THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
My Lords, I beg to ask His Majesty's Government whether, in view of the opinion expressed in the Report of the Committee on Building Construction in connection with the Provision of Dwellings for the Working Classes, that a very large proportion of working-class housing will depend upon private enterprise, and the statement in paragraph 24 of the Report that—there was a consensus of opinion amongst the builders and land developers that the land duties in the Finance (1909–1910) Act, 1910, had seriously retarded the carrying on of their business. The evidence given was that these duties had arrested the development of building estates, led to the diminution or withdrawal of financial facilities, and retarded investment in house property. The taxation of builders' profits, as decided by the Lumsden judgment, was considered by the builders to be an injustice, and, in their opinion, has seriously prejudiced the trade of house building,they will consider the desirability of now encouraging private enterprise by repealing or amending that part of the Finance (1909–1910) Act, 1910, which has so greatly contributed to the present shortage of houses.
§ LORD HYLTON
My Lords, in answer to my noble friend I have to tell him that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has this question at the moment under his consideration. His opinion is that as regards general policy it is not possible at present to add anything to the answer which he gave in the House of Commons on March 27. I do not know whether my noble friend looked at the debates in the House of Commons on that day, and in case he did not do so I will quote the answer given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to a very similar question to that put by my noble friend. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said—The whole subject of the land values duties and the effect upon them of different decisions given in the Courts requires, and will receive, the careful consideration of His Majesty's Government. But for this examination more time is needed than I have up to the present been able to devote to it.In the meantime, in accordance with the pledge given by the Prime Minister, dating back, if I remember aright, to the year 1914, duty is not being claimed in cases which would have been relieved by the proposed legislation. The proposed legislation, as my noble friend I dare say remembers, was legislation which the Govern 246 ment of the day intended to bring in after judgment had been given in the Lumsden case. The Chancellor's opinion is that as regards general policy it is not possible to acid anything to the answer he gave in the House of Commons on March 27, except to say that the subject is now actually being considered by the Government, and he deprecated a general discussion until they are in a position to make a statement.
I dare say many of your Lordships who are interested in this matter have studied the Report of the Committee appointed by the President of the Local Government Board and the Secretary for Scotland to consider questions of building construction in connection with the provision of dwellings for the working classes in England, Wales, and Scotland, and to report upon methods of securing economy and despatch in the provision of such dwellings. That is the Report referred to by my noble friend in his Question. My noble friend quite correctly quoted an extract from page 7 of that Report, to the effect that there was a consensus of opinion amongst builders and land developers that the land duties in the Finance Act, 1910, had seriously retarded the carrying on of their business, and that the evidence given was that these duties had arrested the development of building estates and led to the diminution or withdrawal of financial facilities and retarded investments in house property, and that the taxation of builders' profits, as decided by the Lumsden judgment, was considered by the builders to be an injustice and in their opinion had seriously prejudiced the trade of house building. But my noble friend did not go on to quote the whole of that paragraph, the concluding passage of which is as follows—We" [the Commissioners]" have not considered it within the scope of our reference to examine the ground of these complaints or the details of the land duties, or to express an opinion upon the subject., but we content ourselves with communicating what is manifestly the view of the building trade as far as it was expressed by the witnesses we examined.The position at the present moment as regards the Lumsden judgment is that after the decision of the House of Lords Mr. Lloyd George agreed to introduce legislation which would have had the effect of excluding, in the case of land which had been built upon, elements other than continuing increases in site value from the scope of the charge. A provision to this effect, as my noble friend I dare say 247 remembers, was inserted in the Revenue Bills of 1913–14, but failed to reach the Statute Book. It was then proposed to effect the object by the introduction of a one-clause Bill, but the war intervened and the Bill was not introduced. Mr. Lloyd George, however, promised in the autumn of 1914 that cases which would have been covered by the proposed clause should be held in suspense, and in May, 1916, Mr. McKenna agreed that all such cases, whether occurring before or after May 7, 1913, should be held in abeyance. Since that date no duty has been collected in respect of the so-called Lumsden cases. There the matter rests at present. I am sorry that I have not been able to give an answer that would be altogether satisfactory to my noble friend, but what I have stated to-day is what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in another place.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
The effect of that statement is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has admitted in the House of Commons that there is a case for very serious consideration, and he hopes to deal with it in the coming Budget?
THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
I am much obliged to my noble friend for his answer, and I am glad to know that His Majesty's Government are giving consideration to this matter. I would only express the hope that, in view of the great importance of encouraging private enterprise in building, there will be no unnecessary delay in arriving at a decision.
LORD ST. LEVAN
May I ask whether, in view of the opinion expressed in the Report that a very large proportion of working class housing will depend upon private enterprise, His Majesty's Government expect that a large number of houses will be built by private enterprise in the future, or whether they think it will be restricted to municipal and other authorities.