SIR GEORGE LEWIS,
in moving for leave to introduce a Bill to amend the law relating to parochial assessments in England, said it was not his intention to propose any alteration in the existing law of rating, to alter any of the rules determining the liability of property to local rates, or defining the different proportions in which those burdens affected different 150 classes of property. All be proposed was to introduce certain improvements in the mode in which those burdens were assessed upon the ratepayers. Gentlemen who had paid attention to the subject, knew that the present law of parochial assessment was defective in its operation, inasmuch as it often happened that an accurate assessment, when made, was not followed by the parish officers, who might depart arbitrarily from it, and impose a rate based on another assessment, framed on less accurate principles than those which guided the levy of the poor and county rates. The object of the Bill was to introduce greater uniformity and certainty into the form of making the assessments on which rates were levied, and to deprive the parish officers of this discretionary power. He proposed that the measure should be limited to the poor rates and to various charges paid out of the poor rates and the county rates. With respect to counties, he proposed that the justices should appoint a Board out of their own number of not less than five and not more than eleven, to be called the Assessment Board for the county; and that in boroughs a similar Board should be appointed by the Town Council. These Boards are to have power to requite returns from the parish officers, to enforce the production of the rate books, and to exa-amine witnesses. It would be incumbent on the overseers of each parish to prepare a valuation roll, of which roll the Assessment Board would have the supervision. Objections to the valuation might be made within fourteen days, and the Assessment Boards were empowered to hear and decide upon those objections; but in questions of law relating to the rating, an appeal was to be open to the Quarter Sessions, and from them to the superior Courts. When the valuation list was approved by the Assessment Board, it was to become the valuation enforced in each parish, and it would not be competent to the overseers to depart from it. Their duty would be to impose every assessment in accordance with the rate thus sanctioned by the Board, until such valuation was revised as new property grew up. There were subsidiary enactments with which he would not trouble the House. It would be seen that the Bill was exceedingly simple in its machinery— that, if acted upon, it would produce a uniform system of assessment in parishes, and that it would prevent overseers applying arbitrarily an assess- 151 ment to any property. It would be recollected that in the discussions of last Session, it was alleged that, in a large number of rural parishes, the valuation that appeared on the ratebook was considerably lower, sometimes by 10 and 15 per cent, than the proper rateable value of the property; but such an objection would be obviated by the passing of the measure which he now proposed.
§ MR. DEEDES
agreed that it was most desirable that a uniform system of rating should be established throughout the country. Great discrepancies existed in parishes even very near to one another, especially in the rural districts; but he did not see, so far as regarded the county rates, at least, that the proposed enactments of the right hon. Gentleman would practically alter the existing system. There was at that moment in counties a standing committee of justices charged with the special duty of supervising the rates of assessment in the different parishes, in order to see that where new property had grown up, or property had acquired greater value, the assessment should be regulated accordingly. They had the power of calling the overseers before them, and of inspecting the rate books, and were constantly altering and bringing up to their full value assessments upon property. Without wishing to oppose the introduction of the Bill, he was at a loss to see what improvement it would effect in the system of rating.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
was aware that the law was what had been stated by the hon. Gentleman in the case of county rates; but his object was to assimilate the practice with respect to poor rates and county rates. By this Bill the poor rates and county rates would both be levied upon the same assessment.
§ In answer to Mr. SOTHERON ESTCOURT,
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
said, he would have no objection, if it was desired, to introduce a provision in Committee, including highway rates in the Bill.
§ Bill to amend the Law relating to Parochial Assessments ordered to be brought in by Sir GEOEGE LEWIS and Mr. CLIVE.