§ 1. The Department acquiring the land or interest therein shall be deemed to be the promoters of the undertaking, and this Act shall be deemed to be the special Act.
§ 2. The provisions as to the sale of superfluous land and as to access to the special Act shall not apply.
§ 3. All questions of disputed compensation shall be settled by the Commission.
§ 4. No allowance shall be made on account of the acquisition being compulsory.
§ 5. Where a portion only of any factory or other building is required the owners and other persons interested in such building may, notwithstanding anything in the Lands Clauses Acts, be required to sell and convey the portions only of the building so required, if the Commissions are of opinion that such portions can be severed from the remainder of the properties without material detriment thereto, and in such case compensation shall be paid for the portions required, and for any damage suffered by the owners or other parties interested in the building by severance or otherwise.
§ 6. In determining the amount of compensation, the value of the land shall be taken to be the value which the land would have had at the date of the notice to treat if it had remained in the condition in which it was at the commencement of the present war, without regard to any enhancement or depreciation in the value which may be attributable directly or indirectly to any buildings, works, or improvements, erected, constructed, or made on, over, or under the land, or any adjoining or neighbouring land for purposes connected with the present war wholly or partly at the expense of the State, or, with the consent of the occupying Department, at the expense of any 30 person not being a person interested in the land:
§ Provided that—
- (a) where any such building, work, or improvement was erected, constructed, or made in pursuance of an agreement with any person interested in the land, the consideration given by such person shall be taken into account in assessing the compensation payable in respect of such interest;
- (b) where by virtue of an agreement with any Government Department any person interested in the land is entitled as between himself and that Department to the benefit of any such building, work, or improvement, the value attributable to such building, work, or improvement shall be taken into account in assessing the compensation payable in respect of such interest;
- (c) where, since the commencement of the present war, any person interested in the land has himself erected, constructed, or made any building, work, or improvement, or has contributed to the expense thereof, or has committed any act depreciating the value of the land, the value attributable to his expenditure or the depreciation in value attributable to such act shall be taken into account in assessing the compensation payable in respect of such interest.
§ 7. In determining the amount of compensation payable to any person interested in the land, the Commission shall have regard to the extent to which any adjoining or neighbouring land or hereditaments in which the same person is also interested may be benefited by the buildings, works, and improvements so constructed, erected, or made as aforesaid, on, over, or under the land taken or on, over, or under any adjoining or neighbouring land.
§ 8. In determining the amount of compensation the Commission shall also take into account the amount (if any) of any compensation paid or other payment received in respect of the previous occupation of the land so far as such compensation or payment was payable in respect of matters other than the mesne profits of the land.31
§ 9. Where the surface of the land is acquired without the mines and minerals lying there under, the Commission may apply any of the provisions of Sections seventy-seven to eighty-five of the Railway Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, with such adaptations and modifications as the Commission think fit.
§ 10. Where by reason of the erection, construction, or making of any such buildings, works, or improvements as aforesaid or the maintenance thereof, or by reason of the user of the land, any interest in the land has become or might become forfeited or liable to forfeiture, the compensation shall be determined as if no such forfeiture or liability to forfeiture had arisen or might arise.
§ 11. The Commission shall not hear more than one expert witness on either side except in such cases as the Commission otherwise direct.
§ 12. The Lord Chancellor may make rules fixing a scale of costs to be applicable on an arbitration under this Act, and the Commission may, notwithstanding anything in the Lands Clauses Acts, determine the amount of costs, and shall have power to disallow as costs in the arbitration the cost of any witness whom they consider to have been called unnecessarily, and any other costs which they consider to have been caused or incurred unnecessarily, and, if they think the circumstances such as to justify them in so doing, to order that each of the parties shall bear their own costs.
§ 13. There may be contained in the award of the Commission a finding that the claimant, after having been requested in writing by the department by whom the land or interest therein is to be acquired so to do, has failed to deliver to such department a statement in writing of the amount claimed, giving sufficient particulars and in sufficient time to enable such department to make a proper offer, and, where such a finding is contained in the award, the provisions of the Lands Clauses Acts as to costs of arbitrations shall apply as if such department had offered the same sum or a greater sum than that found to be due by the award:
§ Provided that this provision shall not apply unless the written request for particulars contained a notice of the effect of this provision.32
§ 14. The provisions of this Schedule shall apply to Scotland subject to the following modifications:—
- (a) For the reference to mesne profits there shall be substituted a reference to profits:
- (b) For the reference to Sections seventy-seven to eighty-five of the Railways Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, there shall be substituted a reference to Sections seventy to seventy-eight of the Railways Clauses Consolidation (Scotland) Act, 1845:
- (c)"The Court of Session" and "Act of Sederunt" shall be substituted for "the Lord Chancellor" and "rules" respectively:
- (d)"Hereditaments" means "heritages" and "arbitrator" means "arbiter."
§ 15. The provisions of this Schedule shall apply to Ireland with the substitution of a reference to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland for the reference to the Lord Chancellor.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I beg leave to move to leave out paragraph 5.
I do not know why the Government have put in this Clause, or what is the object of it. For many years it has been the custom where there has been a purchase by compulsion, and part of the property taken, that any damage caused to that portion enabled the owner to compel the taking of the whole. That is far and away the fairest way of dealing with the matter. It is quite true that the Government propose to give compensation, which is to be assessed by a Commission. I think, however, it will be very difficult for any Commission to assess fully the damage that may occur under circumstances such as proposed. The only people to know, or who can form any idea of it, are the owners. If the Government are going to take from a private person his factory or his building, why on earth should they not follow the precedent of public companies and corporations? The only conclusion I can arrive at for the insertion of this Clause is that the Government think that they may possibly lose money if they take the whole of the property and try to recoup themselves by selling that part which they do not require. Possibly that may be the case; but the Government ought not to put the loss upon private people. The right hon. Gentleman will admit that the people specially affected by this Bill have done 33 their best to serve the State. There has been no imputation during the progress of this Bill in Committee that the people affected have in any way endeavoured to further their own interests at the expense of the State. From a variety of reasons they have placed their properties at the disposal of the State, and they should be treated fairly, and to just the same way as every other owner of property has been treated in the past. My right hon. Friend the Solicitor-General has to some extent met us during the passage of the Bill. I do not know whether he is going to meet us again, or whether he intends to adhere to the Clause. For my own part, I cannot see any necessity for altering the custom and the law, nor why the paragraph should not be omitted.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir George Cave)
If it were the fact, as my right hon. Friend thinks, that this Clause is imposed for the first time in a Government Bill, there would be a good deal in what he says, but the fact is that in very many private Bills embodying the Lands Clauses Acts—in fact, I should think in most of them in these days—this Clause is inserted and carried. It is so common that it has now become one of the model clauses. Therefore it is not a new proposal at all. The meaning of it is this: Under the Lands Clauses Acts, where you take part of a house or a factory you are bound, if the owner thinks right, to take the whole. Of course the house and the factory include the courtyard and the garden. The effect is this: It may be, and in this case it would be, that where work is being done upon a corner only of very valuable premises, you may want to take the corner, and the owner may compel you to take the whole. We are not abolishing that rule altogether, but 'we only say it is not to apply where "the Commission are of opinion that such portions can be severed from the remainder of the properties without material detriment thereto." It is only in cases where severance can be made without material detriment that we ask for this power. This has become quite a usual Clause. I think it is fair, and I hope the Committee will allow the paragraph to stand.
It is quite true, as was pointed out by the learned Solicitor-General, that it has been the practice in a number of Government Bills to insert something like this particular Paragraph. For instance, in each Post 34 Office Bill, where the Department wishes to acquire property for the purpose of a new Post Office or something of that kind, it is quite a usual thing to find during the last five or six years a Clause something like the Paragraph now under discussion, but I think the learned Solicitor-General was not quite accurate in stating that you find this Clause in a considerable number of private Bills. With the solitary exception of some railway Bills, I think nobody but the Government has ever felt itself entitled to make such a departure from the general provisions of the Lands Clauses Acts as in this Paragraph. When almost wholesale land was begun to be acquired for purposes such as railways and public improvements, the whole law as to the basis upon which it was to be allowed was embodied in Statutes such as the Railways Clauses Act and the Lands Clauses Acts. The Section which bears more particularly upon the point now under discussion is, I believe, Section 92 of the Lands Clauses Act, 1848. There is this important distinction in the present case: You start with the words, "Where a portion only of any factory or other building." When Clauses of this kind have been put into other Acts of Parliament, they have not applied so much to part of a factory or building as they have to parts of the premises such as a back garden or half a field, or something of that kind. The public authority, the railway, or the Government were not to be obliged to take the whole field or to buy an important mansion or very important building in a public street, simply because the Post Office or some other public authority wanted a piece of the back garden or the yard. That was the idea of the Clause, and I venture to think there is hardly a case in which exception has been made from the general law, unless it was made to meet a particular instance of the kind I have indicated.
What is referred to in this Paragraph is a portion of the factory or other building. That is to say, it is now proposed that if the Government, for the purposes of the War, have been in occupation of a large factory and are in occupation of it when the War ends, they are actually to be at liberty, not merely to take the whole of that factory from the owner on the conditions referred to for a considerable period after the end of the War, but they are not to be obliged to take it all or leave it all, and can select a piece of the factory. I suggest that this is really carrying the 35 thing to an extreme. If the Government have been in occupation of any lands or property under Clause 1 of the Bill those are the lands or the property which they are entitled to take under this Bill, but if they are to have for a period of years after the War an unlimited right to select a piece of the factory or other building, then it strikes me they are asking for powers which I have never seen any Government or public body ever attempt to get either in a public or in a private Act. The worst of this is that it is not the taking of that particular property as the open option for a period of years after the War either to take it from the owner or not. After this War there is going to be quite enough difficulty on the part of all sorts of people who own factories and other buildings to try and make a living, or to do something with the factories or buildings of use to the general community, and it is not right that we should to-day give to a public Department not merely the right to buy that property, but the right to hold over a man's head for five years an absolute option either to take the whole property or to pick and choose and take a piece of it. I would suggest to the Committee that it is granting an altogether unwarranted power. The whole power giving option for a long period is in itself objectionable, but when they add to that the right to take a piece of the property, I join with my right hon. Friend in very strongly objecting to it.
§ Sir TUDOR WALTERS
The hon. Member who has just sat down has made it quite clear that he has misunderstood the purpose of this paragraph, and even misunderstood the purposes for which it could be used. In quoting the Lands Clauses Acts, he has not pointed out how essentially different are the purposes and the operations of the Lands Clauses Act for the purposes and the operations of this particular Bill. Under the Lands Clauses Act railway companies can make severance of property, and it would be obviously unfair to take a corner off a building for a railway or to take a slice through the middle of a man's property and leave him with severed portions on each side. Therefore the Lands Clauses Act provides that if a company does that under compulsory powers it must purchase the lot. That is not what this paragraph proposes to do at all. This does not propose to come in and cut a man's property 36 about in all sorts of ways, but simply proposes that if a certain section of a factory—a certain wing of the factory in all probability—or any portion of that factory which presumably had been utilised for war purposes during the War, and the principal reason why the Government desire to acquire it is that they have probably equipped it with machinery and perhaps been at considerable expense, they can select that particular portion of the factory devoted, say, to munition purposes or some special war purpose, and if they can satisfy the Commissioners that they can take that part of the building without injuring the rest of it to the owner, they can take that part of it. For the life of me I cannot see where there is any great risk in a proposal like that. The only possible risk is in the discretion of the Committee. It should be perfectly clear, and I suppose it is clearly understood, that the Commissioners will be an impartial and independent body. It would not be right for a Government Department to come down and say, "We want this particular section of the property." If the tribunal set up is really a judicial tribunal who will require the Government Department to prove their case and' show that by taking this particular portion of the building they do not injure the remainder, then there can be no possible hardship. On the other hand, it would be monstrous if a Government Department were to spend some thousands of pounds in preparing and equipping a certain portion of a factory for war purposes and wish to continue its occupation after the War to say that they should be compelled to buy the whole of the property. That would be a process of blackmail. On a good many questions I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London Sir F. Banbury), who proposed this Amendment, but I do not agree with this proposal.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I do not agree with the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down. What I understand his argument to be is this: Supposing there is a factory and the Government have put in part of the factory certain machinery for the making of shells it would be very hard on the Government that they should be compelled to take the whole of the factory and not be allowed to take only a part. I do not know if I am right, but I understand that this Bill would only apply in the case of the whole of the factory 37 Already being in possession of the Government. Surely the Bill provides that where the Government is in possession of a building, factory, or land, they shall have the option for a period of something like five years.
§ Sir G. CAVE
The Bill will apply to cases where the Government are only occupying a small part of the premises.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
That reply alters the case altogether. If, in cases where the Government are in possession of part of a factory or building and the other part is in the occupation of the owner, all that is meant is that the Government shall have power to acquire the part of the factory, then I agree, and I have nothing further to say. Unfortunately I am not a lawyer, but even the cleverest lawyer would not understand from this particular paragraph that that is the meaning of it.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Then great authorities differ. The Solicitor-General says it is, and my hon. and learned Friend says it is not. Will the Solicitor-General put in words to carry out that intention? Will he undertake to put in words to carry out what he says?
The whole of my opposition to this Clause is founded upon the suggestion that the Government, having occupied the whole or some very large part of some factory, only want afterwards to take a piece even of the part they had occupied. If the right hon. Gentleman says on behalf of the Government that the power in this Clause should be restricted to the portion the Government are occupying if they are only occupying a portion, then it would meet the case we have been contending against, and we would readily stop all opposition to the Clause. It would meet the views of both sides if the Solicitor-General would agree between now and the Report stage to consider the best form of words that could be put to make it clear that in exercising the power of this particular Clause the intention of the Government is that it should be restricted to that portion, if any, in cases where they do keep a portion of the works of which the Government were actually in occupation.
§ Sir G. CAVE
That is not what I said at all. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said it would not apply where the Government are occupying only a part of a building, and I interrupted and said it would.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
It seems to me to be perfectly right if the Government are in occupation now of part of a factory and wish to keep that part afterwards that they should have that right, but it is a large order to say that the; Government in any case should occupy a large part of a factory or the whole of it during the War and after the War have the right to throw back the parts they do not want, paying small compensation and keeping the plums of the factory. I am surprised at the Solicitor-General bringing forward such a proposal, and if my right hon. Friend presses his Amendment to a Division I shall support him.
§ Sir E. CORNWALL
It seems to me that hon. Gentlemen opposite are not giving credit to the Government for the measure of consideration which the owners would obtain under this Clause. I have been watching the discussion, and I am anxious that in no single case should any injustice arise, because it would not be right to use these buildings for munition factories and after the War allow them to suffer in any way. It seems to me that these people are protected. First of all you have got a Commission. I think we may take it that the Railway Commissioners are a judicial body and would act fairly. The Government would have to prove, first of all, to the Commission that they could justly claim to take only a part of the premises, and I understand they would also have to prove that the other part of the premises would be severed without any material detriment to the whole of the premises. Supposing the Commission decided that the Government should take only a portion, and that it would be no material detriment to the other part, the owners could claim under this Clause any damage, because the words of the Clause are:Such compensation shall be paid for the parts required, and for any damage suffered by the owners or other parties interested in the building by severance or otherwise.It seems to me, therefore, to go on from stage to stage. First of all, there is the question whether it should be separated at all; secondly, there is the question whether it would be materially damaged if it were separated; and, thirdly, the 39 owners, if the Commissioners so decide, can claim compensation for any damage owing to the separation. That seems to me to protect all the interests, and under these circumstances I do not think the Government ought to be asked to make any amendment.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am afraid that I did not make myself clearly understood or that I did not understand my right hon. Friend. I said if it were understood that all the Government desired was to take that portion of the factory of which they were already in occupation, and nothing else, then I should have no objection to the paragraph. I understood my right hon. Friend to say that was all the Government did desire, but he now says that is all the Government desires in the majority of cases, but in the minority of cases they want something else. We are, therefore back in the old situation, and this particular paragraph does apply to the case where the Government at present is in occupation of the whole of the factory, but for its own object only desires to take a portion of it, and where the owner is left with that portion which may be quite useless for the purpose of his business. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir E. Cornwall) says that there is a provision for compensation. That is quite true, and I said so in the few remarks that I made. Take the position of an owner. He has to go before a Commission and probably employ counsel. Possibly the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General appears for the Government. The owner may find that his case is not properly put before the Commission. No one questions the impartiality of the Railway and Canal Commission, but no one can say what is going to happen when a case goes before a Court or Commissioners in which damages are claimed. It is hard and unnecessary to put the owners of property to all the trouble and worry of what is practically a lawsuit. It would be very much simpler and easier for the Government to take over the whole. I do not mind a provision that the owner, in asking the Government to take over the whole, must prove that some loss would otherwise accrue, but, in my opinion, it is inflicting a very serious injury upon the owners of these different kinds of buildings to leave the question of compensation to the Commission. The statement of the Solicitor-General earlier in the Debate that it was the custom to 40 put in these sort of Clauses was answered by my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. W. Rutherford), who pointed out that that was in the case of railway companies, and it was not right that they should be compelled to take the whole of the property, I believe the London County Council also do something of this sort, but that is all the more reason why we should not pursue it, because all these provisions are introduced by the London County Council in order to deprive owners of property of that to which they are justly entitled, and I have always viewed these Clauses with great suspicion. I gather that my right, hon. Friend does not intend to accept any Amendment, and under the circumstances I shall be inclined to go to a Division, because I really do think it is a very important matter, and the Government, at any rate, ought to deal gently with these owners of property.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
There is one point which I should like the Solicitor-General to clear up for my benefit and for the benefit of the Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (Mr. W. Rutherford) raised the point that this Clause would give an option to the Government for five years to buy either a portion or the whole of a factory. The Clause was changed in Committee, but I think the Government Department, with the consent of the Commission, could hang on for five years after the War using the factory, and I understood that they had to decide in the third year whether they would keep on or not. That may be all right from the Government point of view, and in a way it may be necessary, but it is very hard on the owner of a factory. The War comes to an end, and the owner wants to turn his factory to the best advantage. How is he to do so if he does not know until the third year after the declaration of peace how much of his property is going to be handed back and how much taken away? If he is told at the end of the War, "We are going to take so much," he can cut his coat according to his cloth, but if he has to wait three years before he is told you inflict a disability and an injustice on him, and to a certain extent you hamper the nation in its output of peaceable manufactures after the conclusion of the War. I am not a lawyer, and I may be wrong, but if I am right in my contention, I do think the right hon. Gentleman, instead of putting us to the trouble of a Division ought to consider before the Report stage 41 whether he could not make some concession which would enable the owner of a factory to know at the conclusion of peace what portion of his factory he is going to have and what portion is going to be taken away.
§ Mr. BOYTON
I do not think the Committee realises the very wide power the Government is going to take. Most speakers have referred to factories only, but the Committee must not be unmindful of the fact that the munition authorities are occupying buildings of all kinds. What will be the position, say, of the National Liberal Club if the Government decide to take a portion of the club and keep the sword hanging over their heads for five years? What will be the position of the Constitutional Club under similar circumstances, or of the Hotel Metropole, or of any of the other hotels which have been taken? Surely there should be some limit to the powers the Government seek to take
§ It would be a very serious calamity to the National Liberal Club if the Government took the library, and it would equally be a calamity if they took the library of the Constitutional Club.
§ 4.0. P.M.
§ Mr. BOYTON
I am sure the Government will give consideration to the larger questions and not to the convenience of the hon. Member. I think the Committee generally will agree that the Government would be well advised if, between now and the Report stage, they saw their way to offer some modification of the really very extensive and all-absorbing powers they propose to take.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Schedule."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 161; Noes, 22.43
|Division No. 57.]||AYES.||[4.0 p.m.|
|Adamson, William||Glanville, Harold James||Mallalieu, Frederick William|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Goldstone, Frank||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough)||Mason, David M. (Coventry)|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Greig, Colonel J. W.||Molteno, Percy Alport|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred|
|Arnold, Sydney||Hall, Frederick (Yorks, Normanton)||Morgan, George Hay|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Morison, Hector|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Durham)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Barran. Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Henderson, John M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Henry, Sir Charles||Newman, John R. P.|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Hendry, Denis S.||Norton Griffiths, J.|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Men., S.)||Nuttall, Harry|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Hibbert, Sir Henry F.||O'Grady, James|
|Bethell, Sir John Henry||Hill, James (Bradford, C.)||Partington, Oswald|
|Bird, Alfred||Hinds, John||Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Blair, Reginald||Hogge, James Myles||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Holt, Richard Durning||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Bliss, Joseph||Hope, John Deans (Haddington)||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Brace, William||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Primrose, Hon. Neil James|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Broughton, Urban Hanlon||Illingworth, Albert H.||Radford, Sir George Heynes|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburghshire)||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||John, Edward Thomas||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Butcher, John George||Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, E.)|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Jowett, Frederick William||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George||Kellaway, Frederick George||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Kenyon, Barnet||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||King, Joseph||Robertson, Rt. Hon. John M.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Robert (Herts, Hitchin)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Robinson, Sidney|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Lamb, Sir Ernest Henry||Rowlands, James|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Lambert, Rt. Hon.G. (Devon, S. Melton)||Runciman, Sir Walter (Hartlepool)|
|Clough, William||Lambert, Richard (Wilts., Cricklade)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Larmor, Sir J.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Cowan, W. H.||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Craig, Colonel James (Down, E.)||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Seely, Lt.-Col. Sir C. H. (Mansfield)|
|Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton)|
|Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee||Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)|
|Davies, Ellis William (Elffon)||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Seames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H.||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Falk. B'ghs)||Stanton, Charles Butt|
|Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Stewart, Gershom|
|Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward||Mackinder, Halford J.||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Macmaster, Donald||Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Thomas, J. H.|
|Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Fell, Arthur||Macpherson, James Ian||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Magnus, Sir Philip||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Gilbert, J. D.||Malcolm, Ian||Wardle, George J.|
|Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Watt, Henry A.||Wing, Thomas Edward||Younger, Sir George|
|White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.||Worthington-Evans, Major L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)||Yeo, Alfred William||Mr. Gulland and Lord Edmund Talbot.|
|Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Hunt, Major Rowland||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk.||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Boyton, James||Kilbride, Denis||Tickler, T. G.|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Croft, Lieut.-Col. Henry Page||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)|
|Ganzoni, Francis John C.||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Gretton, John||O'Malley, William||Sir Frederick Banbury and Mr. Watson Rutherford.|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Pearce, Sir William (Limehouse)|
|Houston, Robert Paterson||Perkins, Walter F.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Amendment made: In paragraph 6, after "land". ["value of the land"], insert the word "acquired."—[Sir G. Cave.]
§ Mr. TURTON
I beg to move, in paragraph 6, to leave out the words "which the land would have had at the date of the notice to treat if it had remained in the condition in which it was at the commencement of the present War."
I cannot help thinking that these words are quite unnecessary and mere surplusage. I am not going to contend for a moment that a landowner is entitled to a fanciful value, but I cannot help suggesting to the learned Solicitor-General that the words which follow immediately afterwards with regard to any enhancement of the value which may be attributed, directly or indirectly, to any buildings or works that may be put upon the land give effect to all that can be, desired. It would be a very great hardship upon the owner if he has to go back first to the period of the War, and then, under Sub-section (1) of Section 1 to take another period of three years, which may be extended for a further period of four years on application to the Commissioners. That would give a total period of nine years, and I submit it is rather a long time to go back upon in order to arrive at the value of the land. Surely the fair thing would be to take the value at the time that the Government stepped in as the occupying department and took possession of the land. The land should be taken at its value at the time notice to treat was given, providing that there is no enhancement by reason of the buildings put upon it. Therefore I suggest to the Solicitor-General it is unfair to keep in these words. This is a Council's Association Amendment, and I am sorry that my hon. Friends whose names are attached to it are not present, because I was not at the meeting of the association when it was decided to
§ put the Amendment down. I repeat that in my opinion these words are unnecessary and mere surplusage.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I have tried to understand the object of this Amendment, and I am sorry I am unable to do so even with the assistance of my hon. Friend's speech. I cannot see what he desires to gain by its adoption. The Clause provides that the value of the land to be taken is to be taken at what it would have been at the date of the notice to treat if it had remained in the condition in which it was at the beginning of the War, and I do not see what is to be gained by leaving out these particular words. Then there is the provision with regard to buildings, works, and improvements. I say these are quite proper words, and, unless we keep them in, the object aimed at will not be secured.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I beg to move, to leave out paragraph 7. This is an extremely controversial paragraph. It deals with a subject which has been a matter of great controversy both in this House and in other places, namely, what is called "betterment"—
§ Sir G. CAVE
I do not desire to interrupt the right hon. Baronet, but I may say that we do not desire to press this paragraph.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
I desire to find out what is meant by leaving out this paragraph. I would ask the Solicitor-General what effect it has upon the Bill? How will the 45 Compensation be determined if neighbouring land gets the benefit of the building put up by the State, and, on the other hand, if the State has put up buildings and done other things which are injurious to the land, will the owner be compensated? What will be the state of affairs if this paragraph is omitted?
Mr. DUNDAS WHITE
I am rather surprised that the Government have accepted the deletion of this paragraph, which brings in the principle of betterment, a principle which is sound enough. I see from the Amendment Paper that several hon. Members have put down Amendments to bring in the converse principle of worsement, namely, that if there is to be payment for benefit, there is also to be compensation for loss. I desire to know whether in dropping this paragraph and abandoning the principle of betterment the Government also propose to abandon the principle of worsement?
§ Sir G. CAVE
I am sorry I did not allow the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) to develop his argument. I thought that hon. Members were agreed that the paragraph should be left out. [HON. MEMBEBS: '.' Hear, hear! "] Then I do not know that I am called upon to defend it. [An HON. MEMBER: "We cannot hear."] I think most hon. Members understand the meaning of the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ The CHAIRMAN
We now come to the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for the Tradeston Division (Mr. D. White—at the end of paragraph 8 to insert a new paragraph 9). That deals with a matter that was settled on the 27th July, at an earlier stage of the Bill. We cannot deal with it twice over and make the Bill contradictory.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I beg to move to leave out Paragraph 9.
The first part of this paragraph says—
"Where the surface of the land is acquired without the mines and minerals lying thereunder, the Commission may apply any of the provisions of Sections seventy-seven to eighty-five of the Railway Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845."
To those words there appears to be no objection, although that part of the paragraph appears to be unnecessary. I object, however, to the concluding words—
"with such adaptations and modifications as the Commission think fit."
46 It is a highly objectionable principle that we should allow judicial officers to legislate. It is the business of a judge or a judicial officer to interpret a Clause. It is the business of this House to say what it means and put it into a Bill.. This Bill contains much evidence that it is a departmental Bill, drawn up by the officers of the Department in order to obtain powers which they consider necessary. When drawing the Bill they made the powers as wide as possible in order to cover any possible operations they might be called upon to perform. That, however, is no reason why we should give unlimited powers. The effect of the words—
"with such adaptations and modifications as the Commission think fit,"
in fact, nullifies the preceding part. If there are to be modifications or adaptations, this House should give the Commissioners some directions as to the modifications or adaptations that are right and necessary, or, at any rate, lay down the principle upon which they are to make the modifications. Otherwise you are giving a power beyond that which is necessary. It is a very dangerous power to give to any commission or court of law. For these reasons I contend that the paragraph should not be passed by the Committee as it stands. It requires further consideration, and I move its deletion to enable that consideration to be given to it.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I believe the hon. and gallant Member agrees that in some form or other the paragraph is required. It is necessary to insert the first part, otherwise the landowner whose land is acquired without the mines and minerals lying there under might lose the benefit of the Sections mentioned. What the hon. and gallant Gentleman objects to is the power given to the Commission to modify and adapt the provisions of Sections 77 to 85 of the Railway Clauses Consolidation Act. I should rather like to have the view of the Committee as to whether they desire that those Sections shall apply to all cases without modification, or whether they would leave it to the Commissioners to apply them in proper cases with modifications. Generally speaking, the provisions apply only within a distance of forty yards from the land taken, as in a case known as the Howley Park case it has been decided that outside the forty yards the ordinary law as to support still applies. I know that some people would like to have the forty yards' limit extended. That is the kind 47 of case which would be taken into consideration. If you apply the Sections in their present form, without any modification, the principle laid down in the Howley Park case would apply in all these cases. It would be better for everybody, especially for the landowner, if the paragraph were left as it stands. I hope the Committee will agree to it as it stands. At any rate we cannot, at this moment, accept this Amendment.
Do I understand that the Solicitor-General would be prepared to leave out the last few words of the paragraph and let it stand with the exception of the words "with such adaptations and modifications as the Commission think fit"? If so, we should be entirely in accord with him. Our real objection is that in this Bill it is proposed to adopt here and now a whole series of amendments and modifications of the ordinary law as to the taking of property. There are fifteen different points in this Schedule upon which the ordinary law of the land is to be varied in favour of the Government who are taking this property. In this particular paragraph the Government seek to go a step further and to say that the Railway Commission shall have power, in the case of land acquired without the mines and minerals lying there under, to make further alterations in the ordinary law relating to the taking of property. Those alterations are not explained to this Committee. We are not asked to pass them. We are asked to give another body the power of making alterations in the law. That is seeking to carry the powers of the Government to a point heretofore unheard of. It is bad enough to be discussing fifteen different paragraphs containing exceptions, but when one of those paragraphs empowers another body to graft a fresh set of regulations on to the law, really I do not know where we are. It is about the largest order that any Committee of this House has ever been asked to accept. It is bad enough when we embody a Clause enabling a Government Department to make regulations which we have never seen, but here we are asked to empower a body over which we have no control—we have control over a Government after it has made regulations—namely, the Railway Commission, to make any number of further regulations to any extent they think fit, altering the rights 48 and obligations of the parties as between the owners of the surface and the owners of minerals. In Lancashire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, and one or two other counties, serious difficulties frequently arise as regards heavy buildings with respect to minerals which are underneath. It happens in a vast number of cases that the minerals belong to parties other than those to whom the surface belongs. When we are asked to hand over to another body the right to modify the ordinary law with regard to minerals in cases where the Government has taken the whole or some part of a factory, some years after peace has been declared, we are being asked to do something which we should not be asked to do. I sincerely trust the Government will accept the Amendment. If they cannot see their way to leave out the paragraph altogether, they ought to leave out the words
"with such adaptations and modifications as the Commission think fit."
To give the Commission power to make modifications and adaptations as they think fit with regard to minerals on property the Government have taken is something highly improper and quite unnecessary, because it is provided for in the law as codified in the different Acts of Parliament.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I do not know how we can tell what adaptations or modifications the Commission may make. I understand my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Hohler) to say that these words are for the benefit of landowners. I do not understand how he arrives at that conclusion, because I do not believe anyone can know what adaptations or modifications the Commission will make. It seems to me that my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Gretton) is quite right, and that any modification or adaptation of the particular Clause should be expressed in the Schedule. I myself have always held that this House is the proper authority to make alterations in Acts of Parliament. I believe the Railway and Canal Commission is a very excellent body and is perfectly impartial, but I do not think it is the duty of this House to leave to any Commission, however impartial, the power of making 49 any alterations or adaptations in any Acts of Parliament that they may think fit; therefore I should certainly hope that these words will be left out.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
I am not in the least moved by the statement of the Solicitor General that these adaptations and modifications will be for the benefit of landowners. I am sure he thinks they will, and very possibly it may be so, but I do not think we ought to be influenced by the statement that any change such as that is for the benefit of any particular class. What I stand by, and I am sure the Solicitor-General in his heart stands by, is the supremacy of the House of Commons. The House of Commons is the body which ought, and I hope always will, decide what the law of the land is to be, and to leave the modifications of the law to a body of gentlemen, however upright and distinguished, seems to me to be a continuation of that line of policy which has crept into our legislation for the last ten or fifteen; years. We see more and more the direction of legislation handed over to the permanent official, and I am not in the least moved, though I am a landowner myself, by the fact that I might suffer some personal loss by the elimination of these words, and I strongly urge the right hon. Gentleman not to think of the interests of any one class, but to maintain the supremacy of the House of Commons, and if any modification of an Act is necessary to come "to the House of Commons and get the modification, and then I am sure it will be all right.
§ Sir G. CAVE
There are Amendments down in the names of three hon. Members, who, I know, especially represent the interests of owners of land with minerals under it. Unfortunately, I do not think Any one of them is here, but it is worth noticing that neither they nor anyone else has put down an Amendment to omit these words. The Amendment down is to omit the whole Clause, which I do not think anyone supports, because it would be very cruel on a mine owner to omit the Clause altogether. I do not think hon. Members quite realise how much harm they may do to owners of mines if they insist upon the point they are making now. I suggest that we might let the discussion come to an end now, and between now and the Report stage hon. Members who are interested might consider the matter and see whether it is worth their while to put down an Amendment to omit the words which 50 they are now discussing. In that case we can consider it on its merits with full knowledge of the facts.
§ Sir J. JARDINE
As far as I can gather from the Debate the words chiefly objected to are the permission to give to the Railway and Canal Commission the power to make modifications and adaptations which will be substantially new rules of law. If that is what they are meant to be I agree with hon. Members opposite that that is the function of Parliament, and whether it affects any particular class, such as the owners of the surface or the owners of the mines below the surface, is not a matter that we should pay much attention to, because we cannot say what views the Commissioners might take when they were making modifications or adaptations. Their views might vary from time to time, and they might vary with the mental characteristics of the Commissioners. If they were to be empowered to bring in the maxims of equity and jurisprudence, maxims which did not purport to be new rules of law, but to be equalising rules applied by the Courts for ages with a view to giving substantial justice in every point, and in that way only overruling the rules of law, and were allowed to do so—because these rules are as much a part of the jurisprudence of the country as the common law—that would be a very different thing But I imagine that the Railway Commissioners have the power to apply those rules of law and in a very great many cases they would be as effective as the application of new modifications, which would not gain very much public trust because they would be new, and they would 'effect enormous interests, like those of landowners and the owners of mines, without having been considered until the case came up. I understand these modifications are to be made not as regulations, but in the particular case, and at the time of giving judgment, or something of that sort. Altogether it seems to me that we want more definition in order to secure justice, to keep up the powers in this House and to prevent new rules or modifications being brought in, instead of the established rules that the equity courts have applied for so many centuries.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I sincerely hope my hon. Friend will adopt the course suggested by the Solicitor-General. I do not carry in my mind what are the provisions proposed to be introduced under the Railways Clauses Acts, nor do I carry in my mind 51 the decision in the case mentioned by my right hon. Friend, but I am quite content with the Bill. My right hon. Friend says landowners will suffer if these words are left out. He proposes that the matter shall stand over until Report, and those who are interested can look into it and take time to consider it and then do whatever they like. What can be more reasonable than that? I hope my hon. Friend will take that course.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am sorry I have to disagree with my hon. and learned Friend. It is quite true the Solicitor-General has said we are to do what we like, but it is not the duty of a Member of this House to say to other Members, "You can do what you like." It is our duty to see that we are making laws which are just. It is not an argument for making a law that it is a benefit to the landowners.
§ Mr. HOHLER
Can my right hon. Friend tell me exactly what are the provisions of the Railways Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, and what is the effect of the decision in the case cited by the Solicitor-General? Then I shall understand it.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
What I desire to do is not in any kind of way to interfere with the application of these particular Clauses. The application of these Clauses and the precedent in the case cited should be continued. There I am in agreement with my hon. Friend. All I say is that these Clauses should not be altered. These Clauses, to which he attaches such great importance, and the case, he desires to have explained should be left to the Commissioners, who should not have power given them by this House to modify them. I am quite willing to fall in with my right hon. Friend's suggestion, though I should prefer leaving the words out now, and, if necessary, having them reinserted on Report. My right hon. Friend says no one has put down an Amendment. I should have put an Amendment down if I had noticed the words. I admit that owing to incapacity on my part, or want of industry, I had not noticed the words. It is really rather a complicated Bill. I think my right hon. Friend must excuse me if I have made a lapse and forgotten to put down an Amendment which I ought to have put down. I see my hon. Friend (Sir J. Harmood-Banner). He is one of the Gentlemen to whom my right hon. Friend referred as a certain class of people interested in the Amendment. If the pro- 52 posal is that we should have ah open mind, and the general opinion of the House is that the words should be left out on Report, I have no objection.
§ Sir J. HARMOOD-BANNER
The hon. Baronet referred to me. I understand my Amendment comes a little lower down in this paragraph, therefore I do not know that I need mention it now, unless the Solicitor-General is prepared to accept it.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I am quite willing to accept the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman and to withdraw my Amendment. It appears to have taken the House a little by surprise. The point apparently had not been considered by many hon. Members, and no doubt requires a littler further time and consideration. In the meantime, however, it would be well to consider how an injunction of this kind will affect questions of cost, time, and procedure before the Commission. The Commission will take a great deal more time, and the costs will be very much heavier than if they proceeded on well-ascertained principles of law already in existence.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Sir J. HARMOOD-BANNER
I beg to-move to leave out the words "the Commission may apply any of." The paragraph provides that—
"Where the surface of the land is acquired without the mines and minerals lying thereunder the Commission may apply any of the provisions of Sections seventy-seven to eighty-five of the Railway Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, with such adaptations and modifications as the Commission think fit."
My Amendment is that they shall apply. This is a matter which should not be left to the option of the Commissioners. The right of mining coal should be made to apply and the Commission should have pow'er to make such adaptations and modifications as they may consider necessary. Where mines are not purchased, the right that the mine owners have for the purpose of working them should remain and should not be affected. As the paragraph now stands we do not know what will happen to those rights or what the Government may do. There is no reason why the right of mining coal should not be retained. I do hope the Solicitor-General will accept the proposal so as to relieve the mine owner from consequences which may be really serious.
§ Further Amendment made: At the end of paragraph 9, insert the words "shall apply."—[Sir J. Harmood-Banner.]
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I beg to move to leave out paragraph 10, which provides:Where by reason of the erection, construction, or making of any such buildings, works, or improvements as aforesaid or the maintenance thereof, or by reason of the user of 'the land, any interest in the land has become or might become forfeited or liable to forfeiture, the compensation shall be determined as if no such forfeiture or liability to forfeiture had arisen or might arise.I do not understand this paragraph, and I want an explanation from the Solicitor-General as to what it really does mean. I do not understand what the effect would be. Say I had an interest in property, and that property was in the hands of a life tenant, and there was a provision that if the life tenant did something that he ought not to do he would forfeit his interest and I would take possession of the land. The Government come along and take this property, and the life tenant does commit that act which he ought not to commit; does this Clause mean that I should receive no benefit and that the power of forfeiture would be annulled? It looks to me as if the Government are going to ignore the rights which a certain person has in regard to property of this kind, and it is with the object of getting an explanation from the Solicitor-General that I move this Amendment.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I do not complain of the Amendment being moved, because these matters are complicated. The point which it is desired to provide for is this: supposing there is land which is let on lease and the lease contains a covenant against carrying on a particular business, with a provision that if that covenant is broken the lease shall be forfeited. In a case like that, suppose we have taken the land and are carrying on a prohibited business on that land, the legal result may possibly be that by reason of that act the lease is forfeited and the freeholder will come into entire possession of the property. In that case the freeholder might get everything and the leaseholder nothing. That would not be fair, because the forfeiture would not be the result of the action of the lessee, 54 but the result of the action of the Government. It is right under those circumstances that the lessee should have his share of the compensation.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
Surely the words of this paragraph go further than that. Let us take the case we were discussing a short time ago where the Government take part of a factory and commit a certain breach of the covenant. The result is that the unfortunate owner of the whole factory will lose the rest of his factory. Of course, the Government are not bound to take the whole of the factory, and may decline to do so. In that case the unfortunate lessee loses substantially a very large sum of money owing to an action of the Government which has brought about the forfeiture, and the landlord gets the property of the lessee. The Solicitor-General has simply dealt with the question of the landlord. I am dealing with the case of the lessee, who is the lessee of property, only part of which has been taken by the Government. This is a case in which you are taking part of the whole—that is, part of the factory—and by your action the whole factory is forfeited. As this Section stands he will get no compensation, but he will lose the whole of his property, which will go back to the landlord owing: to the action of the Government. It appears to me, therefore, that this paragraph goes much further than the Solicitor-General has stated, and that in the case of the lessee it may be a great injustice.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
As I understood the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Rawlinson), the lessee would suffer owing to a breach committed not by him, but by people in possession on the part of the Government, and it does seem to me that something in addition to this provision should be inserted for the protection of the lessee. Perhaps the Solicitor-General can give us some idea what protection he thinks the lessee will receive.
§ Sir G. CAVE
It seems to me that these points are not relevant to this Amendment. In the event of the omission of this Clause, the lessee might get nothing at all. Under the Clause he does get something. The point whether, where we take part of a man's land and carry on certain work upon it, there might be a forfeiture of the remainder of the land, is a new point which. I am willing to consider, and perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman 55 (Mr. Rawlinson) will also consider it and see whether he can suggest some Amendment to meet this point. It is a point worth considering.
§ Mr. HOHLER
My recollection is that the Courts have decided that where there is a breach of covenant on a man's land which is taken by virtue of an Act of Parliament, which breach, had there been no such Act of Parliament, would have resulted in forfeiture, there is no breach committed and there is no forfeiture of the land. I believe that is so. As the Solicitor-General has pointed out, so far as this paragraph goes it would help the lessee in that case.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I do not press my Amendment after what we have heard. If the law is already what the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Hohler) has said, what is the point in having a paragraph which says that the law shall be what it already is? I think I have done some good in eliciting that statement from the hon. and learned Gentleman. I think the point raised by my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Rawlinson) deserves consideration, and I feel sure that the Solicitor-General will consider it. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. TURTON
I beg to move to leave Out paragraph 11.
This paragraph provides that the Commission shall not hear more than one expert witness on either side, except in such cases as the Commission otherwise directs. I suggest that that would create very great hardship. It is limiting the parties very much. There may be a case which may require not only one expert witness on one particular kind of trade, but may also require the services of an expert in the accountancy department, or other departments, apart from the main expert question which has to be decided. I am perfectly aware that there is a proviso which allows the Commission to direct that more than one expert witness may be called upon application being made to the Commission. But that will only increase the cost of the inquiry. I understand that the desire is to put as small expense as possible upon the different parties. But that proviso would, I take it, mean an 56 application in open Court before the Railway and Canal Commission, notice being given to the other side and application being made, which may be fought and resisted by the other side. Under those circumstances, I suggest that it is an extreme hardship that the parties should be limited in the way in which they desire to present their case before the tribunal. I do not know whether the Solicitor-General has any great animus against expert witnesses. We are told that a very learned judge once said there were liars, infernal liars, and expert witnesses, and it may be that the Solicitor-General desires that as few expert witnesses as possible should be called before the Railway and Canal Commission. I do suggest that this Clause is unnecessary, and will be a hardship upon those who have to appear before the Tribunal, and it is only fair that it should be left out.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I have some sympathy with this Amendment. As my hon. Friend says, a man may want one expert on one branch of the case and quite a different expert on another branch. My own feeling would be to leave out this Clause and to rely upon the provision contained in the next Rule, which enables the Tribunal to decide whether it will award costs or not.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
I beg to move to leave out paragraph 13.
I understand that this imposes an entirely new burden upon claimants, and I would ask the Solicitor-General why this change in the law is being made, and why, if a claimant neglects to comply with this requirement, he should be punished by having costs given against him? It is rather difficult, I admit, for a layman to understand exactly what this paragraph means. It is very involved, and has commas and semi-colons up and down it, but I think that I am right in saying that this is a new burden which is put upon the private owner of land, and that he is going to be punished in the matter of costs if he does not consent to bear it. I see no reason why it should be imposed upon him. Why cannot the ordinary negotiation between purchaser and seller be carried out? Why, when land has been acquired for the defence of the realm, should these obligations to put in these details in writing within a certain time be imposed? 57 I will not say more at present, but I may have more to say in reply to the learned Solicitor-General.
§ Sir G. CAVE
This is not an entirely new proposal. It is embodied in several Acts of Parliament already. The meaning is this. The claimant is asked to give particulars of his interest in the land—to say whether he is a freeholder or a leaseholder, or what interest he has. Thereupon the purchasing authority has the right to make him an offer of so much for his property. If he refuses that offer, then the matter goes to the proper tribunal, and the purchase money is fixed; and if the purchase money is less than the sum which has been offered, of course there are certain consequences in reference to costs. This is very useful in avoiding litigation in which very often money is thrown away, and it meets the difficulty, which has arisen in some cases, of the owner of the property declining to give any particulars at all and in effect saying, "I will not tell you what my interest is" All we ask in this paragraph is that he shall be asked to give particulars, and if he does not give particulars, then there may be a special report made as to his failure to give particulars, and the provision as to costs shall apply. I really do not think that it is a great burden, for a man who is claiming compensation for property, to say what his property is, and I hope that my hon. Friend will not persist in his Amendment.
§ Sir T. WALTERS
As I read this paragraph it is incumbent upon the landowner not only to give particulars, but to state the amount which he claims. Suppose a man decides that he will not claim any amount. You have made an offer, and he is not prepared to accept that offer, and he says, "I want this to go to the tribunal because the offer is not adequate." This seems to me to be quite a new departure. It may be desirable. I am not arguing its merits or demerits. I only want to be quite clear as to what is meant. Suppose that a man claims a certain amount and that you will not pay him that amount, and that the sum which is awarded is less than what he claims but more than what was offered, how will he stand then with regard to costs?
§ Mr. HOHLER
I gather that the explanation of the Solicitor-General is this: 58 that a freeholder or leaseholder may refuse to give particulars of what his title or his interest in the land is, and that, the Government wish to guard against such a case. When I look at the Clause 1 see nothing to justify that statement. There is not a word about title or interest. If it were a case of a man refusing to state what his title is I should be at one with the Solicitor-General, but I think that, as it stands, this Clause is quite an unfair one. If you say to a man, "How much do you want?" and he employs an expert, which may mean considerable expense—because experts are costly luxuries, and quite properly, as it is their profession, and they understand the value of land—and your expert goes into the matter and arrives at a lower figure. The expert of the landowner, honestly believing in his figures, says, "Go to arbitration." They go to arbitration on this advice, and then there may be a loss of costs. I do not think that the Clause is in the least fair, and I support the Amendment, as the Clause deals only with stating the amount of the claim and has nothing whatever to do with the title.
§ Mr. E. DAVIES
I hope that the Solicitor-General will not give way on, this question. I am very much amazed at the attitude of hon. Members opposite. The only suggestion is that the present owner of the land should give such particulars as would enable the Department to make a suitable offer. The Department merely say this: "We have acquired your land, and now want to agree as to the price, and we ask for particulars to enable us to make you an offer so as to avoid the necessity of arbitration." Hon. Members opposite say, "No, you must not ask for particulars to enable the Government to make an offer." Just contrast this with our treatment of another class; some time ago in this House. We passed an Act of Parliament for the purpose of helping soldiers to meet their civil liabilities, and we compelled soldiers whose lives we conscripted to supply the body deciding the question with full particulars of their affairs and their condition in life and all their private interests. Why should the landowner, whose land is acquired in the national interest, be exempted from giving these particulars, which he must have, to go before the Court? If a landowner is going to a Court of Law he must have these particulars. I know as a solicitor that I never 59 make a claim without giving full particulars. It seems to me rather ominous that the moment we are dealing with national interests and the interests of the landowner this distinction should be made, and that when a Government Department says to a landowner, "We want particulars of your claim," hon. Members who voted and shouted for conscription of human life do not wish to compel landowners in this country to give particulars of their claim.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
The real point is that under the Lands Clauses Act as it stands now, the person, of course, has got to say what is the income of his property, whether it is leasehold or freehold, and So forth, and in that sense he has to give particulars of his claim. But this Clause goes further than that, and it says that the owner of the property is to state the amount of his claim and how he makes it up. To ask him to give these particulars is a very hard thing to do, because it means his going to an expert at once. He might not be able to give particulars of the amount of the offer, and he would have to go to an expert. But these particulars which are required are not too well understood by the ordinary person, and he would have to spend money in order to be able to make his claim. Surely it is rather an exceptional thing to bring in a Bill of this kind, a provision which requires a man to make out the particulars of the whole of his claim under different heads, and, if he does not, he runs the risk of losing his costs. This is a very small point, and simply the ordinary particulars which are bound to be given under the Lands Clauses Acts should be required, and it does seem very harsh to make a person set out the whole of the technical particulars.
§ Mr. BOYTON
I do not know how the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Ellis Davies) would be able to reconcile his professional vocation with the national interest when his clients came to consult him on a question of this sort. What are you going to do under this provision of the Bill? You are going to penalise a man for not supplying particulars to the same extent as you would penalise him under the Lands Clauses Acts, as if he had gone through the whole gamut of the case and failing to make it good would only then be condemned with costs. Legislation arrives 60 quickly in these days, and it is within the power of the right hon. Gentleman's Department, or in the power of the first Commission set up by the Ministry of Munitions, to go to the Land Registry, or to the Books of the Surveyors under the Finance Act, where they know everything pertaining to every property, yet you are going to penalise a man to the extent that he will be mulcted in the costs should he not unburden his soul and tell them all about his property. The Departments have already heaps of power without the provision which it is now sought to introduce. I think all this is really labour in vain, as you can already obtain these particulars.
§ Sir E. CORNWALL
This provision is perhaps rather hard on owners of property. The hon. Member behind me feels that we should treat landowners in the same way as we treat soldiers. I agree that we want to hold the balance all round, but we do not want to make it easy for the landowner to get more compensation than he ought to have. It may be that there are many manufacturers of munitions, who do their work excellently and who have done great service, to the country, yet they may not be quite so good at making out a claim when the Government comes along and wants to take over their property. The clever man, who is an owner of property whether as a landowner or manufacturer, and who really wants to get an unfair profit out of the Government, would not be prejudiced by this Clause, because the very first thing he would do would be to get his expert adviser to read this Clause, and he would know exactly how to manage the case. Any business man will read this Clause very carefully, as he would any Act of Parliament, in order to protect his interests, and there is nothing in this Section which would prevent a man, if he chose, to be unscrupulous, from getting more compensation from the Government than he ought, an operation in which this Clause might help him. He would be careful to prepare his statement in sufficient time and in a sufficient way. On the other hand there is a large number of people whose only desire is to serve the country, and they are doing so by turning out munitions at their works. But, under this Section, many of these persons might not be so careful as they ought to be, and probably they might say 61 what amount they wanted for their property without understanding that they would be subjected to a great deal of examination and a great deal of delay, and a lot of innocent people might not possibly get the compensation they ought to receive. I submit that if the Government took power in the Bill to go in themselves to examine the books and obtain whatever information they need to enable them to make a proper offer, it would be sufficient. This provision in the Bill will not protect the Government from any unscrupulous owner, while it may do great injustice to those who are not expert in making claims. I suggest that if the Government take ample power to go in and obtain all the information they want from the books of the various parties, that ought to be as much as they should require.
When one looks through this Clause, the first thing one asks oneself is, What is it put in this Schedule for? As a matter of fact it does alter the Lands Clauses Acts, the Railways Clauses Act, and the ordinary law in a very important manner. The Government Department, railway company, or any company under the general Act who desire to purchase a property of this sort, if they want to be relieved of going to arbitration, have to make an offer, and they can only be relieved from paying the costs if they can prove that they had made an offer that the owner declined to accept. That is perfectly fair, and that is the law as it stands. The Government, wanting a property and does not want to pay the costs of an arbitration upon the price, must prove that it made an offer that was equal to or more than the amount asked or awarded. But when you look at this paragraph 13, you find that for the purpose of taking these properties they are going to put the whole thing exactly the other way up. They do not say that it is necessary for them to make an offer, but that they are going to insist upon the owner of the property stating his price, and if he neglects to give proper particulars in sufficient time then he has to pay the cost. It is throwing the onus of dealing with the transaction upon the owner and not upon the purchaser, and the owner is to give particulars of how he exactly makes up his price; he has to give a statement in writing of the amount of his claim; the amount of his claim is so many hundreds of pounds, shillings, and pence, but he has to give particulars exactly showing how 62 he makes up the price—so much per yard, so much for buildings, so much for severance, so much for every item to make up his claim, and he has to do that in sufficient time. Who is to be the judge of sufficient time? Supposing a man is abroad at the time the property is being taken and he has not given those particulars in sufficient time, is the whole cost thrown upon him? All these attempts to put in perfectly new fancy Clauses, such as this, to throw the onus upon the owner of the property, are novel things, and they are the things which make this Bill so objectionable. It seems to me that all these obligations are objectionable, and that this House ought not to be a party to inflicting them upon a body of people who are entitled to full consideration.
§ Sir T. WALTERS
I think this is an unfortunately worded Clause for the purpose it has in view. I understand that the Government desire to avoid arbitration in as many cases as possible, and they put this new procedure into the Bill whereby the owner of the property has to give particulars of the price, and all the rest of it, and then, the Government having got those particulars, make him an offer. I quite understand that the Clause may have been devised to put the onus on the person owning the property to supply all the necessary particulars, and presumably he might be asked to name the lump sum which he will take for the whole thing. It is not right to go beyond that and to ask him to give detailed particulars of his claim suitable for the surveyors of the Department. Even the Government ought not to resort to practices which may be easy for a clever man to fulfil but difficult for a simple man. All these ingenious things have the effect of enabling people with long purses and cool heads to go and get the very best assistance obtainable and to make good bargains. On the other hand, the simple citizen who has no experience of dealing with Government Departments thinks that they will deal fairly with him. I am somewhat favourably inclined to the idea of some machinery by which a man would state the price he was prepared to take for the property. It is a novel procedure, but in this particular case I think it would be a good one. You must not, however, compel him to fill in details or enact that if he does not fill in those details that he is to be deprived of his costs. If his claim is not an excessive one, or if the offer made by the Government Department is not an adequate one, 63 he ought to get his costs on the merits, and they should not depend on some ingenious system of machinery as to whether he has or has not set fully in writing a number of particulars. Without desiring to upset the policy which the Government has in view of effecting arbitration where possible, and to keep expenses down to the lowest possible level, and to keep lawyers and experts out of it, which I think is a good, sound doctrine, speaking as a public man, but very bad speaking as a professional man, I very respectfully suggest that they ought to revise this Clause and remove from it such provisions as the penalising of a man, and depriving him of costs through some process of ingenious machinery.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
After the very excellent speech to which we have just listened, I can add very little. I think we have the merits of the argument on our side. When I moved to omit the Clause the right hon. Gentleman the Solicitor-General, if my recollection is correct, stated that all he required was that a man should fill up the particulars of his title to the land. He never mentioned a single word about particulars as to the amount of money the man was going to claim. Therefore I think the right hon. Gentleman had in his mind a Clause to which no one would object, for what he meant was particulars of the title, and the nature of the land which would enable the Government Department to know what area of land and what sort of land they were taking over. It is another thing to penalise a man because he does not give particulars which a Government Department will pick to pieces. I therefore would suggest that he should favourably consider the elimination of reference to the question of details and, if necessary, a Clause might be introduced penalising the person who refused to give details of the area and sort of land that it was proposed to take.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Ellis Davies) and the greater part of it had nothing to do with the proposal before the Committee. The Solicitor-General said that the intention of the Clause was that particulars of a man's interest in a freehold or leasehold should be made in-order that the Government might know what interest it was that they were acquiring so that they might make an offer. The Clause does not carry out that inten- 64 tion, and my suggestion is that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should remodel the Clause to carry out his wishes. I suggest to leave out the words "of the amount claimed," and instead of those to insert the words "of his interest in the property." The paragraph would then read "has failed to deliver to such Department a statement in writing giving sufficient particulars of his interest in the property, and in sufficient time to enable such Department to make a proper offer." I should like to have the opinion of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Sir T. Walters) as to whether that Amendment would carry out what he desires. It would, I think, carry out the desire expressed by the Solicitor-General and would make the Clause reasonable and intelligible. I do not quite agree with the suggestion of the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rutherford) to deal with this matter as they do with hotels. The Government have a very simple way of dealing with hotels. They take them and do not pay anything, and I do not want that precedent established in this paragraph or in this Bill.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I recognise that there is objection to the form of the Clause, and I am quite willing to consider the whole Clause before Report, and to try and redraft it, if the Amendment is withdrawn.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question proposed, "That the Schedule, as amended, be the Schedule of the Bill."
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I beg to move, as an Amendment, to leave out this Schedule.
I would ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the Committee to look at the Schedule as it stands and to consider whether it really is worth while keeping it there. This is a case where the landowner is entitled to more than ordinary consideration. He is a person who has given up his land voluntarily, a thing which some of his neighbours have not done. Is it fair to make it more difficult for him to obtain right compensation by the conditions of a Schedule such as this? There is, for instance, the question of the number of expert witnesses and the new scale of costs. The Government, in a sense, do not mind whether they get costs or not, and they can employ what counsel and witnesses they please. The person who is against them, and with whom money is more of a consideration, has to take a risk which is not often sufficiently realised. I hope that the Committee will consider whether or not a Schedule of this kind can 65 do otherwise than work injustice to people who are deserving of every credit, because, ex hypothesi, they are people who have given up land.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Bill reported; as amended to be considered to-morrow (Wednesday), and to be printed. [Bill 111.]