HC Deb 26 June 1925 vol 185 cc1940-5
Captain BOURNE

I beg to move, in page 4, lines 28 and 29, to leave out the words "of such Sub-section."

I am advised that these words are unnecessary, and that they make the Clause more complicated. It would be simpler and clearer and easier to understand if the words were omitted, and they have no effect whatever on the operative part of the Clause.


I beg to second the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, in page 4, line 35, to leave out the words "six months'," and to insert instead thereof the words "one year's."

Clause 6, which substitutes this new paragraph (b) for the old paragraph (b), is an improvement upon the original law, and my Amendment seeks to make it a still greater improvement in the same direction. Under the original Act of 1922, Section 10, the local authority have the power to acquire certain lands temporarily, and in Sub-section (3), the right of occupation by the council may be terminated by the owner of the land. The council can take land temporarily for allotments, and then the owner can take it back by giving not less than six months' notice in writing, and, under paragraph (b), by not less than two months' notice in writing in cases where the land is required for any purpose other than the use of the land for agriculture. In this Bill we are altering that, and making it three months' notice in writing given by the owner in the case where the land is required for any purpose other than agriculture, sport, or recreation, and by not less than six months' notice where the land is required for use for sport or recreation? My Amendment seeks to extend the period from six months to one year in the latter case.

In Committee, I moved an Amendment making it five years, the object being to make it impossible to take land back from agriculture for sport or recreation, but it was pointed out on the Committee that sport or recreation might include a bowling green or a lawn tennis court, and that it might be in the interests of the public that the owner should get the land back for those purposes. I had hoped that there would be devised, before the Report stage, some Amendment which would make it quite clear that the words "sport or recreation" were confined to that form of public sport where there was a genuine demand for such conveniences, but, as the Clause stands at present, it simply gives the landlord power to take land back from allotments for any form of private sport or recreation, and I submit that if we are going to give the landlord that right we ought to give at least one year's notice, in order that the allotment holder may clear up his crops and may be able to get some value back for the manure and preparation he has put into the land. It will be noticed that later on the Government are moving to delete the Clause dealing with compensation for these allotments, and I suppose that will go through. That makes it all the more necessary that there should be a reasonable notice given, and I think we are not asking for too much when we say that there should be a year's notice, even if the land is wanted for a tennis court or a bowling green. I am not at all certain that even the finest recreation in the form of tennis and bowling could not be carried on in this country without interfering with the allotment gardens.


The right hon. Gentleman has reminded the House that when the Bill was in Committee this matter was under consideration, and while passing through the Committee the period of notice to be given to a council by an owner who desired to resume possession of the land other than for agriculture was raised from two months to three months. It was also decided that, where land was required for sport, such notice should not be two or three months, but six months. The House will remember that, during the early discussion we had on the question of compensation, I moved a new Clause, which was accepted by the House, to meet the real hardship of compensation that I thought arose under existing legislation. The right hon. Gentleman, it is quite true, has brought down his demand from six years to 12 months, but I think, on the whole, it is not unreasonable to ask him to be satisfied with the concession he obtained in Committee, namely, six months. I do not think it is really always quite so simple, as the right hon. Gentleman thinks, exactly to place in comparison the relative weight we ought to attach to the argument for allotments on the one hand, and for sport on the other hand. We desire, if we can, to make suitable provision, and hold the right balance for both, and there is room for both. In this case, we have given the balance in favour of allotments by doubling the notice required for purposes of sport and recreation, and I do not think the House would be well advised to go further.

In Committee, I did undertake to make an attempt to see whether it was possible to devise words to limit this power of resumption to what was described in a not very precise definition in Committee as communal sport. I have fulfilled that undertaking as far as I was able, and given consideration to that point. But it will be admitted by all hon. Members, that if it were possible to devise a form of words to limit this power of resumption where land was required for sport, or as a bowling club, or something of that kind, it would be, obviously, possible for a committee of private individuals, who wished to drive a coach-and-horses through such words, to form such an association or club. Therefore, it is not worth doing, because it is not administratively or legally enforceable, if it were desirable to do it. Therefore, on balance, I hope the House will be prepared to leave the matter as it left the Committee, where it was fully debated, and in a shape which, I think, represents a fair compromise between these two competing claims.


I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question on Clause 9, which has to be taken in connection with the Amendment under review. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman is to move to delete Clause 9, which abolishes any possibility there may be of securing compensation for removal. I want to submit a typical case, and to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he thinks this notice would be fair notice in the circumstances. It is understood, of course, that a successful allotment holder; if he is going to get the greatest success from his gardening and horticultural knowledge, must have a cold-frame or a very small greenhouse. In case he has made all these necessary preparations—and I know the right hon. Gentleman would be the first to commend him for having done so—is it fair to give this very peremptory notice, if the right hon. Gentleman is going to delete the only Clause that gives any chance at all of securing compensation for loss of land and loss of opportunities? If the right hon. Gentleman will tell the House his intention with regard to compensation, we shall then know whether we ought to press our Amendment or not, because, although I am a big supporter of all outdoor recreation, particularly bowls, I do think 12 months, even for that purpose, is little enough notice to give an allotment holder, if you are going to destroy any possible chance there might be of securing compensation.


I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if there were any intention in his mind, when the question of the period of notice was discussed in Committee, that Clause 9 should be deleted entirely, and, if this knowledge had been in the mind of the Committee at the time, whether he thinks it would have been as easy to have got the compromise of six months? I submit that the deletion of Clause 9 entirely alters the value of the six or three months' notice, as the case may be. In these circumstances, there ought to be a longer time given than six months. Anybody who has had anything to do with cultivating an allotment, as well as talking about it, knows that three or six months is a very short notice to give. There is a tremendous amount of labour put into allotments of this description, and I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would explain whether any compensation is to be given to those people who, presumably, are to be called Upon to deliver up their allotment at six months' notice.


With regard to the question as to whether it was in the mind of the Committee, when this matter was under discussion, that Clause 9 would be deleted, a notice to delete Clause 9 was certainly on the Paper, if my recollection serves me rightly, at the time this question of notice was considered by the Committee.


It was never moved.


I did not happen to be present at the Committee when that stage in the proceedings was reached, but I have refreshed my mind with regard to it, and I rather think it was moved, and then my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne) subsequently agreed to let the Clause stand in the Bill for further consideration on Report.


I think the Motion was moved by myself, and there was considerable discussion. Ultimately, it was decided by the casting vote of the Chairman.


No doubt my hon. Friend behind me is right in what he has stated. Perhaps the hon. Members opposite who have just spoken had not the opportunity of hearing the statement that I made in moving the first new Clause on the Bill dealing with compensation. They will, perhaps, excuse me repeating what I then said, but they will make a great mistake if they conclude from what I said and from that Motion that compensation is left as it was before. Indeed, I have gone considerably further than the law stands at present, and have been able, I think, to effect a compromise dealing with what I think is a most difficult point of compensation, but which is of very substantial importance to allotment holders. Therefore I hope that no hon. Member will run away with the idea, when we come to Clause 9, that I am making worse the position with regard to compensation for allotment holders. I am afraid I have no more to add to what I said just now, that in my own opinion this is a reasonable balance of things.


I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman will not accept the Amendment. It would certainly be much more satisfactory in the interests of the allotment holders that they should have 12 months instead of six; it would enable them to obtain for themselves some of the residuals in the land to which they are undoubtedly entitled. Whatever may have been said as to sport and recreation,