(1)Where provision is made either—
(3) No stamp duty shall be payable on any conveyance, agreement or assignment made, or instrument executed, solely for the purpose of giving effect to a transfer of property to a joint board or joint committee constituted under section one hundred and nineteen or one hundred and twenty of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947, from a local authority which is represented on the board or committee.
(4) In this section references to a local authority include a joint board or joint committee consisting exclusively of representatives of local authorities, and the expression "local authority" means, in England and Wales, the council of a county, county borough or county district and, in Scotland, a county council or town council.
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
In the Committee stage I gave an undertaking to my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) to put down a Clause exempting from stamp duty the transfer of property from local authorities on the creation of a water board under the Water Act, 1945. This new Clause fulfils that undertaking and goes a little further than that undertaking in two respects, to which I will refer.
It not only exempts from stamp duty the transfer of property from the local authority to the water board, but it also exempts from stamp duty the acquisition by the water board of the property of a private water company or other privately owned water undertaking. In exempting that from stamp duty we are following the precedent set in relation to Scotland by the Water (Scotland) Act, 1946, bringing the law of Scotland and England into conformity in that respect. That is one of the respects in which this Clause goes a little further than the undertaking I gave on the Committee stage.
The other respect is that the Clause not only applies to water boards but makes similar provision in respect of property transferred from a local authority to a joint sewerage board. The circumstances are much the same and the arguments in favour of this exemption are equally strong. I hope I have said enough about this Clause to explain its object and purposes, and I hope the House will pass it.
I only want to ask the Solicitor-General whether this Clause applies to joint burial boards. I have had to concern myself—I hope a little prematurely— with burial boards and joint burial boards recently. These bodies exist for public purposes, and I should have thought they might reasonably be entitled to a similar exemption, unless that is already provided.
I warn the Solicitor-General that it does not appear easy to discover whether these provisions cover burial boards and, in mercy to him, I would not ask him for an immediate answer. I merely suggest that the matter should have consideration in due course. Burial boards are no joke. One can be put into prison for 14 years for forging the seal of a burial board even before one comes under it in any other way.
This Clause was put forward to meet a point raised by a proposed new Clause put down by me on the Committee stage, although I was not able to deal with it then. I am very grateful to the Solicitor-General for the manner in which he has dealt with this point. I cannot claim that this is a matter which will revolutionise the finances of local authorities, but it is a concession which will be welcomed by all those local authorities and undertakings which will be affected by it. Perhaps, what is more important, I hope it will enable them to reduce the charges they would otherwise impose upon the population.
Whether the Clause applies to burial boards or not I do not feel myself capable of saying. If it does not, I hope that at some stage we shall be able to recognise the very useful functions those undertakings carry out. I should like to thank my hon. and learned Friend for having met my point so handsomely.
With the leave of the House, may I say a word in answer to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison)? I am intrigued to know that among the many subjects in which he takes an interest he takes a keen interest in a burial board. My short answer to his question is that if the burial board happens to be constituted by Order under Section 6 of the Public Health Act, 1936, then the burial board will gain the advantage in the transfer of property of this exemption from the stamp. Why anyone should want to forge the seal of a burial board perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will explain to me later.