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National Land Fund

Volume 961: debated on Wednesday 31 January 1979

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I hope that you will think that this is an important matter for the House. On 15 December 1978 you were kind enough to write informing me that there was no objection to my proceeding with my Bill on the national heritage fund, which also involved the national land fund. You stated that I was not debarred from doing so by Standing Order No. 91, which prevents a private Member introducing a Bill the main object of which is the creation of a charge on public revenue. That was significant, for my Bill proposes the transfer of the national land fund from Treasury control to independent trustees.

The Treasury claims that that would constitute public expenditure. Mr. Speaker, you did not agree, saying that the fund was constituted by the Finance Act 1946 and that the necessary contribution upon the Consolidated Fund was authorised by the House.
"This having once taken place",
you stated,
"it does not seem to me that any further charge would be created by the transfer of the national land fund to independent trustees."
You also referred to a ruling by one of your predecessors, in December 1957, to the same effect.

The Question for the Second Reading of my Bill was put in the House last Friday. I now seek your guidance on a constitutional question affecting the rights and privileges of the House.

You, Mr. Speaker, and a former Speaker have ruled unequivocally that the House voted the public expenditure for the national land fund in 1946. The Treasury, however, disagrees. In evidence to the Environment Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee, on pages 16 and 17, questions 8, 10, 11, and 12, and on page 18, question 32, of the third report of the Expenditure Committee of 1977–78 and in the statement of the Government's expenditure plans, Cmnd. 7439, page 159, paragraph 12, it has, either explicitly or implicitly, stated that public expenditure did not take place in 1946.

I beg your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, to ask who determines whether the House has voted public expenditure, the House or the Treasury. If it is the House, is it not a serious state of affairs that the Treasury has consistently ignored a Speaker's ruling since 1947? I am most grateful to you for your help and consideration in this matter.

The hon. Gentleman, who has served in this House a long time, did me the courtesy of giving me notice this morning of his important point of order. However, he will not be surprised when I say that I need more time to consider it.

I will give a ruling in the House, not, of necessity, tomorrow, but in the near future.