asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received on rating and valuation increases imposed on holiday caravans; and if he will make a statement.
Yes. My right hon. Friend has received representations from right hon. and hon. Members on behalf of their constituents, from certain local authorities and from individual members of the public. I welcome this opportunity to make the position clear.Prior to 1966 caravan sites were rated as whole units and the site owners were the rateable occupiers. The individual caravans had no rateable value and caravan owners paid an inclusive rent to the site owner in respect of the pitch. In a certain case decided in that year and in subsequent cases it has been held that caravans in one place for not too transient a period were separately rateable. Technically such caravans were liable to be entered in the valuation lists from that date, but the earliest available opportunity came in the course of the 1973 revaluation. Although nearly all residential sites were separately valued then, the work load caused by the revaluation meant that some holday sites could not be dealt with.Valuation officers of the Inland Revenue are independent statutory officers and have a duty to apply the relevant statute and case law as they find it. They are therefore assessing all caravans individually to which the decided cases apply and the occupiers of such caravans will in due course receive a rate demand from the rating authority in whose area the caravan is situated. The rating authority has no option but to levy a rate on all property appearing in the valuation list.The representations my right hon. Friend has received are of two sorts. First, rating authorities have claimed that the cost of collecting the rates due on the large number of caravans involved will be high and extra staff will be needed. My right hon. Friend agrees with them that this is not an efficient method of collecting the rate and he is concerned at the staffing implications at this time.Secondly, holiday caravan owners have complained that the separate rating of their caravans will increase the cost of this particular leisure activity. I have sympathy with them and, indeed, with all ratepayers whose rates have increased. But I see no reason why occupiers of leisure caravans should be treated differently from occupiers of country cottages or other second homes and, indeed, residential caravans.The only way in which the decisions of the courts can be reversed would be by primary legislation and my right hon. Friend does not consider, for the reasons I have just mentioned, that a valid case exists for removing from caravan occupiers their legal obligation to contribute to the finances of the local authority in whose area the caravan is situated. But he is most concerned at the implications I have mentioned for local authority expenditure and staffing. My right hon. Friend is therefore considering what can be done to ameliorate the position.
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will examine ways of helping elderly caravan owners on restricted sites who, as a result of individual rating, cannot now afford to use the facility.
I do not think it would be fair to single out one class of domestic ratepayer for special treatment at a time when all ratepayers are hard pressed.
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will seek to ascertain what financial benefit will accrue to the East Lindsey District Council from the change in the system of overall rating on a restricted caravan site to one of individual liability.
The council the hon. Member mentions is best placed to make an estimate, and if it will do so and send it to me I will certainly study it.
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will consider measures for reducing the individual rates paid by caravan owners on restricted sites to be commensurate with the use they make of the services of the area.
As rates are a local tax, not a payment for services, such measures would not be appropriate.