HL Deb 07 April 1982 vol 429 cc224-36

11.22 a.m.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (The Earl of Mansfield) rose to move, That the order laid before the House on 25th February be approved.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name. On 8th January this year my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland announced that he intended to exercise the powers made available to him by Section 2 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1981 and to prescribe that the rating revaluation to be held in Scotland in 1983 should apply to non-domestic property only. This order implements that decision by prescribing the lands and heritages to which the forthcoming revaluation shall apply. I hope your Lordships will agree that it would be helpful for me to outline the Government's reasons for our decision to hold a partial revaluation before turning to the details of the order.

Although in some areas there will be ratepayers who have suffered above average increases in value who would disagree, I think it is generally accepted in principle that for as long as a rating system remains with us the rating base should be kept fairly up-to-date and this can be achieved only by having regular revaluations. Although I obviously cannot speculate in detail as to the outcome of the coming revaluation, since assessors are only at an early stage in finalising their values, it seems quite likely that the revaluation might tend to shift the rating burden away from some of the older property occupied by traditional industries and commerce. It would certainly not be fair that these sectors should continue to shoulder a burden which is no longer properly theirs. I am sure that rateable occupiers in these sectors would certainly agree with me in saying that the quinquennial revalua- tion due by statute in 1983 should go ahead, thus enabling the rating base to be kept up-to-date by removing growing anomalies of this kind.

Although there is a perfectly clear case for having a quinquennial revaluation it seems to us to be counter-productive to proceed with a full revaluation of the domestic sector at this time since the future of domestic rating is in doubt. The Government published a Green Paper on Alternatives to Domestic Rates before Christmas and sought comments by the end of March in order to let us move forward to establish proposals for early reform. There has been a considerable volume of representations from private individuals, organised groups, and professional bodies alike. Their recommendations are diverse and it will be a little while yet before we can bring forward proposals which we believe will command support. I am, however, hopeful that we can move fairly quickly in the light of the representations we have received. It is too early to say in what direction our deliberations will take us but it may be that the domestic rating system will be retained in some modified form, or alternatively that the system may be abandoned altogether. What is clear, however, is that we could not easily embark on genuine reform if that had been pre-empted by a major step to preserve the existing system. It would also be difficult to undertake detailed reform during the period in which the implications of a domestic revaluation were being sorted out. While we would hope that the process of appeals after the coming revaluation could be shorter than after the last one it could still take some years to completely resolve lingering problems. Since we wish to move ahead as speedily as possible with the reform of the local taxation system, we concluded that the revaluation should not apply to domestic property.

We accept, of course, that the holding of a partial revaluation is not in any way a simple matter. We firmly believe that it is right in principle and we must therefore move ahead as quickly as possible to resolve the problems which have been identified concerning the conduct of a partial revaluation. For example, in order to preserve the overall balance of rate burdens borne by the domestic and non-domestic sectors, my right honourable friend will have to prescribe factors to adjust net annual values in order to produce a fair balance of rateable values. He will, of course, have to wait until the outcome of the revaluation becomes apparent later in the year to calculate the factors themselves but we hope to decide very shortly what the basic methodology will be. As your Lordships are aware from the debates we had when the 1981 Act was a Bill before us, the Secretary of State must consult both the Scottish Valuation Advisory Council and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities before he may decide what the basic methodology for applying adjustment factors will be. This matter was considered recently by the advisory council and my right honourable friend is to meet the convention later in April.

In addition to this obvious point, there is also a great variety of legal and technical problems concerned with the detailed practice of valuation which must be resolved. For example, we must consider how to treat composite subjects such as a shop and dwelling-house, office and caretaker's flat, or school and janitor's accommodation, which are valued together at present. We must also ensure that proper provision is made for the treatment of new houses coming into valuation after this revaluation. These are matters to which we have been giving a lot of consideration recently and will be dealt with in a further order which we hope to bring before this House before long. We are concerned at present only with the extent of the revaluation—the later order will deal with the technicalities of it.

It has been widely suggested to us that it might have been sufficient simply to exclude dwelling-houses from the revaluation. But I must emphasise that we were aiming to exclude the whole domestic sector, rather than just dwelling-houses, since it would be extremely confusing, for example, for a householder to find that while his house had been excluded from revaluation perhaps his garage or even in extreme cases his garden shed had been revalued. I would therefore like to take the House through the definitions in the order and explain why we have chosen to define the domestic sector in this way. We have stuck as closely as possible to existing statutory definitions so as to minimise any new problems of interpretation which might be accidentally introduced.

We have taken the domestic sector to include dwelling-houses and also four further classes of subjects. The first additional class of subjects mentioned is private garages and for these we have followed closely the definition in the Local Government Planning and Land Act 1980 which defines, in a similar manner to that which we are now using, the lands and heritages in an enterprise zone for which there would be a remission of rates. The private garages that we have identified here are those used with dwelling-houses but not valued with them. The most common example is to be found in those lock-ups in all kinds of housing estates.

Private storage premises come next in the description in the order. These are included for avoidance of doubt. We believe that it may well be that no such premises exist valued separately from the houses with which they are associated, but it is quite clear that if they do exist then they are domestic in nature and ought to be excluded from the revaluation.

We now come to static leisure caravans. These are caravans permanently sited on a caravan site but not used throughout the year. Again, the definition follows closely what has been said in previous statute, in this case the Rating (Caravan Sites) Act 1976. These caravans have been included in the domestic sector for two principal reasons. Firstly, they include caravans owned by individuals who use them as a second home. I think these must clearly be regarded as domestic, in the same way as might be a cottage used as a second home. Secondly, although many other caravans are owned by site operators, or others, and let out commercially they are used, and, I believe, valued, in the same way as holiday cottages which are valued as dwelling-houses. It seems only fair that these two groups of subjects which have so much in common should be treated in the same manner and we have therefore chosen to exclude static leisure caravans from the scope of the coming revaluation.

We come finally to residential caravans and mobile homes. I hope your Lordships will agree that these are self-evidently akin to dwelling-houses; in fact I understand that in many cases they are entered in the valuation roll as dwelling-houses. I think it follows that these are as much part of the domestic sector as are dwelling-houses and so clearly these should also be excluded from the revaluation.

I hope, my Lords, that my comments today have helped to explain to the House both the detail of this order and the thinking behind it. May I commend the Valuation (Scotland) Order 1982 to the House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the order laid before the House on 25th February be approved.—(The Earl of Mansfield.)

11.31 a.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock

My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Earl the Minister for his explanation, so far as it went, of the order, the reasons for it and the effect of it. There is no doubt that it is a very timely order. People are probably more conscious—certainly in Scotland at the present time—of valuations and rates than at other times of the year. I have just received mine. It may well be that noble Lords from Scotland will equally be shivering at the prospect of what they have received and the demands being made from them.

When I looked at mine it took me back to the last revaluation which was 1978 when I was far from satisfied that I had been treated fairly. Indeed, that sense of injustice is something which has been shared with many people in the part of Ayr in which I live, also in Prestwick and Troon. When the Minister spoke about the appeal procedures not being so long after this valuation, he will appreciate it is barely finished from the last valuation. The result was that a considerable number of people in Troon, whose case I raised during the passing of the 1981 Bill, have had a satisfactory outcome of their appeal.

What that raises is that other people who did not get satisfaction or who did not pursue it to that extent, consider that a new factor has come into it. The whole business of fairness in respect of valuation is the comparing of a like subject with another. Now we have the position that the one time when one can put right anomalies and unfairness is at the time of revaluation.

However, for all residential subjects, domestic properties, there is going to be no revaluation in Scotland and therefore no opportunity to put right what they consider are defects. That is why the appeal procedure that the noble Earl spoke about will be shorter because it will only apply to those subjects that are revalued. There will be some substantial change in Troon because the assessor has power in the light of a decision by the court to make the change. He is very much circumscribed in relation to any other change that he makes after revaluation.

Substantially, what we have in Scotland at the present time is the 1978 revaluation. We have in Scotland a very good record of regular revaluations. The last revaluation in England was in 1973 and there were very many cases before that where they did not have the quinquennial revaluation. Here is a change which is going to annoy many people who had hoped that they were going to take an opportunity of putting right what they thought were injustices.

Now, the reasons for the change. The Secretary of State took power to do this in Clause 2 of the 1981 Act. Your Lordships will remember that we had quite a few discussions and divisions about that. From that point of view it has caught up with us very quickly. The next revaluation is due to come into force on 1st April next year. Therefore we have less than a year in which to do it. The reasons are given that it would be quite wrong to do this because the Government had a manifesto commitment to get rid of domestic ratings throughout the country. They issued a White Paper in December 1981, not all that long ago.

They have now received comments which were due by the end of March. They will take some time to deal with that but they hope to move quickly. Anyone who knows anything at all about valuation and the replacement of rates as we know them today by some new form of local taxation, local charges, local income tax or combinations of one or the other, will realise that it is a very complicated matter. We have already had reports such as the Layfield Report, and the Green Paper is just a pale copy of that, outlining all the difficulties about it.

Here the Minister is saying: "We cannot properly do the thing that we ought to do which is the right thing to do, to keep valuations up to date, because it may well be that we shall be speedily effecting a solution to the domestic rating problem". I do not know whether the Minister has read the Green Paper or whether he has read the Layfield Report. The one subject that has been suggested in all the discussions about this is some form of local income tax. That local form of income tax, either in itself or supplemented by a minimal form of domestic rating, requires planning.

The Government's own Green Paper referring to timing says that careful planning would be needed. This is with regard to the local income tax suggestion. They say that there will be a delay in substantial staff savings and other benefits of computerisation while running local income tax at greater cost manually. Also that it would he unlikely that this form of local income tax could be effective before the end of the decade since computerisation is not expected to be completed before 1988.

So it is going to be the 1990s before we get what is the favoured suggestion. Once one departs from that and gets into something new, then I think that the Government are in cloud cuckoo-land. They are trying to give the appearance to the people of this country that they are on the verge of doing something. But they are no nearer than they were three years ago.

It is my considered opinion that they will come back eventually and tell us, "We are sorry, we cannot do this. We cannot change local rating. It will have to remain. But we will lighten it; we will take some part of the education expenses out of it". That will lead us into further complications. There is some unwise judgment in respect of this; the Government should have gone on properly with the valuation. I do not accept the difficulties that the Minister imputes to carrying on with this and how it would in some way stultify their ability to go on with the reformation of local financing in this particular way.

But there are other questions which arise. One of the interesting things about it is that—and I have to give full marks to the draftsmen here—it refers to the statutory authority upon which the Act gave power to the Secretary of State, and I quote: Only such classes of lands and heritages as may be specified in the order shall be valued. But the lands and heritages which are specified in the order are the ones which are not to be revalued. I had to look at this again to see whether it was in order to do it in this particular way. They were supposed to specify the lands and heritages to be revalued in a partial revaluation. But they have specified the ones that are not be be revalued. Of course the reason is that it was going to be long and it was going to be complicated. They are concealing the complications that arise in the rest of it. What are the others? There are industrial properties. I do not know whether or not your Lordships know it but the gross value of industrial properties is no guide to what they actually pay in rates, because industrial properties in Scotland are still derated by 50 per cent. They are going down on the new valuation roll at the new gross annual value and nobody will be able to tell what they pay in rates from that.

Then there are commercial premises: shops, offices and the like. There is another group called "miscellaneous". It surprises me that the Minister was able to give some kind of estimate of what is likely to happen. Of course, the estimate is already given in the Green Paper. What is likely to happen with any revaluation at present is that the newer and modern steelworks will be increased in valuation and the ancient ones will be reduced in valuation. The same will apply to new factories as compared with old factories and with new shops as compared with old shops, those in the popular new shopping centres, as compared with those in other streets.

I think we all realise this has happened all along but now, with this partial revaluation, we have a new factor. At present they are revalued on the subjective judgment of the assessor; and in Scotland the assessor is an independent person who is elected by the local authorities and paid by—and the regional authority at that. I was very interested listening to a Question today about district councils and district authorities, because they are very different in Scotland from what they are in England. It is not for me always to educate your Lordships on that because I know you are so fascinatedly interested in Scottish business that you want to retain it here rather than having it discussed in Edinburgh. But the district authorities are not the valuation authorities; it is the area authorities.

When we come to discuss this, the position will be that they make subjective judgments which are subject to appeal and the rest of it, hut there is no formula that says there will be a certain proportion paid by commercial premises, paid by industrial premises and paid by residential premises. Actually, we know from the latest figures available that domestic ratepayers in Scotland pay 36.7; commercial 27.3; industrial 12.5; and miscellaneous—which is a very considerable one —is 23.5.

But now within the partial standstill there has to he a standstill in relation to the rate of the burden that is borne. It says so in the statute—not in relation to the gross annual value, but in relation to the rateable value. What is the rateable value? First, there is gross annual value. The Secretary of State has a formula, which he can change, which produces net annual value; and net annual value for all practical purposes becomes rateable value, so your Lordships can imagine what the valuation rolls are going to look like—and bearing in mind that with industrial property even that is not the rateable value because they pay only 50 per cent. of it. It says in the statute that those that are not being revalued have to be entered in the rolls at their existing value. What is incumbent upon the Secretary of State is that he has to maintain the ratio. It says here: The Secretary of State will preserve the ratio which he estimates will exist immediately before the coming into force of the new valuation roll between each valuation area"— and that is important— specified and those unspecified.". Does that mean that the ratio must be maintained between commercial and industrial, commercial and miscellaneous and industrial and miscellaneous? Or does it just mean the whole lot of the unspecified industrial, miscellaneous and commercial as against residential? I should like an answer to that one.

Secondly, is that fair? The 1981 Bill, when first published, referred to the ratio throughout Scotland. The ratio of the burden of industrial properties, as against residential properties, varies with the area in which you live and it varies with the town within that area. Take the valuation area in which I live, which is Strathclyde. Strathclyde comprehends half the population of Scotland; it runs from way beyond Glasgow to Oban and it goes as far as Colinsay in the Islands and right down beyond Girvan. Your Lordships can imagine the distortions within that which will be brought about by this revaluation if the ratio has to be maintained within the area. It is going to be a new ratio as far as some of the local areas are concerned—not valuation areas but the local areas—if you apply the valuation area which is as wide as that to this.

I saw something in the report from Mr. Rifkind, who has departed from the Scottish Office scene for another one—and I may say that I think the Scottish Office is very considerably weakened by his departure because he was probably one of the strongest Under-Secretaries of State that we have there. I do not know whether or not I should quote from what he actually said but I daresay he said it with the authority of the Secretary of State. He seemed to imply that even the valuation area could be broken up into smaller areas to get this ratio right. I should like to know if that is true and, if it is true, where the authority comes from—because as far as I know the valuation Act we had in 1981 only talks about the valuation area.

But it is worse than that. We now introduce this static feature of the fixed ratio which must be the same. The valuation rolls in certain parts of Scotland are showing considerable differences between the coining year and this present year, and it is causing certain problems in respect of some areas. One of the biggest industrial ratepayers in the North of Scotland, in the Highland area, was the Invergordon smelter. If you take the ratio with that in—and it is in the present valuation roll—it becomes a very different proportion of rate-borne values in the next one, because they will not be paying rates: they will not be there. The same is true of many other parts of Scotland. Linwood is a very considerable ratepayer and has its place in the ratio, but it will not be there next year. Yet industrial subjects have to pay the same ratio as before. If that is the case, it means that industrial subjects—where there has been a weakening of the base and if the ratio has to be preserved—will, individually, have to pay more, which is unfair.

This is not a very simple little order which the Minister has produced, and I assure him that there will be very considerable difficulties before this is finished. I think that this partial revaluation is wrong—I think I said so when we passed this in 1981—and nobody knows exactly how it will work or where the burdens will fall. In the meantime, the unfairnesses in the residential valuations, which people were hoping to have another opportunity of putting right in the new valuations, will not be affected as a result of what is being done.

There is a great deal more that I could say about caravans and garages. The house and the garage will be taken together in the case of residential accommodation but, as I read it, only if the garage does not exceed 25 square metres, which is about 16 feet by 16 feet. That is the length of an ordinary car. I know quite a number of garages in private accommodation that are much larger than that. It may be that by the process of specifying what is not going to be valued, rather than what is going to be valued, there has been some difficulty. But I sincerely hope that this turns out a little better than it seems at the present time.

There are many people in Scotland, and indeed in England, who think that all the burdens and rates upon residential property will disappear with the wave of a wand by this Government. The one fact that is clear is that, no matter what the figures, they will be terribly misleading, because a multiplier or a divisor will have to be applied, which they will not know until some time in November. First, there will be a formula applied to the gross annual value and the net annual value, and then there will be either a multiplying factor or a dividing factor, in order to equalise the burdens on those subjects which are being revalued; and, indeed, we are told that it might be a bit of one and a bit of the other.

It is a complicated mess that the Government have got into, and they are misleading many people in Scotland who think that their rates will be reduced. The rates burden will not be reduced. What really matters is the final figure, and that staggered me when I had the rate demand at the end of last week. I discovered that where I was paying a few hundred pounds before, I am now paying over £1,000 for the privilege of living in that place that is represented by the present Secretary of State for Scotland. I wonder what he pays. Take it from me that he is paying lower rates than I am, which shows the complete unfairness of the whole thing.

11.54 a.m.

Lord Wilson of Langside

My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl the Minister two questions on this order? I apologise for the terms of the questions, but by an oversight of my own I had not appreciated that this order was to be placed before the House this morning. First, can the Minister explain why the Secretary of State did not choose in the order to prescribe a method whereby the net annual value of the specified lands and heritages should be adjusted for the purpose of ascertaining the rateable value? This he could have provided in the order in the terms of Section 2(6)(a) of the 1975 Act, as amended.

I ask the question because—the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, also alerted the House to this—as I understand it, and the Minister will correct me if I am wrong, as I may well be, the rights of appeal of domestic householders will be seriously affected by this order, because the rights of appeal on a wide range of matters in relation to valuation and rating are restricted to the quinquennial revaluation. That is the first question that I would ask the Minister to answer.

My second question was also touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock. I am diverted by the circumstance—and here, again, I am sure that I have overlooked a very simple answer—that the empowering provision in the 1981 Act provides that the classes specified in the order shall be those classes which alone will be subject to revaluation. This order, as I understand it, specifies not the classes of subjects which shall be revalued at the quinquennial revaluation, but those classes of subjects which shall not be revalued.

Is this a competent procedure? Should not the terms of the Act, so far as subordinate legislation is concerned, be strictly complied with? The point is slightly technical and one does not want to fuss too much about matters of this kind. But this is subordinate legislation, and I find it diverting that the power which it purports to exercise does not seem to be provided for in the 1981 Act.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, may I say a word in support of some of the matters raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock? I sat for a number of years on the Valuation Appeals Court, and the occupants of property received their assessment, which was made to the best of his ability by the assessor, and they had an opportunity of appealing. We sat there and tried to make objective judgments within the law as to the rightness of the assessment. Then, at the end of the day, people went away and said, "We have had an opportunity of presenting our case".

The provisions now before us will not provide the opportunity for people who feel that they are suffering from an anomaly or a hardship in relation to their existing valuations, and I should have thought that was a very bad thing. As the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, has said, this is justified on the basis that there is to be some substantial change in the system of rating, but all of the comments that have accumulated on the Government's Green Paper indicate that this is a very complicated business, and there is not likely in the foreseeable future to be any substantial change. To that extent, it appears to me that the provisions for the quinquennial valuation should be maintained, in order that people should feel a sense of justice.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, my question is a brief one and it requires only a simple answer. It arises out of the third paragraph on the reverse side of the order, which says: 'private garage' means a building having a floor area not exceeding 25 square metres". I raised a similar point last week on a White Paper. Please, may we have these measurements expressed in yards, feet and inches, in addition to square metres if it is so desired to have them?

The Earl of Mansfield

My Lords, I have been asked a number of questions. The noble Lord, Lord Ross, expressed a cautious welcome to this order, if that is the right way to describe his reaction. Of course, his first complaint was that there is no revaluation of domestic subjects and, therefore, there are no ways—so he says—of putting right the various bones of contention, if I may so describe them, which have undoubtedly exercised a lot of people in and around the area of Troon. What I say about that is that the assessor is always allowed to take account of decisions which the Land Valuation Appeal Court may make. Equally, a ratepayer is perfectly entitled to appeal, as many have done. And if their appeals are successful then, as I have said, the assessor may take whatever is the result into account in future assessments. The next matter was the timing of all this. This was a point which—

Lord Ross of Marnock

My Lords, could the Minister tell me what that really means: that the assessor will take the result into account in future assessments? There is not going to be a future assessment for another five years, which means that there is no appeal.

The Earl of Mansfield

The noble Lord is making assumptions which I do not think are warranted. The procedures which the 1981 Act lays down give a very wide discretion to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. If things were going to stay as they are, then I quite agree with the noble Lord that we should have to wait for a period of review, but what I am about to go on to tell him is that things are not going to stay as they are so far as domestic ratepayers are concerned, which is why they have been excluded from this revaluation. The noble Lord said that having read and taken account of both the Green Paper and the Layfield Report nothing could happen until the 1990s. If the noble Lord had taken account of these documents he would know that while I agree that if a system of local income tax is imposed so far as domestic ratepayers are concerned there will be a very long gearing-in process, it may well be that a solution which is less radical than a local income tax will be suggested. In that situation, it would take a very much shorter period of time to implement than a local income tax.

Therefore, domestic ratepayers may be paying their share of the local rate burden in a different way from that in which they are paying it now. That is the nub of the argument and the reason why revaluation has not taken place. The noble Lord is perfectly entitled to make his assumption, but that is not the way the Government see it, otherwise there would have been a revaluation. What I was trying to say to the noble Lord when he interrupted me was that if an individual ratepayer is dissatisfied with his last assessment he can appeal, and many of them are doing so.

Lord Ross of Marnock

We have already done so. The appeals are nearly finished.

The Earl of Mansfield

I can tell the noble Lord that they are not nearly finished in my part of the world. If an appeal is successful, then assessors may amend the roll in the light of the relevant court decision.

Lord Ross of Marnock

They must.

The Earl of Mansfield

They may. They do not have to. It is really a false point to say that because domestic ratepayers are excluded from this revaluation there is some kind of unfairness which cannot be put right until the next revaluation takes place. That I reject.

I think I have dealt with the matter of the time scale. Then there was the noble Lord's point, which was echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, as to the gross annual value. Following the 1981 Act, all non-domestic properties are valued direct to a net annual value. Therefore, that particular point is no longer relevant.

The noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, criticised, though I do not blame him for this, the way in which the order is drafted: that it specifies properties which are not be to revalued rather than those which are. What the order does is to specify all lands and heritages other than—and then it goes on to the domestic sector. It is certainly not a simple matter to define the domestic sector. However, I am sure your Lordships will agree that it would have been even more difficult—in fact, very much more difficult—to try to define in detail the non-domestic sector. That is the reason, therefore, for the way in which the order reaches the House today and I suggest that it is a reasonably neat way of doing so.

The noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, then raised the matter of ratios. The comparison is only between domestic properties as a whole and non-domestic properties as a whole, so it is irrelevant in those circumstances to talk about any ratio as between industry and commerce and different classes of non-domestic rates. The noble Lord raised the subject of Invergordon. I suppose it is almost impossible to have any business at the moment in which somebody does not mention Invergordon. However, the rules as to Invergordon are exactly the same as to all similar premises of a major nature. They are rateable so long as they are occupied. As Invergordon still is occupied, it is still rateable. As the noble Lord knows very well, to be relieved of the rate burden they have to be unfurnished, and Invergordon is not.

The noble Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, raised two matters which concerned rights of appeal and methodology. We are in consultation on both aspects. There will have to be a further order, as noble Lords will have appreciated, because this particular order only wills the end. We have yet to work out, following consultation, the means. There will therefore be appropriate provision both as to rights of appeal and what I might call the methodology which will come in a further order after the various consultations, which I spoke about when I originally moved this matter, have been finally exhausted.

Lord Ross of Marnock

My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, when he speaks about rights of appeal, does he mean rights of appeal in respect of those subjects which are being revalued?

The Earl of Mansfield

Yes, that is so. There is no reason to disturb the domestic sector. As I have tried to say, those who are dissatisfied with the last revaluation are already appealing. There is no reason to disturb them.

Lord Wilson of Langside

My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, could he answer this question? I gather that he rejected to some extent the serious impact of this order on the rights of appeal of domestic house-holders. There is no doubt that if somebody is concerned about his valuation he has the right to go to the Valuation Appeal Committee, but his right is exhausted once he has been there. There is a significant number of ratepayers in Scotland who have been dissatisfied with the decisions of Valuation Appeal Committees who have taken the views of assessors rather than the views of appellants. And they cannot appeal again. This was provided for under the 1956 Act. As the Minister will recall more clearly than do I, because he has been concerned with it much more recently than I, in the old days in Scotland appeals took place as a matter of course every year—year after year. Appellants went to the Valuation Appeal Committees with the same grounds of appeal, and to stop that abuse it was provided that the appeal should be restricted to the quinquennium. You could go again at the second quinquennium. There are many of those who feel aggrieved.

Lord Ross of Marnock

My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me, the only remaining limited right of appeal beyond that—

Several noble Lords


Lord Wilson of Langside

Is a substantial change of circumstances, my Lords—I appreciate that. The point is that the impact of this order will restrict the rights of some who would be waiting to appeal.

Several noble Lords


Lord Sandys

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, should really restrict his remarks. It is really excessive of him to make so long a speech in asking a question of that nature.

The Earl of Mansfield

My Lords, perhaps I can answer the noble and learned Lord's question shortly. Yes, I take his point. What I believe he is saying is, when one comes to redetermine rights of appeal so far as domestic ratepayers are concerned, if in effect we disturb the quinquennium—which is what we are doing—then we ought to consider, as it were, rights of appeal on the part of domestic rate-payers who are otherwise stopped from complaining in the terms in which they would have complained if they so desired in relation to a quinquennial assessment, which in the old days they could do annually in any event. I will take that point on board.

As I have said, we shall have another order. Of course, this is something one can consider, but I am not making any promises. The only other thing I will say for the noble and learned Lord's edification is that whenever one gets a new roll, there can always be an appeal in respect of it. What I would like to do is to think over his question, and if anything further comes to mind, perhaps I can write to him. I really have sat down now.

Lord Wilson of Langside

My Lords, might I just apologise—

Several noble Lords


On Question, Motion agreed to.

Forward to