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Rating Of Unoccupied Property

Volume 987: debated on Thursday 3 July 1980

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

'(1) Schedule 1 to the 1967 Act (rating of unoccupied property) shall be amended as follows.

(2) In sub-paragraph (1) of paragraph 1, for the words "three months" there shall be substituted the words "the standard period".

(3) The following sub-paragraphs shall be inserted after that sub-paragraph:—

"(1A) In this Schedule 'the standard period' means three months or such other period as the Secretary of State may by order specify.
(1B) An order under sub-paragraph (1A) of this paragraph may specify different periods in relation to different classes of hereditament.".
(4) The following sub-paragraphs shall be substituted for sub-paragraph (2A) of that paragraph:—
"(2A) Subject to the provisions of this Schedule, the amount of any rates payable by the British Gas Corporation in respect of a shop, room or other place by virtue of this paragraph shall be the specified proportion of the amount which would be payable if the Corporation were in occupation of it and it were being used by the Corporation wholly or mainly for the sale, display or demonstration of apparatus or accessories for use by consumers of gas.
(2B) Subject to the provisions of this Schedule, the amount of any rates payable by an Electricity Board in respect of a shop, room or other place by virtue of this paragraph shall be the specified proportion of the amount which would be payable if the Board were in occupation of it and it were being used by the Board wholly or mainly for the sale, display or demonstration of apparatus or accessories for use by consumers of electricity.
(2C) No reduction shall be made under section 48 of this Act in respect of any rates payable by an owner by virtue of this paragraph.
(2D) In this paragraph 'the specified proportion', in relation to a hereditament, means such proportion (not more than the current ceiling) as may be specified for the purposes of this paragraph by a resolution of the rating authority for the rating area in which the hereditament is situated; and different proportions may be so specified in relation to different classes of hereditment and in relation to hereditaments in different parts of the rating area.
(2E) Subject to sub-paragraph (2F) of this paragraph, in sub-paragraph (2D) of this paragraph 'the current ceiling' means the whole of the amount of rates which, disregarding section 48 of this Act, would be payable by the owner if he were in occupation of the hereditment and, in a case to which sub-paragraph (2A) or sub-paragraph (2B) of this paragraph applies, if the hereditment were being used as mentioned in that sub-paragraph.
(2F) Subject to sub-paragraph (2G) of this paragraph, the Secretary of State may from time to time by order vary the proportion of the amount mentioned in sub-paragraph (2E) of this paragraph which is to be the current ceiling for the purposes of this paragraph.
(2G) No order under sub-paragraph (2F) of this paragraph may so vary that proportion as to make the current ceiling exceed the whole of the amount mentioned in sub-paragraph (2E) of this paragraph.
(2H) Different proportions may be specified under sub-paragraph (2F) of this paragraph in relation to different classes of hereditament and in relation to hereditaments in different rating areas."

(5) In sub-paragraph (3) of that paragraph, for the words "any period of three months during which the hereditament has been continuously unoccupied" there shall be substituted the words "whether the hereditament has been continuously unoccupied for the standard period".

(6) In sub-paragraph (4) of that paragraph—

  • (a) for the words "three months" there shall be substituted the words "the standard period"; and
  • (b) for the words "six months" there shall be substituted the words "the new house period".
  • (7) The following sub-paragraph shall be inserted after that sub-paragraph:—

    "(5) In sub-paragraph (4) of this paragraph 'the new house period' means six months or such other period as the Secretary of State may by order specify.

    (6) A statutory instrument containing an order under this paragraph shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.".

    (8) In paragraph 2 of that Schedule for the words "three months" there shall be substituted the words "the standard period".

    (9) The following paragraph shall be inserted after paragraph 4 of that Schedule:—

    "4A.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this paragraph, section 40 of this Act shall also apply in relation to any relevant hereditament to which it did not apply when it was last occupied if—

  • (a) it is owned by, or by trustees for, a charity; and
  • (b) they give notice as mentioned in sub-paragraph (2) below.
  • (2) The notice is a notice in writing to the rating authority tht it is intended that the hereditament shall be wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes (whether of the charity which owns it or of that and other charities).

    (3) Subject to sub-paragraph (4) below, section 40 of this Act shall cease to apply to a hereditament by virtue of this paragraph on the expiry of a period of two years—

  • (a) from the date on which the trustees became the owners of the hereditament; or
  • (b) from the passing of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980,
  • whichever is the later.

    (4) Section 40 of this Act shall cease to apply to a hereditment by virtue of this paragraph if the trustees—

  • (a) cease to own it; or
  • (b) cease to have the intention specified in the notice".
  • (10) The following definitions shall be substituted for the definition of "relevant period of vacancy" in paragraph 15 of that Schedule:—

    "relevant period of vacancy", in relation to a relevant hereditament means any period during which the hereditament has been continuously unoccupied, beginning with the unoccupied rating day and ending with the day preceding that on which the hereditament becomes or next becomes occupied or ceases to exist; and

    "unoccupied rating day", in relation to a relevant hereditament, means—

  • (a) if the hereditament is a newly erected dwelling-house, the day following the end of the new house period (as defined in sub-paragraph (5) of paragraph 1 of this Schedule); and
  • (b) in any other case, the day following the end of the standard period (as defined in sub-paragraph (1A) of that pragraph);'.—[Mr. King.]
  • Brought up, and read the First time.

    I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

    This is the other new clause that deals with the issue of empty property rating. I announced our proposals in Committee. The new clause gives the Government greater flexibility, in that we can make an order to review the maximum level at which empty property rating can be set. There was general agreement that this was the right way to move. The previous Government were concerned about the issue and they issued a circular calling for action. We are giving effect to the proposals in that circular.

    The new clause deals also with an anomaly in respect of gas and electricity showrooms, and it gives relief to empty properties acquired by charities.

    I welcome the new clause, but it is extremely complicated. I have read it many times, and I hope that it will have the desired effect. Statutory undertakers seem to come first, and I am pleased that charities are covered. Will a statutory instrument be presented to the House on the Government's decision? Is it the Government's intention to deal expeditiously with the matter? Many owners of empty property who are desperately trying to sell those properties are having to pay penal rates and they should be given relief as soon as possible. I am really fishing. I do not understand the whole of the verbiage in the new clause. I trust that it is the intention to act quickly in this matter.

    4.30 pm

    I have a small query to raise. This is a complicated matter. Subsection (3)(1B) provides that

    "An order under subparagraph (1A) of this paragraph may specify different periods in relation to different classes of hereditament."
    Will the Minister explain what is meant by "different classes of hereditament"? Does it refer to the classes used in planning law? What does the word "classes" mean in this context? Presumably the Minister cannot make an order for some houses for six months and for others for three months. Will he explain what it means?

    Referring first to the point made by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross), the answer is that it will be by order laid before the House, we hope this autumn, and will come into effect in April 1981.

    The clause also covers new properties remaining unoccupied. That is an important point. I thank the Minister for dealing with that issue.

    It will be introduced by order.

    Turning to the point made by the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Mitchell), "different classes" does not apply to domestic housing. The "different classes" might be commercial as opposed to industrial. It is an attempt to apply different classes to different areas because different considerations might apply.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.