§ (1) Subject to the provisions of this section, the Central Land Board shall, upon application therefor being made to them at any time by any person, and may at any time, if they think fit, without any application being made therefor, issue a certificate in the prescribed form with respect to any land stating whether or not any of that land has an original unexpended balance of established development value and, if it has such a balance—
- (a) giving a general statement of what was taken by the Board for the purposes of Part V of the principal Act to be the state of that land on the first day of July, nineteen hundred and forty-eight; and
- (b) specifying (subject to any outstanding claims under Part I or Part V of this Act) the amount of that original balance;
§ (2) Where, after the commencement of this Act, a notice to treat has been served with a view to the compulsory acquisition of an interest in any land by any public authority possessing compulsory purchase powers, being such a department, authority, person or body of persons as is mentioned in subsection (1) of section thirty-five of this Act, that authority may apply to the Central Land Board for, and shall be entitled to the issue of, a certificate showing the unexpended balance of established development value, if any, of any of that land immediately before the service of that notice.
§ (3) Where the issue of a certificate under this section with respect to any land involves a new apportionment, then—
- (a) except in the case of a certificate under the last preceding subsection or of a certificate which the Board propose to issue without any application being made therefor, the certificate shall not be issued otherwise than on the application of a person for the time being entitled to an interest in the land;
- (b) before issuing a certificate, the Board shall give notice in writing to any person entitled to an interest in land which it appears to the Board will be substantially affected by the apportionment, giving particulars of the proposed apportionment and stating that objections or other representation with respect thereto may be made to the Board within thirty days from the date of the notice; and
- (c) the certificate shall not be issued before the date of expiration of the said thirty days, and, if at that date an objection to the proposed apportionment has been made by any person to whom notice has been given under the last preceding paragraph, or by any other person who establishes that he is entitled to an interest in land which is substantially affected by the apportionment, and that objection has not been withdrawn, the next following subsection shall have effect.
§ (4) Where by virtue of paragraph (c) of the last preceding subsection this subsection is to have effect, then—
- (a) if within a further period of thirty days the person by whom any such objection was made refers the dispute to the Lands Tribunal, the certificate shall not be issued until either the Tribunal has decided the matter or the reference to the Tribunal has been withdrawn;
- (b) the certificate may be issued before the expiration of the said further period if every such objection has been withdrawn; and
- (c) the certificate shall be issued at the date of expiration of the said further period notwithstanding that every such objection has not been withdrawn, if no reference to the Lands Tribunal has by that date been made under paragraph (a) of this subsection.
§ (5) Where, on a reference to the Lands Tribunal under this section, it is shown that a new apportionment relates partly to the same matters as any previous apportionment and is consistent with that previous apportionment in so far as it relates to those matters, the Tribunal shall not vary the new apportionment in such a way as to be inconsistent with the previous apportionment in so far as it relates to those matters.
§ (6) An application for a certificate under this section shall be made in such form and manner as may be prescribed, and shall be accompanied by sufficient particulars, including a map if necessary, to enable the land to be identified and, where a new apportionment will be involved, particulars of the nature of the applicant's interest and such information as to the nature of any other interest in the land and as to the name and address of the person entitled to that other interest as may be known to the applicant.
§ (7) On any application under subsection (1) of this section, the applicant shall pay in the prescribed manner a fee of five shillings and, if the application involves a new apportionment, the certificate shall not be issued until the applicant has paid in the prescribed manner a further fee of fifteen shillings.
§ (8) In this section, the expression "new apportionment" means an apportionment which relates wholly or partly to any matters relating to which there has not been a previous apportionment.—[Commander Galbraith.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This Clause gives effect to the promise I made during the Committee stage to my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley). What I said, when he was moving a new Clause about the keeping of a register of land having an unexpended balance was:As I understand it, none of us has a right at the present time to get information from the Central Land Board."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Standing Committee, 22nd June, 1954; c. 254.]I went on to say that on Report stage as a result of that situation we intended to put in a new Clause to give to the appropriate persons the right to obtain from the Central Land Board such information as it is necessary for them to have. It is as an implementation of that promise that this new Clause appears and its purpose is to do just that; to give the right of obtaining from the Central Land Board such information as it is necessary for them to have. I could go on, but it is rather a long Clause and that 1093 is substantially what it does. I do not think it necessary for me to go into all the details.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The hon. Member who moved this in Committee raised a point which had been raised by my hon. Friends in regard to the passing of the English Bill, but I gather from what the Minister has said that he has not been able to meet all the points about making this information available to private persons, and that the information, as we see from the Clause, is divided into two or three different categories.
So far as I gather, local authorities will be able to obtain complete information about unexpended balances from the Central Land Board, and private persons will receive other limited information, because it, is not the business of the Central Land Board to make this information available to all and sundry. I think it advisable for the record that the Minister should explain this a little more, and tell us how it will work.
What will local authorities get in the way of information? What will private individuals get and how will it be obtained? It is not clear from what he has said. I do not wish to embarrass him by asking for a complete explanation, but I think that these two cases should be enunciated quite clearly and that we should be told about the different categories of information.
§ Mr. C. N. Thornton-Kemsley (North Angus and Mearns)
Before my right hon. and gallant Friend replies, I wish to thank him for meeting the request made by some of us during the Committee stage. We thought that the better way of dealing with this was to require the local authorities to keep a register of unexpended balances. We thought that the local authorities, being local, would be more accessible to prospective purchasers. During my speech I said that it did not matter to me whether it was done by the local authorities or by the Central Land Board. What we required was records to be kept and that everybody should have easy access to those records. As I understand it, both these things have been provided in the new Clause, and I wish to thank my right hon. and gallant Friend for the way in which he has met our request.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Ross
We have had a scant explanation from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. He started by saying that the new Clause was introduced as a result of a promise which he had made during the temporary absence of the Opposition when the Bill was before the Standing Committee. The promise was made to his hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley). The right hon. and gallant Gentleman said that he would try to get information made available to appropriate persons.
I have been studying the new Clause and I can find no relation at all to the question of limiting this information to appropriate persons. The Clause starts by saying:Subject to the provisions of this Section, the Central Land Board shall, upon application therefor being made to them at any time by any person…Anyone can apply to the Board and get the information. Later we discover in subsection (7) that they have to pay a fee of 5s. for the information, but the question of appropriate persons does not arise. Anyone at any time will be able to ask the Board for a certificate.
§ Mr. Willis
The words, "if they think fit" really apply to what follows and not to what goes before.
§ Mr. Ross
I agree. It says:…and may at any time, if they think fit…The hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) has omitted the important word "shall" after the reference to the Board. It states that they shall:…issue a certificate in the prescribed form.I do not know what the prescribed form is. That was not explained to us. Then is says:…and any such certificate may, if the Board think fit, contain additional information with respect to acts or events in consequence of which1095 We should have been given some explanation of the circumstances in which the Board may volunteer this additional information not to appropriate persons but at any time to any person—and all for the expenditure of 5s. When we discuss Estimates we often talk about the number of people employed in the Government service, but if we are to have this kind of seeking after what may well be useless information which takes up the time of the civil servants all for a modest fee of 5s., we are entitled to more explanation.
The Joint Under-Secretary has taken this question far too lightly. He should remember that I am making a speech now and that if I get up to put a question on any other point I shall be ruled out of order. We are now on Report stage and we can speak only once. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman may be less entitled to the latitude he was allowed in Committee. It would have been far better if the Government had looked at this matter earlier and if, instead of rushing the Bill through, they had taken their time in Standing Committee. I certainly will have some questions which I should like to put to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman but I shall be debarred from doing so because the new Clause has been introduced on Report and we have been given scanty information when it was introduced.
§ Mr. Willis
I agree that we ought to have had a fuller explanation. I cannot understand the first subsection. It seems to be very wide, because "any person" can apply for a certificate. It is even wider than might appear because the words are:The Board … may at any time, if they think fit, without any application being made therefor, issue a certificate in the prescribed form…To whom do they issue a certificate? If nobody has applied for a certificate, to whom will the Board give the certificate? I cannot give the answer. We require a much better explanation of this long and involved provision.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
There seems to be a little natural confusion about this Clause—I say "natural" because here we have a Clause which takes up 74 lines on the Notice Paper and which has no 1096 fewer than eight subsections; but we have had no adequate explanation of it. The reason for the lack of explanation may be that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman does not understand the provision himself. Indeed, in Committee he went so far as to beg not to be taken off the thread of his discourse lest he might lose the meaning of the argument he was trying to present. That is really no criticism of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman himself; it is criticism of the Bill which we all agree is one of the most complicated Measures which has ever come before the House. Therefore it is understandable that there should be some confusion about this 74-line Clause.
The first part of subsection (1) contains a mandatory provision and a permissive part. The mandatory part relates to "any person." How can we have a mandatory provision which relates to any person, unnamed and in no class? There is nothing to indicate who such a person is. The provision is that:…the Central Land Board shall, upon application therefor being made to them at any time by any person…Then we come to the permissive part:…and may at any time, if they think fit, without any application being made therefor, issue a certificate.There is nothing to indicate to whom the certificate is to be issued. There is nothing to indicate the considerations which will operate upon the mind—the composite or aggregate mind—of the Land Board when considering the question of fitness. What kind of argument is to be submitted to the Board? How are the people affected to know what kind of case to present? How are they to know how to induce the Board to say that they think fit or do not think fit. Assuming that, in their wisdom, the Board do think fit, after weighing all the considerations, what do they think fit to do? They think fit to issue a certificate in the prescribed form, but there is no indication to whom it is to be issued. Perhaps it is to be issued to this person of no class who is not mentioned and whose class is not even indicated in the Bill.
I am dealing with only the first four lines of the Clause, but I think I have said enough to awaken in the minds of hon. Members a desire to be spared my analysis of the remaining 70 lines. If four lines of the Clause contain as much 1097 ambiguity as I have shown, the rest of it certainly should not be accepted by the House.
If I may, with the permission of the House, speak again, it is obvious, particularly from the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes), that I ought to have gone a little more fully into the matter than I did when I moved the Second Reading of the Clause.
The object of the Clause is clear in the minds of hon. Members. It is to empower the Central Land Board to supply information, something which it has not the power to do at the present time. As far as I know, and I was glad to have reassurance. the Clause does what my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) wanted. He said he wanted to ensure that information would be available to persons who required it.
As to the actual provisions of the Clause, where there is no new apportionment at all anyone may apply to the Board for information about the original unexpended balance and about the state of the land on 1st July, 1948.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman said that anyone might apply. Do I take it that any person would be provided with information although it was evident that he was not concerned in the matter but might gain financially by obtaining information?
I do not think my words were capable of misinterpretation. I said that where no new apportionment is involved anyone may apply to the Board for information about the original unexpended balance and the state of the land on 1st July, 1948. Surely the hon. Gentleman cannot misunderstand that.
If the hon. Gentleman will have a little patience, that may emerge later in my explanation.
1098 Where apportionment is involved—that is to say, where information about part only of the original claim area is sought—the information will be supplied only to persons entitled to an interest in the land. In general, that information should be enough to enable most people buying or selling land to make a sound assessment as to the price to be asked for or offered in the light of the compensation provisions in the Bill.
Much of the Clause is taken up with the machinery required in apportionment cases. The whole of subsections (3) and (4) deal with it. Provision is also included for reference of a dispute to arbitration. Because of the possible effect of apportionment upon the interests of others, the procedure is necessarily lengthy. The Board is also required to supply on request to local authorities in cases where a notice to treat has been served, up-to-date information about the balance attaching to the land in question, including the result of any necessary apportionment. That is dealt with in subsection (2).
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman draws attention to the fact that the information will be issued to local authorities and that that is expressed in the Clause. Can he explain why similar phraseology is not used in the first four lines? To whom is the information to be issued? Nobody is mentioned. Not even a class of persons is mentioned.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Ross
Before the right hon. and and gallant Gentleman leaves that point, if information has to be sent to other people who have an interest in the land, will the Board know what other people are concerned? Subsection (3, b) says:…the Board shall give notice in writing to any person entitled to an interest…Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman satisfied that the Board will have information of such persons in view of the fact that objection may be taken under subsection (3, c)? There may well be considerable confusion as to other people who have an interest in the land.
I pointed out that it might take some little time to deal with matters when apportionment was 1099 concerned, but the information is available and can be made available to the interests concerned. That is provided for in the Clause; the Clause instructs the Central Land Board to do so. I cannot put it plainer than that. It is apparent that the Clause deals at great length with the various points which hon. Gentlemen have raised.
Where no apportionment is involved, the Board will be able to answer inquiries almost at once, but where there are apportionment cases a much longer time will be necessary, especially if a dispute arises.
In any case, the Central Land Board will take steps, so far as it is humanly possible to do so, to ensure that all who have an interest are covered.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
The Clause states that information is to be given about the state of the land in 1948 and the unexpended balance of established development value. I imagine this implies what has happened to the unexpended balance, whether it has been reduced and, if so, to what extent. Another very important factor in the state of the land in 1948 would be the restricted use value of the land. Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman state whether that information will also be given?
I assume that the provision means that the Board will make all relevant information available.
§ Mr. Willis
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has still not made clear the provision empowering the Board to issue certificates if they see fit without application being made. For an application made under subsection (1) a person must pay 5s., and if an apportionment is involved, he must pay £1. Who are the 1100 people to whom the Board may issue certificates without being asked for them, and do they pay anything at all? Are they local authorities, or do the Board say, "There is Tom Smith. We will give him a little information which he does not possess"?
It seems to me that one case might be where it was well known that a public authority needed the information. It would then be possible for the Board to issue the information. The point is that the information is made available. Surely if the Board are going out of their way to make information available to someone who needs it without that person having to ask for it, that is all to the good. I do not understand what the hon. Member is complaining about.
§ Mr. Willis
I am not complaining. I am merely asking for clarity. I take it that if a person does not apply for the information he does not pay anything for it, but if he applies for it he will have to pay for it.
§ Mr. Hoy
This is an important point. The first part of the Clause refers to an application being made to the Board at any time by any person. One can well understand that there will probably be a number of people who will have or may have an interest. Indeed, if one cares to read the debate on the Report stage of the English Bill, when an Amendment similar to this was being dealt with, one finds that the right hon. Gentleman who was in charge of the Bill said that there would be a considerable amount of work to be done in this connection. The Board will have to gather all this information, and, in fact, the right hon. Gentleman was stressing the necessity to get the Bill through before the Parliamentary Recess as so much work had to be done before the end of the year. We can all understand that, but, surely, it is competent for my hon. Friend to ask for an answer to his question about the second part, of which there may be some quite simple explanation?
It is very difficult to believe that the Central Land Board will have so little work to do that it will issue statements of this kind to no one in particular. Surely, there must be some good reason for the Central Land Board undertaking this job? Surely, someone must ask for 1101 the information before the Central Land Board provides it? If we leave the matter where it is now, it will mean that the Central Land Board will say to somebody M the office, "Make out six cases condemning six properties and issue the necessary certificates." To whom are they to be issued? To the general public? Surely, there must be some reason for the Central Land Board acting in that way?
We are asking the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to explain to the House what the second part of the first subsection means, and to tell us who are the people to whom these certificates will be issued. I should have thought that that was a very simple question, and one that could be easily understood. I am certain that either the right hon. and gallant Gentleman or the learned Lord Advocate will now be willing to give us a reply, because we cannot leave the position such that the Central Land Board will be making out and issuing these certificates to nobody in particular. Surely, somebody wants the information, and perhaps he will tell us ho that person is?
I should have thought it was fairly obvious, and I cannot understand why the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Hoy) should be so concerned about people getting information. The point, surely—as I think the hon. Member will agree—is that, in cases where an apportionment is involved, it will require information to be given by a certificate, even to people who have not made an application, but who are nevertheless affected by the apportionment. There is a case, straight away, and I hope that satisfies the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Willis
If that is the case, should it be not obligatory on the Central Land Board to supply all the people affected with that information, rather than supply it to some without charge and to others for a fee of £1?
§ Mr. Hoy
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has said that there may be A case in which, where an apportionment has taken place, somebody has to get the 1102 information, but, surely, the information ought to be made available to every party concerned? All we want to know is whether that is to be done, and it is no use the right hon. and gallant Gentleman giving us a little lesson about the 5s. on first application and another 15s. on completion, because we know all about that. All we say in reply to that is that, if that information is to be made available to one person, surely it ought to be made available to every party concerned in that particular transaction.
§ Mr. Manuel
I hope the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will try to clear up this point, because there is no indication that the payment will be waived. Surely, in the first instance, the Clause mentions the sum of 5s., and later refers to a further 15s. where an apportionment has taken place. In the second instance, where the information or the certificate is to be supplied by the Central Land Board, there is no question of payment, but the right hon. and gallant Gentleman really cannot ride away on the statement that payment is to be waived, because it is not there to be waived. There is no payment where the Board is supplying the information. The Minister cannot logically justify a situation in which, where persons are asking for information, they pay an amount stated, but where the Land Board themselves have had to send it to another person, no payment is to be made. We must have a better explanation than has so far been advanced by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman.
With permission, I will reply to the points raised by the hon. Members for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) and Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis). I think it was the latter hon. Member who asked in the first place who are the people who will be getting the information. They are the people who have an interest in the land and who may be substantially affected by the apportionment but who do not make the application, even though they may be substantially affected. Those persons will not pay.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
I wonder if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will now undertake to the House that he will have this new Clause amended in another place. He has now said that it is limited 1103 in its operation, as far as the granting of certificates without application is concerned, to cases where an apportionment arises, but it is not so limited as it is now drafted. In point of fact, I waited for the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) to say that it would be made available to people who speak the same language. Anyhow, these people will have information made available to them.
The new Clause states that the Central Land Board may at any time give a certificate containing this information, but it does not say that they should issue the certificate to certain persons of certain classes, but only that they shall issue the certificate. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has said that it is the intention of the Government that, where there is an apportionment and an unexpended balance, and where there are persons who have a considerable interest in the apportionment but who have not made an application for a certificate, they shall be granted a certificate. That is what he said.
§ Mr. Fraser
Yes. They have to pay 5s., and then if there is another application there will be a further 15s., but the people with a substantial claim will get it for nothing. I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to express his appreciation of the inadequacy of the Clause as it stands at present. We are all much in favour of this information being made available, and, indeed, I do not think we should be adverse to it being made freely available to interested parties, including local authorities. There would be no harm in making it available to these persons without charge.
As the Clause is now drafted, the Central Land Board can grant to me a certificate containing information, which I ought not to have at all, about the unexpended balance concerning certain owners of certain land. I think that is quite wrong, and that this Clause really ought to be examined again. As the Joint Under-Secretary explained it to us, I think we are all willing to accept the principle and the purpose of the Clause, but, unfortunately, it seems to us—as I am sure it must also seem to the Joint Under-Secretary and the Lord Advocate, who is trained in the law—to be much 1104 too loosely drafted. I therefore beg of him to say that the Government will have another look at it and see if the drafting cannot be improved in another place.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)
I want to ask again for the information which was asked for by my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson). He put the point that there was nothing in the Clause to suggest that the certificate would contain information about the original use value of the land, the restricted use value. There will be information about the unexpended balance, etc., but my hon. Friend was anxious to know whether one of the items was this question of the restricted use value. When my hon. Friend was speaking, certain papers were coming from the Official Box which might have been an answer to his question. Perhaps the Minister might now be able to give us the information.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.