(1) If it appears to the rating authority that part of a hereditament included in the valuation list is unoccupied but will remain so for a short time only, the authority may request the valuation officer to apportion the rateable value of the hereditament between the occupied and unoccupied parts; and if the apportionment made by the valuation officer is agreed by the authority and the occupier, then, as from—
(2) This section shall not apply in relation to any hereditament of which the owner (within the meaning of section eleven of the Act of 1925) is rated or has undertaken to pay the rates instead of the occupier, but shall apply in relation to a hereditament the owner of which has undertaken to collect on behalf of the rating authority the rates due from the occupier.—[Sir K. Joseph.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ 11.15 p.m.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.
This new Clause is in fulfilment of an undertaking given by my right hon. Friend to my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) who in the Standing Committee suggested that the Government would do well to look at a Section in a Birmingham Act providing a convenient way of splitting the valuation of a hereditament, part of which becomes vacant but for which the vacancy is expected to be temporary, by a shorter method than the rather long-winded, complex method of making a proposal and claim for a void for that part of the hereditament which is temporarily vacant. This new Clause achieves this object in a rather shorter method than that in the Birmingham Act, and I will explain it briefly to the House.
The position is particularly appropriate where, for instance, in a shop and office combined or a shop and dwellinghouse combined, either the shop or dwellinghouse is temporarily vacant, or in an office block rated as a single hereditament where one or more suites of offices are temporarily vacant. Under the present position generally the ratepayer who wishes to claim the void allowance has to make a proposal establishing a new hereditament for the empty part, and then has to claim the void allowance when that new hereditament has been established as a separate rateable entity. All this takes a considerable amount of time, and the new Clause proposes to establish a short cut.
The House will see that the new Clause leaves the initiative in the matter to the rating authority. Of course, any ratepayer can suggest to the rating authority that a case exists for using the short cut. If the rating authority will not use the short cut proposed, then the ratepayer is not prejudiced, because he can use, as now, the present proposal procedure. If the rating authority is satisfied 1550 that the part empty is only likely to be empty temporarily, then it can use the procedure laid down here. The procedure laid down is that the valuation officer apportions the hereditament as to part occupied, as to part unoccupied, and he bases the valuation upon the part which is still occupied. His valuation, to be effective by this short-cut procedure, must be agreed by both the rating authority and by the occupier, and if all parties agree that valuation proposed by the valuation officer, then the rates are paid on the value apportioned for the occupied part.
Subsection (2) of the Clause denies the use of this Clause to an owner who is compulsorily compounded for rates or to an owner who voluntarily undertakes to pay rates and to bear the risk of any vacancy of any of the hereditament, but the owner who voluntarily undertakes only to collect the rates and undertakes no risk of emptiness of any of the hereditament can make use of the Clause.
As a corollary of this, later in the Bill it is proposed to repeal that part of the Birmingham Act which in a rather longer fashion achieved the same object. My right hon. Friend has consulted the City of Birmingham and I understand that it is agreeable to this.
§ Mr. Mitchison
When this undertaking was given in Committee on behalf of the Government we regarded the proposed new Clause as a sensible and useful piece of machinery and we so regard it still.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.