HC Deb 01 April 1935 vol 300 cc123-6

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

8.32 p.m.


It is to the interest of everyone in India, both British and Indian, that this question of the purchase and sale of land should be outside any possible political influence, and this appears to be all the more necessary in view of the fact that, apparently, the application of these provisions will include the native States. I should like to ask the Under-Secretary whether any- thing has been ascertained from the Princes with regard to this question, as I imagine that it is one of the points at issue in connection with the White Paper.

8.33 p.m.


The wording of this Clause is very wide. Sub-section (1) says that the Authority shall not acquire or dispose of any land. Land is needed by railway companies for such purposes as giving access to their stations and for alterations or additions, and I cannot think of anything more cumbersome than a provision that the Authority may not acquire any land whatever. Further, Subsection (2) of the Clause says that contracts made by or on behalf of the Authority shall be enforceable against the Authority, and not against the Federation, and that the Authority may sue or be sued in like manner as a company operating a railway may sue and be sued. I would remind the Government that nothing is felt by local authorities in this country to be more galling than the necessity, whenever they want to acquire trivial quantities of land—minute fractions of an acre—for the purpose of squaring off a playground or something of that sort, of going through all the cumbrous procedure of applying to Whitehall for sanction. I can understand that there may be good reasons for such provisions as these when it is a question of large purchases of land, such as would be required for the making of a new railway, but the Clause appears to be so worded as to apply to the acquisition by the Authority of any area of land whatever, no matter how minute.

8.35 p.m.


Two points have been raised in relation to Clause 179. The first was raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) when he asked the relationship of this Clause to the Indian States. It may be said that no power is given by this Clause to acquire land of any Indian State, and I think that that answers his question. The other question was in relation to the acquisition of land by the Federal Railway Authority. I agree with the hon. Baronet that it might be necessary in certain cases for the railway company to acquire perhaps a small parcel of land and that it might be very convenient for them so to do. Under the terms of this Clause the power for acquiring land is in the hands of the Federal Government, which will do so on behalf of the Railway Authority, and the power to acquire that land is given in Clause 126 which says: The Federation may, if it deems it necessary to acquire for the purposes of the Federation (including purposes of the Federal Railway Authority) any land situate in a Province, require the Province to acquire the land on behalf of the Federation." That has been thought to be the most convenient method of acquiring the necessary land for the purposes of the Federal Railway Authority, and that is why specific reference is made in Clause 126 to the purposes of the Federal Railway Authority. I hope that that answers the point to which the hon. Baronet has referred, and, if not, I shall do my best to answer any further points he may have to ask.


Is it necessary to frame the Clause so wide as to preclude the railway authority from purchasing from a private individual, not from any province or State, but merely a trivial purchase from a private individual to improve the access to a, railway station, or for purposes of that kind. Surely they should be able to make this sort of small purchase from private individuals without this cumbrous proceeding.


I think that the point is met by the opening words of the Clause: Except in such classes of case as may be specified in regulations to be made by the Federal Government. Presumably the Federal Government will make regulations specifying certain classes of case which would exactly correspond to those particular points which have been raised in the question, whereas in the more general case power will be given to the Provinces where the land is situated to acquire the land. So that in smaller cases the exception will cover the particular type of case which the hon. Baronet has in mind.