HC Deb 10 May 1961 vol 640 cc469-86
Mr. Brooke

I beg to move, in page 5, line 20, after "by" to insert "or by trustees for".

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I think that it would be convenient if the House were to discuss with this Amendment the Government Amendment in page 7, line 10, after "occupied" to insert "(otherwise than as trustee)", and the Amendment in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) and his hon. Friend in page 7, line 10, after "authority" to insert: (other than a parish council occupying the hereditament as a trustee and having no beneficial interest therein)

Mr. Brooke

As you have said, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, this Amendment is linked with the Government Amendment in page 7, line 10. I trust that the hon. and learned Member for Kettering will grant that it meets the point raised in his Amendment in page 7, line 10.

We had a short debate in Committee on and Amendment to Clause 8 moved by the hon. and learned Gentleman when he directed attention principally to the case of a village hall which is owned by the parish council as trustee. He pointed, quite rightly, to a later provision of Clause 8, namely, subsection (7), which would prevent the hall, in that case, from having mandatory relief even though it was actually used for charitable purposes. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said that he would look into that further. Our researches into the matter have led us to put down Amendments which, as I think the hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate, have a rather wider effect. I hope that he will agree that it has been done rather neatly by these two Amendments.

The first Amendment is not intended to extend the scope of mandatory relief. It is intended, rather, to remove doubt about entitlement to relief when a property is occupied by trustees for a charity. In a case like that, perhaps occupation by the trustee constitutes occupation by the charity, but there is at least room for doubt. The Amendment would remove the doubt and the anomaly which might exist if the mandatory rate relief for a charity were found to depend upon the status of the trustees of the charity.

The Amendment to subsection (7) precisely meets the point made by the hon. and learned Gentleman about the village hall, and it extends the concession to any other type of property which might be occupied by any type of local authority as trustee. I commend the Amendments to the House.

Mr. Mitchison

I agree, for once, with everything that the Minister has said and I have only to thank him for what he has done.

The difficulty here, in the case of village halls, was that they would almost always be charities, but where they were held in the name of parish councils as trustees—a very common practice—they would be caught by a provision debarring local authorities from what I will call charitable relief, although that was never the intention behind the Bill. Clearly, it was a case where one ought to look at the beneficial interest in the village hall.

Parish councils throughout the country have been urged to take on this function, and I am sure that they will recognise the approval which we in the House have given to their doing so. They are the best trustees, in most cases, for village halls, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree.

Amendment agreed to.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Brooke

I beg to move, in page 6, line 20, to leave out from the beginning to "science" in line 22 and to insert: philanthropic or religious or concerned with education, social welfare". This Amendment is tabled to discharge an undertaking which I gave in Committee to my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall). He referred to the question of the contemplative orders. It is doubtful whether a contemplative order can be held to have as its object the advancement of religion.

My hon. Friend sought to leave out the words "the advancement of". I pointed out that this would leave the Clause reading in this way: … organisations…whose main objects are … concerned with … religion … Some violently anti-religious bodies might claim to be concerned with religion and, therefore, say that they were within the scope of this discretionary relief. I promised my hon. Friend that I would seek to meet his point.

The Amendment does not require a local authority to give mandatory relief to a contemplative order, but makes it clear that it will be intra vires for it to do so if it so wishes.

Mr. Mitchison

It never occurred to me in my wildest dreams that I would find myself thanking the Minister on behalf of contemplative orders.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 7, line 10, after "occupied", insert "(otherwise than as trustee)".—[Mr. Brooke.]

Mr. Mitchison

I beg to move, in page 7, line 11, at the end to insert: or to any hereditament occupied for the purposes of an approved school (as defined in the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933) This Amendment arises from a constituency point in South Wales. It was raised in a rather different and perhaps not quite suitable form in Committee by the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Rees).

The point, shortly, is this. Many approved schools are managed or occupied for rating purposes by local authorities. However, others are managed or occupied by voluntary bodies which play the part which local authorities would play in managing the schools. The substance of the matter is that approved schools, although they are managed and occupied in this way, are really bodies set up for Home Office purposes and, I believe, contributed to and certainly surpervised by the Home Office and are in a substantially different position from that of other schools.

The point raised by the Amendment is whether, in those circumstances, where the schools do not get the exemption which derives from the peculiar position of local authorities under the Bill, they should also be exempt from rates. As I understand, the Bill would give them exemption as charities to the extent that charities get exemption, namely, a 50 per cent. mandatory relief and an additional discretionary relief in the hands of the local authorities. The question is whether they will get that, or whether there is any real reason why they should not pay full rates.

I do not propose to develop the matter at length, because I think that it arises particularly on this constituency point. The local authority which seeks to have the approved school rated met with considerable support from both sides in Committee and, no doubt, will have some support in the House.

Is there any real reason why an approved school of this kind should be exempt from rates? It may be said that we must stick to what is said in the Pritchard Report. I am wondering how far this matter was considered by the Pritchard Committee and how far the Government or those who made this valuable Report have reflected on the point that if this were simply a Home Office institution there seems little doubt that it would pay no rates, but would make a contribution in lieu of rates to the full extent. I should have thought that that followed. Also, whatever is said about an approved school, it perhaps falls into the category of those things which are legal charities, but are not commonly regarded as charities either by their occupants or by other people concerned.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

I rise with considerable trepidation to speak on this very abstruse Bill. I have not had the privilege—I do not know whether the word should be "punishment"—of serving on the Committee of which, it seems, every hon. Member who is present this afternoon was a distinguished member. I am greatly obliged to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) for moving the Amendment and for explaining it to me. I have an interest in it—at least, I believe that I have an interest in it. The Penarth Urban District Council is the body which has been most active in this problem. I ask the Minister in his capacity as Minister for Welsh Affairs, to give a fair wind to the case which Penarth has asked me to put forward It is a simple one.

The National Children's Home is a charity. The Penarth Headlands Approved School is run by it and it occupies the school for the purpose of a charity. However, I think that it would not be unfair to the National Children's Home if I said that this is merely a shell. The reality is that the school is occupied by the Home Office for the purposes of an approved school. The Home Office provides, not part of the finance, which my hon. and learned Friend said happens in the case of some approved schools, but all the finance for running this school. There is a local body of managers who are appointed by the National Children's Home and who. I know, from personal experience, have rendered considerable help in running the school. I am sure that the Home Office has welcomed the assistance which it has had from them. This is for all practical purposes a Home Office approved school, but for technical purposes it is a charity.

I have read in great detail what was said in Committee on this and many other subjects, because I thought that it was an interesting Committee. The Minister relies on a technicality. He says, "The Pritchard Report says that we should stand by the technical definition of a charity. If something is technically a charity, then never mind the merits of the case. This is a simple and clear definition and, therefore, let us stick to it and thereby avoid many anomalies". In saying this, the right hon. Gentleman is creating other anomalies. A particular anomaly is that within a stone's throw of the approved school about which I am speaking, and which is to be relieved of 50 per cent. of its rates, there is another approved school run jointly by the Glamorgan County Council and by the Cardiff Borough Council. It is financed jointly by Glamorgan and Cardiff. It is not to be relieved of rates. It is to pay the whole amount.

I said that I have read with considerable interest what was said in Committee. I should like to quote the Parliamentary Secretary against himself. Speaking on another Clause, he said: It is common ground that no one wishes ratepayers as a whole to be obliged to help bodies that are not in financial need".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 9th February, 1961; c. 360.] I know of nothing to suggest that the Home Office is in financial need. If this were the National Children's Home, there might be a case to be made for it, and I would not argue against it, but this is the Home Office disguised as the National Children's Home.

Therefore, I say to the Minister that although he has not found it possible up to the moment to grant this request because he has relied on the Pritchard Committee, which I am sure was an exceedingly expert Committee—from what I have read of it, and what I understood of what I read, it seems to me that the Committee has gone into a number of matters in great detail—nevertheless, when I looked at it from the simple point of view with which I approached it, which was whether the Committee considered whether a school in this connection should be rated, my conclusion was that it did not consider that matter.

I hope that the Minister will not rely on the Pritchard Report as covering him, that he will not claim that the Committee did, in fact, consider it. I do not think that any unprejudiced person—and I have tried to be unprejudiced about this matter—could really say that the Pritchard Committee considered the anomaly which would raise between these two types of schools one occupied by the National Children's Home and wholly financed by the Home Office and the second financed and occupied by a local authority.

I ask the Minister, even at this late stage, to consider whether the Amendment in my name, or a similar Amendment, would not meet with his favour. Perhaps he might give us an indication that Penarth, which feels very strongly upon this matter—so strongly, in fact, that it went to the Court of Appeal on a rating issue recently; admittedly, it was a rather different point, but the same basic issue—should have the relief which it is claiming, namely, be entitled to rate this school and claim the sum that would be involved. I understand that its rateable value is about £498, quite a sizeable sum.

In Committee, the Minister said that this can be made up by the rate deficiency grant, and it is quite true that Penarth is in receipt of a rate deficiency grant, but the whole object of the Bill is to make local authorities more independent, and, therefore, it is not sufficient to say that Penarth can have it made up by a rate deficiency grant. What the local authority wants to do is to levy rates in the way which they think is proper, and, looking at it as a non-expert, in accordance with the merits of the case, as disclosed by the facts I have given.

Mr. Brooke

I was not aware that the rateable value of the school in Penarth was as high as the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) indicated, but I think that we must decide these matters on general grounds of principle. I hope that the House will accept from me that in this complex field of rating and valuation it is not possible to iron away every single anomaly or seeming anomaly, and the Pritchard Committee quite definitely recognised that.

As Minister for Welsh Affairs, I am particularly sorry to be in any way opposing a Welsh local authority. I know how keenly the Penarth Urban District Council has addressed itself to this matter, and how anxious it is that what appears to it to be an anomaly should be removed. In our interesting proceedings in Committee, we had considerable debate on whether we should move the demarcation line a bit one way, to take in certain bodies not charities, or a bit the other way, to leave out certain bodies which were, in fact, charities, but which were, it was argued, not deserving of relief. The Government stood firmly on the line that if we seek to do even better justice by moving the demarcation line this way or that, in order to remove some seeming anomalies, we will, in fact, only create more anomalies, and further requests that the line should be shifted a little more.

5.15 p.m.

It is quite true that this school which the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East has in mind is financed from public funds, apart from parental contributions. His argument is that if that happens, it makes it unreasonable that a local authority should be required to give any rate relief. He prayed in aid of that argument the fact that there was no evidence, and I accept this, that the Pritchard Committee had examined the specific case of the approved schools.

I do not suppose it did, but it certainly did, in paragraphs 96 to 99 of its Report and elsewhere, address itself to the question whether there should be exceptions to the general rule that that which was a charity should have mandatory 50 per cent. relief, and that which was not a charity should not, though it might, in certain circumstances, get discretionary relief. The Report said, in paragraph 99: We have, therefore, had little difficulty in agreeing that, with regard to charities in general, there should be no exclusion from relief on the ground that the body is national or on the ground that it is in receipt of Exchequer grant or of fees, or because its voluntary income is small. The Government must stand on that. It is, I believe, the only firm ground here.

The position in regard to approved schools, I know, creates an apparent anomaly. There are 117 approved schools in England and Wales, and I think that about three-quarters of them are run by voluntary bodies and about one-quarter by local authorities. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East has referred to two neighbouring schools, one The Headlands, run by a voluntary body, and another school run by the local authority.

I entirely grant that from the point of the Penarth Urban District Council, or any other urban district council or any other local authority at all, which has an approved school run by a voluntary body in its area, it is annoying and vexatious that there should be any mandatory relief. At the same time, I must put it to the House that if we do not stand by this principle that, whether or not an organisation is a charity is the determinent whether or not it shall receive the mandatory relief, we shall find ourselves in deeper and deeper water.

It is not only a case of the approved schools; other things will come along, and the Pritchard Committee clearly addressed itself to some of them. The Pritchard Committee examined whether there were, so to speak, good charities and bad charities, whether there were bodies which were technically charities, but which were not supported, or substantially supported, by voluntary contributions. Having carried out that examination, the Committee said quite firmly and unanimously that the only test which it could recommend Parliament to apply was the charity test, and on that I must rest my argument.

I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East and the Penarth Urban District Council. I would add that the hon. Gentleman rather scoffed at the idea of the rate deficiency grant, though he had at an earlier stage said that he had some financial interest in this. I can confirm that, unless the position of the Penarth Urban District Council and the County of Glamorgan changes substantially in the next few years, what we do by this Amendment will make no difference at all to the ratepayers of Penarth or Glamorgan, because both of them are in receipt of rate deficiency grants, and I have no reason to suppose that the position will change.

Consequently, the fact that Penarth has to give, under the Bill, when it becomes an Act, 50 per cent. mandatory relief to an approved school run by a voluntary body, will not, in fact, damnify in any way the ratepayers of Penarth or Glamorgan.

I quite accept what the hon. Member says, that it is a financial satisfaction but not a full satisfaction. Nevertheless, it is some satisfaction. I do not think that there is a sufficiently strong case here, in trying to remove one apparent anomaly, for us to be led as a Parliament off the main road. I am sure that the main road is clear and plain: what is a charity should have a mandatory relief, whether it is a good charity, a bad charity or any other sort of charity, and what is not a charity should not.

Mr. Mitchison

Unless it happens to be a university. The right hon. Gentleman, after stating that he had found a principle and wished to cling to it, omitted to mention that the Government themselves had departed from it in one respect which is much more important financially and, I should have thought, just as important socially as the question of this particular school and others like it.

I sympathise with the Minister. This is a matter of principle. If anybody is so fortunate as to find a matter of principle in questions of rating, the tendency to cling to it is almost irresistible. There is another principle, too. It is in a Latin proverb, which I put as follows: that he who adheres to the letter adheres to the surface. That is really what is happening in connection with the Pritchard Report.

The Pritchard Committee did not consider approved schools, as the passage to which the right hon. Gentleman referred shows. What the Committee was talking about was charities that got Exchequer assistance. This is a case, not of assistance, but of the whole thing, rates and all, being financed by the Home Office. That is not a case which the Committee considered. If there is a principle to be found in the Pritchard Report—and to some extent there is—the question which we have to consider is whether this is a principle which must be applied to a case which the Committee never considered. We do not know what the Committee's answer would have been.

Sir Frederick Pritchard is a hard-headed and sensible person. He might have looked at the reality of the matter. If one looks at the reality of the matter, it is quite simple. The Home Office finances this school. The institution that is in possession of it for rating purposes is, as regards finance and the payment of rates, a mere shadow.

If the question was who really pays the rates and who ought to pay them, the answer in this particular case must be the Home Office. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) pointed out, how can we distinguish between this case if we are dealing with the substance of the matter and the case of the neighbouring school, where a couple of local authorities are in technical possession for rating purposes and actually managing the place so far as the Home Office does not do it? These are really Home Office institutions.

The Pritchard Committee recognised that there were some cases of legal charities which an ordinary man would not call a charity at all. If I may mention one other instance, Eton College, Windsor, Buckinghamshire, is technically a charity, but no ordinary man would regard it as such. An approved school is technically a charity, otherwise the question in the Amendment would not arise. No ordinary man would regard it as anything but what it is, an institution on the borderline between the provisions of our criminal law or quasi criminal law and our educational system.

To deal with that, when the Pritchard Committee obviously had not considered the case, simply on the technical ground that it is a legal charity, and to result in dealing quite differently with two neighbouring schools that are doing exactly the same job, is totally absurd.

I must ask the Government to pull themselves together—I agree that not much money is concerned—have a real shakedown of their intellectual notions and accept for once that, as a matter of common sense, they have no alternative except to accept the Amendment.

Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—

The House divided: Ayes 152, Noes 222.

Division No. 167.] AYES [5.26 p.m.
Ainsley, William Hayman, F. H. Popplewell, Ernest
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Healey, Denis Prentice, R. E.
Bacon, Mitt Alice Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.) Herbison, Miss Margaret Probert, Arthur
Benton, Sir George Hill, J. (Midlothian) Proctor, W. T.
Blackburn, F. Holman, Percy Rankin, John
Boardman, H. Holt, Arthur Redhead, E. C.
Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.) Houghton, Douglas Reid, William
Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan) Howell, Denis (B'ham, Small Heath) Rhodes, H.
Boyden, James Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Brockway, A. Fenner Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Robertson, J. (Paisley)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Hunter, A. E. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Rots, William
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Royle, Charles (Salford, West)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Callaghan, James Jeger, George Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Chapman, Donald Jones, Dan (Burnley) Skeffington, Arthur
Collick, Percy Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Kelley, Richard Small, William
Crosland, Anthony Kenyon, Clifford Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Sorensen, R. W.
Darling, George Lee, Frederick (Newton) Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Davies, Harold (Leek) Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Steele, Thomas
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Deer, George MacColl, James Stones, William
de Freitas, Geoffrey McInnes, James Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)
Diamond, John McKay, John (Wallsend) Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Ede, Rt. Hon. C. Mackie, John Sylvester, George
Edelman, Maurice McLeavy, Frank Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Nest. (Caerphilly) MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles) Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Manuel, A. C. Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)
Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)
Evans, Albert Marsh, Richard Thornton, Ernest
Fernyhough, E. Mellish, R.J. Thorpe, Jeremy
Finch, Harold Mendelson, J. J. Tomney, Frank
Fitch, Alan Millan, Bruce Wade, Donald
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Mitchison, G. R. Warbey, William
Forman, J. C. Monslow, Walter Watkins, Tudor
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Morris, John Weitzman, David
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh Moyle, Arthur Wells, Percy (Faversham)
George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Crmrthn) Neal, Harold Wilkins, W. A.
Ginsburg, David Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.) Willey, Frederick
Gordon walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Oliver, G. H. Williams, LI. (Abertillery)
Gourlay, Harry Oram, A. E. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Greenwood, Anthony Oswald, Thomas Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Owen, Will Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Griffiths, W. (Exchange) Panned, Charles (Leeds, W.) Woof, Robert
Grimond, J. Pargiter, G. A. Zilliacus, K.
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Parker, John
Hamilton, William (West Fife) Pavitt, Laurence TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hannan, William Peart, Frederick Mr. Rogers and Mr. Lawson.
Hart, Mrs. Judith Pentland, Norman
Allason, James Bidgood, John C. Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter
Arbuthnot, John Bingham, R. M. Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry
Atkins, Humphrey Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Brown, Alan (Tottenham)
Barber, Anthony Bishop, F. P. Buck, Antonys
Barlow, Sir John Black, Sir Cyril Bullard, Denys
Barter, John Bossom, Clive Burden, F. A.
Batsford, Brian Bourne-Arton, A. Butcher, Sir Herbert
Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate) Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)
Bell, Ronald Boyle, Sir Edward Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Brewis, John Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Holland, Philip Price, David (Eastleigh)
Cary, Sir Robert Hopkins, Alan Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho
Channon, H. P. G. Hornby, R. P. Proudfoot, Wilfred
Chataway, Christopher Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia Pym, Francis
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Hughes-Young, Michael Quennell, Miss J. M.
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Hutchison, Michael Clark Ramsden, James
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Iremonger, T. L. Rawlinson, Peter
Cleaver, Leonard Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Cooke, Robert Jackson, John Rees, Hugh
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. James, David Renton, David
Cordle, John Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Ridley, Hon. Nicholas
Corfield, F. V. Jennings, J. C. Ridsdale, Julian
Costain, A. P. Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Coulson, J. M. Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Craddock, Sir Beresford Joseph, Sir Keith Russell, Ronald
Critchley, Julian Kerans, Cdr. J. S. Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Kerby, Capt. Henry Scott-Hopkins, James
Cunningham, Knox Kershaw, Anthony Seymour, Leslie
Dalkeith, Earl of Kimball, Marcus Sharpies, Richard
Dance, James Kirk, Peter Shaw, M.
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Langford-Holt, J. Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)
de Ferranti, Basil Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Smithers, Peter
Digby, Simon Wingfield Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)
Doughty, Charles Lindsay, Martin Stanley, Hon. Richard
Drayson, G. B. Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) Stodart, J. A.
Duncan, Sir James Longden, Gilbert Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Eden, John Loveys, Walter H. Storey, Sir Samuel
Elliott, R.W. (Nwcstle-upon-Tyne, N.) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Studholme, Sir Henry
Emery, Peter McAdden, Stephen Sumner, Donald (Orpington)
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn McLaren, Martin Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Errington, Sir Eric McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia Temple, John M.
Farey-Jones, F. W. McLean, Neil (Inverness) Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Farr, John McMaster, Stanley R. Thomas, Peter (Conway)
Fell, Anthony Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley) Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Finlay, Graeme Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Thornton, Kemsley, Sir Colin
Fisher, Nigel Maddan, Martin Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Maitland, Sir John Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Fraser, Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone) Markham, Major Sir Frank Turner, Colin
Freeth, Denzil Marlowe, Anthony Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Marshall, Douglas Tweedsmuir, Lady
Gammans, Lady Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Gardner, Edward Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis
Goodhart, Philip Mawby, Ray Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Goodhew, Victor Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Cough, Frederick Mills, Stratton Walder, David
Cower, Raymond More, Jasper (Ludlow) Walker, Peter
Grimston, Sir Robert Morgan, William Ward, Dame Irene
Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Gurden, Harold Nicholson, Sir Godfrey Watts, James
Hall, John (Wycombe) Noble, Michael Webster, David
Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Oakshott, Sir Hendrie Wells, John (Maidstone)
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Whitelaw, William
Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Osborn, John (Hallam) Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Harrison, Col. J, H. (Eye) Page, John (Harrow, West) Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Page, Graham (Crosby) Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Hastings, Stephen Panned, Norman (Kirkdale) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Hay, John Partridge, E. Wise, A. R.
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe) Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward Peel, John Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Henderson, John (Cathcart) Percival, Ian Woodnutt, Mark
Henderson-Stewart, Sir James Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth Worsley, Marcus
Hendry, Forbes Pike, Miss Mervyn
Hiley, Joseph Pitt, Miss Edith TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Pott, Percivall Mr. Gordon-Watt and
Mr. Chichester-Clark.

5.30 p.m.

Mr. H. Brooke

I beg to move, in page 7, line 18, at the end to insert: and a hereditament an interest in which belongs to a charity or any ecclesiastical corporation and in which (in right of that interest)—

  1. (a) the persons from time to time holding any full-time office as clergyman or minister of any religious denomination, or
  2. (b) any particular person holding such an office,
have or has a residence from which to perform the duties of the office, or in which (in right of the said interest) accommodation is being held available to provide such a residence for such a person, shall be treated for the purposes of this section as occupied by a charity and wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes, whether apart from this provision it would be so treated or not". I hope that this Amendment will commend itself universally to the House. We had some debate in Committee on the application of Clause 8 in relation to the residences of ministers of religion, and the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) moved a new Clause on which we debated the matter. The hon. Gentleman pointed out, quite rightly, that it was generally accepted that because of the different forms of tenure in the case of the different churches and denominations there would certainly arise doubts and that there might well arise anomalies.

I said on behalf of the Government that I should like further time to examine the matter. It was a difficult one. I did not want to enlarge the definition of "charity", but, at the same time, I felt quite certain that Parliament would not wish to pass into law a Measure that treated the official residences of ministers of religion in a different way for rating purposes simply because of differences in forms of tenure which for this purpose were not really relevant at all.

The Government have studied the matter further and have come to the conclusion that there is a great deal to be said for amending the Bill so as to secure as great a measure as possible both of certainty and of clarity in the matter and also to remove any fear that different churches or denominations might be treated differently merely because of their constitutional arrangements.

The effect of this Amendment is, as I say, to bring within the scope of mandatory rate relief the official residences of ministers of religion. That does not include a minister's holiday cottage, or even a holiday cottage presented to him by a grateful church, but it covers the official residence from which he carries on his pastoral or other ministerial work.

If the House wishes I will explain the Amendment in full detail, but perhaps the House will be content if I say that it has been studied and approved by the Churches Main Committee which, as the House knows, is representative of all the churches in this country. It has also been seen by the local authority associations since it has been on the Order Paper, and I have received no adverse comment at all from them. In these circumstances, I hope that the House will feel that we shall be doing right if we approve the Amendment.

Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)

I welcome the Amendment. I think that it will rectify an anomaly arising out of the uncertainty as to whether dwelling-houses occupied by clergy and ministers of religion should be regarded as being occupied by a charity within the meaning of the Bill. As the Minister has said, the Amendment has the support of the Churches Main Committee which represents the denominations.

I do not quarrel with the difference in wording between the Minister's Amendment and that which was tabled in my name, supported by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). At the conclusion of a debate in Committee on an Amendment which I then moved on the same subject, the Minister promised to look into the matter and to consider what could be done. This is one of those rare and gratifying occasions when a Minister's consideration leads to a satisfactory conclusion. I think that the Government Amendment carries out the intention of my Amendment, and I am content with the outcome.

I do not think it is necessary to discuss the Amendment at great length. I dealt with the matter at length in Committee and the Committee listened very patiently. I emphasise that the purpose of the Amendment is not to create special privileges but rather to remove anomalies and to ensure that all denominations are treated alike. If there were no Amendment, some manses might have qualified and some might not have done so. It would have been difficult to say how the Clause would have been interpreted and it might well have had to be settled by the courts.

In Committee I ventured the opinion that, as the Clause was originally worded, the presbyteries of the Roman Catholic Church, the houses of deans and canons, and probably Methodist manses, would qualify for relief, whereas the majority of parsonages and most of the other Free Church manses would not, and obviously that would have been an unsatisfactory state of affairs. I do not think that will arise any longer. It is clear that all these dwelling houses will be put on the same footing, that is to say where they are occupied by clergymen or ministers of religion whose office is full-time.

The only point of detail on which I would ask a question of the Minister refers to subsection (1, a) of the Amendment which contains the words … holding any full-time office as clergyman or minister of any religious denomination … whilst paragraph (b) refers to any particular person holding such an office. I presume that "such an office" implies a full-time office.

Mr. Brooke indicated assent.

Mr. Wade

I hope that there is no misunderstanding about that. It seems reasonable that it should apply to full-time and not part-time office, and I assumed that that was the intention.

As to the main issue, one of the legal difficulties that arose was due to the fact that an incumbent of a parsonage in the Church of England was a "corporation sole" and it was doubtful whether a corporation sole could be regarded as a charity. This difficulty is not limited to the parsonages of the Church of England. Free Churches were in considerable doubt about their position, and I am sure that they will be thankful that this problem has been clarified. It is also fitting that in the Finance Bill a somewhat similar problem and anomaly is being rectified in connection with the liability of manses to Schedule A tax. I would prefer to see Schedule A abolished altogether, but we cannot discuss that now.

The effect of the Amendment will be that parsonages, manses—and I include presbyteries of the Roman Catholic Church—will be automatically entitled to 50 per cent. relief on the rates, but that will not affect the power of local authorities to grant more relief if they so wish. It so happens that Huddersfield is one of the boroughs which grants 100 per cent. relief, and recently the council has decided to continue the granting of 100 per cent. That will be in no way affected by the Amendment, which I think carries out the intention and spirit of the Pritchard Report. I am glad to have the opportunity of supporting it.

5.45 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

My name appeared with that of the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) and that of the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) on the Amendment which this Amendment replaces. On behalf of my denomination, I should like to thank the Minister for having placed these words on the Order Paper. I bow not to the Minister's superior wisdom but to the superior wisdom of the official draftsman, because I am certain that we are more likely to get what we want from his words than from any effort of our own.

The Amendment removes anomalies within denominations, particularly those like my own which have a mixed origin, partly Presbyterian and partly Congregational. Putting everyone on the same basis will avoid a good deal of difficulty in the placing of ministers and in other matters in dealing with the financing of some of the really free churches.

Mr. Brooke

I am grateful for what the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) and the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) have said. I assure the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West that the words "such an office" in paragraph (b) refer back to the reference to full-time office in paragraph (a). Though I did not bring out the point, because this is the last of a series of Amendments on the Clause, I can also confirm that while requiring a local authority to give 50 per cent. rate relief the Clause leaves the authority entirely free if it so wishes to remit all or part of the remaining 50 per cent.

I agree with the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West that this is not to be regarded as an act of generosity by Parliament but as an act of justice. It is just that all these official residences should be treated alike. That is within the spirit of the Bill and the spirit of Parliament in dealing with all matters that affect different churches and denominations.

Amendment agreed to.