HC Deb 12 July 1983 vol 45 cc836-7

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Michael Stern (Bristol, North-West)

Political associations hold land and property in a variety of ways. The normal way is by trustees, but some political associations in England and Wales hold land through companies, be they companies limited by shares, limited by guarantee or with unlimited liability. I cannot, of course, speak for the methods of holding land in Scotland.

Subsection (4) provides for relief when there is a transfer of such property directly between one association and another or from an association to a company and back to an association. It does not seem to provide for an association not holding property directly but holding it through a company. Various circumstances could arise in which a political association could be denied relief—I assume that the intention of the clause is to give relief —because of the structure by which it holds its land.

If the existing association and the new association hold land through trustees, that is fine. However, it will receive no relief under this clause if one of the associations holds land through a company or if it is necessary either for a company to have a change of shareholders because of the change of associations or a change of guarantors. Instead of trying to construct complex legislation for what may be one or two isolated cases, will my right hon. Friend consider the possibility of an extra-statutory concession, if the clause is agreed, so that the spirit of the relief in the clause is given to those political associations that we may not yet know have problems as a result of boundary redistribution?

Mr. Ridley

My hon. Friend has raised a matter of extreme erudition, and I am grateful to him for having given me warning. I confirm that if this legislation does not include all constituency associations affected by boundary changes — whatever political party may be involved—it is our intention to put the matter right and have it on all fours.

It would have been difficult, lengthy and complex to legislate for all possible forms of private ownership. The clause deals with what we thought, from consultations with the three political parties, was the most common form in which property is held by constituency associations. In addition, there is an existing statutory concession extending capital gains tax roll-over relief for replacement of business assets to the case where the property is owned by a company on behalf of a non-profit making organisation, and the organisation itself holds all or nearly all the shares in the company. That may conceivably meet some of the cases that we have not covered in the legislation.

We should be prepared to examine sympathetically the case for extending the concession to meet the circumstances mentioned by my hon. Friend, but whether any extension is necessary and, if so, what form it should take, will depend on the nature of the problems that arise in practice. Indeed, we should need to find an association of the kind described by my hon. Friend before we could prescribe a remedy to deal with the ill, if the ill applied to the association in the first place. I assure my hon. Friend and the Committee that we shall be guided by the underlying principle of the legislation to provide statutory relief for capital gains tax and stamp duty for any association of any party that is affected by boundary changes. If further action is necessary it will be provided by further statutory concessions, as appropriate.

Question put and agreed to.

Clauses 7 and 15 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

To report Progress and ask leave to sit again.—[Mr. Ridley.]

Committee report Progress; to sit again tomorrow.

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