§ LORD PARMOOR had given Notice to ask His Majesty's Government whether they can state what stops (if any) are being taken to provide that there shall be only one assessment of property as a basis of valuation both for local rates and national taxes; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, my Question is not intended, as I told the representative of the Government, to raise any difficult question of valuation or to bring again to your Lordships' notice the questions that were discussed in a recent debate concerning the valuations under Schedule A. In the course of that debate I put before your Lordships the question of the necessity, the immediate necessity as I thought, of having one assessment of property as a basis for valuations both for local rates and national taxes. I pointed out, and I do not intend to go over the ground again, the extreme inconvenience and unnecessary expense involved in the present multiple system, if I may use that expression, when, on these questions of valuation, you may have a large number of bodies to deal with and a multiplication of appeals before you can get all the matters settled, whereas if you had one basis of valuation you could get them settled once for all.
§ I also pointed out—and I referred to the Reports of a good many Committees—that there should be no difficulty in extending throughout the country the principles and machinery of the Valuation (Metropolis) Act. Your Lordships are aware that under that Act there is only one basis of assessment for local rates and national taxes. I think every Committee which has considered this extremely important point as a matter of practical financial business has confirmed the view that the machinery of that Act might properly be applied over the country at large and that the difficulty 415 of these multiple assessments could be got rid of in that way. The object of my Question to-day is not to re-open those matters to which I called your Lordships' attention on a former occasion, but to ask His Majesty's Government whether they can state what steps, if any, are being taken to provide for this single assessment.
§ I am encouraged to ask that Question because on the last occasion there was no opposition offered to the view that I put forward. On the contrary, the representative of His Majesty's Government recognised the value of a single assessment, expressed the view that public opinion was rapidly ripening in that direction and indicated, I do not think I am wrong in saying, that they were considering the matter in order to bring it forward as soon as possible. I should have hoped it might have been brought forward in time to deal with some of the difficulties that will arise under the multiple assessment for valuation under the existing conditions, but I recognise that that may not be possible. There may not be time for that, but I will ask the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, who I understand is going to reply to this Question on behalf of His Majesty's Government, whether he can tell us what steps, if any, are being taken in order to carry out this desirable reform? I do not think it is necessary to move for Papers, because I understand the noble Earl is in a position to answer my Question.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, I hope that I shall be able to carry out the noble and learned Lord's wish, and give you an answer to the Question he has put. Perhaps I may begin my observations by quoting a sentence in the gracious Speech from the Throne at the opening of Parliament, which referred to the matter that has been raised by the noble and learned Lord. The words were:The anomalies and inequalities of the present system of local taxation have long called for reform and My Ministers are examining the whole question.When those words were used that examination had just been commenced, and it has now been proceeding for several months. As your Lordships will, I think, understand, the more one goes into a difficult and complex question of this kind, the more one finds details and difficulties 416 appearing, but I am glad to say that this examination has been carried to such a point that we are able to come to some preliminary conclusion.
My right hon. friend the Minister of Health yesterday stated in another place, on the occasion of the Second Reading of the Agricultural Pates Bill, that we have progressed so far in this examination that we hope very shortly to be able to circulate to local authorities the draft of a Bill on valuation and rating reform. When we do that we shall ask for their observations upon the draft Bill with a view, if possible, to introducing a measure next Session. The draft Bill to which I have referred is not yet quite ready for circulation, but is in course of preparation. As, however, it is not yet ready I think your Lordships will agree that it would be premature to discuss matters of detail, and, indeed, it would scarcely be proper to do so until we are in a position to produce the draft Bill; but, in answer to the specific Question which has been put to me, I think I may go so far as to say that one of the ends which the Government have in view is to substitute one valuation for the three valuations which are at present required. As your Lordships are aware, those three valuations are for the purposes of the parochial rate, the county rate and Income Tax (Schedule A) and the Inhabited House Duty.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
That comes, I think, under the second category. At the present moment the rates and taxes raised on these valuations are based on three different values, and one of the objects of the Bill, it is hoped, will be to substitute for these three valuations one single valuation. It is impossible at the present stage to indicate the precise nature of the provisions necessary to secure this amalgamation but, generally, I think I may say that the intention is that the gross valuations shown in the valuation list shall be subsequently adopted as the gross value for taxation purposes, subject, of course, to such conditions as Parliament may impose when the Bill is passing through the two Houses. As the noble and learned Lord reminded us, the amalgamation of valuations has already taken place in 417 London. The principles which govern the valuation in the Metropolis have for a long time been in operation, and perhaps I can best and most concisely explain the intentions of the Government by saying that, broadly speaking, what we contemplate is the extension of the metropolitan system to the country generally. I hope that I have been able to give the noble and learned Lord a little information on the point and to answer his Question.
§ LOUD PARMOOR
I should like to thank the noble Earl for the information he has given. Personally, I am very gratified to hear that the lines on which any Bill is likely to proceed are those which he has indicated.
May I ask the noble Earl whether he anticipates that the 418 single valuation will include valuation for Estate Duty?