I beg to move, in page 26, line 3, leave out subsection (9).
I, too, am the victim of the emergency arrangements that are being made in the exceptional circumstances of the moment. I wish it were otherwise, because two of my right hon. Friends would have subjected the Financial Secretary to very close examination on this Amendment.
Yes, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and it would certainly be for mine.
These two Amendments would have the advantage of offering the right hon. and learned Gentleman the choice of two alternatives. The first one, in page 26, line 3, proposes to leave out subsection (9), which reads:
The foregoing subsections shall have effect as from the beginning of August, nineteen hundred and fifty-eight
That date governs the concessions, which the Chancellor announced in his Budget statement and are in the Bill, on Stamp Duty.
The asociated Amendment in page 26, line 4, proposes to leave out the words "beginning of August" and to insert "fifteenth day of April." So it appears that if subsection (9) is taken out altogether the Stamp Duty concessions apply as from the date that this Bill becomes an Act. If the second alternative were adopted, the Stamp Duty concessions would be effective from Budget Day, which is 15th April last.
I have no very strong views on which of the two would provide the least difficulty, because I understand that there are bound to be problems of retrospective adjustment of Stamp Duty where that has already been paid under the old arrangement, but what has puzzled everybody is why a formal date at the beginnng of August this year was put in the Bill as the effective date for the operation of these Stamp Duty concessions.
I believe I remember some discussion in Committee when the right hon. and learned Gentleman or some other of his right hon. Friends said that there would be little difference in fact between the date fixed, 1st August, 1958, and the date of the passing of this Bill into law, because although the Bill would become law sometime before the end of this month, the normal arrangements for stamping conveyances would enable all solicitors and others concerned to get the advantage of the concession by deferring stamping until after 1st August, which they were legally entitled to do because there is a time margin from the date of execution of a document and the date upon which it must be stamped.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Paymaster-General, who appears to be taking an interest in this matter, will not mind explaining yet again, if that is what it entails, why the date 1st August has been taken, whether there is any insuperable difficulty in back-dating the concessions to Budget Day, and whether there is, as I have suggested, little difference between the first proposal of leaving out subsection (9) altogether and the second proposal to leave out "beginning of August" and to insert "fifteenth day of April."
It is now 15th July. If the Bill becomes law in two weeks time, then between then and 1st August is well within the range of time that solicitors will have to stamp conveyances. I think the House would welcome a brief explanation of the position, and the right hon. Gentleman can be sure that I will not make unnecessary difficulties when I have heard his answer.
As the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) said, this matter has been discussed already during the passage of the Bill. The effective date for the Stamp Duty, which is provided in Clause 30, is, as the hon. Member said, 1st August. That is in accordance with precedent.
The proposition put by the hon. Member is twofold. First, he suggested back-dating to the date of the Budget, and secondly, that it might be made the date of the passing into law of the Bill. The first alternative is one which we have discussed before. The Government have considered it on more than one occasion following representations. To make the date retrospective has been in practice so difficult as to be practically impossible. The administrative difficulties are such as to lead us to think that we should not adopt retrospection in this case, as it has not been adopted, I understand, on previous occasions. That is why we could not accept the suggestion of back-dating to the date of the Budget.
The second suggestion is the date of coming into law of the Bill. That is a smaller point, because the interval between the coming into operation of the Bill and 1st August is a very small one, probably only a matter of a few days. Therefore, it would have no practical effect. We felt that on the whole 1st August is a good date. It is an easy one for the practitioners to remember. It is not a bad thing to have a date which they can remember without too much difficulty.
There is also the point that under Clause 31 there is another change in the Stamp Duty on credit sales arrangements, which comes into effect on 1st August. It might be confusing to have two Stamp Duty changes in the same Bill coming into effect on different dates. Therefore, although I do not say that this is an overwhelming case, there is a definite case for holding to 1st August. As the interval of time between 1st August and the coming into law of the Bill is now such a small one, I cannot feel that to make the change suggested would have any practical effect. For these reasons, I suggest to the hon. Member for Sowerby that it would probably be wiser at this stage to leave the matter as it is.
Can my right hon. Friend clear up one point? If a conveyance is dated any time between 5th July and 1st August and advantage is taken of the twenty-eight days in which to stamp it and it is stamped on 1st August or later, does it get the benefit of the reduced Stamp Duty or, where there are no Stamp Duties now, does it escape them altogether?