Clause 87

Part of Orders of the Day — Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 8th May 1985.

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Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Chair, Treasury & Civil Service Sub-Committee, Opposition Whip (Commons) 6:30 pm, 8th May 1985

The hon. Gentleman's intervention takes us completely away from the point, but it demonstrates the paucity of argument for this measure. His was an especially far-fetched argument. If he is advocating that the pension funds should be allowed to buy and sell land more easily so that their money will be, not far-fetched but far-carried and invested overseas—following the huge outflow of investment from Britain—that will stimulate the free market, but it will be of no great advantage to British citizens or to the creation of jobs.

This measure is a straight giveaway of the sort that is normally trundled through Committee at dead of night. My hon. Friends were right to ask that it be debated in the early evening. Regrettably, the press, with their usual inattention to such sordid manoeuvrings, are not here to highlight it. But what is happening deserves to be screamed from the rooftops, because houses will continue to be built, provided that interest rates allow it. This concession to the Government's fat friends is justified by double talk and by devious and largely inaccurate arguments.

The day after the measure was announced by the Chancellor in his Budget statement, The Times carried an article stating that the property industry welcomed it. But the industry did not say, "Thank you, Chancellor, for £50 million," which is what it is about. It said that the tax would consume much of its time. The £50 million would appear to be purely incidental. It is a straightforward benefit about which nothing is said.

Development land tax, which was rightly introduced by the Labour Government in 1976, is part of a long tradition of attempts, some more successful than others, to ensure that the return on the increased value of land, which comes through no effort on the part of the owner, accrues to the agency which causes that increase in value—the community. Is it not right, in principle, that that unearned windfall should accrue to the community? There are always practical difficulties in that, but they can be solved. The principle of development land tax is so glaringly right as to be incontrovertible.

The tradition goes back to the unearned increment of land tax which Lloyd George introduced in 1909. After the "people's Budget" of that year, Trafalgar square was filled with an enormous crowd singing: The land, the land, 'twas God that gave the land,The land, the land, the ground on which we stand.Why should we be beggars with the ballot in our hand?God gave the land to the people. That crowd was led by Winston Churchill. They were celebrating the taxing of the unearned increment of land value, which is part of the development land tax introduced by the Labour Government. It is a long-standing principle that the increase accruing as unearned profit to developers and owners should be taxed for the benefit of the community.