HC Deb 05 May 1970 vol 801 cc353-6

Lords Amendment Considered.

Clause 1



Lords Amendment No. 1: In page 2, line 9, after "and" insert: without prejudice to any right under section 69 of this Act to make a proposal for the alteration of the valuation list so far as it relates to any particular hereditament ".

11.13 p.m.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Denis Howell)

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

As the House will know, during the passage of the Bill hon. Members in Committee in this House and in another place expressed the hope that in the new proposals which the Government were putting forward which would cover the activities of the Inland Revenue there would be nothing in their operation which would detrimentally affect a particular hereditament.

It proved possible, during the passage of the Bill in another place, to find a form of words, which I had not found possible when the Bill was upstairs, which seems to meet the fears expressed as reasonably as they can be met and placed in legislation.

I am happy, therefore, to accept the Lords Amendment in the knowledge that this will give some satisfaction to hon. Members on both sides who raised this point with me upstairs and were anxious to proceed a little more definitely than I was able to indicate at that time.

Mr. John M. Temple (City of Chester)

I am sure that the House is grateful to the Minister of State for his explanation of this comparatively small Amendment, which will give great solace to the ratepayers when, after the 1973 revaluation, they have to appeal before the valuation court. More people may, in fact, be affected by this small Amendment than by the whole of the Finance Bill which the House has just discussed.

I would pay a tribute to my noble Friend, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, who was very persistent in another place, moving two Amendments in Committee and then this Amendment on Report, which the Government graciously accepted.

There are almost bound to be anomalies when the 1973 revaluation is published, and there might be errors by the staff of the Indand Revenue, so it is important that ratepayers should be given confidence. It will probably be the only time that these people, most of whom probably do not even pay Income Tax, will go before the valuation court. This is the third Amendment of assistance to ratepayers, as a result of our deliberations on the Bill. I said on Second Reading that our endeavours would be to provide a "belt and braces" for ratepayers and I am thankful that, through no fewer than three Amendments which the Government have accepted, ratepayers will have more chance in the court—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are discussing only this one at the moment.

Mr. Temple

Yes, Sir. I was gratuitously giving the Government even more credit: perhaps I was overdoing my generosity!

We were told about the great urgency of the Bill. It has taken six months, through no fault of this House: there was certainly no delay in Committee. Can the Minister of State assure us that the work of the Inland Revenue has not been held up by this protracted consideration?

Ratepayers should be grateful for the fairer and squarer deal which the Amendment will surely make possible for them, on the occasions when they appeal, which we hope will not be too frequent. We trust that the 1973 revaluation will go through smoothly.

Mr. Denis Howell

I appreciate the constructive role of hon. Members on both sides during the debates on the Bill, The fact that we were able to concede three Amendments, which I cannot talk about, shows that we were all trying to get the law right in the interests of the ratepayers.

On the point about which the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. John M. Temple) was good enough to give me notice—although the Bill has taken longer to get through than we expected, Inland Revenue officers tell me that they needed every day of those six months to do their preparation and forward planning. This is not to say that they were anticipating legislation before it was passed, but they were using their intelligent anticipation of the likely outcome. They have been able to make good use of the time available to them. It has not adversely affected their work. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and the House can accept that explanation.

Question put and agreed to.