HL Deb 03 February 1976 vol 367 cc1251-5

4.5 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Strabolgi.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD DERWENT in the Chair.]

Clauses 1 to 10 agreed to.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Minor amendments]:

Lord STRABOLGI moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 9, line 41, leave out from beginning to ("for") in line 42 and insert— ("11.— (1) In section 26(4) of the 1930 Act (incidence of drainage rates) omit "or is deemed to be" in each place where those words occur and omit "or is deemed to have been". (2) In paragraph (c) of the said section 26(4) after "shall" insert "(subject to any agreement to the contrary)". (3) In paragraph (e) of the said section 26(4)").

The noble Lord said: This is a technical, legal Amendment. All the subparagraphs are concerned with Section 26(4) of the Land Drainage Act 1930, which makes provisions with respect to the assessment of persons to a drainage rate for any hereditament, and their liability for the rate. Before I deal with the proposed Amendments, I should first explain that there are two classes of drainage rates: the owner's rate and the occupier's rate. Subsection (4) of Section 26 provides in paragraphs (a) and (b) that every rate shall be assessed upon the person who is, or is deemed to be, the occupier of the property, and that the drainage board may recover the full amount of any rate from the person who is, or is deemed to be, the occupier at any time during the period for which the rate is made. It is therefore the occupier who is the person primarily liable to pay both the occupier's drainage rate and the owner's drainage rate.

But as regards the owner's rate the occupier is entitled under paragraph (c) to recover the full amount from the owner, and may deduct the amount from any rent payable by him to the owner. Paragraph (d) makes provision for the case of a person who is, or is deemed to be, the occupier of the hereditament for part only of the period in respect of which an occupier's rate is made. He is chargeable with such part only of the total amount as is proportionate to his period of occupation. Finally, an occupier who has paid the full amount of the occupier's rate under paragraph (b) can, under paragraph (e) and subject to any agreement to the contrary, recover from any other person who was, or is deemed to have been, the occupier of the hereditament during any part of the period an appropriate proportion of the occupier's rate.

The point of the first proposed subparagraph to paragraph 11 of Schedule 2, in relation to Section 26(4) of the 1930 Act, is that Section 24(3) of that Act already provides that for the purposes of Part IV of that Act (which deals with drainage rates and includes Section 26(4)) the owner of any hereditament shall be deemed to be the occupier during any period during which it is unoccupied. There is therefore no need in paragraphs (a), (b), (d), and (e) of Section 26(4) to include references to persons who are deemed to be or to have been the occupier of the hereditament. Even without the words "or is deemed to be" and "or is deemed to have been" it is clear that one could recover from the deemed occupier under those provisions. The proviso to Section 24(3) contains no qualifications, and there is no reason, therefore, to treat it as any less applicable to Section 26(4) than any other reference to occupiers in Part IV of the 1930 Act.

The second proposed sub-paragraph relates to paragraph (c) of Section 26(4), which entitles a person who occupies a hereditament to recover from the owner, by deduction from the rent, any amount paid by him on account of the owner's drainage rate. The effect of the proposed Amendment will be to provide expressly that entitlement is "subject to any agreement to the contrary". This does no more than give effect to the decision of the High Court in the case of Smith v.Smith, decided in 1939 and reported in Volume 4 of All England Reports 1939 at page 312. That decision was based on the legal principle that a person is entitled to waive any right conferred upon him by Statute unless some other statutory provision expressly prevents him from doing so. It will also harmonise with a similar provision in paragraph (e) of Section 26(4) and with the amendment to Section 5(4) of the 1961 Act, in relation to drainage charges, provided for in paragraph 39 of Schedule 2 to the Bill and will facilitate consolidation of the above-mentioned related provisions.

The third of the proposed sub-paragraphs merely leads in the Amendments to paragraph (e) of Section 26(4) already provided for in paragraph 11 of Schedule 2 to the Bill. The point here is that paragraph (e) provides that where an occupier has been required to pay to the drainage board under paragraph (b): in respect of an occupier's drainage rate any sum in excess of the amount properly chargeable against him in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (d) of this subsection", he shall be entitled to recover, subject to any agreement to the contrary, from any person who was the occupier during any other part of the period, an appropriate proportion of the amount. But it seems that the words I have quoted can only refer to the full amount of the occupier's rate because that is what the drainage board can demand of him to pay under paragraph (b).

The Amendment makes this clear by substituting the effective form of words set out in the Amendment for the lengthy form of words I have quoted and also makes some consequential amendments to other phrases. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Lord STRABOLGI moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 15, line 40, at end insert— (" (2) Omit section 23(5) of the 1961 Act (power of internal drainage board to obtain information from tax authorities).")

The noble Lord said: I must apologise for the fact that these Amendments are rather complicated. I beg to move Amendment No. 2. This is another technical, legal Amendment. Agricultural land and buildings are not liable for general rates and do not therefore have a rateable value in the valuation list. They are assessed for drainage rates on the basis of the former Schedule A valuation of the property since no more up-to-date value is available. The boards can obtain information from the tax authorities for this purpose. The same information can also be used to calculate the "relative fraction'' which is the means by which the rateable values of urban property are adjusted to maintain parity with the annual values of agricultural land.

Subsection (5) of Section 23 of the Land Drainage Act 1961 gives an internal drainage board power to require the tax authorities for their district to provide them with particulars of annual value assessments for the former Schedule A tax for the year 1962–63 for the purpose of calculating this relative fraction. This subsection is however unnecessary because all the information an internal drainage board needs for that purpose can be obtained under subsection (4) of Section 29 of the Land Drainage Act 1930.

Under that subsection, as amended, an internal drainage board can require the inspectors of taxes for their district to furnish to them, on payment of such rate as the Treasury may determine, a copy of the annual values in force for the purpose of income tax under Schedule A for the year of assessment 1962–63 for all or any of the properties in their drainage district. The purpose of this Amendment is thus to remove subsection (5) of Section 23 of the 1961 Act prior to consolidation.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining Schedule agreed to.

House resumed; Bill reported with the Amendments.


My Lords, I beg to acquaint the House that a Commission has been issued under Her Majesty's Great Seal to several Lords therein named authorising the said Lords to declare in the name and on behalf of Her Majesty, Her Majesty's approbation of the choice of the Commons of the Right Honourable George Thomas to be their Speaker.

4.17 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this House do adjourn during pleasure.

Moved accordingly, and on Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed.