HC Deb 19 October 1954 vol 531 cc1116-9
Mr. Woodburn

I beg to move, in page 15, line 41, at the end, to insert: References to an interest in land which has been acquired or sold includes (unless the context otherwise requires) references to the conveyance of an interest in land by feu charter and "acquired or sold" shall be construed accordingly, and in relation to any such conveyance any reference to the price shall be construed as a reference to the capital value of the consideration for the conveyance. The Government will have recognised the words in this Amendment as being the words which they have on page 75 of the Bill. This is a most important matter for Scotland, and, while the Joint Under-Secretary did not mention at an earlier stage of the Bill that this provision was made, I think it is important that the Government should give a clear explanation that a person who has feued land instead of buying it is entitled to all the rights of a person who is an owner or a purchaser under this Bill.

A great deal of misapprehension and apprehension has existed in the case of people who have feued their houses at an exorbitant feu relative to the value of the land. In other words, many people who bought land bought it not at use value but at use value plus development value. They found that they had to pay the development value in addition We have heard, for instance, of the sad case that has been referred to in the Press, in which a person paid the whole lot and then had no claim on the development value.

On the other hand, there are people who have purchased their houses and who are paying a feu much in excess of what they would have paid had they known the conditions existing under the Town and Country Planning Act. These people, of course, have already paid the development value to the persons who sold them that feu. If it was only the purchaser who was entitled to recover that development value, then the person who had feued a house might be excluded.

The purpose of my Amendment is to make clear in an early part of the Bill that the person who purchased a house and feued the land is entitled to all the rights of the person who bought the land and had a claim; and that that claim attaches to the feu just as it would have attached to the land which was sold at a price which included the development value. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will make a clear statement which will bring home to the mass of the people in Scotland who do not purchase but who feu land that they have rights no less than the rights of people in England who purchase land.

The Lord Advocate

The right hon. Gentleman has made perfectly clear the purpose underlying this Amendment. Let me assure him as clearly as I can that the purpose of the Government is, by this Bill, to put feuers as well as the ordinary purchasers in a position whereby they can secure the benefits to which they are entitled. In other words, the answer to his question is: Yes, quite definitely.

As I follow it, the only difference between us is that he is seeking to put at this early stage in Clause 12 a provision which I think he recognises we have already got later in the Bill, in Clause 72 (8). The only difference between us is not one in our objects or desires, but it is that he wishes to insert a provision a little earlier. We have already got it in Clause 72 (8), and I suggest that it would be a pity to put it in twice. There is no doubt about the purpose of his Amendment and our agreement with that purpose. We have endeavoured to give effect to that purpose in Clause 72 (8). In those circumstances, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not insist on this Amendment, which would merely repeat at this stage what is already in the Bill.

Mr. Woodburn

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman at least promise that he will consider whether the provision could be brought into the body of the Bill? There is clearly something wrong when a provision of such importance to such a large number of people in Scotland comes a the tail-end of the Bill, as a kind of definition. It ought to be in the body of the Bill.

The Lord Advocate

I see the force of that suggestion, and I will certainly consider it and see whether we can rearrange it.

Mr. Ross

I sincerely hope that the Lord Advocate will look at this matter again. The normal way of purchasing ground in Scotland is by way of feus.

Mr. Hoy

Some people pay double feu-duty.

Mr. Ross

Yes, that is so. The point is that those people who managed to build houses when the original Act was in operation, until the withdrawal of the development charge, found that there was no change in the feu-duty. That certainly applies to the part of the Scotland that I know well. Such people were paying much the same feu-duty as they would have done if they had been building prior to the introduction of the first Act which introduced development charges.

People were paying high development charges, and it is to assist people in that position, who have already paid high development charges and who are now responsible for paying feu-duty for now and ever more, that we are moving this Amendment, so that such people may get the full benefit of Scotland's portion of these millions that are being paid back. I think the Lord Advocate fully understands what we are after. From what he has said, it seems that he has a certain amount of sympathy with the feuer.

I sincerely hope that he will treat seriously the question put latterly by my right hon. Friend, because the normal way of holding land in Scotland is by obtaining a feu, no purchase price being paid. In that event, I do not see why persons should have to look at subsection (8) of the interpretation Clause at the end of the Bill to see what is the position. It should be made perfectly clear in the body of the Bill, and I hope that the Government will look again at the question. I hope that a considerable number of changes can be made in another place, so that the feuers may be given a clear understanding of their position and will be able to derive some benefit from the Bill.

Mr. Willis

The Lord Advocate said that it was undoubtedly the intention of the Bill that the feuer should be placed on the same footing as the person who purchases land. When I asked a question about the self-same thing previously, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said that the answer depended upon the terms of the assignation. Does this question also depend upon the terms of the agreement regarding the feu? It is important to know whether or not it is included. If so, my hon. Friends will be very disappointed.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), I have known cases where people have feued land on which to build houses and have paid a fairly high feu-duty. In my view they are certainly entitled to some compensation in respect of development value. I should like to have an opinion from the Lord Advocate as to the position.

The Lord Advocate

I do not understand the point, but if the hon. Member will have a word with me afterwards, I may be able to clear it up. It does not really arise from the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.