HC Deb 06 October 1944 vol 403 cc1359-60

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

Mr. Hugh Lawson (Skipton)

Before we pass this Clause, I would like to ask the Minister a question. The following case might occur. A building may have been pulled down just before the war and then the whole area may have been blitzed. This Clause would give the owner of that building power to rebuild it on that existing site. I put down an Amendment to prevent that happening. It may be that I could not have understood the Clause perfectly, but I ask the Minister to say if my reading of it is correct.

Mr. Morrison

I ought to answer the question of the hon. Member, as he attaches importance to it. The object of the Clause is really to secure that the owners of premises which are or have been destroyed during the war, and premises whose use has been interrupted during the war, do not lose those rights to which they would have been entitled under planning schemes in normal conditions. The existing planning code does give to owners of property certain rights either to continue the use of the property or to receive compensation in respect thereof, if the use itself is altered by the planning authority. It would be in accordance with the principles of justice that because a man's house, or building or property was destroyed by the war he should not thereby, by the act of the enemy, lose at once his house or property and his existing legal rights to compensation.

The main purpose of the Bill, as the hon. Member knows, is to provide a speedy power of acquisition to the local authorities for purchasing the land and then erecting upon a plan the proper buildings for a good community. If the local authority purchased the land on which this building was erected, they would be in a position to deal with it as full owners, having compensated the man. Actually in the reconstruction areas themselves the point would not arise because the ownership of the land would ex hypothesi have changed from the private owner to the public authority which owns it. It might be in isolated cases—indeed it might occur in a fairly numerous class of case—that a building was destroyed but the area, not being an area of extensive war damage, which it was the purpose of the Act to acquire, the man would be left with it upon his hands. Because its use has been obliterated, he should not thereby lose such rights of compensation that he would otherwise possess. It is in justice to these owners that the Clause is inserted.

Mr. John Dugdale

Is the destruction only destruction by enemy action, or does it also apply to buildings that have been demolished with a view to being rebuilt by the owners of the premises?

Mr. Morrison

No, the matter is confined to two circumstances arising out of the war. It is not entirely war damage that is in point, but the use of the building to which the owner was entitled might have been interrupted by the circumstances arising out of the war, and if either of these two conditions are present, it would be Within the Clause. It is either war damage or interruption of use arising out of war circumstances.

Question put, and agreed to.