HC Deb 30 September 1909 vol 11 cc1481-97

(1) The Commissioners may, if they think fit, on the application of any person liable to pay Estate Duty or Settlement Estate Duty or Succession Duty in respect of any real (including leasehold) property, accept in satisfaction of the whole or any part of such duty such part of the property as may be agreed upon between the Commissioners and that person.

(2) The Commissioners may hold any property transferred to them under this Section and shall deal with it in such manner as Parliament may hereafter determine.


I think we ought to have some explanation of this Clause from the Government. Something like this, though not in these words, was moved in 1894 on Sir William Harcourt's Death Duties, and was rejected with considerable contumely by the Government of that day. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman bases his present policy upon a change of view or whether he bases it on the fact that it is not precisely the same Amendment which is moved and there is some difference. At any rate, I think we should have the views of the Government.


I am putting forward the proposition on its merits. I have just looked at the Amendments on the Paper, and I see one in the name of the hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Lane-Fox), and another in the name of the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman)—I have looked at those two Amendments, and I think on the whole they contain a fair proposal. I am aware that something like this or on the whole sufficiently near to quite justify the right hon. Gentleman in saying it was substantially the same proposal was put forward in 1894, and the then Chancellor of the Exchequer did not see his way to accept it. I do not know on what grounds he did not accept it, I have not examined. All I know is that there is now at any rate a reason why the Clause may be useful if it was not useful then. I do not know any reason why the Government should not have regarded it with favour at that time, but now I can quite understand that it might be useful to the Government and to the persons paying Death Duties. At that time if the successors offered a piece of land in exchange for Death Duty, Sir William Harcourt might have said, "What on earth am I to do with it?" But I cannot say that. For instance, now you have a Development Bill for afforestation purposes and experimental farms, and supposing a man who was paying Death Duties said, "I have a large tract of country here; why do you not take that?" it may be very suitable land for those purposes, and there is no reason why the Government should not take it, seeing that it would suit the Government and the particular individual who was paying Death Duties. It might have no market except for that particular purchaser, the Government, and it would be a mutual convenience to both parties. If Sir William Harcourt had taken £100,000 worth of land he would have been £100,000 worse in cash, but in this case, although the Government will have to take £100,000 worth of land, they will not have to pay out for land they require.

7.0 P.M.


I am glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman's explanation, and perhaps I am much more in accord with him than I usually am on the Finance Bill. I know that the view I hold is not universal among my friends, and it is understood that I speak for myself alone, but I defended these proposals in 1894. I defended them last year or the year before when they came up in a similar form, and I still hold the view which I then held, especially if you are going to have these heavy death and other duties upon a commodity which in the nature of the case is not necessarily saleable. It may have a market price, but that is a most ambiguous phrase upon the difficulty of which I have before spoken to the Committee, and very often you have a market price, and no market, a paradoxical state of things, but which everybody knows sometimes represents the state of facts not only with regard to land, but to other sources of wealth. I think this proposal is fair in the interests of the taxpayer, but I go further than that, and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is a very convenient and cheap way, as I believe of obtaining land for public purposes which will not cause either loss or inconvenience to the person from whom the land is taken or who passes the land and will not put the Government to any great cost in the way of litigation or compulsion and all the rest of it. The land which changes hands under this Clause will do so without that difficulty or friction or question as to the price which has hitherto been the case. That is a prodigious advantage. We have always had, we have had over and over again in this House, prejudices aroused by charges thrown across the floor of this House against those who own land in this country that when they have sold that land they have got an exorbitant price. I think often the prices have been far higher than the value of the land, but that is not due to the owners of the land—they are not to blame, and it is a common jury which has to decide, and I do not know whether it is my business or anybody else's business in this House to abuse a common jury. I am quite aware that it is done by means of arbitration, but a common jury has been behind it, and I do not think that those who have sold the land, so far as I am aware, have ever been accused of any wrong-doing, but the results have been most unsatisfactory. Here we have an opportunity of obtaining any land wanted for public purposes without any of that difficulty, friction, or power of raising prejudices in regard to questions of price, whether too much is asked or given. I think that is a great advantage if there are any public purposes to which you can put the land. I do not much believe in afforestation. I hope it will succeed, but I cannot get rid of a certain amount of scepticism on that point. I have known too many who have tried to make a large amount of money in this way, and have failed, to be very confident that the Government are going to make a much better job of it than others have made before them. But let them try. Let us see whether it is going to produce these wonderful results. But there is something I attach very much greater value to than afforestation, and that is the increase in the number of small owners in this country, and I believe this will be a method by which the land for that purpose can be easily and simply acquired without undue loss and undue friction. There are those who believe that when the land has been acquired by the State it will be far more valuable in the hands of the community, that they will get all the unearned increment, and all the rest of it, which would otherwise go to the private owner, and I daresay there are those who support this proposal on a semi-Socialistic basis. I think they will very soon discover that the owner of land in this country is not the otiose vampire receiving vast revenues to which he contributes nothing—that he is pictured in cartoons which find favour with some hon. Gentlemen in this House and many persons outside it. I do not see any harm in that being brought home to anyone. They will discover that, if you want to get the best out of land, ownership is the way to do it. It is only by ownership that you will get the sacrifices in order to make the land of any value to anyone. That is true of the small owner and of the big owner. I look at this both from the side of the public and from the side of the tax-payer. If you take a great slice of the landowner's capital, leaving him his land, it is extremely difficult for him to do justice to the land. If you allow him to keep the capital, and diminish the land it is better for the land he retains. There is the other point of view, that we want land for the purpose of augmenting the number of small owners. We may want it possibly also for the purpose of afforesta- tion, and for both of those reasons, though in a very unequal measure, as far as I am concerned, I should like to see a natural process by which more land will be made available for these general social objects. Therefore, speaking individually and for myself alone, I shall support the Government.


I personally take the same view as the right hon. Gentleman. I am very pleased to see that this new Clause is to be put into the Bill. I fully recognise that a certain number of hon. Members on this side of the House look upon this Clause with a certain amount of distrust, and I can easily understand that it may be a very easy weapon for absolute State Socialism, and that instead of taking only one-sixth or one-fifth of a man's property at death it might be raised to half, three-quarters, or the whole. Therefore undoubtedly it is an easy method of expropriation, but at the same time one has on these occasions to trust to the good sense and the honesty of the electors, and to trust that we shall not have a Government in power which will practically confiscate the whole of a man's property at death. With Death Duties raised to the height at which they are at present it is almost an absolute necessity, as regards their real estate, that some provision such as this should be inserted in the Bill. As long as the Death Duties were at a considerably lower level it might not be difficult to find ready money to pay the Death Duties, but at the present height it is an extremely difficult thing indeed, and I feel quite certain that unless this provision is inserted in the Bill it must lead to the greatest disaster which can possibly happen to landed estates, which is that they should become heavily mortgaged. The simple alternative, where an estate falls in and there is no ready money, is to raise a mortgage on the property. Those properties which are hampered with heavy mortgages are almost invariably those on which the tenants have the worst buildings and farmhouses, are subject to a far greater amount of screwing, as regards their rents, and probably the cottages and everything connected with the estate are in not as good a condition as on those estates which are entirely free of mortgage. I therefore think that unless some such provision as this had been inserted in the Bill, with Death Duties at their present level, it must be perfectly certain in the course of a not very long period of time to have resulted in the greater part of the estates in this country being heavily mortgaged.

Throughout the whole of these Debates there has been a very considerable difference of opinion between the two sides of the House as to the possibility of putting a price upon land. I think it is not an easy thing to do. The animal which is most like land is a horse. If you wish to dispose of a horse, and no one seems to fancy it, you will probably have to send it up for auction, and you might be happy to get £10 or £12 for it, even though you may think it is very valuable. But the moment you have one man who is a bit sweet on the horse, what was 10 or 12 guineas at auction becomes very likely 30 or 40, and if you are in the happy position of having more than one gentleman after it—many times have I been told to be up and doing, because there is another man after the horse—the price very likely becomes 120 or 150 guineas. Though hon. Gentlemen opposite think this form of trading is an exceedingly wicked and grasping one, unfortunately it is in human nature, and when you have a piece of land which no one seems to require it is not very valuable. When one man is after it it becomes considerably more valuable, and if you have two or three it is a very valuable plot indeed. There is no doubt that if, all of a sudden, a large amount of money has to be found for Death Duties, it is a very great chance indeed if at that moment the plot of land has many gentlemen after it. Perhaps there is no one after it at all, and it is exceedingly difficult to raise the money. It would be ridiculous to say the land is only worth £10 and acre, because perhaps in 10 years it might be worth £25. It is not at all an easy matter. With this arrangement it seems to me it is on a better footing, because it is a tossup which piece of land on the estate there will be a large demand for in the near future, and it will be more or less of a gamble between the heir and the State as to which gets the good part. It may happen that the man who has inherited the estate may pass on to the State a farm or a portion of a farm which may become very valuable in a few years, and he will be the loser. But as long as Death Duties remain no higher he will still have five or six chances to one in his favour to select the right spot. Therefore, with the probability of chances, I think this is a good addition to the Bill.

I suppose in the case of the owner and the Commissioners agreeing to take payment in a piece of the land, there would be no further expenses connected with it so long as the owner can show that he has a good title—there will be no Transfer Duty or Conveyancing Duty and no further taxes to pay. It may, perhaps, have the effect of doing away with some of those extra charges and duties which a person having to pay Death Duties is called upon to pay in addition to the charges he has to pay to the State. I hope this Clause may be incorporated with the Bill, and I am certain it will be far better for the future of land in this country than to insist on a large payment of ready money, which must cripple the part of the estate which is left or else be the means of making it an encumbered estate, which has been in some parts of the country ruinous to agriculture.


I cannot see, as the Clause is at present drawn, how it can be worked as a revenue matter. The object we are supposed to be at is to see how we can raise revenue. I have the misfortune to differ from my Leader as to the value of the Clause. Supposing a person says, "I have not the money, but here is an outlying part of the property." I suppose they mean to take it at a price fixed by the Commissioners, though it does not say so here. The whole Clause has no details in it at all. Supposing they have come to an arrangement, and the price fixed is £100,000. What the Chancellor of the Exchequer wants, if this is a revenue Bill, is £100,000. He gets this land, what is he going to do when he gets it? Is he going to sell it to the Army or Navy? Supposing he cannot sell it, what will be the result? At the end of the year you will have a deficit of £100,000 upon the estimate you made at the commencement of the year, and you will have to put that into next year's estimate for the purpose of paying for the land. That is not a Budget transaction at all. If the right hon. Gentleman has three or four transactions of this kind, and there may be a dozen of them, representing sums of from £20,000 to £100,000, he does not imagine that he can immediately dispose of all the properties. If that were possible, the owners would do the same thing. Therefore, what I should like to know is how the matter is to be worked out. If the land remains upon the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, are you going to raise by the next year's Budget money to meet the deficit which these properties represent? If so, you are really setting up a system by which the Government are allowed to become purchasers of land. It is not really a revenue matter, in the course of a year, at all. It is not a matter out of which revenue necessarily will arise, and my main objection to the Clause is that it is not a proper way of applying the revenue of the year. If you want to take power for purchasing land, which is quite a different thing, and for purchasing land in cases of death, thereby transferring money from one department to another, you can do so, but it should not be done in this way. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that this Clause was important now that you have the Development Bill. Where is there any provision in the Development Bill, or in this Bill, which enables you, if you take land in lieu of Death Duties, to transfer any money which this House has voted into the Exchequer for the year with a view to making good the deficiency which may arise by reason of taking over these estates? I see no such provision, and until some further machinery is set up, and a further Clause is passed, I do not see how the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to make these estates available as revenue for the purpose of paying the liabilities of the country during the year.

It will be observed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not mean that an estate obtained in this way should be disposed of. He means to keep it. Sub-Section (2) says: "The Commissioners may hold any property transferred to them under this Section and shall deal with it in such manner as Parliament may hereafter determine." If that is so, until we pass some subsequent Act of Parliament, I suppose in another Session, we do not even know how these estates are going to be dealt with. It is left for another Parliament, and I ask what is to become of the revenue meanwhile? The truth of the matter is that this Bill shows every day we go on with it that it is not a Budget Bill at all. Here the Chancellor of the Exchequer is setting up a kind of land court, which is to take over an estate and deal with it in one way or another which will not be indicated until next Session of Parliament, or, at all events, until something is done subsequent to the passing of this Bill. I think the Committee, before agreeing to a Clause of this kind, ought to keep their eye on the revenue, and to see that we are really treating this as a revenue matter, and in a way which will make this land easily available as revenue for the State. The acquisition of land for the purpose of allotments is very important, and if you are going to set up a scheme for allotting any of these properties in the country, that is not a matter you can do the day after you get an estate. It cannot be done by a stroke of the pen. It will require elaborate machinery, and until you make provision as to how the estates taken over are to be liquefied you will find yourselves with a deficit at the end of the year—if you do take over estates which I very much doubt—which you must make up by some method which will make money easily available for the revenue.


The right hon. and learned Gentleman has raised all sorts of difficulties which will have no existence whatever in fact. He asked first of all: How are you going to deal with the land? This is a purely voluntary section. The Commissioners do not buy unless there is an application by a person liable to pay duty, nor do they buy except by agreement. There is no difficulty at all about it. The Commissioners and the owners of the land come to terms exactly as if they were private parties. The Commissioners need not buy, and the others need not sell. It is entirely a matter where there must be agreement between the parties. Therefore, if the owner says: "I cannot give you all that land for £100,000," the Commissioners may reply: "Very well, we will not take less than that." There must be agreement on both sides before the transaction can go through. If it were a compulsory purchase on a valuation by the State, there might be something to be said against the proposal, but it is not. So far as that is concerned, there is no difficulty. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said, "If £100,000 is spent in buying land, that has to be liquidated. It is not part of the revenue of the year, and the sum will have to be made up next year." Nothing of the kind. If he has followed the Development Bill, he will know that that is not the case. That is why I am able to introduce this Clause.


How do you work it?


There is nothing easier. Supposing the Development Commissioners come to the conclusion that they want land for small holdings, or for any of the purposes enumerated in the Development Bill, and there is an estate in Lincolnshire or elsewhere, the proprietors of which say to the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, "We cannot pay the Death Duties, but we offer you this land." The Commissioners of Inland Revenue at once communicate with the Development Commissioners, and say, "We have had land offered to us." The Development Commissioners would examine it, and they would see that it was very suitable for the purpose for which they require land. The Development Commissioners will have funds. What happens is that the land is transferred by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue to the Development Commissioners, who buy it from them.


What about the power to hold property in Sub-section (2)?


I will come to that. I am dealing with the statement made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman that there will be a deficit arising out of these transactions. There will be no deficit. I am assuming that the Development Bill will go through. There is nothing in that bogey of the right hon. Gentleman. The Commissioners of Inland Revenue want cash, and the Development Commissioners want land, and if the proprietor of an estate says to the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, "I do not wish to mortgage my property, and, therefore, I offer you land," and if it suits everybody that the Commissioners of Inland Revenue should take that land, why on earth should it not be done? It suits all parties—the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, the Development Commissioners, and the general interests of the public—and I would ask whether the transaction should not go through simply because there is, I will not say some sort of pedantic objection, but because somebody may abuse it? That is going too far and carrying suspicion up to the point of being morbid.

I come to the next point of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He asked, What do you want under Sub-section (2)? All we want is that, if it is found that the Development Commissioners for the moment do not require the land, the Commissioners of Inland Revenue should be able to hold it. It is simply a proviso that the Commissioners shall have power to hold land—they have not at present power to hold it—until the Development Commissioners or some people wish to take it up. A county council may want it for small holdings.


Is that in the Bill?


That is a trans action which will be possible. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that the words are very vague. The words are very simple, and I think for that reason they are infinitely better than the words that are to be found in most Acts of Parliament. The machinery, which is very simple, enables the Commissioners of Inland Revenue to take over the land, and if any county council come along and say, "We wish to have that land," they can sell it to them. The Inland Revenue Commissioners do not want to hold property. That is the last thing in the world they want to do. It is desirable that landowners should be able to pay Death Duties in the way provided in this Clause, and if it is in the interest of the State and in the interest of landowners to do so, why should the revenue not have some means devised for the purpose of carrying out what is in the interest of the State and of all parties concerned?

I think that this must receive the assent of all sections in this House. There may be one or two who dissent, and, as regards them, in fact, if they did not dissent, I should begin to think there must be something wrong. I agree in thinking with the right hon. Gentleman that this would be really applicable to what may be called the lean end of the property except to this extent. I can quite understand the landowners saying, "Here is this property, which is of no use to me, but it may be of use to you." To that extent it may be a convenience to many landowners who could not develop property of this kind themselves, and could not reclaim it, and therefore they might say that this is a valuable estate, and I do not see why the State should not meet them to that extent, especially when the State wants land of that kind. When you require land for small holdings there will be a better market for it and a better chance of the landowners disposing of it, but when there is a want of small holdings it is more necessary that every facility should be given in that case. Now as to the stamps. The Noble Lords knows that stamps are always paid by the purchaser, and in this case the State will be in the position of purchaser. The State will be buying the horse. Let me be quite clear. Increment Duty would be valued before the land was offered, and whatever it would be the State certainly would not let that off. But I would like to reassure him on this point, that whatever the value is it will not put on anything in the way of Stamp Duty. If necessary I would not object to words like this being added, "That no Stamp Duty of any kind will be payable on any transfer of land under this provision either by the landowner or by the State." If it is necessary to add these words it can be done either now or on Report.

Mr. G. D. FABER (York)

In discussing this matter in the House of Commons the only person who has been consistent throughout is the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the present Opposition. The first time that this proposition or any proposition approaching that which is contained in this new Clause came up before the House of Commons, as has been stated, Was in 1894, when it was made from this side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has talked about morbid suspicion and pedantic objections on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir Edward Carson). I think it is worth while for a moment to consider what views the great Radical of those days, the late Sir William Harcourt, took in the matter. I know that many years have elapsed since then, but still Sir William Harcourt spoke in strong terms against the proposition, and I think it is worth while to remind the Committee of what that distinguished gentleman said. Sir William Harcourt said:— The state of mind of gentlemen who seriously make a proposition of that kind"— the proposition was that the individual should be entitled to make payment in land. That is a distinction, I know—


It is a very different proposition.


The state of mind of gentlemen who seriously make a proposition of that kind is to me wholly unintelligible. They really seem as if they were inhabitants of a different planet altogether. They expect to be placed under different conditions from everybody else. What is the Inland Revenue to do with this land when they get it? The right hon. Gentleman says it may be sold. But if the Inland Revenue can sell it, why cannot the owners? Does the right hon. Gentleman seriously in the House of Commons make the proposal that the Inland Revenue authorities are to take this land all over the country? I have the highest respect for the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, but this is about the last work I should be disposed to ask them to engage in. Then came the right hon. Gentleman the present Leader of the Opposition, who favoured the idea then and who consistently favoured it in 1907 and who favoured it again this evening. What did the present Lord Wolverhampton, Mr. H. H. Fowler, say on that occasion? He said: I am astonished at the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. A J. Balfour) lending his great weight to the fallacy which underlies this matter. What would the shades of the late Sir William Harcourt, if sitting this evening in the Strangers' Gallery, say after hearing the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer just now? I now come to two years ago. I am sorry that the Prime Minister is not present, but perhaps for the sake of the consistency of Radical policy I should be glad that he is not here. Two years ago I suppose the Radical Government then had in their minds some sort of idea of land nationalisation. But the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, now Prime Minister, said on that occasion:— The subject of this Clause was last brought forward in 1894, when it seemed to be lightly brushed aside by the late Sir William Harcourt. He did not recollect it having again appeared since. It was quite impossible for him to accept the clause in any shape or form. It was absolutely without precedent, so far as he was aware, in the whole of our legislation that a man should pay his taxes in kind. The whole speech, even what I have quoted, shows that the present Prime Minister, objected on principle to the payment of taxes in kind. He points out that the State is not in the habit of receiving taxes in kind either in land or in any other form, and goes on as this proposal would work out, the taxpayer could go about and pick out a little bit of land here and a little bit there to be handed over to whom he did not know. Whom was it to be vested in? The Crown, the Prime Minister, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer? They were entirely in the dark. It was to be handed over to some person representative of the State, and a nice job that person would have. That is not quite the kind of speech that has been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer this evening. I might go so far as to say that it is diametrically opposite. So much for the consistency of the Radical Front Bench. We are accustomed by this time to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer throwing over the Prime Minister on every possible occasion. I am glad for the sake of the Prime Minister that he has not been here this evening to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer throw him over on this matter. And now about the merits of the proposition. Here I quite agree that I find myself in some difficulty not for the reasons which I presume are being cheered by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I am in a difficulty because in 1907, although the proposition then took a compulsory shape that the persons should be entitled to pay in land, I find on consulting the division list that my humble name does appear in favour of the proposition. The two propositions are different I know, but at the same time I do feel that here the Chancellor of the Exchequer does give a certain amount of free play on both sides, that the State cannot compel the individuals to hand over the land in payment of taxes, and neither can the individual compel the State to take the land. This does seem to me to be a proposition which as so far an easier one both for the State, and certainly for the individuals than it was as put either in 1894 or in 1907. Therefore, for that reason, because I am in all things a loyal follower of the right hon. Gentleman my Leader on the Front Opposition Bench, much as it grieves me, and much as it wounds me to take up a position in any way antagonistic to that of the right hon. Gentleman for whom I have almost if not quite the same respect, the learned Member for Dublin University, still when I have to make the choice I feel that I must follow my leader.


I voted I find, and spoke in favour of the proposition in the year 1907, but the proposition made in 1907 was absolutely different from the proposition made to-day. The proposition made in 1907 was a reasonable one, because it provided that where a man had a large estate of land, and could not find the ready money he should be entitled to take that land at the value which was put upon it by the Commissioners for the purpose of Death Duties, and hand it over to the State instead of the money which he could not find. It gave the landowner the power of saying, "You have chosen to assess my estate at such and such a price. I have not got the money to pay the assessment. I will hand you the land at the value which you have put on it." That is a very different thing from the proposition before the Committee just now, and I should like to say to my Noble Friend that if he thinks the owners of great estates will find much consolation in this Clause I believe he is absolutely in error. What will happen? First of all the amount, though it is not in the Clause, according to the statements made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is limited to the money at the disposal of the Development Fund Commissioners or at the disposal of county councils who want to buy it. The proposal of the right hon. Gentleman is that the State should set up as land jobbers in order to provide land for county councils and for the Development Commissioners. The money which the Development Commissioners are to have is £2,500,000. That is the money in the Bill which has not yet become law, though it has nearly passed a Grand Committee. One of the projects of the Development Bill is the promotion of anything which tends to the economic development of the United Kingdom. I ask the Committee if there is to be a promotion of economic development of the United Kingdom how much money is likely to be left to assist the landowners who have got the Land Duty to pay? The amount would be absolutely infinitesimal. Then, again, the Commissioners are not to be obliged to take the land at the price which they put upon it for the purpose of the Death Duties. They can take it at any price they choose to agree upon. They may say to the landowner, "It is quite true that we have assessed you at £30 an acre as the value of your land, but, in our opinion, it is only worth £20, though we assess the Death Duty on £30, and all we can give you is £20 for your land." The thing seems to me to be absolutely absurd. It is not going to do what we all want it to do, to give the landowner the option of paying with the only property which he has. The Commissioners take the land; they buy it cheap, and they sell it again to the county council or to the Commissioners of Land Development. There is nothing in the Clause, as my right hon. and learned Friend pointed out, to limit it in the direction the Chancellor of the Exchequer suggested; and I must say, with my knowledge of the procedure of the present Government, that I am morbid; I am very sceptical as to whether or not the present Government will confine themselves to this particular proposal. I believe they would obtain the money on easy terms for the purpose of indulging in all sorts of mad enterprises, foolish experiments in afforestation, and other matters.


Though I may not be in that morbid condition which the right hon. Gentleman spoke of, yet I may say that I am convinced that this Clause will have no effect at all until, at all events, another Act of Parliament is passed. I feel perfectly certain that I may rest quite happy in the thought that we are going through a useless performance in passing this Clause. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says there are two ways in which land can be dealt with. First, county councils all over the country are only too anxious to buy land; and, secondly, the Development Commissioners can take any amount of land they want. If I understand the wording of the second Sub-section aright—"The Commissioners may hold any property transferred to them under this Section, and shall deal with it in such manner as Parliament may hereafter determine"—they will have no effect, and it is quite clear that another Act of Parliament will be necessary to put the provision into operation. That being so, I would point out that where you are proposing to take land for purposes of revenue you will have no revenue out of it in the end, and if you deal at all—and I know you will not—in these transactions, it is perfectly clear that there must be a, subsequent Act of Parliament. To me it is plain that this is one of these show clauses, something to indicate that a small commencement is being made towards the nationalisation of the land and other matters so much desired by some supporters of the right hon. Gentleman. As far as I am concerned, I cannot see any possible way in which the Sub-section can be worked until another Act is passed.

Clause read a second time.

Amendment made: At the end of Subsection (2), to add the words "No Stamp Duty shall be payable on any conveyance or transfer of land to the Commissioners under this Section."—[Mr. Lloyd-George.]

Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE moved, after Clause 44, to insert the following:—