§ Mr. Murton
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government when he will now make a statement on the result of his consultations with the Lord Chancellor on the present system of awarding costs against ratepayers taken to the Lands Tribunal by the valuation officer as a result of their appeals having succeeded before a local valuation court.
§ Mr. Crossman
Neither the Lord Chancellor nor I have any reason to think that, in general, ratepayers are deterred from responding to appeals to the Lands Tribunal because of fear that they will be mulcted for costs. I understand that there were special circumstances at Bournemouth which may have caused some temporary apprehension among ratepayers but I do not think that any change in the law is called for.
The Inland Revenue have recently written to the Registrar of the Lands Tribunal drawing attention to the statement made on 7th July, 1964, by the then Financial Secretary to the Treasury in reply to a Question to the effect that a valuation officer who appealed to the Tribunal against the local valuation court decision in the ratepayer's favour normally asks for costs only where he has been legally represented (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 698, c. 80). The Inland Revenue have added that the exceptional cases in which the valuation officer might ask for costs even though he had not been legally represented would include, for example, cases where rule 11 of the Lands Tribunal Rules applied because the net annual value of the hereditament exceeded £500 and a statement of case had to be exchanged before the hearing, and cases where the costs have been inflated because the respondent had been unnecessarily difficult.
The members of the Lands Tribunal are now fully aware of the Inland Revenue's 23W attitude and it is very unlikely that costs would be awarded against a respondent ratepayer except in these exceptional cases. Under the Act constituting the Tribunal, the Tribunal have, of course, an unfettered discretion as to costs and it would not be right for me to seek to influence them in the exercise of that discretion.