HC Deb 05 February 1948 vol 446 cc1959-81
Mr. Turton

I beg to move, in page 8, line 28, at end, to insert: or the amount of the expense actually incurred or reasonably to be incurred in the rehabilitation of the land whichever is the greater. I am most grateful to you, Sir Robert, and I will try to put the point as shortly as I can. As the Bill is drafted, it will mean that, in certain cases of land, the compensation will not be sufficient to rehabilitate it. May I give the Committee some examples of the types of cases? First, there is the amenity land—the moorlands, commons and places where the agricultural value of the land is small. In all these cases, the new method of compensation will result in the amount of compensation being far less than the cost of rehabilitation. If we take the position of common land which has had on it mechanical armoured vehicles, the damage done is not as great as the difference in the compulsory purchase price before requisitioning and after, but the cost of rehabilitation is considerable. Throughout my constituency and in the adjoining constituency on the Yorkshire Wolds, great damage was done by armoured training before D Day. That was necessary work, but it is vital to the owners of that land that it should be rehabilitated. Under the 1939 Act they can get the 1939 value for that land, but, under this Clause, they will get an ever smaller amount—the 1939 value less today's value, if they can sell it. I hope that the Committee will agree that that is an unjust position.

I want to deal with two other classes of case. There is the case where there has been an anti-aircraft site or an aerodrome, where the Service Departments have laid down large slabs of concrete. Unless the owner of the land can get the cost of rehabilitation, which is the cost of taking up these slabs of concrete and getting the grass sown, that land will be sterilised for agriculture, not only for our generation but for future generations. It is therefore important that the cost of rehabilitation in these cases should be the measure of compensation, and that is all I am asking for in this Amendment. I am not asking for one penny piece more than the cost of rehabilitation in such cases.

Thirdly, I want to deal with opencast coalmining. It is quite true that part of the rehabilitation is covered by the Ministry of Works, who do the back filling and re-levelling, but they hand the land back to agriculture in such a state that great extra expense is required for further rehabilitation and draining and fencing. If the compensation is diminished, it will not be sufficient to rehabilitate that land and prevent it being lost to agriculture. When the Committee bear in mind that the area of opencast coal working on good agricultural land which has at present been taken amounts to 27,000 acres, and that a further 50,000 acres have been earmarked for this work, they will realise the importance of the Amendment. We are asking, in all these three cases, that, in the interests of the land, the interests of people who care for agriculture and the interests of countryside amenities, compensation shall be the cost of rehabilitation.

Mr. York (Ripon)

May I add a few words about opencast coalmining, to which my hon. Friend has made only a brief reference? I want to put before the Financial Secretary one or two facts which should help him very much in his consideration of this problem. I realise that the right hon. Gentleman has not had sufficient time since the Committee stage to find out all he wanted to know on the various points which he said needed further consideration. There are certain points in the opencast coal controversy which the right hon. Gentleman cannot be expected to understand. One of them refers to the cost of rehabilitating the land after it has been restored. As the right hon. Gentleman will know, and as I explained on the last occasion when we discussed this matter, when the opencast coalminers have finished their work, and the contractors have put back the soil, more or less in the opposite direction to that in which nature first put it, the land is in a terrible state.

I spent last Sunday on one of the largest opencast coal sites in the country, so I know what I am talking about. The land is eroded and boggy, and the overburden which was resting next door to the coal is working up to the surface. There is a great deal of coal, of sorts, on the surface, and because it is only a few inches below what is called the "top-soil" in the restoration, it works up to the top of the soil in cultivation. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman will see that, whereas the land was fertile before the operation took place, it is now relatively infertile.

I have been into the costs of re-stabilising land after the so-called "restoration." I want to put some figures—which have been obtained from an expert in this matter, and are accurate figures—before the Financial Secretary to show him what a problem we are up against. In the case of the Wentworth coal working sites, the land concerned was originally a well wooded and well fenced area on which a great deal of dairy farming was carried out. Shelter belts and good thorn fences made the area relatively sheltered for stock. Today, there are no fences, and a great deal of woodland has been completely obliterated. I am not going to talk about the woodland, because that is a different problem; I am going to talk about the fences. There are now concrete posts and wire fences all over the area. In the first place, the wire will not last for more than two or three years in that heavily polluted atmosphere; and, secondly, it is essential, for proper estate management, as well as for good farming, that proper fences—quickthorn fences—should be replanted. Moreover, there must be a guard rail to keep the stock off the fences while they are growing. The cost of replanting fences works out at about £30 an acre, taking a figure of 15s. 10d. per yard run of the fence. That is one point.

In addition, there is the under drainage. The Financial Secretary will know that, if a field is wet, the agricultural community extract the water from the land by digging lines of trenches, putting clay pipes at the bottom and filling the trenches in again. That work today costs £18 to £20 an acre after the Government grant has been taken off. Therefore, we have between £48 and £50 per acre for that part of the restoration.

There is a third expense—the general after-cultivation and re-establishment of the ground, whether it be arable or grass land, over a period of 10 years. Including shelter belts in the cost, my informant gave a figure of about £15 per acre for that part of the work. Therefore, we get a figure of between £50 and £60 which still has to be spent upon the rehabilitation of these sites after they have been handed back to agriculture. The value of such land before opencast coalmining was started, was probably about £30 an acre.

It is an interesting point that, if that land had been building land ripe for development, upon which houses might have been expected to go up, its value, but for the fact that opencast coalmining had taken place, would have gone up con- siderably in the course of the next few years and, therefore, the compensation would have been based on something like £200 per acre. If the land had been about to be built on, the whole of the restoration costs could have been met under the law as it stands, but because it is good agricultural land it cannot be rehabilitated under the present law. That seems to me to be one of the main arguments in favour of the Amendment.

There is one other point I wish to put to the right hon. Gentleman, which has not been mentioned before. It has been suggested that Section 52 of the old Act could be used for the purpose of paying this compensation. I have been considering that point very carefully, and there seem to me to be two objections to using that Section. In the first place, it appears to be governed by the words "war works" or "war use," and, in the second place, it depends on the provision that the land shall be dealt with in a particular manner. As to the first point, there may be some way in which our legal advisers could get round it. On the second point, however, the Ministry of Agriculture, which is the body responsible for this particular type of renovation, is not altogether a reliable body for that purpose. Reports which have come to me as to their methods of deciding whether an area is suitably restored or not, do not give me confidence. I heard of one case where the agent of the Ministry viewed the restoration, and passed it, from the road. He did not go on to the land until the owner's agent came along, and said, "It is no use looking at it from the road; you must walk over it." He got the Ministry's man out of his car and made him walk over the land, after which he changed his mind.

It may well be that under this Section the Ministry of Agriculture would suggest the land being dealt with in a particular manner, but that that would not, in fact, be the type of restoration required. The obvious solution which would meet the situation is that the Ministry of Works and the Ministry of Agriculture, between them, should retain the land so long as the permanent work of restoration was not completed, or, if that was not suitable, or not popular with the two Government Departments concerned, that the full cost of restoration, as and when it had been carried out, should be paid to the owner. I cannot see that if the Government want agricultural land, which has been used for opencast coal-mining, rehabilitated and brought back to full food production, they can reject this Amendment.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

We are dealing here, of course, with terminal compensation. The Amendment, which it was at first presumed would not be called, tries once more to do what we decided by a majority, when we were dealing with this point in Committee, was inadvisable as part of the provisions of the Bill.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Turton

If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me, that is not true. May I remind him that we divided on the Closure but not on the Question. We did this because we had received an assurance that the matter would be reconsidered between then and the Report stage.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

We had a discussion and we divided on whether we should finish the Debate on that particular topic or not, and when the Question was put the Opposition did not divide. I accept that correction and I am sorry if I misled the Committee.

Mr. Turton

Because of the assurances given we did not divide. We were prevented from withdrawing. I was on my feet trying to withdraw.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

A Division was called and for some reason best known to themselves—fortunately this is a free country—the Opposition did not appoint any tellers and therefore no Division was held. It is a small matter and we will not pursue it further because it has not much to do with what we are now discussing.

The Government proposal in this Bill is to boost up the compensation provisions and, in future, if this Bill is passed, terminal compensation is to be up to the diminution in current value—that is, we take the value before the damage, the value after the damage, and the one taken from the other gives the ceiling for terminal compensation. Normally, as we have argued on this side of the House, that works out reasonably enough. It was certainly thought reasonable by the party opposite to have a ceiling when the 1939 Act was put on the Statute Book, and we have done no more than to accept the formula then laid down and to increase the ceiling. We agree that it may not work with complete justice to the owner of certain types of land (because we are dealing with the owner and not the occupier), for instance where we have agricultural land of no great value. If the damage done has been considerable, it may well be that the formula which is normally considered to a fair one would give insufficient compensation, which, as a result, might not meet anything like the cost of rehabilitation to the owner.

The question arises whether, that being so, anything can be done. I believe I am right in saying that the only case where this kind of thing occurs is where opencast coal operations have taken place. It is true that the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) and the hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. York) said there were cases of common land which had been badly cut up either during the war or since by training and which would take a great deal of rehabilitation.

Mr. York

Not common land.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I think the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton mentioned common land. In any event that sort of case is amply covered under Section 52 of the 1945 Act and, therefore, I think the only case left for us to consider now is that which arises where opencast coal-mining has taken place. I hope I have carried the Committee with me so far.

Mr. Turton

If the right hon. Gentleman wishes for dissent to be expressed verbally I would say "That is not so." Clause 52 deals only with a certain limited number of cases where the Government Department rehabilitates land. One of the guilty men representing a Service Department which fails to rehabilitate land after laying it waste is sitting on his left beside him.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton is not strictly correct. Section 52 of that Act was designed to assist, is assisting, and I hope will continue to assist, the type of case which he has in mind. That being so, the one type of case to which attention should now be directed, if one wants to do justice to the people concerned, is where agricultural land has been requisitioned for open- cast coal working. We agree that the cost of restoring the damage done there can be and normally would be—because it would not have buildings on it—vastly in excess of the amount under the formula which could be given to the owner by way of terminal compensation. Because of that, as we have said from this Box during the previous Committee stage, the Government undertakes to put the land back at public expense into a fair state of rehabilitation. It fills in all pot holes, it puts on a topsoil, it puts up fencing—and that is why I was surprised to hear the hon. Member for Ripon indicate that the cost of fencing would fall on the owner—

Mr. York

It will.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

My information is that that is not so.

Mr. York

It is quite true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that that is the impression of the Government, but if he will come with me I will show him a site and prove to him the facts.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I am always extremely willing to go anywhere with the hon. Gentleman but if he has Wentworth in mind I would tell him—and he probably knows already—that it is adjacent to my own Division and I know the area fairly well. It may well be—I do not know—that here and there, where opencast working has taken place, a certain amount of rehabilitation has followed but has not been all it should have been. If that is so, the Government would like to have some indication from those who know and who have seen what is happening, because our intention is quite definitely, where opencast coal working has taken place, that the land should be rehabilitated and returned to its proper agricultural use at the earliest possible moment. Knowing that, under the formula, it would be unfair to the owner to hand the land back to him without doing anything to it, the Government undertake to do a very large part of the necessary rehabilitation.

Mr. York

Why not all?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I am coming to that. It returns that land to what might be called a state fit for grazing and it will put up fencing. In addition, the Government put in temporary drainage. All that is done before the land is handed back to the owner and compensation for terminal damage falls to be assessed. I said temporary drainage quite deliberately.

Mr. York

May I ask what that means? I presume it does not mean pipe drainage underneath but ditches.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Sometimes it might mean pipe drainage, but normally, I imagine, it would be ditches; and for this reason, that until the land has settled down it is impossible to put in drainage that is likely to be permanent. It would only mean a waste of money. What the Government will do is to ask the owner to to enter into an agreement that, as and when expert advice indicates that the time has arrived for permanent drainage to be put in, it should be put in at public expense. Opposition Members may ask, Why not pay the farmer or owner, at the time we derequisition the land, his terminal compensation for the permanent drainage that will follow in a few years' time? The answer to that is, that it is felt that this drainage is absolutely essential because food production in this country will loom more and more as one of the things to which we must pay attention as a nation. Therefore, it is essential that that drainage should be done. If we pay compensation before it is possible for the owner to do the drainage—and a change of ownership may take place, and all sorts of things may happen—that sum of money may not reach its destination.

Mr. York

It would under our Amendment.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Therefore, it is the Government's policy to do the things I have mentioned towards rehabilitating land before handing it back, and then in due time, when expert advice says, "This can be done; the land will not sink any more," the Government come in and the proper drainage is carried out by them. I think, therefore, that the Amendment which, I agree, is directed towards giving to the owner something more in the way of compensation than he would get if he had to bear the full brunt of the formula as laid down is not necessary; because by the means I have outlined it is the Government's intention to meet him, where we have opencast coal working which does, I agree, interfere most drastically with the land. The Government mean to play fair with the owner of this type of land for the simple reason—I have already indicated it—that, though we must first of all get the coal, because the national need for coal is so great, we must, too, rehabilitate the land used in that way, because it is equally needed for growing foodstuffs.

Mr. Anthony Nutting (Melton)

The Financial Secretary stuck very closely to his brief, but I am afraid that his brief was singularly inadequate. He said the Government do certain things in the matter of rehabilitating the opencast coal sites after the workings have been finished, but I can assure him that that simply does not occur. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to come down and tell us what is the Government's policy, and what is in the regulations. It is in the regulations that top soil and subsoil should be put into different places from the rest of the earth when the operations are taking place. But no contractor engaged on this work ever follows the regulations, and that is the primary cause of the trouble. It is all very well for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture to shake his head, but these things which are supposed to happen simply do not happen. I myself can speak only for Leicestershire, but my hon. Friends in the Debate in Committee last week said that the same sort of thing was going on elsewhere.

The right hon. Gentleman said that the Government make themselves responsible for putting in fencing. He completely failed to meet the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. York) that owing to the atmosphere, and other things, the fencing wears out, and that then the cost of replacing the fencing which has been put in by the Government falls on the farmer. The right hon. Gentleman also tried to make a lot of the point that the Government fill in the potholes which result from the heavy soil being placed on top of the light soil. It really does not help to rehabilitate land to fill in a lot of potholes with cinders; but that is, in fact, what is happening in Leicestershire. I can take the right hon. Gentleman to the Loughborough Division and show him how the council have filled in a great many of the potholes with cinders—which knocks the bottom clean out of his argument that the Government have put the land back into a state suitable for grazing. Grazing is impossible in any field where there has been opencast coal working. The land will not grow any crops whatever.

6.45 p.m.

The Financial Secretary said that food production is essential today. Of course, it is. If it is essential, then surely this Amendment is also essential, because it is designed to give to the farmer the money with which to pay for the necessary tools with which to do his job—the necessary tools being the grazing and the fertile soil needed for the production of food.

If we do not get this Amendment, I do not see how it will be possible for any farmer who has had opencast coal workings on his farm to produce on those particular sites the food which the Financial Secretary himself so rightly says is essential to the welfare of this country.

Major Sir Thomas Dugdale (Richmond)

Our position here today is similar to that in which we were during the Committee stage discussion of the matter, except that instead of having a reply from the Solicitor-General we have had a reply from the Financial Secretary. Every argument he used was in favour of the Amendment. I fail to see why, if he agrees that difficulties are being experienced in all parts of the countryside where there have been opencast coal workings, he cannot accept the very simple words of this Amendment and conclude his agreement in legislative form. This Amendment is similar in terms to that moved on the Committee stage, but we have tried to meet the argument of the Solicitor-General during the last Debate by putting in the word "actually."

All we are asking is thta owners should be compensated for rehabilitation purposes to the amount actually incurred or reasonably to be incurred in the rehabilitation of the land whichever is the greater. The Financial Secretary gave us a very definite undertaking that this point would be considered between the Committee stage and the Report stage. From what he has said today, my hon. Friends can only believe that very little consideration has been given to it.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but could he tell me, by reference to the OFFICIAL REPORT, when I made that promise?

Sir T. Dugdale

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) said: Could we not—I make my appeal now to the right hon. Gentleman—save a Division and the time that involves, by having from the right hon. Gentleman an assurance that he will give this matter further consideration between now and Report stage? To which the Financial Secretary replied: Most certainly, and I should like to tell hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that before the night is very much older.…" —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th January, 1948; Vol. 446, c. 1101.] It would seem to me that we have made very little progress in this matter.

I would sum up our arguments, which, I believe, are still conclusive. We are fearful lest the ceiling which is set under this Bill will stop rehabilitation; and if the ceiling stops rehabilitation, then, in fact, it does stop food production in those areas which have been used for opencast coalmining. We have had instances referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. York) and my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Mr. Nutting) where they have seen with their own eyes the condition of land which has been handed back after opencast coal operations have taken place. I have received the same information, that although land which is handed back after opencast coalmining has taken place, would appear to be suitable for cultivation by the farmer, yet, owing to the turning up of the subsoil, a very great deal of work and expense will be necessary.

I hope it is not too late for the Financial Secretary to give an assurance that he will look at this again before the Bill receives the Royal Assent. The right hon. Gentleman says that this point is very much in the minds of the Government. Under what powers does he propose that the necessary compensation shall be given to the owner in the cases to which he referred? I can see no powers in this Bill, and I am not clear under what Act or further proposals he has the necessary powers to give adequate compensation to rehabilitate. We regret that the Government have not been able to say more on this matter, and in order to register our very strong feeling we are bound to go into the Division Lobby in support of the Amendment.

Lord Willoughby de Eresby (Rutland and Stamford)

I am sorry that the Financial Secretary has not seen fit to meet us on this Amendment. I believe he is trying genuinely to be fair, and thinks he is being fair. The Clause as drafted does not meet the case, and does not treat fairly those who have had their land disturbed in this manner. The Financial Secretary said that fences were put back. Well, that is quite true. Although it may not have happened in certain cases, it obviously is the intention of the Government that it should happen. The point is that a quick hedge is being done away with, and only a wire fence with concrete posts put in its place. Everybody knows that to maintain a wire fence costs very much more than to maintain a quick hedge. It may well be that in certain parts of the country, such as Yorkshire and the industrial areas, the wire will be ruined by the polluted atmosphere. The right hon. Gentleman went on to add that the Government did have drains dug, and that when the land had settled down, pipes, or whatever it may be, were installed. If that is done, well and good. But while he was saying that, he himself admitted that it takes some time for land to settle down.

He did not deal at all with the third and, to my mind, most important point made by my hon. Friends, namely, the loss of fertility of the soil. No one is compensated in respect thereof, and there is no question but that it will be many years before the land in question is restored to a proper state of fertility. It is probable that several green crops will have to be put in, giving no return to the farmer. Any hon. Member with an elementary knowledge of gardening knows that soil cannot be treated in this manner and expected to produce crops immediately after. A case has been made for a greater measure of compensation being given to these people until their land has been properly rehabilitated.

Mr. Baldwin (Leominster)

I wish to add my small testimony to the case put forward by my hon. Friends. I will give my own experience in Shropshire.

It is no use the Government taking up the line that they restore and rehabilitate the land, because they do not. They have received overwhelming evidence from those who understand the problem and have to deal with it, that this soil is not restored. Therefore, why continue to aver that it is restored? Some four or five years ago on an estate in Shropshire with which I had to deal, 28 acres of land was requisitioned for opencast coalmining. At the end of the requisitioning period the whole of the subsoil, comprising firestone and fireclay, had been turned up on top of the ground. Incidentally, not one bucketful of coal was produced, after an expenditure of some £70,000 to £80,000. The land was then levelled. It was made as level as the Floor of this House, and looked a very beautiful spot. The Ministry of Works then wanted to hand back that land to the estate without paying any compensation at all. We haggled over it for two years, and eventually an agreement was arrived at, and they paid a reasonable figure for that land.

If this opencast coalmining is to continue under the same conditions, the agricultural land of this country will be still further reduced, and some step should be taken to ensure that it is done properly. The topsoil should be taken off and put on one side so that it can be replaced when the subsoil is levelled. It is no good the Ministry of Works contradicting us on this. The Ministry took this matter up with me after I had written to "The Times" about it and called attention to this particular site, and they suggested they were so disturbed about it that they would make an investigation. They had reports from the local county executive committee saying it was done more or less correctly, but I challenged that statement and said, "When you conduct the investigation, allow me to come with you to show you what has been done."

As proof of whether I, as an agent, think the land has been disturbed, I would point out that I have now, at a rent of 1s. a year for the whole 28 acres, let it to the owner of a smallholding on an adjoining piece of land, in the hope that he will turn out his cows and poultry on to the land, so that eventually, in the course of years, some topsoil will be built up to replace what is there. It is not even a case of planting green crops and ploughing it in, because it is absolutely sterile and nothing will grow until the top soil is restored.

Mr. Assheton

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale) put a question which has not been answered. The question was: Under what Act or Clause of this Bill does the Financial Secretary think it is possible to pay the compensation to which he referred?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Terminal compensation will be paid under Clause 10 of this Bill. That is quite definite. It is laid down in the 1939 Act, and is boosted—if I may use that expression—by Clause 10 of this Bill. That is where the terminal compensation will come from. As we indicated when discussing this earlier, it is possible that in certain cases compensation for disturbance might accrue on the lines of the Agriculture Act, 1947. We may return to that again. I do not know. Other compensation to farmers is also possible under, I think it is, Section 2 (1) (a), (b), (c) and (d) of the 1939 Act. Strictly speaking, we are now discussing compensation payable under Clause 10 of this Bill. I understood it was decided not to call this Amendment at all, but it was agreed that we might discuss it. I now understand it is proposed to take it to a Division. I do not mind, but it is not what we agreed when we decided to discuss it.

Mr. Peake

I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has completely understood the question put to him arising out of the earlier speech which he made on this Amendment. This Clause deals with terminal payment of compensation, as he said. That is the final payment made when the land is derequisitioned; and the ceiling to the payment of compensation under the Clause is the diminution in value of the land. The question we ask is: By how much has the value of the land been reduced by what has happened to it during Government occupation? The Financial Secretary admitted in his speech that the cost of rehabilitation falling upon the owner to whom the land is handed back may, in some cases, exceed the diminution in value. The right hon. Gentleman made that perfectly clear. We have agricultural land worth £30 an acre. Opencast coalmining takes place, and the land is then handed back with a value of £ an acre. The cost of rehabilitation may well be £40 or £50 an acre, and it is in the interests of the country that rehabilitation should take place.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I made it perfectly plain. We decided that the formula laid down could in normal cases be said to meet the situation. It was the formula laid down by the Conservative Government in 1939, and it has worked pretty well. Where the agricultural land is of no great value, it is true that the formula would work very adversely to the owner of the land. Before the Government hand back the land to the owner, realising that if it were handed back in its damaged state it would be unfair, because the cost of rehabilitation would be in excess of what the owner would receive, they rehabilitate it up to the grazing level. They put in fences, carry out a certain amount of drainage, replace the top-soil and all the rest of it.

Many of the speeches from hon. Members opposite have been to the effect that this work has not been done as well as it might be. That is not my fault, and if contractors have done this work badly, something should be said and done about it The Government fill in pot-holes, re-level the land, re-fence it, and bring it back to the state of grazing land. Even then it may not be fertile enough, or it may not be in the state it was in when it was taken over for opencast coalmining. The formula then begins to work, and the owner is paid the compensation which is due to him under the formula laid down in Clause 10. Obviously, that would not cover permanent drainage. We cannot put in drainage at that stage, because the land has not settled down. It will take some years for that to happen. The Government enter into an agreement with the owner that at a given time, when all concerned have come to the conclusion that it is the time to put in pipe drainage, the Government will put in pipe drainage to round off the assistance given to that land. I think that this is fairly fair, and that is the answer to hon. Members opposite.

Mr. Peake

There is a large measure of agreement about this. The right hon. Gentleman agrees that the cost of rehabilitation still falling to be carried out in the public interest may exceed the dimunition in value of the land. The dimunition in the value of the land may be, without this Amendment, smaller than the ultimate cost of rehabilitation falling to be carried out, and the ceiling of compensation is the diminution in value. The right hon. Gentleman says that he will not accept our Amendment, which lays down that the measure of compensation shall be the diminution in value or the cost of the rehabilitation, whichever is the greater. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Government, in practice, having paid terminal compensation on the basis of diminution in value, will then enter into an agreement in those particular cases to make further payments over and above the statutory terminal payment four or five years later, when the work necessary for complete rehabilitation is carried out.

We want to know under what statutory power the Government can enter into an agreement to give away public money to individuals, when they are not obliged to do so under any statute so far as we know. Surely, it will be said that the measure of terminal compensation is fixed by this Bill, and that there is no legal liability to pay any more. Moreover, if the Government do pay more under an agreement made with an individual, I should have thought that the Public Accounts Committee would have something very strong to say about it. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to specify under what powers the Ministry concerned are to make ex gratia payments to individuals for carrying out work on the land. They can, of course, make 50 per cent. grants towards drainage expenses and things of that character, but what the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting is that the Government will enter into a firm agreement to pay for the whole of certain works of rehabilitation, and we do not know what is their authority, and what duty lies upon the Government to enter into agreements of that character. We do not know whether the owner of the land can impose on the Government a legal liability to make further payment.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

There is no statutory duty or obligation on the Government to do this. I am advised that it is not necessary. The Government will be doing this work, and not paying for it to be done by the owner. The Government intend to do it for the sole reason that they want to see the work clone, because it is. essential that the land of this country shall be returned to growing of food at the earliest moment. It is only the dire need for coal that has made the Government go in for opencast coal mining. In the interests of the nation, it is necessary to get this land back into good heart. We are not going to leave it to the owner to do this draining. Therefore, the Government will do it themselves, and no statutory powers are necessary. The Department which does the work will have the cost borne on a vote, and it will eventually find its way into the Appropriation Act.

Mr. Peake

Does the right hon. Gentleman tell the Committee that Government Departments can carry out work at Government expense on privately owned land, the value of which will accrue to the private landowner, without any statutory authority?

Mr. York rose

The Chairman

I must ask the Committee to come to a decision. This matter was debated on a previous occasion for over an hour, and I selected this Amendment today because I gathered it was suggested that something in the nature of an assurance was given on the previous occasion which it was the desire of Members to clear up and on the understanding that the matter would be raised briefly. I would also draw the attention of the Committee to the Standing Order which deals with repetition.

Mr. York

We have had today a considerable extension of the powers which the Government intend to use in the restoration of land, and we have tried by a series of questions to find out what exactly is meant by this extension, and also what legal rights the Government have in the matter. I wish to ask one further question in order to try and clarify the issue. Can the Financial Secretary say whether the promise he has given that the Government will come back in five years' time, or whatever the period is, and redrain the land also extends to their replanting the quick hedges wherever they are necessary?

The Chairman rose

Colonel Ropner (Barkston Ash)

On a point of Order, Major Milner. The Closure has not been moved. May I point out, with due respect, that I have not spoken a word in this Debate. May I ask under what Ruling the Chairman terminates a discussion of this sort.

The Chairman

It can be terminated by agreement or by moving the Closure, when it would be for the Chair to decide whether to accept that Motion or not. I hope however that the hon. and gallant Member, having regard to what I have said, may, after consulting with his right hon. Friend on the Front Bench, agree that it is not necessary to prolong the discussion which was intended to be brief but which has gone on for an hour-and-a-half. It appears to have largely consisted of repetition which, as the hon. Member knows, it is within the power of the Chair to check.

Colonel Ropner

With respect to your Ruling, Major Milner, which I do not want to transgress, I hope that the Committee will allow me, as representing a very large agricultural constituency, and as one who has not uttered a word in this Debate, although many hon. Members have spoken on several occasions, to detain the Committee for one minute. I was shocked to hear the Financial Secretary assert that the arrangement which he is now supporting is, to use his own words, "fairly fair." In the view of hon. Members on this side of the Committee, "fairly fair" is not good enough. It means that a number of farmers will suffer. I do not know if the Financial Secretary was being altogether sincere when he expressed surprise that we should ask for a Division at the end of this discussion. I know of no agreement that there should not be a Division, and I am anxious to divide the Committee when

the arrangement which the Government insist on maintaining is one which can only be described as "fairly fair."

Mr. Assheton

I do not want to prolong the Debate, but I want to give the Financial Secretary or the Solicitor-General an opportunity of conveying to the Committee an answer, which I hope they have now ascertained from their advisers, to the question put by my hon. Friends on this side. [HON. MEMBERS: "It has been answered."] The question which has been put, and to which no answer has been given is: What statutory authority have the Government for making the payments that they propose to make in accordance with the right hon. Gentleman's speech?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Surely the right hon. Gentleman himself and the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), both of whom have been Financial Secretaries to the Treasury in their time, know that what I have said is correct, namely, that the statutory authority will be the Appropriation Act.

Mr. Assheton

I cannot allow the right hon. Gentleman to get away with that. So far as we know, the position is that the Government have no power to make this payment. If they intend to take power to do so, we shall be glad to know of it. The position as left now is unsatisfactory.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

They are doing the work themselves and not making a payment.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 90; Noes, 251.

Division No. 69.] AYES. [7.17 p.m.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R Duthie, W. S. Mackeson, Brig. H. R.
Baldwin, A E. Gage, C. McKie, J. H. (Galloway)
Beamish, Maj T V H Gammans, L. D. Maclean, F. H. R.
Bennett, Sir P. Gomme-Duncan, Col A. Macmillan, Rt. Hon Harold (Bromley)
Birch, Nigel Grimston, R. V Maitland, Comdr. J. W.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells) Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley) Manningham-Buller, R. E
Bower, N. Haughton, S. G. Marples, A. E.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A Headlam, Lieut-Col RI. Hon. Sir C Marshall, D. (Bodmin)
Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan Hogg, Hon. Q. Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G Hutchison, Lt.-Cm Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Maude, J. C.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Jarvis, Sir J. Mellor, Sir J
Butcher, H. W Jeffreys, General Sir G Morris-Jones, Sir H.
Challen, C. Jennings, R. Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)
Clarke, Col. R. S. Keeling, E. H. Nutting, Anthony
Conant, Maj R. J. E. Lambert, Hon. G Odey, G. W.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col O E Langford-Holt, J. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H
Digby, S W Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Drayson, G B Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Osborne, C.
Drewe, C Low, A. R W. Peake, Rt. Hon. O
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T (Richmond) Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Pitman, I. J
Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M. Walker-Smith, D.
Prescott, Stanley Strauss, H. G. (English Universities) Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie
Raikes, H V Studholme, H. G Wheatley, Col. M J. (Dorset, E.)
Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead) Sutcliffe, H. Williams, C. (Torquay)
Roberts, H. (Handsworth) Teeling, William Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Roberts, Peter (Ecclesall) Thomas, J P L. (Hereford) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Ropner, Col. L. Thorneycroft, G. E. P (Monmouth) York, C.
Scott, Lord W. Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F. Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Shepherd, W. S (Bucklow) Touche, G C. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Smith, E P. (Ashford) Turton, R H. Commander Agnew and
Stewart, J Henderson (File, E.) Wakefield, Sir W. W. Major Ramsay.
Acland, Sir R. Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) Macpherson, T. (Romford)
Adams, Richard (Balham) Fool, M. M. Mallalieu, J. P. W.
Attewell, H. C. Forman, J. C Mann, Mrs. J.
Austin, H Lewis Fraser, T (Hamilton) Mathers, Rt. Hon. G.
Ayles, W H. Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Medland, H. M.
Bacon, Miss A Ganley, Mrs. C. S. Mellish, R. J.
Balfour, A Gibbins, J. Messer, F.
Barnes, Rt. Hon A. J. Gibson, C W Middleton, Mrs. L.
Barstow, P G. Gilzean, A. Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R
Barton, C Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Mitchison, G. R.
Battley, J. R. Greenwood A. W. J. (Heywood) Morley, R.
Bechervaise, A. E. Grenfell, D. R. Morgan, Dr. H. B.
Belcher, J. W Grierson, E. Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)
Benson, G Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)
Berry, H Gunter, R. J. Moyle, A.
Beswick, F Guy, W. H. Murray, J. D.
Bevan, Rt Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Haire, John E. (Wycombe) Nally, W.
Bing, G. H. C. Hall, Rt Hon. Glenvil Naylor, T E.
Blyton, W. R. Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R. Neal, H. (Claycross)
Boardman, H. Hannan, W (Maryhill) Nicholls, H R. (Stratford)
Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W. Harrison, J. Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge) Hastings, Or Somerville Oldfield, W H.
Braddock, T (Mitcham) Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford) Orbach, M.
Bramall, E A. Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Paget, R. T.
Brook, D. (Halifax) Herbison, Miss M. Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)
Brooks, T J (Rothwell) Hicks, G Palmer, A. M. F.
Brown, George (Belper) Hobson, C R. Pargiter, G. A.
Brown, T J. (Ince) Holman, P Parker, J.
Bruce, Maj D W T Holmes, H E. (Hemsworth) Parkin, B T.
Buchanan, Rt. Hon. G. House, G Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)
Burden, T W Hoy, J. Paton, J. (Norwich)
Burke, W. A. Hubbard, T Pearson, A
Butler, H W. (Hackney, S.) Hudson, J H. (Ealing, W.) Perrins, W.
Chafer, D Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr) Poole, Cecil (Lichfield)
Cluse, W S Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Popplewell, E.
Cobb, F. A Hynd, H (Hackney, C.) Porter, E. (Warrington)
Cocks, F S Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Price, M. Philips
Coldrick, W Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool) Proctor, W. T
Collins, V. J. Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.) Pryde, D. J.
Colman, Miss G. M Isaacs, Rt Hon. G A. Pursey, Cmdr H.
Comyns, Dr L. Janner, B. Ranger, J.
Cook, T. F Jay, D. P T. Rees-Williams, D. R.
Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G. Jeger, G. (Winchester) Reeves, J
Corlett, Dr J Jeger, Dr S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.) Reid, T. (Swindon)
Cove, W G. Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley) Ridealgh, Mrs. M
Crossman, R. H. S. Jones, D. T (Hartlepools) Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Davies, Edward (Burslem) Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow) Rogers, G. H. R.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield) Jones, P Asterley (Hitchin) Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Deer, G. Kenyan, W Royle, C.
de Freitas, Geoffrey Kenyon, C Sargood, R.
Delargy, H J King, E. M Scollan, T
Diamond, J Kinley, J. Scott-Elliot, W.
Dodds, N N Lee, F (Hulme) Segal, Dr. S.
Donovan, T Lee, Miss J (Cannock) Sharp, Granville
Driberg, T E N Leslie, J. R. Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)
Dugdale, J (W Bromwich) Lever, N. H. Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)
Dumpleton, C W Levy, B. W. Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Ede, Rt Hon. J. C Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton) Silkin, Rt. Hon. L.
Edelman, M Lewis, J. (Bolton) Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Edwards, N. (Caerphilly) Lewis, T (Southampton) Simmons, C. J.
Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel) Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.
Evans, A (Islington, W.) Longd[...]n, F Skinnard, F. W.
Evans, John (Ogmore) McAdam, W. Smith, C. (Colchester)
Evans, S N. (Wednesbury) McGhee, H G Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)
Ewart, R McGovern, J. Snow, J. W.
Fairhurst, F McKay, J (Wallsend) Sorensen, R. W.
Farthing, W J McKinlay, A. S. Soskice, Sir Frank
Fernyhough, E. Maclean, N. (Govan) Sparks, J. A.
Field, Capt. W. J. McLeavy, F. Stamford, W
MacMillan, M K (Western Isles) Strauss, Rt Hon. G (Lambeth, N.)
Stubbs, A. E Viant, S. P Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Sylvester, G O Walkden, E. Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Symonds, A. L. Walker, G H. Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Taylor, R. J (Morpeth) Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst) Williams, Rt. Hon. T (Don Valley)
Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet) Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.) Williams, W R. (Heston)
Thomas, D. E (Aberdare) Warbey, W. N. Williamson, T
Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin) Watson, W. M. Willis, E.
Thomas, John R. (Dover) Webb, M. (Bradford, C.) Wills, Mrs. E. A
Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton) Wells, P. L. (Faversham) Woodburn, A.
Thurtle, Ernest Wells, W. T. (Walsall) Yates, V F.
Tiffany, S. West, D. G. Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Titterington, M. F. Wheatley, J. T. (Edinburgh, E.) Zilliacus, K
Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Turner-Samuels, M Wilcock, Group-Capt A. B TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Ungoed-Thomas, L Wilkes, L. Mr. Collindridge and
Mr. Wilkins

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bin.