Orders of the Day — Rating of Machinery Bill.

– in the House of Commons on 28th April 1922.

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Order for Second Reading read.

Photo of Mr James Remnant Mr James Remnant , Holborn

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

May I state as briefly as I can its objects? Those are to make it clear that in estimating rateable value for the purposes of local rates that in any hereditaments which may be used for trade, business, or manufacturing purposes the machinery shall not be included unless it be fixed or attached to the hereditament. In Clause 2 it is clearly stated what is meant by fixed or attached machinery. It says: The expression 'fixed or attached' in the preceding section shall be construed as applying to all machinery, machines, or plant in or on the hereditament for producing or transmitting first motive power or for heating or lighting such hereditament but save as herein provided shall not apply to machines, took or appliances which are only so fixed that they can be removed from their place without necessitating the removal of any part of the hereditament. In Clause 1—this is practically only a two-Clause Bill—it is clearly set out what is meant by a rateable hereditament. The House will, I am sure, agree with me that this word "hereditament" has for some time past been a source of considerable uncertainty and controversy. To understand the position properly it is necessary to trace the whole history of parochial assessments. I do not propose to weary the House on this occasion by doing so, but merely to refer, if I may, to comparatively recent episodes which will confirm what we wish to put before the House, and show the necessity for this Bill. There is no question that the whole of our system of rating is in such a muddle that no manufacturer— in fact nobody—knows what is the position in which he stands. There are various systems in vogue at the present time in a large number of different unions and different assessment authorities throughout the country. I only heard to-day of a case which will be familiar, at all events, to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health—a case in Leeds, where there are four different assess- ment authorities who have four different systems. In one case a large engineering firm, very heavily penalised through the valuations of its moveable machinery, took proceedings to maintain and uphold its view in the court at an expense of something like £20,000 to the assessment authority which defended. While this great uncertainty must be apparent to all who have looked into this question, and the variety of decisions in reference to assessments throughout the country, I propose to ask the House to direct its attention to the extraordinary position in which England and Wales, and Welsh and English manufacturers stand to-day.

In Ireland what we seek under this Bill is already in practice. That is due in very large measure, practically entirely, to the Valuation of Ireland Act, 1852, which provides that In valuation of mills and buildings erected for manufacturing purposes such valuations shall not extend to or include the value of any machinery contained in such mill or manufactory unless the machinery is used for the provision of water power. The Irish manufacturers are consequently in a very much better position than the English and the Welsh. As regards Scotland, they have got what the Bill wishes to give to England and Wales. These benefits they have obtained under the Land Valuation (Scotland) Amendment Act, 1902, which was the direct outcome of the Royal Commission on Local Taxation which sat in 1901. The House will no doubt remember what took place and the recommendation made by that Commission. In its final Report the Commission dealt with the rating of machinery and, with the permission of the House I should like to read what was said, to refresh the memories of hon. Members. The Royal Commission recommended That in estimating the rateable value of any hereditament occupied for trade, business, or manufacturing purposes there shall be excluded from the assessment any increased value arising from machines, tools, or appliances which are not fixed, or are only so fixed that they can be removed from their place without necessitating removal of any part of the hereditament; but the value of any machinery, machine, or plant used in or on the hereditament for producing or transmitting first motive power"— such as we provide for in our Bill— or for heating and lighting the hereditament should be included, That recommendation confirms in every detail the provisions of this Bill. The exact provisions of this Measure were also approved in 1895 without alteration by our own Grand Committee on Trade. As soon as possible after the Royal Commission on Local Taxation had reported and recommended the provisions of this Bill, (Scotland, with its usual keenness for business, immediately took steps, and in the following year were able, through their energetic management and persuasion, to get this House to pass the Bill, the benefits of which to-day they are enjoying. How about England and Wales? These two countries tried to get a Bill and they have tried on many occasions. This same Bill has been before the House 17 times already. It has been given a Second Reading on nine occasions, and with, the exception of one occasion it has been carried by substantial majorities. The one exception to which I allude was when the Bill was allowed to pass a Second Reading without a Division at all. It may be bad luck; it may also be due to the possibilities of our Parliamentary procedure in Committee, but whatever can be said for the luck or ill-luck of the endeavours to get this Bill through, the fact remains that to-day England and Wales are suffering under a great disadvantage as compared with Scotland and Ireland, and, indeed, with every other country.

In countries abroad and in Scotland and Ireland no moveable machinery or machinery that is not fixed or attached to the freehold is rateable to local rates, the exception being England and Wales. If the matter was pressing and urgent, as undoubtedly it was, before the War, surely to-day it is still more pressing and still more urgent. I do not think I should be over-stating the matter if I say that, as regards a very large part of the 2,000,000 of our workmen who are to-day out of work or working short-time, one of the chief reasons for that is due to relative value of output, many of our manufacturers and business men have had to pay, and are paying in State and local taxes alone more than their competitors abroad have to pay in labour plus standing charges. Others who are more expert on this question than I claim to be will be able to give the House, I am quite sure, their experience in reference to this matter which will more than justify the promotion of the Bill, and the passage of the Second Reading by this House.

One case I should like to refer to which has been brought to my notice quite recently, and that is the case of a great engineering firm where before the war they were rated to the amount of £8,759. They were given notice by the union assessor that he intended to increase the percentage of capital value of machinery in this particular instance, and that for the future instead of £8,759 they would be rated to the extent of £47,673, and that over 60 per cent, of this valuation was due to the inclusion of machinery which would have been exempted had the factory been in Scotland, Ireland, or abroad. I fail to see why English or Welsh manufacturers should be penalised in this way.

We are anxious to do what we can to revive trade, and by promoting enterprise and trade, to encourage a larger employment of our workers, but if we are going to allow our industries to be crushed by special penalties such as this Bill seeks to remove, penalties that do not exist in the rest of the British Empire, we cannot honestly say that we are doing our best to help to revive trade. My humble opinion is that if the right, hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health, whose business experience and knowledge is recognised in every quarter of the House, was allowed to decide this matter unfettered by political interest, I believe that everybody would be satisfied. I do not expect that he would in any way like to shirk what he has already stated so clearly this year before the Association of British Chambers of Commerce. There ho said: In his opinion our present system was so involved and complicated, so unnecessarily sub-divided and duplicated, and in many respects so inefficient that it was a matter of wonder that reform has been so long delayed. There is abundant evidence of a general desire for a simpler and more efficient system. Dealing more particularly with the rating of machinery the right hon. Gentleman said: In England there is no definite statutory direction as to its rating. The absence of definite legislation has led to great uncertainty as to the rateability of machinery, and to great practical difficulties with regard to the assessment of premises used for manufacturing purposes and containing machinery whether fixed to the premises or not. At the present time there was considerable variety in the practice of assessment committees, and in addition the English and Welsh manufacturers complained that they were placed at a disadvantage as compared with the Scottish and Irish manufacturers. He had considerable sympathy with the point of view of the English manufacturers. I believe I have stated correctly what the right hon. Gentleman said, and I think what he stated then must commend itself to every business man in the House and outside. Great hardships are being experienced to-day by these people. The engineering firm to which I have referred is, to put it mildly, in great danger of collapsing altogether. They cannot compete abroad owing to the heavy burden imposed upon them here, and, if machine tools are to continue to be rated and especially in these times of increased capital value, it will place an unjust burden upon our manufacturers and will tend to retard trade and the giving of employment. It will expose them to an unfair competition not only from Scotland and Ireland, but also from foreign countries. I hope that I have not failed to make out a case for the House to pass the Second Reading of this Bill, leaving the Committee upstairs to thrash out the details if that be considered necessary by them. It has been before the House on many previous occasions, and the matter is urgently important. The only objection that I have heard so far against it is that we cannot afford to do without rates to-day, but to my mind that is a false objection, because in all cases where this benefit has been granted, instead of retarding the district, it has hurried on its development, and, by hurrying on its development and by promoting enterprise, far from raising the rates, it has had the contrary effect and has relieved them by spreading them over a greater area.

Captain Sir HAMILTON BENN:

I beg to second the Motion.

I am not a manufacturer or particularly interested in machinery, nor am I interested in it from the local point of view, but I have long been aware of the anomaly which exists in England with regard to the rating of machinery, the uncertainty of the law, and the variety in practice of assessment committees which are very detrimental to the national interest, and therefore contrary to public policy. I have been a member of a number of municipal authorities, and have therefore seen something of assessment and rating. The absence of uniformity is a very real grievance, and the rating of machinery penalises enterprise and efficiency. It encourages the maintenance of old and obsolete machinery and the continuance of old methods. It seems curious that we who pride ourselves upon being a practical business nation should be the only nation which rates machinery and makes a manufacturer pay higher rates if he scraps old iron and instals modern machinery. There never was a time when it was so important that we should do everything in our power to stimulate production and reduce the cost of manufacture. Yet I am informed that at this moment there is greater activity on the part of assessment committees in the matter of rating machinery. In districts in England where machines have not been rated in the past they are now proposing to rate them. We in London and in many parts of England have been accustomed to be rated in this varying manner according to the caprice of the local assessment committee or their valuer. We have no means of forming an estimate of what that rating will be. We always thought that in the harder-headed portions of the country, such as Lancashire and Yorkshire, they understood these matters better, but now, I am informed, they are beginning to rate even cotton machinery.

I have in my hand some particulars of recent examples, though nothing so extravagant as that quoted by the hon. Member for Holborn, where the assessment was increased to the extent of 60 per cent, on account of the inclusion of machine tools. If I may quote just two or three cases, there is one in 1919, in Walsall, where the old rateable value, excluding machinery, was £285 per annum, and the new rateable value, with machinery, was £446, about 30 per cent, being due to the inclusion of tools. There is another in Huddersfield, in 1921, where the old valuation was £1,180 and the new valuation £3,426, 40 per cent, of the increased assessment being due to machine tools. There is the case of some cotton mills, where the old rateable value was £263 and the new valuation £1,039, owing to the inclusion for the first time of cotton weaving machinery. That was at Wigan. It is not only the effect that it has upon established industries, but it is also the effect that it has upon the establishment of new industries. A very curious and important case came to my notice two or three years ago. I was crossing the Atlantic, and came into contact with a group of very wealthy financiers, English and American, who had agreed to establish a very big industry in connection with the metal trade. I was shown the reports by some eminent engineers who had considered the question of the new works from every point of view. They went into the question where it was best to establish these works, it being a case in which the raw material could be obtained equally well in the United States or in England. The market for the goods was largely in England and in Europe, and the whole question was where it would pay them best to manufacture. It was clear that, if the market was mainly in Europe, England was the most desirable place, because then they would save the freight from America. England also had the advantage that coal and some other articles which were needed for the manufacture were cheaper or likely to be cheaper than in America. But when it came to the question of expense of operations the whole scheme for establishing the plant, which was going to cost between one and two millions sterling, and to provide employment for from 500 to 1,000 men, broke down on the question of the rating of machinery in England. The engineers pointed out there was no process by which they could be assured exactly how it would work, and if they were rated on the full value of the machinery installed, they would be put entirely out of court in competing with American works. They pointed out that in three cases in America where they had contemplated erecting works, the local authorities had offered them total exemption from local rating for a period of from 10 to 15 years —a very different attitude of mind to that exhibited by our local assession committees. I regret to say that the result of this expose^ of the situation by the engineers decided the financiers to erect these works in the United States. The hon. Member for Holborn (Sir J. Remnant) in his speech referred to the Royal Commission which sat upon this subject. That Commission was appointed in 1896 and it sat until 1901. It issued two interim Reports and its Final Report was dated the 28th May, 1901. They therefore had plenty of time to consider this matter in all its bearings. Lord Balfour of Burleigh was the Chairman. Lord Cawdor and many other people were on the Committee, whose opinions were bound to weigh with those acquainted with them. I think I may be permitted to read some short extracts from their report which really sum up the whole situation we are dealing with. In the first place they state that Up to the passing of the temporary Poor Rate Exemption Act, 1840, personal property which was local, visible and productive, including stock in trade and all machinery whether physically made part of the manufactory in which it was found or not was rateable according to law." … "As a matter of fact however it appeared that such property was usually not rated although the practice in this respect varied in different localities. Then they go on to say that it was with the object of removing these grievances that the Act of 1840 was passed and that Act has been kept in force by the Expiring Laws Continuance Act. It provided that It shall not be lawful for the overseers of any parish, township or village to tax any inhabitant thereof as such inhabitant in respect of his ability derived from the profits of stock in trade or any other property for or towards the relief of the poor. Since 1840 therefore machinery has not been rateable per se, but according to decisions of the Courts, certain kinds of machinery are taken into account in valuing factories. The Report of the Royal Commission goes on to recite certain of these legal decisions which have altered the Act of 1840, and they say: From the authoritative expositions of the existing law which have been cited, it will readily be seen that under the law as it now stands the line between the kinds of machinery which are and those which are not to be taken into account in ascertaining the rateable value of the factory is one which it is practically impossible to draw with any approach to distinctness. What machinery would and what would not pass to a tenant by demise of a factory as such must be very uncertain, as to the proposed alternative that if bobbing net machines, whether physically attached to the premises or not, are taken into account in rating a lace factory, why are sewing machines in a tailoring factory not to be taken into account? The fact is that no one can say with certainty in any given can what machines are and what are not to be taken into account in ascertaining the rateable value of the factory which the machines stand. The result of this uncertainty is that a great divergence of practice exists among the rating authorities in different places and a large amount of dissatisfaction prevails among manufacturers in regard to the matter—a matter which deeply affects the interests of some of the most important industries in the country. They conclude by saying: Having regard to all the history and circumstances of the case we are of opinion that the adoption of the proposals contained in the Bill introduced at the House of Commons in 1899 as to the class of machinery which should be taken into account in estimating the rateable value of premises containing machinery would be a fair solution of this difficult problem. These proposals exclude the classes of machinery which in our opinion it is desirable should be exempted. The law as to what machinery should be included in the assessment of premises containing it would also be more precise, greater uniformity in practice among the assessment committee would be secured and the probability of litigation lessened. That was the considered opinion of the Royal Commission, the recommendations of which were read by the hon. and learned Member for Holborn. I would wish to point out that the Bill we have introduced is a Bill which is precisely similar to that which was passed for Scotland. The Scottish Bill was founded on the recommendations of the Commission following the lines of the Bill of 1899, and really therefore what we are asking the House is to terminate the unfair position in which machinery is placed in England, and even at this late date to follow the good example set by Scotland. It has been suggested to me that this Bill will be opposed by Scottish Members. Far from it. I have found that many Scottish Members have signed a memorial in favour of the Bill, thus showing that large-mindedness for which they are notorious. It seems to be curious that a Bill of this kind should have been introduced 17 times, should have passed its Second Reading nine times, should have had the Ministers in charge of the Department in favour of it, and yet should not pass into law. Surely there is some obstacle, the nature of which we do not exactly know. There must be something behind the scenes which keeps us from arriving at what want When it been the expressed wish of the House of Commons on nine separate occasions to have this Bill, why do we not have it? It has been blocked in some way every time. I trust that on this occasion, in this intelligent House of Commons, it will not be allowed to be blocked a tenth time.

Major BARNES:

I beg to move to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."

There are probably no words which would better express my attitude towards this Bill than the formal phrase of this Amendment for its rejection. That phrase does not convey in itself any condemnation of the principles of the Bill. It merely conveys that its introduction is regarded as inopportune, as something which might be postponed to a more favourable moment; and that is really the feeling which now guides me. I should not like to close my mind in any degree to proposals which might lead to a better basis upon which our local taxation should be founded, but my feeling is that the present proposal is one which, at the present moment, should not be considered, and I will very briefly place before the House my reasons for so thinking. We are considering in this Bill a matter dealing with rating. What is rating? Rating is the measure which we in this country have chosen to employ by which to gauge the ability of persons to contribute their share towards local burdens. In this country we are burdened in a good many" ways, and have never been more so than at the present time. We have great imperial burdens to bear, and also great local burdens. Our system of taxation is a dual one, but both sides of it are based on the ability of the individual to pay. When we are dealing with imperial taxation, we very largely base his ability to pay upon his income. In dealing with local taxation we have adopted a different measure, and that measure is the measure which we know as rateable value. I believe it is not adopted, at all events to any extent, in almost any other country, and I think that what has been said, by those proposing this Bill, as to machinery not being rated in other countries, is also true about land and buildings. Rating in our sense is very largely confined to this country.

The particular proposal that is now before us is that a certain number of people in this country shall not have applied to them this measure as it is applied at the present time. When the system of rating was adopted in this country, some three hundred or more years ago, it was a comparatively simple matter. The Act of Elizabeth came in an age when there was no machinery, when there were no railways, no telephones, no telegraphs; and all that the overseer had to do, in order to ascertain the ability to pay of the person who was to be rated, was to look at him as the occupier of a farm or of a house, and the measure that was adopted was roughly the rent that he could afford to pay. In deciding how much of the burdens of the parish should be placed upon this individual or upon that individual, the overseer looked at his occupation and the rent he was able to pay, and that was the gauge by which the rate was levied upon him. In course of time, society has become a good deal more complicated than it was in the days of Elizabeth. All sorts of things have come into existence. As they have come into existence they have come within the purview of the overseer, and, by an extraordinary series of legal fictions, the principle of rating has been applied, not only to farms and to houses, but to railways, telephones, sewers, schools, and all sorts of other things which were never contemplated in the early days. In the course of these processes, machinery has come within the purview of the overseer, and it has come to be regarded, not in itself as something which could be rated, but as something which, when taken in connection with the building in which it is employed, was a measure of the ability of the people to pay who occupied those buildings and used that machinery.

It is perfectly true, as has been pointed out, that in some, as my hon. Friends think, more enlightened countries, like Scotland and Ireland, the position has been made plainer than it is in this country. A statutory limitation has been laid down as to the kind of machinery that should be taken into account in fixing the rateable value, and it is the desire of my friends that what is done in Scotland should be done in England, too. I am not going to say that, as a matter of principle, I am opposed to that, but what I am going to suggest is that this present time is not the time at which to relieve any body of persons who are at present charged with the burdens of local taxation from their share of those burdens. After all, if this Bill were to pass at the present time, what would be the position of the great industrial areas of this country which are now meeting the extraordinary charges falling upon them arising out of the phenomenal conditions attending the war? The effect would be that the area upon which that burden could be placed would be circumscribed; and, the area being reduced, the burden would become heavier upon those who would still have to carry it.

Photo of Mr James Remnant Mr James Remnant , Holborn

Heavier still if it crush industry.

Major BARNES:

My hon. Friend is making a point which is a good one in itself. I understand it to be that the rates enter into the cost of production, and that, if they raise the price of the commodity that is produced, they make it more difficult to sell that commodity in the world markets. With those propositions I am in entire agreement, but it is equally true that every charge which falls upon a manufacturer enters into the cost of production. Rent, transport charges, power, lighting, wages, materials—all these things enter into the cost of production, and if we are looking upon this as a measure by which we are going to diminish the cost of production, and therefore increase the possibilities of trade, we are bound too take into account what has to be set against that on the other side of the ledger. It still remains that while we might give a general relief to the particular industry that relief would be at the expense of the local area in which the industry is situated, and if we are going to relieve industry at the expense of local areas we must take into account some way by which we are going to give relief to these local areas themselves. I do not find in this Bill any suggestion at all as to relief of that sort. My right hon. Friend knows the pressure which is being placed upon him during these last few months by what are becoming known as necessitous areas, areas in which a great amount of unemployment exists, industrial areas, the very areas which will be affected by this Bill. He knows how heavy the burden is and how strong the demand is growing for some relief to be given from Imperial taxation to meet these local burdens. There is at present a Committee of this House which is pressing the Prime Minister to receive a deputation on this very question of making grants to areas in which unemployment is at present very great out of Imperial resources in order to meet local needs. It is these very areas which would be penalised by a Bill of this sort, and this Bill does not carry within itself any provision for meeting that situation.

In the case of agricultural rating grants were made, and continue to be made, from Imperial resources in order to make up the deficiency caused by the remission of certain rates. The effect of this Bill is precisely the same as the effect of the Act which gave relief to agricultural rating, that you would diminish the resources of local authorities through which they are to meet the exceptionally heavy burdens which fall upon them at present. That in itself is a sufficient reason for not proceeding with this Bill. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, and it may very well be that those who have been instrumental in introducing the Bill 17 times and have seen themselves on the verge of success nine times may feel it an intolerable situation that the eighteenth time should pass, and it may be the tenth time of getting a Second Reading, without the matter going further forward. I do not know what course the Government is going to take, but I shall be very much surprised if at this moment the claims made upon local authorities which they are attempting to pass on to the Government they should become parties to the passage of this Bill.

12 N.

In addition to that it is admitted on all hands that there is need for a reconsideration of the whole rating system. It is the one subject apparently on which everyone is agreed, and it is a matter of common knowledge that this present Cabinet, in so far as a Cabinet which changes so frequently can be called a present Cabinet, has been considering the whole question with a view to bringing in a Valuation Bill which should deal with rating in all its branches. Taking that further fact into consideration there is a sound reason for not attempting to redress this particular anomaly, if it is an anomaly, at present. It has been said that the practice with regard to the rating of machinery differs in Scotland from the practice in this country. That is equally true of railway rating, and what we are really touching to-day is the fringe of a very big question which ought not to be dealt with in a piecemeal fashion, and the attention of the House should be rather directed, not towards the passage of this Bill, but towards bringing pressure upon the Government at the very earliest possible moment to deal with the question of the basis of local taxation in its entirety. I believe the Minister of Health is, in principle, in sympathy with the Bill, but I am sure he realises the practical difficulty that if the Government lent themselves to the passage of this Bill, and by so doing diminished the resources of Local Authorities, they would be in honour bound to supplement the deficiency from Imperial taxation, and, by so doing, what the district was relieved from in respect of rates would only come back upon it in the shape of taxes.

Photo of Mr Granville Wheler Mr Granville Wheler , Faversham

I beg to second the Amendment.

I am heartily in sympathy with the concluding remarks of the mover of the Amendment. This is piecemeal legislation of a very bad type. I was very much struck with the concluding remarks of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who seconded the Second Beading and gave the whole history of the Bill. Surely, when we have had a Bill before the House 17 times and it has only succeeded in getting a Second Reading nine times and then has got no further—surely that is the best possible condemnation of a Bill of this sort. [HON. MEMBERS: "A private Member's Bill."] I admit that, but it comes under the cognisance of the Government, and the Government are generally guided by facts in these matters, and if there is any principle of value the Government in most cases gives facilities under which it is carried forward and passed. In the 17 times on which the Bill has been before the House there have been Governments of different political complexion and in every case it has been turned down, and the reason is because it is piecemeal legislation of the worst possible type. I second the rejection of the Bill for that purpose. There is a growing need for a revision of the whole question of the incidence of local taxation, and nowhere is it greater than in the agricultural world. Instances could be brought of the inequalities of taxation and the burdens of rating and how they affect the agricultural industry, and I believe every Member of this House is wishful to see a better position in agriculture. If the result of this Bill is to take the burden of rating off a certain type of industry, the rates will still have to be found, and, naturally, the burden will fall on other branches of industry. That would be bad. In its result it is not lightening the burden which the ratepayer has to pay as a whole, but is simply removing it from one shoulder to another, and leaving the whole question as to how taxation is to fall as a whole unsolved.

This is not the time to bring in a Bill dealing with a very narrow fringe of the whole question. The agricultural community as a whole, and many urban authorities as well, are all pressing for a revision of the whole question of rating, but everybody realises that a Bill of that sort must be one of great magnitude, and would require many weeks of Parliamentary time for discussion. One realises that, however desirable it may be that such a Bill should be passed, it is quite impossible to bring in at the present time a big Bill of that 3ort and to give it the adequate time which it should have if the question is to be put on an equitable basis.

Photo of Sir Robert Lister Sir Robert Lister , Stroud

I welcome the advent of this Bill. I think it is a Measure that would have the effect of putting right what is now in a state of chaos. Were it not for the good sense and the knowledge of our great valuers who value for the rating authorities, this Bill would have been introduced before, and would have been pressed to a Division and passed by every Member of this House. It has been said that this is the wrong time to introduce this Bill. I have no doubt it will always be an inappropriate time for those who take that view. Of all the times that we have lived in for the last thirty years the present is the time to introduce this Bill and to settle this question once and for all. Owing to the great and disastrous war through which the country has passed, the importation of machinery into this country from the United States was of a very enormous character, and to-day throughout the country, if we could go through the large manufactories in the neighbourhood of Birmingham, Manchester and other great manufacturing centres we should find hundreds of thousands of pounds' worth of labour saving and automatic machinery standing idle. If the great valuers who value for the local authorities properly valued those assets for rating the country would be bound to collapse at once. The money could not be paid, providing that those assets were properly valued for rating purposes. The guardians and those who are interested in levying taxation are quite satisfied to let these things go untaxed, because they know that it would mean in many cases the shutting up of works which employ nearly the whole of the people in the neighbourhood.

Taking a long view, I suppose we are all in favour of introducing new methods and new machinery, but we know that the reason that we are behind our American friends is that we are not quite as up-to-date. We are not apt to introduce labour-saving and precision machinery to the extent that they are. The law as it stands, leaving this question in a state of uncertainty, is very much inclined to prevent people from buying that machinery. It has a very deterrent effect in the direction of the laying up of capital, and the scrapping of that which is obsolete. I cannot say, as the Seconder of the Motion said, that I am not personally interested. I am personally interested. I am interested to the extent that I am a manufacturer of machinery, and I have a great deal of machinery, I am sorry to say, that is standing idle, and if the local authorities like to tax that I should be very greatly penalised. I have not prepared a speech, but I thought I would leave it and see what was going to be said; but I do say that the argument that this is not the proper time to introduce this Measure is entirely fallacious. This is the right time in order that the matter may be put straight, once and for all. I can understand that those who are thinking only of the agricultural community may not like this Measure, but I can tell them that if this Measure is passed it will be beneficial for agriculturists. Those farmers who have their barns filled with machinery, and who utilise machinery for the various processes of agriculture, will be in a certain position; they will know what they have to contend with, and will welcome the Measure as much as anyone. The Bill ought to receive the sanction of the House, and I believe it will have a very beneficial result upon the trade of the country.

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

It may be for the convenience of the House if I say a few words as to the position of the Government on this Bill. The Government is taking no attitude on the Bill and will leave it to the free vote of the House, recognising the many difficult problems involved in the question which is under discussion. Any remarks which I may make will be made in the capacity of less responsibility and more freedom that one enjoys as a private Member. The hon. Member who introduced the Bill quoted some remarks that I made not long ago at a luncheon of the British Chamber of Commerce. I do not wish in any way to go back upon or diminish in any sense the remarks which I expressed then. Such information as has been supplied to me recently has not altered my point of view on the general aspect of the Bill. In fact, generally speaking, it has rather confirmed it. It is true, as has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for East Newcastle (Major Barnes), that our rating system is extraordinarily little adapted to modern industrial conditions for which it was never meant, and it is remarkable how with this complicated situation, further complicated by legal decisions, we have managed to amble along at all. We have had a Cabinet Committee dealing with the machinery of rating which has devoted a large amount of thought and time to this very complex question with the object of improving the present position. I think that an improvement can be made, but it is a very long and technical matter, and I do not think that we shall be able to find time this session to introduce a Bill to deal with what is a very pressing subject. But I do not think that that is any reason why we should not proceed to-day to deal with a matter of some importance, though it may be to some extent a minor matter, and though it may not be a matter which will produce equality of treatment in all respects between people paying rates in different districts.

It is really the ambiguity of the law which is causing anxiety in cases in which at the present time rating in reference to new machinery is settled differently in adjoining parishes. No one can contend, whatever the economic consequences, that it is fair that such a system should be continued. When we consider that the Scotch, with their usual shrewdness, settled this matter a great many years ago, it is not reasonable to ask an engineering firm at Newcastle to compete with men on the Clyde when the former have to bear this additional burden. I cannot see how English firms can in these circumstances meet such competition when in addition they have to face the extraordinary intelligence and keen business capacity of the Scotch. I think were *" it not for that very strong factor that I should be inclined to listen to the argument that we should not deal with this matter piecemeal and that this is a difficult time in which to make an alteration. I admit that if you take the burden off one shoulder it must be put on the other, but that is no argument for leaving an unfair burden which operates against industries in certain places. The more one studies the whole question of rating, the more one is driven back to the position that this is only an instance of rating which is economically unsound. What we really want to rate much more is the unproductive portion rather than the productive portion. The system of penalising people who produce, as our system does, and leaving people free as long as they merely occupy land, is not sound. I am quite convinced myself that before long the whole question will have to be seriously considered, and the more I have been investigating the difficulty the more firmly convinced I am of the soundness of the views which I have always held.

Let me deal for a moment with the legal aspect of the question. I have spoken of the legal uncertainty. The position is not understood in many quarters. In fact, in many well-informed quarters there is an idea that the object of this legislation is to disrate all machinery. You are only dealing with fixed machinery. The Royal Commission on Local Taxation which sat in 1901 dealt with this matter. The Royal Commission had no doubt that this uncertainty ought to be removed. The uncertainty has largely arisen through one or two well-known cases. According to the decision in one of the leading cases—Tyne Boiler Works versus Longbenton (1886)—the question is not whether machinery is rateable in itself, but whether it ought to be taken into account in estimating the value of the hereditament on which it is placed. In this case the Court of Appeal decided that certain kinds of machinery, though not rateable per se, must be taken into account in valuing factories, but this decision still left the law in a great state of uncertainty as to what should and what should not be taken into account.

In order to remove this uncertainty the Royal Commission recommended that in estimating the rateable value of any hereditament occupied for trade, business or manufacturing purposes, there should be excluded from the assessment any increased value arising from machines, tools or appliances which are not fixed. That runs on the lines of our general system. If you are rating a house you do not take into account the value of the furniture inside the house. I think that is a general foundation on which we should go. Unfortunately matters were left more difficult than before. There was a case of Kirby versus the Hunslet Union in 1906. This case went to the House of Lords. It was hoped that we should get an absolute statement as to what the law was. Unfortunately the decision in that case did not decide what was the actual distinction between what is and what is not part of the freehold. It only says that that is not the criterion for determining what is to be and what is not to be rated. But no other criterion has been set up to determine the question. This Bill proposes to do something which would be of great advantage to local authorities as well as to manufacturers. It is not a question of wantonly introducing at the present moment piecemeal legislation which could stand over, but merely a question of letting the local authorities know what the law is. Personally I do not think that this is a matter which should be allowed to stand over until a number of more complex questions as to the rating of machinery and matters of this kind are finally settled.

I may refer to another point. Section 7 of the Valuation (Ireland) Act, 1860, provides that in making the valuation of any mill or machinery or building erected for any such purpose the Commission of valuation shall in each case value the water or other motive power thereof, but shall not take into account the value of any machinery therein save only such as shall be erected and used for the purpose of motive power. This Amendment would put concerns like engineering works in this country in a position to meet certain competitors in other places. I do not think it fair to our firms to allow an advantage to be given in this direction to these countries, while manufacturers in this country are left to bear a burden which I do not believe it was ever intended that they should bear. On these grounds I think the Bill ought to be given a Second Reading. Agricultural districts have always had much more than the manufacturers in the way of rates relief and grants from the Exchequer. The manufacturing interests have never asked for them and therefore have never obtained them. I cannot agree with the suggestion put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle East (Major Barnes). If the Bill goes to a Division I shall certainly go into-the Lobby and support it.

Photo of Colonel Josiah Wedgwood Colonel Josiah Wedgwood , Newcastle-under-Lyme

The Labour party, as a party, has not considered the Bill. I am speaking in exactly the same way as the right hon. Gentleman opposite —expressing my own personal view on the subject. I do not think the House can have any doubt as to what is my personal view. If I were for the first time studying this question of the relief of machinery, and if I were to base my vote on the speeches of the Mover and Seconder, and even on the speech of the Minister of Health, I should be in some doubt whether it was right to, vote for the Bill, because nearly all of the speakers have protested that they had a personal interest in the matter.

Photo of Colonel Josiah Wedgwood Colonel Josiah Wedgwood , Newcastle-under-Lyme

It is not only manufacturers who stand to benefit by the Bill. The hon. Member who brought it forward said he had a personal interest in the matter.

Photo of Mr James Remnant Mr James Remnant , Holborn

I did not say so, and I am sorry if I gave any such impression. I said I was delighted to have the honour of bringing it forward.

Photo of Colonel Josiah Wedgwood Colonel Josiah Wedgwood , Newcastle-under-Lyme

Those who are voting for this Measure have no personal interest in it whatever. Our interests are the interests of the public. The rating of machinery means an additional overhead charge upon industry. That overhead charge is added to the cost of production and the consumer pays more for the goods he buys. That is looking at the matter from the point of view of the consumer. The opposition to this Bill is notorious. This Bill has been introduced nineteen times. The hon. Member for Holborn (Sir J. Remnant) and myself have seen the Bill come up time after time as a hardy annual. It passes its Second Reading and never gets any further. Why? Because there is against it a substantial, effective and powerful vested interest. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Holborn has previously been the sponsor for this Bill, but I know that he has always been opposed to the natural extension of this Bill. He is in favour of removing rates from machinery. I want the rates off houses also. Houses are as important as machines. By putting rates on houses you are increasing the rents of houses, just as by putting rates on machinery you increase the cost of the products of machinery. I am a little surprised to find that the hon. Member for Holborn, who has been such a stalwart opponent of the removal of rates from houses, such an enthusiastic supporter of removing rates from machinery—

Photo of Mr James Remnant Mr James Remnant , Holborn

I wish I had the opportunity of answering you.

Photo of Colonel Josiah Wedgwood Colonel Josiah Wedgwood , Newcastle-under-Lyme

But you have not the opportunity. I think the hon. Member would find it a little difficult to deal with the subtle distinction between machinery and houses. The Minister of Health made no such distinction. I am proud to see the right hon. Gentleman speaking once more as an independent man, speaking his own mind and not the mind of a Coalition Government, whatever that may be. The right hon. Gentleman says, "Yes, I have always been in favour of providing that rates are levied, not upon the products of industry, but upon that permanent fixture in nature from which all the products of industry must come." It reminds me of the merry days when he and I together held forth in favour of putting the rates where they ought to be, on land values, and removing the rates from where they ought not to be, on the products of industry. I do not wonder that he is having a night out, facing the music and telling us that any rates levied on the product of industry increase the cost of that product, impair the opportunities of the country to recover its trade and increase the charges upon the whole of the community. If it were a question of putting rates on machinery or putting them on houses, we would not be interested in either case.

The hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle East (Major Barnes), who is supposed to know something about this subject, stumbled into a pit of his own diging. He said: "Suppose, instead of putting the rate on machines, it is put on to the railway companies. Will not that have the same result in penalising industry?" It would not, for the railway companies could not pass it on. The railway companies' shareholders would have to pay the rates because they have a monopoly and the price at which they sell to the public is fixed by law. Take another form of enterprise which is unable to pass it on. Suppose you levied the rates upon statutory companies instead of upon machinery. The statutory company supplying power, light or water at certain fixed charges to the community would not be able to pass on the rates. The rates would be paid, not by the consumer, but by the shareholders of the statutory company. These are small illustrations. What happens in all rating questions is this. The rate falls at present, not wholly upon industry, but partly upon industry and partly upon land values. The principal opposition to this Bill comes from the agricultural interests. The agricultural interests are naturally opposed to any increase in rates and always clamour for reductions, because in that industry the rates fall much more largely upon land value and much less upon building and improvement value. In the case of agricultural land the proportion which is borne by land vaiues, and therefore falls ultimately upon the landlord and cannot be shifted on to the tenant, is much greater than in the case of town land.

Even in the case of townlands, where rates are levied upon houses and factories, part of the rate falls upon the owner of the building, part of the rate passes on either to the tenant of the house or the people who consume the products of the factory, and the other part of the rate falls ultimately upon the owner of the land and reduces, by that amount, the land value which he is able to appropriate for his own use. That is the difficulty in considering any question of rating. Apparently the rate rests ultimately upon the man who pays it first of all, but, in reality, sooner or later any increase in rates falls upon the owner of the land. Lord Chaplin, when he was in this House, put the case in a nutshell, so far as agricultural land is concerned, when he was pleading for a remission of rates upon agricultural land. As the House knows, he secured that remission because agricultural interests are always well represented in this House. When he pleaded in favour of half the agricultural rate being paid for out of the Exchequer he said, "The higher the rate, the lower the rent; the lower the rate, the higher the rent." That is quite true so far as agricultural land is concerned, where there are very few buildings and comparatively few improvements. There the rate, whether it be high or low, is a direct deduction from what really can be got in rent for the land. It is indeed notorious that when land is bought or sold in the market the amount of the rate falling upon the land is reckoned as an outgoing and is calculated in before the purchaser decides whether or not he is able to pay the price demanded. Just as prospective purchasers take into account tithes and other matters, so they take into account the rate because the incidence of that rate rests upon the landlord, and the landlord has to consider it in the purchase price he pays for the land.

I do not wish to pursue the subject. The whole point is that these rates upon machinery are at present not only adding to the cost of the product of the machinery, but also increasing unemployment, and any change from that, any change in the direction of putting further rates upon other hereditaments, means pro tanto an increase in employment and a cheapening of the articles produced. This is the main argument in favour of the Bill. In addition to that we have the fact that, at present, the existing law is interpreted differently from parish to parish, and from county to county, putting a most unfair burden on some manufacturers and giving a most unfair advantage to others. That additional fact seems to make it not only right that this change should be made, but to make it urgently important that the matter should be dealt with now, and not postponed to the Greek Kalends—to that wonderful date in the distant future when the Coalition Government shall have made up its mind how to adjust; rates and taxes.

Photo of Mr Maximilian Townley Mr Maximilian Townley , Mid Bedfordshire

I had not intended to take part in this Debate, but the suggestion has been thrown out that the Bill is being opposed by the whole agricultural interest of this country. That is not so, because I, as an agriculturist, and one who has taken a somewhat prominent part in connection with agricultural matters, am by no means opposed to the Bill, and I intend to support its Second Reading. I was interested in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down. He proposes to take the rates off all machinery and off all buildings and to go upon land values only. It seems to me that then there would be extraordinary little money to be raised for rating purposes by rating authorities. The proposal of the hon. and gallant Member is to look only at the undeveloped land Values—not to take into consideration anything that is on the land, but only the value of the land in its prairie state. I suppose, in those circumstances, he would rate the city of Westminster, bereft of all the buildings and improvements which have been put upon it in past ages, and rate it on its value as it was when our old friend Noah came out of the Ark?

Photo of Mr Maximilian Townley Mr Maximilian Townley , Mid Bedfordshire

Why "as it is now"? Why should we penalise those who enjoy the fruits of what has been done in the past I No! If you are going to rate purely on land values, then you are going to go upon prairie values.

Photo of Mr Maximilian Townley Mr Maximilian Townley , Mid Bedfordshire

Then immediately you begin to build any new building you will at once increase the assessment, and you immediately destroy your own argument. I think, however, the consideration of this Measure need not be taken on these broad lines. I regret that the whole matter of rateable values has not yet been gone into by the Government as we were led to believe it would be. In the Debate on the address when we raised the question of the rateable value of agricultural land, we were given to understand that it would be dealt with in a rating Measure during this Session. We agriculturists are becoming accustomed to being let down badly by the Government, but we still live in hopes and still support the Government. We have every reason to live in hopes, and we think we shall get redress of our grievances when other people get theirs redressed. Because we feel we are entitled to a redress of our grievances, that is no reason why we should refuse to entertain a Measure which is to redress the grievances of other people. We do not take up the "dog in the manger" attitude of declining to extend a helping hand to other sections of the community. We would far sooner help those who have grievances, in the hope that when their grievance is adjusted and when they see our side of the question they will help us.

As regards machinery, what is it the Bill seeks to do? It does not seek to take the rate off fixed machinery, but only off movable machinery, things which are not permanently fixed in the edifice, things which can be moved without alteration to the structure. Probably if that principle is carried into effect agricultural machinery will be left out because agricultural machinery is so much more fluid than other classes of machinery. We agriculturists have lately improved our machinery very much; our future lies in the improvement of machinery. I myself —much against my will, owing to the agricultural depression—have been obliged to take over 700 acres of arable land, and the quickest and best way of dealing with it in these days is to employ machinery. I have some horses running there, but I have also great tractors running there at present—that is, if the Almighty is not sending down too much rain. These represent machinery in very much the same way as the machinery employed in great cotton mills or corn mills throughout the country. —machinery which is not attached. It seems to me that if you were to value for rateable purposes that fluid machinery in the factory, you would automatically rate the fluid machinery of the farmer in the shape of his tractors. We agriculturists do not ask for anything that is not good for the whole community. We ask that our grievances should be redressed, because that will be for our benefit and for the benefit of the whole community, but I very much deprecate the spirit in which the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) spoke, because he seemed to put it that we never looked to the good of the country. I assure the House we have the good of the country very much at heart, because we know perfectly well that we cannot flourish unless the country flourishes. In giving my support as I do to the Second Reading of this Measure, I do so because I believe manufacturers at the present time suffer from an injustice and suffer also from uncertainty, when they put in new machinery, whether it will be rated or whether it will not be rated. We want that swept away in a way that is fair to the manufacturer, to the land, and to the people generally.

Photo of Mr James Seddon Mr James Seddon , Stoke-on-Trent Hanley

The hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle - under - Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), who is always full-blooded in his preferences and dislikes, has certainly given a clear indication that, as far, as this Bill is concerned, it not only meets with his approval, but the development of his argument has convinced me that the Bill is based upon common-sense, justice, and fair play. So far as the discussion has gone, it has been more or less a crescendo on behalf of those responsible for the Bill. The opposition has been a little confused. The hon. and gallant Member for E. Newcastle (Major Barnes), who moved the rejection of the Bill, seemed to think it was a good thing, but introduced at the wrong time, and that if it were postponed justice might be done on a more favourable occasion to the people who are suffering at the present time. To my mind, that is the weakest of all arguments. It has been said, and I think it cannot be controverted, that this imposition is a handicap, and that it shackles the manufacturers of this country as against those in Scotland and Ireland. A parallel was given of the railways, but there is no parallel between the railways and the manufacturers. The railways in Scotland carry the goods for the Scottish nation, and so do the railways in this country for this nation, but the manufacturers of Scotland are equally in competition with the manufacturers in England and Wales as in any other part of the world, and if Parliament in its wisdom has given to the Scottish manufacturers this redress I think it is only asking for an application of fair play and justice that it shall be applied to the British manufacturers as well. The hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill focussed the opposition in its right light when he gave a contrast. He said, If you are going to tax machinery, you are ignoring the fact that, in the incidence of rating, a house is rated with the contents or not—neither furniture, plate, nor pictures are taken into aecount by the rating authorities— and in the same sense we may say that movable machinery is like the adornment of a house. It is for the convenience of those who occupy the house and has nothing to do with the rest of the community, but so far as the manufacturer is concerned every increase, however small it is, makes his task greater in the competition of the world. The hon. and gallant Member for New-castle-under-Lyme said it was only a small increase, but we know it is the last straw that breaks the camel's back, and there has been an accumulation of burdens thrust upon industry, out of necessity, of course. The War has left a great legacy of debt that must be borne, so far as it is humanly possible, but in addition to that which the War has inflicted upon industry these burdens have been imposed at other times and under other circumstances, when it was not felt to be irksome, but with the increase of taxation and rating this has become the last straw in many cases.

There is something else. What is wanted as much as anything in the world of industry to-day is confidence and hope. If you can only give a little hope, you will stimulate the energy of individuals even to do better than they are doing at the present time. The manufacturers who are looking to this House for some relief from the grievous burdens thrust upon them are, I think, unanimously in favour of this Bill, an if this House, on the eighteenth occasion on which this has been brought before it, can by an overwhelming vote convince the Government that it is determined that this shall become an Act of Parliament this Session, we shall give a ray of hope to manufacturers that they are being assisted in this direction as far as Parliament can help them. America was referred to, and the hon. Member for Greenwich (Sir H. Benn) called our attention to a conversation which he had had crossing the Atlantic. I remember the first time that I went to that great manufacturing and engineering country. The thing that struck me more forcibly than anything else in the manufacturing districts was the readiness, the eagerness, and almost the prodigality of the large manufacturers in scrapping machines when new machinery was coming along. In one great centre I was amazed to find the operations of the manufacturer were going on. The operations of demolition were going on at an old factory, and in another they were building a structure to put in another machine that was to take the place of that which was in operation at the time. So far as the United States is concerned, you have none of these handicaps. It could not be done here until we got the whole system of our rating altered, but it is true that in the United States not only are the manufacturers alive to the advance of science in the means of production by machinery, but the local authorities are in constant competition with each other, not only to remove the burdens upon machinery, but even the burden of rating altogether.

We cannot go that length at the present time, but the presentation of this Bill is a small matter. It is said that it will increase the burden on the community, but I think that point has been answered. Even if it did to a small degree, the many can bear the burden better than the few, and it is the few manufacturers who are being handicapped in production which is increasing the appalling problem of unemployment. At least let us say to the manufacturer: Here is one gleam of hope to help encourage you; the House of Commons is in sympathy with you in the trying period through which you are now passing. Personally, I give my wholehearted support to the Bill, and I trust that this House will grapple with the question effectually and that before this Session is over we shall see it placed successfully on the Statute Book.

Photo of Mr John Lorden Mr John Lorden , St Pancras North

The mover of the rejection of this Bill seemed to think it was inopportune. I cannot imagine an hon. Member representing an industrial constituency as he does suggesting that this Bill is inopportune, and I fear he would not have taken that course had it not been that many of his constituents, although they are manufacturers, are limited companies, and have not got votes. That is the view I take with regard to his opposition. I come to this question of the alteration of the rating of machinery, not because it is going to shift the burden from one individual to another, but I served upon an assessment committee for a number of years that had dealings with two metropolitan boroughs, and I served upon that committee at a period when the quinquennial revaluation took place. Nothing gave us more trouble than the re-assessment of factories, because we had a number of rating surveyors, and it was no real law that they worked upon. The rating surveyor was a law unto himself and did as he thought proper. When we first started on this quinquennial revaluation, I took the trouble to ask some of these surveyors how they dealt with the machinery, and there were not two—and we had a large number before us—who dealt with it in the same way. One man said, "I have taken the machinery that is fixed to the ground; I have taken that which is on concrete beds and cannot be moved without dealing with the structure." I think that was a fair way of dealing with it, although I propose to show presently that I do not think at the present time that is even justifiable, although many courts think it is. Then came another surveyor for another borough. We used to take one borough one day and another borough the next, and it was very difficult to get the real value of these properties. Another surveyor came and said, "I have taken the whole of the machinery"—and there were factories which cost £2,000 or £3,000, with £10,000 to £15,000 of machinery in them. It is an unreasonable thing to do, and we had to sift these things repeatedly and come to a conclusion all round. That conclusion all round by the assessment committee probably ended in some injustice being done to one borough or the other. That is why I support this Bill, simply on account of the chaos that at present exists among the rating surveyors and rating authorities when dealing with the rating of machinery.

In my opinion, that little Act that was passed in 1840, the Poor Rate Exemption Act, although it has been whittled down very largely, exempted all classes of machinery from rating. Before 1840 everything that was visible including stock-in-trade was rateable, but in 1840 a small Act was passed in this House which eliminated stock-in-trade and any other property. I have the Act here, and it is very illuminating. These are the actual words: That from and after the passing of this Act it shall not be lawful for the Overseers of any Parish, Township or Village to tax any inhabitant thereof, as such inhabitant, in respect of his ability derived from the Profits of Stock in Trade or any other property, for or towards the Relief of the Poor. Provided always, that nothing in this Act contained shall in any way affect the Liability of the Parson or Vicar, or of any occupier of Lands, Houses, Tithes Impropriate, Propriations of Tithes, Coal Mines, or Saleable Underwoods, to be taxed under the Provisions of the said Acts for or towards the Relief of the Poor. That excludes every other property, and the only basis on which the courts have come to these conflicting decisions has been that certain machinery is fixed to the hereditament. The Bill now before the House provides that this shall be rated, and they are the only parts that really should be rated, but as the law stands you cannot really rate them except for some case law set up by the Courts, which has modified that view. I understand that some of our Scottish friends are proposing to vote against this Bill, but I cannot help thinking that they must be very selfish. They benefited by the Royal Commission recommendations, and they obtained an Act. English Members, when they come into the House and find there is a Scottish Bill being discussed, do not interfere, and we allow the Scottish Members to run their own business, and they run it to some effect. We give them full latitude, and they have Home Rule in these matters. When it comes to a similar proposition for England and Wales, I cannot conceive why the representatives of any part of the country, which has already got the privileges for which we are asking, can possibly vote against this Bill.

The only thing that we desire to amend is this very difficult and very chaotic state of the law that exists. I have already shown the difficulties in regard to the decisions of assessment committees of which I have had experience myself in London. The same thing is going on all over the country. If you read the decisions on this question given by the various Courts, you will find that in every case they have fenced it and gone round it, and have never come to a definite decision. Even the House of Lords, when it had a clear case before it, skated over very thin ice, and did not come to a definite decision. Now we are asking that this Bill should become an Act, and why? Because there is an injustice that exists and also an anomaly. It is not a question of dealing with the whole subject of rating, although I feel that you should deal with the whole question because legislation on this subject is long overdue. The rating question, however, is such an enormous subject of controversy that it would probably take a whole Session to deal with it properly. It is quite unreasonable to say that these anomalies should not be adjusted.

1 P.M.

The hon. and gallant Member for New-castle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) says you should distribute the burden. I quite agree that it-is much better to place the burden on a number of people than upon a few. You have to look to the enormous increase in the value of machinery, but the rating authorities are now taking the capital value of machinery and putting a percentage upon it, and that is not reasonable. We have heard to-day of the flagrant case mentioned by the Mover of this Bill, and the difference between what they are called upon to pay in rates today and what they used to pay before may be quite sufficient, in some businesses, to put them out of the market altogether. If you do not give industry some indication that you intend to relieve it of some of these unjust burdens it will break down, and there will be no rate to levy at all as the factories will become empty.

I therefore strongly press for the adoption of this Bill, because all we are asking for is equality of treatment. We do not want one man living on one side of the road to have an advantage over the man living on the other side, a state of things which has occurred in some of the boroughs with which I have had dealings. The hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle East evidently does not realise what a preference is being given to those manufacturers over the border with regard to work and the price at which they can produce their goods. I do not suppose that the hon. and gallant Member gave a thought to that point of view. The fact of the matter is that he is in opposition, and he must oppose this Bill. I sometimes wish those who speak in these Debates would stop afterwards and hear the discussion. Many of us wait here for hours and hours, and those who get in earlier in the Debate leave after they have spoken. In conclusion, I do press strongly upon this House the necessity of giving this Bill a Second Reading.

Photo of Major John Molson Major John Molson , Gainsborough

I desire to give my most hearty support to the Bill. I should like to ask the House to do justice in this matter to England and Wales. I have letters from firms in my constituency drawing attention to the fact that endeavours to get this Bill passed have been made in England since 1889. I think we have a very fair chance of getting the Second Reading to-day. One is encouraged to find the Minister of Health and the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) speaking in favour. As the hon. and gallant Gentleman expressed it, he was in for "a night out." When these two hon. Members are supporting a Bill there must be good reasons for it. As an agricultural Member I support the Bill, and confirm every word of the speech made by the hon. Gentleman opposite, who said that the agricultural community wished to benefit all sections of the community, and that it was to their benefit that the manufacturers should succeed in this. If this Bill is passed there are very many agricultural implements that will be produced much cheaper than now.

There was a reasoned speech by the opposer of the Bill, but I could hardly follow his argument when he said that he did not wish this Bill to be passed until the whole readjustment of the rating of England and Wales was carried through. I cannot see why you should not remove a minor injustice before you tackle the whole question. If we have to wait until a Government Bill is brought in for the readjustment of the rating of the whole country the manufacturers will continue to suffer great injustice. It is far better that equality as compared with Scotland and Ireland should be given to the manufacturers of England and Wales rather than that we should wait till there is complete readjustment of rating. I could not at all follow the argument of the hon. and gallant Gentleman when he spoke of the movable machinery. The taxation of this seems to me to be perfectly comparable to paying rates on the furniture of your house. This machinery is used for the production of wealth, and consequently for the good of the community. Why should it be taxed any more than the furniture of your house?

The technical aspects of this Bill are known to many hon. Members. I am not in any way interested in machinery or manufacturing, but I am interested in the well-being of the members of my constituency. There is a large firm in my constituency—it may be the case mentioned by the mover of the Second Reading—and in a letter they tell me that before the War the firm was rated at £8,000 annually. Lately this rating has been brought up to more than £40,000. If this rating is carried out it will throw many workmen out of work. I do hope, in justice to the manufacturers of this country, that all sections of the House will see their way to passing this Bill; that it may not, by the manipulation of Parliamentary methods, be deferred to some future time. The Bill is overdue. I am given to understand that the Scottish Members are in favour and not against this Bill, that, having benefited by a similar Measure themselves, they intend to do justice to their fellows south of the Tweed in that gallant and generous manner that becomes them.

Photo of Mr George Roberts Mr George Roberts , Norwich

It is difficult to say anything fresh in relation to this Bill, but there are one or two points which may be emphasised. The objection to it so far has been less than I expected, and the main point urged against it is that the occasion is inopportune. That is a point always advanced by the opponents of a Bill. I was at a loss to understand the reason why my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Newcastle (Major Barnes) was submitting his motion for rejection, but the reason was subsequently revealed by the hon. and gallant Member who at present leads the Labour party. He told us that after all the hon. and gallant Member for East Newcastle was a protagonist of the great landed interests of this country. It is just as well to have that on record. I was not previously aware of it. I have been enlightened by the leader of the Labour party. The mere fact that we are able to prove that there is a great variety of practice, and that manufacturers are in a constant state of uncertainty is much to the point. Manufacturers do not know when they are proposing to install new machinery whether or not it will be rated. There is dissimilarity of treatment as between England, Wales, and Scotland, and that constitutes a very strong reason why this Measure should be accorded a Second Reading.

In the first year I was present in this House a Bill comparable to this came up for discussion, and the main objection then advanced was that it was inopportune and that the whole question of local rating should be dealt with. The Minister who then replied on behalf of the Government gave some sort of assurance that we might anticipate during the tenure of office of the party for which he spoke that this great and urgent problem would be tackled. It has not been. Certainly the problem is so comprehensive that it would have to be dealt with in the form of a first-class measure, that measure being the primary legislation of a whole session; for, after all, you could not confine it to the simple question of the incidence of local taxation. There would come into it the more controversial aspect of the relation of Imperial to local taxation, and they would inevitably have to be dealt with. Therefore, it seems to me we have to recognise it is quite impracticable that this whole problem should be dealt with in the near future, and, as the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health observed, when we are convinced of a great anomaly and injustice which can be dealt with, there is no reason why that anomaly and that injustice should be preserved until such time as the whole problem can be dealt with.

There is some doubt in the minds of some Members as to what is to be the attitude of Scottish representatives in this case. I, at any rate, feel satisfied that they will recognise that what is good for Scotland ought to be equally good for other parts of the country. But let the opponents of this Measure realise that the country will not tolerate for long a wide disparity between the conditions of one country and another, and the logic of the opposition is that, if they succeed in frustrating the passage of this Bill, they ought then to support a measure for placing Scotland in like condition to England and Wales, and thereby bringing machinery in that country subject to rating. Of course, I think the Scottish Members would be able to resist a proposal of that character, but if they are so convinced that such a proposal should be opposed, then I am sure that that makes a very substantial reason why they are going to support this particular Bill. In the Minister of Health, who, I think, speaks to business men with special authority, we have a man of wide business training and very profound experience and knowledge in business affairs, and, therefore, I feel sure that we have great confidence in him. When he tells us that, while he is not able to pledge the Government to-day, nevertheless, he, personally, will support the Measure, I am sure we may expect he will use his influence to see that facilities are subsequently afforded in order to expedite its passage into law.

My hon. Friend who seconded the Motion gave some illustration of the burdens which are imposed upon manufacture as the result of the rating of machinery, but, in order that he should not lay himself open to the charge of in any way exaggerating the case, I think he made use of some of the less harsh illustrations which might be given. That, of course, is all to his credit. He made a very powerful case—a case which, coupled with that of the Mover of the Bill, has very largely convinced the House. I have, however, one or two illustrations which I would like to give by way of supplementing those he submitted. He gave an illustration of the case of a firm in Huddersfield. I will give that of another, which seems to me to prove a very severe burden on industry in this case. The original rateable value, on the basis of excluding machinery, was £2,694. The new rateable value, it now having been decided to include machinery for assessment for local purposes, has gone up to £7,640. I have no personal interest in machinery, but I do know something of the conditions in the printing trade, and it has been represented to me by printing trade employers that, first of all, the uncertainty as to whether machinery is to be rated or not, is an embarrassment to them, and, secondly, that when the machinery is made subject to assessment for rating, an enormous burden is imposed upon one firm in competition with another firm. Two cases were brought to my notice only yesterday. A printing trade firm in the Midlands, where it has just been decided to bring machinery into local rating, have had their rateable value put up from £2,618 to £3,769. Another firm is iii active competition with this firm, but in another part of the country where the machinery is not so rated, and it does create an element of unfair competition. I know that, in my old days when negotiating wage questions, these matters had to be taken into consideration, for, after all, despite what the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme says, all items of taxation however levied must enter into overhead charges, and, therefore, into cost of production. So that in one industry, in relation to two firms engaged in competition one with the other, one was penalised enormously, making it less competent for it to carry the better wages that I was asking it to meet.

Of course, trade machinery is becoming increasingly expensive, delicate, highly intricate machinery, but, in order that the printing trade may develop, that it may be able to meet foreign competition, which before the War was very severe, and is much keener now, I think we ought to give the firms every encouragement. We certainly ought not to impose burdens upon them which are unjust, and which are not met by the whole of their competitors within the one country. Therefore, I think that, in dealing with this point, which may look small, because we simply propose to deal with it in a two-Clause Bill, it has a very large bearing on the whole problem of employment. Only yesterday I was asked to visit a small works in the East End of London. The works are equipped with out-of-date machinery, but the man has a proposition which, it is thought by certain friends of mine, has a great prospect of development, and of being the means of creating trade and a good deal of employment in the country, and we suggested to the owner of the small works that, if he were prepared to instal up-to-date machinery, there were orders at his disposal, and the possibility of brightening prospects for himself. When we went into it, I will not say the deciding factor for his refusal to entertain the proposition, but a factor which did weigh very strongly in his mind, was this, "This is a heavily-rated borough. As soon as I instal the expensive and effective machinery that you suggest, my rates will be increased enormously, and I am doubtful whether, even with the better equipment and larger volume of trade that I would be able to carry out with the aid of that equipment, it would be more profitable to me than plodding along with my obsolete machinery, and the pursuance of the methods which I have followed for many years."

That is one definite illustration of the restriction of enterprise and development which follows as the result of the rating of machinery, and, therefore, I do submit that, from every point of view, a manufacturer is entitled to say, "Let the law be assimilated. Let us all be on an equal footing. The United Kingdom is one entity for this purpose; make the law alike." If machinery is to be rated, then make it subject to statutory direction, which will guide the valuers, so that they have proper principles to work upon, and the ultimate result will be that, in the process of costings, we are able to make a like estimate. One part of the United Kingdom saw immediately that the Royal Commission on Taxation, which reported in 1901, had put their finger on a proposal which, if adopted, would tend to stimulate manufacture and production, and Scotland the following year adopted the proposal. We dare not suggest that conditions in Scotland ought to be assimilated to the conditions in this country. England and Wales, therefore, are entitled to claim that their conditions ought to be assimilated to the more favourable and wiser conditions that now prevail in Scotland. The varying conditions which prevail in this country have been pointed out. On one side of the road you may have machinery in works assessed for local rating, and machinery in other works a short distance away on the other side of the road may be immune. These conditions are intolerable; business cannot be carried on on those lines, and it seems to me they constitute a strong reason why delay should not be permitted and why we should proceed at once to put this Bill through and make it operative.

There is another fact which seems to me to show that the occasion is not so inopportune, as the opposers of the Measure would have us believe. Rates everywhere are now very high, but the tendency is for them to be lower, and I think there will be a universal reduction in rates before this Bill can become, operative. Therefore the relief given to the owners of machinery in this fashion would not be felt so much as if we were relieving a large body of persons, and thereby being compelled to impose additional rates on other forms of property. If this principle be now adopted and incorporated in our rating system, it will be felt less than if we wait until conditions are more stabilised and if, in order to give this relief, we have to impose additional rate elsewhere. I know that that is not a very substantial point, but it does seem to me to bear on the question of opportuneness. I think we may say that this Bill will not harm any section of the community. In my belief, it will be beneficial to all classes, because, after all, the workers will benefit if manufacturers are relieved from burdens, are given certainty, and are able to develop and cultivate enterprise. We have got past the short-sighted view that there is necessarily antagonism between manufacturers and agriculture. Agriculture to-day, progressively developing, tends to become more and more a matter of machinery combined with human hands and brains. Therefore, the old objection is by no means so strong now as it was when it used to be advanced on previous occasions. It seems to me that we may reasonably regard the prospects of this Bill as such that the Government may accept the assurance that the opposition, after all, is not so formidable, and that by helping to put this Bill through they will do something in a very parlous time in the history of the country to stimulate industry and to encourage manufacturers to believe that the Government do take some concern in these matters. Incidentally, I believe that it will help forward the great problem of unemployment.

Photo of Captain John Jameson Captain John Jameson , Edinburgh West

If I rise at this hour after a long discussion, it is not because of the intrinsic attractiveness of the problem of the rating of machinery or of the human interest with which the subject palpitates, but is because, in the first place, as a Scottish Member, I feel it my duty to relieve in some degree the apprehensions which have been expressed by the right hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. G. Roberts) that we Scotsmen cling to the handicap over our English competitors which our system of rating of machinery has given us and try to maintain the weight still upon our English rivals. I can assure; them that nothing is further from the Scotsman's heart than that sort of attitude. It is not only because we are fully confident that with- out any handicap whatever we are at all times and at any time equal to our rivals, whenever we have, stood against our rivals, whether upon the battlefields of Flodden or of Bannockburn, when we fought against each other, or upon the battlefields of Waterloo or Ypres, when we fought by their side, Scotland has never sought any advantage over her competitors. We do not regard our brothers in England as rivals and competitors otherwise than in the most friendly terms. Scotland and England are two great-hearted and generously-hearted people. There is no mean jealousy and envy and hostility and hatred between these two nations. It is the burning desire of Scotsmen, like my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Dr. Murray) and myself, to see extended to England the advantages in the way of lucid and clear and logical rating which we possess in Scotland. It is also because I have myself the honour of being, not only an advocate of the Scottish Bar, but also a barrister-at-law in England.

We have in the kingdom of Scotland enjoyed for the past 20 years the system of rating which is embodied in this little Bill. We took the first opportunity of emerging from that dreadful morass, that terrible fog, which had settled down upon the question of machinery rating in this country. Unfortunately, in England you are still plunged in the morass. You are still trying to thread your way through the mazes of legal labyrinth in which this question has been concealed, of which perhaps the case mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health—the famous Tyneside Boiler Company's case—-marks the most famous blind alley. I am aware, and I may say this in reply to the speech that was made by the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), that personal interest as a lawyer would, if anything could do so, prevent me taking the proper line of legislative duty in supporting this Bill. The present system of the rating of machinery has no principle, and it is one of the most precious, the most sought after, and the most treasured problems for the ingenuity of a lawyer, and at the same time one of the most satisfactory problems from the point of view of the pocket of the lawyer, to try and trace out a principle where none exists, and to try and apply a rule which is not there at all. That has been the pleasant task of lawyers in England for the last 50 years, and certainly it is almost a suicidal thing for a lawyer to try and dam this perennial fountain of costs and of fees. Therefore, if one would search out personal interests, certainly the House would behold me, as it does in fact behold me, torn between my professional instincts and my professional interests as a lawyer and my sense of legislative duty as a Member of this House.

I may congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme on the skill and delicacy of his speech. He can always be trusted to introduce, even on the most unlikely question, a delightful atmosphere of party strife, and when he brought to his aid the cry of the Taxation of Land Values and other old battle-cries, I envied the skill of my hon. Friend at introducing into what was apparently the most harmonious of subjects that soupcon of acidity and bitterness which he is a past master in the art of applying. I feel I come before the House as a champion of this Measure in the most disinterested way. On the one side of my family I am land, on the other side I am law, so that all the vested interests my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme suspects of possibly being behind this Bill, as he suspects such to be behind every Bill, every Measure and every Resolution brought up in this House except those from the Labour Benches, are entirely absent. I am taking a high line of duty. I am a martyr in supporting this Bill. I am committing a sort of felo de se professionally.

To pass to the general provisions of this Bill, I do not intend to champion it so much from the industrial point of view, because that has been done so well and so exhaustively by the right hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. G. Roberts) and other Members who have spoken from these benches. The contribution which I can most usefully make to this Debate is from the legal point of view. In the first place, I may deal for a moment with the arguments brought forward against this Bill, because I think one can in a moment show that they are very fragile and unsubstantial in their nature. It therefore takes very little trouble to demolish them. The argument, and practically the sole argument, advanced by the opponents of the I Bill, and by the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle East (Major Barnes), was that it was a piecemeal Measure, that it dealt only with a part of the problem of rating, and that what we wanted to do, what the country should do, and what the House should do, was to wait until the Millennium of rating was introduced in a large Measure by the Government of the day. In the meantime, we were to go on in the full glory of the bad old system. I cannot see the advantage or logic of such a course. What is the use of sitting down and waiting for a Millennium which, perhaps, may never come? At any rate, it has been a long time coming. Nothing is more absurd than the system of rating which now obtains in this country. It is on a bad basis, and it is worked out badly in detail. I despair of the policy of sitting down and waiting for the advent of the golden age of rating. It is surely far better to attend to matters as we find them, and as they are, and to try and get them as right as possible. We shall not be postponing the Millennium in that way, but we shall be moving towards that distant, remote, and blessed period, while in the meantime we shall be making things a little better than they are.

The only other argument used has been that rating is taking place upon machinery at present and if you take the rate off that machinery you will have to put it on something else. That amounts to this. If you are advocating a change then a change is being advocated. Of course if you are altering rating in any shape or form you must be taking it off from some people and putting it on to others. That goes without the saying. I have never seen the Die-hard Conservative position carried so far as it was carried in that particular by the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle East (Major Barnes). The most die-hard of Die-hards wants some change of some kind, even if it is a change of Government only. The hon. and gallant Member used an argument that would amount to the same thing as the argument which was used, I think, by a very conservative Duke of Cambridge, amid the plaudits of a Conservative club, that any change under any circumstances was a thing always to be very strongly deprecated. The question is, Is this a good change: is it a change which applies and carries out in the most just and equal manner the principle of rating which we have in this country at present? If it does that, then it is a change which ought to take place, and the fact that it involves a transference of rating is certainly no argument against it. The real problem is to get at what is the true principle of rating as at present. I do not say that it is a proper principle of rating, but this Bill only deals with the details, and you want to get at the root principle of rating in this country, and to see whether this Measure applies it or not.

The principle of rating in this country governing questions like the present was introduced by the Act of 1840—the Poor Rate (Exemption) Act—which relieved from rating all personalty, and put the whole of the rates upon the realty, that is to say, practically upon land and buildings and machinery affixed to buildings, in the way in which machinery liable for rating under this Measure will be fixed. That was a clear principle, and, as regards machinery, it relieved, and its object was to relieve, the tenant's outfit, so to speak, of all rates, and put the burden of the rates upon the landlord's outfit—upon the building and upon machinery permanently attached to the building, which could not be removed without injuring the structure and which had become the property of the freeholder. That was quite a satisfactory Statute, and the present Bill is designed to carry out the principle of that Statute. How did all the confusion and difficulties that have surrounded this question of machinery rating arise? They arose simply because the Statute was not applied to this particular kind of personalty, namely, machinery. In the earlier cases, I believe, this Statute was overlooked, and was not before the Courts in cases relating to machinery rating, and the Courts went on deciding upon the old cases and the old law before the Statute. Accordingly, as regards this form of personalty, though not as s regards any others, the Statute was not applied; or rather, in one sense it was applied, because machinery—and this is a point which the House should note—is not, under the present law, supposed to be rated directly, but is only supposed, according to the phrase used by the Courts, whatever it may mean, to be taken into consideration in rating the structure. Accordingly you had not any sort of—

Photo of Mr James Kiley Mr James Kiley , Stepney Whitechapel and St George's

You are not speaking about rating in Scotland?

Photo of Captain John Jameson Captain John Jameson , Edinburgh West

No, it is the English Bill about which I am talking. We in Scotland delivered ourselves from the meshes of these nets, and the provision has prospered so much with us that we want to extend its benefits to the sister country.

Photo of Mr James Kiley Mr James Kiley , Stepney Whitechapel and St George's

We are anxious to get them quickly.

Photo of Captain John Jameson Captain John Jameson , Edinburgh West

I am not standing in the way. There is a good deal of time before us. Why should this special form of personalty be singled out for this method of treatment? A house, as some hon. Members have said, is not much good without such things as tables and beds and all the rest of it, and they are just as liable on principle, one might say, to be indirectly rated—taken into consideration in the rating—as machinery. I would ask the attention of the House to the principle which has been set up by the Courts, because the House will see how easy it is for an assessment committee to apply provisions of this sort. Here is the leading judicial pronouncement upon what is the principle under which machinery is rated in estimating the rateable value of premises used as a factory: Machinery placed on premises fit for the particular trade or manufacture carried on there and intended to remain there permanently, and the suitability of the premises for the machinery, ought to be taken into account as enhancing the value of the premises, though such machinery is not attached to the promises. But the machinery must not be separately valued; its value must be added to the rateable value of the building. What is an assessment committee to make of a principle like that? It is not a principle at all. The fact is that this domain of rating was left with no logical principle. It was left in a fog, and it was in order to clear up that fog that the famous case of the Tyneside Boiler Company was brought. That blessed case—I used the word reverently, from the point of view of a lawyer, because no case in the books, perhaps, has been more fruitful in litigation than that case—that case made the fog absolutely impenetrable. In that state of matters, Scotland delivered itself by the Act of 1902, and that Act was passed, of course, by what has so often been the salvation of Scotland, namely, the oblivion of its business by the House of Commons. Accordingly, that excellent Measure was rushed through by two or three Scottish advocates, and it has worked extremely well in Scotland. It is practically in the same terms as the present Bill, and it supplies a logical and clear rule that can be understood and applied, not only by a law Court, but by any sensible man.

The point of this Bill is that it clears away the fog in which this matter has been involved, and which ought to have been cleared away by the Act of 1840, but which has been rendered still more dark by the legal decisions since that Act was passed. We have got rid of it in Scotland, and this Bill is designed to get rid of it in England. Where there is no principle, it stands to reason that none can be applied, and that leads to the notorious fact that in different parts of England and Wales different methods of rating prevail with regard to machinery. I am told, for instance, that the practice in Lancashire is very different from that of other parts of the country. The Assessment Committee either shelve the difficulty altogether or, if they do try to face it, their action gives rise to a great deal of expensive litigation. Accordingly, you have a great muddle, as you always will have if the present system continues. We got out of it in Scotland, and we hope that you will get out of it in England by means of this Bill. Aspersions and reflections were cast on the Bill because it was a hardy annual. It was so up to about the year 1903, and then it fell asleep. It has slept for about 20 years, and now again it has been awakened. I wish it long life and happiness and I wish it a Second Reading in this House. I think all English Members would be well advised to follow the lead which I modestly offer from Scotland and adopt a real principle at last which is embodied in the Scottish Act and has worked so well in that country.

2.0 P.M.

Photo of Mr James Kiley Mr James Kiley , Stepney Whitechapel and St George's

I am sure English Members who are present fully appreciate the great interest which Scotland takes in this Bill, and I hope at some future Friday sitting English Members may show appreciation in a practical way by taking some interest in Measures which are not confined to England alone but cover the country in which my hon. Friend is so interested. The chief object I had in rising was to propose to the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle East (Major Barnes) who moved the rejection that after the speeches which had been made, and knowing as I do that he approves the principle of the Bill, but thinks the rating problem should be dealt with in its entirety rather than piecemeal, he should not, as I am sure he will not, persist in dividing the House and will withdraw his rejection to letting this piece of useful legislation go through. I voice that desire with all the greater interest because it has been my privilege as a member of a local body in London to take some small part in the assessment of one of the numerous rating districts in London. London is the greatest manufacturing city in the world. It has something like 50,000 different manufacturers, and in the inner circle of London there are 28 rating authorities. I do not know how-many there are in the outer circle. In the inner circle the rating bodies have no settled principle upon which they levy their assessment, but whatever the basis may be it is reviewed every five years. If you go to the border we will say of Surrey, where there are factories, they have no quinquennial assessment. They assess whenever some new circumstances arise and the matter is brought under their notice. One will therefore readily realise the great divergence there is in rating in the different parts of the inner circle against those which prevail in Greater London. Therefore no manufacturer knows exactly what is the basis of computation or the expense to which he is subjected as against that of a fellow manufacturer. That is quite bad enough for London or the English manufacturer, but when a manufacturer is over the border, when he is in Scotland, he is not assessed on his machinery in any manner, shape or form and the manufacturers of England, and especially of London, are penalised in their efforts to obtain the world's trade by the fact that the English and Welsh manufacturers are the only body of manufacturers in the world who by this method of rating have obstacles placed in the way of conducting their business and endeavouring to compete with the competition to which they are so much exposed. Therefore I urge the House without any more delay to give a Second Beading to the Bill and to do something to remove what barriers and obstacles it is in the power of the House to remove and enable our manufacturers to meet the world's competition.

Photo of Sir Gerald Hurst Sir Gerald Hurst , Manchester Moss Side

This Bill raises two questions, one a question of law and the other a question of industrial policy. I am very glad to have an opportunity of supporting the Second Reading, first of all as an English lawyer who regards the present state of the law on this question as thoroughly unsatisfactory, and secondly, as a Lancashire Member, speaking not only on behalf of my own constituents, but as the spokesman of a very great volume of public opinion in that county, which is pre-eminently interested in any question affecting the rating of machinery. The Debate has shown that hon. Members are aware of the many anomalies which at the present time find a place in our law. In actual fact, there is no principle and there is no logic in the present law on this subject. At the time of the industrial revolution machinery was mainly affixed to the building, and no doubt factories were rated on a basis which involved the rating of machinery, because the machinery was fixed to the freehold. Gradually, however, more and more machinery was introduced into factories which was only affixed to the building by belting attached to the shafting, and until 1840 the practice was very varying with regard to whether that loose plant and machinery should be rated or not. In the year 1840 the Measure was passed whereby personal chattels were exempted from rating, and it is quite clear that the object of that Statute was to exclude machinery, tools and appliances from the incidence of rates. The misfortune has been that since then the practice, for which there was no statutory authority, has grown up of the assessors looking to the additional value of the premises which was caused by the existence in them of loose machinery. In 1906 a case was decided by the House of Lords in which it was held that (the rating assessors were entitled to take consideration of this enhanced value, but they did not base that decision upon any legal principle or statutory sanction whatever. Lord Halsbury, in giving the judgment, said his view was not dictated in the least by any consideration of equity, but simply because a number of cases had been decided which brought about such a state of judicial opinion that this practice must be regarded as the established practice. But, in actual fact, the practice never has been universal, even within England and Wales. It varies from place to place. Even at present it is not applied in certain counties at all, and it is simply dependent upon judge-made law of the worst type.

We all look in our English law to see as much certainty and universality as possible throughout the United Kingdom. The law in respect of the rating of machinery is both uncertain and partial, and therefore the reform is one which surely ought to call for the sympathy and the keenness, in fact, of all parties in the State. I should like to say something about the fairness of this alteration in the law. We have to compare the position of affairs in the factories with the position of affairs in other premises. If you take a billiard saloon, the value of the billiard table is not considered in the rating of the saloon. If you take a hall where musical performances are given, the value of the piano is not taken into consideration. If you are assessing a library or a college, the value of the books in the library or the college is not taken into consideration. It would follow by parity of reason that, if you are going to consider the rateable value of a factory, only those portions of the machinery which are affixed to the freehold ought to be considered, and not those loose pieces of plant and appliances which are removable. Those are personal property which never have been properly regarded as the subject of rating and ought not to be so regarded now. The aim of the Bill seems to me to be based upon the very soundest conception of law, because it simply brings the law of rating into line with the law which regulates the relations between landlord and tenant, and at the same time does justice to the owners of factories in the same way that the law already does justice to owners of other premises. That is a view of the case that I would commend to the House from the point of view of law.

I wish to add a few words from the point of view of industrial policy. This question excites a great deal of interest in the industrial North, and particularly in Lancashire, and I can assure the House that the great volume of public opinion in Lancashire is entirely in favour of this Measure, because if you place the charge upon the textile industry which is involved by rating loose machinery in the factories it has two inevitable effects. First of all, it must discourage industry by discouraging initiative and discouraging persons who wish to bring in new and better machinery. The whole policy of law should surely be directed against the discouragement of industry. Just as public policy looks with disfavour on any things which are in restraint of freedom of contract or restraint of marriage, so public policy ought to look with repugnance upon any system of law which discourages initiative and the introduction of reforms in the management of industry. That is the effect of our present chaotic system, and that effect will be got rid of when this Bill is passed. The more you put rates upon manufactories the greater the cost of production. It is absurd, if I may say so with all respect, for the hon. Member for Newcastle East (Major Barnes) to say that the present time is not the time for any change. It is just the present time that is an opportune time for this change. We know that the main reason why we are finding it so difficult to hold our own in the overseas markets is because our cost of production is so high. It is because the cost of production is high that our prices are relatively higher in competition with our foreign rivals. The two greatest ingredients in the cost of production are taxes in the first instance and rates in the second instance. Therefore, it is simply fantastic to suggest that the present time is inopportune for lessening the incidence of rates upon our manufactures.

The only other point which the hon. Member made was that if you relieved the burden on factories you would increase the burden upon other people within the same area. If he knew what the conditions are in industrial England he would realise that an area lives upon its industries. If the industries flourish the area flourishes. If the mills and factories are working full time and going strong it follows that the persons employed in those industries are also going strong and are better able to afford the rates and taxes which that portion of the community have to bear. The other point is the curious suggestion that we must not pass this Measure because it involves piecemeal legislation. No Measure can be brought forward which does not invite one of two criticisms. If it is a small Measure you are told that it is piecemeal legislation, and if it is a big Measure you are told that it is far too comprehensive and far too wide to occupy the time of the House, and that public business is so congested that there is no chance of getting such a Bill well discussed and deliberated upon. Therefore you are in a dilemma and there should be no legislation at all. It is quite clear that it is hopeless at the present time to imagine that this House can deal this Session with any great measure of rating reform covering all the anomalies and all the handicaps of our present system. Here you have a defect which is easily isolated, which is easily dealt with in detail, without affecting the larger question. The thing has been done already in the case of Scotland, and it can be done without in any way impinging upon the questions of policy which are involved by rating reform. That being so, I submit there is not the slightest reason why this Bill should not be considered on its merits, and if it is considered on its merits its passage into law will surely invite no opposition of any real weight, and probably no substantial criticism.

Photo of Mr George Barker Mr George Barker , Abertillery

There can be no doubt that rates are very odious and very burdensome exactions, and therefore there is no obscurity in the motive of the supporters of this Bill. The hon. Member for Whitechapel (Mr. Kiley) stated that there are 28 rating authorities in the inner circle of London, but he did not state that there was a single one of those rating authorities who were in favour of this Bill. There is one great fatal fault in the arguments of the advocates of this Bill. At a time when rates are exceedingly burdensome, and when there is a great volume of unemployment, the proposers of this Bill come forward with a proposition to relieve certain ratepayers of their obligations, and they have not intimated how those deficiencies of revenue are to be made up to the rating authorities. The hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Seddon) became quite eloquent about the relief that manufactories would receive if this Bill were passed, but he said nothing as to who would make up for that relief. We know who will have to pay for it. It will mean increased rates to the poor potter and the poor collier in his constituency. He said nothing about the potter or the collier. The present rating system is bristling with anomalies. It is a crying scandal that these anomalies have not been removed before now. If a man builds a good house he is very highly rated upon that house, if he builds a poor, shoddy house he is rated very low on it. Therefore we put a premium upon rotten building in the country.

Again, the owners of the mineral wealth of the country escape rating entirely. I have had many Resolutions since I have been a Member of this House urging that the mineral royalties should be rated, but nothing has been done, even though the Sankey Commission reported in favour of this great reform. But here we have representatives of a special interest bringing forward this Bill from the most selfish motives. If the Bill were passed, it would not reduce by a single farthing the total rating of the country, but would shift the burden from one class of people to a poorer class. That is the object of the Bill. Therefore I shall vote against it. I disagree entirely with the last speaker. His argument against piecemeal legislation is no argument against taking any action. It simply means that if a person with a particular grievance is relieved, the relief which he receives is transferred as a burden to somebody else who is not so well able to bear it. In the interests of the great industrial population in this country I shall oppose this Bill, and any Bill of a similar character, until the question of rating is dealt with in a statesmanlike manner.

Photo of Mr John Remer Mr John Remer , Macclesfield

The pleasant Friday afternoons which we have been experiencing lately are of great advantage to the House as a whole. They enable the hon. and gallant Member for New-castle-under-Lyne (Colonel Wedgwood) to come and give us lectures on the taxation of land values, and they enable my hon. Friend the Member for West Edinburgh (Mr. Jameson) to plunge us into a morass of legal learning. Several times in the course of the Debate I have been curious as to why hon. Members have made such pathetic appeals to Scottish Members for their votes. It seems to me that the burning desire to help manufacturers, of which my hon. Friend has given evidence, has been characterised with the usual Scottish trait of being very generous with other people's money, when it does not cost them anything. Looking on the Order Paper, I am rather taken with the appeals made to Welsh Members for their support, for, judging by the Bill which is to follow this, there ought to be more Welsh Members present. The hon. Member for Abertillery (M. G. Barker) led us to believe that the burden which is to be taken off by this Bill is to pass to some poor potter or collier. That is a complete misconception. The rating system] of this country is most inequitable. A big colliery or factory which may employ 5,000 or 6,000 hands pays, perhaps, very much higher rates than, though it may be only making the same amount of money solicitor in an office who employs only one clerk.

We have a great many people earning very large sums of money who are very rich, who can afford to pay higher rates than they pay at present, and if some of the rates paid by manufacturers were passed over to lawyers and stockbrokers and people of that kind it would be a great advantage to the poor potter and the collier, because it would find them larger employment and higher wages. It is obvious from the speeches of the legal Members, to whom we have listened, that the law with regard to rating is thoroughly unsatisfactory and must be altered as quickly as possible. Lawyers have the greatest difficulty in defining what is loose machinery. Several times in my business career I have known difficulties of that kind to arise. Loose machinery has been described as machinery which can be removed without injuring the freehold, but there is a difficulty as to what does and what does not injure the freehold. This Bill by giving a definition of fixed machinery is of great importance. I believe that the Bill will be of great advantage to manufacturers of this country, and will put the rating system on a much more equitable basis. I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) has gone out. The last time I rose on a Friday afternoon he pulled my leg more than I thought necessary, and I was going to appeal to him on this occasion to rise and give his support to this Bill.

Photo of Mr William Greenwood Mr William Greenwood , Stockport

I rise to sup port the Bill. I speak for a very large body of opinion in the cotton industry, who are very much in sympathy with the objects of the Bill. The argument for the Bill, that the present system, or lack of system, of rating is unfair as between some manufacturers and others, has been put so well and so often that I will not weary the House by dealing with it. It is necessary that this Bill should be passed, because manufacturers in this country require to-day more than ever to know with confidence what they have to expect with regard to the charges on their industry. It has been said several times in the course of this Debate that the existing system is a great handicap on some of those who are now rated on machinery as compared with those who are not. The House will agree that if there is a grave injustice which is being suffered by any great body of men in this country it ought to be removed. Besides that, in the same way certain manufacturers now have penalties imposed on them as compared with others.

There is also another danger. That is that, owing to the vagaries of some assessment committees and some valuers, those manufacturers who are not at present having their machinery assessed have an additional charge put upon their cost of production. One hon. Member referred to a business where the building may be worth about £3,000 and the machinery in the building worth about £10,000 or £11,000, and he said what a gross injustice would be done if on one side of the road in one borough machinery was rated and in the other case on the other side of the road in another borough it was not rated. He seemed to think that the amount of valuation of machinery was very large. I could give the House many cases in the cotton industry of Lancashire where the value of machinery in one firm alone is as much as £300,000 to £400,000. When Members come to realise what a change in the system of valuation may produce in a business of that sort, they will realise that it is of great importance. I can give an instance of one firm paying in rates to-day over £7,000 per annum, and the burden of those rates in the recent state of bad trade has been so great that practically the only way in which the charges could be met was by the mill closing down for a certain time, which meant that wages were lost to the community and the ratepayers suffered to that extent. It will be agreed that it is much better that wages should be paid than that excessive rates should be imposed.

Some hon. Members have argued that if we pass this Bill the burden would be put on some other section of the ratepayers. I would remind the House that it is impossible to get out of a eat more than is in its skin, and it is impossible to get more than a pint out of a pint pot. When you are already rated to such an extent that it is almost impossible to carry on your business, it is no good saying that you ought to pay more. I was very glad to hear an hon. Member raise an objection, although it was almost the only one against the Bill, apart from the objections raised by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment. I have been asked by many people in Lancashire and by manufacturers all over the country to support the Bill. I have had only one suggestion, which reached me this morning, why I should vote against the Bill. I am glad to mention it, because I think those who have sent to me a reason why I should vote against the Bill have supplied me with what certainly confirms my decision to vote for the Bill. It is from the Stockport Union and Union Offices, and they give me the information that at the annual meeting of the National Conference of Assessment Committees a resolution was passed opposing this Bill. They say: Among the reasons which led the Conference to pass such a resolution were the following, namely:—(a) that machinery killed, crippled and mained, made widows and orphans and created a public burden; (b) that it ought to bear its full share of the cost of those burdens; (c) that the use of machinery economised space, largely increased the producing power of the works, reduced manual labour, cheapened the cost of production and augmented manufacturers' profits. To talk about augmenting profits when such a thing has not been known for nearly two years is bordering on the absurd. I wish the House to note paragraph (a), stating that machinery has killed, crippled and maimed. That may be true. I have worked amongst machinery for over 37 years I am sorry to say that I have seen very many serious and a few fatal accidents, but never have I seen a fatal accident in the machinery which would be considered to be the loose machinery spoken of in the Bill. In every case where an accident has been fatal it has been in the machinery which would be considered to be part of the freehold of the establishment. There are two ways of using machinery. There is the intensive form of production and the extensive form of production. I will give one instance to show that the objection is entirely unfounded. It is an instance drawn from the cotton spinning trade. We have what are called bobbin winding machines. A girl has to mind a certain number of spindles. I have known cases where there has been so little machinery in the mill that only 30 spindles were allowed to each winder. I have known other more modern mills, where 100 spindles were allowed to a single girl. You say it would be impossible for a winder to look after 100 spindles in the same way as another looking after 30 spindles. That is not so. The reason is that the machine containing the greater number of spindles is run at a considerably lower rate than the machine with only 30 spindles. From an experience extending over many years I can say that the hardest work in getting a £ of wage was done by the girl minding the 30 spindles and not by the girl minding 100. What sort of handicap will you put on manufacturers, who are willing to adopt not the intensive principle but the extensive principle, if you refuse to pass this Bill I You will be putting a premium on those manufacturers who are keeping the amount of their machinery to the lowest possible limits and driving them at the highest possible speed under the worst conditions, and you will tend to kill and cripple those in charge of the machines. Rather ought we to give every encouragement to those manufacturers who will put down as much as possible of the best and most modern machinery which, other things being equal, will allow the work to be carried out under conditions favourable to those who tend the machines and in the best interests of those who pay for them.

In America, where the system of using machinery to the best advantage obtains perhaps more than it does here, such a thing would never be tolerated for one moment. There they encourage manufacturers to put in machinery of the very best, and it is well known to those who have studied the question that, where you have the most horse-power in relation to the number of workpeople, there you have the best conditions of labour and the highest rate of wages. Were we to listen to the opponents of this Bill we should be going back on that position, and I ask the House to remove what is admitted to be a grave injustice, not only as between machinery users in our own country, but also as between users of machinery in our own country and those in Scotland, and to give a very large majority in favour of the Second Reading.

Sir J. D. REES:

Hitherto I had been under the impression that there was only one Good Friday in the year. I refer to the feast of the Church upon which day this House does not sit. But it seems there is a second Good Friday, and this Friday, for the first time in my recollection, the House is occupied not in adding to the numbers of those who are supported by the industrious, but in giving some relief to the supporters of the body economic and politic in this country, in endeavouring to promote trade, instead of increasing the parasites—I use the word in its original and not in its derivative sense—and in helping those who support others instead of those who are supported by others. The only argument I have heard against this Bill is that a certain amount of rating will be lost, and that it will have to be made up by somebody else. I submit that is an entirely fallacious argument, and this reduction in rating may well be the beginning of a movement which is above all others to be desired. It is quite true that less money will come in on account of the exemption from rates of machinery. What is then to be done? The rating body concerned will have to reduce its expenditure, which is to be desired by everybody who desires to see those who support industry, either as capitalists or as workers, raise up their heads from the depression under which they have been suffering. The rating bodies will have to begin to cut their coat according to their cloth—a painful process, no doubt, for a country in which an orgy of expenditure has ruled so long for the public ruin. It is extraordinary that the argument should also be used that this would be an exemption of the rich at the expense of the poor. I wonder who can use that argument who has recently been in his own constituency. I think it is quite possible to believe that in London but it is not so in the manufacturing towns in the Midlands or the North. Trade is bad.

I see that in 1867 it was decided that silk weaving machinery should not be rateable. Subsequently that excellent ruling was departed from. Why should not lace making machinery be exempt? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite are not in the lace trade, but we are. It is a great trade in this country, though not one of its greatest trades. It does not compare with the coal trade or with agriculture, but among the secondary trades it takes a prominent place. I cannot understand that particular objection to the Bill which is founded upon the false and fallacious antagonism between employer and employed, which is the root of most of our present troubles. Are all chambers of commerce merely bodies of rich people who wish to extract the life blood of the worker or are they gatherings of those who are engaged in industries of different kinds in the country? I say the last is the fair description of them, and to-day they cannot afford to oppress or neglect the operatives who are the only people who can give them any return upon the capital which they on their part have provided. All the chambers of commerce—I am only a member of two, but I believe they speak for most—are in favour of this Bill and I maintain it is a most unfortunate thing that the argument to which I have referred should have been introduced.

A speech was made this afternoon by the hon. and gallant Labour Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). He may be hon. and gallant, but he is no more Labour than any other Member on that bench. He has imbibed from his environment, and from the seat he occupies in that proud position opposite, something of the spirit which animates the benches behind him, and he has no doubt delivered a full-blooded speech such as a convert should, in order to prove his conversion. But over and above the attributes which I have suggested attach to that speech, I venture to say that no other particular importance need be attached to it, but that those representing trades affected in this matter are particularly entitled to a hearing upon this occasion. We also heard an eloquent, informing and humorous speech from the hon. Member for West Edinburgh (Mr. Jameson), who, by the way, made some very interesting admissions. He testified to the fact of legal decisions having made impenetrable a fog which previously had been penetrable only with the aid of an electric lamp. He also made a reference to the antithesis as between the Law Courts and the sensible man.

Nevertheless, he contributed a most valuable speech and, apart from the admissions against his own professions, I have nothing but praise for it, and I adopt altogether his arguments. He was also kind enough to offer to England and Wales some of that logic of which Scotland has such a superabundance, and, indeed, it is a strange thing that we should be content in this country to be in an inferior position in respect of this important matter to the position of Scotland. Perhaps, after all, it is not a strange thing, because for the greater part of my life England has been governed by a minority of English electors together with a majority of Scottish electors. Probably therefore it is not so strange as might appear at first sight, that we should be inferior to Scotland in regard to the rating of machinery. Without pretending to any legal knowledge such as my hon. and learned Friend has, I submit that Clause 1 of this Bill only gives effect, in regard to machinery, to what is already the law in regard to other matters. If one buys a house, and there is something fixed in the wall, it is part of the house. But if one buys a place the purpose of which is the housing of machinery, the premises only are considered, and not the contents. So this proposal is only fair and reasonable and only follows the common law principle. To suggest that the matter should wait; until rating is dealt with in a complete, comprehensive and final manner is, of course, only to suggest putting it off until there is a new world. I do not mean the new world which was to come after the War, but I mean the kind of world which is to follow upon the destruction of the present distribution of the planets in the solar system. We must deal with the difficulties which will arise as they arise. For my part, I think it is a grievous thing to reflect that a Bill to this effect has come before the House no fewer than 17 times since 1890, and several times since I have been in Parliament, and that it would have been before the House several more times in that period had it not been that the Government held out hopes of doing something which the Government did not do, in which respect it is exceedingly unlike the Government which sits on the bench below me.

My hon. and learned Friend has referred to the Report of the Royal Commission on Local Taxation, and I do not know how we are to get over the fact—any of us who are amateurs in the rating system—that they strongly supported this Bill. We have the fact that it has already been adopted in Scotland, and we have the condemnation of the present rating system to which utterance was lately given by the Minister of Health, who is very well known to be one of the most businesslike and capable Ministers that ever dealt with anything of a businesslike character in this House. He says the present system is so involved, complicated, and unnecessarily sub-divided and duplicated, and in many respects so inefficient, that it is a wonder that reform has been so long delayed. I agree with that. I do not embrace reform in itself. Very often good things are reformed out of all recognition, often after the attentions of this House, but here you have a business matter upon which business men in the industries of the country depend, and I submit that we ought to-day to give a Second Reading to the Bill. The present system of taking machinery into account really penalises the manufacturer who keeps the most up-to-date machinery and spends money on it, and it also penalises the manufacturer who is under the, necessity of using very complicated, expensive, and valuable machinery. I am glad to get the support of the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Greenwood), who is an expert, while I am an amateur. It however is my business, like that of other Members representing industrial constituencies, to try to know what are the governing factors in a matter like this, and certainly it is the duty of such Members to represent on this occasion the requirements of the traders in their constituencies. Machinery of the kind to which I have just referred is extensively used in the lace industry, and therefore you have a very heavily penalty placed upon manufacturers who are spending large sums and doing their very best to keep going an industry upon which an immense number of operatives depend, and depression in which causes, as I know and, as I am sure, the hon. Member for East Leicester (Mr. Banton) knows very well, considerable unemployment and large expense to the taxpayers both in Leicester and in Nottingham. I am sure I shall have the support of the hon. Member for East Leicester. I went to Leicester to oppose him, but now he has an opportunity of supporting this Bill and showing that he is not in any sense a party man when the industrial requirements of this country are at stake. I submit that it is a fact that the interest of the workers of the machines and of the capitalists who provide the machines are absolutely identical, and that anybody who attempts to separate them and to suggest that there is any antagonism between them is indeed an actual enemy of both, and particularly of that side in whose interests he, I will not say pretends, but purports to speak.

Photo of Mr Peter Raffan Mr Peter Raffan , Leigh

I am quite as anxiousas any hon. Member to get on to the next Bill on the Paper, a desire which is strongly felt on the Front Government Bench, I know, but I feel that I should first like to comment on the speech of the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. G. Barker). He said so much with which I agree that I feel I ought to make clear the reason why I dissent from the conclusions to which he came. My hon. Friend objects to this Bill because, he says, first of all, that its supporters have given no indication as to any method by which they can show the rates will be made up, and, secondly, he says the only result will be that there will be an additional burden thrown upon the rating of house property, that the present system is exceedingly inequitable already, and that the result of throwing this heavy burden upon house property is to make it result in fewer houses being built and inferior houses being provided for working people and others. With all that, I am in entire agreement, but I would like to point out to my hon. Friend that his argument with regard to houses applies not merely equally but with even greater force with regard to machinery. If it be true, as I think, that the result of imposing a heavy burden upon houses will be that you will have fewer and worse houses, obviously the result of imposing rating upon machinery is that a person who has to bear this added burden hesitates before he invests in the machinery which is necessary for the carrying on of his undertaking in an efficient manner, and the result is that inefficient machinery continues to be used, and in some cases machinery is not provided at all. You go on in a much less efficient way, and the result can only be to depress industry and to prevent employment. For these reasons, it appears to me that the House ought to give a Second Beading to this Bill.

In the present state of trade depression anything which is obviously hampering industry and preventing the restoration of prosperity ought to be removed. For that reason, I hope the House will give a Second Reading to the Bill, but I think my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery was on perfectly sound ground when he said we are entitled to ask, if this Bill is to pass into law, whether nothing is to happen except an additionally heavy rate upon houses and upon buildings, which is too high already. I am bound to say that I think the Government ought to give an answer to that question. It is all very well for the Minister of Health to say, "I make no declaration on behalf of the Government, but as a private Member of this House I propose to vote for the Bill." I do not think the right hon. Gentleman can cut himself in two in that fashion. I think there is an obligation on the Government to deal with a serious question like this rating question, and when, last year, a Resolution was moved that a Select Committee be appointed to consider the whole rating question, a Resolution which was only defeated by one vote, the Minister secured its rejection by stating that the Cabinet had appointed a Committee to consider the whole question of rates and that therefore a Select Committee was unnecessary. I think the right hon. Gentleman to-day ought to have informed the House, not as a private Member, but in his capacity as spokesman for the Government, what progress has been made by the Cabinet with the consideration of that question, and I do suggest it is essentially necessary, if this Bill secures a Second Reading, that the whole rating question ought to be tackled.

I will only say this further, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery. I recognise that I would be entirely out of Order if I developed at any length an alternative method of rating, but, at any rate, there is no doubt in my mind as to what ought to be a substitute for the rating of machinery. I think we ought to do in this country what has been done in so many of our Dominions. We ought to adopt the system which has been adopted in New South Wales, particularly in the capital city of Sydney, where there is not merely no rating upon machinery and no rating upon houses and buildings, but the whole revenue is raised by a rate of 4d. in the £ on the capital value of the land of Sydney. I commend to my hon. Friend that method as a substitute alike for the rating of machinery and of houses. In the meantime, I think we ought not to hesitate about redressing one injustice, because we are not able to redress all

injustice. Obviously, the present method is not merely inequitable, but it causes the greatest uncertainty. No manufacturer can know in advance, when he purchases his machinery, whether he will be rated upon it or not. There is differentiation between district and district, and absolute inequality between the manufacturer of England and Wales and the manufacturer of Scotland. For these reasons, I hope the House will give a Second Reading to the Bill.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes. 127; Noes, 17.

Division No. 92.]AYES.[3.0 p.m.
Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel MartinGilbert, James DanielManville, Edward
Armstrong, Henry BruceGilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir JohnMolson, Major John Elsdale
Atkey, A. R.Green, Albert (Derby)Morden, Col. W. Grant
Bagley, Captain E. AshtonGreen, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)
Banton, GeorgeGreene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)Murray, John (Leeds, West)
Barnett, Major Richard W.Greenwood, William (Stockport)Neal, Arthur
Barrand, A. R.Gretton, Colonel JohnNicholson, Bg.-Gen. J. (Westminster)
Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)Hacking, Captain Douglas H.Pain, Brig.-Gen. Sir W. Hacket
Bell, Lieut.-Col. w. C. H. (Devizes)Hancock, John GeorgeParry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry
Bigland, AlfredHannon, Patrick Joseph HenryPickering, Colonel Emil W.
Blair, Sir ReginaldHarris, Sir Henry PercyRaeburn, Sir William H.
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.Haslam, LewisRaffan, Peter Wilson
Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.Henderson, Lt.-Col. V. L. (Tradeston)Ramsden, G. T.
Breese, Major Charles E.Hills, Major John WallerRees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)
Bruton, Sir JamesHinds, JohnRees, Capt. J. Tudor (Barnstaple)
Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G.Remer, J. R.
Burdon, Colonel RowlandHogge, James MylesRichardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)
Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)Holmes, J. StanleyRoberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)
Butcher, Sir John GeorgeHood, Sir JosephRoberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)
Carr, W. TheodoreHopkins, John W. W.Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Carter, R. A. D. (Man., Withington)Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)Hurd, Percy A.Seddon, J. A
Casey, T. W.Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)
Chadwick, Sir Robert BurtonIrving, DanSitch, Charles H.
Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)Jameson, John GordonStevens, Marshall
Coats, Sir StuartJesson, C.Stewart, Gershom
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)Jodrell, Neville PaulSturrock, J. Leng
Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir HenryJohnstone, JosephSykes, Sir Charles (Huddersfield)
Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)
Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)Tickler, Thomas George
Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.Townley, Maximilian G.
Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)Kenyon, BarnetVickers, Douglas
Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.
Entwistle, Major C. F.Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H, (Univ., Wales)Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)
Evans, ErnestLewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)Wise, Frederick
Falle, Major Sir Bertram GodfrayLister, Sir R. AshtonWolmer, Viscount
Fell, Sir ArthurLorden, John WilliamWood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)
Finney, SamuelLowe, Sir Francis WilliamWoolcock, William James U.
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John MurrayYoung, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Galbraith, SamuelMacdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)
Ganzoni, Sir JohnM'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Gee, Captain RobertMacpherson, Rt. Hon. James IanSir J. Remnant and Captain Sir Hamilton Benn.
Gibbs, Colonel George AbrahamMallalieu, Frederick William
NOES.
Amman, Charles GeorgeHirst, G. H.Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur
Ashley, Colonel Wilfrid W.John, William (Rhondda, West)Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.
Barnston, Major HarryKennedy, ThomasWheler, Col. Granville C. H.
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William CliveLowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedweilty)McMicking, Major GilbertTELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Grundy, T. W.Myers, ThomasMr. G. Barker and Mr. Rhys J.
Halls, WalterRoyce, William StapletonDavies.

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.