§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This is a highly technical Measure, in which there is a great deal of legislation by reference. This makes it difficult to follow unless the various Acts to which reference is made are consulted. It has three main objects. The first is to extend the period during which certain powers contained in the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945, may be used in relation to land held and works used for military purposes. The second is to increase the compensation payable, by way of rental as well as terminal compensation, for land which has been requisitioned. The third object is to confer powers more convenient than those now available to maintain permanently the long-distance oil pipe line which was created during the war.
With reference to the first object, the powers conferred by the Act of 1945 are due to expire at two different dates. In the case of land held and works used for military purposes, the powers expire on 24th February, 1948. In the case of land held and works used for economic purposes, the powers are due to expire on 10th December, 1952. Therefore, the first object is to equate the two dates by making 10th December, 1952, the operative date for both purposes. Before I come to the reasons why the Government make this proposal, I would like to clear the ground by reminding the House why it is that at present we have two separate limiting dates.
The powers conferred by the Act of 1945 were granted originally for a period of two years after the end of the war period. The end of the war period was later fixed as 24th February, 1946. This meant that the powers conferred by the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act would be continued until 24th February, 1948. Section 5 (5) of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) 1513 Act of 1945, prescribed that these powers should continue until two years after the expiration of that Act, if it could be certified that the land was held or the works used, for purposes within Section 1 (1) of that Act—broadly, that is, for purposes connected with the economic problems which face the nation during the transitional postwar period. The Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act expires on 10th December, 1950, unless it is extended by Order in Council for a further year. Therefore, two years added to that date bring us to 10th December, 1952. The result of Section 5 (5) of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act is that for the purposes of Section 1 (1) of that Act—that is for economic purposes—the powers do not end until 10th December, 1952; whereas for other purposes—namely, military purposes—they end on 24th February, 1948.
This, at least, is the result which the House undoubtedly thought they were securing when the first Supplies and Services Bill was considered. But there is a strong case for holding, as a matter of strict law, that land requisitioned for military purposes can be retained, in many cases, beyond February of next year under the law as it now stands. This case has been strengthened by the recent extending Act and, if this is right, some of the powers sought by this Bill are unnecessary. But the Government consider, in view of the clear understanding of Parliament in 1945, that it would be wrong to rely on securing what they now want by any legal ingenuity, or any particular reading of the law as it stands. They much prefer to come to the House frankly and to ask for fresh legislation covering the whole of the ground.
It was no accident that the Supplies and Services Act left a shorter period available for the exercise of all these powers on land used for military purposes than on land used for economic purposes. At that time it was firmly expected in all quarters of the House that the permanent requirements of the Forces would be settled and the dismantling of war works and rehabilitation of land completed by early next year. This expectation has not been realised. The House will ask, and have every reason to ask, why? In the view of the Government, there are three good reasons for this. The first is that during the period of running down of the Armed 1514 Forces, which has been attended by a good deal of uncertainty, it has not been possible for the Services to work out what their permanent requirements for training, and other purposes would be. They have not been able to work out what they must retain permanently, in the interests of national defence, and what they could start to hand back to owners, possibly after it had been rehabilitated.
The second factor which has militated against working to the date in early 1948 has been the slowing down of proceedings, due to the procedure laid down before permanent acquisition can be decided on. We make no complaint about that. Public opinion, both national and local, very properly takes a lively interest in such diversions. An enormous amount of time is spent in consulting with all the various interests concerned, including local authorities, organisations interested in the amenities and beauty of the countryside, and so on, and in trying to meet the objections of each. This must often be followed by a public inquiry, in accordance with the promise made by the Prime Minister in November, 1946. This process of inquiry is set forth in the White Paper, which, no doubt, is in the hands of most of the hon. Members present.
The third reason why we have to come to the House and ask for an extension of time in relation to the land used for military purposes is the ever-increasing stringency in the supply of labour and materials. This has made it difficult, if not impossible, to go ahead as quickly as it had been hoped in clearing away war works and restoring land to a state in which it can be handed back to its owners. Other and more pressing jobs have to be undertaken, and have to take precedence over this work, necessary though it is.
I should add, for the sake of perspective, that the most important reason for requiring this extension of time is not to enable the Government to acquire land permanently for military purposes, useful though that power may be. Such power is available to the Government, if they desire it, under the Defence Act, and in many cases they will undoubtedly use the Defence Act powers for acquiring land permanently where it is needed. The Bill does not in any degree affect the powers which the Government have under other enactments. It is true that the present Bill extends Part II of the 1945 Act which 1515 does give power for permanent acquisition. But this applies only to a limited range of cases. More important is the extension of Part VI. That is the power to remain temporarily on land in order, either to decide whether it should be permanently acquired, or to remove war works, or, as is the case in some instances, to put it into a fit state for agricultural use. In these instances the purpose of these further powers is not to sterilise the land, but to ensure that it shall not be sterilised.
These three reasons, in the view of the Government, provide solid ground for asking Parliament to extend the period during which Service Departments can exercise these powers. The Departments are very anxious to clear away these terminal and transitional tasks as soon as possible, so that they can concentrate on their normal functions. Only those who have come into close touch with the Service Departments, and have seen the difficulties with which they are faced in this direction, can realise what those difficulties have been, and how anxious the Departments have been to surmount them and come to some decision as to whether they desire permanently to keep or to give up land which has been requisitioned. Therefore, if Parliament agree to the extension, there will not be any fear that the Departments will use this extra time as an excuse for inactivity. In their own interests, if for no other reason, they will push ahead as quickly as competing demands will allow.
I should remind the House that the powers of Government Departments to acquire land under Part II and close highways under Part III of the 1945 Act are not exercisable without any check or control. In each case they have to publish their proposals, and if they are objected to they have to be submitted to the War Works Commission, who are an independent quasi judicial body, who can report that the proposals ought not to be proceeded with. In some cases the Corn-mission can be overridden by the Government, but in that case the matter comes to Parliament, and Parliament itself decides whether to uphold the Government decision or that of the War Works Commission.
The second object of this Bill is to revise compensation. At the moment, as 1516 I indicated when I began, compensation consists of two elements; rental compensation, payable during the period of requisition, and terminal compensation, payable at the end of requisitioning for damage done during occupation. Rental compensation is governed by Section 2 of the Compensation Defence Act, 1939, and Section 45 of the Requisition Land and War Works Act, 1945. The broad effects of the provisions in these two Acts is that rental compensation is, at present, limited to 1939 values as a maximum. It can be less where, for example, if the requisitioning took effect during the war somewhere in a South coast town where values were below 1939 values at that time and have since remained below what they were in March, 1939. Therefore, at present, compensation is limited to 1939 values as a maximum.
The House will remember that earlier this year the 1939 standard for compensation on compulsory acquisition was abandoned. The two Town and Country Planning Acts of last Session substituted a basis of current value restricted to existing use, excluding scarcity value due to vacant possession. It is proposed to effect the same principle so far as rental compensation is concerned. Provision is therefore made in the Bill, that rental compensation shall be adjusted, on a claim by the owner, to current restricted values subject to a ceiling of 1939 values, plus 60 per cent., the property being regarded as being in the state in which it was when requisitioned. In the view of the Government, this ceiling is a simple and just method of excluding any unreasonable inflation due to scarcity.
To give an example, so that the House will understand what this Clause actually proposes so far as rental compensation is concerned, let us suppose the 1939 value was £1,000 per annum. The addition of 60 per cent. would mean an addition of £600. That would bring the maximum for rental compensation to £1,600 per annum, but, if the current restricted value is only £1,500, then only £1,500, and not £1,600, would be payable. If the current restricted value was as much as £2,000, then only the £1,600 would be paid. In other words, the 1939 value, plus 60 per cent. is a ceiling. The compensation can be lower, but it cannot go above that.
I may remind the House that, in the Town and Country Planning Acts, we 1517 inserted a provision in order to meet this scarcity point by assuming a notional lease ending in 1954. We do not do that here, because we have approached the problem in a different way. In our view, and this is a point which may be discussed on the Committee stage, we achieve substantially the same result without interposing a notional lease. In the case of rent restricted property, the ceiling will be the standard rent.
Now I want to say a word or two about terminal compensation. Terminal compensation is the cost of repairing damage done during requisition, and that compensation is also at present subject to a ceiling—the pre-emergency value of the property. This provision, as is, I think, generally accepted in the House, does bear very hardly on owners whose property has been destroyed or substantially damaged during the requisition, because costs have risen very steeply. In fact, present day costs of substantial repairs may exceed the 1939 value of the original property. The Bill, therefore, to meet this situation, proposes to repeal the existing limitation and substitute as a maximum the difference between the capital value of the property in its state at derequisitioning and its capital value in its original state, both these values being taken by reference to current values on the basis adopted for compensation on compulsory acquisition.
Perhaps, here again, it might help the House if I gave a concrete example. Let us suppose that the capital value of a property when derequisitioned in its damaged state was £500, that is, at present day values. The capital value of the property in the state in which it was taken over might have been, say, £2,500 at present day values, though the original property at a 1939 valuation might well have been only £750. The difference between the value of the property in its present damaged state at present values and its capital value in its original state at present day values is £2,000, so that the terminal compensation in that particular case would be limited to £2,000. I ought to make it clear that that £2,000 would be a maximum, and unless the cost of repairs to the property came to that figure or more, the £2,000 would not be paid. Something less would he paid if the cost of making good the damage did in fact come to less than £2,000.
§ Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)
Before my right hon. Friend leaves that point, will he explain whether the value will be taken from the valuation roll or whether it will be taken from somewhere else?
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
It is difficult, as it were, to project oneself back to 1939 and to decide quite definitely what values were then, but, obviously, the valuation in the roll would be a good indication of what sort of value it was, and, normally, I think that would be taken.
§ Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to say, in the case of the value of a reconstituted property, whether he means the value according to the standard in which it existed when taken over or the standard which would be allowed today, in the light of the shortages of materials, labour and so on?
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
Of course, many of these points are Committee points, and I do not want, in moving the Second Reading as briefly as possible, to enter into a lot of details about compensation. I might, perhaps, say that the Solicitor-General will be replying to the Debate and will cover any point such as that which has been raised, and which hon. Members will have a chance to raise again when we reach the Committee stage.
§ Mr. Bossom (Maidstone)
Will the compensation be paid, or will the work have to be done before the compensation is paid?
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
That is, of course, another point of detail. It has, first of all, to be decided what work is necessary, and an agreement has to be reached as to the cost. I might, in answer to the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans), say that obviously the cost of repairs would be the cost of putting the property back substantially into the same state as it was before the damage was done. That, I think, goes without saying, and it has been the policy which has been followed generally up to now.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
No, I thought I had made it clear that we are dealing with the provisions of the 1939 Act as modified by the provisions contained in the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945. Section 45 of the 1945 Act and Section 2 of the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, are considered together for this purpose, and we superimpose on them these Clauses to make these changes in values, and limits, ceilings, and so on.
The third main purpose of this Bill is to provide powers for the permanent maintenance of the long distance oil pipe line which was laid during the war. I think it is generally known now that this pipe line does exist, and the problem was foreseen in the Act of 1945. At that time, it was decided that this pipe line might be left there permanently, and that some arrangements would have to be made about it. In fact, in the 1945 Act, provision was made for easements to be acquired to protect the line, while the sites of certain structural works erected in connection with the line could be permanently acquired.
Experience has shown during the last two years that that is a very slow and cumbersome method. There are many hundreds of owners who would have to be dealt with, and the matter would take many years; that being so, it has been thought reasonable, and provision has been made in the Bill, for a change which will permit the Government to deal with it without having to negotiate easements, owner by owner, with the various interests involved. Section 28 of the 1945 Act gives, in practice, most of the powers which the Government need to carry out this new proposal; that is, to obtain powers for this line without necessarily having to treat with every individual owner in the way suggested in the original Act. We believe that this new procedure will make things very much easier for all concerned, and we hope that the House will agree to it.
So much, therefore, for the main objects of the Bill. To recapitulate: Clause 1 deals with the equation of the 1520 date for military and economic purposes, and makes the two end on 10th December, 1952. Clauses 6 to 10 deal with compensation, to which I have already referred. Clauses 11 to 14 deal with the Government oil pipeline and the arrangements which the Government propose should be brought into being to deal with it. I have, of course, no desire to speak at too great a length on points of detail which can best be dealt with, as I have already said, when we reach the Committee stage. This is, however, a very technical Bill, much of it is legislation by reference—and unavoidably so, I am sorry to say—and, therefore, it is not too easy to follow what is aimed at in some of the Clauses. Perhaps, therefore, I should direct attention to one or two other matters contained in the Bill.
Clause 2 deals with the acquisition of agricultural land where its use in existing units is affected by Government war work. What we have mainly in mind are aerodromes which have ceased to be used. The difficulty here is that the original Act of 1945 only permitted land to be acquired if that was necessary in order to rehabilitate it. It has now been found that some land which does not need any rehabilitation should be brought into the same procedure, so that the various farm units can be considered as a whole in order to secure its best possible future use as agricultural land. It may well be that where an aerodrome was made and runways laid down, no regard was had to the way in which farms were made up. A runway may run from one farm, across the fields, to another. We have found that it has sometimes been very difficult to get farmers to agree as to just what should be done. These powers, if the House agrees to give them to the Government, will enable the authorities to readjust boundaries in a sensible way, so as to restore the land to agricultural or to forestry purposes.
§ Mr. York (Ripon)
Could the Minister explain in what respect Clause 2 is different from Section 85 of the Agriculture Act?
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
It really adds powers to it. We are here dealing with war works, or land which has been requisitioned during the war, and all we are suggesting is that, where the boundaries 1521 of requisitioned land do not permit of its full use as agricultural land or for forestry purposes, the Government Department concerned should have power to alter boundaries in order to make the best use of it for agricultural purposes.
§ Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Mallon)
Has not the Minister of Agriculture already got those powers under the 1947 Act?
§ Mr. Glenvill Hall
I understand not. Here, as I say, the kind of case which we have almost solely in mind is that of an aerodrome which, very often, runs over quite a number of miles, one way or another, and where the runways have had to be fitted in with no relation whatever to the way in which the farms were previously divided. It may cover several farms. In many cases, the runways will not be grouted up; they will be left there. We want to make the best use of the land where these runways exist, so that the farms and the land can be put to the most useful purpose. That being so, it may well be that compulsory powers will have to be used in order to alter boundaries where agreement between the farmers and the owners concerned has not, up to now, been possible
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Do the powers of the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries extend to the Secretary of State for Scotland? They are not mentioned in Clause 2.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I think that if my hon. Friend will turn to the end of the Bill he will find that it also applies to Scotland. If I remember rightly, there is a Clause towards the end of the Bill where reference is made to Scotland, and where certain terms and phrases, which are better known in Scotland, are used.
§ Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)
I do not think that Clause 17 is quite in the usual form of other Scottish Clauses. Can the Minister say whether we shall have the privilege of the attendance of a Scottish Law Officer to explain the complicated part of this Clause, because it raises an interesting point, and bears on what was said by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes).
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I think the answer to the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) is that there is a very simple 1522 reference to Scotland—I think it is almost a one line reference.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
The other references are quite simple and straightforward; there is nothing ambiguous or obscure about them. In any case, I have no doubt that if, when we reach the Committee stage, it is considered essential that a Scottish Minister should be present, he will be there. But it will all depend (a) on the Minister, and (b) on whether the Committee and the House think it worth while for him to be present.
I think I should also make reference to Clause 3, which deals with highways, and explain briefly why these provisions are inserted. Section 15 of the 1945 Act—
§ Mr. Scollan
Before my right hon. Friend deals with Section 15 of the 1945 Act, would he clear up the previous point? I understood him to say that the runways on aerodromes were not to be lifted. Obviously, the runways are precisely the parts of aerodromes which divide up the various farms. If the runways are not to be lifted, I cannot see the point about settling boundaries.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
What I tried to say was that, in some instances, where aerodromes have been dismantled and given up, the runways, unfortunately, do not necessarily confine themselves to one particular farm. They may run over the boundaries between one farm and another. If as has happened in some cases, it is decided that it would be too expensive to grout up the runways, they will be left there, which means that some sort of change will have to be made in order to make the best use of farms thus interfered with. This power is required if boundaries have to be changed.
I was in process of dealing with Clause 3, and was going on to explain why these provisions have been inserted. Section 15 of the 1945 Act enables highways, which were closed in the exercise of emergency powers, to be permanently closed by order, subject to substantial safeguards, including reference to the War Works Commission. Clause 3 does two things. It extends the duration of the power to use Section 15 until 10th December, 1952—this is, of course, consequential on the extension to which I have already referred, and which is contained in Clause 1 1523 of this Bill—and it enables Section 15 to be used where the highway has, in fact, been closed, but where no formal order was issued at the time under Defence Regulation 16. Cases have come to light where because a footpath was little used, or because of the difficulties of the time, and the hurry of events during the war, the existence of such a footpath was not known.
That being so, no order was made at the time. The result is that, if no order was made, it is impossible for those concerned to take advantage of the provisions of the Act of 1945, which include provision for a public inquiry before the War Works Commission. I think that is very unfair, and that they should be permitted, in spite of the fact that no formal order was made at the time, to exercise the same right as can be exercised where a formal order was made. What we do here is not to close anew any footpath at all. It gives the right to those who feel that some further steps should be taken where a footpath has been temporarily closed to have the matter brought under the procedure laid down in the 1945 Act—that of a public inquiry.
It is essential, of course, that this matter should be cleared up because, I understand, frequently factories were built on land or on fields, perhaps right across a footway or footpath without anyone at the time realising that the footpath was there. It is quite impossible to pull war works down or dismantle a factory, and the only way is for us to allow the law to take its course as laid down. This is the method, so we are advised, of achieving that end.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
If the hon. Gentleman has a copy of the 1945 Act and cares to look at Sections 15, 16 and 17, he will see the procedure laid down for appeal to the War Works Commission and for a public inquiry to be held. That can only happen if a formal order has been made. If no formal order has been made, apparently people concerned can have no recourse to the procedure, and what we want to do is to get inquiries of this kind put on their legs so that if it is desired to take the matter further it will be possible to do so.
1524 I think I have covered most of the main points in the Bill. There are other Clauses, dealing with easements and other minor points. I have not dealt with everything as it would have taken far too long for me to cover the whole of the Bill in detail. As the House knows, the Secretary of State for War proposes to speak during this Debate and the Solicitor-General will be winding up. I think, therefore, I have said enough to commend the Bill to the House.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)
As will be seen from the Amendment which stands on the Order Paper in the name of myself and of my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side of the House, we take a very unfavourable view of the main purpose of this Bill. I should like your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on whether, if I move the Amendment before I resume my seat, the scope of the Debate would in any way be limited? It is, of course, in the general interest of hon. Members that the Debate should be as wide as possible and should include all the Clauses of the Bill.
§ Mr. Speaker
In my view, moving the Amendment would not limit the Debate in the slightest degree. After all, the Bill will be before the House and the Amendment will be before the House and, therefore, the whole subject will be just as wide as it was before.
§ Mr. Peake
In that case I will read the terms of the Amendment to the House and move it at the end of my speech.That this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which, by extending for a prolonged period wartime powers to acquire and retain land for military purposes, encourages procrastination and delay on the part of Service Departments, inflicts hardship on individuals whose interests are affected and creates uncertainty regarding the use of land for agricultural and other productive purposes.I was dumbfounded to hear the right hon. Gentleman in the course of his opening remarks suggest that many of the powers asked for in this Bill are already part of the law of the land. If that is the case, it makes complete nonsense of all the assurances, the pledges and the undertakings given to this House during the Debate on the Supplies and Services Act (1945), by his colleague the Home Secretary.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I am sorry if I have misled the House, but what I meant to say, and what I hope I did say, was that so far as the acquisition of land by the Service Departments is concerned, the Defence Acts give them all the powers they want to acquire land. These powers are in addition. It is true that some of the land may be acquired under this Bill, if passed, but they could always acquire land, if so minded, under Acts of Parliament already in existence.
§ Mr. Peake
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. Of course it is true that certain of the land to which this Bill will apply could be purchased by the Defence Departments for purely defence purposes under Defence Acts dating from 1842. In the course of the war the Government have put war works on land and if they proceed under the Defence Acts they would have to pay the present landlords for the improvements which the Government had carried out during the war by putting valuable war works on the land. It is not, therefore, a very practicable course for the Government to suggest that they could, in fact, buy under the Defence Acts land in any great quantities which they take power to deal with under the Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman apologised to the House, and I think rightly, for the extraordinary complexity of this Bill. It is an outstanding case of legislation by reference and in order to understand Clause 1 (1) of the Bill, which is the main operative Clause, one has to refer not only to the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945—which I spent many afternoons and evenings defending in Committee during its passage through the House—but one has also to refer to two Supplies and Services Acts, that of 1945 and that of 1947, and also to the Temporary Laws (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill of this year.
We claim that the main purpose of this Bill, which is to give Service Departments another 4½ years as from February 24th of next year to make up their minds whether or not they wish to buy land and buildings upon which they have placed war works or which they have damaged by war use, is unfair to the individual whose property is concerned and is contrary to the public interest. We think this continued procrastination and delay on the part of Government Departments in 1526 making up their minds whether or not they wish to purchase land is contrary to public policy and injurious to the common welfare of all persons concerned.
The right hon. Gentleman has explained clearly enough what were the main purposes of the Act of 1945. There is a vast variety of buildings which were placed upon land, either requisitioned or unrequisitioned land, by Government Departments during the war. They include works of all kinds: runways, aerodromes, factories; dwelling houses, in some cases, were built upon unrequisitioned land; air raid shelters, and concrete emplacements of all sorts for guns of all kinds. All these works, of course, have to be considered, and the Government have to make up their mind whether or not they wish to purchase the sites upon which they were placed.
Acquisition by the Government may be either to maintain value for the Government, in order to get the value of the money expended by the Government during the war, or alternatively, for the purposes of rehabilitation and restoration. As early as March, 1945, the Select Committee on National Expenditure, which sat throughout the war, considered this matter, and in their Second Report for that year, on 8th March, in paragraph 36, they stated as follows:Your Committee consider that the time has now come when a definite decision should be made which will enable Departments to determine which properties they will require and which they will eventually be able to release.That was the recommendation of a Select Committee of this House, consisting of Member of all parties; and it was at that time a unanimous recommendation.
Then we came a month later to the Debates on the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act. Great pressure was brought to bear upon the Government, of which I was then a Member, to limit the duration of the exercise of these powers of compulsory acquisition, and we agreed that the period for their exercise should be limited to two years after the end of the war period, the war period, in its turn, being defined as the date when the Emergency Powers Act, 1939, should expire. In the course of those Debates, when we were being pressed for a time limit upon the exercise of these compulsory powers, the present Minister of Health, who then occupied a position of 1527 greater freedom and less responsibility, spoke very strongly about this matter, and expressed himself as follows:Owners of property—and it is rather curious to have the right hon. Gentleman coming forward in defence of owners of property, but, at any rate, this is what he said—ought to be able, at the earliest possible moment, to know what their future will be. I believe it is the worst possible situation for individuals, owners of property or no property, to have no practicable future before them, knowing that at any moment the Government can step in and do something about which they cannot make the slightest possible conjecture. That is a ridiculous situation because it substitutes caprice for injustice.That is a rather typical flourish of the right hon. Gentleman. He concluded by saying:It is not unreasonable to ask Government Departments to make up their mind within two years."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th April, 1945; Vol. 410, c. 526–7.]During 1945 the present Government introduced the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, and the right hon. Gentleman referred to Section 5 (5) of that Act, which deals with this matter. That Subsection extends the period during which these compulsory powers of acquisition can be exercised in a certain limited class of cases—that is, the cases where the land is required for what are called transitional economic purposes, as opposed to military purposes.
That Subsection of Section 3 has an interesting history. The original Clause in the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Bill would have prolonged the period for the exercise of these powers in all cases; and it was very strongly objected to by two hon. Friends of mine, the hon. Member for Thirsk and Mahon (Mr. Turton) and the hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. York). On the Committee stage, which was taken on the Floor of the House—and I say, in passing, that I hope that the Committee stage of this Bill will also be taken on the Floor of the House—the Financial Secretary defended his Clause on the grounds that a similar Clause would have been included in a Bill which the Caretaker Government intended to bring forward had there not been a General Election. I can recollect no justification for that defence of the Clause inserted in that Act. At any rate, no such Bill with such a Clause in it ever saw the light of day.
1528 The present Home Secretary took a very poor view of the argument of the Financial Secretary, because he, on Report stage of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, came down with a wholly new proposal, a proposal which gave considerable satisfaction to the opponents of the original Clause. He proposed a new Subsection, which is the Subsection that found its way into the Act of 1945; and that is the one which contains the proviso which Subsection (1) of Clause 1 of this Bill intends to remove. It is very relevant in this discussion, therefore, to refer to the speech of the Home Secretary when he brought up this new Subsection on the Report Stage of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945. I am extremely sorry that the Home Secretary is not in his place today, because he, I feel, alone could possibly explain the appalling discrepancies between his statements then and what the Government propose to do now. I am afraid I shall have to quote his assurances, his undertakings and his pledges somewhat extensively; but they are completely relevant to the issue now before the House, and I hope the House will, therefore, bear with me. The right hon. Gentleman said:On the Committee stage … I under-took to give very careful reconsideration to Clause 5, Subsection (5) … and particularly to endeavour to meet some points that had been raised in the course of the discussion by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) and the hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. York). … I have tried to set out as clearly as possible … the exact purposes for which this Subsection (5) will be required. … We recognise that the premises and works concerned fall into two categories for which different treatment is necessary. In the first category are premises requisitioned and works constructed for war purposes … and not required for the new purposes set out in Clause 1, Subsection (1), of this Bill.That is, the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act.As regards that category, we accept the contention that the two-year period after next February ought not to be extended. … That is to say, to put it colloquially, if these works have been carried out on premises requisitioned for purely military purposes, we do not seek to extend our power to maintain the works or hold them beyond the period that was originally fixed by the Requisitioned Lands Act. So that within two years after 24th February next"—That was 1946, to which he then referred—the Government will have to make up their minds in accordance with the pledges given 1529 by the Coalition Government, and no extension of our powers is sought in that respect.A perfectly categorical statement on behalf of the Government by the present Home Secretary, exactly two years ago, that they had no intention whatever of doing precisely what the main purpose of this Bill is designed to achieve. In explaining his concession to the House, the right hon. Gentleman went on:This has been a very genuine effort on my part to meet the case that was made out from the other side of the House. I have had the advantage of a conversation with my right hon. Friends the Service Ministers, and they are anxious to bring to an end as soon as possible their retention of any land or buildings that they have taken over for war purposes and that are no longer required."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 19th October, 1945; vol. 414. c. 1601–3, 1606.]Of course, those Service Ministers to whom he referred are not by any means the same Service Ministers that we have today. There is a migrating season for Service Ministers.
§ Mr. Peake
We have had no fewer than eight Service Ministers for three Service Ministries during the past two and a half years. At any rate, the Service Ministers of that day were consulted, and apparently assented to the course which the Home Secretary then proposed. This Bill negatives every single statement made by the Home Secretary on 19th October, 1945. It shows a complete lack of any consistent policy on behalf of the Government, and it encourages continued delay in coming to any definite decision.
There has been recently published a White Paper on the needs of the Armed Forces for land for training and other purposes. Two years ago the Home Secretary thought that effective decisions would he taken by 24th February, 1948. The fact is that now effective decisions need not be taken until 10th December, 1952—a period of more than five years from today. I say that this is positively disastrous. The White Paper itself, which was delayed—its publication was promised in January last, I think, and it appeared in December of this year—does not tell us which areas of land will be taken for Service requirements. All it does is to give us a global estimate of the total amount of land required.
1530 The land required is apparently to be four times that occupied by Service Departments before the war and includes no less than 160,000 acres in areas scheduled for national parks. How is it possible for any planning authorities to proceed with proper planning, whether for national parks or any other purpose, if for another five years there is to be complete uncertainty as to which land, and how much land, is to be taken for Service purposes? My hon. Friends, and no doubt hon. Members opposite also, will be able to give any number of examples which are known to them personally. I will weary the House for but a moment by giving an example which is known to myself.
My father's house has been a group headquarters of the Royal Air Force since 1940, under requisition: About once every nine months since the war I have written a very civil letter to one of the very civil and courteous friends of mine who have been Secretary of State for Air, to inquire very politely whether I may be told if the Air Ministry intends to remain there permanently, or whether at some future time I may expect my ancestral home to be thrust back on my hands. Of course, I get no definite reply; the decision is postponed. It does not injure me, because I shall never live in the house. But there are other people who want the house. There is the Coal Board. When the present Secretary of State for War was Minister of Fuel and Power he was after it.
§ Mr. Peake
He wanted it for the officials of the Coal Board. Then there is the local education authority; they want the house. A voluntary hospital is also inquiring about it. I cannot give any of these people an answer because the Air Ministry simply cannot and will not say whether this house will be required permanently as a group headquarters of the Royal Air Force. My hon. Friends will he able to give many instances of exactly similar circumstances where the public interest is being injured through lack of any effective decisions being taken. That is our main objection to the Bill.
I want to say just one or two words about some of the other Clauses. Clause 2—which we think is an overlap very 1531 largely of Section 84 of the Agriculture Act—seems to us to be quite unobjectionable. I must say a little about Clause 3, which deals with the closing of highways, because this is also a subject upon which the present Home Secretary committed himself and his colleagues on the Government Front Bench pretty deeply in 1945. Clause 3 provides, not only that highways may continue for the next five years to be stopped up by administrative order, but that highways may be stopped up by administrative order even where they have been illegally stopped up for several years past through the action of Service or other Government Departments. That is clearly the effect of Clause 3.
In that connection, I refer to the Home Secretary's statements on this very matter in the Debate to which I have already referred. In order to satisfy my hon. Friends the Home Secretary said:I have excluded altogether from the operation of the Subsection Part III of the Requisitioned Lands Act which deals with highways. … Perhaps I might make it quite clear that there will now be no power other than those in the ordinary processes of law to stop up or divert highways, because on 28th September an Order in Council was approved which withdrew from the War Agricultural Executive Committees the power to arrange for the ploughing up of footpaths. … So that I think that from the passing of this Bill there will be no power to make any fresh diversion or closure of a highway except in the three ways known to the law, even before the war started—either a special Act of Parliament, an Order of the justices in Quarter Sessions, or a town planning scheme. I hope on that point that I have fully met all that was desired, and, may I say, which I myself desired to secure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th October, 1945; Vol. 414, c. 1602.]
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
My right hon. Friend has not gone back on that. I would remind the House—although I make no complaint about that quotation—that in actual fact we are not closing any new highways, none of them, and those words of my right hon. Friend still hold.
§ Mr. Peake
That is all very well, but not a week passes without my receiving a whole batch of Statutory Rules and Orders closing up highways. Every week these things are coming up. They are coming up by the handful all the time. The right hon. Gentleman may say that these are not new closings, but they are permanent closings, some of which were 1532 undertaken legally, and some of which were undertaken illegally, during the war period.
§ Mr. Peake
I dare say not, but here we are having, by administrative order, a permanent closing of highways for all time, although these highways were originally closed under wartime powers and for purely wartime purposes. That runs absolutely counter to what was said by the Home Secretary in this House on 19th October, 1945.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman again, but it is important to get this right, because it goes to the root of the matter. I agree that no one would be willing, if what the right hon. Gentleman says is correct, to agree to these words being inserted in the Bill, but what we are trying to do is to right a wrong. These footpaths were closed during the war, and in some cases it was not known that they even existed. We cannot go back on the past. All we can do is to give to those people who feel aggrieved the power to bring this matter to inquiry, which they cannot unless we agree to these words.
§ Mr. Peake
That may be so, but it seems to me that the provisions in the Bill run counter to the Home Secretary's statement thatI might make it quite clear that there will now be no power other than those in the ordinary processes of law to stop up or divert highways."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th October, 1945; Vol. 414, c. 1602.]As regards the Clauses which amend the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, I have very little comment to make at this stage. It seems that the tying down of compensation, either to 1939 values, or to an even lower scale of values, which was established sometime during the war, is now no longer justified. The question upon which I am not satisfied is whether the ceiling of 60 per cent. above 1939 values is justifiable under present conditions.
Clauses 11 to 14 deal with oil pipe-lines, and I think that on the whole it is a reasonable solution of the problem which these pipe-lines involve. In one respect the owner of land under which a pipeline passes is very hardly treated. His interests will obviously suffer by the existence of the pipe-line. He will be pre- 1533 vented, for example, from building upon the surface. He is only to receive compensation if he puts in a claim, whereas many of these owners will be quite ignorant of the fact that a pipe-line runs under their land. I should have thought the t the Treasury or the Ministry concerned should have taken steps to ascertain who are the owners concerned, and then to inform them of their rights to compensation.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Frank Soskice)
The Bill provides that the pipeline has to be registered in the local land charges register, or endorsed on the deeds. Therefore, they will always know.
§ Mr. Peake
The point I am dealing with—and I am not sure that it is the same thing—is the provision under Clause 12, which states that only such persons will obtain compensation who make a claim in accordance with the regulations framed by the Treasury.
I think that I have stated the main grounds for our objection to this Bill quite clearly to the House. We say that it puts off for nearly another five years vital decisions regarding the future use of land and buildings in this country. For that reason, it is unfair to individuals and is contrary to the public welfare.
I beg to move to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which, by extending for a prolonged period wartime powers to acquire and retain land for military purposes, encourages procrastination and delay on the part of Service Departments, inflicts hardship on individuals whose interests are affected and creates uncertainty regarding the use of land for agricultural and other productive purposes.
§ 4.46 p.m.
Mr. Scott-Elliot (Accrington)
It is usual at the outset to declare one's interest in a Bill. I have no personal interest, but I have an interest as a member of the executive committee of the National Trust, and perhaps I may be allowed to say a few words on behalf of the National Trust concerning the provisions of this Bill. The real point is how this Bill is to be administered. Everything will depend upon administration, and, therefore, I want to make a plea on behalf of the National Trust. The Trust is regarded as the protector of the amenities and 1534 properties it controls throughout the country. People look to it to preserve the beauty spots which it owns. The Trust is being pressed by its supporters to obtain derequisitioning of its property, and it therefore deserves reasonable consideration from these two points of view. Help can be given in two ways.
In the first place, some degree of priority might be given in the form of derequisitioning where that is possible. I know that in many cases that is not possible, but there will be cases of doubt arising where priority should be given. In the second place—and this is even more important—properties belonging to the National Trust should be fully reinstated so that they may be worthy of preservation in the national interest. I am very glad to see the Secretary of State for War present. I should like to give him one example of a property where this difficulty has recently arisen. I am speaking of Selworthy Beacon in Exmoor. In this case, the amenity value depends entirely upon the agricultural land. The agricultural land has been destroyed, and I understand the Department take the view that because it is not good agricultural land, they do not propose to reinstate it. I think I have said all I need say on behalf of the National Trust. Although I am sorry to see that requisitioning is to go on for so long, I have no doubt that in many cases it is in the broad national interest. In the event of there being a Division, I propose to go into the Lobby in support of the Government.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ Colonel Clarke (East Grinstead)
I wish, first of all, to protest against the form in which this Bill has been presented. It is par excellence legislation by reference, and to one who is not a trained lawyer, it is almost unintelligible. I believe that it is unintelligible even to a trained lawyer, unless he is provided with volume after volume of Public and General Acts. There are an immense number of previous Acts referred to, dating back to 1842. I attempted to wrestle with some of them in the Library, and I found myself rapidly becoming buried in enormous volumes of Acts and old HANSARDS, and I climbed out in despair to fall back on the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum, on which my few remarks will be based. I feel that it is wrong that legislation should be presented in this way. It ought to be 1535 codified—if that is the right word—or at any rate presented in a much simpler form. It is not only Members of Parliament who have some exprience of the law who are concerned; numerous public bodies, and associations, and people outside ought to be able easily to understand this Bill.
I want to declare an interest in this matter. My house has been requisitioned since 1940, and is now occupied by German prisoners. They are very comfortable I believe. Indeed, many of them do not want to go back to Germany. Incidentally, I was there on Sunday, and if anyone really wanted to know what this country would have been like had the Germans won the war then he might have a look at that house. But I do not want to refer merely to my house, or that part of my father's park and farm which has also been requisitioned.
As I go about my constituency and the country I see that many acres of agricultural land, which were requisitioned by the War Office during the war, are still held, and are rendering sterile land which might be used for agriculture. There seems to be no finality of tenure. Some of this land is occupied by camps, rather derelict looking huts, which are even more scattered than they normally would be because they were placed under trees and hedges to conceal them from aircraft. In so doing, they occupy more land than they might otherwise have occupied. There is usually a barrack warden, or a Pole, or a displaced person to be seen wandering about; otherwise, there is no one in the vicinity at all. Rough grass is growing around the camp sites, and the Noxious Weeds Order and other orders of the local agricultural committee are being broken. There is concealed dannert wire in the grass around the camps, and other dangers which prevent cattle being turned out on to the grazing. There is usually a 30-yard range and large areas devoted to vehicle standings, potentially valuable for rubble but useless for agriculture, and in other places wide areas of rough grazing-land are scarred by trenches and crossed by wire and gunpits. In some cases live bombs and shells lie on the ground, thus making it dangerous for anyone to go on the land. There are tank training grounds where the whole 1536 surface of the land has been pulverised, and the vegetation has been completely destroyed.
When we discussed the last Act dealing with this subject we knew that for a further two years we should not know what would happen. Since then we have been pressing to find out when the land was to be handed back and whether, when it was, the damage which had been done would be put right. Much of this damage can only be put right by the Government. Bombs and ammunition must be cleared up by the War Office. When will this be done? We thought it would be done by 24th February, 1948, but now it looks as though we shall have to wait until 10th December, 1952. If we knew for certain when we should get the land back we should be able to plan, which we cannot do today. From what we know of human nature, I fear that nothing will be done until a further three years have lapsed.
I appreciate the difficulties of the War Office, with whom I have had some dealings about individual cases. I largely absolve them from blame, but I think that the work of the inter-Departmental Committee on Services' Land Requirements might have been done much quicker. We were promised the White Paper last February, and we got it only a week or so ago. Even now, it is only an outline. I agree that a great deal of the White Paper is not unreasonable, but I would like to refer to what I consider to be a grave omission. In Part IX, dealing with procedure for examining proposals by Service Departments, there is talk of individual proposals, but there is no opportunity for a farmer, forester, or landowner to make his case, either by joining in preliminary consultations or making representations at the inquiry. I feel that there is a failure here to realise that what are called the personal interests in these cases are really very much the interests of the country, especially in these days of the shortage of food and timber.
My main objection to the Bill is that the wide and drastic powers given in wartime by the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945, are now to be extended for another four years or five years. I do not think the Minister justified this step. He said that though there were alternative powers to acquire land it was more honest to regularise procedure by a 1537 Bill of this kind. That point was answered by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), who showed that if that was done in any other way it would cost a great amount of money, far greater than the Government ought to pay. I suggest that by pulling down a lot of these camps materials might be obtained, instead of being lost. There is a great deal of material which could be used again, especially timber, for which there is a crying need.
I also believe that it would have been better, in a Bill of this kind, which concerns not only the Service Departments, but the Treasury, if the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Town and Country Planning had been brought directly into it. The names of the Ministers of these Departments should have been on the back of the Bill, to show that they were supporting it. I am glad that the Minister of Works is here, because on 13th February, 1945, when he was a private Member, I remember him making a moving speech on this subject. I remember well what he said, and I have read it over again since. He said that the Minister of Town and Country Planning and the Minister of Agriculture should be associated with the Bill we were then discussing, and I am sorry to see that while his name is now on the back of this Bill, the names of those other two Ministers are not.
I would call attention to Clause 2. I have very much sympathy with the principle of it. Damage by dividing fields and farms has been done all over the country because of railways and canals and has gone on for practically a century. We do not want the same thing to happen in the future. But I am still not clear how the Bill will be reconciled with the powers possessed by the Minister of Agriculture under Section 84 of the Agriculture Act, 1947. Will the Minister of Agriculture act through the Agricultural Land Commission? Will the appropriate Minister, under Clause 6 of the Bill, use the War Works Commission as his instrument? If that is done, the land will presumably be acquired by the latter Minister under Section 6 of the Act of 1945 and will then be acquired by the Minister of Agriculture under the Agriculture Act, 1947. That will take much longer than is necessary, considering the urgent need there is of land for agricultural use. Perhaps later on I might have 1538 an answer to those questions, and be told whether the procedure can be short-circuited.
We need clarification on Clause 9. Is the compensation purchase price to be that which is payable under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947? I gather that it is, but, if not, I hope that we shall be told what the difference is. On the Committee stage I hope there will be an opportunity for clearing up two apparent defects in the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939. That Act does not give satisfaction in the case of severance. I hope that the matter will be gone into again. Undoubtedly too, there is hardship in some cases owing to the fact that, although the property is handed back to the owner, there may be a considerable time lag before it becomes money-earning again. No compensation is obtainable in respect of that time lag.
When I read the Bill I wondered about the four and a half years now being asked for, in which Service Ministers can make up their minds. I wondered whether there was any sinister motive behind the proposal. I do not think there is. I like to put the most generous motives possible upon these things, and I conclude that it is only another example of the desire to put off for as long as possible the evil day when something has to be done. The intense feeling that was aroused by the first Requisitioned Land and War Works Bill, 1945, will be remembered. The Bill was tremendously improved in Committee, largely due to the untiring efforts of my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), but even at its Third Reading it was not wholly satisfactory.
The Bill perpetuates that Measure and should be looked at with the greatest possible care. Instead of asking for this very long period of extension of power it might have been better to have extended the period, in the first place, until, say, 10th December, 1950. The whole matter could then have been gone into again and after a thorough revision the period could have been prolonged for two years, if necessary. There should not be a four and a half year extension straight off because everybody will now say, "There's no hurry about it," and this matter will go down to the bottom of the file. I liked the idea of the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Scott-Elliot) 1539 who spoke on behalf of the National Trust. There should be priority for certain types of property, such as the National Trust, and it might be worked into the Bill. I am not happy about the Bill. I do not like the form of it. It is definitely anti the interests of agriculture and therefore I shall support the Amendment against it.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Dye (Norfolk, South Western)
Like other hon. Members who have spoken I find the Bill difficult to understand, but, unlike them, I have no direct personal interest in matters arising under it. We are finding that although it was comparatively easy to demobilise manpower after the war it is difficult to demobilise land. That may seem to some hon. Members due to procrastination. I would like to see the efforts of Service Departments speeded up in regard to their control and use of land for their own purposes. Our land is so limited that it is of the utmost importance that every bit of it should be used for the production of food as early as possible, and kept to that use.
It is equally clear that the country will need defence, and men and land for that purpose. We have to co-ordinate as much as possible and not to give exclusive use of the land to the Service Departments. Wherever they can be joint users of land with agriculture or forestry, the two uses should be co-ordinated. I, therefore, ask the Ministers responsible for the Measure, where it is part of their purpose to acquire land for Service Departments permanently, to bear in mind that the Departments should make the best use of the land, whether for arable agriculture or for grazing purposes, jointly with the farmers. If they must have the exclusive use of the land themselves, then they themselves should arrange to take the responsibility for the land.
We must produce as much food as possible inside our shores. Where the Services have had until recently, or still have at the present time, exclusive use of land, the agricultural land outside their control deteriorates because of the growth of weeds, vermin and other pests on the Service land. We must bear these matters in mind. If this Bill extends the date for the derequisitioning of land, the De- 1540 partments themselves should not postpone the date for coming to decisions in particular cases. Having got the latest White Paper on the Services' land requirements, cannot we now expect the Service Departments to come to a decision within a comparatively short time? We now have a better understanding of the required size of the Services, and surely the Departments should be asked not merely to limit the use of land but also to come to decisions?
There is in my Division a large battle training area, and I am very glad to say that the War Office has been most cooperative in having some of that land cultivated for growing crops, both during the past year and in preparation for the coming season. I am glad to know that during the last year that land was growing very good crops, and we hope it will grow more crops in the coming year. There are difficulties, however. Farmers cannot go on from year to year on temporary arrangements and make the best use of land. Therefore, there should be a permanent arrangement whereby, if land is to be cultivated it will be cultivated according to the rules of good husbandry so that it will grow crops which will produce the food which the nation so urgently needs.
I understand that the position at present is that the land is requisitioned, and I have ascertained that some of it is requisitioned, at an annual rent of 10s. an acre. The agricultural executive committees then let the land to farmers, and in one particular case it is let back to the owners for 10s. an acre. Under that arrangement it seems that the War Office have the use of land for nothing, by paying 10s. an acre for it and then, through the agricultural executive committee, drawing rent of 10s. an acre for exactly the same land. That seems to me to be an arrangement which we might well understand if a Scotsman were in charge of the War Office, whereby they have the complete control over this land for their training purposes from year to year.
The War Office are not satisfied with that arrangement, however. Game abounds in many areas, and although the War Office claim that when they requisitioned the land they requisitioned everything on it, when they let it out they do not let the game rights with it. It is possible for farmers to prepare for excellent crops, and then for those crops to 1541 be devoured by rabbits, hares, pheasants and so on. The question of keeping down game on this land is of the utmost importance, and I ask the Ministers responsible for the continued requisitioning of this land to bear these practical agricultural points in mind.
I am not certain whether the Bill relates to land which is requisitioned for opencast coalmining. That can devastate land from an agricultural point of view for some time, and it can not only affect the field which is being worked but completely upset the whole holding. Therefore, it is not satisfactory to a farmer to be paid rent for only the particular field which is being worked, because the rest of his farm also becomes an uneconomic unit. Compensation should be paid not only for the land which is used for that purpose, but also for the damage done to the whole of the holding. I therefore ask the Ministers responsible to reconsider this Bill so far as it affects the economic use of entire farms.
I would also like to know whether, when land which has been taken for use as an aerodrome is no longer required as such, it is the intention of the Government to hand that land to the Land Commission for rehabilitation for agricultural purposes. There seem to be delays in getting land which is no longer required for such purposes out of the control of the Service Departments, so that it may be put to agricultural use. Is that because we are waiting for the setting up of the Agriculture Commission? If not, I ask the Government to facilitate the transfer of redundant aerodromes so that the land may he put to agricultural use as speedily as possible.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)
I wish to speak on that part of the Bill which gives powers to the Service Departments to retain land for training areas. Like the hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. Dye), I realise that there have to be these training areas and that the Departments concerned must have a high priority for them, but that does not excuse the Service Departments from taking care to make sure that there are no other areas the use of which would cause much less inconvenience. Perhaps it is not every hon. Member who has the good fortune to represent areas as lovely as those in my constituency. It would be 1542 invidious to suggest which areas are unspoiled or which have already been spoiled, but undoubtedly there are great areas where very little harm could be done to either agriculture or amenities if they were used as training areas.
I feel that the Service Departments do not always take sufficient trouble to make sure whether they could use land where no harm would be done. The Secretary of State for War will agree, I am sure, that through no fault of its own, the Army must inevitably interfere with agriculture when it uses land for training areas and must, therefore, diminish food production. In the area in which I am particularly interested, a moorland area, sheep farming must have been upset and the stock of sheep in the country reduced. The use of this land as a training area must also inevitably disturb the amenities. It is impossible to have gun sites on lovely areas without interfering with the facilities for ramblers. It is obviously inevitable that the Army should erect camps and buildings which will disfigure the land. Therefore, I ask that more care should be taken to avoid spoiling our lovely places.
I am sorry that the Secretary of State for War has left the Chamber, because I wanted to make two particular criticisms of his Department before he took office, with regard to the retention of land for Service purposes. I am glad to note that the right hon. Gentleman's place has now been taken by the Under-Secretary. I suggest to the Under-Secretary that his Department, perhaps, are sometimes more concerned with their own convenience in their selection of land for training areas than they are with the amount of damage or inconvenience caused to the public. I sometimes wonder whether they do not deliberately choose places within easy access to health resorts. In my constituency, all three Service Departments are trying to take up a position, and I cannot help thinking that they are, to some extent, actuated by their natural desire to put their men in training near such delightful pleasure resorts as Scarborough and Whitby. We are delighted to entertain them individually, but we naturally do not like the idea of their official activities, which can do so much damage to the amenities of that lovely locality. In fact, it has even been suggested that there should be gun sites, so located that firing will be across the 1543 public road between Scarborough and Whitby, which would detract from the advantages of that area.
My second criticism is one which was also made by the hon. Member for South-Western Norfolk—the very great delay that there has been in dealing with these matters. I hope that some notice will be taken of that. I raised this matter with the Secretary of State's predecessor's predecessor on 7th May, 1946, and I then got a reply that he promised a comprehensive statement in the course of the summer. That was by far the best reply I have received to the many Questions which I have put in this House. The next one was on 23rd July, 1946, when he made a further reply which was a good deal more vague than the first as to when a decision would be made. On 18th December of the same year—when the first of many changes were made—I got a reply from the Secretary of State's predecessor, I think, that he could not say when he could say anything about it. In the middle of July this year, he softened his refusal by saying how much he regretted that the investigation had taken so long.
Still there is no clear indication of what is to happen. I, therefore, ask that we should have some assurance that the War Office in particular will not retain for training areas land where much damage is done to agriculture and amenities, until they are fully satisfied that there is no other land available for their purposes; and secondly, that they will be more businesslike and prompt in making up their minds as to what is to happen, so that the position may be known without delay.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
This Debate is concerned not only with agricultural land but with buildings. I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Expenditure Committee in 1945 and the Estimates Committee this year produced two reports to Parliament on this matter. They made certain recommendations. The first thing one wants to recognise is that it is not fair to put all the blame on the Service Departments for the delay in carrying out de-requisitioning. The delay has been due to the fact that no fixed policy has been laid down because of the international situation.
1544 It is easy for us in the House of Commons to try to fasten the blame on to the Service Departments and the Ministry of Defence, but when the original arrangements were made and evidence was given before the Expenditure Committee, of which I was the Chairman, it was made perfectly clear that the speed of de-requisitioning both buildings and land would depend entirely on the international situation, and how soon we were able to have a peace treaty with our late enemies. That is the background which we must bear in mind in this House when we consider this Bill. Another aspect fully brought out by the Expenditure Committee is the enormous capital investment by the taxpayer in land and property. Although it is hardly ever mentioned, it is a very big investment indeed. It is right for us to see that that investment is safeguarded because of its potential value for defence.
I am delighted to see a Clause in the Bill with regard to the pipe-line which, when it was made from the Bristol Channel to the Thames, was one of the most secret things of the war. It saved an enormous tonnage of shipping and ensured our supplies of oil. When the Committee, at that date, visited it during its construction, one of the main difficulties was to acquire the necessary land along its alignment and to arrange for the terminal points and booster pumping stations. The cost of that pipe-line ran into a good many million pounds. The Committee very rightly said, "What do you propose to do to safeguard the public investment in this public necessity?" We got a very unsatisfactory answer. Now, I think, one can assume, taking into account this Bill and that the pipeline throughout its length can be considered as all one property, so to speak, that the attention of the Ministry of Supply will be drawn to the fact that some of the terminal points have now been entirely taken down and will take some time to reconstruct; and also that there is an insufficient maintenance party in charge of the stations throughout its length. There is, no excuse for that. The shortage of manpower is no excuse when there is a public investment running into millions, if it is deteriorating through inadequate maintenance. That point should be remembered. It is a good point in the Bill.
1545 The other matter with which both Committees dealt has been raised today. That is the question of airfields. It is a technical matter for the Air Council, but all of us who have a large number of airfields in our constituencies realise that, just as it has been difficult for the Army to fix training grounds in suitable locations, so it has been almost impossible, for the same reasons, for the Air Ministry to decide what should be the minimum number of operational stations to be maintained, and how far the improvements and alterations in the type of aircraft will render useless a very large number of restricted air fields.
In certain parts of the country—in my constituency there are two—there are large grass airfields. These airfields are usually on the best agricultural ground. The best agricultural land was selected because on it could be planted the best turf, and on the best turf could land the largest machines. But it seems strange that we should still retain 100 per cent. grass areas, when there are fairly close to them airfields with concrete runways, which cannot be dug up because the expense would be too great, but which could be used for training purposes or whatever purposes the grass airfields are being used, and the grass airfields returned promptly to agriculture. The answer, I suppose, is that we have to train pilots to land on concrete runways and on grass, but I can hardly believe that should be the answer at the expense of hundreds of acres of the most valuable agricultural lands. I think that the recommendations of the Expenditure Committee at the time was that the evidence did not justify the retention of these grass airfields. But they are still there.
In common with other hon. Members, the thing I dislike about this Bill is the lack of a sense of urgency in getting on with the job. I feel that it is a Bill which ought only to pass on the undertaking being given by the Financial Secretary, as introducing the Bill on behalf of the three Service Departments, that they should devise a perfectly definite scale of release in the intervening years so that when we reach 1950 or 1952, or whatever the date is, there is practically no reason for the Bill. I think we can support them on the evidence. I have here a copy of the first report of this Session of the Estimates 1546 Committee on the release of requisitioned property, and I recommend hon. Members to take the trouble to read what their colleagues say. These Committees take up a lot of the time of hon. Members, they absorb the time of civil servants who come to give evidence, and the members go to immense trouble to prepare a Report. There the Report is and no one raises questions about the recommendations except probably some Member of the Committee. I see some Members present, and I hope they will support the plea that when a Committee of this House makes a Report the Members of the House should be good enough to study it and see if they agree with the recommendations.
It turns out that in March, 1947, the Admiralty, the War Office, the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Works were paying 8,035,000 in rentals. That is a considerable sum and we cannot afford it, because not only is it hard on the taxpayer, but it does no good, because it leaves a feeling at the back of the mind of the man whose land has been requisitioned that he cannot carry through a proper agricultural policy, for he has no certainty of progressive cropping. If it is a factory, a public hall or whatever it may be, nine times out of ten, as this Report shows, it is being held for covered storage space. Unfortunately the Minister of Works has endless demands made upon him by every Department for more and more covered space.
The Admiralty after the war wanted another 8 million square feet of additional covered space, and the evidence we had was that the Ministry of Works were seriously considering the erection of that accommodation. What is it for? It is for mobilisation stores. Are we quite sure that the stores will be useful for winning a war? Are all the stores of the 1939–45 war going to be vitally useful in winning the next war, because one of the dangers with which we are always confronted in this country is that we restore all the things of the war before and then expect to win the following war with those stores? Tremendous progress has been made in scientific research and discovery, and I suggest that the Service Departments might well review what is being stored, and get rid of a lot of the material, which I think is occupying requisitioned property which could quite well be stored in the open, because it is of little value.
1547 I do not think there is any representative of the Air Ministry here today, but not more than two months ago this sort of thing was going on. Thirty-eight ton R.A.F. launches which had been out in India and were lying on the beaches, were sent home at the cost of £10,000. They fell to pieces when they were unloaded, for they had been lying under the tropical sun for about nine months or more. They were ordered to be sent home to be stored in some place which the Ministry of Works had got to provide, but any one not taking part in the Mad Hatter's Tea Party would have suggested taking out the valuable parts of the launches, the engines, for instance, if they had any value, and not taking the launches as deck cargo on a freighter all the way from India at tremendous expense to the taxpayer, and then all they do is fall to pieces when they are unloaded. That is perfectly absurd, and the sort of thing the House wants to see avoided.
One other point in this proposal is worthy of attention. I believe myself that it is inevitable that this Bill should be adopted. I see no other way out. After all, we have heard from the Service Departments and the different Ministries as to the accommodation they want, I do not believe that there is anything else which can be done. I think probably it is unnecessary to make it look tidy by fixing a date, whatever it happens to be. That is the bad part of the Bill, and I do not think any Minister approves of it, and because it has appeared in some previous enactment is no reason for making it sacrosanct. We have first of all to recognise that accommodation depends on policy, that policy depends on the general situation, and that the Government can only rely on the expert advice of the Chiefs of Staff committee in so far as finances are concerned. So far as economy is concerned, practically all the factories have now been released, but there are still too many schools held. We were told in evidence that the schools were going to be released quickly as priority, but the schools have not been released in toto. I know that schools for the children of officers who were killed are still being retained and those children cannot get the education they certainly deserve.
1548 The conditions of requisitioning ought to be looked at with the greatest possible care, and I should feel much happier about this Bill if I got some assurance from the Secretary of State for War that he recognises the danger of extending this period of time because it might lead to proscrastination and all the rest of it, and that he would be willing to fix a definite scale of releases up to and terminating in the year 1952. There is this other point that we are very short of manpower, and one of the most fantastic, and wasteful things now going on is the failure of the three Service Departments not to combine in regard to surveying work and getting rid of property. It ought to be the business of a joint staff, which would lead to speeding up and would also lead to economy in manpower.
It is quite possible to employ local firms as surveyors to do some of the surveying that has to be done, though many are occupied chiefly by Ministry of Town and Country Planning and it should not be difficult to find sufficient valuers available to do this work. If the organisation as between the Service Departments could be improved so that no delay takes place, there could be economy there, and I am quite sure that the forms which are filled in now with regard to requisition could shortly be made uniform. What difference can there really be if some land is requisitioned by the Admiralty, the War Office or the Air Ministry? There may be small conditions put into the agreement peculiar to one or other of these Departments, but generally the form should be the same. Whilst it has been difficult in the Service Departments to do more than they have done, the blame is not altogether theirs. I feel that this House should not agree to the Second Reading unless we get a firm assurance that there will be definite derequisitioning on a scale which shall be fixed to terminate the whole business by the time the Bill proposes.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I find myself in agreement with many of the points made by the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) and, quite strangely, in sympathy with the Amendment. This is the most sweetly reasonable Amendment I have ever seen in the names of Conservative Members, and the 1549 only thing about it with which I disagree are the six names attached to it. I must confess, too, that I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke) and join with him in protesting against the legal jargon in the Bill. That applies specially to the Clause which affects Scotland. Clause 4 contains six or seven lines which are absolutely incomprehensible jargon except to two lawyers in Scotland. When this Bill gets to the Committee stage, I believe that only two lawyers in this House will understand exactly what that Clause means.
I have risen to protest most strongly against the requisitioning of land in Scotland as well as in other parts of the country by the Services. The White Paper tells us that in Scotland 83,000 acres of land are to be used for what has been politely called "practical military training." The hon. Member for Abingdon, who has a more extensive acquaintance with military training than I have, asked whether this training was really so practical. He made the point that we usually prepare for the next war by having a dress rehearsal based on the plans of the last war. According to the White Paper, that is precisely what we are to do during the four and a half years under the terms of this Bill. The White Paper tells us that the Admiralty is to have 20,000 acres. Why on earth does the Admiralty want 20,000 acres? The Royal Air Force is to get 34,000 acres.
We are also told that for battle training and field firing areas there are to be 200,000 acres, for field artillery ranges 170,000, for armoured vehicle driver training areas 35,000, for armoured fighting vehicle and anti-tank artillery ranges 50,000 acres, Royal Engineer training areas 30,000 acres, anti-aircraft practice camps 5,000 acres, small arms ranges 65,000 acres and general training and miscellaneous areas 93,000; a total of 702,000 acres devoted to military training for what? The hon. Member for Abingdon spoke about our enemies of the last war. Surely we do not intend to use 702,000 acres for preparing battle operations for our enemies of the next war? That is not all. There are also 325,200 acres for other purposes.
Scotland is to have even more land devoted to military purposes than ever 1550 before. Warnings came from all parts of the House when during the Debate on the Scottish Agriculture Bill we discussed the effect this was likely to have. The right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) likened the acquisition of this land to the old Highland clearances, and said that we had a new robber baron, the Secretary of State for War. I am very sorry that the right hon. and gallant Member has left it to me to carry on the attack against the robber baron. The Secretary of State, however, is not really a robber baron. He has rather a dual personality. He is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The Dr. Jekyll is the chairman of the Labour Party and Mr. Hyde is the Secretary of State for War, and I hope that in the conflict of these emotions the Secretary of State for War will for old times sake be suppressed by the chairman of the Labour Party, at least in the acquisition of land in Scotland.
The excuses of the White Paper are quite unconvincing. One is that very little land is purely agricultural land but that it is land which cannot be used for ordinary agricultural purposes and is only suitable for grazing. It is a vital point in the arguments of Scottish Members that 23,000 acres of good sheep land in the Cheviot Hills are to be handed over for battle and tank training while we have this food shortage. I protest with as much vehemence as I can command against Scottish land being taken over while the food shortage is so great. Not only the growing of potatoes is involved; there is also the question of sheep. Between 8,000 and 9,000 ewes are to be taken off this land. The Secretary of State for War argued that sheep could feed on the moorlands and mountains when the tanks are in operation, but that is not the opinion of the people in Scotland who understand the position. We are, therefore, right to protest against the acquisition of the 23,000 acres in Roxburghshire and also land in Inverness-shire. Inverness-shire will be turned into practically an armed camp. The local authorities there have protested, and wherever land is to be used for this purpose local authorities will protest.
I, therefore, urge the Secretary of State for War not to be too anxious to defend his new office but to think in terms of the agricultural and economic development of 1551 our country. I hope the Admiralty will give us some explanation why they need 20,000 acres. Surely the Admiralty is not training its sailors on 20,000 acres of land? It is a reflection on this Government that we are now to requisition four times the acreage for war purposes that we had before the war. It implies a necessity for a change in direction of international policy. I know the Secretary of State for War regards it as his obligation to carry out that policy.
Finally, I wish to endorse what has been said by those hon. Members who have put the point of view of the National Trust. The hikers are entitled to go over the mountains and moorlands of Scotland and the Lake District without receiving intimations such as, "This land is for military purposes—keep off the grass." I believe that the desire of the people of this land to have access to mountains is good and should be encouraged. If it comes to it, I would prefer to have sheep on the land instead of tanks; I would prefer to see hikers roaming over our hills than to have gunnery practice. I would say, take the risk. I make this protest on behalf of the people in Scotland who are against the acquisition of Scotland as a military training ground, and I hope the Government will think again and that the Secretary of State for War will use his influence in that direction.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Shinwell)
The association of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) with the Conservative Party is perhaps the most outstanding feature in this Debate. He has described the Amendment as sweetly reasonable. I venture to offer another description: it is a formidable looking Amendment based on the most slender pretext. The case presented by the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) is based on the assumption that the 11,000,000 acres—I use rough figures—either held or requisitioned by the Service Departments during the war is still in their possession. Of course, it is quite otherwise, and if hon. Members, with certain exceptions, had read the White Paper carefully, and in particular if the right hon. Member for North Leeds had read Part VIII of the paper, 1552 paragraph 28, he would have realised that far from holding on to that vast acreage which was in the possession of Service Departments in wartime, we have relinquished more than 10 million acres.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon Gentleman interjects to say that he had not said we had not but, as I have remarked, practically the whole of his case was based on the assumption that we had derequisitioned very little land, if any at all.
§ Mr. Shinwell
That puts the matter in quite a different light. So we have to concern ourselves not with the II million or so acres which was in the possession of the Service Departments before the termination of hostilities, but with a matter of a million acres in all which are used by the Service Departments, some of it Service property which has been in the hands of the Service Departments for many years—I need not go into details because hon. Members must be familiar with the facts—and, in addition, some other land which is required specifically for training purposes.
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire has concerned himself with the special position of Scotland. He claims to speak for the Scottish people in this connection, but I am bound to tell him that, so far, I have not been made aware of vehement objections either on the part of local authorities in Scotland or representative institutions. So far, I have only been made aware of the objections raised by my hon. Friend, and the speech delivered recently by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot). In fact, representations have been made from certain quarters that Scotland is not getting its fair share of what is going. That may be attributable to the compensation provisions upon which requisitioning is based. At any rate, I know that when in the course of recent discussions we had 1553 to indicate an allocation to Wales, for example, which is much higher in proportion than the allocation for Scotland, very serious objections were raised.
My hon. Friend also asked about the position of the Admiralty. If he is anxious to elicit the information, I direct his attention to paragraph 33 of the White Paper, where he will see items which relate not only to the Admiralty but to the Air Force. The Admiralty, for example, require airfields comprising in all 22,700 acres. My hon. Friend would not deny, on the assumption that we require defence for security purposes—I am not so sure that assumption is well-founded——
§ Mr. Shinwell
If so, let us settle the matter finally, because my hon. Friend takes a quite pacifist view in this connection and I say to him that I reject that view. I reject it not only as Secretary of State for War—to take up his point—but also as Chairman of the Labour Party, because it so happens that the Labour Party by now has become inured to the need of promoting the utmost security.
Now I will address myself to the very reasonable argument presented by the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn). In particular, he asked questions about the retention by the Army of some schools. The facts are that the Army has two schools in its possession and our intention is to release these schools by February next. I presume that will be regarded as satisfactory. His next point was that there should be the least possible delay in the decision reached by the Service Departments as regards the need for acquiring land or the right to use land for Service purposes. The hon. Member asked specifically that we should have a sense of urgency at the War Office. I can assure him that nothing would please us more than to be able to come to definite decisions but, unfortunately, we are inhibited by several factors which prevent us reaching decision as speedily as we should like to do.
I should explain what these difficulties are. The hon. Member for Abingdon also 1554 asked whether we could give an assurance that the period during which we would be likely to come to a decision would be telescoped. That was not the language he used, but it is the meaning of what he asked. That entirely depends on the circumstances, and I furnish an illustration of what is meant. We have some land in our possession which it would be foolish to derequisition at once, for the reason that there are unexploded missiles in the territory. Until we can afford satisfactory assurances to all concerned that those missiles have been removed and all danger has disappeared, it is clearly absurd to derequisition that land. That is just one illustration of the difficulties which beset us in coming to a speedy decision as regards any particular piece of land.
I proceed to deal with what is regarded as the substance of the case for the Opposition Amendment. I direct attention to the White Paper, and am grateful to Mr. Speaker for agreeing to a wide Debate on this matter, although there is nothing to prevent the House discussing this subject again if they so desire, subject to proper submissions through the usual channels. It is very desirable that we should not rest on the technical nature of this Bill. I agree at once about the technical jargon; indeed, my right hon. Friend, in his very able presentation of a most complex and technical Bill, agreed that it was difficult to understand.
It is very desirable that we should discuss what after all is the gravamen of the charge against the Service Departments as regards requisitioning of land. If hon. Members will be good enough to turn to page 9, paragraph 32, they will see what are our land requirements. Before I proceed to discuss those land requirements in detail, I wish to establish a vital principle. I know my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire would not agree; we understand each other in this regard. The vital principle is that if we are to have an Army, an Air Force and a Navy, we must afford them adequate training facilities. I think the House would be inclined to accept that as a vital principle. Of course, if the House did decide in its wisdom, or otherwise, that now that two years or more have elapsed since the termination of hostilities the Service Departments are no longer necessary, obviously training facilities would not be required.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Will the acquisition of 750,000 acres of land for military training be security in preparation for defence against an atomic bomb?
§ Mr. Shinwell
This is not the occasion for a discussion of high military strategy, and I am not certain that I am competent to reply to the question posed by my hon. Friend. At any rate, this House has agreed over and over again, indeed, since the termination of hostilities, that the Service Departments are still necessary, and that we require an Army, a Navy and an Air Force. On that basis we rest our case.
I agree that the House is entitled to an assurance that we are not asking for too much land. The House is also entitled to an assurance that if we ask for adequate training facilities we do not seek to impair agricultural development, or disturb amenities. I agree that these questions are quite proper questions which hon. Members might be expected to put to myself and my right hon. Friends responsible for the administration of the Service Departments. In all, we are asking for rather more than 700,000 acres of land, and of those 702,000 acres the War Office are asking for 648,000 acres. We are the largest user of land, and, I presume it is because the Army are the largest user that I, in preference to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air, or my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, am standing at this Box defending the Service Departments, and upholding their demands.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. Gentleman has stated the matter correctly. This 702,000 acres is for training purposes alone. I will break down those figures in a moment. The right hon. Gentleman is also correct in saying that there is a further requirement. It is stated on page 10 and amounts in all to 325,200 acres for a variety of requirements—Royal Air Force airfields. Admiralty airfields, accommodation and storage, anti-aircraft sites and coastal artillery, Radar installations and Ministry of Supply purposes. We are satisfied that this is a minimum 1556 requirement. If it were not so, we would not come to the House and ask for their consent.
I will deal primarily with the training facilities, and the amount of land we require for those purposes. The fact is that 40 per cent. of our requirement is Service property, acquired by the Services under the Defence Act of 1842, prior to the war itself. So that the amount of land now requested by the Service Departments is a comparatively modest amount. The question is whether this land is actually required. As to that, I have only to say that in comparison with the situation which presented itself before the war, in the sphere of training facilities, there is a vast difference, and I imagine that hon. Members in all quarters of the House will appreciate that fact. Whereas before the war we had firing ranges and territory which was used for vehicle exercises, and for training the "Sappers" and so on, at present, having regard to the experience of the last war, we require land much greater in area for the purposes of exercises with track vehicles, tanks and the like, for bridge building operations and experiments, for artillery practice on a vast scale with guns firing much farther than ever they did before the war, and in particular—and I address myself to this emphatically—for the purposes of training the expanding Territorial reserves which will follow the operation of the National Service Act in 1949.
Of course if the House had decided otherwise, for example not to continue national service, and if in consequence we had to deal with a small compact, well equipped, it may be, Regular Army—although there are difficulties in that regard—it would be different. If we merely had to deal with the Regular Army it would be another story. The House, however, is responsible for a condition of things which makes it essential for us to expand our training facilities so that these Territorial Reservists shall be properly trained, and, therefore, become efficient for the purposes for which—no one can tell—they may be required. That, briefly, is the position.
I should remind the House that the Territorial Reservists will follow, in addition to the volunteer Territorial Force which is gradually expanding, slowly but nevertheless very perceptibly. The Territorial Reservists, when they leave the 1557 Army after their period of national service year by year, will have to be trained over a period of six years. Hon. Members are familiar with the provisions of the National Service Act in this regard. Territorial Reservists must be trained over a period of six years for something like 60 days. Clearly, if that is so, we must have the training grounds for that purpose. That is the justification for the acquisition of land.
It may be argued that we are taking the wrong kind of land, and are dipping into agricultural land, which is required, as my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. Dye) and other hon. Members have argued, and should be used primarily, if not exclusively, for agricultural purposes. The fact of the matter is that not more than 14 per cent. of the land we seek to requisition is agricultural land. I venture to digress to point out the fact, which has apparently escaped the notice of hon. Members, that the amount of land in this country is something like 56 million acres, and of that total 40 million acres are regarded as agricultural land, although not necessarily good agricultural land. Of the 56 million acres in the country, and of the 40 million acres of agricultural land included in that total, we are asking for 702,000 acres in all. Hon. Members can scarcely regard that as unduly serious——
§ Mr. Turton
Surely the right hon. Gentleman's figure is wrong, and what is being asked for is one million acres of which half is agricultural land?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I have pointed out—it is all in the White Paper—that of the million acres a large proportion—not the major part—is existing Service property. This additional land is mostly required for specific training purposes. Even if the figure is one million acres of land in all, as against 56 million acres of land in this country, 40 million acres of which is agricultural, it can scarcely be argued that these demands are excessive in character. It appears to me to be a matter of whether we are having due regard to the impairment of agricultural development and to amenities—National Trust property, beauty spots in the country and the like—and also whether the procedure for dealing with these matters is expeditious in character, so that firm decisions can be reached at the earliest 1558 possible moment. To these matters, I venture, briefly, to address myself.
It is not the first time that I have encountered difficulties—very heavy weather indeed—in this matter of acquiring land. In my previous dispensation, or incarnation, however hon. Members care to regard it, I encountered a substantial difficulty over opencast operations. Whenever I wanted to develop opencast operations to secure more coal I was lambasted by the people concerned with amenity and by hon. Members in this House because I was interfering with beauty spots and alleged amenities, etc. Eventually I got my way, and we got a little more coal, perhaps not as much as I should have liked to have, but that is by the way. Again I am being attacked, together with my colleagues, because we want to acquire land. Let us see what the facts are. Firstly, we have been at great pains in trying to reach agreement with local authorities. Secondly, we have endeavoured at all times, at any rate, since I went to the War Office—I have no doubt my predecessor did the same—to secure the agreement of the amenity organisations.
Take the case of Dovedale, about which there has been hot controversy. It has been alleged that we are seeking to extend the rifle range in that quarter, for no valid reason. When the matter was brought to my notice I took what I hope Members will regard as the sensible precaution of ascertaining the view of those primarily concerned—my hon. Friend the Member for West Derby (Mr. C. White) and the local authorities with whom he is associated. I asked them to come to my Department and discuss the matter. What is the position about Dovedale? We have not yet reached a firm decision, but I can give the House the assurance that a decision will soon be reached; there will be no delay.
I feel sympathetically disposed to the case which has been presented to me, but we have to consider the safety of the public in relation to these training facilities, for example, as regards firing ranges. The range will not occupy a great deal of land, but for the purpose of safeguarding the interests of the public who traverse the territory nearby it is necessary to expand a little, even perhaps a great deal. Subject to protecting the demands 1559 of security for the general public—for the hikers, as they are called, and others who wish to avail themselves of the amenities at the week-end and at other times—I do not want to use more land than is necessary. If my hon. Friends who have approached me on this matter will leave it as I have just put it, I think we can reach a sensible agreement.
Let me take the case presented to me by my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk. He had approached the War Office about this matter before I went there. When I heard of it, I asked him to come and see me. We discussed the matter quite reasonably; he was exceptionally reasonable about it. I pointed out to him, as regards the Stamford battle area, that we were only acquiring land which had no agricultural value, and that in so far as it possessed any use for grazing and other purposes, we would afford the necessary compensation and exercise the utmost caution in protecting those associated with that particular piece of territory. I think we can reach agreement.
Then let me take the case of the land which we seek to acquire in Wales. There is a formidable proposition, presenting considerable difficulties. My Welsh friends and local authorities and organisations in Wales—North Wales, South Wales and Mid-Wales, particularly Mid-Wales—and hon. Members of this House who are associated with Welsh constituencies, came to see me quite recently. We had a very happy time. I told them that the best way to handle this was to gather together all the people who were interested, the local authorities and other organisations. We selected Shrewsbury as the place where we should meet. I said that I thought the best thing that could happen—though this may not be agreeable to everybody—would be that I should preside over the gathering. My reason was, that, whoever presided, in any event the matter would come back to me, so I might as well get in on the ground floor. I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon that if there is delay in that regard, it is not my fault. Over and over again I have asked my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins), "When are the local authorities going to get a move on?" They are still discussing it, but as soon as they are ready I will go to Shrewsbury. 1560 I will even go at Christmas or the New Year. The New Year is a very bad time for me to go anywhere, particularly round about Hogmanay.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, West)
Returning to Dovedale, is the Minister willing to consult not merely the local authorities responsible for the Dovedale area, but the local authorities of places like Sheffield and Manchester? For a long time, Dovedale has been regarded as the playground of those centres. Will he take into account the much wider area of local authorities in that case, as he seems to be doing in Wales?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I can assure my hon. Friend that I have proceeded far beyond the range of consultation. I am about to come to a decision. It may be a very favourable decision, and I hope that he will say nothing that will prevent me from making it. I have received all the advice and guidance on this matter that I think necessary from the people on the spot. I have examined the maps and I have a fair idea of the location.
In the case of Wales, it is true that we are acquiring, or seeking to acquire by requisition—perhaps for ultimate purchase, perhaps only for the purpose of exercising user rights—rather more land in proportion than in any other part of the country. On the other hand, it may well be that as a result of our incursion into the land we seek to requisition or use, that we may be able to improve the amenities instead of destroying them. That is the general position.
I must say a word about the Scottish position in another connection. We are seeking to acquire, in all, about 80,000 acres in Scotland. That is not a great deal——
§ Mr. Shinwell
I did not want to commit myself to the actual figure. In round figures, it is about 80,000.
§ Mr. Shinwell
That is all. The suggestion has been made that instead of acquiring so much land in Wales or England, we should have gone up to Scotland and acquired more. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] I note that 1561 there is support for that. I suggest that the two hon. Gentlemen go outside and fight it out.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I will come to Dartmoor in a minute. I always leave Dartmoor to the last. In regard to the Scottish position, one of the reasons why we cannot go to Scotland and acquire so much land is that the land is not satisfactory for training purposes. Also, the weather is more often inclement in that part of the world. In addition, and perhaps this is the most substantial reason, we require much of the land for training the Territorial Reservists. We can hardly be expected to transport large numbers of them from the North, the middle or the West of England, to Scotland. The expense would be excessive and, in addition, there would be considerable transport troubles. That is the short position.
As for procedure, the position is that the War Office—and this applies to the other Service Departments—make their submissions on the basis of schedules determined by the Service Departments through the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. That is the first step. The Ministry of Town and Country Planning refer these schedules to the regional controllers. In turn, the regional controllers discuss the matter with the local authorities. The local authorities take time to consider them, and then they come back to the regional controllers and state their objection. If agreement can be reached, so much the better. The matter is determined finally. But if they fail to reach agreement, and more often than not they do fail, for obvious reasons, the matter goes to the inter-Departmental committee who have to deal with all the facts. Eventually, if necessary, there can be a public inquiry. The machinery for public inquiries is laid down by the Ministry of Town and Country Planning.
That is the procedure. There is a good deal of circumlocution and, therefore, a certain amount of delay; but that is not attributable to any lack of urgency on the part of any of the Service Departments, the Ministry of Town and Country Planning or even the regional controllers. After all, the local authorities, the people on the 1562 spot, must have a big say in such matters.
I promised to say something about Dartmoor. My hon. Friend the Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Mr. Medland) and the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Studholme) came to see me recently. They did not come together; they came separately. I am bound to say that I said the same thing to both of them.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I believe it was very sensible. Anyway, it was agreeable to both—or it appeared to be agreeable, We discussed what land we required in the Dartmoor area. The trouble about the land there is that it is not agricultural in character. It certainly is not of high agricultural value. It is very largely used for grazing for ponies. I do not know whether there are sheep there.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The proposition I made was that in as much as we intended to use the land, we should make the necessary arrangements to enable the graziers to take their cattle off the territory in reasonable time to prevent any damage being done. Of course, in the event of damage, compensation is paid. I promise to give them ample time by advertising in the local Press and, if possible to use the Western Regional service of the B.B.C. for that purpose also. I do not know whether that is possible, but we will see if it can be arranged.
§ Mr. Studholme (Tavistock)
I would like to mention to the right hon. Gentleman that one cannot say that land on which cattle and sheep can be grazed is not agricultural land.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I qualified what I said. I said that it had not a high agricultural value. If the hon. Member understood me to say otherwise, I hope that he wilt appreciate that that was not what was meant.
Obviously it is distasteful to proceed with the requisitioning of land, particularly if there is any impairment or disturbance. We who represent the Service Departments, or the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, or those associated with the Ministry of Works or the Minis- 1563 try of Agriculture, would be the last to seek these powers unless they were absolutely vital and unless we were certain that this was the minimum requirement. It can be understood that, in doing so, we are anxious to safeguard the interests of the public while, at the same time, seeking to promote adequate national defence. That is the short position. I am not concerned in this Debate with the legal technicalities. They will be dealt with by the Solicitor-General, who obviously is more competent than I am to deal with them. All I venture to do is to make out a case for the requisitioning of this land and to assure the House that there will be no avoidable delay.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)
I should like to congratulate the Secretary of State for War upon saying so much and, at the same time, so little about the Bill which is under consideration. I think that in the course of his speech, which was interesting in several respects, he mentioned the Bill only twice. This is not, as I see it, the occasion for me to comment upon his observations with regard to the White Paper. We have had an undertaking that we shall have an opportunity of debating it. That undertaking stands, notwithstanding the right hon. Gentleman's interesting discourse. I do not propose to refer to that White Paper to any extent, save to point out that he appeared already to be somewhat on the defensive, and that this Bill is not a Bill which deals with the requisitioning of land, so that when he was seeking to justify the requisitioning of land, he was doing something not affected by this Bill.
This is a Bill dealing with the acquisition of land already requisitioned, join with a number of hon. Members who have spoken in saying that it is a most untidy document, difficult of comprehension to anyone who is not a lawyer, and most lawyers would disagree to some extent as to its effect. We had a most specific pledge from the Home Secretary in 1945 that the period within which the powers contained in the 1945 Act could be exercised, in respect of property held by the Service authorities, would not be extended. That has all gone by the board by this Bill. The Financial Secretary, in introducing this Measure, gave three reasons why the period within which this 1564 power can be exercised should be so prolonged. None of those was touched upon by the Secretary of State for War. I will not repeat those reasons but they did appear to me to be entirely inadequate for such a great extension in time. The hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) said it was not fair to put all the blame on the Service authorities for the delay that has occurred. I agree. But I do think that a good deal of the blame does attach, and that a great deal speedier action could have been achieved, and can be still, in determining what properties are necessary to be acquired in the exercise of the powers contained in the 1945 Requisitioned Land Act. My hon. and gallant Friend said, and it is quite true, that buildings are affected as well as land. It is not just agricultural land, important though that is. I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House have had experience of the difficulty in getting a decision on this sort of matter.
I wrote a few weeks ago to the Minister of Works to secure, for a constituent of mine, the opportunity of purchasing some Nissen huts which were standing on his land, and have been disused since the end of the war, and which he wished to use for agricultural purposes. After the usual interval of several weeks, I received a letter to say that the Air Ministry had not relinquished those Nissen huts and that my letter had been passed to them. After the lapse, once again, of the usual period of several weeks I received a letter from the Air Ministry to say that they had no further need of the huts, and had passed them back to the Ministry of Works for disposal. The matter is still with the Ministry of Works. I consider that that sort of procedure can be accelerated, and that this procedure to which the Financial Secretary referred of slowing down the proceedings so that a decision shall be arrived at as to compulsory purchase can be put largely in reverse. It is an inadequate reason for the extension of the kind which this Bill purports to give.
With regard to Clause 2, I think the powers contained in that Clause are already covered by Clause 84(c) of the Agricultural Bill. With regard to Section 3, which deals with highways, I regarded the Financial Secretary's explanation of the object of that Clause as singularly ingenuous. He said that by putting in 1565 that Clause it would enable members of the public to take advantage of the opportunity of holding public inquiries under Section 15 of the 1945 Act. He rather indicated that really it was for the benefit of people interested in the preservation of footpaths. That is not so at all. It is quite an inaccurate representation of the position. Clause 3 says that where a footpath has been obstructed without the making of an order, then, if an order could have been made for the closing up of that footpath, there will be power under Section 15 of the 1945 Act to close it permanently. I think that puts the position accurately?
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall indicated assent.
So that where there is in fact a closing up of a footpath under conditions where an order could have been made, but was not, if this goes into the Act, Parliament will have the power to close it permanently. That is a most astonishing proposition. On that argument by the Financial Secretary it is admitted that the closing of a footpath in those circumstances constitutes an illegal obstruction, because there was no order—although one could have been made—to authorise it. It might be possible to get an order at quarter sessions for the closing of a footpath, but if that authority is not obtained it would be illegal. Being an illegal obstruction of the footpath, surely, that amounts to a public nuisance. I refreshed my memory on the law a few moments ago, and I found that a permanent obstruction created upon a highway without lawful authority, and which renders the way less commodious than before to the public, is an unlawful act, and a public nuisance at common law.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I do not disagree with what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said, but would he tell us, as these paths have been closed and in many cases buildings erected on them, what solution he can offer—particularly as it was not the present Government who closed them in the first place?
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I can answer that quite speedily. I think it is still open to the right hon. Gentleman to make use of the quarter session procedure. If it will help him I can quote an actual case in which I was engaged where some people who had a gravel pit had the misfortune to remove a whole piece of a 1566 footpath. The path then led to the edge of a cliff, and that whole place was 20 feet deep in water. Nothing could have obstructed the footpath more. We were able to get an order from quarter sessions that the footpath should be closed, and that a footpath which went over dry land, and which was much more commodious, should take its place. I have just suggested to the right hon. Gentleman that he might perhaps follow that course. I do say that this wide power of permanent stopping up really does not give any protection to the members of the public who are interested in footpaths.
My right hon. Friend, in moving the Amendment to reject the Bill, referred to an observation made by the Home Secretary upon this point in 1945. I would like to refer the House to a few observations made by his Parliamentary Secretary on 26th November this year, when we were discussing the Emergency Laws (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. Then, the Parliamentary Secretary said:My right hon. Friend indicated, if not in Committee, at any rate in the letter he wrote,"—that is, a letter to me—that where it was intended that a temporary stopping up should become permanent, there could be no objection to using the normal procedure, either under this Act, or the old procedure of quarter sessions, and he is prepared to see that that will always be done."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November. 1947; Vol. 444, c. 2013–4.]That was on 26th November this year. Power to stop up highways is in the new Town and Country Planning Act, and there is also power, under the Emergency Laws (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, to which I just referred, to stop up highways for open-cast coal and the construction of electricity generating stations. This power contained in Clause 3 is thus quite contrary to the pledges given by the Home Secretary, and is the sort of power which certainly should not be accepted by this House.
We have here, under Clause 1 of this Bill, an extension of the definition of war purposes, and I assume that the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945, will, in view of that definition, apply to any land requisitioned either now or in the future for any of the purposes contained in the Supplies and Services Acts, 1945 and 1947. My grave objection to 1567 this Measure is that, as I see it, it must lead to more uncertainty, to more delay, and, by preventing the National Coal Board and other people from making their plans, postpone, and not encourage, the reconstruction of our country.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Keeling (Twickenham)
The Secretary of State for War said that, if the Army and the other Services are to be trained, they must have land for the purpose. Of course everybody on the Opposition side of the House agrees with that, and disagrees with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), but I am very disappointed that the Secretary of State made no reply whatever to the plea made by his hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. Scott-Elliot) that this training ought not to be carried out on National Trust land. I think the country would be surprised if it saw the list of the large number of National Trust properties, all of which have been declared inalienable, which are still under requisition, or, if de-requisitioning is in progress, have not yet been repaired or rehabilitated. All these properties would, of course, otherwise be available for public enjoyment. I want to give three or four examples to show the sort of thing which is going on.
In Norfolk, Scolt Head, which was a fighting vehicle range, has not been in use for two years, but still has not been derequisitioned. Another property in Norfolk, Blickling, was occupied by the Air Ministry, which put up a hutted camp. Here the Aylsham Rural District Council, apparently acting with, authority from the Ministry of Health, took over two of the camps without having informed the National Trust. The same thing happened at Ludshott Common in Hampshire. It is intolerable that the National Trust should not be consulted or even informed before its property is occupied in that way. I might mention that the National Trust successfully resisted the threat to take an immense quantity of shingle from Blakeney Shingle Bank, which would not only have ruined the Blickling property but might have led to extensive flooding.
In Surrey, Frensham Common has been derequisitioned, but not yet put in order. A good deal of damage was done to the 1568 surface, and that is a very serious matter in Surrey, where such a common is very much used by the London public. On another Surrey common, Witley Common, the huts are being used by Poles, and there seems to be every prospect of the Common being so occupied for years to come. In Somerset, there is a different sort of case. The Ministry of Health requisitioned Holnicote House, which is being used as a children's nursery by the Somerset County Council, and the children are nearly all the illegitimate children of black soldiers, a by-product of the war. This house had been let by the National Trust to the Holiday Fellowship. I am not suggesting that these unfortunate children are not just as much deserving of consideration as the Holiday Fellowship, but the point is that occupation by the Holiday Fellowship would be much more in accordance with the purposes of the National Trust than illegitimate children. Finally in Gloucestershire, Shirehampton Park is being used as a store by the Ministry of Food. Surely, two years after the war, National Trust property aught not to be used as a Ministry of Food warehouse.
I agree with the Secretary of State that there are cases where it is very difficult for the War Office to clear out. I would mention, for instance, Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire, where the difficulties of removing vast stocks of ammunition are very great. But this is altogether an exceptional case. In the other cases I have mentioned, and in a number which I have not mentioned, the National Trust, as the hon. Member for Accrington has pointed out, has not been treated with the priority and special consideration to which it is entitled as the trustee of land and buildings which it holds for the public enjoyment. I know perfectly well that the Government wish the National Trust well, but I suggest that it is time they gave up dissembling their love. There is a definite danger that the public will withdraw their support from the National Trust if the Government, in peacetime, remains in possession of, or fails to repair, so many of the National Trust properties.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Wingfield Digby (Dorset, Western)
I am not surprised that the Secretary of State for War, had so very little to say about the Bill. It is an 1569 extremely difficult Measure to understand, and I could not help wondering whether the right hon. Gentleman had studied it and its effect, because he did not seem to me to address himself at all to the actual necessity for the Bill at this time. There is no doubt that this Bill is very difficult to understand. Already, the law of requisitioning is not easy to follow, and it seems to me that this Bill makes confusion worse confounded. In my view, this obscurity is not in the long-term interests, certainly of the fanning community, and of the public, and I cannot help doubting whether it is really in the interests of the military users of the land.
The first feature of the Bill is the fact that it extends to military users of land, and puts them on the same footing as economic users, powers of acquisition for a period up to seven years after the war came to an end—a very long period indeed. None of us on this side of the House would quarrel with the appeal of the Secretary of State for War that the Services should not be denied the land which they require for legitimate training purposes. Nor would we wish to deny the need for a lot of the other 300,000 acres referred to in the White Paper. But what we very much doubt is whether this long period of delay is worth while in anyone's interest, because, now that the date has been put off for another five years, we cannot help wondering whether more of these questions, which most of us have had drawn to our attention in our constituencies, will not continue to go on undecided from day to day.
The Secretary of State for War referred to the difficulties of the Service Departments in coming to an understanding about different pieces of land. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury said, I think, that the Government made no complaint of the slowing down of the acquisition proceedings; but I think that the farming community does make a complaint. We in the farming community have our difficulties just as much as the War Department and the other Service Departments. I think it is up to them to try to understand that they are not the only ones with difficulties and that, by taking more urgent stops to resolve their difficulties, they will help to resolve those of the farming community at the present time.
1570 This Bill is certainly a very poor contribution if it is the latest instalment of top priority for agriculture. There is one example of this in Dorset. In the Isle of Purbeck, a large portion of land is under requisition by the military authorities, and we do not know what its future is to be. Negotiations have been going on for some time. The latest development was that we were advised to await the publication of this White Paper. Meanwhile, a very fine stretch of coast land is denied to a number of people who wish to use it either for farming or for recreational purposes, many of them coming from far to use it. I cannot believe that indefinite delay is really in the interest of anyone. It cannot be in the interest of the military, because it prevents them from carrying on their long-term military development and putting in new installations. It is certainly not in the interest of farmers who have to make plans for the future, if they are to plan efficiently.
I now wish to make a brief reference to Clause 2 of the Bill, which gives the Minister of Agriculture new powers—if, indeed, they are not already covered by the Agriculture Act, which I think they are—to take over land which was formerly in military use, and not only that land, but adjoining land, if he thinks that is necessary. This seems to me to be an additional case where all the surrounding farmers will be placed in doubt as to whether a piece of their land will be needed for this adjustment of boundaries, because the Minister has very wide powers to obtain this land, in addition to that of the camp, in order to make agriculture a success. That is another example of the way in which either woodland owners or farmers will be placed, once again, in a position of additional uncertainty as to the future.
Only a few days ago, we were discussing in this House the question of highways. We find in this Bill that the power to stop up highways is, by quite a different Statute, being continued right up to the end of 1952. These stopped-up highways, cause a tremendous amount of inconvenience, and once again we want to know what the position is. It would be far better in most cases to know the worst at once, rather than to go on hoping when there is no foundation for hope, and when other arrangements for travelling between places should be made.
1571 With regard to Clauses 6 to 10, which deal with compensation, this again, is a matter of some complication. It seems to me that the result of the new formula is going to be that, in certain cases, where there is land of high amenity value, but without very much actual market value, the compensation will be totally inadequate. Unless the Minister of Agriculture thinks it worth while to take over the land and to turn it into agricultural land, there will be tracts of land, which were once fine stretches with footpaths, turned into masses of concrete slabs after Army huts have been removed and the concrete foundations have not.
This may be but a small Measure, but it seems to me to be a singularly inappropriate one. It is certainly not a simple Measure, and it is not one of those streamlined Socialist Measures which hon. Members opposite like to talk about so much. I think the principle at stake—to prolong these wartime powers, as regards actual war purposes, up to a period of seven years after the war has come to an end—is a dangerous one, and I believe it will result in a continuation of uncertainty for the hard-pressed farmers.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Sir Waldron Smithers (Orpington)
I only wish to detain the House for a few moments in order to bring forward one special case which is typical of much of the criticism that has been launched against this Bill. I want to apologise to two hon. Members who, I think, might have raised this matter, but the information only came to this House this morning, and, therefore, I could not get into touch with them. It is a good sign that, even in these times, one particular grievance of one company can be put before the House. I think it will appeal very much to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury because, if he can see his way to derequisition this piece of land, it will be a first-class dollar earner.
The land to which I refer is at Wareham where there are clay mines owned by Messrs. Pike Bros. They produce a substance called "ball clay," which is vital as a dollar earner. Ball clay is used in the manufacture of pottery tiles, electrical insulators, etc. I understand that the importance of this raw material has already been recognised by the Board of Trade, and that a representative of that Depart- 1572 ment went there and was most sympathetic about it. I also believe that the Paymaster-General has talked to the firm concerned. Two-thirds of this company's leasehold was requisitioned in 1943 by the R.A.C. for the Eastholme Gunnery Range. Their complaint is this: it was the subject of a local inquiry and the Army proposed to retain their requisition, but the company were not allowed to give evidence at the inquiry. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will kindly look at Section 47 of the White Paper which refers to the powers of calling witnesses. It also says:The guiding aim will be on the one hand to hear fully all that can be said as to the effect of the Service Departments' proposal on the public interest.I venture to submit that the derequisitioning of this piece of land is in the public interest, especially, as I said at the beginning, because the export of this raw material can earn dollars. Therefore, I ask that the company be allowed to put its case at a public inquiry as soon as possible before any decision is taken that this piece of land shall still be kept under the control of the War Office, and that in the public interest it should be derequisitioned as soon as possible.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Hollis (Devizes)
As the representative of Wiltshire, which must have as much requisitioned and acquisitioned land as any in the country, I hope I may be allowed in a very few sentences to put what I think is the feeling of my constituents on this Bill, more particularly as the Secretary of State for War was clearly quite unaware of the position. My constituents do not for a moment dream of challenging the fact that we must have armed Forces and that they must have land. The Secretary of State for War made an eloquent speech on that topic, but he was pushing at an open door. Nor do we challenge the fact that, with modern developments, the Services must have more land than parallel Forces had before the war. Nor do we in our part of the world challenge the principle—inconvenient as it is for us—that it is, on the whole, least inconvenient if Service requirements can be concentrated in a comparatively few areas. It is very inconvenient to us since we happen to be one of those areas, but we understand and patriotically accept the principle that it 1573 is, on the whole, for the general good and we are also aware, as has been pointed out, that unfortunately the general international situation is less rosy than many people had hoped two years ago.
These points are not our grievances at all, but the point we do make is this. Inconvenience is a very mild word for many of the things we have had to put up with. We have had explosions in Savernake Forest on two occasions which have caused fatal casualties, and aeroplane bombing exercises have taken place around Larkhill which have damaged property. If we cannot escape these inconveniences we are entitled to be given as definite a finality as possible and it is a lack of this which is our great grievance against this Bill. This is not a Bill which says that Service Departments should have land, as one might have gathered from listening to the Secretary of State for War. But it is a Bill—and here the Explanatory Memorandum is more intelligent than the Bill—on these lines. As it now stands, land already used for military purposes was to be released on 24th February, 1948, and the main intention of Clause 1 is to extend that date to 10th December, 1952, for all purposes. That is the main point with which we are concerned, and we are greatly concerned.
For two years we have borne our tribulations, and they were not inconsiderable, because we had great trust in the promises given to this House and to the country by the Home Secretary in October, 1945, and it is an enormous cause of concern to find that those promises of the Home Secretary are of no avail at all. Also, we have been waiting a long time for the White Paper. We hoped it would appear nearly a year ago, but it has appeared only this week, simultaneously with the Bill. It is a matter of concern to us. It has been a long delay. I am not disputing the right of the Services to have land, and for the moment I am not raising the issue whether they are asking for too much land. I would only state the fact that in the White Paper they have, at last, definitely stated how much land they want.
Therefore, if the Home Secretary two years ago could definitely promise the House that this matter could finally be settled in two years—a promise made when nobody knew how much land the 1574 Services would want and nobody could foresee what would be the military requirements and the international situation—now, when the situation is clear and the requirements of the Services are at last clear, why is it necessary to postpone this settlement for this further period to the great detriment of the rights of agriculture? That is the great issue raised by this Bill and the points raised by the Secretary of State for War have nothing whatever to do with this Bill.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris (Carmarthen)
I would like to reinforce the argument that the real issue is that indicated by the last speaker and that the Bill otherwise is a narrow Bill. This point of the date affects a country like Wales a great deal, where the areas already requisitioned are a good deal larger than either in England or in Scotland. The main points are the proposed alteration in the date and the fact that it gives effect to the extension of the power of the Minister, in dealing with adjoining land, to acquire that land. This causes increasing uncertainty for adjoining owners. If the area was small, or relatively small, it would not matter very much, but the area is large—and I am not entering into an argument on the merits, whether they should have that amount of land or not, because I do not imagine that comes within the scope of this Bill.
That power leaves the adjoining owners in complete uncertainty about what is going to happen to their land. That is the problem, apart from the actual quantity of the land taken; it is the uncertainty with regard to their greater areas which seems to me a point of importance in a small country where a relatively large amount of land has been taken. There is another point. A Bill like this, drafted in this form, cannot be understood merely by reading it. This legislation by reference becomes very complicated and very difficult to follow even with weeks of going through it. How can owners and other people affected possibly hope to know what the situation is by any attempt to follow this Bill?
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
I think if I were on trial for neglecting my children I would choose the Financial Secretary to the Treasury 1575 as advocate on my behalf because he has a kindly, evasive manner which makes one think he is the last person in the world intentionally to neglect children. No doubt at my trial I would also choose to have a completely irrelevant diversion from the Secretary of State for War. The position with which we are dealing in this Bill, and it has been obscured a great deal of the time, is that there has been great procrastination in the release of land, and, what has not been mentioned up to now in the restoration of war damaged land, since the war. I was a member of a subcommittee presided over by the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) in 1945, and Members on the other side of the House were with us in that Committee. We unanimously recommended at that time that there should be a review of the use of land by the Services and a plan made for derequisitioning. The fruit of that recommendation we received last Friday with the Votes—the White Paper.
Why has there been this tremendous delay? The Secretary of State for War talked as if he had been very quick in derequisitioning his land, and played about with that figure of II million acres. Really, it was an attempt to befog this House—accidentally, no doubt. The II million acres he was talking about was acreage held under Defence Regulation 52, under which large areas of this country were set aside for training, and were used occasionally when we had some large exercise in the war. If we take the Army's record in this matter, we find that at the time of the Report of the Select Committee the Army was holding 600,000 acres plus 235,000 that it owned—835,000—and that in June this year they had reduced that from 835,000 to 639,000. I would maintain that from the point of view of the Army that is an inadequate reduction, from the amount of land the Army had when we were still fighting both Germany and Japan, to the amount of the second figure two years after the end of the war.
The Air Ministry have a far worse record. I am very glad that the Under-Secretary of State for War is here in his place. There were 600 airfields owned or requisitioned during the war. When we reported in March, 1945, 22 had been derequisitioned. The last figure that was given in this House—that was given on 11th July this year—showed that the total 1576 then of airfields handed back was 77–77 out of boo airfields that were requisitioned. That, in my view, is a very shameful record for the Air Ministry to have. As to the acreage the Air Ministry had requisitioned, at the time of our report the acreage was 253,000—at March, 1945; in November, 1947, that acreage had dropped only to 200,000. In the White Paper we are told that they will be requiring 34,000 acres. If that is the sum total of their requirements now, why is it that in the past two and a half years this Government have done so little about derequisitioning what is in most cases the best agricultural land in the various districts? It is not an answer to say "We allow sheep to graze on certain portions of those airfields while the land is held under our requisitioning." Most of these airfields were taken from the best arable land, that had been drained at considerable expense by the owners and occupiers, and those large areas of land could be feeding today the people of Britain, if the Government had been more active about derequisitioning it.
I want to give only one more set of figures to present the picture clearly. At the present time, it would appear from answers to Questions recently, that there are under requisition by the Services 1,688,000 acres of land. I am not going to enter into the details of the White Paper, for I do not believe that they are relevant to the Debate, but I would mention as an illustration of what is required that we are told in the White Paper that the Services will be requiring just over a million acres. Therefore, through lack of planning in this respect—planning of de-requisitioning, as they were ordered by the Select Committee of this House in March, 1945—the Government have wasted some 600,000 acres of land. The Secretary of State for War, in speaking of this land, spoke airily, and said that only 14 per cent. was agricultural land. I found it very hard to reconcile that considered statement by the Secretary of State for War with an answer given by the Minister of Agriculture on 10th November, when he said—of the million acres occupied by the Armed Forces 550,000 acres, 55 per cent., was devoted to agriculture in 1938–55 per cent., not 14 per cent.; and that is, I believe, the true perspective in this matter.
1577 We have had no justification yet from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury or from the Secretary of State for War of why the Government think it will take four and a half more years to choose by acquisition what land they will be requiring for their purposes as set out in the White Paper. Why has 1952 been inserted in the Bill? If the Government had come down tonight, put on a white sheet, and said, "We have been negligent; we have forgotten what a Committee of the House reported in 1945; we have had many changes in our office holders; give us another year," if they had come in that spirit, with a certain amount of sackcloth and a little bit of ash, then I am sure the House without a dissentient would have given them an extra year to tidy up the mess they have made.
But I hope the House will not give them four and a half years, for that is in direct contradiction to the pledge given by the Home Secretary. It is a surprising fact, that I hope will be duly recorded, that the Home Secretary who was here when the Bill was introduced, directly the Debate began went out, and has not reappeared at all; and those who know the Home Secretary know that he is constantly in the House of Commons, that he is nearly always here listening to the Debates. Why is he not today? Is it because the Home Secretary, who has in the past always been a great upholder of the amenities of rights of way is not entirely satisfied with this Bill?
Let us consider the question of National Parks, a point mentioned by the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Spearman). How can these rights be enjoyed if 168,000 acres of National Park land are taken over by the Services and not released—37,000 in that small area of the North Riding of Yorkshire? What did the National Parks Committee say on that matter? In their report they made it perfectly clear that the whole plan of the National Trust would have been rendered nugatory if that area of 168,000 acres remained under derequisition. When the Solicitor-General replies I hope he will deal with that point, which will be found at Paragraph 151 of the Hobhouse Committee Report:It would be no exaggeration to say that the appropriation of a number of the particular areas now listed for acquisition by the Service Departments would take the heart out of the proposed National Park areas in which they are cited, and in certain cases render our pro- 1578 posal for the designation of individual National Parks entirely nugatory.I claim that that matter requires a specific answer. If a National Parks scheme is to be followed, it is no good having the sort of situation which occurred until quite recently in an area in my constituency, where those who went along a road in a part of the National Park were met with anti-tank gunfire. That is not the way to deal with the National Parks of England, and it is regrettable that a large area is still being held for that purpose. The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) has stressed the point in regard to the National Trust, and I hope the Solicitor-General will tell us his attitude towards National Trust property.
On the question of Clause 3, dealing with the stopping up of highways, it appeared to me that the Financial Secretary did not realise what a breach of the pledge given by the Home Secretary he was committing. Under this Clause the Government are taking two powers. First, where, in the heat of war, some Service Department has improperly blocked up a highway, they are taking power permanently to stop up that highway. Secondly—which also comes in Clause 2—whereas the Home Secretary gave a pledge to this House that the Government would not use that power permanently to stop up highways after 1948, the Government say that in all cases they will retain that power and use it, if they so wish, until 1952.
The Financial Secretary challenged us, and said, "Well, tell us your alternative." The alternative in this matter is perfectly clear, and comes in the Report of the Special Committee on Footpaths and Access to the Countryside, published only recently, paragraph 114 of which says:We recommend that the existing statutory powers to close or divert rights of way set out in Acts should not ordinarily be used by the Government Departments concerned, and that instead application to a Quarter Sessions should be made in accordance with the procedure recommended above. We also hope that Parliament in future will not pass into law Clauses in public or private Bills authorising the closure or diversion of rights of way, other than by means of the procedure which we have outlined … except where the closure or diversion is fundamental to a private Act.That is a very clear recommendation. I can never understand the use of appointing committees to examine such questions, 1579 and when they make a direct recommendation like that tearing up, not only past pledges given by Home Secretaries, but also the recommendations of these committees. The proper method, in law, is to use the method of quarter sessions, thereby giving publicity to the proposal, and also ensuring that anybody who objects can appear and have his objection heard, and that the order will not be given unless there is substitution for the highway which is being stopped up. The trouble about these highways, in the National Parks areas and elsewhere in Britain, is that no substitution will be given by the Government Department or the War Works Commission.
I have two complicated points which I hope the Solicitor-General will clarify, the first of which deals with Clause 2. I say at once that I have no great objection to giving the Minister of Agriculture power to acquire land to readjust boundaries if he wants that power. However, when a clear power was given by Parliament only a few months ago, in Section 84 (1) (c) of the Agriculture Act, which gives a wider power than is contained in this Bill, I cannot understand why Parliament has been troubled by asking for this power again. I hope the Solicitor-General will make that clear. I raise the point in no sense of hostility to this Bill, but we do not want additional powers. What with the Town and Country Planning Act and the Agriculture Act, I should have thought there were sufficient powers.
Clause 6, which deals with compensation, gives a higher level of compensation—as it clearly should—when land is being taken, not in a wartime period, and great loss is suffered by the dispossessed owner and occupier. However, I do not believe this Clause deals adequately with the position. Under this Bill owners and occupiers will be dispossessed from their farms, or from segments of their farms, and will suffer a great deal of what I would call consequential loss for which they will receive no compensation. Let me give the House an illustration. Where there is opencast coalmining, frequently half a farm is taken, and the owner is put to great damage by reason of the resultant severance. Also, he has to rent alternative land in the neighbourhood for his stock. When he goes into the market today for alternative land to rent, 1580 especially in opencast coalmining areas, he has to pay a good deal more than the compensation rent allowed under this Bill. I hope the Solicitor-General will approach this matter in a friendly spirit, to see if the compensation provision cannot include compensation for consequential loss suffered by the owner or occupier as a result of requisition.
I appeal to the Government, in regard to both the Bill and the White Paper, to try to centralise the work of these requisitioning authorities. A great deal of the delay in requisitioning involved in this Bill has come from the habit of handing property which is vacated by one Department to another Department—the Ministry of Works—a sort of battledore and shuttlecock goes on between the Departments, and all that time the land is sterilised from productive use. I can take Ministers to many areas in my constituency, and show them acres of land which could be used for good agricultural purposes. In some cases there are huts on the land, and in other cases, curiously enough, there are no huts, but in all cases the land is requisitioned, with the taxpayer having to pay compensation rentals, while no Government Department can come to a decision whether derequisitioning shall take place or not.
Earlier on this year, when the Government announced that they were going to publish a White Paper on the derequisitioning of land, and the first thing that I learnt from the War Office was that in my constituency all derequisitioning had been stopped until the White Paper had been issued. That was a very wasteful decision. This took place at the beginning of the summer, when it was vital that a great deal of the land should be used for our food production. The time has come when we must re-orientate our views on this question of the holding of land by Government Departments.
I am delighted that the Home Secretary has made a belated appearance. I hope that he will tell us why that very happy promise, in 1945, which was so acceptable to us, has now been broken by this Measure. He will recollect Section 5 of the Supplies and Services Act, 1945, which he introduced in response to an appeal I made to him on 19th October, 1945. That Section is now being repealed by this Government of which, I believe, he still remains a Member. This is a very 1581 sad day, and I hope that the Home Secretary will brief the Solicitor-General with an explanation on that matter.
As I was saying, we have to re-orientate our views on this holding of land by the Service Departments. The priority today is food production. It is admitted by all that the Services must have adequate ground on which to train, but I believe that the land which is being used for training by one branch of the Services could equally well be used the next day by another. I have never understood why there has to be one firing range for the Royal Air Force, another for the Royal Air Force Regiment and another for the Army. I believe that the Services are very wasteful in that manner. Let us admit that they have to have adequate ground for training, but after that, the land should not go to the Ministry of Works, or to the Ministry of Supply, but to agriculture. The land should be handed back for food production, which means that we shall get a great deal of extra productivity. It is because I believe the Government have bungled this matter by their ineptitude that I and my hon. Friends will be forced to vote for this seasonal and very reasonable Amendment.
§ 7.34 p.m.
The Solicitor-General (Sir Frank Soskiee)
The criticism of this Bill has largely centred upon an attack on the Service Departments, either in respect of land which they have intimated in the White Paper they require for training and other operational purposes, or on the footing that the Service Departments should have made up their minds more quickly whether the land already in their possession is to be permanently retained or not. The former of these two grounds of criticism does not come within the purview of this Bill. The requirements set out in the White Paper are requirements which have been carefully worked out by reference to the Forces to be maintained. We are not now discussing that. As the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) pointed out, if we have defence Forces, they must be adequately trained, and that is particularly germane to the first criticism. I shall not venture to add anything to what has been said on that aspect of the subject.
I am not sure that I can usefully add to what has been said by the Secretary 1582 of State for War on the criticism that the Service Departments should have made up their minds more quickly. He pointed out what is a very crucial consideration, that in the two and a half years which have passed since the war ended 10 million acres of land in possession of the War Department have been handed back. That indicates considerable expedition in dealing with this problem. There are still one million acres which are the subject of consideration, and, as is apt to happen, these remaining quantities of land involve the most difficult cases for decision. I would simply add to what has been said, that a considerable cause of delay in dealing with the remaining land under requisition is the desire to give full effect to the promise given by the Prime Minister in November, 1946, with regard to the holding of public inquiries where necessary.
If hon. Members will refer to Part IX of the White Paper, they will see set out the elaborate machinery for deciding whether land shall be kept under permanent possession or not. First, there is the regional consultation by the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, then the matter goes to the inter-Departmental committee, and afterwards, if the differences cannot be resolved up to that stage, there is a public inquiry. That, of necessity, takes a considerable amount of time, and I feel sure the House will agree that some delay must inevitably elapse if that procedure is to be followed, especially, when I inform Members that some 870 proposals for training areas and so on have been submitted to the inter-Departmental committee, and that in addition there are some 400 proposals for the retention of land for accommodation and stores.
That means that over 1,200 proposals in all require investigation. A great deal of work has been done on that already, but if investigation is to be carried out properly, and real endeavours are to be made to obviate and meet the objections which have been advanced from various quarters, particularly from the amenities societies, it is bound to take a long time. That is a considerable reason for the delay which has ensued. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, there is no one so anxious to deal with these outstanding matters and get them cleared up as the Service Departments themselves. The Financial Secretary also reminded the 1583 House of the present stringency in regard to materials and labour, which has necessitated putting certain urgent tasks before the task of clearing up war works and the task of rehabilitation, important though those tasks are.
I should like to comb now to the more legalistic aspect of this particular ground of complaint. The Defence Acts will be used for the acquisition of training areas, and the powers we are seeking to extend in point of time by this Bill are very largely powers which conduce to peacetime purposes, and not to wartime purposes. I would like to give a few examples of that. We are extending the powers conferred by Section 6 of the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945. That Section gives power to acquire land permanently in order to rehabilitate it so that it can be handed back for peacetime purposes. It is not for a wartime purpose at all; it will conduce to the building up of the nation again in peacetime. Very much the same can be said about Section 5 of that Act, which gives power to the Ministers who are named in that Section to acquire land permanently for the purpose of seeing that the war works carried out on the land will inure to the benefit of the community for peacetime purposes.
For example, if a factory has been built on the land the Minister can acquire the land to preserve the value of the factory for the community in general. That, again, is largely a peacetime purpose. The same can be said of Section 29, which gives power to the Minister to go on land to remove war works with a view to rehabilitating the land for peacetime use. We are asking for prolongation of the time during which these powers can be exercised. We are asking the House to say that we shall have assistance in the readjustment of our national life to peacetime conditions.
As has been said, it is arguable, as a matter of law, that we already possess a number of these powers, but we thought it right that we should come here and obtain what we want openly by this Bill, instead of relying on what may be a legal subtlety in interpreting the powers which Parliament has not so far intentionally given.
§ Mr. Peake
As far as the peacetime user in the future is concerned, surely 1584 the Government have already taken powers under the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945. All this Bill does is to extend the period during which compulsory powers can be exercised in regard to future military users.
§ The Solicitor-General
We have powers to deal to a large extent—I am not saying entirely—with war works for the peace purposes I have indicated. Under the 1945 Act, we can already do a good many of the things for which we are seeking the extended powers conferred by this Bill. We thought it right and fair to the House to say that we want to extend these specific powers for the extra period which is indicated in the Bill.
If we do not have these extended powers what will be the position? Either we should have to telescope the procedure for inquiries, and give immediate notice to treat in a large number of cases—that is, curtail the inquiries promised in the Prime Minister's statement which, I feel sure, everyone would like to see thoroughly carried out—or we must, in many cases, now relinquish properties held on requisition with the knowledge that it may be necessary hereafter to use our powers under the Defence Acts to retake them into our possession.
That is what the position would be if we did not have the extra powers for which we are now asking, and it will be agreed, I feel sure, that that would be a most unsatisfactory state of affairs. Land would have to be derequisitioned, and those to whom it was handed over would have to be informed that it might be necessary later to retake it for a training area, or something of that sort. I am sure that no voice would defend that position, which would be inconvenient and unfair to those persons to whom requisitioned land was handed over. That is the case I make by way of supplementation to what was said by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War about the first purpose sought to be achieved by this Bill.
I now want to pass to Clause 3, which deals with highways, and to which several Members have directed their attention. This Clause is limited in its scope, and I feel that those Members who attacked it have not borne in mind the full significance of the limitations which are imposed on the power which we are now seeking to take. I ask hon. Members to 1585 conceive this position: In the early stages of the war, in the rush and hurry of that time, it was overlooked that there might be a path, or something of that sort, which could be stopped up legally under Defence Regulation 16 or 52, but in respect of which an order was not made under either of those regulations.
From time to time that did happen, and it was unavoidable that it should happen. Where a path has been in fact stopped up, and an order could have been made under Defence Regulation 16 or 52 to stop it up, and where a factory has been built over it, or the area through which the path ran had been completely built over, or used for some other purpose, we wish, by this Clause, to use the powers of Section 15 of the 1945 Act to do what could have been done if an order had been made under either of those Defence Regulations. If only that had been done, as it could have been done, it would have been lawful to stop up the pathway. By inadvertence it was not done. It would, however, be difficult, and not in the public interest, to go back on what was done or omitted to be done by inadvertence.
It is most important to bear in mind that we do not seek to take powers without there being some check upon them. The Minister cannot exercise the powers which we seek to confer on him by Clause 3 unless he goes through the procedure which is prescribed by Sections 15, 16, and 17 of the 1945 Act. In the event of an objection being raised the matter must be referred to a semi-judicial body, the War Works Commission, which can impose a veto. The proposals have to be advertised. Persons wishing to raise objections must be given a hearing, and the matter must be carefully investigated before the Minister is allowed to proceed with his intention to stop up what may be a small bypath which has been completely overlooked, and which has not been used for a long time.
I have listened to the criticisms, and I hope that Members, when they are reminded of the circumstances in which it is desired to use that power, and the purposes for which it is intended to use it, will feel that those criticisms have not been justified——
§ The Solicitor-General
Certainly. I am sorry if I have given the impression that I had overlooked that Subsection. The hon. Member, and other Members, asked whether the same power could not be exercised by the Minister of Agriculture under Section 84 of the Agriculture Act, 1947.
§ Mr. Turton
My question relates to Subsection (2) of Clause 3 which deals with the rights of way since 1939. I do not think the Minister has dealt with that point.
§ The Solicitor-General
That is a consequential power. If hon. Members would look at the Section of the Act of 1945 which is referred to, they would see that it is really complementary to the power which is taken in the earlier part of the Bill. Perhaps I may go on to Clause 2, and to deal with the questions which were asked from the point of view of agriculture.
It is true that in point of pure terminology it can be said that the powers conferred by Clause 2, by way of amplification of the powers conferred by Section 6 of the Act of 1945, overlap to some extent at any rate with the powers conferred upon the Minister of Agriculture by Section 84 of the Agriculture Act, 1947. The reason why we have not sought to use the powers given to us by Section 84 is that we thought it would not be right and fair to take advantage of what really is only a technical point. Section 6 of the Act of 1945 which gives the powers which were to be exercised in certain specific cases, is subject to the check that, in the event of objection, the matter has to be referred to the War Works Commission.
We thought it would not be right to avoid the operation of that check and to go, as it were by a back way, and to do under Section 84 of the Agriculture Act, which was designed for an altogether different purpose, what we now propose to do under Section 6 of the 1945 Act, as amended, subject to the check, which is there provided, of reference to the War Works Commission. We thought it would be right and proper again to be frank and overt about it, and to make it clear 1587 that for this purpose we propose to use Section 6.
I was asked what would happen administratively in these cases. What is contemplated, when we use Section 6 of the 1945 Act, as amended by Clause 2, is that ordinarily speaking, when land is acquired for agricultural purposes and for rehabilitation for agricultural purposes, it would be acquired by the Service Minister, say the Secretary of State for Air in the case of land which had an aerodrome upon it. It would be acquired by him in consultation administratively with the Minister of Agriculture. Of course, Section 6 has already been used upon a number of occasions. Land has been acquired permanently in consultation with the Minister of Agriculture and has been passed over to the Agricultural Executive Committees.
As the House knows, I believe, the Land Commission which is provided for by the 1947 Act has now been set up. It has only just been set up and it may well be that it will be found convenient that land so acquired by one of the Service Ministers, in consultation with the Minister of Agriculture, would be managed or disposed of on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture by the Land Commission. That is the general way in which it is intended that the Clause should work. I pass now to the question asked with regard to open-cast mining.
§ Colonel Clarke
Before the Solicitor-General leaves the question of severance may I ask him whether we are to understand that Sections 84 and 87 of the Agriculture Act will not be used at all in that connection?
§ The Solicitor-General
That is so. When a case arises which falls fairly within the purview of Section 6 of the Act of 1945, as amended by Clause 2, and when the circumstances are such as are there described, that Section will be used, and not Section 84 of the Agriculture Act.
With regard to opencast mining, the main problem of where to operate arises independently of the Bill, and this Bill has nothing whatever to do with it. The subsidiary problem put to me was this. An agricultural unit is partially acquired, and the partial acquisition affects adversely the operation of the whole agricultural unit. It was said that compensation should be available in circum- 1588 stances of that sort to cover the loss which ensues. That is not covered in this Bill. In fact, consultations have been going on in consequence of representations made on behalf of the National Farmers' Union. So far, I am not in a position to say that any decision has been reached on that matter, but I think it right that I should go on to add that I do not want to be taken as holding out any hope at all that a favourable decision will be reached. In point of fact, there are many serious difficulties. One is that it is a basic principle of war compensation that it should not be extended to cover consequential loss of profits and earnings. That is how that matter stands at the moment.
Those are the main points which were raised throughout the course of the Debate on this small but admittedly technical Bill, which is limited in scope. It is not a Bill which is altogether easy to understand, I frankly confess, but it is a Bill of a kind which it is almost impossible to draft in any other form. There are two minor' points I would touch upon before I sit down. On the question of rental compensation it was asked whether the maximum of a 60 per cent. increase over 1939 value was appropriate. No doubt this question of compensation will be further probed by hon. Members in Committee. We feel that it is a reasonable increase. The object of the maximum or ceiling in respect of rental compensation is to cut out scarcity value.
The figure of 60 per cent. is computed upon what we regard as a reasonable basis, taking into account the fact that building costs have increased roughly speaking 100 per cent. while the value of money has decreased roughly 20 per cent. If we assume a 5 per cent. return upon £100 spent before the war, that £100 will now be represented by £200 while the 5 per cent. will be represented by 4 per cent. We should have to make a contrast between the prewar return of £5 and the postwar return of £8. That is roughly how we fixed upon 60 per cent. as being a not unreasonable maximum to choose in the circumstances.
The final point, made by the right hon. Member for North Leeds was with regard to pipe-lines. The right hon. Member adverted to the fact that compensation is provided but he said it might well be the case that the owners of land through which pipe-lines lay would not know that 1589 the pipe-lines were there. In practice they would know, but in any case a safeguard against their not knowing is that Clause 13 provides that the existence of the pipe-line must be registered in the local Land Charges Register. It would, in point of fact, of necessity be brought to the notice of the owner of the land.
I have endeavoured to cover those points which seemed to be left over, and to be of a rather more technical nature, after the full address which was delivered by the Secretary of State for War. A
§ Bill of this sort will require further scrutiny during the Committee stage, where the more detailed aspects of it will be examined. It has a limited scope, but it is, nevertheless, a useful and necessary Measure, and I hope that the House will now decide to give it a Second Reading.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 251; Noes, 108.1591
|Division No. 47.||AYES.||[7.58 p.m.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Mann, Mrs. J|
|Alpass, J. H.||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Manning, Mrs L. (Epping)|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Marquand, H. A.|
|Anderson, F (Whitehaven)||Evans, A (Islington, W.)||Marshall, F. (Brightside)|
|Attewell, H. C.||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Mathers, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Austin, H Lewis||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Medland, H. M.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Fairhurst, F.||Messer, F.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Farthing, W J||Middleton, Mrs L|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B||Fernyhough, E.||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Acland, Sir R||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Moody, A. S.|
|Bacon, Miss A||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Morley, R|
|Baird, J||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Balfour, A.||Gallacher, W.||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)|
|Barstow, P. G.||Ganley, Mrs C. S.||Mort, D. L.|
|Barton, C.||Gilzean, A.||Moyle, A.|
|Battley, J. R.||Glanville, J E (Consett)||Murray, J. D.|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Goodrich, H. E.||Nally, W.|
|Benson, G.||Grenfell, D. R.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Beswick, F.||Grey, C. F.||Neal, H. (Claycross)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Grierson, E.||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)|
|Blenkinsop, A||Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)||Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Gunter, R. J.||Oldfield, W. H.|
|Boardman, H||Guy, W. H.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Hale, Leslie||Orbach, M|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Paling, Will T (Dewsbury)|
|Brooks, T. J (Rothwell)||Hardy, E. A.||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Parkin, B. T.|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)|
|Buchanan, G.||Hobson, C. R.||Pearson, A.|
|Burden, T. W.||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Peart, T. F.|
|Callaghan, James||Hoy, J.||Perrins, W.|
|Carmichael, James||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Platts-Mills, J. F. F.|
|Castle, Mrs B. A.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Poole, Cecil (Lichfield)|
|Champion, A. J.||Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)||Popplewell, E.|
|Chater, D||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Porter, E. (Warrington)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)||Porter, G. (Leeds)|
|Coldrick, W||Janner, B.||Price, M. Philips|
|Collick, P.||Jay, D. P. T.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Colman, Miss G. M.||Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Pryde, D. J.|
|Comyns, Dr. L.||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)||Pursey, Cmdr. H|
|Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Randall, H. E.|
|Corlelt, Dr J.||Keenan, W.||Ranger, J.|
|Crossman, R H S||Kenyon, C.||Rankin, J.|
|Daines, P.||Key, C. W.||Reeves, J.|
|Davies, Edward (Burslam)||King, E. M.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Lee, F. (Hulme)||Reid, T. (Swindon)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Leslie, J. R.||Rhodes, H.|
|Davies, S O. (Merthyr)||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Richards, R.|
|Lindgrsn, G. S.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.|
|Deer, G.||Longden, F.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Lyne, A. W.||Robertson, J J (Berwick)|
|Dobbie, W||McAdam, W.||Rogers, G. H. R.|
|Dodds, N. N.||McEntee, V. La T||Royle, C|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||McGhee, H G||Sargood, R.|
|Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||McGovern, J.||Scott-Elliot, W.|
|Dumpleton, C. W.||McKinlay, A. S.||Shackleton, E. A. A|
|Durbin, E. F. M.||Maclean, N (Govan)||Sharp, Granville|
|Dye, S.||McLeavy, F.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Shurmer, P.|
|Edelman, M.||Macpherson, T (Romford)||Silverman, J. (Erdington)|
|Simmons, C. J.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Skeffington, A. M.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)||Wheatley, J. T. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)||White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Skinnard, F W||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Smith, C. (Colchester)||Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)||Wigg, George|
|Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)||Thurtle, Ernest||Wilkes, L.|
|Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)||Tiffany, S.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Snow, J. W.||Timmons, J.||Willey, O. G (Cleveland)|
|Solley, L. J.||Titterington, M. F.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Sorensen, R. W.||Tolley, L.||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Soskice, Maj. Sir F.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Sparks, J. A.||Ungoed-Thomas L||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Stamford, W.||Usborne, Henry||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H.|
|Steele, T.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.||Woodburn, A.|
|Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Walker, G. H.||Woods, G. S.|
|Stross, Dr. B.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)||Wyatt, W.|
|Stubbs, A. E.||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Summerskill, Dr. Edith||Warbey, W. N.||Zilliacus, K|
|Swingler, S.||Watson, W. M.|
|Sylvester, G. O.||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Symonds, A. L.||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)||Mr. Collinridge and|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Grimston, R. V.||Pickthorn, K|
|Assheton, Rt, Hon. R.||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Prescott, Stanley|
|Barlow, Sir J.||Hogg, Hon. Q.||Raikes, H. V.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Howard, Hon. A.||Rayner, Brig R.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Hurd, A.||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Birch, Nigel||Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Jarvis, Sir J.||Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland|
|Bossom, A. C.||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Ropner, Col. L|
|Bower, N.||Kendall, W. D.||Sanderson, Sir F|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Kerr, Sir J. Graham||Scott, Lord W.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Smiles, Lt.-Col Sir W|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Byers, Frank||Linstead, H N||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Challen, C.||Lipson, D. L.||Snadden, W. M.|
|Channon, H.||Lloyd, Selywn (Wirral)||Spence, H. R.|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.||McCallum, Maj. D.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Crookshank; Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Macdonald, Sir P (I. of Wight)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Cot. O. E||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Crowder, Capt. John E||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Darling, Sir W. Y.||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Turton, R. H.|
|De la Bère, R.||Marples, A. E.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Digby, S. W.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Walker-Smith, D|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)||Ward, Hon. G. R.|
|Donner, P. W.||Mellor, Sir J||Wheatley, Col M. J. (Dorset, E.)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Drewe, C.||Neill, W. F. (Belfast, N.)||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Duthie, W. S.||Neven-Spence, Sir B.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Erich, F. J.||Nicholson, G.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||York, C|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Gates, Maj E. E.||Odey, G. W.|
|George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Major Conant and|
|Bill accordingly read a Second time.|
|Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House for Friday next.—[Mr. Popplewell.]|
Question put, and agreed to.