§ Mr. Fairbairn
I beg to move Amendment No. 240, in page 65, line 5, at end insert:'(a) from any payment if immediately before the payment is made the person to whom the disposal is made does not know or could not reasonably have known that the usual place of abode of the person entitled to the payment is outside the United Kingdom, or'.The amendment relates to Clause 40 and Schedule 2. It is purely to protect persons resident abroad, either temporarily or permanently. It seems a reasonable amendment and I hope that it will find favour with the Minister.
§ Mr. Denzil Davies
The hon. and learned Gentleman correctly says that this is a reasonable amendment. The only problem relates to three words in the middle—"does not know". The words "could not reasonably have known" are perfectly sensible and appropriate, but the other three words could create difficulties. A person may not know but he may not even have taken reasonable steps to find out.
If those words were left out the amendment would add nothing to our intentions. The intention is to publish regulations, which will set out the position comparably with other regulations and deal with this problem in relation to Clause 40. The words in the amendment would do no harm in the legislation subject to the fact that we could not accept the words "does not know" because then there would be no onus upon the purchaser to find out the place 1893 of abode. I am sorry to have to deploy that argument, but for that reason I cannot accept the amendment.
§ Mr. Graham Page
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Since the Minister has said that the amendment is acceptable save for three words, would you accept a manuscript amendment to this amendment to correct its language? It cannot be corrected anywhere else in Parliament. When the Bill leaves us today it will not go to the other place for amendment. Since the Minister is prepared to accept the amendment without these words, it would be reasonable to make a manuscript amendment to remove them.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I am not empowered to do that. Only Mr. Speaker can accept manuscript amendments.
§ Mr. Graham Page
Further to the point of order. You tempt me to ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to send for Mr. Speaker so that we might get the Bill right. There are enough things wrong with it already, but at least we are ad idem with the Minister on one point. It is of course possible to make amendments on Third Reading, although it is unusual in this House.
Perhaps I could leave the point of order now and speak to the amendment itself. This is a most important matter. I speak now in a capacity that I have disclosed many times—as a practising solicitor. If this provision is not made in this clause chaos will be caused in conveyancing. Almost every time, the purchaser and his solicitor will have to ask whether a vendor's usual place of abode is overseas. Even the vendor's adviser may not know whether his client has a place of abode overseas.
If these inquiries do not produce anything, there still seems to be that absolute liability on the purchaser to deduct 50 per cent. from the purchase money. It is an extraordinary provision—not to deduct the tax but to deduct 50 per cent. of the consideration of the purchase of the property. If this question whether the vendor has at place of abode overseas has to be investigated in every conveyancing transaction, conveyancing will be drastically delayed.
I have said that amendments may be made on Third Reading and I see no 1894 reason why, if the Minister accepts that our amendment is correct without these words, that should not be satisfactorily done. I am dealing not with matters of principle but with a practical matter which will cause terrible confusion in the ordinary conveyancing of property. I only hope that we can make the amendment here and now. I urge the Minister to try to do something about this.
§ Mr. Denzil Davies
I fairly made the point that if the words "does not know" were left out the amendment would be improved, but I want to refute what the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) said, that without the amendment there would be chaos. I made it clear in Committee that we intended to publish statutory regulations setting out various guidelines. We have consulted the Law Society about doing it this way and I understand that it is content with the proposal that we have made. We may not have consulted the Law Society of Scotland but we have consulted the Law Society. The regulations will achieve exactly what the amendment seeks.
Perhaps I should not have said that without those three words the amendment would be acceptable. I was being honest and saying that without them the amendment might as well be in the Bill, but I want to make it clear that the regulations will meet the point in a way which is acceptable to the Law Society, which will have to operate this. I therefore hope that the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. and learned Friend will accept that as the position. No problem will be created. The regulations will put the matter right. The Law Society is satisfied that the matter should be dealt with by regulations. I am sorry that, for that reason, I cannot accept the amendment.
§ Mr. Fairbairn
I listened to the Minister on both occasions. I think that I may be able to help him and my right hon Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) out of their difficulty that only Mr. Speaker may accept a manuscript amendment.
The Minister is worried that if we say "does not know" or "could not reasonably have known" we shall mean two classes of people—those who have deliberate ignorance, and those who have excusable ignorance. The desired effect 1895 is equally well achieved by substituting the word "and" and the word "or".
This is a matter of interpretation in England. It was laid down by the House of Lords that in any statute the word "and" means the word "or". Therefore, in law the sentence may equally well read "could not know". That is perfectly acceptable. It does not create a category of deliberate ignorance it is a category of people who do not know and could not reasonably have known. The words "and" and "or" are interchangeable in statute law. That is established in many cases—for instance, in the Road Traffic Act, where to say "drove recklessly at a speed and in a manner dangerous to the public" is the same as saying "drove recklessly at a speed or in a manner dangerous to the public". That is a well established fact.
The Minister will therefore be able to draw from his continuing well of sympathy, the contents of which he is so anxious to give us. He will be able to accept an amendment in which he believes but which he cannot accept for technical reasons.
It is remarkable that it is always the Minister's technical feelings that prevent him from indulging his faith. I ask him to accept the amendment on the basis of that correct interpretation.
§ Mr. Denzil Davies
The hon. and learned Gentleman attempted to save his amendment. I would not wish to argue about such an interpretation, but my advice is to the contrary. I cannot possibly accept the amendment when the advice I have received is not in accord with his point.
We shall cover this point by means of statutory regulation. It is acceptable to the Law Society. This is a case of neither good intentions nor sympathy. We shall meet the point under the subordinate legislation. We cannot meet it in the primary legislation.
§ Amendment negatived.