HC Deb 26 October 1944 vol 404 cc374-411

(1) Where the person entitled to compensation assessed subject to the rule set out in subsection (1) of the section of this Act (Assessment of compensation) for the purchase of an interest in land consisting of or comprising a building (not being agricultural property) or consisting of or comprising agricultural property (that is to say, agricultural land or agricultural. buildings as defined in section two of the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act, 1928, or a farmhouse) is an owner-occupier, he shall be entitled to receive from the purchasing authority, as a supplement to that compensation, such sum, if any, not exceeding the maximum hereinafter specified, as may be reasonable having regard to the extent to which, in all the circumstances of his occupation, he is affected by the purchase of the interest.

(2) The maximum for the sum which may be paid under this section in respect of an interest in land as consisting of or comprising a building shall be—

  1. (a) where the interest in question is the fee simple, thirty per cent. of the value of the building ascertained by reference to prices current at the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine;
  2. (b) where the interest in question is a tenancy, the amount by which the value of the tenancy in the building ascertained by reference to prices current at the said thirty-first day of March falls short of the value of the tenancy in the building ascertained by reference to prices thirty per cent. greater than those current at that date.

(3) The maximum for the sum which may be paid under this section in respect of an interest in land as consisting of or comprising agricultural property shall be the amount (if any) by which—

  1. (a) the value of the interest in the agricultural property ascertained by reference to prices current at the said thirty-first day of March, falls short of
  2. (b) the value of the interest in the agricultural property ascertained by reference to prices thirty per cent. greater than those current at that date and on the assumption that that property had been at that date subject to a permanent restriction to use as agricultural property within the meaning of this section.

(4) In making any valuation of a building, of a tenancy in a building or of an interest in agricultural property, which is required for fixing either of the said maxima it shall be assumed that the building or property had been at the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine, in the state in which it in fact was at the time of service of the notice to treat, except that, in a case in which the building or property has sustained war damage any of which has not been made good at that time and in respect of which the appropriate payment under the War Damage Act, 1943, would apart from the compulsory purchase be a payment of cost of works, it shall be assumed that the building or property had been on,the said thirty-first day of March in the state in which it was immediately before the occurrence of the damage.

(5) The person entitled to compensation for the purchase of an interest in land consisting of or comprising a building or agricultural property shall be deemed for the purposes of this Part of this Act to be an owner-occupier if any of the following conditions are satisfied, and not otherwise, that is to say—

  1. (a) if he is in occupation of the building or property at the time of service of the notice to treat;
  2. (b) in the case of a building or property so damaged at that time as not to be fit for occupation, if he was in occupation thereof when the damage occurred;
  3. (c) in the case of a building or property of which possession has been taken without other title by virtue of any enactment and has not been given up before that time, if he was 376 in occupation thereof when possession was so taken; or
  4. (d) if—
    1. (i) the title under which the building or property is held at that time is such that he then has the right to enter into occupation thereof or will be in a position to obtain that right within five years from that time, and
    2. (ii) it was at that time his intention, subject to its being possible for him so to do, to enter into occupation of the building or property within the said five years, or, if it is so damaged as not to be fit for occupation, to cause it to be restored for his occupation, or to enter into occupation of premises to be substitued therefor, within the said five years.

(6) For the purposes of the last preceding subsection—

  1. (a) references to the person entitled to the compensation shall, where that person holds as trustee or otherwise for the benefit of another or subject to the directions of another, be construed subject to such adaptations as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Lord Chancellor;
  2. (b) references to occupation of a building or property include references to occupation of a part thereof;
  3. (c) a person shall be treated as in occupation of a building or property if it is in the occupation of a person in his employment for the purposes of that employment;
  4. (d) no regard shall be had to any impediment to a right to enter into occupation arising from the subsistence of a tenancy which, by virtue of the Validation of War-Time Leases Act, 1944, or otherwise, is for a term having more than five years to run at the time of service of the notice to treat but is subject to a right on the part of the landlord to determine the tenancy by notice after the end of the war if it ends before the expiration of that term, or arising from the operation of the Rent and Mortgage Interest Restrictions Acts, 1920 to 1939 (or of any enactment amending or replacing any enactment in those Acts), or arising from the subsistence by virtue of any enactment of a right to possession of land without other title thereto.

(7) In this section the expression "farmhouse" means a house used as the dwelling-house of a person who is primarily engaged in carrying out or directing agricultural operations on land in the neighbourhood of the house.—[Mr. W. S. Morrison.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

12.12 p.m.

Wing-Commander James (Wellingborough)

I desire to ask one or two questions on this Clause. Is the definition of owner-occupier sufficiently clear?

Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)

Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman speak up? We cannot hear a word.

The Deputy-Chairman

If hon. Members would listen, they might be able to hear.

Wing-Commander James

On page 55 I find an interpretation of the word "owner" but no interpretation of "owner-occupier." May I illustrate my difficulty by quoting an actual case of a man who owns and lives in one house and owns two others in one of which his elderly mother lives while the third is let to a family who have been blitzed out of their house. In neither case does he receive any rent. Therefore, he is not an investor. Is he deemed to be an owner-occupier or not? And, arising from those two illustrations, is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the absence of a definition will not at a later stage lead to complications? I have asked one or two legal Members and they could not supply me with an answer, Therefore, there is probably something that needs clearing up.

The Minister of Town and Country Planning (Mr. W. S. Morrison)

The interpretation Clause in the Bill does not contain a definition of "owner-occupier" but this new Clause does. Sub-section (5, c) is devoted to the task of defining "owner-occupier" for the purposes of the Clause. If my hon. and gallant Friend reads it he will find an answer to his question.

Captain Duncan (Kensington, North)

I should like to ask a question with reference to Sub-section (6, c). Does that mean that a person must be in occupation in the daytime only or has he to sleep there? Is every bank manager of a branch bank and every co-operative society manager of every branch of a co-operative society in occupation under this interpretation? It seems very unfair that the big people, multiple stores and banks, should be included whereas small persons are discriminated against.

Brigadier-General Clifton Brown (Newbury)

I am concerned from the point of view of agriculture If co-operative people are owner-occupiers, surely an estate owner is the occupier of his own cottages and his workmen's cottages, and also his tenants' cottages. I understand that the Solicitor-General is to give some explanation. I hope that in doing so he will remember the countryside.

12.15 p.m.

The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)

The purpose of the Clause is to deal with cases where premises are occupied by persons employed by an individual for the purpose of their employment. It would include agricultural workers' cottages where the agricultural worker lives in a cottage belonging to the farmer for the purpose of work on the farm, but it would not necessarily cover tenants' cottages. With regard to banks and co-operative stores, I think my hon. and gallant Friend is probably under a misapprehension. In the case of a bank or a big organisation like a co-operative stores, it is the bank or the corporation or company which is in occupation of all the various premises. The manager of a particular branch is not regarded as being in occupation of that branch. I know that many bank managers have a residence which is a part of the building in which the branch is located. Suppose that he was in law an occupier—and I am not sure whether he would be—and suppose he was rated as occupier in respect of the part of the building in which he lived, then he would come under this Clause; but the normal position in respect of banks and stores is that the occupation is that of the corporation. Therefore I think the question put by my hon. and gallant Friend on the assumption that the manager was treated as being in occupation is based on a misapprehension, but if I have not followed his point he will perhaps enlighten me.

Captain Duncan

I want to get this clear. The Clause says: If it is in the occupation of a person in his employment for the purposes of that employment. A bank manager occupies the bank premises for the purposes of his employment during the day time.

The Attorney-General

But he is not in law the occupier. In law the bank is treated as the occupier, and not the manager.

Captain Duncan

The wording of the Clause does not say so. According to the Clause, a person shall be treated as in occupation of a building or property if it is in the occupation of a person in his employment.

The Attorney-General

The branch of the bank is not in the occupation of the manager.

Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)

From what was said in the course of the speeches yesterday I understood there was a disturbance allowance for the owner who occupies a house if he is disturbed and has to leave the house and find other accommodation. In the case of the tenant-occupier there is disturbance also, because the tenant has to find another house. Will this disturbance money, which is what it amounts to, be given equally to the tenant-occupier, and if not why not?

Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)

I am very sorry that the Minister in moving this Clause did it in so cursory a manner, because many of the points raised yesterday really arise on this Clause rather than on yesterday's Clause, and I was not satisfied with the way in which the Minister left the position yesterday. I realise that he could not, without being out of order, have gone into the matter further then. A curious position is revealed by comparing the proposed new Clause with Sub-section (5) of Clause 27 of the Bill. I gather from the part of the Bill which has already been dealt with that we are to compensate both the owner-occupier and the tenant-occupier for disturbance of his business—that is done by Sub-section (5) of Clause 27—and here we are giving the owner-occupier a higher scale of compensation by allowing a 30 per cent. increase on the 1939 price. As far as I can see, everybody will now be covered in respect of disturbance except the man who is occupying his residence but who is not an owner-occupier. The tenant-occupier will be displaced without any compensation, and if that is the position then this Clause is making an unfair discrimination against the tenant-occupier in favour of the owner-occupier. In the case of business premises there is not that unfair discrimination, because the matter is put right by Sub-section (5) of Clause 27.

Another thing I would ask is that we should at some later stage have all these compensation provisions put together. It is very unsatisfactory to have one part of the Bill, Clause 27 (5), dealing with compensation partially, dealing with businesses, and then, under this new Clause, to select people for compensation not on account of their businesses but on the basis of whether they are owner-occupiers or tenant-occupiers. Take the case of a colliery village. All the miners' cottages will be on the plus 30 per cent. level. If there is a tenant in that village who is not a tenant of the colliery company he will get only the 1939 price and no more, and that will be a very great hardship. I think the Minister ought to justify this discrimination, and so far he has failed to do so.

Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)

I seek an explanation, but it seems to me the position is this: that a wealthy landowner who has a large estate and who farms it all himself, letting the houses. on his estate be occupied by persons in his employment, will, if any part of that estate is acquired by the local authority, be entitled to the 1939 price plus 30 per cent. I would like to be clear in my mind whether that is the position in such a case, and also whether a less wealthy landowner, who has an estate which he is trying to keep going because it is for the benefit of the community in that part of the country, and who has let off part of that estate as farms, and also lets off houses, and, it may be, has a number of cottages on the estate in which his old pensioners are living free of rent—I would ask whether, in respect of any of the property on his estate which is let or is occupied not for the purposes of employment but by former employees at a low or nominal rent or, it may be, occupied by friends or relations, that particular owner will get only the 1939 prices with no possibility of a supplement at all. I think that is the position, but I am not sure.

Sir Irving Albery (Gravesend)

On the question of the occupying tenant, which has been raised by an hon. and gallant Friend in front of me, there is a case which I should like to bring to the notice of the Minister. It appears to me that in a case where a man owns two rent-restricted houses which are requisitioned under this Bill that on the house which he himself occupies he will get an addition to the 1939 price up to 30 per cent. but that the tenant of the other house will suffer very considerable hardship. He will he turned out of a rent-restricted house and, if he is lucky enough to get another house in the neighbourhood at all, his rent will be much more, and yet he will get no compensation under this Bill.

Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)

The last two speakers have raised an interesting and far reaching issue. The hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller), as I understand, was concerned that a landlord who let the tenants of his cottages live rent free should get compensation on the plus 30 per cent. terms.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

The right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. I was merely pointing out what I understood to be the effect of this Clause, and asking the Attorney-General to tell us whether that was the effect.

Sir P. Harris

I apologise if I misunderstood the hon. Member. It appears that he was merely asking for information and was not making out a case. The hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery) raised another issue, and one which I raised yesterday in a different form. The question is whether a tenant who is covered by the rent-restriction legislation is to get any compensation under any of this machinery. I am afraid that my right hon. and learned Friend will answer "No." I have felt that throughout these discussions there has been tremendous interest in the occupying landowner but very little sympathy for the position of tenants. Practically all my constituents are merely tenants, weekly tenants, and I do not think it is unreasonable to assume that a tenant whether in a town or in a country village will get no compensation at all. I assume that the tenant is not covered and I would like to see him covered. The point affects the bulk of persons in this country who occupy houses.

Sir George Schuster (Walsall)

I have understood from what has been told us by Ministers during the discussions on this Bill that we are concerned not with land or property as such but with interests in land. I further understand that the 30 per cent. allowance is to be regarded entirely as a personal allowance. The words in the Clause are extremely wide: Having regard to the extent to which, in all the circumstances of his occupation, he is affected by the purchase of the interest. Before we finish with the Bill are we to have any enlightenment upon how those words are to be interpreted? Let me put one illustrative question to my right hon. and learned Friend, and I hope it may not be taken to imply any sympathy with one side or the other. Suppose there are in a town two shops side by side, one belonging to Woolworths and the other to a well known local citizen and representing the whole of his business. [An HON. MEMBER: "A widow."] A widow if you like. When the public authority come to consider the question of compensation will they be entitled to say "Here are Woolworths; all their affairs are owned by Miss Barbara Hutton, who lives at Hollywood; they have pots of money and it does not matter to them, because when they are moved they can find other premises; but next door is this poor widow whose whole livelihood is involved. She must get the full 30 per cent. but Woolworths can be perfectly satisfied with the 1939 price." Is that the type of consideration which has to be taken into account? I am merely asking the question and putting forward an extreme case. One can imagine all sorts of variations of the case. My point is that the words in the Clause are very vague, and that it will be difficult to have these matters arranged with anything like even-handed justice unless some further definition is provided.

12.30 p.m.

The second question is the position of the owner of land comprising a house. Again we are told it is only his interest that we have to consider. Supposing there is an owner of land and buildings which, in 1939, were let on a lease which had 15 years and one month to run, and, supposing that property is acquired compulsorily in 1949, it will then have five years and one month to run. I am not an expert on real property, but I take it that if that building is a valuable building, and the land is let at a rent which is substantially less than a rack rent, the value of the reversion, when there are only five years and one month to run, is something very much greater than it was when there were 15 years and one month to run. I want to know whether that is to be taken into account in valuing the interest or whether it is to be put back to 1939, with 15 years and one month to run.

Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)

I am very glad to see the Attor- ney-General on the Treasury Bench because he was very urgent—I think it was yesterday or on some earlier stage—in his advice to the Committee that we should not just shoot undefined, and even undefinable, questions at the head of an arbitrator in the optimistic hope that he will be able to catch them and analyse them, and throw the right answers back. I may be misunderstanding, and I certainly am not understanding, the words in lines 8 to 11 of this Clause, but they seem, after what, I must admit, is only a cursory inspection, to have that effect. I do not want to pose as a lawyer. I never succeeded in passing the final, although I got up to that point. I thought "interest" was a rather technical word especially in connection with land. We have had "interest" bandied about by the Minister, and certainly by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, I am sorry to say, is not here to-day. The word has been used in a lot of senses which, I think, lawyers would have found very remarkable. We were pretending that we were going to pay everybody compensation. Compensation means counterbalance, the rendering of an equivalent requital or recompense. Those are the primary meanings of the word "compensation."

The Deputy-Chairman

I think the hon. Gentleman is getting rather wide of the point under discussion. We are now dealing with owner-occupiers.

Mr. Pickthorn

With respect, Mr. Williams, we are dealing with supplements to compensation, and it is quite impossible to define the supplementation until one has some notion up to what point that which is to be supplemented can rise. I would not for the world be in conflict with you, Mr. Williams, or with the Chair, but I think it quite impossible for the Committee to understand this Clause without paying some attention to the meaning of the word "compensation." As long as compensation meant a global equivalent to a global something which had been taken away or removed, then a supplement to that was something which you could begin to define from its bottom edge. But now it is going to be very difficult to define it in that way. The Clause says: he shall be entitled to receive, etc."— that is, the person who is entitled to what is called in the Clause "a supplement." In my submission it would really be a completion of compensation, but in order to get out of our political difficulty we are calling it a supplement. How is the arbitrator to find out what amount of supplement is due? The Clause says that the applicant shall be entitled to receive as a supplement such sum, if any … as may be reasonable having regard to the extent to which, in all the circumstances of his occupation, he is affected. I want to know whether this has become a purely personal matter. Is the affectation of the claimant purely a personal matter, or does it remain a real matter, because, on the face of the words here and reading them with an average knowledge of literary English—not as a lawyer—it would seem that what matters is the extent to which that person is personally affected. It may be argued that he is more affected if his family for three generations has been there, or it may be argued that he is more affected if he has six or seven children, because a man with six or seven children dislikes moving house more than a man without a wife. Or, again, if he is a keen cricketer and goes in first in the village cricket team, if it is a personal matter, then, in that case, the arbitrator would give him rather more.

I do not want to elaborate this excessively, and I do beg the Committee to believe that I am not being facetious. Are the factors to be taken into account, the changes in the price levels for land and building there or thereabouts, or the predictable changes in such things, or the general change in the value of the currency? Are they to be the personal circumstances of the man? In ordinary language they would not seem to be, and yet I had supposed from the earlier arguments of Ministers that these were the things to be taken into account. If they are, I think the words on the Paper do not clearly indicate these things, and I think that ought to be very clearly stated here. Even then, I would ask the Committee to remember that what is stated here by the Attorney-General or Ministers will not bind the courts.

Wing-Commander James

May I put an actual case to the Minister and ask who is the owner-occupier in that case? A widow—the one we all know so well—occupies a house. She does not own it; she is the occupier for life under her deceased husband's will. She pays the rates, but does not own the fee simple. Her son owns the fee simple, although he will not have occupation until the old lady's death. Which, in that case, if either, is the owner-occupier?

The Attorney-General

I will do my best to answer these questions. Let me deal, first with the general question raised by a number of hon. Members of the relationship between an occupier who is given a right under this Clause, and a tenant under what is now Clause 27. We are only dealing in this group of Clauses with compensation given in respect of an interest in land which is acquired. That is to say, the local authority have said to A, "You have an interest in this land, and we are going to acquire it." That interest, in the simplest case, is the whole of the fee simple. It may be a 99 years' lease, it may be a leasehold interest of a considerable period. Suppose I have a house in one of these areas, a house in which I do not live, but which I let to someone on a quarterly tenancy. Let us assume there is no rent restriction. The local authority come along and say, "What interest in this property is it necessary to buy? "The only interest which it is necessary for them to buy is my interest because, having got my interest, they can give the tenant three months' notice. They will not want to do anything, such as pulling down the house, within three months or so, in that case, the only interest they buy is my interest.

That applies to the large majority of tenants. The majority of tenants would not have an interest which the acquiring authority would want to purchase, and, therefore, the compensation for an occupier, or an owner-occupier, does not arise in their cases, and they do not qualify under this Clause. That is precisely why, as was explained at an earlier period in our proceedings, we asked the Committee to accept what was then Clause 25 and is now Clause 27. Again, realising that, the ordinary tenant—the weekly, monthly, quarterly or, possibly, yearly tenant—would not get any right to compensation under whatever form the compensation claim took because the acquiring authority would not acquire his interest, we put in the Bill the provisions in Clause 27, and I need only refer quite shortly to two of them. I realise these questions have been raised because the Committee want to get the whole picture. Sub-section (1) of Clause 27 puts on the local authority the duty, so far as possible, and, in so far as there is no other residential accommodation on reasonable terms, to secure the provision of such accommodation in advance of the displacement. It also gives a power which was discussed at some length, under Sub-section (5) to make payments to those displaced to cover the cost of removal, and so on, although they would not be entitled to the owner-occupier's compensation which we are now discussing. That is the whole picture. The normal tenant will not come under these Clauses because he will not have an interest of sufficient duration. He is provided for in the other part of the Bill, under Clause 27, under which a duty is placed on the local authority to see that there is reasonable accommodation available, and there is power to make payment towards expenses.

Mr. Turton

On that point, will he have that right if it is purely a residential occupation? Will he then get removal expenses and nothing else?

Mr. Woodburn (Stirling and Clackmannan, Eastern)

Would the Attorney-General make clear what happens to the many tenants who are occupying houses under the Rent Restriction Acts which give them a guarantee of tenure to that extent?

The Attorney-General

If the local authority acquire the house, the tenant can be given notice like anybody else. He does not become the owner-occupier by virtue of the Rent Restriction Act.

The Deputy-Chairman

If we are to have long series of questions which ultimately turn into speeches on Clause 27, I would suggest that these, really, should be reserved for the Third Reading.

12.45 p.m.

The Attorney-General

May I deal with one or two of the other points that have been raised?

Mr. Woodburn

May I respectfully put to the Chair that these small points of detail are raised with the object of getting the Bill through at the earliest possible moment, and that it would be undesirable if the only way in which they can be put is in speeches on Third Reading?

The Deputy-Chairman

Actually this point has been dealt with in Clause 27, and we cannot go back to that. I allowed the question and the answer, although it was really outside the bounds of Order, for I thought it was as well that the point should be cleared up, but the Committee ought now to come back to the new Clause.

Mr. Woodburn

There are a great number of people paying rent under the Rent Restriction Acts, and they are worried about what is to happen to them if they are removed under this Bill. The Attorney-General was on the point of answering it, and he may have answered it, but I did not hear what the answer was. I hope that you will allow him to make the point clear.

The Deputy-Chairman

The answer is in Clause 27. I did not object to the Attorney-General answering the point, but we must not develop it.

The Attorney-General

I do not think I can say more than that the position of those tenants who have not a sufficient interest in the land to make it necessary for the authority to acquire it are dealt with under what is now Clause 27. The provisions were fully discussed when we were dealing with that Clause.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

May I ask a question which arises on this new Clause about rent restriction?

The Attorney-General

I have passed that. It is out of Order.

The Deputy-Chairman

I must really appeal to the Committee to allow the Attorney-General to proceed. If anything is left out it can be asked on Third Reading.

The Attorney-General

Let me come to my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller). I was sorry that he seemed to associate himself, in the presentation of his argument, with the form of presentation which, I am bound to say, I rather deplored when it was used by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Moelwyn Hughes) the other day. My hon. Friend the Member for Daventry seems to think that it makes some difference whether it is the wealthy landowner who farms his own farm and a less wealthy landowner who creates leases, and that it makes some difference whether his relations are employed, and that kind of thing. It is most unfortunate that that form of presentation should be put forward. Some people may believe in it, but I think it is profoundly wrong. Therefore, I regret that my hon. Friend allowed himself to be led into it. Let me tell him that the landowner who farms his own estate, whether he is wealthy or impoverished, whether he goes to church or not on Sundays, will be entitled as a disturbed occupier to the compensation under this Bill; Whereas the landowner who has let his property or part of it will, whether he is poor or rich, not get compensation for disturbance, for the very good reason that he is not disturbed.

What will be the position of the tenant? It will, of course, be unaltered to this extent, that the acquiring authority will acquire the rights of the landowner. If part of the estate is let out on a 30 years' lease or something of that sort, the acquiring authority will probably have to acquire the leaseholds of the tenants; but assuming they are ordinary yearly tenants, the acquiring authority will acquire the estate or the interest of the landowner. It will have the rights that the landowner has to terminate the tenancies, and the farmers will have all the rights they have under the elaborate structure of the Agricultural Holdings Act in respect of disturbance if their tenancies are brought to an end. My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery) took the case of an owner of two rent restricted houses, one of which he occupied and the other of which he did not. He gets the right to apply for the 30 per cent. increase in respect of the house he occupies because he is disturbed. He does not get that right in respect of the house which he does not occupy. That is what we were discussing yesterday. The position of the tenant of the second house is dealt with by Clause 27. My right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) also raised that point.

My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) both put a perfectly fair point. The hon. Member for Cambridge University said, "The Attorney-General said yesterday that it is very difficult to throw general words at the arbitrator, but here are very general words in this Clause." I quite agree. If we could have drawn up a precise code we would have done so, and I can tell my hon. Friend that the arbitrators will not particularly welcome having these very wide words used in the Clause. We did not, however, see any other way out of the difficulty. If we started to be precise we would get into difficulties and, possibly, eliminate the circumstances or factors which we desire to be taken into account. My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall took the cases of two shops in a town, one of which was Woolworths, the shares in which were not owned by a widow, but by someone who lived across the seas—

Mr. Woodburn

A grass widow.

The Attorney-General

—and the other shop was owned by a widow. My hon. Friend asked whether that made any difference. The answer is "No." These facts should make no difference. We feel that it is very hard to be precise in this matter and that is why we left the arbitrator wide discretion. For instance, take the case of a man who has a shop. It may make all the difference to him whether he can get another shop in very much the same part of the city and, therefore, he may say, "To get another shop of an equivalent size in this part of the city I have had to pay a sum which entitles me to the 30 per cent." He might be told that if he went to a new area he would not have that expense. It would not be right to exclude personal circumstances and factors altogether. He may be well known in the locality. He may be a saddler or a watch-maker whom everybody knows, and it would be reasonable if he could start up again in the same area.

The circumstances put by my hon. Friend were clearly irrelevant. You have to draw the line, and it is because it is difficult to know exactly where the line has to be drawn that we have used general words in the Clause. The Committee can trust the arbitrator to apply them fairly and do their best to carry out what is admittedly a difficult task and, from their point of view, a task which they do not particularly welcome. My hon. Friend's second question was about a lease which had 15 years to run in 1939 and only five years in 1949. That is looked after all right. You have the interest as it exists at the date of the notice to treat, and you assume that the interest could have been on the market, as it were, in 1939. I think that that covers all the points.

Wing-Commander James

What about my widow?

The Attorney-General

I thought somehow that I had mislaid a widow. The interests of my hon. and gallant Friend's widow would be purchased. She has a life interest. Both the son and the widow have interests which the acquiring authority would purchase. The widow, being disturbed in her occupation, would have a right to put in a claim for the 30 per cent.

Mr. Piekthorn

Within the meaning of the word "circumstances" in this connection, is the cost of alternative accommodation obviously a leading category?

The Attorney-General

I would not agree to "leading," but it is obviously a category.

Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and agreed to.

Sir J. Mellor

I beg to move, in line 3, after "land," insert "is the owner of land."

There are further Amendments in my name which are consequential. This Amendment raises the main issue of discrimination against the owner as compared with the owner-occupier, which discrimination, we say, is grossly disadvantageous to the owner. That issue has been dealt with to a substantial extent to-day and yesterday; therefore, in deference to the wishes of the Chair and the convenience of the Committee I shall cut my remarks as short as possible. The Amendment moved yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) covered a much wider field because it involved the question whether a supplement should be general and, if so, to what extent and to what amount. It also covered the question of site value, which is not involved. in this Clause. Here we have a simple issue. The Clause provides that a supplement of 30 per cent. shall be given to the owner-occupier. We are asking that the investor, the owner who is not in occupation, should not be excluded from that supplement.

1.0 p.m.

I listened very carefully to what my right hon. Friend said yesterday, and to what he has said on previous occasions, but I have not yet heard anything from him, or from anyone else, to change my view that the investor in land is being dealt with in a most invidious manner. I regard these provisions as an attack upon thrift and as implying a stigma against the ownership of property. Property owners have already had a very thin time with the operation of the Rent Acts, and with vastly increasing costs of repairs, and so on, and their lot has not been a very happy one. It is all very well to say that investors must take their risk. There are many risks to which investors have their eyes open when they make their investments. If they suffer when those risks mature, certainly they have no complaint. It might be said that one risk which they should have in contemplation is the risk of the action of a predatory Government. It well may be that they should have contemplated, when they made their investments, that sooner or later we might have a predatory Government in this country. But certainly I do not think we should expect them to have imagined that this Government, containing a substantial proportion of Conservative Members, would take predatory action against their interests.

I am not complaining at all that the owner-occupier is getting too much, but I am certainly complaining that the owner who is not an occupier is going to get too little. Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Minister tried to explain the discrimination on the ground that the owner-occupier had a dual existence and that his position as an owner was quite distinct from his position as an occupier; that is not made clear in the Bill. In my contention, anyone reading the Bill would not come to that conclusion at all. After all, it is what is in the Bill that matters, and I do feel—

The Deputy-Chairman

What matters now is what is in the Clause only, and not what is in other parts of the Bill.

Sir J. Mellor

Perhaps I might substitute "this Clause" for "the Bill." What is in the Clause will matter when the Bill becomes an Act and if the Minister's intentions are not clearly expressed in the words of the Clause when they are enacted, it may be that a serious mess will result. I do not think that the Minister's distinction between the position of an owner-occupier as an owner, and as an occupier, is really very impressive. What is the position of an occupier who does not qualify as an owner, that is to say someone who has an interest something less than a lease with three years to run? The Attorney-General tried to explain away the position by saying that people who could not qualify as owners but who none the less were occupiers, were taken care of by the provisions of Clause 27. I am not going to trespass—

The Deputy-Chairman

That is a matter concerning the owner-occupier, and we have already had several discussions upon it. We certainly cannot spare time to-day further to discuss the position of owner-occupiers. We are discussing the position of occupiers who are not owners.

Sir J. Mellor

I was going to say that I did not think that what the Attorney-General said in any way impinges upon my argument, for the simple reason that I can put in one sentence—Clause 27 is permissive. It does not touch the question from the point of view of a resident, except in so far as he may get some removal expenses. Therefore, I do not think that anything the Attorney-General said in any way affects my argument on this point. My argument is that it is really not reasonable to say that we can distinguish giving this 30 per cent, in respect of occupation as distinct from ownership; occupation is not adequately dealt with elsewhere, when the occupier does not qualify as an owner.

Mr. Molson (The High Peak)

Surely the point is that in the case of these interests, the occupier is dispossessed in his occupation, while in the case of those who are dealt with under Clause 27, they are not dispossessed of their occupation. That occupation is terminated by notice.

Sir J. Mellor

I thought I had made my point clearly. If I followed my hon. Friend further, I am sure that I should come into conflict with the Chair. Consider the position of a man who has a house worth £5,000 on the 1939 basis. He can get as much as a supplement of £1,500 if he is living in the house, whereas if he is not living in it he can get only the £5,000. That is a fairly substantial supplement in respect of his occupation, if he has to leave his house. It seems fairly substantial. Consider the person who is an occupier as a tenant, with four years of his lease to run, and who is paying a rack rent. Surely the arbitrator, regarding the matter from a legal point of view, would say that the value of his interest was negligible.

The Deputy-Chairman

The argument is getting rather too wide. I am beginning to wonder whether the Amendments of the hon. Member are within the scope of the Clause. Therefore it would be wise for the hon. Member to keep to the Amendment.

Sir J. Mellor

I am sorry, but I am doing my best to keep to the point of the discrimination between an owner who is not an occupier and an owner who is, I was only trying to draw the distinction between the fairly substantial compensation which a man living in a house worth £5,000 gets and that which an occupier would get with a lease of four years to run at a rack rent. In that case the value of his interest as assessed by the arbitrator would probably be negligible, but surely we cannot say—

The Deputy-Chairman

I have already drawn the attention of the hon. Member to the fact that it is being increasingly borne in upon my mind that perhaps the Amendment should not have been called at all, and I must say that if he continues to go further in his present direction, I shall undoubtedly come to that conclusion.

Sir J. Mellor

Then I must be particularly careful, and I apologise, Mr. Williams. I come to quite a different point. The other line taken by the Minister in resisting the proposal that owners should be in the same position as owner-occupiers, was that an owner who was an investor had parted with his interest in the land in exchange for a fixed annual money payment, and therefore he had become a complete rentier and had abandoned his interest in the land, apart from the technicality of the freehold. The Minister said he had to be regarded as somebody who had merely a fixed money claim. Of course, in the case of a very long lease of, say, 999 years, that argument would be tenable, but in the sort of leases with which we are dealing today, for instance, of seven, 14 or 21 years, it is quite untenable. What people did when they bought land and houses was to endeavour to invest their money in something which was, as far as possible, of value, independently of the fluctuations in the purchasing power of the currency. During the tenancy it is true, of course, that they have merely a fixed money claim, but they can—

The Deputy-Chairman

I have already warned the hon. Member once and I shall not do it again. This is not a matter of tenancy. If he does not keep to the owner-occupier I shall have to rule that the Amendment obviously goes too wide.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower (Penrith)

On that point, Mr. Williams, are we not entitled to discuss the claims of the owner of the land to the 30 per cent.?

The Deputy-Chairman

That is what I have said.

Sir J. Mellor

I am coming to the conclusion that I am unable to develop my argument on the two main lines which I thought most relevant to this issue. I will say this, that whatever my right hon. Friend may think—and I know that what he says he thinks—the effect of the discrimination against the investing owner of property will have grave results. It has been a traditional investment in this country, always regarded as sound, to put money into bricks and mortar. I suggest that it has not only been satisfactory from the point of view of the investor—although it is becoming far less satisfactory to-day—but that it has been of direct value to the State. Surely, at the present time above all, we ought to encourage that form of investment. The Government want the co-operation of private enterprise in building houses, but it does seem to me that they are going a very strange way about obtaining it. I do hope that they will give, a little more thought to this matter and will consider whether, in the interests of their housing programme alone, they would not be well advised to give a little more thought to fair treatment for the investor in property.

1.15 p.m.

The Deputy-Chairman

I think I should warn the Committee that we cannot use this Amendment to repeat the whole of yesterday's Debate. It would not be fair to the Committee.

Mr. Molson

I shall try to keep within your Ruling, Mr. Williams, but there were some points raised by the hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor) in the early part of his speech to which you did not take exception, and to which I should like to give an answer. If I thought that the effect of this Measure was in any way to discriminate unfairly against property held by an owner-investor, or that it really was the case that this Bill would be regarded in any way as an attack upon property, or if I thought the Government could rightly be described as predatory, I should not be supporting the Clauses in the way I am doing. I am the more anxious to make my position and that of some of my hon. Friends on this matter quite clear, as the speech made by my Noble Friend the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) was one with which I found myself in complete disagreement.

The view which I take, and which is obviously the view taken by the Government, is that property as such is fairly adequately compensated by the payment of 1939 prices. That is the matter which was discussed yesterday, and I should not be in Order in repeating the arguments used either on one side or the other. But to-day my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth is suggesting that it is not reasonable to have what I might call compensation in two decks. Property as such is, under this Bill, being compensated on the basis of whether it is occupied by the owner or not, but it seems to me entirely reasonable and proper to say, as the Minister said yesterday, that having compensated a man for his property, you are also justified in giving additional compensation when you deprive him of the roof over his head.

Sir J. Mellor

I was not disputing that at all. What I was quarrelling with was the Minister's explanation as to why 30 per cent. should go to owner-occupiers and not to owners.

Mr. Molson

That is what I thought I was saying. I can hardly be optimistic enough to suppose that when I repeat the Minister's arguments which he used yesterday I shall be more successful than he was in carrying conviction to my hon. Friend's mind.

The Deputy-Chairman

This is repeating the arguments of yesterday. It is so obvious that this is becoming a repetition of yesterday's Debate that I must withdraw the Amendment.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower

On a point of Order. There are one or two other points which were not raised yesterday, and we had not an opportunity of raising them then. Would it not be possible, I ask with great respect, Mr. Williams, for you to allow the discussion to proceed and to watch very closely for any point that is out of Order, because there are one or two other points which some hon. Members might wish to raise?

The Deputy-Chairman

There may be one or two points which hon. Members wish to raise. So far as I have been able to do so, I have been trying to watch the discussion very carefully. It is a very complicated matter, and I suggest that there will be an occasion on the Motion "That the Clause be added to the Bill," when any point that has been left out can be raised.

Mr. Turton

Surely this is an extraordinary position. An Amendment has been moved, with your approval, Mr. Williams. There are Members who, no doubt, wish to vote on this question. It may be we shall be trespassing against the rules of Order by repeating on this Amendment the arguments which we used yesterday, but surely the proper procedure is for the Amendment to be put and not withdrawn.

The Deputy-Chairman

No, the Chairman has always the chance of withdrawing an Amendment if, as the discussion proceeds, he considers that it should not have been called.

Sir J. Mellor

If I have been at fault in this, I humbly apologise. I must say in my own defence that yesterday, anticipating for good reasons that this Amendment would be called to-day, I purposely refrained from making a speech to the Committee and taking up time then. While I apologise I think that might be taken into consideration.

Mr. Woodburn

Further to that point of Order. It has struck me from the beginning that this discussion is whipping a dead horse which I thought was buried yesterday. If the Committee has decided a principle yesterday I think the Chair is quite right in saying it should not be asked to reconsider that principle to-day. It would make this Committee ridiculous if, for example, it reversed its decision of yesterday on this Amendment. Therefore I respectfully suggest—

The Deputy-Chairman

This is becoming a Debate of length on my decision.

Sir J. Mellor

On a point of Order.

The Deputy-Chairman

No. I cannot allow a Debate on a decision of the Chair to go on indefinitely on points of Order.

Sir J. Mellor

On the point raised by—

The Deputy-Chairman

I think this discussion is being taken into a Debate which is coming much too near the question of whether the Chairman is right or wrong. We cannot discuss that. I must rule that we end the discussion on this Amendment, which I withdraw from the Committee, and I shall now call the next Amendment on the Paper.

Mr. Silkin (Peckham)

I beg to move, in line 7, after "owner-occupier," insert: and acquired that interest prior to the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine. The effect of this Amendment is to limit the number of persons who may be regarded as owner-occupiers to persons who had acquired that property before 31st March, 1939, and will then qualify for the additional 30 per cent. grant. I do not think this Amendment needs a great deal of advocacy. The fact is that the new definition of owner-occupier has opened the door very widely indeed, some might think far too widely, and at least one does not want people who have acquired their property during the war to get the benefit of the additional 30 per cent. Therefore this Amendment has been moved to limit that grant to people who were in occupation of their premises before 31st March, 1939.

Mr. Turton

I want to say a word in support of this Amendment. In view of the curious discrimination of the Govern- ment as regards the owner-occupier it would be wise to take precautions against persons who acquire their interest after the passing of this Bill, otherwise a number of owner-investors will enter into occupation of their property in order that they may get the extra 30 per cent. I think that would be undesirable, and it would make for better standards of conduct on the part of all local authorities, if there was some such provision in the Bill.

Mr. Geoffrey Hutchinson (Ilford)

This Amendment is, at first sight, an attractive one, but I hope my hon Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) will forgive me if I say that, on further examination it seems to be based upon a misconception. As I understand it the Government have selected the owner-occupier for special treatment upon the ground that in his case, unless he is given a special measure of compensation, he will be deprived not only of his property but also of his home. I understood that that point of view was accepted by my hon. Friends on the other side of the Committee. If that be so, the effect of this Amendment would be that a person who had begun to occupy premises since March, 1939, making his home in those premises, would in fact occupy his home without receiving the additional compensation which I understood all my hon. Friends on the other side of the Committee were agreed that he ought to receive. That being so, I am sure on further reflection the hon. Member for Peckham, who has such a wide acquaintance with these topics, and who, if I may say so, treats them in so fair-minded a fashion, will appreciate that there is really a fallacy in the root of this Amendment. In the circumstances I hope that the Committee will not accept it.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I think that on reflection my hon. Friend who moved this Amendment will agree he should not press it, for the very reason expressed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford (Mr. G. Hutchinson). There is no justification in my mind for not treating people who have bought houses since the outbreak of war in order to make their homes in them any less generously than people who bought before the war. Many of those persons who have become owner-occupiers since the outbreak of war have, if anything, a stronger claim to public recognition in this respect, in my judgment. They may have bought their homes as a result of evacuation, as a result of their original homes being destroyed, or they may have been forced under the stress of war to move from one part of the country to another, and have then become owner-occupiers of premises. I am sure it would not be the wish of the Committee that people who have been forced to move in that way should be treated less generously than others. I hope the hon. Member will not press the Amendment. In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) I would indicate briefly that the point he has made is the subject of another Amendment. When we come to discuss that Amendment I may have something to say upon it.

Mr. Silkin

In view of what has been said, and on reflecting, as I have been invited to do, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lieut.-Colonel H. Guest (Plymouth, Drake)

I beg to move, in line 7, after "owner-occupier," insert: or the owner of such an interest in land not exceeding in value five thousand pounds. I am very grateful that this Amendment has been called so that I may say one or two words upon it. I frankly admit that its object is to extend the supplementation allowed to the owner-occupier to a particular class of owner-investors. On all sides of the Committee it is appreciated, I think, that there is a large body of persons who have worked through the whole of their working lives and towards the end have invested their savings in a house. On the rent of that house they are probably living in another house. They are persons who are deserving of all the consideration of Parliament, in that this method is really a form of insurance, so that they have something to live upon in their old age. I know of many cases, as I feel sure every Member of this Committee does, of persons who have invested their savings in an adjoining house or in a house further down the road. I should very much like the Committee to extend this supplementation of compensation to such persons.

1.30 p.m.

It has been extremely difficult to draft an Amendment which deals with the class of persons in whom I am interested. I wondered whether it would be advisable to limit the figure to £2,000 as opposed to £5,000, because that more accurately covered the class of persons I would like to bring under this supplementation scheme. But I found, particularly in the areas which I know, that there are persons who have been in business, who have retired, and who have left their premises to be occupied by other people who may be carrying on business in premises in which they have no interest at all. I selected the figure of £5,000 in order to include such persons. I am not wedded to the figure. There are many anomalies in this Bill. We have heard from the Attorney-General that a great many big businesses and corporations which might be impersonal are covered by this supplementation provision, and yet a person who is an investor, just as the corporations are investors, is excluded, because he does not come into the category which has been laid down. I strongly urge the Committee to consider that class of persons whose life's savings have gone into a house, from which they draw a revenue, upon which they live. We have decided—and, quite frankly, it is a principle to which I am not antagonistic—that the owner-occupier should be entitled to special compensation; but here is another cass of persons to whom some consideration should be given, because it is their life savings which they have invested in property, upon which they have to live.

Mr. Woodburn

I am sure that everyone sympathises with the object behind the hon. and gallant Gentleman's Amendment, that there should be no injustice done to people who are in very poor circumstances or who are likely to find themselves living in difficult economic conditions. But I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman, on reflection, will agree that he has introduced into this Debate a thing which most people have tried to avoid—the principle of separating classes of people according to their poverty or wealth, and dealing with them on that basis. The law separates those who are entitled to compensation into two distinct classes. There is the owner-occupier, whatever his wealth, and there is the investor. That has been done on the principle, as I understand, that we cannot distinguish between one investor and another by allowing any particular investor to contract out of the accidents and the difficulties arising from war. The man whose house was requisitioned at the beginning of the war, and who got compensation at the 1939 level, and who put that into War Loan, has not had his compensation increased in the slightest. He has still got his £5,000—to use the figure which was used earlier as an illustration—and not £5,000 plus £1,500. There is no moral justification for saying that the man who has put his money into property should be absolved from the depreciation that has taken place in money. However much we may agree with the principle of the Amendment, it does not accomplish what the hon. and gallant Gentleman wants. A man may have hundreds of interests not exceeding £5,000 each; and a millionaire may get all his property exempted under this proposal, provided that each of the properties is under £5,000 in value.

Lieut.-Colonel Guest

That is a weakness of the drafting. I would not like to see a man who owns a lot of houses, and whose business it is to let them out in large numbers, get the supplementation.

Mr. Woodburn

I realise the sincerity of my hon. and gallant Friend, but he will understand that, in passing a law of this kind, we have to see that our hearts do not carry us away to the extent of allowing all the stable doors to be opened and all the horses to run out. On principle and on the technicality I do not think the Committee should accept an Amendment of this kind.

Mr. Hely-Hutchinson (Hastings)

I would like to speak in support of the hon. Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn). While I am in sympathy with the purposes of the Amendment I am afraid it opens the door to the principle which was in the Bill as originally drafted, and which we referred back to the Government. If there is something inequitable about the treatment being accorded to the owner-investor under the Bill as it now stands, it is not made any more equitable by extending the supplementation, or not, according to whether the property is under £5,000 or over £5,000. It is either right or wrong to recognise the owner-occupier. I support what the hon. Member for East Stirling has said in that respect, although perhaps for a slightly different reason.

Dr. Haden Guest

The hon. and gallant Member for the Drake division (Lieut.- Colonel Guest) has admitted that there was an error in drafting, inasmuch as the Amendment would enable large sums to be given to investors whom it was not intended to cover. I listened carefully to what the hon. and gallant Member had to say, and he did not seem sure whether the amount should be £2,000 or £5,000. As there are so many uncertainties I suggest that he might think it well to withdraw the Amendment and to bring it up at another time. So much is uncertain that it would not be right to pass an opinion on the matter at all.

Sir Robert Tasker (Holborn)

May I refer to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn)? Many seem to have an idea which they introduce in nearly every Debate upon this Bill that there is no difference between property ownership and the ownership of stocks and shares. We ought not to have that idea in our minds. The two are not comparable. Transactions in property and transactions in shares are entirely different. I deprecate hon. Members, for the purpose of debate, trying to compare stocks and shares held by one man with property held by another.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning (Mr. Henry Strauss)

I respect the motives which led my hon. and gallant Friend to put down this Amendment, but, for reasons which I think have appeared in speeches from all quarters of the Committee, I am bound to suggest to my hon. and gallant Friend that he should withdraw it, or, in any event, to suggest to the Committee that the Amendment is one which they cannot accept. The general principle of making a distinction between owner-occupiers and owners who are not occupiers was decided after debate yesterday, and it would be quite improper, and, indeed, not in Order, for me to reopen that question.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. Hely-Hutchinson) that, that question having been decided, we should not be acting in a way that would improve the Bill if we brought in a sort of means test and added certain non-occupying owners to the owner-occupiers who may benefit under this Clause. I would put only two other points to my hon. and gallant Friend. The first is that his Amendment is defective, not merely for the possible reason suggested by the hon. Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn)—I am not sure that it is defective in that way, although it may be—but, certainly, because there is no limitation whatever on the wealth of the gentleman who might benefit under this Amendment, in forms of property other than land. He might be a millionaire by reason of his holdings of War Loan, and he would still be entitled to benefit under this Amendment as drawn. If it were intended to introduce any sort of wealth qualification, it would have to be on entirely different principles from those set out in the Amendment.

There is another point—and I think this may appeal a little to my hon. and gallant Friend on the merits. One of the examples, if I understood him correctly, that he gave was that of a person who had put his life savings into property subject to a really long lease. If that was so, the main element in the value of that person's property that we are considering is the value of the rent under that lease, and there is no particular reason for thinking that that was very different in 1939 from what it is to-day. If it was a long lease, and his property was, in effect, little more than a money claim on a long-term investment, there is no reason to think there has been much change in the value of that property, or that any substantial injury would be done by the payment of the 1939 price and no more. I do not think that, having regard to the defects of the Amendment that I have pointed out and that have been pointed out by other Members, my hon. and gallant Friend will wish to press it. Should he agree with what I have said, I suggest that he should ask leave to withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Silkin

I beg to move, in line 48, leave out from the second "the" to end of paragraph, and insert: date of the first publication of the intention to make an application for an order under Section one of this Act or the making of the compulsory purchase order as respects land not included in an order under the said Section one or the date of other authorisation of the purchase, as the case may be. This Amendment is regarded as of considerable importance. I think it will not come as a surprise to the Committee to learn that there are unscrupulous owners who may take advantage of this Bill to increase their eligibility for compensation. The Amendment deals with the qualification for obtaining the additional 30 per cent. One of the qualifications is that the person should be in occupation of the building or property at the time of the service of the notice to treat. The important words are "at the time of the service of the notice to treat." The Amendment would qualify him if he was an owner-occupier at the date of the first publication of the intention to make an Order. Under the provisions of this Bill, as it has been amended in Committee and on the Report stage, an owner will have very ample notice of the intention of the local authority to acquire his property. For instance, the local authority must advertise their intention of making an Order not less than two months before they do so.

1.45 p.m.

Then, there are two other advertisements which they have to make, and there is the possibility of two local inquiries, and I assume that it may well be, in extreme cases, that an owner of property will have 12 months' notice before the notice to treat has been served. The desire of the authorities is that the owner shall not use that period in order to put himself in a favourable position for obtaining compensation, to the prejudice of the local authority, and the Amendment is designed to provide that the operative date should be the date of the first intimation of the local authority's intention to acquire the. property. If a person is an owner-occupier by that date, he should qualify; if he is not, by that date, he should be regarded merely as an owner.

The Amendment is not without precedent. Indeed, there is one precedent in this very Bill. In the Fifth Schedule, there is a provision, which is not exactly on all fours, but which does provide for the possibility of a person acting in such a way as to prejudice the local authority in giving him more compensation. In the First Schedule to the Housing Act of 1936, paragraph 2 (b), there are the words: The arbitrator shall not take into account any building erected or any improvement or alteration made, or any interest in land created after the date on which notice of the order having been made is published. That is the date under the Housing Act, which may be a long time before the notice to treat, and, therefore, I submit that what is being asked has been well recognised in law, and that the provision is made very frequently in private Acts on similar lines. I hope that the Minister will, therefore, see his way to accept it.

The Solicitor-General (Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)

I think it would be convenient if I spoke at once on this Amendment, because I recognise its importance, and I hope that my hon. Friend will recognise the weight of the considerations that are in my mind and approve of the course which I suggest. We must face the problem, set by the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin), that it is necessary that there should be some protection that the owner-occupier is a bona-fide occupier. That is the problem which the hon. Member set to the Committee, and it is one that the Committee should meet. As drafted, the test is the date of the notice to treat. My hon. Friend's suggestion is that we should substitute for that, the earliest date on which there is means of knowing of the impending purchase of the property. I am putting this generally, and, I hope, correctly. I fully approve of the intention behind the Amendment, to prevent owners taking up occupation of property which they own merely for the purpose of qualifying for the supplementary payment.

The difficulty which I see in the proposal is that it might work injustices in many cases. The first advertisement of an intention to apply for a Clause I order may be made, as regards some areas, very soon after the end of the war and long before the people who have moved away because of war circumstances have settled down to a normal life. The actual purchase may not take place for many years, during which there might well be all sorts of bona-fide changes in ownership and occupation. The same difficulty arises—and I ask my hon. Friend to note this—on the second part of the Amendment, dealing with the period of three years which may elapse between the date on which the compulsory purchase order is made and the date the notice to treat is served.

I am suggesting to my hon. Friend that it is impossible to make the rigid exclusion which he proposes. I am not going to put forward a purely destructive criticism. I suggest that the true test—it sounds formidable, but it is the true test—is whether the buying of the property is made, bona-fide, for occupation or simply for this purpose. Although my right hon. and learned Friend and I would be the last to throw onerous burdens on the county court judges, we recognise that they could deal with it. Intention is just as much a matter of fact as the state of one's digestion, and the county court judges would be able to solve that problem. My hon. Friend's reference really supports my suggestion, because the idea in paragraph 8 of the Fifth Schedule—and the idea, as my hon. Friend said, is found in very many recent Acts conferring powers of compulsory purchase—is the precedent which I favour, namely, that which directs the arbitrator not to take into account any interest, or land, or buildings and the like, in his opinion, it was not reasonably necessary and was created or carried out with a view to obtaining compensation, or increased compensation. That is the common form of protection, and I suggest to my hon. Friend that we should work on that basis. I hope he will not press his present proposal, on the understanding that the Minister will formulate a proposal on the lines which I have suggested and deal with it in another place.

Mr. Silkin

In view of that undertaking, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Temporary Chairman (Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward)

In reference to the Amendment standing next in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale (Sir Ian Fraser), it seems that it is intimately connected with the further Amendment in the name of the hon. and gallant Member, and I think it would be convenient to the Committee to discuss them together.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Ian Fraser (Lons-dale)

I beg to move, in line 56, leave out "or."

This Amendment is to be considered with the following Amendment:

In line 67, at end, insert: or (e) If, in the case of any person serving in any of His Majesty's Forces, he can show that he was in occupation of the building or property at the time of his enlistment and that the title under which the building or property is held is such that he has the right to enter into occupation thereof on the termination of his service with His Majesty's Forces. The Committee decided that only the owner-occupier, and not the owner-investor, should benefit by this supplementation and still defines the owner-occupier in various ways. I want to be clear that those who are covered in the Bill for the purpose of supplementation include any man who gave up his occupation of the house or premises because he went to join the Armed Forces of the Crown. I want to be quite clear that there can be no case in which the call to arms invalidated a man's claim to that supplementation. I do not want to elaborate the argument for that view, because I am sure that it commends itself to the Committee, but I ask if there is any possible trap in the five years period. Supposing a man is away in Burma for another three or four years, what then? Is there any possible trap, if he was not in occupation at the time when notice to treat was served? There are other possible traps, and I ask for an assurance that, in no circumstances, will the man who went into the Armed Forces miss the supplementation which Parliament wishes to give him.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower (Penrith)

I wish to support the Amendment. I think that, when we are arguing the very complicated provisions of this Bill, some of the difficulties are overlooked. If we take the case of a Serviceman who has joined up and been sent abroad, we find that, in many cases, he has had to let his house and has let it only for the duration of hostilities. Although he intends to return to his house, he has, in fact, been obliged to let it for a period of three, five or seven years, as the' case may be. But he had every intention of coming back to that house and making it his home again. You cannot, in the difficult conditions prevailing in this war, always get possession of your house, which may be in a blitzed area. I contend that there is substance behind this Amendment. I hope the Minister will see whether, in the exceptional circumstances indicated—and this is not a frivolous Amendment, but a very serious one—ex-Servicemen who have been called up and sent out of the country will have special consideration, to make sure that no man who has been drafted away from this country, and whose intention, quite honestly, is to go back and make that house his home, will be deprived of the opportunity of doing so, or prevented from receiving the benefits of the owner-occupier provision.

2.0 p.m.

Mr. H. Strauss

I think my hon. and gallant Friend who moved this Amendment did so as a precaution because he wanted to make quite certain that the case of the soldier had been properly borne in mind. I am going to ask him not to press the Amendment, but to withdraw it, and to give him the assurance which I think is the assurance that he desires. The soldier whose position is amply secured under the Clause as it stands, without the Amendment, is a soldier who has both the right and the intention to enter into occupation within five years of the notice to treat. If, notwithstanding that intention, he cannot do so because he has gone into His Majesty's Service and is serving in Burma or elsewhere abroad, he will still be protected under the words in the Clause as it stands, subject to its being possible for him so to do. I use this careful language because it is not sufficient—and I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend did not intend it to be—that he merely left the premises when he became a soldier. But if he has both the right and the intention, so far as it may be possible, to enter into occupation within five years of the notice to treat, he is fully covered, I am advised, by the Clause as it stands, and the Amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend is unnecessary, and because it is unnecessary it is undesirable. In these circumstances I suggest to my hon. and gallant Friend that on that assurance he should ask the leave of the Committee to withdraw his Amendment.

Sir I. Fraser

If it is not possible because he is retained in the Armed Forces, have I the hon. Gentleman's assurance that he has only to show that he is so detained and his five years will be extended to six or seven years and so on?

Mr. Strauss

Let me read the words of the Clause as it stands: it was at that time his intention, subject to its being possible for him so to do, to enter into occupation.' If he has that intention to enter into occupation as soon as he is released from Burma, and the only reason he does not enter is because he is detained in His Majesty's Forces—if he intends, if it is possible for him to do so, if, that is to say, he is released from His Majesty's Forces in time, to enter into possession within the five years, he is protected under the Clause. He is not excluded from the right to claim supplementation merely because his service in the Army or any other of His Majesty's Forces renders it impossible for him to enter into occupation at the end of five years.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower

The only point I would like to put to my hon Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, who has so earnestly tried to meet the argument of my hon. and gallant Friend who proposed the Amendment, is, Why limit it to five years? In the majority of cases where you seek to find a tenant for a house insistence is made upon having a seven years' lease. A soldier might genuinely wish to return to his home; he might be forced to let his house on a seven years' lease and yet would have every intention of returning. Is it not possible, even at this late hour, to see if the words cannot be altered from five to seven years?

Mr. Strauss

I cannot do that. The five years is part of the Clause. It may well be that the lease is one of seven years. The relevant date is the date of the notice to treat, and I think that the lease my hon. and gallant Friend, who seconded the Amendment, has in mind is probably a lease already made a year or two ago. Therefore, although it may have been a lease for seven years, the right to possession may well be, and almost certainly will be, within five years of the notice to treat. While I cannot change the five years, I think that the point that my hon. and gallant Friend has in mind is, in fact, met.

Sir I. Fraser

The hon. Gentleman did not deal with the question where the soldier was already called up when notice to treat was served but happened to be in occupation at the time of notice.

Mr. Strauss

All that he has to have in order to give him the right of the benefit of the Clause we are considering is the right and intention to enter into occupation within five years of the notice to treat if he is able to do so.

Sir I. Fraser

In view of that assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment, and I do not intend to move the subsequent Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Silkin

I beg to move, in line 75, leave out paragraph (c).

Would it be in Order if I discussed the next following Amendment in my name—in line 77, at the end, insert: other than in the capacity of caretaker or a similar character, as I think it would be convenient?

The Temporary Chairman

It might meet the convenience of the Committee if they were taken together.

Mr. Silkin

The purpose of the Amendment to omit paragraph (c) is that the paragraph strikes me as being vague and it goes much too far. It must be read with reference to paragraph (b), which provides that references to occupation of a building or property include references to occupation of a part thereof. I would like the Committee to look at the case of blocks of flats and blocks of offices. Let us examine the case of a caretaker. He is in occupation of a part of the premises. He is in employment as a caretaker and he is there for the purpose of that employment. Therefore, as long as a caretaker occupies one room in a block of flats, even if the rest of the premises are let off, he will, under paragraphs (b) and (c), become an owner-occupier in the occupation of one room. References to occupation of buildings or property include references to occupation of property. Take the case of an owner of an office building using one or more rooms in that block for the purposes of collecting rents and running an estate office. That would be deemed, as I read this provision, in occupation and would be occupation for purposes of employment, and, therefore, such a person would be regarded as an owner-occupier. There is no doubt that that was not the intention of my right hon. and learned Friend in putting down this Clause. I would like an assurance that something will be done to restrict the scope of this Clause to what was intended and what was understood by every Member of this Committee. There is one other point. No reference is made to the time when the occupation of a person in employment takes place. As long, in fact, as the premises are occupied by a person in employment for the purpose of rent employment at the date of notice to treat, that would be regarded as occupation.

Whereupon, The YEOMAN USHER OF THE BLACK ROD being come with a Message, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair.

Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair.

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