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Rebates For Hereditaments With Special Facilities For Disabled Persons

Volume 949: debated on Friday 12 May 1978

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 8, after 'any', insert 'domestic'.

With this we are to discuss Amendment No. 2, in page 1, line 8, after 'hereditament', insert

'being the main residence of a disabled person'.

I tabled this amendment because of the potential complications introduced into the assessment of mixed hereditaments. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Morris) picked up another point, which is that the disabled person living in a mixed hereditament may not regard the residential part of it as his main residence. It may be that my hon. Friend's amendment is better than my own, and I shall be interested to hear what he says about it, assuming, Mr. Speaker, that he succeeds in catching your eye.

My reason for tabling Amendment No. 2 was that, when I read the reports of the proceedings in Committee, I was a little surprised to find no reference to mixed hereditaments, of which probably the most common instance is a shop, nor to the disabled person who has two homes, perhaps one in London and one elsewhere.

In recent years, we in this House have taken the view, especially in relation to mortgage tax relief, that Government help should be given only in respect of a person's primary residence. I do not take any particular view about this, but I should like to know whether those who are most knowledgeable about disabled people take the view that in such a case there should be relief on both properties. Has there been any consultation about this? Has a firm view been taken that it is right for relief to be given to both homes? It may be, of course, that the matter has been overlooked completely.

2.0 p.m.

I appreciate the concern of hon. Members who have raised this matter. The wording of the Bill, which refers primarily to the need for a person to be resident in the premises, means that it would be mostly domestic places which were covered. I am advised that the effect of the word "domestic" would be the reverse of what the hon. Member seeks. If someone lived above a shop or was a resident caretaker, he would not qualify. I think that the words are unnecessary.

I am not normally in favour of relief on second homes, but they would qualify under the Bill. Some disabled people find it impossible to have a normal holiday and may need a holiday caravan or cottage. Thus, notwithstanding general principles, I think that a second home in these circumstances should qualify for rebate as well as a first home. I hope that the hon. Member will accept those explanations.

In the light of those comments, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move Amendment No. 3 in page 1, line 16, leave out 'there has been provided' and insert 'there is'.

I understand that it will be convenient to discuss at the same time the following Amendments:

No. 4, in page 1, line 16, leave out 'has been provided' and insert 'is'.

No. 6, in page 2, line 5, leave out 'there has been provided' and insert 'there is'.

No. 7, in page 2, line 5, leave out 'has been provided' and insert 'is'.

No. 29, in Clause 4, page 4, line 36, leave out 'has been provided' and insert 'is'.

No. 30, in Clause 4, page 5, line 1, leave out 'has been provided' and insert 'is'.

When my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Price) and I moved similar amendments in Committee, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) assured us that, although he felt that the changes were not necessary, he would look at the matter again. I am very pleased that he has accepted our arguments and has introduced the accompanying amendments.

Although the words "has been provided" may have the same meaning in law as the word "is" at least brevity is a virtue. Using one word instead of three is obviously an economy which has appealed to the hon. Member's Scottish nature.

Under these amendments, when a disabled person moves into an already adapted dwelling, he will still receive a continuing rate rebate. It would be invidious if he were denied the rebate simply because he had not done the repairs himself. We are grateful for the hon. Member's acceptance of this principle.

As the hon. Member said, we discussed in Committee amendments intended to achieve this object. I was persuaded then that my amendment was superior. I am not entirely disabused of that idea, but I am always told by distinguished legal friends—I have to rely on them, because I am not a lawyer—that the law is not what one thinks but what it says. I am happy to accept the amendments for the avoidance of doubt. Technically, I think the hon Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) intends to withdraw his amendment in favour of mine.

Indeed I am. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: No. 4, in page 1, line 16, leave out 'has been provided' and insert 'is'.

No. 7, in page 2, line 5, leave out 'has been provided' and insert 'is'.—[Mr Robert Hughes.]

I beg to move Amendment No. 8, in page 2, line 7, at end insert—

'(dd) a hereditament in which there is sufficient floor space to permit the use of a wheel chair used by and required for meeting the needs of a disabled person who resides in the hereditament;'.

I understand that it will be convenient to discuss at the same time the following amendments:

No. 9, in page 2, line 7, at end insert—
'(dd) a hereditament which has sufficient space to accommodate a disabled person substantially dependent upon a wheelchair for indoor mobility and which is required for meeting the needs of a disabled person who resides in the hereditament.'.
No. 31, in Clause 4, page 5, line 4, at end insert—
'(dd) lands and heritages in which there is sufficient floor space to permit the use of a wheel-chair used by and required for meeting the needs of a disabled person who resides in the lands and heritages;'.
No. 36, in Clause 4, page 5, line 34, after 'of', insert '(a)'.

No. 37, in Clause 4, page 5, line 34, after 'heritages', insert—
other than those within subsection (2)(dd) above'.
No. 39, in Clause 4, page 5, line 37, after 'facility', insert';
(b) lands and heritages within subsection (2)(dd) above shall be equal to the rates which would be chargeable on the special facility for the rebate period if its rateable value were £30 or such other amount as may be prescribed by order made by the Secretary of State'.
No. 40, in Clause 4, page 5, line 39, at end insert—
'An order under this subsection shall be made by statutory instrument subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament and the power to make such an order includes power to vary or revoke a previous order'.
No. 41, in Clause 4, page 5, line 40, after 'rebate', insert under subsection (5)(a) above'.

No. 42, in Clause 4, page 5, line 43, at end insert—
'(6A) The rating authority may, if they think fit, increase the rebate under subsection (5)(b) above by an additional amount equal to one-fifth of the amount of that rebate'.
No. 52, in Schedule 1, page 10, line 7, after '7', insert 'and 5A'.

No. 53, in Schedule 1, page 10, line 29, at end insert—

'Sufficient floor space for use of wheel chair
5A. Where the hereditament is within section 1(2)(dd) the rebate shall be equal to the rates that would be chargeable on the hereditament for the rebate period of if its rateable value were £30'.
No. 54, in Schedule 1, page 10, line 29, at end add—
'5A. Where the hereditament is within section 1(2)(dd) the rebate shall be equal to—
  • (a) the rates that would be chargeable on the hereditament for the rebate period if its rateable value were so much only of its rateable value as is attributable to the extra space required to meet the needs of a disabled person substantially dependent upon a wheelchair for indoor mobility; or
  • (b) in the case of a bungalow the sum specified in Paragraph (a) above or the rates that would be chargeable on the hereditament for the rebate period if its rateable value were £30, whichever is the greater.'.
  • No. 59, in Schedule 1, page 11, line 3, after '3', insert '5A'.

    No. 64, in Schedule 1, page 11, line 32, after first '(b)', insert '5A'.

    In Committee we discussed the difficulties of disabled people who were confined to wheelchairs and the fact that they might need extra space in their homes to allow them to do what needs to be done. I accepted in principle the amendment of the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) and his hon. Friends, but I was not too happy with the wording. Having considered the matter, I have great pleasure in fulfilling my undertaking to bring forward a suitable amendment.

    I thank the hon. Member for meeting our points. As the House knows, I am always interested in anything to do with wheelchairs. The amendment improves the precision. It could be argued that the point was covered in the original wording, but valuation officers and rating officers are very precise people. Parliament will be making their job a little easier with this precision. I am glad that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) has persuaded the Government that this would be right. On this amendment at least, I think that the House can be entirely united.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move Amendment No. 10, in page 2, line 8, after 'garage', insert 'or carport'.

    I think that it will be convenient to discuss at the same time the following amendments:

    No. 11, in page 2, line 8, leave out 'or land'.

    No. 13, in page 2, line 12, after 'garage', insert 'or carport'.

    No. 14, in page 2, line 13, leave out 'or land'.

    No. 56, in Schedule 1, page 10, line 35, after 'garage', insert 'or carport'.

    No. 58, in Schedule 1, page 10, line 39, after 'garage', insert 'or carport'.

    The amendment relates to relief for vehicle parking. As it stands, the Bill gives two different levels of relief—one for a garage and one for land which would normally be rated, the rebates being respectively £25 and £5. Presumably the reference to land here means a hardstanding and relates to the view of district valuers about whether that should be rated.

    I have come across property being given a different rating valuation according to whether it had a garage, a carport or a hardstanding. As the Bill stands, those disabled people who put a carport on top of a hardstanding would get only £5 relief, whereas if they had a carport and the rateable value was renewed it would be increased to their disadvantage.

    The amendment would put a carport into the same category as a garage. If it is technically defective, I hope that it can be adjusted in another place.

    I support the amendment, on the understanding that garage and carport are regarded as similar. I shoud like to speak to Amendment No. 14.

    The subsection provides for relief for
    "a hereditament which consists of or includes a garage or land used otherwise than temporarily for accommodating a vehicle"
    By reference to Schedule 1 we find that the relief intended is £5 off the rateable value. If we are to provide £5 of relief off the rateable value, which means £3 or £4 a year relief for land used other than temporarily for standing a vehicle on, the cost of providing such relief will exceed by many times the cost of the relief required. We cannot pretend that the administration of the relief which we support in the Bill will be straightforward. There will be difficulties of assessment.

    In England and Wales, district valuers are required to consider rating valuations, but with such small amounts involved this is not necessary. I suspect that in many cases land used other than temporarily for parking purposes is not rated or detected as being used other than temporarily for that purpose. I hope that the amendment will commend itself to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes).

    I accept that carports should be subject to relief in the same way as garages are. The words in the Bill are wide enough to cover the point. I shall have to consider whether any changes need to be made. Deletion of "or land" would have the effect of taking hardstanding or parking spaces out of the relief.

    I do not know whether the hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Sainsbury) wants hard-standing or parking spaces to be exempt from relief altogether. It may not seem much by way of relief, but if it increases the value of the property of the individual disabled person we should allow such relief. I shall consider the point raised and consider whether it is necessary or desirable to make amendments in another place.

    Did I understand that the hon. Gentleman was accepting the amendment on carports?

    I am sorry that I did not make it clear. I was hoping that consideration would be given to withdrawing the amendment.

    In view of the hon. Gentleman's statement that he will give the matter serious consideration, and as the amendment is meant to be helpful, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    I beg to move Amendment No. 12, in page 2, line 10, leave out "and" and insert "or".

    With this, we shall take the following amendments:

    No. 15, in page 2, line 14, leave out 'and' and insert 'or'.

    No. 32, in clause 4, page 5, line 7, leave out 'and' and insert 'or'.

    No. 33, in Clause 4, page 5, line 12, leave out and 'and' insert 'or'.

    The first point that I wish to make was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) in Committee, namely, whether the wording of the Bill covered the use of a car by another member of the family in connection with the needs of a disabled person. The specific point concerned a quadriplegic who could not use the car or have the car used for him. Somebody else in the household might need a car in order to meet the needs of the quadriplegic within the household. In Committee, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) undertook to consider the point before Report and say a further word about it, and the amendment gives him the opportunity to do so.

    2.15 p.m.

    The second matter which led me to table three amendments on the same point in different parts of the Bill was whether the words "used by" legally cover a case in which the disabled person is only transported in the car and is not the driver of it. That is a purely legalistic point. I have a feeling that the words "used by" in terms of motoring legislation would normally be applied to the driver and not to the passenger. I am asking whether the term "user" of a motor car in this sense covers "passenger" and whether the Bill would cover cases in which a car was kept simply for the use of the disabled person as a passenger.

    The wording of all the relevant subsections of the Bill will be more generous and less likely to give rise to confusion and dispute if the word "and" is replaced by the word "or".

    This point was canvassed during the "clause stand part" debate in Committee. On the point whether the words "used by" are acceptable in law for someone who is not the driver of the car, off the cuff I cannot give an answer. I think the words "used by" refer to the Bill and not to any other Act. It would not have the usage normally applied to it under the Road Traffic Acts. Therefore, we need concern ourselves only with the spirit and intention of the words in the Bill.

    Do these words imply that the car must be specially adapted? Do they refer to the sort of car which would be used by someone who was disabled or to any car?

    My understanding is that the words apply to any car. It does not mean a car adapted for a disabled person.

    "Meeting the needs" is a broad definition applied to use. If the vehicle was required to take a disabled person who could not drive out in the car, he would be covered under the definition.

    I am in some difficulty on the replacement of the word "and" by "or". In Committee I said that I found it difficult to conceive of a situation in which a house-bound disabled person was so disabled as not to be able to be taken out in the car. I could not envisage the strain of a disabled person on the family being so great as to mean that people other than the disabled person should qualify for relief.

    I invited the hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) to write to me and explain the circumstances more fully so that I might consider the matter. He has not so far written to me. Perhaps he intends to do so later. I am not convinced that we should extend relief from the needs of a disabled person to the family of such a person. This does not mean that I have no appreciation of the strain, worry and concern of parents who have a disabled person living in the household.

    I am wondering why the words "used by and" are in the clause at all. The point that we are trying to get at is whether the vehicle is required for meeting the needs of a disabled person. The provision would be far more clear-cut if it simply said that and was not concerned with the words "used by". I appreciate that the hon. Member cannot receive further drafting advice on the matter at the moment, but I hope that he will consider the point again before the Bill passes to another place.

    I shall look at this matter. If it is just a question of tidying up the drafting, that is one thing. If the intention is to widen the scope of the Bill and to extend its provisions to families which include a disabled person who cannot use the car, that would be going a bit far.

    If hon. Members will write to me about specific cases, I undertake to look at them, but at this stage I cannot give a commitment.

    I take the point made by the hon. Gentleman. I shall certainly write to him about specific cases. I hope that if they strike a positive note with him he will consider the possibility of changing the Bill in another place.

    The sort of situation which might arise would be one in which the provision of meals for a disabled household would depend upon a cook coming into the house on four, five or six days a week. On the cook's day off, the normal practice would be for the disabled person, if sufficiently mobile, to be taken in a car or himself or herself to drive a car to a place where a meal would be procured. If the person concerned was a quadriplegic, as suggested by my hon. Frend the Member for Braintree (Mr. Newton), on the day the cook could not come the quadric plegic could not leave the house. If there was a car someone could use it to fetch precooked food or to bring in another cook specially for the day to provide a meal.

    I can think of other circumstances such as that, but I shall itemise a list and let the hon. Member have it.

    Perhaps I may bring the two sides together. I believe that there is no point of substance between us but simply a difference over the wording. The fear among my hon. Friends is that a narrow interpretation of the words "used by" might mean that the provision applied only to a driver of a car. But that point has been well established in the provisions relating to the mobility allowance. If a person is sufficiently disabled to get a mobility allowance, it is irrelevant whether or not he or she can drive. That was the advance that the mobility allowance provision made over previous arrangements.

    As co-sponsor of the amendment, I want to make it clear that we are taking a general view of this. If a vehicle is kept in a hereditament for the use of a disabled person, it should be irrelevant whether or not that person drives the vehicle. On this I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (Mr. Newton). It is possibly sufficient simply to insert the words
    "required for meeting the needs of a disabled person".
    That seems to be an omnibus phrase that wraps the whole thing up.

    We find time and time again in this place that the intention of Parliament in legislation is not always reflected in the subsequent Act because of a fault in the drafting. We either write the provision too narrowly or make it too general. I believe that in this instance we should be general rather than narrow. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) has fairly agreed to look at the point again. We are all clear on what we want.

    The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Price) has vast experience in these matters and I listen to him with great care. I give the assurance that we shall look at this matter to ensure that the interpretation is not too narrow.

    On the basis of that assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    I beg to move Amendment No. 17, in page 2, line 30, at end insert—

    "(c) the occupier of the hereditament if he makes all or any of it available to the disabled person without requiring any payment of rent".

    With this we may take Amendment No. 35, in Clause 4, page 5, line 33, at end insert—

    "(c) the occupier of the lands or heritages if he makes all or any of them available to the disabled person without requiring any payment of rent".

    In looking through the Bill the other night, it appeared to me that the provisions to which my amendment is directed, which concern a person who would be entitled to a rebate, clearly cover a disabled person if he is an occupier or if he rents a property. They would also cover any person in broadly speaking, the same family who was occupier of the house in which a disabled person lived or upon which that disabled person paid rent. What they would not cover would be a situation of which I know of no practical example but which could exist.

    I am thinking of a disabled person living rent free in a house of which someone else was technically the occupier and was therefore, presumably, liable for the rates. I have not checked the legal side of this matter, but it seems possible that where a relative or anyone else provided rent-free accommodation for a disabled person nobody would be entitled to a rent rebate. If so, that would be a silly and unsatisfactory state of affairs.

    I appreciate the point made by the hon. Member for Braintree (Mr. Newton), but my understanding is that the circumstances he describes are covered by the Bill. Clause 1 (4)(b) reads:

    "Any person who is a member of the same household as the disabled person".
    and so on. It does not say that a disabled person has to be an occupier or a relative or to pay rent, but only that the person has to reside in the property. I shall take further advice on this point, but I feel that it is covered.

    The point is absolutely covered. If a member of the household was disabled, there would be a qualification for relief. Therefore, presumably, if somebody lived in the household rent-free, that person would count as a member of the household.

    I want to take issue with my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (Mr. Newton) about one implication of the amendment. Indeed, it is an implication of the whole Bill, but I shall confine my remarks to the amendment. The thinking behind it is that we have to compensate people for disablement by means of rate rebates. But we should be applying our minds to compensating those who suffer financial difficulty due to disablement. There are many better and more effective and efficient ways of compensating for disablement than through a rebate on the rates.

    There is a confusion of thought in the Bill that disablement of itself must mean financial difficulty and, therefore, that there should be a rebate entitlement. That seems particularly to apply in this amendment, which seeks to ensure that rebate is given not only to someone who, regardless of means, is disabled and occupying property but to someone who provides free accommodation for a disabled person, irrespective of that disabled person's means.

    In the Bill, we should confine ourself to devising a way of compensating to a maximum those who suffer financial difficulty as a result of their disability. This is not a carping point. Perhaps at some later stage this aspect should be considered in another place. There are disabled people who are perfectly capable of meeting their obligations, who do so and who want to do so. There are many more, however, who, through their disability, are unable to meet their obligations, and it is those whom we should be attempting to help.

    I do not want to get involved with my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Mr. Holland) in an argument which seems to cut at the basic principle of the Bill. The Minister and the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) have said that my point is covered. But I am describing a situation in which a disabled person is living alone in a property that he does not own and upon which he does not pay rent. In those circumstances, is the disabled person automatically an occupier? If he is not automatically occupying the premises, nobody will qualify for rent rebate under the terms of the Bill.

    2.30 p.m.

    In those circumstances, I do not think that that single disabled person would count as the occupier.

    Might it not be better if the owner of the property were to grant a licence to the disabled occupier, and would it not be advisable to take that step?

    There are some implications in the amendment which would widen the scope of the Bill considerably, but if the hon. Gentleman withdraws the amendment I shall look into the point.

    The hon. Gentleman having given that assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.