HC Deb 28 July 1897 vol 51 cc1329-42

The following regulations shall be observed with respect to the purchase and taking of land otherwise than by agreement by local authorities for the purposes hereinbefore mentioned—

(1.) The local authority before applying to the Board for an order empowering them to put in force the powers of the Land Clauses Acts with respect to the purchase and taking of land otherwise than by agreement shall—

publish once at least in each of two consecutive weeks in some newspaper circulated in the district or some part of the district where the land is proposed to be taken, an advertisement describing shortly the land proposed to be taken and the purpose for which the land is proposed to be taken, naming a place where a plan of the proposed works and of the lands which may be taken, and a book of reference to such plan, may be seen at all reasonable hours, anal stating the quantity of land they require: and shall further

serve a not-ice in manner hereinafter mentioned on every owner or reputed owner. lessee or reputed lessee, and occupier of such land, defining in each case the particular lanai intended to be taken, and requiring an answer, stating whether the person so served assents, dissents, or is neuter in respect of taking such land; such notice to be served

by delivery of the same personally to the person on whom it is required to be served, or, if such person is absent abroad, to his agent; or

by leaving the same at the usual or last known place of abode of such person as aforesaid: or

by forwarding the same by post in a registered letter addressed to the usual or last known place of abode of such person.

Every such plan shall be drawn on a scale of not lets than four inches to a mile, and the book of reference shall contain the names of the owners and lessees, or reputed owners and lessees, and of the occupiers of the lands which may be taken.

(2.) Upon compliance with the provisions hereinbefore contained with respect to advertisements and notices, the local authority may, if they shall think fit, present a petition to the Board; the petition shall state the land intended to be taken, and the purposes for which it is required, and the names of the owners, lessees, and occupiers of land who have assented, dissented, or are neuter in respect of the taking of such land, or who have returned no answer to the notice; it shall pray that the local authority may, with reference to such land, be allowed to put in force the powers of the Lands Clauses Acts with respect to the purchase and taking of land otherwise than by agreement, and such prayer shall be supported by such evidence as the Board requires.

(3.) Upon receipt of such petition, and upon due proof of the proper advertisements having been published and notices served, the Board shall take such petition into consideration, and may either dismiss the same or direct an inquiry in the district in which the land is situate, or otherwise inquire as to the propriety of assenting to the prayer of such petition; but unto such inquiry has been made in the district after such notice as may be directed by the Board, no order shall be made affecting any land without the consent of the owners, lessees, and occupiers thereof.

Any such inquiry may be held by a person appointed by the Board in the manner anal with the powers hereinbefore provided, or if the Secretary for Scotland, by any writing under Ms hand shall so direct, such inquiry shall be held by the sheriff, not being a sheriff-substitute resident within the district.

(4.) After the completion of the inquiry as last aforesaid, the Board may, by Provisional Order, empower the local authority to nut in force, with reference to the land or any part of the land referred to in such Order, the powers of the Lands Clauses Acts with respect to the purchase and taking of land otherwise than by agreement, and may make such determination as they may think fit in regard to the payment of costs by the local authority either to the Board or any person affected by the Order; provision shall be made by such Order for the incorporation therein of the Lands Clauses Acts and (with the necessary modifications) of Sections six and seventy to seventy-eight of the Railway Clauses Consolidation (Scotland) Act 1845. It shall be the duty the local authority to serve a copy of any Order so made in the manner and upon the persons in which and upon whom notices in respect of such land as hereinbefore required to he served. together with a statement that the Cider will become final and have the effect of au Act of Parliament, unless within two months a memorial shall be presented to the Secretary for Scotland praying that the Order shall not become law without confirmation by Parliament.

(5.) If no memorial shall be presented as aforesaid, the Order shall become final anti have the effect of an Act of Parliament.

(6.) if a memorial has been presented to the Secretary for Scotland, it shall be lawful for him, as soon as conveniently may be, to submit such Order to Parliament for confirmation, and any Act passed to confirm such Order shall be deemed to be a Public General Act of Parliament.

(7.) Every Bill for confirming any such Order shall, after the Second Reading in the House in which it originates, be referred to a Select Committee, or, if the two Houses of Parliament think fit so to order, to a Joint Committee.

(8.) If, before the expiration of seven days after the Second Reading of any such Confirmation Bill in the House in which it originates, a petition is presented against any Order comprised therein, the petitioner shall be allowed to appear and oppose by- himself, his agents, and witnesses.

(9.) The Committee, by a majority, may award costs, which shall, unless the Committee direct, include all costs from the date of the memorial.

(10.) All costs, charges, and expenses incurred in relation to any such Order or Provisional Order shall, to such amount as the Board think proper to direct, become a charge upon the public health general assessment, or special sewer assessment or special water assessment levied in the district, or special drainage district or special water supply district, as the case may be, to which such Order or Provisional Order relates.

(11.)—(a) Any question of disputed compensation under an Order or Provisional Order made under this section shall be referred to the arbitration of a sole arbiter appointed by the parties, or if the parties do not concur in the appointment of a sole arbiter, then, on the application of either of them, by the Lord Ordinary on the Bills, and the remuneration to be paid to the arbiter shall be fixed by the Lord Ordinary. An arbiter appointed under this sub-section shall be deemed to be a sole arbiter within the meaning of the Lands Clauses Acts, and the provisions of those Acts with respect to an arbitration shall apply accordingly; and the arbiter shall, notwithstanding anything in the said Acts, determine the amount of the expenses in the arbitration, and such determination shall be final; and

(b) In construing for the purposes Of this section any Acts incorporated with, or put in force under, this section, this Act, together with any Order or Provisional Order under this section, shall be deemed to be the special Act.

(12.) At any inquiry or arbitration held under this section, the person or persons holding the inquiry or arbitration shall hear any authorities or parties whose interests would be affected, by themselves or their counsel or agents, and may hear witnesses.

(13.) The Board shall not make any Order for purchasing the whole or any part of any park, garden, pleasure-ground, or other land required for the amenity or convenience of any dwelling-house, or any land the property of a railway company or canal company which is or may be required for the purposes of their undertaking, or any land which, in the opinion of the Board, is being held or may be required for the extension of a factory or public work.

(14.) The Board shall, in making an Order for purchasing land, have regard to the extent of land held in the neighbourhood by any owner, and to the convenience of other property belonging to the same owner, and shall, as far as is practicable, avoid taking an undue or inconvenient quantity of land from any one owner.


moved in Sub-section (1) to leave out the words:— every such plan shall be drawn on a scale of not less than four inches to a mile, and the book of reference shall contain the names of the owners and lessees, or reputed owners and lessees, and of the occupiers of the lands which may be taken. He said this was the first of a series of Amendments which were designed to reverse the decision of the Committee upstairs, the object being to substitute for procedure by way of Provisional Order procedure by way of Departmental Order before putting in force the provisions of the Lands Clauses Acts with respect to the purchase and taking of land otherwise than by agreement. The object of the Amendment was to strengthen the hands of the local authorities. A. Provisional Order would limit their power and encumber them with expenses which they believed to be unnecessary. It was most important that in the case of public and local authorities of all kinds, charged with duties the due performance of which required the acquisition of land, that delegation should carry with it the exercise of all powers necessary to make it possible for them to carry out those duties efficiently. There was a precedent for this proposal given for the first time to a great public department, and he contended that the power ought to apply to every department of government. Last year there was a Naval Works scheme in which this power to obtain land by compulsion was given for all purposes; and it was a wholesome and sound principle to adopt for all branches of government.


said he was afraid that he must follow his usual course and uphold the decision of the Committee on this point. If he thought that the local authority was really going to be hampered in the acquisition of land he confessed that he would be moved by the appeal of his lion. Friend: but what did a local authority want land for? Practically the purposes were three: (1) water supply; (2) the putting down of sewers; (3) for sewage irrigation works. Already in Section 103 they had given the widest powers in the matter of sewage, giving local authorities power to lay sewers where they chose on payment of compensation, but not driving them to acquire land. Sewage irrigation works were a very serious undertaking. In the interests not only of the individual but of the neighbourhood it would be wrong to give a power to undertake works suddenly for sewage irrigation at the simple instance of any department, and not to give the individual or the public generally the protection which the Provisional Order system conferred. As to water supply, he had, so far as carrying the water mains were concerned, accepted an Amendment of the hon. Member for Mid Lanark, granting power to the local authorities to lay sewage pipes within their districts. But in this Bill the powers of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1892, were kept alive with regard to the provision of a water supply. Section 162 of that Act made a just distinction in favour of burghs which had less than 5,000 inhabitants, and where they wanted a water supply, if the Commissioners resolved that it was necessary to acquire land otherwise than by agreement, they might present a petition to the Sheriff and obtain his authority to enforce the provisions of the Lands Clauses Act. For the purposes, therefore, of sewage and water supply to small communities the powers sought had already been obtained. What was left was large water schemes costing half a million or a million. Here there ought to be the protection of the Provisional Order system, because if it was not for that system some persons might be hardly treated. On those grounds he resisted the Amendment.

MR. H. H. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)

said that the Amendment raised a question of considerable importance, and if the Government adhered to the Bill as it stood he thought the House would be taking a retrograde step. His hon. Friend's proposal was not a novel one, because he suggested in the incorporation of tins Bill provisions which were already to be found in the English Local Government Act of 1891, the Scottish Local Government Act of the same year, and the Light Railways Act which the Government passed last Session. All the Lord Advocate's arguments might have been used with equal force against any one of these proposals, particularly against the proposal of the present Government to allow land to be compulsorily taken without Provisional Order for the purposes of light railways.


By a Government Department.


Just so; but the principle is the same. Light railways might cover a great extent of ground, and there might be grave questions of public user, and so on. The case was exactly analogous to the cases the right hon. Gentleman had set up in regard to the matter of water supply. He could not see why a procedure, which Parliament had already decided was adequate and satisfactory for the protection of all interests in the one case should not be equally adequate and satisfactory in the other. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman said that the existing law, as amended by the Bill, would give sufficient powers as to sewers and water supply to small communities. He did not agree; but, even if it were so, he was obliged to admit that in Scotland communities of over 5,000 population could not avail themselves of the provisions of the Burgh Police Act. This embraced a large number of communities which. needed the provisions very badly. It was only in rare and exceptional cases that a town like Glasgow or Dundee, which did these things on a. colossal scale, would attempt to annex a large area of ground for the purposes of water supply; and they ought not to be frightened by such cases. They had to consider the cases of communities of 15,000 or 20,000 which required a new source of water supply, yet which, under this Bill, would be hampered and frustrated, and possibly altogether frustrated, by the enormous and scandalous delays and expenses attending the Provisional Order system. ["Hear, hear!"] He regretted that the Government should make this departure, and should make it at a time when they themselves were initiating legislation elsewhere for the purpose of making private Bill legislation in Scotland more convenient and more successful. The Amendment proposed would be a practical step in the same direction, and he believed that the great body of Scotch public opinion would be entirely in sympathy with it. ["Hear, hear!"]


said the Bill had been described as giving large compulsory powers as regarded sewerage; but, although there might be ample powers for acquiring land for sewers by agreement, if a man objected to these sewers passing through his property, the steps to be taken under the Bill were exactly the same for sewers as for any other matter under the Bill. Now in addition to the English Local Government (Parish Councils) Act, and the Parish Councils Act, as well as the Light Railways Act, all of which gave compulsory opwers, they had also the precedent of the Burgh Police Act, Section (60) of which gave compulsory powers for the acquisition of land on petition to the Sheriff, with an appeal to the Local Government Board, and there the matter ended, without the necessity of going to Parliament at all. So that there was ample precedent for giving local authorities compulsory powers to acquire land under the supervision of a State Department. The effect of this clause, therefore, was purely reactionary, because nothing could be done (unless by agreement) without getting a Provisional Order. The whole structure of the Bill was based upon that. Of course, if the Government insisted, they could do no more than protest against this reactionary legislation. All the boroughs of Scotland had opposed this form of going to Parliament for compulsory powers, and had recommended the adoption of the procedure under the 60th Section of the Burgh Police Act of 1892, passed by the late Unionist Government. Practically the Government were now going back on their own legislation of 1892, 1894, and 1896.


said this was one of the most important features of the and it was recognised as such upstairs. When the Lord Advocate enumerated the purposes for which this clause would be necessary, he omitted one of the most important purposes in public health legislation for which compulsory powers were required —viz. the acquisition of land for hospitals. In previous clauses of the Bill they had to a certain extent strengthened the legislation for providing hospitals for infectious disease. But it was well known to the Lord Advocate that there had been great impediments in the way of local health authorities acquiring land for infectious hospitals. The pinch of it was felt in all parts of the country, and in the county of Aberdeen there was no subject upon which they were more deeply interested, and there was no subject in connection with this Bill upon which opinion was more unanimous, irrespective of party, that the method of obtaining compulsory powers of acquiring land for building hospitals should be simplified and cheapened. The County Council had unanimously passed a resolution in favour of it, the District Councils were also in favour of it, and he had received representations from all parts of the country in the same sense. In a large district of the county of Aberdeen there were 13 parishes, with a population of 25,000 to 30,000 souls, and for half-a-dozen years they had been trying in vain to acquire a piece of land upon which to erect a hospital for infectious diseases for the district. The reason was that the whole of the centre of the district was one large estate in the hands, not of a single individual, but of a set of trustees, and these trustees absolutely refused to sell an inch of land for a hospital. The only other people who could possibly supply a piece of land were ready to do it, but in order to get water they had to apply to these trustees, and they had even refused to let them have water! So that this large community of from 25,000 to 30,000 inhabitants had been absolutely unable to provide for itself that which was essential for the preservation of the public health. Therefore, when it became known that the Government were going to bring in a comprehensive Public Health Bill for Scotland the people looked forward with confidence to the remedy of this great grievance of theirs—["hear, hear!"]—and it had been a cause of great disappointment when it was discovered that no alteration of the law was proposed with regard to the acquisition of land for this purpose. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fife had dwelt upon the precedents bearing upon the subject. What he wished to know was, had there ever been any complaint either in England or in Scotland that the powers given by recent legislation had been abused in any way whatever? ["Hear, hear!"] He did not think there had been ever a whisper of complaint in that direction. It was absurd to suppose that a public Department was at all likely to abuse their powers in this direction; if anything, they were likely to be somewhat too tender in their application. ["Hear, hear!"] Excellent precedents had been set by both the present and the late Governments, and when they were bringing in a most important Bill, which had been looked forward to for a long series of years in Scotland, and which was not likely to be amended or taken up again in the immediate future, they were going to pass it into law leaving out the very mainspring of the clock. ["Hear, hear!"] He ventured to think that in refusing to accept the Amendment the Lord Advocate was rendering the most useful part of his Bill inoperative and nugatory. ["Hear, hear!"]

SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)

said he was sorry the Bill was likely to pass with this defect in it with reference to the compulsory acquisition of land for public purposes. This question of the compulsory acquisition of land had been discussed on many occasions in the House of Commons in recent years on questions affecting the general well-being of localities. On this occasion it was a question which affected the general wellbeing of the whole kingdom of Scotland. They had in existing legislation several examples of power for the compulsory acquisition of land being vested in central bodies. It had been conferred, as in the case of the agricultural labourers, for the benefit of a class. Here they were asking for it for the benefit, not of a class, but of a whole community, and he regretted that there should be any possibility of its refusal. There were thousands of localities in England, and possibly hundreds of localities in Scotland, in which the health administration of rural districts was extremely defective, and one of these days, if an epidemic of disease should unfortunately get into the country—cholera, for example—a terrible mortality might occur in consequence. One of the means of avoiding a terrible disaster of that sort was to give the local authorities opportunities of carrying out, on the simplest and least expensive basis, powers of water supply, sewerage, and the isolation of disease. In all these matters they wanted stronger compulsory powers. There had been many instances in England during he last few years in which the local authorities would have been only too willing to undertake works of sewerage, but had been prevented from carrying them out by the high prices they were obliged to pay for land and by the expensive procedure which the ordinary Acts of Parliament had hitherto imposed upon them. There had been several instances in which the erection of hospitals which were wanted for the purpose of isolating disease had been prevented by the costliness and complexity of the Provisional Order system. Surely the Government ought to try to make the acquisition of land by local authorities for useful purposes as simple as possible. They all hated the idea of compulsion, but he believed that if the Amendment were agreed to it would be seldom, if ever, necessary to resort to compulsion. The mere fact that compulsory powers existed had a tendency to dissipate difficulties. For example, as a result of the existence of the compulsory clauses of the Local Government Act of 1894, thousands of labourers' allotments had been provided without compulsion. The existence of such clauses had an effect upon selfish landlords and deterred them from opposing demands which were made in the interests of the community. Surely if it were thought right to give compulsory powers in order that allotments might be acquired, it must also be considered right to insert such powers in this Bill, which had been introduced for the purpose of protecting the public health. Ho trusted that the Lord Advocate would reconsider this matter.


hoped that the precedent set in 1894, when compulsory powers for the acquisition of land for public purposes were given to local authorities, would be followed on this occasion, and that the Government would not go back upon the position which they took up in 1894 with the support of both Houses. A local authority wanting to acquire a quarter of an acre of land for the erection, say, of a mortuary or slaughter-house, would, under the Bill as it stood, be quite helpless if the owner of the land should refuse to sell at a reasonable price. His hon. Friend proposed that cases of this kind should be entrusted to the discretion of the Local Government Board in Scotland. In 1894 it was admitted that there must be full public inquiries for the protection of public and private interests in cases where land was to be compulsorily acquired. That was a salutary provision which it would be wise to adhere to. The refusal of the Government to accept this Amendment would cause great regret in Scotland.

DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)

thought the Lord Advocate had not given the House quite enough information on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman assumed, apparently, that all the Scotch Members had sat on the Committee that had considered this Bill, and that they had all heard the discussions upon these various topics. That, of course, was an erroneous assumption. He supported the Amendment because be believed that it would promote efficiency and economy. Provisional Orders were, as a. rule, extremely expensive things, and when recourse was had to them a grievous burden was generally imposed upon the locality. The Amendment provided adequate safeguards for all vested interests. In the Debates that had taken place on the subject of private Bill legislation, it had been proposed that larger powers should be given to local authorities, and he, for one, should have complete faith in their discretion. The Members of local representative bodies had their seats to consider, and were therefore unlikely to disregard the opinions of the people whom they represented. In conclusion, he would observe that the Scotch Members sitting on the upper side, of the House were solid in their support of the Amendment.


remarked that the expense of Provisional Orders frequently deterred Town Councils and parochial County Councils from undertaking most necessary public improvements. In his own constituency, where certain water works were proposed to be established, the cost of obtaining the necessary powers by Provisional Order imposed a very serious tax upon the community. He did not see why provision should not be made in this Bill for enabling local authorities to obtain land at a reasonable price, subject to the approval of the Local Government Board.


asked the First Lord of the Treasury whether he was really prepared to disregard the precedent set in the Local Government Act of 1894 merely because the Committee upstairs by a small majority, when less than one-third of the Committee were present, came to this decision? The permissive powers which the Amendment proposed to confer on the Local Government Board were already exercised by the Board of Trade, and it was highly desirable that they should now be conferred on the Local Government. Board in the interests of the health of the community. He appealed to the First Lord of the Treasury whether he was going on the present occasion to go back and take away the powers from the local bodies which they now desired to give to the central authority. The Local Government Board was entirely responsible to Parliament, and the fear of their action being debated in the House would induce them to do their work carefully. Procedure by Provisional Order was a most costly method, so costly that any town wanting a water supply would rather proceed by private Bill. Not a single real objection had been raised against this proposal.

MR. R. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)

said he had not had the privilege of being a. member of the Committee, and he did not know that he had lost a great deal in consequence, except, perhaps, a considerable amount of honourable suffering. He understood that the. Lord Advocate had no objection to trust the Local Government Board with schemes affecting comparatively small communities, but thought that large schemes ought not to be entrusted to them; that when anything very expensive was to be dealt with it deserved the dignity of being considered by two Committees in Parliament. It seemed to him that the Local Government Board was as capable of dealing with schemes of this description, however expensive they might be, as a Committee of the House of Commons or the House of Lords. Dignity did not help the incompetent. [Laughter.] He did not see how the simple fact of the Local Government Board being to a certain extent in a less dignified position than public opinion assigned to the two Houses of Parliament detracted from the competence of that body. ["Hear, hear!"] To his mind it was a question of comparative business capacity, and he thought that the Local Government Board was the superior authority in these matters. The only difference he knew of was that in Committees of the two Houses of Parliament there might be a more powerful representation of the landlord prejudice, but he had yet to learn that that told in favour of the public interest. ["Hear, hear!"] If it was necessary that Parliament should exercise a supervising power in these matters, it might be provided that no Order of the Local Government Board should become law until it had laid on the Table of both Houses of Parliament for a certain time. He had no hesitation in uniting with his hon. colleagues, and insisting on compulsory powers being given to the Local Government Board.

MR. ALEXANDER URE (Linlithgow)

said that the Lord Advocate had contended that it was desirable to afford full protection to all interests concerned, and that that was secured better by proceeding under Provisional Order than by any other proceeding. What was the additional protection Was it in the composition of the tribunal? The Lord Advocate could not say that the Local Government Board for Scotland would not, as a tribunal, afford sufficient security to the interests involved. Then was the protection in the method of inquiry? It was obvious that an inquiry conducted by a Commission representing the Local Government Board would not be less satisfactory than an inquiry by a Committee upstairs. When they faced tie facts, they found that the additional protection afforded by the Provisional Order system was the great expense and delay that attended it, and its cumbersome procedure. Was it fair to place such a. hindrance in the way of great; public undertakings because they necessarily involved sonic small trespass on the rights of private proprietors? Would it not be much better to adopt the simpler and more rapid procedure suggested by his hon. Friend? ["Hear, hear!"]


said that the multiplication of speeches on a subject like this was rather a barbarous way of bringing pressure to bear on the Lord Advocate, but it was the only way hon. Members had of expressing the feelings of their constituencies. Representing a constitatency which was very full of growing and important communities, very much alive to their social duties, he could only say that it would be most disappointing to the inhabitants if the Lord Advocate adhered to this part of the Bill. It was not suggested for a moment that these powers should be entrusted to a foolish and irresponsible body, but to a body in whom the people of Scotland had great confidence.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."

The House divided:—Ayes, 108; Noes, 54. (Division List, No. 338.)

Amendment made: Leave out "Lord Ordinary on the Bills," and insert "Board."


moved at the end of the clause to add,— (15.) "In determining the amount of disputed compensation the arbiter shall not make any allowance in respect of the purchase being compulsory. He said this Amendment was one which had caused so much Parliamentary discussion that lie did not see the necessity of going into the question on that occasion. It was not, in fact, their object to invite discussion.


recognised the courtesy with which the Amendment had been moved, but he must oppose it.


said the Government and the majority of the Members of the House always acted in the interest of the landlords, and all the supporters of the Amendment could do was to protest by a Division.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The House divided: —Ayes, 47; Noes, 105.—(Division List, No. 339).

On the return of Mr. SPEAKER after the usual interval.

Clause 146,—