HC Deb 13 October 1944 vol 403 cc2077-80
Mr. Arthur Greenwood (by Private Notice)

asked the Deputy Prime Minister whether he can make a statement on the Government's intentions with regard to the revision of Part II of the Town and Country Planning Bill, as introduced.

The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)

The Minister of Town and Country Planning and I met hon. Members of the House yesterday, and discussed with them the general lines on which the Government thought that the compensation Clauses of the Town and Country Planning Bill should be framed. We had a very useful and helpful discussion, and I think it right that other hon. Members of the House should be given information as to those general lines, in advance of the laying of the Amendments, because the drafting of the Amendments is naturally a difficult business and they are in very technical language. I am, therefore, proposing to make a statement of those lines, which, so far as can be, is in non-technical language and for the layman. The House will realise that it will not be possible for me to embroider on this statement, which has been rather carefully prepared, because it is a rather unusual course to give the general lines of a Clause when we have not got the actual draft before us. This is the statement:

The Government intend to maintain the general principle that compensation in respect of land and buildings, shall be assessed by reference to prices current at the 31st March, 1939, and they are not prepared to allow any general increase to be added automatically to the compensation so assessed. They propose, however, that, in certain types of case, an addition should be made on the following lines: An owner-occupier of buildings, or of agricultural property, will be entitled to claim from the purchasing authority such an addition to the compensation as may be reasonable, having regard to all relevant circumstances, whether favourable or unfavourable. This addition will not, in any case, exceed a sum representing a 30 per cent. proportion of value at 1939 prices, and will not include anything referable to site value, in the case of buildings, or to development rights, in the case of agricultural properties. A claimant will be treated as an owner-occupier on the ground, either of actual occupation at the time of notice to treat, or of a proved right and intention to occupy within a limited future period. The provision will be framed so as to give equivalent treatment in the case of property which, owing to war damage, is incapable, for the time being, of occupation. Provision will be made for varying the 30 per cent. maximum upwards or downwards, by means of Orders made with Parliamentary approval.

A right of appeal to a suitable tribunal will be given to any claimant in the event of his being dissatisfied with the offer made to him. There is one further type of case in which the Government propose an addition. Suitable provision will be made for an addition, within the foregoing general conception, where expenditure has been incurred by the claimant at enhanced prices on improvements to the property concerned, during the period between 31st March, 1939, and the date of the notice to treat, so far as these improvements are not paid for, or provided for in other ways. This addition will not be restricted, as will the other, to owner-occupiers.

Mr. Greenwood

May I thank my right hon. Friend for acceding to my request for an early statement? I quite understand that he would not wish to be pressed on the substance of the statement, and the subject is one the details of which it will be very difficult for the House to grasp. Should the discussions next week arising out of the new Amendments necessitate a change in the programme of Business, would my right hon. Friend inform the House at the èarliest opportunity? It is most inconvenient for hon. Members to find themselves plunged into discussions on Amendments without proper notice.

Mr. Attlee

We will take the earliest opportunity to acquaint the House, should any change of Business be necessitated, and we will also take great care that the House has proper time to consider the actual Amendments before they are taken.

Sir Irving Albery

In view of what my right hon. Friend has just said, may I ask him if it is the Government's intention to bring the conditions of war damage compensation into line with the announcement which he has just made?

Mr. Attlee

I think that is really another question, and I ought to have it on the Paper. It does not relate to this matter. War damage is on a different basis altogether, owing to the fact that it is based on contributions.

Mr. Bellenger

Does my right hon. Friend realise that somewhat similar questions will arise in connection with the War Damage Act, and the Landlord and Tenant Act, both of which have a bearing on war-damaged properties? If, therefore, enhanced compensation is to be paid under the Town and Country Planning Measures for the acquisition of areas that have been blitzed, then, obviously, it will follow that war damage compensation should, at any rate, be on not less satisfactory terms. Will the Government bear that in mind and bring forward proposals?

Mr. Attlee

That is, obviously, a matter for debate on another occasion. I am dealing only with limited points.

Sir John Mellor

Can my right hon. Friend say at what stage it is proposed to recommit the Bill for the purpose of adding the new Clauses? Will it be at the end of the Report stage, so as to give the maximum time for hon. Members to consider the Amendments; after they have been placed on the Order Paper?

Mr. Attlee

Yes, that is quite right. We shall take the Report stage and then recommit.

Dr. Russell Thomas

May I ask what guided the Government in determining the hon. Members with whom they had those consultations? Many hon. Members who are interested in the Bill, never heard of this meeting at all.

Mr. Attlee

These consultations took place through the usual channels, and perhaps my hon. Friend will consult the usual channels.