HC Deb 29 March 1984 vol 57 cc543-5
Mr. Dewar

I beg to move amendment No. 10, in page 11, line 30, at end insert— '(c) after the word "means" shall be inserted the words ", for a period of three years from the coming into effect of section 16 of the Rating and Valuation (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 1984".'. I hope to deal with this in two or three sentences. It relates to the area referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Lambie). As the Solicitor-General knows, the Bill will give, as it were, a running right of repair, giving the right of appeal to the valuation appeal committee on the basis of comparisons with like properties in Scotland. As the Solicitor-General knows, there are serious anxieties among assessors and others connected with the valuation system that the result may be instability and a situation in which the tone of the role will be constantly changing throughout the quinquennium so that many of the virtues of the Scottish valuation system with its five-yearly updatings will be lost.

As I made clear in Committee, we support the general wish to ensure that anomalies can be put right and therefore do not oppose the right of appeal. I do not intend to press the amendment, but I ask the Minister for an assurance that he will keep a close eye on the technical anxieties that have fairly been brought to our attention and that, with the assessors and other interested bodies, he will monitor exactly how matters develop and take any remedial action that may be necessary on a technical level to ensure that we do not create problems for ourselves through what I know is a genuinely well-intentioned effort to put right anomalies which may appear in individual valuations during the quinquennium.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland (Mr. Peter Fraser)

With respect to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscaddan (Mr. Dewar), the effect of the amendment would be to give a limited life to the whole of the definition "material change of circumstances", both that which is on the statute book already and that which is proposed in the Bill. Three years from the date of the Royal Assent, there would be complete confusion because ratepayers, assessors and the courts would be left without any guidance as to what amounts to a material change although assessors would still have a duty to amend the roll to give effect to a material change and ratepayers would have the right to appeal on the same grounds.

There can also be no question of limiting the amendment made by clause 16, as that improvement in the law is needed to remedy continuing inequities. It is not just a transitional measure.

I think that the hon. Gentleman appreciates that the president of the Scottish Assessors Association has commented further on the clause since the debates in Committee. I think that it is fair to say that he has now given a nod of agreement in my direction, accepting what I said on the vexed issue of the effect of the deletion in section 37 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1975 brought about by clause 16. He is worried about the concept of value shift once it is permissible to consider rentals subsequent to the date of revaluation. I believe that my comments in Committee were correct and that the president now accepts that. If I am wrong, the difficulty of the amendment would be that within three years there would be no prospect whatever of anyone having the matter tested in the courts.

I give the hon. Gentleman this undertaking. We appreciate that we have introduced a significant change in the way in which valuations are to be achieved in Scotland. We shall follow very carefully the effect of the changes in part II of the Bill, especially in clause 16, which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State indicated would be the interest in clause 15. We shall want to know, for example, what the value in comparable decisions proved to be to ratepayers and assessors. We shall also want to see what administrative costs and burdens are imposed on the assessors in the future.

In those circumstances, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the amendment should be withdrawn.

Mr. Dewar

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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