Orders of the Day — Land Commission

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th July 1968.

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Photo of Mr Niall MacDermot Mr Niall MacDermot , Derby North 12:00 am, 24th July 1968

It has not been made clear that that is the intention. There have been suggestions by particular hon. Gentlemen opposite, but there has been no statement that that is the official policy of the party opposite. If it is, it would mean exceedingly wide loopholes, because many of the transactions which are dealt with and which give rise to the to the realisation of betterment are not occasions of charge on Capital Gams Tax. Also, the rate of Capital Gains Tax is lower than that of betterment levy and lower than what people who have given thought to the matter have generally recognised to be the sort of reasonable rate at which there should be any collection of betterment.

The second objective was that that the Land Commission should help to bring land forward for development to help reduce the land shortage and to help restrain prices of land.

I will deal with each of those in turn. First, recovery of betterment. The attacks of the Opposition are directed to the fact that in the initial stages of the betterment levy relatively small sums are being collected and that the costs of collection, therefore, are high. It is wholly unfair and unreasonable to make a false comparison between the cost of collection of a tax in its initial stages and the cost of collection of other taxes which have been established for some time and are in full operation.

In the first year the amount that is collected will be very small, and all the more is that so when, as in this case, very generous transitional provisions were written into the Bill, and indeed were pressed for by the Opposition. One reason for that was to prevent any sudden effect on the land market which could hold up and influence the supply of land. Those transitional provisions have had their effect, and the supply of land has continued smoothly without being clogged up as hon. Gentlemen opposite predicted it would be by the introduction of the betterment levy, so it does not lie in the mouths of hon. Gentlemen opposite to seek to make this false point about the cost of collection.

We had, of course, to set up the machinery to collect, and the levy is now proceeding to come forward at a steadily increasing rate.