HC Deb 16 June 1955 vol 542 cc30-2W
Mr. Elliot

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is now in a position to make a statement about the Sorn Report on Rating and Valuation in Scotland.

Mr. J. Stuart

Yes. Her Majesty's Government have given most careful consideration to the far-reaching recommendations made in the Report and have consulted the local authority and other interests affected by them. As a result, they have decided to accept the Report in principle and, as announced in the Gracious Speech, it is their intention to introduce a Bill in the present Session to implement its main proposals. These include, in particular, the abolition of owners' rates, with a consequential reduction of the rents payable under current leases, and the adoption of a new basis of rateable value. The Bill will necessarily take some time to prepare.

As regards the time-table for the proposed changes, the intention is to provide for the discontinuance of owners' rates on 16th May following the passing of the Bill. Thereafter a period of five years would, as the Committee propose, be required for a complete revaluation of all property on the new basis. The Committee contemplated that during that period the rateable values of property which had not been revalued would be determined by making an arithmetical adjustment in those existing at the beginning of it. The Government are not satisfied, however, that these interim arrangements are necessarily the best that can be made and they propose to give this matter further consideration.

As regards the equalisation grant, the Government are prepared, in the light of the Report, to review the method of determining the grant at once in consultation with the associations of local authorities. I must make it clear, however, that the Government could not at present consider a claim that implementation of the Sorn Report would result in comparable levels of rateable value in Scotland and in England and Wales. When, however, the new methods of valuation recommended by the Sorn Committee are in full operation, they would be prepared to examine the basis of the grant again from this and other points of view.

I have invited the three principal local authority associations to meet me in Edinburgh on 24th June to discuss the Government's proposals for amending the law of valuation and rating in Scotland and the arrangements to be made for a review of the equalisation grant.

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