HC Deb 14 April 1930 vol 237 cc2679-80

I should disappoint not only Members on this side of the House, but also many Members of the Liberal party and an increasing number of individuals and local bodies throughout the country if I were to say nothing on the subject of land valuation and land taxation. In my Budget statement of 1924, I indicated that this was a matter with which I intended to deal. Had the Labour party remained in office in the following year proposals relating to the subject of land values would have been introduced. Since then the right of the community to some portion of the enhanced value of land which is created by the community itself has been increasingly recognised, and the moment has arrived when definite action must be taken. I have been much impressed by the demands which have come to me from innumerable local bodies including many that are overwhelmingly Tory in their constitution for power to rate site values. As hon. Members will appreciate the first and essential step to the levying of a contribution on land values is the preparation of and completion of a valuation of all sites in the country. In whatever form a contribution may be levied, this is an indispensable preliminary. It is in itself a task that must necessarily take some time, and it is imperative that a beginning should be made at the earliest possible moment. I have given long and anxious consideration, with the invaluable help of my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary and my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education assisted by an official Committee, to every aspect of this question, and especially as to the best method by which our plans could be put before Parliament. I had at one time hoped to put my proposals into the Finance Bill of the year, but many considerations which I need not detail now have brought me to the conclusion that the most expeditious and effective way of achieving our aim will be to provide for the valuation in a separate Bill.

The Government accordingly propose to introduce forthwith such a separate Bill. We shall thus obtain a basis on which an impost will later be levied. I do not wish at the present time to prejudge the precise form which that impost should take—whether it should be an annual tax for the benefit of the State, or an annual rate for the benefit of the local authorities, or both; but the Valuation Bill we shall introduce will provide the basis for both the taxation and rating of land values. I have tried to make it quite plain and beyond dispute that it is the Government's intention to use the valuation, for which provision will be made in the Bill, as a means of securing to the community a share in the constantly growing value of the land. This is a Measure equitable in itself, insistently demanded and long overdue. I have never regarded the taxation or rating of land values only as a fiscal instrument. It will be, to use of phrase of Mr. Asquith's, a potent instrument of social reform. This proposal is probably the only one of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) will be enthusiastic in his support. Throughout his long and variegated political career he has remained a faithful, eloquent and powerful advocate of this reform, and I look forward with confidence to his invaluable help in carrying this reform to a successful conclusion.