[Sir CYRIL COBB in the Chair.]
Class of Lands and Heritages and Amount of Deduction.
Mr. SULLIVAN: I beg to move, at the end of paragraph 4 (b), to insert the words "except as hereinafter mentioned:— (b) Lands and heritages forming part of the undertaking of any local authority, body, or company supplying gas or water for public purposes or to members of the public, and exclusively used in connection with such supply, and situated within a 'mineral district,' such district to be determined by regulations to be framed by the Scottish Board of Health. Fifty per cent". This is intended to give some relief to local authorities in connection with gas and water mains. Mining areas are often damaged by pipes, and they cause considerable loss. These areas are very badly affected in many ways. The provision is greatly needed in industrial areas.
The. LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. William Watson): I am afraid we cannot accept the Amendment. I suspect its origin as coming from the Middle Ward. I know the question of subsidence is important in other areas, but particularly there. Of course, the question of subsidence affects not only water pipes but houses as well, and if we once begin taking into account subsidence on the question of deductions in a Rating Bill, I do not know where we shall end. The question of subsidence is no new one. It should be dealt with otherwise, and at preseut there is a Royal Commission sitting on mining subsidence which will doubtless make its recommendations in due time. To give effect to such an Amendment as 2977 this would upset the whole incidence of the Schedule. There are other parties in the Schedule who might with comparatively equal justice claim some relief on this account. Gas and water are doing quite well under the relief they are getting in the Schedule. They will gain as the result of the Bill already, and there is some room for some margin for them there. In Lanark, gas works will pay 17s. l0d. per £ of the rates under the deductions they are getting in the Schedule, and 17s. 3d. in the £ for waterworks, so they have a substantial margin, and I cannot agree to increase the percentage of the deductions they have under the Schedule. In the case of upkeep, it is there already, because we have taken the existing deductions, but we cannot go beyond that and select a particular class of subject as being particularly liable to subsidence, and give it a preference in the question of making deductions.
Mr. MacINTYRE: I beg to move, in paragraph 4 (b), to leave out the words "Sewers, drains, or". This, with the next two Amendments, is designed to exempt sewers and drains from rating. Formerly sewers and drains, like roads and streets, were exempted. It is only owing to the zeal of an assessor who inserted them in a valuation roll, and whose decision was upheld in the Valuation Court, that they were inserted, and, as the result of that, became liable to Income Tax under Schedule A. That was taken exception to, and there was some legislation, and, finally, under the Finance Act of 1921, they were exempted from Income Tax. There seems no good reason why there should not be exemption from rating.
The LORD ADVOCATE: It is not strictly accurate to say they were exempt in the old days. They were left out of the roll on the idea that they were not a proper subject matter of rating, but the question was raised in Scotland as the result of a House of Lords decision in England in the well-known case of the West Kent Sewerage Board. I will read a sentence from Lord Atkinson's opinion, which puts the point very clearly. He said: "There is in the nature of things no conceivable reason why occupiers of sewers 2978 should escape and occupiers of water mains, gas mains, and such like be rated, as it is conceived by me". One should bear this in mind. So far as sewers and drains are within the area of the authorities they belong to, it is not very material to the ratepayers whether or not they enter the roll and are rated, but, as is to a very considerable extent the case, where the sewers and drains belonging to one rating authority pass through the area of another authority, I cannot see why they should not be valuable subjects to contribute towards the rates of that other area. If the burghs and counties were prepared to agree as a whole that they should not enter, that might be a very good reason for accepting the Amendment, but I should be very much surprised if the county councils would agree. And you would have to apply the same thing to-water pipes. What about Glasgow's water pipes? Do you think the county council are likely to agree that they should be left out? It is identically the same point. Therefore, it seems to me that there is no adequate reason shown for altering what is the existing law on the subject, which we have followed in the Schedule.
Mr. ROSSLYN MITCHELL: I should like to add a word in support of the Amendment. I think we may take it, without saying these sewers were deliberately left out, that there was no intention of them being made rateable subjects, and we have a new development as the result of a judicial decision. The Lord Advocate now says sewer pipes are in exactly the same position as water pipes and gas pipes. I should like to draw a distinction. A local authority, in its capacity as supplier of water, is a revenue-earning subject. A local authority, in its capacity of supplier of gas, is also a revenue-earning subject. As an owner of sewer pipes, it earns no revenue. It is not entirely a question of rating. While domestic water is rated, water used for commercial purposes is charged in bulk and can be raised or lowered in accordance with the need of the local authority to make ends meet. There is a commercial side to both gas and water.
The LORD ADVOCATE: Is it not the case that the Glasgow sewers are being very largely hired for some of the new 2979 housing schemes? They are revenue earning.
Mr. MITCHELL: That is a mere temporary expedient until the whole scheme is taken over. In the case of gas and water it is permanent.
The LORD ADVOCATE: The steel housing schemes are hiring the sewers.
Mr. MITCHELL: That is a purely exceptional accident due to the fact that the Government have become a housing company for certain definite purposes. There is a very clear distinction between a local authority acting as a supplier of water and a supplier of gas, where the amount charged is charged upon the consumer and not simply upon the rateable valuation, and a local authority as controller of the sewers, where almost entirely the expense is spread over the ratepayers. In view of the fact that Parliament obviously did not intend sewers to be rated and that they have only become rated on account of judicial decisions, is not this a good opportunity to go back to the original intention of Parliament and exclude them? I should
|Division No. 4.]||AYES.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||McLean, Major A.||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Couper, J. B.||Mac Robert, Alexander M.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Fermoy, Lord||Smith, R.W. (Abcrd'n & Klnc'dine.C.)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Gilmour. Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Sprot, Sir Alexander||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Hutchison, G.A.Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)|
|Barr. J.||Maclntyre, Ian||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Crolt||Macqulsten, F. A.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)||Sullivan, J.|
|Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Murnin, H.|
Mr. COUPER: I beg to move, in paragraph 4 (c), after the word "Harbours," to insert the words "quays, wharves, docks".
The LORD ADVOCATE: I will accept that. It is a purely drafting Amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. COUPER: I beg to move, in paragraph 4 (c), column 2, to leave out the word "Twenty," and to insert instead thereof the word "Twenty-five". The object of this Amendment is to express a more equitable way of dealing with the 2980 not have supported the Amendment with regard to gas and water, but I see a very definite distinction even when the sewers are passing through the land of other authorities. The health of the other authority is bound up in it as well as the health of the authority that owns the sewers. I add my support to the proposition.
Sir ALEXANDER SPROT: It occurs to me to ask whether this Amendment would have the effect my hon. Friend desires. We are considering a Schedule of deductions, and if the Amendment were passed, it appears to me that sewers and drains would lose the deduction of 20 per cent, which is suggested by the Bill.
Mr. MaclNTYRE: If my hon. Friend will look at the Order Paper, he will see that I have another Amendment down to increase the deduction for sewers to 100 per cent.
Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Schedule".
The Committee divided: Ayes, 19; Noes, 11.
percentage deduction from valuation. Although I believe it is the intention of the Government to meet the case in an equitable way, as this deduction works out it would rather create anomalies. I may suggest that this is of interest to every Scottish Member, because there are very few Scottish Members who have not a harbour, of one size or another, in their constituency. The anomaly in Glasgow is this, that in one of the oldest quays—the General Terminus, owned by the Clyde Navigation Trust—cranes which are fixed on the quay, by which coal is loaded, belong to the railway company, 2981 and consequently you will have two different scales of rating. Within the jurisdiction of this rating authority you also have the harbour of Bowling, on the property of the Clyde Trustees, the west-end of which is owned by the London Midland and Scottish Railway, and the East End by the Clyde Trustees. How could the rate be divided there? There is no physical line of distinction. Perhaps the Lord Advocate would explain how the difficulty would be adjusted.
If we go further down the river, we have the railway pier at Craigendorran, and the burgh pier at Helensburgh rated differently. The pier at Wemyss Bay and the Greenock Harbour would be on another scale. If we go round further, before leaving the Clyde, the port of Irvine is owned by the burgh, while Troon and Ayr are owned by the railways. If we go further west, we find a railway pier and a burgh pier at Oban, each of which would be rated on a different scale. When we go round by the north of Scotland, we have these anomalies, until we arrive at the Forth, where we have the distinct one of the railway harbour of Grangemouth, alongside which are the independent docks of Leith, and also Granton, which has suffered more than any other local port in the Forth, and would be very seriously affected in revenue should this discrimination between privately owned property, and property owned by large corporations, be made. The property owned by the railways is worked for profit or the payment of dividends, while in the case of such concerns as the Clyde Navigation Trust the undertaking is controlled in the interests of the general community, and is a trustee for the funds invested in that corporation. The Clyde Trust is a very important investing centre for Glasgow and the West of Scotland. Many men are proud to have a bond even for say, £100, invested in that Trust, in something which they can see every day. The Bank of England may be something to them, but the Clyde Trust is a first class gilt-edged security. If anything might reflect upon such a security, and appear to place it at a disadvantage to any other security, such as railways—which have long since ceased to be Scottish Railways—it would be very disconcerting to many people. That is a point which is sometimes overlooked.2982
I would like to say that it is sometimes stated that the docks are only ancillary or supplementary to the industry of the railways, but let me say that the Clyde Trust has miles of railways which are ancillary to the system of docks. What is fair for one should be fair for the other, and we are only asking for equity between the two industries. Grangemouth and Glasgow bid for the same mineral traffic for the same destination, and if one port receives an advantage owing to rating, it is placing the other port at a serious disadvantage. It has to be remembered that there is no dispute between the rating authority as to the increase from 20 per cent, to 25 per cent. The Clyde Navigation Trust are one of the largest ratepayers in Glasgow, and Glasgow Corporation are willing to accept 25 per cent, reduction. We want a fair deal between the two interests on a level footing. I think those who drafted this Bill overlooked another class of railway property, namely, the steam-boats, which do not come under the Bill. The Secretary for Scotland has increased the deduction in the case of shale mines and tube factories, and in asking this alteration, I would not say that this is class legislation discriminating between private ownership and large public corporations, but we want a fair deal.
The LORD ADVOCATE: The reason for the alteration in the case of shale works and tube works is that, on the examination of the figures, we found they had been separately treated on the existing system, and we worked out as nearly as possible the figures that represent the deduction they are now getting. If the harbours could have satisfied us in a similar way, we would have accepted an alteration in the figure, as our sole desire is to reproduce as nearly as possible existing deductions. A considerable part of my hon. Friend's remarks proceeded on a fallacy, and another part proceeded on an assumption which in fact is not correct. He seemed to think that there would be some complication about applying the deductions in the case of the harbour at Bowling, but they are doing that at present. The two railway companies get different deductions, and the Clyde Navigation Trust get a different deduction too. But I want to proceed on much broader lines. 2983 Railway harbours are not valued as harbours alone. The deductions they get at present are deductions on the whole railway undertaking. A railway undertaking, including harbours, stations, and lines, is valued as a whole. The portion of the undertaking which is apportioned to each parish gets a deduction in respect to whatever it consists of. There is one exception, it is true. Curiously enough, for the first time, in the case of Burntisland, in the year 1925–26, the rating authority made a distinction between the railway and the harbour, and I am not sure that there is any justification for it. You will see at once that they are not comparable figures, because they are deductions applying to different subjects. At present the average deduction to the railways, including their harbours, is 55·5 per cent. The average deduction allowed to the harbours, which my hon. Friend represents, is 52·6 per cent., a difference of almost exactly 3 per cent., but, in addition, the railways get a 75 per cent, deduction on burgh rates on their undertaking, which includes the harbour, where it is within the burgh. The ordinary harbours get none. On working out the figures, we found that the 25 per cent, exactly reproduced the existing deductions on railways, including their harbours. On the other hand, the average figures relating to the harbours which my hon. Friend represents came out considerably below the 20 per cent, and they are to gain as a whole very considerably. I am not prepared to accept this proposal from people who are to gain under this Bill on the average. The analogy with the railways is fallacious altogether. The effect of this change would be to relieve these harbours from nearly £12,000 of rates, of which £9,000 would be put on houses and shops, £1,300 on mills and manufactories, and the rest would be spread over other subjects. I am not prepared to disturb the incidence based on the existing average. It does so happen that Bowling is the only case I know of where the ordinary harbour is given a bigger deduction than the railway harbours. The Clyde Navigation Trust gets 60 per cent; the London and North Eastern Railway, 57 per cent; and the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, 54 per cent, in the case of Bowling, but, apart from that, there is at least the difference between 2984 the railway undertakings' deductions and those of the other harbours in every case of the amount in the Schedule. The total valuation of Bowling Harbour is only £200, so that it is not a very material factor. I quite appreciate that when one sees railway harbours getting 25 per cent, and others 20 per cent., it is natural to jump at the conclusion that these are comparable figures, but that is not true, and that explains the reason for the difference, and, as I have explained, we are reproducing the existing condition of things.
Mr. SULLIVAN: Does the Lord Advocate know any case where railway companies have been able to get their subjects rated under different headings?
The LORD ADVOCATE: The only case I know of is Burntisland.
Mr. SULLIVAN: But you know that they have been pressing the rating authorities and sending counsel from Edinburgh to appear for them?
The LORD ADVOCATE: I have no doubt it is so, but I am not personally aware of it. I may say that the basis of valuation is totally different in the two cases. The ordinary harbours are valued on a revenue-earning basis, and the railway harbours on 5 per cent, of cost.
Mr. SULLIVAN: The railway companies are getting a larger deduction than the harbours owned or controlled by a public authority. I am not sure that it is correct to say that railways are assessed as a whole. If they are assessed as a whole, it is because they have failed before the rating authorities to get a distinction made, and they have been spending money lavishly to convince rating authorities that they are entitled to a variation. The Lord Advocate, although he is very able and has generally met the Committee in argument, has failed to make his case this time, and I hope the Committee will impress on the Government that there should be equality. There was only one mistake the hon. Member for Maryhill(Mr. Couper) made. He said these railways have ceased to be Scottish railways. I am not sure they were ever Scottish railways. We do not, know who owned them, and we only know that the people of the country do not own them.2985
Mr. STUART: I would prefer that the Lord Advocate should take the harbours in both cases without insisting that the railway undertaking has to be taken into account also. If you merely look at the harbours, it is obvious that the railway-owned harbours are receiving advantages over the others. The Lord Advocate says he desires to maintain the existing conditions, but, if there has been an injustice in the past, this is an opportunity to set it right. As far as I can see, the railway companies' docks or harbours are placed in a position of being able to undercut the independent harbours. All that they want is to get the traffic on to their lines, and they do not mind whether they run their harbours at a profit, because they can make up in other ways what they may lose on the harbours. I suggest that this is an occasion when the matter should be put right, and I feel that there must be some case for the independent harbours, which are in many cases meeting very difficult times.
Mr. KIRKWOOD: I want to support the Amendment. I know some of us are of a very suspicious turn of mind, but we see evidences on every hand of the influence of the railway companies. We find the lawyers always backing them. Here we find a plea put forward that they should get concessions that other folk cannot get, and it is put forward by the Lord Advocate representing His Majesty's Government. The Clyde Trust have a huge dock, which has been taken away from my constituency and annexed to Glasgow; I mean the Rothesey Dock. It is close to Singer's works, where there are thousands of work-people, and that causes a great amount of traffic. The situation is that the docks under the control of the Clyde Trust in that part where we have these big works will not be able to compete with Grangemouth which is away on the other side of Scotland. The reason is that the railway company is subsidising Grangemouth as against the Clyde Trust. Are the Government going to be parties to a carry-on of that sort? The Clyde Trust is run in the interest of the entire community. It is perfectly true that the Clyde Trust should belong to the Glasgow Corporation, but it was inveigled away from the City of Glasgow by some scientific, fly, old 2986 Scotsman at the time when it was formed into the Clyde Trust. The proceeds of the Clyde Trust should have come back to the Glasgow Corporation, but, to the credit of those who have been at the head of affairs in connection with that Trust, they have used the money which has been made in this great adventure for developing the Clyde. There is no doubt that as a result of the activities of the Clyde Trust, they have transformed the Clyde from a little stream into one of the greatest rivers in the world, and one of the greatest shipbuilding centres in the world. The Clyde Trust have met all the demands that have been made upon them, and yet we are being asked by the Lord Advocate to handicap and trammel the activities of that Trust.
The LORD ADVOCATE indicated dissent.
Mr. KIRKWOOD: The Lord Advocate shakes his head. Well, I will go no further if he says that he will give us the same concessions in the West of Scotland as he has given to the railway companies. I know I shall have no difficulty in getting support from the Government benches, but my business now is to get my colleagues of the Labour party to vote with us on this occasion. Speaking on behalf of the engineers, I may say that the Clyde Trust have always met us very favourably, although the Chairman of the Clyde Trust, Sir William Raeburn, and myself are the bitterest political opponents. They have always treated their workers with the very best in Scotland, but I cannot say that about the railway companies. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston), when he was the Member for West Stirlingshire, raised this matter along with me time and time again—the treatment that the railway companies mete out to their employes, particularly in the engineering industry. When we put forward a plea on behalf of the engineers, seamen, and stokers who man the pleasure steamers on the Clyde, that plea was turned down. The railway companies employ engineers, stokers, and seamen on their steamers in the West of Scotland, yea, even unto the fastnesses of wild Argyll!
The CHAIRMAN: I think the hon. Member is getting a little wide of the Amendment.2987
Mr. KIRKWOOD: I do not wish to transgress too far because I know that you give me a good deal of latitude, Sir Cyril, but the railway companies who own these steamers are working their men 70, 80, and 82 hours a week, and I will give the names of the vessels if desired. Although they do all that, the Lord Advocate, of all men in Europe, comes forward and puts in a special claim for these companies. I know the able way in which the Lord Advocate covers it up, and makes it appear that he is being judicious and dealing out fair treatment to all concerned. Yet we find that the people who are best able to judge—the Clyde Trust—consider that if the Lord Advocate gets his way he will be doing Glasgow and the West of Scotland a distinct injustice. I am quite sure that the Lord Advocate has no desire to do anything of the kind. If he will only consider the arguments that have been and will be submitted to him this morning, I think he will reconsider his decision and meet our request.
Mr. MACQUISTEN: I do not think that in this case the Lord Advocate has really satisfied the Committee. There is no justification for the differentiation between the two classes of harbours. There has been some differentiation in the past, but it has never been founded on any basis of justice or right. All that is desired by the publicly-owned docks is equality of treatment with the railway-owned docks. Why is there a difference of 5 per cent, in the Schedule between the rates of deduction proposed to be granted to railways and public trust docks? The reason is simply this: The Lord Advocate finds that at present the railways are getting, under Section 37 of the Poor Law Act, 1845, a higher percentage rate of deduction from their valuation in respect of poor and school rates than the average percentage deduction of all the public docks, and it is the equation of this deduction between poor and school valuation and the burgh valuation, from which there is no deduction at present, which makes the difference of 5 per cent, proposed in the Schedule. The Lord Advocate apparently assumes that the present position is perfect. What he has not done is to make any attempt to find out whether or not the present difference in the deduction allowed under 2988 the Poor Law Act between the public docks and the railways is a proper difference. I agree with the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood). I do not think that this country owes anything to the railway companies. They are a heavy combination of Labourand Capital, who have laid their heads and hands to gether in order to "rook" the general public. Both the railway workmen and the railway directors are working with the most perfect unanimity to strangle the industrial resources of this country; and here we have bodies like the Clyde Trust and other harbour authorities which have been mentioned by the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Couper), who are not fairly treated in comparison with the profit-earning bodies. I am always in favour of profit-earning companies. I believe that profit is the natural stimulus of industry, but I do not believe in doing an injustice to those who are not running their concerns for profit, and there is an injustice being done under the present system. We are told that railway companies are valued as a whole, but surely there is no difficulty in separating the harbours. When a company own a harbour they should have their valuation for that property taken separately. That is the correct way. The real point is that the public docks have been very moderate in pushing for abatements. Some have pushed more than others, but, on the whole, they have been very modest in asking for abatements, whereas the railway companies have always fought for every possible deduction, and they have got them, whereas the harbour authorities have been content to accept a very moderate deduction in the past under the Poor Law Act, and recognising the absurdities which might arise under Section 37 of that Act, have not pressed for a higher deduction. At the same time, it ought to be stated that the Clyde Navigation Trust, who pay about two-thirds of the total rates paid by the five principal public dock trusts, made application under Section 37 of the Poor Law Act, 1845, before this new Rating Bill was even contemplated, for an increase of 5 per cent, on their present deduction. In the course of the letter which the General Manager of the Clyde Trust sent to the Glasgow Parish Council and 2989 the Govan combination Parish Council, he stated: "I would refer you to my letter of 15th December, 1920, enclosing a statement which brought out a percentage deduction of 80 per cent. As an amicable compromise and to avoid time and trouble of submitting a fresh statement, I would be prepared to accept, without prejudice, on behalf of my Trust an increase of 5 per cent., making a total deduction of 65 per cent. This increase would be relatively similar to the increase recently granted to the railway company". This claim has not yet been decided, and the rates representing the additional 5 per cent, claimed have not been paid. It is thought that if this additional 5 per cent, had been in operation when the new Eating Bill was being drafted, public trust docks would have been granted a 25 per cent, deduction. Under the Poor Law Act, 1845, an undertaking is entitled each year to have revised, if the expenditure so proves, the deduction allowable in terms of Section 37, but by the proposed repealing of this Act, the public docks will be prevented from remedying their present position, unless their claim for equality is now granted. Some of the figures that have been given are, I think, rather misleading. For instance, it is only on the running lines that the companies get 75 per cent. The Clyde Trust would like to inspect these figures before they accept them. The fundamental proposition is this, that if this proposal is carried out, you are going to make a permanent distinction between these public docks, which serve the public, in favour of other concerns, which are run on a profit-earning basis. That, to my mind, not only at this time, but at any period of history, is utterly wrong. Therefore, I appeal to hon. Members on the other side of the Committee to bring pressure to bear on the Lord Advocate in order to get this deduction made.
The LORD ADVOCATE: The latter part of my hon. Friend's speech is based on not taking into account the existing state of the Statute law. On the top of the next page of the Order Paper we have put down a valuation as respects a railway undertaking as a whole, which includes harbours. Under the Statute a railway has to be valued as a whole, and you cannot in law value it in separate parts. You would require to alter that legislation before you could have these parts separately valued, and that cannot be done in this Bill.2990
Mr. SULLIVAN: Under the existing law it is a fact that they can have separate valuations.
The LORD ADVOCATE: I am not talking about valuation in the percentage, but a separate valuation of a railway harbour from the rest of the railway undertaking. It must be, by law, a valuation of the undertaking as a whole, and the percentage given to railways is not to railway harbours alone, but to the undertaking as a whole. The deduction must be on that basis, and you cannot pick out railway harbours in this Bill and deal with them separately. As regards the recent increase of deductions which the railways have got, we have not taken that into account, and when we come to a later Amendment, which asks for an increase of the railway undertaking percentage, I shall have something to say about these recent increases. We have based the average deduction on the year 1923–4, during which there was a very upsetting litigation by the Etna Foundry Company, where they proved more than 100 per cent, of deduction. After that some people pressed for deductions, and some did not. The railways did very strenuously, and got them, but we think it is fairer to take the year 1923–4, before that game started of some people trying to put the Etna judgment into effect, and others not. Therefore, we have not taken into account the result of the railway increase. It is based on the deductions in 1923–4 as in the case of the others. With reference to the speech of the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), I do not want to talk about gratitude or ingratitude, but it is a little hard to complain on behalf of the Clyde Trust when I find that, as the result of the Bill, the harbours in Glasgow will pay 19s. 4½d., whereas the railways in Glasgow will pay 21s. l¾d. on their existing rate, so that, as the result of the Bill, certainly the advantage is not on the side of the railway companies there, and for the country generally, as the result of the Bill, the harbours will pay 18s. 8d. on their present £ rate and the railway companies 19s. 7¼d., or practically Is. difference, again not in favour of the railway companies.
Mr. SULLIVAN: Everybody is gaining.2991
The LORD ADVOCATE: Indeed they are not. If you average out the last column, it gives you exactly £1, taking the relative values. One thing is clear, that certainly these harbours have justified no claim for anything more than 20 per cent., and their argument, if anything, is that the railways ought to be pulled down to 20 per cent. The average of the harbours is 15 per cent, or 16 per cent., and they are getting 20 per cent, out of the Bill. If there is any talk about gratitude or ingratitude, one ought to get a little more gratitude from these harbours. The only question we are considering for the moment is whether they are entitled to 20 per cent. or 25 per cent.
Mr. KIRKWOOD: How is it possible that Grangemouth can outbid the Clyde Trust in delivering stuff to Singer's when the Clyde Trust is just alongside Singer's? The reason is that the railway company is subsidising Grangemouth. The West of Scotland is being turned down by the East of Scotland.
Mr. ROSSLYN MITCHELL: The basis that was mentioned to us upon which the Lord Advocate made his speech was the basis of 1923–4. I should like to ask whether his subsequent reference to deductions on the part of local authorities and on the part of railways is also on the same basis.
The LORD ADVOCATE: All the figures I mentioned are on the basis of the 1923–4 deductions. That was the last year that was undisturbed by the Etna decision. Subsequently, a good many of the bigger bodies agreed not to press their claims, and some acting basis was got not to seek to apply the judgment to the full extent, because it would have thrown the whole of the deductions into an impossible morass. There were exceptions of people who did press for exemption, and among them were the railway companies, but we have not taken into account, in the 25 per cent, given to railway undertakings, any increase given them subsequent to 1923–4.
Mr. KIRKWOOD: Perhaps the Lord Advocate, as he has replied to his learned friend, will reply to my question about Grangemouth now.
The LORD ADVOCATE: I cannot tell whether it is greater efficiency or 2992 what it is, but in both cases they have the average deduction which they are at present enjoying. In fact, the Glasgow docks at present get an average of 60 per cent, deduction, and houses 40 per cent., which is exactly the 20 per cent, they are getting under the Bill. Railways get a varying average of 63, 48 and 72 in Glasgow. At Grangemouth they get 64 per cent, deduction, and houses are 40 per cent., which is 24 per cent., almost exactly the 25 per cent, that is reproduced in the Bill. Therefore, there is no justification for this increase. The point that has been raised about breaking up the railway valuation and valuing the harbours separately cannot be raised now. It would require separate legislation. You would require to alter the Valuation Act, and the Railways Act of 1921 complicates the matter too. It is not a thing that can be done by means of this Schedule.
Mr. SULLIVAN: We have the railway companies assessed on a different valuation.
The LORD ADVOCATE: Obviously, the valuation is done by valuing different parts, but as the law stands it must be a valuation of the undertaking as a whole, and when you come to the question of rating you must accept the only legal valuation that is permitted.
Lieut.-Colonel THOM: I should like to say a few words in support of the Amendment. I am not convinced by the Lord Advocate's argument. I am told his premises are entirely wrong. We are always willing to accept his opinion on legal questions, but I am told his calculations and figures are completely out. I think, on an important matter of this sort, the figures ought to be laid before the Committee and before the interests whom this Clause affects. We do not admit the calculations on which he bases his argument. If the figures are correct, his argument, I think, is almost unanswerable. It is unfortunate, when we are all agreed as to what we want, that there should be this discussion. He wants to preserve the status quo. So do the railway companies, and the docks and the harbours, but the interests affected maintain that this Clause does not do that, and it is all a question of arithmetic. The Committee has never seen these figures. The Lord Advocate 2993 did not make these calculations himself. They are made by officials in Scotland. We do not agree with them. We have never seen the figures, and if they are incorrect, the whole basis of his argument goes. It would be well if he reconsidered the matter and submitted the figures to the interests affected and to the Committee.
Mr. STEPHEN: Possibly the Committee is inclined to be a little too hard on the Lord Advocate. I think the position he has been taking up is that there has been a discrimination in the past between the Clyde Trust and others, and he is only continuing the discrimination. But when he was making the statement he pointed out that the Clyde Trust was gaining at the expense of various other people. I take the line, in connation with this, that there is no case for increasing the deduction for the trust docks from 20 per cent, to 25 per cent., but there is an absolutely sound case for reducing the railway docks from 25 per cent, to 20 per cent. I do not see why various people—small shopkeepers, people in houses, and others—should be asked to bear an additional burden in order to favour either the railway companies or the trust. A later Amendment will give the Committee this opportunity. I rise really to ask for this. The Lord Advocate has been quoting various figures from documents in his possession, and I wish to ask if he will publish them as a White Paper and let us reconsider this when we have these figures which are challenged before us, so that we may come to an adequate judgment on the matter.
The LORD ADVOCATE: The White Paper, with the result of returns which were got from several parish councils, which are available to anyone who likes to get them from the parish councils, have been in the hands of Members and of the public for weeks, if not for months. People who are interested in them, and who thought they did not agree with the figures, have constantly been coming to the Department and have gone into them and checked them. They have been perfectly available to everyone. We have done our best to satisfy everyone, and I think we have satisfied everyone who has come to us that our figures are correct. It is a little hard, therefore, when we get to the Committee stage, to be told that we 2994 are producing figures which have not been available.
Mr. STEPHEN: You have quoted other figures which are not contained in the White Paper.
The LORD ADVOCATE: They have been in the Offices at Edinburgh and London, and are available to anyone to come and see them. Big concerns, such as harbours, have come and checked the figures.
Mr. STEPHEN: I am asking for that additional document from which you have quoted figures.
The LORD ADVOCATE: You will see them on the notes, in the Official Report.
Mr. WILLIAM GRAHAM: I have no desire to enter into the merits of any controversy regarding the figures themselves, but to the figures included in the Paper to which the Lord Advocate has referred during the intervening weeks I have seen no effective challenge, and accordingly, in such inquiries such as we have pursued, we have been inclined to take them as the basis. But even if there were any dispute this morning in regard to the figures that have been quoted, my impression is that the matter is, to all intents and purposes, settled for the Committee, whether we like it or not. It is settled in part by the existing legislation, to which the Lord Advocate referred, which compels us to take a railway undertaking, with all its mixture of component parts, as a unit, and it is further settled by the terms of the Railways Act of 1921. I had a kind of preliminary sympathy with the object of the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Couper), because it was represented to me that it was rather hard that some harbours on one side of the Forth should get a small deduction and that others across the river, because they were part of a railway undertaking, should get the higher deduction. I have, however, come to the conclusion that we cannot depart from the basis of treating these railway undertakings as units. We are driven to revert to the position of the railway undertakings under the Act, and I would ask if there is any real gain to the ratepayers or taxpayers by what we do under this Schedule. Under that Act the four railway amalgamations 2995 were given a guarantee of the net revenue of 1913, plus certain other capital expenditure, past, present, and future, while that remains unremunerative, and it is an obligatory direction to the Rates Tribunal so as to fix fares and charges as to yield, as near as may be, that result. I do not think I am wrong in my interpretation of that Act, because I have a clear recollection of the debate. Consequently, the whole question of deductions and the position of local rates takes, in my mind, a purely secondary position. You have put the railway undertakings in that state of affairs. That was done under the Coalition Government of 1921, which, although composed of individualists, was anxious to get rid of competition in the railway world. That is the Act of Parliament. I think we are bound by such underlying uniformity of earlier legislation, and we are also committed by the terms of the Act of 1921. One other point remains. Certain hon. Members will recall that in the Rating and Valuation Bill of last year, as originally introduced, there was an important Clause which, I think I am right in describing, was an attempt to work out freedom for valuation for railway undertakings. That part of the Measure was not proceeded with, and my information was that the Government intended, at some later date, to deal with the problem. The greatest difficulty during the technical discussion in 1921 was to separate the finance of these hotels and harbours from the general finance of the railway undertakings. It is not of the same interest now, because the whole concern is amalgamated. Speaking quite for myself, I am tied to the position which the Lord Advocate has taken up. I am driven to agree with him, because he is perfectly sound, if I may say so, on the legislative basis. I would say it was in the national interest to take such uniformity as you get under the Government proposal, because if you do anything else, you will create unfairness to the other ratepayers.
Mr. ROBERT SMITH: Supposing a railway company happen to be the occupiers of agricultural land on a very long lease, will they be entitled to claim 2996 75 per cent, as the occupiers of agricultural land, or only 25 per cent?
Mr. JOHNSTON: I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. Graham) that it is rather too late now for anyone to come and cast the least suspicion upon the Lord Advocate's figures. The figures have been more or less before us for a long time, and no one has attempted to dispute them. But if they are to be disputed, they should be disputed here. I would like to point out that this is not merely a question affecting the Clyde Trust. Every harbour commission in Scotland feels the same grievance. You have it in Dundee, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Leith, and the rest; all feel the grievance. Speaking not as a lawyer, for I know nothing about the intricacies of the law in this matter, the plain fact is that the docks are valued now, and the question this Committee has to consider is whether these docks and ports of railway undertakings are to be allowed a privilege over other docks not belonging to railways.
The LORD ADVOCATE indicated dissent.
Mr. JOHNSTON: I cannot see this in any other way. You have it in your Schedule, specifically, where you say "other than those valued as part of a railway undertaking". You differentiate in favour of the railway company, as has most of the legislation which has been passed in this House for generations. I would like to point this out to the Lord Advocate, when he tells us that railway companies are given 75 per cent, reduction on burgh rates, that these deductions are after they have had a fictitious valuation. They get that fictitious valuation; they now get an additional benefit here, and then they get their 75 per cent, deduction. I hope he will suggest some method by which this Committee will avoid giving effect to this favouritism for railway companies. Let him show us a way in which we can express the attitude of the whole people of Scotland against preference for the railway companies.
Mr. SCRYMGEOUR: We have had a good deal about the railway companies, and at the last sitting the Lord Advocate referred to the old time classification system. I have some recollection that Dundee had very definite proof of the 2997 pushful influence which the railway companies had with regard to classification. While we have had a very careful, and a doubtless correct, statement from the right hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham), regarding what happened concerning the combination of railway companies, it does not follow that we are satisfied with that. This is certainly the time in which, in some degree or another, the matter should be dealt with. The clear proposal has been put forward that both interests should be treated on a fair basis. So far as Dundee and other such ports are concerned, I agree that a question of this kind, which affects harbour dues, is of the greatest importance. Every facility for the business interests of these communities should be given.
Dr. DRUMMOND SHIELS: It is with some regret that I have to disagree with my right hon. Colleague from Central Edinburgh (Mr. Graham), especially as I know he is much more expert in these matters than I am. While I think that these larger national considerations which he has put forward will certainly have to be dealt with, the particular point we are dealing with is a local matter. We are really face to face with the position of rival trading concerns within local areas. We are faced with the facts, whatever be the reason—whether it be former legislation or broad national considerations—that there is at present a discrimination in favour of one class of these trading concerns. That is the real, practical point. I this very interesting to notice that hon. Members from all parts of the country have expressed the same grievance, because there is hardly any Member who has not a harbour of some kind in his constituency. In many cases there are side by side harbours, one owned by a railway company and the other by a public authority, and I think the argument put forward in favour of equality, from the local 2998 point of view, has not been shaken. I give my support to the Amendment.
The LORD ADVOCATE: I would remind the Committee that, whatever they may think about the railway companies, what we are considering is whether these other harbours are to get 5 per cent. more. That would mean £9,000 more on houses and industry. I could not have been blamed if I had put them at 15 per cent, instead of 20 per cent., and I see no justification forgiving them more than 20 per cent. , It may be a question whether the railways should not come down from 25 per cent, to 20 per cent., but the point we are considering is whether these harbours should get 25 per cent., and the Committee should look at it from the point of view of the other interests concerned.
Commander FANSHAWE: There is one point which I do not think has been brought to the notice of the Committee. I quite understand what the Lord Advocate says about it not being possible to divide railway concerns. After all, these docks are for dealing with traffic which comes by sea. The railway companies do all they can to stop coastal traffic. They only take traffic which comes overseas, and that is one reason, why our small ships doing coastal traffic cannot pay their way. They are competed with unfairly by railway companies. I feel strongly that private dock companies which are handling export traffic should be put on the same basis as railway companies.
Mr. MACQUISTEN: I see that the total valuation of all the other docks is £520,000, so that the 5 per cent, cannot make any great difference in the valuation.
Question put, "That the word proposed to be left out stand part of the Schedule."
The Committee divided: Ayes, 20; Noes, 17.
|Division No. 5.]||AYES.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Elliot, Major Walter E.||MacRobert, Alexander M.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Fermoy, Lord||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Crolt||Gilmour, U.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Broun-Llndsay, Major H.||Graham. Rt. Hon.Wm. (Edln., Cent.)||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Charterls, Brigadier-General J.||Hutchison, G.A.Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||McLean, Major A.|
|Barr. J.||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Klrkwood, D.|
|Coupee, J. B.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Catheart>|
|Macintyre, I.||Scrymgeour, E.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Shiels, Or. Drummond||Sullivan, J.|
|Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)||Sprot, Sir Alexander||Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Stephen, Campbell|
Mr. SCRYMGEOUR: I beg to move, after the word "undertaking," to insert the words and other than ferries valued as a separate undertaking." I put this forward particularly on behalf of the Tay ferry at Dundee which is the only public ferry in Scotland carried on by a public board as a separate undertaking. The majority of the passengers who use it are Dundee workers, who visit Newport, a suburban part of Fifeshire. A total of 423,222 are recorded for last year as taking advantage of this ferry. The fares are cheap, from 2d. to 6d. The Harbour trustees have control of the ferry, and they make good any deficiency which arises. At present there is a debit balance against the revenue account of the Tay ferries of £6,879. In recent years, the fare was increased, but they have made a reduction again. The change that will be affected concerning the rates, as estimated by the City Assessor of Dundee, is £768. And as this proposal we are making would mean less than £200 it is a mere bagatelle for any apportionment against the other interests. We are submitting that, with the disadvantage that would arise by the sweeping away of the present deductions, the difference, taken on the rates of last year, would be £168, and it is quite probable that, on the adjustment of valuation, there might be somewhat of an improvement in that respect to the interests of the Trustees. I am urging that some consideration should be given to an undertaking of this kind, which is conducted in the public interest. It would be very unfair to throw any additional debit balance on the Trustees. It would require something like 34 per cent, to give us the benefit of anything like equalisation.
The LORD ADVOCATE: I am afraid I must view this as a suggestion by one party who is concerned as a factor in the average deduction, who is going to incur some loss, and who is trying to get a special benefit for himself. The average begins to go at once when you begin letting out people who are suffering under the Bill. I understood the hon. Member to refer to £200 as a mere 3000 bagatelle, but what this company has to suffer is less than that. The figures I am giving are based on the 1923–24 valuation and on the 1924–25 rates. The difficulty really is that, as far as Newport is concerned, the Burgh Police Act deduction of 75 per cent, applies. In Dundee there is no similar deduction given. The result is that, under the 20 per cent, deduction proposed in the Bill, this Company will be in a better position in Dundee. Their rates under the Bill would be £477, compared with £529 at present. On the other hand, in Newport they will stand to lose, because they are getting a deduction at present which they do not get in Dundee. In Newport they would pay £357, as compared with £226 at present. If you take the two together, it means an additional £79 in payment of rates, but it is even less than that, because, as a result of the saving on the county consolidated rate levied by the county council in the Burgh of Newport, that will knock off another £11, and some £68 will be the deleterious effect of the Bill on this undertaking.
Mr. JOHNSTON: What about the Forgan parish rate?
The LORD ADVOCATE: I am taking all the rates into account and not only the burgh rates. They will gain in Dundee and lose in Newport. The net loss in Newport will be £68. If £200 is a bagatelle, surely £68 is a smaller bagatelle, and it would be wrong to let out this particular ratepayer who is to suffer.
Mr. SCRYMGEOUR: I said £768 was applicable to the City rates, as estimated by the City Assessor, and that that will be a bagatelle for apportionment over other interests.
The LORD ADVOCATE: I beg the hon. Member's pardon.
Mr. JOHNSTON: I am informed that the Tay ferries are the only public ferry undertaking in Scotland carried on by a public board as a separate undertaking, and surely there should be a separate provision in the Schedule for such an undertaking as that. It is quite true, if the Lord Advocate's figures are correct, although they disagree with mine—3001
The LORD ADVOCATE: They are for a different year, I think.
Mr. SCRYMGEOUR: We have had your figures challenged already.
The LORD ADVOCATE: I showed the figures some time ago to the hon. Member.
Mr. JOHNSTON: I do not propose to dispute the Lord Advocate's figures.
Mr. SCRYMGEOUR: Why not!
Mr. JOHNSTON: Because I cannot prove it. But I do suggest that the Lord Advocate, in such a case as this, might find out what figures and memoranda he has got and allow us, before the next stage of this Bill, to have his figures gone through by the City Chamberlain of Dundee. It is admitted by the Lord Advocate that the Bill is
|Division No. 6.]||AYES.|
|Barr. J.||Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Buchanan, G.||Scrymgeour, E.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Shlels, Dr. Drummond||Sullivan, J.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)|
|Boothby, R. J. G. (||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Moore, Lleut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Mldl'n & P'bl's)||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Broun-Llndsay, Major H.||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Maclntyre, Ian||Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Couper, J. B.||McLean, Major A.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Macqulsten, F. A.|
Amendment made: Leave out the word "including," and insert instead thereof the word "and"—[Mr. Couper.]
The LORD ADVOCATE: I beg to move in column 1, to leave out paragraph 5, and to insert instead thereof a new paragraph: "5. Lands and heritages belonging to or leased by a railway company and vermeil by the assessor of railways and canals as part of a railway undertaking". This is a drafting Amendment, which it would be convenient to get on to the paper because it is the new form of description of a railway. The reason for it is that the existing description in the Schedule is not a complete one, and what we have done is to take the technical description of a railway undertaking from the Valuation Act. It is obvious that the two ought to be the same.
Amendment agreed to.3002
going to raise the annual charges on this undertaking by £68. It is the contention of the City Chamberlain of Dundee that it is going to raise the annual charges on the undertaking by a considerably larger sum. There is, therefore, a debit balance, and if these facts are correct, then it follows that there will be increased passenger fares charged to the people using these ferries, and as it is against the declared intention of the Bill and the specific pledges given by the Lord Advocate that changes should be made in this Bill which would increase the charges on the public, I submit that the Committee ought to see that some concession is made on this matter.
Question put, That those words be there inserted."
The Committee divided: Ayes, 10;; Noes, 26.
The LORD ADVOCATE: The next Amendment on the Paper, in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Capt. W. Benn) raises the not unimportant question of a reduction of the railway percentage from 25 to 20. If we could feel assured that the Committee would finish the Bill at the next sitting, we might reasonably adjourn now.
Mr. STEPHEN: I want to say that, while I do not see very much reason why we should not finish at the next sitting, we must not be understood as giving a pledge that, whatever happens, we will agree to finish the Bill then. I want to make that perfectly plain.
The LORD ADVOCATE: That is quite fair, but if it is necessary, we shall ask the Committee to sit a reasonable time after 1 o'clock in order to finish.
Committee adjourned at Five Minutes before One o'clock until Tuesday, 20th July, at Eleven o'Clock.3003
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:
Cobb, Sir Cyril (Chairman)
Advocate, The Lord
Couper, Mr. J. B.
Craik, Sir Henry
Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John
Graham, Mr. William
Harvey, Mr. Barclay-
Henderson, Mr. Thomas
Hunter-Weston, Lieut.-General Sir A.
Hutchison, Mr. Clark
Mac Andrew, Major
MacDonald, Mr. Robert
McLean, Major Alan
Mitchell, Mr. Rosslyn
Mitchell, Mr. Stephen
Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Smith, Mr. Robert
Solicitor-General for Scotland, Mr.
Sprot, Sir Alexander
Stephen, Mr. Streatfeild,
Captain Stuart, Mr.
Stuart, Lord Colum Crichton-
Thomson, Mr. Frederick3004