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§ They disagree to the above Amendment for the following Reason:
§ Because by increasing the number of parishes eligible for housing subsidies at a higher rate it would place an increased burden on public funds; and the Commons do not offer any further Reason, trusting that the above may be deemed sufficient.
§ Moved, That this House doth not insist on the said Amendment.—(Lord Parmoor.)
§ LORD STRACHIE
My Lords, this is the question that we discussed the other day. It all turns upon the question whether a large number of agricultural parishes should be left out of the benefits of this Bill. The proposal which was put in, then struck out, and now put back again by the Commons, would, if allowed, leave us no alternative. Under the clause with which we are dealing the net annual value of the agricultural laud in the parish must have exceeded 25 per cent. of the total annual value on the 1st of October, 1929. In such cases the 1135 parishes will be covered by the clause, but from 25 to 30 per cent. of the rural parishes will not come under this provision as to the 25 per cent. of agricultural land. Again I would point out that, under the Derating Act, 1928, the value of agricultural land disappeared entirely, so that, for all practical purposes, rural parishes under this definition will have disappeared.
I notice that the Commons disagree with the Amendment, with which the Lord President seemed to have sympathy, although he was not able to accept it, because they say that, by increasing the number of parishes eligible for housing subsidies at a higher rate, it will place an increased burden on public funds. The only reason why they object is that they will have to spend more money. They are quite willing to spend money on large parishes and industrial areas, but not when it comes to rural districts where the housing is quite as much needed if not more. It is impossible to build houses as in the old days, when the landowners at great expense to themselves built a large number of houses in the rural districts of their parishes.
There are in these days very few land owners, great or small, who are able to put up cottages in their areas as they used to do in the old days. The only way to get houses now is to get assistance from the Exchequer and that is what the Lord President of the Council and the House of Commons refuse to give. They say that they will help the large areas with large rateable value but, when it comes to the rural areas, they are to get no benefit at all. That is very bard on these parishes, and I hope that at the last moment the Lord President of the Council will relent and sec that this proposal is very undesirable. I hope the House will insist on its Amendment.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, I have to oppose insistence upon this Amendment. The County Councils Association, who were fully consulted, were in favour of the Bill as it stood. Of course you have to consider how you can work a scheme of this kind best in the country districts. From my own experience I am most anxious about the country districts because I know them best, but I cannot agree with the argument of the noble Lord. The Bill as it stands is 1136 very fair. The county councils and the Ministry must not have too large an expenditure thrown on the county rates and we must ask that the Bill should stand in the form in which it originally stood.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, with respect to this Amendment I would like to say one word. I do not think your Lordships are under any obligation to accept all the Amendments which have come up from another place and, in respect of one or two, I believe, as my noble friend beside me has shown, that he is prepared to ask your Lordships to insist upon the position which you have already taken up. That should not be done without very careful consideration. After all, we have a very profound respect for the decisions of another place and we ought not to differ from them except on grounds on which we think we can strictly rely. With regard to this Amendment, there are two things to be said. In the first place it is not really a very extensive matter. I know my noble friends differ as to the importance of it and as to the precise cases which it covers, but I also learn on good authority that it will not cover any great number of cases. Then the question arises how far this touches upon the House of Commons Privileges. I have on occasion often to trouble your Lordships on the subject of Privilege, which is one of the most obscure subjects with which Parliament has to deal. I have little doubt that the Commons would claim Privilege with some assurance on this point because it does lay a direct charge on the taxpayer.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I know he did because it is claimed in the Commons Reason. In this question of Privilege the first distinction is between Privilege claimed in respect of rates and Privilege claimed in respect of taxes. Where it is a question of a burden on the taxpayer the Privilege is of much more importance than where the matter is one of laying a burden upon the ratepayer. This belongs to the more important category, which lays a burden upon the taxpayer. I am not going to say that in every case, even in respect of a burden 1137 upon the taxpayer, your Lordships ought to abandon your undoubted rights to move and insist upon Amendments, and I say so because the practice of the House of Commons is very often to waive their Privilege where they consider that the Lords are right after all. Therefore I am certainly not going to insist that in every case, even where it involves a burden upon the taxpayer, the claim of Privilege should be accepted. All these incidental burdens upon the taxpayer or the ratepayer are different from where it is a direct vote to throw a burden upon the taxpayer or the ratepayer, such as appears in the Finance Bills and similar Bills. I make this distinction, but still I think this belongs to the category where we ought to take very special care, and having regard to the fact that your Lordships have seen fit to insist upon other Amendments, and will do so again before you finish with the Bill, I would rather recommend you not to insist upon this Amendment.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.