§ In Section 7 of the principal Act there shall be added at the end of line three the following words, "and so long as such land is being used for agricultural purposes no Increment Value Duty shall be charged because of its market value as building land or prospective building land exceeding its value for agricultural purposes unless it is proved that such land is reasonably required for building and is being held up."—[Mr. Worthington-Evans.]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."1379
Mr. WORTHINGTON - EVANS
In moving this new Clause I do not propose to weary the House upon a subject which has already been much debated in many of its aspects, but I do ask the Government to seriously consider whether they cannot accept this Clause, because if their desire, so often expressed on the platform and in this House, to exempt agricultural land is really sincere, then they can accept this proposal, which will not extend the boundary of exemption beyond that which they have so often declared themselves willing to go. We think agricultural land is taxed under this Bill as it now stands. I know that is denied by hon. Members opposite, but I do not propose to argue that point now. The Government claim that they have drawn a line between agricultural land and land which is not agricultural land. They claim on the one side that agricultural land is free from taxation, and on the other side they claim that land is to be subject to taxation. There must be, and one realises it, some hard cases on the border line, but it is the duty of the Government to define the line as sharply as possible so as to have as few hard cases as possible. I submit, if these words were added, we should get a really better expression of the statement of the desire of the Government, as made over and over again in this House and on the platform. The tax, as originally proposed, has perhaps been somewhat obscured by the many discussions which have taken place upon it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he introduced the Budget, said:—There is another aspect of this mutter which I should like to say a word upon before I come to the actual proposals of the Government. I have dwelt upon the fundamental difference in the demeanour of landowners towards their urban tenants and that which under the inspiration of more high-minded and public-spirited principles guide their conduct towards their agricultural tenants. There is no doubt that the spirit of greed is unconsciously much more dominant and unrestrained in the former case. One disastrous result of this is that land which is essential to the free and healthy development of towns is being kept out of the market in order to enhance its value, and that towns are cramped and their people become over-crowded in dwellings which are costly without being comfortable. You have only 10 buy an ordnance survey map and put together the sheets which include some town of your acquaintance and the land within its immediate vicinity, and you will see at once what I mean. You will find, as a rule, your town or village huddled in one corner of the map, dwellings jammed together as near as the law of the land will permit, with an occasional courtyard, into which the sunshine rarely creeps, but with nothing that would justify the title of 'garden.' For it is the interest of the landlord to pile together on the land every scrap of bricks and mortar that the law will allow. And yet outside square miles of land are unoccupied, or at least unbuilt upon; land in the town seems to let by the grain, as if it were radium. Not merely towns but villages (and by villages and towns I mean the people who dwell in them), suffer extremely from the difficulty 1380 which is experienced in obtaining land, and by the niggardliness with which sites are measured out."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th April, 1909, cols. 536–7.]The object of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as stated in that extract, was to prevent rapacious landlords from holding up land and preventing the due development of the town. The hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes), speaking either the same day or within a day or two as the representative of the Labour party, showed conclusively why he and his Friends were going to support the Land Taxes. On 3rd May, 1909, he said:—Moreover the curse of landlordism—and it is a curse—is not only in what it takes, but in what it wastes. Therefore, I am particularly glad there is a tax. The second proposed tax in regard to land will, I believe, bring into use land which is now held out of use, and thereby do something to diminish unemployment and lighten the load of poverty which the people have to bear.A little later he says:—Why should land not be put to its full use. As I understand this proposal, it is entirely a tax on land either not used at all or not used to its full capacity. It is obvious in a comparatively small country like ours, with our limited area and growing population, it is of the utmost importance that land should be put to its full use."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1909, cols. 806–7.]I quite agree it was a fine speech, putting before the House exactly his view and the view of the Labour party. The argument running through both those speeches was that this tax was to assist or to compel land to be put to its best use and to prevent it being held up, so that the housing problem should not be complicated by the want of land for private building. I am not going to argue whether either of those speeches are right or wrong. I have only quoted them to remind the House of the basis upon which these taxes were introduced. I hope to be able to persuade the House that I am not trying to alter a single one of the main principles upon which the taxes have become part of the law of the land. While leaving all these beneficial effects, if, indeed, any beneficial effects follow from this taxation, I wish to exempt land which is not required for building, which is not held up, and which therefore does not come within the category of the argument of those two speeches. Last night the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) gave some particulars of a case of his own. There is land which is not being held up which is not required for building, and which is used for agriculture, but which comes within the range of this taxation.
I do not deny that some land is held up, and I do not suppose the Government 1381 will deny that a great deal of land will become subject to these taxes which is not, in fact, held up. If the object is to prevent land being held up, then the Government can accept this Amendment, because it only affects agricultural land which, although it may have a prospective value as building land, is being actually put in the meantime to the best economic use as agricultural land. If the land is being held up, and is required for building, then it does not come within the Amendment. If it is not put to its best economic use as agricultural land, then it does not come within the Amendment. All I ask the House to do is to exempt land which is put to the best economic use and which is not being held up so as to cause any of the evils which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has picturesquely described outside this House, and in more sober terms described them in the speech to which I have referred. This is quite a short Amendment, unencumbered by any controversial questions, and I hope the Government will be able to accept it.
§ Mr. LANE-FOX
I beg to second the Amendment. I must confess I believe if the hon. Gentleman strengthened this new Clause by putting in the words "bonâ fide" before "agricultural purposes," it would be more convincing. It should not pass the wit of man to draft a Clause which would be sufficient safeguard against land being brought within the exemption by agricultural development being carried out in a purely fictitious way, such as the drawing of a plough across land and then calling it agricultural land. Nothing of that sort is contemplated in this Amendment. The whole object of this proposal is to try and safeguard a great portion of agricultural land which it has been admitted will be affected by this taxation, though it certainly is not immediately wanted for building purposes. There is land in my own Constituency which cannot be said to be immediately wanted for building purposes. If it were sold to-morrow, it would not be built upon for a considerable number of years, but this tax will have to be paid on it, and will very largely handicap the agricultural development which is now going on. I should have thought it would have been possible for the Government to adopt some rough-and-ready method and to declare that land below the value of say £200 would not be charged. No one can say land is held up if it has not gone beyond that price or any other limit which hon. Members might like to suggest.
1382 The argument used on the other side of the House was that this tax was necessary in order to secure better building. Nobody denies that the Housing Problem is acute and that it is a problem we all want to deal with, but it is in the small country districts, right away from the towns where the price of land is high, that we find the very worst features of housing. I sat on the Committee which recently went into the whole of the Housing Problem, and we found that the difficulty was not in the districts where high prices obtain, but in the Eastern Counties. It was not owing to the high prices of land that cottages were so scarce. The real difficulty, as every one knows, is the impossibility to build cottages and at the same time provide anything like an adequate investment for the money spent upon them. I know hundreds of villages where there would be no difficulty in obtaining land, and the reason cottages are not built is the increased cost of building, the difficulty of obtaining adequate rents, and the impossibility, therefore, of providing an adequate investment. It is suggested that under this tax agricultural development will be absolutely checked. The President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Burns) knows what the conditions of milk production are in the neighbourhood of our great cities and in many districts at the present moment. How are we going to secure any adequate improvement of our cowsheds or get any large amount spent on agricultural development if these conditions prevail. You are making it more difficult for those who own land, and causing them to think whether it is worth their while to spend money on their property. Farm buildings will suffer, and there will be a distinct tendency for rents to rise. I am sorry if I have detained the House too long. This, however, is a most important Amendment, and I hope the Government will hold out some suggestion that they will be able to modify the conditions which prevail by something in the direction suggested by the Amendment. Unless they do, undoubtedly agricultural development in the neighbourhood of our towns, anywhere on the main roads or near railway stations will be checked, and the objects which hon. Gentlemen opposite hope to achieve by means of this tax will only be hampered.
§ Mr. BARNES
I have every sympathy with hon. Gentlemen opposite. I do not pretend to be an authority on agricultural matters, but I think I can give a vote with the utmost confidence against this Amend- 1383 ment on the ground that it will tend to defeat the object of the Bill. May I direct attention to the first words of the Amendment, in order to show how it is calculated to do so. They read:—So long as such land is being used for agricultural purposes no Increment Value shall be charged.What is more easy than for a speculative builder or landlord who intends to develop land immediately on the outskirts of a large town to buy land for the purpose and to grow a few cabbages upon it for a month or two. If he did so, such land, being used for agricultural purposes, would, in the event of this Amendment being adopted, not be chargeable for Increment Duty. That would obviously be an evasion of the intentions of the Act. Whether hon. Gentlemen intend that or not, I think it must be clear that the Amendment can only be interpreted in that way.
§ Mr. BARNES
Yes; it reads:—Unless it is proved that such land is reasonably required for building and is being held up.But who is going to determine whether it is held up? The hon. Gentleman has spoken of land on the outskirts of towns. He mentioned Scottish towns especially. It is just in the case of Scottish towns where I think harm would be done by this Amendment. I see the hon. Member for Ayr Burghs (Mr. Younger) in his place. He knows the position on the outskirts of Scottish towns. The difficulty is not so obvious in England, where you have the cottage system of living, and where, therefore, town populations spread miles away into the country. Those who know anything of the system that obtains in Scotland must know that agricultural land goes right up to the high block buildings of five or six storeys on the outskirts of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and every one of our large Scottish cities and burghs. What would be more easy than for this land to be used temporarily for agricultural purposes, and therefore to evade the Increment Duty?
§ Mr. YOUNGER
Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that the land can be used for any other purpose than agriculture?
§ Mr. BARNES
Certainly. Why not? In Glasgow, let me remind the hon. Member, the population is huddled up in rooms absolutely inadequate for decent living. In Dundee, my own native place, very 1384 nearly one half of the population are living in one-room tenements. Is there no room for extension there? In order that you may extend these towns and stretch the population over a more reasonable area of land you must somehow or other get land immediately outside the towns brought down in price. The hon. Gentleman emphasises the words "if it is used for agricultural purposes," and he suggests that if it is so used it is being put to its full economic use.
§ Mr. BARNES
But it is wanted. If you look at the density of the population in any one of our Scottish towns there, I think, you have conclusive proof that the land is wanted, and I decline to accept the fact that it is being used to grow cabbages as proof that it is being used to its full extent. The land is wanted for another and a better purpose than growing cabbages, and that is proved by the fact that people are huddled together in the large towns.
The hon. Member persistently ignores the last words of my Amendment. A cabbage-patch would not be exempt, if it is reasonably required for building, or is being held up.
§ Mr. BARNES
I have not in any way lost sight of those words, but I want to know who is to determine whether it is being held up. You do not put anybody in the Amendment to determine it. It must be decided under the operation of the ordinary law of supply and demand. By this Act it seems you are going to increase the available supply of land in the market. By that means you will probably reduce its price, and by reducing that price you will get some land in the immediate vicinity of the towns used not for growing cabbages, but for buildings providing better housing for the people. It is for that reason I hope hon. Gentlemen will not vote for this Amendment.
§ Mr. YOUNGER
I listened with great interest to the observations of the last speaker. I entirely agree with him in his description of the situation on the outskirts of large Scottish towns. I also agree with him that we had very bad housing conditions in Glasgow and other towns, and that it is most desirable that these should be improved, and that existing evils should be got rid of. But may I point 1385 out that the land outside these towns at the present moment is available for anyone who chooses to build upon it.
§ Mr. YOUNGER
The price of the land really has very little to do with the question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh."] There has been more nonsense talked about this matter in this House during the last two years than on any other. Anybody who knows about economic conditions knows perfectly well that the cost of land is an extremely small percentage of the rental of a cottage or tenement house; on an £8 or £9 annual rental the land rental would probably not be more than 13s. or 14s. What really affects the question is the cost of capital, and that has been pointed out thousands of times to Gentlemen on the opposite side. They, however, are so obsessed with extraordinary ideas on this question that it is impossible for them to assimilate any kind of common sense. I have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes) make these observations at least half-a-dozen times, but it is of no use talking to him. He will never absorb common sense on this subject. Does he forget that there are thousands of houses in Glasgow at the present moment unlet? Does he deny it? I ask him for this reason. If all that property is unlet, how can he expect any one to buy land in order to build houses on the outskirts of Glasgow? We know perfectly well some of the unlet houses are in bad condition, and the people are overcrowded in parts. But so long as you have a system by which you cannot get capital cheap you will never induce people to build in the manner he suggests.
§ Mr. J. M. HENDERSON
As I have said many times, this is a subject which has been discussed on all sides with a very great deal of loose thinking. My hon. Friend the Member for the Blackfriars Division and others seem to think that if you can get land cheap enough houses will start up immediately; but what is wanted is not land, it is money that is required.
§ Mr. J. M. HENDERSON
Let me just remind the hon. Member of this fact—that the late Lord Swaythling offered 25 acres of land for nothing to the London County Council to build upon. But the council found that when they had defrayed the capital expenditure for building, when they 1386 had provided for the rates, when they had built the houses according to their own regulations there would still be a heavy charge, bearing in mind the rent it would be possible for poor people to pay, falling on the county council rates. In fact, councils for this reason do not develop the land which they have already got, and I would point out to my hon. Friend that Glasgow is one of the biggest sinners in regard to the holding up of land. A Committee sat on this subject over two years ago, and found that Glasgow was losing £15,000 a year on land which it might have sold. Again there was a Select Committee on this very subject some years ago, and evidence affecting Glasgow was given which opened my eyes, at any rate, on the subject. Men came up and told that Committee that it was the cost of land which was the real difficulty. But when they were pressed it was clear they had not gone into calculations as to the proportion of the cost of land to the rental of the building. We worked them out, and found that so far as the land rental was concerned the cost came down to something like 10s. to 15s. per annum for each tenement.
In the country, where you can get land for almost nothing, the landlords cannot afford to build cottages. One hon. Member of this House referred to the case of Paddington, and said there were plenty of houses there. But the fact remains that the class of men who live in that district cannot afford to pay more than 4s. for a room, and you cannot build a house on land, even if you get it for nothing, which will pay you on those terms. You cannot get a fair return for your money outlay even if you get the land for nothing. You cannot do it. [An HON. MEMBER: "I have done it."] I think then my hon. Friend had better start and do it a lot more; but it cannot possibly pay. Four shillings a week, as my hon. Friend must know, is £10 a year, which must include rates and everything. If you deduct rates, and so forth, it leaves you no return for your money. The Front Bench, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and all my Friends here seem to think that this halfpenny tax is going to cheapen land. Let us see if it will do so. The Lord Advocate himself, in his Report of that Committee, said this:—If by holding up land is meant that land is put at a prohibitive price, or withdrawn from the market altogether, no evidence has been brought before your Committee to substantiate that statement.Let us see how that affects it. Supposing you have a street in which houses are to let with ground rents for £10, my hon. Friend 1387 says by this halfpenny tax we are going to reduce them to £5. But what is the result of it? You say you cheapen the land if you have got a house here which is £10 and you have the next house which is cut down to £5. The position of the whole of the houses in that street which are let at £10 at the next assessment must come down to £5. All the assessment committees have to value in that way; but we are told about the places where the rates are so heavy. But why is it they are so heavy? Because the place is half empty. People do not take houses because of the rates, but the rates are high because half the houses are empty. Therefore you will never settle the housing question by this means. I will tell you where there is land held up, and that is in several small towns round about and near London. Within thirty miles of London I could name one town where land is held up. How are you going to cure that? It is a very rich man who owns this land, and you say by putting a halfpenny tax on you can force him to sell. Supposing the amount of land is ten acres at £500. Do you think that these 5,000 halfpennies would force that man to sell? Do you suppose that a few pounds, £10 or £15, collected in the way of Undeveloped Land Duty, is the way in which you can compel him to sell? It would be better to give the local authorities power to insist upon buying. As a matter of fact I do not know that this Amendment is one that need be troubled about, because, as my hon. Friend says, Who is to judge whether land is being held up?
Let us get back to that. Who is to judge whether it is building land or not in the first instance? And I standing here would tell my right hon. Friend within a few years this Undeveloped Land Tax will be found to be unworkable. I will tell you why. Suppose you have got an estate near a town, how are you going to value that, or assess it for Undeveloped Land Tax? Which acre is to be built on first? How are you going to discriminate? You do not understand the difficulties. Some Members may laugh, but as a matter of fact you may go over the country and sec acres and acres of land unbuilt on. How are you to discriminate and say that this shall be undeveloped land and this shall not be undeveloped land, this is building land, and this is not. I venture to say you will find so many difficulties in the way that the tax will not be worth collecting. As a matter 1388 of fact, what has been done with regard to it? You have freed all corporation land, you have freed all golf clubs, and cricket clubs, and, indeed, you have freed every estate which within the last ten years now extended to twenty, was likely to become building land in cases where the owners have spent £100 per acre upon it. That excludes all possible building land, and you have only left the land which may be at some time available for building. How you are going to distribute that I do not know. I do object to this question being put forward as if it had anything to do with the housing question. The housing question is the poverty of the poor, and what the poor man wants is more money. You are never going to put the extra shillings in his pocket which he requires by means of this ½d. tax. You are not going to do it; as a matter of fact you cannot. You cannot get these men decent rooms for the money that they can afford to pay, even if you give them the land for nothing. You cannot expend money profitably on buildings for the small amount which their limited wages will enable them to pay you. That is the trouble of the housing question. It has nothing whatever, or very little, to do with the letting of land. If the men had very little more wages, and therefore more money, there would be no difficulty whatever.
§ Mr. FITZROY
It seems to me that there was some confusion of thought in the mind of the hon. Member for the Black-friars Division (Mr. Barnes) as to the object of this Amendment, which is not to exempt land on the ground that it is being used for agricultural purposes, but not to tax land because it is being held because there is no demand for it by the community. That is the object of the Amendment, and, it seems to me, that it is most reasonable. What right has this House or this Government or any Government to tax a man because he holds up land? That is the reason you are taxing him when he is holding it because there is no demand for development, and when he is not doing the thing you are taxing him for doing. For one landowner in this country who is holding up land for which there is a demand for building purposes there are hundreds who, under this Act, will be taxed for holding up land which they are not really holding up at all. The example has been set by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, I very much regret, is not in his place on the occasion of these most important detailed discussions. An unfor- 1389 tunate example has been set by him of finding fault with a certain class of landowner for something which he is doing, it is said, to prevent the housing question being developed. He has made his charges, as a rule, against these landowners outside this House, and, when the charges have been gone into, they are generally found to have no substance at all. Some of his followers take a different line, and have gone so far as to make these charges in this House.
We know in this House the value of this kind of charge, and I should be very loath myself to take any notice of them for fear of attaching undue importance to them, but, unfortunately, in this country the publicity of the Press sometimes gives importance to speeches in this House which they do not entirely deserve. That being the case, I think it is my duty in regard to charges of this sort which are made with regard to the constituency which I happen to represent, and also particularly with reference to respected landlords in that constituency, that I should take the earliest opportunity that is afforded to me of replying to those charges. The hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Kellaway) in his speech which he made yesterday on a very similar Amendment to the one we are now discussing, made a very interesting statement in regard to housing and cottages in the constituency which I have the honour to represent. I am not going into that question now. I entirely agree with him that the housing question, as regards cottages in the rural districts is an evil which needs dealing with and curing, but the charge which he made was not with the intention of pointing that out to the House, but of bringing an accusation against a particular landlord in my division, the Duke of Grafton, and by his speech insinuating that it was due to his action in holding up land that these bad houses were in the villages and this overcrowding took place. With my intimate knowledge, extending over my whole life, of that constituency, and with my intimate knowledge of the Duke of Grafton, I take the opportunity of flatly contradicting the statements of the hon. Member, and I know full well that the particular gentleman, the Duke of Grafton, to whom he referred, is one of the most generous landlords in the whole of England, and is one who has devoted the whole of his life to the management of his estates and in looking after the welfare of those who are employed on the land.
§ Mr. KELLAWAY
I am very reluctant to interrupt, but may I ask the hon. Gentleman if he disputes my facts?
§ Mr. FITZROY
I merely make these remarks because it seems to be my duty, and I make them on this Amendment because it seems to refer to this subject.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
The very interesting speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Henderson), I might remind him, had nothing to do with the Clause now under discussion. The whole of his remarks were addressed to the Undeveloped Land Duty and its incidence and effect, whereas the proposal of the hon. Gentleman opposite has reference to Increment Duty. Therefore I will not attempt to deal with the argument of my hon. Friend, except to this extent. He had it down that the purpose of the tax was to cheapen land. For myself, and I believe for my Friends on this side of the House, we do not assent to that view at all. Our view is that very large sums of money are received by owners of land which do not contribute anything towards Income Tax. Money invested in speculative building land can lie fructifying for scores of years without yielding a single penny to the Income Tax beyond the actual value of the land, but when that property is sold a large lump sum is realised, upon which the owner pays no Income Tax until it has been invested, and then only upon annual dividends.
Suppose money is invested in land for a period of twenty-four years. At the end of that time the land is sold at a large increment. For twenty-four years the money so invested has paid no Income Tax at all beyond that which is represented by the actual letting value of the land. At the end of twenty-four years it is sold for a large sum of money. It then pays no Income Tax, but if it paid Income Tax upon dividends payable on the sum so realised for those twenty-four years it would contribute under our proposal not a single halfpenny more towards the national income than if it had been subject to Income Tax during all that time. I see nothing inequitable therefore in our proposal, but, on the contrary, I think it only fair that persons who thus realise large sums of money, towards which they have not themselves contributed anything, should pay upon that a reasonable sum towards the social requirements of towns 1391 and great industrial centres which contribute so lavishly to their wealth. What is the actual proposal before us, described in far too modest language by the Proposer of the Clause? He would have us believe that it was a Clause of little importance which really did not affect the principle at stake in the slightest, and that the Government therefore could easily accept so slight an Amendment. What are the actual words of the Clause?
"So long as such land is being used for agricultural purposes no Increment Value shall be charged because of its market value."
The actual words of the Clause confess, first of all, that there is a market value attaching to this land in excess of its agricultural value. Having got thus far, let me carry the hon. Gentleman a little further. As long as the land is to be used for agricultural purposes it has not to pay any tax in respect of its acknowledged extra value. The hon. Member (Mr. Lane-Fox) saw at once the weak points in the hon. Gentleman's armour, because he said, "I wish my hon. Friend had added to these words the qualifying words bonâ fide." He saw that under this seemingly modest proposal it would be perfectly possible for the whole of this land nominally to be used for agricultural purposes, and while so nominally used to be exempt from Increment Duty. That would destroy not merely the whole principle of the duties, but it would prevent any revenue at all reaching us from that particular source. I will carry the hon. Gentleman a step further.
"Increment Duty shall not be charged because of its market value on building land or prospective building land unless it is proved that such land is reasonably required for building and is being held up."
That at once throws the onus probandi upon a court of some sort to show what is in the mind of the owner of the land—a court which would have to prove, amongst other things, that the land should not be sold for building purposes even if you reduced the price which the owner held it for the moment to be worth. Land, for instance, might be quite unsaleable if you were charging £1,000 an acre for it. It would sell at once if £500 were asked for it. Observe the important effect of the proposal of the hon. Gentleman. I would ask the hon. Gentleman whether he seriously thinks that any tribunal which 1392 he can name can say that land is not wanted, or, if you like, is wanted for building purposes. Supposing they say that land is not wanted for immediate building purposes, there still remains a definite building value attaching to agricultural land in addition to its agricultural value. A person might deal in that land, which is not ripe for immediate building. He might make a large profit out of the transaction. It would contribute nothing to the Increment Duty, and yet I have shown that that increment would have been taken in respect of transactions for which no skill or judgment might be required, and the whole of the value will accrue to the individual, not on account of his efforts, but on account of the industrial proceedings of persons with whom he is in no way connected. That process might be so continued that when at last the land was brought into an actual building scheme the whole of the intermediate profit might have been absorbed by a succession of purchasers, not one single one of whom would have contributed in any degree to the tax, though at every stage of the transaction large profits might be realised. I have shown the reasons why the Government cannot accept this proposal, and why, if they did accept it, it would vitiate the whole principle of the tax.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
The right hon. Gentleman commenced his remarks by saying that he did not propose to address himself to the speech of the hon. Member behind him, and, indeed, most of the speeches which have been made by those who have opposed this Clause, because he said they have nothing to do with the question at issue. The quotations made by my hon. Friend, which were referred to in speeches of hon. Members opposite in opposition to it, were made for this reason, that support had been given to these proposals in the scheme of the Government on the ground that land ought to be specially dealt with, as it will not be available unless it is for building purposes. Nearly every speech made supporting the proposal of the Government, with the exception of that of the right hon. Gentleman himself, has been in this direction, and we have been told, not only in this Debate, but in the Debate which preceded it, that these taxes are necessary, because land is required for a special purpose. The hon. Gentleman opposite dealt with that in a speech which was singularly effective and full of practical knowledge, and I do not wonder that the right hon. Gentleman preferred to leave it unanswered. But its 1393 statements remain, and anyone who has had any practical experience of building, either in towns or in the country, will arrive at the conclusions to which the hon. Gentleman opposite arrived. The hon. Member (Mr. Barnes) referred to the special difficulties in Glasgow, I do not know Glasgow as well as he does, but I doubt very much whether the difficulties there differ in reality from those to be found in every other town. Is it not an extraordinary thing that if there be this great demand for houses for the people, and if they can be built at anything like a reasonable remuneration to those who embark their capital in building them, in all the Debates we have heard in this House, today and on all previous occasions, there is not a speaker who will say, "I have made this experiment, and I am here to show that this enterprise can be successfully embarked upon." We know that all those bodies, some of a charitable and some of an ordinary commercial character, which have come into existence in order to deal with this question of providing houses for the working classes have been brought up, not by the want of land—let hon. Gentlemen who believe that to be the case give me an instance—but by the heavy cost of building suitable houses and the inability to let them at remunerative rates.
The right hon. Gentleman has never dealt really with the situation as laid down by my hon. Friend that in imposing these taxes the object of the Government has been, according to their own definite statement, to exclude agricultural land. We know that throughout the whole of the previous Debates this statement was freely made by the Government. We said on this side of the House throughout that we do not want any unfair privilege given to agricultural land of any kind, and we do not want to do anything which will enable the owner of land improperly to hold it up. I have taken a keen interest in this housing problem for a great many years, and I do not hesitate to say if I thought the imposition of this class of taxation would facilitate the building of houses for the working classes, either in town or in country, even though it might involve some injustice upon some other class, so anxious am I to see this, I think the most crying of all our grievances, satisfactorily removed, that I would not offer any opposition to the tax. But I believe it is going to have the contrary effect. The right hon. Gentleman has not said a word about the particular position of the owner of agricultural land. He has not said why 1394 these extra words, which really only make clear what is apparently the object and intention of the Government should not be added to the Bill. He has not dealt with one of the difficulties which will undoubtedly arise. No one has referred to cases which exist at present where owners of land are persuaded to provide land for building in solitary instances at some little distance from a town area, one of the most important developments in building, as I am advised. If these words stand without the addition of my hon. Friend's words, or something similar, these developments which have been going on, and which are going on at the present moment at a short distance from many of our urban areas, will be checked by the very fact that under the operation of this Act, if they go on as they have gone on hitherto, the owners of the land will run the risk of bringing them within the building area, and they will be liable to this form of taxation. At all events, that is the belief. Then the right hon. Gentleman took the case of a person investing his money in land which does not bring a return, and which at the end of twenty-four years is sold at a considerable increase in price. He asked where the hardship was, for if the money had been invested all that time it would have produced interest, and he would have been charged upon it. He is surely assuming that the land was worth, at the time he bought it, what he gets for it at the end of twenty-four years. But that is not so, and therefore I say that the equity of this new proposal falls to the ground.
This class of taxation will be much more likely to retard the development of land and to render the building of houses for the working classes more difficult than it is at present. I object to it for another reason. Throughout all our Debates the Government have asserted time after time that they wish to exclude agricultural land which is being used for agricultural purposes from the operation of the tax. If that be their object—and they say it is still their object—I ask why on earth do they object to the Clause proposed by my hon. Friend, provided that if they say the words go too far he will accept some limitation? The right hon. Gentleman asked who are to be the judges in these cases? Who are to decide? That goes to the root of the subject. The same difficulty arises under Section 7, and under the whole of the Land Clauses, and not only the Land Clauses, but in regard to all the Clauses, under which you are imposing fresh taxation, such as the Clauses which deal with 1395 licensed property. It is too late in the day for the Government to turn round and use against us the identical argument which we have used against them throughout the whole of the Debates on this Bill. They ask who are to be the judges in those eases when land or property assumes a particular character, and yet when we ask not to make the difficulty greater by imposing a new condition, but that they should take their own definition and say that taxation shall not be imposed where that definition is complied with, and when we are trying to make our Amendments conform to their Act for the purpose of making clear what is obscure, it is a little bit strong that we should be asked who are to be the judges. That applies to every section in the Act. It is one which we asked when the original Act was passing through the House, and I must say that an objection of this kind now comes with bad grace from the Government.
§ Mr. KELLAWAY
I should not have intervened in the discussion this afternoon but for the observations which fell from the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Fitzroy). Reference was made to the statement in my speech yesterday afternoon. That was a statement of facts which should have been within the knowledge of the hon. Gentleman who represents the constituency. Against that statement of facts we have had a testimonial to the Duke of Grafton. It seems to me that a testimonial to the Duke of Grafton was not required. I have given a statement of facts, and the way to reply is to show whether they are facts or not. The statement I made was that in the village of Blisworth a friend of mine stated: "We could do with thirty cottages in this village if we could get land to put them on."—that is the very point touched in this Amendment—"We cannot get land because the Duke of Grafton will only let land here on building lease of thirty-three years." Does the hon. Gentleman dispute that statement? That is a definite statement of facts in regard to a condition of things which, in my opinion, is a disgrace to the constituency and a disgrace
§ to the man responsible for it. Whoever is responsible for that state of things, for huddling people together in the condition in which they are huddled together in Blisworth has on his shoulders a responsibility which I should not care to carry. The conditions of the housing in South Northamptonshire are so abominable in some villages that I would hesitate in this assembly to describe them in strictly accurate terms. I will give another instance from the hon. Gentleman's constituency. In the village of Byfield a widow, with eight children, said to me, "I was born in this village and lived in it nearly all my life. I had to go away during my married life, and when I came back there was not a house in the village where I and my children could live." She and her eight little ones were living in a disused schoolroom. I ask hon. Members to consider these conditions, and to ask themselves how they would like to be placed in similar conditions with their children. The right hon. Gentleman cannot dispute that by a laugh.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
The hon. Gentleman had better not make a suggestion of that sort. I was not laughing at the state of things, I was laughing at the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that we are in any way more responsible for it than he and his Friends.
§ Mr. KELLAWAY
I stand by the plain statement of facts, and no one knows them better than the hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Lane-Fox). The housing conditions to which I have referred are not exceptional. They are to be found in many other constituencies. Anyhow, I have given a plain statement of facts, and they cannot be swept away by a testimonial to any man, however great.
§ Mr. WORTHINGTON-EVANS rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 176; Noes, 180.1399
|Division No. 92.]||AYES.||[7.40 p.m.|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Balcarres, Lord||Beauchamp, Edward|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F.||Baldwin, Stanley||Benn, I. H. (Grenwich)|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.)||Benn, W. W. (Tower Hamlets, S. Geo.)|
|Allen, Charles Peter (Stroud)||Banner, John S. Harmood-||Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Baring, Capt. Hon. G. V.||Beresford, Lord C.|
|Archer-Shee, Major M.||Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Bigland, Alfred|
|Ashley, W. W.||Barran, Rowland Hirst (Leeds, N.)||Bird, A.|
|Baird, J. L.||Bathurst, Charles (Wilton)||Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine|
|Black, Arthur W.||Higham, John Sharp||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Boscawen, Sackville T. Griffith-||Hill, Sir Clement L.||Robinson, Sydney|
|Boyle, W. Lewis (Norfolk, Mid)||Hills, John Waller||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Boyton, J.||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Ronaidshay, Earl of|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Royds, Edmund|
|Bull, Sir William James||Horne, W. E. (Surrey, Guildford)||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Houston, Robert Peterson||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Butcher, J. G.||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C. (Poplar)||Illingworth, Percy H.||Sanders, Robert A.|
|Campion, W. R.||Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel||Sandys, G. J. (Somerset, Wells)|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Jardine, E. (Somerset, E.)||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Cassel, Felix||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Seely, Col., Right Hon. J. E. B|
|Cator, John||Kimber, Sir Henry||Simon, Sir John Allsebrook|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Kirkwood, J. H. M.||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Knight, Captain E. A.||Spear, John Ward|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Lambert, George (Devon, S. Molton)||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Starkey, John Ralph|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Larmor, Sir J.||Stewart, Gershom|
|Clyde, J. Avon||Law, Andrew Bonar (Bootle, Lancs.)||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Lewisham, Viscount||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Cooper, Richard Ashmole||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Swift, Rigby|
|Corbett, A. Cameron||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Sykes, Alan John|
|Courthope, G. Loyd||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Taylor, T. C. (Radcliffe)|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)||Tennant, Harold John|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (Hanover Sq.)||Terrell, H. (Gloucester)|
|Dairymple, Viscount||Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich)||Thomas, James Henry (Derby)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)|
|Dixon, Charles Harvey||Malcolm, Ian||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Touche, George Alexander|
|Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||Tullibardine, Marquess of|
|Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Morgan, George Hay||Valentia, Viscount|
|Finlay, Sir Robert||Morpeth, Viscount||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Fisher, W. Hayes||Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Fleming, Valentine||Neville, Reginald J. N.||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Forster, Henry William||Newdegate, F. A.||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Gardner, Ernest||Nicholson, Wm G. (Petersfield)||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Gibbs, G. A.||Nield, Herbert||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Glanville, H. J.||Norton-Griffiths, J. (Wednesbury)||Welgall, Captain A. G.|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Greene, W. R.||Paget, Almeric Hugh||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Gretton, John||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud|
|Guinness, Hon. W. E.||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)||Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Hancock, John George||Perkins, Walter F.||Wood, T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Pole-Carew, Sir R.||Younger, George|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.)||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Helmsley, Viscount||Pretyman, Ernest George||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Worthington-Evans and Mr. Claude Lowther.|
|Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.|
|Hickman, Colonel Thomas E.||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Davies, E. William (Eifion)||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)|
|Adamson, William||Dawes, J. A.||Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Anderson, Andrew Macbeth||Delany, William||Harmsworth, R. L.|
|Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A.||Donelan, Captain A. J. C.||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Harwood, George|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)|
|Barton, William||Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)|
|Beale, W. P.||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Havelock, Allan, Sir Henry|
|Bethell, Sir J. H.||Esmonds, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Boland, John Plus||Essex, Richard Walter||Hayward, Evan|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Farrell, James Patrick||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)|
|Boyle, D. (Mayo N.)||Fenwick, Charles||Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor|
|Brace, William||Ferens, T. R.||Hinds, John|
|Brigg, Sir John||Ffrench, Peter||Hodge, John|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Field, William||Horne, C. Silvester (Ipswich)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Fitzgibbon, John||Hudson, Walter|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Hughes, S. L.|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Furness, Stephen||Hunter, W. (Govan)|
|Byles, William Pollard||Gelder, Sir William Alfred||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)|
|Chancellor, H. G.||Gill, A. H.||Johnson, W.|
|Chapple, Dr. W. A.||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Collins, G. P. (Greenock)||Goldstone, Frank||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts, Stepney)|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)||Jowett, Frederick William|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Griffith, Ellis J.||Joyce, Michael|
|Cowan, W. H.||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Keating, M.|
|Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Gulland, John W.||Kellaway, Frederick George|
|Crooks, William||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Kennedy, Vincent Paul|
|Crumley, Patrick||Hackett, J.||Kilbride, Denis|
|Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy)||Hall, Frederick (Normanton)||King, J. (Somerset, N.)|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Murray, Capt. Hon. Arthur C.||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Lansbury, George||Neilson, Francis||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld., Cockerm'th)||Newton, Harry Kottingha m||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||Nolan, Joseph||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Logan, John William||Norman, Sir Henry||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Low, Sir F. (Norwich)||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Lundon, T.||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Sheehy, David|
|Lynch, A. A.||O'Doherty, Philip||Shortt, Edward|
|Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||O'Donnell, Thomas||Smith, F. E. (Liverpool, Walton)|
|Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||O'Dowd, John||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|MacGhee, Richard||O'Grady, James||Snowden, Philip|
|Maclean, Donald||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||O'Malley, William||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|M'Callum, John M.||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Summers, James Woolley|
|M'Kean, John||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Sutton, John E.|
|M'Laren, F. W. S. (Lincs., Spalding)||O'Shee, James John||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Manfield, Harry||Parker, James (Halifax)||Wadsworth, J.|
|Markham, Arthur Basil||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Marks, G. Croydon||Pointer, Joseph||Wardle, George J.|
|Marshall, Arthur Harold||Pollard, Sir George H.||Watt, Henry A.|
|Meagher, Michael||Power, Patrick Joseph||Webb, H.|
|Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Meehan, Patrick A. (Queen's Co.)||Radford, George Heynes||White, Sir Luke (York, E.R.)|
|Menzies, Sir Walter||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Molloy, Michael||Rainy, Adam Rolland||Williams, Llewellyn (Carmarthen)|
|Mond, Sir Alfred M.||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)||Williams, P. (Middlesborough)|
|Money, L. G. Chiozza||Reddy, Michael||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)|
|Morrell, Philip||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Redmond, William (Clare)||Young, W. (Perthshire, E.)|
|Muldoon, John||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Munro, R.||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Barnes and Mr. Booth.|
|Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C.||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
§ Mr. MORRELL
The argument, as I understand, that has been used by hon. Members on the other side in support of this Amendment is that it will take the taxes off land with a view to getting over the housing difficulties. It has been stated in reference to the considerable housing difficulties in rural districts that there is no land problem. That is an astonishing statement to make. Anyone who knows rural districts knows that not only is there a land problem, but in some parts of rural England the way in which land is held up is the sole cause of the housing problem. I am quite prepared to admit that in some places the landlords, though paying the agricultural labourers an extremely low wage, at the same time give them a cottage for something less than its market value. That does, no doubt, account for some of the difficulty in building new cottages. Even with that difficulty and the system of truck which goes on, anyone who has experience of rural districts, as I claim to have, will see that there is plenty of opportunity for building cottages at remunerative rates if land can be obtained. I have got some myself. I have built four cottages, which are let at remunerative rents——
§ Mr. MORRELL
I will do so; but I think during the discussion the problem of housing has been raised by several speakers.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It has been sufficiently discussed. It was really irrelevant. It was brought in, and I thought it was desirable to a certain extent that it should be discussed. But I must now ask the hon. Member to confine himself to the Clause before the House.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
Are we not to be allowed to reply to the hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. J. M. Henderson)?
§ Mr. MORRELL
I am very reluctant to appear to question your ruling in any way, but as I was specially referred to by the hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Lane-Fox) have I no opportunity of replying to the statements which he has made?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman will have plenty of opportunity during the course of this Session. As the hon. Member is aware, the time for the discussion of this very important Government Bill is very limited, and I do not think it is fail to occupy time by discussing a matter which is only quite indirectly relevant.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I do not wish to waste any time in discussing this Amendment, but it does seem to me that an important point has been raised as to whether the holding up of land, especially in rural districts, is in any way accountable for the housing difficulties which we find, and the object of this Amendment, as I under- 1401 stand, is to endeavour to take the Land Taxes off agricultural land with a view to getting over the housing difficulties. Therefore it seems to me that it is pertinent to show that there is a difficulty as regards housing in the rural districts.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member has been going a great deal too far. If he looks at the Clause on the Paper he will see that the proposal is a strictly limited one, and I must ask him to confine himself to that.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I am very sorry that I am not entitled to raise this other point. As regards the Clause on the Paper, it seems to me an Amendment which the Government cannot possibly accept and which is absurd on the face of it. It is one that makes uncertain the whole object of the Land Taxes and the whole principle of the Land Taxes as contained in the Budget. The speeches which we have heard in support of it prove conclusively that it is moved by Gentlemen who are opposed to the principle of the Land Taxes which I am here to support, and for that reason I shall have great pleasure in voting for the Government.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
For myself and those who think with me, we entirely agree with the principle which lies behind the Amendment so excellently introduced by the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Worthington-Evans), by those two quotations, one from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the other from Mr. Barnes, the Member for Blackfriars. I think the case put forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite is really a very strong one and practically sound in the ends which they have in view: They definitely want to secure that only land shall be taxed which is wanted for building and that the purely agricultural land shall not be taxed. With that proposition I am in entire agreement, and so are all those on this side of the House. All we want is to secure that all the land which is wanted for building shall be taxed in order to induce the landlords to put it to the best possible use. But we say, and I think we say with the best possible case in the world, that the method chosen by the hon. Member for Colchester is not the best method to secure that end.
The very natural question that occurs on this proposal is: How are you to show that land is reasonably required for building and is being held up? There is only one possible way for showing that land is required for building and is being held up, and that is by the price and by the price 1402 alone. If that land would sell at an agricultural price for agricultural purposes only then it is not required for building purposes and may be wiped out so far as this tax is concerned. But directly the price rises above an agricultural level, then we say and we say perfectly rightly, that there is a demand for that land which is not an agricultural demand, and that it should be satisfied in the most rapid possible way.
Hon. Members opposite seem to think that all agricultural land must ripen before the building trade can get at it. They have got a sort of almost devotion to this ripening process. The idea of giving land which they let at agricultural rents at £2 an acre for building is not to be thought of. But that is what we want. We want to see that agricultural land at present let at £2 an acre should be let to the building trade at £2 0s. 0½d. an acre, directly there is any demand for it above the agricultural demand, and that the people who want it should get the land and put it to a better use than it is put at present. That is the whole secret.
The price of land is surely the very best test as to whether the land is wanted by somebody else or not. At present you allow your agricultural land to go on bringing you in £2 a year per acre when you know perfectly well that you could get £5 per acre from the building trade to-morrow. But you think it is not being unreasonably held up, because you have a sort of idea that the correct ground rent to get is £10 or £20 an acre, or even more. Why should £10 or £20 an acre be the correct ground rents to charge, and £5 and £3 an acre be an unacceptable ground rent? It is simply a matter of custom and nothing else. Only acclimatise your minds to the idea that the building trade has just as much right to land as agricultural industry, and that if they are willing to pay another 6d. or 1s. an acre more they have got a better right to that land, because they are paying more for it, and they will turn that land to a better use, because they are prepared to pay more for it and will employ more labour on the land by building a house on it than the agricultural industry would do. When you have quite grasped that fact you will understand that the people who are willing to pay more than the agricultural people are not a curse but a benefit, and that by using the land they will, not only be employing more labour, but will be doing something to grapple with the horrible housing conditions of the people in 1403 our agricultural districts and reduce the unemployment from which this country suffers at the present time. The people should have access to the land on easier terms than at present. Small holders, allotment holders, and all these people want land. You say they have got it, but they have to pay fancy rents. If only agriculturists and large farmers——
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I will not dwell upon that. The point I want to impress on hon. Members opposite is this matter of how you can best find out whether land is reasonably required for building and is being held up. It seems to me so obvious that I cannot avoid speaking strongly about it. If you want to secure the best use of the land you must allow people an opportunity to get it, then it will be well used, the housing problem will be solved, and more people will be employed upon it. The way to judge of whether land is reasonably required or not is merely a matter of price. We entirely approve of the principle of this Amendment, because we on this side wish to secure the best possible use of the land, and the only way you can measure the demand for land is to measure the excellence of the use to which it is to be put, and that is a question purely and simply of price. The hon. Gentleman, however, has put down an Amendment which proposes an absolutely unpractical method of deciding whether the land is wanted for use or not, while we on this side of the House have an absolutely practical method. We say it is a matter of price, and price alone, when it is reasonably required.
§ Mr. STEPHEN WALSH
I disagree with the previous speaker, and I distrust the Greeks even when they bring me gifts. The Amendment has a very clear and definite intention, and that is not only to help the landowner to a fairly good price for the land, but also to help his friends, the speculators in land, to get good prices, without being brought within the range of the Increment Duty. The reason why I speak upon this Amendment at all is because it has an exceeding interest for our work people, and especially our miners. Let me give a case in point. There is today a district developing in the Yorkshire coalfield which will probably be the most 1404 valuable piece of Yorkshire land that the country can take. The landowners themselves, whom I do not charge with possessing a double dose of original sin, because they are simply actuated by the same human motive as ourselves, confine this land at present to the growing of cabbages, but they know perfectly well, or at least their advisers do, that this land possesses a value infinitely higher than the cabbage value. The landlord's advisers tell him. "In a few years from now, in two or three or half-a-dozen years from now, putting it at the extreme limit, this land will possess a value one hundred times greater than that which it has to-day. But if you do not care to stand out for your money, sell it to your esteemed friend, Mr. So-and-So, and Mr. So-and-So will continue growing cabbages, so that neither your Lordship nor Mr. So-and-So will be charged a single halfpenny of Increment Duty. When that time is reached, the miners will be desiring houses, and the value of the land for building purposes will have gone up enormously." Each speculator in the land will hold on, because he has nothing to pay to the State in the way of Increment Duty. You do not penalise him in any way. Supposing £100 per acre is paid, there is no Increment Duty charged, because the land is employed in raising cabbages, and nothing is chargeable in respect of land which has no higher value than that for growing cabbages. The landlord sells it for £200 to the next man, and so long as he continues to grow cabbages, though he sees an immense fortune in prospect, he is not charged the Increment Duty. The third purchaser gets it for £400, the original price thus being quadrupled. Yet nothing is charged by way of Increment Duty to the eventual purchaser so long as he continues to grow cabbages upon the land. Will any person tell me, when the third speculator has paid the enhanced price, because in his judgment he will be able to make a profit when people want the land for houses and cottages, that this enhanced price will not come from the rents charged to the cottagers. The thing is nonsense.
§ Mr. WORTHINGTON-EVANS rose.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Order, order. We shall never bring to an end this discussion if hon. Members insist on interrupting. The hon. Member made his speech, and let him rest content with that.
§ Mr. S. WALSH
I said "any person"; I was not referring to the hon. Member who moved the Amendment (Mr. Worthington-Evans). I mean any person of common-sense.
§ Mr. S. WALSH
I am very sorry the expression escaped me, but it had no personal application. What I mean is that people generally, exercising their judgment, must come to the conclusion, in circumstances such as these, where a series of persons have paid increasing prices for the land, that those increased prices must come out of the rents of the houses and cottages built upon that land. Any person who buys land at an increased price hopes to recoup himself for his investment, and thus you will again have the old complaint about inadequate housing accommodation. You will have the high rents which compel people to herd together, and you will have in future a repetition of exactly the complaints that we have heard in this House this afternoon. That is the reason why we oppose such an Amendment as this. We do not believe it is nearly so innocent as the hon. Member (Mr. Wedgwood) believes it to be. There is a look of childish simplicity about the proposal, but I think we had better look underneath a little. Everybody knows perfectly well that where land has been reasonably required for three or four years for building, it would have an enormous selling value, yet, while that land is being held, neither the owner of the fee simple nor the second or third speculators will be charged a single halfpenny of Increment Duty, and when the land is used for building the increased price will have to be paid by the cottagers and by the people living on the land. You will have in future the same grievances as we have to-day. You will have to pay enormous rents for inadequate accommodation, and for these reasons we on these benches oppose such a proposal as that now before the House.
§ Mr. NEWTON
Seeing that the House by a narrow majority prolonged the Debate, I desire to support my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester's Amendment. The addition of these words to Section 7 of the principal Act will make the law in fact what so many people in the country have been led to believe it would be. I approach this question from a different point of view to any that has yet been put before 1406 the House in the course of this Debate. I remember that during the General Election in January, 1910, I had occasion to call on my Constituents, and I found a very general belief among them that if the Land Taxes, as they were then proposed, were actually enacted, the result, would be that land at present perhaps lying dormant near villages, would be brought under the plough, would be put to agricultural purposes, and that more employment would be available for agricultural labourers in those villages. Such a promising condition of affairs presented many attractions to agricultural labourers. They saw that if that were to be the result of these Land Taxes and this Increment Value Duty, there would be more employment for them, and the supply of home-grown agricultural produce, now very small, much too small in their opinion, would be increased. I remember pointing out that the effect of these taxes would be nothing of the sort. I pointed out that they offered no inducement to the owners of agricultural land then lying dormant, to bring that land into cultivation, but to put it shortly, I was not believed. I submit that the Government have now an opportunity of accepting this Amendment, and of redeeming the pledge which was given in my Constituency, and I doubt not in many other constituencies by Radical candidates at that time. They have an opportunity now of doing something, not a great thing, I admit, but of doing something in the interests of agricultural labour. The Government are continually asserting that they have no intention of taxing agricultural land. That is really too much for us simple folk in the country. We see a thriving farm giving employment to a large number of agricultural labourers; and we have great difficulty in being persuaded that such a farm is not agricultural land. I can assure the Government that they will have great difficulty in persuading the agricultural labourer on that land that he is not, as a matter of fact, working on agricultural land. The result of this Increment Duty Tax on such farms as I have described will be that the owner of such land, which is held liable for such duty, in order to avoid paying the tax, would have to take it away from agricultural use and put it to some other use, which, of course, would involve throwing a number of agricultural labourers out of work. If my hon. Friend's suggestion is adopted the Government land taxes, instead of tending to throw men out of work would have the contrary effect. The 1407 tendency would be, by offering exemption to dormant land if and when brought into agricultural use, greatly to promote employment amongst the agricultural labourers, and do a real service to the agricultural districts of this country.
§ Mr. BOOTH made some observations which were inaudible.
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 108; Noes, 218.1409
|Division No. 93.]||AYES.||[8.20 p.m.|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F.||Gretton, John||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Archer-Shee, Major Martin||Guinness, Hon. Walter Edward||Pretyman, E. G.|
|Ashley, W. W.||Haddock, George Bahr||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Hickman, Colonel T. E.||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Hill, Sir Clement L.||Royds, Edmund|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Hills, J. W.||Rutherford, W. (Liverpool, W. Derby)|
|Barnston, Harry||Hoare, S. J. G.||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Sathurst, Charles (Wilton)||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Hope, James Fitzaian (Sheffield)||Sandys, G. J. (Somerset, Wells)|
|Bigland, Alfred||Houston, Robert Paterson||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Bird, Alfred||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Spear, John Ward|
|Boscawen, Sackville T. Griffith-||Kebty-Fletcher, J. R.||Stanler, Beville|
|Boyle, W. L. (Norfolk, Mid)||Kimber, Sir Henry||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Boyton, James||Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford||Starkey, John R.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Stewart, Gershom|
|Bull, Sir William James||Larmor, Sir J.||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, N.)|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Law, Andrew Bonar (Bootle, Lancs.)||Swift, Rigby|
|Butcher, John George||Lewisham, Viscount||Sykes, Alan John|
|Campion, W. R.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)|
|Carlile, Edward Hildred||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)|
|Cassel, Felix||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|Cator, John||Lowther, Claude (Cumberland, Eskdale)||Touche, George Alexander|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droltwich)||Tullibardine, Marquess of|
|Clive, Percy Archer||MacCaw, wm. J. MacGeagh||Valentia, Viscount|
|Clyde, James Avon||Malcolm, Ian||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Cooper, Richard Ashmole||Morpeth, Viscount||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Newton, Harry Kottingham||Warde, Colonel C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Weigall, Capt. A. G.|
|Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Nield, Herbert||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Dairymple, Viscount||Norton-Griffiths, J. (Wednesbury)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Younger, George|
|Dixon, C. H.||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Du Cros, Arthur Philip||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Worthington-Evans and Viscount Helmsley.|
|Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)|
|Gardner, Ernest||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Gibbs, George Abraham||Pole-Carew, Sir R. (Cornwall, Bodmin)|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Clancy, John Joseph||Fitzgibbon, John|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Flavin, Michael Joseph|
|Adamson, William||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Furness, Stephen|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Gelder, Sir William Alfred|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Condon, Thomas Joseph||Gill, A. H.|
|Anderson, A. M.||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Glanville, Harold James|
|Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A.||Cowan, W. H.||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Goldstone, Frank|
|Barnes, G. N.||Crooks, William||Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst (Leeds, N.)||Crumley, Patrick||Griffith, Ellis J. (Anglesey)|
|Barry, Redmond John (Tyrone, N.)||Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy)||Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)|
|Barton, William||Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)|
|Beale, W. P.||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Hackett, John|
|Beauchamp, Edward||Dawes, James Arthur||Hall, Frederick (Normanton)|
|Benn, W. W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.)||Delany, William||Hancock, J. G.|
|Bethell, Sir J. H.||Dillon, John||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)|
|Black, Arthur W.||Donelan, Captain A.||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)|
|Boland, John Plus||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Hardie, J. Keir|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||Harmsworth, R. L.|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Boyle, D. (Mayo, N.)||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Harwood, George|
|Brace, William||Elibank, Rt. Hon. Master of||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)|
|Brigg, Sir John||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Essex, Richard Walter||Hayward, Evan|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Fenwick, Charles||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Ferens, Thomas Robinson||Henderson, J. M'D. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Byles, William Pollard||Ffrench, Peter||Higham, John Sharp|
|Cawley Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Field, William||Hinds, John|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.|
|Hodge, John||Money, L. G. Chlozza||Roche, John (Galway, E.)|
|Home, Charles Silvester (Ipswich)||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Morgan, George Hay||Rose, Sir Charles Day|
|Hudson, Walter||Morrell, Philip||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Hunter, W. (Govan)||Muldoon, John||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel||Munro, Robert||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||Murray, Capt. Hon. Arthur C.||Sheehy, David|
|John, Edward Thomas||Neilson, Francis||Shortt, Edward|
|Johnson, William||Nolan, Joseph||Simon, Sir John Allsebrook|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Norman, Sir Henry||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts., Stepney)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Snowden, P.|
|Jowett, F. W.||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)|
|Joyce, Michael||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Kellaway, Frederick George||O'Doherty, Philip||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Kennedy, Vincent Paul||O'Donnell, Thomas||Sutton, John E.|
|Kilbride, Denis||O'Dowd, John||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|King, Joseph (Somerset, North)||O'Grady, James||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||Thomas, J. H. (Derby)|
|Lansbury, George||O'Malley, William||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Lawson, Sir W.(Cumb'rl'nd, Cockerm'th)||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Wadsworth, J.|
|Logan, John William||Parker, James (Halifax)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Low, Sir F. (Norwich)||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Lundon, Thomas||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Lynch, Arthur Alfred||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Wardle, George J.|
|Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Pollard, Sir George H.||Watt, Henry A.|
|Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Power, Patrick Joseph||Webb, H.|
|MacGhee, Richard||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Maclean, Donald||Radford, George Heynes||White, Sir Luke (York, E.R.)|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|M'Callum, John M.||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|M'Kean, John||Reddy, Michael||Williams, L. (Carmarthen)|
|Manfield, Harry||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Markham, Arthur Basil||Redmond, William (Clare)||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Marks, G. Croydon||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)|
|Marshall, Arthur Harold||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)|
|Meagher, Michael||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)||Wood, T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)|
|Meehan, Patrick A. (Queen's Co.)||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Menzies, Sir Walter||Robinson, Sydney||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Molloy, M.||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Mond, Sir Alfred M.||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|