HC Deb 22 April 1970 vol 800 c408
22. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what has been the cost to date to public funds of attempts by the Land Commission to secure payment of betterment levy in cases where it ultimately proved necessary to abandon assessments owing to inability to pay.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

I regret that this information is not available.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Then I suggest the Minister should find out. Is it not absurd that this body should try to extract £800 in betterment levy from some of my constituents, who had to sell an asset at a £5,000 loss, when the only result of proceeding with this assessment will be a bankrupt company without getting a penny for the Land Commission? Can he not now stop this absurd procedure before we abolish the Land Commission altogether?

Dr. Mabon

There is no intention to abolish the Land Commission. The next Government, which we will form, will not abolish it. There are six cases in all referred to in Scotland. I cannot give the figures because separate records are not available. We are in correspondence on the particular case to which he has referred. The direct costs of the Commission in assessing and collecting levy in Scotland in 1969–70 were 2s. 5d. per £1 of the land assessed. The ratio of cost to return has shown steady improvement since the commission was set up, and we hope that further improvement will come about. The hon. Gentleman cannot ask us to give a general power to the commission to exempt anyone from a legal liability. He is trying to postulate a peculiarly un-British doctrine.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.