HC Deb 19 July 1961 vol 644 cc1263-78

Lords Amendment: In page 5, line 8, at end insert new Clause A:

(1) The following provisions of this section shall have effect for the purpose of ascertaining the gross value of a hereditament in cases where it falls to be ascertained by reference to the rent payable in respect of that or some other hereditament (hereinafter referred to as the standard hereditament) and either or both the following conditions are fulfilled, that is to say, the rent of the standard hereditament is partly attributable to the provision by the landlord of services in relation to that hereditament (including the repair, maintenance or insurance of premises not forming part of that hereditament) or the tenant, in addition to the rent, contributes towards the cost of any such services.

(2) Where the rent of the standard hereditament is partly attributable to the provision by the landlord of such services, the sum falling to be deducted from that rent for the said purpose as being the amount attributable to the provision of those services shall not include any amount in respect of—

  1. (a) any profit made, or which might be expected to be made, by the landlord in providing those services;
  2. (b) the cost of repairs to, and maintenance and insurance of, premises not forming part of that hereditament.

(3) Where the tenant of the standard hereditament, in addition to the rent,

  1. (a) makes payments to the landlord in consideration of the landlord undertaking to provide any such services in relation to that hereditament; or
  2. (b) otherwise contributes (directly or indirectly and whether in pursuance of an undertaking to do so or not) to the cost of repairing, maintaining or insuring other premises not forming part of that hereditament but belonging to or occupied by the landlord, being premises which the landlord has not undertaken to repair, maintain or insure, as the case may be;
the rent shall for the purpose of ascertaining gross value be treated as increased by the amount of the payments or other contributions made by the tenant or, where those amounts vary from time to time, by a sum which on a proper estimate equals the average annual amount so paid or contributed.

(4) Nothing in the foregoing subsection shall be taken to prejudice any right to make a deduction from the rent of a hereditament, for the purpose of ascertaining gross value, in respect of services provided by the landlord or other matters.

(5) Any reference in the foregoing provisions of this section to premises includes a reference to any plant or machinery which by virtue of section twenty-four of the Act of 1925 is treated as part of those premises for rating purposes or would be so treated if those premises were a rateable hereditament.

(6) In the definition of "gross value" in section sixty-eight of the Act of 1925, the proviso (which provides that no account shall be taken of the value of services provided by the landlord and which has become unnecessary) shall cease to have effect.

(7) An alteration in a valuation list made in pursuance of a proposal made for the purpose of giving effect to any of the foregoing provisions of this section, being an alteration which would by virtue of subsection (1) of section forty-two of the Act of 1948 (alterations retrospective to beginning of current rate period) be deemed to have had effect as from a date before the passing of this Act, shall be deemed to have had effect as from the passing of this Act."

4.21 p.m.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Mr. Henry Brooke)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

This is a substantial Amendment. This new Clause is necessary to remove an anomaly in the law which has been revealed by a decision of the Lands Tribunal on an appeal by the Peachey Property Corporation. If, following that Lands Tribunal decision, the law were left unchanged it would mean that occupiers of flats would get an unfair advantage in their rating, and all other ratepayers, notably the occupiers of houses, would have to pay more rates because of the extra relief enjoyed by the flats.

I think that I should explain to the House that in the case of a block of flats there are four stages in the process of determining their rateable value. First, the rents of all individual flats are aggregated. Then, from that aggregate, the cost of any services provided by the landlord is deducted. That is the second stage. The third stage is to reapportion that amount among the flats so as to arrive at the gross value of each individual flat. Finally, a deduction on a statutory scale is made from gross value to net annual value to take account of repairs, maintenance, and so forth.

The question at issue is what it is permissible to deduct at the second stage. In 1940, at which time there was no statutary scale of deductions for flats in London, though there was in the provinces, the Court of Appeal decided in a London case, the Bell Property Trust case, that the cost of repairs and maintenance of the common parts of a block of flats—that is staircases, corridors, lifts, and so forth—could be deducted at the second stage. That case was decided not under the present law, but under the Valuation (Metropolis) Act, 1869.

When the Rating and Valuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1955, came along it assimilated the law in London with the law in the rest of the country as regards ascertainment of net annual value from gross value, except perhaps that there were slightly different statutory scales of deduction, but that is neither here nor there so far as this new Clause is concerned. It has always been the belief of the Government that the 1955 Act brought to an end the curious arrangement established in London, though not in the provinces, by the 1940 decision of the Court of Appeal, and the Valuation Office has done its valuing accordingly.

The Lands Tribunal, however, has now ruled on an appeal relating to the same block of flats in London that the 1940 decision still applies. In other words, the 1955 Act is not effective, as the Government always thought it was, to alter the 1940 decision.

The purpose of this Clause, which, I should make clear, is in no way retrospective, is to establish that from the coming into force of the Bill the law shall be as the Government believed it to be from 1956 onwards and as the valuers believed it to be when making the 1956 valuation lists which are still in force. If we did not introduce this new Clause the effect would be that the owners of a block of flats could deduct from the gross rental the cost of repairs and maintenance to roofs, staircases, corridors, lifts, access drives, and so forth, and then make a second deduction from the gross value of each individual flat according to the percentage scale.

But, of course, the rents of the flats are partly and, indeed, largely determined by the fact that the block as a whole has staircase's, lifts, corridors, an access path, or drive, and so forth. One would not get much rent for a flat on the tenth storey if there were no lift, and it is to a gross value related to the full rent that the percentage deduction is applied. In fact, the law as it stands, as determined by the Lands Tribunal, gives a twofold deduction in respect of some of the necessary repair and maintenance work. That cannot possibly be fair in relation to the ordinary householder, who gets only the simple percentage deduction on the rental value of his house.

I could give more details of the unfairnesses if the House desired it, but the sole purpose of the Clause is to put beyond doubt that from the coming into operation of the Bill the deduction from gross value to net annual value in the case of flats will be on the same basis as in the case of houses. There are consequential Amendments to page 22, line 15, and page 36, line 35.

I am sorry that I did not have this now Clause ready in time to introduce at an earlier stage in this House. I gather that some suspicions have been raised that we were trying to smuggle it through in another place. The simple truth is that consideration of the implications of the Lands Tribunal decision took some time, as did the drafting of the Clause. We had quite a lot to do, with the Housing Bill on our hands at the same time as this Bill, and maybe I was negligent in not hurrying on the drafting of this Clause sufficiently.

We did not have it ready in time, and for that I can only express my apologies; but I am sure that Parliament ought not to let the Bill reach the Statute Book with this obvious defect in the law uncorrected.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

So far as the Minister is personally concerned, no one would hesitate for a moment to accept his apologies. But the timetable requires a little more explanation than that. As he explained to the House, valuations have been carried out on a given basis, in effect on the basis sought to be introduced by this Amendment, for many years past. The Lands Tribunal decision in the case to which the right hon. Gentleman referred was given on 21st September, 1960, and the report which I have before me appeared a few days later, on 8th October, 1960.

The Bill reached its Report stage in this House on 10th May, 1961, and, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman had well over six months in which to appreciate the effect of a decision and to prepare a suitable Clause. I am not attacking him personally, but I am saying that he and his Department really ought to do better than that. The Department must have appreciated it long before 10th May, 1961.

4.30 p.m.

What was the next stage? On 18th May, 1961, eight days after the Report stage, the right hon. Gentleman was asked a pertinent question by one of his hon. Friends—whether it was one of those questions which he had asked to be asked, I cannot tell—and he explained that the new Clause was to be introduced in another place. It was so introduced. But it is too much to have a matter of this sort left to another place, where it involves a question of privilege, and neglected here when, after all, we were a very long time in Committee on this matter and the Bill as a whole did not leave the Report stage until 10th May, the decision in question having been given on the previous 21st September. It is far too long a gap. The Ministry must wake up in matters of this sort. It is really too bad to have it brought in in this way.

I shall not make any objection to the new Clause. In my view, there is a good deal to be said for it. But let us suppose that it had been a matter which involved some question of amendment or other detailed questions. It would be most inconvenient to have it brought forward in the form of a Lords Amendment for consideration here. I trust that the Ministry will wake up. We all know the enormous and varied tasks which it has to face. We appreciate that. Nevertheless, this kind of thing must stop, even if it means going a little slowly over other legislation, as the right hon. Gentleman might well have done in connection with some of the past Statutes he has introduced.

On the merits of the matter, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the effect of leaving the law as it is at present would he that householders would have one deduction in respect of, say, an access road while flat holders would have two deductions. Obviously, no one ought to allow them to have two deductions. But the two deductions are not by any means as clear as all that. The first deduction is the one it is sought to stop now. The second one is said to be found in the statutory deductions, the fractional or percentage deduction which is allowed for rating purposes now in London, as it always has been, as far as I know, in the provinces. It is the inclusion of that statutory deduction which, I think, has given rise to a certain amount of trouble.

The real question seems to be this. When looking at flats for rating purposes, does one include in the flat itself the staircase and the lift outside? There was authority before the Bell case—I need not go into it now—for saying that one did include the whole thing, the part, share or interest—call it what one likes—in the staircase and in the lift. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the rent would not be so high if there were no lift. I go a little further and say that, if there were no staircase, the rent would be even lower.

It is really absurd that matters should have got into the position in which they appeared to be at the time of the Lands Tribunal decision. I do not think that we are called upon to inquire how far there was any error in that decision, in the Bell decision or in other matters; but, clearly, it is right to put the flat holder and the householder in a similar position, and that is what the new Clause in the Lords Amendment is intended to do. So far as I can judge, it does that and no more.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

Of course, I accept my right hon. Friend's apologies for the late arrival of the new Clause in the form of this Lords Amendment, but I think it was quite right of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) to point out the difficulties in which we are placed by an Amendment of this nature arriving at such a late stage, especially after a great deal of time had been spent on the Bill in Committee. I did not have the privilege of serving on the Committee myself, but I read the OFFICIAL REPORTS of the proceedings in a hospital bed and I noticed that on many occasions my right hon. Friend or the Parliamentary Secretary, in dealing with constructive Amendments or new Clauses put forward, said that there would be another Bill later in which such matters could be included. Yet, at this late stage, my right hon. Friend brings forward a new Clause of this sort which has caused a great deal of consternation among flat dwellers and flat owners.

My right hon. Friend said that the new Clause was to do away with an anomaly. I do not think that there is any anomaly in the present law. He said that it was to bring about fairness between the rating of flats and the rating of houses. I do not think that there is any unfairness. The point is quite simple. In order to ascertain the gross value of a flat, one takes the actual rent and deducts from it the cost of services. It has been recognised for generations that that is the way to assess, first, the gross value and, thence, the rateable value of a flat. In 1953, that was slightly amended. The Act then said that, in deducting the value of the services, one should not deduct the profits which the landlord makes out of those services; one left those as part of the gross value of the flats.

Now, by this new Clause, there is a further change, that, when deducting the cost of the services, one shall not deduct in future the cost of repairs to, and maintenance and insurance of, premises not forming part of the hereditament". There is a point which my right hon. Friend has not entirely cleared up. This, of course, is recognised as an alteration of the law as decided in what I call for convenience the Peachey case in September last. That law had already been decided in the Bell Property case in 1939. Valuers of dwelling houses are at present required to value on the basis of 1939 values, until we come to 1963 when the valuation will be on current values.

At present, in valuing dwelling houses, including flats, a valuer takes the 1939 value. He must, therefore, take the law as it was understood in 1939 and has been understood until this Amendment. I would like my right hon. Friend to confirm that, so far as present valuations are concerned, there will be no change in what I call the Peachey law, the law as decided in the Peachey case, that valuers will take the value of flats as in 1939, with the law as it was understood to be, and indeed was, at that time.

What will the new Clause do when we come to 1963? In what way will it affect values at that time? I gather that it will not cause any alteration in values as they appear on the valuation lists at present. I understand that valuers have been valuing on this basis set out in the new Clause since 1956, assuming that that was the law, and not until September last did they realise that it was not the law. Therefore, valuations are already made on the basis of the new Clause, which I say is wrong because the law was settled by the Peachey case and should continue to be so until 1963; indeed, despite this new Clause it will remain so until 1963. That involves, therefore, the alteration—should owners of flats desire to put in proposals for alteration—of all valuation lists relating to flats. I believe that any flat dweller has the right to do that now. He has this right because the law is as it was in 1939 and the valuers are required to value on the basis of 1939 values.

What will happen eventually under this Clause is that we shall take into account, in ascertaining the gross value of flats, the cost of the services of access to the flats. Perhaps it might assist the House if we look for a moment at the items which were claimed by the valuation officer for inclusion in the gross value in the Peachey case and which the valuer for the owners of the flats denied should be included. These are the sort of things which will be now included under this new Clause.

There is, first, the upkeep of roads—and I presume that means access roads to the block of flats. A dwelling-house is not assessed on the cost of upkeep of a road or access road, so where is the unfairness in the present law between flat dwellers and house dwellers in these circumstances? Further items which will now be included are decorations of stairs and passages, fire extinguishers, depreciation of fittings, repairs to common parts, and repairs to lifts, boilers, plant, and baggage rooms, and special perils insurance. These are the items which the valuer in the Peachey case had excluded and which the valuation officer introduced as part of the gross value. That will be the effect of this Clause.

Mr. Mitchison

It is worse than that. The hon. Member has forgotten the roads and the boilers. They are lower down in the list.

Mr. Page

I think the hon. and learned Gentleman will find that I did mention those items. Perhaps he was studying the case a little too fully when I was speaking. Repairs to the lifts and boilers, and also insurance, are included. I cannot see the unfairness in the present valuation as between flats and dwelling-houses. It seems to me that the flats have properly been valued prior to 1956 on their true rental values. It has always been accepted that the cost of services are excluded and that the cost of the services in the nature of access to the flats, whether by stairs, lifts or access roads, should be excluded. I cannot help protesting not only about the time at which this Clause has been presented to us but against the contents of the Clause itself.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)

There is a point of principle here. Anyone who has listened to the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) must agree that it is rather a complex subject. I believe that I am right in saying that this new Clause will apply to the valuations coming into force in 1963 and will not affect the position of flats at the moment.

I would have thought that it was not essential for this new Clause to be placed on the Statute Book this month. It would have been practicable to introduce amending legislation next Session. The procedure of introducing a new Clause in this way makes it very difficult for hon. Members to study it carefully before it is approved.

I do not want to do the right hon. Gentleman an injustice, but I ask whether any mention was made, during the earlier stages of the Bill in this House, of the intention to introduce such a new Clause in another place. I do not recollect any such mention, but, if there was, no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will correct me.

I should have thought that, as a general principle, where we have a complex sub- ject such as this, and where an amendment to the law is to be introduced arising out of a decision of the courts, it would be preferable to bring this about by an amending Bill. I join with the hon. Member for Crosby in a somewhat mild protest against this procedure.

Mr. John Barter (Ealing, North)

The law relating to rating and valuation is not one of those most calculated to inspire entrancing emotions, except on the occasion when the ratepayer comes to pay his bill. This Measure is likely to inspire their emotion some considerable time in the future, but we should not miss the opportunity to refer to it today.

I shall not join with my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) in dealing with the legal intricacies of the subject. I prefer to concentrate on what I feel may be the effect. The effect indisputably will be that the rates of blocks of flats and offices will be higher than they would have been if this new Clause had not been introduced today. That is not to say that they would have been higher than at the present time, because valuers have been operating under a misconception for a considerable time, and we are proposing to pass now a whitewashing provision to enable them to catch up with something which they have been doing for a considerable time.

This does not alter the fact, however, that in 1963, when there is envisaged as being a fairly substantial revaluation, the effect on large blocks of flats and offices wild be substantially adverse as compared with the effect on small blocks of flats and residential hereditaments of the single house nature.

Mr. Mitchison

If the valuers have been proceeding on a basis which differs from the Land Tribunal's decision, then, assuming the decision to be right, they were working on the wrong basis, but it will be the right basis if we pass this new Clause. There will be no difference in 1963.

Mr. Barter

I take the hon. and learned Gentleman's point, and I am inclined to agree with him. I was coming to refer to the position which will obtain in 1963, when revaluation takes place, the effect of that revaluation on the common parts of a block of flats, and the additional load which will be placed on people who live in flats.

I appreciate that the constant effort of anybody dealing with rating and valuation is to try to achieve a state of equity between the occupier of one hereditament and the occupier of another. I can see, as my right hon. Friend has said, that the desire must be to try to equate the rate demand as between somebody living in a house and somebody living in a flat, when both have exactly the same type of amenities, facilities, and accommodation.

I have very little reason for disagreeing with him about that, except in one respect to which I hope he will give consideration. We may be discussing this issue tomorrow. It is generally in our interests to encourage the development of flats to a certain extent in order to make the best use of scarce available land. While a policy decision of that type may not be an adequate reason for variation in rating law, at least it might be said that in a house it is not always necessary to provide access to the main part of the house, the stairs are part of the house, enabling one to go from downstairs to upstairs, and it is not necessary to provide access to the front door, which is itself rateable, and it is not necessary in the average house in single occupation to provide a lift. But if one has a five-storey block of flats, the provision of a lift becomes, or is regarded as, a necessity. If the most economic use of a limited supply of land is to be made, this is a matter which my right hon. Friend might well consider.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby, I accept the Minister's observations, but my main complaint is about the method of introducing the new Clause. To say the least, it was unreasonable to introduce it at this late stage, after we had proceeded at length through the Committee and Report stages, and, when, on many occasions, we had heard from my right hon. Friend that in his experience Measures dealing with rating and valuation were introduced with great frequency and that there would be other opportunities to deal with other desirable reforms which might be suggested. The same observation might well have been applied to my right hon. Friend's own proposal on this occasion.

There has undoubtedly been a feeling that the Amendment was introduced at this stage in the hope that not too much notice would be taken of it. However, I can assure my right hon. Friend that much notice has been taken. I have some fears about its effects. While we may have varying views about the degree of reservation which owners of flats have placed on their natural desire to put up their rents in the past, I fear that those who have exercised restraint, and there are many of them, may now feel themselves less under control in view of the Government's action.

They might have felt that argument less powerfully if adequate time had been given for consideration of the change of principle which is now before us. I offer that not as a threat, but as an observation, viewing the prospect with considerable concern. I hope that this matter will be carefully considered by my right hon. Friend, along with other observations made this afternoon.

Mr. Brooke

I speak again by leave of the House. Several hon. Members have said that the Government ought to have done better with their timing. I accept that. I have already expressed my apologies, and I take personal responsibility for my own fault in not making certain that the new Clause was drafted in time.

The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) said that he agreed with the purpose of the new clause, but my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) did not agree. I cannot go as far as he did when he said that the Clause had caused consternation among flat dwellers. A large part of my constituency consists of flat dwellers, so much so that I ought almost to declare an interest in the new Clause, as I occupy a house. But up to the present, I have not received a single communication from any of my constituents who dwell in flats. It is rather those who own the blocks of flats who are disappointed—naturally disappointed and I do not criticise them in that respect—about the Government's decision not to allow the Peachey decision to stand.

My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby asked what the valuers had been doing. The valuers have been valuing on what they and the Government believed the law to be from 1956 onwards and what it will be if the Clause is accepted. It is not the case that the law had already been decided in 1940. What the Bell decision in the Court of Appeal meant was that in London, and only in London under the Valuation (Metropolis) Act, 1869, certain deductions could be made at what I have described as the second stage. Nobody had ever decided that that was the law outside London, and what the Government believed they were doing in the 1956 legislation was to assimilate the law in London to the law in the provinces. But the Lands Tribunal has now decided otherwise.

My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby asked whether the valuers had been very wrong in their valuations, in that they were required to value according to 1939 values, and he submitted, to take the law as it stood in 1939. That is not the case. They must clearly value for the purposes of the 1956 valuation lists according to the 1955 law. The Bell decision was given in the Court of Appeal in 1940. In June, 1939, the general belief about the state of the law was the opposite to the Bell decision, because in 1939 the Divisional Court decided in the opposite way. There was an appeal to the Court of Appeal against the judgment of the Divisional Court. That is the situation and valuers have been valuing according to what they and the Government believed the law to be.

The meaning of the 1955 Act has now been settled by the Lands Tribunal decision in the Peachey case. The hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) suggested that if Parliament agreed to the new Clause, the Peachey decision would stand until 1963 and the new Clause would operate from April, 1963, when the valuation lists come into force. That is not the case. The new Clause will operate from the passing of the Bill and the Peachey interpretation of the 1955 Act will cease as from that date.

Mr. Graham Page

Does that mean that the Peachey case law will stand for the valuation lists from 1956 until now, so that, if they have been valued on the basis of this Clause, the owners would have the right to have their valuations amended?

Mr. Brooke

That is perfectly true. The Peachey case is settled law as it is at present. The law will be changed on the passing of the Bill.

Mr. Mitchison

Does it follow that anyone has any rights to have the valuation amended, as the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) has suggested? Surely the position is that they are the valuation lists and the effect now is to prevent anybody putting in a proposal to alter them in accordance with the Peachey decision, but the Clause will not give anyone any rights to get any remedy in respect of the past.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Brooke

The hon. and learned Gentleman knows that the proposal does not go back before the beginning of the year in question.

Mr. Barter

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that the fact is that the Peachey decision will operate for the first part of 1961 and that the new law will operate for the last part of the year 1961 and 1962? Would he not, in these circumstances, advise all flat owners, in the interests of their tenants, to put in an appeal for the first part of 1961 now?

Mr. Brooke

Far be it for me to start advising people what they should do, but, as I said, the law will be the law according to Peachey up to the time when the Bill reaches the Statute Book and then the law will be according to this new Clause which we have received from another place.

Though I have seen the suggestion in the Press and elsewhere that this will mean an immediate increase in the assessments of blocks of flats, that is not so, of course. The only ones which will be likely to have an immediate increase are those which have been already reduced as a result of the Peachey decision, but, in general, the blocks of flats will remain entirely unchanged from now till April, 1963. From April, 1963, onwards they will be valued in accordance with the new valuation lists.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Barter) expressed the fear that this alteration in the Bill might discourage the building of flats. I really do not believe that those who build flats will have their intentions turned one way or the other by the relatively small alteration in the assessments which will be put on the flats as a result of what we are doing today.

Finally, my hon. Friend wondered whether it had been my private hope that this Clause might slip through without notice. Certainly not. It is far too important a matter for that. I am sure that my hon. Friend will accept my word for this, that there was nothing of that sort in my mind at all. This was quite clearly a material change in the law which required the attention of both Houses of Parliament, and I certainly do not criticise at all the fact that this House has wished to devote the best part of an hour to debating it today.

Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)

May I ask my right hon. Friend just one question? As he says that this Lords Amendment is brought in to equalise the rate burden between flats and houses, if it is subsequently shown that it is inequitable for the flats will he bring in amending legislation?

Mr. Brooke

I cannot give any firm answer to that, but I am always watching the application of the Rating and Valuation Acts, and I remember that it frequently fell to me, in Standing Committee, to remind the Committee that we do have a Rating and Valuation Act about six times in every eight years.

Mr. Mitchison

I wonder whether I may have the leave of the House to say a word or two more? It will not be more than that. First, I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that what we are really doing here is to adjust the rate burden as between householders and the people whom I call flatholders. That is what really it comes to. If, therefore, those who live in flats have to pay more rates, then, other things being equal, those who live in houses will have to pay less rates.

Secondly, I think that we ought to be quite clear about the present position. A most ingenious attempt, if I may say so, was made not by the right hon. Gentleman himself, but by some of his hon. Friends to suggest that there was a claim in respect of the present lists where valuation officers have not followed the Bell decision because they thought that the 1955 Act had altered the position.

I am not here to criticise the Lands Tribunal decision in the Peachey case, though I think that there is a certain amount of doubt about it, and, of course, that is not a court of record, but, be that as it may, assuming that it was the correct decision, none the less those were the lists in force at the time, those are the lists in force now, and if the law is altered it gives no one any right to claim anything back in respect of the lists which were made before the alteration. All it does, as I see it, is to prevent any one from succeeding in proposals now to alter the law in accordance with the Peachey decision. That will be the effect of passing this Clause.

Let us try to save useless litigation—I am sure that the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) will agree with me here—by not suggesting to people for a minute that the flat owners or flat occupants are to get anything back because a majority, at any rate, of the valuation officers proceeded on what they and what the Government thought to be the law and conceived that the 1955 Act had made the alteration which, in fact, is now being made by this new Clause.

If I have misstated the position I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will correct me in the public interest. I do not believe that I have, and I think that that was substantially what he was after himself. That is all I wanted to say, but I think that it ought to be said, because it is all very well to have a bit of fun in this House, but we do not want to get people into unnecessary trouble and unnecessary litigation about what is really a tolerably fair point.

Question put and agreed to. [Special Entry.]

Lords Amendment: In page 5, line 45, at the end, to insert new Clause B.