§ Major York (Ripon)
I beg to move, in page 3, line 3, leave out partly," and insert "mainly."
The purpose of the Amendment is to find out from the Government what is meant by the rather nebulous word "partly." Suppose that at some stage in the proceedings by any private firm which has obtained land under the Defence Regulations, the Government have supplied an infinitesimal sum—it might even be 10s—towards any expenses of the firm, Clause 5 would, in our contention, apply to the works and We land. I believe that that is not the intention of the Government and that what they are trying to do is to see that substantial sums of public money are not lost. Therefore, we are trying by the Amendment to provide that the only case to which the Clause should apply is where the expense of the Crown has been mainly concerned with the construction. I do not know that I could define "mainly," but I should say that it meant more than 50 per cent. If the Government were prepared to say that 50 per cent. was the sort of figure they had in mind, I am sure that my hon. Friends whose names are down to the Amendment would be prepared to withdraw it.
§ Mr. Turton
We ought to be very careful about withdrawing an Amendment on an assurance that "partly" means more than 50 per cent. If we put in "mainly" it will clearly cover the greater part of the expenditure, and I hope that the Amendment will be insisted upon. It is clear that in the process of war.works a great many buildings and erections have been put up to which the Government have paid contributions by way of grants; and if the word "partly" remained it would enable the Government to claim that all the land on which the works were should be taken by a Government Department. The grants were given for expenditure which did not redound to the credit of the firm, but was for the nation. We are not asking the Government to give away much in asking for the word "mainly." I cannot think that the Financial Secretary will be able to devise a case where this would prevent him from being able to purchase a war works which is of such value to the nation that, in the public interest, it should be taken over. If we do not get the Amendment I fear that 2049 some Government Department will try to take land that will be of use to them again and sell it to some other person. Wide powers are given under this Clause, and although the Government have got a case for some powers, we should be careful to see that they are not too wide.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)
I do not recommend the Committee to accept the Amendment, although I am glad it has been put down because it raises an important point to which we have given great consideration, and which, in my mind, was one of the main reasons why it is vital that there should be a body such as the Commission set up. The Commission have to take into account all relevant circumstances, including the cost of the works. I entirely agree with my hon. Friends that it would be wrong if Government Departments sought to exercise powers in this Bill because there had been some State-aided addition to works. It is not the Government's intention that the powers should be invoked in cases where the expenditure was trivial or small compared with the value of what we are dealing with. Another relevant point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) is that in some cases—not all by any means—these works were useful for war purposes but would not be of use afterwards for the normal peace-time business that would be carried on there. I would point out that the works under paragraph (a) would not have any post-war value.
Agreeing, therefore, with the main principle of what has been put forward, I would not recommend the Committee to accept "mainly." One reason—and this is not the main reason—for leaving the Bill as it is is that I think it might raise a justiciable issue which would be tiresome to the people affected as well as to the Government. I suppose that "mainly" may mean 50.0001 per cent., or anything over one-half. Obviously, in a number of cases you would have a possible issue as to whether the Bill applied at all, the issue depending on a nice calculation as to the value or the cost of the works as originally there and the additions made to them. It would be unfortunate to introduce an Amendment which would raise a number of cases of doubt as to whether the Bill applied at all, which might be very difficult to solve.
§ 6.0 p.m.
Mr. Orr-Ewinģ (Weston-super-Mare)
I agree with what the Attorney-General has said about the word "mainly" and with his definition of it, but would he substitute the word "substantially" instead of "mainly"?
§ The Attorney-General
That would, I think, be worse. I would not know what was meant by saying that it has been "substantially at the expense of the Crown." That might mean 30, 40, 60, even 70 per cent., and again these would be the issue to which I have referred. I want to emphasise to the Committee that if the Amendments were accepted the Bill would be left in a most unfortunate state. Of course it is not our intention that the Bill should be used where the Government contribution is small—
Mr. Manninģham-Baller (Daventry)
What is "small"?
§ The Attorney-General
That, again, is a question, and that is precisely why it is vital that there should be an independent Commission. It is one of the most relevant considerations of which they will have to take note, and that is why it is very important that there should be an assurance, in cases connected with some Government Department or other, that the powers should not be exercised in a manner contrary to the intention of the Bill. I think we are not helped by either "mainly" or "substantially." There would be times when it would be reasonable for the Commission to make a decision, though of course if they said "No" that would be an end to it. Suppose a rich corporation had existing works of a substantial value and the Government added to those works something which cost, say, £100,000 or £200,000. It might be less than 5o per cent. of the whole. Those works might be extremely useful to that company in its post-war business. Would it be necessarily unreasonable for the Government to say that as they have added to those works at the cost of the taxpayers they should have power to acquire the whole, but would be perfectly content to leave it in their hands if they would make an arrangement which is reasonable having regard to the value of the works? There are special words in Clause II which entitle the Commission to consider that. That is one of the reasons 2051 why we are having a Commission with power to take into account all relevant considerations. I would advise the Committee not to accept the word "mainly." For one thing it would raise a justiciable issue which might make the matter very complicated and costly, and also, there would be cases where the Crown would be justified in invoking powers where the contribution has been less than 50 per cent.
I appreciate the difficulty of putting into this Clause a word of precision which will be satisfactory, but I am not impressed by the arguments put forward by the Attorney-General in support of the Clause in its present form. In the first place his argument seemed to be that it really does not matter what words appear in Clause 5, Sub-section (1), because there is a Commission of independent men who would take into account all the relevant factors. I do not feel very satisfied with that. This Clause is the foundation stone for the whole machinery of public acquisition by a Government Department. It is an argument that might be applied to any Amendment to any part of this Bill to say that there is the Commission. On the second argument I think he rather "let the cat out of the bag." He only dealt with the case where part of the expenditure had been paid by a Government Department. He said: "Suppose a case where the extension of a big factory cost £200,000 of Government money. If we have this word 'partly' we shall be able to say to the big corporations, 'Unless you pay us for this £200,000 extension we shall, under this Act, have the power to acquire the whole of your undertaking'." That is the argument used where the part expenditure is by a Government Department. If the hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major York) happened to contribute £1 to the execution or the construction of Government war works where he had no interest or only a limited interest in the land, the words in this Clause would give the Minister power to exercise the same sort of pressure as upon the big corporations. It seems to me quite wrong and I must say I do not feel in the east content to leave it to the Commission. I would suggest to the Attorney-General that real justice would be secured in the majority of cases by the omission of the words 2052 "wholly or party" if he finds any real difficulty about "mainly." It would not really be for the court to determine whether the expenditure had been mainly at the expense of the Crown, because the Commission should be well able to do that. Surely one could incorporate a form of words which left it to that independent tribunal, the Commission, to decide whether expenditure had been mainly for the Crown and remove that issue from the courts. It seems to me that the word "mainly" is much more suitable in this case than the word "partly."
§ Major York
I feel a little confused by the Attorney-General, because I think he has shown the difficulty of trying to narrow down the interpretation of this part of the Sub-section. I think that what is really at the back of our minds more than anything else is the fact that a person completely uninterested in the land is to be given certain rights by the Government merely for the reason that certain sums of Government money had been spent on the works. It is valueless for me as a layman to try to argue with the Attorney-General, but he has not satisfied me, and at a later stage I hope we shall be able to show our desires rather more strongly than we can perhaps at the present time. If he will consider the question of leaving it, as my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manninģham-Buller) has suggested, that will satisfy me.
§ Mr. Turton
I hope the Attorney-General will consider the suggestion made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller). The answer of the Attorney-General really was most unsatisfactory. What it really came to in a condensed form was: "I require this for the purpose of blackmail in certain cases." I think there is a grave danger in this. I know the object of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Attorney-General and the Financial Secretary is most honourable, and that they have no idea of blackmail, but I am not so sure of some Government Departments, and I am far from sure of other persons who might be involved in this matter. The main point here is that we cover (a) all questions in cases of Government grants and (b) covers those cases where a large corporation has made a contribution to the cost of the extension of a small firm's pre- 2053 mises for war work. That has happened in many factories up and down this country. The small men who were doing war work have, owing to a working arrangement for munitions, received contributions from the larger firms in connection with their work. If we leave in this word "partly" it will enable the larger firms to have a stranglehold on the small man. I suggest that this matter should be reconsideded by the Attorney-General. I am not wedded to the word "mainly"—
§ Mr. Turton
I will leave that suggestion to come from those benches. As I said, I am not wedded to the word "mainly." I suggest that the Attorney-General or the Chancellor should get up and say that this matter will be reconsidered and another form of words put in to make it quite clear that Clause 5 cannot be used for blackmail purposes.
I hope the Attorney-General will reconsider the wording of this Clause. His explanation seemed to me to give the words an extremely alarming meaning. We can make quite clear what is the intention of the Government only by using a form of words which will show that it is not their intention that these powers should be used for any blackmailing purposes.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General
I must say that I cannot hold out any hope. My right hon. Friends and I have given this matter a great deal of consideration. We did appreciate and anticipate the type of point which has been made by the mover and seconder of this Amendment. That is the reason why I pointed out the difficulty of the use of this word "mainly." When we come to Clause ii it will be seen we have put in words which we hope are wide, and will give guidance to insure that purchases are not sanctioned, except in proper cases. My hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) used the word "blackmail." I cannot regard the recovery for taxpayers of the fair value of works which have been erected at their expense, and which are afterwards to be used for profit, as blackmail. It seems to me common justice to the taxpayers. I should be deceiving the Committee if I said that I thought it was 2054 possible to find some word other than "mainly," which would meet the point which we both desire to meet. I believe there must be the wide power to meet perfectly proper cases, though I agree with my hon. Friend, of course, that if it can be shown that only limited power is needed, and there are no cases in which it is required to go beyond the limits set, the correct thing to do is to put it in the Clause, and not leave it to the Commission. I have thought a great deal about this problem, but if these wider powers are needed for some perfectly proper and substantial cases, then the remedy must be to set up, as we have done, an independent body to see that a Department does not abuse the power by seeking to say: "We ought to be able to purchase" when the money spent by them or somebody else is unsubstantial, and it is oppressive and wrong to seek to exercise the powers under the Bill.
§ Mr. Turton
In my opinion the view too often exhibited in this Bill is one of blackmail. That is not to say I think the Crown should not seek to recover the expense of works put on the land, but that can be done perfectly well. We are putting down Amendments, suggesting that the correct procedure is that whoever is the owner of the land, be he private individual, firm, local authority or municipal corporation, when the Government have spent money on the land, and when the owners recover that land, should pay to the Government the value of those works. That is what is sought in numbers of Amendments, and I am surprised that the Chancellor did not draft his Bill on those lines. What we object to is their taking what purports to be the right to acquire land without any intention of acquiring it, in order to frighten the owner into giving money to the Crown. I suggest that that is an improper method of drafting Bills. If it is the Attorney-General's intention to use those methods I shall still continue to describe them as "blackmail."
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
I beg to move, in page 3, line 4, leave out from "Crown," to "and," in line 5.
The previous Amendment was directed to narrowing the terms of this Bill to doing what was stated to be its purpose, and not to give wide and discretionary powers which would enable things to be 2055 done far beyond what this House would be disposed to approve. But that Amendment was directed to narrowing those powers in so far as they related to the Crown. In this Clause these very exceptional and wide powers are not confined to cases where there has been expenditure of public moneys upon land, but are extended to other persons, and as the Clause now stands, and leaving out the words which are not relevant to my purpose now, where there are Government war works on the land… the power of acquisition shall be exercisable if those works were constructed …partly at the expense of… some other person having no interest or a limited interest in the land…There may be a case in which two subjects of the Crown have shared in the cost of some war works, and if, in the opinion of a Minister, it is desirable, then one person who has made a contribution towards the cost of Government war works on somebody else's land, will be entitled to approach the Minister, and the Minister may seek to exercise these quite exceptional powers of compulsory acquisition in the interests of one subject of the Crown as opposed to another.
The House gave a Second Reading to this Bill chiefly in order to ensure that where Government money had been expended it should be possible for the taxpayer to be reasonably reimbursed for the expenditure. Here we have the whole purpose of the Bill extended to cases in which no public money is involved at all, and where it is merely a matter between two subjects of the Crown. I feel that the Government are under an obligation to justify the granting by this House of powers of that very extensive kind. I therefore move to omit the words which extend so greatly the scope of the Bill.
On a point of Order. Would it be convenient to the Committee, Mr. Williams, to consider with this Amendment the Amendment standing in my name—in page 3, line 4, after the first "or," insert, "by and at the expense of?" After hearing what my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) has said, it seems to me that both Amendments cover a similar field in some respects.
I find myself unable to agree with my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak with regard to his Amendment, because it seems to me that where a private company, or a big corporation, or a company created by the Crown for the construction of war works, has spent a large sum in building a factory on some other person's land, much the same arguments apply in regard to that corporation as apply with regard to the recovery of the money of the State from the land-owner. Therefore, I am not entirely with my hon. Friend about the point he has made, but there must be some limitation in this Clause; because, as it now stands, as I understand it, if any bank which has no interest in the land can be shown to have put up some money for a corporation and the corporation has spent money on putting up war works, then the Crown will have the power of acquisition. I am not quite sure what the words…at the expense of the Crown or some other person …cover. Do they cover the case in which a grant is made specifically for the construction of works, or is it sufficient if it can be shown that some money borrowed from a bank, or the Government, has been used by the corporation for the construction of those works? Is that enough to entitle the Crown to seek to acquire under this Clause? The object of the Amendment I desire to move is to exclude the Crown's right to acquire where the expenditure has been by someone other than the Crown and someone who has done nothing about the construction of the works. Those words of limitation are desirable. If the other person has incurred the expense, and done the construction, then the Government will have the right of acquisition, but only then.
§ Major York
I rise to support the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson). One of the objectionable features of this Bill is this right that the Government are taking to acquire compulsorily land from one man and sell it to another. Further than that, it is taking the laws of property of this country and setting them at naught, and the only excuse is the saving of a few pence for the Exchequer. My right hon. Friend is grumbling at my words, but he has just refused an Amendment of mine by which I could have helped him 2057 considerably. I feel that although this is not the most objectionable feature, it is one of the most objectionable in the Bill. I can imagine cases in which a small garage may have been requisitioned, and some larger firm has come along and taken over that requisition, perhaps as part of a dispersal scheme, has enlarged that man's garage, perhaps with some grant from the Crown. That small man will lose all his rights in his property, he will lose his livelihood and his job. All he will get is the compensation as decided under the Defence Act, 1939, at 1939 prices.
§ Major York
It is conceivable he might be a widower. On the Second Reading I mentioned certain principles which I desired the Chancellor to follow. The second of them, which crops up in the Bill, the Chancellor refused to follow. I feel that that is very sad. I know that the Bill arises out of war conditions which produced some unfortunate effects, but one of them, which we should try to prevent, is the alteration of the law of property. Therefore I hope that my right hon. Friend will resist this Amendment as strongly as possible.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Peake
I would first express a little surprise at the suggestion of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major York) that the words in the Clause which he particularly wishes to omit were put in in order to save money for the taxpayer. That is not the case, of course. We have just discussed an Amendment, to which the Attorney-General replied, where taxpayers money was involved. The object of putting in the words:constructed wholly or partly at the expense of the Crown or some other person having no interest or a limited interest in the land",is to attain common justice and equity, as between one citizen and another.
§ Mr. Peake
May I make my point? To be constantly interrupted is disturbing, and it is much better to allow me to make my speech. What happened in the state of emergency was that many things had to be done in very great haste. We were 2058 in very severe need of aircraft early in the war, for example, and the Government said to the aircraft manufacturer: "You have to extend your works immediately. We will requisition the land." The aircraft manufacturer said: "All right. We will put up the extension of plant." The ordinary law of the land is that when a requisition comes to an end the property standing on the de-requisitioned land falls in to the owner of the land. It would be the greatest injustice towards an aircraft manufacturer who had spent large sums of money on extending his factories, if those factories passed, at the end of requisitioning, to a person who was simply the owner of the land, and who had made no contribution of any kind to the expense of extending the factories. The object of the words which I have read out is to safeguard the position of such people. That is why the words are included in the Clause.
The position of the small man, such as the small garage proprietor, has been referred to. In many cases, expensive machine tools will have been affixed to the site of the garage. It would be quite wrong that they should pass back to whoever owned the land before the requisitioning took place. The position is safeguarded perfectly by the Bill. If hon. Members will look at Clause 10, they will see that the purpose of acquisition in these cases is to preserve value. The Commission can make an additional recommendation, dependent upon an offer by the owner of the land to pay a sum of money in order to acquire assets which have been placed upon his land. Therefore, the garage proprietor who has been brought into the picture can come forward, if valuable extensions or machine tools have been placed in his garage and if he wants to preserve his interest in the land and in the business, with an offer to the Commission of a reasonable sum of money to acquire the improvements which have been made to his property.
§ Mr. Peake
Yes, the tools I referred to were those which have been affixed to the land, in which case they form part of the realty. There are many tools which have been put into factories and which in fact form part of the land, from a technical and legal point of view, under the Bill.
2059 The point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) is rather different. When I first read it I confess I had some difficulty in understanding it. The effect of his Amendment, as I read it, would be that the persons to whom I have been speaking—people who have spent money on requisitioned land, not being the Crown, such as an aircraft manufacturer —would find that nothing could be done to safeguard their interests unless the whole of the money had been put up by, let us say, an aircraft manufacturer. The effect of the Amendment is that the words "wholly or partly" which we have just been discussing would not apply to "some other person having no interest or a limited interest in the land."
Would my right hon. Friend be good enough to give way for a moment? I want to try to get this matter quite clear. I thought I had made it clear before. If my Amendment were made, the Sub-section would read:if those works were constructed wholly or partly at the expense of the Crown"—meaning the whole thing—or by and at the expense of some other person.
§ Mr. Peake
My hon. Friend's Amendment would draw a distinction between cases where works were constructed wholly or partly at the expense of the Crown, and works constructed, as the Clause would go on to read,by and at the expense of some other person having no interest or a limited interest in the land.That is to say, the word "partly" would not apply where the works had been constructed by those other persons. That also would produce an unjust position. There might be cases, and I am sure there are, where part of the money for the improvements on requisitioned land has been put up by the owner of neighbouring land and part by the owner of the requisitioned land. I can assure my hon. Friend that the only purpose we have in putting these words in is to attain equity and justice between one citizen and another. It is not a matter in which there is any money to be saved for the taxpayer and the Exchequer. All we want to see is equity achieved. Clause 10, which refers to additional recommendations by the Commission, will enable people whose property has been improved 2060 by other people who have spent money on it, to make an offer in money in order to retain their interest in the property concerned. I hope that this explanation is not too obscure and that my hon. Friends will not press their Amendments.
I would like to add a further word, because I am afraid that what I said on my Amendment has been completely misunderstood. The Amendment was not on the point of "wholly or partly" or anything to do with it. The whole point was to ensure that the words "some other person having no interest or a limited interest in the land" did not cover the case where money had been advanced to the aircraft manufacturer by the bank, or some other individual. As I read the terms of the Clause, if any third party liked to loan money to an aircraft manufacturer and it was used in the construction of Government war works, there would be this power of acquisition. I thought I had made it clear, but apparently I have not, that the object of the insertion of the word "by" was to ensure that the person whose interest is to be protected by the Clause was the individual who footed the Bill and constructed the works, and not someone one stage further back who had advanced the money. The Financial Secretary has not dealt with that point.
§ Mr. Peake
I think I can make it clear to my hon. Friend. He thinks that the words in the Clause may in some way enable banks to instigate Government Departments to acquire property on their behalf; but I can assure my hon. Friend that if he built a house by means of obtaining a loan from his bankers, the house would not have been erected at the expense of Lloyds Bank or the Midland Bank, or whichever it might be, but at the expense of my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Turton
After the explanation given by my right hon. Friend, what does appear is that the Sub-section has been very badly drafted. I would put this hypothesis to the Government: Suppose you had two garages, both owned, if you like, by widowers. In one case, a big firm, say Nuffields, have requisitioned the garage for war purposes and have made certain additions. We come now to the stage of de-requisitioning. Garage A, which has been helped by Nuffields, is all right. Their garage cannot be 2061 taken over by the Crown or by Nuffields. In the case of widower B, the Crown, although they have not spent one penny on the garage, can by the wording of the Clause acquire the land—either the Crown or Messrs. Nuffield. Surely that is very wrong. Why should the Crown be able to take land on which they have not spent one penny, when all the money is put up by a private firm? I am not arguing against the merits, as they were put by the Financial Secretary, but against the drafting of the Clause. I hope my right hon. Friend will allow me to insist that when we are dealing with private property and with the property of business men in this country, we should see that the words are closely drawn, so that no Government Department can misuse power so conferred. As the Clause is drafted, I believe the power can be misused. If anybody can tell me that widower B could not have his garage bought or acquired compulsorily by the Crown under this Clause I am prepared not to prosecute the point.
On one matter I would press the Government. I do not want the Attorney-General to get up and say: "This will be perfectly all right. It is a point of difficulty with which the Commission is meant to deal." We have had that too often, although we have not been discussing the Bill very long. The Government have said: "There will be no injustice from this Commission; we have got some very good names and that will be enough." That is the wrong way of doing it. We must see that the Bill is properly drafted so that injustice cannot possibly occur. The better way would be to omit the words: "or some other person having no interest." If there is a case for power being given to some other person, let us have a separate Clause for that purpose. To mix up the powers given to the Crown, with powers given to some other person, will lead to possible injustice in this case. I ask the Government to reconsider this matter.
§ Sir John Mellor (Tamworth)
I am rather inclined to agree with the Financial Secretary on this point, but I would ask for further information. My right hon. Friend referred to firms who had extended their premises by building on requisitioned land, presumably at the request of some Ministry. Surely at the tithe before proceeding to spend the 2062 firm's money on that construction, the people concerned obtained some guarantee from the Ministry that they would be reimbursed for the cost? Of course, that cuts both ways, but we ought to know how things stand. Is it not really the purpose of these words to secure that the Crown is covered in the event of their having to pay out, under such a guarantee?
§ Mr. Peake
Perhaps, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor), I might point out what happened in the stress of the dangerous years when these things were done. People were asked to extend their factories. The land was requisitioned and the people were told: "We will see that you don't suffer in the long run."
That means either that the Government must be in a position to acquire the requisitioned land, or that they must pay out money to an aircraft manufacturer, who then loses an extension to his factory to some quite undeserving person to whom it would fall on the termination of the requisition. There are other analogous cases where people, pressed by the Government, erected large extensions to their factories and where the land was in the possession of the factory owner but where the remaining lease was so short that, in the ordinary way of business prudence, nobody would have gone in for building an extensive structure on it. That is another type of case where these words are necessary, in order that private interests may be adequately and justly dealt with.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), who pressed for the redrafting of the entire Clause. The words we are debating now are extremely difficult to understand. I am not sure which is the more obscure, the Clause, or the explanation given by my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench. In any event, it has been said that the words, as they stand, have been inserted to protect one citizen against another but nobody could possibly understand the wording of the Clause at present. Although I have the greatest possible confidence in my right hon. Friends, I hope that at some future time they will be able to express their intention in clearer form.
§ Major York
I tried to interrupt my right hon. Friend, but he would not give way to me, as I did to him. I want to put a hypothetical question, purely for information, about the garage proprietor, with whom he dealt so cavalierly. Suppose the garage had been taken over, on requisitioning, by some large engineering firm, making some such thing as tanks or aeroplanes. The tools in that garage would be quite worthless, yet the engineering firm could come along, under the Clause, and say, "We will pay back the Government for the, tools they supplied to us." They could then set up a garage, with petrol pumps and all other paraphernalia, on that spot, and, while the garage proprietor could be given compensation, at 1939 prices, they could take his business away from him, lock, stock, and barrel.
§ Mr. Peake
On this question of keeping count of interruptions and giving way, I may say that I am well down so far on the day. Under this Clause, no initiative can be taken by one business man against another: the initiative must come from the requisitioning Department. The initiative rests in each case with the Crown; so there can be no question of a big man using this Clause to squeeze a little man. That is one safeguard. The second is that all these cases, which will be cases of preserving value, may under the Clause he brought by an objection to the Commission, and the decision of the Commission in all cases will be final. There are, as I pointed out, the conditions in Clause 10, which are rather elaborate, for provisional recommendations by the Commission where somebody's property has been improved, perhaps by the installation of a bathroom or something of that sort. If that somebody makes a reasonable offer in respect of the improvement, the Commission will reject the application for the acquisition of the property, on payment being made for the improvement which has been carried out by some other person.
§ Amendment negatived.
I beg to move, in page 3, line 5, after "interest," insert:being less than a lease with twenty-one years unexpired at the commencement of this Act.It might be for the convenience of the Committee if we discussed this Amendment with my later Amendment, to insert similar words in line 10.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Charles Williams)
The second Amendment would be consequential on the first.
I am still optimistic. I am optimistic about being able to explain this matter, and make it clear, in a few words. The words with which we are concerned are:or some other person having no interest or a limited interest in the land.These words are as vague as the word "partly." Such an interest would extend from a tenancy for a week to a lease for 99 years, or even longer. The object of this Amendment is to define, or put a limit, on a limited interest. It seems to me that there is no case for giving a right of acquisition over land on which an extension of Government war works has been done by a person having a limited interest in that land, if the person who has the limited interest is going to have at least 21 years more to occupy the land. I am not much concerned with whether the period should be 21 years or longer, but there should be some limit on the extensiveness of the limited interest which will give the right of acquisition. The learned Attorney-General has spoken about the desirability of not taking wider powers than are required. Here is an opportunity of carrying out that admirable object, and putting a limit to this extremely vague and, in my view, ill-drafted provision.
§ The Attorney-General
My hon. Friend has adopted an extraordinary attitude towards his Amendment. He puts down 21 years, and then says that he is not particularly interested in whether it is 21 years or not. Of course, we have considered this problem, which is one that leaps to the eye. You want to provide for people with a limited interest. Is it satisfactory to draw a definite line after a certain number of years? We came to the conclusion that it was not. My hon. Friend says that you ought to draw a line; but he has so little confidence in the line he has drawn that he says that perhaps the period ought to be longer. I agree that if a man has a lease for 99 years, you may say that, even if he has put up the most substantial building, he would have done that quite apart from any war needs. The point we are seeking to deal with here, as was explained by my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, is that, under the pressure of war, those 2065 who were making munitions of one kind or another were urged to build or extend their factories. In some cases, they extended them on land which the Crown requisitioned for them, and in which they had no interest. In other cases, they put up substantial works on land in which they had some interest, but so short an interest that no prudent man would have put up works without negotiating for a greater interest. That is the problem, and my right hon. Friend fully appreciates it.
Is it necessary to draw a line? My hon. Friend suggests 21 years. In many cases that would be too short. The life of buildings to-day is a good deal more than 21 years. There would be many cases where a man would not erect a permanent concrete structure, or whatever it was made of, on land where he had only a 21 years' interest. He may have been urged, in the interests of the war, to do so. We ought to safeguard him by taking power to purchase the land, including, of course, the landlord's interest, and seeing that he gets a return for his money. We think, therefore, that 21 years is too short. Should you make the period 30, 40, 50, or 60 years? Let me express my most emphatic disagreement with what my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) said about references to the Commission, of which he complains. Of course, if the problem allowed you to draw the Bill narrowly enough so that there could be no abuse of the powers given under it, there would be no need for a Commission. It is because my right hon. Friend realised that the vast and inchoate and chaotic nature of this problem compelled him to ask the House for powers which might be, so far as their legal scope was concerned, capable of abuse, that he has put up the independent Commission. I am quite unrepentant about referring, and continuing to refer, to the Commission, because at every stage, in the chaotic conditions which were necessary to win the war, powers were necessary which had to be put in vague terms.
I think my hon. Friend would agree with me—we agree about a lot of things —that it is probably rather difficult to say whether it should be 30, 40, 50 or 60 years. We felt that, here again, it depends upon the nature of what has been put up. If what the man has put up is simply a 2066 temporary structure, 21 years is too long. Anybody may erect a garden shed on property in which he had only a seven years' lease. If the thing were put up only for the war, and would come down in a year or two, the period would be too long. On the other hand, for the big modern concrete factory, 21 years is too short. I think we had better leave it. Suppose a case comes before the Commission where the Crown claims the right to purchase land, because the man who occupies it has only a limited interest. The Commission may say, "He has a 60 years' lease. How can you say you are justified in taking it? "For the reasons I have given, I think it is better to leave the Bill in its present form.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Captain Duncan (Kensington, North)
I would not have intervened had the Attorney-General not attacked so virulently my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller). This Amendment was not put down as gospel. It was put down in order to see whether the Government had thought about it. The Attorney-General said: "Of course we have thought about it." Surely there is no "of course" about it. One has only to read the Bill to see how much doubt there is as to whether the Government have thought about it. Now that the learned Attorney-General has said he has thought about it, and has stated why the words in the Bill are preferable and why the Amendment is not necessary, I am content, but I hope my right hon. and learned Friend will not attack my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry for attempting to make this Bill more clear, definite, precise and understandable.
§ Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)
I do not altogether share the view of my hon. and gallant Friend. I became exceedingly interested when the Attorney-General so boldly pursued the question whether the definition was necessary. As I listened to him I felt that he himself did not know what the answer was. As I interpret it, a definition or decision as to what is a limited interest has to be taken sooner or later in every case, but it would not be feasible for this Committee to take that decision, and therefore the poor wretched Commission should do it. I feel great sympathy for this Commission. They will have a very difficult 2067 time in any event, and if we continue to burden them with these exceedingly hypothetical and wide cases without giving them any guidance whatsoever, they will come to be regarded by appellants to the Commission as people who cannot make up their own minds and who cannot follow their own precedents.
Even if the wording of my hon. Friend's Amendment is not acceptable to the Government, we should accept the responsibility of attempting to give to the Commission some guidance as to what is a limited interest. As I understood it, the Attorney-General sought to differentiate between a temporary and a permanent structure. Possibly there is some line which could be followed up, but I feel very strongly that if we throw this thing into the melting pot it will result only in bringing discredit upon the decisions of the Commission. We are all very anxious that everyone should regard this Commission as producing the best possible results and giving the best possible decisions. I believe we are putting it into an impossible position in cases like this, so that its decisions cannot possibly be recognised as fair in every case and it cannot be regarded as a real authority for assessment of values in this connection.
§ Mr. Benson
I cannot see what Amendment this Clause requires. We are all agreed that no structure or value shall revert immediately to the landlord after the war. There is no dispute about that. An interested party who has erected a building must be protected against immediate reversion. I do not think there is any distinction between the reversion of values, 20, 30 or 40 years hence. If a landlord has no right to the immediate reversion he has no right to the reversion of a residual value at some future time. There is no reason whatever why the landlord's interest should be treated differently in cases of a limited interest than in cases of any other interest. The Attorney-General referred to the case of a temporary building, but if a temporary building is erected on land on which the lease is comparatively short there is no reversion of values if the building is of no value when the lease ends. This Clause in itself is perfectly consistent with the principle that has been accepted and, so far as I can see, requires no amendment whatever.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Marlowe (Brighton)
I rise to support this Amendment and I am driven to do so by what fell from the hon. and gallant Member for Chichester (Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks). I would like the Attorney-General to clear up this point, because reference was made to placing on the Commissioners the onus of deciding. Surely, in relation to these words with which we have been dealing, that is not so. They concern property with which the Commission will have to deal, and there is no question of the Commission deciding whether there is a limited interest or not. Those words go to jurisdiction. They are merely words of definition of the kind of property which is affected by this Clause, and therefore it is essential there should be some clear definition of what the property is. Once a person has no interest, surely the property comes within the scope of that which can be acquired and it does not matter whether it is a substantial interest or a minor interest. Surely, for that reason, it is necessary to have some clear definition of what property is affected.
§ Sir J. Lamb
When lawyers differ it is dangerous for a layman to interfere, but everyone seems to condemn the Amendment and support the Government, and I desire to presume to support the Government. I believe the intention of those who put forward the Amendment is to do justice to those concerned. Justice will depend upon the conditions which exist; the conditions are not known to-day. We cannot put down words to meet conditions of which we are not aware. I am not fond of Commissions, but Commissions are set up simply because it is impossible to put in a Bill words which would be flexible enough to suit such varied conditions. A lawyer would say: "I am dealing entirely with what is in the Bill and not with the intention of anybody who was discussing the Bill." Therefore, in my opinion, this matter should be settled by the Commission.
§ The Attorney-General
I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) did not regard my comparatively mild debating methods as an attack upon him. He is quite right in this sense, that if a factory owner has erected works on land and has an interest in that land, he does as a matter of juris- 2069 diction come within the Bill. But why it is impossible to give guidance to the Commission by inserting some definite limit is because the reasonableness of the exercise of those powers must depend in each case on the nature and probable life of the works which the factory owner has set up. For instance, supposing a factory owner, being urged to make more aircraft, or whatever it may be, has erected on land on which he has a lease for six years sheds which are clearly of a temporary character, which will rot and be taken down and which could never last more than six years, it would be quite unreasonable to seek to invoke the powers of the Bill to purchase in that case. There would be no value to preserve in such a case. That has shown my hon. Friend why one cannot draw a line. If unreasonable use is made of it, then it is for the Commission to deal with.
I make no apology for putting down this Amendment because if it did not meet with Government approval I would have been willing to accept some modification of it. On this occasion I am glad to say that I am entirely satisfied with the explanation of the Attorney-General. I think it is a difficult problem, and the Debate has probably clarified the matter throughout the country as well as throughout the Committee. For those reasons I desire to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ General Sir Georģe Jeffreys (Petersfield)
I beg to move, in page 3, line 7, leave out paragraph (a).
The effect of that paragraph is that power of acquisition may be exercisable if, in the opinion of the Minister, the value of any works ought by that acquisition to be preserved for the Crown or any person other than the owners. I desire to draw attention to the word "value." I would say at once that the value is by no means necessarily equivalent to the cost of those works. In very many cases there have been carried out at very considerable cost to the Government works sometimes of a very substantial nature, very often ill and hastily planned in the emergency which prevailed and which are in every sense white elephants when disused. Under this Clause, it does seem to me, and this is the object of my Amendment. that the Government may attempt to cut their losses and avoid payment of 2070 compensation, or, alternatively, of rehabilitation, by claiming as the value of the work the original cost to the Government.
I would venture to give some illustrations of what I mean. There might be, for instance, the case of runways on disused aerodromes, very likely, almost certainly, very expensive in construction. There might be a case of lorry standings, also made of concrete and possibly taking up land which might be very good agricultural land. There are other forms of concrete erections. I have particularly in mind a case in my own constituency in which a number of concrete erections, lorry standings and so forth, were put up, no doubt at great expense, on some exceedingly good agricultural land which happened to be favourably situated for the preparation and concentration of troops and vehicles for D-Day. These lorry standings and other concrete works are already disused, and, in one case at any rate, the War Office sent a detachment of pioneers to have them removed. But the pioneers, possibly not very well supervised, after spending a considerable time in endeavouring to remove these various concrete erections and constructions, ceased the work and left enormous blocks of concrete, which could not be moved except by considerable power, lying about on this unfortunate farmer's land.
There has been a great deal of money spent by the Government, on these and similar constructions which may be abandoned after the war, and it seems to me that, under paragraph (a), it might be possible to claim that the cost of these works was the value of them. It was, I think, the Air Ministry, described by my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) as "the villain of the piece," which contemplated the acquisition of land under the Compensation Defence Act, sooner than pay for the removal of runways or pay compensation for them, because they knew the difficulty and the cost of removing them. I suggest that, if paragraph (a) is left out, it will not in any way vitiate the general sense of Clause 5, because the following paragraph gives the right to acquire land in order to use any of the works, which then or thereafter by the acquision of land ought to be preserved or secured for the Crown. It seems to me that the 2071 right to use being secured for the Crown, meets the case quite adequately, and that the value of any of the work, which must be a matter of estimate and may be a matter in which value may be made to correspond with cost, need not be preserved for the Crown. If it is unnecessary, and I suggest that it very often is, that it should be preserved for the Crown, it is still more unnecessary that it should be preserved for some other persons having no interest, or a limited interest, in the land. This does appear to be an endeavour by the Government to cut their losses by saving them from liability to pay compensation or rehabilitate, and I hope this paragraph, which does not seem to me to affect the general purposes of the Clause in any way, may be left out.
§ Mr. Turton
I hope the Chancellor will give an explanation of paragraph (a), which is the cause of a good deal of consternation in the country. I would put the case which is chiefly worrying people. It is that mentioned by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) of the large number—800, I think—of airfields in this country, which are on the best agricultural land, and all of which, I should think, are unlikely to be required after the war. There was no desire, when we put down this Amendment, to secure for some other persons a thing that will be of value to them, but value is a very difficult thing to estimate. What may be of great value to me, may be of little value to another hon. Member; it depends on one's way of looking at it. From the point of view of the country, in my view, the land of these aerodromes, when they are not being used for either military or civil aviation, is of more value for agriculture than for any other purpose.
The cost of runway construction was, I believe, 25s. per square yard, which means that, on the average airfield, the cost of the runways has been £72,500. It is very difficult for the agricultural community to argue before the Commission that the Government should not purchase this agricultural land under this Clause, because it has no value, because, when the Government have spent £72,500 on an aerodrome, it may well be that they will try to buy it. If they bought it for use for defence purposes, or for civil aviation, no hon. Member in this Committee, save one who has an Amendment which has not 2072 been called, would quarrel with that. Now the Committee will ask why it is suggested that the Government will try to purchase the runway land and for what purpose they will do so. I am afraid the purpose is that of trying to save a little money. It will be cheaper to the Government to purchase this land, which they will be able to do under the Compensation (Defence) Act, on the 1939 value, than to see that it goes back to agriculture, in which case they would have to put it back into the state in which it was before they came along. It is, undoubtedly, going to cost a great deal to restore this concrete-encased land to agriculture, but its value to the community as agricultural land is, in my submission, far greater than the cost of restoring it. After all, for generations money has been spent on draining it and getting it to a state of natural fertility in which it could be of great value to the people of this country for the supply of food.
If this paragraph is to be used as an economy measure for securing that the land is not rehabilitated, but is acquired by a Government Department and then left derelict, I think we are committing a grave crime. I do not know what the Government mean by "the value of any of the work." Value at what date? The date when they actually tried to acquire the land? The date of requisition? The date when the war ends, or the date two years after the war is ended? I think we want to be absolutely clear on this point. I am afraid of paragraph (a). I should have thought the Government had all the power they required in paragraph (b) which gives them the right to acquire any land, on which they have spent money, if they want it, and to use it for any purpose. I should have thought the correct way of dealing with paragraph (a) was by arranging that, where the Government did something of value, on land which did not belong to them but was requisitioned, then they ought to get due compensation from the owner of that land when it was de-requisitioned. That seems to me to be a fair way of dealing with this matter. Those who have seen the billets of different units in this war, will realise how much money has been spent on providing them and the lavish expenditure on concrete and on different kinds of hutments. I am not arguing that it has been unnecessary in all cases, though I know 2073 there have been many cases of extravagance. I mentioned during the Second Reading Debate billets in my constituency where £30,000 had been spent, and I regarded that as extravagant.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I would warn the hon. Member of the great danger of his speech wandering far beyond the borders of the present Amendment.
§ Mr. Turton
Do I gather, Mr. Williams, that I am not allowed to repeat the illustration which I gave on Second Reading?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I was warning the hon. Gentleman, because I think his speech was getting rather near to a Second Reading speech.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Turton
I understand that the Subsection deals with the specific grounds upon which the Government can acquire land. Is it against the Rules of Order for me to allude to, or to repeat, arguments used on Second Reading?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I particularly did not refer in detail to' the speech of the hon. Member, but I was warning him that there does come a time on the Committee stage when any hon. Member may, quite accidentally, get into an argument which comes very dangerously near repetition. I did not say that it was repetition but that it was dangerously near it, and I thought it was fair to warn the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Turton
I will do my best to obey your Ruling, Mr. Williams, although I confess I am not certain now in what way I am offending against it. If there is a village like the one in my constituency where £30,000 has been spent on billets, are we going to say that there is not value in those works? They are valuable for war purposes and for the housing of soldiers. They are valuable in the form that, if they were transferred from where they are at the top of a hill 1000 feet high and put in Aldershot, they would be of value, but in my constituency in that particular place they are of no value whatever to the owners. I do not want to delay the proceedings on this paragraph but I wanted to hear an explanation from the Chancellor of the Exchequer of what he means. I am ready to sit down if the right hon. Gentleman will give an explanation, and then, if it is not clear, I can ask a question later. 2074 What does the Chancellor mean by these words and will he pay particular attention to the case of derelict aerodromes?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I hope my hon. Friend does not think it discourteous of me to show a little impatience, because the point of his criticism has been clear to me for some time. I can, perhaps, best satisfy hon. Members who have doubt and difficulty about this particular provision, if I indicate, in the first place, the kind of case which it is primarily designed to cover. We have heard a great deal about aerodromes and derelict aerodromes, and the cost of concrete works and whether there is going to be a clear distinction between original cost and value. All of that was really beside the mark. The typical case with which we are concerned here is one of which there are examples all over the country. It is the case of factories constructed at great expense for war purposes for which they are not going to be required in the future, the use of which the Government will not wish to control in the future, which are of very substantial value to the community, and which it is desired to make over for purposes of peace-time production to suitable firms or business undertakings. The purpose of this provision in the Bill—as I explained on Second Reading—is to provide the means for securing to the State some reasonable return for expenditure incurred which has resulted in the creation of an asset of continuing value. That is the purpose. I submit that it is a good purpose, and that if the Amendment were accepted, the Bill would be seriously curtailed and value represented by many millions of pounds sterling might be lost to the public.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) said that he feared that the Government might he going to use this power in order to avoid some liability to compensation, and I am not sure how far my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk (Mr. Turton) shared the same view. If I might illustrate the point I would say it refers to the aerodrome which is no longer required for either defence purposes or as a civil aerodrome. With regard to the case that has been described of the derelict aerodrome, I really do not see how that case could possibly arise under this Clause. In the first place, 2075 how could the Government represent a derelict aerodrome ex hypothesi no longer required for defence or for civil aviation as having any value as such, but even if they could, how could the Government be saving money by exercising the power given by this Clause and acquiring the area instead of letting it revert, either reconditioned or without compensation.
Let us compare the two cases. If the Government decide to let the property revert, they have either to restore under the Compensation (Defence) Act, or if they elect not to restore—and the choice is at their option—they have to pay the cost of restoration, subject to a ceiling, and the ceiling is the total value of the land at the time of requisition. That is the position if they allow the thing to revert, but if they acquire, what the Government have to pay is the whole value of the land under the Compensation Act. There is not, as far as I can see, any possibility of saving money to the Exchequer by not electing to acquire, even if the Government make a case—and I do not think they could—under this Clause on the ground that the works, not the land ex-hypothesi are derelict. I do not see how they could use the power under this Clause in such a way as to inflict hardship on individual owners for the sake of saving a small sum of money, or any money, to the Exchequer. I do not think the case could possibly arise. Let me say, and I have said it before and would like to repeat it, that it is the desire of the Government that this Clause should be used only where one or other of the three points indicated in the Clause will be secured. In all other cases, with the one exception of land which it is proposed to acquire expressly for the purpose of restoring it—and that is the provision in Clause 6—the Government will allow the land to revert, and when it reverts they will have the right to choose, as I have said, whether they will restore, or whether they will pay compensation. It is true that all sorts of questions will arise in cases where the Government decide to let the land revert, such as to whether the owner will use his compensation and whether the property will be restored. But those questions do not arise here, even if.they arise at all. I assure my hon. Friend in all sincerity that I do not see how the apprehensions they expressed can possibly arise under this Clause, the 2076 purpose of which I have done my best to explain.
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
May I ask my right hon. Friend whether it is not possible, if the Government exercise the option to buy or acquire the land at the value of the land, which presumably is the value of the land without the excrescences upon it, for them to buy the land, and to save money, where the cost of restoration will be considerable, by leaving it derelict or selling it for what it will fetch?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I explained that I did not think so. If they buy they have to pay the value of the land. If they let the land revert, they still have to pay—unless they elect themselves to restore—the compensation in respect of the cost of restoring the damage up to a limit, which in the case assumed by my hon. Friend would be the value of the land at the time of requisition.
§ Mr. Benson
I note that it was not my right hon. Friend's word. An aerodrome might be entirely useless as an aerodrome but the buildings and the runways might have considerable value to the Government for some entirely different purpose. I trust that the Government will realise that they may require very considerable tracts of land with buildings upon them for non-aviation purposes and in those circumstances they would most certainly utilise the powers under the Clause to acquire the land. I have in mind something rather dear to my heart, and that is, the entire reconstruction of the prison system, one of the major difficulties of which is that the Prison Commissioners have been unable to find sufficiently large tracts of land on which to establish prison camps. They are here in the aerodromes. At least, I have my eye on them for that purpose. I take it that the power under this Clause will enable the buildings to be used for a fundamentally different purpose from that for which they were erected.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I think that the case that the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) has just put is rather a different one from the one to which I was 2077 addressing myself. He was referring to the case where very valuable buildings might be used for some other purpose, but the case I used was that of a factory which has substantially the same value for another purpose. I was trying to disabuse my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk of the fear that there was some ulterior motive behind this and that it might be used in order to escape some obligation when under the Compensation (Defence) Act there was liability for compensation.
§ Lieut.-Coutmander Joynson-Hicks
I am certain that the Committee is in full sympathy with the object that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has mentioned as being the intention of the provision. Why cannot this objective be equally well, if not better, obtained under paragraph (b), the right to use any of the works on condition that the case of the land be preserved or secured to the Crown? All the examples that have been quoted, and the last one mentioned with regard to the use of aerodromes for prisons, could, I should have thought, been equally well acquired under paragraph (b). Therefore, the situation which my right hon. Friend has been seeking to allay is raised in one's mind. Another thing is the vast concrete tank traps which wander across the best agricultural land and which for all commercial or non-warlike purposes have never had any value because they have never been used. But they have been of very great cost and of very great detrimental value to the land itself. I would be grateful if the Chancellor of the Exchequer could explain really why value is necessary as opposed to right of use.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Turton
Surely the answer to the reply, which the law calls a rebuttal, is this: If you have two separate acres of land that are both worth £20 an acre, both having had concrete airfields put on them, if the Government purchase one, they will pay £20 per acre, and if the Government compensate for the damage caused, they will also pay £20 an acre, but in the first case the Government then have the land to sell to somebody else at £5 an acre. That is the difference. The Chancellor smiles, but that is the exact position. I am not imputing an ulterior motive to the Chancellor but the effect of paragraph (a) is that it would be easier and cheaper for the Government to purchase land under (a) than 2078 to compensate up to the hilt of reconditioning, because in the first case they would have the land to dispose of afterwards.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am sorry to speak so often, but may I deal first with the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Mahon (Mr. Turton)? I do not suggest that one could not conjure up cases in which conceivably the Sub-section might be used in the way he suggests provided one could establish value. The value has to attach to the works, and the fact that the land would have value would not bring the matter within this provision. The works must have value and in the case he has put, although I think some other case could be thought out, the value would not be there. If I may put shortly the point made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chichester (Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks), the matter was made absolutely clear by the first illustration I gave, which was of factories all over the country erected for war purposes for which the Government will have no use in the future, the use of which they do not wish to control, and where the purpose of acquiring is to realise the value by disposing of them. That can only be dealt with under paragraph (a). May I just add this, which I hope will convince hon. Members who are still doubtful, that by acting under (a) the Government put themselves at a substantial disadvantage as compared with acting under (b>) and (c) because under (a) the finding of the Commission is final and the Government have to accept it, whereas under (b) and (c) that is not the case.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Hon. Members on this side sit here in very great sorrow as they listen to the Chancellor trying to get a simple, easily-understood idea into the heads of the landlords and landowners. It is obvious to anyone who is not completely steeped in private interests in land. There are the three different proposals—(a), (b) and (c). If you have no further use for a factory and there is a possibility of a buyer for it for another purpose, it has a value which is something entirely different from (b), where you yourself are proposing to make use of a particular undertaking that you have hitherto been using or some other individual has been 2079 using. The three are quite apparent to anyone who has the slightest desire to understand. However, in view of the fact that this matter has been raised, I would like to ask the Chancellor a question. In paragraph (c) the value of any of the works ought to be reserved either for the Crown or for someone else, but the question arises whether there should be any limit to the time that reservation shall take place because there is a point beyond which the works cease to have value and begin to decay. Hon. Members will remember what happened after the last war when there were no buyers for works left at Gretna and various other places. Year after year they suffered from the weather, and so on, and simply fell into decay. I would like the Chancellor to give his attention to that particular point, to ensure that we do not get ourselves into the position where the Government have acquired the potential value of a particular works and then find that while many of the works may be purchased for other purposes, some may not, and they are left there simply until they become derelict. [HON. MEMBERS: "That was the point which we raised."] No, it is quite important—
§ Mr. Gallacher
It is quite important that the Government should have the right to acquire the value of the property and realise the value by disposing of it to someone who can make use of it for another purpose. Paragraph (a) is essential, but even though we recognise that, if you dispose of 90 factories out of Icio under that paragraph there might be ten left which are not easily disposable and we do not want to see them standing there year after year, because the value would simply disappear and it would be much better to take a decision for a particular period to clear them away altogether.
§ Sir J. Anderson
The answer to the hon. Gentleman is that Clause 13 provides that these powers shall be available for a period up to two years after the expiration of the war period. During that time the Government will have to clear up the situation.
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
In view of what the Chancellor has said in explanation, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.2080
I beg to move, in page 3, line ro, after "land," insert:being the person by whom and mainly at whose expense the works were constructed.As I read the Bill as it now stands, it seems to me to be wide enough in its terms to allow of this particular thing happening: If I were able to convince any Minister who is referred to in the Bill that it was desirable that should have preserved for me the value of any works in which I have no interest, or only a limited interest, or if I could convince him that I, knowing nothing about the works, though it was right that the use of those works should be preserved for me, then that would give the Minister power of acquisition of that land or of the works, That seems to me to be quite wrong. The Minister had support from the hon. Member opposite just now, and I daresay that perhaps the hon. Member opposite will support me on this point, that it is undesirable that people who have no interest in the works should be able, if they convince the Minister that they ought to have the works, start the machinery in operation for acquiring them. I do not know whether the words of this Amendment are quite the right ones but I am quite willing to agree to any modification of them. It is in my view necessary to prescribe that the person to whom the works can be given after acquisition is the person by whom, and mainly at whose expense, the works were constructed, or his successor in title.
§ The Attorney-General
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for putting down this Amendment. I hope he will not press it but I will certainly undertake to consider the point. I would like to say that some different considerations may arise under the various paragraphs to which he has moved Amendments. I think it may be that under paragraph (a), where we are dealing with values, the use of the word "preserved" clearly indicates that the other person referred to in (a) must be the other person referred to above (a), who has constructed the works, because it might be difficult to say how you could preserve the value for someone who has not incurred any expense in connection with the works.
§ Mr. Gallacher
To my mind the term "preserved" means preserved for the Government or the person who has the value of the undertaking. It may be that 2081 someone constructs the works and in the process of the development of the works someone else acquires them. That is possible, so you would be in a position, if the Amendment were accepted, that the party who had acquired the works and held them at the end of the war would be prevented from having the values preserved to him. In that case to whom would the value go? To someone who had constructed the works but who had sold them to the party who was in possession when the war ended?
§ The Attorney-General
I am not quite sure who is addressing the Committee or who is dealing with this Amendment, and the interruption of my hon. Friend seems to me a statement rather than a question. I do not think there is anything controversial about this; it does not raise a question of the nationalisation of land or anything. I think the point my hon. Friend has made is already covered under paragraph (a). When we come to (b) there is this point, that if the Crown has expended money, it ought to be able to say that it wants to purchase the works because the right to use those works ought to be held either by itself or by some other person. The Crown has expended the money and ought to be entitled to say, "We do not want to use it ourselves but we want A.B. to do so." On the other hand I am inclinded to agree that if A.13, has acquired the land, he should have the use of them. I think that is the general intention. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the point and, without giving any categorical assurance, except that we will look into it and discuss it with him, I hope he will not press his Amendment.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that the word "preserved" covers it, but I do not see how you can preserve anything that does not exist. For instance, you cannot preserve something for a person having no interest, because if he has no interest, there is nothing to preserve and therefore I do not see how the word "preserved" covers that. If these words, or something like them, are inserted, will not that limit the right of the Government to dispose of these works in the way that they can be best used? For instance, I understand that the Government's policy in regard to the location of industry, in regard to guiding industry into certain districts, is 2082 that they ought to have the right to say where a firm is to go, and they must have these works and be able to dispose of them to that particular firm. If this is put in does it not limit the right of the Government, and give a right to the people who happen to be involved in the erection of the works?
§ 8 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General
My right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary explained just now the main purposes for which the words—… or for some other person having no interest or a limited interest in the land …were inserted, and I do not want to repeat what he said, except to say that there is a drafting point here—it may raise questions of policy—which wants looking into, and that we will look into it.
§ Major York
Where a person who is interested in the buildings erected on requisitioned land does not require them, and will not purchase them from the Government, will the Government then have power, under this Clause, to sell them to a third or fourth party, who has no such interests?
§ The Attorney-General
If the Crown has built a factory, it ought to be entitled to buy it in order to preserve its value, or because it wants to use it, or because it wants somebody else to use it. The point was raised about an aircraft manufacturer who expands his factory on land which either the Crown has requisitioned so he could get on to it, or which he has obtained on short lease. The object of these words is to enable the Crown to buy the land, so that the aircraft manufacturer, who put up his own works at his own cost, can have those works and cost preserved.
§ Mr. Benson
I am not sure what is the difference between (a) and (b). I should say if there is a difference it is rather subtle. I hope the Attorney-General will look at this Amendment purely from a drafting point of view, and will not accept it if it has a limitation.
This is a technical drafting matter on which there does not appear to be much difference of opinion, and in view of the Attorney-General's assurance, I gladly withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.2083
§ Mr. Turton
I beg to move in page 3, line 15, leave out from "land," to "or," in line 17.
I move this Amendment partly in order to obtain an explanation, because without a satisfactory explanation I think it would be wrong to have these words in the Bill. This Bill hands over to a Commission the determination of a large number of questions as to whether it is fair and just that the Crown should acquire certain land. Why should a Government Department be prevented from using this Bill, when it becomes an Act, instead of the Defence Acts? What I have in mind is the question of aerodromes which can be purchased under the Defence Acts, and under the Air Navigation Act, 1936. I suggest to the Minister that unless these words are taken out a Government Department may well be precluded from using this Bill and be forced to use the Defence Acts and the Air Navigation Act, which is linked up with the Defence Acts for this purpose? Perhaps my right hon. Friend can say whether I am right in the second assumption or not. I am sure I am right in the first assumption. Like the curate's egg, this Bill is good in parts and bad in parts, and I think we ought to have one Bill for dealing with the question of the acquisition of requisitioned land. I, personally, do not understand why there should be included in this Bill the words:… and the case is not the one where the land can be acquired under the Defence Acts apart from this part of this Act.
§ Mr. Peake
Sub-section (1, b) of this Clause deals with the case where a Minister seeks to acquire land upon which war works have been constructed on the ground that he wants the right to use the works. Under the ordinary law, which operates in peace-time by the Defence Acts, dating from 1842 onwards, the Government have the right to acquire land for defence purposes, and all the time I have been in Parliament I have never heard anybody question the necessity of the right of the Government to decide what land it must possess for the safety of the country. We are putting the words into Sub-section (1, b) which my hon. Friend proposes to omit with the sole purpose of preserving a clear line of demarcation between acquisitions which may be necessary for the defence of the country, and which can be 2084 carried out under the ordinary Defence Acts procedure which has operated for over too years, and the special and different class of case which is provided for in this Bill where war works have been constructed upon requisitioned land. These powers are of a very limited duration and character. Supposing land is acquired during the next few years under the Defence Acts for defence purposes, a claim might be raised that the land should have been acquired under this Bill, and that the procedure of the Commission in regard to the hearing of objections should have been followed. We must preserve a clear line of demarcation between the normal peace-time law and the special provisions, limited in duration, which are provided by this Bill.
§ Mr. Turton
Surely it is desirable, where requisitioned land is going to be used for civil aviation, that it should come under this Bill and not under the Air Navigation Act?
§ Mr. Peake
My hon. Friend has raised a point of some obscurity, but I am sure he is wrong in stating that the Air Navigation Act, 1936, ranks as one of the Defence Acts. I am clear that where war works have been constructed on requisitioned land and are required for civil aviation, as may be the case, the procedure to be followed will be that laid down under this Bill.
§ Mr. Turton
I would point out to my right hon. Friend that I raised this matter on the Second Reading and at that time the Government said they would look into the matter and explain it later. I raise the matter to-day and I am told that it is a point of some obscurity. I hope that before the Report stage is reached the whole question of civil aerodromes and the Air Navigation Act, 1936, will be looked into.
§ Mr. Turton
In view of my right hon. Friend's explanation, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8.15 p.m.
I beg to move, in page 3, line 17, to leave out from "Act," to the end of line 23.
2085 The effect of this Amendment is to leave out Sub-section (1, c) of this Clause. Here again, some explanation would appear to be necessary, especially in view of the fact that the Government have ample powers in Sub-section (1, a and b) to secure the value of any works which has been put up on land. The power in this provision appears to be extremely wide and rather unusual in character. The provision reads:The right to determine the use to which the works are put (whether then or thereafter) ought, by the acquisition of the land, to be secured for the Crown.That appears to give a wide power. For example, the First Lord of the Admiralty is one of the Ministers who would have such power. If it were his opinion that a camp built for Naval purposes in some beautiful part of Wales should be used as a holiday camp, could he exercise his power under this provision and say, "I want that land to be acquired, because in my opinion it ought to be used as a holiday camp"? Could he acquire the land and then sell it to a person catering for holiday camps, and so determine its use? I cannot understand why these wide powers are given, because any legitimate object is fully covered by Sub-section (1, a and b). This additional and rather obscure power to determine the use to which the works are to be put cuts right across the present state of the law, it cuts across anything that comes under the distribution of industry, and it allows to any one of a limited class of Ministers the power to determine the particular use to which he would like the works to be put. It does not affect the defence of the Realm or anything of that kind. One can understand that in the case of some works of vital war importance the Minister may want to say, "This works must not be disposed of; we must acquire it for defence purposes." He has that power already. This is a case which does not come into that category, and the provision is a very curious one unless there is some explanation for this wide power. On the face of it, it means that you could have a Minister wholly opposed to private enterprise or wholly opposed to co-operative enterprise laying down the law as to whether he would allow a works to be used for this or that purpose. I ask the Financial Secretary to give the Committee an explanation of this very wide power.
§ Major York
I support my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Cole-gate). This is one of the cases that could quite adequately be met by a restrictive covenant rather than by acquisition. I cannot see why the Government, all through this Bill, are obtaining power to acquire land when in numerous cases and in several Clauses all that they require is the right to say how the land is to he used. I do not think there is in any part of the Bill a power for the Government to obtain a restrictive covenant. I think that Sub-section (1, c) is quite unnecessary. I want to ask a question in regard to the powers of the Commission in this instance. As far as I can gather, the Commission will be able to adjudicate on where the right to determine the use is required in order that restoration may take place, but it is not stated in any part of the Bill that where the right to determine the use is for purposes other than restoration the Commission are to have any say in the matter.
Mr. Moelwyn Huģhes (Carmarthen)
I have listened with interest to the arguments that have been advanced in favour of this Amendment. If the Financial Secretary were to accept the Amendment he would reduce to a nullity the control which we hope to acquire under this Bill. Under Sub-section (1, a) there is a provision to secure to the community the value of properties which have been acquired. I imagine nobody in the Committee objects to that principle. Under Sub-section (1, b) the Government are given the further power to preserve the use of land which has been acquired. In Sub-section (1, c) they have the right to determine the future use of the works. I hope the Committee are not so seized with the love of war and its objects that they would want to continue for all time the war-time purposes for which these lands have been acquired. Therefore, there must be preserved, if the community is to have the value of the land which has been acquired, some right in the community which has acquired the land to determine the use to which it may be put in the future in order that the community may, in some way or other, recover the value of the money which has been invested in the land. [An HON. MEMBER: "Under (a)."] All that (a) does is to give the Crown power to retain the value of the works. That is the kind of case where you have works which will 2087 be continued. There may very well arise a case of a camp which has been used for the purpose of training people for one or other branch of the Armed Forces. If you are going to retain the value of the works which are to be preserved for the Crown or some other person interested in them, it means that you have a camp for the training of commandos, and under (a) all you could do would be to find a market for a camp for the training of commandos.
§ Mr. Turton
Quite clearly a camp for the training of commandos is one that could be acquired under the Defence Acts.
The hon. Member will be well aware of the limitations under the Defence Acts for the retention of such lands.
I do not accept that at all. You will not find it under the Act of 1903. That Act only extends the law in order to acquire land for the purpose of building barracks. The object of paragraph (c) is to enable the Crown to acquire land which is now being requisitioned in order to devote it to some other use than that to which it was put. If the Crown desires to use land not as a camp to train commandos but far one of the many purposes under the Education Act which we passed last, year, paragraph (c) is essential for that purpose. It gives the Crown the right to determine the use to which it is going to be put. I object to the elimination of the paragraph on that ground alone that, when land has been requisitioned and is now going to be acquired, the right to direct its use should not be limited to preserving the value, as under (a), or to preserve the use to which it is now directed, but it ought to be available to the Crown to direct some other use for it. That is all that (c) is for and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. Peake
When I have explained the true purpose of the paragraph I think my hon. Friend will be reasonably satisfied. It is true that there may be some overlap between paragraphs (a) and (c). The opening words of the Clause are:Where there are Government war works on the land2088 and those words govern the Clause. But there may be cases where it would not be possible to make out a case for acquisition under paragraph (a) on the ground that the value of the works ought to be preserved—the value of the works may be comparatively small—and the object of (c) is really connected with our war potential. I have one case in mind of land adjacent to an aircraft factory which produces fighter aircraft. There are Government war works on the land but they are not of very substantial value, and it will not be possible to make out a case for acquisition purely on the ground of value, but it is very vital to the continuance of the factory as part of our war potential that there should be an aerodrome there for testing aircraft, and that is a case where the right to determine the use to which the works are put ought to be secured for the Crown.
§ Mr. Peake
It is still the case, and has been throughout the war, that a good deal of our armaments is produced by private enterprise and not by the Crown. Hon. Members opposite have frequently argued that armaments production ought to be the monopoly of the State, but that is not the case, and on whether it ever will be I cannot express an opinion. The case I have in mind is where there could be no acquisition under the Defence Acts, because the aircraft industry is not conducted under the Crown, but it is necessary for our war potential that this property should be acquired in order that the factory can produce aircraft. I can think of other examples where certain forms of production are essential to the safety of the country. I suppose Radar is a very clear example. It is obviously necessary that factories which have been engaged on Radar production should not have their machinery removed in order that they may engage in the production of silk stockings. Therefore it is necessary for the President of the Board of Trade to be able to determine what the future use of these factories is to be, and that is the real purpose of paragraph (c).
§ Mr. Molson
The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite suggests that the effect of the paragraph would be to enable a camp at present used for naval purposes to be used for some other purpose. Actually it seems to me that he 2089 has accurately construed what the words, say. The Financial Secretary in reply has indicated that the Government have in mind to obtain necessary powers to ensure the use of the land in a way which will not be harmful to the defence of the country. I feel that the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech indicates that the words are extremely wide. I wonder whether the Financial Secretary will consider the matter between now and the Report stage to see whether it is possible to devise words which will more accurately represent the purpose which he has clearly put in his speech. The words in the Bill include a vast realm of possible activities which are clearly not contemplated.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Peake
Those who have been engaged on the preparation of this Bill have been exercising their brains on it for something over two years, and these are the best words they can devise for securing the purpose we have in mind. If my hon. Friend who has not, in the course of the three months he has had to study the Bill, been able to devise any different words, he will have an opportunity between now and the Report stage to do so. We will consider what he has said, but I think that the words are apt for the purpose we have in mind. It is not proposed under this Clause to say that the Government ought to have the right to determine the use of what is going to be a holiday camp. If an armed camp were to be acquired under the Bill, it certainly would not be on the grounds of paragraph (c). It would much rather be upon the ground that the value ought to be preserved.
§ Captain Duncan
My right hon. Friend has mentioned the President of the Board of Trade, but I should like to get it clear whether the Board of Trade has the right to use any of these works. Under Clause 4 the Ministers are detailed, and the only reference to the Board of Trade is in Clause 8, Sub-section (5). I hope that I am right in saying that the Board of Trade does not come into this. If there is, on defence grounds, a reason for determining the use to which some works are to be put in future, it will not be the Board of Trade, but one of the Defence Ministers or the,Committee of Imperial Defence, or somebody else, but not the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. Peake
I cannot say that the President of the Board of Trade will come in 2090 under this Clause. What the Clause says is that the right to determine the use ought to be secured for the Crown, and the Crown means His Majesty's Government as a whole. The actual Minister concerned with the production of these various things may very well not be the President of the Board of Trade; he will much more likely be one of the Supply Ministers.
I am not at all satisfied with the answer given by the right hon. Gentleman. I find it impossible to construe this Sub-section in the terms which he has endeavoured to put before the Committee. The explanation he has given is that this is the kind of provision that will be necessary if an aerodrome or works is to be extended and retained for the purposes of the Crown.
There is no justification in the terms of the paragraph for that contention. This Clause commences with a provision that where there are Government war works, the power of acquisition shall be exercisable, if, in the opinion of the Minister—and then we come to paragraph (c), which says that the right to determine the use ought to be secured for the Crown. That does not contemplate the kind of case which the right hon. Gentleman put forward, that is, an extension of existing works for the benefit of the Crown.
The right hon. Gentleman gave that as an instance of the application of this paragraph. I put the instance, which he dismissed out of hand, of the Government having under their control a commando camp which it might be desirable to use for civilian purposes under the Education Act. He dismissed it as not being relevant. I should like to have some answer from him as to whether that is not the kind of case which is contemplated by this provision.
§ Mr. Peake
The main purpose of paragraph (c) is the war potential purpose which I described, I thought, fairly clearly. It does not involve an extension of works, but the preservation of the use of works and the determination of the future use of works in the interests of 2091 our war potential for the future. Of course, there may be cases—I do not think there will be many—which do not fall within paragraph (c) and where the Government have an interest in the determination of the future use of the works. If hon. Members have read the Distribution of Industry Bill, they will have seen that the Government have an interest in the diversification of industry throughout the country, and it is conceivable that a case might arise under paragraph (c) where the distribution of industry policy was involved. Generally speaking, however, in that sort of case there will be power to acquire under paragraph (a) on the ground of the necessity of preserving the value to the Crown.
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer my point about a commando camp which might be used under the Education Act?
I am satisfied with my right hon. Friend's explanation, although I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson). I now understand the limitations of this paragraph, and we may have an opportunity before the Report stage to find better words. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move, in page 3, line 23, at end, insert:Provided always that without prejudice to the power of acquisition the use of any such works shall conform to any relevant town planning scheme.I confess that I am somewhat at a loss to advance arguments in support of this Amendment in view of the answers which have been given by the Financial Secretary on the previous Amendment. I had assumed that paragraph (c) was directed to enable the Crown to use for civilian purposes after the war, where it was proper so to do, land which had been acquired for war purposes. I advanced the example of—
§ The Chairman (Major Milner)
I do not see what that example has to do with the words in the Amendment. We cannot have a repetition of the arguments on the previous Amendment.
I bow to your Ruling, Major Milner. I was only bringing that into the argument in order to test the relevance of town planning to the purview of the Bill. Obviously, town planning cannot possibly enter into its purview unless we are dealing with something which is outside immediate military necessity. If the provisions of the Clause are entirely limited to war purposes, obviously town planning cannot enter into it. War purposes must necessarily override all questions of normal town planning, and unless in the preceding provisions of this Clause there is a possibility of future civil use coming into the picture, town planning cannot enter into it at all. I was only referring to the answer given by the right hon. Gentleman for the purpose of showing that if he meant that, then this Amendment falls to the ground. I ventured to think that you might permit me to argue that the terms of the Clause are, as presented before us, wider than merely provision for war purposes. The right hon. Gentleman has suggested that I (c) is limited to war potentials, and I venture to suggest to the Committee that in its terms it is by no means so limited. There is nothing in the Clause which would limit it to that extent. The Clause begins with the provisions for the general acquisition of land subject to certain conditions, one of which, (c), is:the right to determine the use to which the works are put ought by the acquisition of the land to be secured by the Crown.In that language there is nothing to suggest that the right to secure the use should be limited to war purposes. The right hon. Gentleman is not in his place now, and I suppose my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General who will answer for him can say whether the interpretation of this paragraph in any court of law would be that the right would be secured for the Crown only for the purposes of war potentials.
§ The Chairman
The hon. and learned Member is not really raising matters which are connected with this Amendment, which reads:Provided always that without prejudice to the power of acquisition the use of any such works shall conform to any relevant town planning scheme.The hon. and learned Gentleman is rearguing the previous Amendment which has been disposed of, and I must ask 2093 him to confine himself to the terms of his Amendment.
§ 8.45 p.m.
I appreciate the full force of your Ruling and I bow to it. All I would respectfully submit is that if the interpretation given by the Financial Secretary is that the terms of (c) are limited to the purposes of war potentials, then my Amendment is completely out of Order and is irrelevant, because if war potential is intended then town planning cannot enter into it at all. Town planning can only enter into it when pure war purposes are resigned, and my argument is only to show that the right hon. Gentleman was wrong when he suggested that the purposes of (c) were war potential. When war potential is put out of the way, it is open for me to argue that the use of the land and the power of acquisition in respect of it, in the terms of my Amendment, should be directed to conformity with any relevant town planning scheme. That arises when we have land which has been requisitioned by the Crown, which has been used for war purposes, and which the Crown is now going to have the power to acquire. I do not object to that, but this very paragraph (c) gives power to direct the use of that piece of land.
I assume, and I will not argue the point again, that the right hon. Gentleman is wrong when he suggested that its only use should be for war potentials. I assume now that the Crown has power to direct its use in any way which may seem fit which seems to me the exact purpose of paragraph (c) as it is read by the Members of the Committee. If it is so is it not right that giving power to the Crown to direct the use of the land should have regard to the town planning scheme within the area? Let me give the Committee an example. You have land which has been acquired by the town under the Defence Act or under Defence Regulations for the purpose of a training camp. Under this Bill the Crown can acquire that land, and under (c) the Crown can direct to what use it shall be put. It may very well be for town planning purposes, when the town planning authority would decide that this land which was used for training purposes should now be an open space, should now be agricultural land or, if you will, should be used to build up an industrial area, and I think it is only right that the 2094 Crown when it acquires this land and is being given the power to direct the use of it, should be made to conform to the town planning scheme within the area where the land lies, and I hope that this Amendment will be accepted.
§ The Attorney-General
With due respect to your Ruling, Major Milner, I think my right hon. Friend in dealing with (c) was saying what the purpose was for which the land was likely to be acquired, and he tells me that he did not in his explanation restrict its terms. To come to this Amendment it obviously raises an interesting point. Our view about it is that the approach which the Government makes to this problem is on the whole a more logical and profitable one than that suggested in the Amendment. Owing to the fact that before the war the number of planning schemes was very limited, particularly in rural areas, where many of these works have been put up. These, owing to the powers of this Bill would be outside the town planning schemes altogether. All these cases this Amendment would not touch. On the other hand there may be cases within the town planning scheme where there would be some minor infringements, but having regard to the fact that the money has been spent and the structure is there, then those who are most anxious about town planning, and those include, I am sure, the Members of this Committee, will see that there is no inconsistency in the provisions of the Clause.
The approach which we suggest, which to some extent is embodied in later Amendments on the Order Paper, and to some extent is a matter of Government policy, is that it is the Government's intention, and indeed it is necessarily so, that within the framework of Government, the Minister of Town and Country Planning will be in the closest touch with the exercise of all the powers under this Bill. I said "necessarily," because if hon. Members look at the first Section of the Act which set up the office of the Minister of Town and Country Planning, they will see that he is charged under that Statute—I am not quoting the words textually—with the general supervision of the use and development of the whole of the land of the country. Therefore, under the Statute he is necessarily involved. As a matter of administrative and Government working he will be in the closest touch with the exercise of all the powers under 2095 the Bill, and he is the Minister who has the general knowledge of, and responsibility for, all the town planning schemes.
Also, there is an Amendment to which I must not refer in detail, in the name of my right hon. Friend, I think on Clause 8, which gives a planning authority the right to appear before the Commission. There are other Amendments which I think are relevant to what I may call the general planning interests, and their safeguarding in the working of this Bill. Having regard to the fact that a very large number of works that have been put up are outside areas controlled by planning schemes in existence before the war, and to many other cases, we think the proper approach is not by putting down a cast-iron Amendment, which would let by many big fish, and catch the small fish which one would rather see swimming in the sea, but by seeing that in the general structure and administration of this Bill there are opportunities for the proper representation of planning considerations, first within the Government itself, and at later stages, when controversy arises, before the Commission. I hone that in view of that explanation my hon. and learned Friend will see his way not to press the Amendment.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The point put by my hon. Friend refers to the question of the acquisition, but paragraph (c) gives the Government the right to determine the use after acquisition. In the later stages of the war factories have been built in such a way as to conform to general postwar enterprise, but in the earlier part of the war they were not so designed. Some places have been built or extended rather hurriedly, and the use to which they are put may conflict very seriously with the planning and hygiene of a district. It may be that economy will, from the Government's point of view, determine that they should continue the unhygienic use of these factories. I hope that even after acquisition the termination of the use of these activities will not be out of conformity with the general desires in regard to planning, and hygiene and the health of a district, and that merely for the sake of economy they will not violate the planning of a district.
§ The Attorney-General
What my hon. Friend has said rather supports my argument, that a great many of these cases 2096 would not, in,fact, be covered or be a technical infringement of a town planning scheme. Everybody desires we should plan as good an England as possible— [An HON. MEMBER: "And Wales"]— and Wales and Scotland, but of course I cannot give any general undertaking. We are seeking to see that town planning considerations get their proper and emphatic place in the administration of this Bill.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. Molson
I beg to move, in page 3, line 23, at end, insert:Provided that the Minister shall not exercise the power of acquisition with respect to any land until after consultation with the local planning authority nor otherwise than subject to the considerations to which the Commission are required by section eleven of this Act to have regard in connection with any proposals referred to them.I am somewhat encouraged and emboldened by the very sympathetic reference which the Attorney-General has just made to the importance of planning considerations. Apparently the Government intend that these very wide powers which they are taking over under this Bill shall not be exercised otherwise than in accordance with good and sound planning considerations. Those of us who believe in town and country planning believe that all the relevant considerations which have to be taken into account in this Bill will be present to the minds of the local planning authority, and secondly, if they are inclined to take too local and provincial a view they are subject, under present town planning legislation, to the general supervision by which, in cases in which anyone is dissatisfied, an appeal lies to the Minister of Town and Country Planning. The Attorney-General has referred to the Amendment to Clause 8 standing in the name of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which will require that the Minister of Town and Country Planning shall be consulted in these matters.
May I say here to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and perhaps with less asperity to the Attorney-General, that we who are trying to move Amendments to this Bill to improve it are told that the Government have had this Bill under consideration for two years, and that in the course of that time they have devised the best wording to give effect to their intentions, but I notice not only a very large number of Amendments have been put 2097 down by Private Members, but a very large number, including some brand new Clauses, have been put down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself. So it is the case that since this Bill was introduced and was subjected to criticism in this House and in the country, the Government have reapplied their minds to it, and in the two months they have done more profitable thinking than they had managed to do when their cogitations were unassisted by public criticism. I find it a little difficult to find my way about this Bill. I not only have to refer to the Order Paper issued today, but there are new Clauses which are only contained in the Order Paper issued yesterday. If I trip up, and if I have overlooked some of the afterthoughts of the Government and have not given full consideration to some of the Amendments which the Government have put down to their own Bill, I hope that the learned Attorney-General will treat me with gentleness in this matter.
My hon. Friends and I ask that Ministers, in exercising these powers of compulsory acquisition, shall take into consideration the plans which have been prepared by local planning authorities and that they shall, as far as possible, direct their policy of acquisition in accordance with local planning considerations. In other matters, we ask that the Minister shall, in the first instance, be governed by those considerations by which the Commission must be guided under Clause ii. The Government may say that it is excessive caution on our part to ask that Ministers are to be influenced by those considerations, but Ministers are able, in exercising these compulsory powers of acquisition to override in certain circumstances the opinion of the Commission, and it is in those circumstances that it is important that the Ministers should take into account the various considerations set out in Clause II.
Subject to those considerations, and except where there is some overriding. consideration of national security, I hope that, in accordance with the general attitude which has been expressed by the Government that the Bill shall fit in with the existing code of town and country planning, the Government will be prepared to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. Benson
The hon. Member who has just spoken asks that the Government should consult local planning authorities, but he entirely failed to explain what the Government were to consult them about and what possible outcome the consultation could have. The Government propose, under the Clause, to take over land on which there are specific works. If they do not take it over, what happens? It reverts to the owner, with the works on it. It does not seem to me that consultation with housing and town planning authorities has any bearing on the question whether the land and the works shall, at a given date, be owned either by the Government or by the previous landlord. There is no point in consultation. The fact is that the Amendment, like a lot of the other Amendments that have been put down, is pure obstruction.
It does not seem to me at all clear from the Order Paper whether the proviso in the Amendment is intended to qualify only paragraph (c) or the whole of the Sub-section. It seems very queer, after we have been legislating here for hundreds of years, that there seems to be no typographical device for showing on the Order Paper whether an Amendment which follows a paragraph of a Subsection is intended to qualify that paragraph only, or the whole of the Subsection. I now gather from my hon. Friend that his intention is that the proviso should qualify the whole Sub-section.
I want to give a concrete example which proves the necessity for the Amendment, and I do so at the request of authorities in the New Forest. Several rural district councils in and near the New Forest have formed a joint planning committee and they have had very much in mind the layout of the countryside. There is a large aerodrome, the site of. which I will not specify, but perhaps I might say that it is somewhere between the New Forest and Bournemouth. That committee have been very much disturbed to learn not so much that the Government propose to acquire the aerodrome but that they propose to acquire a very large amount of the adjoining land, without any consultation with the planning authority. They believe that this adjoining land will cut right across the line of the new main road to Bournemouth, which has been planned by the Hampshire County Council. The new main 2099 road obviously figures largely in the committee's plans for the layout of the countryside, which they naturally want to keep as picturesque and as attractive as possible so as to be a worthy approach from the New Forest to Bournemouth. They are therefore very much concerned not only about the threat to the line of their new road, but also about buildings to be erected on the adjoining land, trees that are to be cut down and the general devastation entailed in the reconstruction or alteration of the aerodrome.
They feel that there ought to be consultation between Ministries concerned and themselves, to ascertain the facts and to find a solution satisfactory to everybody. It ought surely to be a matter of routine, but it is not at present, because no consultation has taken place. I would like to see the Amendment passed, not only for its value as improving the Bill but as a strong hint to Ministers about the course which they would be wise to take now, in anticipation of what the law will be if the Amendment is carried. I support the Amendment.
§ Mr. Peake
I am very glad that the hon. Member agrees with my interpretation. As the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) observed, this really is not the point at which consultation with the local planning authority is suitable. After all, if the Government have spent £250,000 on erecting a factory upon requisitioned land, consultation with the local planning authority is not likely to divert them from their object of trying to secure some benefit for the taxpayers for the money which has been expended; but where planning considerations are of importance, of course, is in the future use to which the factory or the land is put.
We have considered the Clause and the Bill very carefully, in the light of criticisms made in the Second Reading Debate that insufficient attention was paid to considerations of planning. If hon. Members will study the Order Paper they will see that we have brought in planning considerations at three very important stages. 2100 We have given planning authorities the right to object to proposals before the Commission; we have directed the Commission itself to have regard to planning considerations; and we have put in a Clause to the effect that if the Commission are in difficulty as to considerations of planning and think that there are substantial planning objections, the Commission may refer the whole matter to the Minister of Town and Country Planning for his observations. It therefore seems to me to follow that planning considerations will be amply covered.
But I do not think it would be apt to bring in planning considerations at the stage where the Minister is contemplating acquisition. Consultation at that stage is not likely to bear any fruit, because the Minister will put his case forward, and it is when objections have to be considered by the Commission that planning considerations really come into the picture. Where there is a planning scheme in force, and land is acquired by the Government under the procedure laid down in the Bill, and subsequently sold to a third party, the local planning scheme comes into force as against the purchaser of the property; so, where there are already planning schemes in existence, they will not be prejudiced through the land subject to them being acquired under the Bill and subsequently being sold. I hope that, in view of that explanation, and of the late hour and the rather small progress we have made with the Bill to-day, my hon. Friends will permit us to have the Clause.
§ Major York
My right hon. Friend has gone a very long way towards clearing the matter up, but I was shocked by what he said in starting off. It struck me that his Department, at any rate, had decided that town and country planning shall not be affected by any large expenditure of money by the Treasury. That is the effect of his opening sentence. That was the criticism of the whole Bill which my hon. Friends and I have made all along. This is an obvious admission by the Government that it is very much in the forefront of their minds. It appeared to me that the Financial Secretary was falling into the same error as the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson), but the error was on slightly different grounds. Whereas the Financial Secretary's grounds were 2101 financial purely, the grounds of the hon. Member for Chesterfield were on political dogma purely. I, and I think my hon. Friends, reject both of those two solutions to this problem. Whatever may happen as a result of later Amendments by which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning is to be consulted, but no more than consulted—I assume that his advice may or may not be taken—there is in my district a very large Ministry of Supply factory. That factory has been so badly sited that it has always been impossible to obtain a sufficient labour force fully to man it. Hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money was spent on putting it there. Are we to assume that, although that factory is obviously outside the realm of proper town and country planning and proper location of industry, because hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent on it it is going to be held there against the wishes of the local planning authority and the obvious interest of the district? The learned Attorney-General seemed to suggest that there were few of these town and country planning schemes in force in the rural areas. That is a most libellous statement, if he refers to the North. The Attorney-General has been so long in his present office that I cannot remember what part of the country he comes from.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Major York
It must be a very backward part of the country. If he comes up to the North he will find that all our plans have been ready for a very long time. The county from which my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) and I come is, I think, fully covered. I hope that the Government will think twice before relying on pure consultation with the Minister of Town and Country Planning.
§ Mr. Molson
I must protest against a statement, which was an unparliamentary expression, by the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) that I was indulging in obstruction. It is absolutely untrue. I am most anxious that proper planning considerations shall be applied in this matter. In view of the explanation which has been given by my right hon. Friend and the promise that various Amendments will be made at more appro- 2102 priate parts of the Bill I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Ordered: "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—[Mr. Mathers.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Tuesday next.