HC Deb 09 October 1946 vol 427 cc201-3

Before revoking or varying a hill fanning land improvement scheme the appropriate Minister shall afford to—

  1. (a) the person or persons who under the scheme as it stands immediately before the revocation or variation, is or are responsible for doing the work described therein;
  2. (b) any person having an interest in the land for the benefit of which improvements are thereby proposed or in other land specified in the scheme as land on which work is to be done; and
  3. (c) any other person who satisfies the appropriate Minister that representations by him ought to be taken into consideration;
an opportunity of appearing before and being heard by a person appointed for the purpose by the appropriate Minister, and shall consider the report of that person.—[Mr. T. Williams.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

3.47 p.m.

The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Thomas Williams)

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

This proposed new Clause implements an assurance which was given to hon. Members opposite in Committee. Clause 5 of the Bill requires that the Minister should afford persons interested in any scheme which it is proposed to revoke or vary in the public interest an opportunity of being heard before the scheme is revoked or varied. It was objected in Committee that we ought not either to revoke or vary a scheme without affording an opportunity to any person whose interests might be affected by the variation to be heard. This new Clause fulfils the promise given in Committee. It was necessary, however, to define the classes of person and the nature of their interests. Paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) achieve that. Paragraph (b) is necessary because, under Clause 3 (2), a scheme may be submitted by any person having an interest in the land—a landlord, for example, who would not be doing the work, but who might take over if those who were actually doing the work could not complete that work satisfactorily. Similarly, a person on whose land work is to be carried out for the benefit of other land, may be heard, and paragraph (c) covers other interested persons, such as an intending purchaser, once a scheme has actually been completed. I think the new Clause fulfils the promise I gave, and I beg to move.

Mr. Snadden (Perth and Kinross, Western)

My hon. Friends and I wish to express our appreciation of the fact that the Minister has thought fit to insert this new Clause in the Bill; particularly, when we recall that in Committee the Parliamentary Secretary thought it would be unreasonable to do so, and, I think, the right hon. Gentleman himself said it would be a waste of time. We are very grateful that he now thinks differently. There is only one question I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman. So that there may be no confusion in the application of this new Clause, could he say quite definitely and make it clear that it refers to Clauses 4, 5 and 6 of the Bill?

Mr. T. Williams

Quite clearly.

Mr. Snadden

If that is so we are entirely satisfied.

Major McCallum (Argyll)

May I ask the Minister to help me on one point regarding this subject of the variation of improvement schemes? It was commonly supposed—I believe that, if there was not a promise, it was stated in a speech outside the House—that this Bill was expected by the Government to become an Act before the House rose for the Summer Recess. On the strength of that expectation, certain farmers got busy and started on work which, admittedly, they should not have done until the Bill had become an Act. In view of the difficulty of getting supplies and licences, and all the trouble of getting work going, they carried on as if the Bill had been an Act under which they could have submitted their schemes. Would it be possible, when the schemes are submitted under this Measure when it becomes an Act, to include work, approved by the Minister, which has been started since 1st August?

Mr. T. Williams

It is quite true that we were hopeful that the (Bill might get the Third Reading here, and pass through another place, before the Summer Adjournment, but unfortunately that was not possible. As to any scheme on which work is already being undertaken, forming part of a future improvement scheme, I am afraid I should want to see the details before I could give a definite promise. However, I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that with the good will of the House it will not be many days before the Bill passes through here and perhaps also through another place, and I hope we shall not occupy a lot of time with it this afternoon.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.