HC Deb 16 June 1953 vol 516 cc917-36

12.9 a.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture (Mr. G. R. H. Nugent)

I beg to move, That the draft Coastal Flooding (Acreage Payments) Scheme, 1953, a copy of which was laid before this House on 20th May, be approved. This is the first scheme under the Coastal Flooding Act, which has recently been put on the Statute Book. I would first say a word of thanks to my hon. Friends who have given so much help in the passage of the Act and in the preparatory work of drafting the scheme, and to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite who joined in the informal consultations which were of great assistance in getting the schemes into the form in which we have them now.

This first scheme provides for the making of acreage payments for the rehabilitation of agricultural land and allotment gardens damaged by the flooding of 31st January this year. The Act provides that schemes may be made for five years. This scheme runs for one year only, and schemes in the future will vary according to the progress made in rehabilitation and the varying needs of the land. The Schedule of payments that appears in the scheme is, broadly speak- ing, the same as was provisionally proposed by my right hon. Friend on the Second Reading last April. I think they are already well known to hon. Members and to farmers.

There are two additions to them. I would call attention to the fact that in the first paragraph of the Schedule there is a new column of payment rates, which are half the full rates. This has been added to cover the position of land damaged by sea-water but not flooded by it. The water seeped in underneath the land, up through the drainage system, and damaged it. A payment at half the full rate should cover the need for rehabilitating that land. The other addition is the flat-rate payment of £16 an acre to cover allotment gardens, as agreed following the debate on Second Reading. The minimum acreage to qualify for the scheme is that specified in the parent Act, half an acre. The position of allotment gardens is covered by allowing them to be aggregated by any allotment society, so that in any particular case they add up to not less than half an acre.

The payments fall under four main headings. Land under crops at 31st January, qualifies for the full rate in the first part of the Schedule, provided that the land was actually flooded. If, on the other hand, it was only damaged by seepage it qualifies for the half rate. The second category is land which was grassland at the time of the flooding. In the second part of the Schedule there is an acreage rate to be paid according to whether the grassland was temporary grassland or not, or whether it was mainly or completely destroyed, or only partly.

The third category is for bare land, to which the damage has not been too serious, so that in the opinion of the county agricultural committee a crop could usefully be grown on it this year. In the third part of the Schedule are payments roughly at half the full rates to cover the cost, which might otherwise fall on the farmer concerned, of growing the crop. The fourth category is for land which was bare at the time of the flooding and, in the opinion of the committee, should remain bare because its condition is such that it should be left for at least another year before it is cropped.

That is the bare outline of the scheme. These acreage payments are intended to enable farmers to proceed with the rehabilitation of their land and get it back into full production. That work of rehabilitation will have to go on continuously. The basic need, of course, is to see to the drainage of the land, to see that ditches are kept open and that field drainage is worked, and we have been able to give some extra assistance in that connection. At the same time, the farmer will be receiving advice from the county agricultural committee as to what crops he should grow, what cultivation he should do, and in many cases what things he should not do to let the land recover. In many cases gypsum will be applied to free the land from salt.

That is the broad picture of the acreage payments which we propose. The scales proposed are not ungenerous. I hope and believe that they will be sufficient to enable farmers in the East Coast areas, many of whom suffered considerably last winter, to keep going on their farms with a reduced acreage of productive land and, at the same time, restore progressively into full production the land which was so seriously damaged.

12.16 a.m.

Mr. George Brown (Belper)

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary said that some of us had been engaged in informal conversations with him about the draft Statutory Instruments which we are debating tonight and he thanked us for our help in getting them into the condition in which they now are. I was very glad to take part in the conversations with the hon. Gentleman, but in the light of what I am going to say I hope he does not thank us for the condition in which these Statutory Instruments appear to me to be.

Subject to explanation, I find it very difficult indeed to agree to the passage of this scheme tonight. The hon. Gentleman said quite rightly that the purpose of the acreage payment was to help bring about the rehabilitation of the land damaged by floods on 31st January and in the period immediately after that. Was not the intention, not to pay compensation for damage which had occurred to crops, but rather to make payments relating to the damage in such a way that the farmer might be helped to bring the rehabilitation about as quickly as possible? That is the very sentence used in Section 13 of the Coastal Flooding (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1953: For the purpose of promoting the rehabilitation of arable or pasture land…. As the draft is now drawn, by design or by accident, for the greater part the payments have been wholly divorced from any provision for the rehabilitation of land.

When we were discussing the Bill which is now an Act the question arose how we should deal with the land. We were told, and the words are in Section 13 (1), that the land would be dealt with … in such of the modes hereinafter mentioned as may be specified in the scheme…. But there is nothing specific in the scheme now before us about the modes that are to be employed.

Delegated legislation has been very heavily attacked, but here we are doing very much more than delegating legislation and very much more than having a general enabling Act and then a Statutory Instrument. We are having a Statutory Instrument which, we were promised, would specify the modes to be employed; but with reference to acreage payments, all that that Statutory Instrument states is: … in respect of the dealing in an approved mode during the year 1953 with land of the kind referred to in subsection (1) of the said section. The land is not to be dealt with in the mode aforementioned as the Act says; the land is now to be dealt with in "an approved mode." What is meant by that? We are told that "approved" means approved by a County Agricultural Executive Committee. So the specifying, which was not done in the Act, and which it was sought subsequently to do in the scheme, is to be done neither in the Act nor in the scheme; but is to be done by a county agricultural executive committee whose actions cannot be queried in this House.

I regard this as an offensive form of Statutory Instrument, wholly contrary to the undertaking given, and contrary to the provisions of the Act itself. One doubts very much if the county agricultural executive committee, miles away from this House, is going to be in a position to enforce its orders at all. Let us suppose that the county committee decides to approve in a particular case mode (a) under Section 13 (2) of the Act— the use thereof for the growing of crops of such description as may be specified in the scheme. The county committee gives an order to a farmer, and he asks by what authority it is enforced. The committee says it is by the Act, and the farmer turns up the Act, and finds that it must be justified in the scheme. Then, he looks at the scheme, and finds that there are no crops specified as being crops which must be grown in order that the acreage payments shall be made.

I gave the Joint Parliamentary Secretary notice that I would raise these points, and so be has no doubt armed himself with all the answers. Perhaps I could draw his attention to the Schedule, where at the beginning we read: Where the land was, on 31st day of January, 1953, wider any of the crops specified or described in the first column hereunder, acreage payments shall be at the rate specified opposite to the appropriate name or description of crop … I would remind the Parliamentary Secretary that here we are talking in terms of £80 an acre. It does not say that one of the crops now specified shall be grown on the land in question. If the farmer had his land under asparagus, or bulbs, at 31st January, he will be entitled to expect under this scheme that he is going to get £80 an acre. If the county committee says, "No, we will only pay that provided you agree to crop this land with some other crop" and the man challenges it, from where does the county committee get its authority to enforce the growing of some other crop?

There is nothing which gives power at all. There is no specified crop to be grown, as the Act stated there would be. It is specificially stated, Where the land was … under any of the crops specified … acreage payments shall be at the rate specified … and with no clarification or limitation at all. I say that is departing wholly from the purpose and, indeed, the words of the Act, because we are now to pay up to £80 an acre as compensation for the damage and not as a payment to bring about rehabilitation.

The same arguments apply equally to paragraph 2 of the Schedule, land that was under grass. The kind of grasses that it had to be under at that date are mentioned, but nothing is said about what is to be done with that land. There is no loss of crops specified to be planted or grown on the land that was under grass on 31st January.

Coming to paragraph 3, land that was bare on 31st January, we get a list of crops specified. The man who had bare land who claims payment has, by the words of paragraph 3, to undertake to plant one of the crops mentioned. The very fact that it is specifically provided for him and is not provided for either of the other classes must clearly be interpreted to mean that there is no specification for the other classes. Paragraph 3 says: Where the land was bare on the 31st day of January, 1953, and any of the crops specified or described … sown or planted during the year 1953…. That is provided for the bare land, but the land that was under grass on 31st January, 1953, does not require to be sown or planted with any list of crops, and none is given. The land that was under crops at that date does not require to be planted with any list of crops, and none is given.

So, much as we would like to assist the Parliamentary Secretary at this stage with an easy passage of this draft scheme—and during the last two hours I have been at some pains to help him to get himself into a position in which he could perhaps allay our fears—this scheme departs so completely from the terms of the Act, and does not comply in any way with what we were told was to happen, that I feel it very difficult even to promise that we can let it go through at all. I do not believe it right to pass an Act of Parliament to say what is to happen and then delegate responsibility to county agricultural executive committees whose work we shall never know about. I believe that is wrong. I believe still more that it must be wrong, if the Act says that the money can only be paid for one of a group of crops which are to be specified when grown, to pass a scheme providing for the paying of the money without any question about the sowing or growing of certain crops, and even without specifying them.

I will not press the matter further now, but I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will give us some answer. If, as I think is bound to happen, he has to say there is no specification, no list of crops, in the case of paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Schedule, then I ask him to withdraw the scheme to give us time for having some talks about it. What we do not want to do is to let the scheme slip through tonight and then find we are handing away £80 an acre without any limitation.

There is just one other small point. I am not clear about the date by which the claims have to be in. I gather the date is to be 15th July, 1953, by which date any person desiring to apply for acreage payments must have his application in, subject only to the provision that the Minister may in special circumstances allow a longer period. I have had great experience of this. I know what happens in Departments when chaps get behind the date—and there are always people behind the date; an awful lot of minutes are written to say there are no special circumstances, with long correspondence and argument going on. It is much better to have a date in the first place that gives people a reasonable time. This is now 17th June.

I find it very difficult to believe that it is reasonable to say, under a scheme that we are not making until the early hours of 17th June that all the claims of all the farmers, allotment holders and allotment societies affected must be in by 15th July. It is a period of less than one month and I believe that it is a wholly unreasonable time. If that date is left in, there will be lots of claims made outside that date. However, in my view, that is a smaller point. I am much more concerned with the larger point that this scheme seems to be contravening the provisions of the Act, and it is to that point that I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to address himself in particular.

12.31 a.m.

Mr. A. J. Champion (Derbyshire, South-East)

I did not have any part in the negotiations which may have taken place on this scheme, and therefore I approached it with a completely fresh mind when it appeared in the Vote Office. It seemed to me not to carry out the intention of the House when they parted with the Measure, or with what I understood to be the undertakings given by the Minister on the Committee stage. I was of the opinion that these payments would be so much a part of the rehabilitation scheme that the method of rehabilitation would, as far as practicable, be set out in any such scheme set before us. That is not the case with this scheme.

The Minister has said that under this scheme the farmers will receive advice from the county agricultural executive committees. I did not understand that that was all that would happen; advice certainly, but the scheme was intended to provide that the payment should not be made unless rehabilitation was actually taking place. I believe that payments should be made which can be regarded as compensation, but payments which are not ungenerous should be part and parcel of a scheme which will bring this land back as rapidly as possible into full production.

There are payments which amount to as much as £80 per acre—a pretty substantial part of the taxpayers' money going to people whose land was damaged and who suffered loss, but they are at the moment the keepers of that land on behalf of the nation, and we want to ensure by a scheme of this sort that we shall not only be paying them these sums up to £80 per acre but that the land will be undergoing a process of rehabilitation which has been very carefully worked out.

I am bound to agree that it is not possible to work out these schemes down to the last detail, for obviously someone in the immediate vicinity of the land and knowing the land must take the final decision whether the land can be brought back into full production. Nevertheless, having regard to the wording of the Act and the undertakings which were given during every stage when it was going through this House, we should at least have something in this scheme which tells us something of the nature of the obligations on the part of the farmers and of the way in which the Minister is instructing his county agricultural executive committees how these payments shall be made and, indeed, how they shall be withheld in cases where farmers are not doing what they ought to rehabilitate the land which has been damaged by salt water. I hope the Minister will satisfy us on these points. I do feel that there is a serious omission from the scheme which has been agreed with the Treasury and is before us tonight as to the process of rehabilitation before the demands of farmers whose land was damaged are met.

12.35 a.m.

Mr. Nugent

If I may have the leave of the House, I will reply to the points raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) and the hon. Member for Derbyshire South-East (Mr. Champion). With regard to the point made strongly by the right hon. Gentlemen, that this scheme was giving a carte-blanche to the county committees so that they were in no way controlled by the wish of the House as to how they dealt with applicants, I think, although I agree that it is a trifle involved in the relationship between the scheme and the parent Act, that county committees are tied by the definition of mode.

It is true that in paragraph 3 of the scheme the operative words are "… dealing in an approved mode," which appear in the fourth line. And "approved" is defined as meaning "approved by a county agricultural executive committee." Then, at the bottom of the page, it states that "mode" means: one of the modes of dealing with land referred to in subsection (2) of section 13 of the parent Act. So that county committees, in deciding what mode to approve, have before them only the four modes specified by Section 13 (2) of the parent Act. To that extent the county committees are directed precisely by the four modes which we ourselves have approved.

With regard to the general principle of what farmers are required to do in return for acreage payments, I have been clearly under the impression, and I thought the House was, that in this matter we were concerned with two things, namely, with recovering the cost of the farmer's operations to him, so that the actual spending he has been engaged in would be recovered by him through these acreage payments, and some element towards rehabilitation as well. In this first scheme we have to deal with the condition of the farms at the time of the flooding. Naturally, there were crops in the ground which was flooded, some tillage, some grass. We must have regard to what was the farmer's actual cash loss at the time due to the crops being in the land.

Mr. G. Brown

We must get this clear. That is not what the Act says. There is nothing in Section 13(1) about recouping the farmer for cash loss, with some element, as the Parliamentary Secretary says, towards rehabilitation. It says simply, For the purpose of promoting the rehabilitation of arable or pasture land … At what stage was it decided to change and to start recouping the cash loss?

Mr. Nugent

It is evident that if the farmer is deliberately to be left out of pocket through the flooding, which would be the effect if he received nothing for the crops which were in the ground at the time of the flooding, his prospect of having sufficient cash resources to carry on his farming through the current year would be gravely prejudiced. We must interpret rehabilitation in a broad fashion if we are to enable this man to get going on the farm and to make a sufficient living to remain there. The acreage payments on the crops in the ground at the time of flooding, whether tillage crops or grass crops, are based primarily on what would be an outgoing valuation at the time, and I think that is the right basis on which to pay the farmer, to enable him to keep going and to bring the land back into a productive state as soon as possible.

Undoubtedly the scheme gives the committees power to advise farmers concerned to grow a certain crop or to leave the land fallow, if they wish, though they have no longer the sanction with the autumn sown crop of withholding a payment if he does not comply. With the spring sown crop or any other operation to follow after the event, obviously if the farmer is not willing to accept the advice of the committee, the committee will withhold the money, but it seems to me a practical method to see that farmers receive acreage payments for the crops which were in the ground and were damaged at the time of flooding.

Mr. Brown

We are now faced with a scheme which has nothing to do with the Act and for which there is no power in the Act. Where in the Act is the Minister given power to make acreage payments for losses suffered during the floods without having to require that certain rehabilitation takes place? Which Section gives power to recoup losses due to flooding of 31st January? I am not asking whether the Minister thinks it right; the time for that was when the Bill was before us.

Mr. Nugent

The operative Section is Section 13, which gives the Minister power to make payments in respect of the dealing with such land, in any of the relevant years (as hereinafter defined), in such of the modes hereinafter mentioned as may be specified in the scheme. The basis of the acreage payments is on what it costs; it could not be otherwise. How else could we assess the acreage payments? There is the sanction which the committee might apply—it was mentioned in the debate—that if the farmer is unwilling to follow their advice in the ultimate instance they can take action against him for bad husbandry, but other than that there is no sanction except withholding the acreage payment on crops planted afterwards, but it is physically impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to reverse the process where the crop has been sown beforehand.

Mr. Brown

We know that the crop was sown beforehand and was flooded. We know we passed the Act to enable us to make payments to the farmer to help him in rehabilitation, which includes some element of money which he needs because of loss, but it was set out in the Act that he should proceed to deal with the land in a specified way. What I am asking is that since no way of proceeding with the land is specified in the scheme, how can he require the man to deal with the land in a specified way? His answer has been that he is not trying to do that but is merely trying to recoup the man for his past loss. I have asked where in the Section he is given authority to do that, and so far he has failed to tell us.

Mr. Nugent

The possibility of attaching a condition to a payment which has been made for something which had been done previously would be extremely re- mote. All that can happen here is that if, in the case of crops which were in the ground at the time, the farmer subsequently fails during the current year to follow a course of good husbandry as advised by the committee, as I said in my opening remarks, his prospect of receiving a payment under the next acreage scheme will be very gravely prejudiced.

12.46 a.m.

Sir Lynn Ungoed-Thomas (Leicester, North-East)

This is an important point and, at the moment, it seems that the hon. Gentleman is under a staggering misapprehension as to the effect of the Section. I am obliged to him for giving way, and I hope that his doing so will enable him to answer the point that I am arguing. Perhaps he will be good enough carefully to follow what I put to him.

My first point is that there is no provision at all in Section 13, or as far as I can see elsewhere in the Act, for making any payment in respect of crops which were on the land and have been destroyed. He has said that some part of the payments provided for in the Schedule to the scheme are payments in respect of past crops. To get that clear, I would ask him to follow the words I shall read from Section 13 (1), leaving out the words which are irrelevant: For the purpose of promoting the rehabilitation of … land … the Minister may, in accordance with a scheme … make … payments in respect of the dealing with such land … That is, future dealings with such land— … in such of the modes hereinafter mentioned as may be specified in the scheme and determined in accordance therewith to be best calculated in that year to secure the rehabilitation of the land. It relates to rehabilitation and future dealings with the land. It has nothing whatever to do with past crops. It is simply and purely dealing with rehabilitation and with land in accordance with the four methods specified in the section for the purposes of rehabilitation. Thus, my first point is that there is no provision at all for making any allowance for past crops.

The second point—perhaps the hon. Gentleman will deal with it at the same time—was also raised by my right hon. Friend. It relates to the provision in Section 13 (2), which is concerned with the various modes of dealing with land. It says: The said modes of dealing with land are— (a) the use thereof for the growing of crops of such descriptions as may be specified in the scheme … In other words, the descriptions of the crops must be specified in the scheme. The only place where there is specification of crops for the purposes of rehabilitation is, as my right hon. Friend said, in the third category of the scheme where the land is bare. There is no provision in either of the other categories, where there are crops and where there is pasture.

I would test that by putting this question to the hon. Gentleman. Does he contemplate in the case of the first category, that of crops mentioned in the Schedule to the scheme, that the agricultural executive committee should have power to require asparagus to be grown again upon the land? I can see no provision in the scheme which enables the committee to require asparagus or anything else to be grown again. If that is his intention, the scheme does not appear to me to carry it out. I ask expressly, therefore, whether or not he contemplates that the county agricultural executive committees should have power, where an asparagus crop has been grown before, to require that an asparagus crop should be grown again.

Mr. Nugent

The answer to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's first point of where do I find in Section 13 a provision for making compensation for crops is to be found in the operative words he himself read out—— … the Minister may … make out of moneys provided by Parliament payments in respect of the dealing with such land … in such of the modes hereinafter mentioned as may be specified in the scheme and determined in accordance therwith to be best calculated in that year to secure the rehabilitation of the land. It seems to me that these words can reasonably carry the meaning I am putting on them; that for the rehabilitation of the land it is necessary that farmers should receive these acreage payments for the crops in the land at the time if they are to proceed with the work we want them to of bringing this land again into production.

Regarding the second question of whether I anticipated that the county agricultural executive committees are likely to advise a farmer, under the Schedule, to replant his land with asparagus where he had asparagus in the land at the time of the flooding, the answer is that it is possible that they could, if they thought it desirable. I should think it is extremely unlikely.

Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas

Where do they get the power to do so?

Mr. Nugent

The scheme seems to me to be specific as regards powers. In paragraph 3 we have: Subject to the provisions of this scheme, the Minister may make acreage payments thereunder to the persons whom such payments fall to be made in accordance with the provisions of subsection (4) of section 13 of the Act in respect of the dealing in an approved mode during the year 1953…. An approved mode is clearly defined as what is approved by the county agricultural executive committees. The modes are the four modes laid down in Section 13 (2) of the Act.

Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas

The mode is one of the modes indicated in subsection (2) of the Act, but subsection (2, a) indicates as the mode: … the growing of crops of such description as may be specified in the scheme. There is no crop specified in the scheme. That is the whole point.

Mr. Nugent

The Schedule certainly specifies the crops.

Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas

Crops to be grown?

Mr. Nugent

It certainly specifies all the crops we are dealing with in this compensation scheme.

Mr. G. Brown

We are not trying to make it awkward for the hon. Gentleman. Paragraph 3 of the Schedule, says: Where the land was bare on the 31st day of January, 1953, and any of the crops specified or described in the first column hereunder is approved…. that is clear. But, in paragraph 1 of the Schedule it merely says: Where the land was …"—

Mr. Speaker

This is becoming a sort of dialogue instead of a series of speeches. I hope hon. Members can confine their remarks to as few as possible.

Mr. Brown

We are all in difficulty about this scheme since nowhere can we find from where it derives its powers. Nor can we find in the scheme the particular things which the Act specified were to be there. We are trying to ask the Joint Parliamentary Secretary where they are. If we make a speech and a reply is given without telling us where these things are, how are we to prevent the scheme slipping through at this outrageous hour?

Mr. Speaker

Hon. Gentlemen are entitled to make their criticisms of the scheme. The Minister is entitled to reply. What I am protesting against is a series of speeches from both sides. Surely the matter can be dealt with more conveniently if the criticisms are made, the answers given, and then the scheme either accepted or rejected?

Mr. Brown

Would it be helpful to ask for the assistance of the Leader of the House? If the scheme were withdrawn it would give us a chance to talk behind the Chair about what quite clearly is a difficulty. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Opposition will not hinder the progress of the scheme.

Mr. Nugent

I apologise if the scheme has caused difficulty. It seems to me that the difficulties have been magnified by the right hon. Gentleman. As the Act was something we have been all agreed upon and have got through as a matter of urgency it would be most unfortunate to try and force this matter now. While I am reluctant to hold up the passage of the scheme, if the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends think that further discussion informally is likely to clarify this difficulty I am more than willing to offer that. If that is the will of the House I shall be pleased to withdraw it and bring it forward again. In the circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

12.57 a.m.

Mr. Nugent

I beg to move, That the draft Coastal Flooding (Compensation for Emergency Work) Order, 1953, a copy of which was laid before this House on 20th May, be approved. This is the scheme for compensation for work done under the parent Act. The scheme itself is fairly long and complicated, and I do not propose to go into great detail on the various provisions at this time. Once again we had the advantage of informal consultations in its preparation which, I think, did facilitate matters. Broadly speaking, the parent Act gives the Minister power to authorise river boards in those areas where the coastal flooding took place to do all necessary work to restore and strengthen coast defences to prevent flooding of the kind we had last January.

Where the highway is concerned, there are also powers for my right hon. Friend to work in co-ordination with the Minister of Transport, and where necessary to authorise the highway authority instead of the river board to do the work. These emergency powers give my right hon. Friend, through his agents, the river boards, power to cut across the interests of private persons and public bodies in an exceptional way in order to deal with this emergency. The purpose of the Order is that where the exercise of any of these powers may result in injury to the rights or interests of private persons, it will provide compensation.

The structure of the draft Order follows that of Section 3 of the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, which refers to compensation in respect of work on land under the Defence Regulations. In following that structure we follow a precedent set up for a similar purpose. The main features are found in paragraphs 4 and 5. Paragraph 4 provides compensation for occupiers of land on which work is to be done which results in loss of rental value of the land. In such cases, quarterly payments may be made, and continue, until the end of the restoration period which is defined in paragraph 6. During the period of the work and the restoration period, where compensation is to be paid, it is in reference to the rental value. At the end of the restoration period, if the person with an interest or estate in the land, as paragraph 5 says, considers that there is a lasting injury to the land, he has a claim for compensation under that paragraph, if he considers that he is injuriously affected.

People who have a claim may be either the occupier, the tenant, the landowner, or the mortgagee; in fact, anybody with an interest or estate in the land. In each case the claim will be assessed as in paragraph 5(1) either on land which is affected by the work or on the site itself. There again, there may be compensation for injurious affection. The position in the second case follows a slightly different procedure, the same procedure as if the land on which the work was done had been compulsorily purchased under the Land Clauses Act, 1845. This is a familiar procedure, used in the ordinary process where compulsory purchase orders are issued for acquisition of housing sites, and so on. This also covers claims for disturbance which may arise under the paragraph, for such things as loss of crops, exhaustion of manurial values, loss of rents or removal of dwell-inghouse, where the dwellinghouse may have been in the path of the new coast defence wall which was built, and the occupier had to move to another.

The restoration period in paragraph 6 is the period ending with the earliest of these three days: 12 months after the end of the works period, i.e., 30th June, 1954; the day when the river board tell the occupier of the land that they have completed all the restoration work that they consider practicable; the day when the notice of the compulsory purchase order is served. That ranks as the end of the restoration period.

Paragraph 7 deals with damage to private ways. Normally a river board will restore them to their former condition. If not, a claim for compensation lies for the cost of the repairs when the river board hand them back. Paragraph 8 gives protection to a local authority in respect of statutory undertakings. Paragraph 9 provides for payment of interest when compensation is due. Paragraph 10 fixes the time limit for claims. Paragraph 11 provides the appeal machinery for disputed claims to go to the Lands Tribunal. Paragraph 12 covers cases where any land on which work has been done by a river board or other authority is compulsorily acquired by that board or authority. We think that there will be few cases where a board will find it necessary to acquire land.

That is an outline of this rather complex and comprehensive scheme. As was suggested in our conversations, a brief note has been prepared for circulation to all those who have an interest in the affected land. That note will be circulated by river boards to persons affected by the operations.

It will advise them to make their claims and will indicate the nature of the compensation that they will receive. It is also the normal practice for the Minister to pay the fees of the claimant's valuers when assessing claims.

1.7 a.m.

Mr. G. Brown

I thank the Joint Parliamentary Secretary for the courtesy with which he met what must have been very troublesome questions on the previous Order. I assure him that I meant what I said when I stated that the Government would not suffer unnecessarily as a consequence. I thank him particularly for what he has said on this very complex and difficult scheme. I have a suspicion that the reason why we did not clear up informally the points on the other scheme was that we got very involved in this one and that we omitted to look as closely as we should have done at the other.

With one exception, it seems to me that in this Statutory Instrument the Government have done everything that we could have hoped that they would do. I was very glad to hear that an explanatory memorandum is to be circulated. I attach great importance to that because I do not think that any small man who may be affected will understand this Order. I have made one criticism before which the Government have not met, and I repeat it only for the sake of the record. It is that I feel that the compensation offered in paragraph 4 (1) to the occupier of the land will not prove adequate.

The assumed rental value of the land in its damaged or disturbed condition is to be deducted from the actual pre-work rental value of the land, and the compensation is to be limited to the amount of the difference between the two. At first sight that seems to be fair play. We appear to be giving a man what the work must have cost him. But, in fact, it is less.

As I have pointed out before to the Ministers, there may well be a small farmer whose land has not only been reduced in its rental value because some part of it has been taken but who, in order to keep his livestock going, may have to rent compensation land elsewhere. As I understand it, he will get nothing in the way of compensation at all for anything but the bare difference between the old rental value and the reduced rental value while the work goes on. I must say that I should have thought the Government could have gone the extra bit and widened these words without committing themselves too far in order that such a man could have had recourse to the arbitration tribunal on that basis. The tribunal could then have determined the actual losses.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary say if I am unduly pessimistic in thinking that the actual words of paragraph 4 (1) rule out a claim being made before an arbitration tribunal? I feel that the very last words, … and shall be an amount equal to the difference. are so very limiting that even submission of a claim could not be made. We have put all these points in informal discussions, but I do suggest that it is unfair to limit the compensation too much.

I think we should compare the compensation given to the occupiers of land to that for local authorities for drains and sewers, and to statutory undertakers, for the facts are startling. In the second section, the compensation is going to be pretty full, even although it is these bodies that are able to bear the cost rather than the small men in the first case. I should be grateful if the Parliamentary Secretary will represent to the Minister that we think there seems to be an injustice here and that further consideration might be given to it and perhaps an amending Order brought in if we are thought to be right.

We are all agreed that this is a complex subject, and I think that everybody concerned will have to employ professional advisers to make claims and fill up forms. I understand that when that is done, in certain circumstances, the costs to the small men who employ professional advisers will be met by the board paying the compensation. Otherwise, these chaps are going to avoid using professional advice and lose thereby.

I conclude by thanking the Joint Parliamentary Secretary for his explanations, and his right hon. Friend for the way he has tried to help us all the way through, and, if my criticisms could be borne in mind, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we on this side of the House will be only too pleased to pass the Order tonight.