§ THE POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. SYDNEY BUXTON,) Tower Hamlets, Poplar
said that this Bill was to enable the Postmaster-General to acquire land compulsorily in London, Chester, Bournemouth, Eastbourne, and Southgate for the public service. They had already powers of compulsory acquisition, but where there was a dispute as to the compensation to be paid, as in the case of Bournemouth, because of a technical point in a defective title, additional compulsory powers were necessary in order to avoid difficulties as between vendor and purchaser and the expense that might otherwise be incurred. He proposed, as soon as the Bill was given a Second Reading, to move its reference to a Select Committee, before which all parties interested would have an opportunity of appearing and discussing any question they desired to raise, or of making any suggestion that they might feel disposed to make. Any proposal they made would receive due consideration. The House would have an opportunity of discussing the Bill fully after it had come downstairs from the Select Committee, He begged to move.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ SIR F. BANBURY (City of London)
said he could not understand why, if a voluntary agreement had been arrived at, compulsion should come in. He was sorry that Clause 1 was so incomprehensible. Then there was a serious difficulty in regard to Clause 9. He took that clause to mean that when the Postmaster-General saw a site of which he desired to take a part for a post office, he might do so without paying compensation for depreciation on account of severance. That seemed to him unfair, and he dared 279 say that the drafting of the clause was so defective as to increase the charges of the legal profession.
§ LORD R. CECIL (Marylebone, E.)
considered that some explanation was required as to the meaning of Clauses 6 and 9. He understood that under the Bill in cases where there was an agreement for the purchase of sites compulsory powers were given to extinguish the rights of owners of property who were under some disability. Clauses 6 and 9 were at any rate unusual, and he suggested that the right hon. Gentleman should issue a short memorandum showing the effect of this proposed legislation on previous legislation.
§ MR. WILLIAM RUTHERFORD (Liverpool, West Derby)
thought that no Government Department ought to deal with the land of private individuals in the way proposed by this Bill. If the Bill were examined it would be found that a special exception was made in the favour of the Government so that the Postmaster-General could take a portion of a man's property compulsorily and damage the balance, without paying compensation for that damage. Other people would be required to take the whole, but it was in the power of the Postmaster-General arbitrarily to decide that he would only take a particular piece. The point he took was that the Government ought not to ask for powers of that character.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said there was nothing new in this Bill as compared with previous statutes. It had been drawn precisely in the form of former Bills of the same character. The hon. Member had misinterpreted the clause, which only said that when the Postmaster-General asserted that in his opinion severance of the piece of land required would not damage the rest he should be able to acquire it. If there was any dispute as to whether damage would be sustained by the severance the question would have to go before an arbitrator and a jury, and if the view of the Postmaster-General was not correct the Government would have to pay damages for the property which was injured. The question would be one for negotiation, and the Select Committee 280 would be able to take measures to guard against any possible injustice. Anyone who had a grievance would be able to appear before the Committee and his case would be considered. After the Bill came back from the Committee they would be able to discuss these points with a view to removing any possible injustice.
§ MR. RAWLINSON (Cambridge University)
called attention to the fact that Clause 6 gave a power to the Post Office to stop up not only public rights of way but private rights of way. That provision being put in this year might lead to difficulty in future. Everybody knew that it was very difficult to look up the provisions of an Act of Parliament after two or three years, and Acts rotating to Public Departments were not accessible as general public statutes were. Therefore, when a clause of this sort was slipped in, after two or three or four years people said it was a precedent. This Bill, therefore, if passed in its present form might seriously injure and curtail the rights of the public.
§ Ordered, "That all Petitions against the Bill presented Five clear days before the meeting of the Committee be referred to the Committee; that the Petitioners praying to be heard by themselves, their Counsel, or Agents be heard against the Bill, and Counsel heard in support of the Bill."
§ Ordered, "That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records."
§ Ordered, "That Three be the Quorum."—(Mr. Sydney Buxton.)