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ways than one, by selecting for this purpose a point that has already been determined in the North Staffordshire Railway case, by no less an authority than Chief Justice COCKBURN; but decided in a way that I myself cannot think is right.
This is the question of taking tenants' capital, in company rating, at its present value.
Justice COCKBURN decided that present value ought to be taken; and all good valuers nowadays appear to follow him- at any rate, when they are valuing for the guardians.
Now, there appears to be some confusion here as to what it is that we are valuing--what it is that we want to get at. Is it the value of the tenant's interest, or the landlord's property? Of course, it is the latter. All the questions as to tenant's capital, tenant's profits, &c., are only introduced as an artificial mode of estimating the value of the freehold as nearly as is practicable. The process is not warranted to produce a true result, however conscientiously it may be worked out; in fact, it often produces an absurdity. This is the case of our old friend the "hypothetical tenant,"- the genuine article. There is no such being we have to imagine one, and surround him with imaginary conditions, and a fine field for imagination it appears to be sometimes! But when we introduce such a practical and natural situation as Justice COCKBURN assumes, we at once disturb the whole of our beautiful hypothesis.
We do not want to know, nor do we care, whether our would-be tenant can pick up his loose plant second-hand, or whether he will have to invest in new.
The freehold must be worth the same in either case. The difference concerns the tenant only, outgoing and incoming, if we take the case of a going concern, as Justice COCKBURN did. To follow his ruling would lead to the most absurd consequences. I have figured it out in several ways somewhat elaborately, which would take too long to go into here, and I will therefore submit only one example. I suppose it will be readily granted that it is not only possible, but quite natural, for an entirely new concern to be started with an entirely new stock of plant, tools, stores, &c. It will also be granted, no doubt, that for that first year it would be the correct thing to take that tenant's plant, &c., at its cost value. Now, what follows, if we take present value every succeeding year? Although the net revenue may continue unaltered, we make out that the value of the freehold increases every year: i.e., the more worthless the plant becomes, the more a tenant would give for the premises, which is absurd! Or, to put it another way, there being the same net revenue to be apportioned between landlord and tenant, the more the landlord is to receive, and the less the tenant.
And this brings us to another question as to which it would be interesting to hear the opinions of other professional valuers. Is a valuer necessarily bound to follow the decisions of the Courts on such a point? Of course, it may be impolitic to go against them. But still,
3 E. & E. 392; 30 L. J. M. C. 68.
his province is not to expound the law; but rather to say what rent he thinks a tenant would give for the property in question; and, if he finds that a rigid adherence to some legal decision results in a value that his experience and his common sense tell him is far from the true value, ought he not to ignore that legal decision? He has to put himself in the place of the landlord and tenant, and consider all the practical points that would govern them in determining what rent the one would accept and the other be willing to give. And I submit that neither of them would bother his head about such a legal decision as that referred to above. They would just use their own individual judgments, and would not give or take a penny more or less because of what any Lord Chief Justice may have said.
Leaving public company rating, and turning to that of works, factories, &c. It is now a common, if not a universal custom, to value these by taking a certain percentage on their cost. This is not a very satisfactory method, though it is difficult to find a better. It would, however, be a step in the right direction, and would promote equality, if valuers could be bound, or would agree, to take, under normal conditions at least, certain fixed percentages.
As it is, we have all sorts of percentages taken, which make a vast difference in the result. Again, some, having taken the percentage, consider the result as representing the gross rental, and others the net. If the right percentage be applied, either way may be used; but the latter is probably the better method.
The "rating of machinery" has already been referred to at some length. But there are one or two points that might be referred to as briefly as possible.
One is the comprehensiveness of the latest and highest decision on the subject. In the "Tyne Boiler case" (Court of Appeal) it has been laid down that, "things which are on the premises, and which are "there for the purpose of making them fit as premises for the partic"ular purpose for which they are used, ought to be taken into "account," &c.
Now, this appears to sweep in a great deal that no one has dared to sweep in yet. Sewing machines, for instance, have been mentioned as things which ought not to be included. But why not? Take the case of a boot manufactory, with its special and heavy sewing machines. Are they not there "for the purpose of making the premises fit," &c., just as much as the looms in a cotton mill?
And, if heavy sewing machines ought to be included, why not light ones? Is any particular weight or size to be defined? If not, we shall soon have to rate the poor seamstress for the machine in her garret; or, for that matter, myself for the drawing tables in my office which cannot be removed without difficulty, and which I cannot deny "make "my premises fit," &c.
I offer no opinion on the general question as to whether it is desirable or fair to rate machinery.
I have no sympathy with those who go about the country offering to defend manufacturers against what they are pleased to describe as
an illegal imposition; and not only advising the employers that it is illegal, but, so energetic are they in this crusade, that they even introduced the subject on the platform at the last general election, and assured meetings of ignorant working men-not employers-that they were the real victims.
It is nonsense, to say no worse of it, to assure these people that this mode of rating is illegal: it is legal, and the proper remedy for those who feel aggrieved thereby is to get the law altered.
At the same time, no law upon the subject is likely to improve matters in general that only deals with the question within the narrow limits of the Bills which have been introduced for this purpose annually of late. The process of pulling down the law, as at present defined, would be open to the same objections, and fraught with the same difficulties, stage by stage, as was the building of it up. The whole system of rating for the relief of the poor requires remodelling. This is not merely desirable, but urgently necessary, as a matter of common justice. The present system, as carried out, is simply a public scandal. Unfortunately, the "public are unconscious of these scandals and injustices; and therefore not likely, as a body, to move in the matter, and, until they do move in a body, there is little prospect of a thorough reform. The ignorant, the apathetic, and the generous ratepayer accepts (with or without a murmur) any assessment that may be put upon him by an incompetent rating authority: the keen and unscrupulous, on the other hand, not only resist an extortionate assessment, but even a fair one, and, like crying children, often get someting merely to pacify them-in the shape, sometimes, of a reduction much greater than that to which they are entitled.
It would prolong this Paper too much to enter upon a discussion of remedies for these abuses.
I might, however, suggest one thing that I think would go a long way in this direction, and that concerns this Institution directly as a body.
Whatever else may be done in the way of legislation, the employment of a fully qualified valuer for the purpose of fixing the assessments, not only to the poor rate, but to any rate upon real estate, ought to be compulsory; and the valuation so made (though it may be necessary to divide it) should serve equally for all such rates, whether local or Imperial.
Without attempting to lay down the necessary qualifications and conditions of such appointments, it might be remarked that, although the first requisite would be ability, it is of scarcely less importance that the valuer chosen should be a man of the highest integrity; and that, as even integrity has its market value, the payment of such a man ought to be liberal. In the smaller unions it might be sufficient to retain the partial services of a surveyor, or several small unions might club together to secure the entire services of one man; but, in the case of larger unions, it would take one man all his time, even with assistance, to keep all the assessments up to date as they ought to be.
I have had to hurry over the latter part of this Paper in a way that is not satisfactory to myself, but for a reason which will, no doubt, be accepted as quite sufficient by those who may be condemned to listen to it—namely, that it would otherwise have detained them very much longer.
It may be said that I have introduced a good deal of matter that could well have been spared, as of no consequence to professional men.
This may be so, looked at from a strictly utilitarian point of view, still, I will conclude, as I began, by referring to that remark of our worthy President about the prosaic nature of a surveyor's calling.
Being myself an engineer as well as a surveyor, I am, perhaps, less likely to suffer from such a complaint. At the same time I would suggest that all these side issues constitute the lights and shades of the profession, and help to create that true interest in and love of it which is so greatly to be desired in any and every calling.
It was only the other day that I fell into conversation with an intelligent British workman on the subject of strikes and the "unemployed": and this man appealed pathetically to the absence of all interest which a workman feels in his daily task. This is only too true (sadly true): the evidence of it is to be seen on every hand; but it is not as it should be.
It is the curse, and threatens to become the ruin, of this great nation of skilled workers.
But it was not so with such men (once themselves the humblest of workmen) as THOMAS TELFORD, RICHARD BRINDLEY, GEORGE STEPHENSON, and a host of others who could be cited; who never would have risen to the proud eminence they occupy in history, had they confined themselves to a perfunctory performance of the daily tasks that were first imposed upon them.
The Agricultural Holdings Act.
Read before the Leicester, Northants, and Rutland Provincial Committee of THE SURVEYORS' INSTITUTION, on Wednesday, March 7th, 1894, by T. A. DICKSON, Fellow.
At a Meeting of the Central Chamber of Agriculture, on February 6th, 1894, it was decided:-" That, in the opinion of this "Council, the time has come when the Agricultural Holdings Act "requires amendment, and that a Committee of not more than fifteen "Members be appointed to consider the various suggestions made by "the Associated Chambers and Clubs, and to report what amendments. "in the Act are desirable."
A Committee was accordingly appointed, consisting of two land agents, eight tenant farmers, four landlords, and the Chairman (Mr. CHANNING).
It may probably be in the recollection of this Provincial Committee that some two years ago there was a discussion upon the subject in one of our leading agricultural papers, which (as the result of the discussion, in which I see that one or two of our members took part) drafted and published a new Agricultural Holdings Bill with the title, "A Bill to consolidate and amend the laws relating to Agricultural Holdings "in England and Wales."
Mr. CHANNING, the Chairman of the Central Chamber for the present year, who seems to have taken agriculture under his wing, introduced in the 1892 Session a Bill with the same title as the above, but with the addition of the words "and for other purposes," but in a Bill, practically the same, which was introduced in 1893 Session, these additional words have been left out, and Wales has also been excluded from the provisions of the new Bill.
Perhaps, before considering the provisions and alterations in the amended Bill or Bills, it may be well to notice the defects of the 1883 Act, and the reasons why in the opinion of its detractors it has failed in its purpose. Some contend that too low a scale is adopted by the valuers, others that the scale is too high, while others again affirm that the scale adopted by the valuers in their own district is a particularly fair one, and, worked in conjunction with local customs, has formed a very good basis for the successful working of the Act.
Others allege that the fact of the tenants having to give two months' notice of their intention to claim under the Act is frequently overlooked until too late, while those who do remember are frequently afraid to make a claim for fear of the landlords' making a counterclaim for breach of covenants or dilapidations.
Some, again, assert that the Act is unfair in its provisions, and does not encourage good farming or allow the tenants, on leaving after having improved the farm, anything like sufficient compensation for the capital expended.
Then, in many cases the valuers, more especially the older ones, have set their faces against the Act from the first, with the result that in some parts of the country it has been completely boycotted. Such are some of the complaints against the Act.
What are the remedies suggested in the Bill of Mr. CHANNING's and that of the agricultural paper referred to?
In each of the proposed Bills the words in Section 1, "on quitting his holding" are struck out, with the idea of securing compensation for improvements to a tenant who remains in his holding at the determination of his tenancy.
Whatever may be the case with leases, the principle of compensating the "sitting tenant" where the tenancy is an annual one is open to many serious objections, which must suggest themselves readily to all who have to do with the letting of farms.
In Mr. CHANNING's Bill Part 1 of the First Schedule of the 1883