HC Deb 04 November 1954 vol 532 cc578-9
15. Mr. G. Thomas

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that the practice of levying Estate Duty in respect of a house owned and occupied by the deceased on the post-war value of the house, causes hardship in those cases where this value cannot be realised because the beneficiaries have to continue to reside in the house; and whether he will take steps to revive the concession which his predecessors permitted in such cases.

Mr. H. Brooke

This concession is still in force, but, as my right hon. Friend has explained to the hon. Member in correspondence, its value has diminished, and in some areas disappeared, because the premium on vacant possession has diminished or disappeared. The concession has never given relief in respect of increases over the pre-war value which are not attributable to the factor of vacant possession.

Mr. Thomas

Would the Minister state whether this concession still applies? Is he further aware that great hardship is being caused in Cardiff, where people who have simply been left the home in which they are living are being required to pay Estate Duty, which means selling the home in order to pay the Estate Duty. [Interruption.] Well, it is true. Will the hon. Gentleman look into this matter?

Mr. Brooke

The concession continues to operate in all parts of the country where it is still the case that the element of vacant possession at the date of death inflates the value of the house more than it did before the war. I will willingly look further into any individual cases, but the case to which the hon. Member has referred has already been examined by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor.

Mr. Gower

Will my hon. Friend look at this matter again? Is it not the case that the trouble is caused by district valuers tending to attach too inflated values for houses occupied by the dependents of the deceased? Will he examine that aspect of it?

Mr. Brooke

I am quite prepared to continue to examine these cases, but I must say that, in my view, the concession is being rightly applied by district valuers.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I have put cases to him, that I have evidence of very varying practice in different parts of the country, and that there certainly is evidence of a change of practice in the last six or nine months?

Mr. Brooke

I assure the House that there has been no change of practice, but this is a difficult and highly technical matter. I am certainly ready to look into any individual case which any hon. Member cares to bring to my notice.

Mr. Thomas

In view of the Minister's reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Motion for the Adjournment at the first possible opportunity.