestion of equity in it at all. Taking the Bill as it stands without the Amendments, we are, with our eyes open, committing an injustice. This can probably be explained better by illustration than by any other method.

A person may be about to receive a mechanically propelled chair or vehicle from the Ministry. He knows it is coming, and he prepares for it and builds a shelter. Having built the shelter, he may then be told that his neighbour, who is in exactly the same position apart from the fact that the Ministry will provide the shelter, will not have to pay rates. It is those who provide their own shelters who have to pay rates. Can anybody defend that?

I have another illustration from my constituency. A woman who had poliomyelitis and had calliper splints on both legs was provided with a mechanically propelled vehicle. It was found that it would not go through the front entrance. It was stored somewhere else temporarily. A sympathetic neighbour who had some spare ground said, "I will take charge of the vehicle for you. When you want it, arrangements can be made to bring it to you. I will build a shed for it."

If that arrangement is to continue, the neighbour will be called upon to pay rates, whereas someone who has a vehicle which can be placed in a shelter at his own property will not have to pay rates. It means that my constituent will have to pay a rent because the kind friend will be charged rates. That cannot be justified.

A principle is involved in these matters. We ought to have regard to the effect upon the individual and not to whether the shelter is provided by the Ministry or not. It is unjust to say that one person suffering from poliomyelitis shall have a shelter free from rates while another is compelled to pay rates. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will appreciate that this provision gives rise to an injustice which need not exist, and the remedy will not cost very much.

Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)

I wish to support the Amendment very strongly. I was surprised to hear what was said by the hon. Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson). He usually has a very sympathetic approach towards these matters. I do not know why he has changed. I wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary has asked him to do so. Many times we have found him in sympathy with the arguments that we were advancing on behalf of unfortunate people. The arguments advanced today are on behalf of a class of people who will never enjoy life to the full as we understand it.

Mr. K. Thompson

That is a gross distortion of anything that I said and of the general tenor of my remarks, the whole of which were aimed at securing that all those who are in need should get assistance but should get it from the proper source.

Mr. Brown

I hope we shall see that that is done. However, I gleaned from the hon. Gentleman's speech, to which I listened with rapt attention because of his sympathetic approach in days gone by, that he was arguing that our proposal was altering a principle of rating.

Mr. Thompson

It does.

Mr. Brown

Whether it does or not, if the principle is wrong we ought to put it right.

Mr. Thompson

It is wrong.

Mr. Brown

I do not want to cross swords with the hon. Gentleman.

In the mining industry we have many injured miners who have to have mechanically propelled chairs. Special buildings have to be erected for the vehicles because ordinary houses are not suitable. Many of the men are paralysed from the waist downwards and cannot enjoy life as we understand it today. A decision was made some time ago to do something for such men, and recently three bungalows for them, at a cost of £15,000, have been built on land adjoining the Miners' Convalescent Home, at Blackpool. We did not trouble to ask for help from welfare funds, and we made no application to charitable sources. The money to build the bungalows for these unfortunate men came from surplus canteen funds.

I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will listen to our plea and accept the Amendments. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) said, the amount that will be lost to the rates will be infinitesimal. Who would deny this help to such people? Surely we can go a little further to make the lives of men and women in these circumstances a little easier than would otherwise be the case.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. W. F. Deedes)

This is a subject which attracts general sympathy. Before I express it in any tangible form, I wish to say a word about each of these three Amendments. I think that their effect, certainly that of the first two, may be a little different from the intention of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison).

The effect of the first Amendment, contrary to existing practice, would be to stop the relief from rates which is already granted to any structure belonging to the Ministry of Health. That concession followed a statement which the Financial Secretary to the Treasury made three years ago. In effect, this Clause legalises the concession then made.

Mr. Mitchison

I hope I made perfectly clear that what we intended was that the same relief should be given by other means. This was not a question of the end, but of the means.

Mr. Deedes

I took the point made by the hon. and learned Member.

The second Amendment would have a much wider effect. It would extend relief from rates to any structure used wholly or mainly for accommodation of an invalid chair or any other vehicle…constructed or adapted for use by invalids or disabled persons. The difficulty is that it would cover the ordinary garage attached to a house if that were used wholly or mainly for an invalid chair or even by a motor car with controls attached for a disabled person to drive. The difficulty is that the garage would be assessed for ordinary purposes while one of the effects would be that if it were used wholly or mainly to accommodate an invalid chair, the assessment of the property would have to be varied. Probably there would have to be more than one inspection.

The third Amendment would have two effects. The point I have made about the garage would apply as it would extend relief to structures constructed or adapted for use by invalids and disabled persons. I imagine that the intention is, as hon. Members have indicated, to cover any small structure used by one person—such as a garden hut used by a tuberculous person or a workshop used by a blind person. Normally, those structures have been disregarded by local authorities in the past. It is a good thing to see what has happened in the past.

There is a difficulty about the drafting of this Amendment. As it stands, it could include buildings of some value—for instance, a bungalow with a specially wide doorway for the entry and exit of an invalid carriage. We should like to have another look at the drafting of the Amendment. I think it would be meeting the generally expressed wish of the Committee if I said that we accept in principle the idea that this concession should be extended to the hut for the tuberculous person and similar structures. We shall try to produce something on those lines on the Report stage if the hon. and learned Member will accept the fact that, as worded, the Amendment might lead to difficulties.

4.15 p.m.

Mr. Mitchison

I am very glad indeed to hear that from the Parliamentary Secretary. I wonder whether he can give us a little more information on the question of the hut used for an invalid chair unconnected with a Ministry. That appears to be in exactly the same category. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would take that into account when reconsidering the matter.

I am sure that in the light of what the hon. Gentleman has said about invalid huts, he would be willing, if he can, to extend the chair concession to other chairs than Ministry chairs. If he can tell us that we shall welcome it very warmly, as to some extent we already welcome the statement he has made.

Mr. T. Brown

If the hon. Gentleman is prepared to bring something forward on the Report stage, will he also take into consideration the dimensions of the structure? Recently, I had a case in which a garage was housing a mechanical chair and, because it was six inches longer than it ought to have been, rates had to be paid on it.

Mr. Deedes

I am sure that we want to avoid irritating anomalies of that sort, and I will try to do so. In reply to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), I will certainly bear in mind what he has said, and have another look at the problem.

Mr. Mitchison

In the light of what has been said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)

I beg to move, in page 11, line 12, after "1936" to insert: and no sewage works.

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. H. Hynd)

It may be for the convenience of the Committee if we considered this Amendment with the five Amendments in the name of the right hon. Member, all in page 11.

Mr. Skeffington

On a point of order. Is it not proposed to call the Amendments to lines 9 and 11 in my name and the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbet)?

The Temporary Chairman

Those Amendments have not been selected.

Mr. Ness Edwards

It is with some trepidation that I move this Amendment, which it is quite convenient to discuss with the Amendments you have indicated, Mr. Hynd. The purpose of the Amendment is to freeze the present valuation of disposal works, outfall works and sewerage farms and, at the same time, to preserve for those authorities now getting substantial rate income from the disposal works in their areas the income they now get.

I have been out of local authority work for twenty years, and, in discussing this Amendment, I am re-entering a field which I used to know very well, but about which, today, I know comparatively little. Rating authorities in South Wales, in particular, are very much alarmed at the consequences of the proposal with which we are dealing. I know that we shall be divided in our views about the Amendment according to whether we represent losing authorities or gaining authorities.

There is another rough division, that the more inland the authority the more it will lose. Authorities on the seaboard and estuaries will gain, and gain substantially. In these Amendments we have sought neither to confer an advantage upon seaboard authorities nor to impose an undue hardship on inland authorities.

Before I deal with that side of it, let us look at subsection (3), with which we are dealing. It states: The last preceding subsection shall have effect in relation to any manhole, ventilating shaft, pumping station, pump or other accessory belonging to a sewer as it has effect in relation to the sewer. I do not quite know what the Parliamentary Secretary will have to say in explaining this distinction between the various accessories of a sewer. Is the disposal works an accessory of a sewer? Is the sewerage farm an accessory, or is the sewer itself an accessory to the sewerage farm or disposal works? It appears from subsection (3) that a pumping station which is along the line of the sewer is excluded from rating but that a pumping station within the boundary of the disposal works would be rated.

The same thing applies to the sewage tanks. Tanks that are along the line of the sewer, apparently, will be excluded, but tanks inside the sewage disposal works will be included. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will say whether the tank at the end of the sewer line before it goes into the sea is to be regarded as something that must be rated. Is it included or excluded for the purpose of rates? What are the reasons for these seemingly artificial divisions into rateable and non-rateable categories? Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will say more about it.

As I have said, the rating authorities of Monmouthshire and Glamorganshire, especially those in the upper reaches of the valleys, are full of alarm at what they are hearing about the operation of the Bill. They have their contacts with the Inland Revenue valuers and they have been hearing about the proposed new valuations. It is said by the rating officer of Caerphilly that the rates on his authority's sewerage works will be doubled. That authority already pays over 30s. in the £ in rates. Taking a much more inland authority, I am told that in Hereford the effect of this new proposal is to increase the present 2d. rate for sewerage to 1s. 9d.

Those examples relate to works within an authority's own area. Let me now deal with authorities whose disposal works are in the area of a neighbouring authority. In doing so, the consequences of the Bill are revealed in a much more startling way. Take the case of Maesteg, which is in the upper reaches of one of the valleys of South Wales. Because of the topography, Maesteg cannot dispose of its sewage within its own area. It has to go down to the flat country and the lower reaches of the valley to locate its works, which, at the moment, are situated in the area of the Penybont Rural District Council.

Maesteg now pays £345 in rates, but has been told that under the new valuation it will pay £6,440. It now pays the equivalent of a 1d. rate for sewerage. The new method of valuation will cost a 1s. 8d. rate, and the Penybont Rural District Council, without any of the responsibilities of the Maesteg Urban District Council, will have relief in rates to the extent of 11d. Maesteg already pays 28s. 8d. in the £ and the new valuation upon its disposal works in the Penybont area will push up its rates to 30s. 4d. in the £. That is one of the consequences of the Bill and one of the consequences we want to avoid.

Let me take another example. The Merthyr, Aberdare, Mountain Ash and Gelligaer Urban District Councils have a joint scheme. Because of the new factories and houses, their scheme has to be extended. Their disposal works are located in the Mountain Ash area; because of the terrain, there is no other suitable location. These authorities now have to plan for a new disposal works to treat all the sewage and they have drafted a plan involving a cost of £1 million. At present, their works are nominally rated at £100 and they pay rates on this basis.

What is to be the effect of the new method of valuation? Is it to be the figure of 4 per cent. of capital cost that the Inland Revenue is now taking as the new guide? The position will be that Merthyr must pay an additional 1s. 11d. in the £ in its sewerage rate. Aberdare will have to pay an extra 2s., Mountain Ash an extra 11d., and Gelligaer an increase of 3d. Each one of these authorities already has a rate poundage of over 30s. in the £. One can see what will be the financial consequences of bringing these works into the list for valuation.

Mountain Ash, of course, will be a benefiting authority. It will have an increased rateable value that will reduce its rate to 22s. 3d., while the rates of all the others will go up to between 32s. and 33s. The further inland we go, the worse the position will be.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell us what will be the effect on the Western Valley and Rhymney Valley Joint Sewerage Boards, both of them having disposal works and having within the very near future to face a complete new sewerage system because of the tremendous amount of house and factory building that has taken place in South Wales? This is causing the greatest apprehension among local authorities in South Wales.

It may be said, and with some justice, that the method of valuing these disposal works in South Wales and in Wales generally has not been on the same basis as the methods elsewhere. It may be said that they have been under-assessed, and there may be truth in that. There may be a case for having an equitable assessment throughout the country, but if we are to have an equitable method of assessment, for goodness' sake do not let us bankrupt the authorities in the process and make it impossible for them to carry on.

I have had a long letter from the constituency represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Dodds). It is from the Clerk of the Erith Corporation, who puts the contrary view. My hon. Friend will probably say—I do not complain—that we must put with all the stench and inconvenience and the loss of vast areas of rateable land in the constituency which he represents. But is not the disposal of London's sewage in a special category? If so, should not all the other disposal works on lonely parts of the coast, in areas where no social disturbance is caused, be levied in the same way as the disposal works around the Thames? Of course, I quite see the argument, but the Minister should reconsider the matter, and have regard to the consequences. To put an additional 2s. rate upon an authority with a rate of 32s. in the £ is simply to bankrupt that authority.

4.30 p.m.

In my Amendment in page 11, line 17, there is a proposal that compensation should be paid to any other local authority for any loss of rates because of such exemption as I am seeking, and the amount suggested is that which generally those authorities are now getting. That proposal is one safeguard to those authorities until the entire problem can be looked at again. It should be reconsidered, and special treatment ought to be given to those large-scale disposal works serving vast populations. They should be treated differently from the small, isolated disposal works, which exist all over the country.

Mr. Deedes

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) has made a very persuasive case on behalf of the local authorities for which he has been speaking, and I wish I could feel able to go any way towards meeting him. He put his finger on the difficulty when he said that the alarm felt over the new assessments was due to the fact that those sewage disposal works have, in the past, been assessed rather differently from those elsewhere, and that, in consequence, reassessment by the Inland Revenue will produce a very different rate from what has been known under the previous system.

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that that is one of the consequences of revaluation, and that it will be felt by many others besides those who are responsible for sewage disposal works. Where there has been considerable underassessment there will be a considerable levelling up under the new scheme of things. We should place ourselves in some difficulty if we were to make an exception of hereditaments which will bear a very large increase because they have been under-assessed.

The effect of these Amendments is to exempt sewage disposal works and the accessories in the line of a sewer, the manholes, ventilating plants, and pumping stations. The right hon. Gentleman asked about the tanks at the ends of sewer lines, and whether they were included or whether they were excluded. Normally, they would not be rateable, although there are certain cases where they may be rateable. Although sewers and their accessories have legally been liable for rating in the past they have largely been disregarded by the rating authorities.

One reason for that may have been that they are exceedingly difficult to value. On the other hand, sewage disposal works have usually been rated. Moreover, their assessments have often been substantial, as has the income accruing from them. The work of valuing them presents no great difficulty. There is this difference between a sewer and a sewage disposal works, and that may have been the reason why this custom has grown up. The difference is that the one is easy to value, the other is not. The assessment of sewers would, I am advised, entail an enormous amount of work and a very small addition to rateable value. I would stress that we are only continuing a system which has prevailed in the past for sound practical reasons, and I cannot accept that there is the same justification for exempting sewage disposal works as there is for exempting sewers.

Let me say a word about that one of this group of Amendments which would seek to provide that sewerage authorities should pay compensation to any other local authorities losing rates because of the exemption of the sewage disposal works. There is an admission in that Amendment that the Amendment would cause a substantial change in the present position. That is implicit in that Amendment. Its effect, would be to freeze permanently rate payments in respect of sewage disposal to the amount payable in the last year before revaluation. If they have been over-assessed or under-assessed in the past, that anomaly would be perpetuated, and new works would pay nothing at all. I think I am right in saying that they would not. Moreover, the sewerage authorities would be sheltered from any change in the level of value or any change in the rate poundage.

Mr. Ness Edwards

What we were suggesting was if the Bill were amended in the way we proposed to amend it, the Government would have to look at the problem anew and bring forward fresh legislation.

Mr. Deedes

I am dealing only with that Amendment.

Mr. Ness Edwards

I appreciate that.

Mr. Deedes

The Amendment to line 17 would necessarily perpetuate anomalies and introduce new ones. Therefore, I regret that we are unable to find justification for exempting sewage disposal works and cannot accept the Amendment which has been moved.

Mr. Norman Dodds (Erith and Cray-ford)

While we in Erith sympathise very much with the case which my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) has put forward, and hope that something can be done to meet it, we feel that we should oppose the proposals in these Amendments. The Parliamentary Secretary has given certain reasons why they should be opposed, but we feel there is an even bigger reason, which is that they would mean for West Ham and Erith a very big loss.

My right hon. Friend's proposed Amendment in page 11, line 17, suggests the paying of compensation …to any other local authority for any loss of rate income arising from such exemption from rates of sewage works such compensation to be an annual amount equal to the amount payable for rates in respect of such works for the year ending on the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and fifty-six, the financial year preceding the date on which the new valuation list comes into force…. I believe that my right hon. Friend has not realised the exact position, for if he had he would not have been so happy about those words.

Erith, for eighty years, has been the place of the southern outfall for London, and its sewerage works and farm take up a very large area. As my right hon. Friend said, in a built-up area they are a real nuisance. The nuisance has to be experienced to be understood. In hot weather, weather like this, the gases are a great nuisance to the people who live nearby. Indeed, the gases from the effluent turn light-coloured new paint into ghastly shades.

My right hon. Friend mentions a date in 1956. I would draw the attention (4 the Committee to the proposals for extending these works in the Erith district, which will involve an expenditure of several million pounds. The work is not to be completed until 1965. At present, by agreement, there is an annual rateable value of £32,500. It is hoped that these developments will take place in the next few years, and, in fact, the Erith Borough Council is planning its development on the additional money which it is likely to get in the normal way from the extensions which are to take place.

I must, therefore, oppose the recommendations that are made, and express the hope that the Minister will be able to evolve a system that will give some measure of justice to smaller local authorities.

Mr. Ness Edwards

Apparently, there is not a single voice in the Committee raised in support of this Amendment. It is no consolation for South Wales, which is to receive the rough edge of this Bill. Neither is it any consolation to South Wales that Erith will get a nice bit of jam. South Wales will have a very bad time as a result of this Bill. However, in view of the fact that I have received no support, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)

I beg to move, in page 11, line 12, after "1936" to insert: being a sewer not constructed above the level of or on the ground. I ventured to draw attention to this matter during the Second Reading debate on the Bill, and, in reply, the Parliamentary Secretary said that he would look into the matter but did not say that it would be very easy to find a solution for it. I trust that, having looked into the question of sewer derating, he has succeeded in finding a solution. I shall await with interest what he has to say.

The point of the Amendment is this. Clause 7 (2) derates sewers, and that may be quite reasonable for underground sewers. Unfortunately, I submit, it is quite unreasonable in respect of the enormous, monstrous outfall over-ground sewers which run for miles, as part of the northern outfall sewer runs, through the whole breadth of my constituency, and also a number of adjoining divisions as well, such as Poplar, East Ham, and Barking, each of whose representatives will no doubt eloquently support this Amendment.

The northern outfall sewer is now the property of the London County Council, and it is a vital part of the system for the drainage of the Metropolitan area. About a dozen local authorities make use of it. As far as West Ham is concerned, I understand that sewage is taken to the Abbey Mills pumping station, and there lifted from a lower to a higher level for the purpose of being conveyed through the northern outfall sewer to the Barking outfall works. Then it is discharged into the Thames, we trust, after appropriate chemical processes have been applied to it to prevent the general pollution of the whole river.

The proposal in the Bill is to remove first the outfall sewer and then the pumping station from liability for rating—the proposal to Berate the pumping station is the subject of a later Amendment. So far as my constituency interest is concerned—and I confess that this is essentially a constituency matter, although it has wider implications as well—the out-fall sewer occupies about 31 acres of valuable land in West Ham. The rating of this land and the sewer and pumping station now brings in revenue to West Ham of £46,000 a year, which for West Ham is a lot of money. It is modest enough, goodness knows, when compared with the disadvantage of having to house this thing in my constituency, for this is no ordinary sewer.

It has monstrous, enormous proportions; indeed, I am not sure that it is not the biggest overground sewer in the world. Of the area which it occupies it might indeed be said: Sanitas, sanitatum, omnia Sanitas which, being translated, means "Sanitation to crown all sanitations, all is sanitation." Through West Ham, it is 21 feet above the ground, it towers over adjoining houses, and it is, indeed, a most remarkable liability for West Ham to have to carry it.

It was the subject of judicial consideration in another place in 1893, in a case which was brought by that empire builder the London County Council for the exclusion of the sewer from rating. In dealing with the matter, the Lord Chancellor made certain observations which, I submit, are equally applicable today: So far, I have referred to the case of sewers under land the surface of which was occupied by other persons, and in ordinary course assessed to the poor-rate. But the particular case of the outfall sewer in West Ham is an exceptional one; that sewer is not constructed underground. Thirty-seven acres of land were purchased by the Metropolitan Board of Works for the purpose of the portion of the outfall sewer….The sewer is carried in an earthen and concrete embankment erected upon the land at an average height of twenty-one feet above the general surface of the land adjoining. The work thus constructed, therefore, differed from the mere creation of a sewer below the surface of land which continued afterwards, as before, liable to assessment, but was an adaptation, to the purposes of the board, of land already occupied and rated. I confess I see the utmost difficulty in distinguishing such an erection as this upon the surface of land from any other erection specially suitable for the purposes of a particular occupier, but which might render it of less value for occupation by other persons not requiring it for that special purpose. That quotation is to be found in the Law Reports, 1893, Appeal Cases, in pages 599 and 600.

I call in aid those observations from the Lord Chancellor because exactly the same considerations apply today. If this Clause goes through as it now stands, West Ham will be deprived of this very substantial rateable value on these acres, the present rateable value of which is £36,170. Yet it will have to continue to house this thing. I do not suppose that there will be a rush from any other area to house this sewer. One cannot see any great clamour from nearby Woodford for the privilege of having this outfall sewer in that locality.

There is no proposal in the Bill to compensate West Ham for this loss either by requiring the L.C.C. to compensate them or by offering an Exchequer contribution equivalent to the amount of the loss. In any event, my experience of Exchequer contributions is that they amount to about half the loss which is usually suffered. It seems to me to be rather hard to offer to a community which is already so impoverished a proposal which will mean a loss to the rates of 9d. in the £, and it is something which I must strenuously oppose.

It would be quite simple to make an exception in this case. My right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards), in making his special case, conceded the distinction between usual sewers and the outfall sewers which are fed into the Thames, and I think it should be quite easy, and should be no great problem for those responsible for drafting the Bill, to make an exception in favour of the outfall sewer.

The proposal to clarify the law of rating by establishing this uniform rule of exempting all sewers from rates has a certain logical attractiveness. I readily concede that, but it is a logical attractiveness at the expense of an already hard-hit community. By reason of the carefully chosen words used in the definition proposed in the Amendment, the general pattern of the law of rating would not be embarrassed if the Amendment is accepted. Therefore, I hope that I shall carry the Parliamentary Secretary with me on this Amendment.

Mr. Deedes

The hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) said that this gigantic sewer which we discussed on Second Reading had a long history. He was quite right in saying that it was the subject of a case in 1893—London County Council versus Erith and West Ham. I have no doubt that the hon. and learned Member correctly quoted the judgment given in that case, but I have to tell him that there was in this long story a second case in the year 1911, with which, no doubt, he is familiar.

Mr. Elwyn Jones


Mr. Deedes

It was the case of West Kent Main Sewerage Board v. Dartford Union. One of the conclusions from that case, which was heard in the House of Lords, was that the House was bound to put the rating of sewers on the logical basis on which the law had been put in respect of other property. The judgment said: —the old and vicious principles"— of exempting certain sewers from rate-ability— are unworkable and must in their practical application multiply anomalies and perpetuate injustice. I hope that the hon. and learned Member will not mind my recalling the verdict in that case as well as in the case to which he referred.

Quite apart from the desire to put the rating of sewers on a uniform basis, for which there are obviously good grounds, there are other considerations which have to be borne in mind and which make it not difficult but I am afraid impossible to meet the object of the Amendment.

One other consideration at least is that, generally speaking, sewerage systems are designed so far as possible so that the sewage is carried by gravity to the outfall. In undulating country the most suitable line, therefore, is often to take it out of the ground.

Mr. Elwyn Jones

I am sorry to intervene a little late on the point, but I should like to remind the hon. Gentleman that the decision of the House of Lords in the 1911 case was that all sewers should be rateable. Now he is proposing in the Bill to do the exact opposite and to enact that no sewer should be rateable at all. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman referred to the 1911 decision, which I can now cite as a second case in support of my proposition.

Mr. Deedes

The verdict came down heavily in favour of uniformity and I have said in reply to the right hon. Member for Caerphilly that the rating of all sewers, even to meet the special requirements of the right hon. Gentleman, is not a practical proposition. The difficulty occurs where the sewer goes through undulating country and therefore, for engineering reasons, has to appear above ground. The local authority which feels that rates ought to be paid in respect of that part of the sewer which appears above the surface might be tempted to carry the line less in accordance with engineering principles than in accordance with the effect which it would have on the rates.

There is another possibility—that local authorities might be tempted to avoid other people's territories. Instead of making a natural line for the sewer they might endeavour to push it mainly through their own territory.

Mr. Elwyn Jones

A 21-foot high sewer?

Mr. Deedes

The effect of the Amendment might well be somewhat similar to the effect on domestic architecture of the window tax and might lead to a rather artificial situation.

I am sorry that we cannot meet the hon. and learned Gentleman. I appreciate his problem and I realise that the local authority concerned will suffer some financial loss as a result of the proposal in the Bill. At the same time, that local authority will not be alone in suffering some alterations which inevitably result from revaluation.

Sir Ian Horobin (Oldham, East)

Would my hon. Friend say something on one point which was raised by the hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones)? No one who does not know this structure can appreciate its extent. It is completely a case by itself and worthy of special treatment. Would my hon. Friend say something about the grossly unfair position which will arise as between the local authorities of West Ham, East Ham and Barking, which house this structure, and the London County Council which will be let off?

Cannot my hon. Friend say something about what he proposes to do to enable some kind of equity to be arrived at by way of compensation between the authorities concerned? I believe that if powers were taken, with the magnanimity and common sense of the London County Council, it might be possible to arrive at something corresponding to the present situation.

Mr. Somerville Hastings (Barking)

I want to say how very disappointed I am at the Parliamentary Secretary's statement. The honour and glory of carrying the sewage of North London to the River Thames is shared to a considerable extent by Barking, the borough I have the honour to represent. Whereas, in other places, there is a road on the top of this enormous structure, the road ends in Barking and, therefore, the structure is of no advantage to us whatever.

This structure is like an enormous Grim's dyke which we see in country districts, but in this case the Grim is not the devil but London County Council. I have seen the structure only from the outside, but I am told that it contains five tunnels which are as big as the tunnels which carry the tube trains in London. These tunnels run through the length of the structure and deliver the sewage to the sewerage works close to the River Thames.

The iniquity of the proposal in the Bill is well demonstrated in the Barking area because there we have a section of this northern outfall sewer with a rateable value of £4,750 and also part of the sewage disposal works of London County Council, rated at £4,500. Why, in the name of misfortune, should it be proposed to derate the one without the other? Barking is not a wealthy borough. It is already suffering very much from the de-rating of factory premises and if this proposal is added there will be another serious loss.

I rather regret that the Committee stage of this Bill is being taken today, because tomorrow the Minister is going to Barking to open a section of the sewage disposal works. When he is there he cannot fail to see that this sewer about which we have complained so much is an appalling erection. He will also learn that the northern outfall sewer is a much greater disadvantage to Barking than the sewerage works themselves. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will have a serious talk with his right hon. Friend, particularly after he returns from Barking tomorrow.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)

I want to intervene for only a few moments. I have no particular constituency interest in this horrible sewer, but for a number of years I was chairman of the London County Council committee which was responsible for managing it. I quite agree it is a monstrosity in the district through which it runs. It is big enough to run a lorry through without any trouble.

I am not speaking for the London County Council, of which I am not at the moment a member, but it seems to me that the County Council, which has been paying rates on this structure and so far as I know has made no complaint about doing so, has not consulted any one of its friends in this place on the subject. It has made no complaint about the payment of rates on this sewer, and it seems to me, therefore, that it was a bit unfortunate that the Parliamentary Secretary so curtly turned down this Amendment.

To relieve the sewer of rates will make a very serious difference to the finances of local authorities through whose area it goes. It is true that the L.C.C. has done its best to beautify part of it. In fact, grass is growing over parts of it, but this not merely takes up a lot of land but is a bit of an eyesore. In war time it was a source of trouble, for in West Ham it was hit by a bomb and the place was flooded not with water but with the most filthy sewage one could see anywhere.

In the circumstances, when a building like this is erected above ground—it really is a building—it ought to be subject to rating. I want to plead again for the Minister to reconsider the matter. There has been no difficulty in the past few years in collecting the rates on the sewer, and there should not be any difficulty in future in claiming them if imposing rates on it is permitted.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

The Committee, after hearing the eloquent speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones), will be disappointed at the rather offhand way in which the Minister dealt with this question. It is true, of course, that he expressed sympathy, and it is equally true that he has admitted we have a case. But he failed to accede to the point put by my hon. and learned Friend simply because there was a later case in the House of Lords which, he said, prevented him from accepting the Amendment. We know of that case. It has been the stock argument by his Department for some time. The Town Clerk of West Ham and the West Ham Council know this answer, but that case cannot be used as a serious argument in reply to the points made by my hon. and learned Friend.

My hon. and learned Friend has attempted to deal with facts. The facts are that this particular sewer, if it can be called a sewer because, as my hon. and learned Friend said, it is really a monstrosity, covers a large area, and if it cannot be rated the West Ham Council will lose over 30 acres of rateable land. Not only has the local population to put up with the stench that comes from sewers, but also with an eyesore.

I want to follow up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) in pleading with the Parliamentary Secretary to hold this matter in abeyance until the Minister has had an opportunity of looking at it. He is going to Barking tomorrow, and I hope that he will take the opportunity to see the sewer. We are only asking the Parliamentary Secretary to postpone any decision on this Amendment until next week. Once he has seen it I am sure the Minister will agree that we have a case.

The hon. Member for Oldham, East (Sir I. Horobin), I am very pleased to say, supported us. In West Ham, we all know of the great charitable work that he does there. He has added his words in support of the case we are putting forward, and he bases that support on the fact that he has actually seen this monstrosity. I would say to the Committee that if anyone saw this sewer he would agree that there is a case for this Amendment.

There is one final observation I wish to make. The House and various Government Departments have extended sympathy to us. Yes, we have had lots of sympathy, but we do not get any tangible help. During the war, West Ham lost one-third of its rateable hereditaments, and that number included every type of property. I am not now counting industrial derating which has deprived the rates of West Ham of considerable sums of money, but West Ham is in grave financial difficulties at the moment. It cannot get enough money to meet its normal expenses.

It is now suggested that it should lose £46,000 a year, or the equivalent of 9d. on the rates. All the Minister says is that he is sorry, and that we are only in the same position as some other local authorities. But West Ham is not. It cannot afford to lose £46,000, or a 9d. rate, and I do not see that there is any need. The L.C.C. has been paying this rate and as far as I know it has made no objection. It does not want any alteration. I assume it will be quite happy to continue paying in the same way as it has been doing in the past.

So I would say to the Parliamentary Secretary, even at this late hour, that he should look at this Amendment again and consider what can be done to meet the special need in this instance. He should also ask his right hon. Friend to visit the place when he goes to Barking tomorrow. If he does I am convinced that he will come back impressed with the case we have made, and on the Report stage, will accede to the request made by my hon. and learned Friend.

Mr. Dodds

I should like to support this Amendment so brilliantly moved by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones). All that he has said applies equally to the southern outfall sewer, which is in my constituency at Erith. I am appalled at the statement of the Minister, that the Government could not accept this Amendment. He seemed to argue his case on the difficulties that could result from some other sewer that might be partly underground and partly over-ground, and if what he said is the whole of his case for trying to upset the argument in favour of the L.C.C. continuing to pay rates it is a poor defence.

I also would invite the Parliamentary Secretary to have another look at this, and when he agrees that, of course, this will mean a loss of rates not only to West Ham but to other local authorities, I would ask him to bear in mind that the more local authorities are deprived of rates which, in the normal course, they should have, the more it makes them dependent on Exchequer grants. That is a big point for Erith Borough Council.

Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)

I came into this debate knowing little about it and anxious to hear the arguments on what I realised was a difficult and technical problem. In so far as I have any interest in the matter at all, it is entirely the interest of somebody who pays rates in London and, therefore, would be inclined to be biased against any suggestion for increasing the rate burden on Londoners. On the other hand, it seems to me that the argument deployed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) is an overwhelming one, and I think that that feeling would be shared by most London citizens.

I cannot understand how the Parliamentary Secretary let himself accept a brief which was so thin that it made no serious attempt to meet the point. The Parliamentary Secretary cannot talk about logic, because there is no logic left in valuation and he might as well accept it. The hon. Gentleman started the trouble by derating sewers because, he said, it is difficult to calculate what a hypothetical tenant would pay for the beneficial occupation of a sewer. I can understand that this would be rather difficult. It would be logical to say that no public authority should pay rates at all, or that no social service should pay rates, but we have not taken up either of those two positions. Therefore, it is absurd to take out of rating a structure which is comparable with other structures that have to pay rates and which are also in public ownership.

It is incorrect to argue that this might have the same effect as a window tax. The effect, if any, of putting this into rating would be to put a financial discouragement on sewerage authorities who want to take their sewers overground. That would be an admirable discouragement because, where gravity disposal interferes with the amenities of the neighbourhood, where it is contrary to all aspects of planning then the more it is discouraged the better. However, it cannot be right that there should be an encouragement to authorities to indulge in this obviously undesirable form of drainage, which is what the Government are really proposing.

As a citizen of London, I can only say that it would distress me doubly. I suppose, in a small way, I contribute to the discomfort of my hon. and learned Friend. I would not want to do that without paying for it, and I am sure that all other hon. Members of this Committee who might find themselves in the same position would want to feel that they were paying through their rates for the discomfort they were causing their neighbours. I am sure that this view would be as popular in London as outside, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will think again.

Mr. Mitchison

May I, too, make an appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to reconsider this case? It is undoubtedly the father and mother of all sewers. It requires to be seen or smelled to be believed, but it is not for a mere outsider to attempt to describe it any further. After all, it has two advantages. One is that it has been a fruitful subject of litigation which began a good deal earlier than anybody has so far stated. The other is that it is the only means of support of a number of deserving local authorities. Really, that requires special consideration.

The law about sewers has changed from time to time. Far be it from me to try to expound its history, but there was one period in the middle when, under Welsh influence in the matter of a local authority that began with the letters Istrad —and went on with a number of others which I would not attempt to pronounce in the presence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell); I see that he has just moved away—a distinction was definitely drawn between underground sewers and sewers above the level of the ground.

What has been decided once, even if it is not the law any longer, has some logic about it. The real reason, I suggest, is what my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) has just put forward, that if we put the sewer underground with the Post Office cable and the electric light wire and a host of other hidden things which lie under the streets of London, we are not doing so much harm to the community as is done by erecting this kind of thing to straggle at a height of many feet many miles across London.

5.15 p.m.

Why not make a single specific exception? After all, London has in many matters, including rating, a law of its own. It is a remarkable place. Greater London contains a quarter of the population of this country and if it has all that inside it, then the London outfall will be, within its own tribe, equally remarkable. If we can have special legislation for such a notional object as the London County Council, then why not have it for this patent and obvious horror? It is noticeable that the Parliamentary Secretary did not mention anything about any objection by the London County Council to continuing to pay what it has paid in the past, and no one else has mentioned it. One highly distinguished member of the London County Council supported the continued rating of this sewer——

Mr. Lewis

Will my hon. and learned Friend correct that? Two noteworthy members of the London County Council spoke—the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) as well.

Mr. Mitchison

I beg the pardon of my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings). I forgot that there were two, not one, but I did not say who. In those circumstances, the hon. Gentleman might at least consult the London County Council which, huge as it is, is often generous. He might say, "Look at what you are doing if this is put through" and, with their agreement—or, even taking his courage in his hands in this case, perhaps without it—he could make an exception here.

I make that appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary but, if he cannot see his way to respond to it, we on this side of the Committee feel that this is such an exceptional instance that if it cannot be provided for, though not necessarily in the terms of this Amendment, we shall have to divide the Committee as a protest against the confusion which will be introduced into the finances of the rating authorities concerned, and perhaps as some protest against the apparent encouragement to build smaller but similar horrors in other parts of the country instead of putting the sewers nicely and tidily under the ground, as we ought to have them if we possibly can.

Mr. Lewis

Surely the Minister will respond to this invitation.

Mr. Deedes

One hon. Gentleman said that my earlier reply was cursory to the point of being discourteous, and I rather join issue on that. I had hoped that my reply was at least courteous, even if it did not satisfy the hon. and learned Gentleman.

May I first deal with the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Sir I. Horobin), on the question of the financial arrangements between West Ham and the London County Council. It would be most unwise for me to make any observation about the possible financial arrangements that might be reached between the two authorities——

Mr. Elwyn Jones

That cannot arise.

Mr. Deedes

No, but my hon. Friend mentioned that point.

Mr. Elwyn Jones

If this Bill goes through no question of financial arrangement could arise because there would be no rates payable by the L.C.C.

Mr. Deedes

If the hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me, I was answering the specific point raised by my hon. Friend, which was that, failing this, could there not be some financial arrangement between the two authorities.

Sir I. Horobin

If my hon. Friend will allow me to interrupt, what I put to him was that if he did not want to proceed by way of altering the rate, would he at least answer the point of his observation upon it as to the possibility of getting some result in another way.

Mr. Deedes

In answer to that, I was about to say that I think it would be most unwise and wrong for a Parliamentary Secretary to suggest that there should be any such arrangement between two authorities which, of course, are completely independent.

Mr. Lewis

But will the Parliamentary Secretary listen, because the hon. Member for Oldham, East never suggested any arrangement between two authorities? He asked whether there was any way which the Minister could suggest. My hon. and learned Friend has rightly said that the London County Council could not and would not then be liable for rates. That does not preclude the Minister from saying that he, through the Treasury or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, could make an official grant to the authorities concerned which could be reimbursed. Cannot the Minister answer that?

Mr. Deedes

That is outside the scope of the Bill. Any financial arrangement which might be reached is outside the scope of the Bill, as the hon. Gentleman knows.

A number of things said by hon. Gentlemen opposite would seem to suggest that the case made out so carefully by the hon. and learned Gentleman was absolutely right and that everything which I have said was absolutely wrong. But this sewer has a long history. This is a point about which there has been a great deal of argument and a considerable amount of legal history has been made, as we observed earlier. It is not true to say that obviously——

Mr. Dodds

But is it not a fact that rates are now being obtained, and that, from what the hon. Gentleman is proposing, no rates will be obtained?

Mr. Deedes

To suggest that one or other of the arguments is obviously wrong and the other obviously right, cannot, through the legal history of this thing, be correct.

In response to the arguments which have been advanced, I would say this. Were this a unique situation, and in size this sewer may be unique, it would be very much easier to say, "Yes, we will have to look at it and see whether some special arrangement"——

Mr. Lewis rose——

Mr. Deedes

Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to finish what I was about to say—"whether some special arrangement could be made in respect of this sewer, the like of which does not exist anywhere else, and in respect of which no one can point to anything comparable at all."

I do not think that is so. Several hon. Members have asked me to postpone a decision on this matter until my right hon. Friend has had a chance to see the sewer. My right hon. Friend has a rather heavy programme in Barking tomorrow, and I cannot commit him by accepting any suggestion of that sort. But, in response to the arguments which have been voiced, and without undertaking to do anything at all, I will satisfy myself between now and the next stage of the Bill whether this is an absolutely unique example and with which there is nothing comparable anywhere else in the country. At least I will satisfy myself in that respect, but without undertaking to do anything about it. That is the point left in my mind as a result of the arguments which have been advanced, and I think that it should be decided.

I do not wish to imply to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) that my undertaking will lead to any profitable result. I simply give an undertaking that I will look at the point.

Mr. Lewis

Surely the Minister should have known that before he came into the Chamber. He came prepared to discuss this problem and I should have thought that he would have been properly briefed. My information is that there is no similar sewer in the country. It is 21 feet high above the ground and stretches for many miles. Surely the Minister knows, or he can find out now, whether there are any other sewers similar to this one. Could not he tell us now? If he says that there are, then, of course, we need not wait to hear the result of his consideration. We say that both the northern and the southern outfalls of this sewer are the only ones of which we are aware which are 21 feet high and go like a big mountain for miles through a number of boroughs. We say that this sewer is the only one of its kind. Can the Minister tell us of any other?

Mr. Dodds

In giving this undertaking, I hope the Parliamentary Secretary has in mind that my hon. Friend was referring to the northern outfall. On the other side of the river is the southern outfall, and I take it that the hon. Gentleman was referring to both.

Mr. Elwyn Jones

In the Second Reading debate, nearly a fortnight ago, the

Minister said that he would look into it—

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

He should have dropped into it.

Mr. Elwyn Jones

He has had a fortnight to look into it, and the result has been completely unsatisfactory. I do not wish to be discourteous, but the undertaking given by the Parliamentary Secretary contains no kind of assurance. We attach great importance to this matter. Surely there can be no precedent comparable with this outfall sewer. The Minister has not suggested that there is. I know of no phenomenon compared with it in the length and breadth of the country. Surely it could be excluded by reference to northern and southern outfall sewers by name. In view of the completely unsatisfactory nature of the hon. Gentleman's reply, I do not propose to withdraw the Amendment.

Question put, That those words be there inserted:—

The Commitee divided: Ayes 163, Noes 203.

Division No. 10.] AYES [5.28 p.m.
Ainsley, J. W. Donnelly, D. L. Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, s.)
Albu, A. H. Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) Jones, Jack (Rotherham)
Allaun, F. (Salford, E.) Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Jones J. Idwal (Wrexham)
Alien, Arthur (Bosworth) Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse) Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.
Anderson, Frank Edwards, Robert (Bilston) King, Dr. H. M.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Lawson, G. M.
Bacon, Miss Alice Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Balfour, A. Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury) Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)
Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.) Fletcher, Eric Lewis, Arthur
Benson, G. Gibson, C. W. MacColl, J. E.
Blackburn, F. Greenwood, Anthony McKay, John (Wallsend)
Blenkinsop, A. Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. McLeavy, F.
Boardman, H. Grey, C. F. Mahon, S.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.) Griffiths, William (Exchange) Mallalieu, J. P W. (Huddersfield, E.)
Bowles, F. G. Grimond, J. Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.
Boyd, T. C. Hale, Leslie Mayhew, C. P.
Brockway, A. F. Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.) Mellish, R. J.
Broughton, Dr. A. O. D. Hamilton, W. W. Messer, Sir F.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.) Mitchison, G. R.
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Hastings, S. Morrison, Rt.Hn.Herbert(Lewis'm,S.)
Burton, Miss F. E. Hayman, F. H. Moyle, A.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Healey, Denis Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) Oliver, G. H.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Herbison, Miss M. Oram, A. E.
Champion, A. J. Hobson, C. R. Orbach, M.
Chapman, W. O. Holman, P. Oswald, T.
Clunie, J. Holmes, Horace Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Coldrick, W. Holt, A. F. Pargiter, G. A.
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead) Houghton, Douglas Parker, J.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Parkin, B. T.
Cove, W. G. Howell, Denis (All Saints) Paton, J.
Craddook, George (Bradford, S.) Hubbard, T. F. Pearson, A.
Crossman, R. H. S. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Peart, T. F.
Darling, George (Hillsborough) Hunter, A. E. Popplewell, E.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Irving, S. (Dartford) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Deer, G. Jeger, Mrs. Lena(Holbn & St. Pnes, S.) Proctor, W. T.
de Freitas, Geoffrey Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech(Wakefield) Pursey, Cmdr. H.
Dodds, N. N. Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Reid, William
Robens, Rt. Hon. A. Stones, W. (Consett) Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Strachey, Rt. Hon. J. Wilkins, W. A.
Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall) Willey, Frederick
Ross, William Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.) Williams, Ronald (Wlgan)
Short, E. W. Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Silverman, Julius (Aston) Thomson, George (Dundee, E.) Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)
Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Tomney, F. Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill) Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Skeffington, A. M. Viant, S. P. Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Slater, J. (Sedgefield) Warbey, W. N. Zilliacus, K.
Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.) Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Sparks, J. A. Wheeldon, W. E. Mr. James Johnson and
Stewart, Michael (Fulham) White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint) Mr. John Taylor.
Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R. (Ipswich) White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. Graham, Sir Fergus Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)
Aitken, W. T. Grant, W. (Woodside) Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.
Alport, C. J. M. Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich) Markham, Major Sir Frank
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Green, A. Marshall, Douglas
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Gresham Cooke, R. Maude, Angus
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J. Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.
Armstrong, C. W. Crimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Mawby, R. L.
Ashton, H. Gurden, Harold Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.
Atkins, H. E. Hall, John (Wycombe) Nabarro, G. D. N.
Baldwin, A. E. Hare, Hon. J. H. Nairn, D. L. S.
Balniel, Lord Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Neave, Airey
Barber, Anthony Harris, Reader (Heston) Nield, Basil (Chester)
Barter, John Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon) Nugent, G. R. H.
Baxter, Sir Beverley Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Oakshott, H. D.
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd) O'Neill, Hn. Phelim(Co. Antrim, N.)
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)
Bishop, F. P. Harvie-Watt, Sir George Osborne, C.
Black, C. W. Hay, John Page, R. G.
Boothby, Sir Robert Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)
Bossom, Sir A. C. Heath, Edward Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Boyle, Sir Edward Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Pilkington, Capt. R. A.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Hirst, Geoffrey Pott, H. P.
Brooman-White, R. c. Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry Powell, J. Enoch
Bryan, P. Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Price, David (Eastleigh)
Buohan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Howard, John (Test) Raikes, Sir Victor
Burden, F. F. A. Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Ramsden, J. E.
Campbell, Sir David Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Redmayne, M.
Cary, Sir Robert Hughes-Young, M. H. C. Remnant, Hon. P.
Channon, H. Hurd, A. R. Renton, D. L. M.
Chichester-Clark, R. Hyde, Montgomery Ridsdale, J. E.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H. Rippon, A. G. F.
Cooper-Key, E. M. Iremonger, T. L. Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Roper, Sir Harold
Corfield, Capt. F. V. Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthome) Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Russell, R. S.
Crouch, R. F. Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Johnson, Howard (Kemptown) Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.
Cunningham, S. K. Kaberry, D. Sharpies, Maj. R. C.
Dance, J. C. G. Keegan, D. Shepherd, William
Davidson, Viscountess Kerby, Capt. H. B. Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Kerr, H. W. Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Deedes, W. F. Kershaw, J. A. Speir, R. M.
Digby, S. Wingfield Kirk, P. M. Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Lagden, G. W. Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Doughty, C. J. A. Lambton, Viscount Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Leavey, J. A. Storey, S.
Duthie, W. S. Leburn, W. G. Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir A.(Warwick&L'm'tn) Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Teeling, W.
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Lindsay, Martin (Solihull) Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)
Errington, Sir Eric Linstead, Sir H. N. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Farey-Jones, F. W. Longden, Gilbert Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Fell, A. Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W. Vane, W. M. F.
Finlay, Graeme Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Fletcher-Cooke, C. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vickers, Miss J. H.
Foster, John Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Vosper, D. F.
Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) McLaughlin, Mrs. P. Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale) McLean, Neil (Inverness) Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Freeth, D. K. Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Walker-Smith, D. C.
Gammans, L. D. Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold(Bromley) Wall, Major Patrick
Godber, J. B. Maddan, Martin Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Gower, H. R. Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W.(Horncastle) Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Webbe, Sir H. Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Whitelaw, W.S.I.(Penrith & Border) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Williams, Rt. Hn. Charles (Torquay) Woollam, John Victor Mr. Studholme and Mr. Wills
Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge) Yates, William (The Wrekin)

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Deedes

I beg to move, in page 11, line 21, at the end to insert: (4) There shall not be included in the first new valuation list for any rating area, or in any subsequent list,—

  1. (a) any land which is occupied by a river board or other drainage authority and forms part of a main river for the purposes of Part II of the Land Drainage Act, 1930, or of a watercourse maintained by the authority, or
  2. (b) any structure or appliance maintained by a river board or other drainage authority, being a structure or appliance for controlling or regulating the flow of water in, into or out of a watercourse which forms part of a main river for the purposes of the said Part II or is maintained by the authority; and no such land, structure or appliance shall in the case of any rating area be liable to be rated, or to be included in any rate, for any rate period beginning on or after the date on which the first new valuation list for that area comes into force:
Provided that nothing in this subsection shall confer any exemption in respect of any right of fishing or shooting which (apart from this subsection) constitutes a separate hereditament for rating purposes. In this subsection "drainage authority" and "watercourse" have the same meanings as in the Land Drainage Act, 1930. This Amendment would exempt from rating water courses and pumping stations which are occupied by river boards and other land drainage authorities. It applies very largely to the large area covered by the Fens. Most of these water courses are used for the drainage of such areas. There are hundreds of miles of these artificial drains and water courses in such areas and, connected with them, are a hundred or more pumping stations.

Although they are rateable as the law stands, the practice in the past has been to assess very few, and then only nominally. We have had no objection by local authorities or by ratepayers to excluding most of these properties from rating. To rate these properties at the full value, which would be inevitable if they were to be rated at all, would be to increase the rates payable by the drainage authorities, and those rates would be passed on to occupiers of property in the area and, in the long run, would be of very small advantage to anyone.

I should stress that the Amendment makes it clear that the exemption does not extend to fishing or shooting rights. It is confined to the water courses and the machinery needed for them. I hope that the Committee will accept the Amendment.

Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

For once, I shall have the good fortune of congratulating and thanking the Government for an Amendment. We have been discussing a most contentious matter, which obviously gave rise to great heat, but I assure my hon. Friend that this Amendment will be very widely welcomed indeed in the area which it is most intended to affect. We ought to realise that the whole principle of our rating system needs tidying up. My hon. Friend said that very few of these pumping stations were at present rated. My information is just to the contrary. Many of them, certainly in the Isle of Ely, are rated. It is rather ludicrous that one should rate the farmer from whose farm the water is drained by a board and then make the board pay rates to another rating authority. There is very little sense in that, and it is high time this change was made. I thank my hon. Friend very much.

Mr. Mitchison

I wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary can give me an assurance on one point, which was probably covered by what he said but which, I understand, has been troubling the water boards a little. It is whether the language about …structure or appliance for controlling or regulating the flow of water… really covers a pump.

That does not seem quite the best way of describing the pump. If, as I understand, the hon. Gentleman is anxious to include pumping stations and pumps, will he look at the matter and assure himself that this is clearly done and, if there is any doubt, remove it? Subject to that, I think that my right hon. and hon. Friends all agree with me that we see no objection whatever and, indeed, considerable advantage in this Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Skeffington

I should be grateful if the Parliamentary Secretary could look at the words "(outside London)" in line 9 and the words "(in London)" in line 11 of Clause 7. I have been asked by the London County Council to raise the matter, because in its view the words in brackets are superfluous and if the Clause remains in this form they may give rise to considerable doubt in future.

It seems clear that if the two classes of sewers referred to are defined by the Public Health Act, 1936, and the Public Health (London) Act, 1936, then the words in brackets may be unnecessary. Some doubt and anxiety is felt because the London County Council, by virtue of its powers and obligations under the Public Health Act, 1936, does construct sewers outside its boundaries, usually to connect them with sewage disposal works. The fact that the sewers are outside the boundaries of London makes the County Council feel that in future they might be regarded as if they were classes of sewers to which the rating exemptions did not apply.

It might be considered that they do not come within the Public Health (London) Act, because they are constructed outside the county boundary. I do not want to take the time of the Committee. Perhaps between now and Report the Minister could consider whether the words in brackets to which I have referred might with safety be left out.

Mr. Deedes

The definitions in the two Acts are worded differently. I am advised that the practical difference, if there be any, appears to be very small indeed. Possible confusion might arise by applying the two definitions in London or in the Provinces where, in each place, only one has been recognised for a long number of years. I will have another look at the point, though I am advised that it is not of great consequence.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.