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With regard to the noble Earl's reference to his ancestors, occasionally the officials and those in authority have cause to be critical in his direction. There was just the odd bit of vandalism in Greece.
The Earl of Lytton: I am sorry to say that, when I was in Greece over the Easter period, I did not go to Cape Sounion to inspect the inscription of my noble ancestor on the columns of the temple there. However, I do appreciate what the noble Baroness said, and I think and hope we are on the same track here. The whole basket of issues is surrounded by a concept of "reasonableness" and I think that we have got that right. Provided that is the case, then the fact that it attaches itself to one word or the other is of lesser importance so far as I am concerned.
The second point to which the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, referred was that of repair. As I understand it, the Minister used this in her statement in the narrower sense to mean specifically those works which fall within the assumption that they are economic, practical and fall within the normal maintenance obligation and are not exceptional. While I accept that definition for the purpose of the Bill, if I have divined her intention correctly, I can foresee other circumstances where the term "repair" could be taken to cover a much wider category of work, including not only things in the nature of minor maintenance, but also those which are so far reaching as to be uneconomic. The point I am making is that the term "repair" in the wider world is a broad term which covers all sorts of things, and is used fairly loosely. Clearly a more specific meaning is intended here.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: As the noble Earl is aware, the meaning of "repair" is a well understood term in both rating case law and landlord and tenant case law. I am glad he has reminded me that the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, asked about the definition of the word repair, and I apologise to the noble Earl. Repair is well understood to be different from refurbishment and improvement, as I made clear in my earlier statement.
The Earl of Lytton: I am very grateful for that. To some extent, we are doing some "wordsmithing" here. Going back to the graffiti of my noble ancestor, what might be described as a "stopping-up" job with some filler might be described as a "repair", while putting the roof back on that particular monument would not. The difficulty, as the Minister referred to in her statement, is that there is a large grey area here, and we are trying to achieve a degree of certainty in this. I do not want to press the point too far because it is undesirable that consideration of these matters on a case-by-case basis should be fettered unduly. That is important. The only thing I have in mind is that there have been cases in the past where valuation officers have tried to argue, probably unsuccessfully, that inherent structural defects such as degradation due to high alumina cement, for
However, it must never be assumed that simply because something is called "repair" as a general term of art as opposed to some other label, that it thereby has no effect on rating valuation. Clearly it may do so, and that is why the economic test is so important in all this.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred to the question of locality. The locality is simply part of what might be called the environmental circumstance in which a particular property falls to be valued. I do not believe there was ever any question of a shop in a run-down area being valued on the same basis as a prime shop. That is probably not what the noble Baroness had intended to point out, but locality clearly is--and always has been--part of standard valuation practice. Because the whole valuation process follows the real world, the real rents that arise in Peckham as opposed to South Molton Street, to give two examples, are a locality matter which are reflected in the valuation. I have not discerned that there is any question which has arisen over this in discussions with Minister and her officials.
As to the status of the practice note, I would dearly like the practice note to be more firmly cemented in place. I am mindful of the fact that there have been decisions on practice notes in relation to community charge or perhaps council tax valuations where these were held to have no effect. The practice note ought to have a more definite application than that.
If I may go back to the question of locality just for a second, I believe it is taken as the area in which properties of the same kind would let at the same kind of rents. The case of Kay Shoes v. Hardy VO is probably the conclusive precedent.
The final point that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, made, which I support, is whether the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation and the Rating Surveyors Association would be consulted on the final form of the practice note, I believe she said before Third Reading. I ought to declare an interest as a member of all three bodies, which must be of some benefit. I hope they will be part of the discussions.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I thank the noble Earl for giving way. The Valuation Office is awaiting the response of the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation. The Valuation Office has had a response from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Rating Surveyors Association. Representatives of all three bodies will meet with the Valuation Office soon.
The Earl of Lytton: I thank the Minister; that is wonderful. It sounds as though everyone is being consulted. For the present, I am glad to record that my concerns may have been misplaced as regards the intentions of this Bill, but I make no apology for insisting on having clarity restored to what is a fairly technical aspect of the proposed legislation. I would say in my defence that that is at least one reason for my
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