§ For the purpose of the valuation roll for the year 1967–68 or any subsequent year, the definition of 'lands and heritages' in section 42 of the Lands Valuation (Scotland) Act 1854 shall not include electrical appliances for space heating which are situated in a building other than one occupied for any trade, business or manufacturing process and which are only so fixed that they can be removed from their place without necessitating the removal of any part of the building.—[Mr. Ross.]
§ Brought up and read the First time.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
It would be for the convenience of the House if we took with this Clause the two Amendments in the name of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern), after 'electrical', insert 'or any other'; and leave out from 'process' to end of line 6; and new Clause 8.—Domestic heating or washing machinery plant or appliances.
§ This Clause deals with the Amendment of Section 42 of the Lands Valuation (Scotland) Act 1854, and in putting it on to the Notice Paper we demonstrate how carefully we listen to the debates that take place in Committee and show that we are prepared to be persuaded by reasonableness.
§ Mr. Ross
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it would take more than him to scare me out of my wits. This provides for electric heaters, especially night storage heaters in houses to be exempted from valuation. The Government have taken careful note of the representations to this effect made during the discussions in Committee and have consulted the local authority associations.
The House will recollect that the Lands Valuation Appeal Court confirmed in November, 1965, the contention of the assessors that night storage heaters are rateable under present law because they are pertinents of the house. On the other 1369 hand, they are attached to the house in a very tenuous way—merely a special electricity lead—as compared to central heating systems requiring radiators and water pipes which necessitate structural alterations. There are about 40,000 houses with night storage heaters, which add about £5 to the rateable value of each, and the assessors' action in rating these has aroused much opposition, particularly as in England there is no addition to rateable value.
The County Councils' Association, Edinburgh Corporation and the Assessors' Association do not approve the idea of overturning the decisions of the Lands Valuation Appeal Court by legislation. On the other hand, all the other associations consulted think that in practical terms night storage heaters cannot be regarded as fixed pertinents of the house.
The Government accept the general principle that the courts must continue to decide what installations are rateable in the light of the general principles of valuation law but there is justification for Parliament overturning a decision in this case. The Lord Advocate points out that where a change in the law has practical advantages the fact that it results in some degree of untidiness in the code of valuation law is of secondary importance.
The Government have also carefully considered the solution proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh Pentlands (Mr. Wylie), which was to amend the section of the Lands Valuation (Scotland) Act, 1854, dealing with the valuation of industrial plant and machinery. We are satisfied that this Amendment would not have achieved the effect it intended, and could even have had the contrary effect, but the Government's Amendment proceeds on very similar lines.
Electric heaters in houses, and some other residential buildings will be exempt from valuation if they could be removed without removiing any part of the structure of the building, just as industrial plant, except heating and lighting appliances—and this was where the hon. and learned Gentleman's Amendment went wrong, are exempted if they can be removed without affecting the structure of the building. Night storage heaters will clearly be exempt under this, and 1370 so will other types of electric heater which are only fixed by two or three screws, for example strip heaters fixed to skirting boards.
§ The Clause does not, however, specifically exempt washing machine appliances, as the hon. and learned Member for Pentland suggested, first, because the court's decision, now being overturned, related to electric heaters only; secondly, because very few washing machines are fixed and plumbed in to the house; thirdly, because the rateable value, if any, would be negligible; and, fourthly, because it might create, as I am sure that it would, a demand for the specific exemption of all sorts of other appliances fixed to the walls or floors of houses.
§ With this explanation and appreciation of the difficulties of even making this change and how it might lead to consequential demands for other changes which have to be resisted I hope that the House will accept the Clause. We have made this move which is consistent with the pledge of re-examination given by my hon. Friend in Committee. We are limiting ourselves to the change made by the decision of the court.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Wylie
I think that what the Secretary of State said will be widely welcomed throughout the country. As he pointed out, the decision by the Lands Valuation Appeal Court came as a surprise to many people. I am not questioning in any way the decision, which was clearly right, in my view, but many lay people, in particular, were surprised by it. As the right hon. Gentleman said, in England these appliances are not rated, and it seemed to us only equitable that the same situation should prevail in Scotland.
I was interested to hear what the Secretary of State said, in his very long explanation, about how difficult it has been, and is, to amend the law. I agree that any amendment of the law is bound to result in some anomalies. One cannot interfere with any aspect of the law without creating certain anomalies. But the whole of our valuation law is a series of anomalies. It is all artificial. I congratulate the Government on agreeing at long last that this can be done, and it 1371 has been done without the fearful complications which were forecast.
I am glad that the Secretary of State is present so that I can remind him of what happened on 22nd December last year. I asked him whether he proposedto introduce legislation to amend the law of valuation in Scotland following the recent decision of the court that off-peak electric storage heaters fall to be regarded as heritable for valuation purposes.The right hon. Gentleman replied:No, Sir. I do not think that it would be wise to attempt to define by Statute which installations and other improvements to property are heritable and which are not."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd December, 1965; Vol. 722, c. 2091.]That was not an answer to the Question. As often happens, the right hon. Gentleman did not give an answer to the Question.
§ Mr. Wylie
It was a very good politician's answer. All that I was asking was whether something could be done to overturn or modify the decision of the court. It could easily be done, and it has been done, and for that we are grateful.
I do not accept the criticisms made here and in Committee of my attempt to draft a Clause dealing with the matter. I have looked at it carefully since. It may be a matter of opinion, but I am satisfied that the wording which I put forward was adequate, However, that does not matter in the slightest; the job has been done.
On plumbed-in washing machines, it is quite true that at this moment they are not subject to valuation. But there is a danger that on the basis of the decision to which the Secretary of State referred they may be subject to valuation one day. It may be that the extent to which plumbed-in appliances are used is not sufficient to justify an assessment by an assessor. All that I should like to say is that we would have preferred the Secretary of State to go the whole way and to deal with this matter as well. If the day comes that plumbed-in washing appliances are to be valued, we shall take the same steps as we have taken in this matter and ensure, even after a lot of trouble, that the matter is put right.
1372 We are obliged to the Secretary of State for the way in which he proposed the Clause.
§ Sir Myer Galpern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, after "electrical"——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman's Amendments have only been selected for debate. He cannot move them.
§ Sir M. Galpern
I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
I welcome the new Clause, because it indicates that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State realises the need for a review of the entire system of valuation. The purpose of my Amendment is to cover all forms of space heating in household property. I fail to see the distinction between the form of space heating which the Clause proposes to exempt from rateable valuation and any other form. Does the Clause go far enough? Apart from the exemption which is proposed by the Clause, if a householder or house owner decides to install some other form of space heating he can find himself liable to an increased valuation of up to 10 per cent.
We all recognise that in this modern age central heating is not regarded as a luxury, any more than one would regard a refrigerator or washing machine as a luxury. Since the passing of the Clean Air Act, 1956, which empowers local authorities to designate smoke controlled areas, thousands of owner-occupiers have been compelled to address themselves to the problem of how they are to meet the statutory requirements of the Act. I know of many cases in which owner-occupiers had no thought of installing central heating until the local authority designated the area in which they resided as a smoke controlled area. Then they decided, on examining the propositions put before them, to install, say, a gas heating system.
Surely what those people are achieving is exactly the same as is achieved by night storage heaters. Why should they be penalised by a 10 per cent. increase in valuation when, first, they are complying with the Act, and, secondly, merely achieving exactly what the people will who have night storage heaters are achieving and who are to get exemption?
1373 As soon as the assessor discovers that a form of central heating has been installed, whether it be night storage, gas-fired or oil-fired central heating, he increases the valuation of the property. The remarkable feature is that the Government make a substantial contribution to house owners for the conversion of old fashioned systems of heating to modern forms of heating, and this is completely swallowed up by the increased valuation which the local assessor makes. Surely this is folly.
It is in the national interest that we should do whatever we can to combat smoke pollution. During the last few years people in Glasgow who have not been there for a number of years have remarked on the tremendous transformation which has taken place in the cleanliness of the air in the city which has been brought about by people who have been subjected to the provisions concerning smoke controlled areas and who have, to a large extent, installed central heating systems in respect of which they have to pay additional sums in rateable value. If anything is needed in the national interest, it is a wider adoption of more modern methods of heating than the old-fashioned coal fire.
I accepted what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said on Friday, when opening the new headquarters of the Coal Utilisation Council, in Glasgow. He criticised people in Scotland for not being as central heating minded as people in other parts of Britain. He said:The era of central heating is here, but not fully, because only one home in 10 in Scotland has this amenity. Householders, however, are insisting on standards of heating that are more worthy of modern days.My right hon. Friend went on to say:One of the interesting things is the growing provision and demand for better housing and better amenities in these houses. There is no doubt that the days when we used to get round one fire in the house are no longer acceptable.Why is it thought that a house-owner who does not install night-storage heating and decides that to meet his needs some other form of central heating is more suitable or practical should not obtain a similar exemption from increase in valuation as is proposed in the new Clause? I cannot see the logic of it.
Why does my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State give added emphasis 1374 to one nationalised industry as against another? It is conceivable that gas boards may one day, if they have not already done so, be able to evolve a form of storage heater operated by gas, but under a Clause like this it would not be exempted. Only if house owners install night-storage heaters run by electricity is there to be exemption. This is unfair, particularly because my right hon. Friend, when making his remarks about people's failure to adopt central heating, was showing favouritism or bias wholly in favour of electricity boards when opening an establishment the purpose of which was to boost the sale of coal and associated products. A wider concession would be in the interest of every homeowner. Local authorities, for example, provide under-floor heating and various other forms of space heating, and I cannot see why these other versions of space heating should be excluded.
It may be argued that certain types of central heating which are installed form part of the building. The new Clause refers to applianceswhich are only so fixed that they can be removed from their place without necessitating the removal of any part of the building.There might be an argument that the installation of space heating by gas or by oil would involve the removal of part of the building, but what exactly is meant by this expression? I have gas-fired central heating, which I could remove if I wished without removing any part of the building. To install it I might have to bore a few holes in the floor to pass up pipes and to screw down a few radiators, but I could remove the whole installation without moving any part of the premises.
I therefore appeal sincerely to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State not to discriminate between one type of space heating and another and to show in a practical fashion that he meant what he said on Friday, when opening the new showrooms, that he wants to encourage home-owners or others, perhaps even tenants, to install or to go in for space heating rather than the old coal fire. He could do so by accepting my two Amendments to the new Clause.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Bruce-Gardyne
It is always a pleasure to have signs of repentance from the Government Front Bench, and we certainly had a very different speech from 1375 the Secretary of State this evening from the one that we were given by the Under-Secretary of State when we discussed this matter in Committee. Indeed, when we listened to the hon. Gentleman on that occasion, one had an impression that the whole law of rating in Scotland would fall apart if any concession were made in this respect. I am delighted to find that the Secretary of State has eventually decided that that is not so and that it is possible to make a concession in connection with space storage heaters, which will be regarded as a very reasonable concession by a great many people in Scotland who felt that the decision of the Lands Valuation Appeal Court the year before last was unreasonable.
I prefer the broader based Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie), which, it seems to me, could eliminate any danger of a recurrence of that sort of problem. I do not, however, know whether the adoption of the Government's new Clause, which, in effect, will overturn the decision of the Lands Valuation Appeal Court in this matter, might discourage the courts from assessing for rating purposes items such as washing machines, which would be included by my hon. and learned Friend's new Clause. The Secretary of State said that most washing machines were not plumbed-in. I do not know the figures, but I should have thought that plumbed-in washing machines were frequently used.
My own view would be that the Government's Clause might give rise to further complications. Nevertheless, in view of these signs of good will by the Government, and of the explanation given by the Secretary of State for not widening the scope of the Clause, it would be churlish to press him much further, at least until we see whether the courts might be inclined to extend the rating and valuation rule to cover washing machines. Meanwhile, the substance of the case which was made from both sides of the Committee—and I pay tribute to hon. Members, like the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie), who pressed the Government hard on this matter—seems now to have been accepted by the Government and I am glad to see it.
§ Mr. W. Baxter
While I welcome a step in the right direction such as has been 1376 conceded by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland in excluding from valuation electrical appliances used for space heating—and apparently this concession is based upon what is more or less the practice in England—I think that a glorious opportunity to go much further concerning the heating of houses has been missed.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern) has said, there are difficulties even in giving a proper interpretation of the Clause. In Canada, frequent and effective use is made of space-heating appliances by which the warm air is channelled through ducts beneath the floor. These appliances can be made of compressed paper, they are easy to affix and they can be worked from a small central heating plant based more or less upon electricity. Would that type of installation come within the scope of the Clause? If not, why not?
Again, why should a concession like this, although I welcome it, be given to electricity as against gas and coal? In practice, a certain degree of electricity is needed in other heating installations to generate the water circulation and to get the water supply through even the standard piped system of heating a house. Why should we give a concession to electricity as against those other forms of heating?
Another question which presents itself to me is whether the new Clause recognises the full facts of life about local authority houses, because many of them are being built with a dual-purpose back boiler in the living room fireplace, and the dual-purpose back boiler heats not only the domestic water supply but also the little central heating plant which heats three radiators on the standard system of water heating. Should they be within the ambit of higher valuation? It is no more expensive for the local authority to build those houses in this more modern and up-to-date manner than in the stereotyped manner of putting in flues and fireplaces in all the bedrooms in a house.
Has sufficient consideration been given to this? Cheek by jowl with that local authority house is a house with under-floor electric or gas heating, and another which has central heating, or space heating as it is generally called. It is all space heating. All the systems enumerated are space heating systems. Presumably 1377 the electrical appliances for space heating include those for night storage heating in which one puts in a wire for night storage. Why should there be a discrimination between a house on which there is extra expense for structural work, as against another where there is no need to make such structural alteration? Why should the one get this concession?
For the benefit of my hon. Friends I declare my interest, that I happen to have knowledge of central heating plant through being associated with the building industry. I mention this in case anybody thinks I am trying to get something over, which I am not entitled to.
However, to my mind, here was a great opportunity for the Secretary of State for Scotland, and for this Parliament, to deal with this matter in a more realistic manner and on a more sensible basis. All heating is space heating. Why differentiate between one and another? In my opinion, this was the time to say that all space heating must be treated in like manner, and a house should not be evaluated on the basis of its heating system, but of its structural composition plus other aspects laid down by the valuators.
This, to my way of thinking, is a niggling way of doing the job of evaluating. It will give rise to nothing but discontent and dissatisfaction, because one person will find he is rated for his heating while the person next door is not because he has a different system. This seems to me a stupid and nonsensical manner of doing the job.
Earl of Dalkeith (Edinburgh, North)
It is so very seldom that one has occasion for patting the Secretary of State on the back that I, for one, would like to jump at this opportunity of recording my own congratulations to him on the step which he has taken in the right direction.
Obviously, one has sympathy with some of the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter), but I am not sure that he is carrying logic with him, because I believe that a number of the appliances which he mentioned, such as back boilers, are appliances which would necessitate pulling down half one's house if one were to remove from that house to another and remove the appliances, too. I think that the qualification in the new Clause, 1378 that removal of the appliance does not necessitate removal of any part of the building, is a fairly important one.
§ Mr. W. Baxter
The hon. Member will surely recognise that if one is taking away one's night storage heating unit one may be compelled to take away completely a certain amount of wiring?
Earl of Dalkeith
We could have a technical argument about this for a long time, but I think it is comparatively easy to withdraw wire from a piece of tube, but not so easy to remove a back boiler without knocking down half the chimney.
With the extension, over the years, of smokeless zones I think we want to keep a reasonably open mind for the future as to what we consider should or should not be exempted for rating purposes, and although some of the arguments which both the hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern) and the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire put forward do command a certain amount of sympathy, I think we should thank the Secretary of State for having gone as far as he has at this stage.
§ Mr. Eadie
Yes, it is an unholy alliance, but Dalkeith is in Midlothian. I want, in any case, to express my thanks to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.
This does to some extent demonstrate that the Department of which he is the administrative head listens to the debates which take place in the Committee. As has already been mentioned, we had a rather long argument in Committee about this particular aspect of valuation, of night storage heaters. Many people are very grateful to my right hon. Friend. There are many miners I know who will be very grateful to him.
1379 In the debate in Committee I referred to the fact that there were hundreds of houses in which were discovered structural defects because the chimneys had corroded, and because it would have cost far too much money to have new solid-fuel systems installed, the tenants got what was, after all, second best—night storage heaters. They accepted the night storage heaters rather relucantly because that was a second best system, but there was added something more to the wound when the assessor came along and decided that the valuation of the houses would increase as a consequence of their having night storage heaters.
Therefore, my right hon. Friend has shown remarkable sense in this, because by no stretch of the imagination could any argument have been made that the installation of a night storage heater requires structural alteration in the house.
I shall not lengthen my speech because I want my hon. Friends to have a chance to speak if they want to. I simply want to say that I personally am grateful to my right hon. Friend, and I hope that other hon. Members will join in these sentiments.
§ Mr. John Robertson (Paisley)
The discussion which gave rise to this new Clause was about electrical night storage heaters. Of course, there was a sense in which there was logic in exempting them from valuation, because the argument was, and it is true, that they are, in a sense, portable, although I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter) that there is no purpose in just getting a night storage heater unless one has a special meter and special apparatus from the electricity board to get the benefits of it. Indeed, it is not just a matter of connecting it up with the electricity system. No matter; the heater itself is portable, and consequently there was some basis for the argument that it should not give rise to a new valuation. I do not think there will be any serious argument that it should be excluded in this way.
There is some force in the arguments used by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern). This Clause gives a definition which goes far beyond night storage heaters. It 1380 includes almost all the better-known types of electrical space heating, including the warm air systems. Depending on the situation of the house, that system can be installed without any great structural alterations and can be withdrawn without removing any part of the house. However, it is a fully fledged space heating system, and the definition in the Clause would cover that kind of apparatus. It goes far beyond what it is intended to do.
It could be said that this is a form of discrimination against all other fuels. If the word "electrical" had been left out so that the Clause applied to all kinds of space heating that could be withdrawn without removing any part of the building, there would have been an element of sense in it, but, if it is confined to electrical space heating, it would seem to suggest some discrimination. I am quite sure that the electrical industry will devise new forms of space heating to meet the words of the Clause.
To deal with the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie), I can sympathise with the problem of the people whom he describes, but there are thousands of people going into local authority houses who have no choice. They are getting central heating which will not be covered by the Clause, whether they like it or not. They might choose to have night storage heating, but that choice is not open to them.
§ The Clause will favour the owner-occupier. The council tenant will not benefit from it at all, and again it is a form of discrimination which should be looked at carefully. Many council houses have underfloor electrical heating which, in my opinion, does nothing to enhance the value of the house. If the tenant of such a house wishes to put in night storage heating and not use the underfloor system already installed, why should he not do so? Why should he not have the advantage of this? The Clause favours a certain section of the community, and that is perhaps one of the reasons why it finds so much support on the other side of the House.
§ Mr. Eadie
My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. John Robertson) is trying to develop the argument that the Clause will favour the owner-occupier. Will he accept what I am saying, that 1381 there are hundreds of houses in Scotland which will benefit as a consequence of the Clause proposed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the occupants of which are not the owners?
§ Mr. Robertson
My hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) is describing a situation which has developed in certain houses, but I understand that it relates to temporary housing and will not be a permanent feature. In a little time, that problem will disappear.
Earl of Dalkeith
The hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. John Robertson) bases his argument on the fact that underfloor heating does not enhance the value of a house. Does he really mean that?
§ Mr. Robertson
That is my opinion, but it is nevertheless a good argument. I do not consider that underfloor heating in high flats is a good form of heating. It is very expensive to run and a form of heating which most people in high flats would prefer to be without. They would rather find other forms of heating. When I say that underfloor heating does nothing to enhance the value, it may be that the very high cost of running such a system could be a deterrent and the rent of such a flat would decrease as a result of having it.
§ Mr. Adam Hunter (Dunfermline Burghs)
Would not my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. John Robertson) agree that there are thousands of people living in local authority houses who have night storage heaters because they have no other heating system in their bedrooms?
§ Mr. Robertson
I accept that, and many houses have a form of space heating which carries warm air from the back of a fireplace installed in one of the downstairs rooms, so that the bedrooms upstairs are heated by a warm air duct, but that is not considered to be a space heating system.
In any event, no one is arguing about night storage heaters. We are saying that this definition goes far beyond night storage heaters and describes almost all the popular systems of space heating based on electricity. The only two systems that I can think of which would not be exempted are the underfloor system 1382 and the hot water system of pipes and radiators. However, the electricity industry has not been selling the hot water, small-bore pressure type of central heating. It has been selling the warm air system. In my opinion, that system would be exempted by the words of the Clause, and it would not be the intention of my right hon. Friend to exempt such systems.
We are not arguing about night storage heaters or heaters which are screwed down to the floor and plugged into an electrical circuit. I am saying that the Clause goes far beyond describing that kind of heater and includes many other types, and it will discriminate unfairly against other types of heating by gas, oil and solid fuel.
§ The Clause requires to be looked at again to confine it to night storage heaters and the skirting board heaters described by my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Doig
Once again, I find myself in agreement with the principle behind the Clause but in disagreement about the wording of it. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. John Robertson), I believe that, as worded, the Clause can be construed to go far beyond storage heaters. In my own house, I have an electrical hot air central heating system which would comply with the terms of the Bill. I can withdraw it without removing any part of the building, though it may well be that I should have to add on some parts to the building. If I removed a vent, I should have to replace it with a piece of wood, but I should not have to remove any part of the building.
§ The Clause is not worded to carry out my right hon. Friend's intention. I, too, think that he ought to have another look at it. I agree with the principle of what he is trying to do. He wants to exempt storage heaters, but the wording is so framed that the Clause could be construed quite easily to include systems such as the one that I have. In case anyone thinks that I am arguing for myself, let me assure the House that I am doing the opposite. I am making sure that I do not benefit from the Clause.
§ Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Aidrie)
I want to ask the Secretary of State for further information about the operation of night storage heaters. My right hon. Friend seems to have arrived at a very fine distinction as to which heating systems can be rated and which systems can be excused from rating by saying that, if it is plumbed in it is rated, but if it is screwed in it can be exempted. This, basically, is the general point of view which my right hon. Friend has attempted to present to the House. I am sure that everyone here appreciates very much my right hon. Friend's gesture in going so far to relieve this type of heating from rating, but I think that it leaves a certain amount to be desired.
In Coatbridge, in my constituency, there has been a tremendous development to set up a clean air zone, but the type of heating provided by the local authority is not electric heating. In many cases it is a certain type of smokless fuel, and in others gas is used, and, as I understand it, not only owner-occupiers but the tenants of local authority houses are compelled to adopt these systems.
If they provide night storage heating, as I understand my right hon. Friend's statement, they will not be exempt from rating. This seems to be positively unfair, because although I do not think that my right hon. Friend has set out deliberately to discriminate between one form of heating and another, this is what the Clause will accomplish. I feel, therefore, that my right hon. Friend should look again at this whole question, because we are all anxious to encourage not only owner-occupiers, but the tenants of local authority houses, to take a keen interest in their property and do the best they can to provide, even at their own expense, such things as space heating. If we are thinking of an area where electricity heating is not the type of heating that is encouraged, but where smokeless fuel is not only encouraged, but demanded, it seems that we will not achieve what the Clause hopes to achieve, namely, to relieve night storage heating from rateable valuation.
I was not a member of the Committee which considered this matter. I did not 1384 hear the arguments, and I am anxious to be guided by my right hon. Friend. I have always taken the view that, if someone seeks to improve his house, he should not be penalised for doing so. I think that this is why my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern) has asked that the whole question of space heating should be considered from the point of view of owner-occupiers.
If someone decides to improve his home, it is not a commercial enterprise. His home is his castle, and I have always thought it unfair that a man who improves his home should be penalised by being rated on the improvements. A man who carries out such work not only invests his capital holding to provide comfort in his little castle, but invests his life in it, because he will pay for the improvements during his working life.
I have some sympathy with the argument advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston. I think that this question of being rated on space heating should be examined as soon as possible, but I do not take the view that that should be allowed to stand in the way of this well earned reform which my right hon. Friend has mentioned. I therefore earnestly request my right hon. Friend to examine the possibility of ceasing to discriminate between one form of space heating and another, because in many parts of Scotland people, be they owners or tenants, have no choice with regard to the type of space heating they use. They are restricted to the type provided by the corporation. If we are proposing to exclude night storage heaters from rating, we should exclude them in their entirety, irrespective of the type of heating which is used.
§ 6.45 p.m.
Mr. Edward M. Taylor
In presenting this Clause to the House the Secretary of State for Scotland has had rather a tough time. Instead of the gratitude which he might have expected, he has received a certain measure of criticism. The hon. Members for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern), West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter) and Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey), suggested that the Clause did not go far enough. On the other hand, the hon. Members for Paisley (Mr. John Robertson) and Dundee, West 1385 (Mr. Doig) suggested that it went too far, and in particular the hon. Member for Dundee, West paid the right hon. Gentleman the fine compliment of suggesting that he was an expert on built-in hot air systems.
We on this side of the House welcome the Clause because it concedes the point for which we have been agitating for a long time. It represents a real victory for those on this side of the House who fought for it, in particular my hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow, Hill-head (Mr. Galbraith), South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pent-lands (Mr. Wylie). However one looks at this, it is clear that the Clause represents another victory for tough, penetrating, gritty, and purposive opposition, which we of course provide. This provision will be a real relief to those who have been concerned with this issue and to those who use night storage heaters. It might, for the latter, be some small compensation for the great increase of 16.5 per cent. which we have heard is to be made on the rates.
There is a danger of under-estimating the change which has taken place here, because, when, in Committee on 28th July, at column 499, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Pentlands asked whether a different form of words would be acceptable to the Government, the Under-Secretary of State said that when the Secretary of State was questioned about this in Parliament he made it clear he was not in favour of it, and that he was still of the same view, and, so, indeed, was the hon. Gentleman.
§ Sir M. Galpern
Apart from crowing over what the hon. Gentleman claims to be a victory, can he say categorically whether he is against the suggestion contained in the Amendment to which I have spoken?
I hope to come to that very soon, and I promise the hon. Gentleman that I shall deal with it very fully. I must emphasise that we on this side fight hard on occasions, and in this case we are grateful that the right hon. Gentleman has conceded our point.
§ Mr. Eadie
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman wishes deliberately to mislead the House. I am sure that he will 1386 concede, and indeed it is on record, that in Committee my hon. Friends the Members for Dunfermline Burghs (Mr. Adam Hunter), Glasgow, Gorbals (Mrs. Cullen) and myself were equally vociferous in trying to get this Amendment accepted? Will he please give some credit to this side of the House for putting forward an argument in favour of this proposition?
I am sorry if I appeared not to be courteous. It was my intention to congratulate the hon. Gentleman, and I apologise for not having done so soon enough.
The hon. Member for Shettleston advanced his argument very ably in support of his Amendment. It is clear that people who have one form of heating will think it unjust that people with other forms of heating are to get relief, but the point to remember is that what we are doing here is removing an anomaly within the rating system. However unjust it might appear, we are putting right an anomaly in the rating system itself, because one type of heating did not involve what was normally regarded as a fixture, whereas other forms of heating, such as central heating, were fixtures in the context of rating law. We asked, not for a dramatic change in the rating system, but for the removal of an anomaly.
We on this side of the House accept that many aspects of the rating system are unfair, and we hope at some time in the future completely to reshape it. This was guaranteed by the Labour Party when it was fighting the election.
We have had a reshaping, the result of which has been to impose a heavier burden, and to make no difference to the shape of it. On the other hand, we have a situation at present when what should concern us is simply the removal of an anomaly. If we want a major change in the system to take account of all the arguments put forward by the hon. Member, we must wait until we have a Government prepared to look at the whole rating system and to see what changes should be made.
One point which concerns us a great deal is that related to washing machines. The Secretary of State said that this provision does not apply to washing machines, which he thought a very small item 1387 in the total rating poundage, but if something is unjust the question of how much money is involved and how many people are concerned should not prevent it being put right. I was very concerned when the Secretary of State put forward the view that there was not a great deal of concern about washing machines. If something comes before the courts which results in people being penalised because they have washing machines of a certain sort we shall regard it as an injustice. Hon. Members on this side of the House would pursue the matter and hope to get the injustice put right.
We very much welcome the new Clause. We are glad that the Government have accepted the arguments put forward from both sides of the House. The Amendment involves more than rectifying an anomaly. Rectifying the whole system will be one of the first tasks to which a Conservative Government will turn.
§ Mr. Ross
I think that I should be moving a vote of thanks to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) for the able way in which he handed out the prizes. He is very good at that so long as he is handing most of them to his own side. He said that he was waiting for a Government to come in which would sweep all the anomalies away from the rating system in Scotland. I remind him that the Conservative Government did try that in 1956, just 10 years ago, but they resisted every radical change in the fundamental anomalies of the rating system. If we are in power as long as they were, we shall introduce a really radical change in the rating system.
The hon. Member spoke of what the "tough, gritty Opposition" managed to gain. This Clause is in my name. I was the person who had to be persuaded that it was right. I was persuaded by the joint efforts of the Scottish Standing Committee when its wishes were interpreted by the Joint Under-Secretary because I thought this was the right thing to do. Some of my hon. Friends were surprised that I did not go further. What we were dealing with was the situation arising out of a decision by the Valuation Appeal Court. It was that decision which led to the feelings of injustice about this particular form of central heating.
1388 The hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie) said that it was a surprise decision on my part and he quoted something which I had said in December, 1964. This was to prove how easy it was to change the law. I told him that the first thing we had to do was to get a Bill to do so. There was no Bill before us then. We seized the first opportunity of doing what was right when we had a local government Bill before us in which this could be readily done. If we had not had this Bill before us the matter might have been further delayed. The hon. and learned Member has not been long in the House, but he will appreciate that one thing we have to be ready for is to seize an opportunity when legislation is before us.
The hon. and learned Member admitted that the case about washing machines is hypothetical at the moment. We have a serious enough time dealing with anomalies we know of, without starting to think others up and legislating against hypothetical situations. His hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) would agree that the interpretation of the Amendment which the Opposition put forward would have given whatever hypothetically there was to give in respect of washing machines which are, will be, or might never be, in houses right away to washing machines in launderettes and commercial premises. I do not think that any of us would suggest that that is the first thing we should attempt.
§ Mr. Ross
I do not want to go into the matter too fully. It may be that I have been considering the Amendment which the hon. and learned Member moved in Committee, but my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern) suggested that in logic we ought to extend this relief to all other forms of central heating.
§ Mr. Ross
If we take an existing house without central heating and install central heating I suggest that we are improving that house. My hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) went even further, and suggested that any kind of improvement should be regarded. What we are up against here is the Valuation Act itself. The basis of valuation is what someone would be prepared to pay annually to live in that house. The more one improves the house, automatically the greater the assessor's valuation.
§ Mr. W. Baxter rose——
§ Mr. Ross
No, not at the moment.
The Government's view is that it would be wrong to make a major breach in the rating resources of local authorities by exempting forms of central heating which undoubtedly involve considerable structural work on the premises. It is suggested that the pipes can be removed, but the assessor considers the pipes as part of the structure. By removing them one is removing part of the structure. It is a matter of the interpretation of, "the house and its appurtenances".
The Government cannot accept the proposition that improvements to property should be exempted from rates as things stand because this is the basis of the rating system and we must put up with it until an alternative is found. My hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter) mentioned many of these points and the answer to him is exactly the same. I wonder whether or not he read the new Clause, because he said that it should not be space heating as laid down in the Clause but structural considerations. But this is where we start from. It is the structural considerations 1390 which are important in relation to valuation, which is why we limited our new Clause to space heating.
I should like to read the words, to show that this is not limited to any particular type or brand but includes whatever interpretation is placed upon the words by the assessors and, if necessary, by the court, It refers to any space heating appliances… so fixed that they can be removed from their place without necessitating the removal of any part of the building.I do not think that there is justification, therefore, for saying that we are discriminating. We are removing an anomaly which arose from a decision of the Valuation Appeal Court.
I am surprised that gratitude was not heaped on my shoulders as I expected. On second thoughts, I did not expect any. I know the Scots in Parliament. They always feel that if something which is being done is right, it should have been done anyway a long time ago. I was never very good myself at expressing gratitude. But even if hon. Gentlemen know nothing about Scottish history and Scottish tradition, the truth is that we do not show our gratitude so openly in Scotland. Indeed, the phrase "Scots love" is used when a husband and wife are narking at one another. We show our feelings for one another in an entirely different way.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) for his kind words, which we certainly welcome. I am sure that my other hon. Friends will support this Clause, if demanded, in the Lobby.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause read a Second time and added to the Bill.