HC Deb 24 February 1947 vol 433 cc1847-9

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, under any Act of the present Session to make fresh provision with respect to Scotland for planning the development and use of land, and for purposes connected there with—

  1. (1) There shall be charged, in respect of the carrying out on land of operations for the carrying oat of which planning permission is required under the said Act, and in respect of uses of land for the institution of which such permission is so required, and in respect of the retention on land of buildings or works, or the continuance of uses of land, in accordance with planning permission granted under the said Act, such development charges (or in the case of land acquired or appropriated by local planning authorities for the development or redevelopment of any area as a whole, or land acquired by development corporations under the New Towns Act, 1946, such sums in lieu of development charges) as may be determined in accordance with the provisions of the said Act;
  2. (2) There shall be paid into the Exchequer any sums received by the Central Land Board to be established under any Act of the present Session to make fresh provision for planning the development and use of land, in respect of such development charges or other sums as aforesaid."

11.20 p.m.

Mr. J. S. C. Reid

I wonder whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate would explain why it was necessary to have the very elaborate framework of the Money Resolution, which he would not alter, and why, when we come to Ways, and Means, we find a much more loosely drawn Resolution. All that we asked for in the other Resolution could easily be achieved by using the phraseology contained in this Ways and Means Resolution. Why does the right hon. Gentleman depart from the rigidity of the other Resolution and here propose a Resolution in terms which would have given us all we wanted had they applied to the Money Resolution? I hope that we can have an answer as to why the Government are reasonable in one case, and unreasonable in another.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman replies, may I point out that, under the terms of the Money Resolution which we have just discussed, we have agreed to the sum of £300 million being allocated between England, Scotland and Wales for the purchase of development rights in land. Under this Resolution, we are asked to agree to the levying of what are called "development charges" in respect of development which is proposed to be carried out in perpetuity in Scotland by anyone desiring to develop his or her land. I suggest that this charge should be reduced, because it is illogical and wrong that we should buy out for a global sum of £300 million developments rights in land, in one case, and in the other collect in perpetuity development charges which, in the aggregate, may well amount to far more than the sum we have already voted. I am told on good authority that the amount of the development charges will, in about 20 years, be sufficient to wipe out altogether the £300 million. I suggest that, when that point is reached, we ought to regard the transaction as closed, and should then make no more development charges because, if we do not, it is tantamount to levying a differential tax payable in 20 years' time on one particular type of property, and the levying of a differential tax of that kind, in some future unknown period, would be quite wrong and quite foreign to the usual practice of this House.

Mr. Reid

Are we not to have any, answer, Major Milner? Surely, the Government are not going to be as unreasonable as all that? Here we have a taxing Resolution, but no definition of the body which is to do the taxing. It says: There shall be charged in respect of the carrying out on the land of operations certain sums… It does not say "charged by the Central Land Board," or by anybody else, but just "shall be charged." I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman why, if in a taxing Resolution, which ought to be very tightly drawn—because we know that taxation is a matter which should be strictly dealt with—we do not need to say who is to levy the tax, in the other Resolution it is necessary to insert the words "the Central Land Board"? Why is it necessary there and not here to insert those words? Cannot we have an answer; or is it that the Scottish Office, as usual, take what is handed out to them by another Department, and do not know what it is that is being put forward?

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

The Secretary of State for Scotland has decided, surely, that we must have some answer. It is not unreasonable to ask him to impart an answer to the Committee. Having asked a perfectly reasonable question on two Resolutions dealing with great sums of money, we simply want to know what is the reason. Why in one Resolution is it given in very strict terms and in very general terms in the other? The hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) asked why the development charges should continue to be exacted long after the sum of money they are supposed to offset has been paid off entirely. I see that the Secretary for State is preparing to reply. I am only too willing to give way if he has the answer for us. I am sure that he is always most reasonable in these matters, and perhaps he could now give us the answer.

Mr. Westwood

The self-same words are used in the Ways and Means Resolution and in the Money Resolution already approved if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will look at paragraph (2) of the Ways and Means Resolution, he will find the words: There shall be paid into the Exchequer any sums received by the Central Land Board to be established under any Act of the present Session to make fresh provision for planning the development and use of land, in respect of such development charges or other sums as aforesaid. The Central Land Board will collect and pay over to the Exchequer.

Resolution to be reported Tomorrow; Committee to sit again Tomorrow.