HL Deb 19 July 1955 vol 193 cc815-60

2.58 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Munster.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF DROGHEDA in the Chair]

Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 [Ascertainment of rateable value]:

THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (THE EARL OF MUNSTER) moved to leave out subsection (8). The noble Earl said: The effect of subsection (8) of this clause, which my Amendment seeks to delete, is to prohibit the deduction of a sinking fund provision for renewals in the ascertainment of net annual value under Section 22 of the Rating and Valuation Act, 1925. Instead, the subsection allows the average annual amount of the expenditure incurred by the occupier on renewals. Your Lordships may remember that on Second Reading I referred to this provision at some length and I then told your Lordships that the deduction of a sinking fund provision for renewals has been the practice for many years in the assessment of water undertakings and other public utility undertakings by what is termed the "profits method." The proposal to prohibit this practice aroused considerable opposition, both in another place and also among outside bodies.

In winding up the debate on this subsection in another place, my right honourable friend the Minister gave an undertaking that he would further consider this subsection, to see whether an Amendment should be made during the passage of the Bill through your Lordships' House. Incidentally, during the course of his remarks my right honourable friend referred to the growing practice, in arriving at the assessment by the profits method, of allowing a notional sinking fund to an extent which made the result ridiculous. He said that he had no doubt that if the decision of the Lands Tribunal in the Birmingham case, which was then being heard, was favourable to the City of Birmingham, it would encourage a great extension of the practice, with the result that while the assessments of everybody else would be going up those of water undertakings would be coming down.

The decision of the Lands Tribunal in this crucial case was given on July 1, and I think that everyone concerned has had a good opportunity of considering the judgment. Let me say at once, in case there should be any doubt in the minds of noble Lords, that it is far from being a simple issue. But the essential point in the context of this subsection is that the sinking fund provision was reduced from the sum of £300,000 claimed to £200,000. Her Majesty's Government are prepared to assume that the principles which underlay the reduction can be applied to other similar cases, so that the assessments to be made on water undertakings for the purpose of the new valuation lists will not be unrealistically low. In these circumstances, my right honourable friend felt that his proper course was to recommend to your Lordships to-day that he should withdraw this subsection.

I feel that I should add this comment. It will, I hope, be understood that in the changing economic circumstances of today the whole question of the treatment of sinking fund provisions for rating purposes will need to be continuously and carefully watched, as well as the operation of other features of the profits method of assessment, such as, for the sake of argument, the share of the profit allocated to the hypothetical tenant. If the need arose, any defects which developed could be put right in the further rating legislation which was foreshadowed in another place. I want your Lordships to realise that I am not definitely saying that further legislation on this difficult and crucial point will be necessary, or that the Government have any intention of introducing such legislation; but I think it necessary to give that warning so as to safeguard the future. This Amendment is one that will, I hope, be accepted by everyone, so that further controversy on this difficult question will be unnecessary. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 10, line 42, leave out subsection (8).—(The Earl of Munster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 5, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?


It has been most interesting, listening to the noble Earl, to get a further insight into the complexities with which the Government have to deal in such a measure as this. I do not want to take up the time of the Committee at a laser stage, but I want to say that I was unable to be here on Second Reading, and this complexity which faces the Government disturbs me very much. A large number of people of my acquaintance are greatly concerned about a matter raised by my noble friend Lord Silkin on Second Reading—that is, the effect of the new valuations upon certain sections of the community, just as the noble Earl feared there night be some in the case of the Amendment he has just moved. If the Government are going to bring in amending legislation, I would ask them to remember that, unless something is done, grave injustice will be done to occupiers of premises rated as commercial houses or as shops, because they are to be treated far less favourably than pre-war houses, or a number of other industrial hereditaments. I do not wish to say more, but I ask the noble Earl to bring this point to the attention of the Minister, because I am sure he will hear a great deal more about it.


I will certainly give an undertaking to convey to my right honourable friend the views expressed by the noble Viscount.

Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7:

Relief from roles for places of religious worship

(2) This section applies to the following hereditaments, that is to say,—

  1. (a) places of public religious worship which belong to the Church of England or to the Church in Wales (within the meaning of the Welsh Church Act, 1914), or which are for the time being certified as required by law as places of religions worship, and
  2. (b) any church hall, chapel hall or similar building used in connection with any such place of public religious worship, and so used for the purposes of the organisation responsible for the conduct of public religious worship in that place,
and also applies to any hereditament consisting of such a place of public religious worship as is mentioned in paragraph (a) of this subsection together with one or more church halls, chapel halls or other buildings such as are mentioned in paragraph (b) thereof.

VISCOUNT DAVIDSON moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "hereditament," where that word first occurs, and to inset "building or buildings." The noble Viscount said: Perhaps I may be allowed to deal with the two Amendments in my name together, as the second is consequential on the first. I move this Amendment in order to make it clear beyond doubt that a church or chapel which forms part of a school is exempt from rating as if it were a church or chapel under the Poor Rate (Exemption) Act, 1833. It may be argued that the hereditament is the school itself, but I am advised that the addition of the words, building or buildings forming part of another hereditament will ensure that the chapel or church, which, of course, is used solely for religious purposes and is, in fact, part of the school, is treated in that way. I am a governor of a particular school where the parish church has become part of the school, and it would he a serious matter if the church became liable to rates and could not claim the protection of the Poor Law (Exemption) Act, 1833. I do not think I need say more. If the Government could favourably consider this Amendment, my friends and I would be exceedingly grateful. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 6, leave out ("hereditament") and insert the said new words.—(Viscount Davidson.)


May I ask the noble Viscount, Lord Davidson, whether this proposal would include university colleges, which also have chapels of very much the same character as schools?


I am sure that that would be the desire of those with whom I am associated. I cannot speak for the universities, but I am sure they are in precisely the same position. It seems to be an anomaly that places which are used exclusively for religious purposes should be rated as though they were used for entirely secular or even commercial purposes. I hope the Government will accept our plea, that places of worship, whether in a school or in a university, should be brought into line with the places of religious worship which were exempted under the 1833 Act.


Naturally, my right honourable friend is prepared to consider all these individual Amendments in a sympathetic manner, but this is one which I should find it difficult to accept. It is true that this Amendment and the one following in the name of the noble Viscount endeavour to amend Clause 7 with the intention of extending the exemption from rating under this clause to any building or part of a building which forms part only of a hereditament, and which is a place of public religious worship, or is a church or chapel wholly used in connection with a place of public religious worship. Before going into detailed arguments, let me say that the whole of this clause was drawn up in agreement with the Churches' Main Committee, which represents all the churches throughout the land, and with the association of local authorities as well. It is more particularly on that account that I should find it difficult to accept this Amendment.

There are three points that I should like to make with regard to this Amendment. Let me first clear my noble friend's mind of any doubt whatever that if there is any church throughout the country of any denomination which is used now for public religious worship, that building will have all the benefits which are enumerated in Clause 7 of this Bill. But it is a clause which refers only to public religious places of worship and not, I therefore, to private places of worship. I am advised that there cannot be many places of public religious worship in this country which are an integral part of a rateable hereditament. The chapels attached to our schools and colleges, for example, are generally private, although there may be exceptions, and in individual cases those exceptions may be relieved of rates.

Secondly, if in any particular case a place of public religious worship is in a building or a group of buildings at present assessed as a single hereditament, there seems to be no reason why it should not in future be treated as a separate hereditament. That is quite possible, for Section 40 of the Local Government Act, 1948, specifically provides that anybody who is aggrieved … in the case of a building or portion of a building occupied in parts by the valuation … of that building or portion of a building as a single hereditament may make a proposal for the alteration of the valuation list in that respect, There is the third point, that if, by any chance, there should be a place of public religious worship which is attached to a school in such a way that, for some abstruse legal reason, it cannot be treated as a separate hereditament, then to the extent that the school (including, of course, the place of religious worship) has enjoyed sympathetic assessments or rate reliefs up until now, it seems probable that the local authority will give them similar reliefs in future under the next clause of the Bill. I mentioned to the noble Viscount at the beginning of my remarks that in the case of places used for public religious worship they are in point of fact de-rated. The church to which he was referring, and with which he is connected as a governor of the school, will undoubtedly receive all the benefits which are set out in Clause 7 of the Bill. But with the best will in the world, I do not think that I could extend this clause any further now to include all private places as well.


May I say that I have great sympathy with the noble Viscount here. What is the position to-day about the chapel of one of our great schools which is set aside for worship by the boys and the masters but to which parents come and also, when there is any vacancy, visitors from outside? In a sense, it is for public worship. Anybody can go in if there is room to accommodate them, the first place being given to the boys. What happens to those place to-day? Are they subject to rates? I ought to know the answer, but I do not. If you rate this school as one hereditament, must that hereditament be assessed taking into account the fact that there is this chapel? It seems to me extraordinarily hard if that is so. Can you get out of it by saying, "Let us then separate this chapel from the rest of the hereditament, and let us treat it separately"? It seems to me that even there you are in the same dilemma. If the chapel is used for non-public worship, whatever that may mean, then you may not be able to get off rates. The matter needs further consideration and clearing up. Personally, I have considerable sympathy with the point of view which the noble Viscount, Lord Davidson, has expressed. Whether his Amendment is apt to achieve the result he desires, I do not know. I think the Committee would like to be told in a very elementary way the answers to the questions I have asked the noble Earl, because those who advise him will know all about this matter and he can tell us and set our minds at rest.


Let me see whether I can reply to the noble and learned Earl. Of course, I cannot give him any indication as to what happens at public schools at the moment. Some, undoubtedly, get sympathetic assessment, and others do not. As to private chapels at public schools, I understand that they are not necessarily de-rated, because they do not come within the terms of this clause as places of public religious worship. On the other hand, there are individual schools which hake been sympathetically assessed by local authorities in the past, and I have no doubt that local authorities will do that again. But it would be impossible for me, without making considerable inquiries, to say whether individual schools have or have not benefited in the past through the system of sympathetic rating. It might interest my noble friend Lord Davidson to know that I asked precisely the same question this morning, and I understand that very few of the chapels at the great universities, or attached to any of the colleges at the great universi- ties, are in fact de-rated at all in the terms of this clause.


I ask permission to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.18 p.m.

LORD SILKIN had given notice of three Amendments to subsection (2), of which the first was, in paragraph (a), to omit the word "and." The noble Lord said: This Amendment goes with Amendments Nos. 3 and 4, and is intelligible only if read in conjunction with them. Therefore, with the permission of the Committee I should like to speak on all three Amendments, although I shall be moving No. 2 only. The purpose of the Amendments is to give exemption from rating to community centres and village halls which are not attached to any particular religious organisation. The Bill as it stands, provides relief for church halls, chapel halls and similar buildings used in connection with public religious worship. The halls to which my Amendment relates are normally those where social activities take place, possibly without reference to religion at all, though in many cases they are sponsored by a religious organisation.

I imagine that in a village which is fortunate enough to have a church hall the women's activities may take place in that hall. Or it may be children's classes or clubs, and all sorts of gatherings of that kind, which are, of course, of great value to the community. But there are villages where there are no church halls, and where the villagers have got together and provided a hall which is similar in all respects to the kind of hall we are talking about in Clause 7 (2) (b). Such a hall is not necessarily associated with a church, but it is, as I say, doing all the work and carrying out all the functions that a church hall would be carrying out, possibly under very much greater difficulties as regards finance and so on. It seems hard that such an organisation should not get the same advantages as regards rating as the church hall does. I need hardly say that in this Amendment I am not in the least attacking the principle of exemption for the church hall and the chapel hall: I am simply seeking to extend it to other types of activities which are doing exactly the same work but where they are not connected through force of circumstances with any religious denomination.

My suggestion is that those cases often need even more sympathetic treatment because they are in greater need of funds than the halls or centres associated with a church. I should like to put them on exactly the same footing. It may be said that it would be difficult to define these places, but the Amendment seeks to define them. I am quite sure that the noble Lord who is going to deal with this matter will be able to pick holes in the Amendment—indeed, I could do so myself; but the fact remains that an attempt is made in Amendment No. 4 to define the class of hall to which it is intended to apply. It is a hall which already is exempt from tax chargeable under Schedule A which, as the Amendment says, provides for exemption from tax in respect of lands owned and occupied by charities. It must, therefore, be a village hall which is owned by a charity, is not run for profit, is recognised by the Inland Revenue as such a place, satisfies all their conditions and is exempt from Schedule A. I would submit, therefore, that no particular difficulty arises on the score of definition.

Nor do I think that, if this Amendment is agreed to, it necessarily opens the door to any other type of charity, because it deals with the same subject matter as the clause deals with—church halls and similar buildings. To say that, because exemption from rates is provided for community centres or village halls, it must therefore be provided for a host of other charities may be a good debating point—though I am sure the noble Lord would be the last to make it—but would not be a very convincing answer. I should tell the Committee that this matter was considered in another place. The Amendment is in identical terms to an Amendment which was discussed there. Great sympathy was expressed for it, as no doubt the noble Lord who will reply will express in this case, but those who sponsored this Amendment were not satisfied with sympathy: they wanted relief. I hope that the noble Lord will see his way to giving something more than sympathetic understanding of this Amendment and will find it possible to agree to the principle. I beg to move the first Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 17, leave out ("and").—(Lord Silkin.)

3.24 p.m.


I am certainly not going to find fault with Lord Silkin's draftsmanship, which I think is very ingenious, if he will allow me to say so; nor am I going to make any unsympathetic reference to the idea that the noble Lord has put before us, because I think he has undoubtedly shown that, on the face of it, an anomaly could now exist. If there were three adjacent villages, one with a church hall, one with a village hall and one, say, with a "Co-op." or Conservative hall, all having, simultaneously, a flower show, you would have exactly the same activity but a different sort of rate levied on each of the three halls. The rate for the church hall would be governed by the provisions of the Bill which apply to it; the village hall that has been described to us by the noble Lord. Lord Silkin, would receive very favourable consideration under the Bill; and the third type of hall would be charged under yet a different form of rating. On the face of it, there is an anomaly. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has suggested that I should be the last person to take this point; but, in point of fact, I now propose to take it. I see difficulty in, and little justification for, singling out community centres and village halls from all other types of property occupied by charities as particularly deserving of exemption from rating. While sympathising very much with the idea put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, we consider that such halls should be left to be covered by the general provision in Clause 8 relating to the rating of charities. By providing for the limitation of rate payments in the years 1956–57 to the amount paid in 1955–56, and for proportionate remission in later years, I feel that we have gone far towards relieving the people running village halls and community centres from any worries about additional rate burdens.

Furthermore, I would call your Lordships' attention to subsection (4) of Clause 8, which leaves it entirely to the discretion of the rating authority to decide to give further relief, or even a total remission of rates in the type of case to which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has referred. In cases, therefore, where the rating authority choose, by remitting all the rates, to recognise the value of the part played by these buildings, the halls and centres may even be better off under Clause 8 than under this proposed Amendment: because, if the Amendment were carried so as to bring them under Clause 7, the rating authority would have no option but to rate them in respect of any profitable lettings; whereas, under Clause 8, they need not do so.

I appreciate the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that village halls and community centres are often used in exactly the same way as church halls are used by the Church and, indeed, by clubs and societies associated with it. But I hope the noble Lord has not lost sight of the main justification for this church hall provision. This is the enlargement of an existing exemption, contained in Section 1 of the Poor Rate Exemption Act, 1833, in favour of churches … chapels, meeting houses or premises… exclusively appropriated to public religious worship. It is the analogy of attendance for public worship, rather than the analogy of the flower snow, to which I wish to draw attention. The exemption to which I have just referred covered what at that time would probably have been regarded in the normal case as almost the sole religious activity of the church in its own premises. In the 120 years which have since elapsed, the work of the Church has spread in other directions, and many activities ancillary to public worship are carried out by them under their auspices in church halls. This changed position of the Church, to which the noble Lord has referred, has been recognised by rating authorities who in recent years have commonly given the halls to which we have been referring nominal or reduced assessments. Clause 7 puts this treatment of church halls upon a statutory basis.

The same historical claim to the extension which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, wants cannot be made for community centres and village halls and, if the claim is based solely on analogy with the current use of church halls—that is, the use of the church hall for the flower show to which I have referred—I cannot see why it should not go further to cover the "Co-op." or the Conservative hall which houses exactly the same function. I do not think it would be right to make this Amendment, although I ant as sympathetic as the noble Lord considered I should be. We ought to leave the rating authority to use their discretion in these cases. There will be, as my right honourable friend indicated in another place, an opportunity to see how the policy of the local authorities develops in this direction, and when legislation is before your Lordships on a later occasion there will be an opportunity to consider, in the light of experience, whether something further needs to be done. Meanwhile, the halls and centres to which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, refers are at least protected against any ruinous increases in rates. I think the noble Lord may feel, on reflection, that if such halls are left under the Bill as it stands, without his Amendment, they may well he rated even more favourably than they would be if his Amendment were passed. On those grounds, I hope that the noble Lord will not press the Amendment.


The noble Lord will not be surprised to hear that I am not at all satisfied with the speech that he has made. I think he is misconceiving the position when he compares the activities of the village hall with those of the Conservative or, for that matter, the Labour association. I do not think that is the right analogy, and I should be very surprised if either of those praiseworthy organisations could be regarded as charities or could receive exemption from Schedule A tax under the Income Tax Act, 1952. I should not for a moment think that they would. If they do, I should like to look into it further; but I am sure that they do not, and therefore I think the analogy is an incorrect one.


It is only the analogy of use that I am trying to bring in. The three halls may be fulfilling the same function on the same afternoon.


That is the other point. I am not really concerned with what happens on a particular afternoon; I am concerned with the day-to-day, year-to-year, use of these halls; and the use is identical. If you have a church hall you may have a women's institute meeting there every week, and various other activities; and if there is no church hall you may have a village hall doing exactly the same thing. I should be prepared to take a chance that on occasion they may be rated for occasional activities, but on balance I think that we should gain if they were exempted. I do not feel that I can withdraw the Amendment; it is a matter on which the Government must decide. If they say "No," I do not propose to take up the time of the Committee on a Division; but I would ask that the Amendment be put.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Clause 7 agreed to.

3.32 p.m.

EARL HOWE moved, after Clause 7, to insert the following new clause:

Relief from rates for premises of Royal National Lifeboat Institution

".—(1) No hereditament to which this section applies shall in the case of any rating area be liable to be rated for any rate period beginning on or after the date of the coming into force of the first new valuation list for that area.

(2) This section applies to the hereditaments for the time being vested in or occupied for the purposes of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution."

The noble Earl said: The purpose of this Amendment is perfectly clear, but perhaps the Committee will allow me to introduce it in a few words so that your Lordships may understand why the Royal National Lifeboat Institution is anxious for this matter to be considered. Under the existing law, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution is considered by the Inland Revenue as a charity, and is therefore exempt from the payment of income tax on both property and dividends. Under the law, churches, chapels, scientific, literary and fine art societies are all exempt from the payment of rates, and, if the rating authorities so decide, Sunday Schools may also be exempt. To come down to a better analogy, under Section 731 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, Trinity House was exempted from all taxes, duties and rates. On the other hand, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution is liable for and pays rates on all types of property which it possesses—its headquarter offices, its depôt which your Lordships may sometimes pass on the Barnet by-pass, its district offices, its mechanics' cottages, and its lifeboat houses. It seems rather anomalous that whilst both Trinity House and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution are interested in the saving of life at sea, one is exempted and the other is liable for rates.

Another point of importance which everybody really knows is that the Royal National Lifeboat Institution is discharging a service to the whole of the community in the British Isles as well as to those from other countries who unfortunately come to grief. On the whole, rating authorities in the past have been very good to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, and in many cases they have asked us to pay only nominal sums, or at any rate reduced sums in payment of rates. But under the Local Government Act, 1948, the responsibility for assessments is, I understand, transferred from local valuation officers to the Board of Inland Revenue, and I do not think they have any discretionary power in the matter. We have 140 lifeboat stations and stores around our coasts, and about 100 are not assessed for rates; but the Royal National Lifeboat Institution is required to pay between £3,000 and £4,000 a year in rates.

The funds of the Institution are derived, of course, entirely from voluntary sources; they are derived from flag days, legacies and so on. Every year we have to provide a very large sum in order to keep the service afloat—we have to provide for an expenditure of £750,000 every year; and of course the cost of everything has gone up. The largest type of boat will to-day cost us £36,500 as opposed to about £10,000 before the war. If there is any considerable increase in the amount we have to pay by way of rates, it will become a serious question for the Institution. May I appeal to the noble Lord who is going to reply to consider this matter sympathetically, as indeed he said he would? It is quite possible that my Amendment is not in the correct form. If it is not, I shall be only too delighted to re-draft it, or it might be more convenient to move it again in a better form on another stage of the Bill. But I beg the noble Lord to see whether he can possibly help an Institution with which, I am sure, he will himself have every sympathy. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 7, insert the said new clause.—(Earl Howe.)

3.38 p.m.


The Royal National Lifeboat Institution occupies a very special place in our affections and our respects; whether it should occupy a special place in this Bill is a slightly more difficult matter. As the noble Earl has said, it is perfectly true that something like 100 out of the 148 lifeboat stations around the coast are not assessed for rates, while the other 48 are. As was argued, I think, in another place, and also in a letter to The Times newspaper, this seems anomalous; the matter ought to be clarified. I have not been able to discover why 48 eating authorities are rating lifeboat stations—perhaps the reason is that in the absence of any statutory power to give favourable treatment to the Institution, they felt that they could not allow them any relief from rates. Statutory permission is now being given by subsection (4) of Clause 8 of the Bill, to which I nave already referred in a previous Amendment. This will enable rating authorities to reduce or remit the payment of any rate upon, among other things, a hereditament occupied for the purposes of an organisation (whether corporate or un-incorporate) which is not established or conducted for profit and whose main objects are charitable … That gives rating authorities an opportunity of showing their good sense and discrimination in the exercise of their power.

The difficulty with which we are confronted in endeavouring to meet the point of the noble Earl, Lord Howe, is how does one define the type of organisation to which one would like to give exemption in the way suggested by the noble Earl? The provision must be such that other bodies will not be affected one way or the other or given offence because they consider that they deserve the same exemptions as are suggested by the noble Earl. If the Royal National Lifeboat Institution is exempted, why not the St. John Ambulance Brigade, the Y.M.C.A. and the Boy Scouts? One can think of a large number of highly deserving and proper charities, or charitable institutions, which have widespread activities and considerable accommodation similarly to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and which might equally claim exemption. In selecting one deserving case such as that mentioned by the noble Earl, we should, perhaps, be implying that others were less deserving, or even undeserving, and should, I think, run serious risk of injuring many good, charitable organisations.

Without in any way decrying the valuable and world-famous work of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, I would ask my noble friend, Lord Howe, whether he is not content with the wide provisions contained in Clause 8 for exemptions and benefits of the kind which he now seeks. I hope he will appreciate the difficulty with which Her Majesty's Government would be faced. I should prefer to leave the matter as it is in the Bill, and I hope that local authorities (as I am sure they will) will make full use of Clause 8 to unify the benefits that they bestow on organisations such as this. As I have already explained, if they do not do so, Parliament will have a chance of reviewing the question. While entirely sympathising with what my noble friend has in mind, I would ask him not to press his Amendment but to satisfy himself, if he will, that the benefits for which he asks can very well be obtained under the Bill, and that his Amendment, if accepted, might cause considerable embarrassment and difficulty.


The noble Lord and his noble friend Lord Munster have made the same point about subsection (4) of Clause 8, explaining that local authorities have been given power to grant exemption or remission, partly or wholly, as they wish. I understand they already have that power and that this confers no new power upon them. The noble Earl referred to 100 local authorities who appear to have exercised this power and 48 who have not done so, in presumably identical circumstances. May I ask the noble Lord what additional powers are being conferred on local authorities?


Before the noble Lord replies, may I say a few words following upon what has been said by the noble Earl, Lord Howe—


Would the noble Lord mind if I received an answer first, for this is an important point. If the noble Lord is raising a different question, would it not be convenient first to get an answer to this one?


If the House so wishes, I will try to deal with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. I understand that the reason for confusion in the past was that there was uncertainty in the minds of local authorities as to their position. Under this clause there can be no uncertainty at all and we hope that all will follow the example of the good and liberal-minded authorities.


With regard to what has been said by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, I should like to add some points for the consideration of the noble Lord in charge of the Bill. Our legal advisers are not quite satisfied whether, under Clause 8 (1) (a), although we are a charity from the Inland Revenue point of view, we are also a charity from the rating point of view. Our advisers are not sure that the definition of these two things is the same. My other point is that though it is probably reasonable that we should pay rates on our offices, coxswains' houses and so on, it is felt that lifeboat sheds come into a rather special category. The ordinary lifeboat shed takes nothing from the public service except services such as electricity, for which normal rates are paid, though normal use is made of the road which the crew use when assembling on service. It may even be that the Institution, in particular cases, is performing a valuable and expensive public service by maintaining its lifeboat shed, as at Selsey, where a certain amount of coastal protection work is done, of necessity, by the Institution in order to maintain access to the shed. It seems to me that such sheds are in a special category quite unlike anything else.


Will my noble friend in replying deal with this point? I never sympathise with the tremendous fear of precedent in the Inland Revenue Department, but I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, has dealt with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Howe, that Trinity House has already provided the precedent. I should like to know whether or not that is the case. If there is fear in the mind of the Inland Revenue Department that a precedent will be created, that fear seems to be somewhat misplaced.


There seems to be no doubt at all that the power given in subsection (4) of Clause 8 is not a new power. Local authorities have always had that power, and the conjecture that local authorities, in 48 out of 148 cases, have not given complete exemption because they were in doubt as to their powers seems to be rather far-fetched. Is there the slightest evidence that any of those 48 local authorities which have exacted rates have said, "While we should very much like to exempt you altogether, unfortunately we have not the power"? Had that happened, I am sure that the Royal National Lifeboat Institution would have answered, "Yes, we have been exempted right, left and centre. We have exemption under 100 local authorities." I do not believe that that is the reason for non-exemption. I believe that these local authorities knew perfectly well that they have the power, but, for reasons that seemed to them good, those powers were not exercised in 48 cases although it was decided to do so in 100 other cases.

I believe that this Amendment goes too far. I should not like exemption to be allowed to extend to headquarters. It should apply only to lifeboat stations around the coast; knowing, as we all do, what inestimable service those stations render to us, I think there is a strong case there. There may be others, like the St. John Ambulance Brigade, who have an equally strong case. If so, they should put forward their claim for examination. I should not like to turn down what, on its face, may appear to be a very good claim, simply because there may be others who have not yet made any claim and who might also be entitled to sympathetic consideration. I hope that at a later stage of the Bill, if not now, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, will limit his Amendment in the way I have suggested, making it applicable only to lifeboat stations around the coast; and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will look at the matter again and see whether they cannot, to that limited extent, deal with this matter in the way suggested by the noble Earl. I consider this to be an exceptional case and that these people should have the exemption which is asked.


In a case like this, where we are all sympathetically disposed towards the body in question and do not wish to do anything hard, I should be unwise were I firmly to shut the door on the suggestion made by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt. He has certainly put his finger on the principal difficulty which would arise if we agreed to the noble Lord Howe's Amendment. But I still think the difficulty which I have put before your Lordships is a real one. If we accept this Amendment we let in a flood of perfectly deserving charities, and we shall never know where to stop. Trinity House, if I may say so, is not a fair precedent to cite: it was I believe, exempted by the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894. In answer to the other point which was made by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, I would say that, if my memory serves me aright, the rating authorities have no specific statutory power to remit rates for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. I think that is so, but I will check it. I believe that these remittances have been made merely by way of sympathetic assessments, without any statutory powers at all. We cannot accept the noble Lord Howe's Amendment in the way in which it is at present framed; but it would, I think, be discourteous in the extreme, in view of all that has been said, to refuse to look at this question again. I will certainly look at it again in the light of what has been said. But I must say that I hold out only slender hopes, because I see no way of letting in the R.N.L.I. and keeping out the Boy Scouts, the St. John Ambulance Brigade and the Y.M.C.A.


I should like to thank the noble Lord who has just replied and other noble Lords who have spoken for the sympathy they have expressed with the work of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. I can understand the noble Lord's fear of setting up a precedent and letting in other organisations. But there is a contrast between the Boy Scouts and the other organisations which the noble Lord has mentioned, and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. We are concerned with saving life at sea. There is therefore an analogy between us and Trinity House so far as that point goes, for, surely, the labours of Trinity House are directed to the same end. If I may, I will try to draft an Amendment in accordance with what has been said during the debate, and in accordance with the remarks of the noble Lord who has just replied, and put it down for another stage of the Bill.


I hope that the Committee will refuse to allow the noble Earl, Lord Howe, to withdraw his Amendment. The acid test is that 48 of these stations are taxed or rated, and we know definitely that 100 are not taxed or rated. That shows that there is a grave anomaly. I think that this Committee is capable of settling it, and of seeing that lifeboat stations around the coasts of Britain are free from tax. I am quite ready to go into the Division Lobby on, this matter.


I hope the Committee will allow the course which my noble friend, Lord Mancroft, has recommended to be adopted. No decision has been taken. What I think the noble Earl, Lord Howe, wanted was for further consideration to be given to what he regarded—and this I can well understand—as an important point. That consideration is now to be given. If Lord Calverley or anyone else wishes to take this matter further, the appropriate occasion for doing so will be at a later stage of the Bill, when the Government have given full examination to the point.


I am always ready to listen to the noble Marquess the Leader of the House. I believe we are going to get what we want; therefore I say no more.


With the permission of the Committee, I will now withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8:

Provisions as to rates payable by charitable and other organisations

8.—(1) This section applies to the following hereditaments, that is to say— (a) any hereditament occupied for the purposes of an organisation (whether corporate or unincorporate) which is not established or conducted for profit and whose main objects are charitable or are otherwise concerned with the advancement of religion, education or social welfare; (c) any hereditament consisting of a playing field (that is to say, land used mainly or exclusively for the purposes of open-air games or of open-air athletic sports) occupied for the purposes of a club, society or other organisation which is not established or conducted for profit and does not (except on special occasions) make any charge for the admission of spectators to the playing field: (2) For the purposes of the making and levying of rates in a rating area, for the year beginning with the date of the coming into force of the first new valuation list for that area (in this section referred to as "the first year of the new list"), and for any subsequent year, the amount of rates chargeable in respect of a hereditament to which this section applies shall, subject to the following provisions of this section, be limited as follows, that is to say—

VISCOUNT DAVIDSON moved, in subsection (1) (a), before the word "profit" to insert "private." The noble Viscount said: This is another Amendment, a very simple one, concerning educational establishments. We want to ascertain beyond all doubt what schools will benefit under this clause. The word "profit" is ambiguous, and even in the Ministry of Education's own regulations for school grants the words used are "conducted for profit," in one place, and "conducted for private profit," in another. It would obviously be reasonable to exclude from the operation of this clause schools conducted for a profit which accrues to individuals. But we do not want to exclude schools which, though technically they make a profit, use it for the purpose of the trust or other corporate body responsible for the conduct of the school. It is to get an assurance from the Government that I am moving this Amendment. I want to make it certain that schools which are conducted by a charity or by a corporate body will be able to have what I prefer to describe as a "surplus," rather than a "profit," for the educational purposes for which the school is run or the original trust was created.

Amendment moved— Page 13, line 17, after ("for") insert ("private").—(Viscount Davidson.)


Perhaps I can set my noble friend's mind at rest. I think that in what he said he was really discussing educational organisations which are not, in fact, those established or conducted for profit but which, by having, say, several hereditaments under their control, do in fact make a profit in the course of one year and make up losses on the other hereditaments which are attached to the principal ones. If that is the point my noble friend has in mind, then I can assure him that it is already covered by this clause. There would therefore be no need to insert the word "private" as my noble friend proposes.


I thank the noble Earl very much, and with the permission of the Committee I will now withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.58 p.m.

THE EARL OF LUCAN moved, in subsection (1) (c), to leave out all words after "profit." The noble Earl said: The atmosphere this afternoon has been charged with sympathy and good will towards all these deserving causes. I can only hope that this Amendment will be the lucky one, and will lead to a concession by Her Majesty's Government. The purpose of the Amendment is slightly to widen concessions given in the Bill in respect of playing fields under Clause 8 (1) (c). Clearly, since playing fields have been included in this clause, the intention is that the bodies conducting them should be assisted by some concession or relief in rating which is permitted to the rating authorities under subsection (4) of Clause 8. Playing fields so qualifying are defined as those: used mainly or exclusively for the purposes of open-air games or of open-air athletic sports) occupied for the purposes of a club, society or other organisation which is not established or conducted for profit … That is all very well. This gives the limiting form that these clubs, societies or other organisations are not permitted, except on special occasions, to make any charge for the admission of spectators to the playing fields. Probably most of your Lordships know many cases of small clubs whose finances are permanently in a precarious condition. Yet if they are to secure this rating relief they are not allowed to ease their financial position by charging any "gate" for matches except on special occasions.

I should like to ask the noble Earl whether he can give any indication of what these special occasions would be. Presumably every rating authority regards the matter in a separate light, and naturally there will be differences in the conclusions to which they come. I can imagine, for instance, that when the cricket club at Much-Binding-in-the-Marsh invites South Africa to play a match, that would be regarded as a "special occasion," and they would be permitted to charge without losing their rights under this clause. On the other hand, what of a match, home or away, between Much-Binding and Little Puddleton, an occasion that happens only once or twice a year—would that be considered a "special occasion" and allowed? If the words I seek to delete were left out, any club which is not established or conducted for profit and which owns and operates a playing field would qualify for this rating relief. I think it is a serious matter. We all know of small clubs struggling along. In many cases, if they do not get this relief, I suspect that they have to resort to some dubious means of raising money. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 13, line 28, leave out from ("profit") to end of line 30.—(The Earl of Lucan.)


The noble Earl has explained fully the purpose of his Amendment. He will have noticed, as will other noble Lords who have taken an interest in this clause, that two requirements have to be fulfilled before subsection 1 (c) can operate. The first is that the playing field is occupied by a club, society or other organisation which is not established or conducted for profit. The second is that "except on special occasions" no charge must be made for the admission of spectators to the playing fields. It is the second of these requirements which the Amendment seeks to leave out. Before I go on to my next point, may I define to the noble Earl the special occasions when entrance fees may be charged for spectators? It may be, for instance, to raise money for the purpose of buying stumps, cricket bats, and so on, for the purposes of the club. That would be a circumstance which would allow a charge to be made as a special occasion.

My right honourable friend included these two requirements in the clause simply and solely to distinguish clearly between those bodies of great substance and standing who can look to the "gate" money to help them to meet their liabilities, including rates, and those bodies of a humbler sort which do not enjoy revenues of that kind and often find it extremely difficult to make both ends meet. There are two extremes which would illustrate this. Two places which come to my mind are the rugby football ground at Twickenham and the lawn tennis grounds at Wimbledon, where charges are made for admission; and then there is the village cricket field, which is probably rented from a local farmer. The whole purpose of Clause 8 is to bring help to the small amateur club, society or other organisation which in the past has been in considerable difficulties, due to the heavy charges it has to meet. But the noble Earl's Amendment would make the scope of the clause far too wide; It would bring in those bodies which, however deserving they may be (and I will not argue that point with him), are certainly not "hard up" or in need of the financial help which the noble Earl would like to give to the smaller clubs.


I should like to support my noble friend Lord Lucan. On Second Reading I asked the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor a question about the premier university in this country, which plays first-class cricket at Fenner's. I asked whether he would let me know if that would be rated as a profit-making undertaking, and I hope that the noble Earl will to-day be able to give me a reply. The noble and learned Viscount told the House that he was interested in a subordinate cricket club connected with Oxford University. I am interested in a cricket club run by a police constable called Bryden in my own village, which is known to millions of people. He is trying to raise funds for his cricket club, and the noble and learned Viscount said that if it were not for profit we could have a bazaar in our chapel but that we could not run a football pool—a matter about which the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, was talking last week. I hope the noble Earl, Lord Munster, will be able to reply with lucidity about what we shall be able to do.


I find the noble Lord's question extremely difficult to answer. If a friend of his is endeavouring to form a cricket club which is not to be conducted for profit, then of course I this clause will apply to it.


I am grateful to the noble Earl for his reply. I am sorry that he does not go the whole way with me. If playing fields are a good thing, I do not see why the big playing fields should not get relief in the same way as the small ones. After all, they add to the sum of amenities available for the population, and we have to remember that, by their nature, playing fields cover a great deal of ground and, presumably, are rated highly. What will give most pleasure in what the noble Earl said was his interpretation of a "special occasion." If rating authorities will look at it in that way, that any occasion designed to contribute to the funds of a club owning the playing field can be regarded as a "special occasion," and therefore will not prevent rating relief, that will give great pleasure everywhere. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


This Amendment is almost drafting. It redefines the local authorities who are excluded from the benefits of the reliefs given by Clause 8 of the Bill. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 13, line 33, leave out from ("by") to end of line 34 and insert ("an authority having, within the meaning of the Local Loans Act, 1875, power to levy a rate.").—(The Earl of Al roister.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The next Amendment is drafting. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 14, line 3, leave out from ("than") to end of line and insert ("it would have been").—(The Earl of Monster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This, too, is a drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 14, line 4, leave out ("that amount is") and insert ("it is thereby").—(The Earl of Munster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

4.11 p.m.

LORD BURDEN moved to add to subsection (2): Provided also that the provisions of this subsection limiting the amount of rates chargeable in respect of any hereditament shall only apply as from the commencement of the rate period in which the occupier of the hereditament submits to the rating authority a claim in writing to the effect that the hereditament is one to which subsection (1) of this section applies.

The noble Lord said: It is clear from speeches of noble Lords this afternoon that there is a general desire to help genuine charitable organisations, but I think we should remember, in the first place, that this clause will apply to many organisations which have not been given sympathetic rating assessments. These organisations will benefit because, whatever the nature of the premises they occupy, they will not have to pay more by way of rates than they have hitherto paid, while perhaps other similar deserving organisations will not be treated in that favourable manner, because they are not within the definition contained in the clause. On the whole, I suppose local discretion is best in these matters. Secondly, in cities where there are many charities, such as university cities, while we are being helpful to charitable organisations, I think we should, at the same time, remember that the clause as a whole will of necessity mean higher rate poundages to be paid by the occupiers of other hereditaments. It may be an unpleasant thing to say, but the facts ought to be known and faced in this connection. Many people may argue that local ratepayers will have to pay higher poundages because of help afforded to a charity which is national in its scope. But one cannot help that; one has to take the rough with the smooth. Thirdly, there is no provision, as I read it, to deal with cases where the expenditure of a local authority increases.

I have made those general comments in connection with the clause before coming to the Amendment standing in my name on the Marshalled List. The rating authority will often not know whether the organisation has secured recognition as a charity. But the onus seems to be on the rating authority to limit their rate collection to the amount payable before re-valuation. If the rating authority collect the full amount, and the ratepayer subsequently realises that he could have claimed relief, he may then do so, and claim refund without restriction as to time. The rating authority cannot protect themselves against such a claim by giving the three years' notice, as they would not realise that the organisation was a charity. For this reason, I submit to your Lordships that any organisation claiming relief should be required to submit its claim to the rating authority and, following the general practice with regard to proposals, the claim would be operative from the commencement of the period in which the claim itself is made. I would submit that that is a fair and reasonable proposition. If through carelessness or for any other reason an organisation omits to put in a claim where it is entitled to this relief, then it is quite unfair that the claim should back-date for two, three, four, five years or more. That is the substance of the Amendment, and I submit it to your Lordships for what I hope will be your favourable consideration. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 14, line 13, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Burden.)


The noble Lord has moved an Amendment which provides that the limitation of rates chargeable under Clause 8 (2) ought to apply only from the beginning of the rate period in which the charity or other organisation has made a written claim. I know that the object of the Amendment is to meet the fears, which have no doubt been expressed to the noble Lord, as they have to me, of the Association of Municipal Corporations. They have said—and I think the noble Lord said it, too—that a rating authority may be unaware of the charitable status and nature of a particular body, and they may, therefore, fail to reduce the rates payable by that body in the first year in accordance with paragraph (a) of subsection (3) of this clause. The charitable body may then realise that it could have made a claim for relief, and it may do so; and it is suggested that it may claim a refund without limitation of any period of time at all. I can set the noble Lords mind at rest about that at once. If any charity has paid the full amount of rates for the year 1956–57, it has no right whatever to claim a refund, and it will not be able to claim the right to a remission or a reduction of rates for subsequent years under paragraph (d) of that subsection. It will, however, be eligible for remission or reduction at the local authority's discretion, under subsection (4) of that particular clause. Therefore I think the noble Lord will see at once that the fears of the Association of Municipal Corporations are not founded on good, solid facts.

I agree with the noble Lord that it may well be that the rating authority will not know whether a particular organisation comes within the definition of the word "charity." But if (as they probably would) they issue a demand note for the full amount of rates from the beginning of 1956 to 1957, it will then be upon the organisation itself, as the clause applies at the moment, to ask for a remission or a reduction of rates to that particular stage of time. If the rating authority then agree that the organisation is entitled to relief, the demand note will no doubt be amended, giving the relief to which the local authority have decided the charity is entitled. On the other hand, if the local authority took the view that the organisation was not a charity within the meaning of the clause, then the organisation could, under Acts of old and ancient date, appeal to the courts for their decision. I feel sure that it is desirable, as the noble Lord will readily agree, that rating authorities should do all they can in the first instance to ensure that charitable and other bodies within the scope of this clause are fully aware of the rights which they have, and encourage them at the same time to stake their claims for treatment under the clause as soon as possible, preferably well before April 1 next year, when the whole Bill comes into operation. I think the noble Lord can rest assured that once a charity has paid a rate under the terms of this Bill it cannot claim a refund from the local authority at all.


I am grateful to the noble Earl for that explanation. I can assure him, from my knowledge of the way in which local authorities have worked in the past, that they will give every sympathy to the charitable organisations, and try to work the Act in the letter and in the spirit. Otherwise, they would be frustrating the obvious wishes of Parliament. But, as I understand it, it would be impossible for any charitable organisation to establish a claim after a number of years for repayment of rates covering a number of years if those rates have been levied because the local authority had not been aware that it was a charitable organisation within the definition, or because the charitable body had for various reasons omitted to apply. The charitable organisation then would be unable to get a refund covering a number of years. With that assurance, I am quite ready to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.


I can assure the noble Lord that that is correct.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.23 p.m.

THE EARL OF MUNSTER moved to add to the clause: (6) Nothing in this section shall affect any exemption from, or privilege in respect of, rates under any enactment other than this section. The noble Earl said: This Amendment adds a new subsection to Clause 8 of the Bill. The subsection would secure that nothing in the clause would affect any exemption or rating privilege which a hereditament affected by the clause would otherwise enjoy. Noble Lords may remember that I explained on Second Reading that Clause 8 of this Bill is very limited. It does not exempt anything from rates. All it does, by subsection (4), is to give rating authorities complete discretion to reduce or to remit the payment of any rate chargeable on a hereditament in the categories which I have described in subsection (1) of the clause. It also does this. It secures that the amount of rates paid in respect of those hereditaments in 1956–57 shall not exceed the rates paid in the year 1955–56. It also gives the organisations concerned the right to a proportionate remission in rates for subsequent years unless three years' notice is given of the intention to reduce or to discontinue that remission. Clause 8 was introduced in another place in substitution for a subsection in the original Clause 6 of the Bill. When the provision concerning the charities was in the same clause as that concerning relief from rates for places of religious worship, both were subject to a subsection in substantially the same terms as are used by the Amendment. Your Lordships will see that words similar to these appear in subsection (5) of Clause 7 of the Bill. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 14, line 46, at end insert the said subsection.—(The Earl of Munster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 8, as amended, shall be agreed to?


I have listened with great care to the discussions which have gone on, and in which the Ministers have made reference on many occasions to the difference between Clauses 7 and 8—what could be done under one and what could be done under the other. It is obvious that noble Lords in all parts of the House are exceedingly interested in getting reasonably level and just treatment for different charitable bodies and educational establishments which have been set up for good public social purposes and are working without profit. What some of us fail to understand, however, is why there should be this distinction drawn between organisations coming under Clause 7 and those coming under Clause 8. Clause 7 gives complete exemption from rates to religious hereditaments or buildings, yet in the case of other organisations, which may have an equally good claim for exemption, any future action, except in so far as it is not to be mulcted in any penalties against their previous benefits, is left entirely to the local authority. If it is possible to do what has been done in this Bill in Clause 7 for religious institutions, why should it not be done for the good cases which are covered by Clause 8?

I should be the last person to suggest that local authorities do not do their work well, but there is a great difference between local authorities as we find in all sorts of cases. Take, for example, the matter of which the Government have made a great deal—that is, what should be done to assist housing in rural areas, in farms and the like, which is a very good objective. Because the matter is left entirely to the discretion of the local authority, some farmers in the country are getting grants for repairs to farm houses and their servants' houses, and the like, while others in other parts of the country are getting no such grants. I should have thought that, where a great problem like this is involved, and having regard to what has happened in the past with regard to housing, if there is a good case for giving these exemptions and reductions in the case of these charities, Parliament should settle the case for itself and assert it with authority in the Bill.


The noble Viscount has called attention to the difference between Clause 7 and Clause 8 of this Bill. I think I can relieve his mind of some fears by reminding him straight away that under Clause 7 of the Bill churches and chapels which are used exclusively for public and religious services are exempt from rates. In point of fact, that has been the law for many years. We have decided to add to that clause church halls or similar buildings used in connection with the church, so long as they are not let for profit. That is all Clause 7 does. Clause 8 deals with an entirely different sort of property. It deals with three specific categories. The first is a property which is occupied by charitable bodies or similar organisations and not run for profit; the second is almshouses; and the third, playing fields. I would point out to the noble Viscount that those three types of property are different from a church or a place of public religious worship. Moreover, subsection (4) of Clause 8 is doing something which is quite new, because in the past local authorities have only had the option of remitting or reducing rates if they felt inclined that way. Under this clause, if it becomes law, there will be an obligation on the shoulders of the local authority to carry out these proposals, subject, of course, to what I said in answering the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Burden. I hope that that covers the questions which the noble Viscount addressed to me.

4.30 p.m.


I am much obliged to the noble Earl. I am sure he has done his best to put me right on the matter, but I did not feel that his explanation went the whole way. It does not seem to explain quite the differences which were mentioned before under subsection (4) of Clause 8. There, certainly, reduction or remitting is left entirely in the hands of the local authority. I appreciate the fact that the law has been strengthened in favour of these charitable institutions by the first part of the clause, but what the noble Earl said did rot seem to me to fit in quite with the spirit of subsection (4), I do not want to move any Amendment or Vote against the clause, but since the Government are to consider further the kind of case raised by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, this afternoon with regard to lifeboats, I would point out that the same thing applies to a number of specific purposes, especially, for example, what is mentioned in Clause 8 (1), any hereditament…for…the advancement of religion, education or social welfare. If the relief granted in such cases is to be left, in degree at any rate, to the discretion of the local authority, one may expect to see a good many anomalies, if I may judge by my local authority experience with regard to local farmers' houses.


There is one question I should like to ask on this: what do the words "social welfare" mean?


I should attach to the meaning of "social welfare" the words which are in the clause of the Bill. I understand that "social welfare" means the social welfare of the people. I would not think there was any difficulty upon that.


All of the people, or some of the people, or some particular class, or what?

Clause 8, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 9 [Other reliefs from rates]:


For reasons which I shall seek to explain to your Lordships on the Motion that Clause 9 stand part of the Bill, I do not propose to move Amendments Nos. 11, 12 or 13.

On Question, Whether Clause 9 shall stand part of the Bill?


Clause 9 and Amendments Nos. 11, 12 and 13, are concerned with a subject not particularly attractive for a warm afternoon's debate—giant sewers. The sewer in question here is in East London. These three Amendments were put down to meet a point raised by an honourable Member of the Opposition in another place, but since they have appeared on the Order Paper an interesting situation has arisen, behind which I think I detect the delicate touch of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. It appears as a possibility that if these three Amendments, which are concerned only with the London County Council, are included in the Bill, the Bill will thereby be converted into a Hybrid Bill. I am not an expert on procedure; I am not clear precisely what a Hybrid Bill may be, or precisely what would be the effect on the passage of the Bill if it was a Hybrid Bill. It is a technical matter on which we must seek advice not only from the experts but also from the Lord Chancellor (who, unfortunately, is not able to be present to-day) and, indeed, from the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, if he is willing to help. I will say no more than that but merely explain to your Lordships that, for those reasons and the desire to seek further and better particulars about this matter, we are not moving these three Amendments.


The noble Lord has rendered a great service to me personally in relieving me of the obligation of making what I would regard as a rather difficult, uninteresting and highly technical speech. I wish he had told me last night that he was not going to move these Amendments, because I gave him notice that I was intending to deal with the subject on the lines that he has indicated. If I had known last night, I should have had a more restful night than in fact I had. However, it is only fair to the Committee that I should say a few words on this matter, but not on the question of a Hybrid Bill. I am perfectly willing to explain to the noble Lord what a Hybrid Bill is so far as it is known. It is not absolutely clear. Not a lot is said about it in the textbooks. In my view, this is not a Hybrid Bill; but, apart from the fact that these Amendments would have made this Bill a Hybrid Bill, there are merits in this matter which ought to be put on record. If the Committee will tolerate me for a minute or two, I should like to say what those merits are.

The law at present is that local authorities are rated in respect of their sewers. When this Bill was about to be introduced, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government met the local authorities and explained the Bill to them, saying that it was the intention to relieve local authorities of rates in respect of their sewers. The local authorities were delighted. The London County Council were present and expressly raised the question of definition and whether the particular sewers referred to in the Amendments were covered. They were assured that they were and that they would be exempt. These particular sewers happen to be outside the area of the London County Council.

On the Second Reading of the Bill, certain members of my Party coming from West Ham, where these sewers are, raised the point that they thought it was iniquitous that the London County Council should be relieved of rates in respect of a particular sewer. These were the grounds they gave. They said that it is an ugly sewer—some of them called it a "monstrosity"; that it is a big sewer—it is one of the biggest in the country; that it is above ground—which is unusual, but not confined to the London County Council; and that it occupies a large amount of space—over thirty acres of the area of this local authority are sterilised on account of the existence of this big, ugly sewer. The Minister was not impressed by the argument. In fact, he said that he was opening a pumping station on the site of this sewer and he thought it had a certain kind of grandeur. If that is his idea of grandeur, I must confess it is not mine. But if we take all those reasons together, they do not seem to me to constitute a sufficient justification for treating the London County Council separately. There are big sewers in other parts of the country but none as big as this—for, after all, London is a very big place and has a good deal of sewage to dispose of. The London County Council are doing the job not only for themselves but also for a number of adjacent areas—and, if I may say so, they are doing a very good job, too.

There was a good deal of pressure, and eventually the Minister agreed to put down an Amendment in this House to reimpose a rate on the London County Council, and on the London County Council alone, and only in respect of this length of sewer. From beginning to end, except on the occasion when the Parliamentary Secretary met the London County Council and the other local authorities, when it was agreed that they should be treated in the same way as the others, the London County Council were never once informed of the change in the intention of the Minister, and it came as a great surprise and shock to them when they were informed that they were about to be re-rated, and that they were to be the only authorities in the country to be so treated. It is true that when the noble Earl was moving the Second Reading he made some reference to it. He will remember that I then asked him whether the London County Council would be consulted and he said (I thought rather cryptically, but I did not suspect that there was anything sinister about it) "on the form of the Amendment." I accepted that, and it is a fact that they have been consulted on the form of the Amendment—that is to say, they have been told "You have got to pay rates, but is this Amendment adequate to impose rates upon you?" That is all; they were never consulted on the merits. I submit now, in case this Amendment is reinserted, that there are no merits whatever in imposing rates upon the London County Council alone in respect of this particular sewer.

I should not have fought strongly if all sewers were to he re-rated. I do not understand the ground for relieving of rates sewers and not village halls; but the noble Lord need not tell me. It seems to me odd that we should relieve all local authorities of those obligations and that much more deserving bodies should not be relieved. But be that as it may, to single out the London County Council seems to me monstrous. If you are going to make beauty, or even size, the test of whether a building is rated or not—all sorts of buildings are involved—it might be extended to individuals, which would be a shocking state of affairs. Moreover, the question of sterilising the land arises even when the sewer is underground. If it is a big sewer you still sterilise the area of the land that is above the sewer, because in a great many cases you must have access to it. I really could not understand, and I would have asked the noble Lord to tell me, on what ground of justice it was proposed to levy a rate upon the London County Council.

There is one other point that I should like to mention in case this is ever reconsidered, and that is, that the idea of those who were supporting the Amendment was that the borough in whose area the sewer was situated would get some benefit as a result of the rating. In fact they were going to get no benefit whatever because the additional rates that they would have got would have been deducted from them out of the equalisation fund, and West Ham and the other boroughs associated with them, would therefore have got no benefit by the levying of a rate on the London County Council, although mistakenly they might have thought that they would. So that the whole thing is a complete mystery to me. But in addition to that of course, putting it very broadly indeed, the hybrid provision relates to cases where an individual is singled out for special treatment in a Public Bill. In those cases he is entitled to be heard before he is condemned to that special treatment, and is entitled to be heard by counsel and so on. Of course, nothing of that kind has happened, and if it had been held that this Amendment converted the Bill into a Hybrid Bill, then the London County Council would have been entitled to be heard on it; presumably it would have gone to a Select Committee and the Government would not have got the Bill for a long time to come.

I hope that the noble Lord can give me some information as to what is going to happen to this. On the time-table we have our Report stage and Third Reading on Thursday. Is the noble Lord able to tell me whether the Government propose to put this Amendment down again at a later stage, or are they going to drop it? If they are going to drop the Amendment then naturally—this is not an inducement—the Bill will have a much easier passage on Thursday than might otherwise be the case.


I think it preferable that I should not enter into any of the interesting points which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has made in his remarks because we may well have to discuss all this again at a later stage in the Bill. Whether we do intend to pursue the matter I cannot for the moment tell him until I get the chance to consult with my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, but I will certainly try to give the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, as much notice as I possibly can. I hope he will acquit me of any discourtesy in not having told him last night that this Amendment was not going to be moved to-day. I would have told him had I known myself, and we should both of us have had a more peaceful night.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clauses 10 and 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 [Increase of controlled rent in consequence of revaluation]:


The first of the Amendments to Clause 12 is almost drafting. It provides that if the tenant has not served a suspense notice he will have to pay the increase of rent on account of the increased rates not only until the proposal is settled but until the date of the next demand for rates after the proposal is settled. Under the subsection as drafted, the tenant, if the proposal succeeds, would be able to recover from the landlord only the increase of rent paid by him before the proposal was settled. The effect of this Amendment is that he will be able to recover also the increase which accrued between that date and the date of the next demand for rates. To some small extent it will benefit the tenant. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 20, line 43, leave out ("the proposal was settled") and insert ("the date on which the next demand for rates in respect of the dwelling-house is made").—(The Earl of Munster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 are dependent upon the Committee's approving Amendment No. 17 which is merely drafting, for it serves to define the meaning of the word "landlord" for the purpose of the clause. I beg to move all three Amendments.

Amendments moved— Page 20, line 44, leave out ("from the landlord"); Page 21, line 8, leave out ("from the landlord"); Page 21, line 10, at end insert ("and any rent recoverable by virtue of this subsection shall be recoverable from the person (if any) who on the said date is the immediate landlord of the tenant of the dwelling-house (being a tenant of the whole of the dwelling-house who has no sub-tenant of the whole of the dwelling-house) or, if there is then no such tenant, shall be recoverable from the person who is then the owner of the dwelling-house.").—(The Earl of Munster.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Clause 12, as amended, agreed to.

4.50 p.m.

LORD MERTHYR moved, after Clause 12, to insert the following new clause:

Amendment of s. 193 (3) of Local Government Act, 1933

". In subsection (3) of section one hundred and ninety-three of the Local Government Act, 1933, for the word 'fourpence' there shall be substituted the words one shilling' and for the word 'eightpence' there shall be substituted the words 'one shilling and sixpence'."

The noble Lord said: Like most other noble Lords who have moved Amendments this afternoon, I am seeking relief; but unlike those noble Lords, in this case I seek relief for local authorities. The purpose of my Amendment is to empower parish councils to spend annually more money without obtaining the consent of the parish meeting. It seems to me that having to obtain the consent of a parish meeting is a cumbersome and inefficient procedure, and a relic of long past days which ought not to be any longer continued, at any rate within the sums now applicable.

The question may well be asked: why should there be any limit at all in the case of parish councils, when there is no limit for district or county councils? I am not sure that there is any real answer to that question; but I am not asking for the limit to be altogether removed, merely for it to be raised. Some parish councils are very much larger than some district councils, which are not subject to any limit. According to my statistics, there are some parish councils in this country which in population are twenty-five times the size of the smallest borough; and if that borough can spend anything that it likes (subject to the auditor), without any limit and without consulting the inhabitants, why should not a parish council which is so very much larger do the same? After all, parish councils, like other local authorities, are subject to the fetters of electoral control, and if they are extravagant they can be dismissed by the electors. I am all for retaining that sanction, but why should those councils be treated differently when they, like the others, can be dismissed by those who put them into office?

Since the figures which I now seek to alter were first fixed, in 1894, times have changed, and so has the value of money. The figures then were 3d., 4d. and 6d.; that is, 3d. without the consent of the parish meeting and 6d. with consent. Those figures were changed in 1929, by the Local Government Act, and became 4d. and 8d. respectively. I now seek to change them to 1s. and 1 s. 6d.—surely a very modest request, considering the change in the value of money since 1894 and 1929. Moreover, many parishes are now greatly handicapped by the very small sum produced by a penny rate, a sum which has, Of course, been diminished by derating and is now lower than it was before. If my figures are correct, there are about 1,300 parishes in England and Wales in which the product of a penny rate is less than £5—in other words, they can spend only £20 a year without the permission of their parish meeting. Surely that is a position whch ought to be remedied.

I found one rather delightful case where the product of a penny rate is minus 11d., which I understand to mean that the cost of collecting a penny rate is more than that penny rate produces—another little anomaly which ought not to be retained, except in the history books. That is the parish of Strixton, in the county of Northampton. At the other end of the scale, there are five parishes where the product of a penny rate is over £500, which is a great deal more than that of many districts and boroughs, and of more than one or two counties, I believe. Parishes of that importance and status should not be restricted, as they now are, and should not be compelled to obtain the consent of a parish meeting. In a parish of 25,000 people, a parish meeting is not a very efficient body to determine questions of this sort. To begin with, where would they meet? Again, in the case of a few very small parishes the product of a penny rate is so low that it is almost, if not entirely, absorbed by the cost of electing the parish council.

I have raised this point before in your Lordships' House. There are some parishes which can spend only the product of a 1s. rate in three years without obtaining the consent of the parish meeting and where it costs them the product of a 10.d. rate to elect themselves, leaving only l.d. to spend in the remainder of the three years. That is another absurd position which I suggest ought to be put right. Then, the curious position now obtains that a properly elected parish council is more restricted in its spending power than a parish meeting which is not elected at all—another situation which I do not view with any favour and which I consider is wrong. I might have asked that the limit be entirely removed, as it is with every other local authority; I am not suggesting that step at this stage, but am merely making the extremely modest request that the amounts should now be 1s. without the consent of the parish meeting and 1s. 6d. with the consent of the parish meeting. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 12, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Merthyr.)


My Lords, this Amendment has been moved in such a charming and interesting way that instinctively one feels sympathy towards it. I have not the faintest idea what the noble Earl, Lord Munster, is going to do about it, but this strikes me as being one of those Amendments about which one would like to think a little longer. It is an attractive suggestion to give these councils the power to spend more money. But what are they going to do with the money when they get it? I am not sure what their powers now are, though I know that as a general rule they are very limited. I suppose that there are one or two parish councils with a population of 25,000 or the noble Lord would not have referred to them, but they must be very few indeed, and they already have quite a lot of money and, so far as I know, few powers to exercise. When one has a lot of money in one's pocket and no great responsibility as to the spending of it, there is a great temptation to get rid of it anyhow.

The noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, may be right, and there may be a good reason for raising this Amendment. But the normal parish council with which I am familiar is a small body that virtually elects itself; it is not really popularly elected: a few people get together and elect: themselves without any pretence to a democratic election. I should therefore hesitate to give them more money. In any case I feel that this is not a proper Bill in which to make an Amendment of this kind. It would be more appropriate in a Local Government Bill than in a Rating and Valuation Bill. I am in some difficulty because we have had little time, and if one is to express a view one ought to have an opportunity of examining the matter much more closely. We are restricted to a very rigid timetable. We saw the Bill only last Saturday week. We have had our Second Reading and are now at the Committee stage and the noble Earl appears to expect to get his Bill the day after to-morrow. One would like to examine this much more closely I hope that the noble Earl will express sympathy (as he does for every Amendment) and say that this is not the place in which to move an Amendment of this kind but that, when we get legislation on local government later, we will by all means look at the matter.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, as usual, the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, is almost revolutionary in his proposal, and he rather under-stated the case. He mentioned the figure of 1,300 parishes where the product of a penny rate is less than £5. Then he gave a classic instance of one parish of 25,000 people. Of course, most of your Lordships are simple men and, listening to the noble Lord, we almost thought that every parish council had in its area a population of 25,000. They have not. In most cases it is nearer 2,500, or even 250. If there should be a council having a population of 25,000 in its area, I am certain that if it required any considerable amount of money for a purpose that was not extravagant it could levy a rate and raise it. The noble Lord put up the bogy of the parish meeting. He wondered what place one could find outside the Nuremberg rally field where a meeting of 25.000 people could be held. In this country, I do not think he would get 25,000 people. I support my noble friend on the Front Bench with regard to this proposal. I do not see how this Amendment can properly be included in this Bill. I am rather glad that there is a parish meeting with a quorum of three persons or upwards which can veto, sometimes, the rural district council. What Lord Merthyr has been telling us is, in effect, that he ought to introduce a Bill for the unification of rural councils. We have this unification. As he knows, it comes into the ambit of the administration of the countryside. There is an amalgamation of various rural councils in the larger body which may have an area with a population of 25,000—and I should say many of them have. But, I shall listen with delight to the noble Earl, Lord Munster—or to the result of the collaboration of the brain power of the two pundits on the Government Front Bench—telling us how we are to answer this conundrum. It seems to me that the answer is to appeal to Lord Merthyr to think again.


I think the reaction of the Government towards this Amendment is similar to that expressed by Lord Silkin. Undoubtedly, this is not a Bill in which we can insert a new clause to amend a section of the Local Government Act, 1933. Nevertheless, I think I ought to give my noble friend some indication as to why his proposal for a new clause would not be agreeable to Her Majesty's Government. The expenses of a parish council are chargeable separately on the parish, but parish councils themselves have no power to levy rates direct: they must issue a precept to the rural district council. Under Section 193 (3) of the Local Government Act the amount of the precept must not, unless sanctioned by an Order of the Minister, exceed an amount equal to a rate of 4d. in the pound, or, with the consent of the parish meeting, a rate of 8d. in the pound, chargeable in either case on hereditaments in that parish alone. That is a very important point to which I shall refer again in a moment. My noble friend's Amendment seeks to alter that. It would change these limits so that, without any ministerial sanction, a parish council could require a rate of 1s.—instead of 4d.—in the pound, at their own discretion, or 1 s. 6d.—instead of 8d.—in the pound, with the consent of the parish meeting. They would, of course, still require an order from the Minister before they could precept for more than 1s. 6d. in the pound. I am prepared to admit that, as the noble Lord has said, the expenses of parish councils have gone up very considerably over recent years. But it is an interesting fact that although there are over 7,000 parish councils throughout the country, only 400 have found it necessary in the past twenty years to apply to the Minister for orders approving higher amounts. It should not be thought, by reason of my making that announcement, that they should all now apply to the Minister to approve higher sums of money for their spending.

I wonder (Lord Silkin has already made this point) whether this is a time when we should consider raising these rate-poundage limits—and for this reason. Parish councils are, naturally, concerned with the amount of money they can raise. That has always been determined by the product of two variable factors—the total of rateable values in the parish and the rate-poundage. By raising the levels of rateable values the revaluation will automatically raise—without any need to change the rate-poundage limits—the limit on the amount of money parish councils will he able to secure in the future. It will have to be considerably higher than it is to-day. I suggest that my noble friend should not press this Amendment, but that he should wait and see whether the fears which he has ex pressed, that the rates which parish councils are at the moment authorised to raise will he insufficient for their requirements, more especially when the new rating valuation lists come into operation, are justified. For these reasons I hope that my noble friend will not press his Amendment.


I should like to say just a few words with regard to what Lord Silkin has said. He asks: What would this money be spent on? I will just give him one or two examples. Take a parish which has not the right to spend the product of more than a 4d. rate without leave of the parish meeting. That product might be £20 a year. One of the things parish councils seek to spend their money on is obtaining the services of a competent clerk. I think your Lordships will agree that one cannot get very efficient service for, say, £20 a year. That is just one example. My next example is this. The average cost in, at any rate, one group of parishes—a population group of parishes—of a contested election is £22 a year. That is more than the figure of £20 a year.


Does the noble Lord think he can get a competent clerk for £60 a year?


In the parish in which I live the clerk is paid £52 a year—£1 a week. That is, of course, payment on a part-time basis. The answer to Lord Silkin's question depends entirely on the size of the parish and the amount of work which the clerk has to do. All I am saying is that of course you cannot get a full-time clerk for anything like that. There are some parishes with full-time clerks, but the vast majority have part-time clerks, many of whom are paid nothing at all. What I am suggesting is that it is desirable that more clerks should be paid, and that it is also desirable, in the interests of efficiency, that those clerks who are paid should be paid rather more than they are paid now. I will not press the Amendment, as I have said, but I would add this final comment. Because not all parishes, or anything like all parishes, have asked the Minister's permission to spend over the second limit, it does not follow that there are not a great many who would like to spend, without the consent of the parish meeting, more than they have been able to spend. The noble Earl quoted the restriction on spending more than the upper amount without the permission of the Minister. That was a point upon which I did not touch. What I was speaking on was spending without permission of the parish meeting. However, I am inclined to agree that this is perhaps not the most appropriate Bill in which to introduce this Amendment, and for those reasons I have no hesitation in asking leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


This Amendment and the next to Clause 13 merely preserve from repeal the existing power of rating authorities to recover their costs of applying for distress warrants. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 22, line 17, leave out from ("1827") to ("which") in line 18.—(The Earl of Munster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move the next Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 22, line 21, at end insert ("and in section one of the Distress for Rates Act, 1849 (which relates to warrants for distress) the reference to reasonable charges, in relation to distress for rates, shall be construed as a reference to the fees, charges and expenses chargeable in accordance with any order for the time being in force under this section.").—(The Earl of Munster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 13, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

First to Fourth Schedules agreed to.

Fifth Schedule [Adjustment of rates payable by charitable and other organisations]:


I think it would he convenient to discuss together the three Amendments to the Fifth Schedule. The first alters the wording of paragraph 2 because, as it stands, the paragraph does not apply if the alteration in the list is not made until after the end of 1955–56. I am advised that this does not conform to the general position under rating provisions, for if, upon the completion of structural alterations in 1955–56, a proposal is immediately made to alter the list, any consequent change in the assessment takes effect from the date of the structural alteration. That is so even if the proposal is not settled and the list altered until after the end of 1955–56. This Amendment, and the two drafting Amendments which follow, would bring the paragraph into conformity with the general provision. The effect would then be that in calculating for the purposes of Clause 8 (2) the total amount of rates which were charged in respect of the hereditament for 1955–56, the hereditament would be treated as if rated for the whole of that year upon the assessment as altered in consequence of structural alteration made during the year. The total amount so calculated then constitutes the limit for the amount of rates chargeable in 1956–57. It is a somewhat complicated point, which I hope I have explained sufficiently clearly to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 34, line 24, leave out from ("made") to ("that") in line 25 and insert ("(whether before or after the passing of this Act) in the valuation list in force in").—(The Earl of Munster.)


I think the House ought to be clear about this matter, and I am afraid I am not. Does the noble Earl mean that if in the course of a year improvements are carried out which would justify a higher assessment and a higher assessment is made, that operates retrospectively for the whole year? That is what I understand him to say. In other words, if the year is from April to April and an improvement is carried out and completed in January of that year, the higher rate has to be paid for the whole year. I can understand that for the next year, of course, but I understood him to say it was for the whole year.


The effect of the Amendment which I have moved would be that in calculating for the purpose of Clause 8 (2) the total amount of rates which were charged in respect of the hereditament for 1955–56, the hereditament would be treated as though it had been rated for the whole year upon the assessment as altered in consequence of the structural alteration made during the year, and the total amount so calculated then constitutes the limit of the amount of rates chargeable for the next year. I think that what the noble Lord has said is correct.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This is a drafting Amendment, I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 35, line 6, leave out from ("than") to ("apart") in line 7 and insert ("it would have been").—(The Earl of Munster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This is also a drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 35, line 8, leave out ("that amount is") and insert ("it is thereby").—(The Earl of Munster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Fifth Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Sixth and Seventh Schedules agreed to.

Eighth Schedule [Enactments repealed]:


This Amendment is purely consequential. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 41, line 36, at end insert—

("32 & 33 Vict.c.40 The Sunday and Ragged Schools (Exemption from Rating) Act 1869. The proviso to section one.")

—(Lord Mancroft.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This Amendment alters the extent of the repeal made by the Eighth Schedule of this Bill of Section 63 of the Local Government Act, 1948. It is little more than drafting and there is no point of controversy therein. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 42, line 35, column 3, leave out from ("the words") to end of line 38 and insert ("from 'and every notice' to the end of the subsection").—(Lord Mancroft).

On Question, Amendment, agreed to.

Eighth Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

House resumed.