HC Deb 04 March 1987 vol 111 cc942-5

Amendments made: No. 6, in page I, line 9, leave out '1992–93' and insert '1989–90'.

No. 7A, in page I, line 11, leave out '1992' and insert '1989'.—[Mr. Ancram.]

8.15 pm
Mr. Bill Walker

I beg to move amendment No. 176 in, page 2, line 2, at end insert— '(b)

  1. (i) any mobile home and the caravan site on which it is stationed including any buildings, ground pertinents, heritable facilities and services which may be used in connection therewith, but excluding any caravan not being a mobile home.
  2. 943
  3. (ii) for the purposes of this subsection "mobile home" and "caravan site" shall have the meaning assigned to them respectively by the Mobile Homes Act 1983 and the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960.'.
In some respects this amendment is a follow-up to the previous group of amendments. It was designed as a probing amendment. Its purpose is to ensure that, when residential caravans are deleted from the valuation roll with the abolition of domestic rates, the assessor shall, in valuing a caravan park, exclude from his calculations the pitch on which a residential caravan is stationed and those parts of the caravan park used by the occupants of residential caravans.

If the amendment is accepted the assessor, when arriving at his valuation of the caravan park, will not be entitled to include any buildings, roads, lighting, services and so on, which, if used in connection with the occupation of an ordinary dwelling house, would not be separately rated as they would be covered within the community charge. It is necessary for all the matters to which assessors in Scotland shall have regard to be spelt out in the legislation. As I said earlier, the assessors in Scotland, unlike the district valuers in England and Wales, are independent of Government directions. Accordingly, they do not have regard to any directions regarding the relaxation of valuation principles. That is why I have brought forward this amendment.

Problems arose as a result of assessors in Scotland refusing to follow the declared intention of the Government regarding the valuation of caravan sites under the Rating (Caravan Sites) Act 1976. That Act was followed by the district valuers in England and Wales but was not followed in Scotland. The matter had to be put right by the enactment of section 15 of the Rating and Valuation (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 1984. That Act inserted section 3A into the Rating (Caravans Site) Act, but that took place eight years after the introduction of the Rating (Caravan Sites) Act.

My amendment should make the task of the assessor, if required, much easier without any loss of revenue. I stress "if required" because I would like the Minister to clarify the exact position so that when assessors and others in Scotland are required to consider the legislation properly there is no doubt in anyone's mind about what was intended by the legislation and the current state of affairs.

Mr. Home Robertson

I am indebted to the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) for raising this issue. I am aware that he is interested in the question of caravans and mobile homes. It raises another intriguing aspect of the legislation. Arising out of the amendment, we must ask when a caravan becomes a mobile home. How on earth does the hon. Gentleman expect an assessor to apportion those parts of facilities attached to a caravan site that are used by touring caravans at the same time as being used by people resident in mobile homes? It highlights an area of anomalies that will be created by the legislation.

The hon. Gentleman has discussed mobile homes and caravans and I can visualise some fascinating situations in his part of Scotland. During the berry-picking period and the tatty-lifting time there are a substantial number of people temporarily resident in caravans who will be moving around farms in his area, in Angus and the neighbouring areas of Grampian. These people will supposedly be subject to the poll tax and I would be fascinated to hear how they will be taken into the system.

Mr. Bill Walker

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. As the hon. Gentleman is so knowledgeable about the situation that exists during berry-picking time in my constituency, he will also recognise that there are few made-up roads or other facilities where the caravans are located during berry-picking. Much of what is contained in my amendment has nothing to do with what the hon. Gentleman is talking about.

Mr. Home Robertson

I accept that. However, I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising this point because it is an intriguing example of the absurd task that the Government are laying upon registration officers and the people whose duty it will be to collect the poll tax. For part of the year such people will have the duty of finding the travelling people in the hon. Gentleman's part of the world. He will have to put them on to the register and then collect poll tax from them. These are the people on whom the Government want to load this new tax to relieve other people who may be paying higher rates. It will not be possible to collect tax from such people. I will be interested to hear what the Minister has to say.

Mr. Ancram

There is nowhere in the Bill a mention of the imposition of poll tax, so the question put by the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) does not arise.

The treatment of caravans under the Bill has been looked at carefully in consultation with a number of interested parties, including local assessors. The policy that has been developed has been explained to caravan interests and was made clear in the last set of amendments discussed in Committee and in a letter that I wrote to the chairman of the Scottish caravan industry joint liaison committee.

The main difficulty that I have with my hon. Friend's amendment is that it seeks to define "mobile homes" in terms of the definition in the Mobile Homes Act 1983, which, in turn, refers to the definition of "caravan" in the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960. This immediately casts doubt on the words in the amendment but excluding any caravan not being a mobile home which give the amendment a certain circularity.

Leaving that aside, in the light of what I have already said both tonight and in Committee, the amendment seems to be going far too wide, in that it seems to bring all kinds of caravans, along with caravan sites and any related site development, within the scope of domestic subjects. This means, for example, that large commercial caravan sites would be excluded from rates. This goes much further than is appropriate and than has been envisaged in consultations.

The policy that we have worked out is fair and reasonable and has been accepted by the caravan industry, which has welcomed the steps that we have taken to ensure that the Bill will not harm its interests. I hope that, on the face of that, my hon. Friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Mr. Bill Walker

By leave of the House, I thank my hon. Friend for that clear explanation of the Government's position and what is intended within the legislation. I am delighted to pass this information back to the caravan people and if they feel that this is not clear, although I think that it is, they can take an opportunity in the other place to try to do something about it. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made, No. 9, in page 2, line 7 after 'above', insert—'(a)'

No. 10, in page 2, line 9 after second 'and', insert— '(b) the part of those lands and heritages which does not constitute domestic subjects'. No. 11, in page 2, line 10 at end insert— '(5A) Any proprietor, tenant or occupier of any lands and heritages may appeal to the valuation appeal committee for the area in which the lands and heritages are situated against any decision of the assessor

  1. (a) to alter the valuation roll with effect from 1st April 1989 by deleting those lands and heritages on the ground that they constitute domestic subjects; or
  2. (b) not so to alter the roll.'.
No. 12, in page 2, line 11 leave out 'to IV' and insert 'and 11'.— [Mr. Ancram.]

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