§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Report received.
§ Clause 1 [Rebates for hereditaments with special facilities for disabled persons]:
Lord HUGHES moved Amendments Nos. 1 and 2:
Page 2, line 12, after ("includes") insert ("or consists of")
Page 2, line 15, leave out from ("person") to end of line 20.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 1 is one of a group of Amendments—the others being Amendments Nos. 2, 7, 8, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19—the purpose of which is to enable me to fulfil the promise I made at the Committee stage that disabled people, with garages the rateable value of which exceeds £25, 1080 should receive no less relief under the Bill than they receive at present. Clause 1(2)(f) and (g) of the Bill, together with paragraphs 7 and 8 of Schedule 1, will at present give relief in England and Wales based on £25 rateable value for a garage, £15 for a carport, and £5 for a parking space. The Amendments to Clause 1(2), which take the opportunity of removing the unnecessary distinction between cases where a disabled person lives in the hereditament and cases where he does not, pave the way to the Amendments to paragraphs 7 and 8 of Schedule 1.
§ These Amendments do not alter the rateable value specified in paragraph 7, but permit the applicant for a rebate to elect that the rebate should be based on the actual rateable value of his garage, carport, or parking space, or the amount attributable to his garage, carport, or parking space if it is part of a larger hereditament, with a proportionate reduction if the garage is also used for other purposes.
Where, therefore, the rateable value of, or attributable to, the applicant's garage is higher than the amount specified in paragraph 7, he can choose to have the rebate calculated by reference to the higher amount, and the applicant should receive no less relief than at present. For consistency an Amendment parallel to that made to Clause 1(2) is also made to the Scottish Clause 4(2). This deals
with the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, when she referred to the possibility of the much higher rated garages in, for instance, central London. When I move Amendment No. 16 I shall ask the leave of the House to alter one word in it. Part of Amendment No. 16 reads:
(3) Where the application is made by reference to a garage, carport or land which is also used for other purposes, any rebate under paragraph (a) or (b) of sub-paragraph (2) above shall be proportionately reduced.")".
When I move that Amendment I shall ask permission to substitute the word "may" for the word "shall", which gives the authority a discretion and so would not put it into the rather ridiculous position that if, for instance, a garage had in it a deep freeze, the authority would have to say that the rebate must be reduced by a certain amount. I beg to move Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 en bloc.
§ Lord SANDYS
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for moving these two Amendments and for associating with them Amendments Nos. 7, 8, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19. Perhaps it would be to the convenience of the House if at this stage I were to respond to what the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said in regard to the amendment to the wording of Amendment No. 16. He will be referring to this at a later stage, but I would say now how very welcome is his suggestion. It was very noticeable, when reading through the report of the proceedings of Standing Committee C, how Mr. Guy Barnett, the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, replied when he was asked whether existing relief would be withdrawn. The words of the question were:… no existing relief should be withdrawn; it is just the point that we want assurance, and no other";and the Under-Secretary of State said categorically:I give that assurance".It is a particularly welcome fact that the Government are to honour this pledge, given in Standing Committee, that no existing relief should be withdrawn.
My Lords, this has very wide implications so far as the garages are concerned. It was a matter discussed at considerable 1082 length in Standing Committee in another place. In your Lordships' Committee, too, we went into this matter on an Amendment raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton. I think that the situation as proposed in this Amendment will rectify the position; and, further, that the remainder of the chain of Amendments puts the matter effectively in a position where we could say: Yes, all that could be done has been done in this regard.
§ Baroness MASHAM of ILTON
My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for his consideration and helpfulness over this matter. After my experience last night, I should like to tell your Lordships of the desperate need for garages in Central London. I found nowhere to park my car, and I had to park it on the pavement. No doubt I shall have to do the same tonight.
§ Clause 2 [Rebates for institutions for the disabled]:
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Lord HUGHES moved Amendments Nos. 3 to 6:
§ Page 3, line 5, after ("used") insert ("(a)")
§ Page 3, line 6, after first ("or") insert ("(b)")
§ Page 3, line 24, leave out subsection (3).
Page 3, line 32, at end insert—
(" "care" does not include the provision of medical, surgical or dental treatment, but without prejudice to subsection (1)(b) above; ").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendments Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6, with which I would wish to associate Amendments Nos. 9, 10, 11 and 12. With the leave of the House, I would propose to move all these Amendments in two blocks: Nos. 3, 4, 5, and 6 as one, and then, in due course, Nos. 9, 10, 11 and 12 as one. The purpose of these Amendments to Clause 2 and to Clause 5 is to make clearer which institutions are to qualify for relief under these clauses and which are to be excluded. Subsection (3) of the clause at present purports to exclude from relief institutions whose predominant purpose is treatment; for example, hospitals and old people's homes. However, we do not want to exclude premises where the predominant purpose 1083 is one of those which do qualify under subsection (2) but where there is a subsidiary or ancillary treatment purpose. As presently drafted, there may possibly have been some room for doubt about this, and these Amendments should clear the point up. The Amendments do not make any reference to old people's homes because on further consideration it seems clear that such homes could not in any case come within the qualifying categories listed in subsection (2), unless the residents are actually disabled. Hence, there is really no need to exclude them explicitly as subsection (3) does at present. The Amendment therefore deletes this part of subsection (3) as being redundant.
§ Perhaps I can also take this opportunity to refer to the problems of the Thistle Foundation, to which the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, referred in Committee. I promised to look at this clause again bearing in mind the points he had made. I have now considered these points very carefully, and have sought the advice of my noble friend Lord Kirkhill on behalf of the Government. I am afraid that we have concluded that we cannot go as far as the Thistle Foundation would perhaps have liked. These Amendments to Clause 2 and Clause 5, which I have put down, will, I hope, do something to clarify the extent of the relief to be given to institutions under the Bill, and may possibly make the position of the Thistle Foundation easier in respect of some of the facilities they provide. But on the point of greater substance about housing, I am afraid we cannot accept that their houses should be treated more generously than those of other disabled people. They will, of course, be entitled to relief under Section 4 in respect of any special feature of their houses, and this, I suggest, must be accepted as being the right parallel.
§ My Lords, I have mentioned the help which I have received from my noble friend Lord Kirkhill in relation to the Thistle Foundation claim. I should also like to put on record the very great help which I have received, in relation to the fulfilling of the promises which I made at Committee stage, from my noble friend Lady Stedman and from her Department. Although the intention was mine, the putting of it into words has been hers, and for that I am exceedingly grateful. I beg to move.1084
§ Lord SANDYS
My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for taking the situation further in regard to the very curious and unfortunate position of the Thistle Foundation. The Thistle Foundation found itself in difficulties because it could not benefit from the provisions of Section 8(1) of the Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Act 1956 in respect of its houses. It appears from what the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said a few moments ago, that it would still be difficult to make this Bill the means by which to ensure that the Thistle Foundation would enjoy the relief which it has sought. Nevertheless, I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord for investigating the position further; and to the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, for the part she has played in looking into the situation of this large charity in Scotland. While recognising that what is in the Bill is not totally satisfactory so far as this charity is concerned—and, indeed, other charities in a similar position—one fully acknowledges that it is a step in the right direction.
§ Baroness MASHAM of ILTON
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, a question about houses belonging to housing associations and housing societies? Will they be eligible for rating relief? Otherwise, social service departments may have quite a lot of extra to pay, because so many of the people who are living in this sort of housing are in receipt of social security.
§ Lord HUGHES
My Lords, I am afraid I shall need to take advice on that. Perhaps, as these are part of a group of Amendments, I might be able to get that help in the course of the proceedings, so that when I come to move the next series of Amendments formally I will, if the information has become available, be able to answer the noble Baroness then.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Clause 4 [Rebates for lands and heritages with special facilities for disabled persons]:
Lord HUGHES moved Amendments Nos. 7 and 8:
Page 5, line 17, after ("include") insert ("or consist of")
Page 5, line 20, leave out from ("person" to end of line 26.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to Amendment No. 7 and to the next one when speaking to Amendment No. 1. I beg to move Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 en bloc.
§ Clause 5 [Rebates for institutions in Scotland for the disabled]:
§ Lord HUGHES moved Amendments Nos. 9 to 12:
§ Page 7, line 5, after ("used") insert ("(a)")
§ Page 7, line 6, after first ("or") insert ("(b)"
§ Page 7, line 24, leave out subsection (3).
Page 7, line 32, at end insert—
(" "care" does not include the provision of medical, surgical or dental treatment, but without prejudice to subsection (1)(b) above;").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I associated Amendment No. 9 and Amendments Nos. 10, 11 and 12 with Amendment No. 3 when I spoke to it. With the leave of the House, I beg to move Amendments Nos. 9 to 12 en bloc.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a drafting Amendment, the purpose of which is to ensure that the definition of the word "illness" in subsection (2) of Clause 5 is as accurate as possible and in line with the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978. The Amendment is a necessary consequence of the current consolidation of the Scottish National Health Service legislation, including the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1947. I beg to move.
§ Lord SANDYS
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, once more for clarifying under this Amendment the definition of the word "illness". We hope that it will be for the benefit of both individual disabled people and also particular charities and foundations which have been referred to earlier. The law in this regard needed clarification and I think that this Amendment will be most useful.
§ Schedule 1 [Amount of rebate under section 1]:
Lord HUGHES had given Notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 14:
Page 10, line 35, at beginning insert ("(1)").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not propose to move Amendment No. 14. I am advised that this is not necessary. It is an alteration which will be taken care of in the ordinary way by correction of the printing.
§ Lord HUGHES moved Amendments Nos. 15 to 18:
§ Page 10, line 35, at end insert ("subject to sub-paragraph (2) below")
Page 11, leave out lines 4 to 10 and insert—
("(2) The applicant may, in making the application, elect that the rebate shall, subject to sub-paragraph (3) below, be equal to—
(3) Where the application is made by reference to a garage, carport or land which is also used for other purposes, any rebate under paragraph (a) or (b) of sub-paragraph (2) above may be proportionately reduced.")
§ Page 11, line 13, leave out ("7 or 8(b)") and insert ("or 7(1)")
§ Page 11, line 17, leave out ("(f) of (g)") and insert ("or (f)").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to Amendments Nos. 15, 16, 17 and 18 when speaking to Amendment No. 1. I beg to move them en bloc. Perhaps it might be convenient, although not perhaps strictly proper, if I were to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, that there is nothing in Clause 1 or Clause 4 to disqualify a house provided by a housing association or a like body. I beg to move.
§ Lord SANDYS moved Amendment No. 18A:
Page 11, line 22, at end insert—
("10A. No ratepayer shall receive a diminished sum in rates relief arising from disability after this Act comes into force than he was receiving immediately before this Act became operative.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment proposes that no ratepayer shall receive a diminished sum in rate relief arising from disability after this Act comes into force than he was receiving immediately before the Act became operative. I think that it is self-explanatory. Nevertheless, there are circumstances in which some unfortunate situation might possibly arise. I am grateful to the Government for their agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and the sponsor of the Bill in another place, that this situation is going to be considered and catered for, because we believe that some anomalies could arise. If, as I hope shortly will be the case, the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will confirm that this Amendment may not be necessary, I shall be personally willing to withdraw it. I do not think it would be for the benefit of the House if I went further into it. I believe that the Amendment is self-explanatory. I beg to move.
§ Lord HUGHES
My Lords, I should have liked to be able to advise the House to accept this Amendment, with whose purpose I am in complete sympathy. I think that also fits in with the views expressed on behalf of the Government both in another place and here, because it had been made perfectly clear from the outset that it was the object to re-state the existing law more clearly so as to remove areas of doubt and to make sure that people's entitlement was well understood. In carrying out this task of clarification and tidying up, it has been necessary in some cases to provide marginal extensions of relief so as to secure sensible definitions of the various categories, and where there have been areas of doubt they have usually been resolved in the potential recipients favour. Likewise, on the level of relief, the tariff of amounts of relief to be given in respect of special facilities in disabled persons' houses in England and Wales has been fixed at a generous level, significantly above the average value throughout the country of such facilities, so that on the whole the present recipient of this relief will certainly be better off rather than the reverse. In general, therefore, disabled ratepayers will be slightly better off under this Bill than they were previously.
However, I am afraid that, notwithstanding the desire of all of us and what 1088 was said in another place, I would not feel justified in guaranteeing that there may not be a few people who live in comparatively highly-rated properties who will be slightly worse off receiving the tariff relief under the new scheme. But I think that we can be confident that the numbers involved, if any, must be very small and that the amount of loss involved will be small also. There is only one type of case which has been specifically drawn to our attention as being a problem here; namely, the problem of highly-rated garages. The Amendments which have been made deal with that very problem in the sense that the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, has asked. If there should be any case remaining in which the introduction of the new scheme could operate harshly, the rating authority will, of course, be able to increase the rebate by 20 per cent. under the powers conferred by paragraph 9 of Schedule 1.
If the undertaking is not met in its entirety, I think that the extent to which it falls short will be very small indeed. If one takes the swing-and-roundabouts principle, the number who will be better off as a result of this will perhaps be substantial, as against those who possibly will be a little worse off. They will be very few. I do not want to go into the technicalities of valuation for the very good reason that I do not understand them; particularly as in England and Wales they are much more complicated than in Scotland. I gather that the valuation authorities could be presented with great problems if the Amendment were to go into the Bill. There is also the much more practical reason for rejecting it: that it might imperil the prospects of the Bill as a whole in another place if somebody there can invoke the Inland Revenue on their side. I hope the noble Lord will not press this Amendment.
§ Baroness MASHAM of ILTON
My Lords, I should like to hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, is right. The disabled are such a very complicated breed. They differ. I am sure some complications will arise; but I suppose, as with all legislation, this can be put right at a later date by amendment. I should like to add—for I rather missed it when Amendment No. 16 came up—that I am delighted that this question has been considered, because disabled people can need 1089 deep freezers desperately when they cannot go out to shop, and they can also need to be occupied at home when they cannot get a job. They may want to do some woodwork in their garage. So I am very grateful that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has made this possible. I hope that he is right in this matter.
§ Lord HUGHES
My Lords, if it turns out that I am not right and that more than a few people are affected, if the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, finds it desirable to promote another Bill to take care of any remaining anomalies, I hope that she may be able to recruit the help of the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, to the same extent as I have been able to do.
§ Lord SANDYS
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for giving me these assurances on this Amendment. Before I withdraw it, may I say that what is intended is to ensure that the disabled will not lose out in rateable value terms. This is in many ways preferable to the examination of the problem in money terms, largely because of the inflation of rateable values as time goes on. I am very grateful for what has been said hitherto in regard to Amendment No. 16. It would be for the benefit of the House if I explained a small matter in that regard. Had Amendment No. 16 remained as it was, in a mandatory form, it would have been necessary for valuation officers from the Inland Revenue to visit all garages of disabled people to verify that the garage was used only and solely for the purpose of housing a motor-car and for no other purpose. By placing it in its new perspective—that is, in the permissive sense—and replacing the word "shall" with the word "may", it will benefit both the disabled people and also the very hard pressed valuation officers and their assistants. This is a beneficial and helpful Amendment to the Bill as a whole. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 18A.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord HUGHES moved Amendment No. 19:
Page 11, line 43, after ("7") insert ("(1)").