We have made it clear that abolition of feu duties will be part of a major reform of the whole system of land tenure. We hope to have proposals ready later this year, but I cannot yet say when legislation will be introduced.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this intolerable racket has been going on in Scotland for far too long, that the previous Administraton carried out an enormous amount of work on this subject, and that had we won the last Election legislation would have been introduced to deal with it before now? What discussions has he had in the last year with the relevant bodies on this matter, and will he circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the names of such bodies with whom he has discussed this matter?
I shall not enter into the realms of the hypothesis put forward by the hon. Gentleman. The Labour Party made a start on this topic, but it was a small start since this is a very complex matter. We shall come forward with our proposals as soon as we can, and on the basis of those proposals there will be full opportunity for consultations at that stage.
Would the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that, as feu duties are fixed payments, there is something to be said for the abolition of feu duties at a time of inflation? Secondly, would he take into account the fact that negotiations and discussions with a view to bringing in legislation may lead to delay, and he surely must be aware of this situation. Will he bear in mind that urgent and immediate steps could be taken by prohibiting the creation of new feu duties at once?
I note what the hon. and learned Gentleman said. The great difficulty lies in being able to produce redemption terms which are fair to all parties. We shall be consulting with those involved.
Mr. Edward Taylor:
Will my hon. Friend confirm that he has not in mind the simple abolition or sequestration of feu duties, in view of the fact that many worthy charities depend on them for their incomes? Will my hon. Friend say whether he has it in mind to terminate them after a period of years or whether they will be offered for purchase over a certain period?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing out, contrary to what the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) said earlier, that feu duties have been a form of genuine investment by charities and other bodies for many years. What is more, the system has been a sensible form of planning control. As for the type of redemption likely to be introduced, I ask my hon. Friend to await what may be proposed.
In view of the failure of the previous Administration to deal with this matter thoroughly, will the hon. Gentleman recognise that there is some urgency in the need to deal with a great many injustices under the present system? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I have a case in my constituency about which I have written to the Lord Advocate where a school and a school house built and maintained by ratepayers will revert to a feudal superior simply because it is no longer required for education purposes? Is not this a scandalous anachronism in 1972?
All that the hon. Gentleman has done is to draw attention to the very complex nature of what is involved. Though the Labour Party made a start, we intend to carry on with it. However, by far the greatest outstanding issues are there to be dealt with, and we intend to deal with them.
Will my hon. Friend confirm that what is at fault is abuse of the system and not so much the system itself? Does he agree that consultations are very necessary?
When considering these comprehensive changes in land tenure, can the hon. Gentleman assure us that he will not give way to the representations being made to him by land owners which undermine the security of tenure at present enjoyed by the sons of tenant farmers in Scotland?