HC Deb 23 February 1978 vol 944 cc1673-4
1. Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what organisations, or representative bodies, have made representations to him about the development land tax: and if he will make a statement.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Joel Barnett)

I will circulate in the Official Report a list of those bodies which have made representations to date.

Mr. Johnson Smith

They must be fairly numerous. When he is considering these representations will the Chief Secretary bear in mind particularly the complaint of the Chairman of British Rail, who feels that the high incidence of this tax prevents the effective commercial development of British Rail sites? Such developments could alleviate unemployment and contribute much to the revenue to help the hard-pressed commuter in the South-East.

Mr. Barnett

I listen most carefully to all the representations that I receive. I have taken very careful note of what the Chairman of British Rail said.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Does the Chief Secretary agree that the real situation is that some property landowners are deliberately holding back in the hope of squeezing the British public even more and avoiding tax on unearned profits in the event of a Tory election victory? Will he reject completely this type of pre-Budget pressure by the British Property Federation and Conservative Members?

Mr. Barnett

From time to time I agree with my hon. Friend, and certainly on this occasion I do. But there is no evidence yet of any shortage of land or of any holding back for the reasons that he has stated. If landowners are holding back for these reasons they are very foolish indeed, because they may have to wait for decades, or even for ever.

Mr. MacKay

Contrary to the Chief Secretary's last answer, is he aware that there is a desperate shortage of house building land in this country because of the excessively high rates of development land tax? Surely this will mean a spiral-ling of house prices, which will adversely affect first-time house buyers. Will he not do something about that situation?

Mr. Barnett

I would if that were true. There is about six years' supply of residential land with planning permission available, half of which is in the hands of builders.

Mr. Peter Rees

Will the Chief Secretary consider deferring the introduction of the 80 per cent. rate while he considers the devastation that this Act has already inflicted on the development market?

Mr. Barnett

I do not accept the premise of the hon. and learned Member's question.

Following is the list: