HC Deb 15 May 1950 vol 475 cc866-8

3.32 p.m.

The Secretary for Overseas Trade (Mr. Bottomley)

I beg to move in page 1, line 12, to leave out from 'that," to the end of line 12, page 2, and to insert: (a) where at the time of the publication, in accordance with the provisions of the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act,. 1946, as hereinafter applied, of notice of the preparation in draft of a compulsory purchase order the industrial building to which the draft order relates is in occupation for a purpose involving the use thereof to a substantial extent for the carrying on of any industrial process or in connection with any such process for the time being carried on by the occupier of the building, the Board shall not have power to make the compulsory purchase order; (b) where on an objection duly made under the said Act of 1946 as so applied any owner, lessee or occupier of the industrial building to which a draft compulsory purchase order relates represents that the building will be in such occupation as aforesaid within three months, the Board shall not make the compulsory purchase order (but without prejudice-to the holding of any proceedings between the preparation thereof in draft and the making of the order) until the expiration of three months from the making of the objection or such longer period as the Board may allow, and where such an objection is made the last foregoing paragraph shall have effect with the substitution for the reference to the time of publication of notice of a reference to the expiration of the said period of three months or the said longer period, as the case may be. This Amendment arises from an undertaking given by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade during the Committee proceedings. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Alder-shot (Mr. Lyttelton) argued that in the original draft the Board of Trade was given far wider powers than were necessary. This Amendment is designed to meet his wishes and to give the courts jurisdiction. Assuming unwillingness on the part of an owner and insistence on the part of the Board of Trade to acquire premises, the procedure results in a deadlock. The owner, for example, says the premises are occupied to a substantial extent for carrying on an industrial process, or the owner says they will be so occupied within a short time. The Board of Trade decides to go ahead with a compulsory purchase order, then the owner is served with a notice stating a time allowed for objections. Perhaps I ought to say what the procedure would be then. Objection having been made, the Board of Trade would order an inquiry. The objections raised at the inquiry and a full report of the inquiry are then submitted to the Minister. The Minister, then, if he thinks fit, can give the order his fullest blessing.

On the other hand, it may be contended that although the premises are not at present used, they will be in the near future. The Minister can then decide how long he thinks is reasonable to allow for that purpose. It will not be possible to make a compulsory purchase order until whatever time that has been allowed has elapsed. Once the order has been made the owner, if he still feels aggrieved, may apply to the High Court. He can apply under paragraph 15, Part IV of the First Schedule to the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, 1946. Let us assume he claims that on the relevant date the premises were in fact being occupied to a substantial extent for industrial purposes. If the court on such application then decides in favour of the owner's objection, the order will be set aside or modified by the court and the Board of Trade have to agree. I think the right hon. Member for Alder-shot will agree that the Amendment goes all the way to meet his wishes—at least I hope it does.

Mr. Oliver Lyttelton (Aldershot)

I should like to thank the Government for having met the point we raised on this matter. I think they have fully met it. Under (a), as I understand it, if a mistake should be made then the aggrieved party would have recourse to the courts. A mistake is very unlikely, as this is a definite matter of fact. If any mistake should arise it might arise in connection with the words in the Clause: Or in connection with any such process for the time being carried on … I see some possibility of dispute about that. It only remains to thank the Government for having met our point of view. I think the Amendment is a definite improvement to the Bill.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)

I am sure my right hon. Friend is right in saying that the main point put by the Opposition on Committee Stage has been met by this Amendment. I want to suggest, however, that a further small improvement is possible and to offer it for the consideration of the Government between now and a later stage of this Bill in another place.

The main part of the subsection refers to land including industrial buildings so that the acquisition need not be only of a building. It may include with that building a considerable amount of surrounding land. It is not restricted to the curtilage of the building. The proviso, both in its original and in its amended form, relates only to the building. I suggest it would be neater, and also desirable for a very good practical reason, that the proviso should also refer to the land including the building and not merely to the building.

It is, for example, possible, that there might be a case where the Board proposes to acquire with an industrial building a considerable area of surrounding land, which was in use for or in connection with industrial processes, for example, for storage. It might also be that that land or part of it was intended to be used in the following months by an adjacent factory for the purposes of the process they were carrying on. I am sure that in these circumstances the Board of Trade would not wish to acquire the land. Therefore, as the main part of the subsection refers to land including buildings, the security which is given by this proviso should extend not merely to the buildings but also to any land acquired with them. I hope the Government will consider that small point of drafting, which is also a point of substance, on a later stage of the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.