HL Deb 10 May 1984 vol 451 cc1085-119

House again in Committee.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 35: After Clause 8, insert the following new clause:

(" Inquiry by S.V.A.C.

. Without prejudice to the generality of its functions under section 3(4) of the Valuation and Rating Act 1956 the Secretary of State shall ask the Scottish Valuation Advisory Council to consider as a matter of urgency the appropriateness, effectiveness and fairness of the present day system of valuation in Scotland; and for the purposes of this inquiry the Secretary of State may appoint five further members to the Advisory Committee. Its report should be made public").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the new clause standing in my name on the Marshalled List, which takes advantage of the existence in Scotland of the Scottish Valuation Advisory Council which, with added members, could then attend to what I think is necessary: the appropriateness, effectiveness and fairness of the present day system of valuation in Scotland".

and make recommendations to the Secretary of State; and its report should be made public. There is no doubt—and the Government have recognised this—that there is considerable concern about valuations in Scotland.

Then we take their White Paper: The burden the taxpayer faces as a product of separately determined figures",

and the first one is the rateable value of the property. The other of course is the rate poundage. They give evidence there that the valuation system has caused concern. They talk about valuation anomalies, and point out, as they think, that they have already dealt with the most glaring ones. They say: Evidence suggests that compared with their counterparts south of the border, ratepayers may face a higher share of the rate burden because of valuation methods as distinct from differences arising from more recent valuations in Scotland, regional variations, and rental values. It may be necessary to introduce minor modifications to bring these particular ratepayers into line with their competitors south of the border.

With all due respect, I do not think that the Bill does that. I think we should know why. The Government also say in paragraph 9: Significant steps were taken during the last Parliament to remove some of the most glaring anomalies",

and they instanced the change in external plant and the changes in respect of communal accommodation, although so far as I can understand—and I think my noble friend Lord Carmichael has some evidence in respect of this—there are still discontents in respect of this in that it has not been exercised if it has been brought into the new system.

When you take the whole aspect of it since the 1956 Act, which is probably the more up-to-date basis of valuations in Scotland, there have been many changes. Remember—and this is something of which I have to remind myself at times too—that whenever we suggest that somebody should be relieved of rates it does not reduce the aggregate burden upon the rates, it just means that a narrower base, fewer people, will then have to bear the burden of the rates. By curing, or seeming to make a palliative in respect of individuals, or a group of individuals, you are creating greater anomalies by overburdening those who are left. We always have to bear that in mind in all the changes that have been made since 1956.

The 1956 Act itself took agricultural land out of valuation. That was a considerable change made there. Before the 1956 Act had come into force the burden of rates, which had been split between owners and occupiers, was fully placed upon the occupiers; those who actually paid the rent and occupied the property.

Then there was the business of industry. This was to get over the inequity between Scotland and England in respect of rates on industry. There was a 75 per cent. derating of industry in Scotland. That was changed. Later it became 50 per cent. There have been extensions in respect of charities and discretions to local authorities; there have been these changes in respect of the external industrial plant. That was a big drop in respect of the central area and in respect of the Shetlands. The Government did not come in to help in respect of that. It had to be borne by these regions themselves. It was a matter of millions of pounds.

When you add up all these changes, and the changes even now proposed within this Bill, there has been a narrowing, and a narrowing of what may well be proved to be an unsatisfactory situation. The alternative to domestic rates was produced by the Government in 1981. They said themselves: Many of those professioally concerned with rating and valuation matters believe that the technical basis of the domestic rating system is no longer satisfactory in some respects.

This was accepted by the Government. So much so that we had an Act of Parliament to give the Government the power, which they exercised, to change the date of revaluation, and a further power to make it either a general revaluation or a partial revaluation.

I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate was here at the time, but the Government actually produced from that Bill a Rating and Valuation (Scotland) Order which said that instead of having a revaluation on a general basis in 1983–84. only such classes of lands and heritages as specified in the schedule shall be valued or revalued.

That was 19th January 1982, and there was going to be no revaluation of domestic hereditaments.

This of course was in keeping with expectations that they were going to get rid of domestic rates. They changed the law. They introduced the order, and then between February and 25th June 1982 another revaluation order was produced. The Valuation (Scotland) Order 1982"—

that is this one— is revoked.

So they decided that they would not have that, and they decided instead to have a complete revaluation in the year 1985–86. This has been a considerable floundering about in respect of valuation; what should be done about it and what should not be done about it, and shows that the Government have been in considerable difficulties over it and over their own pledges in respect of it.

It is interesting to note the situation even as we are discussing this matter here tonight. I do not know whether the Minister of State has gone, or whether he is preparing to go overnight with the rest of us, but the Minister is going to Perth to endure the pains and pleasures of the Scottish Tory Party in Perth. Today the party is discussing what? Rating and valuation. I think the Lord Advocate is wise to be here tonight and wise not to go to Perth tomorrow because of what he will be discovering are the feelings of the Tory Party, the Government having said that they think the rating system is just right as it is. Having been defeated last week, and having promised to look again at the whole system, they will pray in aid the pledge they gave to us in the Lords that they are considering it once again, but that was mainly the rating aspect. I am concerned with the fairness and effectiveness of the aspects of valuation.

The Lord Advocate will know that what is proposed for the anomalies in respect of certain properties or parts of properties, what is suggested in respect of reed beds and caravans, is setting aside legal decisions that have been made perfectly fairly and correctly by interpretation of the statutes by the Scottish courts. What the Government propose to do is to set aside the uncontrovertible decisions of the Scottish valuation courts to get what they think is a sense of fairness between Scotland and England. The more one pushes away the rights of Scottish courts the more anomalous it becomes. We see that in Clause 16.

I do not know whether the Lord Advocate knows the reactions of the Faculty of Advocates and the reactions of the Society of Assessors who are concerned about this and about the whole system of valuation. So is COSLA, which has suggested that there should be another method of valuation in Scotland, pointing out that the only thing in statute to guide the assessors in evaluating is what is laid down for dwelling-houses. It is perfectly clear there, but for non-domestic subjects there are formulae for gas, which is separate. The same thing is true of steel and railways. There was a very confused and complicated formula for electricity. There was only one man in Scotland who understood it and that was Tom Steele who was a Member of Parliament. No one else could quite understand it.

Then there was the reversion, on their own, by the assessors in Scotland to what they called a contractors' formula to arrive somehow or other at what they thought was a fair notional rate. There is no doubt that the anomalies persist. When the Government say that they have dealt with the anomalies on external plant and have treated Scotland the same as industry in England; that is all very well, but in Scotland we did not separately rate internal plant but in England they did. So anomalies, even with the correction of anomalies, still stand out.

It is about time that we considered the whole matter again. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, which represents district authorities, the regions and islands authorities, suggests that we consider house valuations and put the system on to capital values. My answer to that is that it might be better, but why put valuations on a house? Why should the house be the standard and the basis of valuation for a person's ability to pay a particular share of the rates burden? The real person to value is the ratepayer. There is another reaction to that: why just the ratepayer who is the occupant and tenant of a house? What about the others who receive much from the services of local authorities but who pay nothing at all in rates? The whole system requires another look.

It is lucky that we have the Scottish valuation authority which is an expert on the subject. It has been receiving details of the anomalies all these years and sees the limit of meeting the anomalies by changes in the laws. It sees the limit in meeting the anomalies by giving abatements, which means that those who are left within the valuation system have to bear a bigger burden. There is no doubt that there is a justification for complaint.

I instanced at another stage the rateable values of football grounds. Rangers' football ground has a rateable value of £82,500 and the rates payment is £127,050. Manchester United is not £82,000 in rateable value, but £37,000. That club was able to pay £500,000 or more to Aberdeen the other day for a very good Scottish football player. Its rates burden was £64,935 last year compared with Rangers' £127,000. There is no fairness or equity there.

Queen's Park is an amateur team. It is not in very good shape in football terms at present and probably is lucky if it plays on alternate Saturdays to about 1,000 people, but its stadium is the Scottish national football stadium. The Scottish Office should know because we are trying to refurbish that stadium and make it worthy of modern days and worthy of Scottish football. We were going ahead with a considerable change, and were given authority by the Scottish Office one day; and at the weekend the Scottish Office sent a letter saying, "Don't go ahead". Believe it or not, this well-furnished, brainy Government had to pay £2 million and over in frustrated expenditure because the club took the Government at their word. The Government changed their mind and had to pay £2 million for nothing.

We are still in the process of building new stands there. Queen's Park is an amateur team; £55,000 in rateable value, paying rates of £84,700. It will have two very good games on the 19th when the Scottish Cup Final is played and then the following Saturday when Scotland play England. Apart from that—remember under the present aegis Scotland plays England at Hampden only once every two years—one can realise what revenue aspects and capacity mean for an amateur team.

Arsenal's rateable value is £30,000 and the rates payment is £63,000 compared with Celtic's rates payment of £99,000 and Queen's Park's £84,000. When you go to the well-known teams in Scotland, like Partick Thistle, supported here by my long-suffering but still loyal noble friend, it has a £9,850 rateable value and a rates payment of £15,169. That is, 22 per cent. of their income in the year before last went on rates. If you take Leeds United and Liverpool, about 2 per cent. or 3 per cent. of their income goes on rates. There is no equity there. Surely, it requires to be looked at. Do not tell me, please, Lord Advocate that it is all going to be seen to in Clause 16! It is not. That is the feeling of experts in respect of this.

We are trying to improve the clause, and it may be that the noble and learned Lord has some amendments to that clause as well; but, so far, there is considerable scepticism in the sporting field as to whether the Government will meet their promises. Their promises were quite clear in the White Paper because of what they said in respect of football stadia and racecourses—and I can give you the figures for racecourses. Ayr, where I live, represented in Parliament by the Secretary of State: rateable value, £57,384. If you take Newbury or Haydock Park, which are equivalent, their rateable value respectively is £12,900 and £11,000—it is five or six times that in Scotland. When you take what they actually pay, you get the same discrepancies. It is not justified, it cannot be justified in any sense.

It may be that it is because of the method of valuation. In Scotland, assessment is done by locally-appointed assessors. Once appointed, they are independent; they cannot be sacked and they are not responsible to the regional authority which employs them. In fact, as I remember the 1956 Act, they can only be sacked by a two-thirds majority of the council. For all practical purposes, they are completely independent. They do it on their own basis, much of which is quite different and quite mystic as against what happens in England and Wales, where it is done by the Inland Revenue.

In respect of football clubs, how, in England and Wales, they arrive at the football club valuations is something which I just do not understand either. It is certainly not what happens in Scotland. Because there is no competition, you cannot find an alternative tenant. There are no alternative tenants for these stadia, so the question of what somebody else would pay is not relevant. What they do in Scotland is to work on the basis of the contractor's principle, or the cost of the stadium. The Government come into this, too. As the result of what happened at one particular Celtic v. Rangers game when there was a tragic accident, the question of safety at football grounds came before Parliament. We passed an Act of Parliament and all grounds now must be licensed for safety. It meant that a tremendous amount of money had to be spent; spent by Aberdeen, by Celtic, by Ibrox. As a result of that, as soon as they spent money on it, along came the assessors and pushed up the rateable values. And this was a result of what the Government did.

When we talk about the income of these football clubs, we must remember that the Government get quite a lot out of it. They do not make any loss when the gates fall. They still get their VAT and they still get their cut out of the pools tax. If there were no football played, there would be no football pools to be taxed. The Government do very well out of football; but Scottish football, by the valuation system, is penalised. There is no doubt about that.

I do not think that we can be assured of fairness and equity as compared with our English counterparts coming out of Clause 16 of the Bill. I hope that the Government will look at this as something that is worth examining from the point of view of the present valuation system. Something new has got to be devised. It applies to racecourses, it applies to football authorities and it applies to indoor bowling as well. I have the figures in respect of indoor bowling for Auchinleck, in Ayrshire, where, for my sins, my daughter teaches at the Auchinleck Academy. The Auchinleck indoor bowling club has a rateable value of £19,747. Remember the rates! If you take Hartlepool, with the same kind of facilities, the rateable value is £4,500; Darlington is £4,900. But in an area pretty devastatingly hit, and certainly so at the present time with the miners' strike, it is £19,747.

Figures like this make people feel that we are being let down by the Scottish system. There must be some kind of changes made. I feel that this is one of the best ways: the Government should refer to the Scottish Valuation Council, with its additional numbers. It may well be that we could have a Scottish judge as someone from the valuation courts looking at this to see whether or not a better system could be produced. That is the basis of this new clause. I hope the Government will smile on it—and by that I mean smile benignly. I beg to move.

Lord Wilson of Langside

Although I am prepared to lay, as I think the phrase has it, all Lombard Street to a China orange that I was born nearer to Hampden Park than was Lord Ross of Marnock, it is not my intention to lead your Lordships across any of those fields on which Lord Ross has been playing tonight. But I am impelled to say just a brief word because I have resisted the temptation during your Lordships' discussions on the last two amendments to express strong disagreement with Lord Ross of Marnock.

On this occasion, I am happy to express wholehearted support from these Benches for this amendment. I do so by expressing merely that, against the background, much of which is history, which he has expounded this evening, I find it very difficult to believe that the Government can find any good reason for declining to ask the Scottish Valuation Advisory Council, to consider as a matter of urgency the appropriateness, effectiveness and fairness of the present-day system of valuation in Scotland. Of course, it may be that the ingenuity of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate will enable him to express some convincing reasons against that. But, as far as matters have gone so far in the Committee, I find it very difficult to believe that there are convincing reasons for opposing this amendment.

The Lord Advocate (Lord Mackay of Clashfern)

The duties of the Scottish Valuation Advisory Council, which was constituted in terms of Section 3 of the 1956 Act, to which the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, has made reference, include advising the Secretary of State on any matter relating to valuation which he may refer to them. They therefore have a broadly based remit. In 1982 my right honourable friend the Secretary of State asked the council to consider the problem of valuation anomalies alleged to exist between the Scottish valuation system and that of England and Wales, and matters of the kind to which the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, referred in connection with football grounds, racecourses and the like, were the subject of representations. The whole subject matter had been referred to the Scottish Valuation Advisory Council already. The review was completed early in 1983, and it considered the very basis of valuation in Scotland.

In the recent past the council has also carried out a review of the entire valuation appeals procedure and has considered what improvements might be made in the current arrangements to make the valuation system even more comprehensible. In addition, it has reviewed many other valuation matters. Advice has been given to the Secretary of State on all these things by the Scottish Valuation Advisory Council, and that advice, as your Lordships may know, is always made public in the council's annual report so that anyone who is interested may know exactly what the council has considered and what advice it has tendered after that consideration.

In that situation it does not seem to me that a case is made out at this stage for a further general inquiry of the type here proposed. The Secretary of State has ample power to refer any matter to the advisory council, but I think it would be fair to say that the Scottish Valuation Advisory Council is constituted in a way which enables it to give broad and informed advice on any valuation problem, and it has considered particular problems in that way. I am quite unable to see that there is any real basis at the present time for a further reference to the Scottish Valuation Advisory Council of the general kind which is asked for here. The noble Lord can of course be assured, as can the noble and learned Lord. Lord Wilson of Langside, that the Secretary of State will certainly use the powers that he has, as he sees advantageous, for getting advice from the advisory council on any matter that may arise. I hope that in the light of these explanations the noble Lord may feel able not to press this amendment.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I should like to be given a little more information about the limits of the consideration that is given by the advisory council, because surely they consider it within the limits of the present system. I am asking them to look beyond the present system to a fairer and better one, and to give us their advice on that. I can understand that they also should be in a better position than most, because since 1956 they have dealt with all the anomalies that have arisen one after the other; and it gets to the point that if you have dealt with a whole accumulation of anomalies you can see whether or not you are virtually toppling over a system that was rocking at the very start and which was subject to considerable difficulties.

The noble and learned Lord spoke about the appeals procedures and the changes made. We will come to that aspect later, because there are difficulties there and they have been aggravated by the fact that the Government, for the mistaken reason of thinking that they were going to deal with domestic rating on its own, put off the valuation for the first time in Scotland. I think the last time there was a revaluation in England and Wales was 1973, but we have never had any postponement of revaluation until this Government caused that to be done. The last valuation was 1978–79, and it was due again, in its five-year period, in 1983–84. It has now been put off for a general valuation in 1985–86. That has implications for the right of appeal of any person whose property is being valued in Scotland. Indeed, they have made some of their own difficulties in respect of that.

I do not think that is a good enough answer, and I hope that the Government will look at it again, not only in the light of what has been said here but also in the light of what has been said in Perth about the subject. They should have had a fair indication from the kind of criticisms put forward in Perth that not everyone in Scotland was satisfied with the present valuation procedures. You have the contractors' basis in Scotland in respect of the things I have spoken about, such as new stadiums, but it all depends on when the construction was done, as to the cost of it, and two or three years makes a tremendous difference to the cost.

In relation to the system that they are working, it may well be that some of the inflated rates—for example, in respect of Rangers—are inflated because of that. To my mind there is no justification for it in that respect where you are dealing with some fairly historic costs as against those which are right up to date. There is no justification, in fairness or equity, for the results that are reached. You have to take into account the fact that I do not see anything that is fairly going to deal with these glaring and very unfair anomalies that we have spoken about here. Therefore, although I am prepared to withdraw the new clause at the present time I hope that the Government will give a little more consideration to the extent to which they are meeting these anomalies by their actions. The other point is important, too—the extent to which you meet them in such a way that all you do is to put heavier burdens on those who are still left to unrebated valuations and, therefore, rates. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 [Right of appeal on change of owner, tenant or occupier]:

8.48 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 36: Page 7, line 27, at end insert—

("(2C) when revaluation is postponed, generally or partially, a right of appeal against existing valuations shall be conferred on all affected by the postponement." ").

The noble Lord said: This amendment would mean that, although you postpone revaluation, you give those who would have been appealing on the basis of the information that they have gathered during that five-year period a right to appeal as if the revaluation had taken place. The longer you keep people subject to an anomaly—in other words, penalising them—the more unfair it becomes. That is the reason for this amendment. I do not doubt that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate can see some justice in it, but he may think it would be unfair to assume a revaluation which has not taken place and thus given the right to appeal. He will probably say that this is giving them a second chance of appealing in respect of a valuation roll that is fairly old. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

This amendment certainly raises an interesting matter. First, I think it has to be borne in mind that the right which normally arises on a revaluation—the right to appeal against the revaluation figure—is in respect of the new one which is inserted as a result of the revaluation. Secondly, I am glad to say that it is really only because revaluations have been postponed. The noble Lord said that this was the first time. I think there was a postponement before, on the reorganisation of local government, because the revaluation was due, if I remember rightly, in 1976, and it was postponed to 1978. It was due again in 1983, as the noble Lord said, and it was postponed. But I believe that the remedy, if possible, is to avoid postponement and to have regular revaluations unless there is some good reason to the contrary.

It seems to me that to attempt to introduce a general right of appeal on a postponement is not very practical against the background of the other provisions that remain. In general, the people who would have some ground of appeal on a postponement are the very people who will benefit from Clauses 9 and 16 of this Bill. I think that the noble Lord earlier referred to Clause 16 when he may have had Clause 15 in mind. Clause 15 is the one about comparisons with England, while Clause 16 is the one that opens up more widely the appeal provisions. In my view therefore the best answer to the noble Lord's amendment is to try to avoid postponements of revaluation, and it does not appear to me that the amendment itself would produce a very workable solution in the event of a revaluation having to be postponed for the reasons which I have explained. I hope that the noble Lord will feel able not to press the amendment in those circumstances.

Lord Ross of Marnock

In recent days we have been talking so much of people's rights in regard to local government Bills and extending rights to this and that person. But when you postpone revaluation, you take away a person's right to appeal. I can speak about my own case. We have just about finished the valuation roll and the appeals for the last revaluation, as a result of what happened in Troon, and lots of people feel that they have a right to consider what happened there in respect of a right to their own appeal. I feel the same in relation to a part of Ayr that was dealt with in a very hard way. The Secretary of State will know all about it, because a considerable number of people have written to him. If you postpone the revaluation, you postpone the chance to get the position rectified.

During these past five years, every time a house has been for sale and a picture has been put up of the house showing the rateable value, everyone has compared it with his own house and his own rateable value and was not aware of all these circumstances. But people become aware of them because they are pushed in front of their faces. Some houses are glaringly and obviously under-valued, from the point of view of the other person who is looking at them. I assure the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate that people have been cutting out these details and getting ready for the next revaluation and for their right of appeal in respect of properties near at hand. As the noble and learned Lord knows, in 1956 people could appeal only on the basis of a comparable subject within a limited valuation area. That was in the days when a large burgh had its own assessor, the county council had its own assessor, and so on. That was extended so that subjects anywhere in Scotland could be compared. That change was made after 1956.

I do not know how many people took advantage of that right, but now we are virtually getting that further extended into comparing subjects with those in England and Wales under certain conditions. It has meant that there has been growing up a burden of frustrated desire to appeal and to get at the assessors, in respect of valuations which, admittedly, were sometimes agreed to with a certain measure of reluctance at the time of the last revaluation, and avoidance of postponement is the right way.

We had that postponement of a revaluation that was due in 1983–84. The Government did not do what they expected to do in respect of the origininal postponement, which was to deal with the whole question of domestic rates. I have the whole facts here from the speeches of Mr. Rifkind in another place. There was no point in having a general revaluation when most of that work would be overthrown by the changes that would be made. But they were not made. The Government changed their mind between February and June and reverted to a purely postponed revaluation. All this has been unfair to a great many people and I hope that the Government will look at it.

It is not right to say that most of the people affected will be heartened by what is being done by Clause 9 and Clause 16. I appreciate that the clause has changed its designation between the other place and this place, and we can understand that it will be changing its designation again once other new clauses are put in. I do not wish to press this at the present time, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 [Jurisdiction in valuation matters of Lands Tribunal for Scotland]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 37: Page 7, line 39, after ("decline") insert ("with reason stated").

The noble Lord said: This is an amendment which I feel the Lord Advocate will almost certainly be willing to accept. It is merely to say that when a complaint is declined an individual appeal reasons should be given. That appears to be part of natural justice. I hope that the Lord Advocate will realise that there has been an omission from the Bill and will accept the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

This clause refers to the Lands Tribunal. It is one of the improvements that we are proposing in the Scottish valuation appeal system to enable the Lands Tribunal for Scotland to adjudicate as the tribunal of first instance in certain appeals. Of course, as the noble Lord is well aware, the Lands Tribunal for Scotland is a judicial type of tribunal, and therefore we assume that if it were to give a decision it would be a reasoned judgment. For that reason this phrase was not put in the Bill.

But in view of the fact that the noble Lord has raised this matter and has, as it were, doubted whether that was sufficiently expressed, I think that his amendment is perfectly acceptable. It is in accordance with what we had in any event intended, and therefore I am happy to recommend that your Lordships should agree with Amendment No. 37.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 38: Page 8, leave out lines 5 to 8.

The noble Lord said: The Secretary of State is here being given quite wide power. I should like the Lord Advocate to explain how often the power is likely to be used and how he sees it being used, and to say whether he does not think that it is drawn rather wider than is good for the community as a whole. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

This is a power which is precedented in legislation of a technical character for the purpose of giving full effect to a new provision in primary legislation. We have examined the primary legislation and I sincerely hope that this power will never require to be exercised. But in a complicated field of this kind, there is a chance that something important may not have been noticed and it is therefore advisable to have a power of this kind—which will require affirmative resolution—to be in the Bill, so as to make sure that if this provision is required there is scope to give full effect to what Parliament is here approving. I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to accept that explanation.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

That explanation clears up a lot of the worries that we on this side had. The Lord Advocate is obviously concerned that this power is never used and has said that it has never been used before. Furthermore, and more important, it needs affirmative resolution. With that explanation, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 39: Page 8, line 18, after ("circumstances") insert (", by whom,").

The noble Lord said: This is another minor amendment. It is merely to find out exactly who will be able to make an appeal, whether a tenant or an owner. Subsection (2A) states: The Secretary of State may make regulations governing—

(a) the circumstances and manner in which an appeal or complaint may be referred to the Lands Tribunal".

I should like to know who can put the initial appeal to the Secretary of State before it goes to the Lands Tribunal. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

Again, this is a matter of interest and importance that the noble Lord has raised. The system that we have sought to set up under this clause is that the Lands Tribunal will have power to determine any appeal or complaint under the Valuation Act referred to it by a valuation appeal committee; in other words, the parties go to the valuation appeal committee in the ordinary way and then it is for the valuation appeal committee to decide, on looking at the matter, whether it is a sufficiently important case or technical case to be referred to a rather more specialised tribunal. The noble Lord will see on line 36 on page 7 of the Bill: referred to it by a valuation appeal committee". That really answers the question that he has put, because the only body by whom the appeal or complaint can be referred to the Lands Tribunal is the valuation appeal committee to whom it was made by the party or parties in the first instance. I hope that in the light of that explanation the noble Lord will be satisfied.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I am very happy with that explanation and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 10, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 11 [Constitution of lands valuation appeal court]:

[Amendment No. 40 not moved.]

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 [Separate entry in valuation roll of pitches for static caravans]:

On Question, Whether Clause 12 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Ross of Marnock

As to pitches for static caravans, I just want an explantion in respect of this because this is one of the cases where a judgment in respect of a decision of assessors has been upheld by the Scottish courts, the valuation courts, but the Government have seen fit by reason of what has happened in England to make a change here.

Remember that in respect of this the Scottish assessors and the English Inland Revenue were dealing with the same piece of legislation, and so it has been interpreted in one country in one way and in another country in another way. This is one of the things that I do not think we can applaud, a case where the assessors have been quite right, where they have been proved to be right by the interpretation of the Scottish courts, but as a result of what has happened south of the Border the Scottish law and Scottish practice is pushed aside and virtually what is applied here is the English system. That is not exactly the right way to do things. If there is something wrong with the legislation you should put it right in Scottish legislation and not by reference to what has happened elsewhere.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

The situation here is that, as the noble Lord said, in the light of the then current Scottish legislation a decision was taken on the lines tht he has described, but those who are interested in these matters have felt that there was no particular reason why that should be the situation in Scotland while a different situation existed in England and Wales. It is not so much a question of, as it were, opting for decisions taken south of the Border rather than north of the Border, but it looked to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State to be reasonable that the Scottish person interested in the site of a static caravan should have this option if he wished to exercise it.

I do not think the noble Lord has indicated any reaon why one should not have this option. There is no disrespect here to the Scottish court. The Scottish court decided on the basis of the then existing legislation that no such option should be allowed, but the Secretary of State considered in that light that it was right that this option should be conferred; this clause is for that purpose, and I hope your Lordships will allow Clause 12 to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 12 agreed to.

Clause 13 [Percentage derating of static caravans]:

9.6 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 41: Page 9, line 25, leave out from ("site") to ("shall") in line 26.

The noble Lord said: This is the provision where: The Secretary of State may by order provide that the ratable value of a caravan site to which this section applies shall be the sum of the following amounts"—

and so on. Of course, it involves virtually the derating of caravans. The point I made before is that if we derate caravans or anything else it means there is no change in the burden of expenditure, but it means also that somebody else is taken out of paying rates or part rates and somebody else has to pay more. I propose to leave out these words in order to have a clearer explanation of what is being done here and the justification for doing it. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

The words that the noble Lord seeks by this amendment to have deleted are words that seek to ensure that the new provisions relate to exactly the same caravan sites and pitches as the definition in Section 3(1) of the 1956 Act; that is to say, a caravan site which is treated as a single unit of lands and heritages and the caravan pitches defined in the new Section 3A(3) in Clause 13 of the Bill. If we do not have a precise link between these two, new anomalies might be introduced. The words which the noble Lord seeks to delete remove any doubt as to what caravan sites and pitches are referred to, and I hope the noble Lord in the light of that will feel able to agree that these words are better left in.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I am prepared to accede to the request by the Government in respect of that, but I wanted a little more information as to what the Secretary of State proposes. It may well come under clause stand part. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 42 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 13 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Ross of Marnock

Is the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate now able to tell us what the effect of this clause will be? It is headed "Percentage derating of static caravans". This means that the Secretary of State is taking the power to derate static caravans. Upon what will the noble and learned Lord base his decision about the percentage?

Lord Mackay of Calshfern

The noble Lord has accurately described the effect of the clause. It gives the power to the Secretary of State to make a deduction—my understanding is that the deduction which the Secretary of State would be intending to apply is the same one as applies in England and Wales—in order to give parity of treatment to this particular type of subject on both sides of the border.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I need a little more information than that. I should like to know exactly what the percentage is. I should also like to know exactly what, in aggregate, this will mean for Scotland. What is the assessed loss of revenue to a local authority? Do the Government intend to make up in any way this loss of potential revenue to local authorities?

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

As the noble Lord has said, when one removes anomalies, what one does, generally speaking, in this situation is to relocate the total burden. This type of removal of anomaly is no different from the rest, to which earlier the noble Lord so eloquently drew attention. The proposed percentage is 40, which I understand to be the same as in England and Wales. I am afraid that at this moment I do not know what the total would be for Scotland as a whole. Indeed, I am not absolutely certain that by itself this figure will be of any particular significance. That is the way the matter stands, as I see it, at the moment. The answer to the noble Lord's last question is that my understanding is that this will simply be a relocation of the burden on ratepayers.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I hope that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate, or somebody else, will find out exactly how much it is in aggregate before we reach the next stage of the Bill. This is bound very considerably to affect tourist areas. It will affect very considerably Kyle and Carrick and other places on the Ayrshire coast where there is a heavy concentration of static caravans. It might affect my own rates. I have to pay higher rates because of the generosity of the Secretary of State towards these areas. The Highlands of Scotland and elsewhere might also be affected.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

That is why I ventured to doubt whether the global figure was of much significance. I understand that the global figure is of the order of £700,000.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I hope that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate will appreciate that many parts of Scotland will be unaffected, while many other areas will be very seriously affected. The ratepayers in those areas will have to make up this loss of rateable value of £700,000. It is a quite serious point. When these points are added together, they result in a very considerable increase in the burden on particular groups of ratepayers. We tend to forget the effect that the accumulation of these correcting provisions will have because of the unfairness of the valuation system.

Clause 13 agreed to.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern moved Amendment No. 42A: After Clause 13, insert the following new clause:

("Relief of rates in respect of lands and heritages partly occupied for a short time.

After section 243 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1947 there shall be inserted the following section—

"Relief of rates in respect of lands and heritages partly occupied for a short time. 243A.—(1) If it appears to the rating authority that Part of any lands and heritages included in the valuation roll is unoccupied but will remain so for a short time only the authority may request the assessor to apportion the rateable value between the occupied and unoccupied parts and on being thus requested the assessor shall apportion the rateable value accordingly.

(2) As from whichever is the later of the following—

  1. (a) the date upon which lands and heritages the rateable value of which has been apportioned under section (1) above became partly occupied;
  2. (b) The commencement of the financial year in which the request under that subsection relating to those lands and heritages was made,
until whichever of the events specified in subsection (3) of this section first occurs, the value apportioned to the occupied part of the lands and heritages shall be treated for rating purposes as if it were the rateable value ascribed to the lands and heritages in the valuation roll.

(3) The events mentioned in subsection (2) above are—

  1. (a) the reoccupation of any of the unoccupied part;
  2. (b) the end of the financial year in which the request was made;
  3. (c) a further apportionment of the value of the lands and heritages taking effect under subsection (1) above.

(4) Notwithstanding paragraph (b) of subsection (3) above, if it appears to the rating authority that the part of the lands and heritages which was unoccupied at the date of an apportionment of the rateable value thereof under subsection (1) above has continued after the end of the financial year referred to in that paragraph to be unoccupied but will remain so for a short time only, the authority may direct that the apportionment shall continue to have effect for the next financial year; and subsections (2) and (3)(a) and (c) above shall have effect in relation to that year accordingly.

(5) In this section, "financial year" has the meaning assigned to it by section 96(5) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973.

(6) This section shall have effect as if it had come into force on 1st April 1984".").

The noble and learned Lord said: The amendment as printed on the Marshalled List contains two particular misprints. In the third line, the phrase "and unfurnished" should be deleted. In subsection (2), between (a) and (b) the word "or" should be deleted. Subject to these alterations to correct the misprints, perhaps I may seek to explain the new clause.

The Government have repeatedly emphasised that the major purpose of the Bill is to protect ratepayers both in general and those in particularly difficult situations. Among the latter are industrial ratepayers, who face particular problems at the present time and whom the Government propose to help by removing entirely the liability to pay rates on empty industrial property. These proposals will, however, be subject to the well-established rule in matters of valuation and rating that use of any part of a property constitutes use of the whole and that rates are leviable on the whole and cannot be remitted on part of a property, speaking generally.

These other measures, therefore, to which I have referred will do nothing to help the ratepayer, particularly the business ratepayer, who during a downturn in business closes down part of his premises in order to cut costs. He is obliged to continue to pay full rates out of the reduced income. Given the importance of maintaining jobs, particularly in rural and remote areas where much might depend on the viablility of comparatively few businesses, the Government consider that it would be sensible to give rating authorities discretion to remit the rates payable on the unoccupied part of a property so that rates will be payable only on the part continuing in use. The measure proposed will give the rating authority absolute discretion in awarding relief. In this way, the rating authority will be able to apply its local knowledge and judgment to give help where it is considered to be most needed.

But of course complete discretion is accompanied by the entire financial responsibility. The cost of giving this relief will not be met by direct grant from the Government and nor will it be taken into account in the distribution of the resources element of rate support grant. The consideration of whether or not to give relief will have to be in the light of the situation that exists within the rating authority's area. I beg to move.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I have one or two questions to ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate. First, we are grateful to him for leaving out the words "and unfurnished" in his manuscript amendment because very great dangers could arise in certain places.

I appreciate the importance of the assessor still having the overall right, particularly with industrial premises, to assess the occupied and unoccupied parts and of the judgment as to whether rates are payable to be ultimately a decision for the assessor himself. We are certainly aware of the importance of this in some of our cities. Up until the 1978 Act, there was in many cases—particularly those involving tenement property but other types of property as well—a tendency for some property owners to be quite happy about paying rates for a few years, knowing that property prices were rising steeply. Some houses stayed empty so long that they were almost unsaleable.

We believe it is important to arrive at a definition of some kind of the words: for a short time only". The amendment makes the qualification referring to the property included in the valuation roll is unoccupied but will remain so for a short time only". This may be a technical point, but there must be some judgment involved. This takes us back to the horrors—although perhaps not in Scotland—of Centre Point, to remember how big this problem can be. I am sure that there must be other industrial, commercial and—who knows?—residential areas where the same might apply. This is a highly technical clause, and while it is welcome, it will be helpful if the noble and learned Lord can answer these points.

The other point that arises from time to time is the vexed question of election rooms. I understand that all parties use vacant properties for election rooms. I have heard certain people in an assessor's office say that rates could be applied to them. I understand that rates could be applied for a much longer period than that for which the rooms were actually in use. Are there any legal rights in respect of rooms occupied for a very short period for non-charitable purposes? Will they still escape the levying of rates or, again, is this something that will be for the local assessor to decide?

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

The noble Lord referred to Centre Point. The situation there was that the property was kept empty and in this way rates were avoided in order to get, in effect, capital appreciation on the value of the property. The proposal before the Committee is not intended to create any difficulties of that kind. This brings me to the second point. The discretion to give this relief and the judgment of whether or not the property is to be unoccupied for a short time only is for the local authority to exercise. The rating authority has that discretion given to it. The noble Lord will see in the opening words of the new clause: If it appears to the rating authority that part of any lands and heritages included in the valuation roll is unoccupied but will remain so for a short time only.". Therefore, it is the rating authority's judgment and a matter of completely free discretion on its part to decide whether or not it considers that that condition is met.

It will appear from the structure of the clause as a whole that the intention is that it should be within the rating year, generally speaking. There is a provision later on for extending it beyond the end of the rating year, but one can have a short time that carries over the end of the rating year. The idea is that it shall be comparatively short in relation to the rating year as a whole, but it is a matter of discretion for the local authority, which has complete power to make a judgment in the light of local circumstances. I believe that is a principle which the noble Lord will feel is acceptable.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I do not want to labour the point, but when I mentioned election rooms I also referred briefly to short lets of non-charitable places. Would they also be covered by the discretion given to the local authority, or would there be an overweening power by the assessor to say, "No, this is an assessor's job and not for the local authority"? It seems to me that there are two choices available. The local authority, which has no ultimate control over the assessor, would appear to be able to say to the assessor that he does or does not look at something. I may be getting mixed up here, but it seems to me to be a point that needs clarification.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

The point about election rooms, if I have understood it correctly, is that if you occupy property for any part of the rating year you create the possibility of a liability for that year. I think that is the point to which the noble Lord refers. The correct solution to that depends on the existing provisions. The situation is that if you give, say, a short occupation of a property which is generally unoccupied, in view of the statutory provisions you put the person concerned in risk of paying rates for much more than the short period for which he is actually using the property. But this provision is not really dealing with the same problem as that. I hope that is a sufficient answer to the noble Lord's question.

Clause 14 agreed to.

9.23 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 43: After Clause 14, insert the following new clause:

("Central space heating.

. When assessing a dwelling-house for rating purposes the assessor shall not increase that valuation on the grounds that some form of central space heating has been installed.").

The noble Lord said: This is an old one. I think I put down this amendment every time we have a valuation Bill, and that goes back a long time. It refers to this business of when you improve your house the assessor saying "Yes, the house is worth far more now and we shall put up your valuation". There are many people who, because of the feelings about clean air, and so on, felt that they should put in central heating. In fact, it is now the general thing that people have central heating rather than open fires. It is about time we accepted that people should not be penalised for doing the right thing but, rather, should be congratulated.

I do not know whether I will have the agreement of the Government on this. I am hoping that after the way I teased him about his last memorable Bill—the one on roads—the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate will do something here. There are forms of central heating which can be installed without affecting the valuation. There is a form of electric heating where you just plug in the radiators. Mind you, the whole house has to be wired up to do that, and although one can take the radiators away the actual changes made in the house, which are equivalent to what may well be required for gas or oil central heating, are still there; but it does not attract any penalty by way of increased rateable value. I think it is about time we put this one right.

Even in local council houses they have been putting in central heating. I do not know whether that affected their rateable value. I think it is time we got away from this particular one. It is self-evident. As I said, the Scottish Office should have all along known my feelings about it. Many people who have put in central heating, and done the right thing from the point of view of the proper use of energy, clean air and the rest of it, have then discovered with the increase in oil prices, as well as in electricity and gas prices, that they would have been far better leaving things alone and just freezing in the winter, instead of having to face the kind of bills and the last insult that they have a higher valuation to meet when it comes to paying rates. I beg to move.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

I should like sincerely to support this amendment. I cannot understand how the Government could produce any argument for not supporting it. We are told all the time to economise in energy. Installing central heating is improving the house at the owner's cost. I do not see why he should then be charged extra rates when he has improved the property and conserved energy.

Lord Polwarth

May I simply ask my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate to look very seriously at something which in this day and age is a complete anomaly?

Baroness Elliot of Harwood

I should like to support this amendment very strongly indeed. It will save such a lot of money, time and everything else and improve the value of houses. It is high time that something was done about this.

Lord Elphinstone

I also should like to support this amendment.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

The noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, explained to us very clearly earlier on that when you make any deduction from one person's valuation you are in effect adding a burden on to somebody else. Therefore you must be very careful about the principles on which you proceed in order not to damage the fairness of the system. I personally have a house in which we have a central heating system, which is reflected in the valuation. Therefore I can well appreciate the sentiments that have been so clearly expressed from different parts of the House, but I would have to say that your Lordships must bear in mind what are the principles of rating valuation. They are that you have to consider what a tenant would pay by way of rent for the house which is the subject of valuation (if it is a house).

What has been considered is that if you have a heritable central heating system in your house the tenant will pay more for that than for a house that does not have a central heating system, for obvious reasons. Indeed, as your Lordships have said, the house is better by reason of the system. For that reason it is right in principle that there should be some addition, depending on the circumstances, for a heritable improvement to the house, which is what the central heating system is—no more and no less. It is as if you put an extra room on your house. The house is then worth more to rent, generally speaking, than it would be without that addition. Otherwise, presumably the addition would not have been made.

Attractive as this proposition is to those of us particularly who have central heating systems in our houses, I fear that it is not an amendment which can be justified in principle. The noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, in moving the amendment reminded us that storage heaters are out of valuation by reason of Section 20 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1966. But that is because these heaters are fixed so that they can be removed from their place without necessitating the removal of any part of the building. Therefore these are not really in the nature of heritable things at all. They are just like a heater—say a paraffin heater or some free-standing heater—that one would bring in. That kind of thing is not heritable. Therefore it does not add to the value of the heritable subjects from the point of view of the rent which a tenant would be prepared to pay.

While of course I very much regret not being able to give effect to such strongly expressed views from the Committee, I hope that in the light of these explanations the Committee will see that, however desirable from the individual point of view this might be, in the present state of the valuation and rating system, it is not really defensible in principle, and it would be to introduce an anomaly rather than to remove one.

Lord Elphinstone

May I for the moment say that we live in a colder part of the world than perhaps some of the Committee?

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

I have heard it said that there is no colder place than Edinburgh. I do not know whether or not that is true. I am not suggesting that it is necessarily true, but it is very difficult to make variations according to the part of the country in which one lives. Of course the point is that the rating system, the valuation system, is primarily for dividing the burden of expenditure in a particular region; and, on the whole, the difference between regions, from the point of view of climatic conditions, is not as great as between, say, extreme parts of the whole country.

Lord Ross of Marnock

That is very, very disappointing. But could I say thanks for the response that I have had from the Committee: from the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth. from the noble Lord, Lord Elphinstone, and from the noble Baroness herself—and usually when she speaks the Front Bench quakes. I think we will need to consider this again, and probably at a more reasonable time. I think I even had the support of the noble Viscount. Lord Massereene.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

Very strongly, yes.

Lord Ross of Marnock

That is twice in two debates. He will need to watch himself; he is getting a terrible reputation about himself. But, with all due respect to the Lord Advocate, he was not all that convincing. He mentioned that the rule had been breached by the reference to storage heaters and his suggestion that you can just lift them away. Of course, they are all linked up to the electricity system. In most cases it has meant that the heaters have had to be specially wired in order to do that. It means in many cases also that there has to be a special meter in respect of that system. So from that point of view there are very considerable changes to the property. There are forms of electric heating, quite apart from storage heaters, that have breached this general rule because there is a notional feeling that you could take them away. If you take them away you leave a great deal of material which has had to be put there in order to get the value out of these heaters. Now these are changes as well.

He tells me, "Well, it would be unfair"—certainly, when we think of the number of people involved, it would be expensive. But it must be remembered that a considerable number of people are affected, and I think probably it will eventually be a majority of people; so it will all cancel itself out. Do we want to encourage this or not? I think we do want to encourage it for the proper use of energy. We are told to save energy. And an efficient authority is one of the best ways of saving it. I knew the previous Lord Elphinstone very well. I do not know where the present noble Lord, Lord Elphinstone, lives but he thinks he is in the coldest part of the world.

Lord Elphinstone

It is getting near to it!

Lord Ross of Marnock

Getting on for it? You must be coming near Edinburgh then! I think the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate will know of the rigours in certain parts of Scotland. We want to encourage, and you do not encourage by penalising, by imposing an extra tax. I hope that the Government will look at this matter again. In view of the enthusiasm for this particular amendment, I have to withdraw it; but I will put it on the Marshalled List again. I will write it much more carefully next time so that even the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, himself will probably go to the Back-Benches and get up and support me.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.35 p.m.

Lady Saltoun moved Amendment No. 44: After Clause 14, insert the following new clause:

("Application of Valuation Acts to shootings.

  1. .—(1) In the Valuation Acts, wherever the expression "lands and heritages" occurs it shall be interpreted to extend to and include shootings but only where such shootings are let.
  2. (2) Shootings which remain in the occupation of the owner shall not be entered in the valuation roll, and any reference in any enactment to the person appearing from the valuation roll to be the owner or occupier of such shootings shall on and after 1st April 1985 have effect in the case of such shootings as if the reference to the valuation roll were omitted.
  3. (3) In this section "let" means in relation to shootings the grant of a tenancy, whether formal or infomal, for any specified period.
  4. (4) In this section the expression "the Valuation Acts" means the Lands Valuation (Scotland) Act 1854, the Acts amending that Act, any other Act relating to valuation and includes this Act.").

The noble Lady said: Contrary to what some noble Lords may suppose. I must say that I do not have an interest to declare. My shooting is let and I hope it will remain so; the same applies to my husband's; and I myself do not shoot.

There is a difference in the treatment of sporting rights for rating purposes in Scotland and England. In England sporting rights are rated only if severed from the occupation of the land through a formal lease, whereas in Scotland, even if there is only a sporting potential, that right is assessed to rates in spite of the fact that an owner does not, or does not even wish to, exercise those rights. This is a manifestly unfair anomaly and cannot be said to be even totally consistent with the Scots law relating to heritable property. For example, where a dwelling-house is vacant of both occupier and furniture for a period in excess of three months the owner is refunded rates for such period of non-occupation. This situation could be compared with the estate or farm where game may not be artificially reared nor is there any exploitation of the sporting right.

This amendment is designed to bring the Scottish law on the rating of sporting rights more into line with the law in England so far as shootings are concerned and should result in shootings which were in hand being taken out of assessment, while those shootings which were let, however informally, would still be assessed to rates as at present. I think the tone of the recent White Paper, Valuation and Rating in Scotland—Proposals for Reform, indicated that the Government were prepared to depart from their previous entrenched view as to anomalies. As an example, the removal of reed beds from the valuation roll in Clause 14 brings the law into line with the law of England.

I think that a similar course of action should be adopted towards the rating of sporting rights in Scotland, which at present are the subject of unfair treatment compared with England. Up to now the Government's view has been that of the Scottish Valuation Advisory Council—that the treatment of sporting rights should be consistent with treatment of other heritable rights in Scotland. In view of the Government's intentions expressed in the recent White Paper, I hope they will accept that such a blatant anomaly as clearly exists with regard to the rating of sporting rights in Scotland should now be removed by legislation.

A similar amendment was put down by the honourable Member for Dumfries, Sir Hector Munro, at Committee stage in another place and was rejected on a basis which in fact is not correct. The Minister stated that in Scotland shooting and fishing rights are heritable subjects in their own right whether or not they are severed from the land over which they are exercised. He then referred to the need to maintain consistency in the law. This is not a correct statement of the law, as neither shooting nor trout fishing rights can be separated from the land over which they are exercised; that is to say, they cannot be sold off as separate rights.

The present situation is very hard on many farmers and small landowners, and moreover it is bad for conservation. If one is going to have to pay rates whether or not one shoots, the temptation is to let to tenants. And tenants who are paying rent are likely to expect to shoot more than may be advisable. After all, it is not going to worry them if they overshoot when they have taken the shooting for only one week, one month or one season. They can go elsewhere next year, leaving a desert behind them. I beg to move.

The Earl of Minto

As my name is associated with this amendment, it might be helpful to the Committee and also to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate if I speak immediately after the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun. I also have to declare what I suppose is called a "non-interest". I make no bones about it: I shoot. I have property in Scotland over which I shoot. I have friends in Scotland with whom I shoot and I am very lucky to do so. But in every single instance—and I do mean every single instance—the properties, whether they are mine or the properties over which I shoot, are let and for that reason they pay rates. This amendment would in no way stop them from continuing to pay rates. Therefore, I believe that I can genuinely say that I do not have a vested interest in the outcome of this particular amendment.

My property in Scotland is surrounded on its marches—and if there are any noble Lords present from England perhaps I should should say "its boundaries"—by a number of farms, few of which have woods suitable for shooting and even fewer of which have game upon their properties at which to shoot. These farms extend well beyond my property. To the east it is necessary to travel six miles before one comes upon a keepered estate; to the south one has to go the same distance; to the west it is necessary to travel 12 miles to find a keepered estate; and to the north the distance is so great that I have, quite truthfully, not worked it out.

It will be clear to your Lordships' Committee that the areas which I have defined are so extensive that there are many, many owner-occupiers who are paying rates for shooting rights but who have no intention whatever of ever running an organised shoot. If on the odd occasion—and 1 am sure this happens—the owner-occupier does take out his gun and goes to shoot at some extraordinarily stupid cock pheasant that has strolled on to his land, it is a very expensive way of putting something into his pot, because the sporting rights on a farm in my part of the world of, for example, anything between 250 and 350 acres can in fact be as high as £150. So it is an expensive pheasant that one pops into one's pot, and I really do not think that it is justifiable.

We are told in the White Paper that it is the Government's intention to remove anomalies. This matter has been mentioned already and very fully by the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun. However, this particular amendment requires looking at from another point of view as well. I take the point that was made by the noble Lord, Lord Ross—and I am sorry that he is not here because he has continued to make it incessantly since the first day of the Committee stage—that we narrow the base every time we derate or devalue something. That is absolutley true. No one who, like myself, has been a regional councillor in a Scottish region and who has been responsible with a handful of fellow councillors for the finances of a region can possibly think otherwise; it would be completely wrong.

Therefore, in my view this leads one to support pressure being brought to bear upon the Government to bring forward at the earliest conceivable date a proper and full review, because, quite frankly, two wrongs do not make a right. If the noble Lord, Lord Ross, says that it is wrong to narrow the base and the Government say that it is wrong to bring forward a review at this point in time, then those are two wrongs and they do not make a right. It still means that the owner-occupiers of these properties are, in fact, spending very large sums of money for absolutely nothing. Therefore, the system is wrong.

I made this point in your Lordships' House (I do not think it was in Committee, but I cannot quite remember) to the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, some time ago in almost exactly the terms of the first amendment during the Committee stage of this Bill. I was told by the noble Earl that he would be looking into it in the early future. That was some little time ago and nothing seems to have been done. So I am concerned that that seems to have been put off and put off, and I do not think that that is very helpful to any of us.

Finally, speaking as someone who lives in a rural community and having admitted quite openly to noble Lords that I shoot, I should also like to make this point. Up until the end of the war and for some few years afterwards my property sustained no fewer than five gamekeepers. Today I can barely afford to warrant one. This applies to all the people with whom I shoot. It has led, in percentage terms, to a very large reduction in the total number of gamekeepers, and it has increased the unemployment factor in the countryside. It is an absolute tragedy that we shall continue along this line for want of not being able to pay them for doing nothing.

What do gamekeepers in fact do? There is an extraordinary feeling that gamekeepers are there to put grouse, pheasants, or whatever, over the heads of guns. That is simply a small part of their job. Historically, they have always been responsible for controlling vermin. Although it is true that over a period of time, myxomatosis did reduce the number of rabbits in Scotland, sadly, that is not the position now. There are areas of Scotland where there is still an element of myxomatosis and a fair reduction in the numbers of rabbits. But there are other parts where myxomatosis has no effect whatever. Quite definitely this has a detrimental effect upon farm productivity, because, where they are really virulent, rabbits do untold damage to both cereal and root crops.

Therefore, there is a need not only for large properties but for smaller properties and owner-occupied farms, to be able to sustain if only a part-time gamekeeper to ensure that the vermin are kept down and that farm productivity is maintained. I make no further point. I was deeply impressed by what the noble Lady. Lady Saltoun. said, and how she said it. I have great pleasure in supporting the amendment.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

Briefly, I should like to support the amendment as my name is down to it. I have an interest to declare in that I shoot, but the only shooting I let is red deer stalking. I also let fishing rights, which are not applicable to this Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Ross, has left the Chamber, but earlier he was comparing unfavourably the burden of Scottish rates compared to England. Here is another instance where, as has been pointed out, one is, as an owner occupier of shootings still having to pay rates if they are not let.

I have to declare an interest in so far as I have rough shooting. There are a few grouse, ptarmigan, woodcock, and duck, but I never let them because they are not good enough. They cover quite a large area and I do not let them but I am rated on them, which I think is unfair. Shooting too is dependent on the climate, especially rough shooting and shooting of migratory birds, and you really cannot let rough shooting because it is of very little value. You might let it one year, or one season, and there would be little to shoot, and of course another season the tenant might be lucky.

I can endorse what the noble Earl, Lord Minto, said: rating unlet shooting can cause unemployment. If somebody has shootings, and say he is a conservationist, and if he is highly rated on his shootings which he does not let, then he will probably have to get rid of his keeper, as the noble Earl pointed out. I should like to ask the Government whether they would give some encouragement that the rateable burden on shootings that are not let and are not bringing in any money will be eased, or will not be entered on the valuation roll anyway for rateable purposes.

If we want to be really fair what ought to happen if shootings are rated, as they are at the moment in Scotland whether they are used or not, is to have valuation every year. Supposing one did let—not that I do—and one had a good year: well of course for the next year one would be rated quite highly. But for the next three or four years one might have bad years. Though at the end of that period I suppose it would be averaged out, in the meantime one would have had to pay the wages of one's keepers and have little coming in from the shootings. I heartily support the amendment.

9.53 p.m.

Lord Polwarth

May I briefly declare an interest and say that I own a few hundred acres of marginal and hill land which nature has populated with a few wild pheasants and other species of game, none of which enjoys any protection from predators, whether animal or human. I reckon that each bird that falls to the guns of my friends, family, and me for the pot contributes about £2 to the local rates. While I appreciate the problem of narrowing the base of the rating system, perhaps I may ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate whether he can justify the continuance of this basic difference between the practice in Scotland and south of the Border.

Lord Elphinstone

It is worse than the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene, suggested, in that I understand we are being rated on our bags between 1972 and 1977, which bear no relation to what we may be killing at the moment.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

There are two problems which fall to be distinguished: the problem of how you should value shootings, and the problem of whether they should be valued at all. The point that my noble friend has just referred to is a point on the question of how you should value shootings, whether or not they are let. That is a point that this amendment does not address. However important it may be, I am not sure that I could assist much upon it tonight.

The fundamental question is in what circumstances these shootings should be rated. That is the point to which the amendment of the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, is directed. I should like to begin by express-ing my gratitude to her for explaining to me so fully before we came to the Chamber precisely what she had in mind. I am grateful also to those who have supported her for the clarity with which their support has been expressed.

The problem is that we have here a situation from England and Wales which I want to explain as briefly as I can. In England and Wales sporting rights are entered in the valuation list as such only if they are severed from the land over which they are exercised. Until recently the view has been taken in England and Wales that rights could be entered in the list only if they were severed by means of a formal deed. This has led, with an arbitrary distinction of that kind, to many attempts to work away at the boundary and to rub the boundary away, so many sporting rights are being given out—if I may use that rather inaccurate expression—under more informal arrangements. The question has arisen whether they should still be in the valuation list. I understand that there are cases now waiting to be heard in England and Wales that may alter this and lead to more subjects being brought into valuation. This, however, would not alter the position concerning rights that are kept in hand. But it illustrates the difficulty of an arbitrary distinction based upon whether or not the subjects are let out.

In Scotland the position was at one time the same as that in England and Wales. But it was thought—and this is almost 100 years ago—that that was entirely unsatisfactory. Shootings were not entered in the valuation roll unless they were actually let, and this peculiarity was removed by Section 6 of the Sporting Lands Rating (Scotland) Act 1886, which placed a duty on the assessor to enter separately the yearly value of shooting over lands and deer forests. The present amendment, in effect, seeks to reverse the effect of the 1886 Act. But it is only right to consider what that would lead to.

Let us take as an example neighbouring estates in Scotland where one is let out and the other is not, but the value of the shootings is the same on both. That is perhaps somewhat hypothetical, but it is illustrative of the principle. They have similar shooting potential and similar bags. Surely they should not have different valuations and make different contributions to local rating resources. But if this amendment is approved the tenant of the let shoot will continue to pay rates while there would be no similar burden on the exactly similar estate next door where the shooting is not let out but perhaps the owner runs paying house parties and so still derives considerable income from the shoot, indirectly, but not by means of a let out. Surely, therefore, to introduce this amendment would be to produce a considerable anomaly into the Scottish system.

Our first priority must be to ensure equality of treatment within Scotland, for the primary purpose of the valuation system is to apportion the rate burden in any one area, and like subjects in the same area must be treated alike; otherwise, one introduces a fundamental unfairness. As the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, clearly explained, the White Paper seeks to identify, and in the Bill we seek to eliminate, anomalies between our system and the system in England and Wales, where it is possible to do that. But in our judgment it is not fair to do that if, as a result, much greater anomalies are introduced into the Scottish system. For that reason it does not seem appropriate to give effect to this amendment.

We have considered this matter very carefully. The noble Lady referred to the debate in another place. I can assure her that the matter has been very carefully considered as a matter of principle, and, for the reasons I have sought to explain, the decision of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State was that he could not see his way to giving effect to this amendment, although of course he did not have the benefit of the eloquent speeches to which we have listened this evening. But I think he had the points that have been made this evening in his mind when his decision was taken.

Viscount Massereene of Ferrard

If the proprietor is letting out to guests, and if they stay in his house for two or three days' shooting, surely he could be rated on that. It has to appear in the estate accounts so I should have thought that he could be assessed on that.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

At the moment he will be assessed on the value of the shooting. But he will not be assessed on the value of the shootings in these circumstances if this amendment is passed because these shootings are not let. He has people with him staying in his house who enjoy the shooting along with him but he has not let the shootings. Therefore, in terms of this amendment, these shootings will escape valuation altogether. The noble Viscount is right. They could be assessed, and that is what happens now. I am saying that if the amendment is passed they would cease to be assessed and it seems to me to be manifestly unfair to introduce a greater anomaly into the Scottish system itself than the amendment would remove between the Scottish and the English systems.

Lady Saltoun

What the noble and learned Lord has said about the owners who entertain house parties with paying guests is true. They are, I think, a fairly small minority because a great many owners are neither willing nor able to do this. As the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, has said, in most cases what is paid for these shooting house parties goes through the estate accounts, and therefore evidence could be produced that the shooting was let. I may be wrong there. In drafting this amendment we wanted to draft something that would take this into account but it has been an extremely difficult problem to find suitable wording. This seems to be one of the biggest problems over this amendment. I wonder whether there is any way in which the noble and learned Lord can reconsider this matter with a view to finding wording that would cover it.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

Very briefly, what I am seeking to point out is the difficulty in principle over the type of amendment which the noble Lady is proposing. I have not been able to think of any way of removing the anomaly which this amendment introduces. Parliament thought of it in 1886 and I have not been able to improve on that in the time since then.

The Earl of Minto

I cannot believe that the noble and learned Lord can remember 1886. He looks so young.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

It is amazing what the years can tell us.

Lady Saltoun

It is a very long time since 1886. It is 98 years. I appreciate that if nobody has been able to find better wording in those 98 years, it must be a difficult task. I wonder how much time and trouble has been taken during those 98 years to find better wording. I wonder whether before Report stage the noble and learned Lord might see if he could find better wording.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

1 think the best that I can do is to say that I shall draw to the attention of my right honourable friend the speeches that have been made this evening.

Lady Saltoun

With that very kind and considerate remark from the noble and learned Lord, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment, and I will await developments at the Report stage with a feeling of hope.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 15 [Comparison with hereditaments in England and Wales]:

Lord Wilson of Langside moved Amendment No. 45: Page 10, line 39, after ("Wales") insert ("serving a directly comparable purpose, but").

The noble and learned Lord said: My noble friends Lord Grimond and Lord Mackie of Benshie regret very much that they are unable to be present at this hour for this sitting of the Committee, and they have asked me to move this amendment which stands in their names. This I am happy to do, albeit that I have certain reservations—as indeed have my noble friends—about the drafting of the amendment. Its effect, as is apparent on the face of it, is to provide that hereditaments in England and Wales which may be relied on by way of comparison must be hereditaments which serve a directly comparable purpose with the Scottish hereditaments.

The amendment is a probing one and it derives, I understand, from a certain local anxiety in the Northern Islands that it might provide a foundation for a more or less significant degree of derating in relation to certain of the industrial oil installations in the area. We seek some kind of reassurance, if that can be given, by the noble and learned Lord about that. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

I can understand that people in the Northern Islands might wonder how, for example, Clause 15 has affected the situation of particular subjects. It is very difficult for me to do more than say that if there are no comparable subjects in England and Wales they have nothing to fear. If there are comparable subjects in England and Wales they might then be compared with them. I do not understand that this amendment really draws attention to any particular point that would be of much use one way or the other. Serving a directly comparable purpose", does not really seem to me to convey any very accurate sentiment. But, so far as I know, there are no subjects in England and Wales that could be regarded as comparable to the subjects which are the particular concern of the noble Lords who tabled this amendment. However, that is very much a matter of fact upon which it would not be appropriate for me to do more than say what I have said.

Lord Wilson of Langside

In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 46: Page 10, line 39, leave out ("only").

The noble Lord said: We will need to gallop on because we are running short of time. It is a shame, because we are coming to perhaps one of the most contentious of the clauses and there are various amendments. It is a pity that we could not take them all together. It may be a good idea to take them all together so that we get some substance of whatever changes the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate is going to make by what he says. The purpose of my amendments is to leave out certain words. Leaving out those words would considerably widen the scope of a subject that might be brought in, though once again there is the question of appeal.

The Government claim—certainly in another place—that this will solve all the problems of race courses, football stadia and possibly other things as well. But I do not think it is exactly the answer that people expected from the Government, bearing in mind what was said in the White Paper. They listed there all the various valuation anomalies and mentioned caravan sites, commercial reed beds, spectator sports stadia and so on. They stated: The Government's policy is in summary to provide immediate relief through a measure of derating to the above categories of non-domestic ratepayers, the rate burden on whose business property is for valuation reasons substantially out of line with that of compara-ble properties in England and Wales".

Clearly the Government have not met that pledge. They have done so in respect of reed beds, caravan sites and caravans, but they have not in respect of one of the subjects, which is the spectator sports stadia.

Later on in that same paragraph, paragraph 18, of the Valuation and Rating in Scotland: Proposals for Reform, the Government say: Longer-term measures will be of assistance to all classes of Scottish ratepayers and will operate through improvements to the appeal system, by allowing evidence that rental values have fallen … allowing the citation of valuations listed south of the Border and improving the machinery for hearing appeals".

In the last phrase rests the justificaion for this clause. But I ask your Lordships to remember that it is only in the longer term that this will be available.

The other difficulty is that there is no direct change that will lead to an improvement. It is all based upon appeal and allowing the citing of comparable subjects south of the Border. It seems there is to be no change in the attitude of the assessors. They will go on as they have been doing and then it will be up to the occupiers of the hereditaments who are seemingly offended by what is being done to appeal, when they have this ground of appeal that is not there at the moment.

This will depend, first, on the attitude of the Scottish courts. The whole thing is based, as I understand it—and I assure noble Lords that this is a very complicated subject—upon the fact that for football stadia and race courses in Scotland there is no other tenant prepared to compete for the subjects under appeal. There is no rent and there is no notional rent. There is an annual value fixed by the Scottish assessors, based mainly upon the system which I mentioned earlier. As I understand it they can bring in comparable subjects and get a rent valuation which might be comparable—and I have been reading quite a lot about this—but there is no evidence that there is a rent paid there, either.

There is no reliable evidence on such properties in England and Wales, so what do we come down to? There is reached there an annual value, and you are not going to be comparing a rent, because there is none in Scotland; you are going to be comparing an annual value reached in Scotland by one method with an annual value reached in England by another method. Unless those who hear the appeal are prepared to consider the merits of the methods of assessment, then there is going to be no real appeal at all.

To my mind, this is a very important subject. I do not think it is open to the Government to be able to argue that they can give orders to the appeal authority, be it the Lands Tribunal or the courts. I do not think that is possible for the Government. We are dependent entirely on the decisions that the appeals authority will take. It may well be that they will dismiss the whole thing. They may say, despite the changes that are being made by the Government, that there are in Scotland comparable subjects. There is Hampden Park as against Ibrox, or Celtic Park, Firhill, Pittodrie, and, in different parts of Scotland where there is no rental evidence, there is annual value evidence reached by a particular method.

I have read the debates in the other place. I have read what the Minister said—that they are satisfied that somehow or other they have so worded it that the Lands Tribunal will have to consider this, whether or not they make any decision on it. In relation to England and Wales the Government have this covered. Any annual value that is in the roll in England and Wales dates from the year 1973. It is not up to date. It is true that there has been no change in the roll since that time, and the Government recognise this because they say in one of the Subsections that the Lands Tribunal will have regard to when that annual value is fixed.

The thing is complicated; the thing is difficult; to my mind it is very doubtful in its outcome. That is why I put in yet another matter one should have regard to—that is, the actual burden of rates paid. That is what eventually really matters. It is something that stands out in relation to the inequity of treatment of the sporting stadia in Scotland as compared with those in England. It is for that reason that I tried to make it easier to get the thing before an appeals tribunal and to have the appeals committee somehow or other judge the equity as between Scotland and England. But these doubts remain, and I wish I could be as sure as eventually I think Mr. Michael Ancram in another place seemed to be that it would work that way.

I have had advice from experts in this field, and they are very doubtful indeed as to what will happen unless those who hear the appeal move away from rent and consider, first, the result and, secondly, the methods of reaching that result in Scotland as against England, the fairness of one against the other. It can only be by way of appeal in the first instance that it can be discussed. After you go there, you are entirely in the hands of the judgment of those hearing the appeal. The Government cannot be so certain as they were when they wrote the White Paper about the help which will be afforded to race courses and to establishments like bowling alleys and sports stadia. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

The noble Lord has suggested that, although we are dealing with Amendment No. 46, we should take account of the amendments which both he and I have proposed in relation to Clause 15 and speak together to them. The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, has indicated that she does not intend to move Amendment No. 47C, a drafting amendment. Therefore I shall not take account of it but will seek to take account of all the other amendments which have been put down to the clause.

I shall try to explain the situation, as I see it, in relation to the clause. First, one has to distinguish between the rates paid and the rateable value, which is the basis on which the rates are paid. The rate poundage is a matter, in effect, of the expenses of the local authority, and it is sought to be controlled by Part I of the Bill. Turning to valuation for rating, Part II of the Bill, that is what Clause 15 is about. As the noble Lord. Lord Ross of Marnock, indicated earlier, concern has been expressed that what appear to be similar premises in Scotland are rated at, say, x, whereas corresponding premises in England appear to be valued at about half x. Those who are in charge of these matters in Scotland feel aggrieved and believe this to be an anomaly. It is towards that anomaly that the clause is directed—the idea that there is a basis in England which is much lower than the basis which has been used hitherto in Scotland in situations where no rental evidence is available.

In that situation, the law at present is that you may look at England and Wales, but only at rents—not at valuations or values in the valuation list. As the noble Lord said, it is very unlikely that there will be let premises in England and Wales, either, in the classes to which we are referring. Therefore, under the present Scottish law, unless one is allowed to look at values in the valuation list, one cannot make effective comparisons with England and Wales. It is that which the clause is intended to alter so as to make it possible to found, by way of comparison, on valuations entered in the valuation list in England of properties which are comparable to the properties we are seeking to value in Scotland.

The noble Lord mentioned that there is more than one property in a particular class in Scotland, but when one seeks to put values on the properties they are all without values. We start from the situation where, at the beginning of a revaluation, a number of properties—all the football gounds in Scotland, to take the example nearest, perhaps, to the heart of the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock—have no values at all. The question is how to obtain a value for them. The answer, in terms of Clause 15, is that in considering what the values should be, the appeal committee, the lands tribunal or the valuation appeal court will have regard to the values in the valuation lists in England and Wales for these properties. If there appears to be a pattern for such values disclosed by the valuation list in England and Wales, it will afford a proper basis of comparison for arriving at the answer for which we are looking for the Scottish subjects. That is the basic principle of the clause.

The noble Lord says that this is an appeal provision, but the assessors are valuing against the appeal system—in other words, within the framework of the appeal system—and the assessors, doing their job properly, will take account in their valuations of the matters which the appeal court and the appeal committee will take account of in considering any appeal from the assessors' valuation. That is the nature of the system and the way in practice that the criteria have been laid out in the past.

Clause 15 is an amendment to an existing clause which is framed according to the same approach. A number of questions have been asked in relation to Clause 15. The first concerned the opening words of the provision: only if the evidence available as to lands and heritages in Scotland comparable to those which are the subject of the proceedings is not adquate to enable the committee or, as the case may be, the Lands Tribunal for Scotland to draw conclusions". The question has been asked by the noble Lord: what will happen if there are no subjects at all in Scotland comparable to the subjects of appeal? We believe that point is covered because in that case there will be no adquate evidence because there are no subjects at all. But a doubt has been posed, by the Faculty of Advocates particularly, and we have sought to meet it by making clear that if there are no comparable subjects this provision will apply; or if the comparable subjects do not yield sufficient evidence of rents, again the provision will apply. So we cover that point.

The second question that has been raised is whether, by our clause, we are altering the existing law to prevent actual rents being looked at and confining attention only to valuations. To make that plain we have proposed the later amendments to make it clear that actual rents are still available for comparison in England and Wales, if there are any. When it comes to the kind of subjects to which the noble Lord has referred, I do not think that there will be. But if there are actual rents in England and Wales—such as there were, for example, in the Portland Cement case—then they will be looked at, taking account of all the circumstances. That is the purpose of the later amendments in my name.

The last point concerned examining the total sum paid in rates. The noble Lord said that that is the ultimate point at which the person concerned will look. We have dealt with that aspect because the valuation in England is on the basis that the tenant pays the rates in a subject which is valued at a net annual value, and that is the same basis as is applying in Scotland in such subjects. In both cases, one assumes that the tenant is paying rates and therefore that the burden of rates is properly taken into account in the rent that is in question.

The purpose of the clause is as I have explained, and I believe that it meets the kind of case which the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, has put forward. I hope that I have been able to explain satisfactorily why, in our view, it does that. I have tried to follow the steps through as logically as I can. I hope that in the light of that explanation the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment and will be prepared to agree to the amendment standing in my name being given effect to.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate for the attention he has paid to this aspect in the short time we have had available to us. 1 would prefer to study what he has said, and its implications. I felt that there was a slight jump in the latter part of his argument in relation to the notional rent being equated with the burden of rates, which he said I hoped to meet by the addition of the words in my amendment, taking into account the actual rates paid. He said that that point was met, but I am not too happy with what he said. I am prepared to consider his comments, and in view of the lateness of the hour and the fact that we shall have another chance to approach this subject—I hope at a more convenient time—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 47 not moved.]

Lord Mackay of Clashfern moved Amendment No. 47A: Page 10, line 39, leave out ("the") and insert ("—

(a) there is no").

The noble and learned Lord said: I have already dealt with this amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern moved Amendment No. 47B: Page 10, line 42, after ("proceedings") insert—

("; or

(b) such evidence as is available in that regard").

The noble and learned Lord said: I have also dealt with this amendment. I beg to move.

[Amendment No. 47C not moved.]

Lord Mackay of Clashfern moved Amendments Nos. 47D, 47E and 47F: Page 11. line 10, leave out ("taken to be") and insert ("treated as").

line 11, after ("hereditament") insert ("(as at the date as at which its net annual value was ascribed to it)").

line 20, leave out from ("section") to end of line 21 and insert ("to make such adjustment as is, in their opinion, necessary—

  1. (a) to its rent as established by the ebvidence, so as to take account of (amongst any other things) the date at which that rent became payable;
  2. (b) to its rent as established under subsection (1B) above, so as to take account of (amongst any other things) the date as at which, under that subsection, that rent is to be treated as payable.".".

The noble and learned Lord said: With the leave of the Committee, perhaps we may take Amendments Nos. 47D, 47 E and 47F en bloc. I beg to move.

[Amendment No. 48 not moved.]

Clause 15, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 16 [Alteration of "material change of circumstances "]:

[Amendment Nos. 49 and 50 not moved.] Clause 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 [Amendments and repeals]:

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 51:

Page 11, line 38, at end insert—

("( ) The provisions of this Act shall cease to have effect at the end of the period of three years after the passing of this Act unless continued in force by an order approved by Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: I shall move this amendment very quickly. We will want to watch exactly what happens under the Bill and see that it adequately meets all the points raised. Therefore, I suggest that the provisions, shall cease to have effect at the end of the period of three years after the passing of this Act"—

and that will take us beyond the next revaluation period— unless continued in force by an order approved by Parliament.

In other words, the Government will not need to come back for legislation: they can continue it with an order.

The old idea used to be the Expiring Laws Continuance Acts under which important Acts of Parliament were continued for many years. I remember one in Scotland, believe it or not, on the 30 miles an hour speed limit which was carried forward from year to year under that procedure for nearly 30 years. The amendment would give the Government the opportunity, or expectation, to justify the continuation of the changes in the Bill and come back to Parliament to keep them in force. We would then have them under review. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

We have had an opportunity to consider these provisions in the ordinary way. They are not in the nature of being temporary provisions. In the Government's view a provision of the kind proposed in the amendment would be extremely exceptional in this type of legislation. We believe that the legislation is satisfactory as permanent legislation for the reasons which have been explained to your Lordships at the various stages of the Bill. I certainly could not accept the proposals in this amendment on behalf of the Government. I hope that the noble Lord will feel able not to press his amendment.

Lord Ross of Marnock

The Government are right to refute this amendment. In covering the whole Bill I drew it far too widely. But there are certain provisions where there are considerable fears that there may be a clogging up of the whole procedure in relation to appeals and that we shall fail to get the stability of the roll that is essential from the point of view of the confidence in the assessments and the assessors, and also the stability that local authorities will need in order to go forward when striking their budgets and knowing just exactly what the rate poundage is to be. As the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate rightly reminded us, the rate poundage depends upon the valuation as well as expenditure. Therefore, I appreciate that the amendment is drawn far too widely. It may be that there are one or two clauses which should be looked at particularly carefully to see whether they are working well and perhaps on the next stage of the Bill I will limit such an amendment to that. In the meantime, I thank the noble and learned Lord for the way he has handled the whole business tonight. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 17 agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Amendments of Enactments]:

Lord Mackay of Clashfern moved Amendment No. 52: Page 24, line 15, leave out ("on oath").

The noble and learned Lord said: In another place the honourable member for Garscadden, Mr. Donald Dewar, suggested that we should look at the various powers that the Assessor of Public Undertakings has; in particular, the power to examine persons on oath. As a result of his invitation to reconsider the matter, we have concluded that in modern day circumstances it is not necessary for the Assessor of Public Undertakings to have the power to examine people on oath and accordingly have brought forward this amendment. I beg to move.

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining schedule agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with the amendments.