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12° Julii, 1927.]
to relieve the Ouse Board of any concern with the Nar Valley, and to concentrate the Ouse Board's activities upon the Ouse properly so called and its area, and therefore the Nar is discarded from the present proposal as it is a tributary of the Ouse, but it does not join the Ouse until close round by the sea at King's Lynn. Thus what we propose is to restore to the Nar Valley Commissioners the powers they had previously to 1920 and not to operate any transfer of their powers to the new Board. Then follows a small matter but one that has not escaped the vigilance of some of the Petitioners: "The Ouse Board, without making payment therefor or giving compensation in respect thereof, may appropriate and dispose of any shingle, sand, clay, or other matter removed in the course of the execution of any work for widening, dredging, or deepening the main tidal channel of the river, and deposit any matter so removed on the banks of the river or use it in any other manner for the maintenance or improvement of those banks or for the purposes of the execution of any other work which the Board has power to execute." Of course if they are doing anything, naturally they wish to have the material to do it with. Some of the Petitioners object to our having that power. We shall meet their objection to that point.
You have this Board, you have its territory, and you have its functions. Then comes the question, How is it to pay its way? and then you come to the financial part of the Bill, beginning with Part III, and here we are certainly within the zone of controversy. The scheme following the recommendation of the Commission is that there shall be a direct rating area coincident with the lowlands and an area of contribution where the representative County Councils shall contribute but where the individual shall not directly contribute to the cost of the works. The Ouse Board," says clause 3, "shall from time to time levy such drainage rates as are necessary in order to cover the expenditure falling to be defrayed by the Board. (2) Every drainage rate made by the Ouse Board shall be deemed to be made on the date on which it is approved by a resolution of the Board." Then follows a little machinery which I need not trouble about. That is merely following the 1925 Act. There is nothing in that. Then comes a very important provision; "The following provisions shall, notwithstanding
anything in this or any other Act . . have effect with respect to all drainage rates to be levied by the Ouse Board and the collection of rates so levied :(a) no rates shall be levied within the area coloured blue on the deposited map (in this Act referred to as the Uplands '), but, subject as aforesaid, the rates shall be levied on the owners of all hereditaments within the Ouse district." -the line of demarcation between the Uplands and the Lowlands is, as I have said, again following the recommendation of the Commission, the 20 feet line.
Colonel Heneage.] Is there a great difference of area between the new colours and the old as a result of the survey?
Mr. Macmillan.] In the area of the Board? I cannot say how much it would be, but it is quite trivial. The operation of making the deposited map accurate has involved subtractions at some points and additions at others. The more accurately drawn line involves upon the whole an increase of the lowland area by a figure which I cannot give you, but which geographically cannot be very large. It will amount to a considerable number of acres, but you can see by placing one map over the other the extent to which there has been an alteration, and it has mainly occurred in the direction of Cambridge and in the direction of Grantham. Apart from that I cannot be more precise, but it is larger in the upshot. The blue area then is to be designated the Uplands and there is to be no rate there, but apart from that, the rate is to be levied on the owners of all hereditaments within the Ouse district. Now comes most important provision, page 4, line 37: "it shall be no objection to the levying of a rate in respect of a hereditament that the owner thereof neither derives benefit nor avoids danger by reason of the execution of the works, the expenses in connection with which are to be defrayed out of the rate." In short, it is not an admissible defence any longer to a person who is called upon to pay a rate that he is not benefited by the expenditure to which he is asked to contribute in the rate. That is therefore, a very important provisions in the Bill and it really puts this rate upon the basis of an ordinary local taxation rate. When a local rate is levied upon any of us for any particular purpose we are not entitled to plead that we derive no benefit from the particular expenditure. Indeed, we
12° Julii, 1927.]
might very much object to the particular expenditure of a local authority to whose expenditure we are asked to contribute. It is no defence and no excuse for nonpayment that you do not derive benefit. So far, therefore, as the area of the lowland is concerned where the rate is to be levied the principle of the Bill is that all the land in the lowlands is land which ought to contribute to the rate, and that there is to be no excuse on the part of any person resident in that area on the ground that direct benefit is not derived from the works to which he is asked to contribute through the medium of his rate contribution. That is a topic upon which, no doubt, my learned friends will have much to offer in argument. Then "the rates shall be assessed at a uniform amount per £." There again is a most important decision. Hitherto under the Land Drainage Act of 1918, Section 4, it is provided that the rates leviable in a drainage district may be levied in one or other of two manners, either in the form of a rate on the annual value of the hereditaments within the area or by means of an acreage rate. The acreage rate was the old method, the method in the Statute of King Henry VIII, and you will find traces of it in the well known form of payment in the old records of the district where I think the imposition was called acre silver." But following again the recommendation of the Commission, here we propose that the rates shall be upon the basis of so much per £ on the annual value. We propose that these rates, again bearing in mind that they are the rates in the lowland district, are to be on the full value of agricultural land, the assumption being that agricultural land benefits distinctively and, on the other hand, are to be levied upon onethird of the value of other hereditaments, that is to say, property other than agricultural land is to be assessed to this drainage rate in the lowlands on third of the annual value. That is the scheme.
Mr. Riley.] Does that include farm buildings?
Mr. Macmillan.] No, farm buildings would be included in agricultural land. Then here is the mode of assessment and recovery: "The rates shall be assessed on and be recoverable from the persons on and from whom the poor rate or, where in pursuance of the Rating and Valuation Act, 1925, a general rate is levied in lieu of the poor rate, that
general rate, is assessed or recoverable, but nothing in the foregoing provision shall prejudice the right of the occupier of any hereditament to recover from the owner thereof the amount paid on account of any rate." Then the next is machinery really. Any rating authority in the lowland area is to furnish the Ouse Board with a copy of their valuation list for their area; this is mere machinery of how you are to get your rate list compiled. Then article (f) is again a matter of machinery, getting copies and extracts, and so on, but (g), over the page, on page 6, is very important, because I gather that rating authorities in this area regard as eminently distasteful the task which may be imposed upon them under this provision. You make up your Budget and ascertain your rate, and then the next question is, How are you to get it and collect it? In paragraph (g) it is proposed that any such rating authority as aforesaid "-that is a rating authority within the lowlands-" on being so required by the Ouse Board, shall then I omit the words in brackets-" by its officers undertake on behalf of the Board the service of any notices of the making of and of demand notes for and the collection of, any rate made by the Board within the area of the authority, and may "-permissive note, and in contrast with the mandatory word in the second line " may, if he thinks fit, make arrangements with the Board for the institution by the Clerk or some other officer of the authority of proceedings. for the recovery of arrears of any
such rate." If this measure becomes law, accordingly the method of collecting money which it proposes is that the Board having compiled its budget and seen how much it wants may then precept upon the rating authorities within its area requiring them to collect for it through the medium of their own rating machinery the amount for which the precept is issued, of course, a method of collection which is very familiar in other spheres. It is the utilisation of the existing rating authority's collection machinery that is proposed, and what the Ouse Board would do would be to hand to those rating authorities a statement of the amount required to be raised, and they are entitled to require such rating authorities to undertake what I may call the mechanical part of sending out Then notices and collecting the rate.
12° Julii, 1927.]
they may, but do not need to, comply with arrangements for the institution of proceedings by such rating authorities for the recovery of arrears. What the rating authorities who are represented here, in their Petitions against the Bill, indicate in no uncertain manner, is that having regard to the past experience of collecting money for the purpose of Ouse drainage works in the past, they do not want the distasteful task of being made the hands to collect the money for the Ouse Drainage Board. They recognise the recalcitrancy of their own inhabitants, apparently, and having had experience of passive resistance in some of the areas at least, they say, "This is a very unpopular task you propose to put upon us. If you want your money go and get it yourselves and do not ask us. I am putting it in colloquial form, but
that is the upshot of it. "Go and do it yourselves, but do not ask us to collect your rates." Most of all I think would they dislike the collection of the arrears of rates which has been in the past a very painful topic in this region with which these rating authorities do not wish to find themselves associated. We may employ them as our hands for the collection of rates, but we cannot compel them to take proceedings for the collection of arrears. Your Lordship and your colleagues will judge whether it is desirable to set up a separate authority with all the machinery that that means, or whether the method of precept is not appropriate. One would hope that when a measure has been hammered out for the administration of this area as a result, as I hope it will be the result, of these proceedings, a large amount of that disaffection may disappear and less odium may attach to the contributions which may be required from the ratepayers of the area. It would be unfortunate to reverse the process that is going on on all hands of reducing the number of collecting bodies, to reverse that process and to start a new collecting body. We have had experience in various parts of the country, as the members of the Committee know, of attempts which have been made in many instances to reduce the number of those papers which we receive from different authorities and make one operation rather than a series of operations which make inroads upon our bank balance. It is a less painful process to receive one notice than several notices, and it is moreover a less costly matter to
print one notice than several, and to receive your water rate and other rates separately. All these proposals are subject to your consideration and subject to the criticism of my learned friends. You will judge whether it is better that there should be a separate rating system set up, or whether it is not better we should utilise the existing precept system and the existing machinery.
Then (h) deals with the separate accounts, and I think perhaps the rating authorities might be reconciled by subparagraph (2) of paragraph (h) which indicates that there is to be a recognition of the service of the rating authority, which is, I take it, some recognition of the cost of the assistance received by the Board from the officers of the authority in this task of collection. Then the rating authorities are to be absolved from responsibility for losses. Then what is important is paragraph (i) on page 7: 'any arrears of rates by whomsoever the proceedings for the recovery thereof are instituted, may, instead of being recovered in manner provided by Section 7 of the Sewers Act, 1849, be recovered summarily as a civil debt." Now this is to make the recovery of rates more simple and more effective that the rather archaic system on which it proceeded before. It will take me at least five or 10 minutes to read Section 7 and explain that system, and I see an honourable Member looking at the clock and deprecating that I should do so. It is sufficient to say this will bring means of recovering a rate in consonance with modern procedure and give us modern means of recovery instead of an archaic procedure. It gives us the means of recovering the rate. That is the Main Drainage Board's rate for the works. Then comes the question what about the finance of the South Level Board, the yellow area Board: "Surely as hereinafter provided the foregoing provisions of this section shall apply with respect to the drainage rates to be levied by the South Level Board "-that is they are just to do it in the same way and to have the same powers and the same machinery as the larger Board with certain modifications. "The following shall be substituted for paragraph (a) of subsection (4) (a) the rate shall be levied on the owners or occupiers of all hereditaments within the South Level District.'" We propose to amend that so as to make the South Level rate a rate on owners only.
12 Julii, 1927.]
Mr. Charteris.] The same as raised by the Board?
Mr. Macmillan.] The same as the Ouse Board. That is the intention. We do not think there is any reason to make a distinction. It is very probable we will have to take out the whole of that proviso. There is a provision there of a rather complicated character which I think I would rather cut out than expound, but I do not think you need be troubled with it in the meantime. We are considering whether it is necessary to keep that in, and if it be so we will ask leave to do it later on. I do not think it need cause any anxiety to my learned triends. There is nothing else but machinery in (3). Now we have the position of the lowland areas and their rateability defined. It is to be a rate on the annual value of the subjects in that area on the whole of the hereditaments where they are agricultural, on one-third of the value where they are not agricultural, and it is to be no longer an acreage rate, or no longer optionally an acreage rate. It is now to be definitely an annual value rate and it is to be levied throughout the area on that principle.
Then comes the question of the contributions from the Uplands, again, as I say, a highly controversial subject. My Lord will probably bear in mind the justifications which I have indicated which were present to the minds of the Commissioners and the Government as justifying such a rate at all. Now see what is proposed practically: "Subject as hereinafter provided, the Council of every County and every County Borough whose area, or any part of whose area, is situate in the Uplands, shall, on demand by the Ouse Board, pay to the Board in respect of every year, by way of a contribution towards defraying the expenses of the Board, an amount calculated at the rate of twopence in respect of every acre comprised in such part of the area of the Council as is situate in the Uplands, and the amount so to be paid shall be defrayed, in the case of the Council of a County, either as expenses for general County purposes, or, if and so far as the Council so determine, as expenses for special County purposes, charged on the several rating areas or parts of rating areas in that part of the area of the Council which is within the Uplands and in the case of the Council of a County Borough out of the Borough Fund or rate." We are dealing here with the blue area. The
blue area constitutes the Uplands. Every County Council and every County Borough whose area, or part of whose area, is coloured blue, is within the catchment area, and is to be subject to an obligation to furnish a contribution which is to be quantified in this way: Find out how much of the blue is in each County or in each County Borough. That will give you a figure. Having
got the acreage in each County and in each County Borough, you then multiply that by 2d. and you get the quota to be contributed to the Ouse Board from that County Council or County Borough, as the case may be; it is a method of measuring or quantifying a contribution. It is done by acreage of catchment area within the area of the County Council or the County Borough, as the case may be, and in that way you quantify the amount of the contribution. One is liable, perhaps, not to notice that it does not mean that each acre will be taxed at the rate of 2d., but having quantified a sum at 2d. that sum will have to be contributed by the County Council or Council of the County Borough, as the case may be, out of their funds, and therefore it is provided that they may obtain the necessary money to hand over to send their cheque in to the Ouse Board either by debiting the sum so quantified to their general county purposes, or if they prefer to do it they may debit it to the County purposes charged to several rating areas, that is to say, they may spread it generally over the whole County, or they may localise it to the area which is within the blue. They raise the 2d. contribution either from the blue area, which appertains to them, or over the whole County.
Chairman.] But each authority will only be responsible for its own quantum. It may be small or it may be large?
Mr. Macmillan.] Yes.
Chairman.] I was not quite sure whether you were going to multiply the blue area by five or six authorities.
Mr. Macmillan.] That would never do. Let me exhibit the process quite simply. Here is the blue area, and inside that blue area are several other areas.
Chairman.] I quite understand now. Mr. Macmillan.] As there are a great many people here I wonder if it would be asking too much if we were to ask for an indication of the proposed sittings of the Committee.
The Petition of JOHN ASHTON FIELDEN.
Mr. THORP appeared as Counsel in support of the Petition.
Chairman.] You mentioned the matter of East Suffolk yesterday.
Mr. Macmillan.] I did, my Lord. Chairman.] We express no opinion at this moment, but we should like to know have you done anything with regard to that matter?
Mr. Macmillan.] Not since we met yesterday. I was waiting for your Lordship's direction as you indicated the Committee were taking it into consideration. Perhaps I might remind my Lords, with regard to the various alterations I have alluded to, that this measure is rather different from an ordinary Private Bill.
Your Lordship will recollect when it goes back to the House it still has to pass through the Committee stage, and is at the disposal of Parliament, which can make any alterations. It is rather different in that respect from an ordinary Private Bill.
Mr. Parker.] Before Counsel proceeds with the Bill might I say this. I appear for Cambridge, and Mr. Macmillan announced an alteration in their ares yesterday The learned Counsel for Cambridge is unfortunately on his legs in another room. What I would ask your Lordship to do is to allow it to stand over until after lunch, or until after Mr. Macmillan's speech. This alteration of the Bill, which was announced for the first time by Mr. Macmillan last night, is completely out of order, and we should ask the Committee for relief. If your Lordship would allow that to stand over until after lunch, or until after Mr. Macmillan's speech, then Counsel will be able to deal with it, or if you would prefer it I can explain the position now.
Mr. Charteris.] There was a map put in yesterday which differs from the map on the deposited plan, and I do not know if my learned friend could tell us the