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Fourth Schedule—(Minor And Consequential Amendments)

Volume 640: debated on Wednesday 10 May 1961

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I beg to move, in page 30, line 6, at beginning to insert:

1. Subsection (1) of section twenty-one of the Act of 1925 (which relates to the contents of valuation lists) shall have effect, in relation to valuation lists coming into force after the passing of this Act, as if after the words "the value thereof" there were inserted the words "and such particulars with respect to totals of values, both in respect of the whole rating area and in respect of any parish or other area which is liable to be charged separately in respect of any expenses".
This is a technical matter. It does not enlarge the Minister's powers of prescription, as it might appear to do. As far as I am aware, it is entirely non contentious. At present, prescription is by rules made by the Minister under Section 58 (1) of the 1925 Act. In addition, there are powers of prescription under Section 1 (2) of the 1955 Act.

As the powers will have to be used afresh, it seems a pity to do so by two separate sets of regulations under two separate Acts. The purpose of the Amendment is purely and simply to specify all the particulars which are to be included in the list in one enactment, and enable them to be prescribed by one instrument. These will be the rules made under Section 58 of the 1925 Act.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 30, line 6, at beginning to insert:

(1) A building shall be treated as an agricultural building for the purposes of the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act, 1928, if it is used solely in connection with agricultural operations carried on on agricultural land and is occupied either—
  • (a) by the occupiers of all that land, or
  • (b) by individuals who are appointed by the said occupiers for the time being to manage the use of the building and of whom each is an occupier of some of the land or a member of the Board of directors or other governing body of such an occupier, being a body corporate:
  • Provided that this sub-paragraph shall not have effect if the number of the occupiers of all the said land exceeds twenty-four, two or more persons occupying jointly being counted as one (but as a separate person from any of them who are occupying any of the land severally).
    (2) Land occupied with a building as respects which the foregoing sub-paragraph has effect and used solely in connection with the use of the building shall be treated as agricultural land for the purposes of the said Act of 1928.
    This deals with a matter which has attracted some attention and which gave rise to a leading article in The Times. I do not think I need go over it in detail. A case came into the courts where a co-operative syndicate was formed by a number of farmers occupying different farms. In addition, there was in the syndicate the managing director of a limited company which owned and occupied a farm. The object of it all was to purchase and work a grain dryer to dry grain of the various members of the syndicate.

    It was found in the courts that the grain dryer did not comply with the definition of an agricultural building. I am not raising, in moving this Amendment, the question of whether agricultural buildings should or should not be rateable, but it seems anomalous that we should leave the law unchanged, because it would mean that a farmer who provided himself with a grain dryer on his own farm to dry only his own grain would pay no rates on it, whereas two farmers who individually could not justify the acquisition of a grain dryer but, quite sensibly, got together to provide one jointly, would not be able to get exemption from rates on the dryer.

    This Amendment is designed to enable a limited group of farmers, joining together in what would be a perfectly sensible agricultural undertaking, to be able to claim exemption from rates, as any individual farmer could with a similar building. In case anyone thinks that this is extending exemptions, I must point out that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture knows of only three buildings that could take advantage of this Amendment. There may, of course, be others, but it is in line with modern farming that farmers should get together to provide themselves with equipment of this kind, and I am sure that the House would not wish the law to operate arbitrarily against them.

    6.0 p.m.

    Hon. Members on this side welcome the Amendment, which follows the lines of a new Clause, which naturally was not selected, because the Amendment does the same thing. That new Clause, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) and two of my other hon. Friends, refers specifically to the agricultural co-operative machinery syndicates. That is the kind of case which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned and which he and his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture had in mind.

    I feel that hon. Members on both sides of the House, and certainly my hon. Friends, wish to give all possible help and encouragement to ventures of this kind. Farmers, even to my knowledge, co-operate a great deal in lending one another machinery and things of that sort. A syndicate for the purpose is merely a development of that, and clearly syndicates ought not to be penalised. The short question is whether the land of any particular farmer would be concerned. Short of legislative provision, there is great difficulty in contending otherwise on appeal from a decision. My hon. Friends who put down the new Clause and I are very glad that the Minister has so fully appreciated the point and has done something which, though it might not at present be extensive in its operation, certainly presents possibilities to the farming community of which we on no account wish to deprive them.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move, in page 32, line 18, to leave out paragraph 8 and to insert:

    8.—(1) The purposes for which the Minister may make regulations under section seventy-one of the Act of 1948 shall include the making of provision whereby hereditaments which are within the same curtilage, or are contiguous and in the same occupation, but (in either case) not in one local valuation panel area, shall be treated for the purposes of the provisions of that Act relating to appeals to local valuation courts as both or all being within such one of the local valuation panel areas in question as may be determined by or under the regulations.
    (2) In this paragraph "local valuation panel area" means an area from which a local valuation panel is constituted by a scheme under section forty-five of the Act of 1948.
    (3) Regulations made by virtue of this paragraph may revoke so much of schemes under the said section forty-five as makes provision for treating as in the same area hereditaments which are within the same curtilage or contiguous and in the same occupation.
    I understand that this Amendment meets with the Minister's approval. The fact that it is starred does not altogether mean that it is a new Amendment, for I have withdrawn one Amendment and replaced it with this, which is more likely to meet with the Government's favour and is more suitable for its purpose.

    The purpose is to do a little tidying up. There are certain difficulties where hereditaments are within the area of more than one valuation panel, within the same curtilage or with contiguous curtilages, and are in the same occupation. This has caused difficulty under the present machinery.

    Under the Amendment the Minister can designate one panel to deal with the whole property when it has to be dealt with in a certain way, thus avoiding the present difficulties. I need say no more about it. It looks rather more complicated than it is.

    My right hon. Friend is grateful to the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter) for this Amendment which, as he said, has been put down in more acceptable terms. It would achieve the same purpose as paragraph 8 of the Schedule but by a simpler method, and my right hon. Friend advises its acceptance.

    Amendment agreed to.