HL Deb 21 June 1993 vol 547 cc92-4

8 p.m.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie) rose to move, That the draft orders laid before the House on 11 th May be approved [30th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, if I may, I will deal first with the orders for Forth Ports plc and Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd. These two orders prescribe the rateable values for 1993–94 for the operational lands and heritages of these companies. For all other statutory dock and harbour authorities in Scotland rateable values are calculated each year by regional assessors according to a formula prescribed by the Secretary of State in an order approved in 1990. Forth Ports and CalMac are treated separately because in each case the lands concerned span more than one valuation area. Consequently, it would be awkward to have their valuations carried out by different regional assessors acting independently.

We have therefore arranged for the valuations for these two undertakings to be calculated by officials following the same method as is applied to the other statutory port authorities, then to be apportioned among the local authorities concerned and for the resulting rateable values to be prescribed by order.

The method of valuation is to assess rateable value at 9 per cent. of the relevant income of the authority. Relevant income is the total income for the year less that for certain defined activities which are not related to the occupation of property or are connected with property separately assessed. This method is the same as that used for assessing other statutory ports in Scotland and south of the Border. The apportionment of the rateable value of each undertaking among the relevant local authorities is made on the basis of its relevant income in each area.

The assessments and provisions contained in these orders have been the subject of consultations with the two authorities concerned—with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and with the Scottish Assessors' Association. I believe they present fair and reasonable assessments for these two undertakings and I commend them to your Lordships.

I now turn to the order which relates to the valuation of Alcan Aluminium UK Ltd. (formerly British Alcan Primary and Recycling Ltd.)

This order would normally have been included with the bulk of the formula valued orders which were debated and approved by this House in March. However, a change in the company's name required the original draft to be withdrawn, amended and re-laid. Notification was received too late for this order to be included with those orders.

The order prescribes the rateable value for qualifying lands and heritages of the company for 1993–94. It updates the prescribed rateable value for the defined lands and heritages for this year to take account of material change of circumstances and the revised level of industrial derating.

Prior to the 1990 revaluation, in the consultation which took place on the review of formula valuation, agreement was reached with the undertaking, with the Scottish Assessors' Association and with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, on the method by which the value should be updated in the years subsequent to 1990–91 to reflect material change of circumstances. The value in the order before you today is the result of calculations reflecting the agreed method of updating and also the reduction in industrial derating to 17.5 per cent. There is no need to apportion the rateable value as the lands and heritages are contained within a single local authority area.

This order has been subject to consultation with the company, CoSLA and the Scottish Assessors' Association and no substantive comments have been received. I believe that this order also presents a fair and reasonable assessment for this undertaking and I commend it to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft orders laid before the House on llth May be approved. [30th Report from the Joint Committed]—(Lord Fraser of Carmyllie.)

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, we are aware that the valuations have been arrived at on an agreed basis. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his full explanation of the Alcan Aluminium UK Ltd. order. I have received no comments from any source that anything has been found wrong with that order. The same applies to the Forth Ports plc valuation.

As regards the Caledonian MacBrayne Limited order, the Minister mentioned the figure of 9 per cent. of the turnover. The noble and learned Lord may remember that when the order was dealt with in another place, and particularly in Committee, there was a certain amount of anxiety that the Government had decided to look into the question of the ownership of Caledonian MacBrayne. A great deal of worry about that has been expressed in our Scottish newspapers this morning. Had that anxiety not been reiterated in the fairly serious Scottish press this morning, I should have accepted the order. However, I wonder whether the Minister has anything to add to the statements made in another place by the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland.

That matter is causing considerable anxiety. Will the order be affected in any way by any change of policy towards Caledonian MacBrayne? I wonder whether the islanders would exist without having Caledonian MacBrayne to moan about. Does the noble and learned Lord wish to add anything to what has been said in a number of places?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lord's, the noble Lord is extremely skilled and has a long experience of managing to take advantage of an order to raise a political issue of wider import. Again, I congratulate him on his ability with which he managed to move us away from a valuation order to the wider issue of the potential privatisation of CalMac.

Of course the order would not have any impact on a privatisation proposal, were there such a proposal on the table at present. Indeed, the basis for the valuation would be the same whether the company remained in the public sector or moved to the private sector.

The short answer to the noble Lord's substantial query is that, in answer to a question from the Member for South Aberdeen, Raymond Robertson, the Secretary of State for Scotland indicated that he had decided to review the present arrangements under which he provides financial assistance to maintain life-line shipping services to Orkney, Shetland, the Outer Hebrides and the Clyde Estuary. He indicated that he also proposes to review options for the future organisation and structure of Caledonian MacBrayne, including possible scope for introducing private sector participation in the provision of Caledonian MacBrayne's services. Options are to be studied and at this time that is the position. I assure the noble Lord that his agreement to the order will not influence that decision one way or the other. I commend the orders to your Lordships.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

8.10 p.m.