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Clause 16. — (Postponement of Revaluation.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Local Government Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th October 1966.

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Photo of Mr John Temple Mr John Temple , City of Chester 12:00 am, 20th October 1966

A few minutes ago, I gave the Minister a very warm welcome, which I genuinely meant, and, when he moved an Amendment formally, we took the opportunity to congratulate him, but I cannot offer him hearty congratulations on the speech which he has just made, his first major speech on this Bill.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government will have to get used to facing up to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. One of the most important facets of the character of any Minister of Housing and Local Government is to be able to stand up to the Treasury, but, almost immediately, the right hon. Gentleman comes to the Box to tell us that he has acquiesced in what the Chancellor has told him about the unavailability of valuers to perform a function for which they are properly qualified.

I can tell the House why he will not get the valuers. His right hon. Friend sitting next but one to him, the Minister of Land and Natural Resources, has scooped all the valuers from every source in order to deal with the horrible—I call it no more—Land Commission Bill about which we heard so much earlier in the House today. I wonder whether, if the Government are determined to put off revaluation for 10 years, a revaluation will ever take place.

As we had an exceedingly heated debate in Standing Committee, when I was accused by the Parliamentary Secretary of irresponsiblity, and accused of knocking the £, I shall not once again indulge in quite such a heated debate. Nor had I intended to bring up the question of cadet valuers. The Parliamentary Secretary took me to task about this, and I am surprised that the Minister dared tread on this delicate and treacherous ground.

On 29th July I asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer a Parliamentary Question about the situation with regard to valuers, and I was informed of the size of the staff of the valuation office and the total valuers in post. There are fewer valuers in post in the valuation office today than there were in 1962. But more and more work is being piled on the valuation office. Admittedly, more and more clerks are employed; there has been an increase of 20 per cent. in their number in the valuation office this year.

As I say, there are fewer valuers in post than in 1962 and there is far more work for them to do. Who is responsible for the increase in work? It is the Ministers opposite who have been bringing in a lot of unnecessary legislation at a time when the most important task that faces valuers is bringing valuations up to date.

In Standing Committee, we put forward all kinds of suggestions to overcome these problems. The subject of revolving revaluations, mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Arthur Jones), was explained by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott) in Standing Committee. I can tell the Government that every responsible organisation of local authorities and every learned professional organisation is dead against the Government's proposals in the Bill with regard to postponement of revaluation. What we offered the Government was an opportunity for revaluation to be brought forward by Resolution of both Houses of Parliament. In other words, we offered a degree of flexibility. I am amazed that the Government have not accepted our suggestion. We did not destroy the Government's proposals.

I suggest that there may well be a change of Government long before 1973, and all that will happen will be that the Ministers opposite will be sitting on this side and will have to face up to fresh legislation that will come from the Conservative Party to bring forward a revaluation. If they had accepted our Amendment they could have saved themselves sitting for long hours while we brought in fresh legislation to reverse the decision that the Government are determined to put through tonight.

The right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) let the cat out of the bag with regard to this decision when he said that there are many inequities, in the valuations at the present time. If there are many inequities, why are the Government seeking to put off revaluation for this number of years and thus preserve these inequities?

During the Recess I had a long-distance telephone call from the Press informing me that there was very great concern among the public about the fact that many houses had been fitted with central heating and the valuation department had not caught up with these installations, the result being that great inequity was caused by the fact that some homes in which central heating had been installed were being rated accordingly whereas many ratepayers were getting away with it because the installation had not been detected. This is one very cogent reason why it is tragic that revaluation is to be put off in this way.

I think that the Government are trying to destroy the rating system. The present