HC Deb 20 March 1974 vol 870 cc1022-3
22. Mr. Robert Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will introduce legislation to abolish feu duties.

31. Mr. Barry Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will reintroduce the legislation initiated by his predecessor to abolish feu duty.

Mr. William Ross

Subject to other demands on the parliamentary timetable, I intend to introduce legislation on this subject. I am considering urgently the precise scope of such legislation.

Mr. Wilson

Will the right hon. Gentleman also consider a need for legislation to simplify and reform the system of land tenure in Scotland, particularly in relation to conveyancing, in an effort to make it easier and less expensive for people purchasing houses?

Mr. Ross

We embarked on this. It is a fairly long process and the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the registration of title will follow this other matter. We have this in mind.

Mr. Henderson

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that, despite the inexplicable absence of any mention of this matter from the Gracious Speech, it will be brought forward this Session?

Mr. Ross

That entirely depends on the parliamentary situation. There was an error in the hon. Gentleman's Question, incidentally. The legislation of the last administration did not seek to abolish feu duties. In fact, it deliberately kept them. One of the things we have to consider is whether or not we can extend and strengthen, without completely altering, the Bill which was before us at that time and which, regrettably, was guillotined by the General Election.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend assure us that he will consider the question asked by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) in respect of the lawyer's racketeering in conveyancing on houses? He has a special interest in this matter, I am sure, and will want to put it right as early as possible.

Mr. Ross

I shall be glad to look at anything like this.

Mr. Edward Taylor

Will the right hon. Gentleman at least give us an assurance that the new legislation will go as far as the legislation that we were considering when the General Election was announced, namely, that everyone in Scotland will be able to buy out a financial feu if he wishes to do so?

Mr. Ross

It was not I who called the General Election. Probably another week would have seen on the statute book what we admitted was a welcome piece of legislation. I have said that we shall consider whether we can extend and strengthen it—for instance, by trying to get rid of some more feu duties at the time of a sale. From that point of view, we should be extending the area of abolition.

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