§ Mr. Turton
I beg to move, in page 3, line 3, at the end, to add:and(c) he has no power to acquire the land under the Agriculture Act, 1947, or any other enactment.It has been our contention throughout the discussion of this Bill that this Clause is unnecessary, and that the Minister of Agriculture already has full powers to acquire land for the purposes of the adjustment of boundaries under the Agriculture Act, We believe it will be far better if land to be used for agriculture, the boundaries of which require readjustment, is purchased under the auspices of the Minister of Agriculture, rather than under the auspices of a Service, or other requisitioning Department. For that reason, we seek to secure that this Clause shall only be used in those cases where the Agriculture Act is not applicable. I would remind the Committee of the wording of Section 84 (1, c) of the Agriculture Act, 1947:Where—… (in any case) the Minister is satisfied that the full and efficient use of the land for agriculture cannot be achieved unless the land is used therefor in conjunction with other land and that it cannot reasonably be expected to be so used unless the Minister exercises his powers under this Subsection, … then he may acquire the land or any part thereof. …The adjustment of boundaries between requisitioned land and other land where the efficient use of the land, either for agriculture or forestry, would otherwise be, prevented, can perfectly well be ensured under the Agriculture Act. I am supported in that view by the words used by the Solicitor-General in the Second Reading Debate. He said: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1947; Vol. 445, C. 1592.]Having stated that there is an overlap, he went into some detail as to why that overlap was wanted. In order to save the time of the Committee, I will summarise what he said. The picture he gave was that it would first be acquired by a Service Minister under Clause 2, and then, when acquired by a Service 892 Minister, it would he handed over to the Minister of Agriculture to work under the acquisition powers of the Agriculture Act. That seems a needless duplication and delay. If, for the purposes of agriculture, it is essential to adjust the boundaries, it is far better that that work should be done quickly.
Under the Agriculture Act, land will be acquired under the Acquisition of Land Act, 1946, which gives ample scope for a public local inquiry. I understood that one of the reasons why the Government were inserting Clause 2 was that under the Requisitioned Land Act, 1945, there is scope for a public local inquiry. A public local inquiry is provided for under both Acts. It would be far better to leave the matter in the more capable hands, from an agricultural point of view, of the Minister of Agriculture and his Parliamentary Secretary, than to have it dealt with by a number of odd, and in some cases derelict, Departments.
§ 6.45 p.m.
When land is required by the Minister of Agriculture, it is to be managed by the Land Commission. At present a great deal of land is being requisitioned by Service Departments and managed by branches of those Departments, in my submission, in a not very efficient manner. The Land Commission, when it is set up, should be composed of gentlemen well versed in agricultural knowledge and practice. It is unreasonable to think that the Air Ministry, for example, can manage agricultural land efficiently. For those reasons I hope the Government will accept the Amendment which does not curtail the powers of Clause 2 to any unnecessary extent. It merely says that Clause 2 shall not be used if any Section of the 1947 Act can be used. Clause 2 is primarily provided to deal with agriculture, and I submit that this Amendment is in the interests of agriculture.
§ Colonel Clarke (East Grinstead)
I wish to support the Amendment. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) I think Clause 2 as it stands is unnecessary although I do not suggest that its object is unnecessary. There is no doubt that great disturbance to agricultural holdings has taken place during the war by the making of runways and that disturbance should be put right so that it does not become a lasting disadvantage to agriculture. We have only to look 893 out of railway carriage windows when travelling in a train to agricultural parts of England to see the damage which has already been done to the layout of farms. Little bits of fields are cut off by roadways and isolated from the remainder of their farms and in many cases this has involved a special crossing or cattle creep which is very expensive to the owner. The result has been the erection of unnecessary gates and fences.
The same sort of thing is happening to day on airfields, many of which are derelict and will soon be going back to agricultural use, and it should be put right. For that reason I agree that the people who should put it right are those who know how to do so. My experience of agricultural land in the hands of Service Ministries has not been a happy one. Generally, to say the least of it, the land has been mismanaged, or worse. I have never been able to understand why the Minister of Agriculture is not included in this Bill or in the 1945 Act. He is most definitely concerned, but he is given no standing in either Measure. It seems as though the Treasury have tried to squeeze him out on all occasions, including this Clause. During the Second Reading Debate I asked the Solicitor-General a question which is relevant to this Amendment. He told me that Section 6 of the 1945 Act, as amended by Clause 2, will always be used, not Section 84 of the Agriculture Act. He never explained why, and I did not want to interrupt him again. I hope we shall hear tonight the reason why.
I feel that it would be much simpler to let the Ministry of Agriculture undertake the whole of this revision of farm boundaries. My hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton has spoken of the Land Commission. They seem to be a body ideally suited for this work, certainly very much more so than the land agents of some Service Ministry. For these reasons I hope that the Amendment will be favourably considered. The point was raised on Second Reading and no satisfactory answer was given to our plea that this arrangement is only overcomplicating the matter and that one Minister, the Minister of Agriculture, should deal with it in its entirety. His Department is qualified to do so, and it would be simpler and better in every way if the whole matter were referred to it.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
Having listened to what has been said on this Amendment, I hope that we can dispose of it fairly easily. It occurs to me that hon. Members are afraid that under this Clause the Minister of Agriculture will not be consulted and taken into account as much as he obviously should be. If that is the fear, or the main fear, I can set it at rest. The Committee will remember that when we were dealing with this matter on Second Reading, the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) asked why this Clause was necessary. He put forward the question then, and has done so again today—he has put his view into writing in this Amendment—as to why this could not be done under the Agriculture Act, 1947. On that occasion he referred mainly to Section 87 rather than to Section 84 (1, c), upon which he now relies. That being so, I have nothing to say about the reasons why Section 87 would be completely inappropriate in this direction.
Section 84 (1, c) is rather different, and when this Bill was under consideration it was looked at to see whether it was not possible to do what we all desire to do in this direction under the Agriculture Act, 1947. It would certainly be possible to use that Act in some cases; I do not deny that for a moment; but it would be quite impossible to use the Act for many cases which we envisage as arising under this Clause when this Bill becomes an Act. The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton read out a portion of Section 84 (1, c) of the Agriculture Act, 1947. I am sure that he did not mean to mislead the Committee, and he read only part of it in order to save time, but he did miss out something which is very much to the point in this connection. That Section comes into force when land has been severed, in pursuance of powers conferred by or under any enactment. Some of the land with which it will be necessary to deal under this Clause has never been severed at all in the sense which is understood in the Section of the 1947 Act to which the hon. Member referred. Also, some of the requisitioned land which will have to be dealt with has been severed, not as a result of work done under any enactment at all, but under the Prerogative.
That being so, and for another reason which I shall now give, it was felt, I think quite rightly, that it would be wrong to 895 rely on the powers conferred by Section 84 (1, c) of the 1947 Act. The way we argued was that under the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945, certain temporary and limited powers of a fixed duration were taken for the acquisition of requisitioned land and it would be unfair for the Government now to use for that purpose powers contained in a permanent Act of another kind which was not designed to deal with land, or the rehabilitation of land, affected by war works or war use. That it would be unfair to use the Act for that purpose and that it is much fairer to "come clean" and come to the House with this Bill and insert a straightforward amendment to the 1945 Act, will commend itself to Members in all parts of the Committee. That being so it is better that we should have this Clause and not try to rely on the Agriculture Act, 1947.
In addition, I can assure hon. Gentlemen opposite, that the Minister of Agriculture comes into this matter at every turn. A question was put on that point by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton. I can assure him that the drill followed is that the Ministry which happens to have a requisition, for example the Air Ministry, would acquire the land, but it could not attempt to do so without first receiving the certification of the Minister of Agriculture that it was necessary, in view of plans which were essential for the rehabilitation of that and other land as agricultural land. It is an essential prerequisite that the Minister of Agriculture should give his certificate in that way. The Ministry concerned would then proceed to acquire the land in the usual way. It would then be handed over to the Ministry of Agriculture and used in such way as is deemed desirable in the national interest. I hope that with that explanation, which answers the points made, and allays the fears voiced from the other side of the Committee, hon. Members will be satisfied and will withdraw this Amendment.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Colonel Clarke
May I ask one question? It may be rather stupid, but I do not quite understand to whom it would be unfair? As I understand it, these boundaries are going to be revised by a Service Ministry, or the Ministry of Works, or as we suggest, by the Ministry of 896 Agriculture. From the point of view of the people going to be operated on—if I may use that term—I should have thought they would prefer to be operated on by the "professional" Ministry of Agriculture rather than by the "amateur" Ministry of Works.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I am sorry if I failed to make myself clear. It may be that my phraseology was loose, and if it was I apologise. The Ministry of Agriculture will do the operating, in the sense that they will decide—where, for instance, an aerodrome was in existence, and it is uneconomic to grout up the runways—whether, in order to make the best use of that particular area, it is essential that certain farm boundaries should be altered. The Ministry of Agriculture will decide that in the light of what the nation requires in that direction, so far as that particular area is concerned. They will go to the Department—it may be the Air Ministry—which happens to hold the requisitioning powers over that land. The Air Ministry will be no more than an agent for the Ministry of Agriculture. It is all very plain and common sense.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)
I should not like to say anything which would discourage the Government, or any Member of it, from "coming clean" to the House, but I think from the Financial Secretary's observations, that he really has not gone to the root of the difficulty in trying to compare Clause 2 of this Bill with Subsection (1, c) of Section 84 of the Agriculture Act. Under Section 84 there is power for the readjustment of boundaries where agricultural land has been severed from such other land in the exercise of powers conferred for purposes other than agricultural purposes by any other enactment. The right hon. Gentleman did not seek to define or describe in what way—to come within the purview of Section 84 Subsection (1, c)—agricultural land would have to be severed from other agricultural land. I should have thought that one obvious instance would be the particular instance to which he referred—that of a runway, that might sever agricultural land from other such land, that is to say, other such agricultural land, and so come within Subsection (1, c) of Section 84.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
It may be part of the farm, but it is severed by the runway within the words of the Act, in my view, from other agricultural land. Section 84 does not purport, where a farm is divided into two parts by a runway, that that farm shall be treated as one. What Section 84 deals with is not a farm, but agricultural land. It says that where agricultural land is severed from other agricultural land in the same or a different farm, Section 84 can operate for the adjustment of boundaries. I should have thought that Section 84 (1, c) was clearly drafted and designed to achieve the very purpose which is dealt with—or what purports to be dealt with—in the Clause of the Bill under discussion.
We are told that the whole purpose of the acquisition under Clause 2 of the Bill will be to secure the adjustment of boundaries. When one part of a farm has been acquired and thrown into another farm, so as to make them more easily workable and efficient, what is going to happen to the land which has been compulsorily acquired? If a strip of "Black Acre" is thrown into "White Acre" so as to adjust the boundaries, it is contemplated, as I understand it from that Clause, that the whole of "White Acre" is compulsorily acquired, for the purpose of adding this strip to it—and, indeed, the whole of "Black Acre." Otherwise, land could not be taken from "Black Acre" and added to "White Acre."
If this compulsory acquisition is to take place on that scale, what is to happen after the boundaries have been adjusted? Are the original owners to be offered the opportunity of buying back their farms for a price which takes into account the land that has been compulsorily added to the farm, or, on the other hand, the reduction in value due to the compulsory loss of part of the farm? I do not wish to delay long upon this Section, because it seems to duplicate to such a large extent the powers already contained in the Agriculture Act, but I do ask, before we pass from this Clause, that we should have a clear statement from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, speaking on behalf of his Ministry, of what the distinct policy will be, when land has been acquired for the purpose of adjusting the 898 boundaries, and the adjustment has been made.
What is the policy going to be with regard, for instance, to the two particular farms affected? I think that is a point which ought to be cleared up. I think also it would be extremely useful if we could be told what, in the view of the Government, constitutes severance of one part of agricultural land from other agricultural land to bring the case within Section 84 (1, c). If that could be explained it might be more easy to comprehend the reason why the Government, in their passion for legislation, are apparently indulging in excessive duplication.
§ Mr. York (Ripon)
The situation, as it now stands, is very untidy. The reasons given by the Financial Secretary were, to my mind, completely inconclusive. I gathered that there were three main reasons. One was that it was unfair to use a permanent Act for temporary purposes—to use a permanent Act to deal with war works. I do not see that that matters at all. When we were discussing the Agriculture Act, we had many of these points in mind, which came about entirely through war Acts of various sorts. I am quite certain that nobody in the Committee, or any other part of the House, was in the least disturbed to hear that war works were going to be dealt with under the Agriculture Act. In fact, I believe we were certain at that time that a number of them would be so dealt with. I cannot go into them all, because that would go far beyond the scope of this Amendment, but I do remember one in particular.
The Financial Secretary also gave as a reason the fact that, in a great number of cases—"in many cases" were his words—it would be impossible to use Section 84 (c) of the Agriculture Act. That may be so, but he did not give us any illustration of why it would be so. Perhaps we might, at least, have that statement substantiated to help us to understand what he meant by it. The third reason was that land had never been severed. The right hon. Gentleman gave the illustration of a runway. I do not know whether he has ever tried to farm a runway. He will know that it is a stretch of land which may be up to 30 or 40 yards wide. If a runway does not constitute severance as between the two 899 pieces of land on either side of it, then I presume that the Great West Road, and a few of these other large arterial runways, also do not constitute severance.
§ Mr. York
In the case of trunk roads, I am sure that we need not bother about the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act. These seem to be very poor reasons. The only real offer that the right hon. Gentleman made was that all this business of acquisition by any other Department than that of Agriculture would be done after close consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture. After we have been in this House for a few years, I think we are sufficiently cynical and sceptical about consultations to realise the value of that offer. The other point which interested me, and which was not fully developed, was on the question of certification which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned. I have never heard anything about certification by the Ministry of Agriculture in the case of acquisition or otherwise. It is a new idea to me. The Committee is entitled to have an explanation of the machinery to be used if the Government insist upon it.
My final point is that this matter is entirely agricultural. The reason for putting this Amendment into Section 6 of the 1945 Act is to include agricultural land. At present there is no specific inclusion. I cannot understand why it is necessary, when the Government realise that the powers they want are contained in the Agriculture Act, that they should go out of their way to cause confusion and delay in dealing with this war work on aerodromes. I conclude, as my hon. Friends conclude, that no case has been made out against this Amendment and, therefore, all war and other works which deal entirely with agricultural problems ought to be dealt with by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Mr. Vane (Westmorland)
No one who has ever had any experience of protests by the Ministry of Agriculture to Service Departments which want to requisition land will have his fears allayed by the very plausible defence put up by the Financial Secretary. Whereas there may be some case for riding roughshod over the Ministry of Agriculture in wartime 900 when operational needs are paramount, there is surely no case whatever for putting agriculture into this subservient position now two years after the end of the war. It sounds very well for the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Ministry of Agriculture is always taken into consultation, that certificates are issued and so on, but those people who have had experience of the working out of this sort of thing know that those certificates are not worth the paper on which they are written. If a Service Department has made up its mind that it intends to take any action, it always manages somehow or other to push the Ministry of Agriculture into second place. I hardly think that the speech of the Financial Secretary is designed to allay those very reasonable fears. I hope that he will tell us a little bit more. This seems to be a most retrograde step for which there is really no reasonable defence.
§ 7.15 p.m.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture (Mr. GeorgeBrown)
The difficulty here is that there is some suspicion abroad which is hardly justified. There is no riding roughshod over the Ministry of Agriculture in this at all. This rather minor amendment of the provision of the 1945 Act arises not from the desire of these wicked fellows to ride roughshod over us, but from the fact that the Act of 1945 is a little restrictive, so far as the Ministry of Agriculture is concerned, in making sure that the best agricultural use is made of land about which there may be some argument whether or not it fits completely into the provisions of that Act. I hope I carry the Committee with me in saying that there is no ground for suspicion that other people are "pulling a fast one" over us. We are ourselves very concerned about this amendment to the 1945 Act.
I thought also that the straining of words by the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) was, by itself, very good evidence of the rightness of our decision not to proceed in these cases under the 1947 Act. Apparently there is a good deal of room for argument about what is and what is not severance. There are some cases where the land will have been severed within the meaning which we think attaches to the word "severance" in the Act of 1947. There will be other cases 901 in which there may be the kind of argument which went on between the hon. and learned Gentleman and my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
The hon. Member has accused me of "straining words" which appear in an Act of Parliament. I do not in the least mind that sort of accusation from him, and I wish that the Solicitor-General would address his observation to it. Would he give some illustration of the interpretation which the Government place on the word "severance"?
It is enough for the point I am trying to make to say that clearly there may be argument about what is and what is not severance for this purpose. I doubt very much whether in every case the creation of runways on a field would necessarily be held to be severance in accordance with the words in the Act of 1947. My point is not to prove whether it is or is not. There is room for argument. There may be some cases in which there will not be any real effective severance at all but in which it would be desirable, to ensure the best agricultural use of the land, that we should proceed with it in the way we originally had in mind. Therefore, for that first reason, it would be difficult for us to proceed under the Act of 1947.
There is the further important point which nobody has mentioned. The Act of 1945 lays down a particular course of appeal to the War Works Commission by the people from whom the land is being acquired. If that appeal succeeds, the Government have no alterative but to accept the decision. That is what my right hon. Friend meant when he talked about being unfair. In those cases it seemed to us that, even if we had the power under the Act of 1947, we ought not to rely upon general powers which were given for quite different circumstances. We ought not to rely upon those general powers which would have the effect of nullifying a provision put into the 1945 Act for the protection of citizens whose land was to be acquired in this way.
902 The point is whether we ought now, instead of honestly amending the 1945 Act and retaining the protections which it conferred on the citizens affected, to "scrub it out," if I may use the term, and rely upon general powers under another Act which do not provide that kind of protection at all. Several hon. Members have asked what will happen to the land. It will be acquired by the requisitioning Ministry, in practice, on the initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture. In any case, it can only be acquired when the Minister of Agriculture has given his consent in the terms of the Clause which we are now considering. He will have to assert that the land is required under the terms of paragraphs (a) and (b) of the Subsection.
§ Mr. Turton
Could the hon. Gentleman explain the machinery? Will this be done by advice from the Land Commission, or by advice from the county committees, or from whom?
On the spur of the moment, I would not like to tie myself down to stating the specific machinery. It might conceivably be from either of those sources. In fact, it is almost certain to come from the county committees. I should think that it is likely, but I would not like to commit myself at the moment, that the initiative will be taken by the Ministry of Agriculture. In any case, the certification in the terms of paragraphs (a) and (b) of this Subsection will be given by the Ministry of Agriculture. The land will have to be acquired by the requisitioning Ministry and will be passed over to the Ministry of Agriculture for management, and it may well fall to be managed by the Land Commission and farmed in that way.
No, it will be handed over by the acquiring Ministry to the Ministry of Agriculture. I am quite certain about that. When I said "may well be," I was referring to the actual method which we adopt for securing the best use of the land. We may pass it on to the Land Commission, but it is quite certain that it will pass to us. The answer to the 903 point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Daventry about "Black Acre" and "White Acre," is that we would acquire both and re-divide them into economic units, and they would again be farmed, probably by the Land Commission or in the same way in which we would deal with other holdings as economic holdings.
I do not think there is much more that I can add, and I hope hon. Members will let us have this Clause. There is nothing suspicious about this; we are not trying to get round anything. We do not believe that under the 1947 Act we have all the powers which make the relevant Section of the 1945 Act redundant. We believe there is still something in the 1945 Act which is different. In any case, were that not so, I make a firm point of the fact that we entered into certain obligations under the 1945 Act to protect the people from whom we took the land, and it would be a retrograde step if we now used other more general powers and thus withdrew those specific protections.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
Am I to understand that when a small adjustment of boundary is to be made, the effect will be that the two adjoining farmers will be dispossessed of their farms in order to make an adjustment of possibly 20 yards to a boundary, and that as a general rule, the farm will then be farmed by the Land Commission? I think that is what followed from the hon. Gentleman's words.
One can always think of extreme cases—I do not say that with any disrespect to the hon. and learned Gentleman—but it is impossible to believe that that sort of incredible thing will happen. In the main, we are dealing with land which is under requisition now, and as to which we have to decide whether we shall hand it back or whether we shall acquire it permanently. I do not think the extreme case which the hon. and learned Gentleman has put is likely to arise.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I am not putting an extreme case. We are entitled to an answer from the representative of the Minister of Agriculture who will have to give his certificate before any action is taken under this Clause. This Clause deals with any land on which Government war work has been done or of 904 which there has been Government war use. One can conceive of a wide variety of circumstances relating to Government war work or Government war use, but before we pass from this Clause—and I hope we shall be able to avoid a Division upon it—we ought to have a statement of principle from the Government. Will they say that when they operate this Clause, provided they are satisfied that the farmers whose lands are affected have been farming well, they will give those farmers the opportunity of continuing to farm that land after the adjustment of boundary has been made? I understand that it may well mean that because it is desired to achieve some adjustment of boundaries, farmers of high repute and good record will find themselves forcibly dispossessed of their farms and that in future their farms will be undertaken by the Land Commission. That appears to follow from what the hon. Gentleman has said. Will the hon. Gentleman say that, as a general principle, opportunities will be given to those who farm well to continue farming the land which they and their ancestors have occupied for generations?
I am sure that we shall pass this Clause without a Division. It would be extremely unfortunate if hon. Members opposite were to divide against the protection which is afforded under the Act of 1945. As I understand it, the original provisions in the 1945 Act, which we are only slightly amending, relate to land for which total or partial rehabilitation is expedient in the public interest, and which is unlikely to be carried out by the owners themselves. Therefore, the point which the hon. and learned Gentleman has raised does not arise under this Clause. It might well arise under the 1947 Act when the relevant part is in operation, but at the moment we are dealing with land which needs rehabilitation, which cannot be dealt with as it stands, and where it is unlikely that the owners themselves will be able to deal with it.
§ Mr. Turton
I am not satisfied with the reply. It would appear that the Ministry of Agriculture are not anxious to accept the aid which we have offered them. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.905
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Turton
This Clause raises a greater doubt than that which we have been discussing: namely, what will be the effect of this Clause, as drafted, on land which is contiguous or adjacent to the war damaged land? As the Committee will recollect, in the Act of 1945 Section 6 (1) dealt with the rehabilitation of war damaged land. Subsection (2) gave the Ministries involved the power to acquire not merely the land whose value had been diminished, but also any contiguous or adjacent land which, in the opinion of the Minister,must be held with the first-mentioned land.Is it the intention of the Government that not only land on which there may be a runway will be allowed to be brought into this permanent adjustment, but also any land that is contiguous or adjacent to it? If so, this is a very wide extension of the rights or the disabilities of farmers under the Act of 1945.
§ 7.30 p.m.
I find it very hard to decipher this, because it will be seen that the Clause as drafted merely adds Subsection (3) to Section 6 of the 1945 Act. Subsection (2) of Section 6, which deals with any contiguous or adjacent land, is limited to "any such case as aforesaid" and that, presumably, applies to Subsection (1), but not to the new Subsection (3). If that is so, contiguous or adjacent land cannot be dealt with under this new Subsection (3). It is always difficult, when we are dealing with legislation by reference, and are suddenly jobbing in a new Subsection to a Section of an existing Act, to weigh up the position.
I maintain that if it is the intention of the Government under this new Clause not to deal with land which has been part of an aerodrome we shall be getting to the position of Ahab and Naboth's vineyard, and the Ministry will be saying, "We like that little bit of smallholding; it will help to make a big Government farm." That would be highly undesirable for the interests of agriculture. The mopping up of smallholdings by Government Departments is very bad procedure. I hoped to move a specific Amendment on this point, but as it was 906 not selected I thought it better to raise the question on this Motion.
I would like to support what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), because it seems to me that in this new Clause we are greatly extending the present uncertainty of adjoining farmers and landowners. If we turn to Section 6, Subsection (2), of the 1945 Act we find that the test for acquisition of this adjacent land is that it must be held with "the first mentioned land" if such land is to be properly dealt with. That seems to be a fair test, but when we come to this Clause we find that it is made much wider, and that it is very much easier for adjacent land to be acquired. Paragraph (3, a) of this Clause states that the Minister has to be satisfied… that without a permanent adjustment of boundaries between the land and other land the most efficient use of the land … for agriculture … will be prevented.There must be many farms which would be more efficiently run if they were to take over the best fields of an adjoining farm. Only a short time ago I was looking at a farm, and wondering whether its boundaries ought to be altered. In shape it was very elongated. When I went into the matter I found that the fields at one end were very good and those at the other end, were very bad. If the good fields had been chopped off that farm, and given to someone else, that farm would have been worse off, although I agree that the other farm would have been better off. We do not want the Government to improve their own holdings by chopping off good fields from adjoining farms, thus leaving them in a very much worse position than they were before. If there is to be any likelihood of that, many people will wonder what will happen to them under this Bill. Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman can give us an assurance on this matter.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Frank Soskice)
I think I am in a position to give an assurance on this point. The anxiety felt by Members opposite can be put in this way: Does Subsection (2) of Section 6 of the 1945 Act become in any way attracted by reason of the insertion of this new Subsection (3)? I can assure the Committee that it does not. If Members will look at the new Subsection 907 (3) they will see that it provides that in the event of certain conditions existing the power of acquisition shall be exercisable. If we look at the 1945 Act to see what the power of acquisition is we find that it is the power which is referred to in Section 4 of that Act. It is only that power of acquisition which is made exercisable by the insertion of the new Subsection (3). It is an extension of that power of acquisition which is created by Subsection (2); there is nothing which Subsection (3) provides which has the effect of attracting or making operative in those circumstances, the extending powers which are created by Subsection (2).
§ Mr. Turton
In expressing my gratitude to the hon. and learned Gentleman, may I ask him to consider embodying a small Amendment in the Bill on the Report stage, so that this will be made perfectly clear?
§ The Solicitor-General
I feel that it is clear, but I will bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman has said, as we do not want any doubt about it.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.