HC Deb 31 March 1926 vol 193 cc2183-8

Order for Second Reading read.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

I shall be very brief, for there are only 20 minutes remaining. The objects of this Bill are well known. The Bill is intended to preserve for the community the value that the community creates by its natural expansion and industry. The Bill would prevent the holding up of land in order to create a monopoly value. I think this Bill is long overdue, and therefore I hope it will receive the support of the House.


I beg to second the Motion.

In doing so I only want to add three points to what my hon. and gallant Friend the Mover has said. If this Parliament is consistent we have the support of three eminent authorities for this Bill. Last Session the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne) was piloting an Allotments Bill through the House, in which an exemption was made in favour of allotments, providing that for three years no land devoted to allotment purposes under that Bill—now an Act—should be subject to any increase of rating. At that time, I endeavoured to secure an extension of that provision, making the exemption permanent. On the Friday when that Measure was being discussed, I endeavoured to amend it in that way, and I was told the appropriate place to move any recommendation of the kind was not on that Bill but in Committee on the Rating and Valuation Bill which was then being considered upstairs. Subsequently I moved a series of Amendments to the Rating and Valuation Bill in Committee, and, although those Amendments were not accepted, the right hon. and learned Gentleman who was in charge of that Measure upstairs made an eloquent plea for the de-rating of machinery, and this was supported on the Report stage by the Minister of Health who in a very convincing speech secured the support of the House for the de-rating of certain forms of fixed machinery. Every argument that was used for the extension of the Allotment Bill in the way I described and for the de-rating of machinery, can be just as effectively and as consistently used for the principle of this Bill, which in a nutshell is that rates should not be levied on improvements made upon land, but should be levied on what is the true measure of communal service, namely, the site value of the land. In view of these facts which cannot be disputed I have no doubt we shall have the support of hon. Members opposite who arc the colleagues of the two Ministers I have mentioned and who were almost unanimous in their support of the Allotments Act which contains the principle we are now urging.

Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE

I rise to oppose this Bill, and my reason for doing so may be very briefly stated. It is to be found in what may be called the preamble to the Bill, which states that this Bill is to apply to the valuation of land and the rating of land values and other services connected therewith. During the past year we have been discussing Bills connected with valuation, and I think the country as a whole has had quite sufficient valuation and rating legislation to last for some considerable time. I think it unfair that in the few minutes which remain to us before 11 o'clock we should be expected to rush through another Bill connected with valuation. The arguments which have been so briefly put forward by the Mover and Seconder are not sufficient to convince the House that the Bill is required. The House will recollect that the last Bill dealing with questions of this kind, was discussed for a very considerable time; it was certainly not rushed through in 20 minutes or a quarter of an hour which is all the time now available.

I think, perhaps, the words "land values and for other purposes connected therewith "require a good deal of explanation, which we certainly have not had. "Land values "is a very large term. What are land values? We have had no explanation from either the Mover or Seconder, and what are the "other purposes? "That is a very vague term which we cannot be expected to accept in the few minutes which we have left. We are perfectly aware of what happened. Having 20 minutes unexpectedly allowed to us, it was hoped to rush through this Bill, of which the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is one of the originators, and just because this House was caught for a few minutes, they thought that some hon. Member on their std would say "Agreed "and that this Bill would get through. I would like to assure hon. Members that they are entirely wrong in thinking that Members on this side are not looking after the interests of the country, for this Bill, as I see it, is entirely opposed to those interests.

In the first Clause, apparently, they intend to set up entirely different rating areas from those that have already been passed in the big Rating and Valuation Bill. Do they intend the county council area to be the new areas? It is not at all clear in the Bill, and I object to this slipshod and short-sighted way of trying to lush a Bill of this apparent importance through the House. We find further on that there are several other terms which require explanation. What, for instance, is the meaning of "capital land value"?


Clause 2 tells you.

Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE

Clause 2 says: For the purposes of this Act the expression 'capital land value' means the amount which the fee simple of the hereditament might be expected to realise if sold at the time, of the valuation by a willing seller, in the open market, apart from all buildings or improvements, and free from any burden, charge, incumbrance or restriction other than a public right of way or of user or easement, or any right of common, and other than a burden, charge, incumbrance or restriction imposed by law. The House ought not to pass this Bill. There are an immense quantity of interests involved which are too vast to allow a Bill of two Clauses of this magni- tude to be passed. I will have no part in allowing it to slip through in this slipshod way. I see that in the first Clause there is no mention of the county authority. Therefore, and on account of the slipshod method of introduction, of the shortage of the Debate, and of the, shortness of time available, I oppose this Bill.

Captain BOURNE

I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That, "to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words a satisfactory reform of the present system of local taxation must be arrived at, not by piecemeal and partial treatment, but by snob legislation as will secure fair and equitable treatment to all classes of the community. It is noteworthy that this Bill lays down an absolutely new basis for rating. Up to the present it has always been based on what a willing tenant would give to a willing landlord. It will be remembered that last Session we debated the Rating and Valuation Bill, and discussed the question of rating at great length. There is a vast mass of case law and statute law dealing with rating on the present basis of valuation. It is thoroughly understood by the various rating authorities throughout the land. They know more or less the basis on which they have to work, and how it has to be applied not only in urban but in rural districts. I submit it is a very serious matter to propose to alter the basis on which the rating system of this country is founded. More especially is it a very much more serious business when you propose to alter it and to confer these powers on an urban district. After all, you have in many urban districts land used for agricultural purposes, land which is put under a special valuation, and there will be great difficulty in trying to reconcile the provisions of this Bill, if it is passed, with existing Acts. It will be noticed that this Bib does not contain a schedule and does not deal with enactments which obviously must be amended if this Bill becomes law. I see that the Bill says: Provided that if the person liable to pay such rate proves that the hereditament is genuinely and reasonably occupied for agricultural purposes, including market gardening, and that there is no effective demand for the same for building or industrial purposes. … The hon. and gallant Member who seconded the Bill said it would assist the allotment holder. Personally I doubt the statement. There is very little land in an urban district which is occupied for allotments which cannot be required for building, and I can assure the House that the greatest difficulty we have bad is to meet the claims of the allotment holders and the general interests of the community. I think any land that is occupied in urban districts for allotments may be claimed to be suitable for building, and under this Bill the allotment holder will get no compensation whatever, and on this ground I protest against the Bill. [Interruption.] This Bill is simply brought up by those who look at the capital value of land but have no idea what can be done with land except for building, It is simply the theoretic proposal of those who have no practical knowledge of the subject.


I beg to second the Amendment.

Some 20 years ago, with a spare shilling in my pocket, finding myself in the Charing Cross Road, I bought a book written by Henry George, entitled "Progress and Poverty."That book was written, I believe, before I was born. The contentions which it sought to establish were completely destroyed many years ago by Mr. H. M. Hyndman, a man who, I suppose, knew more about Socialism than any hon. Gentleman or rïght hon. Gentleman sitting opposite. The famous Debate of Single Tax v. Social Democracy destroyed the basis of this Bill 30 or 35 years ago, but the hon. Gentlemen who belong to the Liberal party, whose minds remain fixed, to whom progress is a matter of indifference, who never learn anything fresh, are still prepared to trot out before this House, 30 years after the greatest Socialist this country has ever known completely destroyed its basis, this Bill as one item in their alleged progressive polïcy.

lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put, "but Mr. SPEAKERwithheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.


It was not till many years afterwards that the views of Henry George were temporarily adopted by a right hon. Gentleman of a somewhat similar name, and in the year 1909 this House spent many all-night sittings and longer than it is likely to spend to-night, for the purpose of discussing whether or not land should be valued, whether it should be subjected to a site tax, an undeveloped land tax, and an increment value duty, and I well remember making numerous speeches outside against that Bill, and I well remember the predictions which were made as to the ill-effect it would have on housing. The predictions we then made were right. All of us remember the great check to housing which resulted from that scheme, the failure of valuation, which cost far more than the duties ever brought in, and all of us remember it was with the consent of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) that the whole scheme—

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put, "but Mr. SPEAKERwithheld his assent, and declined then, to put that Question.


—and his somewhat rebellious followers—

It being Eleven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed upon Tuesday, 13th April.