12 APRIL 1975, Page 4

Sir: As Mr Patrick Cormack, MP, points out (March 29),

the Government's concern for the national heritage was voiced in general terms during the recent debates on the capital transfer tax, but adequate steps effectively to protect that heritage were not forthcoming during the headlong rush to legislate.

May I refer to one totally unreasonable anomaly in the Act as passed? Under it (Section 31) transfers of approved works of art consequent upon a death were exempted from the tax until sold, as was previously the case with estate duties. One would have supposed that the same exemption would have extended to exactly similar transfers inter vivos, since the declared object of the new legislation was to equate for tax purposes transfers of both kinds. Yet, contrary to any semblance of logic, this is not the case.

Here, as with other matters of the greatest importance for our national heritage, the Government have fallen back on the comprehension and wisdom of the Select Committee on the Wealth Tax, which has to shoulder the responsibility of deciding whether or not to recommend second thoughts — where first thoughts would have saved a very great deal of trouble, to say nothing of anxiety.

In this connection the attention of the Select Committee, on whom so much now depends that is crucial for our cultural well-being in the future, might be drawn to the Capital Acquisitions Tax Bill just published in the Republic of Ireland. In this Bill (Section 55) approved works of art are exempted without distinction as to whether they passed as a gift during life or an inheritance after death. And there is the further provision (I quote from the official explanatory memorandum): '"The exemption will cease to apply to any such object if it is sold by the donee or successor within six years otherwise than by sale by private treaty to certain specified bodies" (that is to say, national or public bodies, such as museums).

I ought to add a declaration of personal non-interest. Under no conceivable circumstances would I wish to effect a transfer inter vivos of any work of art in my own possession.

Denis Mahon 33 Cadogan Square, London SW1