§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee—(Lord Pentland. )
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The EARL OP DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1.
1. In this Act—
The expression "small dwelling-house" means a dwelling-house in a burgh or special district in which this Act is in operation, entered in the valuation roll at a yearly rent or value of—
Ten pounds or under if the population of the burgh or special district is less than twenty thousand;
Fifteen pounds or under if the population of the burgh or special district is twenty thousand and less than fifty thousand; and
Twenty-one pounds or under if the population of the burgh or special district is fifty thousand or upwards;
but shall not include any dwelling-house occupied by the owner thereof, or in which the owner resides, or any dwelling-house used as an inn or hotel, or any dwelling-house let along with land for agricultural, pastoral, or horticultural purposes, or any dwelling-house let in conjunction with a shop, workshop, stable, or byre; nor shall it include any dwelling-house let under any contract or lease current at the date when this Act comes into force in any burgh or special district prior to the expiration of such contract or lease:
The expression "assessing authority" includes a town council, a county council, a parish council, and every other body entitled to impose an assessment:
The expression "assessment" includes all rates, charges, and assessments imposed, assessed, or levied by an assessing authority, the proceeds of which are applicable to public local purposes and which are leviable in respect of the yearly value of lands and heritages, and includes any sum which, though obtained in the first instance by a precept, certificate, or other instrument requiring payment from some authority or officer, is or can be ultimately raised out of an assessment:
The expression "magistrate" includes judge of police:
The expressions "owner" and "occupier" have the meanings assigned to them respectively in the Burgh Police (Scotland). Act, 1892; provided that section fifty eight of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1903 (which limits the obligations of factors), shall apply for the purposes of this Act as if it were herein re-enacted with the substitution of this Act for the Burgh i Police Acts specified in the said section:
The expression "burgh" means a royal, parliamentary, or police burgh; and the I expression "population" within the police boundaries of a burgh means the population of the burgh according to the census last issued, and within a special district the population thereof as ascertained for the purposes of this Act in manner approved by the Secretary for Scotland:
The expression "special district" means a special district formed in a county under the Public Health (Scotland) Act, 1897, or the Local Government (Scotland) Acts, 1889 to 1908, for the purposes of water supply, drainage, lighting, or scavenging.
§ LORD PENTLAND moved to leave out the words "date when"["nor shall it include any dwelling-house let under any contract or lease current at the date when"] and to insert "passing of."
Page 1, line 25, leave out ("date when") and insert ("passing of").—(Lord Pentland. )
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD PENTLAND moved to omit the words "comes into force in any burgh or special district," which appear immediately after the Amendment just made.
Page 2, line 1, leave out from ("Act") to the end of the line—(Lord Pentland.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
LORD PENTLAND moved to amend the following paragraph—
The expression "burgh" means a royal, parliamentary, or police burgh; and the expression "population" [within the police boundaries of a burgh means the population of the burgh according
to the census last issued, and within] a special I district the population thereof as ascertained for the purposes of this Act in manner approved by the Secretary for Scotland:
by omitting the words which, appear between brackets and inserting in their place the words in his Amendment.
Page 1, line 25, leave out from ("population ") to ("a") in line 28 and insert ("means in relation to an existing burgh the population within the police boundaries thereof according to the census of nineteen hundred and eleven, and in relation to a burgh constituted after the passing of this Act or to ").—(Lord Pentland.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 2 to 6 agreed to.
§ Clause 7
§ Provisions as to rating of small dwelling-houses.
§ 7. Subject as hereinafter provided the provision of all Acts applicable within the respective areas in which this Act may be in operation respecting the liability for, and the imposition and recovery by an assessing authority of, any assessment, shall subsist in full force and effect: Provided that within every such area—
- (1) The occupier of a small dwelling-house shall in no case be liable to pay occupiers' assessment there for in respect of any period prior to the commencement or subsequent to the termination of his occupancy, but any liability to pay occupiers' assessment, which would by law be imposed on a person occupying the small dwelling-house throughout the year from Whitsunday to Whitsunday, shall be imposed on any such occupier or successive occupiers during the year, whether their names appear in the valuation roll or not, to such extent or in such shares as shall be proportionate to the period or periods of their respective occupancies of the small dwelling-house:
- (2) Subject as hereinafter provided the owner of a small dwelling-house shall be responsible for all assessments liability to pay which is imposed on the occupier thereof, and all responsibility of the occupier for the same shall cease and determine, and the same shall not be recovered or recoverable by the assessing authority from the occupier, but shall be recovered by the assessing authority from such owner in the same manner as provided for under existing Acts with respect to the recovery of assessments from owners, and the assessing authority shall be entitled to recover occupiers' assessments from the owner for the year from Whitsunday to Whitsunday, notwithstanding that the house
968 may not be occupied throughout the year, and for that purpose to issue to the owner through their collector or other officer appointed by them any notice, schedule, demand note, or intimation which, under existing Acts, may be issued in respect of the year's assessments to the occupier:
- (3) Notwithstanding any payment by the owner of occupiers' assessments in respect of the occupancy of a small dwelling house, if, in respect of any period, rent or other consideration shall not be received by the owner for any small dwelling-house in respect of which such payment has been made, the owner shall, upon lodging on or before dates to be fixed by the respective assessing authorities (one of which dates shall be fixed not earlier than the first or later than the twentieth day of May in each year), with the clerk to any such authority, or with such other officer as such authority may appoint for the purpose, a claim for repayment, which shall set forth the period or periods during which the small dwelling-house was not let, or in respect of which, though the house was let, no payment of rent or other consideration was received by him and a declaration to the effect that no rent or other consideration has been paid or given for such period or periods, be entitled to repayment from such authority of the proportionate amount of such assessment for the said period or periods without prejudice to the right of the authority to make adjustments with the owner in respect of any such rent or other consideration subsequently re covered by him: Provided that, for the purpose of any qualification or franchise which depends on payment of occupiers' assessments, an occupier shall be held to be in arrear and his assessments to remain unpaid to the extent of any claim there for (if relating to any period o during the occupancy of the said occupier) under this subsection in respect of which the owner has received repayment or which is pending at the date when notice of occupiers' assessments in arrear requires to be given under the statutes relating to such qualification or franchise:
- (4) The owner of a small dwelling-house, on receipt of a requisition from an assessing authority or such officer as they may appoint, shall within ten days thereafter furnish such authority with a return containing particulars of any period or periods in any years from Whitsunday to Whitsunday during which such small dwelling-house has been let, and of the occupier or successive occupiers thereof with their respective periods of occupancy and the amount of rent payable and paid by them respectively:
- (5) Any owner knowingly making or causing to be made any false statement in or in connexion with any claim, declaration, or return under this section, or failing to make any such return, shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a penalty not exceeding fifty pounds:
- (6) Every assessing authority shall in respect of the occupancy of small dwelling-houses allow to owners from all occupiers' assessments levied on am recovered from them in place of the occupiers (less any repayment in pursuance of a claim under this section) a deduction to cover cost of collection, on the following scale (that is to say):— In the city of Glasgow, two pounds ten shillings per centum; and elsewhere such deduction, not exceeding two pounds ten shillings per centum, as may be fixed by the sheriff on the application of the assessing authority, or any ten or more persons having an interest, after such intimation by advertisement or otherwise as he thinks fit, and after such inquiry, if any, as he may deem necessary: Provided that, except in the city of Glasgow, after such scale of deduction has been in operation 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 sheriff, after such intimation by advertisement or otherwise as he thinks fit, and after such inquiry, if any, as he may deem necessary, shall fix and decide a scale of deduction accordingly, 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 the like procedure, be re-submitted to the sheriff for reconsideration: Provided further that the sheriff shall not fix a scale of deduction exceeding two pounds ten shillings per centum, and it shall not be competent to appeal from any decision of the sheriff under this section.
- (7) Section thirty-one of the Lands Valuation (Scotland) Act, 1854, subsection six of section nine of the Representation of the People Act, 1884, and sections three hundred and forty-four, three hundred and forty-five, and three hundred and forty-six of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1892, and the provisions of local Acts specified in Part I of the schedule to this Act, shall not apply to a small dwelling-house, and the provisions of local Acts specified in Part II of that schedule in their application to a small dwelling-house shall be subject to the modifications therein prescribed, and any corresponding provisions of other local Acts shall be read and construed subject to the like alterations so far as necessary in order to give full effect to the purposes of this Act.
§ LORD PENTLAND moved to omit from subsection (2) the words "and all responsibility of the occupier for the same shall cease and determine." The noble Lord said: This is really a drafting Amendment.970
Page 4, line 40, leave out ("and all responsibility of the occupier for the same shall cease and determine").—(Lord Pentland.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE EAEL OF DUNMORE moved the insertion of a new subsection to provide that "The owner of a small dwelling-house shall at the commencement of the occupancy of each occupier and in each year beginning on the fifteenth day of May deliver to such occupier a statement specifying the respective amounts of rent and of assessments payable by him in respect of the period of his occupancy, and the owner in the receipts for such payments by the occupier shall specify the respective amounts paid for rent and for assessments." The noble Earl said: I think the object of my Amendment is pretty clear. In putting it forward I am admitting the difficulty which arises in collecting the rates in the case of short lets unless they are collected through the landlord. But in admitting this, I am not in any way admitting the necessity of continuing, or developing or extending, as this Bill does, the evils which go together with compounding. The evils of compounding have been so often discussed in your Lordships' House that it is unnecessary for me to go into them. They are admitted, I think, on both sides of this House. The difficulty one is faced with in trying to abolish compounding is the loss to the rates from defaulters unless you collect the rates through the landlord. I hope. I may say that my Amendment contains all the virtues, if there are any, and none of the vices of compounding. It leaves the landlord in the position of collecting the rates lie is responsible for collecting them, but at the same time there is brought home to the ratepayer the fact that he is a ratepayer, and the amount which he is paying in rates is made quite clear. In this way the ratepayer would have brought home to him his personal responsibility as a ratepayer for the economical administration of his district. I am sure the noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland is as anxious as we are on this side of the House to obtain sound and economical administration, but you will never get that as long as ratepayers are unaware they pay rates. It is a wrong system, and in my opinion it is responsible for a great deal of that rapid increase of local expenditure which a few years ago 971 was about half of, and is now, I think, about equal to or greater than, our Imperial expenditure. I beg to move.
Page 5, line 14, after ("occupier") insert the following new subsection:
("(2) The owner of a small dwelling-house shall at the commencement of the occupancy of each occupier and in each year beginning on the fifteenth day of May deliver to such occupier a statement specifying the respective amounts of rent and of assessments payable by him in respect of the period of his occupancy, and the owner in the receipts for such payments by the occupier shall specify the respective amounts paid for rent and for assessments").—(The Earl of Dunmore.)
§ LORD PENTLAND
I will not differ from the noble Earl on the principle of the desirability of impressing upon every ratepayer the amount which he pays in rates. But while I freely admit the strength of his contention, I am sorry it is not possible to accept the Amendment which he proposes. This Bill is, as I am sure he is aware, promoted on the footing that the occupier pays to the owner rates and rent in one indivisible sum, and if the noble Earl will reflect he will see it is really not possible to specify beforehand the amount of rates payable by the occupier. It must begin on a system of short lets, but the period of occupancy is not defined; and it is not possible, as I say, to specify the amount payable beforehand by the occupier. And further, for some months after the l5th of May, while the rate is being prepared and struck—that is to say, during the whole period from May until November or December, when the rate notices are sent out—it is not possible to say exactly what the oceupier's share of rates is. We got over the difficulty under our former proposals by calculating upon the payments made in previous months. But that Bill was entirely different; and it would be inconsistent with this Bill as it now stands to introduce any such provision as the noble Earl desires.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I have heard the noble Lord's answer with extreme regret. I cannot conceive anything worse, as an economical proposition, than mixing up rates and rent together. The rates increase, and the amount of money which the unfortunate landlord puts into his pocket decreases, while the gross amount which the tenant pays to 972 him increases. That is, in the first place, an injustice to the individual, because he is thought to be a grasping landlord when he is actually losing money as compared with previous years. But an injustice to an individual, especially to a landlord, I probably will not appeal very greatly to some noble Lords on the other side of the House. But what is more unfortunate is that the person who votes, who practically decrees the expenditure, who elects the body which spends the money, is left absolutely in ignorance of the effect of his voting. I frankly admit there is a difficulty in respect of that, because I suppose this Bill will extend over other houses which are let from May to May, whereas it is perfectly well known to all of us who are accustomed to work under the local system in Scotland that the rates are not struck until September, and they are not paid until January, and even sometimes February, the last day for payment without penalty being, I believe, at the end of February. But it is really very unfortunate, because this is a retrograde step in these days when compounding has been much more the custom in England than it has been in Scotland. It has been our privilege in Scotland, except in houses under £4, to have no compounding at all, and it is most lamentable to me to see this system brought in with all its disadvantages. I know from inquiries upon the Local Taxation Commission that there are many of these who, for certain franchise purposes, do compound, and the compounding householder is a time-honoured institution. There has been a benefit also on account of the convenience of collecting the rates from the landlord. But there is a vicious system in connection with this in England by which the landlord gets a discount for collecting the rates. I do not know how much it is, but it is very hard on the other ratepayers. I am glad for the landlord, but I do not know about the local authorities. However, in this case, so far as I know, no discount is allowed to the landlord. I will support the Amendment; but I am not one of those who are in any way responsible for the bringing in of this most atrocious system.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.973
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN moved to add at the end of subsection (3) the words "and the said occupier shall, as being in arrear to the extent aforesaid, unless he has paid such arrears to the assessing authority in terms of section eight of this Act be included in any list of persons who have failed to pay assessments which under the Acts regulating such qualification or franchise is required to be sent to the assessor as a person who has so failed." The noble Earl said: This Amendment, so far as I am able to judge, does not in any respect alter the law as stated in the Bill, but what it does is to make clear that such a list shall be published, and that the names of persons who are defaulters shall appear in it. It will, therefore, be absolutely certain that the assessor will have such a list. Your Lordships will remember that in regard to words in an earlier part of the clause some doubt was expressed as to whether that list would be necessarily published. I beg to move.
Page 6, line 6, after ("franchise") insert ("and the said occupier shall, as being in arrear to the extent aforesaid, unless he has paid such arrears to the assessing authority in terms of section eight of this Act, be included in any list of persons who have failed to pay assessments which under the Acts regulating such qualification or franchises is required to be sent to the assessor as a person who has so failed").—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE EARL OF DUNMORE
I move the insertion of the new subsection standing in my name on the paper. Under the Scottish Valuation Act, valuation is based on rents received. We are afraid that under the provisions of this Bill valuation Will be raised owing to rates and rents being received together in one sum as rent. I trust the noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland will accept the Amendment.
Page 7, line 32, after ("Act") insert the following new subsection:
("(8) An assessor acting under the Lands Valuation (Scotland) Acts shall in estimating the yearly rent or value of a small dwelling-house
make allowance for the responsibility by this section imposed on owners for the payment of occupiers assessments").—(The Earl of Dunmore.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 8 agreed to.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I propose, after Clause 8, to insert a new clause to provide that nothing in this Act shall deprive any assessing authority of any power to exempt an occupier of a small dwelling-house from payment in whole or in part of any assessment on the ground of his poverty or inability to pay. This is simply a precautionary clause, because some of the assessing authorities—whether they are entitled to do it by law or not, I do not know—as a matter of practice exempt a considerable number of persons from payment of rates on the ground of poverty. Under this Bill, without such a clause as this, I think it probable that they would not be able to continue that practice, but the owner would be required, in the first instance at all events, to squeeze these unfortunate people and attempt to get the rates out of them. Although in all probability he would not succeed, at all events the authority would be deprived of the power which it has, or claims to have, of exemption. Therefore I propose to insert this clause to say that they shall not be deprived of the power.
§ Amendment moved—
After Clause 8, insert the following new clause:
("9. Nothing in this Act shall deprive any assessing authority of any power to exempt an occupier of a small dwelling-house from payment in whole or in part of any assessment on the ground of his poverty or inability to pay").—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ The Report of Amendments to be received To-morrow, and Bill to be printed as amended. (No.247.)