HC Deb 22 November 1954 vol 533 cc942-8

Lords Amendment: In page 8, line 33, leave out or an interest created directly out of that interest".

11.15 p.m.

Commander Galbraith

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

Perhaps it would be convenient to consider with this Amendment the Amendments in page 11, line 1, and in page 79, line 7. This latter is once more practically a drafting Amendment. The words that are proposed to be deleted are unnecessary in view of the new subsection (1) which is proposed to be inserted in Clause 6 by the Amendment in page 11, line 1.

The Amendment in page 11, line 1, does two things. First it gives effect to a promise which was given to the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) during the Report stage, to consider whether the provisions of Clause 69 (8) could not be brought into the body of the Bill instead of being left at the tail end where they might possibly be missed. The right hon Gentleman will remember making that case.

Mr. Woodburn indicated assent.

Commander Galbraith

Secondly, it provides that, for the purposes of Clauses 5 and 11, the sale or purchase of an interest in land by way of feu is to be treated as a sale or purchase of the seller's whole interest in the land, thus enabling a sale by way of feu to qualify the seller for a Case B payment, or a residual payment in a case analogous to Case B, in like manner as a sale of the seller's whole interest in the land to which the claim holding related. These are the purposes of this series of three Amendments.

Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)

As clear as mud.

Mr. Woodburn

I should like to express my thanks to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for making this change. This question of feu is of very great importance to Scotland. My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) was very concerned, as we all were, that there should be no doubt in the minds of people throughout the country that those who had feued land, as we mostly do in Scotland, were to be covered by the Bill, and would be entitled to all the benefits that this Bill confers in making restitution to those who have suffered by way of development charge through the feu to the person who sold the land at an exorbitant price.

Lords Amendment: In page 9, line 25, leave out "first day of July, nineteen hundred and forty-eight" and insert "said thirteenth day of August."

Commander Galbraith

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

Perhaps it would be convenient to consider together this and the next Amendment, in line 29, which is consequential. These Amendments give effect to an undertaking which was given in another place to consider altering the date—the date is 1st July, 1948, in Clause 5 (3, b)—to the date of the Royal Assent to the Scottish Town and Country Planning Act, 1947—that was 13th August, 1947. We are making that change in the light of information which was given in another place of possible cases in Scotland where the date of the contract of sale was prior to 1st July, 1948.

Had it been realised that there could possibly have been cases prior to 1st July, 1948, this date would have been in the original Bill. It was not known that there could be any case, but in fact during proceedings in another place certain matters were brought to light, and the alteration was made as a result of that.

Mr. D. Johnston

I take it that the Amendment will possibly result in the expenditure of public funds. Has any estimate been made of what the Amendment will cost?

Commander Galbraith

I said that we had not been aware that there were any cases and now at least one case has been called to our attention. Therefore, expenditure must be very small.

Question put, and agreed to. [Special Entry.]

Subsequent Lords Amendment agreed to: In page 9, line 29, leave out "said first day of July" and insert: first day of July, nineteen hundred and forty-eight.

Lords Amendment: In page 10, line 26, at end, insert: (7) Where an interest in land is the subject of a compulsory acquisition or sale such as is mentioned in subsection (3) of this section and—

  1. (a) on or after the first day of July, nineteen hundred and forty-eight, but before the date of the compulsory acquisition or sale, another interest had become merged with that interest; and
  2. (b) the person entitled to the interest compulsorily acquired or sold was at the date of the compulsory acquisition or sale entitled to a claim holding or claim holdings which related to either or each of the merged interests,
this section shall apply as if those interests had not merged but had been separately acquired from or sold by the person entitled to the interest acquired or sold; and the compensation payable in respect of the compulsory acquisition or, as the case may be, the sale price shall be treated as apportioned between those interests accordingly: Provided that nothing in this subsection shall prejudice the operation of the proviso to subsection (4) of the next following section.

Commander Galbraith

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

It might be for the convenience of the House if the Amendment were considered with the Amendment in page 13, line 21, to insert words after "related", the Amendment in page 15, line 14, to leave out certain words after "related" and the Amendment in page 17, line 21, to insert words at the end.

This is a group of Amendments designed to allow for the possibility of a merger of interests having taken place between 1st July, 1948—the date by reference to which claims on the £300 million fund were made—and the date of the transaction in respect of which payments should be made. Entitlement to payment under Clause 5 depends on the owner of a claim holding having sold the interest in the land to which the holding related for a consideration wholly or partly excluding development value.

This essential condition cannot be satisfied where two interests existed on the appointed day but had merged prior to the transaction—for example as the result of the surrender of a lease—because the claim holding or holdings will relate to the interests which existed on the appointed day. In addition, the formula in subsection (4) for calculating the amount payable will not function properly. The Amendment seeks to overcome these difficulties by providing, in effect, that for the purpose of the Clause the two interests shall be assumed to have continued to exist separately, and to have been separately sold at the time of the actual sale.

Mr. Woodburn

May I raise a point of order? In a Bill coming from another place Privilege Clauses are printed in italics. You, Mr. Speaker, are good enough to tell us which of these Amendments are Privilege Amendments, but would it not be for the convenience of the House if they were printed in italics?

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that is possible, because the judge of Privilege is this House. It is only after scrutiny by myself and the Clerks that I can tell which Amendments are Privilege Amendments and which are not.

Mr. Hector Hughes

The Amendment deals with an eventuality or a phenomenon which presumably was not foreseen by the Government at the time when the Bill was drafted. It is astonishing that the Government should not have foreseen that eventually they would have to deal with cases of merger. The Amendment is introduced to deal with cases of merger, and I submit that it is foreign to the whole purpose of the Clause to which it is to be applied.

The proposed new subsection makes an important difference to Clause 5. I must respectfully say that the reasons adduced in its favour by the Joint Under-Secretary are not at all persuasive. We were dealing with Case A. Clause 5 deals with what is called Case B. It is an elaborate Clause, already containing nine subsections, and now the Amendment proposes the addition of another subsection which I submit is absolutely foreign to the Clause.

Clause 5 deals with payment where land is compulsorily acquired, or sold at a price which wholly or partly excludes development value. It attempts to cover the case where the owner of a claim holding has sold his interest in the land to which that holding related. This new subsection seeks to deal with a possible merger of two interests in certain cases. How does it propose to deal with them? In my submission, in an improper way.

It proposes to deal with them by importing two legal fictions; first, that they have not merged at all when in fact they have merged; and, second, that, not having merged, they have been sold separately when in fact they have been sold not separately but as a unit, after a merger. It must be evident, even to people who are not acquainted with the technicalities of these matters, that that is not the right way to legislate. If the Legislature is to resort to legal fictions in order to bring about what it desires it is, in my submission, doing an improper thing.

I think that the Government are doing an improper thing in seeking to have their way in Clause 5 by importing into it, not one legal fiction, but two, instead of putting forward a straightforward subsection. They should not import legal fictions into legislation. I hope that the House will reject this Amendment as a quite improper one.

Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)

The immediate difficulty about the Bill is that it seeks to deal with a whole variety of divisions and sub-divisions which have occurred. Claim holdings have been divided, further divided and sub-divided. In this Amendment we have an attempt to deal with the opposite process. On the one hand, there is the process of division, and here we have the process of merging.

I was rather surprised that a Bill so preoccupied with the process of divison and making allowances for a wonderful and varied history of claims should have omitted to have dealt with the simple question of claims merging. That this opposite side of the process should have been overlooked in the drafting and not discovered until recently indicates a queer laxity in handling the matter and illustrates forcefully and clearly how slipshod the whole business has been.

Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)

I should be obliged if the Minister would tell us how this Amendment relates to the subsequent Amendment proposed in page 50, line 33; at end insert: Provided that where the same person is entitled to such compensation as aforesaid in respect of more than one relevant holding, or in respect of more than one interest, or in respect both of more than one relevant holding and of more than one interest, the aggregate principal amount payable to that person by way of such compensation in respect of all interests in respect of which he is so entitled in so far as they subsisted in the same land shall not exceed whichever is the less of the following amounts, that is to say—

  1. (i) the aggregate of the amounts by which the value of each respectively of those interests in so far as it subsisted in that land was depreciated by the decision or order; or
  2. (ii) the aggregate of the fractions of the respective values of all relevant holdings of which that person is the holder which attached to that land.
I understand that the present Amendment is to assume that two interests which have subsequently merged shall continue to exist separately. If we work on that assumption, we find that the later Amendment is expressly designed to prevent any abuse arising through two separate interests making two separate claims in respect of the same subject. I wonder whether that latter Amendment does not cancel out this one?

Commander Galbraith

I do not think the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) can contend that there is anything improper about this Amendment, or that it makes the Clause more difficult to understand. Surely it is quite a simple thing to take the claims as existing and deal with them separately. At any rate, so I informed the House in introducing the Amendment. Payment under the claim depends on the owner of the claim holding having sold the interest in the land to which the holding related for a consideration wholly or partly excluded from development value. That is an essential condition, and it cannot be satisfied where two interests existed on the appointed day, but merged prior to the transaction.

11.30 p.m.

The answer to the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) is "Yes." The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) seemed to find a connection between this Amendment and an Amendment on page 50, line 33. That was not one of the Amendments which I said related to this Amendment, and I should prefer to deal with that Amendment when we reach it.

Question put, and agreed to. [Special Entry.]