§ Mr. MacColl
I beg to move Amendment No. 19, in page 8, line 10, to leave out "subsection (2)" and to insert "subsections (2) and (6A)".
§ Mr. Speaker
I am advised that it would be convenient also to discuss Amendments Nos. 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37 and 38.
§ Mr. MacColl
I am afraid you have rather outpaced me, Mr. Speaker. Certainly Amendment No. 22 goes very conveniently with Amendments Nos. 19 and 21 because those two Amendments are paving Amendments for Amendment No. 22. Perhaps we could discuss these three together. Then the House will be clear on what this is all about.
§ Mr. MacColl
This Amendment deals with the question of joint occupation. My right hon. Friend said in Committee that he would look into it a little further. As a result of our considerations, we have produced this subsection. Where a husband and wife are normally occupying a house they may have a lease in their joint names, but they are not normally joint occupiers for rating purposes. I am advised that in order for there to be a joint occupation for rating purposes the husband must not exercise an undue degree of control over the household arrangements but share them equally with the wife. These are technicalities into which I will not go.
I understand that it is very uncommon for there to be a joint occupation for rating purposes although it could happen. It is perhaps more common a case which was quoted in the discussion. That is the case of two sisters who inherit a house from their parents and inherit jointly and never divide the property or sell the furniture but continue to occupy. They may be joint occupiers. The procedure is that where the husband and wife are joint occupiers either of them may apply for the rebate but only one can get the rebate. Once the application is made by one of them it is treated as the application of both. The income floor for the 695 purpose is £260, that is to say the limit applying to a married couple.
In the case of two joint occupiers who are not husband and wife—such as two sisters—each applies separately and therefore the rates are halved between the two. They apply and each can claim the £208 being the allowance for the individual person. Although this sounds complicated it is the best way round the difficulty suggested in Committee. I hope it will commend itself to the House.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. MacColl
I beg to move Amendment No. 20, in page 8, line 41, at the end to insert:Provided that the rating authority may in any particular case determine that the amount aforesaid shall not be reduced under this subsection, or shall be reduced by a lesser sum than that provided for by this subsection, if they are satisfied that it is reasonable and proper so to do having regard to the reason for the application being made after the expiration of the month referred to in paragraph (a)(ii) or, as the case may be, paragraph (b) of this subsection, and to any difference between the amount aforesaid and what that amount would have been if the application had been made immediately before the expiration of that month.The Amendment is again a change in the Bill of some substance, because it deals with the problem of retrospective treatment of late applications. Under the Bill as at present drafted, if an applicant is late in applying for rebate the application cannot be treated retrospectively and is divided proportionately according to the date when the application is made. The local authorities—and this is a tribute to them, because it shows that they are not bureaucratically minded about this—have said quite strongly that they think they should have the power, in cases where it is desirable, to deal retrospectively with a late application. They do not want to shelter behind the rigidity of being able to say, "You made your application and only from that time onwards can you have the rebate".
How the proviso works is that in a particular case the local authority may decide that the rebate shall not be reduced under the normal working of the subsection, or shall be reduced by a lesser amount, if it is satisfied that it is reasonable and proper so to do having regard to the reason for the application being 696 made after the expiration of the month referred to. So in fact the local authority has a discretion to satisfy itself that it is a reasonable application. Once satisfied it can proceed to deal with it. This is certainly a liberalising of the Bill, and I hope that it will meet with approval.
§ Mr. Woodhouse
This Amendment gives effect to the intention of an Amendment which I tabled in Committee. Therefore, I am grateful to the Minister for proposing it. Local authorities will by the Amendment have a considerably enlarged discretion, which I am glad to know they will welcome. I would only like to ask the Minister one question. The Amendment empowers the local authority to exercise its discretion having regard to two things, of which the second is expounded in the words fromany difference between the amount aforesaidto the end of the Amendment. I am not always clear in my mind about the effects of the subtleties of Parliamentary draftsmanship, and I would just like to ask the Minister whether the words in the last few lines of the Amendment have the effect of prescribing a precise arithmetical formula by which the local authority's power of remission is to be exercised, or whether it is open to the local authority at its discretion to fix whatever amount it regards as equitable.
§ Mr. MacColl
The effect of these words is to open up the past situation of the applicant and it is necessary to look at the applicant's position, which may have changed as a result of the late application. The position may have changed from what it would have been. The local authority must look at the position as it was. The rebate remains a mathematical figure. Once the facts are determined, the amount of rebate is known, but the facts would have to be ascertained.
§ Amendments agreed to.
Further Amendments made: In page 9, line 19, at beginning insert:
Subject to subsection (6A) of this section".
In line 40, at end insert:
(6A) Where two or more persons are joint occupiers of a hereditament such as is mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b), or joint tenants of such a part thereof as is mentioned in paragraph (c), of subsection (3) of this section, then, for the purposes of rebates under this section each of those persons shall be treated
separately as if he were the sole occupier of the hereditament or, as the case may be, sole tenant of that part thereof, except that where a husband and wife are such joint occupiers or tenants a rebate may be granted to either but not to both of them.—[Mr. MacColl.]
§ Dr. Dickson Mabon
I beg to move Amendment No. 23, in page 10, line 36, at the end to insert:
(bb) for subsection (6) there shall be substituted the following subsection:—(6) Where the rating authority have received from any person a rebate application in respect of the rebate period beginning with 16th May in any year (in this subsection referred to as ' the first period ') and have no reason to believe that there has been, or is likely by 16th September in that year to be, any material change in that person's circumstances which is relevant to the calculation of any rebate in respect of the next succeeding rebate period (in this subsection referred to as ' the second period'), they may not later than 15th September in that year notify that person in writing that, unless a rebate application in respect of the second period is received by them from that person before the beginning of the second period, they propose, on the assumption that there has been no change in his relevant circumstances, to treat the application as a rebate application in respect of the second period as well as the first period; and if no application in respect of the second period is received before the beginning of the second period, the authority may grant a rebate in respect of that period, calculated on the assumption aforesaid, and that person shall not be entitled to make a rebate application in respect of that period after the beginning of that period".The reason for the suggested substitution of this subsection is to put Scottish authorities for their convenience in the same position as English authorities. The effect of the Amendment is to enable rating authorities in Scotland to assume, as is provided in subsection (6) for English authorities, that a person's circumstances will remain the same in the second, as in the first, of the year's rebate periods. The difficulty in subsection 6 as drafted at present is that it is provided that authorities may assume that there has been no change in circumstances only in cases where they have actually granted a rebate for the first rebate period in the year. Because rate poundages are not generally fixed in Scotland until the autumn, many Scottish local authorities may not have actually granted rebates by the last date—15th September in most cases—for notifying rebate applicants of their assumption about 698 circumstances remaining the same as in the first rebate period.
Amendment No. 24, if I am in order in mentioning it now, is consequential and is simply an adaptation to accommodate rating authorities whose financial years do not start on 16th May. I am thinking in particular of Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
§ Mr. G. Campbell
We recognise the difficulties of trying to translate this for Scottish purposes, because of the different dates. We are grateful for this explanation from the Under-Secretary. We realise it makes for very complicated wording, but we accept what he has said.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: In page 10, line 40, at end insert:
and in subsection (6) of this section, as substituted by paragraph (bb) above, references to 16th May, 15th September and 16th September shall be construed in relation to such hereditaments as are mentioned in paragraph (a)(ii) above as references respectively to 29th May, 28th September and 29th September; and in relation to such hereditaments as are mentioned in paragraph (a)(iii) above as references respectively to 1st June, 30th September and 1st October".—[Dr. Dickson Mabon.]