HC Deb 26 June 1919 vol 117 cc441-5

(1) The provisions of the Actor Order by which the land is authorised to be acquired, or of any Act incorporated therewith, shall in relation to the matters dealt with in this Act, have effect subject to this Act, and so far as inconsistent with this Act those provisions shall cease to have or shall not have effect:

Provided that nothing in this Act relating to the rules for assessing compensation shall affect any special provisions as to the assessment of the value of land acquired for the purposes of Part I. or Part II. of the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890, or under the Defence of the Realm (Acquisition of Land) Act, 1916, and contained in those Acts respectively, or any Act amending those Acts, if and so far as the provisions in those Acts are inconsistent with the-rules under this Act and the provisions of the Second Schedule to the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890, as amended by any subsequent enactment (except paragraphs (4), (5), (29), and (31) thereof) shall apply to an official valuer as they apply to an arbitrator appointed under that Schedule, and an official valuer may exercise all the powers conferred by those provisions as such arbitrator.

(2) The provisions of this Act shall apply to the determination of the amount of rent or compensation payable in respect of land authorised to be hired compulsorily under the Small Holdings and Allotments Act, 1908, or any Act amending that Act, and any matter required thereby to be determined by a valuer appointed by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries shall be determined by an official vauler in accordance with this Act.


I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert the words Provided that nothing in this Act shall apply to any land acquired before the date of this Act by a railway, canal, dock, water, gas, electricity or other public company. In certain cases an electric, gas, or dock company may have acquired land recently, and the object of the Amendment is that in cases of recently acquired land by undertakings of this sort, which land has been acquired under the old system, they should be exempt, for a time at any rate, from the operations of this Act. The Amendment as it is drawn I admit goes somewhat far, and all that I seriously press the Government to do is to give some relief. If necessary, they might limit it to land acquired during the last two, three, four, or five years. The principle I am submitting is that where a company have had to acquire land quite recently under the old terms, this Act should not apply to them for a considerable period; otherwise they may have had to secure land for a particular purpose and to pay a high price for it, and the land may be taken from them under the totally different system set up by this Act.


I have pleasure in seconding the Amendment, and though I quite agree with the cogency of the reasons advanced, I think there is a greater reason why the Amendment should be accepted. The hon. and learned Member has pointed out that companies which have acquired land during the last few years have acquired it under different regulations than those laid down in this Bill, and they may be adversely affected if they are required to resell the land under the regulations enforced under this Bill. There is another aspect. In the majority of cases these particular undertakings could not have acquired the land unless they had come to Parliament and obtained power, and having acquired the land by Act of Parliament—and Parliament would not have given them power to acquire the land unless it had been reasonable and necessary that they should acquire it for their undertakings—it does seem very wrong to take that land away from them.


Might I ask my right hon. Friend what he means by the words "or other public company"?

7.0 P.M.


This not my Amendment. Therefore I do not know what the words are meant to refer to I should think the Amendment would be better if the words were left out. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that his proper course is to move an Amendment to leave out those words.

Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY

What will be the effect of this Amendment? Does it mean that if a Government Department finds it necessary to acquire land which has already been acquired by a railway, canal, dock or gas company, it will be necessary for the Government Department to pay to that company the price which that company has originally paid for the land, because, if so, that is a very material point, and I should have some explanation from the Mover of the Amendment on that point before I could agree to the Amendment.


The meaning of the words "public company" in that sense is that where a company have taken land under a statutory power under the old system, then the old system shall apply to that company for, at all events, a certain number of years. They had to pay under the old Lands Clauses Acts, and they should be paid not necessarily the same sum, but on the same lines. Otherwise they would get much less favourable terms.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Speaking entirely as a layman, it seems to me that the Amendment is much too sweeping, that a company might invest in land, and that this Amendment might apply to such land does not apply only to land taken specially for the business or work of the company.


I am sure that my hon. and learned Friend who proposed this Amendment appreciates that it is very wide indeed. He used the word "recent." How long ago is "recent"? That Amend-mend refers to any land acquired. That is to say, any land, whether it be acquired by ordinary means or by the exercise of compulsory powers. Suppose that the word "recent" is inserted, and that the word "compulsory" is inserted. It would still be left that the Act was not to apply to any land recently acquired under compulsory powers before the date of this Act. I would ask my hon. and learned Friend to project himself in imagination, say thirty years hence, when in the year 1949 this Act having been found to be so excellent will still be in full force and effect. The force of this Amendment would be limited to land compulsorily acquired at some time before May or June, 1919. The difficulty with which it is proposed to deal is open to at least two observations. In the first place, however hard it might be in the case Which my hon. and learned Friend supposes, if it applies to a public company it might be no less hard upon a private individual who had acquired land before the passing of this Act.


What I mean is that where a public company were taking land, say last year, they have had to pay for it at a much higher rate than they would have to pay if it were taken under this particular Bill. It was because they had to come under compulsory powers they could only go under the Lands Clauses Acts, and therefore they paid a very much larger sum than if it were taken under this Bill. Therefore, it can only apply to public companies.


That answer limits the application of the Amendment to the compulsory acquisition of land.


The only way you can put your compulsory powers into force is under the Lands Clauses Acts, and you have to pay higher for it when you purchase by agreement, even though you do not take the matter into Court. The theory of this Bill is that by having this cheaper way of getting land you can buy your land by agreement.


Whatever the force of that observation, exactly the same kind of argument would carry exactly the same kind of weight in the case of a private proprietor. The cases which my hon. and learned Friend contemplates are very unlikely to arise for at least two reasons. A public authority or a Government Department acquiring compulsorily, will be acquiring either under special powers or under general powers. If under special powers the ease referred to would be highly improbable. If under general powers, it would be because the matter was so important that it was thought that there should be general powers to acquire land, and whatever infinitesimal risk there may be is a risk which it appears to me a company may just as much be asked to face as an individual.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment made: Leave out the word "as" ["as such arbitrator"], and insert instead thereof the word "on."—[Sir G. Hewart.]