HC Deb 30 June 1911 vol 27 cc766-8

The net value of such heritable estate as aforesaid shall for the purposes of this Act be estimated in the case of a fee simple upon the basis of twenty years' purchase of the annual value by the year at the date of the death of the intestate as determined by law for the purposes of property tax, less the gross amount of any debt or other principal sum heritably secured thereon, and less the value of any annuity or other periodical payment chargeable thereon, to be valued according to the tables and rules in the schedule annexed to the Succession Duty Act, 1853, and in the case of an estate for a life or lives according to the said tables and rules.


I beg to move to leave out the words "and in the case of an estate for a life or lives according to the said tables and rules."

I will tell the House frankly why I proposed to strike out these words. It is because I cannot understand them. If the husband has a life interest, it expires with him and goes to somebody else. I cannot see how the widow can have a personal interest in the life estate of her husband after he is dead.


These words occur in the English Act and, so far as England is concerned, there is not the slightest difficulty in understanding them. The deceased may have some annuity payable during the life of another man. That is an estate on another life. What is to hinder the deceased having bought from a man who survives him a right to receive the rent of a house during that man's life? This Clause deals with heritable estates, and it says, first of all, as to fee simple, that it is to be valued at so many years' purchase and any charges thereon deducted. Then it deals with the case of an estate for a life or lives. That means an estate for the life or lives of somebody else. I cannot understand why a Scotchman should not buy an annuity payable from some property during the life of somebody else. That would form part of his estate, and, according to the wording of the Act, it is to be valued according to the Act of 1853. That Act sets out a table by which you value the interest the deceased's estate has in the life of the other man who has sold the interest. It is quite a common thing in England. I cannot say whether it is a common thing in Scotland. Supposing a man has sold his right to receive a ground rent or feu duties payably during his life. That is a heritable estate, and, when the man who has bought it dies, his widow is entitled to say: "I claim to value that." The Act of 1853 sets out the tables and rules for valuation. I cannot really understand that there is any difficulty about it. I cannot see why a Scotchman should not have an interest in the life of another man, the other man surviving him.


I have listened to the Lord Advocate, and I am very much obliged to him for moving to strike out words he cannot understand. That is in the interest of laymen, because it is to prevent litigation, but, after listening to the speech of the hon. Member behind him, it seems to me the words are fairly simple, providing the hon. Member is correct in his interpretation. As I understand the hon. Member, what he says is this: I buy a certain annual payment to be made to me and my heirs during the life of my hon. Friend beside me. I die, and my executors find that after paying all my debts there is only a balance of £400, unless the annuity payable by my hon. Friend is included. That annuity would make the amount up to £500. Under the Bill, that £500 will go to my wife, but, if this Amendment is accepted, only £400 will go to her, and £100 will go to my other heirs. I do not know whether I have understood the matter clearly, but I think that is what it means, and, if by any extraordinary chance I should be the means of enlightening such a very able and learned Gentlemen as the Lord Advocate upon a point of law I should indeed be proud.


I think the hon. Baronet is perfectly right except for one trifling misconception. I think the confusion has arisen from the number of words that are inserted in the Clause. The Clause provides for the valuation in the case of a fee simple, and in the case of an estate for a life or lives, and the reference to annuities coming in between is a little confusing to a man applying his mind to the second part of the Clause. There is only one point where the hon. Baronet is a little bit mistaken. This Clause only relates to the mode in which the estate is to be valued. It may, as the hon. Baronet pointed out, be of great importance to the widow to have this valuation made in a proper manner. People often take over a life interest in an insurance. I hope, therefore, the Lord Advocate will accept the words as they stand. There will not be the slightest difficulty in understanding them when the real facts are known.


I am quite satisfied with the explanation of my hon. Friend, and will therefore ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."


I should like a little enlightenment on the fifth Clause dealing with heritable estates. Since 1853 many changes have taken place in the position, title, and other conditions relating to these estates, but apparently the method of valuation maintained in this Clause harks back to the Succession Duty Act of 1853. I should like to ask whether the valuation will be the same practically as obtains at the present time in this country under more enlightened conditions dealing with similar estates.


It will be according to the actuarial tables set out in the Act of 1853.


Which are in operation at the present time?



Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the third time, and passed.