HL Deb 12 January 1987 vol 483 cc365-6

3.10 p.m.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they will take to correct the anomalies in the Scottish rating system arising from the application of the contractor's principle in the valuation of industrial companies.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Glenarthur)

My Lords, the Government have already provided, by Section 19 of the Rating and Valuation (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 1984, the opportunity for certain Scottish ratepayers to cite English evidence in valuation appeals, an opportunity especially relevant to valuations made under the contractor's principle. Appeals are for the courts and Ministers cannot intervene.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, despite the fact that the opportunity is given to appeal against these valuations, is the Minister aware of the present situation in which the ethylene plant in Fife is rated at £9.8 million per annum, payable to the local authority, whereas if the same plant had been erected south of the Border the rates payable would be £1.2 million? Is not that a considerable disincentive to inward investment in Scotland?

Is the Minister also aware that a pipeline running from North to South is rated twice as high north of the Border as it is south of the Border? While there are provisions for appeal against rating, is not there a case for some uniformity of treatment in the rating of industrial undertakings?

Lord Glenarthur

Yes, my Lords. We are certainly aware that some major oil companies and petrochemical companies in Scotland, such as that to which the noble Lord referred, are dissatisfied with their rates. However, the action likely to be most productive in the short term is for the ratepayers carefully to prepare and take forward their valuation appeals.

However, having said that, I certainly agree that harmonisation is necessary, and the Government warmly welcome the technical discusions which have started between the Scottish Assessors Association and the Inland Revenue valuation office on how harmonisation between the separate valuation systems north and south of the Border can be achieved. The contractor's principle is to be given particular attention in those discussions.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, can the Minister expedite those discussions since there is a very large investment, in an area of high unemployment in the West of Scotland, which is in jeopardy at the moment? Incoming foreign companies cannot understand why rates should be so based that it is at least twice as expensive to invest in Scotland as it is in England.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, harmonisation between the independent systems in Scotland and England will take time, but certainly I note the noble Lord's remarks.