Schedule 13 - Stamp duty land tax: information powers

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 10th June 2003.

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Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk Shadow Paymaster General 3:30 pm, 10th June 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 184, in

schedule 13, page 215, line 38, leave out subparagraph (2).

Photo of Mr John McWilliam Mr John McWilliam Labour, Blaydon

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment No. 185, in

schedule 13, page 219, line 34, leave out subparagraph (2).

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk Shadow Paymaster General 3:45 pm, 10th June 2003

Amendment No. 184 is a probing amendment and is intended to deal with the question of legal privilege. As members of the Committee will be aware, we have already trodden heavily down that path. As the Chief Secretary has highlighted, much of the issue revolves around the case of Morgan Grenfell and the special commissioners, which again begins to sound like a movie title, but it may be just that we are drawing near the end. I shall proceed as quickly as I can, which I am sure the Chief Secretary will appreciate.

I am not satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's explanation. He was unclear why this change was felt to be necessary in the light of that case, and I should be grateful if he would take us through the reasons why the Government were not prepared to take that step.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk Shadow Paymaster General

I am about to conclude. Therefore, in view of the time, I shall do so, but my hon. Friend may wish to contribute in his own time.

Mr. Djanogly rose—

Photo of Mr John McWilliam Mr John McWilliam Labour, Blaydon

Order. The hon. Gentleman has sat down. Do you wish to speak, Mr. Djanogly?

Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly Conservative, Huntingdon

Thank you, Mr. McWilliam. I shall address the amendments briefly.

Earlier on—it seems a long time ago now—we discussed the clause defining an interest in land, and the Chief Secretary referred to the law of property legislation, following case law, and said that, because of that legislation, there was no need for a definition. However, he now seems to have changed his attitude and, all of a sudden, this legal concept needs defining. There seems to be an inconsistency of approach.

Photo of Mr Paul Boateng Mr Paul Boateng Chief Secretary, HM Treasury, The Chief Secretary to the Treasury

I do not think that there is any inconsistency. We are deliberating on two completely different areas. One I do not think needs definition, whereas the other does. This is not ''Alice in Wonderland''. We are clearly proceeding in a way that reflects established law and takes great care not to upset established law.

Anyone who has had the opportunity to plough through the Morgan Grenfell case, and I know that a number of Opposition Members have—[Interruption.] Sad, that was very sad. Anyone who has done that knows that it will be a brave person who seeks to upset that judgment. We do not seek to upset it. We accept it. The way to ensure that the judgment continues to have application is to reproduce exactly the definition on which it was made. That is why I commend the clause to the Committee and must reject the amendments. The hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford makes the case eloquently, but I must reject his blandishments. I simply do not accept the amendments, for the reasons that I have given at some length.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk Shadow Paymaster General

I am not entirely convinced about the points that the Chief Secretary has made, not least because a number of more distinguished legal minds have opposing views to his. Therefore, one listens to

the view of those outside experts with some concern. However, I suspect from what the Chief Secretary said that the point has been made with him. Given that the purpose of the amendments was to tease out a response to our concern, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: No. 265, in

schedule 13, page 216, line 32, leave out 'officer or the Board' and insert 'Inland Revenue'.

No. 266, in

schedule 13, page 216, line 37, leave out

'the officer or the Board'

and insert

'an officer of the Board'.—[Mr. Boateng.]

Schedule 13, as amended, agreed to.