Speeches by 3 members of the new APPG on Land Value Capture

Speeches by 3 members of the new APPG on Land Value Capture

4th December 2017

Sir Vince Cable opened the proceedings by explaining that it was important to approach this fiscal reform in a way that was not “tribal or sectarian”. They valued the fact that representatives of four political parties had agreed to form the Group - LibDems, Green, Labour and Tory. They expressed a “fantastic sense of frustration. This is an idea which, in different forms, has been around seemingly forever” but that “very little in reality has happened.” The message from the politicians was “for goodness sake let’s do something that takes this forward. Let’s have a practical route map”.

Sir Vince noted that the proposal for land value taxation was supported by “a long history of economic reasoning that wants to base taxation on land.” He referred to the report chaired by Nobel laureate Sir James Mirrlees which had argued for “shifting the tax base in this direction on standard economic grounds as well as the practicality of this approach”. But there was also “the social justice point of view: inequalities of wealth, underlying which were land values”.

Sir Vince stressed the problems associated with property development, including distortions in the planning system, the issue of who captures land values, and how to finance infrastructure. He pointed out that an obvious approach to funding was “to look at the appreciation of land value”.

He stressed the need for the APPG to be supported by “thinkers and practitioners who can help us with advice”. Within a few months, they expected to publish short papers and hold witness sessions, and to search for ways in which the political parties could advance the policy of land value taxation. He noted that all of the parties represented on the APPG had some reference to the policy in their last manifestoes, and “the step now is to get beyond the exploratory to something concrete, to get results”.

Baroness Jenny Jones explained that land value taxation had been in the manifesto of the Green Party for more than 40 years, and that “it really is time it happened. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to have the APPG set up. It is absolutely the time for this, especially at this time of social inequality”. She said that, while she was not an economist, “I can hear something when it has the ring of justice”. Land value taxation was just such an idea. “It is fair and feasible.”

David Drew, the Labour MP, said he had been a member of the Labour Land Campaign for a long time. He argued that the state had to collect some of the land value to fund the state’s services. But when the Labour Party announced that it would “explore” the policy in its last manifesto, “we got accused of ‘grabbing people’s back gardens’.” The level of public debate needed to be raised, “so that people can see why and how we are doing it, why its time has come. We have to explain to people, because it is quite a complicated issue, in a way that people can see the benefit of it.”

Mr Drew argued that “It is about fairness. We live in an unfair society now, and the biggest unfairness of them all is land”. In particular, it was necessary for the state to share in the astronomic gains that accrue to land developers. He noted that the political parties would get nervous about this proposal, “so they have to be pushed”, and it was up to everyone at the inaugural meeting to participate in explaining the benefits of land value taxation to the public at large.