HC Deb 15 February 1939 vol 343 cc1733-9
Mr. Herbert Morrison

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the rating of the annual site value of land in the administrative county of London; and for purposes connected therewith. This is a Bill which is not confined to burial grounds, but deals with land in general. I am asking the House to be good enough to permit me to bring in the Bill in order to modify the rating system obtaining in the Administrative County of London. As things are now, the whole of the rates payable to the local authorities in London are raised from the occupiers, namely, the ordinary citizens, the residents, the shopkeepers and the business undertakings. They carry the whole burden of London rates. The purpose of the Bill is to relieve the burden that that general body of ratepayers carries. The one class in the community who, as such, bear no rate burden at all, are the owners of land. Landowners, as such, are paying nothing whatever towards the cost of local government, and yet there is no section of the community which benefits more from the existence of the community and the work of the local authorities than the landowning class, particularly in the Administrative County of London. The value of land in London would be negligible if the population of London did not exist. That, I understand, is agreed on both sides of the House. If there were no population in London to work, if the area were depopulated, or agricultural, the value of the land would be either nil or negligible.

The value that attaches to London land attaches to it because a community of millions of people is at work in the City, and the landowners are living upon the backs of those people. The community itself, the millions of people in London, could not live in this great City it the local authorities did not discharge many statutory duties and conduct many public services. Unless the local authorities existed and worked, the community could not live a civilised existence in London, and, therefore, the value of the land would not exist. In these circumstances it is not only grossly unjust, but it is really a piece of characteristic landowning impudence that these landowners, who benefit so much from the existence of the community and from the work of the local authorities, should be specifically exempted from contributing their share towards the work of the local authorities. I am bound to say that if I were the Duke of Bedford I would have had too much sense of shame to have petitioned against the Bill on this subject which was recently submitted to Parliament. The general body of ratepayers, including the residents, the little shopkeepers, the business men, the lower middle class, the owner-occupier who is purchasing his house under a loan from the local authority or building society—all this body of ratepayers are paying more rates in order that landowners shall pay no rates; and we say that it is unjust, and that it is the duty of the House to give justice to this general body of ratepayers.

It is proposed in the Bill that the London County Council, through the boroughs, shall be enabled to levy a rate of 2s. in the £ on the annual value of land. It is estimated—including the high-value land of the central areas in London—that that will produce a revenue of £3,000,000 a year. The £3,000,000 a year is equal to a shilling county rate, and that will enable us to relieve the burden falling on the general ratepayer by a shilling in the £. Therefore all the general body of ratepayers will be better off, and the owner-occupier on balance will be financially definitely better off than he is now. The Bill provides for the exemption of certain lands, and of course it will be competent for other cases to be argued in Committee. But those are the principles upon which the Bill proceeds. It takes away the privilege that the landowners now have at the expense of other sections of the community. It is a Bill for the relief of the general body of London ratepayers. It is opposed, it is true, by certain vested interests, who always oppose the interests of the community, and doubtless those vested interests will always find their appropriate form of expression. But this is a Bill which is in the interests of the masses of the people of London. It is a Bill which is based upon fairness and justice to the average ratepayer, and I ask the House to give me permission to bring in the Bill.

Mr. H. G. Williams

I thought it was most appropriate that my hon. Friend the Member for Bilston (Mr. Hannah) introduced a Disused Burial Grounds Bill before this Bill, because we have now a convenient place in which to put it. The right hon. Gentleman in introducing the Bill suggested that because landowners as such are not rated, the rate being something paid by the occupier, landowners contribute nothing to the cost of local government. If the right hon. Gentleman will take the trouble to examine the financial statement presented to us by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last April, he will find therein Parliamentary grants to the tune of about £168,000,000 to the local authorities. That sum is obtained from the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom, to which all landowners contribute according to the system of taxation imposed upon them. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Certainly; they pay Income Tax, if they are rich they pay Surtax, on their deaths they pay Estate Duties—at least the inheritors do—and in connection with transfers they pay Stamp Duties; and every statement which the right hon. Gentleman has made to-day is factually inaccurate.

The right hon. Gentleman in introducing this Bill is not being in the least original. I imagine that he must have been stimulated to it by his recent visit to the United States, where some 50 or 60 years ago one Henry George sought election as Mayor of New York. He did not get in, though I understand he had a great many fanatical supporters, many of whom, of course, were wealthy manufacturers of a Radical tinge, who always thought it a good idea that public attention should be withdrawn from their profits by concentration on the incomes of the landowners. Accordingly, when Henry George died a gentleman, Mr. Joseph Fels, who used to sell Fels-Naptha soap, became the standard- bearer of this great cause of the single tax, which is now out of date because the whole income from land is only about one-tenth of our Budget and Landlord-hunting was, of course, a pet hobby of that not too considerate group of employers who belonged to what was called the Manchester School. It is true that most of them have been educated a little since, with the result that their supporters on the second bench below the gangway opposite are less numerous than they used to be.

I am opposing this Bill with one measure of regret, because if I could only be certain that it would become law, within six months, I am quite satisfied, the right hon. Gentleman would lose his control of County Hall. The right hon. Gentleman's idea that this proposal is popular is one of the delusions from which he suffers. He is, I understand, one of the opponents of the Popular Front, but to-day he hopes to lead a Popular Front into the Lobby. It is the only thing which hon. Members opposite think is popular, but they are wrong. There are to-day in London hundreds of thousands of small owners who are going to be irritated beyond measure over the whole problem of valuations. It is curious that the right hon. Gentleman, like the Bourbons, can never learn anything. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) invented a system of land taxation which at least theoretically had merits far beyond this, but he was ultimately forced to witness the spectacle of that system of taxes being dropped by a Government of which he was Prime Minister. He had to choose the tax or office, and he preferred the office. Then, again, the right hon. Gentleman who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, afterwards Lord Snowden, introduced the same idea in 1930. It is true that he had ceased to be a member of the Government when the idea was abandoned. That system of taxation was a penny in the £ of annual value, and it was abandoned. We have had an election since then.

I wonder whether any hon. Member received protests in 1935 because a year before this House had repealed the Snowden land taxes? Not one. There is no popular approval for this proposal. The right hon. Gentleman would be the most miserable person politically if this House passed the Bill. But as we prefer the continued employment of the people in those trades which would be affected, rather than the mere electoral advantage which is perhaps more prominent in the right hon. Gentleman's mind, the House I hope, reject the Bill. That it would gravely prejudice the building trade, which is now undergoing some measure of decline, is obvious; that it would prejudice every manufacturing industry, would undo some of the merits of the De-rating Act of 1929, which was introduced to enable us to meet foreign competition, is also obvious. Yet the right hon. Gentleman, learning nothing from the unfortunate experiences of

others, produces this Bill as a Public Bill. I do not think this House is going to lose its sense to-day merely because the right hon. Gentleman, the dictator of the great Hall on the other side of the river, asks us to do so. I hope that by an overwhelming majority the House will reject the Bill.

Question put, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the rating of the annual site value of land in the administrative county of London; and for purposes connected therewith.

The House divided: Ayes, 135; Noes, 229.

Division No. 36.] AYES. [4.10 p.m.
Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple) Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Parker, J.
Adams, D. (Consett) Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Parkinson, J. A.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Pearson, A.
Adamson, Jennie L (Dartford) Groves, T. E. Pritt, D. N.
Adamson, W. M. Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Quibell, D. J. K.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Hardie, Agnes Ritson, J.
Banfield, J. W. Harris, Sir P. A. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Bartlett, C. V. O. Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Unlv's.) Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Batey, J. Heyday, A. Rothschild, J. A. de
Bellenger, F. J. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Sanders, W. S.
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Seely, Sir H. M.
Benson, G. Hicks, E. G. Sexton, T. M.
Bevan, A. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Shinwell, E.
Broad, F. A. Hopkin, D. Silkin, L.
Bromfield, W. Jagger, J. Silverman, S. S.
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Simpson, F. B.
Burke, W. A. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)
Cape, T. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Cassells, T. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Charleton, H. C. Kirby, B. V. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Chater, D. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G. Stephen, C.
Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R. Lathan, G. Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Cocks, F. S. Leach, W. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Collindridge, F. Leonard, W. Stokes, R. R.
Cove, W. G. Logan, D. G. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Dagger, G. Macdonald, G. (Ince) Summerskill, Dr. Edith
Dalton, H. MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness) Thorne, W.
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) McEntee, V. La T. Thurtle, E.
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) McGhee, H. G. Tinker, J. J.
Day, H. MacLaren, A. Tomlinson, G.
Dobbie, W. Maclean, N. Viant, S. P.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) MacNeill Weir, L. Walker, J.
Ede, J. C. Mainwaring, W. H. Watkins, F. C.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Mender, G. le M. Welsh, J. C.
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Marklew, E. Westwood, J.
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Marshall, F. Whits, H. Graham
Frankel, D. Mathers, G. Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)
Gallacher, W. Maxton, J. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Gardner, B. W. Messer, F. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Garro Jones, G. M. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.) Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Gibson, R. (Greenock) Muff, G. Young, Sir R. (Newtons)
Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) Noel-Baker, P. J.
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Owen, Major G. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Grenfell, D. R. Paling, W. Mr. Montague and Mr. Cluse.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Beit, Sir A. L. Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)
Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.) Blair, Sir R. Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Bossom, A. C. Bull, B. B.
Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton) Boulton, W. W. Bullock. Capt. M.
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.) Boyce, H. Leslie Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.
Baldwin-Webb, Col. J. Braithwaite, Major A. N. Caine, G. R. Halt-
Balniel, Lord Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Campbell, Sir E. T.
Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M. Broadbridge, Sir G. T. Cartland, J. R. H.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T P. H. Brocklebank, Sir Edmund Cary, R. A.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Pertsm'h) Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.) Castlereagh, Viscount
Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester) Hopkinson, A. Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Horsbrugh, Florence Reid, Captain A. Cunningham
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Haek., N.) Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Hume, Sir G. H. Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Channon, H. Hunloke, H. P. Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Hunter, T. Ropner, Colonel L.
Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead) Hurd, Sir P. A. Rosbotham, Sir T.
Clarry, Sir Reginald Hutchinson, G. C. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) James, Wing-Commander A. W. H. Rowlands, G.
Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.) Joel, D. J. B. Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Keeling, E. H. Ruggtos-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.
Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs) Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Russell, Sir Alexander
Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L. Kerr, H. W. (Oldham) Salmon, Sir I.
Cox, H. B. Trevor Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.) Salt, E. W.
Craven-Ellis, W. Kimball, L. Samuel, M. R. A.
Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F. Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.
Crooke, Sir J. Smedley Lamb, Sir J. Q. Scott, Lord William
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Lancaster, Captain C. G. Selley, H. R.
Crossley, A. C. Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.) Shakespeare, G. H.
Crowder, J. F. E. Lees-Jones, J. Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.
Davidson, Viscountess Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L. Simmonds, O. E.
Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil) Liddall, W. S. Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st)
Davison, Sir W. H. Lindsay, K. M. Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
De Chair, S. S. Lipson, D. L. Smith, Sir Louis (Hallam)
De la Bère, R. Little, Sir E. Graham- Somerset, T.
Denman, Hon. R. D. Llewellin, Colonel J. J. Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald
Denville, Alfred Lloyd, G. W. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Dixon, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. Lyons, A. M. Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.
Doland, G. F. MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)
Dower, Lieut.-Col. A. V. G. M'Connell, Sir J. Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)
Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury) McKie, J. H. Storey, S.
Dugdale, Captain T. L. Macnamara, Lieut.-Colonel J. R. J. Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.
Duggan, H. J. Maitland, Sir Adam Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Dunglass, Lord Makins, Brig.-Gen. Sir E. Strickland, Captain W. F.
Eastwood, J. F. Manningham-Buller, Sir M. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Ellis, Sir G. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Emery, J. F. Markham, S. F. Sutcliffe, H.
Entwistle, Sir C. F. Marsden, Commander A. Tasker, Sir R. I.
Fleming, E. L. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Tate, Mavis C.
Fox, Sir G. W. G. Medlicott, F. Thomas, J. P. L.
Fremantle, Sir F. E. Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham) Thorneycroft, G. E. P.
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J. Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.) Titchfield, Marquess of
Gluckstein, L. H. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Touche, G. C.
Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Train, Sir J.
Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral) Moors, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R. Tree, A. R. L. F.
Grant-Ferris, R. Moraing, A. C. Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Granville, E. L. Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge) Turton, R. H.
Gretton, Col, Rt. Hon. J. Morris-Jones, Sir Henry Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Gridley, Sir A. B. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Grigg, Sir E. W. M Munro, P. Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.
Grimston, R. V. Nall, Sir J. Wayland, Sir W. A.
Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake) Nicholson, G. (Farnham) Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.) O'Connor, Sir Terence J. Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Guinness, T. L. E. B. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Williams, C. (Torquay)
Hambro, A. V. Palmer, G. E. H. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Hannah, I. C. Peake, O. Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Harbord, A. Perkins, W. R. D. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel, G.
Harvey, Sir G. Petherick, M. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Pickthorn, K. W. M. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Pilkington, R. Wood, Hon. C. I. C.
Hely-Hutchinson, M. R. Ponsonby, Col. C. E. Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. Porritt, R. W. Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.
Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.) Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Radford, E. A.
Higgs, W. F. Raikes, H. V. A. M. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S Ramsbotham, H. Mr. Herbert Williams and Mr. Duncan.
Holmes, J. S. Rankin, Sir R.
Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Rayner, Major R. H.

Question put, and agreed to.