HC Deb 03 July 1923 vol 166 cc255-7

I beg to move That leave be given to introduce a Bill to amend the Trusts (Scotland) Act, 1921. This Bill which I ask leave to introduce has for its objects the amending of the Trusts (Scotland) Act, 1921, to give better facilities to the tenant for life of heritable and movable trusts to meet the heavy burdens now imposed by taxation and rates, and to allow the Court to sanction, on petition of the trustees, the sale of certain movable securities in order to pay these charges, and to take in exchange an insurance policy on the life of the tenant for life provided there are other securities, the dividends from which would secure the payment of the premiums. The Court should have power to act as circumstances dictate, bearing in mind at the same time that the trustees must administer the trusts in the interest of those concerned and the trusts laws of Scotland. It is, I suggest, the duty of this House to give orders to the Court to lay down a general principle as regards the trust, for you cannot anticipate what will occur in the future, and, as I say, the Court must act in accordance with the circumstances of the case and take each case on its merits. You cannot revive the dead hand. Many a testator would sit up in his grave and protest if he knew the results of the will that he signed, results caused by the War and the heavy rating and taxation, which has been so harmful to the estate that he left in trust, and to the employment of labour on that estate. The Bill is in entire harmony with the Act of 1921, and I am confident that it in no way interferes unnecessarily with the trusts.

The Bill is helpful to unite heritable and movable securities and at the same time it protects the movable security by insurance, and is thus helpful to the trust and, indeed, at the expense of the tenant for life. It also protects the heir-at-law, and in every way it is in harmony with the Scottish Trusts Act of 1921, and in fact it improves it. Clause 4 of this Act gives general powers to trustees, and is very helpful, and takes a broad view.


On a point of Order. Is the hon. and gallant Member entitled to introduce a Bill without explaining all the Clauses?


Oh, yes. I have often known it done.


Clause 5 more than confirms the broad views of Clause 4. I hope that my little Bill will be accepted by the House. I quite admit that this Bill will require careful drafting, but I do not think it requires a super-brain in order to re-draft this Measure so as to make it very useful. It will be useful in certain cases to tide over a period of time. I will give an illustration. Supposing, for instance, the heir to the trust is a minor who wishes to keep his or her home. When the minor comes of age the tenant for life and he can arrange matters. It is in order to get over this period that this Bill makes the necessary provision. It would also be useful under other circumstances. How, for example, are you going to employ labour if the tenant for life has not the money to pay for labour or even the rates and taxes? Supposing there is a forced sale of a trust property the tenant for life cannot carry on. Heritable property in the Highlands is no longer an asset but a liability, and the tenant for life cannot sell except at a great loss to the trust. The new rich, the war profiteers, do not require Highland estates. They cannot shoot, they cannot ride, and they cannot fish, and they cannot walk up the hills, and therefore they are no use in the Highlands.

I should like to illustrate the cost of a Highland estate by calling the attention of the House to the accounts of an estate for the period from the 9th October, 1920, to the 9th October, 1921. The first item on the receipts side is rents (shooting, etc.), £70; rents (agricultural, etc.), £609; rents (grazing), £1 5s.; stock sold, £129; timber sold, £30; miscellaneous, £15; Income Tax repaid, £68; total receipts, £923 12s. 5d. On the payments side there is an item for rates, taxes, etc., of £1,018. The owner could not afford even to go to that property. The payments altogether amount to £3,166 11s. 3d., showing an excess of payments of £2,242 18s. 10d. for the upkeep of that estate, and, on the top of that, there is the Super-tax, as if he received £800 from the estate. Is this not robbery? Even in pre-War days the owners of estates could not live on them. Since August, 1914, the expenses increased enormously, the Income Tax and rates have gone up, and then there is Super-tax, and all this has left them in a parlous condition. I think if this Bill is passed, it will be helpful in many ways.

Question, "That leave be given to introduce a Bill 'to amend the Trusts (Scotland) Act, 1921,'" put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Major Sir Keith Fraser, Lieut.-Colonel Courthope, and Sir Neville Jodrell.

  1. TRUSTS (SCOTLAND) BILL, 29 words