§ Undeveloped Land Duty shall not be charged on the site value of any agricultural land, occupied and cultivated by the owner thereof, where the total value of that land, together with any other land belonging to the same owner, does not exceed five hundred pounds.
§ For the purposes of this provision the expression "owner" includes a person who holds land under a lease which was originally granted for a term of fifty years or more.
§ Mr. ROWLAND HUNT moved, at the end of the first paragraph of the proposed Clause, to insert "nor shall any small holding of ten acres or less, let at three pounds an acre or more, as long as it is used entirely for agricultural purposes, be subject to the Undeveloped Land Duty, nor shall any owner of land, owning not more than ten acres of land, cultivating them himself and using them entirely for agricultural purposes, be liable to pay Undeveloped Land Duty."
§ I do not think that the exemption proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer is sufficient. It is only in particular cases where a man owns a piece of land within £500 in value that it is granted. A man may have £500 in the bank and still get an old age pension. I do not think that this Clause of the Chancellor's is a good one. It leaves all the small holders and market gardners and all the people who own land of over £500 in value subject to Undeveloped Land Duty. The effect is that under this Clause you are putting extra taxation on agricultural land in this country, and you are making it more difficult to those people whom I have described to cultivate the land as they do near the towns. They 1447 must be as a rule near the towns or big villages, and you are now making it more difficult for them to compete with the small owners in France, Belgium, and Denmark, where the rates and taxes are very much lower Than in this country, and where the people have also got the advantage of cheap sea carriage. To put a tax on agricultural land as this Clause proposes to do, is a very bad thing, because, as I understand it, it is necessary for the preservation of this country that we should get a great many more people back on the land, who will be employed on and supported by the land. If landlords go on strict business principles, then they will increase the charge on the small holders, to recoup themselves for the Undeveloped Land Duty. The effect must be to drive small holders further out into the country, away from their markets. To avoid this result, I think that the Chancellor might very well exempt all small holdings under a certain acreage. It cannot do any harm, and it will remove this grievance.
§ Mr. WATSON RUTHERFORD
I wish to ask a question with reference to this Clause, which may save the trouble of my moving an Amendment. The Clause is to the effect that there should be no Undeveloped Land Duty on property that does not exceed £500 in value where it is owned or where it is leased for over 50 years by a person who occupies and cultivates. I propose to read into this that the Clause should apply, together with any other land belonging to the same owner. I have given what I, at any rate, understand to be the effect of the Clause. Supposing there are two people, each of them owning land that is worth something under £500 in value, and cultivated and occupied. One happens to own a cottage in an adjoining parish, or some other part of the country—Scotland or Wales, or somewhere else. The other has got a large sum of money in railway stocks, or some other security. If I understand the effect of the Clause aright, the man who has got the enormous fortune invested, if he does not happen to own another yard of land, will get off paying any Undeveloped Land Duty on the piece of land he occupies and cultivates, and which is less than £500 in value; whereas the other man, who happens to own a scrap of land, or, say, a cottage in the adjoining parish, will have to pay, and he will not come under the exemption. If that is the effect of the Clause, and I think it is, and if I 1448 am right that this is the real intention of the Government, I would only make this comment upon it—that I think before the Clause is put to the Committee we should be informed as to what is precisely the meaning of the provisions with which we have to deal.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
The hon. and learned Gentleman will see that the object of this Clause is to prevent a man who happens to hold land worth perhaps £500, but who may have land worth £500,000 in another locality, from getting the benefit of this exemption, which is purely for the purpose of protecting small owners. I should have thought that there are very few market gardeners whose land would be worth more than £500, and I should say that in very many cases the market gardens, with the buildings and structures, are not worth £500. If they are worth more than £500, then the owners are in a good position, and will have to take their chance with the general community. I think the hon. Member for Shropshire (Mr. Hunt) may rest assured that the small owner is amply protected by this Clause. We only want to protect the small owner, and we do not wish very considerable owners, purely because they own a very small quantity of land in a particular parish, to benefit by the Clause.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
That is so, and I do not think it would make any substantial difference. As a rule the market gardener has not got his house upon the particular land he cultivates. At least, that is not my experience, and whatever structures there may be upon the market garden would not be of very much consequence. It really means £500 as the full value of the land.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
The hon. Gentleman is referring to the small holders of France, the foreign competitors. I should not have thought that very many of these small holders would have land worth more than 12,500fr., which is about equivalent to the sum mentioned in this Clause. The hon. Gentleman assumes that all small holders are in the neighbourhood of towns. If land has a purely agricultural value there is no charge at all. It is only where there is building value in excess of the 1449 agricultural value that a duty will be charged, and, taking the small holders of the country where there is no building value, they are protected without any reference at all to the value of their holdings. This is purely a case relating to small holdings in the immediate neighbourhood of towns, where the land has a building value in excess of the agricultural value, and in that case the small owner, to the extent of £500, is protected by this Clause.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
If the hon. Member had really read the Bill he would hardly think it necessary to put such a question to me. The small holder who is not the owner does not pay the tax at all. It is only the owner of the land who pays, and we are protecting the owner of the land by this provision. If the small holder is holding land from a landowner, I do not see why the landowner should be protected when probably the small holder is paying a rack rent for the particular property. All we do is to charge the owner of the land who receives the rack rent the Undeveloped Land Duty. What does it matter to the small holder whether the man who takes a rent has to pay contribution out of that rent to the State? If the small holder happens also to be the owner, then this Clause protects him.
§ Mr. HUNT
Take a landlord who owns land let to small farmers or small holders. As I take it, if the landlord acts on strictly business principles he will at all events naturally try to get back some part of this tax from the tenant. He naturally would say to the small holder, "Here I have got an extra tax; you must pay a little more rent." Or he might be foolish enough to build a lot of jerry-built cottages on his land and turn the small holders out, compelling them to go further away from the market, and begin to get fresh land into cultivation.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
The hon. Gentleman has a poorer opinion of landlords than I have. If I had made such an attack on landlords it would have been regarded as a most pernicious policy. He says that the small holders would be driven out, but the landlords are permissibly getting higher rents—I do not say extravagant rents—than before the land was split up 1450 into small holdings. There are cases where the whole of the expense has been incurred by the county council in which they are getting bigger rents. The tax of ½d. in the £ on land over and above the agricultural value is paid by the landowners, and the hon. Member says that they will give notice to get rid of all the small men. If that be so, I think it would be disgraceful that they should endeavour to put the tax on those whom the law did not intend that it should be put.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
I should not call it strictly business principles; I should call it by another name myself.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
Yes, I accept that. I think I have said more than once that I am not going to say one thing at Limehouse and another thing in the House of Commons, and if I am challenged as to any particular case given at Limehouse I have stated more than once that I am prepared to meet it. I have also said more than once that the hon. Member should choose the proper occasion—and he will find plenty of them before this is over—to challenge any particular part of that speech, and I am perfectly prepared to give an answer. If the hon. Member says that the landowner, purely and simply because he has to pay an extra ½d. in the £ Undeveloped Land Duty, will give notice to the small holder to quit, or will raise the small holder's rent with a view to getting back part of the tax, then his opinion of landowners is one which I should be very sorry to hold.
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
I quite agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it would be very deplorable if the landlords did give notice in the way suggested, but I think that in the majority of cases they would not. The only object, as I understand, for which the Undeveloped Land Tax was imposed was to drive into the building market land which, it was said, was being held up from builders; yet when it is suggested that the result of this tax would be to do the very thing that the Chancellor of the Exchequer desired, he turns round and says it would be disgraceful on the part of the landlord to do it.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
That is not what I said. I do not mind criticism, but I 1451 should like to have exactly repeated what I did say. The hon. Member for Shropshire said that the halfpenny tax would fall on the small holder. I was dealing purely with that statement, and I said it would be a very disgraceful thing that the landlord should seek to get back from the small holder a tax which it was not intended should be put upon him.
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
I, too, think it would be very unfortunate if the tax was put on the small holder, and I hope it will not be, but I do not think it is the business of the Government to say that no tax shall be shifted from a person on whom it is put by law. There are economic conditions to be considered, and the first tendency on the part of the persons on whom taxes are imposed is to shift them on to somebody else. All I can say is I hope that will not arise in this case. I think there is a great deal in this point. The Chancellor of the Exchequer imposed this Undeveloped Land Tax with the avowed object, in Lime-house and everywhere else, of inducing people to build on their land, and now he turns round and says that in a great many instances, if the land is built upon, the landlords will be doing something which is quite disgraceful, and which they should not be allowed to do under any circumstances.
§ Mr. HUNT
I would like to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that it is all very well to say it would be disgraceful if the landlord tried to put this tax on the small holder. Suppose it was the case of a small Radical landlord. This tax would amount, it may be, to 1s. in the £ on the annual value, or it might be a great deal more. Certainly there are people who can ill afford that amount, yet this tax is imposed upon them. I do not think the Government have any business to practically say to a landlord that you are not to get as much as you can for your land, because that is really what it comes to. On the other hand, supposing the landlord wanted to get a part of the tax back, and he turns out the tenants and builds cottages on the land, or he puts up the rent of the tenant in order to get part of the tax back, in these circumstances, in spite of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, this is a tax on agricultural land, and it will have the effect of driving small holders out of their holdings.
Mr. J. POINTER
It is rather amusing to listen to the efforts of hon. Gentlemen 1452 who sit above the Gangway to prove that they are the working man's friend, and the laboured efforts they have indulged in all through the discussions on the Finance Bill as the special protectors of the small holder afford the height of amusement. In the first place they protest very strongly that the small holder has got very rough treatment indeed, and that the small man is going to be utterly crushed by these taxes. Now that the Government have met them on this point they are equally emphatic; and it appears to me that the reason they are protesting so much at present is because they are robbed of the shelter which was afforded by the apparent hardship on the small holder. I have been listening to the protestations emanating from those benches, and I have been reminded of the saying, "He doth protest too much." [An HON. MEMBER: "It was a lady said it."] The position is pretty much that of the old lady—they are protesting too much. [An HON. MEMBER: "She was not old."] She ought to have been old to make a statement like that. What they are protesting against is in actual operation at the present time. As a matter of fact, landowners do not scruple to turn out small holders in order to build a cottage or any other property if it suits their purpose. I quite agree with the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Hunt) that they act on business principles, and that is what they have always done, when they have the intelligence to do it, and on anything which will bring them in a better return for the money which they have invested in the shape of land, and put their land to the best use. There is another objection which ought not to pass unchallenged, and that is the statement that in fixing the amount of £500 the Government have not been liberal enough. In order to prove that statements have been made not only this evening, but on previous occasions, that no man holding land valued at £500, especially if it includes his house, could possibly by any means make a living upon it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nobody said that."] That has been said on several occasions in this House, and I think it ought not to pass unchallenged.
There are many cases in which men owning land of much less value than £500 have made what may be termed, in common parlance, a decent living. I have one case in mind in that part of England which is known as the Dukeries, where a certain head market gardener was turned out of 1453 his employment. His late employer persecuted him, and tried to get him out of the neighbourhood altogether. This market gardener bought a piece of land, about a quarter of an acre, I believe, and certainly not half an acre. He proceeded to cultivate it, and at the present moment he is making a very good living indeed out of that quarter-acre. I admit of course the man was an expert. No doubt he knew his business probably better than ninety-nine per cent. of the men who may be engaged in market gardening, but even with his expert knowledge, if he can do this on a quarter acre, surely the ordinary man with ordinary capacity and intelligence, and with a display of an ordinary amount of energy, might possibly, and I think very probably, earn a living upon land which is of the value of £500. As a matter of fact, we cannot afford in these days to believe the protests that are coming from those Benches. For my part, and it may appear ungenerous, but I am bound to say exactly what I think, I believe that the statements, disingenuous as they appear, are made to cover up the untenable position which the Members above the Gangway have taken up upon this question. I hope the Government will push forward this Amendment unless it might suit their purpose better, in order to test the sincerity of the Gentlemen who are protesting so much, to withdraw it, and show that even under those
§ circumstances they would not be satisfied. It appears to me they are very hard to satisfy. Before the alteration everything was wrong, and when the alteration was made everything is still wrong. The best thing to do is to take no notice of the protests from those Benches, but to do what the Government think is best in the public interest.
§ Mr. HUNT moved, after the words "does not exceed five hundred pounds," to insert the words "nor shall any small holding of ten acres or less, let at three pounds an acre or more, as long as it is used entirely for agricultural purposes, be subject to the Undeveloped Land Duty, nor shall any owner of land, owning not more than ten acres of land, cultivating them himself and using them entirely for agricultural purposes, be liable to pay Undeveloped Land Duty."
§ Question put, "That the words, 'nor shall any small holding of ten acres or less, let at three pounds an acre or more, as long as it is used entirely for agricultural purposes, be subject to the Undeveloped Land Duty,' be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 63; Noes, 157.1455
|Division No. 749.]||AYES.||[5.8 p.m.|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex, F.||Gretton, John||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major||Guinness, Hon. R. (Haggerston)||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Guinness, Hon. W. E. (B. S. Edm'ds.)||Renwick, George|
|Balcarres, Lord||Haddock, George B.||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.)||Hamilton, Marquess of||Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford)||Rutherford, Watson (Liverpool)|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Hills, J. W.||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, E.)|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Starkey, John R.|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir John H.||Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staffordshire)|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.)||Kimber, Sir Henry||Talbot, Rt. Hon. J. G. (Oxford Univ.)|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||King, Sir Henry Seymour (Hull)||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Lanark)|
|Courthope, G. Loyd||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Craik, Sir Henry||M'Arthur, Charles||Valentia, Viscount|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Magnus, Sir Philip||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)|
|Faher, George Denison (York)||Morpeth, Viscount||Winterton, Earl|
|Fell, Arthur||Morrison-Bell, Captain||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Fletcher, J. S.||Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)||Younger, George|
|Gardner, Ernest||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Gooch, Henry Cubitt (Peckham)||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Viscount|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Pretyman, E. G.||Helmsley and Mr. Rowland Hunt|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Armitage, K.||Beauchamp, E.|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Ashton, Thomas Gair||Bennett, E. N.|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Atherley-Jones, L.||Borridge, T. H. D.|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romford)|
|Alden, Percy||Barker, Sir John||Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.)||Branch, James|
|Brigg, John||Hedges, A. Paget||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh)||Helme, Norval Watson||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Brunner, Rt. Hon. Sir J. T. (Cheshire)||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Higham, John Sharp||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney Charles||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||Rogers, F. E. Newman|
|Byles, William Pollard||Hodge, John||Rose, Sir Charles Day|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Holland, Sir William Henry||Russell, Rt. Hon. T. W.|
|Clough, William||Horniman, Emslie John||Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)|
|Cobbold, Felix Thornley||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Hutton, Alfred Eddison||Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Compton-Rickett, Sir J.||Illingworth, Percy H.||Seaverns, J. H.|
|Cooper, G. J.||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel||Seely, Colonel|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Jackson, R. S.||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)||Johnson, John (Gateshead)||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Silcock, Thomas Ball|
|Cowan, W. H.||Jones, Leif (Appleby)||Simon, John Allsebrook|
|Crossley, William J.||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Snowden, P.|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Laidlaw, Robert||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N. W.)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Layland-Barratt, Sir Francis||Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)|
|Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)||Levy, Sir Maurice||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Lewis, John Herbert||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)|
|Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)|
|Dunne, Major E. Martin (Walsall)||Mackarness, Frederic C.||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Elibank, Master of||Macpherson, J. T.||Toulmin, George|
|Essex, R. W.||M'Callum, John M.||Verney, F. W.|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Wadsworth, J.|
|Evans, Sir S. T.||M'Micking, Major G.||Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)|
|Everett, R. Lacey||Mallet, Charles E.||Wardle, George J.|
|Ferens, T. R.||Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry)||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Masterman, C. F. G.||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Fuller, John Michael F.||Mend, A.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Fullerton, Hugh||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Gibb, James (Harrow)||Nuttall, Harry||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John||O'Donnell, C. J. (Walworth)||White, Sir Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Glendinning, R. G.||O'Grady, J.||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Gooch, George Peabody (Bath)||Parker, James (Halifax)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Williamson, Sir A.|
|Gulland, John W.||Pointer, J.||Wilson, Henry, J. (York, W. R.)|
|Hall, Frederick||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Winfrey, R.|
|Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (Gloucester)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worcester)||Rees, J. D.|
|Hart-Davies, T.||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Joseph Pease and Captain Norton.|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Richardson, A.|
|Hazel, Dr. A. E. W.||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
Question, "That the Clause be read a second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Sir W. ROBSON moved, after Clause 24, to insert the following:—