§ (1) Whilst any land of which possession has been so taken is in the possession of 1167 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 cause the land to be restored to the condition in which it was before the building or work was erected or constructed or shall, if the persons interested in the land agree or the Commission consent, instead of so restoring the land, 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:
§ Provided that in the case of any common, open space, or allotment, the land shall be so restored as aforesaid to the satisfaction of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries.
§ (3) Where any building or any machinery or plant fixed or attached to any land has, for purposes connected with the present 1168 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.
§ Mr. BOYTON
I beg to move in Subsection (2), after the word "soil" [disturbance of the soil "], to insert the words "or other causes arising from the use to which it has been put."
I think it is unfair to limit this matter to compensation where the land has been cleared of buildings, for disturbance of the soil may be a. very serious thing indeed. The Amendment of the Solicitor-General which has just been accepted speaks of several kinds of compensation, but there are great disturbances in many cases in connection with the soil. It may be that the soil will be deteriorated by chemicals, refuse, and all sorts of oddments which may be left after a lengthened occupation by the Government. It seems to me only fair to add the words that I propose, so that the damage may be put right or compensation paid for it.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I think this is the wrong place to deal with this matter. This Subsection deals entirely with removal, and the words in the Bill provide for paying compensation for depreciation, if any, in the value of the land, owing to disturbance of the soil connected with the removal. If there is injury caused by the use of the land, then it will be otherwise dealt with in the Bill. I do not think further words are necessary.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I beg to move to leave out the words "the Commission" ["may be determined by the Commission"], and insert instead thereof the words "an arbitrator to be agreed upon by the parties, or, in default of agreement, by the President of the Surveyors' Institution."
I am proposing another tribunal, rather than the Commission, for dealing with the 1169 question of the depreciation of the value of land. The Sub-section says that compensation shall be paidin 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.My Amendment is to substitute for the Commission an arbitrator to be agreed upon by the parties, or, in default of agreement, by the President of the Surveyors' Institution. This is one of those cases where it is purely a question of injury to land, and I would submit that it would be more satisfactorily dealt with by a surveyor who is perfectly accustomed to deal with such matters, rather than by the Commission, which is the Railway and Canal Commission. I do not suppose that Commission would hear and determine the case for themselves in these circumstances, but would send down some surveyor of their own to the place wherever the land was situated—in Lancashire, or wherever it might be—and might, or might not, act upon his Report, as the case might be. That is never a very satisfactory course of proceeding. It is a much more satisfactory proceeding to the parties that the matter should be heard before an arbitrator, who could give his award as a valuer who knows the value of such things. If the Commission do send down a surveyor, it is far better that he should be agreed upon by the parties, rather than that a person should be sent down who would be naturally looked upon by the owner of the land, not necessarily as a Government official, but rather as tainted with the choice having been made by a Government Department, although I am not in the last suggesting it would be unfair or impartial.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I agree that the question of the tribunal which is to determine compensation is a matter very well worthy of consideration, and I am quite prepared to consider the matter at a later stage of our proceedings to-day. I think it would be far more convenient to take the point in Clause 8. Here we are only dealing with a Sub-section relating to removals, and the only matter this Amendment would affect would be compensation for disturbance of the soil—a very small matter indeed. Later on we can deal with all matters of compensation as a whole.
§ Mr. BRUNNER
I should like to ask the learned Solicitor-General whether that 1170 means that he proposes on Clause 8 to appoint some other tribunal—there is nothing on the Paper at present?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I beg to move to leave out the words "Provided that in the case of any common, open space, or allotment the land shall be so restored as aforesaid to the satisfaction of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries," and to insert instead thereof,(3) Where any such buildings or works have been erected or constructed upon any common, open space, or allotment the building or work shall be removed and the land restored as aforesaid, except so far as the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries certify that suck removal or restoration is not required in the interests of the persons interested in the land or the public.
§ Mr. J. M. HENDERSON
I do not like this Sub-section. I understood that the question of commons was to be dealt with by a separate Bill. That was what we understood on Second Reading, anyhow. Supposing a common is cut up and altogether disfigured, it says here that it is going to be restoredexcept so far as the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries certify that such removal or restoration is not required in the interests of the persons interested in the land or the public.Who is to be the public? Nobody look after commons except a voluntary society for the preservation of commons, and, unless they interfere, it is left to the discretion of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries. That would be a very wrong thing for the beauty of our commons. I certainly did not understand the commons were to be treated in this way. They ought to be restored and buildings removed. I cannot understand why that should not be, and therefore I would like to leave out all the words after "aforesaid." I do not think it should be left to the officials of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries. We ought to preserve all our commons in their beauty, and for the Board to say that it is not necessary to restore them, I think, would be very wrong.
§ Mr. CURRIE
I support my hon. Friend. I see no reason to think that the interests 1171 of the public would not suffer, and I would regard any risk of that kind to commons with very great jealousy. I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman would do well to consider the suggestion my hon. Friend has made.
§ Mr. SHERWELL
I associate myself with what my hon. Friend has said. It is certainly extremely important, and it might be a very far-reaching Amendment. Practically it leaves the safeguarding of important, social and public interests absolutely at the discretion of a Government Department. Now, the Board of Agriculture may be at any given moment, a perfectly, enlightened body, fully responsive to public needs and public claims. On the other hand, it may be a body so constituted, or of such spirit as to be extremely responsive to the appeals or requirements of another Government Department. This practically puts the safeguarding of a dearly-prized public right in the hands of a bureaucracy, and I certainly do hope the House will seriously question the wisdom of adding this particular Amendment to the Bill.
§ Mr. PERCY HARRIS (Paddington, S.)
I think the Government ought to make out some case for the power they are now asking for in this new Sub-section. As the Bill stands, a common, or open space, has to be restored to the satisfaction of the Board of Agriculture. Now it is proposed to leave the land unrestored with the consent of the Board of Agriculture. I think this is a very large thing to ask. We ought to maintain the principle that commons and open spaces should be preserved inviolate, unless some case is made out for reserving that right, and at present we have not heard any case made out. It seems to me the people who are really judges of what is necessary in the interest of the public in any town are the responsible authority of that town, and not the Board of Agriculture. At any rate, I am entitled to ask that some case should be made out to show why it is necessary that this power of continuing buildings on a public open space should be retained.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I do not think the Amendment is quite understood. Objection was taken to the words in the Bill in Committee on the ground that they did not compel the removal of buildings. It was for that purpose mainly that an Amendment was desired. Then when we provide 1172 for the removal of buildings and works on the land this question arose. Suppose it turns out that there is work on the land which is for the benefit of the public, such as an excellent road or an embankment, or something of that kind, are we going to be so foolish as to say that, because it is put up in war-time, that must be removed? Surely that would be ridiculous I In such a case as that, who is to be the judge of whether it is to be of public benefit or not? You must have somebody to decide, and we propose to put it in the hands of the Board of Agriculture, which is the Government Department having the charge of commons and open spaces. If a better arrangement can be devised, so much the better. This certainly seems a common-sense proposal, and there is certainly no insidious desire to damage commons. (The only object is that where there is work on the land of public use and advantage we should not be obliged to take it away.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman deal with the question of cutting it up into trenches, and so on?
§ Mr. BRUNNER
I am very glad to hear what the learned Solicitor-General said about the intention of this Amendment, but I want to put to him this: Supposing a building is left, in whose possession will it be? Will it still be in the possession of the occupying Department?
§ Mr. BRUNNER
Then in that case I have not very much objection to it. If it is to be a public building, I cannot see there can be much objection to it; but it seems it would not be a public building if it were left upon the common, but would belong to the lord of the manor, and in that case it does not appear that the public could by any possible means derive any benefit from the building remaining on the common.
§ Mr. CURRIE
I would like to ask the Solicitor-General to make the provision a little clearer. He referred to a road possibly having been built on a piece of common land. But there are other things besides roads which may have been placed there. A building may have been placed on a certain piece of land which the Board of Agriculture may think, on the whole, had better remain there, but which the county council or the town council may regard otherwise. My point is that where a difference of opinion arises, will it not be fairer, more reasonable, and less likely to prejudice the public, if the final word in the matter is left, say, with the county council? I do not want to force a Government Department to uproot a road or building, but should not people in that locality have some say through their own representatives?
§ Sir C. CORY
I do not think there is much to complain of in this proposal, which only says that the buildings or works shall not be removed if the Board of Agriculture think they are in the interests of the persons interested in the land or the public. The Board of Agriculture are limited in their power of saying whether the buildings or works should be removed or not.
§ Mr. EDGAR HORNE
What we want to secure is that the whole of these improvements and buildings should be taken away, and the roads done away with, if it is in the interests of the public that they should have the commons back as they were before. Some people might think that it is in the interests of the country that commons should be done away with, but we do not want anything of that kind.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
I understand that the rights of the public in this matter are exceedingly limited, and apart from the right of pasture the public have no rights over the commons at all. In the case which has been suggested the land would revert back to the lord of the manor. There are a large number of commons in this country in respect of which this House has made certain Orders. In other words, Provisional Orders have been made by this House, and commons are consequently controlled by those Orders. In those cases undoubtedly the public have certain rights, and I should be glad if the right bon. Gentleman would consider the desirability of making special provision with regard to the removal of buildings on those commons where they interfere with the rights of the public over those commons. 1174 The point I wish to make is with regard to ordinary commons. This House has really nothing to say unless we have another Act of Parliament. In ordinary cases, if the Government does not acquire the land, it will revert to the lord of the manor, and the right of the public is extremely limited. On the other hand, there are certain commons, some of which have been taken by the Government, over which by a Provisional Order or a special Act of Parliament the public have secured certain rights. The suggestion I make to the Solicitor-General is that in those cases there should be a distinct agreement that all those buildings shall be removed, and that there shall be no interference with the rights secured to the public.
§ Sir T. WALTERS
There are certain works which have been undoubtedly carried out on commons and open spaces which should not be removed. For instance, to obliterate a road which has been made and which is a convenience to the public would be absurd. In regard to buildings I can recall several cases in which they have been erected, and which, if they could remain at the disposal of the public, would undoubtedly be a public benefit. I do not wish to take away from the public any rights which they now possess, or by a side-wind to hand over buildings which have been erected by the State. What we want is some machinery by which you may preserve upon these open spaces such buildings and other works as are really useful to the public, and also secure that the public should have the use and enjoyment of the money which has been spent out of the public purse. I cannot agree that the wording of this proposal is peculiarly happy, and I should never have read into it the interpretation which the Solicitor-General has placed upon it. If the words really do not mean what I have suggested, then let us have words that do. Let us see that it is made perfectly clear that only works will remain that are in the interests of the public, and that the public should have the use and enjoyment of them. If the proposal is made clear on that point we shall be satisfied. It is somewhat unfortunate that in all these matters Government Departments find it so difficult to associate local authorities with them, and they always choose the Board of Agriculture or the Local Government Board. Surely county councils know something about commons and they know whether certain works or buildings will be an advantage to the 1175 public. If it were possible to give some locus standi to the local authorities to say whether the buildings should be removed or not, all suspicion would be removed.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY Of MUNITIONS (Dr. Addison)
We are quite willing to accept the county council as the authority instead of the Board of Agriculture.
§ Sir TUDOR WALTERS
Then I will move that the county council be substituted for the Board of Agriculture. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not 'local authority' "?] What I have in mind is the local authority of the area in which the buildings or works are situated.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.
§ Sir T. WALTERS
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to leave out the words "Board of Agriculture," and to insert instead thereof the words "local authority."
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendment made: Leave out "certify" and insert "certifies."
§ Proposed words, as amended, there inserted.