§ Nothing in this Act shall prevent, if the parties so agree, the reference of any question as to disputed compensation to the Commissioners of Inland Revenue or to an arbitrator agreed on between the parties:
§ Provided that if any question is so referred the provisions of this Act, so far as they are not inconsistent, shall apply as if the arbitrator was an official valuer.
Amendments made: After the word "compensation," insert the words,
or apportionment of rent.
After the word "parties," insert the words,
(2) Where a question is so referred to the Commissioners of Inland Revenue the Commissioners shall not proceed by arbitration, but shall cause an assessment to be made in accordance with the rules for the assessment of compensation under this Act, and the following provisions shall have effect:
Leave out the words
provided that if any question is so referred
and insert instead thereof the words
(3) Where a question is so referred to an arbitrator.
Leave out the words
So far as they are not inconsistent
and insert instead thereof the words
except Sections one and four and so much of Section three as requires proceedings to be in public, and as provides for the fixing of fees."—[Sir G. Hewart.]
I beg to move, at the end, to add the words() Either party to a claim for compensation may require the Commissioners for Inland Revenue to assess the value of the land in respect of which the claim arises, and a copy of any such assessment shall be sent forthwith by the Commissioners to the other party, and such assessment shall be admissible in evidence of that value in proceedings before the official valuer, and the servant of the Commissioners who made the valuation shall attend if required for cross-examination before the official valuer.This Amendment is designed to carry out a suggestion which I indicated yesterday as an alternative to an Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I rather hope from what the Attorney-General said yesterday that the Government may see their way to accept an Amendment on these lines. Its object is to bring the Inland Revenue Department as much as possible into touch with questions on the acquisition of land for the various purposes which I mentioned in my remarks to the House yesterday, namely, that the basis of valuation for taxation and compensation on acquisition should be, as far as possible, the same, that the Inland Revenue Department should be utilised, and, further, that by utilising it we should make it as efficient as possible. The evidence given before my Committee was very striking as to the satisfactory character of valuations made by the Inland Revenue Department during the last two or three years. It is very desirable, therefore, that, as far as possible, we should utilise their machinery. The primary object of this Amendment is to promote a settlement of these compensation cases by agreement. The idea is, in reference to 447 the arbitration before the official valuers, particularly in small cases where the payment of a fee to a surveyor is impossible, that there should be simple machinery which will enable a person to say to the Government, "Give me a valuation of my land." He can get it for a very small fee, and being given the valuation in most cases he would be satisfied with it, the purchasing party would be satisfied, and there would be agreement. I quite agree that the valuation of the land in many cases is only one component in the assessment of compensation. Injurious effect, trade disturbance, and so on are not included, but if you can get this as a basic factor it will help. There is only one more word I wish to say, and that is that the Amendment provides that either party to the claim for compensation may require the Commissioners of Inland Revenue to assess the value of the land in respect of which the claim arises, and a copy of any such assessment shall be sent forthwith by the Commissioners to the other party, and such assessment shall toe admissible in evidence. That is very important. In order to make it perfectly clear that the valuation shall not be conclusive, and that if founded on mistakes there may be cross-examination upon it, I provide that the servant of the Commissioners who made the valuation shall attend, if required, for cross-examination before the official valuer.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
Why does the hon. and learned member limit the function of the servant of the Commissioners appearing to cross-examination only?
Because I did not think it right that a public official should be made the witness of a party. I think he ought to stand quite independent (between the two parties, not to be examined in chief by one and cross-examined by the other or vice versa, but to be open to be asked questions by either party or by the Court. That suggestion in the Amendment is based upon the recommendation of my Committee. In two cases my Committee advised that this procedure should be adopted, and regarded it as essential that the valuer should attend as a witness when wanted and be open to cross-examination by both parties before the official valuer. I venture to think that if any Members consider that the official valuers are incompetent or inefficient and their valuations bad there is no more satisfactory tonic that 448 could be administered than having to appear and have questions asked, and then to see the difference between the valuation department and the valuations made by the official valuer as the result of the inquiry.
§ Sir G. HEWART
I welcome the Amendment and subject to two alterations, one by way of addition and the other by way of subtraction, I shall be prepared to accept it. The first is that after the word "and" ["the other party and such assessment"] the words "a certified copy of" shall be inserted, so that it will readand a certified copy of such assessment shall be admissible in evidence of that value in proceedings before the official valuer.I understand that my hon. and learned Friend for the Exchange Division of Liverpool agrees to that alteration. My second proposal is to delete the words at the end "and the servant of the Commissioner who made the valuation shall attend if required for cross-examination before the official valuer." There are difficulties in the way of the course proposed in the Amendment. If the Commissioners are to exercise the function of assessing the value of the land they are-really to be in a quasi-judicial position, and it is difficult and inconvenient that they or the particular individual responsible for the assessment should be called and cross-examined. My learned Friend perceives that difficulty when he uses the word "cross-examine." The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir D. Maclean) asked a question upon it. Undoubtedly the Mover of the Amendment realises the difficulty of making the Commissioners or their representatives the witnesses of a, particular party. I venture to think it is no less objectionable that those persons charged with these duties, and having exercised them, should be called for cross-examination by the one side or the other or by both, before another tribunal which is charged with the task of determining the value. Part of the argument of my learned Friend in favour of that particular course depended upon this, that in those circumstances the Commissioners of Inland Revenue would have the opportunity of contrasting and comparing the valuation at which they arrive with the valuation at which ultimately the official valuer arrives. That opportunity will be 449 no less open to them, although neither they nor their representatives are called before the official valuer for cross examination.
I am prepared to accept the alteration suggested by the Attorney-General, if the House will allow me.
Amendment to the proposed Amendment made: After the word "and" ["and such assessment"], insert the words
certified copy of."—[Sir G. Hewart.]
Further Amendment to the proposed Amendment moved: Leave out the words
and the servant of the Commissioners who made the valuation shall attend if required for cross-examination before the official valuer."—[Sir G. Hewart.]
§ Sir R. ADKINS
I would like to ask whether the reason in favour of those words which my learned Friend has cited would not be met by saying "if required by the official valuer"? I see the objection to servants of the Commissioners being called to be cross-examined by either party, but if the official valuer, having before him a certified copy of the valuation of the Commissioners, felt that it would assist him to ask questions of the person responsible for it, is there any objection to giving him that power, that is, if required by the official valuer himself? The object we all have is the same—that of preventing misunderstanding, of clearing up difficulties, and of getting the widest possible public sanction of what is done.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
This is a most extraordinarily wide change to make in a Bill on a manuscript Amendment.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
It is a manuscript Amendment. The hon. Member for the Exchange Division moved his Amendment, and since then the Government have moved, on a manuscript Amendment, to omit a very vital part of that Amendment. It makes a most extraordinary change in the procedure of the Bill. You are giving power to either party to ask for valuation by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue. There is no one to appear before the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, no one before the valuer, there is no power for the claimant to put his, case forward, and they are to send down a man behind the backs of either party without hearing any evidence or points in favour of the claimant or the person taking the 450 land, and he is to draw up a statement as to the value of the land, and that is to be put in without cross-examination of any kind or any test by the parties to litigation. The Mover of the Amendment undoubtedly saw how unjust such a state of affairs would be, and he proposed that the persons who drew up the valuation could be cross-examined to see whether they really knew the facts of the case at all. That proposal the Government have taken up, I gather. If that is so, surely it is an absolutely unknown piece of legislation to put into a Bill that you are to have a document which must carry great weight with any valuer, a document which goes with all the impress of Government upon it to a Government official, and you are to have no power to see the man or to ask a single question, and that document is to be put in without a single word from the claimant. I most strongly urge the Government that they should hesitate before making such a change.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I am sorry I cannot agree with the last speaker, that this Amendment makes such a drastic and sweeping change in the Bill as he anticipates. It would be ungracious on my part if I did not say that I regard the Amendment as a substantial one which improves the Bill. I, therefore, extend my thanks to the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill for the concession he has made.
§ Colonel GREIG
We are making a very serious deviation from the proposals of the Bill. Under Clause 8 there is power to enable the Commissioners of Inland Revenue to give a final decision. The result of this proposal will be that in every case where compensation arises the people concerned will immediately at the public expense apply for a valuation to a public authority which may be the tribunal to make the assessment.
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment agreed to.
§ Proposed words, as amended, there inserted in the Bill.