§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETAR OF THE MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT (LORD PONSONBY Or SHULBREDE)
My Lords, this is a Bill which has passed through its stages in another place and which can, I think, be regarded as substantially uncontroversial, as it is based on an agreement which has been come to by the railway companies and the various associations representing local authorities. The general object of the Bill is to provide for the future valuation of railway undertakings as a whole instead of in parochial sections, by the adoption of the principle known as valuation in cumulo, by reference to receipts, the values of individual hereditaments being derived from the valuation in cumulo by apportionment in conformity with an approved scheme which is set out in the Bill. This principle of valuation in cumulo with an apportionment is a new departure so far as England and Wales are concerned, but it has been in operation in Scotland for over fifty years, and it has been recommended by various Commissions and Committees for some years past. In fact, in 1925 this Bill was really incorporated in the Rating and Valuation Act which was passed, but the section of it dealing with valuation had to be dropped because of want of time, and the Minister of Health in the last Government promised to bring it on at a later stage, but was unable to do so.
Since that time, negotiations have taken place with the various parties and the local authorities. The railway companies who have been represented are the Great Western, the Southern, the London and North Eastern, the London, Midland and Scottish, and the Metropolitan; and, on the local authorities' side, there have been representatives of the County Councils Association, the Association of Municipal Corporations, the National Conference of Assessment Committees, the London County Council, the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee and, in the later stages, the Central Valuation Committee. This is rather a pressing matter, because there has been no general re-valuation of railway property since the War, both the companies and the associations of 866 local authorities having realised the practical impossibility of carrying out such a re-valuation on the old parochial basis.
Since 1921, the pre-War assessments of railway properties outside London have been adjusted from time to time, in pursuance of agreements centrally negotiated between the companies and the local authorities. These agreements, which have come to be known as "transitory provisions" have, in effect, provided for a rough and ready adjustment of the pre-War assessments. It has been a most unsatisfactory state of affairs, and it is obvious that it cannot be prolonged very much longer, because, apart from the absence of a statutory basis, the assessments falling to be adjusted were made on varying dates, many of them were Obsolete, even in 1914, while all of them are becoming more remotely related to the facts with the passage of time, and less reliable as a basis of rating. So, very strong representations have been made, both to the last Government and to this Government, to get this legislation passed, and we are very anxious to get this Bill through at the earliest possible moment.
I do not think I need do more at this stage than perhaps just describe the general scope of some of the clauses of the Bill. It is a very technical matter, but, as I say, after prolonged consultation with the various authorities concerned, it has become an agreed Bill. Clause 1 deals with the content of a railway undertaking and the definition of a railway hereditament. The hereditaments falling to be assessed under the new procedure are hereditaments occupied for the purposes of the railway undertaking proper, any railway-owned canal, dock, or harbour, any railway undertaking carried on jointly by two or more of the companies to which the Bill applies, and any subsidiary undertaking offer than sea transport, road transport or air transport undertakings. Dwelling houses, hotels and places of public refreshment, and also premises so let out as to be capable of separate assessment, will not come within the purview of the railway assessment authority. Receipts and expenditure in respect of any of the excluded classes of hereditaments or undertakings will not be taken into account in making the valuation in cumulo, and the excluded heredita- 867 ments will be left to be valued by the local authorities under the ordinary law.
Clause 2 deals with the constitution of a railway assessment authority for England and Wales, with a paid Chairman possessing legal qualifications, to be appointed by the Lord Chancellor, and nine members to be appointed by the Minister of Health (three at his discretion and six on the recommendation of the Associations of Local Authorities and the London County Council), and of a joint authority to deal with the Anglo-Scottish Railways, consisting of the Chairman of the English body, one other member to be appointed by that body and the Scottish assessor of railways and canals. Clause 3 deals with the general outline of the method of determining the assessments of railway hereditaments and preparing the railway valuation roll—namely, the determination of the valuation in cumulo; the apportionment thereof among individual hereditaments; and the calculation of the rateable value of each hereditament from the value so apportioned to it. Clause 4 defines the basis of valuation. This is to be the average net receipts over a period of years, to be ascertained from gross receipts by specified deductions in respect of working expenses, maintenance etc. Clause 5 deals with the ascertainment, in the case of the L.M. & S.R. and the L. & N.E.R. of net receipts by the joint authority. Clauses 6, 7, and S and the Third Schedule deal with the machinery for completing the railway valuation roll after any representations against the draft roll have been duly heard and determined.
With regard to the provisions as to appeals, appeals are to lie, under Clause 9, to the Railway and Canal Commissioners (with the ex-officio commissioner for Scotland sitting if the appeal is against a decision of the joint authority). From the Commissioners it is proposed that appeal should lie direct to the House of Lords, as being the only superior Court which has jurisdiction both in England and in Scotland. The machinery for revising the roll to give effect to decisions on appeal, for making such alterations in a roll as may be necessary during a quinquennium, and for translating the values from the roll into the local valuation lists, where they 868 will determine the rate-liability of the company are dealt with in Clauses 10, 11, and 12.
The apportionment scheme is dealt with in Clause 13. This will determine the principles on which the cumulo valuation is to be distributed among the individual hereditaments. The scheme is to be published in draft and, after consideration of any representations, submitted to the Minister of Health, who will confirm it with or without modification. There are two guiding principles to be incorporated in the scheme; first, that, in the case of "land used as a railway"—that is, broadly speaking, the "running lines"—regard shall be had, inter alia, to the estimated traffic conveyed over the particular section of line; and, secondly, that in the case of other hereditaments—stations and other buildings—regard shall be had, inter alia, to the value of the land and buildings for purposes of a railway undertaking. The other clauses of the Bill deal really with the machinery, and Clause 21 deals specially with the application of the scheme to Scotland. This is an extremely technical measure, and I am personally very glad that it is not controversial. But there is urgency in passing it, and on the Committee stage I may have to move a number of drafting and small Amendments which are the result of close consultation between the parties interested. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede.)
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole Louse.