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I am obliged. During the debate on Clause 50 in Standing Committee, several hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi), commented on the difficulty of understanding the Clause. Having listened to my hon. Friend's extremely clear exposition on an equally, if not more, abstruse point last night, I feel that the Clause must be extremely complicated if he says that it is. I do not suppose that it is any good at this stage protesting against the complexity of the Bill.
In Committee, the Opposition tried to get clarification of various points. On 28th July the Minister said this:
that is, the developers—
would like some assurance that in normal circumstances, when the parties are at arm's length, certain consequences would follow, not merely to have to assume that the Commission will act reasonably and sensibly. We will consider whether it is possible to remove any uncertainty in order to help the purchaser and developer."—
I should like to repeat the final sentence:
We will consider whether it is possible to remove any uncertainty in order to help the purchaser and developer.
To the best of my knowledge and belief, the Minister has been unable to do so, otherwise I imagine that the Government would have tabled Amendments to the Clause. However, to be fair to the right hon. Gentleman, he said earlier in the same column of the OFFICIAL REPORT:
We will consider how far we might use the power of issuing general directions to remove the uncertainty…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E, 28th July, 1966; c. 647.]
We should like to know whether the Government have found it possible to do this. If not, I think that the Minister is subjecting his own Commission to complexities, and that leaves out of account the interpretation of the Bill by the public and their advisers. I suggest that the Government accept the Amendment in order considerably to help the developer.
As the Bill stands, when a sale is completed and a notice of levy is given, the date of assessment of levy is the date when the notice of levy was given. That is my interpretation of the Bill. To my mind—to a small mind, let me admit—this illustrates the complexities of what we are trying to enact.
The Amendments, in effect, rewrite subsection (2) and make provision for payments of levy to be made when they should sensibly be made. If a man lets his house, he will be charged a levy based on the rent which he obtains for the house over seven years. The levy becomes payable on the date on which the contract is signed. It is, therefore, conceivable that the man letting the house will have to pay the levy and thus completely negative the receipt of a whole year's rent. In other words, he will have to go a whole year without receiving a penny piece in rent from his tenant. If the payments were made to the Commission on an annual basis or some other method, it would be much fairer to the man letting the house. This applies to any rented premises, whether houses, factories or anything else. In Scotland, it equally applies to incomes from feu duties.
We propose that the levy should be payable when the development takes place. If it is not possible to lay down conditions by regulation, then I suggest that the Government should accept the Amendment. A number of my hon. Friends and I think it essential to make the position clear to the public by Statute and not by regulation. In essence, that is what we are requesting—that the payment be made only out of the money received.