Yes, the issue of registration is fundamental if we are to change the way in which our economy has developed over the years. My argument is that we cannot deal with other linked issues without some form of comprehensive land register. In essence, the issue is not legal but economic. We cannot begin to
deal with, say, the housing crisis unless we first establish a comprehensive land register. In the UK, the importance of home ownership is widely understood, yet the Treasury remains locked into neo-classical industrial economic models that produce not real growth but only a gentle level of decline, along with appalling levels of pay and job security in a so-called service economy. It is from our small neighbour, which is building more than twice as many houses a year per head of population, that we can learn the most crucial lesson about creating a viable economy for our people.
In essence, a land register would help us to redistribute land more widely and raise money on its value. We could do away with the council tax, improve many available social benefits and find land for the houses that are so desperately needed. Having already gone through that process, the Irish pay no council tax yet still benefit from local services. Surely that could be done in this country, too. Between £12 billion and £17 billion could be raised—more than sufficient to cover the £10.4 billion currently raised by the council tax. A revision of land subsidies should not seriously affect farmers. On the contrary, the system might well be more efficient if it ensured that subsidies were paid to those who could assist agricultural output, rather than to the landed aristocracy.
I hope that I have given members of the Committee an inkling of the present situation, which is undesirable and cannot begin to change until there is a comprehensive register of land ownership. As I have said, the implications for generating wealth, housing the homeless and really tackling poverty are so obvious and profound that one might ask why no one has tried it before. The answer is that they have. In 1911, Lloyd George wanted to introduce site value rating, or land value taxation, as others call it. What stopped him was opposition to a comprehensive land register. Other countries—Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Sweden and parts of the United States—have been more successful, and it is time that we followed suit.