HL Deb 31 March 1987 vol 486 cc461-74

3.6 p.m.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Glenarthur)

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

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

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]

Schedule 1 [Valuation and rating]:

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Aberdare)

I must point out that if Amendment No. 27 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 28.

Lord Ross of Marnock had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 27:

Page 23, line 7, leave out paragraphs 1 to 12.

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 28 is far more important than Amendment No. 27. There will be a further opportunity to speak later when we discuss whether the schedule should be agreed to. Therefore, I shall not move Amendment No. 27.

[Amendment No. 27 not moved.]

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 28.

Page 24, line 19, leave out paragraph 9.

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 28 (paragraph 9) is of concern to the Law Society of Scotland. Paragraph 9 reads: No alteration to the valuation roll consisting of an amendment to an apportionment note shall be made or take effect until three months, or such other period as may be prescribed, after the date when that apportionment note is made or takes effect, whichever is later". I understand that this provision, which derogates from the existing basic roll in that changes, to the valuation roll take effect from the date of the change, has been included to reduce the potential administrative burden on the registration officer. We know that that burden is considerable and almost impossible, and yesterday we tried to prove, with some effect, whether it can be done in the time, taking into account his other work. It appears that the provision could give rise to injustice because the taxpayers' liability could, albeit for a period of just under three months, be assessed by reference to an apportionment note which was inaccurate and recognised to be so by the registration officer.

That is the gist of the unfairness of the change that is being made. I know that it is a lot of mumbo-jumbo, but we must face the fact that an awful lot of mumbo-jumbo has been left out of the Bill to be dealt with by regulation and direction of the Secretary of State. Once one sees what is included, one realises that there can be errors, some large, some small, and that this is one of them. I beg to move.

Lord Glenarthur

Perhaps I may explain to the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, that paragraph 9 has a potentially very useful role to play in the context of Schedule 1 because it avoids the need for apportionment notes to be altered at frequent intervals. In this way it would help to reduce the workload on assessors, which seems a worthy idea.

It might assist the Committee if I were to place the paragraph in context. As it would not be appropriate to exclude from rating property which is used only partly for residential purposes, Schedule 1 to the Bill provides a mechanism for apportioning the value of part-residential subjects between their residential and non-residential uses. From 1st April 1989 no rates will be leviable on the portion of the value attributable to residential use.

The apportionment of value carried out by the assessor will be shown on the apportionment note which will be included in the entry in the valuation roll for each part residential subject. It may well happen that an apportionment note will have to be amended. The need to do so will arise if there is a change as between the residential and non-residential use of the lands and heritages to the extent that the apportionments shown on the valuation roll are incorrect.

It might help to give an example. A typical example of a part-residential subject would be a hotel which incorporates a flat for the manager which he uses as his sole or main residence. If the manager's flat were extended, for example, by the incorporation of what were formerly hotel bedrooms, the balance of use of the part-residential subject would have changed and the apportionment note would have to be amended accordingly.

As I have explained, the purpose of paragraph 9 of Schedule 1 is to avoid the need for an apportionment note to be amended more or less immediately after it has been made or has come into effect. It accordingly requires that an alteration to the valuation roll comprising an amendment to an apportionment note shall not be made or take effect until three months after the apportionment note has been made or taken effect—whichever is the later of the two. The paragraph allows for the three-month period to be varied by regulations, so as to allow a measure of flexibility in operating the paragraph. I believe that the provisions that paragraph 9 contains are a sensible and worthwhile addition to the schedule, and I hope that in the light of that explanation the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Wilson of Langside

This is of course a complicated field with which this paragraph is concerned. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, is going to press the matter further upon the Minister, but we on these Benches do not find the Minister's response to the amendment wholly convincing. We shall read what he has had to say and give further consideration to the desirability or otherwise of raising the matter again at a later stage.

Lord Ross of Marnock

The Minister did not deny what I said. He merely agreed that what I said was right, that there is not just potential injustice here. All he said was that it would save the work of changing the roll frequently. When you remember that the same registrar is the valuation officer when it comes to somebody on the roll for the payment of community charge, when he changes his address how long is he given to do that? It is not three months, but I think it is one month. There is inequity here in relation to the treatment of recording changes. When one appreciates the difficulties in that respect and the penalties that apply in relation to failure timeously to give your change of address, then it is unfair—I see that the cavalry have arrived—that this should be done in this particular case.

I should like the Government to have a look at this and give a further explanation. We do not want to have to put down amendment after amendment in relation to these matters. If the Government have any sense they should consult the Law Society and see what can be done about it. However, in view of the unwillingness of the Government to make amendments to this Bill I beg leave to withdraw the amendment with the right to return to the subject.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 29:

Page 25, line 4, leave out ("subject to such modifications and exceptions as may be prescribed.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is to leave out: subject to such modifications and exceptions as may be prescribed. What are these modifications and exceptions? The noble Lord should not be too anxious. I have not moved the amendment yet. Surely we are entitled to know the scope—

The Earl of Perth

May I ask whether we have yet had Amendment No. 28?

Lord Ross of Marnock

We have just had it. I have withdrawn it with the leave of the Committee.

What I am asking here is whether the noble Lord can give us any indication of the modifications and exceptions that have still to be prescribed. We are getting rather tired of this phrase. I think I mentioned yesterday that we have it about 80 times in the Bill. There is scope for enlightenment here, and that is the purpose of the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I look forward to hearing from the Minister on this. It really is a little too much simply to say that certain things shall apply subject to such modification as he shall think of. That appears to me to be wholly and completely illogical and to carry prescription a little too far. We await with interest to see whether or not the Minister is a reasonable man.

Lord Glenarthur

I was endeavouring to give some indication to the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, when he moved the amendment that I was happy to accept it. With that, I think I can say no more.

Lord Ross of Marnock

There must be something wrong with the amendment. We are grateful for even this small donation to the Bill's well-being. If the noble Lord carries on like this we shall be finished long before the general election date that is in the mind of the Government.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Glenarthur moved Amendment No. 30:

Page 25, leave out lines 19 to 23

The noble Lord said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee if, in moving Amendment No. 30, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 33 to 38 inclusive and Amendment No. 100. The purposes of this group are quite simple. The main amendment is No. 100. It provides a general definition for general statutory purposes of rates to mean the non-domestic rate under Clause 3 and the non-domestic water and sewerage rates with which Schedule 5 to the Bill is concerned. We shall of course come to Schedule 5 and these two new rates in due course.

What is intended is that wherever the word "rate" appears in statute then, unless the context otherwise requires, it will have this meaning. It will of course be clear when the context is concerned with local government finance and with rating, and consequently when "rate" means these three forms of non-domestic local taxation of assessment, or when, for example, it means simply an amount or standard. Definitions of general application are not uncommon in legislation relating to local government finance. Section 109 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, to which I shall return in a moment, contains a general definition of rating authorities, and Section 96(5) of that Act contains a general definition of the financial year of a local authority.

Amendment No. 30 is consequential on the general definition. Amendments Nos. 33, 34 and 35 are also technical. First, they make use of the general definition of rates contained in Amendment No. 100; and, secondly, they ensure that regional and islands councils will be the rating authorities for the purposes of levying the non-domestic water and sewerage rates, as they are at present for the purposes of the rates which they themselves determine, and for the rates determined by district councils. Amendment No. 36 is a minor drafting amendment.

Amendment No. 37 amends paragraph 30 of Schedule 1 to the Bill so that its adaptations to Section 7 of the 1975 Act cover net annual value and also the apportioned net annual value of part-residential subjects for the purposes of non-domestic water rate which, like water rate at present, is levied on net annual value. The purpose of Amendment No. 38 is simply to correct a printing error. With that none too simple explanation of the effects of this rather long group of technical amendments, I beg to move.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I do not think anyone would quarrel with any of these amendments. I am surprised we have reached this stage of the Bill without this being discovered. Can we be assured that this is the last list of Acts that have to be fouled and suitably changed?

Secondly, is it the case that one can change spelling errors and misprints without the need for amendments? This would give the Government the opportunity to accept amendments if we had discovered those flaws.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I hope the Minister will be able to reassure us that this makes it quite clear that those people who provide their own water and sewerage will not have to pay these rates.

Lord Glenarthur

I am sorry. Was the noble Lord suggesting that those who have their own water and sewerage systems would not have to pay these rates?

Lord Mackie of Benshie


Lord Glenarthur

Those who have their own separate systems, as I explained to my noble friend Lord Burton at Second Reading, would not be subject to the extra charge or be double charged in the way that I think the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, is suggesting.

The noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, is concerned about printing errors. Amendment No. 38 simply corrects a printing error. The word "domestic" was inadvertently inserted instead of the word "district". This was purely a printing slip up and nothing more.

Lord Burton

In relation to the domestic water rate to be charged, will the valuation roll not have to be kept intact? Surely the water rate will be charged on the valuation of the property—I do not think it is a flat rate—in which case we shall presumably need a valuation roll for all properties that will have to pay a water rate.

Lord Glenarthur

As I understand it, it will be perfectly possible to have a valuation roll. There will be no statutory need for such a roll to be maintained, but if I have that wrong I shall let my noble friend know.

Lord Grimond

May I press the Minister a little on this point? It is of great importance to some people. Does he not agree that he has it wrong and that it will indeed be necessary to keep a valuation roll?

While I am on my feet, let me say that this is a another example of the extraordinary drafting which now goes on. It has been protested against again and again from all sides of the Chamber. A Bill about rating and suchlike is of great importance to many people and should be intelligible, as the proceedings in this Chamber should be intelligible. Apart from the fact that the whole page is numbered wrongly—the Minister's speech may be intelligible when we read it in the Official Report —I cannot believe that anyone in the Committee at the moment understands exactly what is happening. I beg the Minister to take notice of what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and by noble and learned Lords on the Cross-Benches that the state of drafting in this country is now quite parlous.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I wonder whether the noble Lord realises that there is one page without any numbers at all.

Lord Glenarthur

On the general point of drafting, I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Grimond, was here last week when we decided in which order we were to take the Bill, but the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, understandably then raised the matter of the incorrect numbering of pages.

For the benefit of Members of the Committee who were not aware of the background that led to that, perhaps I ought to explain that the computer which apparently does the printing of the Bills had an error in the software which has taken a great deal of sorting out. That is why line 5 appeared at least once on some pages and no doubt why some pages were not line numbered at all. I am assured by the authorities that this has been sorted out. I am told that when the Bill is reprinted for the Report stage those errors will not be in it. I appreciate that it has put many Members of the Committee to a great deal of inconvenience and I certainly hope that the matter is ironed out by the next stage.

Lord Grimond

I am grateful to the Minister. I was present when he explained that the noble Lord the computer, which seems to have been responsible for the drafting of the Bill, had got out of hand. This happens constantly with computers and it is taken that they are independent sources that no one has any control over. That is really not true.

That was the least of the points which I made. The serious point about the drafting affecting us all in this Chamber, indeed in Parliament, is that it is becoming progressively unintelligible.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I raise one point that the noble Lord made in respect of an answer he gave about valuation rolls to his noble friend Lord Burton. Did I understand him aright that there would be a complete valuation roll for all properties, domestic and non-domestic?

Lord Glenarthur

What I said in relation to valuation rolls and the debate that we had upon them was, as I understood it—I am casting my mind back to yesterday's debate—that there will be no requirement to maintain a valuation roll but that generally, if an authority wished to, it could do so. This was a debate on whether it would be necessary to maintain a valuation roll in future.

In answer to the point made by my noble friend Lord Burton, there will be no domestic water rate as such and so there is no need to maintain a valuation roll for that purpose. The community water charge will only be payable by those with a public supply and I think if my noble friend looks at Schedule 5, paragraph 8, he will see that. There should be no problem about recording the information to which the noble Lord was referring on the register.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

The noble Lord will recall that this was an amendment I moved yesterday on the question of keeping the roll going. I still feel that the noble Lord, Lord Buron, has not been totally answered. If someone decides to have his own supply or decides to give up his own supply, how will that be recorded? Will people be able to see that someone pays less because he has his own supply? Will it be worth your while finding a supply in your own grounds? Alternatively, someone may find that it is better just to take the public supply after many years. The noble Lord, Lord Burton, no doubt has had his own supply for some period.

Merely to say that a local authority can keep a roll is not sufficient. It was emphasised yesterday that for a roll to have any validity or importance it should have statutory backing. If a local authority kept it because it wanted to, it would not have that statutory backing.

Lord Glenarthur

Since my noble friend Lord Burton apparently will not be connected to a public supply but will have a private supply, the community water charge will not be payable by him, so the situation does not seem to arise.

Baroness Phillips

Did I understand the noble Lord to say that he was also speaking to Amendment No. 100? I have just a small point to ask while he is sorting out the wording. We are asked to insert at page 6, line 35, a whole long screed and: (b) the expression 'non-domestic rate' shall be construed in accordance with the provisions of section 3 of this Act". We already have that paragraph included. Is it necessary to repeat it? We are tidying up one part and perhaps it would be helpful to the noble Lord if we tidied up the other as well.

Lord Glenarthur

I shall certainly look at that, but I believe it is necessary.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Glenarthur moved Amendment No. 31:

Page 26, line 21, at end insert—

("The Public Works Loans Act 1965.

22A. For paragraph (b) of section 2(1) of the Public Works Loans Act 1965 (which relates to new form of local loan and the automatic charge for securing it), there shall be substituted— (b) in Scotland—

  1. (i)any local authority within the meaning of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973,
  2. (ii)any joint board or joint committee within the meaning of that Act, and
  3. (iii)any other authority having the power to requisition any sum from any such local authority." ").

The noble Lord said: The amendments to these two Acts, the Public Works Loans Act 1965 and the National Loans Act 1968—if I may speak to Amendment No. 32 as well—are consequential on the proposals in the Bill introducing the community charges. The amendments do not in any way alter the powers of the loans commissioners to lend money, nor do they extend the class of authorities and bodies to whom they may lend. The amendments are purely technical to modernise the language and references used and to make them clearer. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Glenarthur moved Amendment No. 32:

Page 26, line 29, at end insert—

("The National Loans Act 1968

24A. In paragraph 1 of Schedule 4 to the National Loans Act 1968 (which relates to local loans), for sub-paragraph (c) there shall be substituted— (c) in Scotland—

  1. (i)any local authority within the meaning of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973;
  2. (ii)any joint board or committee within the meaning of that Act; and
  3. (iii)any other authority having the power to requisition any sum from any such local authority." ").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Glenarthur moved Amendment No. 33:

Page 26, line 38, leave out ("non-domestic").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Glenarthur moved Amendments Nos. 34 to 38:

Page 26, line 40, leave out second ("and").

Page 26, line 42, at end insert ("and (iv)after the words "the islands council;" insert— (c) in the case of the non-domestic water rate, the regional council or the islands council which determined it; and (d) in the case of the non-domestic sewerage rate, the regional council or the islands council which determined it;" ").

Page 27, line 12, at end insert— ("29A. In section 118(1)(b) of the 1973 Act (which relates to local financial returns), for the words "district rate" substitute "non-domestic district rate".").

Page 27, line 17, at end insert ("and, in the case of the non-domestic water rate, the net annual value and the apportioned net annual value of part residential subjects.").

Page 27, line 28, leave out ("domestic") and insert ("district").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

On Question, Whether Schedule 1, as amended, shall be agreed to?

Lord Ross of Marnock

This is a very important schedule and drags into this sphere of possible parliamentary action the Acts of Parliament therein mentioned. As my eye goes down into Part III on page 25 I see paragraph 19, which refers to Section 7(2) of the 1956 Act. Here we get a change in that Act in relation to agriculture in Section 7(2). I just happen to have the 1956 Act handy and it will be useful to those who have an interest in agriculture and who have been receiving letters from the National Farmers Union of Scotland to know what Section 7 of that earlier Act actually did.

It took agricultural lands and heritages, including buildings thereon and agricultural buildings, gardens, yards and so on—and the word "pertinent" which was used in this connection was later changed—out of rating altogether. They now bring into 100 per cent. rating for the first time the farmhouse and the tied cottage. This is a subject which very much concerns farmers at the present time, many of whom pay the rates for farm cottages. That is one thing. But now we discover that if they paid the rates in respect of farm tied cottages it would be construed as a gift in kind and therefore would be subject to the strictures of the Inland Revenue. That would not be of any great help to those in the tied cottage.

There is another subsection here, Section 7(6), which reads: Where such a dwelling-house as aforesaid is occupied … by a crofter or cottar within the meaning of the Crofters (Scotland) Act, 1955, or by a person to whom subsection (6) of section 22 of the said Act applies", and so on. It seems that they shall only pay 50 per cent. rates. Fifty per cent. rates of a crofter's cottage is not very much. They are exchanging the protection in this Act for something else. If there is a husband and wife it will mean two personal charges, and that is going to amount to several hundred pounds. Therefore whoever else is going to benefit among the Benches opposite, the crofters are not going to benefit. They are going to be penalised to the tune of hundreds of pounds. If they have a son of 18 or over who is working, they might have to pay as much as £700 annually as a gift from the present Government.

It may well be that the Government have not very much concern about the people in the Highlands areas of Scotland, but this is one of the consequences of their actions; and crofters, cottars and perhaps people in tied cottages as well are going to suffer. I only mention this because the Act is there and we could use it if we liked to seek to amend this Bill, because it is mentioned on page 25 for that particular purpose.

The next point is also interesting and it relates to Section 22. Section 22 is interesting. Perhaps we could amend that too by means of this Act because it deals with churches and church lands. From that point of view, those who are interested in manses and have so far had little answer from the Government could seek by means of this reference to Section 22 to improve their information and to get some definite information down in statute on the subject of church properties and manses.

There is reference to, any church hall, chapel hall or similar building belonging to or held by a religious body, so long as the use of such hall or building is wholly or mainly for purposes". They do not pay any rates at all as from 1956. But if we are considering manses, I can think of one with about four persons in it, which may well pay more than £1,000 in community charges. Also, what about priests in a presbytery? There might be six or seven of them. The cost in respect of that is going to be very considerable. All these people are going to be adversely affected by this Bill. We are dealing with people now and not with properties. The rich are going to be richer and the poor are going to be poorer, and people who have never paid this tax at all are going to pay it for the first time; and all in the cause of fairness.

I hope noble Lords appreciate that. It is not a question of self-interest that we should be judging but the effect it is going to have on the people themselves. I am grateful to the Minister for giving me the opportunity of discussing this clause, because here there are two avenues of approach towards an improvement of the Bill.

Lord Grimond

Before we part with this clause, I hope the noble Lord the Minister will be able to answer the questions put by the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock. I had understood that there would be some abatement, so to speak, of the charges levied upon people such as crofters, ministers and so on who, on the face of the Bill, as the noble Lord, Lord Ross, has said, come into rating for the first time. If there is to be no abatement for them the situation will be extremely serious and what they will pay will bear no relation to the use they make of services because some of them live in areas where the services are still very poor. It will mean that if there is a family with two or three grown-up children there will be a very large payment indeed to be made by people whom no one could possibly claim are rich or are getting away with government subsidies and so on in a way to which they are not entitled.

Any basis of fairness in this Bill goes out of the window if the immediate result is going to be that a family of crofters or a minister's family may be liable for hundreds of pounds of rates whereas in the past they have paid none at all. I cannot believe that is the Government's intention and I look forward to hearing the Minister saying that we are wrong about this, as I am sure must be the case. It cannot be the Government's intention to impose this sudden increase in rates on some of the poorest people in the community.

Lord Polwarth

Before the Minister replies, perhaps I may draw the attention of the last two speakers to the fact that there are two amendments on the Marshalled List, Nos. 127 and 128, in the names of my noble friend Lady Saltoun and myself which are addressed to the problem of the occupiers of tied accommodation.

Lord Burton

Perhaps I could reply to the noble Lords, Lord Ross of Marnock and Lord Grimond, on the question of crofters. After all, there are very few crofters who have crofting or the agricultural side of crofting as their sole occupation. The vast majority are employed on other work. I cannot see why they should be subsidised by their neighbour who does not happen to live in a croft and who is perhaps doing the same work alongside them on the roads or whatever it may be. Why should the crofter be subsidised as opposed to his neighbour who is not in a croft? Furthermore, if the crofter is in a poor state, if his finances are poor, he has exactly the same rights as any other person in a like situation and he can get due remissions, which will be given just as for anyone else. There are some quite wealthy crofters and I do not see why they should be subsidised by the rest of the community.

Lord Ross of Marnock

In other words, the crofter has the same rights as the noble Lord, Lord Burton. If he requires a rebate, the noble Lord will get a rebate and if the crofter needs a rebate he will get a rebate too.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

The noble Lord may well be jealous of the crofters around him. However, he must realise that the Minister has something to answer on this in that all the regulations and laws on abatements of rates were laid down for extremely good reasons. Even if there are amendments down later on the Marshalled List I doubt whether the Minister will undertake to consider them sympathetically at this stage. But the Government have something to answer for sweeping away in this Bill a whole lot of abatements of rates and help for people in straitened circumstances.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I know we are coming back to amendments about tied houses, as my noble friend said, but while we are on the subject of crofters, when my noble friend replies I hope he will bear in mind that many farmers nowadays who live in areas close to where my noble neighbour Lord Mackie of Benshie and I live, in the Glens of Angus, people in Dumfries and Galloway and in the Borders, are now not making very much money at all out of their agricultural activities in the way which has applied for many years to crofters. It is not just in the Highlands that this problem arises these days.

What my noble friend Lord Burton said, that if crofters are on a low income they can get an abatement, applies to those people as well. It seems to me that this is a good time, when it is necessary to earn in other ways besides agriculture if you have a very small holding, to be bringing these crofters in the Highlands into line with people in similar circumstances in places like Angus, the south-west and south of Scotland.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Glenarthur

I have listened with care to the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock. While Schedule 1 deals with the important matter of the amendments of enactments and the noble Lord very rightly drew attention to the 1956 Rating and Valuation (Scotland) Act, as far as tied cottages and crofters are concerned these are all matters to which we shall return in due course under the amendments to which my noble friend Lord Polwarth has drawn attention.

Let me say one thing generally before answering some points which have been made about crofters. On the question of what all people, whether they be crofters, are in tied cottages or whatever, actually get from the system as it stands, at whatever level, whatever state of financial advantage or disadvantage, they get enormous benefits from the services which exist. What we are trying to achieve in this Bill is a much greater degree of accountability for those services. That is why the system is being changed. It is precisely because so many of those who use the services do not have to pay for them that the system we have had for so long has fallen into disrepute.

My noble friend Lord Burton was quite right. A substantial proportion of crofters have sources of income other than crofting which are secure and well paid. I have a list. Among crofters are to be found, for instance, general practitioners, vets, shopkeepers, hoteliers, teachers, policemen, civil servants, local government officers, accountants, businessmen and engineers. No doubt there are others as well. I think that indicates that there is an enormous breadth and mixture among the crofting community.

Although it would be wrong for me to suggest that very large numbers of crofters enjoy high incomes from other sources, it would also be quite wrong to assume that crofters as a category would find it particularly difficult to meet the full personal community charge. In addition, many of those living in crofters' households will themselves have jobs unconnected with the croft and will therefore be in the same position as others not living in crofters' households.

Also the proposition that they would be very hardly done by implies that one particular group of people should enjoy a sizeable reduction in their personal community charge liabilities simply because they form a separate economic and social category. If we went down that road, I am sure we should receive representations from many other groups of people that they too should be granted similar relief. That would be a serious breach in the principle that the personal community charge should be a universal obligation.

The answer to the noble Lord's problem lies in the rebate system which we propose. It is through this system that full account will be taken on an individual basis of the financial circumstances of crofters and those in tied cottages and other forms of accommodation. It is within those circumstances that they will be taken into account. No doubt we shall return to this matter when we consider Clause 24 of the Bill, but in the meantime I hope the noble Lord will agree that Schedule 1 should stand part of the Bill.

Lord Grimond

Before the noble Lord goes further, I should like to raise a point. I am most grateful to him for what he said and I should make it clear that I do not want to pre-empt the debate which will take place. I am surprised that this point has been raised at all. However, it has been raised and I fully appreciate what the noble Lord, Lord Burton, and the Minister have said, quite rightly, that many crofters have other occupations, but by no means all. There are places such as the Shetlands where it is extremely difficult to get other occupations and it will become more difficult once oil has disappeared.

What I wish to draw to the attention of the Government is this, and I do not want to press the point of the argument again. It is not that they should not pay anything. I feel the Government have a case that they should pay something. But the problem is that the sudden increase which this Bill will bring about in certain cases will be very great. I do not believe that it is fair that some crofters should go from paying nil rates to possibly paying many hundreds of pounds a year. Therefore I ask the Government to look at it from that point of view.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

Will the Minister also bear in mind that the services which many of the crofts, particularly in outlying places, enjoy are minimal?

Lord Glenarthur

Yes, I shall certainly bear that point in mind.

Lord Ross of Marnock

We shall return to this point but I hope that when we do so we shall have no more Burtonian exaggeration. To compare the noble Lord, Lord Burton, with a crofter is like saying that we can all go and live at the Ritz; we have the freedom to do that. The noble Lord suggested that practically all the crofters have very, very well paid jobs. The Minister was fair in respect of this. He said that there were some retired people; many people retire from professional services and go back to live in crofts. But there are many crofters who are old-age pensioners; there are many bona fide crofters.

We can redefine this. But when the Minister asks why we refer to crofters and to manses, it is because we are taking away from them, so far without any justification whatever, the privilege which they were given by a Conservative Government in 1956. I think that was Jack Maclay in 1956; or it might just have been the late Lord Stuart of Findhorn, better known as Jimmy Stuart. So we are doing an unfairness to these people.

What the noble Lord, Lord Grimond, said is right and there is a problem there. The farmers think that they have a problem with tied cottages. It is their problem and if they do not do something about it the person in the tied cottage will be faced with the same kind of burden. It is not houses that we are talking about but people and we are penalising them. The person in the tied cottage is being treated in exactly the same way as the noble Lord. The noble Lord is being treated in the same way as the person on the croft.

If the essential quality of this Bill as proclaimed by the Government is fairness but we neglect the difference in income between the two sets of people, it laughs at the whole business. Ability to pay does not arise and it is unfair that we have been approaching this from the wrong end. Everyone on this side is concerned, but no one on the opposite side. Self- interest rules. That is the slogan that Mrs. Thatcher has given to the people of Scotland.

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

Baroness Hooper

This may be a convenient moment to take the Statement. I therefore beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

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