This is extending the amount of money that can be paid out in land bonds for the purchase of land. We object strenuously to the idea that land be bought by means of bonds. If people have some other kind of property taken compulsorily from them, for instance under the compulsory purchase provisions of local authorities, or by any other means, they are paid cash for the property taken. I see no reason in equity why people whose land is taken from them for agricultural purposes should be paid less than the cash value or less than would be paid to them if the land were taken for some other purpose.
Although land bonds are nominally worth the same as the figure settled in cash terms, invariably because they are not capable of being redeemed immediately at face value, because the redemption date is unsettled and because they bear an interest that is less than the market rate, the bonds are worth considerably less than their face value. In some cases they can be as low as 80 per cent of their face value when they are paid over. If a person is paid £10,000 in land bonds, all he might receive is £8,000 if he wishes to sell the bonds immediately.
The land bond system means taking land compulsorily from people and paying them less than what it is worth. I would argue that this is contrary to proper constitutional practice. There is a strong case for arguing that land bonds in themselves are unconstitutional in that they are discriminatory. I have said already that if land is taken compulsorily for a purpose such as local authority housing the person will be paid the cash value and certainly he will be paid in cash at an arbitrated price, whereas under the land bond system, not only is the price subject to arbitration and possibly fixed independently of what the land could be sold for, but they are paid in bonds which are less in value. I argue that that is discrimination between one class of people and another in respect of a transaction which is identical as to purpose—acquisition by a public authority of land.
The recent trend of Supreme Court decisions seems to indicate that that sort of discrimination has been found to be unconstitutional. As I understand it, this was the nub of the Supreme Court decision in the case for taxation of married women. It was considered that the taxation provisions did not give equivalence between amounts allowed to working wives and working husbands and that there was discrimination on sex grounds. It seems equally that where the Government are acquiring land compulsorily and paying some people in cash and others in bonds and discriminating as to which will get cash and which bonds this is purely an arbitrary administrative decision and is in fact discrimination and probably contrary to the Constitution. I believe this case could be tested.
Whether it is constitutional or not it seems to me to be morally wrong to adopt the approach that people asked to give up something compulsorily are not treated in the same way as other people who might be so asked. No. Government should identify itself with such a practice. We strongly urge that there is need for the Land Commission to buy land because at present the acquisition programme has been sadly reduced and the Land Commission are not able to intervene even when land at the moment is available at quite good value because land values have fallen and they could do a considerable amount of useful work in the interests of small farmers in dividing land coming on the market. Unfortunately, they have not money to do the job. We say the money should be made available to them but in cash, not bonds so that land can be bought for cash.
Would the Minister let us know what the redemption date will be for the new issue of bonds under the powers conferred in this section? Up to now I understand that not only were people given bonds instead of cash but were given bonds or security bearing a certain interest rate usually less than the market rate and therefore the bonds were worth less than their face value but also the date when these bonds would be redeemed by the State was unfixed. In the case of other loans which the State floats such as a National Loan, I understand the Government always fix redemption dates or a range of dates such as 1982-1984 and within that period they would say the Government would redeem the loan. In the case of land bonds I understand no redemption date is fixed and the Government can leave the security bearing this nominal—often derisory—rate of interest indefinitely and do not have to enter into any undertaking as to when they will redeen the bond. That seems highly inequitable. It is again an instance of discrimination. In paying people by land bonds not only is the State insisting that people who are having their land taken from them give the State a forced loan to enable the State to pay for the land but also, distinct from the practice in the case of other State loans, the State does not say when it redeems the loan in the case of land bonds. This is adding a further injustice to one that is already serious. We are totally opposed to the concept of land bonds and therefore we reject this section.