HC Deb 14 August 1916 vol 85 cc1555-8

Where land is purchased or leased under this Act the Board shall ascertain and record the annual value thereof as adopted for rating purposes at the date of such purchase or lease, and, in the event of the land having been valued under Part I. of the Finance (1909–10) Act, 1910, the various values mentioned in Section twenty-five of that Act; and these particulars, together with the amount of the price or rent, shall be included in the information set out in the annual report presented to Parliament.

Provided that when the land purchased or leased is part of a larger unit for valuation, particulars shall be given showing the apportionment of the said valuations as between the several portions after severance.—[Mr. D. White.]

Clause brought up, and read the first time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."

This is really not such a new departure, because as far back as March, 1914, I asked the Prime Minister: Whether he will take steps to secure that in every future purchase of land which is effected or facilitated out of money provided by Parliament, whether wholly or in part, and whether by way of grant, loan or otherwise, a record shall be kept showing, amongst other things, the locality and approximate acreage of such property, the price paid for it and its annual value as adopted foliating purposes at the time of purchase. and several other details, and the Prime Minister promised: I will give instructions for as complete a record as possible to be kept in every case of purchase and the nature to which my hon. Friend refers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1914, col. 440, Vol. LIX.] A few days ago I asked the Secretary to the Treasury whether this record had been kept both before and during the War, and the answer was that it had been so kept. In these circumstances, the record being kept and as the record will go on being kept, I ask that, so far as these holdings are concerned, the particulars in that record should be entered and should appear in the annual report. In addition to that, I am asking that the particulars of valuation under Part I. of the Finance Act should be entered as well. These valuations have been made at the expense of the taxpayer, and they have cost a considerable amount, and I should like to see them used as far its they possibly can be, and it seems to me that when we are purchasing land and want to purchase it at its true value it would be desirable, if possible, that these particulars should be given as well as the particulars of the rating valuation to which I have referred. This record of these two things seems to me to be very important. After all, so far as proceeding under this Act is concerned, there is to be an annual report. We know a good deal will have to be paid one way and another for the land, and we want these particulars to see where we stand as regards the valuation for these various purposes. We have heard a good deal about land being offered freely. My own impression is that in many parts, if we want to get land suitable for the purpose we have in view, we shall have to pay for it. There may be some generous gifts, there may be some reduced rents, but public money will be employed more or less in purchasing the laud. Where that is done, and where particulars of valuation are available, I submit those particulars ought to be entered in the annual report along with the purchase price as throwing a useful light on the way they are doing things.


The Board wants to make as full and complete a report with regard to these colonies from year to year as is possible, and when my hon. Friend asks me, as he did practically, whether we should have any objection to setting down in that report particulars with regard to which the Prime Minister has already given a pledge, I do not see for the moment any objection. We want to give full information. I think it can always be extracted from us if there is any doubt by question, and when we are asked in the particulars which are to be under any circumstances ascertained and recorded, I do not see why we should not give them in the report. But with regard to the middle of the New Clause, that is a new principle altogether which has not yet been established. With regard to Bills in which the Government seeks to acquire land, I know that anything which touches the Finance Act, 1909, is in some quarters of the House regarded as contentious, and I have hitherto, as the Committee knows, had to take up the view, with regard to many Amendments that have already been moved, that I did not wish to plunge the Committee into any contentious questions, and I am afraid this would be contentious, and would be so regarded by some Members. Therefore, if the hon. Member would be satisfied, as a slight step in advance perhaps from his point of view, by my saying I would accept the New Clause subject to the omission of the two lines, I should be very glad to meet him on those terms.


I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the concession he has made, but I must express my deep disappointment that he is unable to accept the Clause as it stands. I am bound to say that I cannot understand why it should be considered contentious merely to record the value of this land as taken under the Finance Act, 1909–10. After all, though that Act was very hotly contested in this House, it was passed in this House, and is the law of the land, and if it is ever to be of any use for any purpose, surely this is one of the purposes to which it could be put. When the present Minister for War (Mr. Lloyd George), then Chancellor of the Exchequer, carried this Act through, he attached so much importance to this point as to say that it would no longer be possible after this valuation was taken to have one price for rating and taxation and another price for purchase. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lloyd George) pressed that point again and again upon the House, and there was no point to which more importance was attached in this House and in the country, and if that is a ground of contention one would like to hear from some quarter why it is a ground of contention, and what objection is taken to it. At great expense we have taken this valuation; we have maintained it; this House year by year votes the money for the purpose of continuing it; and upon practically the first opportunity which we get to put it to real use in the interests of the nation we are told we cannot apply it because it is conten- tious. The right hon. Gentlemen (Mr. Acland) apparently does not object to it himself.


Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to interpose. He is mistaken in thinking I was making a full argument in regard to the points he raises. The position is quite different with regard to these valuations and the statements made on behalf of the Government to that indicated. The present Secretary of State for War pledged the Government most definitely that these valuations should not be used for any purpose except that of taxation, and I know that that is most strictly recorded, because it is quite impossible for one Government Department to find out from the Inland Revenue—where presumably these valuations under the Budget are recorded—what these valuations are, so strictly is that pledge regarded. That being so, the Government being pledged not to make public these valuations in any way but to regard them as confidential, I am not able to vary that by agreeing to their being published as the Clause requests.


In the circumstances, as half a loaf is better than no bread, I will accept the Clause as proposed to be modified by my right hon. Friend.

Proposed Clause amended by leaving out the words "and in the event of the land having been valued under Part I. of the Finance (1909–10) Act, 1910, the various values mentioned in Section 25 of that Act."

Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.

The following stood on the Paper in the name of Mr. WHITE: