§ (1) Whilst any land of which possession has been so taken is in the possession of an Occupying Department after the termination of the present war, any building or other work which for purposes connected with the present war has been erected or constructed on over or under the land wholly or partly at the expense of the State, or, with the consent of the Occupying Department, at the expense of some person not being a person interested in the land, may be removed, without the consent of any person interested in the land, by the Occupying Department, or, with the consent of the Occupying Department, by the person at whose expense it was erected or constructed, any law or custom to the contrary notwithstanding:
§ Provided that—
- (a) where the building or work was erected or constructed partly at the expense of a person interested in the land; or
- (b) where in pursuance of an agreement with a Government Department any person interested in the land is entitled to the benefit of or to prohibit the removal of the building or work;
§ Provided also that where under any agreement a Government Department is entitled to remove any such building or work nothing in this Section shall prejudice the rights of the Department or any other person under the agreement.
§ (2) Where any building or work has been removed under the powers conferred by this Section the Occupying Department shall, at their option, either cause the land to be restored to the condition in which it was before the building or work was erected or constructed or pay such compensation in respect of the depreciation (if any) in the value of the land attributable to the disturbance of the soil as in default of agreement may be determined by the Commission.
§ (3) Where any building or any machinery or plant fixed or attached to any land has, for purposes connected with the present war, been erected wholly or partly at the expense of the State in accordance with an agreement with any person interested in the land, any power to remove the building, machinery, and plant so erected conferred on any Government Department under the agreement may be exercised, notwithstanding any rights in the building, machinery, or plant to which any other person interested in the land, whether as mortgagee or otherwise, may be entitled.
§ Colonel GRETTON
In the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Mr. Prothero), I beg to move, after Subsection (1), to insert the words " Provided also that any person interested in the land shall be entitled in default of agreement to the contrary to submit for the decision and award of the Commission any question arising between himself and any Government Department out, or in the course, or as a result, of the occupation of the land."
There seems to be a substantial point in this Amendment. It is provided in the 812 language the Government accepted earlier in the evening that the occupying party should pay such rent, and so forth, as may be agreed, and following agreement the Commissioners shall decide. But there are many other questions arising besides the adjustment of rent, and there are many other matters which must arise in the occupation of land temporarily held for short periods, and this proviso would give the owners of the land or the person who has to receive the rent and make the terms with the Government Department under this Bill, and would give powers to the Commissioners not only to deal with the question of rent, but any other matters that may arise and require adjustment between themselves and the Occupying Department. I think there is a really substantial point in this matter, and if justice is to be done to the owners of the land a proviso of this kind should be inserted in the Bill, though, of course, I do not imagine that the Government would be entirely satisfied with the drafting; in fact, I am not sure that the drafting on the Paper is quite perfect. For instance, I am not sure that the words "to the contrary" will be required. At any rate, a substantial point is involved and I ask the Government to give it serious consideration.
§ Sir G. CAVE
My hon. and gallant Friend is obviously not very satisfied with the drafting of the Amendment. I agree with him. I do not quite understand what is intended, nor why it comes into this Clause. This is a removal Clause, and he proposes to insert as a proviso to one Subsection an Amendment containing general provisions referring differences on questions arising out of the occupation of the land. If the hon. Member will withdraw this now, I will speak to him and my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Mr. Prothero) as to what it is they are aiming at, and see if it is possible to meet them in any way in some other part of the Bill. I do not think it can come in in this particular Clause, nor is it in proper form.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
This is an important Amendment, because I am quite sure that there may be considerable difficulties arising under this particular Clause. I have not the slightest objection to the Clause as a whole, because I think the Occupying Department ought to have the 813 power to remove what I presume would otherwise be tenant's fixtures. The Sub-section says:
"Whilst any land of which possession has been so taken is in the possession of an Occupying Department after the termination of the present War, any building or other work which for purposes connected with the present War has been erected or constructed on, over, or under the land wholly or partly at the expense of the State, or, with the consent of the Occupying Department."
Under these words questions may arise as to what is meant by "wholly or partly at the expense of the State." I do not know whether it would not be possible for the landowner himself to have spent some money, so that the work has been partly constructed at the expense of the State and partly at the expense of the landowner. In those circumstances some such words as my hon. and gallant Friend has moved are necessary, unless great injustice is to be done. What is the objection to allowing the Commission, where any points of difficulty or disagreement arise, to be the deciding authority? I object very much to the idea that the Department is to say, "Here is an Act of Parliament; we are to be the judges in our own case." I do not look upon a Department, even if it is a Department of the Government, as being always a very wise body. It is very often a tyrannical body and will not listen to any reasons unless it thinks the person advancing the reasons has some power to enforce them. We give too much power to this Department and to that. The whole tendency lately has been to set up a Government Department and give it power to do this, that, and the other—to make Regulations and to do all sorts of things. I protest against so much power being given to the Departments. We have done things owing to the War that we would never do in ordinary times. We have given powers to the Government which I do not believe any King, even in the days of the Tudors, was given. Henry VIII. had no powers such as we have given to the Government. I really think there ought to be some limit upon those powers. I do not know that the actual Amendment is very well worded, but I would much rather have it inserted in the Bill as it is now, and 814 amend it on Report stage. We shall have something in the Bill then. If it is really to be considered upon the Report stage we may forget all about it before the Report stage comes on.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I understand that my right hon. Friend is willing to consider the principle and that there are other matters arising out of the rating of land which are not covered by such expressions as "payment of value" or "payment of rate." That is exactly the point I want to bring before his notice. I understand that he is willing to consider the question on rather wider ground than the actual details arising out of the building. That is entirely satisfactory to me, and I think will be satisfactory to my hon. Friend who has put down the Amendment. Probably a new Clause may be necessary. I am very much obliged to my right hon. Friend for having given consideration to the matter and for being favourably disposed to go further into it on the wider basis I have mentioned. I do not want to proceed further with the Amendment to-night.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), to leave out the words "at their option" ["Department shall, at their option"], and to insert instead thereof the words "as in default of agreement may be determined by the Commission."
I do not think that it ought to be at the option of the Occupying Department whether or not they shall do this, that, or the other. They ought to come to an agreement with the owner, and if they cannot do this, and agree as to which of the two courses they are to pursue, they should refer it to the Commission, and the Commission should decide.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I could not accept the Amendment in its present form, but I am in sympathy with what my right hon. Friend says, and it is quite a fair case to consider.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ It being Eleven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow (Tuesday).816
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Where upon Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 22nd February, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at One minute after Eleven o'clock.