HC Deb 15 February 1983 vol 37 cc176-7 4.19 pm
Mr. Bill Walker (Perth and East Perthshire)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Rating (Caravan Sites) Act 1976 so as to give Scottish caravan sites parity with those in England and Wales. My reason for introducing the Bill is that I believe that for a country such as Scotland, which depends so vitally on tourism, it is absurd that the mean rateable value per caravan should be in excess of £100 when in England and Wales it is less than £50. Tourism is now Scotland's largest industry with total earnings of more than £700 million per year, providing employment for 90,000 people. The caravan park sector provides 36 per cent. of the total holiday bed spaces in Scotland, creating approximately 10,000 jobs and contributing about £80 million to the Scottish economy. Within the self-catering sector, which includes chalets and holiday houses, caravan parks provide 82 per cent. of the holiday bed spaces in Scotland. Sadly, in the past three years occupancy of self-catering accommodation has fallen by about 20 per cent. at peak periods.

The combination of changes brought about by the 1976 Act and the general revaluation of all properties in Scotland in 1978 led to an increase in caravan assessments of between four and six times the original assessment, while assessments for other domestic subjects rose on average by two and a half to three times. Consequently, caravans have been doubly penalised in Scotland.

Before the 1976 Act, all static leisure caravans were separately assessed and entered in the valuation roll, the individual caravan owner having a right of appeal and direct responsibility to the local authority. This meant that for a large caravan park with 500 caravans the local authority issued 500 demands to 500 individuals, most of whom lived in other parts of the country in other local authority areas. Under the 1976 Act, static leisure caravans were no longer separately rated but were combined in one global assessment for the whole caravan park in which they were sited. The site operator thus became directly responsible to the rating authority for the total rate payment. He also became responsible for the apportionment and collection of rates from the individual caravanners. Parallel provisions for England, Wales and Scotland implemented that fundamental change in rating law and put caravan site operators in the unique and unenviable position of being responsible for rates on property not in their occupancy.

The 1976 Act was intended to benefit the caravan industry and to ensure lower rate payments on caravans both north and south of the border. In the Second Reading debate, the then Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, the right hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes) said: A side effect of the Bill which will be of considerable interest to caravan owners is that the total rateable value of the combined caravans and site will be less than if they were valued separately. In other words, the owners of leisure caravans will in most cases be paying less than if their caravans were to continue to be separately rated."—[Official Report, 3 March 1976; Vol. 906, c. 1327–8.] That has not been the case in Scotland. In every instance, Scottish caravan owners and site operators are worse off.

Since the introduction of that Act, they have been paying more than their counterparts in England and Wales. In England and Wales, rateable values were reduced in some cases by up to 40 per cent. but there were no similar reductions in Scotland. I believe that that is contrary to Parliament's intentions.

My Bill seeks to give Scottish sites and leisure caravan owners parity with those in England and Wales by reducing the rateable value by 40 per cent. I cannot see any Scottish Member objecting to that. Indeed, the Bill has all-party support in Scotland as what I judge to be a proper and just attempt to put one of Scotland's tourist facilities on an equal footing with its competitors south of the border. I trust that no English or Welsh Member will object to the Bill, as the 1976 Act in its present form as it applies to Scotland has clearly failed to implement Parliament's original intention. That is why I seek leave to bring in the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Bill Walker, Mr. Albert McQuarrie, Mr. Russell Johnston, Mr. Gordon Wilson, Dr. J. Dickson Mabon, Mr. Ian Campbell, Mr. Tom Clarke and Sir Hector Monro.