§ (2) Where a local authority has agreed to purchase land for the purpose of Part III. of the principal Act, then at any time after such agreement has been made, the local authority may, after giving not less than fourteen days' notice to the occupier, being a tenant at will or from year to year, of the land, enter on and take possession of the land without previous consent, but subject to the payment of the like compensation to such occupier as if the entry had been effected under compulsory powers of purchase, and under and after compliance with Sections eighty-four to ninety of the Lands Clauses (Consolidation) Act, 1845.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ROYDS
I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), after the word "Act" ["Part III. of the principal Act"], to insert the wordsand the land is in the possession of a person having no greater interest therein than as a tenant for a year or from year to year.A considerable part of the land which will be required for housing lies on the outskirts of towns and villages and will be largely in the occupation of allotment-holders, market gardeners, and so forth. The object of the Clause is to secure to these yearly occupiers compensation under the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act. I have handed in a series of new Amendments in place of the one on the Paper.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I shall be glad to accept the Amendment. The Clause empowers an authority, where an Order has been made for the acquisition of land compulsorily, to take possession after giving fourteen days' notice, safeguarded as in the first portion of the Clause, and begin operations, the valuation and payment of compensation and so forth being determined afterwards. This is, of course, in order to save delay. It was pointed out in Committee that tenants at will have the whole of their goodwill, etc., disturbed by such entry and it ought to be made quite clear in the Bill that they should receive the proper compensation to which they are entitled. We were advised, as the Clause stood, that it was not clear whether they were really included and we propose now to make it quite clear. A farmer, for 925 instance, might have his whole livelihood taken away from him, he being only the tenant at will and not the owner. I will read the Clause as it would be if the series of Amendments were inserted:Where a local authority has agreed to purchase land for the purpose of Part III. of the principal Act and the land is in possession of a person having no greater interest therein than as; a tenant for a year or from year to year, then at any time after such agreement has been made, the local authority may, after giving not less than fourteen days' notice to the occupier of the land, enter on and take possession of the land without previous consent, but subject to the payment to the occupier of the like compensation with such interest thereon as aforesaid, as if the local authority had been authorised to purchase the land compulsorily, and such occupier had in pursuance of such power been required to quit possession before the expiration of his term or interest in the land, but without the necessity of compliance with Sections 84 to 90 of the Lands Clauses (Consolidation) Act, 1845.It only sets out to make more clear what we have in the provision itself. We intended it to cover this class of tenant, but I was advised that the tenant at will or from year to year, might not clearly be entitled to what he really ought to have with respect to compensation, and in this redrafted form it makes it quite clear that It is this class of tenant, and that it is the compensation to which he is entitled which he will really get.
§ Mr. McNEILL
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why this distinction is drawn between a tenant from year to year and a tenant with a three- or five-year lease?
§ Dr. ADDISON
The other parties are treated for this purpose as owners, and would get the compensation which would be awarded to the owners.
§ Sir T. WALTERS
If I understand it correctly it applies only to land which has been acquired by agreement between the local authorities and the owners, not being the subject of any compulsory notification or anything of the kind. Having made an agreement with the owner, and having no agreement with the tenant, if they give the fourteen days' notice and take possession the unfortunate tenant has no right of recovery of compensation. He may have been an allotment-holder or a small holder. What happens in the case of a man who is not a tenant from year to year, who has a three-year's lease or a five-year's lease. Does that man receive any separate or special treatment, or when the local authority makes a bargain with the owner for purchasing without compul- 926 sion, do they at the same time make a bargain' respecting the payment to be made to the man who has it on a short lease? While you safeguard the position of a man who is tenant from year to year, and while clearly a man who has a long lease is virtually the owner and you can deal with him, I can conceive a case where a man who has three years' or two years' lease still to run being worsened and not bettered by this Amendment, unless there is some other Section under which he can claim. I have let some land for allotments on a seven-years' lease. Supposing I sell that land to a local authority, then it appears to me that this allotment society of working men who purchased the land on a seven-years' lease would have no ground for compensation.
§ Sir T. WALTERS
The people to whom I have let it are the trustees for the working men. The working men who formed the society have nominated certain members to sign the lease with myself for seven years. Supposing I sell that land?
§ Sir T. WALTERS
The trustees are only the men appointed by the working men. The money required to lay out the gardens has been raised by the contributions of the working men themselves, and the fact that certain people signed the lease as trustees does not mean that the people for whom they signed will sustain no loss.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ROYDS
A leaseholder, whether his lease be for seven years or three years is an owner under the Bill, and would get compensation. A yearly tenant would not get compensation under the Bill without this Amendment when land was sold by voluntary agreement. It is thought that a very large proportion of the land acquired would be occupied by owners of that character.
§ Sir T. WALTERS
I am not satisfied. What is an owner under Clause 10? A man owns land and he lets it on short lease. The man who takes this land for seven, fourteen, or twenty-one years does not become the owner. It will be quite possible for local authorities to make a bargain with the owner of the land and then take possession, and then some poor unfortunate tenant who has a five or seven years' lease would, it appears to me, be left in the cold.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ROYDS
They could only make a purchase from the owner, and his ownership is in reversion subject to the termination of that lease.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendments made: Leave out the words
being the tenant at will or from year to year.
After the word "payment" ["subject to the payment"], insert the words
to the occupier.
Leave out the words
to such occupier as if the entry had been effected under compulsory powers of purchase, and under and after
and insert instead thereof the words
with such interest therein as aforesaid, as if the local authority had been authorised to purchase the land compulsorily, and such occupier had in pursuance of such power been required to quit possession before the expiration of his term of interest in the land and without the necessity of."—[Dr. Addison.]
I beg to move, at the end, to insert as a new Sub-section,For the period of seven years from the date of the passing of this Act where land included in any scheme made under Part III. of the principal Act is acquired compulsorily the compensation to be paid for the land shall be the value at the time the valuation is made, subject to a deduction of the amount of the increment value of the land as ascertained under the provisions of the Finance (1909–10) Act, 1910, always providing that the amount of the increment value to be deducted shall not exceed the amount upon which Increment Value Duty has not been collected on any previous occasion.The object of this Amendment is to ensure that where land is taken compulsorily the enhanced value due to war conditions or to the conditions that apply during this period of emergency is not going to pass into the pockets of the individual landowner. Whatever may be the method by which this object is intended to be achieved, and on which I think there is general sympathy in all parts of the House, no one has shown more sympathy 928 than that quarter of the House where the interests of landowners are the object of special regard. For instance, in speaking on the Land Facilities Bill, the hon. Member for Horncastle (Lieut.-Colonel Weigall), whose opinion on property carries a great weight with the Government, and very properly so, said:We have to agree that if there is any value-attached to the land owing to the exigencies of war or to the action of the State, no individual ought to benefit by those exigencies or by that actionThe hon. Member for Ripon (Major Wood)—and I know of no Member whose word deserves more serious attention or to whose words more weight should be given, speaking in the same Debate, said:I can imagine nothing more disastrous for the country and for the landed interests than an impression, be it true or false, in the country that the thing was handicapped and prejudiced from the start by the fact that extortionate landowners were holding out for inflated values. I think the danger of people outside saying that landowners were holding out for exaggerated prices is so great that I am prepared in the general interests and well being of the country to make considerable sacrifices, and I speak as a landowner myself and one likely to be affected.I think these words, coming from the hon. Member for Ripon must carry weight not only with the House but with the Government The hon. Member for Edisbury (Major Barnes) said:I personally am a landowner and what little I possess comes from the land, and I say at once that I have no desire to get any inflated price from the War.The hon. Member for Barkstone Ash (Major Lane-Fox) said, in words bearing a strong resemblance to those spoken by the hon. Member for Ripon:I feel most strongly that it would be disastrous if inflated prices were demanded, and if inflated prices were paid. It is the duty of the State to find an equitable way out of this difficulty.I press upon the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the last sentence: "It is the duty of the State to find an equitable way out of this difficulty." The hon. Member continued:I suggest that even if it comes to the crucial process of cutting off from the price a certain mount, that would be a far better process than allowing it to be thought that inflated prices were being given, and the whole scheme was being endangered thereby.The right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) used these words:The danger we have to guard against is the evil of excessive compensation being paid. Excessive compensation is a legacy from the past.929 I have read these quotations for the purpose of assuring the right hon. Gentleman that his friendly reception, and, I hope, acceptance of this Amendment, would have the complete and entire sympathy of all parts of the House, and particularly that quarter from which opposition might have been expected. This Amendment, or one like it, with the exception of the time limit, was resisted by the right hon. Gentleman in Committee for two reasons. First, because he said a large number of these valuations had been officially completed, and, therefore, they had either to have a new Bill or begin the valuation over again. He also said that a great amount of the land that would have to be obtained is what is now used as agricultural land. If he observes the Amendment I am moving, it deals with increment value, and under Section 7 of the Finance Act agricultural land is not subject to increment value. Therefore, this Amendment would not affect the land which on the Committee stage he thought would be affected, and because of which he resisted the Amendment. He also said:I must object to this being brought into the Bill because it is cutting right across our whole policy of having a general Bill applying to the acquisition of land for public purposes.He was successful in resisting the Amendment, but there was a strong feeling amongst many members of the Committee to accept it, and they only let it go because they understood from the right hon. Gentleman that it was up against the Land Acquisition Bill and would be dealt with there. As proof of that I would quote the hon. Member for Lichfield:I am in somewhat of a difficulty because I am in sympathy with this Amendment.He voted against it on the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman:I think it, is a great pity that we cannot adopt something of this kind, so as to strengthen the hands of the right hon. Gentleman and that of the other members of the Government in dealing with the Acquisition of Land Bill, and I hope that if we do not take a vote it will be thoroughly understood that we are in favour of the principle.This Amendment would probably have gone through Committee if it had not been for the assurance given that it would be dealt with in the Acquisition of Land Bill. Since this Amendment was before the Committee we have had the Acquisition of Land Bill taken in Committee, and I regret that I am not in a position to quote what was said there, because we have not an official report. However, Amendments 930 were introduced, one in particular by the right hon. Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean), which had the object of dealing with this question of enhanced value, and in that Committee the Amendment was resisted by the Attorney-General on the ground that the Acquisition of Land Bill was not intended to deal with this question of enhanced value, but that it is simply intended to set up a basis of values which would be of use for normal times and not for such a period through which we are passing. So the position is, that we are rather tossed about. The right hon. Gentleman (Dr. Addison) tosses us over to the Acquisition of Land Bill. When we get there we are thrown back by the Attorney-General. So the two reasons for which this Amendment was resisted in Committee, have gone with the Board, and if the right hon. Gentleman is going to resist it here, he must find new arguments. If you want a provision, dealing with the enhanced value of land, you cannot get it in the Land Acquisition Bill. I quite agree with the Attorney-General in refusing it there. We must get it in this special emergency Bill. This only affects land that is taken compulsorily. That is land whose owner is opposing the public desire to use that land for public purposes. It does not affect the great volume of land that is taken by agreement. So if this is going to be opposed, it will not be on behalf of the general body of landowners, but on behalf of the few landowners who are hampering and holding up the right hon. Gentleman's scheme. By accepting this Amendment he will get an addition to his Bill which will help him very much.
This Amendment sets up no new machinery of any kind. The value is to be a value at the time a, valuation is made. If the Land Acquisition Bill becomes law, it will be a valuation under the terms of that measure. If that Bill be so unfortunate as not to become law, then the valuation will be a valuation under the Land Clauses Acts, or in any other way laid down by the Housing Acts. Let us assume that the Land Acquisition Bill becomes law, and a valuation is made. Take, for an illustration, a valuation made at £5,000 under the machinery of the Land Acquisition Act. That valuation is referred to the Inland Revenue, as it will be in any case. That is nothing new. Every purchase made under this Bill will be referred to the Inland Revenue as an occasion under the Finance Act. The Inland Revenue will have to consider if 931 there is increment value, so that step has to be taken in any case. All my Amendment suggests is that, when it has decided that there is increment value, that increment value shall be deducted from the value arrived at under the Land Acquisition Act, and the net value shall be the basis of the compensation. For instance, in this case, if the valuation was fixed at £5,000, and the Inland Revenue came to the conclusion that there was an increment value of £500, the price paid would be £4,500. It may be objected that the use of that machinery will cause delay, but there will not be any delay first in acquiring the land, because there would be power to take the land without public inquiry, and there would be no delay in getting the houses up. The only delay that could possibly take place will be delay in payment of compensation to the owner. That is not a very great matter. This is an owner who is resisting the acquisition of this land. The position in the case which I mention is that £4,500 would be paid to him at once. The only question that could be raised would be over the £500 which it is proposed should be deducted as increment value. The machinery is in existence under the Finance Act for determining whether it is a fair deduction or not. In any case, the House need not bestow a great deal of compassion on a landowner in that position, if he has to wait a little time for his money. Hundreds of thousands of people in this country who are wanting pensions and gratuities from the War Office are exposed to a great deal of delay. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman is likely to base any case of the Amendment on that ground
If he accepts the Amendment, he will find it a means of speeding up his work, because the only people who will be penalised by it will be the people who are resisting the acquisition of land for this purpose. Any landowner who, in a reasonable spirit, effects an agreement will not come under the operations of this Clause. This Amendment is one of the greatest stimuli that can possibly be imagined to get housing schemes through. There are only three possible objections to this Amendment. First, it may be said that it is not proper to take this value. I cannot imagine how that can be suggested in face of the general expression of opinion from all parts of the House that 932 this is a value which it is essentially proper to take. Another objection may be that it is not workable, but the machinery is actually working. It may be working a little clumsily and a little creakily, but it is working, and it cannot be said that the proposal is not workable. The only thing that can be suggested is, that there is some better way of doing it than that which I suggest. I have been waiting to hear this better way suggested. I delayed putting down this Amendment, because I was in hopes that from that quarter of the House in which the speeches to which I have referred were made there would have come a Clause which would have given us what we want, or that the Government would have realised what public opinion demanded, and embodied some suck Amendment as this. But no alternative has been proposed. If the right hon. Gentleman has no alternative to put forward, the Government are faced with a serious situation on this point. We are entering upon tremendous expenditure. Millions of pounds are going out of the Treasury into the pockets of owners of real property in this country. It is common ground of agreement that there is a tremendous increase in the value of that property. The Government are pledged to see that no more than a fair price is paid, and that increment values do not go into the pockets of landowners in this country. Here is an Amendment which would give them a chance of reassuring the people of the country that they are taking this question into account.
This proposal is really the minimum step they can take. First of all, there is a time limit placed on it. It only applies for seven years during the period of emergency. It is not proposed to put it into, the Bill as perpetual legislation. Then all agricultural land is excluded from it, and all land taken by agreement is also-excluded. All that is left is the land taken by compulsion from those persons who are resisting the operation of great public measures which the Government bring forward. Even in the last case, it is not proposed to make a deduction of that part of increment value upon which duty has been paid. It may be said that the working of the Finance Act is going to be made the subject of inquiry, but it is not for the Government to prejudge that inquiry by refusing this Amendment. This Amendment only proposes to take-advantage of the existing law of the land 933 The acceptance of this Amendment is really a test of the sincerity of the Government in dealing with this great question of the land. Two or three nights ago the hon. Member for Upton (Sir E. Wild) addressed himself to the members of the Coalition. He felt it part of his duty to tell the Coalition what their duty was. His point was as to the attitude of the Coalition Liberals on the Preference proposals. Following his precedent, I may suggest to members of the Coalition that there are two sides of that matter, and that if on the one side there is an implication with regard to the Preference proposals of the Government, on the other side there is an implication with regard to the land proposals, and we who belong to the Liberal wing of the Coalition are looking to the Government to show their sincerity on this great question of the land, by inserting this Amendment, or something that will give us the same result. The right hon. Gentleman can give no greater re-assurance to the people of this country, that the land for which so much blood and treasure have been spent, is really looked upon as the land of the people, than the acceptance of this Amendment.
Mr. T. THOMSON
I had the honour to move an Amendment on somewhat similar lines in Committee. As the hon. Member (Major Barnes) has explained, it met with a large measure of support and would probably have met with almost unanimous support if the President of the Local Government Board had not pointed out that this was a matter which, in his opinion, could be dealt with more properly under the Land Acquisition Bill. I think that it was very largely for that reason that the Amendment was not carried. As the hon. Member has explained, the Land Acquisition Bill is not going to deal with this question of the increment value of the land. Therefore. I think it only right that this matter should be settled here and now. The question of housing was a question for the local authorities for many years. Housing Bill after Housing Bill has been introduced but as the President in introducing this particular measure pointed out, since 1890, when the first Housing Act was passed, only 18,000 have been built throughout the length and breadth of the land to meet the demand that was evidenced by these various proposals. Surely the reason is as everyone who has had experience on local authori-, 934 ties knows very well, every time the local authority is up against the cost of the land, and the price they have to pay for it. In 1914, the Land Inquiry Committee, which was set up by the present Prime Minister, reported—and I think that everybody with experience on local authorities will agree as to their finding—that the cost of acquiring land compulsorily by public bodies, is out of proportion to its real value, and acts as a heavy check on all improvement schemes. They gave a number of instances coming from various urban districts throughout the length and breadth of the land, illustrating the difficulties and delays encountered by local authorities, who wish to acquire land for housing and other purposes. These instances range over a large field.
I will give an illustration from my own town. I happen to have been a member of the local authority for the last sixteen years. We have been anxious to improve the health of our town by schemes of house building. We have failed entirely up to the present, almost entirely because of the cost of land. We have had to buy land for our schools. The education authority have naturally insisted that we should get land. I have taken out the figures for the last fifty years, and I find that the cost of that land for our public elementary and secondary schools has averaged over £1,600 an acre—land which one hundred years ago had not more than agricultural value. We are now carrying out various housing schemes, but they are hindered because we have to-day before our local authority offers of land at £1,000 an acre, the same land as is shown on the rate book as of a rateable value of £4. We want land for a cemetery. We were asked £500 an acre for it. The same land figures on the rate book at not more than £3 an acre. Talking about cemeteries reminds me of a classic illustration given by the Prime Minister himself about 1914. I would like to remind the House of it. He mentioned that there was a certain Welsh county council which desired land for a cemetery and a school, and the price they were asked for the land was £847 an acre, and that land was on the rate book at 40s. an acre. The Prime Minister asked, Why? That question has not been answered yet. We ask, especially to-day when the Prime Minister is at the head, why local authorities should pay over £1,000 an acre for land which is of merely 935 agricultural value and which is on their rate books at £4. The President was good enough to ask the Housing Commissioners to meet Members upstairs last week, and in two cases the Commissioners had to admit that schemes were held up because of the excessive price asked for land by certain landowners. I realise that these landlords are an exception, but it is the exception we have to deal with, and it is because of these exceptions that we require these extra powers. They will not affect those landowners who in many cases are generously giving land or selling it at less than they could get for it in the open market. We honour them for it. Those who are obdurate, and those who in my own town and in other parts of the country are asking excessive prices for land, the value of which has been created by the community, these new powers would affect. We appeal to the Government not to delay their housing scheme, not to burden us with heavy charges which under the Bill as it stands now might have to be faced.
This is a serious question. We were told by the President, in introducing this Bill, that there is a shortage of at least 500,000 houses. We know that according to instructions issued by the Local Government Board there will not be more than twelve or eighteen houses to the acre. Taking it at twelve to the acre, and the total as 500,000, it means that we require 40,000 acres of land before the present needs of the community are satisfied. What are we going to pay over and above what we ought to pay for these acres? Are we to pay on the basis mentioned by the Prime Minister—£847 an acre—or is it to be £1,600 an acre, the price which my own town has had to pay for building sites on the outskirts? It will probably not be as much as that, but even if the extra price that we have to pay is only £100 an acre, that would mean an extra cost to the Exchequer and the taxpayer of £4,000,000, or at higher rates it might go up even to £20,000,000—a subsidy to landlords, because we cannot get the land at a reasonable price. The Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day appealed to this House to exercise economy. I want to appeal to the President of the Local Government Board and to ask him that local authorities should be encouraged to exercise economy and acquire land at a reasonable price. The country should not be 936 burdened with this heavy charge of so many extra millions. I submit that the Bill as it stands, and the necessary financial procedure provide no incentive to local authorities to buy their land at economical prices. When they have spent the equivalent of a 1d. rate, the extra cost and expenses are found by the State. Practically all our towns will have to spend the equivalent of a 1d. rate. Once they have done that, it is immaterial to them, from the ratepayers' point of view, what the cost of their scheme is. It does not matter whether they spend £200, £400, £500, or £1,000 an acre. I do not want to indulge in any sentiment, but Members have said many times that nothing too much could be done for those who have served in the War. Are we to tell those men who were willing to take all risks, who were willing, if need be, to die for their wives and children and their country, that they arc not good enough to have land provided for houses worthy of the name? I am certain that the House does not mean that in any sense, but if we want to give the lie to such a charge, we must do it not only by lip service. I appeal to the Government to accept the Amendment and to give to local authorities powers whereby they can acquire land at reasonable prices, and thus not hold up schemes which are now being held up because of the absence of such provisions.
§ Mr. McNEILL
The hon. Member says that it is his desire and the desire of the House that land for the purposes of this Bill should be obtained at a reasonable price. Nobody is likely to disagree with him. But where the hon. Gentleman failed I think was that he did not show that the particular proposal in this Amendment was a reasonable method of arriving at a reasonable price for the land. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment in a very eloquent speech made a sort of appeal to Conservative Members of the Coalition, and pointed out, quite fairly, I think, that in a Coalition a certain amount of "give" may be expected from one wing in regard to a particular measure, and a similar "give" on the part of the other wing when other principles are being discussed, and he appealed to the Conservative Members of the Coalition that we, having got our way to some extent in relation to Preference, should be willing to make concessions on the land question and, therefore should be willing to support this Amendment. I quite agree with, the hon. Member in the principle of "Give 937 and take" which he laid down, and so far as I know the feelings of Conservative Members of the Coalition, I think, we are very ready, especially in relation to land legislation, to make very large concessions from the principles and views which we certainly held some years ago, and to recognise that under existing conditions arising out of the War, it is incumbent upon us to give way a good deal. The question is whether the particular proposal which is now made is a reasonable method of dealing with the particular necessity arising under this Bill. For myself I think it is the very worst possible way of arriving at a reasonable price for land when you take it compulsorily. 8.0 P.M.
I am quite prepared to vote for any proposal which is based on sound principles, that I cannot agree with some of the principles upon which the Mover of the Amendment based his appeal. He several times said—and his Seconder took the same view—that this Amendment might be supported as a sort of penal measure, because, it could only be applied to landlords who had resisted—and. his Seconder used some what similar phrases—recalcitrant landowners who are apparently, in their view, criminal or semi-criminal, or antisocial, to use a word less strong, and should, therefore, be dealt with by a strong hand. That is not my view. I am not a landowner and can, therefore, speak from a perfectly disinterested point of view. I do not agree that in every case we are entitled to assume that because a landowner has not by voluntary agreement parted with land which a local authority may want for a building scheme he is, therefore, in any sense a social criminal, or that a penal measure may justly be applied to him. I can quite imagine circumstances in which it is entirely reasonable for a landowner to say, "I am by no means opposed to the general policy of this Housing scheme; I am glad in many circumstances to assist it; but there are special grounds why I do not care that that particular parcel of land should reasonably be taken from me for this purpose." I can quite imagine in many cases a very reasonable opposition on that ground might be shown. The proposal is that the local authority, having been unable to obtain that particular land by agreement, is to use its compulsory powers. Surely, what the House wants is not a penal measure because an agreement has not been arrived at, but a reasonable method of 938 arriving at a fair and reasonable price. The hon. Member who proposed wants to do that by deducting from the valuation, at the time the land is taken, the amount of the increment value. The increment value is part and parcel of the value at the time the valuation is made. It is merely that portion of it which, in the opinion of the valuer, represents the increase upon what its value was at some former period. Although I have never been in favour of that method of taxation, and never thought it was a right and fair method of taxation, at all events, for the purpose of taxation, it is an intelligible method. It is quite intelligible to say, "You have got land which two years ago was worth a thousand pounds and is now worth twelve or fifteen hundred pounds, and we will put a tax upon the difference between those two figures." But although it is fair for taxation, if you are going to take the land to-day, on what ground of fairness can you adopt such a method and say, "We arc going to take land from somebody else which is worth fifteen hundred pounds, and we are going to take land from you which is worth fifteen hundred pounds, but when we investigate we find that your particular land, although it is now worth fifteen hundred pounds, was only worth twelve hundred or a thousand pounds some time ago, and we will make use of a Somerset House valuation made for other purposes and say that your land is not worth fifteen hundred pounds, but is only worth twelve hundred pounds"? Although I sympathise with the object of the hon. Members who have spoken in desiring to get land not only at a reasonable and fair but low price for the purpose of this housing scheme, I do say that the particular method suggested is absolutely arbitrary and is merely making use of what, I suppose, was a convenient bit of machinery which they found at hand and which was devised for a totally different purpose. That appears to me to be the very worst and most unfair method of arriving at what they desire. I do not know on what ground the President of the Local Government Board resisted this Amendment in Committee upstairs, but I hope, whatever his grounds were before, that he will see that this would be a most unfair method of arriving at a fair value and that he will resist the Amendment in this House also.
§ Sir DONALD MACLEAN
We have arrived at a very important Amendment in connection with the Report stage of 939 this Bill, and once again there is a sharp dividing line. My hon. and learned Friend who has just spoken has taken up the traditional attitude of the party which he adorns with regard to this question. The simple issue is this, namely, whether land which is acquired for a public purpose, such as housing, shall be acquired at a price from which is deducted the value which has been placed on the land by the people themselves, and, as the Amendment provides, that method is to continue for a period of years. That is the issue, and the Prime Minister himself has from time to time given strong support to the proposal contained in the Amendment. I frankly admit the difficulty of dealing with the question of the price at which you are going to acquire land under this Bill, while there is another Bill before Committee upstairs which is after all the foundation of the machinery upon which yon are to acquire the land. I do not know whether it is in order or not, but I would remind the House of what happened upstairs with regard to the Acquisition of Land Bill. In that Committee I moved an Amendment on this very question, and that Amendment proposed that while adopting the phraseology of the Bill, which itself adopted the language of the Finance Act of 1910 with regard to an open market and willing seller, to add these words, as well as I can remember, that the basis upon which the valuer should move was that the value should be under assessment which had been made upon the claimant, either against his will or acquiesced in by him during the last three years. I think most Members who were associated with me considered that a very fair and reasonable proposal. What happened? The Attorney-General, and afterwards the Solicitor-General, and the members composed of the majority, refused that Amendment and we were left with the only chance of coming downstairs, when I have not the slightest doubt it will be beaten again. Therefore, all that is left to us is to take these Bills as they come, and to do what we can to remedy them from our point of view. I think it is quite a wrong way to legislate. What we ought to do really is to have that Bill, which is the basis, before us first. We are working. I agree, under abnormal conditions. I would take the opportunity to say this, with the pace at which these Bills are being driven through, 940 the strain imposed upon Members of the House has almost reached a breaking point. Legislation has necessarily to be done as quickly as possible, but it really is not well done. Let us look at the attendance here to-day on this very important measure. I do not blame anybody for not attending, as I believe it is quite impossible, as many Members are just tired out. Members were working all last week with two or three Committees sitting each day, and then had to come down to the grand inquest of the nation. You cannot go on doing it, and I am sure the vast majority of Members have very good excuses for not being here. To come back to the point of discussion, beaten on it upstairs, we come down here. I do not know what reply my right hon. Friend will give. He said previously that it had to be on the basis of the Acquisition of Land Bill. I hope my hon. Friend will press the matter to a Division and thus let us take all the opportunities we can of expressing our attitude with respect to the value at which land ought to be acquired.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I fail to understand this acid test of the Government's sincerity. My hon. and gallant Friend who moved, and the hon. Member who seconded, and who helped the Committee so much upstairs, suggested that unless we accepted this particular Amendment in their particular form, our pledges to the men who had fought for us were waste paper and that we are not going to carry them out. I respectfully demur to that proposition altogether. It was only a short time ago that the Member for Wood Green endeavoured to secure your ruling in favour of moving a reference back to Committee of Clause 7 on the ground that we were spending too much, or might be spending too much. I can well believe he might be disposed to make that the acid test of our sincerity. Nobody can say, whether they agree with this particular Amendment or not, that in this particular Bill, both financially and otherwise, we are not making the most drastic proposal in a very comprehensive and generous fashion. I decline altogether to accept the position that if I am not able to agree with my hon. Friends in this, that therefore in some way or another I am to be accused of not seeking to make good our pledges at the General Election. That does not follow at all, and the rest of the Bill bears abundant evidence to the contrary. I do not know to whom particularly the proposer referred when he spoke 941 of give and take. He wants, I think, a good deal of taking here. I do not pretend for a moment that there are not some things in our proposals which, if we were to hold by strict party lines, would not be different. It would be so with most of them I think, and everybody knows that, and there is nothing to be ashamed of in it. But look at Clause 9, which we have just passed, and which deals with the acquisition of land in slum areas. There has never been a more drastic piece of legislation in this or in any other country than Clause 9 of this Bill, which has gone through with no opposition or practically no opposition from anybody. The only change in the Bill that the House has made is that they have extended the basis for compensation to open spaces as well as to houses. That Clause is drastic enough for anybody. I only mention that as a general protest against any suggestion that I am in some way or another departing from pledges. I do not quite follow the arguments of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved. He said I put forward two reasons in Committee. I am afraid that in the passage of time I have forgotten the second one, but the first one was, that there was a Land Acquisition Bill before a Committee of the House.
Perhaps I may refresh the right hon. Gentleman's memory. The first reason was, with regard to agricultural valuation, and the second was as to the Land Acquisition Bill.
§ Dr. ADDISON
My right hon. Friend (Sir D. Maclean) said that he raised this matter upstairs, and that he proposed to raise it on every appropriate occasion. I do not complain of that. I think the method we have adopted is the rational and sensible way of dealing with it, and I respectfully suggest that the rational way of dealing with land acquisition for public purposes is to deal with it as a whole. It therefore follows as a necessary conclusion that this Bill is not the proper place to deal with it. At the same time, I would like to examine this basis quite fairly, and I am very anxious that we should not pay a penny more for this land than we ought to.
I entirely agree with what the hon. Gentleman opposite said. I am sorry to say I have to. From the information given to me from the Commissioners just lately, for some reason or another, a considerable number of schemes are being held up on account of what are thought to be excessive demands or prices.
942 May I say parenthetically that I cannot imagine any more patriotic work that anybody can do than to help us to overcome these difficulties. I would call the attention of the House to the Clause we have just passed, which enables us, where an order is made, to acquire land, and when this becomes law, we shall no longer be held up, because we shall be able to make an order, and they will be able to enter forthwith, the compensation to be determined thereafter, so that we get over the question of delay that way.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
The difficulty is that you will not get the local authorities to proceed even in this drastic way if they cannot get the land at a reasonable price.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I am well aware of that, and also I know that in a great many cases the valuers have advised a value which is materially less than that which is asked—in some cases very, very much less. But, after all, if you are going to acquire land compulsorily, you can adopt one of two methods. You can either pay for it not more than other people would pay for it, or you can say straight away that you will take it at less than its value, in other words, that you will appropriate it either in part or altogether. In this country, when we take things we pay for them, and, therefore, the only question is as to the price we are going to pay, and it seems to me that we have got to pay the fair value. I quite agree that in consequence of things which have grown up in the last hundred years you could quote cases indefinitely, but until we have obtained some comprehensive machinery for dealing with land required to be acquired for any public purpose whatsoever, we should be in that position, and it may well be that you should say, "We will take a basis, and we will make that a datum line, and we will give everybody notice that henceforth we will proceed upon that." I think that is a very useful proposition, but it has nothing to do with the Housing Bill. In this particular proposal we are told to take a valuation under the Act of 1909–10, and, in the event of any increment, to deduct that. What is the proposal in the Land Acquisition Bill? It is that we should take the fair market value, and I suggest to my hon. Friends that if we allow that Bill to become law they will find that the land 943 will be acquired under that Bill, in the cases where we have a difficulty now, at a fair value. From the information which is supplied to me, I have not a doubt that in the vast majority of cases, having regard to the definition there given, with the exclusion of the addition of all kinds of expenses, by numbers of witnesses and counsel, etc., you would get it by agreement; because the risk of the losing party having to pay their own costs under the Land Acquisition Bill would, in the vast majority of the cases, keep the very speculative persons out of the Courts altogether; and anybody who has studied the Acquisition of Land Bill will say at once that the immediate effect of that procedure will be enormously to increase the number of cases that will be settled by agreement.
This Amendment is put in as an alternative to the procedure of the Land Acquisition Bill, and I say that the proper place to deal with it is in that Bill. In the next place, so far as I can gather, a considerable sprinkling of the cases which we have had already, notwithstanding what my hon. Friend said, have not had a valuation fixed yet under the 1909 Act at all. In the case of most of the agricultural land not subject to the Increment Value Duty, valuations have not been made at all under that Act; and the effect of that would be that in the rural cases it would not apply, and in a large number of the urban cases also it would not apply. You would, therefore, pick out a section of the cases, and provide there a different machinery from what you use in the other cases. I am bound to say that I see no justification at all for such a procedure. If you say, "Let us have a different basis for the acquisition of land for housing from what you have in the Land Acquisition Bill," apply it generally to all the land required for housing, but it would not apply to anything like all the land which we shall want to acquire for the purposes of housing, and it is only introducing unnecessary complications. If there was a valuation as on any particular date that you could take as a datum line, it would be an arguable proposition, but there is nothing like that in existence, and therefore it could not be applied except in a limited number of cases. You have to make up your mind whether you will legislate on the lines of the Land Acquisition Bill for land acquired for public purposes generally, and if so on what basis, 944 and settle it in that Bill, or whether you will drop that procedure altogether and put a different basis, whether for forestry, small holdings, or what not, in the different Bills.
I suggest that those are the alternatives to decide, and if the House approves of our policy of having a general Bill for the purposes of the acquisition of land for public services, whether housing, reclamation, forestry, or anything else, that is the place to move this kind of Amendment, but in this Bill it would only add to our complications. Therefore, being perfectly consistent with what I said in Committee, recognising that the Acquisition of Land Bill purports to deal with this subject generally, that agricultural land would not be included in this, and that the valuation is incomplete, I say that those three reasons, which I have advanced in Committee, are just as sufficient now as they were then. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman does not like the Land Acquisition proposals, that Bill is the place to make the alteration, and not this Bill. I must resist any Amendment to put into this Bill a separate or distinct method, either of valuation or acquisition of land as apart from the Land Acquisition Bill. I do not think this Amendment would do other than this: it would take a certain amount of value in a certain number of cases, and the cry of Somerset House would be for a certain percentage of the rate. It would mean that land in any particular parish acquired under this scheme might be acquired on a different basis from land acquired in the same parish for another purpose, and if a person sold his land for housing it would be sold on a different basis than if he sold it to a private individual or for any other purpose. I suggest, on all those grounds, if you want to have a basis, have a rational basis applied to the whole of the land, and do it in the Land Acquisition Bill and not in this Bill.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
My right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board has never shown his dialectical skill with more advantage than he has in skimming over this Amendment. There is an Amendment on the Paper; he has not dealt with it. Is this Amendment a good Amendment or a bad one? He has not told us. He has only said, "Settle all your differences on the Land Acquisition Bill." But here is the Bill dealing with housing. You want to acquire land at a reasonable price for housing, and surely let us deal with the question of the price 945 of the land in this Bill. My right hon. Friend, of course, took up my hon. Friend below the gangway in some phrase, I think, about the acid test of his sincerity. No one doubts my right hon. Friend's sincerity. We all know he is entirely sincere. We all know the great work he has put in over this housing matter. We do not doubt his sincerity, but what I admire is the camouflage in which he endeavours to shroud this Amendment with imputations on his own sincerity. No, my right hon. Friend has not a good case. I think he knows it. The point is really, Do you want to pay for housing more than the land is worth?
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Then, surely, you ought to accept this Amendment, because this Amendment states very clearly that it will not deal with anything except land that cannot be acquired on a voluntary basis. This Amendment, I understand, deals solely with the owner who is recalcitrant and will not sell his land at a fair price. Does my right hon. Friend say that is a wrong principle to put in this Bill? If not, why not put it in? He convicts himself out of his own mouth. He says he has known of cases where actual schemes have been held up because of the exorbitant price demanded for land, but he will not accept this Amendment.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
If it will not help, will my hon. Friend be good enough to suggest an Amendment which will help us? After all, it is a matter for the Government. My right hon. Friend is very clever when discussing this Amendment. He puts up Clause 9. Look at Clause 9! Never has there been such drastic legislation in this House! Now he says, refer to Clause 10. I really would like my right hon. Friend to deal very drastically with men who prevent housing schemes from being carried out, because of their own selfishness and their own desire to batten upon the spoils of the community. This measure, rightly, was made a subject of great attention at the Election. There is not a single Member of this House who would have gone to his constituency at the election and said. "We are going to buy land for houses for soldiers returning to their country, and we are going to pay any exorbitant price that may be demanded 946 by the landlord because the community around has increased the value of his land." My hon. Friend opposite, who is also a very clever dialectician, said, "This is not the right way to secure the object we all have in view." Then let us know what is the right way. My hon. Friends the Member for Newcastle and the Member for Middlesbrough, in two admirable speeches, have put a proposal before the Government which the Government say they cannot accept. Tell us what you can accept. The Land Acquisition Bill, as the right hon. Gentleman knows full well, will not deal with this question of land being held up, in the vicinity of a large town, by a selfish landlord who wants to batten upon the value which has been created by the community and not by himself. I listened to this matter from the present Prime Minister. I followed him with great fidelity, and, apparently, following him on the Land Clauses has not been quite a success. But, over and over again, he has said—and I am sure the House of Commons, and certainly the country, will agree with this principle—that where the value of the land has been created by the community, then the community should, at any rate, share in some part of that value. My hon. Friend, in the case of a recalcitrant landlord who holds up his land, is going to compel the local authority to acquire it compulsorily.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Then let us have something that will deal with it. I am not so sure it will not deal with it, although my hon. Friend is experienced in these matters. I venture to say this will meet it, and that it is a good Amendment. But if the Government will not accept it, let them produce something of their own. I am perfectly certain the principle is sound, and I am sure there is not an hon. Member who will go to his constituents and support the payment of inflated value for land for building houses.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
My hon. Friend opposite says "No." How does my hon. Friend suggest the matter should be dealt with? Does ho agree with the President of the Local Government Board when he says that actually schemes are being held up because of the exorbitant price that is being demanded for the land?
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I am not a member of that Committee, but if my right hon. Friend says that the Land Acquisition Bill will bring these owners who are now holding up schemes to book——
§ Mr. LAMBERT
There is a difference of opinion, apparently; but if this measure will prevent landowners who own land within the vicinity of towns holding up the land—as was so well stated by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough—if the Land Acquisition Bill will do that, I agree. But my hon. Friend opposite said "No."
§ Mr. McNEILL
Does my right hon. Friend contend that these landowners who are holding out, as he says, for an exorbitant price for their land are standing out for a price any larger than they would get under the Compulsory Clauses of this Bill as it stands?
§ Mr. LAMBERT
My hon. Friend I think mis-states my argument. I have really taken the case as stated by the President of the Local Government Board, that there are landowners to-day who have demanded exorbitant prices and have actually held up schemes for building improvements. If that be so, surely that is wrong?
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I am not one of those who is against the landlord; in fact, I myself own a certain amount of land. The great bulk of landowners at the present time are doing the right thing. I have known landowners who have actually offered their land for nothing for these schemes. But I do feel that any landowner who stands out at this crisis for an exorbitant price should be prevented from doing so by the legislature. It is because I can see nothing very practical before the House of Commons that I trust my hon. Friend will go to a Division on his Amendment.
§ Captain ORMSBY-GORE
Whatever be the speech of the President, I quite under- 948 stand his resisting this Amendment, and I feel bound to do so myself. It really would put us in a ridiculous position if we had one basis of compensation for land required for housing, another for land for schools, another for cemeteries, another for land for sanitary purposes, and all the rest of it. The President was bound to resist this Amendment because of the ridicule that would otherwise have followed. Although I foresaw this, I did hope that in the course of his speech he should have given us some ray of hope that the Government were going to grasp this nettle—for it is a nettle !—and as they have dealt with the slum owners in Clause 9 so they would take their courage in both hands and introduce a drastic proposal. The result of this would be that" they would get the unanimous support of this House and the unanimous support of the country. If the right hon. Gentleman will say here and now that he, as a member of the Government, or rather as a member of the Committee of the Government—for that is what we are dealing with nowadays—who has a responsibility for the Land Acquisition Bill will introduce provisions into that Bill to ensure that the scandalous cases which have occurred in certain circumstances in the past, and are occurring now, will be dealt with and dealt with drastically, then I am perfectly certain that those of us who feel compelled to vote against this Amendment will do so with a much easier conscience and will be much happier over it.
As is admitted, and as we heard from the Commissioners upstairs the other day, in most cases the landlords, certainly individual and private landlords, of this country are not unreasonable beings. They have been patriotic and have come forth to do their duty. But here and there you find a landlord who brings odium upon his class and the whole system of real property in this country by standing Out for an exorbitant and unfair price, and, not getting it, holds up the natural progress and development of our big towns, and even the small villages, by standing out selfishly, whereas the reasonable man of his class would not do so. Further, you have a type of landlord increasing in this country who is even worse than the individual landlord, namely, the company. Company landlords are almost invariably worse. When a matter is in the hands of a company you have the manager and a board of directors. They say, "We are 949 out for the interests of the shareholders; we are responsible to them for this property, and we are going to extract every penny we can out of it," and they hold on to the last moment. To deal with these two exceptional cases we must have legislation. The sooner we have it the better in order to ensure that the price paid for land required for public purposes does not go beyond what is fair and reasonable. Let us get to what is the basis of a fair and reasonable price.
There is only one set of persons who can produce an Amendment which is really valuable, and that is the Government. The responsibility really lies with them. I am perfectly certain that is the way the country will put it. The people do not consider, and cannot go into the question of the individual owner, the matter of twenty-five years' purchase and all that sort of thing. Many things that you have to take into consideration in this matter arc complicated. I am, therefore, certain that unless the Government bring forward an Amendment they will not satisfy the country that they have properly faced this difficult problem. One of the things we have to do is to prevent land speculation, and this is the only way to do it. At present we are in this vicious circle, and you cannot tackle it, because the question is that somebody last year, say, bought agricultural land at more than its agricultural value in the expectation that it was going to be built over, and, like speculation on the Stock Exchange, they bought for a rise. Would it not be very unfair, it is suggested, to deprive a man of his rights under those circumstances? But we ought to stop this land speculation. We shall never do it until the Government bring in a really well-thought out Clause which will suggest that they are facing this difficult problem of land valuation and a consequent reasonable price. I speak as one who learns with profound regret that this matter has not been faced on the Land Acquisition Bill, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will do what he said upstairs, see that when the Land Acquisition Bill comes to this House this very awkward nettle is seized by the Government, who should realise the odium and unpopularity which attaches to the whole of this question of land at the present time.
Mr. J. W. WILSON
I did not get an opportunity of speaking before the President replied, but I hope this is not too late for me to join in the appeal to him to 950 consider this matter, if not here, at any rate on the Acquisition of Land Bill. Personally I feel that the reason this Amendment has been introduced is that some of us desire to see even stronger terms laid down for the acquisition of land for housing. We want to make sure, and doubly sure, that none of these cases of hanging up shall be permitted in this urgent question of housing. We feel that the House and the public are prepared to accept a principle in a national emergency like this which they would not accept in a Bill dealing with the acquisition of land for all time and for all sorts of purposes. We feel that if the Acquisition of Land Bill is going to be stiffened up, and not watered down, as there have been signs of during its passage through Committee, it may leave this House weaker than it was brought in, but on the Housing Bill we have a united public opinion and a united House, and we are prepared to make exceptions in favour of housing. I wish this discussion had taken place in a larger House, and then hon. Members would realise that we are only asking that temporary powers should be given for a period of seven years, to tide over this congested period. We want to make it clear that all landowners in the country shall know that the House and the nation are in deadly earnest in determining that no housing scheme shall be handicapped by the opposition which has too often occurred in the past. I think the Minister in charge of the Bill will be putting a wholesome coping-stone to his very excellent Bill if he could see his way to accept, if not this Amendment, some other proposal which can be regarded as an Amendment, to deal with all possible obstruction in putting these schemes into operation, and pressing forward what we all desire at the earliest possible moment.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ROYDS
Several of the speakers seem to me to have ignored the effect of this Bill and the Acquisition of Land Bill. Under this Bill you have power to take possession of land compulsorily in fourteen days. Under the Acquisition of Land Bill you have a panel of valuers, whole-time men, paid by the Government, to fix the value of land. It does not matter what the owner does, because, on the question of value, the decision of the Government valuer is final. No obstructing landlord such as those who have been referred to could possibly obstruct any housing scheme. These two measures are far and away the most drastic mea- 951 sures that have ever been introduced. It is true that the local authorities have not this power without these Bills, and there may be one or two cases where schemes may have been held up, but I do not think that state of things is at all universal. If you refer to Mr. John Burns' last Local Government Board Report you will find that he says on the whole that very few, if any, housing schemes have been held up by the landlords. That being the state of affairs, all the difficulties and objections which have been urged, and all the obstructions which landowners have placed in the way of these schemes, are at once removed by passing these two measures. Under these Bills you can take possession of the land, and the price is fixed by an independent valuer without any regard to the views of the obstructing landowners or companies, and that is what we all want. We want the owner to have a fair price, the same as he could get if he sold to a private purchaser. That is the position, and we have it under these two Bills. None of us wish the owner should receive sixpence more than the proper value, but at the same time I do not think he ought to receive sixpence less than the proper value. If you stipulate that he should have less, then you are giving their property away. I do not see why the land near some of these towns which will be largely acquired should not be paid for at a fair price, and we have no right to give away any of that land, no matter whether it belongs to the rich or the poor, except at its proper value fixed by a proper valuation. That is what is to be done under the present Act, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman opposite, appreciates that point. I cannot understand why hon. Members opposite say that they will vote for this Amendment, in fact I feel sure that it will be withdrawn.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
The hon. Member who has just spoken championed the cause of the landlords in Committee.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ROYDS
I never championed the case of any landlord in the Committee at all, and I have been all for housing reform. I have not spoken on behalf of the landlords during the whole of the time.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
With regard to the quotation from Mr. John Burns' Report, I challenged the hon. and gallant Member in Committee about it, and he said that statement was made in 1907.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
Yes, in 1914, and that is five years ago. Those of us who have had some experience on local authorities know that we have been unable to put any schemes forward to the Local Government Board simply because the landlords are asking extortionate prices for their land.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
Yes; schemes have been put forward during the War, and I could give instances from my own town where we could get land at a certain price many years ago at a reasonable price, but since then we have been unable to build on account of the extortionate price the landlords have been asking for land. We have been unable to build schools because they have been asking £750 and even £l,000 per acre for land upon which we wish to build schools, and they have been asking £250 and £500 an acre for land to build houses upon. That has made it impossible for us to build houses at an economic rent, because you cannot do it when you have to pay such extortionate prices for the land. It has been said that we are all in sympathy with Tommy, who gave his all to fight for his country, and surely he should have the first consideration when we arc considering housing schemes, because the higher the price you are going to pay for the land the higher rent you must charge to cover the cost of capital and interest. There is no doubt about it that the Government will do a. wise thing if they adopt this Amendment, which will be in the interests of the Government and it will also expedite housing schemes considerably all over the country. As the President of the Local Government Board has pointed out, there are several schemes that cannot be put forward now by the local authorities because the landowners are asking such an excessive price for the land. Therefore. I hope the Government will accept this Amendment, and if they do not I hope my hon. Friend will press it to a Division.
§ Mr. RAFFAN
I wish to join in the appeal made from practically every quarter of the House to my right hon. Friend to give this matter further consideration The Amendment appears to me to be perfectly reasonable and one which might well be accepted. If the Government in 953 their wisdom think either its language or the procedure that it suggests is not the best, I am sure that there would be general acquiescence in any other form of words which they brought forward to achieve the end in view. My hon. Friend who has just spoken has said that in this matter soldiers who have been fighting our battles abroad should have first consideration. I entirely agree. What does this Amendment in essence propose? It proposes, when you have ascertained the value of the land at the present time, that you should deduct the increment value which has accrued since the last occasion. That means that in almost every case you deduct the increment which has arisen during the period of the War, and I suggest that it is perfectly preposterous that the value of the land which has accrued because our gallant men have fought so bravely for us should be charged against them when you are building houses in which they are to live. It is an increment value which they should not be called upon to pay. How does this increment value arise? In the majority of cases it arises because the Government have adumbrated this housing scheme. The fact that there is a great demand for additional houses under a national scheme will no doubt give an added value to the land, and it is perfectly clear that it is an increment which ought not to be taken in account. I entirely agree with the appeal which has been made from so many quarters to the Government themselves to propose some other form of words if they think that this form of words does not carry out the object fully, but I entirely demur to the main case which the Government has set up to-night, that there is no necessity for this Amendment because the Acquisition of Land Bill fully meets all the needs of the case.
I was one of a small minority which took the view when the Acquisition of Land Bill was introduced that it was entirely unsatisfactory, and that view has been adopted by responsible people in various parts of the country. I do not know whether the attention of my hon. and galant Friend has been drawn to the resolutions which have been passed by our great municipalities with regard to this matter. The Glasgow Corporation has passed a resolution, I think almost unanimously, to the effect that in their view the Acquisition of Land Bill is entirely unsatisfactory from the point of view of 954 acquiring land on reasonable terms for the people, and that the proper method is the method proposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) in Committee on the Acquisition of Land Bill, namely, that the value at which you purchase should be the same value as that on which the land is taxed and rated. The Manchester Corporation has passed a resolution to the same effect. These are not mere partisan bodies; they are great municipalities with a long experience of the difficulty of acquiring land on reasonable terms for the purpose of housing, and the Government will be ill-advised indeed if they turn a deaf ear to their opinion. I do not know whether the President of the Local Government Board is keeping himself fully abreast of what is happening upstairs in Committee on the Acquisition of Land Bill. That poor and paltry Bill, as I think it was when it passed its Second Reading, is being gradually worsened and made a less efficient instrument for the purpose of securing land on fair and reasonable terms. The right hon. Gentleman actually claimed that one of the merits of the Bill was that in future counsel and solicitors would not be able to appear, and that therefore the heavy costs involved in that way would not arise. Under pressure, the Government upstairs relinquished that portion of the Bill. Counsel and solicitors therefore will still be able to appear and their charges will still be costs in the case. The right hon. Gentleman also said that if a fair offer were made by the local authority to the landowner and he refused and went to arbitration, he would then be mulcted in all the costs. That provision has also disappeared from the Bill as a result of a majority vote at the last sitting of the Committee. Poor as the Bill was before it went upstairs, when it comes down here again it will be more unsatisfactory still. If the Government cannot accept this Amendment to-night, I suggest, before the Acquisition of Land Bill comes downstairs, that they very seriously consider the proposal made by the Glasgow Corporation, by the Manchester Corporation, and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles, namely, that when you are acquiring land you should have the same valuation for that purpose as the valuation which you have for the purpose of taxation. That would be a fair and reasonable basis—fair for the one purpose and fair for the other. The Government have altogether over-estimated the opposition 955 to the proposal when they suggested it, and they have altogether under-estimated the great feeling that will arise if this measure goes through, and if public money, instead of assisting housing, is simply poured into the pockets of the landlords.
§ Major ASTOR
I would remind the House of one or two points from which we are rather drifting. Several speakers have stated that hon. Members who have taken part in the discussion of this Amendment have not really dealt with its merits or demerits, and the word "camouflage" has been used. The great difficulty is that we have really been discussing the Acquisition of Land Bill. In fact, the hon. Member who has just sat down said that if this Amendment could not be accepted he hoped that the Government would make some Amendment to produce the same result in the Acquisition of Land Bill. This is a Housing Bill. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said that he had to give his reason in support of this Amendment as he had not been on the Acquisition of Land Bill upstairs. I gather from some of the other speakers that they have proposed similar Amendments on the Land Acquisition Bill and it is quite clear they are trying to raise the same points on this Bill. But any discussion on Clauses or Amendment proper to the Land Acquisition Bill should be dealt with there and not here. We have put into this Bill Clauses dealing with slum property which the Cabinet were not quite certain should be included in it. Indeed, they felt they were stretching a point in putting those Clauses into the Housing Bill, and they, therefore, decided to concentrate in one measure the provisions dealing with the particular point as to the basis on which land should be acquired. It is, therefore, somewhat difficult now to deal with an Amendment which has to be discussed on the Land Acquisition Bill. I want to remind the House that in Clause 10 we deal with one of the grievances put forward, namely, the holding up of land. We give certain powers of entry on such land. By Clause 13 we enable the local authorities to acquire land in anticipation of their requirements and that will enable the local authorities to buy the land at cheaper prices than would otherwise be possible. I do not want to be drawn into any detailed discussion of proposals which, in my opinion, and in the opinion of the Government really 956 should be dealt with on the Land Acquisition Bill, and if these matters are proper to the Land Acquisition Bill then let hon. Members who desire to get their points carried support the Government in making that Bill as fair and as drastic as is desired. I am sure that my colleagues who are responsible for the Land Acquisition Bill will take full cognisance of the discussions we have had to-day and no doubt when this measure comes down to the House for consideration we shall have a repetition of the points we have just been discussing.
§ Major ASTOR
This has been a most valuable Debate. We all want the same thing. We want to get the land at a fair and reasonable price; we do not want people to pay too much for land for such a vital purpose as the erection of houses. But I do think the House should reserve further discussion on the basis on which the land should be acquired until the Land Acquisition Bill comes before it
I should like to deal with one or two of the points which have been raised on the Amendment which has been side-tracked on to an entirely erroneous issue. There is no question of setting up a different basis of valuation to that which is set up in the Land Acquisition Bill. This Amendment simply provides for the basis of valuation set up in the Land Acquisition Bill to be retained, and what it endeavours to do is that after you have got your valuation on the basis set up in the Land Acquisition Bill you should make a deduction from that valuation. That is the whole purpose of the Amendment. The idea of deduction did not originate with me. It came from a Conservative Member. Let me repeat his words:I suggest, then, if it comes to the crucial process of cutting off from the price a certain amount it will be a far better process than allowing it to be thought that inflated prices are being got, and the whole scheme being endangered thereby.Therefore the idea of making a deduction from the valuation arrived at in some other way is not a new one, and I think it would be specially advantageous in a Housing Bill under the special circumstances of the time. May I point out that no alternative method to my Amendment has been suggested? My plan is one that can be easily adopted. The machinery is already there, and unless the Govern- 957 ment are going right against the whole idea and principle of making reductions, surely it is up to them to put forward some way of doing it. There is nothing out of the way in my Amendment. We have been told that the Cabinet discussed the desirability of putting these provisions into the Housing Bill. But let me point out that my Amendment has nothing to do with the basis of valuation, and
§ that it does not interfere with the Land Acquisition Bill. Indeed, an Amendment to the same effect on the Land Acquisition Bill has been definitely resisted, and the only place for such an Amendment is admitted to be in this Bill.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 58; Noes, 124.957
|Division No. 34.]||AYES.||[9.15 p.m.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral||Hogge, J. M.||Shaw, Hon. A. (Kilmarnock)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Shaw, Tom (Preston)|
|Bell, James (Ormskirk)||Jones, J. (Silvertown)||Short, A. (Wednescury)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Kenyon, Barnet||Smith, Capt. A. (Nelson and Colne)|
|Bramsdon, Sir T.||King, Cont. Douglas||Smith, W. (Wellingcorough)|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Spoor, B. G.|
|Brown, J. (Ayr and Bute)||Lunn, William||Swan, J. E. C.|
|Cairns, John||M'Lean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Thomas, Brig-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Thorne, G. R. (Welverhampton, E.)|
|Davies, Alfred (Clitheroe)||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Wallace, J.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Walsh, S. (Ince, Lanes.)|
|Devlin, Joseph||Murray, Dr. D. (Western Isles)||White, Charles F. (Derby, W.)|
|Edge, Captain William||Neal, Arthur||Williams, A. (Consett, Durham)|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Williams. Col. P. (Middlesbrough)|
|Gardiner. J. (Perth)||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh)||Roberts, F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Wood, Major Mackenzie (Aberdeen, C)|
|Griffiths, T. (Pontypool)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Rowlands, James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hartshorn, V.||Royce, William Stapleton||Major Barnes and Mr. T. Thomson.|
|Hirst, G. H.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Gray, Major E.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. (Exeter)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Greame, Major P. Lloyd||Parker, James|
|Ainsworth, Capt. C.||Green, J. F. (Leicester)||Parry, Major Thomas Henry|
|Archdale, Edward M.||Greenwood, Col. Sir Hamar||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Astor, Major Hon. Waldon||Gregory, Holman||Perring, William George|
|Atkey, A. R.||Griggs, Sir Peter||Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray|
|Bagley, Captain E. A.||Guinness, Lt.-Col. Hon. W. E. (B. St. E.)||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Assheton|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Hacking, Captain D. H.||Pratt, John William|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Hanson, Sir Charles||Preston, W. R.|
|Barnett, Captain Richard W.||Harris, Sir Henry P. (Paddington, S.)||Purchase, H. G.|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford)||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Hilder, Lieutenant-Colonel F.||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Betterton, H. B.||Hood, Joseph||Remer, J. B.|
|Birchall, Major J. D.||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. (Midlothian)||Royds, Lt.-Col. Edmund|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Hunter, Gen. Sir A. (Lancaster)||Samuels, Rt. Hon. A. W. (Dublin Univ.)|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Jameson, Major J. G.||Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur|
|Breese, Major C. E.||Jephcott, A. R.||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Briggs, Harold||Jesson, C.||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Brown, Captain D. C. (Hexham)||Johnson, L. S.||Stephenson, Col. H. K.|
|Buckley, Lieutenant-Colonel A.||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Campbell, J. G. D.||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Sugden, Lieut. W. H.|
|Carr, W. T.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen)||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)|
|Clough, R.||Kellaway, Frederick George||Taylor, J. (Dumbarton)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Lane-Fox, Major G. R.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Collox, Major W. P.||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ. Wales)||Townley, Maximillian G.|
|Colvin, Brigadier-General R. B.||Lloyd, George Butler||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Lorden, John William||Waddington, R.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Lort-Williams, J.||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Coote, Colin R. (Isle of Ely)||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Warren, Sir Alfred H.|
|Courthope, Major George Loyd||Lynn, R. J.||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Craig. Capt. C. (Antrim)||M'Curdy, Charles Albert||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Dawes, J. A.||M'Donald, D. H. (Bothwell, Lanark)||Whitla, Sir William|
|Doyle, N, Grattan||M'Neill, Ronald (Canterbury)||Willey, Lt.-Col. F. V.|
|Elliot, Capt. W. E. (Lanark)||Middlebrock, Sir William||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com.||Mitchell, William Lane||Wilis, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Fell. Sir Arthur||Moles, Thomas||Wilson, Col. Leslie (Reading)|
|FitzRoy, Capt. Hon. Edward A.||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Foxcroft, Capt. Charles Talbot||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Worsfold, T. Cato|
|Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir A. C. (Basingstoke)||Mosley, Oswald|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Mount, William Arthur||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Dudley Ward and Lord E. Talbot.|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Munre, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Giknour, Lt.-Col. John|