HC Deb 21 August 1916 vol 85 cc2423-6

Where land is acquired, whether temporarily or permanently, under this Act the Treasury shall ascertain and record the annual value thereof as adopted for rating purposes at the time when the Govern- ment Department first took possession of the land, and of the rent or price paid for the land by the Government Department. —[Mr. White.]

Clause brought up, and read the first time.


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

The object of this Clause, which follows the lines of a similar Clause that was accepted and inserted in the Small Holdings (Colonies) Bill, is that certain particulars as to prices and valuation shall be ascertained and recorded. It does not go beyond that simple proposition. I recognise, from what was said in the course of the Debate on the other Bill, that one cannot expect the Government to accept phraseology which brings in a reference to the Finance (1909–10) Act, 1910, and also I recognise the difficulty about the reference to the annual return, as there is no provision for an annual return in that particular case. I therefore propose to move the Clause in the amended form, not as it appears on the Paper. It does not propose to regulate the prices or the valuations in any way. It provides simply that the data should be ascertained and recorded.


I hope that the hon. Member will not press this Clause upon us. I am sorry to say we cannot possibly accept it as it appears on the Paper. We have tried to meet the hon. Member on several other matters. This will introduce another Government Department. There is already adequate machinery for making proper records of all the various transactions engaged in by the different Departments in the course of their operations in connection with this Bill. This Clause simply sets up another set of recording machinery, and however de-desirable it may be in itself, I do not see that it presents any special advantage. Therefore I hope my hon. Friend will not ask us to accept it at this stage.


I hope the hon. Member will not press this Clause, because, apart from the merits of the scheme, I do not see what good it does. All that it apparently does is to compel certain officials to take steps to ascertain certain things. When they have ascertained them, nothing is to be done. The facts which are ascertained are neither to be acted upon nor used for any purpose at all. They are merely to be ascertained, and then, suppose, they are to be tabled somewhere. What use all that will be I cannot possibly conceive. It is a pity that the particular fads of the hon. Member in this direction should be introduced at this moment, because the question whether or not annual value should be deemed to be the basis of purchase does not arise, and the hon. Member does not propose that it should be used as the basis of purchase. In these circumstances I shall have much pleasure in supporting the Government.


I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman (Dr. Addison) is not able to meet the small request made by my hon. Friend (Mr. White). The intention of this proposal is obvious. It is a desire to get some record of what value has been placed by the rating authorities upon any piece of land purchased under this Bill. I am surprised at the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury), who is such a stickler for economy, opposing this suggestion, which would enable us to keep some check upon the prices which are being paid by these Departments. Again and again in the past the question of the prices given by the State for the purchase of land has been raised by this very means. We have been able to point out the value upon which the land has been assessed for rates, and have been able to ask the Government, "Why have you paid such a price so far in excess of that upon which this land has been assessed by the rating authorities?" By the ascertainment of these facts and setting them out in a way in which we have access to them, we do place some check on the price paid for land by State Departments. I therefore suggest that the Clause might well be accepted by the Government. It would cause the Department no trouble. The facts are there, and this provides only that they should be recorded.


The right hon. Gentleman (Dr. Addison) has not appreciated the difference between the Amendment on the Paper and the Amendment as it was moved by my hon. Friend (Mr. D. White). It may be due to the fact that the alteration has only been handed to him recently. I would suggest that the Government might at any rate meet my hon. Friend on this proposal, as they did on his previous proposal. Perhaps they have not had time to fully consider the Amendment in its revised form, but we might have some promise that it will be considered between now and the Report stage. I would suggest that my hon. Friend would, be satisfied with that promise at this stage.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.


That disposes of the next three new Clauses on the Paper. That standing in the name of the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Prothero) and the hon. and gallant Member for Rutland (Colonel Gretton) dealing with the Right of Reference by Persons Interested, has, I believe, been dealt with, if I am not mistaken, in the Amendments to Clause 1.


I do not think it, has been dealt with.