HC Deb 30 March 1925 vol 182 cc1047-9

I beg to move, in page 10, line 23, to leave out Sub-section (2).

Unfortunately, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) is not able to be here to-night, and asked me to express his regret and on his behalf to move the Amendment standing in his name. If I may be permitted, I will do so very briefly. So far as the general principle of the proposals in the Bill is concerned, I am not in any way opposed to it, and I think all sections of the House will also agree. But with regard to Sub-section (2) of Clause 16, I take a very strong objection. It does seem a peculiar position, as set out in Sub-section (2) of Clause 16, that where the minerals are valuable they are not to be vested in the Commission, but where they are not of any particular value or likely to be, then they remain with the Commission. We have now an opportunity of establishing the principle, which I always believe to be a sound one, that is that minerals should remain in the possession of the community. It is a very unbusinesslike arrangement, and that is why, on behalf of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull, I am moving the deletion of Sub-section (2).

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Lord Eustace Percy)

I do not complain of this Amendment. I know the subject is a very complicated one. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment is really under a misapprehension as to the purpose and effect of this Sub-section. The object is the same as that of the whole Bill, that is to say, to leave tenants under compulsory purchase in as nearly as possible the same position as they have been under the system of voluntary purchase under the Act of 1903. Under that Act, it was provided that where a voluntary sale took place, and where the minerals were not being worked by the owner but were in the possession of the owner, those rights should pass to the Commission, subject to this, that if the Commission afterwards sold those rights or leased them, then the late owner should have a charge upon the rent realised of 25 per cent. of that rent or the net profits. That is what Section 23 of the Act of 1903 provides.

The landowner who wished to sell his land and agreed under the Act of 1903 to sell it could either work the minerals on the land himself, or, before he sold to his tenants, he could sell the mineral rights to someone else, and then the mineral rights would not pass with the land to the tenant purchaser. Under this Bill you are substituting compulsory purchase for voluntary purchase. Under the old Act, the owner who wished to sell his land might work the mineral rights, or he might sell them to someone else, or he might agree with the Land Commission for a price for his land which would take into account the mineral rights of the land. Now we want to compel him to sell his land at a fixed price, and it is based upon the purchase value and the rental value of the surface alone, and we are compelling him to accept that price.

We felt on the Committee of which I was the Chairman that that, would not operate harshly on the landowner who had never taken any trouble to ascertain whether he had any workable minerals on his land or not. But it would be very hard on the landowner who, although he might not be actually working the land, might have spent a large sum of money on geological surveys and on preparation, but who, under this Bill, will not have the opportunity of doing that, because the land will be vested in the Land Com mission on the appointed day. Therefore, we suggest that if the Land Commission is satisfied of two things—(1) that the land has a mineral value, actual or potential, and (2) that there is a reasonable prospect of it being worked in 20 years—that they shall have power to exempt the mineral rights from passing automatically with the land. These words "actual or potential" are words that have always been inserted in Land Purchase Acts in the case of building land, and it does not come under land purchase legislation at all. We have adopted the same words in relation to the mineral rights. The hon. Member for East Bradford (Mr. Fenby) said something about the nationalisation of minerals.


No, I did not.


Of course, this is not the place to argue that question, but so long as the law of the land recognises private ownership in minerals, when you are compelling a man to sell his land purely at the surface value of that land, you must reserve to him his rights where he has taken the trouble to ascertain the mineral value and would work his mineral rights if he were allowed the opportunity, and if the guillotine of compulsory purchase was not coming down upon him.

Amendment negatived.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.