§ Sir GODFREY COLLINS
I beg to move to leave out the Clause.
It will be within the recollection of hon. Members that on the last day of the Committee stage, at about a quarter to 12 o'clock, the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Balfour) moved the insertion 301 of Clause 27. I think that the House will agree that the Committee was in a good humour at that moment as hon. Members were expecting an early release. In the course of the Debate on that Amendment the Financial Secretary to the Treasury informed the Committee that an inquiry was taking place on the subject, and the impression left on hon. Members was that it was not the intention of the Government to accept the Amendment. Later on, when a Division was challenged, the Financial Secretary took off the Whip, a rather unusual course.
§ Sir G. COLLINS
I am not anxious to join issue with hon. Members opposite on that point. I think that it would have been easy for any hon. Member on this side of the House so to delay the course of business after the speech of the Financial Secretary that it would have been impossible for the Government to carry the Clause that evening. I would remind hon. Members that three hours before the Amendment was moved, new Clause after new Clause was moved by hon. Members opposite, and no exception was taken by hon. Members on this side of the House, and not a single word was said on the subject. If this Clause be not deleted, three consequences will result. First, owners of land will avoid their fair share of taxation; second, there will be loss of revenue, which will fall upon the shoulders of the general taxpayers; and, third, local authorities and ratepayers throughout the country will be forced to pay an extra high price for land when the State develops our housing activities and other forms of State activities. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]
I would remind hon. Members that the staff of Customs officials employed in collecting and collating the information contained in these forms costs only £4,000 a year. The Prime Minister on 28th June, 1920, was asked if he will state the annual cost of the staff which the Government proposes to retain in connection with the section dealing with land values which remains intact and in his answer he stated that the annual cost of this staff required for remaining work in connection with the assessment and collection of the duty would not exceed £4,000 a year. These officials have a very important and difficult task to perform. According to a 302 statement issued by the Inland Revenue authorities in the year 1916 the total value of the land of the country was £5,230,000,000. That is the total capital value of the land in this country, and, taking as a basis that land changes hands every 25 years at least, there is a sum of £200,000,000 every year changing hands for the price of land. Therefore it is clear that any information which will enable officials of the Inland Revenue Department at Somerset House to check accurately the price of land will bring in large extra sums to the Exchequer if their valuation is correct, and I submit that an accurate valuation of land will have as far reaching consequences and that if that information is not accurate there will be a loss to the revenue as well as high prices paid by local authorities when they require land for public purposes. Let me endeavour to show to the House that the Government themseves, or, rather, the late Chancellor of Exchequer, the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain), in a speech in this House on 19th April, 1920, put very great stress on the necessity for these officials obtaining the information. It will be within the recollection of hon. Members that the State valuation of land was completed in 1920. In a carefully prepared Budget statement the Chancellor of Exchequer of that year used these words:We are confirmed in the view of the necessity for the continuance of this Department by the great assistance which has been afforded by the valuation staff during the War in the requisitioning of land for war purposes, and by the proved worth of their service in connection with the acquisition of land for public purposes, such as housing and land settlement. … Apart from their revenue functions in connection with Death Duties, the Valuation Department will render such assistance to other Government Departments as occasion may require."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th April, 1920; col. 85, Vol. 128.]Then the right hon. Gentleman used these words:For this purpose" (that was for the purpose of local authorities acquiring land at reasonable prices, also for the purpose of the revenue receiving its fair share of the price of the land) "it is essential that the system under which particulars of sales and leases of land are reported to the Inland Revenue should be continued in order that the Department may be in possession of the fullest information on which to base any fresh valuation that may have to be made."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th April, 1920; cols. 85 and 86, Vol. 128.]303 Those are chosen words from a speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer responsible to this House for levying taxes fairly on one and all. If words have any meaning, I submit that in the opinion, not of a private Member on either side of the House, but of the ex-Chancellor of Exchequer, it was essential that the system of supplying particulars of sales of land should be maintained if his Department was to carry out its duties properly. It is idle to levy taxation and to deny to the taxing authority adequate powers to levy that taxation fairly. It is obvious that if accurate information is withheld from the authorities of Somerset House the difficulties will be increased in future. In 1920, in this House, it was frequently argued that the State valuation was of very little use, because the valuations were uncertain in their character. There is nothing uncertain in the information or in the character of the information supplied to Somerset House in the record of these transactions. Landlords complain of the expense involved in filling up the forms. Do other taxpayers not incur expense because of the requests of Inland Revenue authorities? Every hon. Member knows that Income Tax authorities go to the registered offices of public companies, inspect the books, and occupy the time of the officials of those companies, and, in addition, the officials of the companies has to supply information regarding the wages paid weekly and monthly. The supplying of all this information costs time and money. The traders do not complain. They may grumble, but they do not come to this House for redress. You are going to place one class of property in a special and privileged position. You are proposing to grant to one a favour which is denied to another. I will later quote some further words of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, on 19th June last, thought that this information would be of value. This is what he said speaking on the last day of the Committee stage:Holding, as I do, the views rather in accordance with those of the Mover of the Clause, it would be highly improper for me, having been in office for only about three weeks to attempt to make such a great alteration as this, which would have a very 304 real effect upon the activities of the Land Valuation Department."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th June, 1923; col. 1362, Vol. 165.]Then he went on to say:If these returns are not made, it will certainly very much alter the work of the Department."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th June, 1923; col. 1363, Vol. 165.]I agree. And what will be the result? The landowners will escape their fair share of taxation, and, having escaped their fair share of taxation, that share will fall on the shoulders of other taxpayers. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham, speaking on 14th July, 1920, said:It is the obligation that wherever the sale of land . … takes place, the particulars of it shall be made known to the Valuation Department and recorded at Somerset House. That is the part of the Act which has been invaluable in assisting public authorities."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th July, 1920; col. 2435, Vol. 131.]Further on in the same speech he said that the information was "really valuable." Those were carefully chosen words by a former Chancellor of the Exchequer. There are also some figures relating to the price of land bought by public authorities which have had the assistance of the Valuation Department. I find that the ex-Minister of Health (Dr. Addison) in 1920 was asked this question:If he would state the total savings to date to the public on the purchase of land for housing purposes, due to the assistance rendered by the Land Valuation Department to local authorities.The Minister of Health, on 12th July, 1920, replied:According to the information available, the total saving up to 30th June, 1920, in the cases where the valuers have settled the prices by agreement, after negotiation, is £1,305,000, or an average reduction of £71 per acre and a total reduction of £1,500,000.That is the result of an efficient Valuation Department at Somerset House. If this Clause remains in the Finance Bill, Somerset House officials will be unable, according to the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, to perform their duties efficiently and with due regard to the public interest. The ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that the information was invaluable. It was valuable to the public, for it enabled the public to secure land at reasonable prices, and it forced the landowners to lower their prices to the extent of £1,500,000. Valuable undoubtedly it was to the people in the 305 constituencies who are suffering to-day from overcrowding, and who through the Valuation Department have been enabled to secure land for houses at more reasonable prices. If the Amendment is not carried, there will be a Valuation Department, I agree, but it will be a Valuation Department stripped of its ability to check from day to day the actual prices paid for land according to the information supplied to the Department from sales throughout the country. On every platform and at most street corners in the country to-day, property and the rights of property are being challenged. The financial difficulties of the time have made our people question every Act of Parliament, and question the rights of this House. If the Prime Minister were present I would say to him, "Is this the moment to raise a cry of further injustice?" It is quite apparent that if the Amendment is not carried landlords will gain and the Exchequer will suffer. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] For my authority I quote the words of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham.
§ Sir G. COLLINS
Now we are told that when a Chancellor of the Exchequer comes to this House and makes a carefully prepared statement after consultation with the officials of his Department, he makes a mistake. Is the word of a British Minister to be trusted in future? I have never doubted the word of a Minister. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham was dealing with actual facts, and speaking with inside knowledge, having been posted up with that knowledge by the officials of his Department. These are his words, as I have said:For this purpose it is essential that the system under which particulars of sales and leases of land are reported to the Inland Revenue should be continued in order that the Department may have the fullest information . …Hon. Members may differ from the judgment of officials of the Inland Revenue Department. They may be able to say that the information supplied by these officials is of no use for the purpose. But that is not the judgment of the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Sir G. COLLINS
Whether three years ago or to-day, his remark applies at the moment, because he was referring to the particulars of the sales, and it does not matter whether the statement was made three years ago or to-day or whether it applies to the future. I submit this is a practice which has equity to justify it, and which, as the experience of a Chancellor of the Exchequer has shown, reveals to the public the necessity of laying the burden on the proper shoulders. Therefore the House would be well advised, even at this late moment, to reverse the former decision which was taken after a very short Debate. This Government came into power to secure tranquillity. They are going the way of all Conservative Governments in giving concessions to the landed interests. During this Session we have witnessed a Bill to subsidise or rather to relieve the rates on agricultural owners in the country. That is their policy; they stand for the landed interests. In addition to that, the Financial Secretary has announced concessions to house property owners, and the total concessions during the last six months amount to £4,250,000. These are concessions, very grateful no doubt to hon. Members on the opposite side, but there are those outside this House who are confronted with unemployment, whose taxes are high and who have no well-organised force whereby to bring their case before this House and before the Cabinet. This particular demand was raised by the right hon. Baronet the Member for South Hammersmith (Sir W. Bull) in a good-humoured speech, and he little expected that it would be passed that night. Now it is being pressed upon us, and, no doubt, the Government will come forward to-night and vote us down in the Division Lobby. They will say, no doubt with the support of their followers, "Hands off the land of this country." They will refuse to grant to the taxing authority accurate information to enable the taxing authority to place the burden equally as between one class of the community and another. They are going to deny to local authorities the power to purchase land at reasonable prices, and they are going to deny to the Inland Revenue knowledge of the facts.
§ Sir G. COLLINS
What of the sales which have taken place this year? Is information about the sales which are taking place day by day, about the 400,000 or 500,000 sales referred to the other night—is this information not to go to the inland Revenue authorities to allow of the taxation being based on a true valuation of the country. This is no small matter. Millions of money are involved, and I submit—and I commend this to the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury)—that when experience shows the necessity for that information, when equity demands that such figures and knowledge should be revealed to the taxing authorities of the State, then now, in 1923, when property and the rights of property are being challenged at every corner, even the owners of land would be well advised to come out into the open and reveal to the taxing authority the proper price of their land.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I beg to second the Amendment.
I am very glad to have an opportunity of seconding this Amendment which has been so ably submitted to the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Sir G. Collins). I can well understand the hilarity with which some passages of his speech have been received by hon. Members opposite. They are enjoying an unexpected triumph, and I should be the last to rob them in the slightest degree of any enjoyment which may thereby fall to their lot. I shall not comment this evening on the somewhat unfortunate circumstances—I do not think they would be altogether pleasing from their point of view—in which they secured their initial victory on the Committee stage. To-day we have an opportunity of discussing the matter fully. We can enter into all the merits on both sides of this controversy and, having heard the merits, I do not think there is much doubt as to what hon. Gentlemen opposite will do. They have made up their minds. The great majority of them who were in the last Parliament are going to give votes exactly opposite to the votes which they gave in that Parliament. If they were then voting according to their consciences, if their votes were then founded on sound arguments and just principles, those Members who were in the late Parliament are going to give votes to-day which are 308 founded on contrary principles. They cannot get out of it.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Oh yes, they do. Circumstances change and hon. Gentlemen opposite have now ceased to show any gratitude to the late Prime Minister, but I will deal with that point later. This is an interesting stage in a very old controversy. It revives memories of, shall we say,Old unhappy, far off things,And battles long ago.It reminds us that the taxation and the valuation of land were great innovations in the Budget of 1909. It was because of those great innovations that a very prominent statesman, Lord Rosebery, described that Budget as "the end of all things," and it was because of that revolutionary change also, that the House of Lords, in a moment of infatuation, and under the inspiration of hon. Gentlemen opposite, rejected the Budget and so rushed headlong down the steep place into the sea. At any rate, it resulted in the Parliament Act. I can well understand that hon. Gentlemen opposite have painful memories of that controversy. They remember clearly how they lost two General Elections over it, and how their last fortress in the British constitution has been practically destroyed.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
The hon. and gallant Gentleman, who is a Member for one of the Northern Divisions of the Metropolitan area, but who is otherwise somewhat difficult to identify, wants to know where the Liberal party is now. I will put another question to him. How much was his majority reduced in 1922 from 1918 and, if the same rate of reduction goes on, where will he be at the next General Election? That is an illustration of the folly of putting stupid questions in relation to the transient vicissitudes of political life. All I have to say is this, that, as a result of the action which hon. Members opposite are taking to-day, it will be interesting to see where the Tory party will be at the next Election. I may now resume my historical disquisition. I was reminding hon. Members opposite of somewhat unhappy experiences in the past which are 309 associated with this valuation. It is perfectly true that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) at that time provoked them. He made speeches at Limehouse and other places and those speeches had the desired effect. The right hon. Gentleman did, undoubtedly, represent the taxation and valuation proposals, which he then put forward, as the beginning of the millenium which he was then advocating. It was part of the prospectus. We were then regaled with stories of the rare and refreshing fruit which was to come to the parched lips of humanity as they went along the dusty paths of life. Undoubtedly, the proposal in the Budget then may be represented as the plant which was to produce the fruit. Unfortunately, in 1920, the Government of the day decided to get rid of the taxes, so that the plant was lopped of its branches and, of course, there was then some difficulty about the fruit. The plant, however, still remains, and it is the important thing, and I am glad to believe that the right hon. Gentleman is coming down to the Debate this afternoon in order to defend the plant—the plant without its branches. I am sometimes mystified by this imagery, but I am doing my best with my plain Scottish language.
We resume the historical discourse at 1920. At that time, it is true, the taxes which caused so much alarm to hon. Members opposite were abandoned. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain), who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, introduced a proposal in the Finance Bill of that year, which repealed the duties, but, in repealing the duties, he expressly and of design retained the valuation. There can be no suggestion as to that, being an accidental decision. It was a decision taken on grounds of principle and of public policy, which the right hon. Gentleman then defended on the ground of public policy, and for which the majority of hon. Members opposite voted on grounds of public policy. There is a further interesting stage in this controversy which I do not think has been alluded to in the course of the Debate this afternoon. In the Session of 1919 there was a Bill before Parliament called the Acquisition of Land Bill. That Bill, among other purposes, was designed to facilitate the acquisition of land for public 310 purposes, and to provide for fairer valuations when public authorities and Government Departments desired to purchase land. In connection with that Bill no question arose as to the functions of this Valuation Department. There was no question, at that time, of abolishing the Department at all. Nobody in the whole course of the Debates on that Bill suggested that the Department should be abolished, or that it was not performing a useful public work.
My right hon. Friend who was then Member for Peebles, Sir Donald Maclean, moved an Amendment on the Report stage of that Bill for the purpose of laying down a criterion for the assessment of compensation, and that was the return made for rating or taxation by the person whose land was to be purchased. That produced a very interesting Debate, and among others who supported the proposal was Lord Carson, or Sir Edward Carson, as he then was, who said:I was in a few of these compensation cases when I was a Law Officer. It is 13 years since I first brought before the Government of that day the enormous extravagance incurred where land was assessed when taken for public purposes, and the enormously unfair sums that were given on many occasions."—[OFFICTAL REPORT, 25th June, 1919; col. 187, Vol. 117.]It was to prevent these enormous sums of compensation being paid that at that time, when the Bill was passed, the Government was forced in the long run to accept provisions in relation to thin question of returns for rating and taxation. Sir Donald Maclean's Amendment was:And such valuation shall be based upon any returns and assessments for taxation made or acquiesced in by the claimant during the preceding three years."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th June, 1919; col. 257, Vol. 117.]It is quite true that the Amendment was not accepted in exactly that form, but in order to conciliate the Opposition in the House at that time, which was not confined to the Liberal and Labour Benches, but which, as I have shown, came from Unionist Benches, the introduction of the machinery of the Valuation Department was suggested. This was the Amendment which was proposed by the present Lord Chief Justice, then Sir Gordon Hewart:Provided always that regard shall be had to all returns and assessments for taxation made on or acquiesced in by the 311 claimant during the three years next preceding the assessment for compensation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th June, 1919; col. 287, Vol. 117.]That includes any return for the purposes of land valuation, and this was to be one of the criteria. It is a statutory requirement for the purpose of land valuation. You are going to abolish by this new Clause a statutory requirement which was imposed by the last Parliament and the last Government, of which the right hon. Members opposite were Members or supporters. The right hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) has committed himself in this case. He usually has a good memory, but he has forgotten in this case that he actually wished to emphasise the reference to the Valuation Department.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I made a Report on it. I was Chairman of a Committee which made a Report, I think, in 1919, and if the hon. Member reads that Report, I am prepared to abide by what I said in it.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I want to point out that the right hon. Baronet then proposed an Amendment to the Amendment of Sir Gordon Hewart, and proposed that after the word "taxation" there should be inserted the words "or capital value." What was the effect of that? It was that regard should be had to any returns of capital value, which could only mean the returns contemplated under this Clause.
§ Sir ERNEST POLLOCK
The reference made in that Statute was to all returns, Schedule A, and a great number of other returns, and the object of the Bill was to remove the compulsory 10 per cent. which had previously been given to land and also any specific valuation which arose in respect of land owing to it being used for a public purpose. That was the point of the Statute.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir E. Pollock) is quite accurate in saying that returns for Schedule A were to be taken into account also, but they were not the only things, as the whole course of that Debate shows. I could quote references to the Land Valuation Department in that Debate. In the speech of Sir Gordon Hewart, and the very fact that the right hon. Member 312 for the City of London wished to introduce specifically the words "or capital value' shows that they had in view returns made in connection with the land valuation, because returns of capital value are not made under Schedule A. The Amendment which the right hon. Member for the City of London proposed was for the specific purpose of making it clear that returns made under the Finance Act of 1909–10 should be a basis for the purpose of valuation when land was being acquired by local authorities or by Government Departments, and the only reason why that Amendment was not accepted was that it was unnecessary, being already included in the Amendment proposed by the then Attorney-General. Consequently, the right hon. Gentleman opposite and the ex-Attorney-General, the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington, cannot now say that the House was not legislating in 1919 clearly for the purpose of continuing the Land Valuation Department because of its usefulness and, indeed, its necessity, in order to secure fair prices for public authorities when they were acquiring land. I have, I think, established my case. A Division was taken at that time, but only a very small number of the Opposition voted against the particular Amendment. Nearly everybody supported it, and I do not think even the right hon. Member for the City of London voted against it.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I have that Report now. We recommended that the work described under Category "A" should be continued, and that was
On this, I may mention that for the year ending 31st March, 1918, there were 3,966 cases of Old Age Pensions valuation, and the capital value certified by the Valuation Department was £1,168,110. I continue:
- "(a) Valuation of all real estate and leaseholds passing on death for purposes of Death Duties.
- (b) Valuation of real estate comprised in voluntary conveyances for purposes of Stamp Duty.
- (c) Valuation of real estate and leaseholds belonging to applicants for old age pensions."(d) Determination of compensation for the extinction of redundant liquor licences in cases referred for decision to the Commissioners of Inland Revenue.(e) Determination of annual licence values and monopoly values in connection with licensed premises.313(f) Generally advising Government Departments on the values of property for purposes of purchasing, leasing, letting, or sale, and supply of information to these Departments.(g) Work under the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919. This will probably increase as the working of the Act becomes more widely known.That was what we recommended, and the date of that Report is 29th July, 1920. We further recommended:That the officials of the Department should not be chosen to act as arbitrators in matters affecting their own Department and that an appeal should be allowed on the question of costs. They are of opinion that arbitrators should be chosen by agreement between the parties, and, failing agreement, by an outside body.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I am very much interested in what the right hon. Baronet has quoted, but I question, following it as I have been able to follow it, whether these recommendations justify the whole proposal which is in this Clause. I do not think they go so far as that. As I understood the recommendations which were read out by the right hon. Baronet, they simply contemplated certain reductions and modifications, but not complete abolition, and that is the whole point. If my right hon. Friend suggests that his Report justifies complete abolition, I cannot understand why he took the trouble to read all those recommendations, which, as I understood them, suggested reductions and modifications, but not abolition. Even on that basis, the Chancellor of the Exchequer at that time did not accept fully those recommendations. The Government at that time did not see its way to do so, and it had the support of the House of Commons, although I never put a great deal of stress on the opinion of the House of Commons. I maintain that I have established that under the Acquisition of Land Act a statutory duty was placed on the Valuation Department, which under this Clause is going to be abolished. I say that you have no means of performing that statutory duty, and that if that statutory duty be not performed, there is going to be a very serious loss, both to local authorities and to Government Departments. The hon. Member for Greenock has quoted the evidence already given as to the savings made in the acquisition of land for housing purposes. I believe that a case equally strong could be made in regard to the savings made in 314 respect of land acquired for other purposes, both by the Government and by local authorities.
The right hon. Baronet's Committee is not the only Committee that has dealt with this matter. The right hon. Baronet was looking at this matter specially, I should say, from the point of view of expenditure, and I quite believe that he acted on sound principles in relation to public economy, but this question was investigated very fully by a Committee which was presided over by the hon. and learned Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Sir L. Scott), a Committee which inquired into all matters relating to the acquisition of land, and it was on the Report of that Committee that the Acquisition of Land Act was founded. In the course of the Report of that Committee, there were express statements regarding the value of the Land Valuation Department; not only so, but as to the important results achieved by that Department when the Government was acquiring land during the War. I think the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs could bear witness to that. I have here the speech of the hon. and learned Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool on 28th June, 1922. An hon. Member opposite poured contempt on the opinion of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, because it was given three years ago, but this is only a year ago, and this was the junior Law Officer of the late Government. I do not think the right hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington would desire to say that the opinion which his colleague gave a year ago is no longer a sound opinion because a year has elapsed and because different people now sit on the Treasury Bench.
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Exchange Division said:In order that we may know what the value of land is it is very desirable that the Valuation Department and the Government should be in possession of the necessary information . …How is it to be in possession of the necessary information unless it gets particulars of the transfers of land? There is no other way of doing it. The reason why hon. and right hon. Gentle men opposite want to suppress these particulars is to prevent the Government knowing what is the value of the land.Before I deal with what is necessary by way of information for the Valuation 315 Department I want to say a word upon that Department. I had occasion to make a particular inquiry into the Valuation Department over a series of years. I came to this conclusion—I say it with all deliberation—that the Department to-day contains a very competent staff. . … During the War I had the privilege of acting as Chairman of a Committee appointed by the Prime Minister"—That is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George)—to consider a number of questions relating to the acquisition and valuation of land. It was upon one of the Reports of that Committee that the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919, was based. … But in connection with these subjects of valuation and acquisition we made a close and critical inquiry into the work of the Valuation Department and of the work of the valuers of the Department, to see whether they were competent or not, and the unanimous testimony of the independent experts—we had three or four on my Committee—was that they did their work extremely well. I got similar evidence from several of the Departments, particularly the Admiralty and the War Office, and the result was that we came to a very strong conclusion that they were a very useful Department, and saved the public a good deal of money by the excellence of their valuations and the cheapness with which they were done. The Committee of National Expenditure, presided over by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir. F. Banbury) in their Fifth Report expressed approval of the Valuation Department, and that opinion was concurred in by the Geddes Committee."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th June, 1922; cols. 2145–6, Vol. 155.]Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite said that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham might have made a mistake three years ago, but this is last year. This is not a matter of opinion but a matter of fact. The statement is not that this Department is likely to save money or likely to do good; the statement is that it has saved money. If it has saved money in the past, it is likely to save money in the future, and if it is likely to save more money in the future, that is a reason why it should be maintained! We on this side of the House contend that it is because it is going to save public money in the future that it is going to be scrapped!
§ Mr. D. HERBERT
On a point of 'Order. Are we discussing the valuation of land or the Valuation Department. I 316 thought we were doing nothing of the kind?
§ Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Captain Fitzroy)
The Question before the House is, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. HERBERT
Clause 27, as I understand it, does not by any means do away with the Land Valuation Department, but merely deals with the methods in regard to the registration of particulars of land value.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
For the simple reason that everybody knows that these words were left unrepealed in 1920 for the express purpose of retaining the Department, and because the retention of these words presented the only opportunity for work that the Department could do. I wish to point out that this question has been argued now, also in 1920, 1921 and in 1922, and on every occasion it has been argued on a basis that the repeal of these words would be fatal to the Department. It has been suggested that the Department was inefficient. The right hon. Baronet the Member for South Hammersmith (Sir W. Bull) says that this Department costs £500,000—or perhaps it was £350,000?
§ Sir W. BULL
I did not say anything of the kind. I said it cost between £10,000 and £15,000, which I got from an answer across the Floor of the House. The hon. and learned Gentleman is quite wrong.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
The right hon. Gentleman, I remember, in celebrating his triumph on the Committee stage was led, in the effervescence of the moment, into giving an interview to the Press. That interview appeared in the "Evening News" on the day on which the Committee decided the matter. The right hon. Gentleman was not wanting his laurels to fade, and he was wanting his constituents to know the triumph he had won. He said by "this Amendment I have saved £350,000."
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Well, then, the right hon. Gentleman has been misreported and he has not disavowed it.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Oh! What is the country? We always understood when a man was talking about saving the country's money that he was talking about the public Treasury; that is how Members of Parliament ordinarily speak. Now, apparently, when the right hon. Gentleman speaks about the country he means the owners of land who have to make the returns. Here we see the cloven hoof. [An HON. MEMBER: "You will see the horns in a minute!"] Then we shall know exactly where the right hon. Gentleman stands. We shall know that he regards as principal constituents, whom he is here to represent, the owners of land who have small duties imposed upon them by this Section of the Finance Act of 1910 which he now seeks to repeal. The basis upon which this has been argued in the past, argued by both sides, and also in the Committee stage, is that this meant the end of the Department. If it does not, what does the Government mean? Do the Government mean to continue in spite of all? It is a very important thing. We ought to know once and for all whether they do mean to continue it, and if they intend to do it, is it to perform the statutory duties under the Acquisition of Land Act? If so, is it to be in a position to do it? It is only on the basis of information that the Department can perform these duties. If it does not have these returns it will not have the information, so that the Government are in a difficulty. But, first of all, have they abandoned the contention that this is a vital Department? If they answer that they intend to continue it, and if they intend to continue it, on what scale do they so intend, and secondly, if they intend to continue it, what do they expect it to do and how will it be equipped for doing it? These are the questions which I submit, and I suggest that it is absolutely essential that they should be answered on the present occasion. I regret that I have been led away because of the jeers of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen as to what happened three years ago.
We had a Division last year. I find that the First Commissioner of Works 318 voted against this proposal. Is he going to vote for it to-night? The Minister of Labour voted against this proposal last year. Is he going to vote for it to-night? Yes, and the Patronage Secretary was a teller. Is he going to tell to-night? I find that on that occasion he was accompanied by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. McCurdy). That delightful companionship is broken. There is no doubt where the hon. Member for Northampton will be. I wonder where the Patronage Secretary will be? He is not going to desert the Carlton Club. Then the Home Secretary did the same thing. Where stands the Home Secretary now? Is he going to vote one way this year when he voted another way last year? This is only a year ago. There is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Colonel Gibbs). He is in the Whips' Office. Then what about the Minister of Agriculture? In spite of all his bucolic sympathies he voted against this proposal last year. I wonder where they all are? By far the most delightful speech in the Debate was the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ealing (Sir H. Nield). He tells you the facts. There is no sort of sophistry or subtlety about him. He voted last year as one who saw the end coming.Of course, I am not surprised to see that unity of purpose prevailing between the learned Solicitor-General and the Opposition Bench.That is an allusion to the fact the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Exchange Division (Sir L. Scott) agreed with Sir Donald Maclean—May it continue.A fervent prayer!It is my surest evidence that the time must come when there must be a change here."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th June, 1922; col. 2149, Vol. 155.]So it goes on. It is the cloud no smaller than a man's hand. The hon. and learned Member for Ealing saw it in the distance. We thus have the people who voted the other way last year. Let us have some consistency in the House. Do not let it be said that simply because there is a change in Prime Ministers, because they have got rid of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), that they can now cast their shoe over all his work. Let them show a little more respect for the service which he has rendered, a little more 319 respect would at least be becoming. Do not let them do it in the first year he is out. Let there be a decent interval of mourning, or at least of half mourning!
That is a question in which, both on the ground of public policy and on the ground of public decency and order, hon. Gentlemen opposite should show some self-respect. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was one of the men who insisted upon the Land Valuation Department being used for the purpose of the Land Acquisition Act. Not alone, but with Lord Carson. The hon. Gentleman has always been consistent in the past in the days when he sat on the back benches, either on this or on the other side of the House. He was always consistent. He was always a Die-hard. Let not this business corrupt him! There is also another hon. and gallant Gentleman who efficiently represents the Department of Mines in this House. He was in it. Last year the Minister of Education was another. Are they all going to give votes to-night diametrically opposed to those they gave on 28th June, 1922? That is the question. Yes, and the Prime Minister has been in this, too. I have the report here. They must not force the Prime Minister into such a position, for he is a plain, simple, honest man. He boasts himself of his simplicity that verges upon stupidity—or something like that! Is the country outside to find him voting one way to-night and another way on the 28th June of last year? Could they believe him guilty of such innocence? The whole reputation of this Government will be gone. We all know it has no brains, but let it at least have some morality. Let them vote as they voted before. I appeal to the Financial Secretary on this point because he has a clear record on the whole thing. He was in a position of greater freedom and less responsibility a year ago, and consequently he is able in this case to vote the same way as he did last year. In his impeccable purity let him have mercy on the weaker brethren. Do not force them into these terrible courses of inconsistency. On all these grounds I have much pleasure in seconding this Motion, and I trust right hon. Gentlemen opposite will be able to support it.
§ Sir WILLIAM BULL
I have listened with much interest to the delightful 320 and witty speech which has been made by the hon. Member who has just sat down. Let me state at the outset that I have persistently brought this question to a Division in the House, and on three or four occasions I have warned the Whips of the Government that I intended carrying this matter to a Division, and in every case I have carried it to a Division. This is a matter of principle with me. The other night, when dealing with this question, I had only a very short time to speak as it was near 12 o'clock, and I was addressing a tired House. This is a very complicated question to ask a number of laymen to consider and understand, because it is so very difficult. On that occasion I only gave a few sentences, but I am now going to try and put the whole facts before the House in order that they may arrive at a reasonable conclusion in this matter.
In the first place, I. wish to say that five-sixths of the lawyers in this country are in favour of the abolition of this Section. On this matter, I represent the Law Society, and other hon. Members also speak for the same society. Let me point out that the council of the Law Society have on more than one occasion come to the conclusion that this Section is useless and valueless, and is also a great detriment to the transfer of land. I will explain why that is so. The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) said that I stated that this was saving £500,000 a year, and I will show hon. Members how that is the case. Practically, there are about 500,000 transfers of land every year, and under the present condition of affairs every solicitor for a vendor has to fill up the form, a copy of which I have in my hand. It is a form extending over four foolscap pages, and I will explain to the House what are the particulars required.
In the first place you have to give a description of the instrument presented and the date of the instrument; the situation of the land; the county; parish or place and postal address, if any. You have also to give the identification number in the Valuation Book, if known. Part 3 of the form deals with the name, address, and description of each party, and the various considerations have to be set out in detail. It provides that the capacity in which the parties are concerned should be indicated by describing 321 them as "Vendor, Purchaser, Sub-Purchaser, Lessor, Lessee, Trustee, Mortgagee, etc." In Part 4 ("Consideration") the following particulars have to be fully given:
Part 5 deals with parcels, and the description must be sufficient in conjunction with the plan, if any, to enable the situation and boundaries of the land to be precisely identified, and should include the dimensions, when given in the instrument. In the case of a building plot, either a plan must be submitted, or the measurements from some fixed and readily ascertainable point must be given. Part 6 deals with the plan, and a copy of any plan necessary for the identification of the property should be furnished. Part 7 deals with
- "(a) Any capital payment or payments and to whom paid.
- (b) Is the land transferred free from any mortgage or other debt? If not, state whether the liability for the mortgage or debt passes to the transferee, and the amount of the mortgage or debt.
- (c) Any periodical payment (rent charges, etc.) in the case of the grant or assignment of a lease, see also No. 14.
- (d) Any term surrendered. Any land surrendered or transferred. Covenants to redeem charges or to make any outlay on or in respect of the property whether upon buildings or otherwise, and any other consideration, including reference to any law suit, or dispute, compromise, etc.
- (e) Whether any additional consideration is paid for timber or landlord's fixtures, and, if so, the amount thereof."
There are not many more—[HON. MEMBERS: "Circulate it!"]—and I will read them, because I want the House to fully understand what the filling up of this form really means, and hon. Members will not understand it unless they hear the particulars. Part 8 deals with Exceptions and Reservations. It states that these should be set out particularly where minerals, sporting rights, timber, easements, etc., may be reserved. Part 9 322 deals with covenants by the purchaser or lessee so far as they affect the amount of the consideration for the sale or lease, namely, to build or improve property, or to form, make, maintain or contribute towards cost of roads, should be briefly recited. Part 10 deals with restrictions, and any restriction whatever which may be considered to affect the market value of the interest created or transferred should be set out, including:
- "(a) Short particulars, stating whether the fee simple is passing, or, if not, what interest (e.g., an undivided moiety of a fee simple, etc.) is passing. In the case of the grant or assignment of a lease, the particulars of the lease should be entered on page 4.
- (b) Particulars (including term, rent reserved, and any power of renewal) of any outstanding lease to which the interest passing is subject. (If the lease is a lease for lives the date of birth of the youngest life should be stated."
Under Part 11 additional particulars are dealt with, and
- "(a) Building restrictions.
- (b) Building line, position of.
- (c) Any restrictions as to user of premises (e.g., a covenant to use for only one trade in the case of business premises, or to use as a private dwelling only in a business neighbourhood, or not to convert into a shop without payment of a fine)."a statement should be given of any easements, rights of way or common, public rights in or under the land, quit rents, rentcharges (including apportioned or reapportioned tithe rentcharge), or other incidents of tenure, which (whether specified in the instrument or not) may be considered to affect the market value.Part 12 provides for the names and addresses of the solicitor and the surveyor. Particulars required as to Leaseholds aredate of commencement of term, term granted, any powers of renewal or extension, and any powers to determine. All rents reserved should be stated, also annuities, dower, existing rentcharges, and apportioned rentcharges, peppercorn rents, abated rents or penalties.Information required with regard to other covenants include:
That form has to be signed with the following declaration:—
- "(a) Who pays outgoings.
- (b) Who repairs or maintains property.
- (c) Who insures, and, if disclosed in the instrument, for what amount are premises insured or to be insured?"I (or we) hereby certify that the above statements are true and correct to the best of my (or our) knowledge and belief.I apologise to the House for going so much into detail. I said that there were about 500,000 transfers in the course of a year, and that has not been disputed. Before the War there were about 210,000 transfers in one year, and I think that was 1912, but in 1922 the number was 488,000. I ask hon. Members whether I was exaggerating when I said that it was fair to say that a charge for filling up that form was not immoderate if the solicitor 323 charged one guinea for filling it up. We have evidence in the Law Society that £27 was charged in one case and 20 guineas in another. I have here cases where £1 11s. 6d., £2 2s., £3 3s. and other sums were charged where these particulars had to be obtained for the Valuation Department, and therefore I think I was justified in saying that we were saving the owners of land, and those interested in land, the payment on the average of one guinea for each of these forms, or £500,000 a year. The hon. Member for Penistone got rather mixed in his facts on this point with regard to my statement that this was saving £500,000 a year, and when I read the article which he quoted from the newspaper I did not see anything unfair in my statement. I also pointed out that between £10,000 and £15,000 was the sum paid in salaries in connection with the officials of the Land Valuation Department dealing with these forms. If 500,000 forms are received it takes a large staff to deal with them, and file and card index them, and put them in proper order so that they may be ready for use by other Departments. Why is it that the lawyers of this country are against this form? In the first instance, it is because they do not believe that all this trouble is of any value, because after four or five years have elapsed the information cannot be of any value, and therefore for any Department to rely on the information contained in these forms after the lapse of a number of years is wholly illusory.
Then there is another important point. I am not at all certain whether the State is entitled to have this information. Why should the State be in a better position with regard to this particular matter than any ordinary person? I do not see why it should, especially when it is being done, not at the cost of the State, but at the cost of the unfortunate landlord who is selling his property. The landlord cannot part with his property until he gets the "I.V.D." stamp on his deed, and he is precluded from having the money handed over until he can produce the stamp of the duty with the letters "I.V.D." upon it. I would like to mention another point in this connection. Everybody is anxious to make the transfer of land as easy and cheap as possible. There is this serious point to consider in connection with this matter, 324 that very often great delay occurs by reason of this "I.V.D." form. I have a letter in which the Department in one case apologizes for the delay which occurred, the Law Society having complained of the delays which had taken place. Transactions have been held up for days and even weeks because the Department was so busy that it could not complete the matter. For all these reasons a large body of lawyers in this country came to the conclusion that this form was unnecessary. Originally it was not proposed for this purpose; it had nothing whatever to do with it, but was used for it afterwards. In the first instance it was part of the late Prime Minister's scheme of land valuation, a very big scheme. It was a reasonable form for that purpose, but when the whole scheme of land valuation was swept away we, in the Law Society, came to the conclusion that the form was absolutely unnecessary. Therefore for three or four years I have divided the House against it.
I say the form is wholly needless and ought to be swept away. I have had cases in my own office, I quoted one the other night, in which a lady bought a house in the West End of London. I told her the price asked was absurd, as it was a very short lease, but she insisted on making the purchase against my advice. She died, and when the estate was wound up I put a smaller value on the house. It was pointed out that a much larger sum had been paid for it and that whereas I had valued it at hundreds, thousands had been paid for it. I stood by my own figures, and, shortly afterwards, the house was put up to auction. It certainly realised £200 or £300 more than my valuation, but it did not reach the thousands of pounds which had been given for it. That is the kind of case where the Department might easily be misled by merely reading the form. It has occurred in hundreds of cases that special prices have been given for land. A man may wish to round up his estate by purchasing a small outlying corner belonging to another estate and for sentimental or other reasons he may be willing to give an immensely high price for it. He may consider himself quite justitfied in doing that, but I suggest that this form does not necessarily convey a true idea of the value of the property.
325 I have no complaints against the Valuation Department at all. That was quite a red herring drawn across the path of the House by the hon. Member for Penistone. The Department has carried out its work on the information it has received, and, therefore, it is absurd to say we complain of it as such. I do not think the Department need be abolished; there is other work for it to do. I should be very sorry if the very worthy staff of officials were turned adrift upon the world by any action of mine. We are out for economy, and we shall be economising by taking away these forms. The Department, however, will not necessarily be swept away. Other work can be found for it. The decision the House came to the other night will effect an economy of £15,000 a year so far as the work is concerned, and people who transfer land will also be saved a sum of something like £500,000 a year. The time was when we thought the speculative builder was a person to be condemned. Now we have come to the conclusion he is a benefactor, and ought to be encouraged in every possible way, because if we can only get him busy he will provide work for large numbers of people, including solicitors, surveyors, architects, plumbers and painters and scores of other handicraftsmen, and at the same time we shall be solving the housing problem. I speak very rarely, but I feel very strongly on this matter, and I thank the House for the patient way they have listened to me.
§ The SOLICITOR - GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip)
The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) in his delightful speech—if I may venture so to term it—asked a question which it would appear convenient that someone on behalf of the Government should attempt to answer at the earliest moment. Perhaps before I give that answer I may recall the circumstances under which the decision, which it is sought now to reverse was made by the House. It was after a speech by my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary that hon. Gentlemen opposite thought it wise to challenge and force a Division—I think with the admitted object of compelling hon. Gentlemen on this side If the House, such as the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) to make an unpleasant choice between voting against the Government or against their predilections. That manœuvre, if it were 326 A manœuvre, was defeated by what took place. The hon. Member for Penistone has referred to the unexpected triumph of the Government.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I referred to the unexpected triumph of the Government on the ground that the Government asked their supporters to go into the Lobby.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
I venture to think that what occurred was a triumph—whether it was unexpected or not—of candour and common sense, when the supporters of the Government reached the decision at which they did arrive. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Sir William Bull) has put before the House the real substance of the question which the House has to consider. The entertaining exploration which the hon. Member for Penistone made into the Debates of last year, and of preceding years, had, of course, its use from his point of view. No one is more capable of disinterring the dead bones of debate than the hon. Member for Penistone, but while he is grubbing in the OFFICIAL REPORT we will try to get to the realities of the situation. Section 4 of the Finance Act of 1910, which is now in question, was part and parcel of the legislation with which the name of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is associated in connection with the taxation of land. It was chiefly, of course, in connection with the Increment Value Duty that it was thought desirable that the Land Valuation Department should have the information which my right hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith has retailed to the House. There was a specially devised and somewhat elaborate machinery, with the assistance of rules, which might be made use of for securing that information, but it was a machinery Section purely and solely and it had no other object except to facilitate the collection of the duties imposed under the Finance Act. In 1920, under circumstances which we all know of, a number of these duties were repealed. It was thought by a great many people that when the duties were repealed, the machinery Section for collecting them might have been repealed also, in as much as the principal object of the group of Sections was gone. Perhaps, however, one Section was left in order that we might retain a memory 327 of them. The hon. Member for Penistone, or it may be the hon. Gentleman who introduced this Amendment, asked us whether there was any gratitude left for the great achievements of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. Perhaps it was purely out of gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman that Section 4 was left unamended in order that it might be retained as a monument of his great achievement. Whether or not that was the object of leaving the Section on the Statute Book—in order that the right hon. Gentleman's name might never perish in this connection—I do not know, but what was done in 1920 by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) was certainly not more than to say that the Government had decided to continue the Department in its present form. I have an extract from my right hon. Friend's speech here. He says:I therefore propose to continue that Department (the Land Valuation Department) in its present form. In our view it is essential there should be a thoroughly equipped and skilled State Valuation Department, whose services would be available for the House and the Government.We were asked in somewhat dramatic terms by the hon. Member whether after that declaration of the intentions of the Government, and in view of what occurred the other night, the word of a Minister can ever be trusted. I shall take leave to trust the word of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham even although I do go into the Lobby against the Motion of the hon. Member for Greenock (Sir G. Collins). It seems to me that the statement of the Minister had nothing on earth to do with the question we are here considering. The right hon. Gentleman was Chancellor of the Exchequer in a Government of which the Prime Minister was the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. It was perhaps not altogether surprising that the decision to retain the Department in its present form should have been arrived at. What is the position to day? Surely it is not fair because that, decision was arrived at in 1920 by a Coalition Government and a certain Prime Minister that in 1923 with a different Government, and with possibly the unwisdom of the decision being a little more apparent, a different conclusion should be reached, or that the supporters 328 of the Government should arrive at a different conclusion. It cannot be surely that there is as the hon. Member for Greenock suggested, any question of good faith in this matter at all. We have arrived at a decision to which we propose to adhere after an examination of the circumstances connected with the original enactment and of the events that took place in 1920.
The hon. Member for Penistone asks, "What do you now intend to do with the Government Valuation Department?" I think he was under a singular misapprehension, as the right hon. Member for Hammersmith pointed out, when he spoke about the demolition of the Department. The Department will exist to-day to do the work it is charged to do as it existed yesterday before the Vote was taken. Its duties are to make valuations in connection with the Death Duties, in connection with purchase and sale or leasing of land by Government Departments, to make valuations in connection with the payment of compensation under the Licensing Laws, and to make valuations for other purposes. The Department will have precisely the same duties to perform, and they will have precisely the same obligation to inform themselves about the real value of the land as they had before, and they will have precisely the same channels open to them for discovering facts as to the value of land as other valuers have. [HON. MEMBER "Ah!"] They will be able to obtain from these professional gentlemen, with whom they are in perfectly cordial relations, the facts relating to the value of property, so that they will be up-to-date on every occasion on which their opinion is required. What is the value of a figure which is recorded in the books of the Valuation Department, and which possibly has become absolutely obsolete in consequence of the alteration of land values or an alteration in the value of money? These dead records are mere waste paper unless they can be checked or confirmed by living, up-to-date figures, which, in any case, the Department must be charged to obtain. Under the law as it will be if this Clause remains in the Bill, the Land Valuation Department will be charged to obtain the same information as every other valuer obtains. Nobody will tell me, with any chance of convincing me, that the valuers, who are engaged in transferring property every 329 day, in hearing the evidence of other people, and reading what happens about the change of values, are not better able to find out the real value of property from their experience than by burying their noses in stale and dusty records of probably long-forgotten transactions. That is the reality of the situation. The question to-day is, whether we shall maintain the Section which the House repealed the other day by a free vote? When we are faced with that question, we ask ourselves, for what purpose shall we retain it? I hope I have done something, at any rate, to answer the question as to what the duties of the Department will be, what the sources of its information in future will be. If that be so, the only question remaining is that to which I referred just now—namely, whether we can, with loyalty to those who led us in 1920, take that course. I say that we can with perfect loyalty, not only to them but to our own convictions and opinions. There is a time for everything. There isA time to break down and a time to build up.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
The only difference between ourselves and hon. Members opposite is that they are always looking backward while we are looking forward. Some hon. Members opposite, and especially those associated with the hon. and learned Member for Penistone, are persuaded that it is only they who are looking forward. What, then, is the meaning of all that diving into the OFFICIAL REPORT to discover opinions expressed three or four years ago? [HON. MEMBERS: "Last year!"] We are concerned with considering what the situation of the moment requires, with money that should be saved to the taxpayer and the citizen, and it is because we believe that the objects aimed at by Section 4 of the Act of 1909 can be achieved at less cost and with the same efficiency that we propose to adhere to the decision at which the House arrived a week ago.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The learned Solicitor-General has set up a very remarkable defence for the action of the Government. He defended the inconsistency of those who voted last year against the repeal of the section in the Finance Act by saying that there is a time for building up and a time for pulling down. The time for building up, clearly in his 330 judgment, was the time when the late Government was in power, and the time for pulling down is the time when there is a Conservative. Government in power. It is an extraordinary definition of the policy of a Conservative Government. I agree with him in one thing, namely, that the fact that a vote has been recorded in favour of a particular proposition a year or two ago is not conclusive if there is fresh light cast on the subject by subsequent events. I should like to know the new facts. If there are any, they have not been revealed by the learned Solicitor-General. He did not attempt to defend the action of the Government. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) did make a case which, from a solicitor's point of view, I can well understand. I daresay the guinea fee is inadequate to the worry and trouble of preparing this particular document, and I can understand him not wanting to be bothered with it, especially if he knows that at some time or another he may have to prepare his estate account in respect of the same property. It is a little embarrassing to have a document of this kind registered in a Government Department. The learned Solicitor-General never put up any defence at all. I was glad to hear from him that there is no proposal to abolish the Valuation Department, that that remains. That is a very valuable admission on the part of the Government.
Before I come to the actual proposition before the House, I should like to say one word with regard to what has fallen in the Debate from both sides of the House. The Valuation Department was set up in 1910.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I am sorry to interrupt, but I think I should recall to the right hon. Gentleman's mind that the Valuation Department was set up a year before 1910. It was only expanded in 1910, a very material point.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I accept the correction, but it is immaterial to my point. I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for reminding me, but it makes no difference to the purpose of my argument. There was a valuation of the whole of the real property in this Kingdom. There were 7,750,000 tenements valued. It is the first valuation of the land of this Kingdom which has been set 331 up for centuries. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), who helped me to carry this Measure through, reminds me, it is the first since Doomsday, an invaluable effort. I have heard the right hon. Gentleman himself say in this House that he had nothing to say against the qualifications of the men who valued that property. They were about as able men as could be gathered together. Lord Chalmers was responsible for their selection, and therefore I am free to say that I think his choice was one which does great credit to his judgment. I have never heard in the course of the many Debates in this House any challenge of the efficiency of that Department. There is no Department which has been attacked in the way that Department has been attacked in respect to the principle that underlies it, but never has there been a single word of criticism of the qualifications of the men engaged, the efficiency of their work, nor of the fact that their valuation in accordance with the principles laid down was fair and just. That valuation stands.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
That valuation stands. It is there: it is on record. Then came the question of keeping it up to date. One method of doing that was by means of valuation for taxes. As I have never had an opportunity in this House, perhaps hon. Members will allow me to say one word about that. The taxes were disappointing. I say so at once. The reason was a perfectly obvious one. Qualifications were introduced before the taxes were ever introduced in this House, which I regretted very much. But, after all, a matter of that kind is always a question of compromise. The taxes were new in their character, they were very bold in their original conception, and it was difficult to get the scheme in its original purity introduced in the House of Commons. [Laughter.] I think the time will come probably when it will be done. When we came to the House we had to encounter, I think, the most strenuous and pertinacious opposition to which any taxes were ever subjected. The criticism was not confined to the Conservative side of the House, I say at once. There was a very formidable body of criticism on our own side, and that is always more difficult to deal with, because 332 it means criticism, not only in the House, but you encounter it in the Division Lobby and by other means. The result was that all sorts of qualifications, exceptions and extensions were introduced so that at the end there was no doubt at all that from the point of view of profit the taxes were hardly worth preserving. They were only valuable for the purpose of justifying a valuation, and for that purpose they were admirably conceived because if the valuation was too high the half-penny caught them, and if the valuation was too low the increment tax caught them; so that between one and the other we had a perfectly honest valuation. I have never heard the integrity or honesty of that valuation challenged in this House in any Debate, but I agree with my right hon. Friend who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer that, from the point of view of revenue, it was not worth while keeping the taxes going; but he agreed, and so did every Member of that Government—and there are many of them sitting there—that it was worth while keeping up the other machinery which created a body of evidence that could be valuable in future with regard to the property of this country.
My right hon. Friend the Member for South Hammersmith (Sir W. Bull) said there were 500,000 transactions a year. That is a strong case for not repealing that particular Section. Five hundred thousand per annum. There are 7,750,000 tenements. It does not really mean that in 15 years all the property of this Kingdom is transferred, but it means something pretty near it. So you have not the stale records referred to by the learned Solicitor-General—you might have thought he was referring to the days of Queen Anne—these are fresh transactions occurring from year to year, bringing the valuation up to date, with a record of the money that has passed in respect of these properties. What is the value of property? The value of property is the price you would get for it, and what better test of the value of property can you get than the money that has actually passed in respect of it? My right hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith said, and it is perfectly true, that sometimes a man or a woman may give a fancy price for a property, but that is no proof of its real value. These valuers, however, are quite capable of discriminating between what is a fancy price and 333 what is a real value, and I am perfectly certain that my hon. Friend had no difficulty. There is a gap in his story. He said he had to persuade the Death Duties Department that the thousands of pounds which had been paid for the property did not represent the real value. I am sure it did not. At any rate, I take his silence—
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I do not see why he should complain about that. I have no doubt at all that there would be no difficulty if a solicitor said, "This is a fancy price that was paid in respect of this property. It does not represent its real value in the least. This lady took a fancy to it, and she was prepared to pay thousands for it" The valuer will go there, and my hon. Friend knows that these valuers are men of experience. They do not put extravagant valuations upon property, and that is why the valuations are so valuable when you come to buy property for the public. They put on the real value. I remember perfectly well when that valuation was being made. I remember going round with the valuers, and on one occasion, when the valuer came to a part of the country that I knew well, I said to him, "Would you mind valuing this property?" He said, "The first thing you have to get into your mind is that the money which has been spent upon it is not in the least any indication of its real value." I told him all the money that had been spent upon it. They then proceeded to value it, and their value was absolutely accurate; I had the test of it later. Therefore, these valuations are useful, but these transactions which are recorded from year to year are helpful to the valuers.
My hon. Friend read a document, which he said covered three or four pages of foolscap, and he said, "How can an ordinary layman answer that?" I listened very carefully to that document, and it is a much simpler document than an Income Tax return. I defy any ordinary layman to answer fully all the questions that are put there. It is even a simpler document than the document which is prepared for Death Duties. I do not know how many of those are filled in in the course of a year. I also noticed that the great majority of the questions 334 put had no reference to the ordinary transactions that take place. They are supposed to cover every sale of property. Let me take one or two of the cases that my hon. Friend quoted. There were questions with regard to public rights of way and with regard to mining royalties; but to the vast majority of the 500,000 cases to which he referred these questions would have no reference at all, and an ordinary clerk, going through this document, would say, "There is no right of way here, because it is a house in a street; and there is no mining royalty here, because it is not in a mining neighbourhood." Then there were questions with regard to leases. My hon. Friend has read out questions which refer to every kind of transaction as if they were questions which had to be answered in respect of each transaction. That is not so. It would be as easy as possible to answer these questions, and I never heard very much complaint with regard to them; but they contain information which is of very great value. Take the particular questions with regard to rights of way. If these questions with regard to rights of way had been answered for the last 100 years, it would make a very great difference to the public in many cases; and the same thing applies to other easements with regard to property.
There is no doubt at all that the public has been deprived, by getting rid of this Section, of something to which it is entitled. There is no country in the world that I know of which has not got information of this kind. In France there is a full register of all transactions, for the purpose of assessing the taxes, among other things. There is a full, complete, exhaustive record of every transaction. There is no Dominion in which there is not a complete register, and I believe there is such a register also in Germany, Denmark, Belgium and the United States of America. This will be the only country that will deprive itself of information which, in every other country in the world, is regarded as essential, and there is no doubt at all about the reason why. One of the ways in which the valuation added to the revenue was not by the direct method of increment taxes and the halfpenny duty but was by giving a really true record of the value of property for death duties. That has saved millions of money to this country. It is a great mistake that people make to imagine 335 that, when they evade taxes, they reduce taxation. The only thing that they do is to pass the taxes on to other people. The taxation is the same; the burden of expenditure is the same; and when an Income Tax payer manages, by some skill or other, to elude payment of the amount which he really ought to pay, he passes it on to another man who has not taken the trouble to manipulate his accounts, or who is too straightforward to do so. The same thing applies to Death Duties. If property owners manage somehow to elude payment of the full amount, owing to the fact that the State has not got a real, honest valuation, it only means that someone else has to make up the deficiency, and it generally falls upon the shoulders of the same class of people.
I was rather surprised at the way in which the Government have got rid of this Section. I hesitate to say how it looked in the papers the following morning. The Government said they could not accept the Amendment. My right hon. Friend said he had been in favour of it—he was quite straight-forward about it, as he always is—but that, in the position in which he was, he could not accept it, and he gave another very good reason, I think a most admirable, practical reason. He said, "This is a subject of inquiry by a Treasury Committee at the present moment. I cannot undertake that that Committee will report before the Report stage of the Bill is over, and, therefore, I cannot give an answer for this year." After that, purely because a few inexperienced Members—and we have all been inexperienced, we have all been new Members at one time, though it is a long time ago since I was a new Member—I have no doubt at all that it was a mistake, and that they probably did not quite understand the Bill; who does within the first few months after he has been in the House of Commons? [HON. MEMBERS: "Pringle!"] I should like, if I may, to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) upon his brilliant and weighty speech. I am told that he was not here when the objection was raised. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] He told me so, and I am sure he would not mislead me. At any rate, here is a challenge which is taken up, and the Government, having deliberately decided that it was a question that ought 336 to be put off, because a Treasury Committee was sitting, afterwards take advantage of a challenge of that kind. I do not think there are many precedents for such action.
After it had been deliberately rejected upon several previous occasions by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who are Members of this Government, by the most responsible Members of the Government, I think that those of us who were not present were, at any rate, entitled to believe that the Government were going to take the same course as they had previously taken, especially after what they had said in the course of the discussion. I ask them whether it would not be better, until this Treasury Committee reports, until we can see what bearing this valuable information has upon valuations, at any rate to keep it going for another year? That was the original decision of the Government. Is it too much to ask them to stand by the decision to which they deliberately came, and to which they came for a good reason? If that Committee reports that this information is of no value for valuation purposes, that is not in the least helpful, they will be able to deal with it in their next Budget, but meanwhile I earnestly appeal to them not to destroy the value of a register which I have no doubt at all, whatever course they may take with regard to taxation in the future, whether in the case of Imperial taxation or of local taxation, they will find invaluable. The question of local taxation has not yet been dealt with. Every one knows that it has got to be dealt with by some Government some day. I do not believe the present Government will be able to go very much further without facing it. It is quite clear that you cannot put the whole burden of local taxation upon the very narrow basis of the present method of taxation. It is quite impossible. It is being dealt with now piecemeal. Until the Government make up their minds whether it is to be on a capital basis or upon an annual basis—and that is one of the questions they will have to face—I do ask them not to deprive themselves of a register which will be of the greatest possible importance to them when they come to settle that very great problem.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I occupy rather a peculiar position in this matter. It has become my fate to hear 337 quotations from my own speeches bandied across the Floor of the House, in the endeavour of hon. Gentlemen to attack or defend the Government. But my position is peculiar in more than that, for it would seem that I am one of the small band who, whatever view we took upon this subject last year, propose to take the same view on the present occasion. Let me say at once that I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General that it would be perfectly absurd to attempt to treat an observation of mine, I think three years ago, as a pledge binding upon the Government or the House of Commons, or upon myself. Anyone who heard the words will know that that was not a Parliamentary pledge at all, but an expression of the policy of the Government as it stood at that time, which that Government would have been free to change if it had thought fit and if it could have shown sufficient reason for changing it. I go a little further with my hon. and learned Friend. I deprecate with him the habit of raking up the OFFICIAL REPORT. I hope we shall get rid, and quickly, of any idea that consistency in these matters is a virtue, for, otherwise, the position of the new Chancellor of the Exchequer when he joins us will be too disagreeable. Let us get over these reproaches before he comes among us again.
Now I come to the merits of the actual proposal. I think they are a little obscured by the fears certainly entertained in large measure among my hon. Friends, by the hopes cherished on the benches there, and even by the fond regrets of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) for the taxes of which he was the author. The merits of the Valuation Department and of the returns made to it now really have nothing to do with those taxes and the less those taxes are considered in connection with this matter the better chance my right hon. Friend will have of persuading the House to give a calm and dispassionate consideration to the issue actually before us. My right hon. Friend, in the course of the passage of his Budget, at one time included in the Bill no fewer than 13 different valuations. They were reduced to three or four on the Report stage, if my memory serves me right. Many of them were swept away and they were reduced to a limited number. What was the dis- 338 advantage of those valuations? They were made by a very able set of valuers acting with complete honesty and with great acumen, but every value these people were required to find was a value unknown to any transaction between human beings. It was a value which had never been the subject of purchase and sale, which had never changed hands. It was a philosophical abstraction which did immense credit to the ingenuity of my right hon. Friend, but which had no relation to the every day affairs of life. Those values were useless. But what are the values with which we are dealing here? They are the records of actual transactions between citizen and citizen, where the free play of the market settles the price. Is it of no value to the Government to have a record of such transactions? No doubt as years pass the relevance of the evidence afforded by the older records to the values of to-day becomes steadily less. No doubt it is true that transactions a few months or a year ago may be no guide to the present value of a property, but when you find that the return to-day differs markedly from the price given for the property the year before you are put on inquiry. You have not conclusive proof that there is anything wrong, as in the case my right hon. Friend cited with which he had to deal. The proof is produced that the first value was a purely artificial value—the price of a lady's whim and not the price of a house. But is it not right that you should be put on inquiry as to a case of that kind?
But it is not only in regard to the revenue that this information is of value if properly and fairly used. I beg my hon. Friends on this side of the House, who have to defend property against a very able and very dangerous and increasingly active attack, not to shelter misdeeds which bring property into contempt. There is nothing, I think, that has done more to injure the rights of property owners than the notorious difference between the prices which have been charged for property as between a willing seller and a willing buyer, and the prices asked for the same property if it is known that a public department or a local authority needs it. I think in the majority of cases the owner of the property is probably perfectly innocent in the transaction. He takes advice. The advice given him by those whom he would 339 naturally consult—by the valuer or by his lawyer—will at once be coloured if they know that a public authority is trying to purchase. We ought to have, for the protection of the State, all the information we can get as to the real value of property, and this important information has saved the country thousands, hundreds of thousands—I am not sure I might not put it higher than that—of pounds in the large transactions that took place in consequence of the War in the purchase and sale of land. The Valuation Department was being increasingly used, and, I think, properly used, not only by the different Departments of Government when they had to do with property, either in acquiring or in selling it, but by local authorities, who found that the Valuation Department had a wider experience and a greater knowledge than was possessed by themselves, and could often save them from making great mistakes involving a great loss of public money.
I think I know what is in the minds of hon. Members of the Opposition above the Gangway. They think some day upon these valuations they are going to found a system of taxation of a predatory kind. I think I know what is the fear of many of my hon. Friends on these benches. It is that this knowledge in the hands of the Government will make that task easy. When we have to fight that fight, we are not going to win or to be beaten because of the collection of such knowledge as is involved in this case. We shall win or lose on a much bigger issue. And though these Returns, if continued, would no doubt lighten the task of any Government which wanted to make a valuation, the mere fact that you have not got any of these retards will not make it much more difficult to obtain that valuation whenever it is required, though it may deprive you of seine evidence which it would be in the interests of all of us to have. I think it must have been the fate of the Prime Minister to join with me in the defence of this Clause in earlier years. I make no sort of reproach against him if he changes his mind, but I would beg that he will take a little more time to consider. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has said, we took this Division by a mere accident, by 340 the action of certain hon. Members who, when my right hon. Friend who moved the Amendment and my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Captain Pretyman) were ready to withdraw and to give the Government another year for consideration, which the Financial Secretary to the Treasury had asked, challenged a Division and insisted on a Division. It is they who have killed the Section and put my right hon. Friend in a very difficult position if he wishes to retain it. But I appeal to him, and I appeal to Members of the party ranged in his support, not to be driven into doing a thing because of the folly of hon. Members opposite at 12 o'clock the other night. Let us have the time for consideration for which the Financial Secretary pleaded. Let us have the report of the Committee on Valuation, which I think I heard my right hon. Friend say would shortly be issued. Then we shall judge this question in a calm atmosphere on its merits, knowing exactly what the information is worth and not attaching to it on the one hand hopes which it will not sustain, and not being alarmed about it on the other by fears which are unsubstantial. I hope I may appeal to my right hon. Friend to leave the law as it was before this Clause was introduced for another year and to take time to make up his own mind and that of the Government as to the course they will pursue.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I shall not trespass for more than a very few moments on the attention of the House, for almost all I had intended to say has been said by my right hon. Friend who has just sat down. It is not often that we find ourselves in such complete agreement. The situation in my experience is a unique one. The Solicitor-General has talked as if this Clause was part of the Budget introduced by the Government. He defended it root and branch. We know perfectly well it was not only not part of the Budget, but when it was proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hammersmith (Sir W. Bull), the Financial Secretary opposed it, not on its merits, but opposed it as being inopportune, particularly in view of pending inquiries, and but for one of those Parliamentary accidents which sometimes occur it would have been withdrawn and we should have heard no more of it 341 Therefore, the question now before the House is whether we are going to insist, as part of the Finance Bill of the year, upon a provision which the Government never dreamt of introducing themselves, and which, three years ago, when the Land Taxes themselves were repealed, the right hon. Gentleman on behalf of the Government declared to be in the highest degree inopportune.
I listened with a great deal of satisfaction to most, if not the whole of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). He and I assisted at the birth of these taxes, and we waged a strenuous fight. We picked a quarrel with the House of Lords, or they picked a quarrel with us. We dissolved Parliament. The country was in a condition of turmoil and excitement for the best part of two years, and it was only after, I think, two General Elections that we succeeded in carrying the taxes and placing them on the Statute Book. I think they never had a fair chance. As my right hon. Friend has pointed out, in their original form they were bold in conception and I still believe would have been fruitful in results. The House of Commons in those days, when we had a considerable majority, modified and restricted the application of these taxes to such an extent that their productive value, even when the Act was passed, had been seriously impaired. I must add, that the Courts of Law came in, and they mangled and mutilated—no doubt in strict accordance with the principles of jurisprudence—what were, I think, the obvious intentions of Parliament. I might say of the passing of those duties, as Gratton said of the old Irish Parliament,I watched by their cradle, and I followed their hearse.My right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was not the chief mourner, to which position his parental responsibility thoroughly entitled him. I and a select, and in those days a dwindling, band, although we were disappointed with the fruits of the taxes desired that the taxes should still remain upon the Statute Book in order that in days to come, emancipated from the fetters which had been imposed upon them, they might fulfil the original intentions of their parents. We were faithful to the last, and we assisted in the funeral obsequies.
342 This valuation—reduced as my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham has just said, to thoroughly practical limits, by practical men, the limits which were imposed by the actual experience of business transactions—remained. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham has already expressed his views on the matter, and I cannot express my own views better than to quote the words which he used, and which he has in substance repeated to-night, in 1920 when the taxes disappeared:What is there, for the purpose the hon. Member has in mind, in the Act of 1909–10? It is the obligation that wherever the sale of land or the transfer of interest in land, takes place, the particulars of it shall be made known to the Valuation Department, and recorded at Somerset House. That is the part of the Act which has been invaluable in assessing public authorities. Those are the provisions which have led to the saving in the purchase of land, in the price paid, as described by the Minister of Health in the answer given to a question, to which reference has been made. Those are the particulars which we still propose to require to have supplied to the Valuation Department."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th July, 1920; col. 2435, Vol. 131.]What does the Solicitor-General mean in the observation that these are dusty, musty, out-of-date transactions? These are the things that are going on day by day and year by year, and which afford, or ought to afford, as they were intended to afford, through the Valuation Department to the taxing authorities, real authentic information as to what the course of the market was in a variety of transactions. That is a far better index than the speculative assessment of professional valuers, although I do not wish to disparage them. The right hon. Member for Hammersmith (Sir W. Bull) produced a formidable indictment, but really I think he had his tongue in his cheek. As the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has said, look at your Income Tax, look at your Death Duties. They bring in revenue, and so this was intended to bring something in. Indeed, as the right hon. Member for West Birmingham has said, it has brought in hundreds of thousands, and even millions, of pounds.
The vast number of queries and suggestions and requirements as to information which the Return demands are totally irrelevant in the ordinary transactions of life. In the purchase or 343 sale of a house, you do not go into the question of mineral rights, or rights of way, or the hundred or so other possible things which are swept into the net if you leave it as wide as you can, and which do not occur in everyday transactions. Why are you going to give this up? It is not a question of abolishing the Valuation Department. That would be a much wider and much more serious matter. This is a practical thing which has been in force for years. It has produced, as the right hon. Member for West Birmingham said—and we cannot have a higher authority, after all his large administrative experience—hundreds of thousands and millions of pounds. It was no part of the Budget of this year. The Clause we are now considering, and which we are asked to delete, is the haphazard product of a transient Parliamentary situation. Investigation, as the Financial Secretary told us, is going on at this moment in the Treasury and other Departments in regard to the matter, and I do add my appeal and I make it as strong as possible, to the appeal which has already been addressed to the Prime Minister by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, not to persist in this accidental addition, this excrescence, to his Budget, but to allow the matter to remain over for more deliberate consideration.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
Several references have been made to me and to the protest I made when the matter came before the House 10 days ago. On that occasion I told the House, as the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) have been good enough to say that I was not worried by previous votes on this matter, because I have been opposed to the continuation of these particular forms. I told the House so 10 days ago, but as I had only recently taken over my present office I told the House that I did not think, holding the strong views I did, that I ought to take advantage of it to press this Clause through. I then said that there was a Committee sitting at the Treasury, dealing, not with this particular Clause, but with the continuation of the Land Valuation Department. The House probably knows that a Report was made by a Committee presided over 344 by Sir Howard Frank, a few weeks ago, which has been referred to a Committee of the Treasury to go into, as to a continuation of the Land Valuation Department with a view to amalgamating all the land transactions of the Government Department under one head, of which the Land Valuation Department would naturally form an important part. I suggested that I would refer this particular Clause to that Committee. The Clause has, however, not been referred to that Committee, because the House took a different decision, and relieved me of the obligation of the offer I had made on behalf of the Government. The Mover and Seconder of the Amendment very courteously acceded to my request, and were prepared to withdraw the Clause, but in a free vote the House came to the conclusion that it was not desirable to continue this particular Section of the Finance Act, 1910.
I want the House to realise that we are not in any sense, if this Clause remains in the Finance Bill of this year, destroying the Land Valuation Department, or even destroying its utility. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs paid the strongest testimony to the first valuation of 1910, which was made as soon as the Finance Act, 1909–10, was passed. He spoke of the great value of that valuation, and of the ability of the valuers who made it. I want the House to realise that that valuation was made without having any one of these returns. It was made by the right hon. Gentleman's land valuers from the knowledge they had, and the knowledge which all land valuers do have if they are worth their salt when they are making a valuation. I have made the very fullest inquiry in my Department as to what the effect will be on that Department if this Clause remains in the Bill. The Land Valuation Department, presided over by a gentleman who is very well-known to my right hon. Friend, would prefer to have the original Section. They would prefer to receive from time to time this information which is not in the possession of any other valuer in the country, and to that extent in transactions with the Government loads the dice against the subjects of the King. That may be desirable or it may not, but it is true. I have made very full inquiries of my Department, and they are prepared to carry on the Department 345 efficiently without the possession of this Section. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has told us of their great ability. They are men skilled in valuation, and nobody need think that the valuations made on behalf of the Government will really suffer if this Section is not admitted in the Finance Bill.
I have made further inquiries. I have gone more fully into the reasons for the inclusion of this Section in the Bill of 1909. I am not going to quote speeches with any idea of accusing right hon. Members of inconsistency, but I have gone back to 1909 to find out really what was the reason for this particular Section. There is some very interesting reading to be found in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs set great value by this Section as a piece of machinery in 1909, and the then Solicitor-General, our late friend Sir Samuel Evans, in speaking of this very Section, said:The Committee had already decided that an increment duty should be put upon income. The provisions of the Section which the hon. Member moved to omit are merely provisions for carrying out the machinery here set forth. If increment value duty has to be paid by the person receiving the increment, some machinery is necessary, and the machinery is here provided.I have refreshed my memory by that Debate since the Debate took place 10 days ago. This particular Section is the real essential machinery for the preservation of the Land Taxes. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, in speaking on the subject in 1909, complained of the attack which had been made upon the Section. He said:I think the right hon. Gentleman has introduced very unnecessary heat into the discussion of a practical proposal submitted by my hon. Friend to the House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th July, 1909; col. 2156, Vol. 7.]8.0 P.M.
The right hon. Member for open Valley (Sir J. Simon), who took a leading part in those Debates, spoke very strongly in favour of this Section. He said:When you are devising a system of taxation … you are entitled to have a machinery which makes it certain that those persons who have to pay do pay."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th July, 1909; col. 2163, Vol. 7.]
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am delighted to get those cheers, because now I find out what is the real reason for this. It was not wanted in order to enable the average valuer to deal with Estate Duties; it was put into the Act of 1909 in order to enable these Increment Value Duties to be worked. That was the reason. Everybody who really goes into this matter fully; and I am going to quote before I have finished—
§ Mr. ASQUITH
The right hon Gentleman spoke of "the right hon. Member for Spen Valley." The Member for Spen Valley then is not the Member for Spen Valley now. It was Sir Thomas Whittaker, then.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I was speaking of the Gentleman who at that time was called Mr. Simon. I was dealing with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Member for Spen Valley I want the House to realise a little more clearly, before they go to a Division on this matter, a little more clearly what the present position of the Opposition is with regard to this Section. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs did say something once about its origin, but the right hon. Member for Paisley shed a tear over the lost duties. I think he would still desire to reimpose those duties; the answer to the question as to whether he desires to do so or not is perfectly clear from the Debates in this House. The hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. A. McLaren) who—he will forgive me for saying so—really caused a good deal of feeling the other night. He laid it down very clearly He said, it is perfectly clear.We on these benches will not allow an irreligious touch upon the valuation of land at Somerset House. Although the valuation is not up to date it can be brought up to date within six months, if power is given to the Department. We look upon the valuation at Somerset House of the value of land in this country as the Doomsday Book which we shall use when we come into power … . some sort of easy attack may be made that will cut the ground from under the Valuation Department, and that we will not tolerate for a moment, because the valuation has cost the country far too much.The hon. Member summed up the valuationAs something which we, on this side, shall watch with great care."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th June, 1923; cols. 1369–70. Vol. 165.]347 It is not only the hon. Member for Burslem. The right hon. Member for Paisley has just made a speech to this House—if I may say so, it was a very reasonable speech, a speech in the most reasonable manner—asking that this Section should be continued, but saying nothing of what he said a few months ago as to the real reason for this Section.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
From the point of view of the hon. Member, it was equally reasonable. If it were merely a question of giving the valuers information which they cannot otherwise get, I should have great difficulty in voting for the retention of this Amendment. If, on the other hand, there lies behind the plea for the retention of this Section, something more than the information which the valuers may need, then I find much more difficulty. The right hon. Member for Pailsley said, as late as 1st June of this year—he is reported in the "Yorkshire Post"—
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
The right hon. Gentleman did not say it here to-night. Let us see what his real reason is. He said:There lies at the root of all the reform mentioned the question of the taxation of land. It has been found in the Undeveloped Land Duty—which has since disappeared from the Statute Book. One of its main purposes was to insure a complete capital valuation of land of the country. The tax has gone! The valuation remains, and I am told that there would be little difficulty in completing it and bringing it up-to-date.The right hon. Gentleman goes a little further, and says:I am particularly glad"—and this relates to the actual Clause we are discussing to-night—to think that they, the Valuation Department, will continue to keep a record of sales and other transactions"—Why? In order to give valuers information they could not get otherwise? No. This is what he said:—"so that, when the resurrection of the duties takes place, as I am sure it will, we shill find it in existence still in active working."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th April, 1920; cols. 259, 260, Vol. 128].
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
That is the real reason. It is out at last! I wondered if anyone on the other side of the House was really going to cheer this evening. Now we have got the cheers. We know what they mean. They are not, as the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs says, in order that valuers may have a little more information than they otherwise would have had. They may be useful for that reason, but, as the right hon. Member for Paisley said, quite frankly, when he, or some of his colleagues—be it the Opposition above or below the Gangway—come into power, and they can really get to work on these land values, that they may find that the Department keeps those returns in existence in order that they may reimpose the duties.
I feel myself clearly absolved from the suggestions I made here 10 days ago. I had not then read the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I am delighted to have found that speech. I am not at all sure that the House has read it. I very gravely doubt if the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has read it. I for one, say that I feel entirely absolved from any suggestion I made here 10 days ago, and if hon. Members of the Conservative party feel as I feel, that this valuation, these returns, were made for other purposes than those which the right hon. Gentleman for Carnarvon Boroughs, and my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain), thought they were solely made for—I am perfectly certain my right hon. Friend would never subscribe to the speech of the right hon. Member for Paisley—
§ Mr. A. CHAMBERLAIN
If my right hon. Friend will permit me to say so, I certainly should not. The right hon. Gentleman was attacking me when I was speaking the mind of most of my right hon. Friend's present colleagues.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
Then the right hon. Gentleman does not agree with the right hon. Member for Paisley. I think there are many Members on this side of the House, having now heard, from an official source, the real views of the Opposition in regard to these Sections who will be prepared to say it is desirable it should remain on the Statute Book.
Mr. J. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I must confess to a feeling of profound amazement at the line taken by the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House. He is put in charge of a Budget, which is amended by accident, by a mistake, against his advice. When this Bill was in Committee, owing to circumstances of which hon. Members who were present during the Committee stage are perfectly well aware, an Amendment was carried because the Government refrained from putting on their Whips, as everyone on this side expected them to do, and as the right hon. Gentleman himself gave us to understand they would do, in the speech which he delivered in resisting the Amendment. What happened? The right hon. Gentleman knows quite well that we were approaching the hour of 12, if, indeed, at the time, we had not gone beyond it. Hon. Members opposite had moved a whole series of new Clauses, one after another, and as Clause after Clause came up for consideration it was withdrawn. Hon. Members behind me got irritated by the constant withdrawal of the Clauses which had been moved, and when this Amendment was moved, one or two hon. Members on both sides of the Gangway—not on one side of the Gangway; not, as the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said, only new and inexperienced Members—
It was very mixed. It was more for a joke than for anything else—declined to allow this Clause to be withdrawn. Very much to our surprise, the Government decided that they would not put on their Whips. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well we were working on an agreement. Does he mean to tell me that we should have agreed to have given him the Committee stage of his Bill, as we did give it to him, had we known that the Government were not going to keep the Bill as it was? I can assure him of this, that if I hard known that this Clause, which has now become Clause 27, was going to be added to the Bill, after a perfunctory Debate, without any consideration, and that in a moment of panic, the Govern- 350 ment were not to put their Whips on and protect the Bill as it was against this Amendment—does he mean to tell me, for a single moment, that I should have agreed to the bargain that we were so loyally carrying out? Certainly not.
What is the position to-day? I never for a moment believed that the Government would not have gone back upon this. In fact, so certain was I that the present Clause would not have been kept in by them, that I immediately got into communication with right hon. and hon. Members opposite, through the usual channels, to arrange how the thing was to be rectified.
Not having got this tactical position by declining to put the Whips on at the end of the Committee stage, which was only got from us by the assumption that all Amendments were to be resisted except those we agreed to during the last 10 days they have been searching the OFFICIAL REPORT during the last day or two they have been reading speeches, and they discover now that this Section, which is repealed by Clause 27, has been kept in our Finance Acts, not for the purpose of any utility, not for the purpose of taking public guarantees against landowners, not for the purpose of taking the necessary particulars for death duties, but they now discovered a thing of which they were absolutely innocent. My right hon. Friend, this keen critic of this Clause, this consistent opponent of this reform, has been living in a state of virgin innocence. He never understood before that there was any support in the country for the taxation of land values. It never crossed his unsophisticated mind that, if a Government came in that did believe in taxing land values, that valuation would be used as a basis and aid for the imposition of those duties. Now, having taken advantage of his tactical position within the last few days, he says, "We have discovered all those wonderful and important things, and therefore I am going to vote in favour of Clause 27."
I hope sincerely that this sort of thing is not going to continue. The position is a simple one. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain) has made a statement about the utility of the law as it stands which no official of this House dare deny. The figures are there. These returns are not 351 dusty pieces of paper. They keep the Valuation Department in touch with the day to day and week to week transactions in the sale and purchase of land. The result is that when the Death Duties Returns are put in, the Department has got actual transactions in the sale of land and of houses, and the authorities who are dealing with those death duty valuations are enabled to check the value of those estates. The result is printed in every Report from the Department regarding what happens under death duty valuations. I have had extracted for my information what happened from 1911 to 1921, year by year. We find, for instance, that in 1911 the valuations brought in by the accounting parties amounted to over £44,000,000. Those same valuations, as checked and settled and certified by the Department with its knowledge in this dusty collection of paper, was not £44,000,000, but was increased to over £47,600,000. So on year by year the difference of the certified accepted valuation, as the result of the working of the Land Valuation Department, and the information at their disposal from 1911 to 1921, amounted to about £3,500,000 one year, £4,000,000 the next year, £5,800,000 the next year, £4,600,000 the next year, and so on, the maximum being £11,000,000 in 1917 and reaching a figure in 1921 of £9,952,000.
That is why the landlords' section of this House want to abolish this provision of the law. It is not that they are afraid; of the taxation of land values. They know if the decision of the country is that a Government is to come in with that in its programme, that, valuation or no valuation, it is going to be carried out. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham was right. Nobody with any sense of political power would say that the existence or non-existence of this part of the Land Valuation Department is going to make any difference in the question of the taxation or the non-taxation of land values. Much larger issues are going to settle that question. But it has an immediate effect. It means that the Death Duties are more with this information than without it; that we have a Department to check Death Duty valuations put in by representatives of the heirs of the dead owners. It means that public authorities are going to save hundreds of 352 thousands, millions of pounds, in the aggregate, as the result of having a public record kept of those transactions. It means that the owners of land are not going to be put in such an advantageous position for driving unjust bargains, especially with public authorities.
Does anybody mean to tell me that the enthusiasm which developed on the last night of the Committee, and the enthusiasm which has shown itself on the benches opposite to-day, is merely the enthusiasm engendered by the destruction of a useless Department? Not at all. Enthusiasm does not come from such parched sources as that. The enthusiasm has been engendered because these records of information, held by the Public Department, mean millions of money out of the pockets of the landlord class, saved every year to the public, which would not be saved otherwise. This is not a nice transaction. I know that hon. Members opposite, and Members of the Government, disagree with me. Is this sort of—I was almost going to use an offensive term—backstairs style, the way in which we are to bring before the country our different opinions and settle them? I am in favour of the taxation of land values; but I am not in favour of this Clause being deleted simply because I happen to be in favour of the taxation of land values but because I believe that this information is necessary for the protection of the public. I believe that experience has shown that it means millions of pounds to the national Exchequer and to the local exchequers, and I believe that the one reason why Clause 27 was put in first of all, and—I am very loath to say this—the reason why it is being kept in is that it is a case of making hay while the sun shines. If the Government wanted Clause 27 in this Bill, it ought to have put it in at first. We ought to have known all about it. This House ought to have had a chance of a full discussion with a full knowledge of what was going to happen from the very beginning.
The Government ought not to take advantage of that irregular snap vote and still more irregular rejection, half humorous and half serious, which enabled the Government to say, "We will not put our Whips on and we will let the House do what it likes." If the Government makes a change it ought to take the responsibility for the change. Over and over again we have asked the Gov- 353 ernment in comparatively minor matters to take off the Whips, and they would not do it. Here is a great issue. I do not care whether there is £10,000 or £10,000,000 involved. It is an issue in principle. The change ought not to be made in the way in which the Government, I regret to say, appears to regard the proposal. I appeal to the Prime Minister, even now, to take everything into consideration. Let the Government go back to the Committee speech of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. He gave us warning that we were to have only a respite. We all put that meaning into his words. He told us his own opinion. He said, in effect, "I am not ready yet; I have not had enough experience of the Department to justify me in doing this. There is a Committee of inquiry, and I intend to put this matter before that Committee." Then he turned round to his Friends, and they agreed to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. The Financial Secretary had said, "When I get all the information which I require I shall deal with the matter." That is the proper attitude to take up. I again appeal to the Government to go back to that attitude and not to take advantage of what was a very snap Division obtained under very extraordinary circumstances.
§ Major PAGET
I have been very much surprised at some of the arguments which I have heard from hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) remarked that this involved a sum of only £4,000. Other hon. Members, who have employed equal diligence, have assured the House that if the Clause remains in the Bill we shall be able to save the Exchequer at least £15,000 and the unfortunate taxpayer no less than £500,000. My hands are clean in this matter. I have always considered this Department to be what they have proved to be, namely, an expensive body which was intended to do something in the future which it was not doing in the present. That rather does away with the intense indignation of hon. Gentlemen opposite at the idea that we have not given them fair play over this matter. They seem to think that the rules of the game are entirely different on their side from what they are on our side, that they have to observe a different form of ethics from that which we have to observe. For instance, when they, in an equally lucky 354 manner, succeeded in scoring a point, there is not the slightest doubt that they made us pay for it to the extreme limit, even to the extent of reducing this honourable House of Parliament into a disorderly bear garden. That was the way in which they celebrated what was equally a snap vote and a happy victory. It would have been better if they had treated the matter in a more sporting manner. There can be no possible manner of doubt that they brought the result on themselves, that they challenged the Division for one purpose and for one purpose only, which was to place the Government in a most embarrassing position. Those Gentlemen who were sitting here would have been the first to have followed people like myself, who suffer from a good deal of independence, and would undoubtedly have voted against the Government whether the Whips had been put on or not. I think that some of the great defenders of the land taxes would have gone into the lobby against them if they had thought that there was a chance of embarrassing the Government by doing so.
That being the case, can they complain that the Government say, "Well and good; you asked for it and you got it; so why grumble?" We have heard a great deal as to these land duties enabling local authorities to obtain the land that they require for public purposes. Hon. Members opposite seem to have forgotten the Land Acquisition Act, 1919, which enables any local authority to obtain in the simplest manner the land required, and inflicts heavy penalties on any landowner who stands out for an unfair price. Legal Gentlemen on the other side will admit that all the expenses of both sides in a long-fought-out and arduous case in connection with land purchase is not a cheap process to go through, when one remembers the small portions of land which are at stake in nine cases out of ten. I largely agree with what was said by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain) as to the landlords having got themselves into a thoroughly unpopular position by treating outgoing tenants in an entirely different manner from that in which they treat the communities in which they themselves live. But I could bring many instances to the notice of hon. Gentlemen opposite where the "grasping landlord," as they term him, has not only given the 355 land, but has also built a school entirely at his own expense. Under the Land Acquisition Act of 1919 there is not the slightest danger that the people will be mulcted in the future as they have been mulcted in the past. I fail to understand what the Leader of the Opposition meant when he said that the local exchequers would gain very largely by the retention of this part of the old Act, because this provision deals entirely with capital value. I have had a good many years' experience of local government, and I absolutely fail to realise how a knowledge of the capital value can, either now or in the near future, assist the local revenue by raising funds.
§ Major PAGET
I have served as a chairman on parish councils. I have served for about 14 years on a district council. I have also served on a board of guardians which had to deal with a certain amount of rating, and for the last five years I have sat upon a county council. Therefore I can claim to have some slight experience of local government.
It depends upon whether you attended the committees. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"]
§ Major PAGET
I have no objection to the interruptions of my hon. and gallant Friend, but I would like to make a small bet with him that my attendances are better than his own.
I have served since 1889 on a county council and I have attended every committee held since that date, except when I was away at the War. Has the hon. and gallant Member attended all the committees in connection with his county council?
§ Major PAGET
I do not know whether I would be in order in going into a long explanation of a short and not particularly well-spent life, but I can assure the hon. and gallant Member opposite that in the five or six years since I was elected I have missed only two meetings of the county council and very few committee meetings. To get back to the question, however, having disposed of the red 356 herring which my hon. and gallant Friend drew across the trail, I cannot understand the intense indignation of certain hon. Members on this matter and their passion for the retention of this Department. I understood that the present-day tendency was to get rid of superfluous officials. As a member of an agricultural committee I went about the country with the Board of Agriculture valuer and with my colleagues of the committee, who were all practical men. We used to come to a decision on the value of land and then make an offer of what we considered it was worth. We had to get the sanction, first of the Board of Agriculture and then of the Treasury, and when all that had been done, then, suddenly, the local valuers were brought in. I consider the local valuers to be absolutely useless. The county council committee was composed of practical agriculturists and to show how practical we were, I may say that out of, I think, 480 people whom we settled on the land, only one has failed and on our pre-War holdings, we can show a very large profit and an increased capital value. That shows that the committee were practical men, though I do not say that I myself was one, and we always chose men who thoroughly understood the locality where we bought the land. What possible addition was it to another department like the Land Valuations Department suddenly imposed on us at the end of our deliberations? Either the valuer and the adviser of the Board of Agriculture was perfectly useless and did not know his work or on the other hand the committee entrusted by the Government with this business did not know their work, and the county council did not know theirs. To bring in at the end, local valuers, in order to check the work of the county council struck me as an expensive method of employing unnecessary officials, in order to give a sop to the amour propre of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), because after all these taxes have been entirely—
§ Major PAGET
Although the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs received a good deal of assistance from various legal gentlemen, including the hon. and learned Member who has interposed, I think I am quite within my rights in saying that it is the right hon. Gentleman who will go down to history as the inventor of the "people's Budget." That Budget was to bring in all these wonderful fruits—these rare and refreshing fruits—where were, not only going to pay National Insurance, but old age pensions and every other wild-cat scheme of social reform whichever entered anybody's head. We were told that this was a "plant." There are two kinds of "plants," and this is certainly one of them, because it was planted on the country, and had the country realised that at the end of eight years, in spite of the War, we would still be paying huge sums of money and receiving none, I do not think the country would have returned the then Government. I believe the reason why the present Government was returned with a large majority was because the country had become thoroughly sick of the wildcat schemes of the 1910 Parliaments and wanted release from all this restrictive legislation and from taxes which brought in no revenue, but cost a great deal to collect. The Government are quite right to do away with this Department. If the time should come when hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to bring in their own land taxes—I speak of those above the Gangway—it will be a good thing to let them do so and to let them start on their own basis. We on this side disapprove of this kind of taxation. Why should they expect us to give them assistance in imposing taxation of which we disapprove?
Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON
The hon. and gallant Member for Bosworth (Major Paget) seeks to assure the local authorities that their position will not be prejudiced in the future if the Budget in its reformed shape goes through. I suggest that the experience of the past points in an entirely opposite direction, and yet I cannot hope to convince him if the weighty words of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Austen Chamberlain), who spoke in a much stronger way upon this question than anyone has yet done on this side, failed 358 to bring conviction to his mind. The experience of local authorities in the past has been that over and over again they have been mulcted in heavy charges and extreme costs by local landlords when they desired to acquire land for public purposes.
§ Mr. BANKS
Will the hon. Member say that that experience has continued since the passing of the Acquisition of Land Act, 1919?
The Land Valuation Department worked through the Land Acquisition Act. Owing to information which was in the possession of the Government, through the valuation made in 1909–10, and through the information that has been brought up to date by this very Section which it is now sought to repeal, the local authorities have, since this information was available, been able to purchase land at a much cheaper price than before.
§ Sir W. SUGDEN
Knowing, as he does, the conditions and the cost of land that has been transferred in the county from which the hon. Member comes, will the hon. Member state that the valuation has been cheaper there?
The hon. Member for Royton (Sir W. Sugden) has anticipated the very point I was coming to in order to prove my case, because my experience as a member for 20 years of the local authority at Middlesbrough has been this, that before we had the advantage of the assistance of the Land Valuation Department we had to pay for the sites of our public elementary and secondary schools up to £3,000 an acre. Some time ago I had figures taken out, and it was found that in the last 30 years prior to this Land Valuation Department coming into existence the average cost of the land charged by landowners to the Middlesbrough Corporation for sites for their schools was £1,500 an acre. That was in the absence of the Land Valuation Department, and of that information of which the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends opposite are now seeking to deprive us.
§ Mr. BANKS
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I do not think he quite appreciated my question. I asked him whether those extortionate prices 359 still prevail after the passage of the Acquisition of Land Act, 1919, the point being that it was the methods of valuation under that Act that stopped them, and not this information at Somerset House.
I agree with the hon. Member in so far that the Land Acquisition Act has enabled local authorities to acquire land at a much more reasonable price than before, but is it not because of the information which they have had placed at their disposal through the Land Valuation Department? My hon. Friend shakes his head, but I would rather quote to the House the evidence of Ministers of State. We were told in the last House, on the authority of the then Minister of Health, that owing to the services of the Land Valuation Department, land had been purchased by local authorities for their housing schemes under the 1919 Act at a saving to the public of no less than £1,411,000, owing directly to the services of the Land Valuation Department. The hon. Member again shakes his head, but I am giving him the information supplied officially by the Minister of Health in the last Government, and I leave it to the House to decide as to which is the authority on a question of that kind. The Minister also told us that there had been a direct saving on the land purchased, amounting to something like 27,000 acres, of £71 an acre. That does not include the saving which accrued, because landlords knew in the first instance of the existence of these returns under the 1909 Act, kept up subsequently by the registration on sale and transfer. Landlords, knowing in the first instance that that information was available, asked a good deal less from the local authorities than they would have done had that information not been at hand, and, notwithstanding that fact, there was a saving of £1,411,000 on the purchase of land for housing purposes.
My hon. Friend suggests that the Land Valuation Department has nothing to do with that. I submit, in reply to that, that where you have other departments of local authorities in connection with the purchase of land, such as land for asylum purposes, and even for schools, where the assistance of the Land Valuation Department is not available, the 360 price of land to local authorities is infinitely higher than it is where the Land Valuation Department's services can be brought in. Therefore, I submit that the experience of the past is such as to make the House hesitate before it allows to be scrapped an instrument which has proved of very great value to the local authorities, and without which there is very real fear that in the future they will have to pay exorbitant prices when they require to execute works of public utility. The learned Solicitor-General referred in his speech to the fact that they were anxious to build and not to pull down. Surely the one thing necessary to-day is the building of houses, and how are we going to get them at a reasonable rate if we have to pay an exorbitant price for the land on which those houses are going to stand?
What is the total saving that this proposal will effect? The sponsor of the Amendment in Committee himself estimates the saving to the public purse as a paltry £15,000, and I ask hon. Members opposite whether it is worth saving such a paltry sum to throw away that protection and that security which have been afforded in the past by the Department they are now going to scrap. The £15,000 will be dearly bought if the local authorities and the Government have, in consequence, to pay much more for the land they require for various purposes. Surely, when the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, in his most extraordinarily frank speech, spoke of the fact that the dice were loaded against the subjects of the King, he meant rather against the public in acquiring land for various purposes. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham, in a speech which he made in 1920, referred to another case where the continuation of this Department would be invaluable, and he referred also to the need for the revision of our rating system. We are told that next year the Government propose to reconsider and to recast the whole question of local rating. Surely they will be handicapped in that endeavour if they have done away, as they suggest doing away to-night, with this machinery which the right hon. Member for West Birmingham said in 1920 would be invaluable as a means whereby the public could ascertain the true and the real value of the land.
I appeal, therefore, if it be any good at this late hour, to the Government, that 361 they should not deprive the local authorities, in particular, of the protection which has been of great advantage in the past. The last speaker referred to the Department as costing a great deal and bringing in very little revenue. I wonder whether, when we know all the facts, there is any actual truth in that suggestion. In an answer to a question to-day the Financial Secretary told the House that the gross returns from these much disputed land duties of the 1909–10 Budget amounted to £6,765,000. In my question I asked what was the cost to the State of the Land Valuation Department as concerned the collection and assessment of that value, but the right hon. Gentleman was unable to give a reply. He said he might be able to give the figures in the course of the Debate. I notice, however, that he has not remembered to give those figures.
Two years ago, when a similar question was put, we were told that the Government then estimated the cost of the Department at something like £5,000,000. I understand that from that £5,000,000 deductions have to be made for services which the Department renders to various other Departments of the Government. If so, I submit that even on the question of debit and credit these much-abused Land Values Duties of 1909–10, as a matter of fact, have yielded more directly in the way of taxes than they have cost to the Exchequer up to the present time. It is well known that indirectly the services obtained in the increased Death Duties have by many millions been greater than any charge which the Department was to the taxpayer. Therefore, I submit on all accounts, there is no ground, on financial reasons or on questions of public policy, not to retain these duties. It will be an evil day when this House agrees to give up that which has been of invaluable assistance to the Department.
It was, indeed, an extraordinary statement to come from a responsible Minister that they were advising the House against the advice of their own officials to take action which would prejudice and militate against the efficiency of their own Department. We may congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his frankness, although we may not be able to agree with him as to the wisdom of the course he is taking. It really ought not to happen in this House that a Minister tells us that his 362 own Department, his own officials, his own experts, advise one course of action, and the Government, for party reasons, the result of an unexpected Division, seem to go contrary to the advice of their own permanent officials.
§ 9.0 P.M.
The right hon. Baronet has always been opposed to these duties, and to this Department, and naturally he would have rejoiced at inefficiency. But there are many who will be sorry and regret this retrograde step which is about to be taken. Therefore I join in this appeal to the Government that they should, at any rate, continue for another year until they have the Report for which the Financial Secretary said they were waiting, and until their larger scheme of rating reform may be brought before the attention of the House next year. Until we know what that is, let us retain for the present these services which have done so excellently, both in the way of producing revenue and in the way of assisting the municipal and local authorities throughout the country.
§ Sir W. SUGDEN
We have listened to an exceedingly interesting and thoughtful Debate. It has centred itself in two particular phases, first, the valuation of land, and, secondly, taxation of land. I deliberately state that my knowledge of agriculture is not sufficiently expert to warrant me in dealing with or discussing any Act that has a bearing on the taxation or the valuation of agricultural land, but as an industrialist I hold that the question of the valuation of land and the taxation of land values is a dominant and—shall I say?—a most responsible consideration, especially in this day and time, when we are fighting to give our employés place and position, and endeavouring moreover to find work for them. Not so many years ago I had the pleasure and opportunity of listening to a very distinguished economist who at one time was a Member of this House, and who to-day, in respect of his contributions to economic literature, holds our respect in no small fashion—I refer to Mr. Harold Cox. When one remembers the very clear and lucid pronouncements that he has made on the question of land values and land taxation, it is well for us in these days 363 to hark back to some of those fundamentals it is very desirable we should keep them before us, those he strove to put before hon. Members when he was in our midst.
First, let me deal with land valuation. If the House will forgive a personal note—and one does not put in the personal note, believe me, but with diffidence—when, on account of wounds, I was put on light duty in this city in connection with the corps of whom I am very proud, the Royal Engineers—than whom there is no finer section of the British Army—I was put as an assistant to the valuers and civil engineers of that corps. We were assisted by some admirably-trained civil servants. I want to pay my tribute to them, for on all questions of the usefulness and practicability of land valuation there is no finer body of men in the Civil Service than those in the Land Valuation Department to-day. It was my duty to join this section, and in the work they undertook, I say deliberately to-night in this House to hon. Members, that there is no business firm in this country could expect to be solvent if it carried on in such a fashion as they were compelled to carry on by reason of the impracticability of their tests. By value of land, I say definitely and assertively, that there are to-day in this country so many changing factors, not only national, agricultural, industrial, but also international, which have an effective bearing not only on the land and local taxation, as also of local rates on the land, which is so continuously altering, that I say at once—and I join issue here with the hon. Gentleman opposite that, as fluctuating exchanges are the greatest factor in the uncertainty of trade, so fluctuating rates, whether they be county or municipal, make it impossible to get a credible value of land so long as wildly disproportionate valuations in respect of the rates all over the country are to be found. Take some of the London boroughs. They go from the one extreme, say, of 25s. in the £ to the other extreme of 6s. 6d. or 6s. 3d. in the £, and it all has a definite bearing on the taxation and value of the land.
§ Sir W. SUGDEN
We are now dealing with the resuscitation of costing and expenses in connection with Governmental land valuation.
§ Sir W. SUGDEN
I must repeat to the hon. Gentleman. It is impossible to-day for the valuers who are concerned in respect of this particular Clause to bring forward as a result of their labours an accurate, perfect and proper valuation suitable for any responsible body to work upon in connection with any industry or agriculture or in respect to the social life of the people as represented by the man who lives in a small five-roomed cottage. Take, for example, the County of Lancashire. I am proud to say that there are more houses owned by the working classes in Lancashire than by any other county in England. If you go back to the 1909 and 1910 Land Tax, you will find that it stunted and killed private enterprise in cottage building. I am not speaking on behalf of the jerry builder, although at that time he produced houses of as good a quality as those which any Government has produced since. I say deliberately that it is impossible to value land to-day by the machinery invented by the 1909–10 Act owing to fluctuating factors. With the practical knowledge I obtained in the War days and since and with the experience one has in respect to the valuation of ground upon which manufacturing establishments have been erected, I say it is impossible to get an accredited and a perfect valuation. There has been an argument put forward that the taxes themselves will in some strange way bring into the market and into the fingers of those who would have it the land of the country. I respectfully challenge hon. Members opposite to prove how and in what fashion by putting a tax upon ground it is going to drive it into the market any sooner or make it any cheaper.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
I understand that Mr. Speaker 365 consented to allow the House to take a very wide range in this discussion, and in view of that fact I do not think that I should be justified in stopping the hon. Member.
§ Sir W. SUGDEN
I shall always bow to your ruling, but in this matter the one thing is bound up with the other and you cannot dissociate the valuation of land and these taxes. My hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) has quoted the case of Middlesbrough, but will the hon. Member get up here and say that any of the men who voted for him at the last election, whether they be capitalists or ordinary employés, did not use either their capital or their labour upon a speculative basis? If a man buys a ton of steel, he buys it to sell at an increased value, and why should not the wicked landlord try and obtain the land legitimately and get some little profit from it?
Mr. T. THOMSON
I have heard more than one complaint in Middlesbrough about the exorbitant price manufacturers are charged when they want to buy a small piece of land to extend their works.
§ Sir W. SUGDEN
May I remind the hon. Member that some Northumberland manufacturers and merchants were buying Belgian steel in 1913 at £4 5s. per ton and selling it at £8 9s. per ton. What is the difference between that and a man who takes a deal with land. Again tax land and you increase cost of production and cause eventually more unemployment and make the people's food also more costly. The French Rentes system cannot come into operation here by land taxation. The small Irish peasant system also cannot come into operation into this country under any system of land taxation. Neither can the wonderful agriculture and land system of Denmark. Hon. Gentlemen must look at this subject from a wide point of view, not necessarily an agricultural point of view, but rather socially as well as industrially. Personally, I feel that the House, in its free mind and its true judgment, did a wise and proper thing when it gave the congé to this costly Government Land Valuation Department. I hope we shall go into the Lobby and confirm what has been done in this respect.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
I want to preface my remarks by a little explanation, which I think is necessary. I feel somewhat pleased at this great Debate in that I am largely responsible for it ever taking place at all. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury twitted me with that and blamed me for bringing the Opposition to heel and making them feel in such a state of mind that they were prepared to override the counsels of the Government Bench. I am not sorry at that result, but there is one point of explanation which I think is necessary. I only intervened in the Debate the other night after I heard that the Government were not prepared to accept the Amendment, but when the Government said they would not accept it, then I felt that it would not be out of place for me to give vent to my feelings on the whole Matter, because the speech of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury gave me to understand that the only reason why he would not accept the Amendment was because of the short time he had been in office. After that statement, I could not help feeling that this time next year he would definitely attack the Valuation Department and remove it, and, failing that, I made the speech which I am told, not only in the House, but in the Press, roused the Conservative benches to action. I am extremely pleased that my speech created such a feeling, because, as soon as we know exactly where we stand with regard to these strict lines of demarcation, the better it will be. Valuable Parliamentary time can be wasted in kid-glove politics and nothing effective be done. I came to this House desiring to do something definitely along the lines of changing the law in some directions, and not with the mere idea of becoming a gentleman in a Parliamentary sense. There are many more hon. Members in a similar position, and it is just as well that there should sometimes be a little straight talking, as there was in the Debate to which I am referring. No, it is not conceit. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) has interrupted with a suggestion to that effect.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
No, I simply made a remark which was entirely intended for the ears of my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
Some of our ears are a little large too. I merely want to say, 367 having heard that interjection, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that is not the case. We are faced with this Debate to-day in consequence of the challenge that was thrown out for a Division the other night. I was not a party to that challenge at all. The challenge came from behind and the challengers were equally divided between both parties on the back benches on this side. I want, if I may, to say something by way of reply to what has been said in this Debate to-night. I think no speech could be more illuminating than the speech of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain). It was a speech which should be carefully read in the interests of the whole country. It was a speech by a man who knows of the great work being carried on in the Valuation Department. More than that it was a speech by one who knows perfectly well that if the Government persist in knocking off this registration it will create more trouble in the Conservative ranks in this country than anything else could cause. That is why the right hon. gentleman gave the warning that he did from his place in this Chamber to-day. I hope the speech will be read and studied and appreciated throughout the country to-morrow. I am anxious that the Registration Department should be preserved and that was why I was desirous the other night to drag this whole matter into the limelight.
The present Government have passed an Agricultural Credits Bill, a Bill which was necessitated by the Corn Production Act. It is a Bill to give credit to farmers in order that they may clear off their debts to the banks which advanced money to them to buy out the landowners who have walked off with the high values received under the Corn Production Act. I challenge anyone to deny that. There is another Bill in Committee, the Agricultural Rates Bill. I hope every industrial centre in England will read and study that question. It is a Bill to reduce to one-fourth the rates payable on agricultural land. In view of these two Bills with which the Government are now forging ahead, and which in the ultimate mean considerable presents to the landowners of this country, I thought it highy essential, when I heard the suggestion that something was to be done to weaken the 368 Valuation Department, to raise the whole matter and bring it into the limelight of the House of Commons.
There is another matter to which should like to refer. The occupants of the back benches on the other side are determined I believe to stick to the decision come to the other night. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am gad to get that assent. It is clear they are determined to do away with this record and registration by the Valuation Department. Now this House has passed votes necessitating enormous expenditure on great arterial roads in this country. It has voted for expenditure large sums of money on the pretext of giving employment to the unemployed, and, added to that, if the Government Housing Bill becomes effective in developing the urban areas of the country, with the assistance of a public guarantee, the building projects which will be started under the Measure will also increase the value of the land of the country to the landowners. While hon. Members are enthusiastic about these Measures which would make considerable presents to the landowners of England they are just as enthusiastic in their desire to destroy that system of registration and valuation to which the people have always looked as a means of bringing the valuation up to date at Somerset House.
§ Sir W. SUGDEN
Will the hon. Member say if at any time in the history of this country it was ever more easy to obtain and purchase land than it is at this moment?
§ Mr. MacLAREN
I was interested the other day in a piece of land in my own Division. We wanted it for a secondary school. The land was condemned as unsuitable for housing purposes when Dr. Addison's nightmares were going to be put up. We, however, decided that we would like to have it for a secondary school. It was rated at £4 10s., but the Corporation of Stoke-on-Trent were asked to pay no less than £6,000 for it, and over and above that the owner of the land kept to himself the right to dig from underneath all iron, coal or other minerals, and, in the event of there being any subsidence of the property, the corporation was to have no power to claim compensation as against the landlord. I could give many more instances of the same kind. I am not trying to 369 impeach the landowner and make them out to be a crowd of highway robbers and brigands, because if to-morrow a landlord came down from Heaven on to the plains of England he would have to conform to the laws of this country, and he would of necessity take every advantage of the growth and development of the community in its demands for land. It is the system I am inveighing against and not the persons. But let me get back to what I was saying before I was deflected. The present Prime Minister, when the same Amendment was up for review in 1917, said that, owing to the War, political feelings lay dormant, but he warned them not to raise this matter as it would raise the passions of a thousand devils. That passage, coupled with the timidity of the Secretary to the Treasury on the night on which the discussion of this matter commenced, gives me the feeling that the Leaders of the Government are none too easy in their own consciences about the conditions with which we are faced at present.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
Wait and see. The right hon. Member for South Hammersmith (Sir W. Bull) told us that he was enthusiastic about the dropping of this registration because it cost the landowners £500,000 per annum. The landowners could easily pass on the cost of registration to the price they are getting for the soil, and it is no hardship in many cases, indeed it is a very poor excuse, for the landowner to come forward at this time with the plea of this burden of £500,000 as the cost of the transfer. I submit that the right hon. Member for South Hammersmith was merely using that as a pretext to cover his real meaning. I offer that as a retort, because of what has been said to-night by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury with regard to our attitude on the whole matter. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) also has been an opponent of the Valuation Department on the plea of economy. Economy has been the plea all along, but to-day there was a little addition. The intricacy of the questionnaire handed out is also a thing rendering it necessary to abolish the Valuation Department. I think enough has been said along that line by various Members 370 utterly to destroy those as arguments at all. Any move may be made by the friends or agents of the vested interests of this country, all sorts of pretexts will be used to destroy the registration, the intricacy of the questionnaire, the expense, and so on; but the real underlying facts are obvious to anyone who watches the development of this matter. To weaken the valuation, to destroy the efficacy of the valuations made—that is the real purpose behind those who are opposing the Valuation Department, and for no other reason, despite the Secretary to the Treasury having made a great discovery at that Box to-night. I must congratulate him. He made the discovery that those of us who are anxious to preserve the efficiency of the Valuation Department are doing it for no other reason than to have an up-to-date valuation when the time comes when we can institute the taxation and rating of land values in this country.
That is the discovery he made. But the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in 1914, on the eve of the War, when things were not altogether successful in the political atmosphere because of his adventures in National Insurance, made a few speeches on the land question. He went to Glasgow in that year, "The Mecca of the Single Tax," as it was called, and he asked his audience, "What would you do to transform the land system of the country?" They replied, "Tax land values!" and he retorted, "Yes, do you think I am a shirker? That is exactly what I want to do. What did I get the valuation for? "That is away back in 1914, the Secretary to the Treasury might have known that long ago, and while I knew perfectly well that the register was instituted for the purposes of the Increment Duty, I was not at all interested in the registration of transfers because of that fact, because all the taxes introduced in the Budget of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs were worse than useless from their inception. None of those taxes were taxes that give us a direct tax or rate upon the capital value of land in this country. The only tax at all that came near to it was the Undeveloped Land Tax, so that no tears should be shed on the dropping of this Section. But the inference from the other side of the House has been that because of the 371 dropping of these nonsensical taxes, then of necessity you ought to drop the registration of transfers of property and, if convenient, the Valuation Department altogether. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Yes, I know that is the latent feeling in the minds of many Members opposite, but I want to warn them, in spite of the fact that they have had the honesty to express their mind on the matter, that when we go to the industrial centres and tell them that cheers rang out from the Ministerial side for the destruction of the registration of land values and purchases while they are being asked to pay crippling rates on their houses, and that the same Government that is destroying that valuation is giving agricultural landowners great presents in their rates this year, and, I suppose, for many to follow, under the Agricultural Rates Act—when we state these hard facts on the industrial platforms of this country—[HON. MEMBERS: "They are not facts."] The Solicitor-General said that even though the registration becomes abortive, still the Valuation Department will be in a position to keep its valuations up to date.
I want to know what guarantee we have that the Valuation Department will be in a position to rectify its valuations by going to outside authorities and appealing to them for information with regard to recent transfers of property. I should like the Solicitor-General to give us a clear guarantee that that is the case. I do not see how the Valuation Department, unless they have statutory powers behind them, can go to outside authorities to make inquiries with regard to recent transfers of property, and in that way keep their valuation up to date. I want, if I may with due respect and deference to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), just to say one word in passing with regard to his remarks. He said that the taxes instituted under the 1909 Finance Act were taxes that might have been a success if they had had a chance. All I have to say is that the more chance they got the more impossible they became. They were taxes which, as I have already said, were not worth the paper on which they were written. I am prepared, however, to endorse the sentiments expressed by the right hon. Gentleman 372 the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs when he said that the taxes were good in this way, that they gave a rare excuse for bringing in a valuation of land.
Finally, might I give my views, for what they are worth, with regard to the whole question of valuation? Should this valuation be constantly thwarted by all sorts of amendments and restrictions, the ultimate result will be to knock the whole valuation out of date, and make it of no use even for Death Duties, Estate Duties or any other purpose. Some people believe that the interests of the country will be best served by there being no real valuation, and, therefore, no hope for a speedy imposition of rating on land values. My own opinion is that we could have had a valuation costing us little or nothing compared with the amount that this valuation did cost the country, if we had adopted in this country the principle pursued in Australia, of issuing to every owner of land in the country a notice to state to the Government within so many weeks what he considered to be the capital value of his property Therefore, I am offering this, which, while it is in the form of a suggestion, is also in the form of a warning to those who cannot console themselves to abide by the old form of the Finance Act, but who are determined to carry this new Amendment. Should this Valuation Department be made unworkable by a Resolution such as is about to be maintained to-night, and further Resolutions and Amendments later, I think I am speaking freely on behalf of the Labour party when I say that the valuation which we must institute, if ever we come into power, will be something of a more coercive and peremptory nature, and will certainly be something that will give us an up-to-date valuation costing little or nothing; and, if I may repeat what I said the other night, there will be no dubiety as to the object we have in view when we stand by this valuation, namely, to take the taxes off the food of the people of this country, to go to those heavily rated industrial areas and take the rates from the houses of the people, to go to agricultural districts and take the rates from the farm buildings and the improvements of the farmers, and to transfer this vicious form of taxation and rating, which is nothing but a brake on the wheels of industry, and impose it 373 upon the capital value of the land as ascertained in the valuation which we are now discussing. Hon. Members opposite may smile, but I would like to remind them that this country was never roused to such intensity of feeling as it was between 1909 and 1910, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was condemned, not for going into the intricacies of the land question, not for dealing with the technicalities of valuation, rating or taxation, but merely for adumbrating the fundamental instincts in the heart of man, for enforcing, if you like, this great principle which most men feel although they may fail to give it expression, that this great earth of ours has become private property by the iniquitous laws made by men in the past, which have resulted in the poverty, destitution and slumdom which is costing this country millions by way of trying to cope with tuberculosis. Last year it cost us £7,500,000 to deal with tuberculosis, a disease which is pervading the slums which are the natural outcome of the way in which high land values are keeping building from expanding into the country districts. It is for these reasons that I, at least, if I may be allowed to speak for myself on this matter, am an uncompromising champion of the Valuation Department as it now exists, because I look forward to the time when the taxation to which I have already referred may be brought in as an Act of Parliament on that side of the House, by the party I now represent in Opposition.
§ Mr. D. HERBERT
With the permission of the House, I will take their minds back again from the subject of tuberculosis and slumdom to the very simple question which is before us to-night. It is not by any means a question of the abolition of any Department for the valuation of the land of this country, but is a question of the abolition of a certain method of recording prices which often have nothing to do with values. May I say, with great respect, a word about the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain)? We all know him as a model of extreme honest consistency, and I cannot help thinking that he was somewhat led away by his virtues into making a speech consisting of arguments which were absolutely baseless. The right hon. 374 Gentleman suggested that this Department should be kept going because it was necessary for the success of the valuation of the land of this country, which he thought the Government ought to be able to do. I am going to submit to the House that these records are not necessary, and, in fact, are very largely misleading.
It is a common saying that the value of land is the price you can get for it. That may be true if you are trying to sell the land, but there is nothing more untrue or misleading in the case of land which is not up for sale. Land which is up for sale is worth what it realises to the man who sells it, but it is not always worth that figure, or anything like it, to the man who buys it, and that is the simple reason why this record of prices is often misleading. I venture to suggest, however, that, even if the prices be obtained, and if the prices which are realised for land at different times are useful for a Department which has to value land upon any particular occasion, this record is not necessary for the purpose. If a Government valuer has to value land when a man dies, or when the land is required for public purposes, all that information is available to him without this record at all. This record, however, offers a temptation to the valuer to make a short cut towards his conclusion which often is erroneous, and it often means that he has to do extra work in order to put it right, or that he is going to be corrected by others.
If it be the case, and I seriously suggest to the House that it is, that this curious record of prices obtained is often misleading, and is in any case unnecessary, the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's argument falls to the ground. He was answered, however, very soon after wards by other speakers on the opposite side of the House. I am not going into the question of the virtues or the vices of the taxation of land values, but I do say that, unless the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham can make out a very much stronger case than he did for the retention of this Department, no one, on this side of the House at any rate, will follow him when they know that the whole struggle to retain this Department is in order to introduce those taxes which were adumbrated by the hon. Member who last spoke. If it comes to that the fight is open, the object of the fight is known, and hon. Members on this 375 side of the House will, I feel sure, whatever doubts they may have had before, be prepared to stand by their guns and to realise that the man who owns a 1,000 acres, or the man who owns a cottage worth 10s. a week, is entitled to consider it as his property. What is the case that has been put up for the retention of this Department? I am speaking now particularly of the only Department that this Clause deals with, namely, that branch of the Department which keeps this record of prices and particulars of sales. It was not necessary for valuation purposes. It was not instituted when the Land Valuation Department was instituted. It was not instituted in order to help valuation in any way whatever.
§ Mr. HERBERT
No, I am speaking of the particular Section which is proposed to be repealed by this Clause—Section 4 of the Act of 1909–10. It was not established for the purpose of valuation and I am prepared to prove it by reference to the Act itself. The Land Valuation Department was established long before. This record of prices was established for the purpose of finding out the difference between the price at one time and the price at the next sale in order to levy a tax on the price and not on the land at all. It had nothing whatever to do with the value of the land. If a man sold his land for some particular purpose at twice the value he had to pay the tax none the less. That shows conclusively that the Department was never needed for the purposes of valuation and the valuation of the land will not be harmed by its discontinuance. Surely hon. Members must realise, if they think, the difference there is between valuing land and valuing other property. Take an estate of many acres in the country, including houses. You may value that as a whole. You may draw a line straight through it. Do you suppose one-half of the land is necessarily equal to the other half in value? Do you suppose, if you split the land up for the purpose of sale by auction and sell it in 40 lots, any single one of those 40 lots is necessarily worth a proportionate part of the value of the whole? And do not hon. Members realise that, every time the land is separately divided, every valuation of the land, as a 376 whole, before that is nugatory and useless? Let me put another aspect of the case? If hon. Members want it for the purpose of the acquisition of land for public purposes, or for payment of duty on death, or, if you like, for a capital levy on the value of the land, what is it they want to get at? The true value of the land, and not the price at which it was last sold. The true value of the land can only be ascertained by a careful consideration of the annual value of the land, and adding to or subtracting from it other elements of value which may not be income producing. Therefore it is that, if you want to get a true valuation of land at any moment, the valuation has got to be made at that moment, and the value 12 months beforehand is in many cases fallacious. The Valuation Department can do it perfectly well. They have skilled men who can find out perfectly easily the annual value of the land, what it will produce, and every other element of value attaching to it.
May I make one or two references to some curious speeches we have had from the other side of the House. I was not in at the beginning of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment, but I was in the House for two-thirds of his speech, and if he brought forward any real arguments in favour of his Amendment, they must have been contained in the first third of his speech that I did not hear. Then I settled down to listen to the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle), who, I understood, was going to make a great onslaught. His speech, full as it was of wit and humour, was about as empty of argument or reason. Apparently about the middle of his speech he discovered that all the arguments he had prepared were arguments for the defence of the Land Valuation Department, which no one in the House was proposing to abolish. Perhaps, therefore, we may excuse him for not having brought forward much in the way of arguments or reasons for retaining this recording Department of prices. Then we came to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who admitted that the principal value of his land taxes was that they brought about this valuation. What I have said already shows that the valuation made at the time when those taxes were in force can have no possible utility or value at 377 present for the purpose of taxing land. He proudly says the valuation he brought about still stands. So still stands that statue of Old Bill in front of the British Museum, and Old Bill in front of the British Museum is about as useful as the right hon. Gentleman's land valuation. The whole case that has been put up to-night may be divided into two parts. One is the argument that this is wanted for the purpose of taxes which were described by the hon. Member who last spoke. That is enough for hon. Members on this side of the House, and they will vote against the Amendment. I am certain that hon. Members opposite who know anything about dealings in land will realise the soundness of the arguments I have brought forward to show that this record of prices is fallacious and utterly useless with regard to valuation for any purpose of that kind. The only other arguments which have been brought forward are those mistaken arguments brought forward apparently by hon. Members who have not studied the Section that it is proposed to repeal—arguments tending to support the retention of the Land Valuation Department, which it was never intended to abolish.
The Land Valuation Department has done a great work and it has some great men in it, but it is not right, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs said, to say that Department has never been criticised. It has been criticised, and I hope the time will come when it may yet be improved, good as it is, because if you have Government valuers who are in business parlance called tame valuers, and who do nothing else, they are apt to get rusty, and not quite so good at their work. I have known cases of Government valuers who have been sent to value property about which they knew nothing. It is only to be expected that there may be many things done to improve the Valuation Department. I am not in favour of abolishing that Department, but I do hope that Members on this side of the House, and many Members on the other side, will realise that the mere price recording Department is an expense, although it may be a small one, an unnecessary expense to the State, and an expense to individuals. Some hon. Members opposite say that the expense falls on those who have to sell the land, and therefore they 378 do not mind. One hon. Member said that the vendor of the land always puts it upon the purchaser. The poor man, therefore, who has to buy his cottage has to meet this extra expense. In the interests of all, whether they be sellers or would-be purchasers, let us get rid of something which is useless, misleading and expensive, and which never could do anything but cause error.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
One cannot listen to a Debate like this without casting one's mind back to the days of the 1906 Parliament and what followed, when this question—which seems to have been settled the other night at an hour at which one Thought that good faith was made impossible—led to the reorganisation of the powers of the House of Lords, and upon which two General Elections were fought. This question, which was important enough for two General Elections to be fought upon it, and upon which this country blazed from end to end, is now to be undercut by this method of indirect attack. We were told by the last speaker and others that although they do not want to keep the register of sales, they are still in favour of the Valuation Department. Let us clear the ground of all cant in the matter; let us join issue quite clearly upon the real motives underlying this action, and, having joined issue, let us go forward to the fight in full confidence that where we won once we shall win again.
A valuation is an important matter. The last hon. Member who spoke will pardon me if I prefer to take the opinion of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain) as to the value of the record of these transactions, and also the statement of the Financial Secretary that his permanent officials have said they would prefer to keep this record, rather than I would take his opinion. I suspect opinions upon the question of land coming from gentlemen of his profession. We have in this country a very backward state of land laws. In this country, almost alone, we have no registration of title worth the name, and when I find hon. Members of that profession saying that they want to make the transfer of land cheaper, and I go through the records of the last 50 379 years, I wonder. We on these benches are in favour of the valuation of land being kept up to date for certain reasons.
§ Mr. J. JONES
The land for the people. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Not for the robbers of the people.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
We are told that to keep a true valuation and to keep it up to date is to load the dice against the British citizen. That is a gem which the OFFICIAL REPORT will preserve from another Member of that profession. [HON. MEMBERS: "What profession!"]
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
I think everyone sees the point. [HON. MEMBERS: "What do you profess?"] I do not know whether hon. Members who interrupt think that the professions of barrister and solicitor are fused, or that there is any connection between the two, except the happy connection.[Interruption.]
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
I was saying that there was no connection [HON. MEMBERS: "Hard lines."] I am quite prepared to take my time about the matter, let hon. Members understand that. If I had not thought that there was an agreement the other night I should have spoken then, but as agreements seem to be rather light things, I propose to speak now. I do not, as a rule, speak at very great length. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] But I May be encouraged to do so if hon. Members continue to interrupt me. I have spoken for nearly two hours in the country upon this question, and I can easily do so again without repeating myself. [HON. MEMBERS: "Overtime!"] I do not know whether there is any agreement to-night, and if so whether it is as flimsy an agreement as it was on the previous occasion, but upon this occasion I propose to state my views upon the land question, despite interruptions, and I rejoice that I have an opportunity of doing so.
As I was saying, when some references to professions drew the attention of hon. Members opposite, there are certain reasons why it is essential to good 380 government that we should have a valuation. It surprises me to find the unanimity upon the benches opposite against keeping up the valuation now, because a few years ago the whole of the Conservative Members for Liverpool were pledged to the taxation of land values. These pledges drift and fade but that cannot alter the fact of the matter, and that is, that this tremendous opposition to the taxation of land values and the valuation upon which the valuation of the land values will be based is quite a modern thing. Judging from certain things we have heard to-night, it is a question which is not in the least understood by certain hon. Members opposite. One hon. Member said that he had been for some years chairman of a parish council, and had reached other high office, and that he could not see what the question of getting the capital value of land could possibly have to do with rating.
Then he proceeded to denounce the rating of land values. Of course, until you have got a valuation of the unimproved land value of this country, you cannot alter your rating system to try even experiments in the direction in which most of our Colonies have gone. You cannot fairly tackle the question of the public purchase of land in any direction. You cannot nationalise land, either wholly or partly. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] As a matter of fact, the mere destruction of this valuation will not alter the fact that we can easily get another one within 12 months. I do not weep for this valuation, but I want to draw attention to the real motives underlying this attack which has been made on the present system of valuation; not because I think that this valuation was the best that, could be got, or that we cannot get another, but because I want to point out that this refusal to allow the country to know the value of its own land has a very sinister purpose underlying it. The reason why they do not want us to keep the valuation of land up to date is, not a public purpose but a private purpose; for the reason that it is inconsistent with good government not to keep the valuation of land up to date.
Hon. Members have talked as though we, on these benches, are in some way responsible for or wedded to the Land Clauses of the famous Budget of 1909–10. 381 Not at all. Although many people put down a great deal of the land reform in those years to the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, there were a great many people concerned in that public campaign for getting a valuation in this country, and the real leader in that campaign, as I always thought, was the great Lord Advocate, now Lord Strathclyde. When these Land Clauses were brought into the Budget, the men who had been doing the fighting upon this question, almost without exception, denounced the Land Taxes as being singularly inefficient, and likely to prove quite ineffective; but they said, "They are worth having, because they carry with them a valuation." We supported them all through the fight in the country and here, because they carried the valuation. The valuation we regarded as being absolutely essential The mere fact that the taxes have gone is a matter of no importance at all, because, although the valuation costs a great deal of money—a great deal too much money, it could have been done much quicker and much cheaper—we got a very thorough valuation, which was almost complete when the War began.
When the War began, I remember—I think I can see opposite me now certain hon. Members, one particularly, who spoke on the question—they actually suspended at that time the valuation, on the ground that to value the land of the country might be considered a party question during War time. As a result, no use of the valuation was made. We looked for more money in this and in that direction, but no attempt whatever was made during the War to use the swollen land values as a contribution to the great expenses of the War. Now that the War is over, without any full consideration, without even listening to the arguments such as have been put forward by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain), the whole of this valuation is to be undermined and largely made ineffective, practically without any discussion at all, and merely to satisfy the prejudices of a certain number of people against having a valuation of land, because you are able to make effective use of that valuation in a number of public managements.
Supposing that we do reach a stage at which we get rid of this particular 382 Government—and I have no doubt some day we shall—is it not better, even in the interests of hon. Members of the Conservative party, that we should have an up-to-date valuation made during their term of office, brought up to date during their term of office, without the slightest taint of bias of partisanship. Is it not better to have that upon which to base new schemes of taxation, rating, or nationalisation, than to have a totally new system brought about in a hurry? If hon. Members imagine for one moment that they are going to stay the course of progress in this country by leaving us without a valuation when we come in, they never made a greater mistake in their lives. Our Colonies all show us how to do it, and country after country has shown us how to do it. Hon. Members opposite may ask what countries have told us how to do it, and one hon. Member has pointed out how Denmark has flourished without a system. I advise hon. Members to read the recent history of Denmark. Most of our Colonies, in one part or another, have tried successfully the very system which is a sort of nightmare at the present time to large numbers of hon. Members opposite.
Why is it a nightmare? The taxation of land values is not Socialism—they seem terrified at Socialism—it is not in any way inconsistent with enlightened individualism. They are against even making the best of their own system. They are only too ready to attack anyone on these benches, and to say they are Socialists, and Bolshevists, and all the rest, because they propose to see that the great values, created by the people, go to the people, and to a number of private speculators. It is not necessarily part of the Socialist creed at all. It is not in any way inconsistent with the creed that many of them profess, and I am amazed when I hear an hon. Member, representing a Division of Manchester, informing us that, as an industrialist, he is against the taxation of land values. Why? I should like to put, quite shortly, two or three points—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
If this is a discussion on the merits of the taxation of land values, it would be quite out of place on this occasion. Of course, it is quite in 383 order to deal with the value of this registration as a matter of machinery, but I foresee other long speeches on the subject of the merits of the taxation of land values if we get on to that line.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
In your absence, Sir, Mr. Deputy-Speaker did say that we were to be allowed to cover all this ground, and others have covered it.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
It was at a moment when the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Balfour) was not in the House. I have been here the whole time, but the hon. Member has hardly been here for 10 minutes. Mr. Deputy-Speaker did say that, in answer to a question.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
On that point of Order. It is quite true I had to leave the House for a certain short time, but I have listened to the Debate.
Is the discussion to range over the whole question of taxation of land values? It is entirely dissociated from land values, which is entirely different from the question of purchase or sale agreement.
§ Mr. FOOT
The matter was discussed by the hon. Member for Royton (Sir W. Sugden) who was discussing the possibility of the taxation of land values. I rose to a point of Order, and asked whether that general question could be discussed having regard to the Amendment before the House. Mr. Deputy-Speaker ruled that generally it could be discussed.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
What Mr. Deputy-Speaker said was that he understood it had been arranged that wide latitude should be given. That is a very different thing.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I am afraid I must take my own line. The relation of the registration to the valuation system is certainly in order. The two things can hardly be separated, but the whole Debate has been on the question of how far the registration is necessary to efficiency of the valuation. I do not think we ought to go from that to the question which is not really involved here—the merits or demerits of the taxation of land values.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
I bow, Sir, to your ruling, but I was only going to answer speeches made in this House to-night 384 Within the four corners of your ruling I shall not endeavour to do so. There will be many other opportunities of developing arguments on this question. There were certain statements made by half a dozen speakers which I should have liked very much to answer to-night, but as I am not able to do so I would ask hon. Members opposite, in reference to the general question, to ask themselves why, although a Government Department has actually advised the Minister that registration of these operations is desirable, we are not to have that registration carried on? Can anybody doubt that the valuation will not only be made much less efficiently, but will ultimately decay, if we are not to have such a registration as was provided before this snap Division the other night?
I know that it is useless at this time of the Debate to make any appeals to the Government. Many of us, and I say it in the Prime Minister's presence, relying absolutely on his word, and the arrangement which we thought was made, were absent when this snap Division took place. Advantage is being taken of something that happened utterly contrary to the understanding with Members of this House. As one who pressed on the 1906 Government, which was not always very willing, the vital importance of this full, up-to-date valuation, I should be false to the principles which I professed then if I did not take this opportunity of making this protest. The line taken by the Prime Minister seems to me to strike at the root of all those honourable understandings which Members of this House have always been willing to stand by. Here we find what, to many of us, is one of the most vital things in our whole political life taken away at an hour when every one of us thought that we were free from any such attack, and taken away by what we cannot help thinking is a means unworthy of any proper Government in this House.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
The whole question which the House has now to decide is, first, whether the valuation which we have been discussing is really necessary, and secondly, whether the method by which that valuation has been compiled, with the assistance of these particulars and on the basis of which it was originally prepared, is the kind of valuation which this House or any of its successors could accept as sound. On that point I would first say 385 that the original basis of the valuation was not, as has been claimed by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), ever accepted as having been made in a manner which could possibly endure. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs rightly said that there was nothing dishonest in the way the valuation was made. There was nothing actually dishonest, and I have never made such an imputation, even in these long Debates. This Debate seems to be an echo of the many long hours of discussion devoted in 1909–1910 to fighting these extraordinary proposals. But, although the valuation was not dishonest, it was extraordinarily foolish. I remember very well an incident which occurred when my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham, in criticising these valuation methods, mentioned a case in which one of the extremely honest but not very wise valuers was going up and down a rural area counting the trees in the hedgerows, and when asked for what purpose he was doing so said he was counting the trees in order to add their value to the valuation, and added that when he had counted a few average hedgerows he took the number of trees and averaged them out for the different hedgerows of the country. When asked how he valued the wood, the answer was, "Oh, they count the trees in an average acre. That is the way they value the wood."
A valuation conducted by such methods can have very little value. But let me treat the matter on much wider ground. The original scheme of the valuation was that the valuers had to go, with such information as they possessed, and to put a value upon every unit of land or houses, or land and houses, in the country. That valuation had to be served on the owner. The owner had then to state whether or not he agreed with the figures. When the owner's estimate had been received an arrangement had to be arrived at between the two, that is to say, between the owner and the Government official. Will the House believe that, so far from this valuation—which is to be the basis of the whole of the future operations of either party on the opposite benches—having been completed in all its stages, in 322,000 cases of units of valuation the valuation was never even served on the owner. Therefore, these valuations are merely embryos. They are caterpillars; they are not even in the chrysalis state. 386 To treat them as though they were mature insects, which in future were to produce things of beauty for hon. Gentlemen opposite, is stretching the imagination much too far. What I am sure that hon. Members on this side are afraid of is that this sham valuation is to be used and that a pretence is to be made that these particulars have enabled the Valuation Department to keep the values up to date. Then, when hon. Gentlemen opposite get—if they ever do get—into a position where they can attempt to impose taxes, they will say, "Here we have an up-to-date valuation." It is absolutely necessary, therefore, to get rid of this sham and of the continuance of these particulars, which would enable a sham valuation to be presented as a real one, for motives which, to my mind, are most injurious to the whole community.
I most strongly endorse a statement made from this side of the House that just as the old taxes broke down, so the new taxes will break down on the question of the unit. You have a unit constantly changing, and the valuation of one unit is no criterion as to the value when a re-distribution of units has taken place. Therefore, again you will have your valuation breaking down on the old question of the unit. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have put this forward as if this valuation were going to be of assistance to them in introducing a system of taxes which is going to help to abolish slums and improve the conditions of the people. Every one of those claims was made in much more eloquent language by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. Nothing could be a greater contrast than the contemptuous manner in which hon. Gentlemen opposite now speak of the taxation plan of 1909–10, and of the extraordinary anticipations which were held out by the authors of that plan, as to the benefits which these taxes were going to confer upon the community. I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that no language which they can find to describe the advantages of some new method of taxation—which will probably prove worse than the old one—can be anything like as glowing as the language used in the Autumn of 1909–10. Hon. Gentlemen now look back to the advantages which were then held out, and tell us that these really excited the 387 country into the hope of this "rare and refreshing fruit" for not less than two years—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I intervened just now when the hon. and learned Member for Crewe (Mr. Hemmerde) was speaking on that very question, and at the same time, I had my eye on the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman).
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I abide by your decision, but if I may venture to remind you, Sir, every word I said was in definite answer to what had been said from the other side of the House. You, Sir, were not here when those remarks were made, and I bow to your ruling. The suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain) has been strongly enforced. It is perfectly clear that the country is faced with a direct determination on the part of both parties opposite to use this valuation for the purpose of reimposing land valuation. I do not wish to weary the House, but I have here a quotation from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith)—[HON. MEMBERS: "Read it!"]—and numerous statements on the part of hon. Gentlemen representing the Labour party. The manifesto issued by the Independent Liberal Party on the 21st October, 1922, refers toa comprehensive reform of the existing land system, including the taxation and rating of land values.The manifesto of the Labour party on the same date says:Taxation of land values will secure to the community the socially created wealth now diverted to private hands.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Then we have the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley saying:I am particularly glad to think that the Valuation Department will continue to keep a record of sales and other transactions, and that when the resurrection or duties takes place, as I am sure it will, we shall find it in existence and still actively working.It is therefore perfectly clear that the objection of hon. Gentlemen opposite, both above and below the Gangway, is to use this valuation for the imposition of a system which we believe, not on 388 private but on public grounds, to be most injurious to the life of the community. There would have been hundreds of thousands more houses to-day if it had not been for this legislation. Since then we have spent £8,000,000,000 on a War. We cannot afford any more experiments of that kind, and I say it is the bounden duty of every one on this side who realises that fact, to do nothing to encourage and to do everything to prevent any opportunity being given to hon. Members opposite to reintroduce disastrous legislation of that kind. The hon. and learned Member for Crewe said it did not matter and that it would delay them for only 12 months. I suggest that it would take less than 12 months for the country to find them out. Unlike the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, I attach the utmost value to putting every possible impediment in the way of legislation of that kind, and I also attach enormous importance to getting rid of these particulars at the earliest possible moment, because the earlier they are got rid of, the less it will be possible to claim that they have kept the valuation up to date.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
No. The hon. Members opposite take the view that this valuation is going to serve a beneficial purpose. We take the view that it is going to serve a disastrous purpose. That is the whole point between us.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
No, on public grounds. We think that, after all, practice is better than theory. I consider that one of the most unfortunate things which has ever happened in politics in this country is that at this time, when we have been so pressed to find new methods of taxation, if it had not been for the practical lesson which the country learned when these taxes were imposed in 1909–10, we should certainly have had this disastrous experiment now, when it would have been far more injurious than it was at that time. The country has learned a lesson. I suggest to hon. Members all over the House that to dally with this thing at all is bad policy. We have got to let it be thoroughly understood that we are definitely against any attempt to renew that disastrous policy, 389 and anything that we can do at all, to legislate or to repeal legislation, which will prevent that experiment being attempted again, we will do. That is the point of view which I take, and I state it boldly to the House, because I believe it to be an absolutely sound view.
I associate myself entirely with those hon. Members who have spoken and who say that there must be a Valuation Department. I have said it over and over again to this House. I have never attempted to abolish the Valuation Department, and I never will advocate the abolition of a Valuation Department. I understand from what the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said that a Committee is considering the matter of whether this Valuation Department in its present form should be continued, but I did not understand him to suggest that there should not be some Government Valuation Department in some form or another. The Government have large interests in the country and must have a land agency, the same as any private individual who owns land does; they must have an expert staff who will value for Death Duties, and, whenever the Government have land transfers, either for sale or purchase or lease, act as their technical advisers. That is a perfectly right thing, which I should be the last in any sense to oppose, but may I point out—and that is why I interrupted the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs when he spoke—that the right hon. Gentleman himself had actually created a Valuation Department for this purpose in 1909? When he introduced his Budget for 1909–10, I have the most accurate recollection of his getting up and claiming how much this Valuation Department had already done in securing that Death Duties should be paid on the full value, and that inadequate returns could no longer be rendered, and he gave figures which showed that something like three per cent., he claimed, had been gained in the matter of that valuation.
There were then no particulars of this kind. There was no question of any general valuation, with all the other consequences—simply a question of the Land Valuation Department. There we are agreed perfectly. As the abolition of these costly, dangerous, mischevious particulars that add in no sense to the 390 real efficiency of the Valuation Department, the latter is not any way affected. On the other hand, I suggest that if a Valuation Department is to appeal to the country then it is necessary that it should have the confidence of both sides, of both the Government which employs it and of the landowners and of the property owners who are concerned with it. So long as hon. Members opposite hold it up that this Land Valuation Department mainly exists, and ought to be employed, on what all land and property owners consider to be a predatory scheme of land valuation, it is impossible that it should have the confidence of those who are concerned in the ownership and the dealing with land.
As an individual I should like to give my testimony, so far as my experience goes, that the district valuers concerned in making these valuations carry out their work in a satisfactory way, and they should inspire every confidence in the persons with whom they have to deal. Therefore, it is more desirable that when you have got a capable staff of this description you should give them proper work to do, and not employ them in nefarious work. I could quote figures to show that what is claimed for this in the shape of increased Death Duties and the sale of and purchase of land, as being due to the valuers, is largely an illusion. I think I could show that for every £ claimed to be gained from this valuation in Death Duties, £2 10s. has gone in the expense of the Department. Therefore, add that to the £500,000 which is now spent in legal expenses, and the country does not get one single penny as suggested. Therefore, I hope the Resolution before the House will be adhered to.
§ Sir ALFRED MOND
I have no intention of going into the very irrelevant speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman). As a matter of fact, the last part of his speech entirely destroyed the first. The Financial Secretary said earlier in the Debate, in relation to the Valuation Department, that he considers these returns that have been spoken of to be useful to the Department in order to enable them to carry out their functions properly. If, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman who last spoke is sincere in desiring the Government should have a 391 proper Valuation Department, the only conclusion we can come to is, that he should vote for the Amendment for the omission of the Clause. Whether the taxation or the rating of land values will or will not take place, whether certain returns will or will not continue to be made if the Land Valuation Department continues to do its work, which I understand it will do, whether returns are made or not, the Solicitor-General, who spoke earlier in the Debate put an entirely different point, which is, that the Valuation Department had no use for these returns, because they were entirely useless and they could do their work much better than without it, and that, therefore, they could be done away with. If that is the way the Valuation Department will keep up the returns, then all the consequences which terrifies the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelmsford will follow just as certainly whatever party comes into office. The root idea of taxing and rating unimproved land values will, I hope, always remain a cardinal part of our faith.
What is the position of the Government in this matter? Evidently, when this question came up before the Government did not share the panic-striken views which we have just heard expressed. The Financial Secretary asked that this Clause should be left undisturbed. When I was at the Office of Works, which is the Department concerned with the acquisition and hiring of land for the Government, we derived the greatest possible benefit from the information we were able to obtain at the Land Valuation Department. If those returns are of any value, how can the representative of the Government claim that they should be done away with. No great public economy is claimed for this proposal. The sum of £15,000 has been mentioned as the amount that would be saved by the abolition of this Department. Something has been said about a saving of £500,000, but that is not a public expenditure. It is a legal expense incurred, not by those who are dealing in land, but it consists of expenses charged by solicitors. The Financial Secretary, in his speech, let the cat out of the bag because he said that all this information is available, and it enables them to make a more accurate valuation of land when the State or local authority requires to buy land. 392 Then the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to say, "The dice are loaded, not against the public or the people, but against the landowner." My point is that the dice have been loaded long enough the other way.
What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by saying that the dice are loaded? Does he mean that the more accurate the information which the Government can obtain does not enable them to pay a fair price for the land which is acquired? The Financial Secretary is one of the guardians of the public purse, and he ought to see that land is bought for the Government at the lowest price. [An HON. MEMBER: "At an honest price!"] Yes, certainly, at an honest price. Why should the Government not have all this information to be able to check the price when they want to buy land because by obtaining this information from the Valuation Department they can see whether they are getting the land at a fair price. It is most important that the local authorities should have this information. It is well known that when local authorities wish to acquire any property they are asked a higher price than was put upon it before it was known that they required it. It is well known private persons are employed to negotiate so that the public authority may not appear and thus buy more cheaply. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman did not consider in the heat of debate the exact meaning when he said the dice were loaded. We want the dice loaded on behalf of the public and of the taxpayer. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) made a very impressive speech. He has had great experience at the Treasury and he is quite convinced of the necessity and soundness of the returns made and of the assistance they give. I am sorry his weighty words carried so little weight with the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I hope they will have more weight with the House. At any rate, we can be no parties to loading the dice against the people.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
A discussion on land generally seems to revive interest in the House of Commons, and it is remarkable to see how everybody has turned up to witness the funeral of the Valuation Department. Having 393 listened to the speech of the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) it seems to me the public hangman ought to be called in rather than the House of Commons to deal with this horrible matter. When he was describing his historical researches into the previous black history of this valuation, when he was describing the counting of trees and of hedgerows, when he was indulging in his anecdotage of fifty years, did he realise that by his Vote to-night he is forcing a new Government when it comes into power to make use, precisely, of that rotten old valuation on which he pours such scorn, and taking away from it the only opportunity of having a real valuation and a record of real sales so that the Valuation Department can know at what figures property changes hands as between a willing seller and a willing buyer, as a basis for an honest valuation instead of the one which he condemns. I leave it to be assumed that I am in favour of the taxation of land values, but not more so than anyone behind me, especially after the exhibition we have had to-night.
On this occasion I propose to argue in favour of the retention of this particular power of the Valuation Department solely from the point of view of the interests of the public taxpayer and of honesty. We know quite well that, although the Valuation Department may be continued, yet by the passage of this Clause it will be deprived of its power of checking the prices charged by landlords to public authorities generally and also of checking the declaration as to the amount of real estate of deceased persons. For these two purposes every authority who has studied the question has pointed out the admirable service rendered by the Valuation Department. Every responsible Member on the bench opposite, and every inquiry that has been conducted, has been convinced that in screwing up the Death Duties on real estate the Valuation Department has recovered millions for the taxpayer. I believe the sum has been put at 45 millions. The exact value of the services of the Department to local authorities in the purchase of land cannot possibly be stated, but undoubtedly it is represented by millions of pounds, and for both these purposes the Department has rendered most valuable services to the 394 State. Not only has it recovered revenue, but what is, in my opinion, far more important, it has prevented fraud, the understatement of the value of receipts of estates, and people whose land is required by the public getting excessive prices, amounting to blackmail, out of the public authority purchasing the land. Let me give one example. Some time ago now the Borough of Poplar was buying land for housing. The land they required was offered to them at £6,500. They looked up the valuation of that land for Death Duty purposes, and found in the register of the Valuation Department that it had been valued for Death Duty purposes at £2,400, as against £6,500. Owing to the existence of the Valuation Department and its records, which you are now seeking to tear up, that local authority was able to force the landlord finally, after three years' delay in starting the housing scheme, down from £6,500 to £3,000. That is only one solid instance.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
If this Clause be carried that will not in the slightest interfere with the Death Duty valuation or the records.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I know it will not interfere with the Death Duty valuation, but it will prevent it being screwed up to the real figure and will prevent the even more valuable records of actual purchase and sale being recorded as a cheek on these extortionate prices. There you are not merely saving the pocket of the public but you are also securing justice as between one taxpayer and the other. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Solicitor-General in making their defence of the Government volte face on this matter said the Department would remain as before, that the operations of the Department would remain as before, that the information at the disposal of the Department would remain not as before but would be as extensive as that enjoyed by any other valuation office in the country.
As the hon. Member for West Swansea (Sir A. Mond) pointed out, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, in the most amazing passage, said that after all that would prevent the scales being weighted against the unfortunate landlord. What does that mean? It means that he is positively depriving the public of an opportunity of preventing itself being 395 swindled. He might just as well ask the Home Secretary to get up and abolish the power of the police to take finger prints because that weighted the dice against the unfortunate criminal. If that is the case, let anarchy reign supreme, but even the bureaucracy in this country must require some weapons to prevent their being swindled by evil-doers. In this case I do think the Valuation Department has been an admitted success up to now, owing to its powers to get information as to sales and transfers that take place. Information of these sales is the absolute guarantee of the price of that particular property, and from the posssession of the general facts of what property is selling at every Valuation Department can make out a stronger case for their estimate of what the value of any neighbouring property should be. You are taking that weapon away from them, and just at a time when it will be particularly needed, because these unemployment schemes that we have before us now, and particularly schemes for new roads and new canals, all involve extensive land purchase, and up to the present time the Valuation Department has been invaluable in keeping down the price. Take the road from Manchester to Liverpool. By the use of the Valuation Department the landlords were settled with on that route without, I believe, in any case going before an arbitration board. The information in the possession of the Valuation Department enabled them to deal with the landlords along that route, and made that road possible. If that road and other similar roads are made, it will be largely due to the fact that the local authorities concerned were able to get the land at a reasonable price, because they had the Valuation Department behind them coaching them ms to the price which they ought to pay. Exactly the same thing applies to housing schemes. Now the Government come forward—or rather, the supporters of the Government, because the Government itself is quite passive in the matter—and show their keenness on these schemes for helping unemployment and providing useful, productive work, by hamstringing them.
This really illustrates completely the difference between the two sides of the House. Every argument we have heard throughout the day from the other side 396 of the House has been an argument in favour of property securing its just rights. Every argument from this side has been an argument in favour of justice to the taxpayer, and property, seeing itself attacked, has turned up in greater numbers than ever before on a discussion in connection with this Budget. This has been the meat in the Budget—something for the landlords, something for property. Yesterday, upstairs, the landlords of Scotland managed to get out of the taxpayers' pocket a promise of £300,000 a year, under the guise of the Agricultural Rates Act, to be paid directly into the pockets of the landlords year by year. They admit it, and glory in it. Now they come and ask for more. Abolish the Valuation Department, they say, and keep no check upon us. The Government comes to heel obedient to the voice behind it—the effective voice. They bow the knee to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman), and accept the abolition of the Valuation Department, which they have sworn to defend. Where is it going to stop? They are looking after their friends. Let them only carry on that policy long enough, and I think that at the next Election their friends may see grounds for regretting it.
§ 11.0 P.M.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)
I do not often find myself a little out of sympathy with the atmosphere of this House of Commons, but I confess to-night that I find it very difficult to feel any of the enthusiasm which has been manifested now on one side, and now on another of the House. It must be a great puzzle to new embers of the House who have not taken part in the historic struggles, the recollection of which has evidently been aroused by some remarks which have been bandied across the Floor that the debate has been conducted, "to the music of trumpets and shawms." I am afraid my contribution will be rather on muted strings. What is it that we really are discussing to-night? We are discussing whether or not we shall continue the registration of certain sales and leases by communicating particulars to the Commissioners of Inland Revenue—that and nothing else. We come to be discussing that because of a Division which took place on the Committee stage of the Finance Bill, and I would say, with all respect to the hon. Member 397 for Crewe (Mr. Hemmerde), who was not then in the House, that he is entirely in error in accusing this side or any side in the House of a breach of faith that night. I would only refer to the remarks made by the hon. Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyn), who, that night, was on the Front Opposition Bench, and he will see that I have justification for what I say. When the Division took place on the subject we are now discussing, by a free vote, the House decided by a large majority in a particular way, and it was the particular way against which the representative of the Government had been advising. I am a comparatively inexperienced Member of Parliament, and I looked to precedents to see what was done in similar cases, and I found when a still worse disaster occurred to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) two years ago, in the matter of the co-operative societies, with the Government Whips on, the right hon. Gentleman the. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain) accepted the verdict of the House, and we too accepted the verdict, of the House.
That is the history of the Debate, but there is a little history attached to the remnants of this Clause of the 1909 Act, and I wish to say a word about that. I think really there were two reasons for keeping on this fragment of that Clause. One was the genuine feeling that we all had, in the Government of that time, that something should be left, and something for which good reasons might be given. That was a genuine feeling on my part. It was a portion of the Clause on which I think anyone who knows will agree with me that good reasons could be given on the other side. That was one of the things that surprised me about the amount of feeling that has been shown in the Debate to-night, because the matter, after all, if you can only dissociate it from its historical setting, is one of the very smallest importance. That, I think, I shall be able to show. It is true that, in 1920, there were reasons for continuing this registration which do not exist to-day. We were then at a time of the most wonderfully fluctuating values that had ever been seen, and it could be fairly put forward, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham put it forward at the time, that that was a reason for the time 398 being for maintaining that Section. Everything else of the 1909 Budget disappeared, and I only mention that because it was of great interest to me to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for West Swansea (Sir A. Mond)—who has a first-class brain, if nobody else in this House has, and who was one who acquiesced in the destruction of that Section—saying to-night that site values formed the cardinal article in his creed. I wondered what was the cardinal article of a man's creed. I know now that it means a plant of three years' growth. It is perfectly true what my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham, said, and what the Leader of the Labour party, the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr Lloyd George), and others have said, that the Valuation Department has done a most valuable work. "Really valuable service to the State" was the phrase used by the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme. I quite agree with that. It is true that considerable sums of money—it is difficult to estimate them—have been saved to the country by that Department, but he would be a bold man who would say, without fear of contradiction, that those savings have been made by the Valuation Department absolutely by reason of the registration which we are proposing to bring to an end.
The Valuation Department will go on. I have been at particular pains to discuss this matter with my advisers, because had I been convinced, in the interval between the Committee stage and the Report stage, that the insertion of this Clause would really imperil the cause that we all have at heart—that is, to save the taxpayer as far as we can—I should have taken a different attitude to-night. I am convinced from the inquiries I have made that the efficiency of the Department will not be impaired. It is quite true that it is always easier to proceed with the machinery that you have. When you have machinery that is working you do not like to change; but when you have to change it, you adapt yourself, and unless your adaptation leaves you in a far worse, or even in a worse condition, there is not the strong case that there otherwise would be for trying to reverse a decision which was taken in an open vote, and by a substantial majority. As I do not propose to enter into any of the historic questions connected with this 399 subject which have formed the staple of so many speeches during this Debate, but to confine myself, as I have done, purely to the matter in hand, I fear that it is impossible to make a longer speech. I recommend the House, honestly and sincerely, to follow the course which has been proposed by my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
I want to say a very few words. The Prime Minister has the gift of imparting an atmosphere of calm reason into our Debates which is shared by very few Members of this House. I do not think it is shared by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and I am sure I do not share it myself. What is the right hon. Gentleman's case? His first case is this. He says that when the Government were defeated on the vote on the co-operative societies' Income Tax they considered it their duty to bow to the will of the House. This is not in pari materia at all. That was a defeat deliberately inflicted on the Government, against the Government Whips, by the House of Commons. This is nothing of the kind. This is a vote which was snatched—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is entitled to a hearing, and I would ask hon. Members to listen to what he has got to say.
§ Captain BENN
I am not saying anything that I think is even controversial. This was a vote which was given at a time when controversy was supposed to have ceased, on a Motion by a private Member, and the Question was put without any discussion at all. Therefore, for the Prime Minister to say that that must be regarded in the same serious way as a deliberate defeat inflicted on the Government and the Government Whips, I do not think is an argument which really will bear examination. The Prime Minister's third point was that in 1920 the circumstances were exceptional, and that, therefore, we must not be guided by what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain) then, and repeated with great manliness by him to-night in the Debate. This is not the case. He says that to take away from the Valuation 400 Department these few powers will not impair the efficiency of the Department as a revenue collecting instrument. Let us see, however, what the then Solicitor-General, the hon. and learned Member for the Exchange Division (Sir Leslie Scott), said in 1920—not 1922. It was the very reverse. He said:This Department cannot function properly unless it is supplied with the kind of information contained in what are called 'particulars delivered.'Impressed by that view, nearly all the Members—50 per cent. of the hon. Gentlemen who are now going into the Lobby to destroy this Department—went into the Lobby to defend it, because, as he said, it was necessary. It is not necessary to take them individually, but many of them would not deny that was the view which they took. The view expressed by the Solicitor-General only twelve months ago was reiterated by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury only a week ago. He also said:To make such an alteration as this would have a very real effect upon the activities of the Land Valuation Department.So there is a weight of evidence, from the evidence of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham to that of the Solicitor-General, in June, last year, reinforced by the evidence of the Financial Secretary himself, which led the House to believe that he was going to vote against the insertion of the Clause, to show that this Department is necessary to collect money. The Prime Minister, in his very temperate speech, did not deny that this Department will add considerably to the revenue that is collected in Death Duties, and will reduce considerably the price of land purchase for public purposes. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury did not deny it either. What he said was, I do not care about the revenue. I am prepared to sacrifice the chance of revenue, provided that I can make a little more secure the political position which I hold, and can put a little further into the future a system of fiscal taxation, namely, the taxation of land values, to which I object. That was his entire case. He was willing to sacrifice the revenue in order that his political views might prevail a little longer. In these circumstances I trust that the House will adopt 401 the Budget, in this particular, as originally proposed by the Government itself, and refuse to accept the Clause which has been inserted in the manner that has been described.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 260; Noes, 187.403
|Division No. 266.]||AYES.||[11.15 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Dixon, Capt. H. (Belfast, E.)||Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Dixon, C. H. (Rutland)||Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton, East)||Dudgeon, Major C. R.||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Kinloch-Cooké, Sir Clement|
|Apsley, Lord||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Colonel G. R.|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Col. Sir Martin||Ednam, Viscount||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Wilfred W.||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)|
|Astor, J. J. (Kent, Dover)||Ellis, R. G.||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Lorden, John William|
|Austin, Sir Herbert||Erskine-Bolst, Captain C.||Lorimer, H. D.|
|Baird, Rt. Hon. Sir John Lawrence||Evans, Capt. H. Arthur (Leicester, E.)||Lort-Williams, J.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Lougher, L.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Lowe, Sir Francis William|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Fawkes, Major F. H.||Lumley, L. R.|
|Barlow, Rt. Hon. Sir Montague||Fermor-Hesketh, Major T.||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Flanagan, W. H.||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Foreman, Sir Henry||Margesson, H. D. R.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Forestier-Walker, L.||Mason, Lieut.-Col. C. K.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Mercer, Colonel H.|
|Bennett, Sir T. J. (Sevenoaks)||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw|
|Berry, Sir George||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Furness, G. J.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Molloy, Major L. G. S.|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Ganzoni, Sir John||Morden, Col. W. Grant|
|Blundell, F. N.||Garland, C. S.||Morrison, Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Gates, Percy||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.||Murchison, C. K.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Nall, Major Joseph|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Goff, Sir R. Park||Nesbitt, Robert C.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Gould, James C.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Briggs, Harold||Greaves-Lord, Walter||Newson, Sir Percy Wilson|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Brown, Major D. C. (Hexham)||Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Bruton, Sir James||Gretton, Colonel John||Nield, Sir Herbert|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Gwynne, Rupert S.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Paget, T. G.|
|Burn, Colonel Sir Charles Rosdew||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Parker, Owen (Kettering)|
|Burney, Com. (Middx., Uxbridge)||Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l, W. D'by)||Pease, William Edwin|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Halstead, Major D.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Butler, H. M. (Leeds, North)||Hamilton, Sir George C. (Altrincham)||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Perring, William George|
|Button, H. S.||Harrison, F. C.||Pielou, D. P.|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Harvey, Major S. E.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Privett, F. J.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Raine, W.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Herbert, S. (Scarborough)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Hewett, Sir J. P.||Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)|
|Chilcott, Sir Warden||Hiley, Sir Ernest||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Remer, J. R.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Remnant, Sir James|
|Clayton, G. C.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hood, Sir Joseph||Rhodes, Lieut.-Col. J. P.|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Hopkins, John W. W.||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Houfton, John Plowright||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.)||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Cope, Major William||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Robertson-Despencer, Major (Islgtn, W)|
|Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Hudson, Capt. A.||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Hume, G. H.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Ruggles-Brise, Major E.|
|Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page||Hurd, Percy A.||Russell, William (Bolton)|
|Crook, C. W. (East Ham, North)||Hutchison, G. A. C. (Midlothian, N.)||Russell-Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Hutchison, W. (Kelvingrove)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Curzon, Captain Viscout||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton)||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Sanderson, Sir Frank B.|
|Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Sandon, Lord|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Jephcott, A. R.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Jodrell, Sir Neville Paul||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Johnson, Sir L. (Walthamstow, E.)||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Jones G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Joynson-Hicks, Sir William||Simpson-Hinchliffe, W. A.|
|Skelton, A. N.||Thorpe, Captain John Henry||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)||Titchfield, Marquess of||Winterton, Earl|
|Smith, Sir Harold (Wavertree)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Wise, Frederick|
|Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Tubbs, S. W.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Somerville, Daniel (Barrow-in-Furness)||Turton, Edmund Russborough||Wood, Rt. Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.||Wallace, Captain E.||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Stanley Lord||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Steel, Major S. Strang||Watts, Dr. T. (Man., Withington)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Stewart, Gershom (Wirral)||Wells, S. R.||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Stockton, Sir Edwin Forsyth||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield||Yerburgh, R. D. T.|
|Stott, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser||White, Lt.-Col. G. D. (Southport)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Sugden, Sir Wilfrid H.||Whitla, Sir William||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Colonel|
|Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)||Gibbs.|
|Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Hardie, George D.||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Harney, E. A.||Potts, John S.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Harris, Percy A.||Price, E. G.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hartshorn, Vernon||Pringle, W. M. R.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hastings, Patrick||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Attlee, C. R.||Hay, Captain J. P. (Cathcart)||Richards, R.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hayday, Arthur||Riley, Ben|
|Barnes, A.||Hayes, John Henry (Edge Hill)||Ritson, J.|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Hemmerde, E. G.||Roberts, C. H. (Derby)|
|Batey, Joseph||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (N'castle, E.)||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Henderson, Sir T. (Roxburgh)||Robinson, W. C. (York, Elland)|
|Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Herriotts, J.||Rose, Frank H.|
|Bonwick, A.||Hill, A.||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hillary, A. E.||Saklatvala, S.|
|Broad, F. A.||Hinds, John||Salter, Dr. A.|
|Bromfield, William||Hirst, G. H.||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Brotherton, J.||Hodge, Lieut.-Colonel J. P. (Preston)||Sexton, James|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hutchison, Sir R. (Kirkcaldy)||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Buckie, J.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Burgess, S.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Shinwell, Emanuel|
|Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Buxton, Charles (Accrington)||Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East)||Simpson, J. Hope|
|Chapple, W. A.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Sinclair, Sir A.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Clarke, Sir E. C.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, T. (Pontefract)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Jones, R. T. (Carnarvon)||Snell, Harry|
|Collins, Pat (Walsall)||Jowett, F. W. (Bradford, East)||Snowden, Philip|
|Collison, Levi||Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Cotts, Sir William Dingwall Mitchell||Kenyon, Barnet||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Lansbury, George||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Lawson, John James||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Davies, J. C. (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Leach, W.||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lee, F.||Sullivan, J.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Linfield, F. C.||Sutherland, Rt. Hon. Sir William|
|Duffy, T. Gavan||Lowth, T.||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
|Duncan, C.||Lunn, William||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Dunnico, H.||Lyle-Samuel, Alexander||Thornton, M.|
|Ede, James Chuter||McCurdy, Rt. Hon. Charles A.||Trevelyan, C. P.|
|Edge, Captain Sir William||MacDonald, J. R. (Aberavon)||Turner, Ben|
|Edmonds, G.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty||M'Entee, V. L.||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke upon Trent)|
|England, Lieut.-Colonel A.||McLaren, Andrew||Warne, G. H.|
|Evans, Ernest (Cardigan)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Falconer, J.||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Foot, Isaac||March, S.||Webb, Sidney|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)||Weir, L. M.|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Middleton, G.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Gosling, Harry||Millar, J. D.||Westwood, J.|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Morel, E. D.||White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Greenall, T.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Whiteley, W.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Mosley, Oswald||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Murnin, H.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Murray, Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Groves, T.||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Grundy, T. W.||O'Grady, Captain James||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Guest, Hon. C. H. (Bristol, N.)||Oliver, George Harold||Wright, W.|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Paling, W.||Young, Rt. Hon. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Parker, H. (Hanley)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Hancock, John George||Pattinson, S. (Horncastle)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Phillipps and Sir A. Marshall.|