Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 15th February 1933.
I am sorry not to be able to respond to the invitation of my right hon. and gallant Friend to allow this Bill to receive its First Reading without any protest. As he has rightly said, it is a hardy annual, and I think it will be a sorry day for this House when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is not able to be with us to produce the Bill. I a/m afraid, however, that this year it must fall upon stony ground. There are several reasons why I think the Bill should not be printed and why I invite the House to reject the Motion. In the first place, I will take the question of economy. The Bill, if it be the same as that which has been introduced hitherto, could only result at the present time in a large expenditure on valuations. Not very long ago the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) introduced certain land tax proposals and, without going into any details, and recognising that they are possibly slightly different proposals from those that the right hon. Gentleman has put forward to-day, one does not forget that the valuation on that occasion, incomplete as it was, cost the country £5,000,000 and only brought in revenue of £1,500,000 before the legislation was finally repealed.
The proposed Measure is rather more ambitious than that which was introduced by Lord Snowden in his Budget two years ago. Lord Snowden allowed certain exemptions to take place. I was not quite clear from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech to-day whether he proposes any exemptions. According to the Bill introduced last year all land of every kind was liable to the land valuation tax, which would mean the re-rating of allotments, agricultural land, and the rating of those industrial undertakings which were exempted under Lord Snowden's proposals. I am very much afraid that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is a little too transparent. I recollect that, about nine years ago, when he was a Minister in the first Socialist Administration he made a speech in which he said that in his opinion by such Measures as this nationalisation of land could be effected. I do not think the House will be, if he will allow me to say so, altogether taken in by the very fair arguments from his point of view that he has put forward to-day.
I will only invite the House to consider what might possibly lie behind legislation of this kind if it ever became law. The local authorities would have complete power to direct land valuation wherever they felt inclined. We should be giving them carte blanche to spend vast sums of money. I have always maintained that in matters of this kind this would be an unfair form of taxation. Let me take a simple illustration. You may have a man in business, occupying