§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Pentland.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN said he desired to move the omission of Clause 12—
§ 12. Subject to the provisions of this Act, the provisions of all Acts applicable within the respective burghs in which this Act may be in force with regard to the liability for and the imposition and recovery of any assessment shall subsist in full force and effect, subject to the following provisions (that is to say):—
- (a) Sections throe hundred and forty-five and three hundred and forty-six of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1892, and any corresponding provisions of any local Act shall not apply or be made applicable by adoption to small dwelling-houses of a rent or yearly value not exceeding ten pounds;
- (b) Assessments which may by law be imposed or chargeable upon the occupier of a small dwelling-house may be made payable, should the assessing authority so determine, in such instalments as may be fixed by the assessing authority, and the occupier for the time being shall be liable to pay the instalments of such assessments corresponding with the period of his occupancy, although his name may not be entered as such occupier in the valuation roll: Provided that no occupier shall be liable for any instalment of such assessments for any portion of the year after he has ceased to be the occupier;
- (c) Any such instalment of any assessment falling to be paid after the commencement of a financial year and before the date of the imposition of the assessment for that year shall be calculated, charged, and payable on the basis of the corresponding assessment for the preceding financial year, and it shall be lawful for an assessing authority to demand and enforce payment of any such instalment;
- (d) The owner of every small dwelling-house shall, in addition to making the returns falling to be made by him in accordance with the Lands Valuation (Scotland) Act, 1854, intimate to the assessing authority every notice given or received by him in terms of the section of this Act the marginal note of which is "Notice to terminate tenancy" within three days of the giving or the receiving thereof, and shall also intimate the name of every new tenant, the rate of his rent, and the period of his tenancy within three days after the commencement of each new tenancy, and any owner wilfully failing to do so, or making or causing to be made any false intimation, shall be liable in a penalty not exceeding forty shillings,
§ The effect of the Bill would be largely to increase the number of what were termed short lets—that was to say, lets which were for less than the term of one year—in the large towns, and it was because those lets would be increased that the whole question of the difficulty of the imposition and collection of rates arose. Under Section 343 of the Burgh Police Act, which had been adopted in most of the towns in Scotland and which it was in the power of all the remaining towns to adopt whenever they saw fit, the landlord was responsible for the rates of his tenant where the let was a short one. The demand for the rates was made upon the occupier and the rate was imposed upon the occupier, but if the occupier failed to meet his obligation then recourse was had to the owner, and their Lordships must bear in mind that that was the essential difference between the system of compounding and the system which was established under the Burgh Police Act. The question really was how ought the increased risk which would fall upon the owners under the Bill to be met.
§ Ever since the Second Reading of the Bill, 427 a number of their Lordships connected with Scotland who had taken great interest in the matter had had the point under consideration, and when the Bill went into Committee a proposal was made which he himself, he thought, moved, and which they hoped at that time would meet the case. That was taken exception to by the City of Glasgow, and ever since that time the Scottish Peers, with the very able and laborious assistance of Mr. Scott Dickson and Mr. Clyde, who had a very minute acquaintance, as their Lordships were all aware, as leading members of the Scottish Bar with Scottish rating law, had had the matter under almost continuous consideration. In the first place, when the City of Glasgow objected to the clause which now stood in the Bill the house-factors and house-owners also raised objections, and therefore it appeared that it would be useless to insist upon Clause 12 and that it was desirable to find some substitute. It was a very technical matter which could not be at all interesting to their Lordships, and he did not intend to go into the detail of it. They then considered the matter, and devised another clause which they hoped at one moment was agreed to, but unfortunately their expectations were falsified, because the house-owners and factors objected. He put down a clause which he believed embodied agreement and which he had hoped to move on Report, but when the Report stage was reached he found it was desirable not to move the clause. They had been considering the matter ever since, and after a fortnight of more trouble, owing to the change of mind which he thought was chiefly on the part of the house-owners and factors, they had come to the conclusion that their difference was really whittled down to a very small point.
§ Everybody was agreed, with respect to the additional risk to which house-owners would be exposed, that there ought to be a scale of deduction applicable to them in regard to their liability for the rates of their tenants; and the difficulty really only was with regard to the question whether the scale of deduction should be originated and started by the Sheriff under the Bill, or whether, on the other hand, the Bill should contain a fixed scale of rates of deduction which after a period should be subject to revision by the Sheriff if ten persons who were interested thought it desirable. To cut a long story short, they came to the conclusion that the latter was, upon the 428 whole, the more desirable way of proceeding, and, as their Lordships would see, that was embodied in the Amendment. There were other matters in the Amendment, but they were really matters of detail with which he did not think it necessary to trouble their Lordships at the moment, and therefore he proposed to explain very briefly the contents of the Amendment itself.
§ He proposed, in the first place, for the reasons which he had given to their Lordships, to leave out Clause 12. With regard to what he proposed to substitute, if their Lordships would turn to the Amendment, they would see in the first four lines the words, "Subject to the provisions of this Act, the provisions with regard to the liability for and the imposition and recovery by an assessing authority of any assessment of all Acts applicable within the respective burghs in which this Act may be in operation shall subsist in full force and effect." The effect of those words was to preserve for all burghs except burghs with a population of above 50,000 their present modes of proceeding in the way of imposing and collecting rates. That was what the burghs originally asked for, and that was part of the clause which their Lordships would see was now in the Bill and which it was proposed to continue by his Amendment. That was all that the burghs asked for, and people ought to be content with obtaining all that they asked for.
§ If their Lordships read on, they would see that in the larger burghs, those above 50,000, there were certain provisions to apply and have effect. The first would be found in the proviso that where a small dwelling-house was let for a year or longer and the rent was payable more frequently than once in three months, that was to be deemed for the purposes of the section as a letting for less than a year. The object of that was that supposing any one were to let a house for twelve or even for fourteen months, and were to require the rent to be paid at monthly intervals, it would be possible then for him to entirely evade the provisions of Section 345 of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act. It seemed to them that that was an undeniable fact, and therefore they thought it was desirable to insert this provision in the clause. The next thing he wished to call their Lordships' attention to was that they had departed so far from the provisions of Section 345 as to limit them to small dwellings instead 429 of land and premises which were the words in that section. His Amendment was one which was distinctly in favour of the house-owners. Again, he had included on the next page, in Section 2 (1), Section 346. That, again, was another change which was asked for by the house-owners.
§ Then there followed a scale of deductions which was fixed at seven and a-half per cent. in one case, five per cent. in another, and three per cent. in the case of houses where the rental was above £10, but did not exceed £20. The three per cent. in the case of houses of a rental above £10 was also in favour of the house-owners. They had adopted those fixed figures in connection with another Amendment which came later, and which dealt with the question of empty houses. He need not explain it to their Lordships at length, but the result was that where the owner could show that the house was neither let nor occupied during a certain period of the year he would be able to reclaim the amount of his assessment which he might have paid in respect of that house for that period. Those three Amendments would all have to be taken together as part of one arrangement, and they understood that that arrangement, if taken as a joint one, would be looked upon as satisfactory. They had not proceeded, when fixing the amounts, on their own unaided judgment. They had actually been suggested by a gentleman in Glasgow who was very familiar with the house agency business, and on the whole they thought that they could hardly go wrong in adopting the figures which he had suggested. There were other matters in the clause which if their Lordships desired it he could explain, but he thought that he had explained the whole principle of the Amendment. He could only say that the noble Lords representing Scotland who took part in it, and also Mr. Clyde and Mr. Scott Dickson, bestowed an enormous amount of time and trouble upon the matter. It was necessary, of course, to put something into the Bill, and all he could say was that his Amendment represented a conclusion unanimously arrived at after a very long inquiry.
To leave out Clause 12, and to insert the following new clause:
§ 12. Subject to the provisions of this Act, the provisions with regard to the liability for and the Imposition and recovery by an assessing authority of any assessment of all Acts applicable within 430 the respective burghs in which this Act may be in operation shall subsist in full force and effect, provided that in the application of section three hundred and forty-five of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1892, in any burgh which, at the date of the census of nineteen hundred and one, Contained a population of fifty thousand or upwards, the following provisions shall apply and have effect (that is to say):—
§ (1) Section three hundred and forty-five and three hundred and forty-six of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1892, shall be read and construed as if the following provision were added thereto and contained therein (that is to say):—
§ Provided that where small dwelling-houses within the meaning of the Small Dwelling-Houses in Burghs Letting and Hating (Scotland) Act, are let for a year or longer and the rent is payable or paid more frequently or at shorter intervals than once in three months, such dwelling-houses shall be deemed, for the purposes of this section, to be let for less than a year.
§ (2)—(i) Every assessing authority shall, in respect of the occupancy of small dwelling-houses allow to owners from all occupiers' assessments levied on and paid by them in place of the occupiers, under and in terms of section three hundred and forty-five or section three hundred and forty-six of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1892, as amended by any subsequent Act, a deduction to cover cost of collection and risk of loss on the following scale (that is to say):—
- (A) Where the yearly rent or value entered on the valuation roll exceeds four pounds but does not exceed seven pounds, seven and one-half per centum;
- (B) Where the said yearly rent or value exceeds seven pounds but does not exceed ten pounds, five per centum; and
- (C) Where the said yearly rent or value exceeds ten pounds but does not exceed the limit of rental fixed by this Act, three per centum:
§ Provided that, after such scale of deduction has been in operation in any such burgh for a period of not less than three years, it shall be competent for the assessing authority, or for any ten or more persons having an interest, to present a petition to the sheriff for reconsideration of such scale, and the decision of the sheriff, after such intimation by advertisement or in such other manner as he thinks fit, and after such inquiry, if any, as he may deem necessary, shall be final, but after the expiry of a period of not less than five years from the date of such decision, and thereafter at intervals of not less than five years from the date of the final interlocutor by the sheriff on the reconsideration of such scale, the scale may, subject to like procedure, be resubmitted to the sheriff for reconsideration.
- (ii) Every such owner shall have relief against the occupiers for the full amount of such assessments without deduction.
- (iii) Every such owner shall have the same claims and remedies for recovery from the occupiers of such assessments and rent as for the recovery of rent alone.
§ (3)—(i) Notwithstanding the payment by the owner of occupiers' assessments in respect of the occupancy of a small dwelling-house, if any small dwelling-house in respect of which such payment has been made shall not be let or occupied for the whole period for which assessments have been paid, the owner shall, upon lodging, on or before dates to be fixed by the respective assessing authorities, with the clerk to any such authority, or with such 431 other officer as such authority may appoint for the purpose, a claim therefor, which shall set forth the period or periods during which the small dwelling-house was not let or occupied and a declaration to the effect that no rent or other consideration was due or was or is to be paid or given for such period or periods, be entitled to repayment from such authority of the proportionate amount of such assessments for the said period or periods.
- (ii) In the case of any small dwelling-house appearing in the valuation roll as unlet, the owner, on receipt of a requisition from an assessing authority, shall forthwith furnish such authority with a return containing particulars of any period or periods during which such small dwelling-house has been let or occupied, and the owner shall be liable to pay the proportionate amount of assessments for the said period or periods as if such small dwelling-house had not appeared in the valuation roll as unlet.
- (iii) Any owner knowingly making or causing to be made any false statement in or in connection with any claim, declaration, or return under this section, or failing to make any such return, shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding fifty pounds.'"—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (LORD PENTLAND)
My Lords, I have some observations of a general character to make, and I will postpone dealing with the Amendment of the noble Earl until the Motion that the Bill do pass.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN asked whether they might not at once have the opinion of His Majesty's Government upon the proposal of his noble friend below the Gangway. He spoke with great diffidence upon the subject of Scottish rating, but as far as he understood it the Amendment of his noble friend introduced a new system of compounding.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
No, not compounding. Compounding was where the owner was directly called upon to pay the rates. The system which was established under the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1892, was that the occupier was rated and was called upon to pay the rate, and if he failed to pay then the owner in the case of a short let always became liable for the rate which the occupier had failed to pay, and the occupier, of course, was not eligible for the municipal register.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN asked if, when the owner became liable, he received the same kind of allowance as was given in England.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN replied in the affirmative.432
§ LORD PENTLAND
No. I am obliged to the noble Viscount for raising that point. There is no allowance under the Burgh Police Act whatever, and the provisions for compounding, if we may so describe it, under the Burgh Police Act consequently have no operation.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN agreed that the noble Lord was perfectly correct with regard to the Burgh Police Act as it stood, but he thought they were speaking of the Burgh Police Act as affected by his clause.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN said that his clause did institute certain rates of deduction.
§ LORD PENTLAND
I did not wish to occupy the time of your Lordships' House at this moment, because I desired to make some comments on the Bill as a whole as altered by your Lordships. The Amendments of the noble Earl who has just spoken are in some degree a reversion to the Bill as it came from the House of Commons, although with certain important differences and modifications which very largely nullify the value of the approximation to the Government proposals which the noble Earl now shows in his Amendment. Your Lordships have taken control of the Bill, and it is not possible for the Government to consider that the plan now proposed by the noble Earl is a substitute for the proposals which were laid before you when the Bill came to your Lordships' House from another place. Therefore I had not thought of animadverting upon the matter at any length.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
The noble Lord agrees, however, that the Amendment is an improvement on the Bill as it now stands?
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN moved to amend Clause 17—
§ 17. Nothing in this Act contained shall prejudice or affect the provisions of section seventy two of the Waterworks Clauses (Scotland) Act, 1847, 433 by leaving out the word "Scotland." He said that his Amendment was purely a drafting one, and that the word "Scotland" appeared by mistake.
In page 6, line 13, to leave out 'Scotland.'"—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN next moved to insert at the end of Clause 17 words providing that owners should not be entitled to any deduction from the water rates payable by them. The Clause stated that nothing in this Bill should prejudice or affect the provisions of Section 72 of the Waterworks Clauses Act, 1847. He would have thought that that exempted Clause 72 of the Waterworks Clauses Act altogether, and it was quite clear that those who were under the provisions of that Act would not be affected. There was an Edinburgh company, however, which supplied water, and which was under an apprehension that unless the Amendment which stood in his name was inserted owners would be entitled to deduct from the water rates which they were now liable for under the Waterworks Act those deductions which had reference to the municipal rate. He himself would have thought it was quite clear that that was not so, but the persons in question were very persistent in the matter and seemed anxious about it, and he did not see that there could be any harm in inserting the words.
In page 6, line 13, after '1874,' to insert 'nor entitle the owners to any deduction from the water rates payable by them in virtue of the said section.'"—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ LORD PENTLAND
It is always objectionable I am informed, as a matter of drafting, to put in redundant or superfluous passages in legislation. That is my objection to the words. I am advised that they are not necessary; but if the noble Earl presses them I will say no more.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD PENTLAND
My Lords, in moving that the Bill do pass, I would like to be allowed to state to you as well as I am able exactly what has happened in regard to this Bill. The Bill came up to your Lordships' 434 House practically with the unanimous support of the Scottish Members—a non-party measure—after being thoroughly considered in Grand Committee and with an unusually large body of Scottish opinion behind it. Your Lordships in Committee amended it seriously at the instance of the noble Earl opposite, and you have now amended it again on his initiative. I well know the great trouble that he and others have been to in endeavouring to grapple with this question, but the result of this alteration of the Bill has not. I think, been a happy one, and I cannot believe that it has secured the support of those interested for the Bill; and from various directions I have indications that this cannot be at any rate considered as the last of the vicissitudes of this measure. In the first place the house-owners, to which the noble Earl, Lord Camperdown, made frequent allusion, have, as he knows, protested strongly against the proposals which he has now put into the Bill. I have had communications by letter and by telegram, and I see reports in the papers of meetings which they have had, strongly protesting against this solution which has now been adopted by your Lordships' House.
Then I notice that in the Amendments which have been inserted the noble Earl has made three important changes. His solicitude for the ratepayer feeling the burden of the personal payment that he has to make in respect of rates is gone, because he does not re-introduce the Government provision which was intended to impress upon the ratepayer the amount of his personal share and contribution to I he rates. Then, again, the provision for more frequent collection of rates by municipalities is gone, and as the noble Earl himself pointed out he has been forced to accept some scale, although not considered by them satisfactory, of allowance to house-owners for the collection of rates. There are other grounds on which there is still serious opposition to this Bill. At the instance of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton, the limits of rental were introduced. I have a strong protest against that. Again at the instance of the noble Earl, Lord Camperdown, parish councils were cut out of the Bill. I endeavoured to call his attention, when that operation was being performed, to the fact that the rates collected by the parish councils in Scotland amount to something like thirty-eight per cent. of the total sum collected in rates in Scotland. By cutting the parish councils 435 out of this Bill, which purports to provide for more frequent removals and short lets, your Lordships are placing the parish councils at a considerable disadvantage. The scheme of the noble Earl is intended to meet the difficulties of the municipalities, but he does in no sense meet the difficulties of the parish councils. Parish councils can only recover their rates from the occupier whose name is on the valuation roll. That occupier has a right of recovery from subsequent occupiers, but that is a worthless power because the other occupiers may have gone east, west, north and south, and he cannot recover from them, so that the parish councils are left crippled. They have not the same security under the new system as they have at present for the collection of their rates, and obviously their whole influence will be thrown against the introduction of the system under this Bill. Your Lordships have cut away the security for the collection of their rates, and made no provision whatever for meeting their difficulties, whereas they as bodies all over Scotland are really responsible for nearly two-fifths of the total sum collected in rates. So that your Lordships have the house-owners dissatisfied, you have the working men dissatisfied, and you have the parish councils dissatisfied, the cumulative effect of the whole thing being that practically the scheme of the Bill has been entirely destroyed. Your Lordships have one perfectly clear motive, or rather the noble Earl has, in doing this—namely, the antipathy to compounding. The noble Earl has a strong aversion to compounding.
§ LORD PENTLAND
I will pass from that point. It is a small one. In theory I am perfectly prepared to admit that the practice of composition and compounding is open to grave objection; but, after all, you cannot say that in a world of change everything is to be subject to change except this one very limited question of composition for rates for small houses. The effect of such a proposition would be to lose all perspective; it is altogether too rigid and confined a view. Look at the experience in England under the Reform Act of 1867, by which the composition of rates was abolished. A very violent agitation sprang up throughout the country at the abolition of compounding, and in the following year, 1868, the Government had to appoint a Committee to consider the 436 whole question. So great was the confusion and difficulty throughout the country that they appointed a Committee, on which the noble Viscount opposite served, and also another noble Lord in this House, Lord Eversley. That Committee were divided in their recommendations, and the Government, the following year, when they passed the Bates Act applying to England, threw over the Committee and practically re-introduced the system of compounding for workmen's houses in England. When that is known it is impossible to deny that the claim of the Scottish workmen for a similar privilege is an extremely strong one, and it is impossible also to believe that their claim will ever be forgotten so long as the exigencies of their occupations oblige them to move from place to place, and so long as the limitations of their income make it an extremely important thing to them whether or not they are to have too large a house on their hands and are unable to make a change.
I am afraid that the whole mischief, if I may venture to say so, and the main substance of the antipathy to the system of compounding come from a fear of its indirect influence in possibly increasing the franchise. Some noble Lords who criticised this Bill really see nothing in it but a covert attempt to increase the franchise to these working men in Scotland. A noble Lord says "Hear, hear." If your Lordships would only believe me these working men cannot afford to look at this question from the point of view of political organisers. They are poor men, finding a great difficulty in making a living as it is, and this is a serious subtraction from their slender income which in times of depression of trade makes a substantial difference to them. This agitation draws none of its strength from any desire on the part of the working men to obtain votes. As I told your Lordships on the Second Reading, their habit is to pay for everything by instalments—food, clothes, furniture, everything. They are obliged by the circumstances of their income, which is also paid by instalments frequently, to pay for everything by instalments, and they want this system of house-letting to fit the conditions of their life and their labour.
There are two great classes who are affected by this Bill. In the first place, there is the class of working man who is obliged to follow his labour. He goes from Glasgow to the Tyne, or from the Tyne to Belfast, according as shipbuilding is in progress. 437 He is obliged to follow his work, and his home is broken up, we may say, every year, or at smaller intervals when he goes in search of his work. There is also a very large community of humble people who, either from an increase in their families, in which case they wish to have enlarged dwellings, or because of the death of the breadwinner of the family the widow wishes to limit her expenditure at once. Large classes of these people, who feel their circumstances keenly, wish a more elastic system of house letting, in order to fit their slender circumstances. I only wish I could have any hope that my words would be of the least avail in inducing your Lordships to believe that there is no political motive whatever in the minds of the Scottish working men in endeavouring to see this grievance remedied. The noble Earl, Lord Shaftesbury, in Committee, speaking with his experience as Lord Mayor of Belfast, said that they must have compounding there. Compounding is the universal experience in England, as I have related to your Lordships, and it is only Scotland which is denied this privilege.
Now, my Lords, may I say one word as to what this dread amounts to. In the first place, these men are all taxpayers, and as taxpayers they are contributing to the revenue of the country, and even as taxpayers their claim to a Parliamentary vote is not an inconsiderable one. But let us look at the considerations from the point of view of rates. Take any figure you like as the probable addition to the number of ratepayers of Glasgow by this Bill. The present system is that they pay their rates in a lump sum at the end of the year, and it may be quite true that they are not able in many instances to pay that lump sum, accustomed as they are to pay for everything else by instalments. It may be quite true that the exacting of that lump sum at the end of the year may cause them to default, and for that reason they may be struck off the Parliamentary roll. To my mind, my Lords, that of itself constitutes a considerable injustice—that the conditions of payment should not be better adjusted to the conditions of work and labour. But may I point out to your Lordships that this is a Bill for increasing short lets and therefore increasing removals, and in proportion as it increases removals it will militate against any extension of the franchise, because the franchise compels a considerable residence as a condition of qualifying for voting. Let 438 me also point out this. It is only when men pay their rates with their rents that they will be so qualified in future. The men who do not pay their rates will probably not pay their rents, and they will be turned out of their houses and will lose their votes. The men who do pay their rents will pay their rates, and they will be properly and fairly qualified, I think, to vote.
As a matter of fact, this is a Bill which would secure, if it were in its original form, results with which I am sure your Lordships would sympathise. It would secure a more regular and systematic collection and payment of rates, because it would make it easier for working men to pay rates than it is under the present system. That is really the source of the support which municipalities give to this Bill, that it would secure a more prompt and full payment of rates, because the conditions which it proposes to introduce would further that end. Incidentally it might increase the franchise. I have given reasons for thinking that that increase would not be considerable, but your Lordships will not allow the beneficent operation of this Bill simply because in your opinion it will increase the franchise to these working men.
§ Moved, That the Bill do pass.—(Lord Pentland.)
§ LORD CLINTON was sorry that the noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland should have charged them with taking the control of the Bill out of his hands, because he could assure him that they had really done nothing of the kind. They had not touched one part of the main principle of the Bill. The principle of the Bill was, as the noble Lord himself had said, to deal with short lets. Those clauses dealing with short lets remained in the Bill exactly as they were brought before their Lordships' House. The grievance which was complained of in Scotland had nothing whatever to do with the compounding of rates, which was the matter which the noble Lord had given his chief attention to. They had in Scotland, as their Lordships knew, a system of compounding which was different from the system prevailing in England. They only compounded up to £4 in yearly value, and by a clause or two in the Bill before them an enormous change was to be made in that system by raising the limit of compounding from £4 to £26 a year.
§ LORD PENTLAND
Can the noble Lord point to any place where short lets are current without compounding?
§ LORD CLINTON said that compounding was the rule in England in every case within certain limits of rental, not necessarily connected with short lets, although they might he the incidental cause of it. He knew that the noble Lord's argument was that they could not have short letting without compounding, but as he was able to tell the noble Lord during the debate on the Second Reading, that was not the opinion held by the Departmental Committee which sat on this very Bill. It was not the opinion either of the Royal Commission on Local Taxation. Both those Committees said that compounding was not an essential corollary of short letting. He admitted that it was easier to carry out a system of short letting if they had compounding, but the two things did not necessarily go together. Everybody objected on principle to the system of compounding. The noble Lord himself objected to it, and the noble Earl who moved the Amendment had introduced a scheme which was an alternative to compounding, and one which it was quite possible to carry out in connection with compounding. That scheme was approved by all the burghs in Scotland, and they were responsible for the collection of rates in Scotland. The noble Lord shook his head, but he maintained that that was so.
§ LORD PENTLAND
I shook my head for this reason, that the Amendments put in on the Committee stage were put in on precisely the same authority. The one thing that all the burghs were united upon was in their opposition to the introduction of these Amendments, and I am afraid that the noble Lord will get no further towards settling this question by appealing to the burghs.
§ LORD CLINTON pointed out that what the burghs really objected to was the whole thing, and they had proved themselves somewhat fickle people to deal with. The real objection was on the part of the house-owners, because the commission granted under the Bill for collecting the rates was not sufficient. That commission was intended to pay them for the additional loss which they might suffer under this new system of short letting. They were already responsible, their Lordships would recollect, for such arrears of rates as might occur under the system of short letting that now existed, and under the Amendment of the noble Earl they would in addition be 440 responsible for such houses as might be let for short periods and also for houses in which, even if they were let for a year, the rents were collected oftener than once in three months. What that additional loss would be no one in this country could tell. Even if it were left to the Sheriff to decide, as the house owners proposed, the Sheriff would have no data to go upon. No one could say what that additional loss would be, and they had thought it better—and they were very strongly of the opinion still—that the wisest course to adopt was the one they had adopted of putting in a covering figure, which they hoped at all events would be a sufficient commission to owners. At the end of three years from this date, they had provided that on the application of anybody the Sheriff himself would decide what the commission ought to be. At the end of that three years the Sheriff would have had sufficient experience, and there would be sufficient data on which he could fix the actual amount of commission. With the exception of the house-owners, he did not think they had any substantial objection to the commission. It might not be perfect, but he was glad to hear the noble Lord say that after all the present Amendment was an improvement upon the Bill, and he hoped it would work satisfactorily in Scotland.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN said that the noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland had addressed to their Lordships a speech which was really almost a repetition of the one which he made upon the Second Reading, and therefore if some of them intruded upon their Lordships a few words which might seem more appropriate to a debate on Second Reading they must not blame them because they were answering the arguments which the noble Lord had used. The noble Lord said, in the first place, that they had interfered with a Bill which was the result of long consideration in Grand Committee. Was the noble Lord aware that the Bill was entirely altered in Grand Committee? He was unable to tell them why it had been altered, or on what information; all he said was that further consideration had taught them more about their Bill. Their Lordships would remember that the noble Lord was absolutely ignorant of the complete transformation that took place in the Bill in Grand Committee, where it was opposed by every burgh of Scotland with the exception, he thought, of Glasgow; whereas the noble Lord, when he (Lord Camperdown) mentioned it to him, told the 441 House that he was not aware of any opposition of the kind.
§ Then the noble Lord said that in the Amendment he had just introduced he had done away with the personal payment of rates. He had done nothing of the kind, and he did not know what the noble Lord meant. What he had done was to provide that in burghs where at the present time the Burgh Police Act was in force it remained in force; and if any burgh hereafter adopted it—any of those who had not adopted it at present—subject to the scale of deduction it would come into force; and so far from doing away with personal payment of rates, what would happen would be that the occupier would be called upon to pay the rate. If he did not pay the rate and it was a short let the owner would undoubtedly be responsible. That was not doing away with the personal payment of rates. Then the noble Lord asked what was to happen to the parish councils? What had the parish councils to do with a Bill which had reference to letting? Nothing whatever. The parish councils had to do with the Poor Law, and if they wanted to alter the Poor Law let them do it directly and not in that, indirect manner. They were absolutely ignorant, even up to the present moment, of why the parish councils were ever introduced into the Bill at all. The noble Lord had said that there might be some indirect political effect on the register, although he had assured them more than once that no political consideration had anything to do with the matter. But supposing it was proved, as was clear, that the political result must be a very considerable addition to the register in the way of putting persons on the register who had not paid their rates and in respect of whose rates it was possible that no payment would be made even by the owners. If the noble Lord admitted, as he must, that that effect was produced
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN said that the noble Lord did not admit it, but he wished the noble Lord would show them how it could be otherwise. If a man did not pay his poor rate and if the owner did not pay it either, the occupier's name would still be upon the political register. Then with regard to the increase in the 442 system of compounding, the noble Lord said that the addition which he proposed to make was merely a limited one. So far from being limited, if the Bill came into force in the form in which it entered their Lordships' House, out of 175,000 houses in Glasgow nearly 160,000 would be compounded for. The noble Lord's system of compounding would be almost general, and it would only remain to the authorities to collect the rates on something like 20,000 houses in the whole of Glasgow. The noble Lord alluded to the figure of £26 which the Grand Committee had placed in the Bill. With the exception of the Grand Committee, there was no authority whatever for that figure of £26. Mr. Cross, the Member of Parliament who had introduced seven or eight Bills on the subject, never suggested such a figure as £26, or ever thought of it. The highest figure he ever introduced was £20, and that was the figure which on Lord Clinton's motion was placed in the Bill with regard to Glasgow. As to parish councils they clearly had nothing to do with the Bill, and in his humble judgment it was a very great mistake to introduce them in a Bill with regard to letting—a Bill which altered the Poor Law, and which unquestionably, although the noble Lord said not, would have a considerable political effect. Another thing the noble Lord said was that under the Bill it would not be possible for working men to pay their rates by instalments. The reason why the clause relating to instalments had been dropped out was that in Glasgow at the present time they were just entering upon an experiment of collecting rates three times in the year at an interval of four months, and the burghs generally desired to see the result of that experiment before such a clause was introduced into the Bill. That was the chief reason why the clause did not find a place in his Amendment. He could say a good deal more on the subject, but he was unwilling to detain their Lordships further. A good deal of the discussion, he thought, would have been more appropriate to the Second Reading of the Bill; indeed they had had a great deal of it already on Second Reading, and he therefore did not propose to discuss it any further on that occasion.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to,
§ Bill passed accordingly, and returned to the Commons, and to be printed as amended. (No. 210.)