HL Deb 21 March 1961 vol 229 cc1115-8

5.0 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord St. Oswald.)


My Lords, as this Bill reaches the conclusion of its passage whatever legal costs there may be, and the expenses of the Board. I have done what I can to reply to the various points raised by noble Lords, and I hope that the Bill will now be read a second time.

On Question, Whether the Bill shall be now read 2a?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 72; Not-Contents, 2.

Ailwyn, L. Ebbisham, L. Merthyr, L.
Airedale, L. Elliot of Hardwood, B. Meston, L.
Alexander of Hillsborough, V. Exeter, M. Milverton, L.
Ampthill, L. Falmouth, V. Netherthorpe, L.
Amulree, L. [Teller.] Faringdon, L. Newall, L.
Archibald, L. Ferrers, E. Newton, L.
Atholl, D. Fortescue, E. Northesk, E.
Auckland, L. Freyberg, L. Peddie, L.
Baldwin of Bewdley, E. Gifford, L. Ravensdale of Kedleston, B.
Bathurst, E. Gosford, E. Rea, L.
Birdwood, L. Hawke, L. St. Oswald, L.
Blackford,L. Horsbrugh, B. Saltoun, L.
Bossom, L. Howard of Glossop, L. Shackleton, L.
Boston, L. Jellicoe, E Shepherd, L.
Boyd-Orr, L. Killearn, L. Silkin, L.
Cawley, L. Latham, L. Somers, L.
Citrine, L. Lawson, L. Soulbury, V.
Colwyn, L. Lichfield, L. Bp. Stonham, L.
Conesford, L. Lindgren, L. Strathclyde, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Lothian, M. Swinton, E.
Crathorne, L. Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, L. Taylor, L. [Teller.]
Denning, L. Mancroft, L. Tenby, V.
Digby, L. Margesson, V. Torrington, V.
Dynevor, L. Merrivale, L. Williams, L.
Longford, E. [Teller.]
Summerskill, B. [Teller.]

through your Lordships' House, I should like Ito offer a few observations which I assure your Lordships will be brief. May I first congratulate the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, on the pleasant and helpful way in which he conducted the Bill through the various processes in your Lordships' House? It is the case that the Bill was not controversial; that there was general agreement as to its purpose and object. I suppose that I provided the only element of controversy, and that I shall refer to. However, I think we all wish to convey satisfaction that the Post Office will henceforth be carried on with greater commercial freedom than has hitherto been the case. The Bill, I suppose, could be called a charter of wider emancipation from the Treasury; and I am sure your Lordships would like to go out from this House to all those engaged in the wide, very creditable and worthy activities of the Post Office our good wishes under their widened freedom and widened dispensation.

The only element of the Bill about which I am concerned and disappointed is the rather shabby treatment by the Government of local authorities as regards liabilities for rates. I was surprised at the doctrine which, for the first time in my hearing, at all events, was propounded by the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald: that because a hereditament does next show a profit, and because it happens to be a convenience for the public, it therefore should not be assessable for rates. That is at variance with the whole theory and structure of the law on rating. I am moved to refer to the circumstance of a public convenience. It is convenient for the public, but it does not show a profit; and yet it is assessable. I am sure that when the Rating and Valuation Bill now being considered in another place comes to your Lordships' House, this question will be raised again. There is no reason, in ray submission, why the Post Office should not pay rates in the same way as other public undertakings. With those reservations, I wish the Bill and the Post Office every good luck.

5.10 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Latham, for his welcome and for his kind words to myself. With regard to the references to-clay, and at the Committee stage, on the rating of Post Office property, I did my best on the Committee stage to assure noble Lords that the Post Office will effectively pay, and local authorities effectively receive, payments in lieu of rates on the Post Office. This is fully in accordance with the practice affecting all Government Departments, of which, of course, the Post Office will remain one. I am not aware that the general practice affecting Government Departments has been regarded as shabby in the past or why it should be now, and it is really that departure—


My Lords, if I may say so, the Government should hear the local authority representatives.


That, in fact, is the departure which the noble Lord, Lord Latham, is asking us, on behalf of local authorities, to make, as it affects the Post Office. I can understand that the local authorities may from time to time wish to express views on the precise amounts they should receive, and I feel certain that my right honourable and learned friend will be pleased to consider any views of that kind that may be expressed to him.

On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed