HC Deb 26 June 1919 vol 117 cc395-8

In assessing compensation, an official valuer shall act in accordance with the following rules:

  1. (1) No allowance shall be made on account of the acquisition being compulsory:
  2. (2) The value of land shall, subject as hereinafter provided, be taken to be the amount which the land if sold in the open market by a willing seller might be expected to realise:
  3. (3) The special suitability or adaptability of the land for any purpose shall not be taken into account if that purpose is a purpose to which ii could be applied only in pursuance of statutory powers, or for which there is no market apart from the special needs of a particular purchaser:
  4. (4) Where the value of the land is increased by reason of the use thereof or of any premises thereon in a manner which could be restrained by any Court, or is contrary to law, or is detrimental to the health of the inmates of the premises or to the public health, the amount of that increase shall not be taken into account:
  5. (5) Where land is, and but for the compulsory acquisition would continue to be, devoted to a purpose of such a nature that there is no general demand or market for land for that purpose, the compensation may, if the official valuer is satisfied that rein statement in some other place is bonâ fide intended, be assessed on the basis of the reasonable cost of equivalent reinstatement.


On a point of Order. May I ask the grounds upon which my Amendment has been removed from the Paper? I proposed in Clause 2 Sub-section (2), to insert the words All land used for agricultural purposes shall be strictly valued as such, and in no case shall the compensation paid exceed one hundred pounds per acre for the land, in addition to the value of any buildings and of any other structures on, in, or under the surface which are appurtenances to, or used in connection with, any such buildings, and of all growing timber, fruit trees, fruit bushes growing thereon, but not in addition to the value of the grass growing thereon.


As the House has come to a decision regarding the basis upon which compensation is to be laid down, any whittling Amendments, which derogated from that, would be contrary to the decision at which the House has already arrived.


I submit, with all due respect, that my Amendment does not interfere with the decision arrived at. It merely fixes the maximum prices of agricultural land. Owing to the fact that I had my Amendment down on the Paper I took no part in the debate on this important question of agricultural value. Had I known that my Amendment was not going to be discussed I would have taken part in the Debate yesterday.


We had three or four hours' discussion upon the matter. Amendments were moved, and Amendments to those Amendments were moved, and new Amendments not appearing on the Paper were introduced, and that was the final decision of the House. Any Amendments which go contrary to that would obviously be against the decision at which the House had already arrived, and could not be entertained.


May I point out that the Minister for Health stated that in Wales the main reason for the holding up of housing schemes is the difficulty of fixing the value of land, and that question, I respectfully submit, was not dealt with yesterday at all.


That was the question which we discussed for three or four hours, and we decided to take the market value.


I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (3), to insert the words "or the requirements of any Government Department or any local or public authority."

Under Sub-section (2), the House has decided on the basis of value, and the value is to be taken as the market value. If hon. Members will give attention to Sub-section (3), they will see that there are certain matters which are excluded from being taken into account in fixing the market value. Special adaptability is not to be taken into account, and, secondly, the special needs of a particular purchaser are not to be taken into account. I propose to add a third factor which is not to be taken into account in arriving at the market value, and that factor is set forth in the words of my Amendment. I think the Home Secretary will agree with me that this Amendment is entirely in the spirit of the Sub-section. I take it that the exceptions which are made under this Sub-section are intended to carry out the main object of the Bill, which is to cheapen land required for public purposes and to provide that such land shall be obtained at a cheaper rate than in the past. The two exceptions already in the Sub-section have been inserted with that object in view. Special adaptability is not to be taken into account, because that has made land dear in the past, and the special needs of the purchaser are not to be taken into account, because when they have been taken into account in the past more has had to be paid for the land. If the Government accept my Amendment, it will have the same effect as the other two exceptions in reducing the cost to the public of land required for public purposes. In the past the fact that land has been required by Government Departments or local authorities has resulted in raising the price of land against purchasers, for these public purposes. When a public authority has had to go into the market to buy land, their advent has sent the price of land up to such an extent that they have had to pay more for it than a private purchaser would have to pay. I do not think that will be disputed. Before they came into the market the landowner might have taken, say, £100 an acre from a private purchaser, but immediately a town council, a board of guardians, an education committee, or a Government Department come in the price of the land immediately rises, and they would be asked £200, or £300, or more per acre. The object of my Amendment is to prevent that taking place in the future. It is not to help the local authority to get land cheaper than anybody else, but to provide that they shall not pay more than anybody else. In that way no objection can be raised on the ground of equity or fair play. No one will contend that a local authority should have to pay more for the land they require than a private person. If the words of my Amendment are inserted, and a public body goes into the market to buy land under the compulsory powers of certain Acts of Parliament, the land will be referred for assessment under this Bill, and the official valuer will have to determine the value of the land without any reference at all to the fact, that a public body is in the market. In other words, the value will have to be determined by reference to the private demand for the land. If a farmer wants it, he will have to pay the farmer's price; if a builder wants it, he will have to pay the builder's price; if a manufacturer wants it, he will have to pay the manufacturer's price; and whatever that price may be, the public authority will have to pay that price, but my Amendment will prevent their having to pay anything more.


I apprehend that the object of this Amendment is to make it clear that where land is to be sold at the market value the fact that it is required for a local authority is not to be taken into account. That seems to me so entirely to coincide with the spirit of the Bill that I will ask the House to accept it.

Amendment agreed to.

4.0 P.M.


I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, to add the words and for the purposes of this Section an official valuer shall be entitled to be furnished with such returns, and assessments as he may require. This is merely a proposal to give full effect to a proviso which was inserted by the Government yesterday afternoon in Sub-section (2), that the official valuer should have regard to returns and assessments. These returns and assessments are highly confidential documents, and I am informed by those whose opinion I trust that in law there is nothing in the proviso already inserted which will compel, say, the Inland Revenue Department to reveal these secrets. They perfectly legitimately and rightly regard this information as sacred, but for this purpose they ought to be made to reveal it, and the intention of the Government in inserting the proviso will be frustrated unless some such words are put in.


I beg to second the Amendment

Amendment agreed to.