Clause 68. — (Interpretation.)

Orders of the Day — War Damage Bill. – in the House of Commons on 12th February 1941.

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Brigadier-General Brown:

I beg to move, in page 48, line 29, to leave out from "that," to the end of line 32, and to insert: 'agricultural land' includes all lands occupied with such agricultural cottages, farm buildings, farm houses and mansion houses as are appropriate to the property of which they form part and that 'agricultural buildings' includes all such cottages, farm buildings, farm houses and mansion houses as are appropriate to the property of which they form part. I have already had conversations with my right hon. Friend on this subject but I am not quite clear about it. I understand that "mansion houses" cannot come into it, but it still seems that some Amendment, with those words omitted, is necessary, in order to cover cottages which are not contiguous to the farm and may even be some distance away. To the best of my knowledge they are on the same assessment as the farm-house and farm buildings, and I understand the Minister intends that they should be assessed with the farm buildings under the Bill. If that is so, this Amendment is not necessary. But I should like an assurance that such cottages as may not be contiguous to the farm buildings, but are at some little distance therefrom, will be included.

Photo of Mr George Garro-Jones Mr George Garro-Jones , Aberdeen North

There is one small point which I think requires clarification. A different definition of farm-house and agricultural property is being adopted in this Bill from that which has been adopted in the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act, 1928, and previous Acts. I am speaking from memory, but I believe I am correct in saying that to obtain the benefits of the Rating and Valuation Acts farm-houses, etc., must be houses occupied by persons primarily engaged in agriculture. This Clause extends the definition of "farm-house" to all farm cottages. There may be some very good reason why the definition should be extended. I have no particular objection to it, but I think the Committee ought to be informed why the definition is being extended.

Photo of Captain Harry Crookshank Captain Harry Crookshank , Gainsborough

A priori there is no particular reason why a farm cottage or any other cottage should be treated in a different way from a house or cottage occupied by the postman, the doctor, or whoever it may be. They ought all to be the same for this purpose. But, as is explained earlier in the Bill, we have to find some rough-and-ready way in which we can get contributions, and we have adopted the Schedule A assessment. Our general intention on this subject is that since, in many cases, the Schedule A assessment does include the agricultural cottages which are occupied by farm workers they come under one valuation, and we have, accordingly, described the land on which they stand as agricultural land for the purposes of the Bill, and as such liable to the lower rate of contribution. It is perhaps true to say that, by being included in that assessment, they do get preferential treatment, but the alternative would be to disentangle them from these assessments, which would be a preposterous thing to do. Not only would the time and skill involved be considerable, but at the end of it there would be no appreciable increase of contributions. The general valuation of cottages for Schedule A purposes is very small and at the end of the process of disentangling them more would have been lost than gained. The purpose is not, therefore, to introduce any general idea of what an agricultural worker's cottage is, but is a purely practical one of applying this part of the Bill quickly.

If, however, the cottage is not part of the assessment which is covered by the words "on or contiguous to the land," if it is a separate independent cottage, it would be treated, in spite of the fact that it is occupied by an agricultural worker—which, of course, has nothing to do with the case—under a separate Schedule A valuation and which had to pay contribution at the ordinary 2s. rate. In cases where there is a general assessment for a property and where some of the cottages are included in the general assessment but are not on or contiguous to the land, I cannot answer my hon. and gallant Friend offhand, but I should think that there would not be very many occasions on which that problem would arise. The general intention, however, is to avoid disentangling the assessments and thereby to save time.

Photo of Sir Joseph Lamb Sir Joseph Lamb , Stone

A large number of cottages may be essential to the working of a farm. They are let with the farm and used by farm workers, but are not contiguous to the land. They may be some distance away. But they are, nevertheless, as important for the carrying on of the farm as if they were part of it.

Photo of Captain Harry Crookshank Captain Harry Crookshank , Gainsborough

The point is not whether these cottages are used for carrying on the business of the farm or by particular kinds of workers. The point is whether they come within existing assessments. It is from the assessment point of view that we attack this problem, not from the point of view of the work done.

Brigadier-General Brown:

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: In page 48, line 38, at the end, insert— 'Defence Regulations' means regulations made under the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939, or the Emergency Powers (Defence) Acts, 1939 and 1940; emergency powers' means powers conferred by Defence Regulations, by Section fifty-two of the Telegraph Act, 1863, or by Section seven of the Air Navigation Act, 1920, as amended by any subsequent enactment, or exercisable by virtue of the prerogative of the Crown; and 'exercise' includes, in relation to emergency powers; a purported exercise thereof." [Captain Crookshank.]

Photo of Sir Joseph Lamb Sir Joseph Lamb , Stone

I beg to move, in page 48, line 38, at the end, to insert— business' includes the functions of any local authority. There is no definition in the Bill of the word "business." It does appear in the Bill on several occasions, and on behalf of the County Councils' Association, for which I am speaking now, I would like to know whether they are to be included under the word "business." Under Part I they are, of course, very large owners. Under Part II of the Bill, the statutory duties imposed upon them lead them to undertake obligations which in practice are business schemes. The object of the Amendment is to make it clear that such schemes are businesses.

Photo of Captain Harry Crookshank Captain Harry Crookshank , Gainsborough

It has been said already that we are prepared to consider some of these points about local authorities in the Bill. This is one of the points.

Photo of Mr Lewis Silkin Mr Lewis Silkin , Camberwell Peckham

I thought we had a definite assurance from the President of the Board of Trade on an earlier Amendment that the functions of the local authorities would be regarded as businesses. I should have been happy to leave it at that.

Photo of Sir Joseph Lamb Sir Joseph Lamb , Stone

If that is so, I am content.

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

That is so. The President of the Board of Trade said that it had been decided that from the legal point of view it was unnecessary to specify these matters.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

I beg to move, in page 48, line 41, to leave out "choses in action or money," and to insert: money, negotiable instruments, securities for money, evidences of title to any property or right or of the discharge of any obligation, or any documents owned for the purposes of a business. This Amendment is to widen the class of goods uninsurable under the business and chattels insurance schemes.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Sir Joseph Lamb Sir Joseph Lamb , Stone

On a point of Order. I do not wish to move my next Amendment on the Order Paper—in page 48, line 46, at the end, to insert: 'local authority' means the council of a county, county borough, county district or rural parish"— if I can be assured that this is covered by the Government's undertaking.

Further Amendment made: In page 49, 50, line 5, at the end, insert: 'war damage' has the meaning assigned to it by Sub-section (1) of Section fifty-nine of this Act."—[Sir K. Wood.]

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.