HC Deb 24 April 1963 vol 676 cc361-3

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Leburn

I beg to move, in page 10, line 39, to leave out from "by" to "and" in line 41 and to insert "any person".

It might be convenient, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to take at the same time the other three Amendments to this Clause.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

Yes, if that is convenient to the House. So be it.

Mr. Leburn

In Committee I undertook to examine the Clause, and these Amendments are the result of that examination. We are here considering the Berating of agricultural buildings which are not actually on the farm. I was particularly concerned to examine the words "any agricultural land" in line 43, to ensure that the land was firmly linked to the occupancy of the building which is to obtain derating. Hon. Members suggested that under the Clause as it stands a building used by an agricultural contractor or merchant would be able to obtain derating. In these Amendments we have redrafted the Clause to meet this point. The effect of the first four Amendments would be to make the paragraph read: A building (other than a dwelling-house) which is occupied by any person and is used solely in connection with agricultural operations by him on any agricultural land (other than the building) whether adjacent to the building or not, being agricultural land occupied by him. This, I think, establishes quite clearly that the building and the land which it serves must have the same occupancy so that what the paragraph covers is simply a farm building separated by some distance from its farm.

The purpose of the new subsection (2) is to apply that principle to farm associations and to ensure that a similar restriction applies to land occupied by the association or its members. At the same time, while we did not think that the possible implications of exemption from rates given to buildings occupied by an association were in reality as wide as some hon. Members feared, we felt that it would illustrate and limit the nature of the association to farmers combining for efficiency if we introduced a numerical limit for those associations. I have chosen for this purpose a limit of twenty persons. This number is somewhat arbitrary, but twenty persons is a numerical limit for partnerships in Scots law. While we do not regard these associations as partnerships, this provides an analogy with existing Scottish practice.

Mr. Ross

In Committee there was considerable misgiving and concern expressed as to how widely this could be interpreted. I remember having quite an argument with the Under Secretary about the question of land. I am glad that this has been tightened up.

I also remember that the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) joined in expressing concern that this might conceivably be widened away from the producer of agricultural operations to trading aspects. So far as I see, this has been reasonably well covered. I think that it could be still more definitely restricted, but, taking it all in all, it ties up generally with what we had in mind originally. I do not know if there is any great merit in the limit of twenty persons. I think that rather high in relation to associations, and I have taken the trouble to find out about this matter since we discussed it in Committee.

We are grateful to the hon. Gentleman for listening to our complaints and meeting them, if only in part, but I hope that he will keep an eye, as he said he would, on these new developments in agriculture. There is no doubt that agriculture is becoming more and more a business. It may well not always merit as against other commercial concerns the amount of Berating which is making it very profitable.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 10, line 42, leave out from "by" to "on" in line 43 and insert "that person".

In line 44, at end insert being agricultural land occupied by that person,".

In page 11, line 8, leave out subsection (2) and insert: (2) The foregoing subsection shall apply to a building occupied by or on behalf of an association to which this subsection applies and to any land occupied together therewith as it applies to a building occupied by a person and to any land occupied therewith, but with the following modifications:—

  1. (a) for the reference in paragraph (a) thereof to agricultural operations carried on by the person there shall be substituted a reference to such operations carried on by the association or any member thereof; and
  2. (b) for the reference in the said paragraph (a) to agricultural land occupied by the person there shall be substituted a reference to such land occupied by or on behalf of the association or by any member thereof.
(3) The last foregoing subsection applies to any association of not more than twenty persons who are jointly and severally liable for any debts of the assocation.—[Mr. Leburn.]