HC Deb 30 June 1955 vol 543 cc613-6

(1) Where a period for which (apart from this section) water rates to which this section applies would be charged by statutory water undertakers is a period of twelve months beginning on or after the first day of January and before the end of the month of June in a calender year which includes the date of the coming into force of new valuation lists, the undertakers may, if they so determine, charge those rates by making a water rate for each of two successive periods (in this section referred to as "the first special period" and "the second special period" respectively).

(2) This section applies to any water rates calculated by reference to values as shown in valuation lists

(3) Where statutory water undertakers exercise the power conferred by subsection (1) of this section—

  1. (a) the first special period shall be a period beginning with the date of commencement of the period of twelve months referred to in that subsection, and ending not later than the end of the month of September next following that date, and, subject to the preceding provisions of this paragraph, shall be a period of three, six or nine months, as the undertakers may determine, and
  2. (b) the second special period shall be the balance of the said period of twelve months.

(4) For the purposes of a water rate made for the first special period, where that period begins on or after the date on which the new valuation lists come into force, those lists shall be treated as not having come into force, and the valuation lists in force immediately before that date shall be treated as continuing in force until the end of that period.

(5) Subject to the following provisions of this section, any statutory provisions which apply to water rates to which this section applies, and would (apart from this section) have had effect in relation to such water rates charged for the period mentioned in subsection (1) of this section, shall have the like effect in relation to water rates made in accordance with this section.

(6) Where by any such statutory provisions the maximum or minimum amount of a water rate, or of the rate poundage for the purpose of calculating a water rate, is prescribed (otherwise than in such terms as to be reducible proportionately when applied to a period of less than twelve months) that maximum or minimum amount shall, for the purposes of a water rate made for the first or second special period, be treated as reduced in proportion to the difference between the duration of the special period in question and a full period of twelve months.

{7) Where in accordance with any such statutory provisions water rates are payable by half-yearly instalments, and either the first special period or the second special period is a period of three months or of nine months, the undertakers may require the water rate for that period—

  1. (a) if the period is a period of three months, to be paid by a single payment, or
  2. (b) if the period is a period of nine months, to be paid either by three quarterly instalments or by one half-yearly and one quarterly instalment, as the undertakers may determine.

(8) In this section "statutory water undertakers" has the same meaning as in the Water Act, 1945, and "statutory provisions" means provisions contained in an enactment (including a local enactment) or contained in an instrument having effect by virtue of an enactment. In this subsection "local enactment" means a local or private Act of Parliament or an order confirmed by Parliament or brought into operation in accordance with special parliamentary procedure.—[Mr. Walker-Smith.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

The length and complexity of statutory provisions are relative matters, and in normal circumstances my new Clause. with its eight subsections, would probably appear to present a rather discouraging aspect, but compared with the new Clause which we have just added to the Bill, the new Clause of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), this is a gratifyingly, or at any rate a relatively, short and simple Clause.

It makes provision for water rates in connection with new valuation lists. Water rates, as the Committee knows, are normally based on rateable values. The effect of the new Clause is, by subsection (2), confined to that category of cases. In many cases—I think probably most cases—the water rate has to be made for the full year, but water rate years of different water undertakings begin on varying dates. In those circumstances the coming revaluation will present two difficulties.

The first difficulty is where the water rate begins in the first quarter of the year, between January and March. Under the existing law those water rates will have to be based on the old rateable values until 1957; that is to say, of course, long after the new valuation list is in operation. The other difficulty present, so to speak, the converse case, that is to say, where the water rate begins in the second quarter of the year, April to June. There the water rates must in law be based on the new rateable values, but in practice the water undertakers may not have time to adjust their rates and issue their demands in accordance with the rateable values.

That being so, the new Clause provides, by subsections (1) and (3), that water undertakers be empowered to divide their year into two special periods, of which the first can be 3, 6 or 9 months. provided only that it ends not later than 30th September, and the second is, of course, the balance of the twelve-month period.

By the new Clause, the old values are to apply to the first period and the new ones to the second. This flexibility will ease the difficulties of water undertakers in this matter and enable water rates to be brought into convenient and appropriate relationship with the new rateable values.

Mr. Deedes

I hope the Committee will feel able to accept the new Clause which has been moved by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Mr. Walker-Smith). It is a fair arrangement, and there is only one point to which I should like to call the attention of the Committee, as it involves the finances of the water undertakers.

I should like to remind the Committee that all these undertakings are responsible statutory bodies, and that there is no reason to suppose that, after revaluation, they will seek to obtain a greater income from consumers than they need. Indeed. they are subject to special provisions of the Water Act, whereby, on application by local consumers, my right hon. Friend can, if necessary, make orders to alter the rates and charges which may be levied.

I think the Committee will agree that that is a safeguard against anything conceivably going wrong with the arrangement provided by this new Clause, and, in these circumstances, I hope the Committee will feel able to accept the new Clause.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.