§ 15. Regulations made for the purposes of this Schedule may provide that, in such circumstances as may be specified in the regulations and subject to such exceptions and modifications as may be so specified, the provisions of Parts I to III of this Schedule shall have effect in relation to a previous chargeable act or event which fell within Case F and consisted of—
- (a) such a disposition as is mentioned in subsection (3) of section 35 of this Act, or
- (b) the accrual of such a right to compensation as is mentioned in subsection (5) of that section,
§ 3.15 a.m.
§ The House may remember that, when the Bill was at the Report stage on 26th October, my right hon. Friend moved a new Clause which was in fulfilment of a promise which he had made in Committee on 19th July. That was Clause 35 in its present form, whereby my right hon. Friend said that the scope of the regulation making power would be limited to the circumstances in which Case F was to apply. He carried out the undertaking given in Committee, and the new Clause was moved and accepted by the House. Hon. Members opposite said that it met their wishes.
§ As soon as that happened, my right hon. Friend began to prepare the regulations which he had undertaken to bring forward, so that they might be available at the earliest possible moment. In drafting regulations, however, it became obvious that, in Case F, certain credits which would be available in Cases D and E and which might in similar circumstances arise in Case F were not catered 1720 for and could not be in the regulations if the new Clause which we had introduced were in its present form. In the normal course of events, it would have been possible to have made this Amendment in another place, but that could not be done because a matter of privilege arose. So this is the first opportunity that we have had to complete the undertaking given in respect of Case F in July.
§ Perhaps I might explain the circumstances whereby, largely because of legal grounds or grounds of negotiation, almost by chance, certain categories of transactions might fall to be dealt with under Case F, rather than Case D or Case E. If that were so, the chargeable owner or other person entitled to benefit would not get the advantages which he otherwise would get if these transactions took place under Case D or Case E.
§ I can probably explain this best by way of an example. One can imagine an electricity authority wishing to take lines over certain ground. Technically, there are various ways in which that can be done, but they are broadly categorised as wayleaves, and there are various forms in which permission can be given. The authority could take an easement. In that event, it would fall to be dealt with under Case E. Alternatively, it could negotiate a licence. Clearly, that would fall within subsection (3) of Clause 35 and would be Case F. Thirdly, it could have the lines under compulsory rights and pay compensation for depreciation. Again, that would fall within subsection (5) and would be Case F.
§ Expenditure would arise in Case E where the authority had created an easement. In those circumstances, it would have been possible for a certain part of the credit which might arise in such a transaction to be held in reserve under Schedule 11 for a subsequent transaction.
§ It is true that by paragraph 5 of Schedule 5 a Schedule 5 basis cannot be adopted when the chargeable event has already taken place before the occasion, but in those circumstances the credit can be held in reserve and used in a subsequent transaction. As the Bill is drafted it would be impossible in Case F to make this credit available. The Amendments provide equity of treatment, where it is more convenient to get this wayleave by one method or another, by providing for 1721 the credit to be available for subsequent transactions in Case F as in Cases E and D. In those circumstances I hope that the House will take the view that the Government have been fair and reasonable in this matter and will agree to the Amendments.
§ Mr. Graham Page
When can we expect the Regulations? Are they terribly involved, so that we shall have to study them carefully, or can the Minister produce them in something better than unintelligible language of the Schedules? I hope that they will be intelligible, and that we shall be able to see them soon.
The Parliamentary Secretary said that this was the first opportunity the Government had had to introduce the Amendments. That may be so from the point of view of the programme which the Government set themselves on the Bill, but it all arose because Case F originally was a sort of unknown dustbin; it could have been anything. It was only because of pressure by the Opposition that Case F was made more specific in the new Clause 35. It was in the Government's hands before that to give us a specific Clause 35 and tell us about Case F. They could have given us the Amendment earlier, or have drafted the Bill in a better way.
It is a false excuse to say that this is the first opportunity. The Government could have so arranged matters that this sort of thing came before the House at an earlier stage—not in the morning but in an earlier stage of our discussions on the Bill.
§ Mr. Clegg
I want to refer to the Amendment in page 172. Previously, that led me to think that I was having a nightmare and I confess that the wording still gives me that feeling. But I am glad to have the explanation of the Minister. I hope he will try to reply to my hon. Friend's point. The Amendment seems to be generally for the benefit of individuals.
§ Amendment to the words so restored to the Bill agreed to.
§ Mr. Clegg
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the words so restored to 1722 the Bill, in page 120, line 6, to leave out '1st August 1966' and to insert '23rd September 1965'.
The object of this Amendment is to be a little like Oliver Twist and ask for more. The Minister provided a valuable concession when he introduced this provision for builders buying after 1st August, 1966. We now seek to extend the concession to the intervening period, from the publication of the White Paper to the first appointed day. I would not have moved the Amendment if I had thought that in that intervening period there had been widespread attempts to avoid the payment of the levy. I am sure that that was in the Minister's mind when both dates were inserted; he did not want people to take advantage of it.
But so difficult has been the Bill to understand and so long has it taken for the conclusions as to what the Bill means to be grasped, and to leak through to the public before they could even try to evade it—it may be that some people have been honest because they have not had the chance to be otherwise—and so great has been the confusion about what planning permission means, that practically no one has been cunning enough to outwit the Minister who, hiding behind a smokescreen of words, has prevented them from seeing decent and proper ways of evading the levy. I suggest that he would be doing a great service to getting private building cracking again if he accepted the Amendment. We must look at it against the background of a falling output in the private building sector. If this Amendment would help to get more houses coming forward for development, it would be well worthwhile and the Minister would lose hardly anything.
§ Mr. Willey
The hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) says that it was a valuable concession. I think that it is appreciated by builders, and we have had no representations by the National Federation or any of the other organisations suggesting that the step proposed by the Amendment should be taken.
The step which we took particularly had in mind the difficulties which there might be in bringing land forward during the latter part of the interim period. I should have thought that hon. Members would have had sympathy with the view that we should bring the interim period 1723 to a speedy close. The concession sought to deal with small builders who had small plots of land, who wish to obtain land for early development and who might feel that it was not coming on to the market because of the difficulty of deciding who bears the levy. The concession has served that purpose and I see no reason to extend it.
§ Mr. Eyre
My hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde is right in saying that no one has tried to take advantage of this dead period. I know of no attempt to produce evasive transactions during that time. The Minister would lose nothing by making the change and there would be one particular advantage. The professional people have their heads spinning with the various important dates in the Bill—there have been a number of complaints about that—and this change would be in the interests of simplicity in a complex subject. There would be an advantage in getting rid of an extra date. I assure the Minister that there would be no improper gain to anybody.
§ Mr. Graham Page
May I also urge the Minister to make this change? My recollection about the fixing of the date is that it was decided at a time when the right hon. Gentleman had in mind that the supply of land might dry up because people were frightened about what was happening under the Bill. It was fixed arbitrarily at the time because of a fear that there would be a shortage of land coming forward. The great difficulty is to try to remember the several dates.
We start with 1st April, 1948, which is a date well known to most of us, but not necessary to the layman, and then go on to 23rd December, 1965, the White Paper date. The next date we have to remember is 1st August, 1966, followed by either 21st or 29th December, 1965, which we discussed on an earlier Amendment. We go on to try to remember the appointed day, 6th April, 1967, and finally we must keep in mind a date six months ahead of that. If that exercise is not a strain on the memory, it is certainly making a complicated Bill even more complex. I do not see the necessity of bringing in the date 1st August, 1966, 1724 particularly since we could have kept to the date 23rd September, 1965.
§ Amendment to the words so restored to the Bill negatived.