HL Deb 12 November 1975 vol 365 cc1957-9

Disposals of which notice may, but need not, be given

3A.—(l) This paragraph applies to a disposal by an individual of a material interest in land which is the whole or any part of his private residence.

(2) This paragraph also applies to a disposal by trustees of a material interest in land held in trust where—

  1. (a) that land is the whole or any part of a person's private residence, and
  2. (b) that person is entitled, under the terms of the trust, to occupy that residence or to receive the whole of the income derived from, or from the proceeds of sale of, the material interest.

(3) In this paragraph— disposal" includes a contract for a disposal dwelling-house" includes part of a dwelling-house, an individual's "private residence" means—

  1. (a) land comprising a dwelling-house which, at the date of the disposal, is that individual's only or main residence, and
  2. (b) land which at that date he has for his own occupation and enjoyment with that dwelling-house as its garden or grounds up to an area which, when aggregated with the area of the site of the dwelling-house, does not exceed one acre or such larger area as may in any particular case be required for the reasonable enjoyment of it as a residence, in the opinion of the authority, regard being had to its size and character;
and a person's "private residence" shall be construed accordingly.")

The Commons agreed to this Amendment but proposed the following Amendment thereto:

In head (b) of sub-paragraph (3), leave out from ("acre") to end of head.

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 38 to the Lords Amendment No. 37. As I explained to the House at Report stage, the point at which one draws the dividing line between those owner occupiers who need not notify a disposal and those who must is of no major significance in the operation of the land scheme. The reason for exempting owner occupiers of houses standing in plots of less than one acre was to remove the compulsory notification requirement in cases where notification would be unlikely to bring any benefit to an authority; that is, because at the one-acre limit and below there would be no DTL payable by the owner and thus no question of a high base value being established before the authority come to acquire.

One acre is thus a convenient and certain limit to use. If the limit is expressed as a variable it would give rise to uncertainty in people's minds. Those with larger plots would need to write to the local authority for their decision whether the intended disposal needed to be notified, the authority would then need to consider the matter—possibly with a visit to the house—and give their decision. Even if they then decided the owner need not notify, he would still have been involved in as much work to establish his "exemption" as he would have been if he had simply notified the disposal in the first place; and of course the authority would, by then, be fully informed of his intention to sell anyway. On purely practical grounds, therefore, we think the words inserted at Report and Third Reading are self-defeating and unnecessary.

At the risk of annoying the noble Baroness opposite I feel that I ought to point out that, again on this Amendment, not only did the other place not divide but nobody spoke on it. There was no debate. Yet this was an Amendment considered of such importance here in the interests of the owner occupier.

Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 38 to the Lords Amendment No. 37.—(Baroness Birk.)

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, once again I shall have to take the word of the noble Baroness whether or not the House of Commons said anything about this. As I have not had the opportunity to read Hansard on what happened at six o'clock or seven o'clock in the morning, I do not know. It may be that everybody was feeling rather tired at that stage. Whatever may or may not have happened in another place does not alter the fact that we in this House felt that this was putting into the Bill something which was only doing justice to those people whose gardens might measure just over one acre as compared with the people whose gardens measured just under one acre. If I may say so, I think that this is a very good example of Socialist spite against somebody who has just a little more than somebody else.


My Lords, having been in another place, not at the hour mentioned but at an earlier hour, I feel very strongly about this because it is quite clear that the rights of individual citizens were very much in the minds of another place. Here is a case where a purely doctrinaire view has over-ridden the very sensible Amendment which my noble friend Lord Kinnoull brought to your Lordship's attention. It is not only in the interests of the owner occupier, it is very beneficial for conservancy in our towns and cities and so on. It has wide implications, probably wider than the Government realise. I dispute the way in which they have knocked it out of the Bill.

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, I must tell the noble Lord that here there is nothing to do with conservation at all. When he is talking about the rights of the individual, I think he should bear in mind that the majority of people in this country do not own even a scrap of an acre or any land at all. Those who do own far less than a quarter of an acre including their house and garden. What we are talking about are the rights—and I think they should have been rights as well but they are very well protected in the Bill—of what is a small minority. I do not think we should get the whole thing out of proportion.

6.54 p.m.