HC Deb 05 October 1944 vol 403 cc1173-9
Mr. Hammersley (Willesden, East)

I beg to move, in page 19, line 38, to leave out "to any necessary adaptations and."

Though this Amendment and the next Amendment standing in my name—in page 19, line 42, to leave out" subject to any necessary adaptations and"—are small they are not unimportant. Clause 14 incorporates this Bill with the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, and the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919, and indicates in respect to the former that the modifications are to be found in Part I of the Fifth Schedule to this Bill, and those in respect of the latter in Part II of the Fifth Schedule of the Bill. The fact that these Acts are incorporated "subject to any necessary adaptations" gives one the feeling that the Clause has been so drafted that the Schedules do not contain all the necessary modifications and adaptations, and if the Bill goes through in this form it will put upon the courts the responsibility to construe this Section of the Act in such a way as would appear to them to be necessary. I suggest that if adaptations are necessary, they should appear in the Schedule and if they are not necessary we ought not to have the additional words.

The Attorney-General

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the chance of explaining these words because I hope that, after the Committee has heard the explanation, they will accept them. The Lands Clauses Act of 1845 and the Acquisition of Land Act of 1919 are general codes. They are the codes which are at the back of this Bill, and, as my hon. Friend has said, all alterations of substance are put in the Schedule. But when you apply a code to new and special circumstances, there are a certain number of verbal notices which are obvious when you look at them, and which would really complicate the Schedule if you sought to put them all into it. I will give one example. Under one of the procedures in this Bill the ordinary individual notice to treat is superseded by a block notice which is assumed to have the same legal effect as an individual notice. If we made all the verbal amendments that were necessary as a result of that it would unnecessarily cumber the Section. These words—and I am sure the Committee will attach importance to this—are always used when you apply special codes to a new subject matter. What they cover is entirely a matter for the court. There is no possibility of bureaucratic action, but if the court is satisfied that a verbal adaptation is necessary, having regard to the new subject matter and the provisions of the new code, then they treat it as important, and the only object of the Act is to avoid cumbering the Schedule with a number of purely verbal alterations which, when you look at the Schedule, are obvious. I hope that the Committee will accept that explanation.

Mr. Hammersley

The learned Attorney-General has, in a way, rather made my case. He has indicated that the major modifications appear in the Schedule and that minor modifications are what the courts will have to interpret. It may be the usual procedure and that in this case we shall have to accept it. I have made the point and, having regard to the explanation that has been given by the Attorney-General, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower

I beg to move, in page 19, line 45, to leave out Subsection (3), and insert: (3) A purchasing authority authorised by an order made under this Act to purchase land compulsorily may at any time after serving notice to treat and after giving to the owner and to the occupier of the land not less than twenty-eight days' notice enter on and take possession of the land or such part thereof as is specified in the notice without previous consent or compliance with sections eighty-four to ninety of the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, but subject to the payment as provided in this Act of the like compensation for the land of which possession is taken and interest on the compensation awarded. Provided that in the case of an occupier with whom the purchasing authority have not agreed the amount of the compensation to be paid to him the period of notice to be given to him pursuant to this Section shall be not less than ninety days. This is rather an important Amendment and I will briefly describe its effect. Subsection (3) provides for entry on the land and the vesting of the land in the planning authority before the time needed for serving the notice to treat, and it also applies the provisions of the Sixth Schedule to the Bill. The Sixth Schedule has, as the learned Attorney-General has just said, wiped out service of individual notices to treat. These provisions are really harsh and arbitrary and can only be justified on the grounds of strict assessment. I would like to draw the attention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman to the fact that, as I understand it, this will apply not only to areas of extensive war damage, but it is part of the permanent legislation dealing with obsolete areas and overspill areas, and to land adjoining obsolete areas and war damaged areas whereon the houses may be in a very good condition indeed. The owners and the occupiers will suffer a great 6W of disturbance.

The Amendment I have put on the Order Paper is to give effect to the Minister's own desire and intention, and that is, that within 28 days the planning authority will be entitled to enter in the case of the owner of the house. Where it is necessary to eject the occupier I increase the period to 90 days. The words of the Amendment are not a haphazard choice. These words, I am authoritatively informed, have been inserted in many other cases, and only last week this wording was inserted by the Minister of Health in the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health accepted the same wording after a similar discussion had taken place. I hope that the Committee and the right hon. and learned Gentleman will give this Amendment very careful attention.

Mr. Moelwyn Hughes (Carmarthen)

I hope my right hon. and learned Friend will not accept this Amendment. The real core of it is to be found in the proviso at the end, which suggests that in every case where the amount of compensation to be paid has not been agreed between the occupier and the planning authority, there shall have to be a notice of not less than 90 days. The essence of the procedure we are seeking to establish under the Bill is, that it should have some expedition about it, and one fails to see the object of affording an authority in certain cases power to enter without the assessment of compensation, if in every, case where the compensation has not been agreed there is to be a three months' delay. There is speed and urgency with regard to these matters. There is difficulty in many of the steps that have to be taken and one desires in every case to protect the proper rights of compensation of the person whose property has been taken, but without derogating from that in any way, we should see to it that the local planning authority has, in a proper case, to proceed with the operation of the plan. It is a principle which has been very widely accepted in the course of organising the economy of this country for the war effort and the cases in which is has operated unjustly, one is glad to say, are very few. The Amendment would only cause serious delay to the operation of the planning authority and I hope, therefore, that my right hon. and learned Friend will reject it.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Penrith {Lieut.-Colonel Dower), who moved the Amendment in such moderate language, will not persevere with it, because it would indeed effect a grave loss in the accepted procedure which is one of the main objects of this Bill to provide for this exceptional purpose of reconstructing town areas. Its effect would be to remove from the Bill the expedited procedural machinery which is contained in the Sixth Schedule. I would point out to my hon. and gallant Friend that by the wording of the Sub-section the Minister is satisfied that that sort of procedure is the proper one to apply in the circumstances.

1.0 p.m.

At the same time, I could not agree that we should at this stage delete the expedited completion of the Sixth Schedule. The Schedule itself, when we come to it, contains certain provisions of a safeguarding character for its operation, and I think it is a premature action to say the least of it. The requirement which my hon. and gallant Friend proposes, of serving individual notices to treat instead of, in the proper course as the Sixth Schedule proposes, to treat them in blocks, would involve perhaps very great delay, because in these very areas it would be very difficult, in many cases, for the purchasing authority to seek out and ascertain who were all the owners on whom they would be bound to serve notice or risk the validity of their whole operation. I do hope my hon. and gallant Friend will reconsider this. I know he is anxious to protect the rights of individuals, but I am sure he is also anxious that we should get on with this great work on which the revival of our cities and towns depends.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower

I cannot see why my right hon. Friend should take such an unfavourable view on this point because it arose in an equally, if not more, urgent case of temporary accommodation, and the Minister of Health was prepared to accept it, so I cannot see why there is so much difficulty.

Mr. Morrison

I was not present when the incident took place to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers, but I am advised that the cases are not at all the same. Different considerations applied in the other case, and provisions similar to those which he is urging upon us now were not, in fact, put into the Bill. I ask my hon. and gallant Friend to re-examine his own mind in view of the advice which has been tendered to me.

Amendment negatived.

Dr. Russell Thomas

On a point of order, Major Milner, is it your intention to call the next Amendment, in my name and that of other hon. Members, to leave out Sub-section (3)?

The Chairman

No, the hon. Member's Amendment has not been selected.

The Attorney-General

I beg to move, in page 19, line 46, to leave out from "under," to "this," in line 1, page 20.

The effect of this Amendment is to make it possible to apply the expedited completion procedure to purchase orders under Clause 10, as well as under Clauses 2 to 4, and Section 9. The powers under Clause 10 are undoubtedly wider, but it has been felt by my right hon. Friend that there may be cases of purchase under that Clause where he ought to have the power to apply the expedited procedure.

Mr. Silkin

I beg to move, in page 20, line 5, after "land," to insert "or any part thereof."

It will normally be the case that a compulsory purchase order will be applied to a number of separate properties under separate ownership. The local authority, however, may desire to take advantage of the expedited procedure in respect of some of these properties but not in respect of others. Under the Clause as it stands, if a local authority wants expedited procedure in respect of the number of properties, it has to ask for it in respect of all of them. The purpose of this Amendment is to facilitate getting the procedure in respect merely of all those that are wanted urgently and not of the others, and therefore to cause as little inconvenience to the general public as possible. I am sure my right hon. Friend will agree with the purpose of this Amendment. I believe that there is some provision for it in the Schedule, but the Schedule does not seem to fit in with the Clause, and therefore I hope my right hon. Friend will see his way to accept this Amendment.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

The hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) has moved his Amendment to fulfil a purpose which I am glad to see, namely, that local authorities should not use procedure which is harsher than the case demands. The hon. Member at one stage rather protested about the multiplicity of procedures, and now he is asking for a little more elasticity. I am advised that the words which he proposes to use do not fit in, but there is nothing wrong with his principle, which is a good one. I am prepared to examine the matter between now and the next stage of the Bill to see if I cannot find words to give effect to it.

Mr. Silkin

In view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.