HC Deb 28 January 1948 vol 446 cc1065-104

6.15 p.m.

The Solicitor-General

I beg to move, in page 7, line 37, after "but," to insert: subject to the provisions of Subsection (4) of this Section. This Amendment will appear to be a purely formal one, but if hon. Members look at it more closely they will see that its object is to introduce the long and rather complicated Amendment later on the Order Paper in page 8, line 23, at end, add: (4) Where during the period for which possession of the land was retained damage (other than war damage) occurred to any such work as is mentioned in paragraph (b) of the last foregoing subsection, the amount to which the compensation is limited by virtue of subsection (1) of this section shall be increased so as to take account of that damage to such extent as may be just having regard to any such expense, agreement or payment as is mentioned in subsection (2) or (3) of the said section forty-one. (5) Section fifty-four of the Act of 1945 (which provides for, certain purposes that where a payment in respect of the value of works has been made under Part II of that Act the provisions as to compensation of section two of the Act of 1939 shall have effect as if a new period of requisition had begun on the date of the payment) shall not have effect as respects compensation under paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of the said section two. If the Committee accept the first Amendment, they are by implication committing themselves to the second, longer Amendment. Therefore, it will perhaps be convenient if I now give the reasons I shall urge hereafter in support of the second Amendment. The second Amendment is designed to increase the compensation provided for in respect of the terminal payments under Clause 9 in a particular set of circumstances. The circumstances are those in which the owner of the property has made a payment in respect of war works under the terms of Section 10 of the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945. As the Clause is at present drafted, the effect of the application of Section 54 of the 1945 Act to Clause 9 would be that the owner, having paid that sum for war works under Section 10 of the 1945 Act, would, nevertheless, not receive the benefit of that payment. We therefore seek by introducing the new Subsections (4) and (5) to increase the maximum limit of the terminal payment so as to include the payment by the owner in cases where he has made a payment under Section 10. That is obvious justice to the owner, and I feel the Committee may well think that it is an improvement to the Bill.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I welcome the explanation of the Solicitor-General. Of course, the Amendment with which we are now dealing is really introductory to the main Amendment which inserts the new Subsections (4) and (5). The object the Amendment seeks is praiseworthy, and the Committee should agree with it.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Paget (Northampton)

I beg to move, in page 7, line 38, after "compensation," to insert: in respect of land other than land referred to in subsection (2) of section one of the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, 1946. Clause 9 is designed to set a new maximum for terminal compensation, and it is designed to do so, as the Financial Secretary explained, in the interests of landowners. It is designed to remove the unfairness of the 1935 level of values, but it is provided that the new maximum of compensation shall not exceed the difference between the value of the land in the state in which it was taken over and its value in the state in which it was handed back. That is a test which in ordinary cases would be eminently fair, but it may work very unfairly in the case of certain public authorities.

Perhaps I may quote a case which makes me interested in this Amendment. In Northampton we have a central park or sports ground. It was the old racecourse, and Northampton has grown all round it. During the war the War Office took it over and built a very elaborate camp on it. They put up a lot of extremely valuable brick buildings, a lot of drainage works, road works and so on, and it may well be argued that in the case of a private owner those new buildings on the racecourse have made it more valuable than it was before when it was taken over as an empty space. If that be so, then under Clause 9 the Borough of Northampton is entitled to no compensation at all, but the fact that those buildings are valuable buildings in the hands of somebody else, is not of much assistance to the Borough of Northampton, which is under a statutory obligation to take them away and re-create the open space. It would be very unjust indeed if the War Office, who put up those buildings, did not take them away again, or, at least, pay for them to be taken away. We ought not to be required to do it. That is one striking instance to illustrate this principle.

The way I have suggested doing it in my Amendment is to take the ceiling off the properties referred to in Section 1 (2) of the 1946 Act. That Subsection reads: The purchase, in a case falling within the last foregoing Subsection, of land—

  1. (a) which is the property of a local authority or which has been acquired by statutory undertakers for the purposes of their undertaking,
  2. (b) forming part of a common, open space or fuel or field, garden allotment, or held inalienably by the National Trust, or
  3. (c) being, or being the site of, an ancient monument or other object of archaeological interest, …"
Those all seem to be cases where buildings which might be of value to a private owner are none the less a liability to the particular type of public owner who holds those properties. They are all cases where that particular type of owner has to remove them and clear the land. A factory may be a very nice and valuable factory, but if the National Trust is, by reason of its constitution, obliged to take away that factory, it is no asset to the National Trust. Therefore, in these cases this ceiling ought to be removed.

It may be said that this Amendment is unnecessary because there is power in the discretion of the Minister to go over the maximum compensation where it is a question of clearing land under Section 52 of the 1945 Act. Of course, if I receive an assurance that that Section will be brought into operation in the sort of cases [...] have in mind, and, in particular, the specific case in Northampton, I shall be quite satisfied, but this is a point which ought to be cleared up.

The Solicitor-General

My hon. and learned Friend has described a particular class of case in which a local authority finds itself in a genuine difficulty having unwelcome buildings upon land which has been requisitioned. It cannot dispose of the land, very often it cannot remove the buildings, nevertheless, in relation to that land, it has a public duty to discharge. However, this Amendment goes much wider than the case he has in mind. Section 2 of the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, 1946, refers only to local authorities, the National Trust and so on, but it refers generally to statutory undertakers. Even if I felt that an Amendment were necessary, this one goes much too wide. However, my hon. and learned Friend has called the attention of the Committee to Section 52 of the 1945 Act, and that Section is the answer to the argument propounded for it is specifically designed to cover that kind of case.

He has asked me for a specific assurance with regard to the local authority he mentioned. I am not sure, without further investigation, that I could give such an assurance, but I can say that there is ample power to deal with the situation described, not only in the case of the particular local authority he mentioned, but in the case of other local authorities. That is the Section which would be used for the purpose of considering the case of those local authorities. It would be wrong for me to go further and give specific undertakings without knowledge of the particular sets of circumstances which may obtain in any particular case, but there is the power, and the power in proper cases, where the public interest requires, can and will be used.

It would be right also that I should say this: in a great many cases, before the land is handed back to the owner by the requisitioning authority, the buildings will have been removed by that authority. In cases in which it has not been done Section 52 can, if a suitable case is made out, be made use of, but often the question will not arise because already the buildings will have been removed. They have not been in the case described by my hon. and learned Friend, and there the question would be whether it falls fairly and squarely within the discretion to be exercised under Section 52. As my hon. and learned Friend said he would be prepared to accept an assurance if he thought it went far enough, I hope he will think it does so and that, in those circumstances, he will see fit to ask leave to withdraw his Amendment.

Mr. York

I think the Solicitor-General has dealt fairly with the point raised and that we should congratulate the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) on his success but, of course, exactly the same circumstance arises where an unwanted building is on the land of somebody who is not a public authority. Exactly the same argument can be advanced to protect the interests of people who have statutory obligations but who are not public authorities, notably the landowners, who have statutory obligations under the Agriculture Act, 1947, to manage their land according to the rules of good estate management, and where the buildings are preventing proper management of the land. I hope that the Solicitor-General's general undertaking will also include that sort of case, and that Section 52 of the 1945 Act will be used there.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. P. Roberts

I do not know whether the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) is satisfied with what the Solicitor-General has said. He asked for a right, and this same thing might apply to Sheffield, where war works have been put on to their land. I think there is a right to have that land put in order. I would support the hon. and learned Member for Northampton in asking for the right. On the other hand, if he is satisfied with the Solicitor-General's reply, representatives of other local authorities might not be satisfied. I do not think the right should be taken away from owners, whether local authority or private owners. We ought not to accept a permission instead of an obvious right.

Mr. Paget

I feel there is something to be said for the proposition that this ought to be a right, but my difficulty is that when I looked into the Amendment I found it was obviously too wide. In the Section from which we get the ceiling, we are dealing with such a wide variety of properties that it world he quite unjust to the public to say that any owner who, from a market point of view, has had the value of his land increased can say he thinks it would be more valuable if it were cleared and demands that it should be cleared. One has to weigh public and private rights together, and that would not be a reasonable thing. I think that right and discretion will, in substance, come to the same thing. Therefore, with the permission of the Committee, and I hope the hon. Member for Ecclesall (Mr. P. Roberts) will join in giving me that permission, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Turton

I beg to move, in page 7, line 38, after "not," to insert: where the interest in the land of the person entitled to possession of the land at the date when such compensation accrues clue is a freehold interest. There is a consequential Amendment which might also be considered, in line 43, at end, insert: and where such interest as aforesaid is a leasehold interest shall not exceed the damages which would be recoverable by the lessor at the date when such compensation accrues due under the lease under which such interest is held for a breach of any covenant in the lease not to assign or sub-let or alter the demised premises or to keep or put the same in repair during the currency of the lease or to leave or put the same in repair at the termination of the lease, less such amount as is shown to be due in respect of breaches which have occurred before the date when possession of the land was taken. This Amendment is designed to safeguard leasehold property. Let us regard the Government's drafting as satisfactory for freehold property for the moment; there is clearly a gap in the case of leasehold property. The excrescences put by Government Departments on land, and alterations to land, may not diminish the compulsory purchase price of the land, yet, by being there, they may impose a very considerable obligation on the lessee. It always helps if a concrete illustration is given, and we might take the conversion of a single dwelling into two or more dwellings, which might increase the value for compulsory acquisition. There would be no ceiling under this provision, but for the lessee that alteration might make him liable to a very heavy claim for the cost of returning it to its original position at the end of the lesase. This Clause does not deal with that situation, and I think it should do so.

The Solicitor-General

I was a little surprised to hear the argument which has been advanced, and I hope the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) will not think I am in any way lacking in deference to his skill and judgment as a Parliamentarian when I say that I rather expected that argument to be advanced in respect of the next Amendment, in line 43, at the end, to insert: increased by the amount of any expenses incurred in the rehabilitation of the land. I thought the argument was rather more relevant to that than to the present Amendment. I must ask the Committee not to accept this Amendment. It is a composite Amendment which, if our minds are ad idem should be read with the second Amendment to line 43, which the hon. Member has already quoted. There are very serious difficulties in the way of these two Amendments. They would result in a situation in which there would be a kind of dichotomy in the cases where there is a freeholder and a leaseholder. The leaseholder would receive terminal compensation measured in terms of the liability he assumes to his landlord in respect of repairs under the terms of the covenant contained in his lease, and the freeholder would receive compensation measured by the terms at present provided by the Clause.

If one looks at the position of the leasehold, one finds that different classes of repairing covenants impose different measures of liability. It seems unsustainable that the requisitioning authority acting on behalf of the ratepayers should have the measure of compensation determined by the nature of the obligation which the lessee has undertaken to his lessor. That, so far as the requisitioning authority are concerned, would be a mere matter of chance. They are not concerned with the contractual obligations undertaken by the lessee towards the lessor. Those obligations may be more or less exacting, and, if the Amendment were accepted, it would mean that the measure which is to be applied in respect of terminal payments would vary according to the form of the repairing covenant.

Secondly, the difficulty arises that sometimes it is the landlord, the owner, or freeholder, who is entitled to the terminal payment, and sometimes it is the leaseholder. It depends on each case within the category of owner as defined under the 1939 Act. The owner, as was defined, is the person who under the terms of the Act is entitled to receive the terminal payment, and the owner is defined in the definition Section of the Act as the person entitled to receive the rack rent. It may be either the freeholder or the lessee holding under the terms of the lease under which he pays a ground rent, but not a rack rent, and he would be entitled under the 1939 Act. The Legislature have already provided for the adjustment of the liability and right as between the lessee and the owner, and have done so by Section 2 of the Landlord and Tenant (Requisitioned Land) Act, 1944. That Section enables the lessee to obtain the benefit of payments made from the lessor to the freeholder.

Provision has already been made that once the terminal payment has gone out to those entitled to receive it, a fair apportion shall be made between them under the terms of Section 2 of the Act. I urge the view that the division of the terminal payment is not of concern to the requisitioning authority, and in justice ought not to be the obligation of the requisitioning authority.

Mr. Turton

If the terminal compensation in the case I gave were nil, how would that be divided between the lessor and the lessee—what would be the obligation of the lessee who has to pay heavy damages?

The Solicitor-General

I can answer that quite easily. If there is no obligation in that particular case to pay more than nil the division is equally nil. I am dealing with the case where there is an obligation to make a terminal payment because there is damage in terms of Section 2 of the 1939 Act. It may sometimes go to the freeholder, sometimes to the leaseholder. We have already embodied in our legislation the requisite machinery for determining between them who is to receive it and in what proportion.

There are other difficulties quite apart from that situation. First, there may be the case of a lease with no repairing covenant. Such leases are very rare but they may exist, particularly in verbal tenancies. In short leases one might find that sort of thing. In that case we may get the situation that there is no ceiling provided. Equally, there is a specific Act, the Leasehold Property (Repairs) Act, 1938, which applies to a certain category of property, and which exonerates the lessee from obligation to comply with the repairing covenant. Under Section of the Landlord and Tenant (Requisitioned Land) Act, 1944, in the event of the lease expiring during the period of the requisition, the lessee is relieved from the obligation to comply with his repairing covenant. In all these cases, the Amendment will not work because no ceiling will be provided.

Quite apart from that the substance of the matter is that what should be paid should be measured in terms of the actual physical damage done to the property; it should not be determined by the fortuitous circumstance of the existence or nonexistence of a repairing covenant and, if there is one, the form in which it is drawn. It would be extremely difficult to work as a matter of practice. The Amendment contemplates that when the quantum of the terminal payment is assessed there should be deducted from the amount of damages which will be payable under the repairing covenant a sum equivalent to the amount of damage incurred before the requisition began. It would be extremely difficult to do that in the case of many leases.

For example, take a lease which began 20 years ago, and which has a general repairing covenant. How, without knowing what the state of the premises was 20 years ago, when the lease began, is one to apportion that quantum of the damage which must be attributed to the pre-requisition period and that which must be attributed to the post-requisition period? From the point of view of the valuer it would not be practicable to do that in a vast number of cases—it would be a mere wild guess founded on insufficient information. From the necessity of the case it would not be workable. One would have to guess the damage that had been waived, the damages which had already been paid and various other circumstances.

In order to assess the compensation fairly and squarely in terms of the Amendment all these various circumstances, about which it might be next to impossible to obtain accurate and reliable information, would have to be taken into account. Such information might not be possessed by the lessee. It might only be in the knowledge of an assignor to him, or within the knowledge of a person deceased or within the knowledge of a land agent or estate agent who was no longer to be found. Quite apart from anything else, the proposal would be quite unworkable. For this and other reasons I hope that the Committee will agree that the Amendment should not be accepted, and that the terminal compensation should be subject to the terms of the Clause.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I am sure that the Committee is indebted for the learned answer which the Solicitor-General has given to the Amendment. Although I have heard a few legal arguments in my time, quite clearly it could not be expected that we should profess to have absorbed in one gulp the copious flow of legal instances which the hon. and learned Gentleman has poured upon us. I am sure he has done his best to give us an answer and I think that his answer deserves further consideration by us. I cannot quite feel that he answered the case made by my hon. Friend. There seemed to run through his speech the idea that this Amendment was directed to the method of ascertaining compensation, whereas it is not. It prescribes a ceiling above which the compensation cannot rise when it has been ascertained by the other provisions of the Bill. This ceiling is arrived at by taking the compulsory purchase price of the property in the state in which it was when it was requisitioned, and deducting from that the compulsory purchase price of the property in the state at which it is when the compensation accrues, and that is the limit which can not be exceeded. That is to be the ceiling.

The Solicitor-General

That is what I intended to say.

Mr. Morrison

I wanted to make that clear, because the Solicitor-General's argument was so phrased as to apply to the method of ascertainment of compensation rather than to the limits to be placed upon it. I hope that he will consider The matter further.

The general feeling which my Friends and I have about Clause 9 is that fixing this ceiling by the method I have described does not adequately discriminate between the problems which arise as between a leasehold on the one hand and a freehold on the other. It is evident that there will be instances in which it is to be the leaseholder who is to get this terminal compensation. Although I should like an opportunity of considering in greater detail what the Solicitor-General has said, I do not think he has quite met my hon. Friend's case. He said, quite truly, that what is to be compensated is the measure of damage to the property. The property of the leaseholder is the remainder of his lease, less the burden of the covenants contained in the lease. That is his interest which has to be compensated, and if, as in the case my hon. Friend mentioned, structural alterations are done to the property which may increase its value, then he gets no compensation. My advice to the Committee in this extremely complicated matter is that we should study, with wet towels round our heads or otherwise, the Solicitor-General's speech on this Amendment, and if we feel the necessity of bringing it forward later, it should be understood that we shall do so.

Mr. Turton

The Solicitor-General has put forward the point of view that my suggestion is too cumbrous and unworkable. I am prepared to believe that it is, for we have not got the drafting facilities which are at the disposal of the Government. What the Solicitor-General must make clear to the Committee and what he failed to do—

The Solicitor-General

I did not mean to say that the language used in the Amendment was cumbrous but that the hon. Member's proposal was not workable as a matter of practice.

Mr. Turton

The Solicitor-General made the point, which may be right or wrong, but what he did not do was to show that the Government, by their wording, were treating the lessee fairly. They have put forward in Clause 9 a ceiling different from that previously ruling under the proviso in Section 2 of the 1939 Act. Under that proviso there would have been a perfectly good ceiling for that lessee in a case where, as I instanced, a house was split up into two or more separate dwellings. He would have had, under this proviso, a fund from which he could pay his landlord terminal compensation for contractual alterations, but under the Government's plan there is not a penny piece. He owes his landlord a very large sum of money for the work done by the Government Department, and the Government, by their drafting, are giving not a penny to this wretched lessee. That is where I think the Solicitor-General has to find a better argument. We are dealing with a situation which is in the interest of lessees all over the country, and it does affect every lease, other than a verbal lease. It is important that the Government should, before the Report stage, devise ways of securing justice for the leaseholder.

Mr. C. Williams

I do not think any of us could have listened to the Solicitor-General without being confident that it was nothing but a volume of words which had little meaning to the lay mind. He gave us a flow of words with no sympathy or kindness of heart in his outlook, and just barely laid it down that the thing will not work. No doubt he sets considerable store by them, but, naturally, we begin to look suspiciously at the words he uses. As I understand it, the object of this Amendment is that a lessee under this Bill whose house, for the sake of argument, has been destroyed or damaged, or injured in some way is not able, when it is put right, to get any compensation—unless this Amendment is included. I will give way if the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to interrupt me, but that is how I understand his argument. He was against the lessee getting anything. If I am wrong I hope he will explain to me.

The Solicitor-General

The lessee may well be the owner, within the meaning of the definition under the 1939 Act, and therefore would receive the terminal payment himself.

Mr. Williams

Of course he may be the owner under the definition of the 1939 Act. I quite understand that. On the other hand, he may not be, and then apparently he would not get anything at all. That is my point. The hon. and learned Gentleman can quote other Acts and say that the lessee may be this or that, but the fact remains that there is a residue of people with leases who are apparently left out. My hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the Committee want, at dome period, to see that section of the community guarded.

May I give one illustration, which I am sure will appeal to some hon. Members? If property is let to a local authority who have a building on it, they are not the full owners under the 1939 Act. Supposing damage is done to that building. They are not the proper owners but, somehow or other, they have got to put the building right. That local authority might find itself in very great difficulty, and that is only one instance. A co-operative society, for example, might very easily be in that position, and the hon. and learned Gentleman would have let them clown. There are all sorts of people who might be affected, apart from the ordinary landlord. The fact remains that unless they happen to be guarded by the 1939 Act they are left out, and the right hon, and learned Gentleman with a hardness of heart no one would suspect—unless they have listened to a lot of his speeches—is deliberately cutting them out.

I am glad this Amendment was brought up. Naturally the hon. and learned Gentleman has other types of people in mind, and he hopes, I suppose, eventually to get the whole of property under the State, and ignore the lessees altogether. That is the possibility at the back of his mind. It is a very great pity. It is not a very honourable position which he has taken up in regard to this particular Amendment. I would ask the Government if they might not look at it again from a rather wider point of view than they are at present taking. We are not all lawyers, and we are not only legislating for lawyers. Most of us are trying to legislate for ordinary humble people, such as back benchers on both sides of the House. I am amazed at the attitude the Government have taken and that this Committee is so docile under the fluent and flatulent phrases of the Solicitor-General. I am glad that I have never yet heard anything of the same sort coming from any Tory Member anywhere at any time.

Mr. Turton

In the hope and expectation that the Government will reconsider this matter before the Report stage, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Turton

I beg to move, in page 7, line 43, at the end, to insert: increased by the amount of any expenses incurred in the rehabilitation of the land. This is a major Amendment and deals with a very great injustice contained in the Bill as drafted. May I clear up a point that was raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman for Northampton (Mr. Paget)? I presume that this new ceiling does not affect the work carried out under Section 52 of the 1945 Act, in any case, not merely the case which he quoted of his own town council, but of any owner in any category, whether under the Acquisition of Land Act special proviso or not. Since the Government brought out this new draft of the ceiling under Clause 9, there has been anxiety amongst most of the people who care for the restoration of the countryside as to whether the Government were trying to burke their responsibility under Section 52.

This new ceiling will hit very hard land that is of an undeveloped nature and of a low annual value. It will also hit land which has, or had up to the passing of Clause 9, a development value. I think we must put before the Committee those two specific cases where this Clause 9 is injuring the interests of rehabilitation, and, in particular, those cases of opencast coal workings, where the land has to be restored. The procedure, which I think is known to most hon. Members, is that at present, working, I presume, under Section 52, the Government Department restores the land to the extent of back filling and re-levelling the soil. The rest of the work of rehabilitation of that land includes the re-setting of the drainage, and the improvement to the top soil where it is possible—it is not very easy to improve the damage caused by the loss of fertility to the top soil—and also the replacement by quick hedges of the concrete I osts, which I believe the Government instal, under Section 52.

All that comes under that part of the terminal compensation covered by the new ceiling under this Clause. We must see whether the Government's ceiling for land which has been subject to opencast coal working will be sufficient in normal cases to provide for those three problems—drainage, recovery of fertility, and the alteration from concrete posts and wire to some better division in the form of quick hedging.

7.0 p.m.

If we take a type of land that is of the present value of £30 an acre, that land, after the coal has been taken out, presumably has a value of 5s. an acre per year, which is the lowest agricultural annual value. Therefore, in the case of ten acres of land subject to opencast coal work, its purchase price, before the Government came on the land, would be £300. Its value at the end of the working would be 5s. an acre which, commuted to 20 years' purchase, would mean that the land would be worth something in the region of £50. That means, therefore, that the Government are putting a ceiling on this land of £250, whereas before the introduction of this Clause there was a ceiling of £300. It is the experience of those who have been helping in this work of rehabilitation of opencast coal land that the previous ceiling was insufficient to secure the complete rehabilitation of the land. Unless this Amendment is accepted, this Clause will mean that less money will be spent on rehabilitation because there is this notional value on the land when the coal working has been concluded.

That is highly undesirable. It is perfectly simple to cure that state of affairs, and the method we suggest is the right one. We say that the ceiling should be increased by the cost of rehabilitation. Probably, at first sight it may appear to be more economical to leave all land damaged by opencast coal working completely unrestored, and to say that we need not bother about agriculture. That would be a very shortsighted view. It is important that, by his attitude to this Amendment, the Solicitor-General should secure that this land is properly rehabilitated. The way to do that is to increase the ceiling by the quantum of rehabilitation.

I said that there were two special cases where the ceiling was insufficient. There is the case of undeveloped land at £30 an acre, where it is a bad ceiling, because after land has been damaged there is always a residual value. Also, there is the case where land had a development value. Under this Clause the development value must be excluded. If I quote an actual case from Derbyshire, it may illustrate my point sufficiently vividly for the Solicitor-General to accept my argument. There was an area of one and a half acres of land used for agricultural purposes which had some development value. That land was damaged by opencast coal workings. The ceiling proviso under the 1939 Act was in the neighbourhood of £250. The cost of making good the damage was agreed between the Government Department concerned and the valuers at £150, and that was paid under Section 2 (1, b) of the 1939 Act.

Under this Clause the development value must first be eliminated. In the case of that one and a half acres, the development value was estimated at £150. Therefore, the value at existing use is put at £100—£250 less £150. The ceiling becomes even less, because although it will cost £150 to rehabilitate the land fully, probably the land could still be let for £1 an acre. Capitalising the £1 an acre at 30 years' purchase, that would give a capital value of £45. The ceiling becomes not the £250 under the 1939 Act, but a figure of £55 which is a little more than one-third of the cost of restoring that one and a half acres of land.

That illustration was given to me by a firm who deal with the opencast coal workings in the Midlands. It is a concrete case. This Clause reduces the ceiling to such an extent that land of this kind will not be rehabilitated in future, unless this Amendment is accepted. I make no party point when I say that I have been alarmed, ever since the war, to see how little the land of England has been rehabilitated. I have been appalled to note in my constituency not only the lack of speed at which rehabilitation has progressed, but the fact that owing to increased costs and stringency of labour very little work has been done. That is not only a loss to the owner or occupier of the land; it is a great national loss. I hope that by this Bill we shall not introduce a ceiling which will prevent the rehabilitation of that land. However poor the nation is, this is a matter on which we can afford to be generous.

Mr. Anthony Nutting (Melton)

I wish to support what my hon. Friend has said. I spent part of the last Recess in personal observation of the immense amount of damage done to certain land in Leicestershire by opencast coal working. My hon. Friend instanced a case in Derbyshire. I imagine that the position is about the same in Leicestershire. I know that the regulations according to which the opencast workings are made, provide that the top soil shall be separated from the rest, but, in every case in Leicestershire where these workings have occurred, that has not been done, with the result that, when the land has been handed back to the farmer, it is handed back as a beautiful, smooth, level and brown stretch of land, but, within about two months, it is holding water all over it, and, in five years' time, it will be full of potholes and will not even grow a crop of grass. Surely, farmers placed in that position, and having their land handed back to them in that state, are entitled to a much higher ceiling of compensation than they get under this Bill? It may be that the ceiling laid down in this Bill is based upon the belief of the Government that the land is, in fact, handed back in good order. I would ask the Government to believe me when I say that that is not the case, and, if they do not believe me, they should go to Leicestershire to the places where these workings have been carried out, consult the members of the local N.F.U. and see the situation for themselves. That land is not draining properly and will not even grow a crop of grass. I strongly support the Amendment, and I hope the Solicitor-General will accept it.

Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

May I also support this plea as strongly as I can? I have taken a double interest in opencast coalmining, not only from the point of view of the state of the sites where it has happened, but also in association with drainage authorities who are extremely interested in this matter. I would like to state one case in which the Government gave an assurance to a drainage authority that they could go ahead with their work because the land was not going to be requisitioned. The Ministry of Fuel and Power then changed their minds after the work had been done, and that work had cost over £700. It means that all that work has been wasted, and no benefit from it has been obtained in any way. That work was most necessary at the time and it will still be necessary afterwards. I ask the Solicitor-General to realise that when there is interference with land drainage, it does not only affect the land which is being torn up for opencast coal-mining, but the contiguous land as well. If ever there was a case of one particular section of the community being treated most unfairly, it is the case of the farmer whose land has been taken for opencast coal working.

Mr. P. Roberts

I also wish to support the Amendment and to make a plea for ordinary fairness. We have now got to the stage where the Government can deal with the situation on its face value, and I see no reason why there should be this restriction which the Government now suggest. I consider that the right way to deal with the matter is for the Government either to restore the land or pay for its restoration. If they do not, the result will be that the land will not be restored and we shall lose all benefit from it.

I would like to give a few illustrations, but, before doing so, I wish to declare that I have an interest in this matter, as I have certain land which is under requisition, and that fact has drawn my attention all the more to the injustice of this Clause. First, let me take the case of small pieces of land of smallholders and small farmers, whose land has been taken over, and on which, possibly, a hut has been built with a concrete foundation. It might be the case of half-an-acre of land on which a searchlight was placed. The cost of that land might possibly have been no more than £5, yet, to take up the concrete foundations and put back the land in order to grow cabbages or potatoes would cost about £30. Under this Clause, all that the farmer or smallholder will get is something less than £5. He is faced with having to pay £25 out of his own pocket to take away the concrete foundation which the Government left behind. There are many other examples which I could give, and I see no reason at all why the Government should not pay sufficient money to the owner or to the tenant of that land to put it back in its original state.

My second illustration, and perhaps hon. Members from Norfolk will bear me out in what I say upon it, is the Stanford battle area which was taken over. There is a great deal of agricultural land in that area. As a result of what the Government have done there in the last four or five years, the drains are blocked up and the place has become a wilderness. Before it was taken over, it had a good value, but the result now is that to restore it for agricultural use when the Government give it back will cost far more than the amount provided under this Bill. In that area there are the homes of agricultural workers and small farmers, and, under the present conditions of building, it is going to cost them, to repair their homes and property, far more than the original value of the land. Are the Government now going to say that they will get their compensation and can go somewhere else? That seems to me a most hard-hearted and impersonal way of treating them. I hope we shall have some support from hon. Members from Norfolk in this case, and that they will suggest that, if we are to get this Stanford area back into use as agricultural land, somebody will have to pay the cost of its restoration, and I suggest that, in all fairness, it should be the Government.

7.15 p.m.

I will not go into the subject of opencast coalmining at great length. All I can say is that, in the Sheffield area and in South Yorkshire, the most dreadful inroads into the agricultural population have been made in this way. I can bear out what my hon. Friend has said about drainage and the restitution of this land. We have another Amendment on the Order Paper which deals with that matter and its effects over the years to come, and I hope that the Government will accept both this Amendment and the one which deals with that particular point. We have had references to Section 52 of the 1945 Act, and I want to draw the Minister's attention to this, because I understand that his case is that, where there is hardship, the Minister has a discretionary power to pay more. What Section 52 of the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945, says is that this money will only be payable if— in the opinion of a Minister it is expedient in the public interest that the land should be dealt with in a particular manner with a view to the total or partial rehabilitation thereof. The suggestion is that, in all these cases, these people have to put their case to a Minister who discusses the matter of the public interest. We should now realise that the public interest demands that agricultural land should be restored so that it can go bad to its proper use and not be lost to the national economy altogether. Why should we say that everyone must go to a Minister; or is it that they want the people to go to one Minister, and, when turned down by him, go to another? In any case, what is the definition of "a Minister"? It means a Minister of the Crown, and that includes the Admiralty, the Commissioners of Works, the Board of Trade, the Minister of Education, but it does not include a Minister for Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, there are innumerable difficulties with which anyone with half-an-acre of land will have to contend in order to get it put right. I do not think that is a principle which the Government should accept. I say that it is in the public interest that the land should be restored and that, where the cost of restoration cannot be borne by the amount of compensation as already laid down, this Clause should be amended and the extra cost of restoration paid by the Government, who originally caused the damage.

The Solicitor-General

I would like to begin my answer to the arguments which have been advanced by dealing with the specific question asked by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton). He wanted to know whether Section 52 of the 1945 Act was applicable to the new ceiling, that is to say whether it was usable as a matter of law. I would advise the Committee that it can be used. The fact that a new ceiling is substituted for the old ceiling does not in any way affect the powers given by Section 52. In other words, the power is still available in the event of its being thought proper to increase the amount of the terminal payment which is forthcoming notwithstanding that it exceeds the ceiling provided for in the Bill.

I will now deal, in more general terms, with the argument which has been put forward for this Amendment, and which has been supported by frequent reference to opencast coal working. On the Order Paper there is an Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton which, if you select it, Major Milner, will no doubt, involve the specific question of opencast working more particularly than does the present Amendment. The new ceiling provides that the terminal payment shall not exceed the diminution in value between the compulsory acquisition price of the property as it exists, and what would have been the price had it been in the condition it was when requisitioning was first begun. We feel that that is fair. In the case of opencast working, it would not, ordinarily at any rate, unless there were any special features, be any less favourable than the maximum which was provided in the 1939 Act.

The amount of the compensation subject to the ceiling is defined, and has to be measured, in terms of Section 2 (1) of the 1939 Act. It is the estimated amount necessary to make good the damage. More than one hon. Member has referred to the case of a holding, an agricultural unit, which has a lot of opencast working on it, and has asked what happens in connection with the damage involved by that working. That is the sort of damage which would come within the scope of the estimate which has to be made for the purpose of assessing the terminal payment under Section (2) of the 1939 Act. The new ceiling does not operate, so far as that is concerned, in any way adversely to the owner of the agricultural unit.

We have, first, to see what damage has been done; then we have to estimate the cost of making that damage good. If the damage consists of the general disorder created by the opencast working, we must see what is the cost of making good that disorder. When that has been done we have to see what is the ceiling. As the law is at present, the ceiling is 1939 unrestricted value. Now the substitute is this: it is the diminution in value between the two amounts I have indicated—the amount of the compulsory acquisition price for the unit as it would have been, and the unit as it is. The compulsory acquisition price has to be ascertained in terms of the code laid down in the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, and previous Acts with which it has to be read.

In both cases—the compulsory acquisition price as it would have been if the property had not been damaged and the compulsory acquisition price as it would be for the damaged property—we have to take into account the elimination of development value. We have to take into account, also, the elimination of the scarcity value on the supposition of a notional lease ending in 1954. Those adjustments have to be made in both cases, and the result is that we have what is fairly and squarely the amount of the diminution in value caused by the damage. I submit that that is extremely fair. That is the right way to assess the ceiling.

Opencast coal working has been mentioned as an example, and I have said that the damage caused by the disorder in doing that work is the damage which would have to be made good as a first step in the computation of the terminal payment. The question is raised by this Amendment, which is general in its terms, as to what is to happen if the owner of the property gets back a converted property? He may have had a house which has [...] converted to some other purpose—for instance, a block of flsats—and tie question arises as to what is fair compensation in that case.

If this Amendment were adopted it would have the result that, although the owner would get back a changed property, increased in value owing to the war work done on it, he would be entitled to recover, as part of the compensation he would get, any actual loss in terms of e diminution in value, and also the cost of doing what would be unnecessary and undesirable, namely, the undoing of value which had been brought to that property by the change in Government user. Suppose a person had a plot of ground which was comparatively valueless, and the Government requisitioned it and put a factory on it; suppose that person got back the plot of ground and the factory. If the Amendment were adopted it would mean that he could recover the expense of a useless and anti-social proceeding by saying, "I will do away with the factory; I will rehabilitate that ground to the condition in which it was before."

Colonel Dower (Penrith and Cockermouth)

Could the hon. and learned Gentleman give us a concrete example?

The Solicitor-General

I mentioned the case of the house converted into a block of flats. Its value would be increased. I agree that it could be said that the owner might want to get back his house, and not a block of flats. Nevertheless, I suggest that it would be an extremely wasteful proceeding, from a national point of view, that he should be entitled to recover the expense of reconverting the block of flats into a less valuable unit, although perhaps a more valuable unit from his own point of view. That would simply be destroying wealth. That is the effect which the Amendment would have, and I hope the Committee will agree that it ought not to be accepted.

Mr. York

The hon. and learned Gentleman has said that he will deal with opencast coal working in a later Amendment. Could he tell us which Amendment he means?

The Solicitor-General

Certainly. Perhaps I was rather presuming in thinking that the Amendment would be selected, and that this point would be raised upon it. I had in mind the Amendment to Clause 10, page 8, line 29, which specifically deals with the question.

Mr. Turton

May I point out, first of all, that that Amendment does not deal specifically with opencast coal working, any more than does this? Nor does it deal with the rehabilitation of the land. This is the only opportunity we shall get to deal with the problem of rehabilitation of land damaged by opencast coal working. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will really deal with the problem of opencast coal working.

7.30 p.m.

The Solicitor-General

Perhaps I made a wrong assumption as to what would be involved in this Amendment. If so, I am sorry, and I withdraw it. I do not feel that I can add much to what I have said. I have made two points with regard to opencast coal working. The first is that the ceiling, the maximum suggested, is not necessarily less generous in the case of opencast coal working than was the preceding ceiling. It does not in every case limit to a greater extent than the preceding ceiling the maximum amount of the terminal payment that can be made. The second point I made was that when there is a piece of ground or property which has been thrown into disorder owing to opencast coal workings upon it, one looks to see what is the terminal compensation that one would get. One finds that the damage done is just what has to be taken into account in assessing the amount, which is subject to the ceiling. I have submitted to the Committee that there is no reason to assume that the ceiling is less generous than it was before.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

A little time ago the hon. and learned Gentleman put forward a proposition that, in the assessment of damage, we should include the cost of the rehabilitation of the land. Is that so? I would like to ask him to expand his statement a little more. Has it been the practice up to date, to take into account, in the case of opencast coal mining, the cost of rehabilitation of the damage? One would have thought that the proper rule was to take the value of the land before the operation, and the value of the land after the operation was complete. The hon. and learned Gentleman has said, in terms, that in assessing the extent of the damage the cost of rehabilitation would be taken into account. I regard that as a very important statement.

We are getting away from the value of the existing conditions, and we are taking into account not the difference between the existing condition and the condition beforehand but what, in fact, should be taken into account, the cost of putting the damage right. Has that practice up to now been the rule, with regard to opencast coal mining? Could the right hon. Gentleman inform us of that? That is a very material point in discussing the Amendment. Although I hesitate to venture an opinion upon that matter, I do not think that in the ordinary assessment of damage to property of that character we take that element into account.

The Solicitor-General

I am much obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman for his intervention. I will endeavour to answer it. I am informed that it is the practice to take it into account. Whether it is the practice or not, I would advise the Committee that, in my view at any rate, in so far as it can be said that there is damage—and there must be damage to the holding—it must be taken into account. There are two stages involved. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that we should simply take into account the difference in value. That is not quite accurate. What we have to do first is to turn to Section 2 of the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939. We find that it provides for the compensation that is payable. Then we look at Subsection (1) and we find that the first computation we have to make is in regard to that paragraph (b), that is, a sum equal to the cost of making good any damage to the land.

As a matter of terminology, those words clearly include any damage done by opencast coal working. We work out the sum which would include that damage and we then proceed to a further stage. In both cases, under the old Act and under the Bill, we have then to ask what the ceiling is. What is the maximum amount of terminal payment that can be awarded in respect of making good that damage? Only then do we get to the stage of ask- ing what the ceiling is. The ceiling is measured by the difference in the diminution in value, the contrast between what would have been the compulsory purchase price of the land when it was first requisitioned, and the compulsory purchase price of the land in the state in which it now is, when handed back to the owner. We take the difference between those two, and it constitutes the diminution of value which is to be the maximum amount, the ceiling, which is to limit the total amount of money we can pay out by way of making good that damage.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

Does it not follow from what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said, that we recover, in fact, far less than the cost of restoration?

The Solicitor-General

It depends upon the figures and the nature of the damage in each case. I must confess that I am not an expert in these matters and that I speak subject to correction, but ordinarily it would be less than that ceiling. With property which has diminished in value substantially because it has been converted from a fine piece of land which could have been put to a particular purpose into a rather gloomy waste because of opencast coal working upon it, the diminution of value would be very considerable and might be very much in excess of the actual cost of making good that work.

On the other hand, I can well conceive cases in which the cost of making good the damage would exceed the diminution in value. That position would not be limited to land which has had opencast coal workings carried out upon it. It would include any form of property where we might find that the cost of making good would be limited by the ceiling. If hon. Members object to the existence of a ceiling—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—if the Amendment is designed to remove the ceiling and to do away with it altogether, that is a point of principle upon which we would find it quite impossible to give way. There must be a ceiling beyond which the cost of restitution cannot go.

In my Second Reading speech, I explained why there must be ceilings to deal with the matter of scarcity value, and so on. We have adopted what we consider to be a fair limit. The Act provides that the cost of making good that type of damage together with other types of damage can be included within that ceiling. For those reasons, I ask the Committee to say that the Amendment ought not to be accepted.

Major Sir Thomas Dugdale (Richmond)

As is his custom, the Solicitor-General has given us a very interesting speech, but he did not say one word to convince the Committee that they should not support the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Mahon (Mr. Turton) and supported by other Members on this side of the Committee. The legal dissertation which he gave to the Committee was of great interest but the logical conclusion of his speech seems to enforce the argument which we have used that some words should be put into the Bill to ensure that rehabilitation takes place. The objection which my hon. Friends have to the particular ceiling is that it will stop rehabilitation.

Leaving the legal side of the question for the moment, I believe a question of principle is involved, and the principle is that, although we may not like it, we are now engaged in this new industry of opencast coal mining because it is necessary for the nation, and year by year very large areas of agricultural land are being damaged. Looking to the future, if, on the one hand, we are to benefit from the coal which is necessary for the nation today, and, on the other hand, rehabilitate the areas from which the coal has been taken, every facility should be given to ensure that land which has been used for opencast coal mining should be put into a proper state for agriculture in future years. We believe, further, that this can only be done if legislation by the Government of the day is fair to the owners of the land, and the compensation is sufficient to ensure that the rehabilitation is properly carried out.

My hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Mr. Nutting) gave us instances in Leicestershire where he has seen land handed back looking suitable for agricultural purposes, but in which, after a very short time, potholes have developed, so that great expense was incurred by the owners in getting it into good productive order and into good heart. For these reasons we believe that there should be some Amendment in this Clause dealing with the new ceiling to ensure that rehabilitation can take place.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) referred to drainage. That, again, is an extremely important point in this connection, because the work of opencast coal mining affects drainage in areas far beyond the area in which the actual working takes place. I am glad my hon. and gallant Friend mentioned that point. I do not wish to repeat the details of the case put forward by my hon. Friend, but, in view of the very unsatisfactory reply which we have received from the Solicitor-General, I must advise my hon. Friends to vote in favour of this Amendment.

Mr. Wilfrid Roberts (Cumberland, Northern)

I am not a lawyer, but I think I understood what the Solicitor-General said in his explanation, and to me it would appear to reveal a very serious position. Supposing one assumes that it is reasonable to have a ceiling for compensation in respect of land compulsorily taken, what I presume hon. Members who support the Amendment are saying is that there are concrete cases in which this ceiling will not be sufficient to compensate the farmer or owner for the damage done on his land. It will not enable the farmer or the owner to put his land back into the state in which it was before it was taken from him compulsorily. If that is the case, surely the Solicitor-General cannot believe that the formula is satisfactory.

7.45 p.m.

To begin with, it is completely unjust to a man who has his land taken for these purposes. It may be that in the interests of the community it is not worth restoring the land. If that is so, the owner must be compensated or dealt with in some other way, but if the formula which provides for the maximum compensation—the ceiling—does not give justice to the individual concerned, it seems to me to leave the position in a most unsatisfactory way. I hope the Solicitor-General will reconsider the point.

From the wider point of view, there is also a very strong case for saying that the land ought to be restored to the state in which it was before the coal was taken out, in so far as that can be done. That, however, is in the national interest; it is not a question of justice to the individual concerned. It might be better to take the land from the owner and rehabilitate it; that is quite a different question. The immediate question which this Amendment raises, and which is left in an unsatisfactory way, is that the formula will not give the compensation which the ordinary layman, with a reasonable sense of justice, feels the owner should have. He has had his land taken from him compulsorily, and he ought to be compensated so that he has some asset which is equal to the value of the land before it was taken from him. The Solicitor-General has suggested that the operation of the ceiling may make it impossible for that to be done.

Mr. Fairhurst (Oldham)

The answer given by my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General might be quite clear and to the point in this Committee, but how the farmers will understand it I do not know. I had much difficulty in following his answer. Two very interesting points have been submitted which have made this almost a major discussion. I refer to the question of the damage done to good arable farming land by outcrop coal excavation. The question of the payment of compensation to farmers is of vital importance. To my own knowledge, the damage done to farmland in Lancashire is almost irreparable, perhaps because the people there do not know how to treat the land, and it may be that with experience they will be able to do more justice to the land as time goes on. The fact remains that in the country at the moment their are thousands of acres of land in such a condition that it is impossible to give the farmers any adequate monetary compensation. No compensation of a monetary nature can be paid for what has been done to the land.

The Solicitor-General referred to the estimated amount necessary to make good the damage. No farmer is yet aware of what he is likely to receive in compensation for the damage done to his land. Farmers are not only disturbed and disappointed, but whenever a farmer receives a requisition order stating that his land is to be taken over he has a feeling of impending calamity. We cannot play about with the question like this. In the next year a further 50,000 acres of farmland may be taken over. As a rule, the period in respect of which the normal rent allowance is paid for land which has been requisitioned has been four or five years. All that a farmer has put into the land prior to that date, and all that he should have earned is lost; there is no compensation for that. I would like the Solicitor-General to say whether consideration will be given to that factor, and to the fertility which a farmer has put into the land, when compensation is paid?

A further point is the question of land when it has been so-called restored, but which the farmer knows it is almost impossible to plough because the subsoil is probably so feet lower than it was before. I am told that the new method of restoring the land is much improved, and that it is giving more satisfaction. But all that we can talk about at the present time is what they have lost in the past. This question of monetary compensation is not the only point that matters. The farmer ought to feel assured that his land is going to be put back in such a way that he can do justice to it later on. But to do that will cost a lot of money.

I suggest to my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General that this question seems to be one of special compensation for farmers in respect of the land that has been taken from them. I do not know how it can be done, but, maybe, the people responsible can do something about it. It is going to be a very difficult question. Is my hon. and learned Friend going to say that it will be determined by the 1939 Act, plus 60 per cent.? I can imagine a farmer saying, "What use is that to me if, in future, I cannot find a buyer for my land? My land is now in such a condition that I cannot sell it." All these are major points, and I think my hon. and learned Friend will be well advised to have a further look at this matter before anything is decided.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I intervene at this juncture because it may well be that I can put a point of view which will bring some reality into this discussion. Before I do so, however, may I remind the Committee that yesterday we were faced with pages and pages of Amendments, and it was then decided behind the Chair that as it is always unwise, if we can possibly avoid it, to sit into the early hours, we should, by common agreement, try to split this thing into two. It was, therefore, decided that if we stopped where we did last night, we should get the rest of the Bill in reasonable time this evening. At the rate of progress we are making, that undertaking will not fructify.

I am sure it is not anyone's expectation or anybody's desire that we should waste time discussing things which, perhaps, are not as important as some others on the Order Paper. [An HON. MEMBER: "This is very important."] I am riot saying that this is not important; it obviously is, judged by the number of hon. Members who have spoken. But I think that some, at any rate, of the speeches have been made under a misconception of the true position.

It is true that my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General referred to opencast coal. He did so because opencast coal was originally drawn into the discussion by hon. Members opposite, and it has since been referred to by my hon. Friend the, senior Member for Oldham (Mr. Fairhurst). It is true that, in another connection, and in another Amendment to a Clause yet to come, we may be discussing agricultural land, and the fact that some of it has been taken for opencast coalmining may be used as an illustration of what hon. Members are trying to do.

Mr. York

It is not so.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

It is quite clear that what is very naturally worrying hon. Members is the position of the farmer who finds his land taken over for opencast coal working. Where that does not occur, obviously no great damage, unless war works have been placed on the land, can be done to it. So let us be realistic about it, and face the facts. In every instance where, up to now, land has been taken over for opencast coal purposes, it has been the policy of the Government to do an enormous amount of rehabilitation to that land. For instance, they fill in all the potholes.

Mr. York

That is not true.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

This is generally so, and if the hon. Member knows of instances where it has not occurred, I should be glad to hear of them in order to see what I can do. I am telling the Committee what in fact, the Government do. I happen to be a minor Member of that Government, and I know what they are doing.

Mr. York

What they try to do.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

They back-fill—or whatever the phrase may be—or, at least, they try to, and, in my view, they succeed—they back-fill the excavations and put on fresh top soil. They re-level, and they grade the land that has been disturbed. Then they fertilise and seed it. If necessary, they put up posting and wire fences, and, possibly, in some cases, start to grow hedges. At any rate, they fence in the land. Generally speaking, the land, in every case, is put back into an efficient state to be used for grazing.

That is not all. It is well understood that further rehabilitation is necessary if justice is to be done to the occupier or the owner of the land. At that stage, these compensation terms come into operation. The difference is made up to the owner or occupier who still suffers some damage and loss because the rehabilitation has not gone the full 100 per cent. As to the terms of compensation, what we have done is to take the terms which this House accepted, and to which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite were parties when it was put into earlier enactments. This basis was laid down in 1939, and what we are doing here is to bring it up to date in the light of changed values. The quarrel of hon. Members opposite, if I may say so—

Mr. Turton

The real germ of the trouble is this. All the expert advice with regard to opencast coal working, is that Clause 9 as drafted by this Government gives a lower ceiling than the 1939 Act. That is the advice of the valuers engaged in assessing the value of land used for opencast working.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

That is a matter of opinion, and, in certain selected cases, it may be so. For that the reason may be that development value has been taken out of it—and that, if I may say so, although it has not been mentioned tonight, is what hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are worried about—

Mr. P. Roberts

I must refute that. I am sure there is no such suggestion. The main thing we want the Government to answer is this. Where there is land which costs more to be put back into use than the Government are prepared to pay, where is the money to come from? Otherwise, the land will become derelict.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Under the terms of the compensation laid down—which are the terms, apart from the fact that we are changing the ceiling, which were inserted in the 1939 Act—the type of case envisaged by the hon. Member for Ecclesall (Mr. P. Roberts) could not possibly arise, except where development value entered into the old computation under the 1939 values. It would not enter into the computation now, because what formula is the present compensation based on? We take the value of the requisitioned property in its undamaged state, not at the values in force at the time of requisitioning, but at the value today of that land or the buildings thereon in an undamaged state; then we take the value of the land in the damaged state; and then we take one value from the other.

That seems to us fair. I am sorry to say we cannot go beyond that. We have to have some ceiling. In the case of opencast coal mining, where the land is very much interfered with, we do a great deal of the rehabilitation ourselves. Therefore, that case, as an example, is not a good one. In our own interests as a Government, as custodians for the nation, we are anxious to see that agricultural land should be used to the full. Our dilemma at the present moment is that the nation wants coal and it wants food. Unfortunately, the taking of opencast coal interferes with agricultural land, which is also needed for food production. Therefore, it is to our interests not only to take the coal, and to do it efficiently, but then, at the earliest possible moment, to see that the land is rehabilitated and returned to agriculture. We think we have done this. There are bound to be anomalies, but there are certainly not as many as the Opposition would have us believe. I hope, therefore, that the Committee will agree with us that this Amendment should be resisted, and that we can have the Clause as it stands.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

The right hon. Gentleman started by making an appeal for more progress, and then ended rather provocatively by saying that what lay behind all this is the question of development values. There is nothing of the sort. I want to make an appeal to him. In the matter of opencast workings, there is a case of substance which was not appreciated by the Solicitor-General. I am not blaming him. It is true that in some cases efforts have been made to restore the surface, but it is also true, as the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Fairhurst) pointed out, that there is a great deal that has to be done in the way of rehabilitation which does not appear at first sight. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will say that between now and the Report stage he will give the matter further consideration in cases where land is returned and a great deal more rehabilitation is required to be done to bring it back into proper agricultural production.

That is what we want, and what we ought to consider. We look at it from the point of view of food production and from the point of view of the farmers who produce the food. We ask for consideration of the cases in which there is a difference of value, though not very great, and the rehabilitation which the farmers have to do exceeds that difference, and then the ceiling comes into operation. In spite of all that has been said by the right hon. Gentleman, I think there is a case there for reconsideration, although it is a case of a limited character. If the words of the Amendment are not right, perhaps, suitable words could be found. Could we not—I make my appeal now to the right hon. Gentleman—save a Division and the time that that involves, by having from the right hon. Gentleman an assurance that he will give this matter further consideration between now and Report stage?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Most certainly, and I should like to tell hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that before the night is very much older, they may feel that we have gone some way in meeting the points that are raised. We are anxious to help the farming community. We have had consultations with the National Farmers' Union. We realise that they look with some degree of trepidation on what is happening in some of the areas—some of the Midland areas, for instance. There are other enactments we may be able to call to our aid, and it may be, before we finish our labours tonight, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite may feel we have gone a long way to meet them.

Mr. Turton

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider, not only the case of opencast coal workings, but the whole question of amenity land that is involved? Will he give some assurance about that, so that on Report stage we can look at it anew?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I should not like to go as far as that. I do not think I could.

Mr. York

As I understand the situation, we have not received the assurance asked for by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton). The Financial Secretary has now refused point blank to give that undertaking. I think I am right in saying that he refuses to reconsider this question. If that is so, then we must really make plain what it is we want him to understand. Obviously, the Solicitor-General did not realise what the problem is, and I do not believe the Financial Secretary realises it, either. I shall confine my remarks entirely to opencast coal mining. I realise that this Amendment includes all sorts of restoration work, but I want to leave that completely out of the argument, so that I may focus the attention of the Treasury upon the single issue of opencast coal mining.

In the West Riding of Yorkshire there are thousands of acres of practically derelict but restored land. Let me explain that. When opencast coal mining started in the West Riding, assurances were given that restoration would be carried out. When the machines had passed over that land, great restoration was carried out; and the people who had carried out that work, the agricultural committees and the Ministry of Fuel, brought parties to see the magnificent work that had been done in restoring the land. In the year that that land was finally—so they thought—restored, it was a very fine sight. They did have crops growing. What happened subsequently is proof beyond all possible doubt—anybody can go to see it today—that that restoration was a purely temporary restoration; that all the promises that the Government made about restoration were, to that extent only, carried out; but that the real restoration, the expensive restoration, is still to be done.

The point is this. Under the ceiling provisions of this Clause there is no further possibility of paying compensation for further restoration. What we are asking is that there shall be. Let me give one or two illustrations. The land has been restored by the Government and handed back by the owners, who may be farmers or landlords. They have got to spend more than the value of the land upon redraining the land, and that can- not be done in five years; it is my opinion that it ought to be left at least 10 years before it is done. To redrain a field today costs between £22 and £27, while the land itself may be worth only about £25 an acre. There is a case in point where the compensation provisions of this Bill simply cannot touch the restoration problem. There is an illustration which I am trying to put before the Government, which must induce them, if they wish the land to be restored to agriculture, to alter this ceiling which they have put into the Bill. Drainage is only one of the works of restoration, but it is by far the most important. There are other considerations as well.

In order not to waste time, I will give only one more example, although there are many others. I refer to the question of the topsoil. People sitting in Whitehall may hear stories of the subsoil being put down first and then the topsoil being put on the top of it. Nothing of the sort happens. The whole lot, or at any rate a very great deal, of the topsoil is mixed in with the subsoil, and it is all dumped together. By and large, as my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Mr. Nutting) has explained, where there is a pocket of clay and a pocket of subsoil

when has not been separated from the topsoil, there is a puddle of impervious soil which holds water, and upon which no crops can grow. Is it or is it not right that the after-restoration of those puddles should be the expense of the Government Departments which caused the trouble?

Add that and many other aspects to the drainage problem, and I am sure the Financial Secretary is fair-minded enough to realise that there is a great deal more in the contention we have put forward than he appreciates at present. I will not go on, because I think the information which the Financial Secretary has is not adequate to enable him to answer the argument. However, I hope that what I have said will make him realise that he has not the proper picture in his mind.

Several Hon. Members


The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Whiteley)

rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 260; Noes, 116.

Division No. 63.] AYES. [8.13 p.m.
Acland, Sir R. Chetwynd, G. R. Fairhurst, F.
Adams, Richard (Balham) Cluse, W. S. Foot, M. M.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. Cobb, F. A. Forman, J. C.
Alpass, J. H. Collick, P. Fraser, T. (Hamilton)
Attewell, H. C. Collins, V. J. Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.
Awbery, S. S. Colman, Miss G. M. Gallacher, W.
Ayles, W. H. Comyns, Dr. L. Ganley, Mrs. C. S.
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B. Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G. Gibbins, J.
Bacon, Miss A. Corlett, Dr. J. Gibson, C. W.
Baird, J. Cove, W. G. Gilzean, A.
Barnes, Rt. Hon A. J. Daggar, G. Glanville, J. E. (Consett)
Barstow, P. G. Daines, P. Gooch, E. G.
Barton, C. Davies, Edward (Burslem) Greenwood. A. W. J. (Heywood)
Battley, J. R. Davies, Ernest (Enfield) Grenfell, D. R.
Benson, G. Davies, Harold (Leek) Grey, C. F.
Berry, H. Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.) Grierson, E.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)
Binns, J. Deer, G. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)
Boardman, H. de Freitas, Geoffrey Guest, Dr. L. Haden
Bottomley, A. G. Delargy, H. J. Gunter, R. J.
Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W. Diamond, J. Guy, W. H.
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Dobbie, W. Haire, John E. (Wycombe)
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Dodds, N. N. Hale, Leslie
Bramall, E. A. Donovan, T. Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvii
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Dumpleton, C. W. Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.
Brown, George (Belper) Dye, S. Hardy, E. A.
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Harrison, J.
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty) Hastings, Dr. Somerville
Buchanan, Rt. Hon. G. Edwards, John (Blackburn) Haworth, J.
Burke, W. A. Edwards, N. (Caerphilly) Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel) Herbison, Miss M.
Callaghan, James Evans, A. (Islington, W.) Hewitson, Capt. M.
Carmichael, James Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Hobson, G. R.
Castle, Mrs B. A. Evans, John (Ogmore) Holman, P.
Champion, A. J. Ewart, R. Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)
House, G. Morris, P. (Swansea, W.) Snow, J. W.
Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Mort, D. L. Solley, L. J.
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr) Moyle, A. Sorensen, R. W.
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Murray, J. D. Soskice, Maj. Sir F.
Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme) Nally, W Stamford, W.
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Naylor, T. E. Steele, T.
Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.) Neal H. (Claycross) Stross, Dr. B.
Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.) Summerskill, Dr. Edith
Janner, B. Oldfield, W. H. Sylvester, G. O.
Jay, D. P. T. Oliver, G. H. Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Jeger, G. (Winchester) Orbach, M. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.) Paget, R. T. Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools) Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth) Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow) Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Jones, J. H. (Bolton) Palmer, A. M. F. Thomas, John R. (Dover)
Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin) Parker, J. Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Keenan, W Parkin, B. T. Tiffany, S.
Kenyon, C Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe) Timmons, J.
Key, C. W. Paton, J. (Norwich) Titterington, M. F.
Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E. Pearson, A. Tolley, L.
Kinley, J. Perrins, W. Ungoed-Thomas, L.
Lang, G. Poole, Cecil (Lichfield) Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J. Popplewell, E. Viant, S. P.
Lee, F. (Hulme) Porter, E. (Warrington) Walker, G. H.
Lee, Miss J (Cannock) Porter, G. (Leeds) Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Leslie, J. R. Pryde, D. J. Warbey, W. N.
Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton) Pursey, Cmdr. H. Watkins, T. E.
Lewis, T. (Southampton) Randall, H. E. Watson, W. M.
Lindgren, G. S. Ranger, J. Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Longden, F. Rankin, J. Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Lyne, A. W. Reeves, J. Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.
McAllister, G. Reid, T. (Swindon) Wheatley, J. T. (Edinburgh, E.)
McEntee, V La T Richards, R. White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.)
McGhee, H. G. Ridealgh, Mrs. M. White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
McGovern, J. Robertson, J. J. (Berwick) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Mack, J. D. Ross, William (Kilmarnock) Wigg, George
McKay, J. (Wallsend) Royle, C. Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.
Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.) Sargood, R. Wilkes, L.
McKinlay, A. S. Scollan, T. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Maclean, N. (Govan) Scott-Elliot, W. Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
McLeavy, F. Segal, Dr. S. Williams, D. J. (Neath)
McNeil, Rt. Hon. H. Sharp, Granville Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Macpherson, T. (Romford) Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes) Willis, E.
Mainwaring, W. H. Shurmer, P. Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Marshall, F. (Brightside) Silverman, J. (Erdington) Wise, Major F. J.
Mathers, Rt. Hon. G. Silverman, S. S. (Nelson) Woodburn, A.
Medland, H. M. Simmons, C. J. Yates, V. F.
Mellish, R. J. Skeffington, A. M. Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Middleton, Mrs. L. Skinnard, F. W. Zilliacus, K.
Mikardo, Ian Smith, C. (Colchester)
Mitchison, G. R. Smith, Ellis (Stoke) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Moody, A. S. Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.) Mr. Collindridge and
Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.) Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.) Mr. Wilkins.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness) Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Amory, D. Heathcoat Drewe, C. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.
Baldwin, A. E. Duthie, W. S. McCallum, Maj. D.
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Fyfe, Rt. Hon Sir D. P. M. Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)
Beechman, N. A. Gage, C. Maclay, Hon. J. S.
Bennett, Sir P. Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. MacLeod, J.
Birch, Nigel George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke) Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells) George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey) Maitland, Comdr. J. W.
Bowen, R. Glyn, Sir R. Manningham-Buller, R. E.
Bower, N. Grimston, R. V. Marshall, D. (Bodmin)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Haughton, S. G. Maude, J. C.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Head, Brig, A. H. Medlicott, F.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C. Mellor, Sir J.
Butcher, H. W. Henderson, John (Cathcart) Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)
Byers, Frank Hogg, Hon. Q. Neven-Spence, Sir B.
Challen, C Hope, Lord J. Nicholson, G.
Clarke, Col. R. S. Hurd, A. Nield, B. (Chester)
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.
Cooper-Key, E. M. Jeffreys, General Sir G. Nutting, Anthony
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Jennings, R. Odey, G. W.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Keeling, E. H. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Davidson, Viscountess Lambert, Hon G. Osborne, C.
Davies, Clement (Montgomery) Langford Holt, J. Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Digby, S. W. Law, Rt. Hon. R. K. Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Ramsay, Maj. S.
Donner, P. W. Lindsay, M. (Solihull) Rayner, Brig. R.
Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G. (Penrith) Linstead, H. N. Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Roberts, Peter (Ecclesall) Strauss, H. G. (English Universities) Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie
Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.) Sutcliffe, H. Wheatley, Col. M. J. (Dorset, E.)
Robinson, Roland Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne) White, Sir D. (Fareham)
Ropner, Col. L. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.) Williams, C. (Torquay)
Sanderson, Sir F. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Scott, Lord W. Thorp, Lt,-Col. R. A. F. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Shephard, S. (Newark) Turton, R. H. York, C.
Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow) Vane, W. M. F. Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W. Wadsworth, G.
Smithers, Sir W. Wakefield, Sir W. W. TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.) Walker-Smith, D. Mr. Studholme and
Stoddart-Scott, Col. M. Ward, Hon. G. R. Brigadier Mackeson.

Question put, and agreed to.

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

The Committee proceeded to a Division, but, no Members being willing to act as Tellers for the Ayes, the DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN declared that the Noes had it.

The Solicitor-General

I beg to move, in page 8, line 2, to leave out "purchase," and to insert "acquisition."

This is a drafting Amendment. It substitutes the word "acquisition" for the word "purchase," because this is the form of terminology which is now generally adopted.

Mr. C. Williams

I approve of this Amendment, because the word "acquisition" is more in keeping with actions of this Government, as it implies compulsion.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 8, line 16, leave out "purchase," and insert "acquisition."—[The Solicitor-General.]

The Solicitor-General

I beg to move, in page 8, line 23, at the end, to add: (4) Where during the period for which possession of the land was retained damage (other than war damage) occurred to any such work as is mentioned in paragraph (b) of the last foregoing Subsection, the amount to which the compensation is limited by virtue of Subsection (1) of this Section shall be increased so as to take account of that damage to such extent as may be just having regard to any such expense, agreement or payment as is mentioned in Subsection (2) or (3) of the said Section forty-one. (5) Section fifty-four of the Act of 1945 (which provides for certain purposes that where a payment in respect of the value of works has been made under Part II of that Act the provisions as to compensation of Section two of the Act of 1939 shall have effect as if a new period of requisition had begun on the date of the payment) shall not have effect as respects compensation under paragraph (b) of Subsection (1) of the said Section two. I have already addressed the Committee on this Amendment when moving the Amendment in page 7, line 37. It is designed to raise the ceiling in the case where an owner has made a payment under Section 10 of Part II of the 1945 Act. I do not think the Committee will desire me again to deploy the argument I used on the former occasion. As the Committee have accepted the first Amendment, it seems logical that this Amendment also should be agreed to.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.