§ Returned from the Commons, with certain of the Amendments made by the Lords agreed to, and with one Amendment disagreed to, for which disagreement the Commons assigned a Reason.
THE PAYMASTER-GENERAL (THE EARL OF ONSLOW)
My Lords, you will see that the House of Commons has agreed with all the Amendments which your Lordships inserted in the Local Government Bill with the exception of one in Clause 65 of the Bill as it first reached us, and that was an Amendment which was discussed with great interest by many of your Lordships in all parts of the House. Many noble Lords supported its provisions strongly, and, therefore, I think your Lordships would wish me to go in some detail into the reasons which have moved the Government to venture to disagree with 836 the views that your Lordships held on that occasion. I would in the same way as my right hon. friend did in the House of Commons endeavour to explain those reasons. The Amendment appears in the clause dealing with the valuation of agricultural dwelling-houses.
The object of the original clause, Clause 65 of the Bill as it came to your Lordships' House, was not to make any change in the existing law. It was to maintain the status quo, the law as it exists at the present moment, and as it was established by the Act of 1896. The reason why it was necessary to put in that clause, to maintain the status quo, so as not to alter the provisions of the Act of 1896, was that by the Twelfth Schedule of this Bill the Act of 1896 is repealed. Therefore, unless a clause of this kind were put into the Bill, the provisions dealing with this class of house would have lapsed altogether. The Amendment to the clause creates quite a different situation. It goes a great deal further than the Act of 1896 and indeed establishes—or it would establish if put into an Act—a totally new principle of rating. The present system of rating is that a house should be rated according to the rent which a hypothetical tenant might reasonably be expected to be willing to pay on certain conditions; but if this Amendment were made it would provide that a person engaged in one kind of occupation—in this instance the occupation of agriculture—would carry that occupation about with him from house to house and the provisions of the Bill would apply to any house which he happened to occupy at the time. It would be difficult, I think, to confine such a provision to agriculture alone and, indeed, it was suggested I think by noble Lords opposite that the principle of the Amendment should also be extended to workers in industrial occupations.
As I said just now, the Act of 1896 had quite a different object. The principle of the Act of 1896 was quite different. Before 1896, before the partial derating of agricultural land was introduced, the farmhouse, cottages and buildings were assessed altogether with the farm as one unit, as I believe is the case now in Scotland. In 1896, when the 50 per cent. reduction in rating was made, the Act preserved to the farmhouses and the cottages and the build- 837 ings on the farm—which had, as I say, been previously assessed altogether with the land as one holding—security that they should not be assessed on a new basis simply because the land had been derated by 50 per cent. and was valued, therefore, separately from the land. This clause simply carries on the section of the Act of 1896 which provided that the buildings should not be assessed in a different manner because they were assessed separately from the derated land. Therefore I venture to hope that your Lordships will see fit to agree with another place in not accepting the Amendment which was put in during the passage of this measure in your Lordships' House. I have given some little explanation on the subject in the same way as my right hon. friend did in another place. I beg to move that the Commons Reason be now considered.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.