§ (1) A local authority may be authorised to purchase land compulsorily for the purposes of Part III. of the principal Act, by means of an order submitted to the Local Government Board and confirmed by the Board in accordance with the First Schedule to this Act.
§ (2) The procedure under this Section for the compulsory purchase of land shall be substituted for the procedure for the same purpose under Section one hundred and seventy-six of the Public Health Act, 1875, as applied by Sub-section (1) of Section fifty-seven of the principal Act.
§ (3) A local authority may, with the consent of and subject to any conditions imposed by the Local Government Board, acquire land by agreement for the purposes of Part III. of the principal Act, notwithstanding that the land is not immediately required for those purposes.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
moved, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words from "Act" ["Part III. of the principal Act"], to the end of the Sub-section.
This Amendment is to be followed by a consequential Amendment to leave out certain words in Sub-section (2). The object of my Amendment is not in any way to interfere with the aims and methods of the Bill. It will not alter in any kind of way the powers of the Bill, or the results which may be expected to occur from the Bill. All it does is to alter the method by which the land, or house, or whatever property can be compulsorily acquired under the provisions of the Bill, shall be paid for. It substitutes for the present system Section 176 of the Public Health Act of 1875. The reason I move this, and the reason I attach very great 1674 importance to the Amendment is, because I think, unless it is adopted, the method and manner by which land can be compulsorily acquired, and the price settled, will be extremely unfair, and will be very much against the owners of property who are brought into the meshes of the net laid out by this particular Bill. I must ask the House to turn to the first Schedule to see what Clause 2 really provides. The omission of the words which I move to leave out would practically mean the omission of the first Schedule to the Bill, as that schedule says, "An order under this Schedule shall be of no force unless and until it is confirmed by the Board," and the Board may confirm the order with or without modifications, but "the order so confirmed shall become final, and have effect as if enacted in this Act." I think that is a very strong order. The Local Government Board shall have power to say of their own sweet will that certain property shall be taken away from the owners without consulting Parliament or without even having a Provisional Order or allowing the Order to lie for 40 days upon the Table of the House. For these things the will of the President of the Local Government Board is substituted. That may be a very excellent thing, but if we are going to do it let us do it with our eyes open, and let us admit that the advantages and privileges and functions of Members of Parliament have disappeared. All the executive power and the legislative power goes with the first Schedule, "An Order so confirmed shall become final and have effect as if enacted in this Act." It is not enacted in this Act or any other Act, and therefore we are placing the President of the Local Government Board above all authority, which is subversive of all Parliamentary Govern- 1675 ment, and is a greater alteration in the Constitution than if the Finance Bill is rejected in another place. Who appoints the arbitrator? Is it the county council or the district council or the persons whose property is to be affected that are to meet and appoint him; and if they disagree is there an arrangement by which the Lord Chief Justice or some court of the realm is to appoint the arbitrator? No, the arbitrator is to be appointed by the Local Government Board, who are to be judge, jury, and everything else in their own case.
I really do trust the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider his position in this matter. If he accepts my Amendment he will not be interfering with his Bill in the least. I frankly admit I am not very much enamoured with the provisions of the Bill, but my Amendment would not prevent the Bill carrying out all it desires to carry out, the only effect would be that where there is compulsory acquisition of property there must be a Provisional Order. These Provisional Orders are not expensive, but it is only right and just that when you are acquiring other people's property you should do it by Provisional Order. My Amendment provides for that, and Section 176 of the Act of 1875 contains provisions for the appointing of the arbitrator to consider and determine the compensation to be paid. On the Committee stage I moved an Amendment which would exempt corporations that acquired their property under Acts of Parliament from having that property taken away and having their Acts of Parliament overridden by the decision of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman would not look at that Amendment. I have an Amendment down on the Paper now which I hope to move in that direction, but I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman is adamant. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will accept this Amendment, because I cannot believe that he will rise in his place and say, "I consider I ought to have power to override other Acts of Parliament." In the last Debate I likened the right hon. Gentleman to Louis XVI.; it should have been Louis XV. He, I think, was the monarch who, when asked about the State, said, "The State is me." The President of the Local Government Board says, "The Local Government Board! The House of Commons! Certainly not! It is me!"
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Oh, Louis XIV.! He was a very great man. The President of the Local Government Board is a great man, but, notwithstanding that, I doubt whether it is wise to put such power into his bands. In France the result was the Revolution. I hope this will not lead to a revolution.
I second the Motion. This is parallel to some cases we have in Ireland in reference to the extraordinary power which is delegated to the Treasury, though not to the Local Government Board. Anyone who has read the Act of 1875 will be able to follow very easily what will be the effect if the Amendment of the hon. Baronet is accepted. Every fair-minded man will agree that the Amendment, if accepted, would provide a much greater safeguard than exists as the Bill stands. As the Bill stands Parliament parts with a great deal of its prerogatives, and hands over privileges which it has always jealously guarded to the President of the Local Government Board and his successors. If it were some trifling question of way-leaves or the widening of streets or some pettifogging thing of that sort there would not be so much objection to it, but when it confers a wide power all over the country to exercise these compulsory powers by the President of the Local Government Board who makes himself all through the authority for initiating schemes and arbitrating on them, he is undermining to a large extent the authority of the local bodies. The party in power have constantly been advocating the extension of self-government, and declaring that whatever else Parliament does it should trust the local board or the guardians, and place the greatest reliance upon them. What will be the effect in the case of any largo undertaking in which it is intended to use the powers of the right hon. Gentleman of compulsorily acquiring a large tract of any part of the country to carry out his scheme? The whole thing, instead of being threshed out in the House, will resolve itself into a matter of political pressure. I do not say that that pressure would be brought upon the right hon. Gentleman, but it might be brought upon some of his colleagues. I can imagine some local body coming to an individual Member of the Cabinet and 1677 saying, "The President of the Local Government Board has it in his power to carry out by a side wind what the House of Commons has refused." The powers conferred in this Clause are an abrogation of the powers which have hitherto been held by Parliament. I think the powers which are already in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman conferred by the Act I have referred to are sufficiently wide, and furnish all the machinery necessary for the carrying out of the objects of this Bill. I hope the House will take the earliest opportunity of reverting back to that part of the Act to which I have referred, which has worked satisfactorily in the past. I have much pleasure in seconding the Motion.
§ Sir FRANCIS POWELL
Upon the Amendment which my hon. Friend has placed before us, I feel bound to say one or two brief words. I regret the new mode which is being adopted of dealing with property which is to be acquired compulsorily. The new provisions dealing with this question which have appeared in several Bills recently are harsh and unjust, and I am glad to have an opportunity of raising my voice against a system which I believe is justly open to this criticism. It is quite true that Schedule I was discussed somewhat imperfectly and hurriedly by the Standing Committee. I have the records of that Committee before me. I think my point is a strong one. Here we have Schedules altering the conditions under which property changes hands by virtue of compulsory purchase. One would imagine that a Clause involving the interests of so many poor people would be discussed fully in this House. In that Committee it was closured out. It is again closured out now. This is legislation by coercion. This is one of the many instances in which tyranny, hardship, injustice, and almost persecution is being inflicted upon innocent people who have invested their savings in property. You now propose to take those savings from them by these proceedings, which I venture respectfully to denounce.
§ 3.0 P.M.
§ Mr. J. D. REES
The President, of the Local Government Board having now been compared with Louis XVI. among other monarchs, I wish to point out that, whereas Louis XVI. lost his head in the process of political revolution, the right hon. Gentleman never loses his head in the process of political evolution; therefore, they afford no basis of comparison.
§ Viscount MORPETH
I do not think that this Clause ought to be allowed to pass without a protest. The right hon. Gentleman takes power to act in cases in which he may be a party, because under Clause 10 he may be acting as the force behind the local authority, and, therefore, he has the power to act as arbitrator upon a question to which he may himself be a party, and in which he is the principal moving influence. Under the Schedule he takes power to himself to nominate the arbitrator. No doubt the arbitrator will act in a fair and honourable manner, but all these things should be done in order. The right hon. Gentleman is continually telling us that he relies upon the precedent of the Small Holdings Act, and that he has taken his procedure bodily from that Bill. I do not think he is quite correct in that. Under the Small Holdings Bill there are a great many restrictions upon the sort of land that may be taken which find no place in the present Bill. Moreover, if the right hon. Gentleman will look at Clause 43 of the Small Holdings Bill he will find that it is there provided that all questions which are referred to arbitration are determined by a single arbitrator. Sub-section (2) also provides that "Where an order has been made and confirmed authorising the compulsory acquisition of land by the Commissioners acting in default of the county council, the arbitrator, or the valuer, as the case may be, shall be appointed by the Lord Chief Justice of England instead of by the Board." This is absolutely a parallel case. It is obvious that in a great many oases the Local Government Board, and not the local authorities, will be the main parties; and we ask, and ask with absolute right and justice, that the right hon. Gentleman shall give us some such safeguard as that to which the Board of Agriculture consented in the Small Holdings Act. I cannot understand how the right hon. Gentleman can refuse. It is true, acting under the guillotine, he told the Committee he had adopted the procedure of the Small Holdings Act; but now it is pointed out to him that the procedure under that Act is not as he stated, but otherwise. I think we are entitled to ask for some satisfaction on this point. In other instances the request has been demanded and conceded. The Government took power in the Finance Bill to be both parties and judges in their own case, but, under pressure from all sides of the House, they have now withdrawn from that posi- 1679 tion, and agreed that these cases shall be sent to a Committee of Referees; and in the very last Bill they brought before the House—the Development Bill—these cases are referred to an outside arbitrator. With all these precedents I think the right hon. Gentleman can scarcely hold out and claim that he and his Department alone should be above and untrammelled by restrictions Parliament rightly imposes upon every other Department of the State.
§ Mr. F. W. VERNEY
I desire to point out that the precedent just now quoted is not entirely by any means on all fours with the proposal we have before us. That is a case where the local authority is in default; but here the local authority is backing up and, indeed, initiating the proposal to compulsorily acquire land. It is not a case so much for comparison as for contrast. You have a double safeguard here. First of all, you have the local authority proposing it. That is abundantly confirmed by reference to the Schedule itself.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
If the hon. Gentleman will look at Clause 10 he will find it provides for the overruling of the local authority; and, if it is overruled, the same procedure applies under the first Schedule.
§ Mr. VERNEY
I am talking of the first Clause and the Amendment to it. Where you have a local authority proposing to purchase land compulsorily and you have a public inquiry, with every opportunity given of witnesses who thoroughly know the local circumstances coming forward, it is not going behind the backs of the local authority, and still less is there any defiance of the local authority. You do go in for the maintenance of local government in that sense. We all know how warm an advocate the Noble Lord is of the maintenance of the local authority in its proper sphere, and I heartily sympathise with a great deal he has said on that subject, but I think he has not sufficiently studied the case in regard to this particular point.
§ Mr. A. FELL
An immense amount of responsibility and labour will be thrown upon the President of the Local Government Board, and whilst we all know the right hon. Gentleman, who the hon. Baronet described as the Sultan of Turkey, is such a hard worker and is, in fact, greedy for work, he may have successors who may not be able to fulfil the very onerous duties which will be thrown upon 1680 them if this Clause is passed without the proposed Amendment.
§ Mr. BURNS
It is not my fault that this question of the compulsory acquisition of land under the Housing and Town Planning Bill has been discussed so frequently in the House during the past fortnight and at great length in the Grand Committee upstairs; but this much I must say of the hon. Baronet: He never loses an opportunity, whatever the Bill may be, of pointing the moral and adorning the tale of his method of how land should be acquired by public authorities, whatever the purposes may be. I notice, however, that he is not quite so considerate when railway companies are anxious to acquire land. He admits, I know, that they should proceed by private Bills and by Provisional Orders; but, when they have bought more than they need and happen to have surplus land, he is exceedingly anxious that they shall not be subject to the same powers of the Local Government Board with which he would like to see the local authorities confronted. I confront the hon. Baronet with the precedent of his own party. This method of acquiring land has in the main become general under all political parties and both Governments. If the hon. Baronet will look at the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890, he will see the following sensible method, but which in these exciting days is described as a revolutionary method:—
"Where land is acquired under Part III. of the principal Act otherwise than by agreement, any question as to the amount of compensation which may arise shall, in default of agreement, be determined by a single arbitrator to be appointed and removable by the Local Government Board."
I go from that to one or two other Clauses, which I do not intend to read at length, because we have had these almost ad nauseam in the Grand Committee. Section (41) of the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890, lays it down that the amount of compensation shall be settled by an arbitrator to be appointed and removable by the Local Government Board. The second Schedule of the same Act says: "It shall be lawful for the confirming authority, upon the application of the local authority, to appoint an arbitrator between the local authority and the persons interested in such of the scheduled lands, or lands injuriously affected by the execution of such scheme, so far as compensation for the same has not been made the subject of agreement."
1681 These are two instances from Conservative administration. I now come to the last precedent, which I consider the more applicable to the discussion to-day. We have adopted, I think very wisely, the method of the Small Holdings Act, in so far as such a method can be applied to this particular subject. What is it? It is not a process by which the local authorities get the land for nothing, or at an improper price, or in an unjust way from the present owner. We have the test of experience on our side. Under this Bill the local authority can acquire land for housing, and it proceeds to do that in this way. It makes an order of its intention so to do. That order is not withheld from the landowner or the public. It has to be advertised, and to be served on the owner of the land to be acquired. That order, after being made by the local authority, advertised and served, is submitted to the Local Government Board with the object of guaranteeing that, if the local authority were anxious to expropriate without compensation, the Local Government Board, like reasonable dispensers of justice between contending parties, will see that justice is done to both. When the order has, in due course, been submitted to the Local Government Board, that body, if no objection is raised, orders its issue. But if objection is raised by the owner, then a public inquiry is held by a Local Government Board inspector. If the result of that inquiry is to prove to the inspector that injustice is being done to the owner, then the original decision of the local authority, as formulated in the order, will be tempered and qualified by the Local Government Board.
Roughly, this plan has been adopted by the Small Holdings Commissioners and by the Board of Agriculture, with the result that in the last 18 months no less than 31,000 acres of the land have been either bought or leased by the Commissioners, acting through the Board of Agriculture, by a single arbitrator, on an Order issued and confirmed by the Board. The hon. Baronet should do what I have often asked him to do, i.e., produce any cases of injustice—and they should be numerous— under the Conservative Act of 1890, amended by the Act of 1900. But, in the absence of that evidence, I submit we are perfectly justified, on the precedent of previous Housing Acts, in adopting this particular course for an equally worthy public purpose, namely, the acquisition of land for housing. Does the hon. Baronet 1682 think that if this power is exercised the local authority is going—
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Have any powers of compulsory purchase been put in force under the Small Holdings Act?
§ Sir F. BANBURY
My point was that, under the Small Holdings Act—I am not quite certain I am right—the compulsory powers of purchase have never actually been put in force.
§ Mr. BURNS
Oh, yes; there have been cases, and if there were not, that, surely, is a strong argument in support of our case, and shows that the object of a Bill such as this is not to promote litigation between contending parties, except as a last resort, where there is occasion in which it should be done. There are 47 cases of compulsory powers under the Small Holdings Act, and if what I have said is true of small holdings, it is true of small housing, and there is not much difference between the local authority, which wants to build 50 or 100 cottages upon a small area, and one which acts under the Small Holdings Act. As to their scheduling the home farm or the best land or dispossessing people of the actual manor house, a number of things can be done in this country; but, thank heaven, we are a sensible people, and we do not pursue the line of greatest resistance in carrying out a public purpose. Under this Bill, what would be the general practice in regard to building 50 or 100 cottages by a small urban or rural authority? What would the local authority do? From the point of view of making the best bargain for themselves, they would get the cheapest land, and they would avoid any inconvenience, either to the rich or poor, in the district; and, in 99 cases out of 100, I am convinced that under the procedure of the present Bill you will find the landowners, to their credit, co-operating with the local authority to enable them to acquire land at the cheapest possible price to build cottages in localities where they are badly needed. I put it thus to hon. Members opposite: No improvement of the condition of the working classes, speaking broadly or generally, can be secured in 1683 any, either rural or urban, centre unless land is the chief factor in the means of their improvement, and they are not doing justice to their own social instincts, which in one or two cases have been demonstrated and have been quoted to show that they are in favour of providing houses for the working classes—it is not doing credit to their human instincts, when we have got a common-sense, cheap, prompt and just method, that all this talk about expropriation and confiscation and revolutionary method should be imported into the discussion, in regard to what, after all, is an elementary concession and an act of justice to those who are deprived of decent houses and cottages.
I think better of the hon. Baronet than his speeches indicate, and I really believe that if there was any demonstration in his own neighbourhood that there was a demand for cottages, he would avoid litigation and would be content with a public inquiry. I do not think he would go as far as that. Immediately his local authority issued the order, he would ask the chairman of the urban district council to come down, and when he did and explained to him the necessity for the cottages, he would say, "I will not go to the local inquiry stage; these cottages are wanted. I will drop all this talk about expropriation and revolutionary methods. I will give you all the help I can in promoting this housing scheme; go on, and God bless you and your methods, and may you succeed."
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
The right hon. Gentleman might say, "God bless you," but as to what his meaning might be that is another matter. Let us look at this from a business point of view. We have got to deal not only with the landowner, who has other resources than land, but people who hold land as trustees and others. The right hon. Gentleman has challenged my hon. Friend to produce an instance of injustice in procedure under a particular Bill. I am surprised at the right hon. Gentleman making that challenge. He has had two cases brought to his notice by a deputation of alleged injustice under this procedure. The deputation brought before him a case from Wales where great injustice was alleged to be done. I am speaking subject to correction. It was land owned by a widow lady or trustees on behalf of some children whose land was about to be taken. They only had a young, solicitor to represent them, who was ab- 1684 solutely unskilled in this particular branch of compensation, and applied that they might employ counsel at the arbitration of the Local Government Board. Leave was refused, and their case was presented by a young man utterly unversed in this particular branch of work, and who was unwilling to conduct it. The case was decided against the landowners, and injustice was done.
§ Mr. BURNS
I do not want the hon. Member to devolve upon my shoulders the general responsibility of my colleague the President of the Board of Agriculture for what was done in this particular case, and he was wrong when he attributes to the Local Government Board the course which he suggests the President of the Board of Agriculture took. I know nothing about this, because I was not in it, and it concerns the President of the Board of Agriculture.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
The procedure under that Bill is exactly the same as this, and this particular case of injustice was brought to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman by a deputation who told him that the landowners thought they bad been unjustly treated, and they themselves thought an injustice had taken place. It makes no difference whether it was the Local Government Board or the Board of Agriculture which did not allow counsel to appear. There was another case—that of the county council for Northampton, who were anxious to have someone appear in one of these cases, and the same course was followed. When the right hon. Gentleman makes this distinct challenge to the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London, I think it is very unfair that he should do so when he has had two cases of injustice brought before him. Apart from what has happened in the past, I venture to submit that this method generally is an unjust one of acquiring land compulsorily, assuming that it is necessary to do so. I agree it would be somewhat harsh to apply the Lands Clauses Act to every case of the acquisition of land compulsorily, and I have suggested by an Amendment that in this Bill we should adopt the procedure copied from the Development Bill now before the House, and which is less favourable to landowners. It is that a single arbitrator should be appointed by the Lord Chief Justice of England, and by certain other people in Ireland and Scotland, who should have full powers as regards the costs of witnesses and counsel. That is a 1685 modified form of the Lands Clauses Act, and the Government put it before the House as a fair way of dealing with matters of this kind. Under this Bill the Local Government Board, who are to a certain extent in the first instance promoters of the Order, if it becomes necessary to take land compulsorily, themselves appoint the impartial man to deal with the question. Surely it would be better than that one of the parties should appoint the arbitrator, that the Lord Chief Justice should do so, and I see no reason why this Clause in the Development Bill should not be adopted and some impartial person should appoint the arbitrator. The right right hon. Gentleman, to disarm our suspicion, said that a counsel or ex-counsel would be sent down, and when he is sent down to do this piece of legerdemain under the Act what would he do? He has never been in the district before, he is appointed and remunerated by the Local Government Board, and he has no local knowledge. Assuming the right hon. Gentleman trusts me, and I am sent down under Clause 8, I am to act as arbitrator, and as far as possible in assessing compensation it is indicated that local knowledge would be rather a useful thing. It goes on:—The persons holding the inquiry or arbitration shall hear by themselves or their agents any authorities or parties, but shall not. except in such cases as the Board otherwise direct, bear counsel or expert witnesses.So that you are sending counsel down to a locality he knows nothing about, and he is not to hear any expert witnesses to tell him the value of the land at all. Is it not really a travesty of a judicial tribunal if you send down counsel, however eminent, and deny the parties interested the right to appeal by counsel, and the arbitrator is not to inform his mind by expert witnesses unless the Local Government Board give their permission? It is not just to the landlord or to anyone else that land should be compulsorily acquired in this way.
§ Sir SAMUEL SCOTT
I think the right hon. Gentleman was somewhat unfair in his reply to the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury). Both my hon. Friend and hon. Members on this side will entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman when he says practically all this land acquired for building and housing will be acquired by agreement, and no compulsory powers of purchase need be put into force. But that is not the point. The point is to be found in the right hon. Gentleman's own speech. 1686 He claims the Local Government Board as the dispenser of justice and as having to fulfil a quasi-judicial function. It is that that we object to, and surely, in the interests of the Local Government Board and of the country at large, it is far better for the right hon. Gentleman to adopt Section 43 of the Agricultural Holdings Act and allow these arbitrators to be appointed by the Lord Chief Justice. It is appealing from Cæsar unto Cæsar and the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge, in the interests of himself and the Local Government Board that it is essential that everyone should have absolute confidence in the arbitrator appointed. No one on this side would ever dream of suggesting that an arbitrator appointed by the right hon. Gentleman would be in any way biassed, but it is essential for the public at large to have complete confidence in the arbitrator, and I do not believe they would if the arbitrator is appointed by the Local Government Board. May I again appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to reply to the question why he will not adopt the procedure of Section 43 of the Small Holdings Act?
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Herbert Lewis)
My right hon. Friend gave an absolutely conclusive answer on the point of the appointment of the arbitrator. He quoted in the first instance from the Housing Act of 1890, where in the second Schedule it distinctly provides that in Part I. cases the arbitrator is to be appointed by the Local Government Board itself. That was an Act passed by a Unionist Administration. By Section 41 of that important Act, which is regarded as the Magna Charta of housing, the Local Government Board is expressly empowered to appoint an arbitrator who is to determine this question of compensation. Ten years later, by the Act of 1900, when these cases had actually been decided over and over again, another Act was passed by a Unionist Government, and in Part III. cases under the Act of 1890 the Local Government Board, with 10 years' experience, was again empowered to appoint a single arbitrator to determine these questions. Under these circumstances, how can hon. Gentlemen opposite turn back the clock in this way? We are not travelling upon any unexplored Polar regions. We are on the well-trodden path of Unionist policy. This policy has not only been initiated by a Unionist Government, but approved by a Unionist Government after 10 years' experience. It is absolutely necessary for us 1687 to have these new and important provisions for the compulsory acquisition of land which the Amendment would cut out. The Select Committee upon Housing said:At present one of the chief obstacles in the way of local authorities who desire to put the Housing Acts in operation is the complicated nature of the machinery by which the land may be compulsorily acquired. Not only does this tend to make a local authority reluctant to take any action at all, but in cases where action has "been decided on it almost necessarily increases the expense of their scheme since local authorities will often be prepared to pay more than the market value for the land required rather than undergo the uncertainty and delay which the resort to compulsory powers now involves. There can be no doubt that in some cases at least the price given has been far beyond the real value of the land.I turn to the cases in which applications since 1896 for Provisional Orders for compulsory powers to purchase land for the purpose of Part III. of the Housing of the Working Classes Act of 1890 have been made. There have been, owing to the circumstances described in the Report of the Select Committee, only seven such cases, such has been the deterrent effect of the law as it exists at present, and in only one case was a Provisional Order issued. The other applications were chiefly withdrawn, or failed on the ground of the considerable expense involved. If the Amendment is carried we shall simply be relegated to that unsatisfactory and unhappy position, and I appeal to the Committee under the circumstances to endorse these provisions, which we believe to be absolutely necessary for the compulsory acquisition of land upon fair terms, provisions which in their essence very largely have been approved and adopted by the party opposite.
§ Mr. LANE-FOX
I am sure the House is very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herbert Lewis) for making the point clear. I should like to make one observation as the hon. Gentleman has quoted the Report of a Committee of which I was a member. That Committee reported that there had been considerable difficulty in acquiring land, but I would remind the House that that Report was made before the Small Holdings Act was passed two years ago. I believe the hon. Member will satisfy us if he will say that the Government are prepared to adopt the procedure under the Small Holdings Act. He is aware that while the Board of Agriculture are parties to the procedure under that Act the Lord Chief Justice is empowered to appoint the arbitrator. Therefore the whole difference between the two sides of the House is on the question of appointing the arbitrator. I think more would have 1688 been heard of this point in the Grand Committee if it had not been that the form of procedure proposed was so wrapped up in legislation by reference that it was difficult for everybody except lawyers to realise what it was. The Committee were thoroughly weary of the whole business, and the matter was never fully considered. It is a very good thing that vie should have this discussion. It should not be considered that because this proposal passed through the Grand Committee we should accept it now without question. By the time the Committee got to this proposal we had not time to give it the consideration which so important a matter ought to have received. I hope the President of the Local Government Board will not find it too late to accept the other procedure which has been proposed.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I cannot help thinking that the Parliamentary Secretary laboured under a slight misapprehension in reference to this matter. There are really two quite independent inquiries under the Schedule, and they ought to be kept quite distinct. The first inquiry is as to what advice the inspector is to give to the Local Government Board as to the confirmation of the Order. The local authority asks to acquire compulsorily certain land. Thereupon, under the provisions of the Schedule, an inspector is sent down to make inquiry as to whether they shall be allowed to acquire that land. Then an Order is made—assuming that he reports in favour of the acquisition—confirming the application of the local authority, and they are allowed to acquire the land. Then comes the question what price is to be paid for the land. That is a matter which has to be determined by the arbitrator. The discussion this afternoon has been mainly concerned with the first inquiry relative to the confirmation of the Order, and that is an entirely novel procedure, which was never heard of at all in legislation until the present Government came into office. Therefore, when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board refers to precedent, he is entirely mistaken. I am certain I am right in saying that there is no precedent in any legislation before the present Parliament for land being taken by Administrative Order after inquiry, whether by an official of a Department or by anybody else.
I want to say a word about that change in policy. I, personally, have a little 1689 altered my opinion. I used to think that it was wrong to take land at all, except by Provisional Order or Act of Parliament. I have come to the conclusion that that is not a sound position, and that it is really too expensive a procedure, and an exceedingly unsatisfactory kind of machinery where you only desire to acquire small plots of land of an unimportant character. I think it is very important that some alternative machinery should be set up to that procedure. I, personally, have always wished to see something on the lines of the Light Railways Commission — that is to say, an independent tribunal which should consider these small applications and provide a cheap procedure by which the public and other interests would be safeguarded. The Light Railways Commission has worked to the satisfaction of everybody concerned. It seems to me that the procedure which the Government favour is thoroughly unsound. Their proposal is that a nominee of the Department itself should make a Report, but the Department is not bound by that Report even. The Board are left entirely free either to accept or reject the Report. I think that is a thoroughly unsound and mischievous proposal, and I am not in the least moved to the suggestion that it is in accordance with what was done under the Small Holdings Act; I object altogether to that part of the procedure suggested by the Government. There is also the question as to the way in which compensation is to be awarded under the Government scheme. I do not attach much importance to that. I do say it is very unfair to people whose property is being taken away and who are asking for a fair price that they should not be allowed to be represented by a skilled advocate. The local authority have a skilled advocate in their official, whereas the owner of the land will have to appear personally or by some less skilled person. He is therefore put at a disadvantage. I deeply regret that the Government insist on adhering to that provision, and I shall vote against it. The Parliamentary Secretary says the effect of the Amendment will be to restore the machinery. Well, we must first of all get rid of the Government machinery. When we have got rid of that, I shall support the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge University, or some such Amendment as he has given notice of, that the price should be determined by an arbitrator appointed by the Lord Chief Justice. As for the duty of confirming the Order that ought to be done after independent inquiry, either 1690 by some body like the Light Railway Commission or some body with the same procedure as is adopted in the Port of London Act last year, by some person who shall have no connection with the Local Government Board. The really essential part of the inquiry is that the decision shall be final as against the central authority, and that it shall not be allowed to be overruled by a Government Department, which may be subject to all sorts of political pressure, and quite unfit to exercise judicial powers of that description.
§ Mr. GRETTON
The Housing of the Working Classes Act of 1890 lays down in Section 85 that the Local Government Board may hold inquiries under the Public Health Act, according to all the conditions of the Public Health Act of 1875, and. in that respect the Amendment of my hon. Friend is strictly right in following the lines that have always been laid down in. legislation. It is provided that an arbitrator may be appointed by the Local Government Board to settle disputes which may arise between the local authority and persons interested in land, and to fix the amount of compensation But the power of the arbitrator under that Act is not absolute, because it is provided that parties who are not satisfied may appeal. That appeal may also be brought before a jury for decision. That is a very different thing from what is proposed in the present Bill. The Government have failed entirely to make a case for the particular procedure adopted in this Bill. They have not shown that the procedure to which I have referred has broken down, or resulted in any injustice or undue expense. My hon. Friend is entirely right in his contention, and I will support him.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I do not wish to correct the right hon. Gentleman unnecessarily, but I do not want it to be understood for a moment that I am against the procedure when you are dealing with any considerable acquisition of land. It is only when you are dealing with small plots of land that I think it is expensive.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BURNS
That helps me considerably, because the plots of land likely to be acquired under this Bill are small plots. 1691 They are not like pieces of land that would be acquired under the Development Bill or a port authority, or by the Railway Commissioners. But I think that the Noble Lord will agree with me that the present method is not only cumbersome and costly, but provokes delay which is often the real reason why the housing schemes are not carried out. The Noble Lord says that the present method of acquiring land by Provisional Order, or by private Act, for housing purposes is not the best. I congratulate the Noble Lord on the advance in his views. Neither was he particularly enamoured of the Lands Clauses method of apportioning compensation for small plots of land. That indicates that the present method of obtaining small plots of land for houses and cottages, particularly in rural areas, is costly, cumbrous and dilatory, and we have got to adopt a better method than those which I have mentioned. That being so, the difference between the Noble Lord and myself is as to whether we shall have his alternative proposal. "We prefer small holdings' terms. With regard to the point raised by several hon. Members that we have not
§ adopted the small holdings conditions absolutely with regard to the Housing Bill, the answer is simple and direct. The Local Government Board for this Housing Bill was to purchase land and own land as the Small Holdings Commissioners do for the Board of Agriculture. We are not parties to the purchase of land in that sense. The only reason why the Lord Chief Justice is brought in under the Small Holdings Act is that the Commissioners appointed bought the land and held the land acquired in default of the county councils who should initiate the purchase of land. We are in no such position. We are not a party in that sense. We are a party only in this sense, that we hold the inquiry and see that rough justice is done both to the local authority and the owner, and as we have to put all these things to the test of difference which can only be measured by revision, we are sorry we cannot abandon our method in the Bill or adopt the method advocated by the Noble Lord. I therefore ask the House of Commons to stand by the Government.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 133; Noes, 41.1693
|Division No. 632.]||AYES.||[4.3 p.m.|
|Adkins, W. Ryland, D.||Elibank, Master of||Lupton, Arnold|
|Alden, Percy||Evans, Sir S. T.||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)||Everett, R. Lacey||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Faber, G. H. (Boston)||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Falconer, James||Mackarness, Frederic C.|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Findlay, Alexander||Maclean, Donald|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Macpherson, J. T.|
|Barker, Sir John||Fullerton, Hugh||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.)|
|Barnard, E. B.||Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John||M'Laren, Sir C. B. (Leicester)|
|Beale, W. P.||Gulland, John W.||Maddison, Frederick|
|Benn, Sir J. Williams (Devonport)||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Markham, Arthur Basil|
|Boulton, A. C. F.||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Massie, J.|
|Branch, James||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Micklem, Nathaniel|
|Bright, J. A.||Hart-Davies, T.||Molteno, Percy Alport|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Haworth, Arthur A.||Morrell, Philip|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Hedges, A. Paget||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Byles, William Pollard||Henry, Charles S.||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. (Kincard.)|
|Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Higham, John Sharp||Myer, Horatio|
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Hogan, Michael||Nicholls, George|
|Cleland, J. W.||Hooper, A. G.||Nolan, Joseph|
|Clough, William||Illingworth, Percy H.||Norman, Sir Henry|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel||Nuttall, Harry|
|Compton-Rickett, Sir J.||Jackson, R. S.||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Jardine, Sir J.||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.)|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)||Jones, Leif (Appleby)||O'Malley, William|
|Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Cox, Harold||Jowett, F. W.||Partington, Oswald|
|Crossley, William J.||Joyce, Michael||Radford, G. H.|
|Cullinan, J.||Keating, Matthew||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (Gloucester)|
|Dalziel, Sir James Henry||Kekewich, Sir George||Rees, J. D.|
|Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Kilbride, Denis||Ridsdale, E. A.|
|Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness-shire)||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Laidlaw, Robert||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Dillon, John||Lamb, Ernest H. (Rochester)||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Dobson, Thomas W.||Lamont, Norman||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Lewis, John Herbert||Schwann, Sir C. E. (Manchester)|
|Shipman, Dr. John G.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)||Williams, W. Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Soames, Arthur Wellesley||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Stanger, H. Y.||Verney, F. W.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Stewart, Halley (Greenock)||Walters, John Tudor||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|Straus, B. S. (Mile End)||Waring, Walter||Young, Samuel|
|Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Summerbell, T.||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)||Joseph Pease and Sir E. Strachey.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major||Fletcher, J. S.||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Gardner, Ernest||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Baring, Capt. Hon. G. (Winchester)||Gretton, John||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Guinness, Hon. W. E. (B. S. Edmunds)||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Heaton, John Henniker||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)|
|Brotherton, Edward Allen||Kimber, Sir Henry||Stanier, Beville|
|Butcher, Samuel Henry||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staffordshire)|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Thomson, W. Mitchell-(Lanark)|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.)||M'Arthur, Charles||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Moore, William||Whitbread, S. Howard|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott-||Morrison-Bell, Captain||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir F.|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)||Banbury and Captain Craig.|
|Fell, Arthur||Peel, Hon. W. R. W.|
§ Mr. HART-DAVIES
moved, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert the words: "Provided that where the capital value of land shall have been ascertained for the purpose of taxation the same shall be taken to be its value when purchased by any local authority under this Act, subject to the allowance for buildings and agreed damages as the arbitrator shall decide."
When this Bill was introduced last year I made some observations in the course of the second reading Debate, and put down this Amendment with a view to guarding against certain evils and certain difficulties which I said then would be precarious to the working of the Bill. This Bill is a very excellent one, more especially in the town planning part, but if these reforms are carried out, and if these towns are planned in the way that is suggested in the Bill, the inevitable effect must be that the land in the neighbourhood of all these improvements will rise in price. The consequence will be that any future development in a town that was planned will be attended with very much more expense, and, in fact, it would be almost practically a bar to any extension of the town planning scheme. In those days last year when I put down my Amendment, I had no idea that there would be any proposal which would fix the value of land by a State valuation. I thought there was no chance of it in those days. Since then we have had the Budget introduced, and provision has been made for a State valuation. The effect of this Amendment, if the right hon. Gentleman approves of it, would be that when the land is taken up for any town planning or housing scheme the local authority would know exactly where they stood; they would know the value of the 1694 land, as all they would have to do would be to look up the valuation, and they would know bow much their scheme would cost. They would be spared all the trouble of valuing the land and the trouble of dealing with the extremely exorbitant claims that are always set up when the Government propose to take land. I think it would simplify the working of the Bill a great deal, and would render it very much cheaper. I should think that the local authorities would certainly welcome a provision of this sort in the Bill. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Burns) views this Amendment with approval, but I should think he would. I think it improves the Bill. I think it makes the Bill simpler and cheaper, and the local authorities would probably welcome it.
§ Mr. MACKARNESS
I beg to second the Amendment, because I think it is framed in the spirit of the following very strong recommendation of the Select Committee on the Bill of 1906:—In the opinion of the Committee no solution will be satisfactory which does not enable a local authority to purchase land compulsorily for any public purpose (including housing, drainage, small holdings, etc.) on the basis of its rateable value. The present system under which land is rated by a local authority upon one valuation but can only be purchased by the same authority upon another valuation having no necessary or recognised proportion to the first, seems to them most complicated and unjust. If the procedure is to be simplified, and land made easily available, these two values must be brought into relation, so that local authorities can ascertain beforehand not merely the value upon which rates will be paid, but the capital value at which the land can be purchased.I have seen so much in my own Constituency of the urgent need for the immediate erection of more houses and cottages that to anything which tends to that end I cannot help giving my support. At present in 1695 Newbury there has been for many years an urgent demand for more houses. At present a local inquiry is in progress before a Local Government Board inspector under the Act of 1890, and no less than five ex-mayors of the borough have given evidence as to the urgent need of new houses they have found during their mayoralty, which they have not been able to meet because of the expense of carrying out a scheme. Constantly men have been ejected from their houses, not because they were bad tenants or because they could not pay the rent, but because the houses were wanted for somebody else who happened" to be in the employ of the owner; and the men themselves, unable to get other houses either in the borough or in the district, have had, in some cases, to go into the workhouse, and, in others, to leave the district. In the country districts the same difficulty is found, owing to the prohibitive cost of building cottages. If a cottage falls vacant there are a number of applications for it. On one large estate in my division it has been the policy for a large number of years to pull down cottages and not to build any in substitution for them. I believe that if the method of obtaining land could be cheapened and the proposal of my hon. Friend given effect to, one source of expense would be removed, and we should have got one step nearer facilitating the erection of cottages. On that ground I beg to second the Amendment.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I feel sure my right hon. Friend will not resist this Amendment, for it embodies a very important principle, and one which the party as a whole is already committed to by the Finance Bill. One of the main parts of the Finance Bill, in the opinion of many of us, will give us this valuation of the land about which there has been so much discussion already this afternoon. It will surely stultify the utterances of the House of Commons if, having arrived at this valuation at great expense and trouble, we do not use it as the basis of the purchase of land. The only ground on which my right hon. Friend can resist this Amendment is that it is really superfluous and unnecessary. I am inclined to think that when the arbitrator comes to compulsory purchase that he will be bound to regard the valuation of the Finance Bill, and take it as his basis for assessment. At any rate, it will be as well to have it stated clearly in the Bill 1696 that it is his duty to do so. It will be a matter of common-sense that you should take this valuation; and, what I want, is to be quite sure that no arbitrator should so far depart from the ordinary rules that he will attempt to fix some other value which is quite different to this valuation of the Bill, on which the owner is required to pay his taxes. My hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. Mackarness) has referred to the very strong recommendation of the Select Committee in this matter. That recommendation, drafted by myself, was founded on a very exhaustive inquiry into the difficulty which the local authorities have in acquiring land for housing purposes. We had returns from 150 local authorities in whose view cottages were required. The principal reason given why the Act was not put into force and the cottages built was the difficulty of acquiring land. The very plainest way, therefore, to get over that difficulty is by adopting the valuation that we shall get in the Finance Bill if it becomes law.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
The Amendment before the House is not so interesting from the point of view of this particular Bill as from the light thrown by it upon the Finance Bill, and the valuation at the back of it. The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment and the hon. Member who has just sat down really hardly did full justice to the Amendment. The hon. Member who seconded the Resolution read out the recommendation of a Committee that the owners of rateable property should be liable to be bought out at a price based on the rateable value. That is not this Amendment at all. The Amendment is much more ingenious. You are going back here to the capital value of the land. Supposing a man occupies a house or premises, he is rated on that house or premises at the present time. The hon. Member who seconded said the rateable value should be taken as the purchase price; that was what he referred to as common-sense, but that is not this Amendment. By this Amendment you would take the site value of the house and land which always before was regarded as one—you take that wonderful abstraction which some of us are wondering why it was inserted in the Finance Bill, and you capitalise that, and then you are to make such deductions for buildings as the arbitrator may determine. If you were anxious to purchase Westminster Abbey, as was said the other day, you would first take the site value and then make such deduc- 1697 tions for the value of the buildings as the arbitrator might allow. That is to be the basis of the purchase price of the land, and it is so far an illustration of the use to be made of the site valuation. Why is it necessary to value all these houses, and property, which are not the subject of taxation. It is by small beginnings in a Bill of this kind that this extraordinary new theory of valuation is to be introduced. The next step will be that any municipal authority should have power to purchase land, and the third step will come soon, when the State will have power to nationalise land at the capital sum of the site value, with such allowance for buildings as the arbitrator may determine. We are not talking of the Finance Bill to-day; we are talking practical business. Is it practical business to arrive at the value of the ordinary house and land—
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
That is the distinction between practice and theory, and in theory the hon. Member is quite right, but you buy the land with the house upon it.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
That is not necessary by any means. Otherwise it would not be necessary to put in the words "subject to the allowance for building." The material point is to take the capital site value of the land as the means of valuing for purchase. I venture to suggest the Amendment gives greater power than the innocent speech of the hon. Member seems to suggest.
§ Mr. ARNOLD LUPTON
I am very glad to support the Amendment of my hon. Friend. In my own Division there is a village where the land is rich and where the men can earn good wages, and there they can afford to pay a fair rent. The local authority, under the existing Acts, is willing to build houses for these men, but when they go to the landlord he demands £250 an acre for his land, although he is only rated for the same land at £40 an acre. When the local authority want land to build these cottages the landlord demands six times the value of the land more than he is rated. The maximum value for agricultural land in that locality is £80 an acre, but they cannot buy it for less than £250 an acre. That, of course, has put a stop to house building in that district. The 1698 landlord pays rates upon the land on one basis and sells it upon another basis. This provision is to enable local authorities to buy land at a reasonable price where houses or playgrounds are required, and where land is required for the social development of the social life of the village. In such cases they ought to be able to purchase land at the same price at which it is rated. It does not matter so much whether the land is rated high or low, or whether it is worth £2 an acre or £20. It It is the same thing to the local authority so long as it buys it at the same price. A proposal of this kind is absolutely necessary for real rural development. In the case of the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Poor, which sat in 1886, of which the King was a member, His Majesty signed the Report, and he amongst others of the greatest and noblest men in the Kingdom—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not entitled to introduce the name of His Majesty in order to influence the House.
§ .Mr. LUPTON
I will withdraw that statement. There were many Noble members of that Commission, and this proposal is in accordance with the lines of that Report, which was signed by both Conservatives and Liberals, and there were only two dissentients.
§ Mr. WALTER GUINNESS
If I understand the hon. Member for Sleaford aright he has addressed himself to discussing the advisability of rating rural property on its capital value and not on its annual value. That, at any rate, was the purport of his speech, and I do not think that question arises in the least on this Amendment. Certainly, three other speeches to which I have listened have not contained anything about this Amendment. I think hon. Members realise that this Amendment can hardly be taken seriously, because it would work an amount of injustice which nobody could possibly contemplate with equanimity. This Amendment does not say that the valuation of land under the Finance Bill of this Session shall be taken as merely the basis of the valuation. The valuation for the purposes of taxation is to be taken as the actual value whenever any local authority choose to buy land. Is this one factor only going to be taken into account? Where land has been valued for the purposes of taxation, is that value to be taken by any local authority without protest? According to this proposal, if it has been valued 30 years before it has to be taken 1699 at that price when the local authority buys the land. That is absolutely unjust. I imagine that the hon. Member who moved this Amendment would be the first to demand that the man who sells his land to a local authority should get a fair price for it. This proposal would only allow a fair price being paid on the assumption that land never changes in its value.
The London County Council at this time own hundreds of acres which will not be ripe for development for 30 or 40 years; and, if a local authority buys land not ripe for development, it may not be valued for any purpose for 40 years. Yet under this Amendment that would be taken as the actual value. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment does not agree with the Prime Minister, who told us that land does change in value. He stated that there are certain classes of land where the rise is normal, regular, continuous, and progressive. If so, I cannot believe the hon. Member seriously thinks his Amendment is a just one. As it is drawn, compensation would be given for buildings and agreed damages; but, so far as I can see, no compensation would be given for roads. If an owner was laying out an estate for development, and the local authority came and said they wanted a certain amount of it, he would get compensation for buildings and agreed damages; but, so far as I can see, he would get nothing whatever for roads. The only effect of the Amendment would be to enable local authorities to buy land at a price very much less than its real value, and it is another instance of the attempt of those who assume mistaken ideas of housing reforms to give local authorities enormous advantages over private enterprise. If you want to assist the housing problem, you must encourage private enterprise, and anything which enables local authorities to buy land at less than its fair value and to compete unfairly with private enterprise will not only create injustice, but cause so much discouragement to private enterprise that it will retard the cause you wish to advance.
§ Mr. BURNS
My hon. Friend who moved the Amendment did our Bill the honour of saying it was a very good Bill, and was excellent in its object so far as town planning was concerned. I am sure a Bill which secures his approval, and, I trust, his support, ought not to be jeopardised by a proposal which can only be adequately discussed in its proper place in connection with the Finance Bill and the 1700 various aspects of ownership and land taxation which have engaged the House for the last few months. I sincerely put it to him, friendly as he is to it, not to make the Housing and Town Planning Bill thecorpus vileof our Budget discussions, because if he does he adds a quill to our porcupine that will make the remaining stages of its passage rather difficult, and will evoke opposition probably elsewhere. The House of Commons has not had time to consider to what extent the Amendment moved by the hon. Member is applicable to this particular measure. I put it to him. For three years this Bill has been, in one form or another, before the public and before the House of Commons, and never once in its history have we had an Amendment or Clause of this description moved in Committee, either of the whole House or upstairs in Grand Committee. And why? Because every hon. Member who is interested, as I am, in the spirit and substance of the hon. Member's Amendment realises that if we are to have these different forms of rating and these different forms of taxation, if we are to deal with undeveloped land and with the process of holding up the land, the proper place to discuss that is not on the Housing and Town Planning Bill which was prepared long before the Budget was thought of, but can be much better discussed, and is, indeed, being adequately discussed, on the Budget in a form which gives hon. Members a much bolter opportunity of getting their way than is possible in the eight or ten minutes left before the guillotine falls on the last stage of this Bill I ask hon. Members to remember that this measure gives cheaper land, cheaper money, longer periods for loans, and simpler methods of inquiry. We are now asked to go into a fiscal question of admittedly great magnitude, and to incorporate into a Housing Bill vexed questions which are being discussed on the Finance Bill at a moment when we have only a few minutes at our disposal. We are asked to discuss, for instance, such questions as capital value, site value, annual value, and the best methods of determining the price of land. I say it is hardly fair to us who have borne the heat and burden of this Bill that we should be subjected to this when we really have no time to deal with it. The subject cannot possibly receive adequate consideration today. I therefore hope the hon. Member will not press this Amendment. Let him remember that the questions of value and prices to be paid will be for the arbitrator to take 1701 into consideration, and if the Budget Bill passes and the land taxes are imposed those will be among the matters to be borne in mind by him. I hope my hon. Friend will not endanger this Bill by pressing his Amendment, which is far more applicable to the Budget Bill Debates.
§ Mr. HART-DAVIES
I should like to point out to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Walter Guinness) that a valuation is worth nothing unless it is continuous.
§ Mr. WALTER GUINNESS
It is to be brought up to date every five years in the case of undeveloped land under Clause 18 of the Finance Bill. All other land is only to be valued once for all.
§ Mr. HART-DAVIES
I am well aware that this subject cannot be taken at this stage, and in response to the appeal of my right hon. Friend I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Leave to withdraw withheld; Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. M'ARTHUR
moved, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert the words "but this provision shall not apply to any land which, at the date of the order, has been acquired by the owners there of under any local or special Act, Provisional Order, or order having the force of an Act of Parliament, for the purposes of a railway, dock, canal, water, or other public undertaking."
This subject may be viewed from the standpoint of principle, precedent, or practical effect. As regards the question of principle, it is this, is the authority of Parliament to be overridden by a Government Department which is carried on under a title derived from Parliament? The authority of Parliament is certainly superior to the authority of any Government Department, and that authority which Parliament has given Parliament alone can take away. These various commercial undertakings acquire land for the purpose of their business under powers given by Parliament, and when they have acquired it under this Bill that land is liable to be taken from them by some local authority, supported by the Local Government Board. The precedents are entirely in favour of the Amendment which I move. Under what is called the principal Act, proposals of this kind will have to take the form of a Provisional Order Bill, and under the last piece of legislation on this subject, the 1702 Small Holdings and Allotments Act, the case of canals, railways, and similar undertakings is specially exempted, and it is provided that no land shall be acquired compulsorily which is acquired by any corporation or company for the purpose of a railway, dock, canal, water, or other public undertaking, or constituting any ancient monument or other archaeological object. I should like to know why the President of the Local Government Board follows that Act when it is in his favour and does not follow it when it is against him? Why should the Government depart from all precedent and take away from these great commercial undertakings the protection which Parliament has given them under previous legislation? It is said that it is a very important matter to house the people of this country, but there is something far more important than housing, and that is that a man should work for and receive wages in order to pay his rent and to keep up his house. These undertakings provide work for the working classes enabling them to do that. If you cripple these undertakings by taking away the power which they possess, you are doing the workpeople a great deal more harm than good. It may be said that the local authorities may be trusted to act prudently in the matter. Perhaps they may in most cases, but it is the exception we have to deal with. Why should it be in the power of the Local Government Board to interfere with these important commercial undertakings which carry on their business under Acts of Parliament? The case seems so clear that only one reason for the refusal of the Amendment commends itself to me, and that is that the right hon. Gentleman wants to reserve something now that he may give it away in another place. Would it not be better to accept it here?
§ Mr. WALTER GUINNESS
I beg to second the Amendment. I think there is a strong case for excluding land acquired under the provisions of this Amendment, because in a great many cases those lands will be acquired under the approval of some other Government Department than the Local Government Board. The provision in the Bill allows the suspension of local Acts and bye-laws, and I think there is something to be said for that when there are Acts dealing with Local Government or Bye-laws which have been sanctioned by the Local Government Board. But in this ease the Local Government Board will be taking into its hands power to acquire 1703 land which is used for purposes which do not in any way come under the control of that Department. How is the Local Government Board to judge whether land is really required for the purpose of a railway, dock, or canal? That is a matter which obviously affects the Board of Trade. A Provisional Order will have been obtained with the sanction of the Board of Trade, and it is most undesirable to allow one Government Department in this way to have arbitrary powers of suspending the work of another Government Department. A great deal of injury may be done to public interests in this way, and minor interests may be preferred' to greater ones. For this reason, because it will lead to a great deal of friction between one Government Department and another unless this exemption is made, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept it.
§ Mr. BURNS
Judging by the speeches made, the assumption underlying the remarks of the Mover and Seconder, one would think that the local authority, with the approval of the Local Government Board, would look around their area, and where they found a railway company with only a small portion of surplus land or a deck or canal company with land which was not immediately going to be used, acquire it for housing purposes. The very converse is the case, because if there is any land required by the local authority in whose jurisdiction there is a railway, deck, harbour or canal corporation, the very conditions of price, of situation and convenience would exclude the local authority from going for any of that land except under very exceptional circumstances, and for hon. Members opposite to ask that in the case of railway companies who own 25,000 miles of railway, and have acquired small or large pieces of surplus land which may not be necessary for their immediate or prospective use, only a few yards, rarely an acre, should not be acquired at a fair price, is to ask for railway companies a privileged treatment and an exceptional consideration that the Housing of the Working Classes Act never gave them, and which in this Bill we cannot see cur way to adopt. If the hon. Member's proposal were accepted we should find that the London County Council would not be able to deal quite as well with one or two railway companies, notably in St. Pancras, in the interest of public health as they otherwise 1704 will be. We would also find that the surplus land belonging to water companies and local authorities in large water sheds which they are unable to use because of the existence of sources of pollution could not be appropriated if the Amendment were accepted. I think a more inequitable proposal, so far as the public interest is concerned, has not been brought forward. This matter has been many times discussed at considerable length, and I sincerely trust that the House will not accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. PEEL
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has really given a satisfactory reason for objecting to the Amendment. He has told us of the circumstances under which local authorities may wish to take land in the possession of railway companies and dock companies. But surely, if the circumstances are as he states, he might as well allow the Amendment to be put in the Bill. No harm could be done by putting it in. The right hon. Gentleman referred to land in watersheds which cannot be used for the purposes of water supply, but in such cases it is not conceivable that the municipalities concerned would wish to go on holding the land. They would be only too glad to sell it for housing or for any other purpose. This is a question of acquiring land compulsorily and not by agreement. I think it would be exceedingly hard on these corporations if their land was to be subjected to these, compulsory powers. It is impossible for anybody but themselves to know what their projects are, and to what purposes they are going to devote the land. If it appeared to a local authority and the Local Government Board that a piece of land was absolutely necessary for a scheme, the corporation would be brought before the tribunal of arbitration, and it would be necessary for them to disclose their projects. I think that is an extremely unfair demand to make upon them. I do not see why they should be required to disclose their schemes and secrets until the time comes for carrying them out. It is not worth while setting up unnecessary machinery and putting people to unnecessary trouble.
And, it being Five of the Clock, Mr. Speaker proceeded, in pursuance of the Order of the House of 15th June, to put forthwith the Question on the Amendment, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 35; Noes, 127.1705
|Division No. 633.]||AYES.||[5.1 p.m.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major||Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott-||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Morrison-Bell, Captain|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Faber, George Denison (York)||Peel, Hon. W. R. W.|
|Barnard, E. B.||Fell, Arthur||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Fletcher, J. S.||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Brotherton, Edward Allen||Gardner, Ernest||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Burdett-Coutts, w.||Gretton, John||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, E.)|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Heaton, John Henniker||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Lanark)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Kimber, Sir Henry||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Cecil, Lord R. (marylebone, E.)||Lonsdale, John Brownlee|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Lowe, Sir Francis William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh||C. M'Arthur and Mr. Walter|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Moore, William||Guinness.|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John||Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)|
|Alden, Percy||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Morrell, Philip|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)||Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)||Morse, L. L.|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Hart-Davies, T.||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. (Kincard.)|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Myer, Horatio|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Haworth, Arthur A.||Nicholls, George|
|Barker, Sir John||Hedges, A. Paget||Nolan, Joseph|
|Beale, W. P.||Henry, Charles S.||Norman, Sir Henry|
|Benn, Sir J. Williams (Devonport)||Higham, John Sharp||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Boulton, A. C. F.||Hogan, Michael||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.)|
|Branch, James||Hooper, A. G.||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Illingworth, Percy H.||Partington, Oswald|
|Byles, William Pollard||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel||Pease, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Saff. Wald.)|
|Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Jackson, R. S.||Radford, G. H.|
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Jardine, Sir J.||Rees, J. D.|
|Cleland, J. W.||Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Ridsdale, E. A.|
|Clough, William||Jones, Leif (Appleby)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Comptcn-Rickctt, Sir J.||Jowett, F. W.||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Joyce, Michael||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Cooper, G. J.||Kekewich, Sir George||Schwann, Sir C. E. (Manchester)|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Kilbride, Denis||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Stanger, H. Y.|
|Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Laidlaw, Robert||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)|
|Cowan, W. H.||Lamb, Ernest H. (Rochester)||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)|
|Cox, Harold||Lamont, Norman||Strauss. E. A. (Abingdon)|
|Crossley, William J.||Lupton, Arnold||Thompson, J. W. H. (Somerset, E.)|
|Cullinan, J.||Luttrcll, Hugh Fownes||Thorne, G R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Dalziel, Sir James Henry||Lynch, H. B.||Verney, F. W.|
|Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Walters, John Tudor|
|Dewar, Sir J A. (Inverness-sh.)||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Waring, Walter|
|Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)||Mackarness, Frederic C.||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Dillon, John||Macpherson, J. T.||Whitbread, S. Howard|
|Dobson, Thomas W.||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||M'Laren, Sir C. B. (Leicester)||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Elibank, Master of||M'Micking, Major G.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Everett, R. Lacey||Madaison, Frederick||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|Faber, G. H. (Boston)||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)||Young, Samuel|
|Falconer, J||Massie, J.|
|Findlay, Alexander||Micklem, Nathaniel||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Molteno, Percy Alport||Herbert Lewis and Mr. Gulland.|
§ Mr. Speaker then proceeded successively to put forthwith the Questions on any Amendments to the Bill moved by the Government, of which notice had been given, and the Question for the Third Reading of the Bill.