§ Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 84 (Money Committees).—[Queen's Recommendation signified.]
§ [Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make further provision as to compensation in respect of the compulsory acquisition of land, and as to other matters relating to the acquisition, appropriation and disposal of land by public authorities; to make provision as to proceedings in respect of certain matters arising under the Town and Country Planning Acts, 1947 to 1954, and the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Acts, 1947 to 1954, and as to applications for planning permission under those Acts; and to make further provision as to procedure in connection with statutory inquiries, as to compensation for damage to requisitioned land, and as to advances and contributions to highway authorities in respect of land acquired for roads, it is expedient to authorise—
- (a) the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of—
- (i) any administrative expenses incurred by the Minister of Housing and Local Government or the Secretary of State in
696 consequence of the passing of the said Act of the present Session;
- (ii) any sums necessary to enable any Minister of the Crown or government department to pay any amount becoming payable by that Minister or department under any provisions of that Act conferring a right to compensation or additional consideration where land is developed, or permission is granted (or deemed to be granted) for the development thereof, after it has been acquired;
- (iii) any sums necessary to enable any Minister of the Crown or government department, in pursuance of any provisions contained in that Act in that behalf, to make payments to persons displaced or disturbed in consequence of the acquisition of land by that Minister or department;
- (iv) any increase attributable to the provisions of that Act in the sums payable out of moneys provided by Parliament under any other enactment;
- (b) any increase in the sums becoming payable into the Exchequer under section sixty-four of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1954, or under section sixty-four of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1954, being an increase attributable to any provisions of the said Act of the present Session for amending either of those sections or for amending section fifty-two of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1954, or section fifty-four of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1954.—[Mr. H Brooke]
§ 9.59 p.m.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
I was hoping that we were to have an explanation of this Money Resolution from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury who, according to the Order Paper, was to move the Motion in Committee of the whole House. I do not see the hon. and learned Gentleman present but, even so, I was hoping that someone else had been deputed to carry out that task. I think it something which is worth while considering.
I want, first, to move a comprehensive vote of thanks to the Treasury for what it has succeeded in doing. We have just had a very interesting debate, albeit Scots Members did not get very much opportunity to participate in it. The Bill we were debating runs for 45 Clauses and has eight Schedules, but the discussion took place mostly upon the Explanatory Memorandum, which itself ran to 134 paragraphs and two appendices. Now, in this Money Resolution, we find the Treasury managing to get the details into the compass of about 32 lines. We should pay tribute to the Treasury's ability.
697 There is another reason why we should scan this Money Resolution carefully. Whether hon. Gentlemen know it or not, upon the nature of this Resolution will depend what we shall be able to discuss in Committee. It is no good the Patronage Secretary shaking his head. I have been in the House a little longer than he has, and one of the things that I have learned during my thirteen years here is that we must consider Money Resolutions very carefully, because when we seek to improve a Bill in Committee we may easily discover that our improvements are outwith the Money Resolution.
This is one of the points we have taken up with the Secretary of State for Scotland when, occasionally, we have managed to get him to take a Bill to the Scottish Standing Committee. The point is that the Money Resolution is usually drawn so tightly that improvements are impossible. I am thinking of Housing Bills or of Bills like the finance Bill in relation to local authorities, that we had last Session, when we could not improve matters for the local authorities because of the Money Resolution. I would ask now whether the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has arrived yet.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
What about the Solicitor-General for Scotland?
§ Mr. Ross
I want to put a few questions about this Money Resolution to the Minister. Unlike most of the Money Resolutions we have had, this one is drawn very widely indeed. In fact, the point was raised during questions on business, earlier today, by the hon. Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson), when he referred to control of the Executive and of expenditure. I am surprised that Government supporters are not rising to question the wisdom of allowing this Money Resolution to pass. We read that it isto make further provision as to compensation.There is no limit, so far as I can see, in relation to compensation. The Resolution goes on to say, after the Preamble. thatit is expedient to authorise—(a) the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of—(i) any administrative expenses…698 That means any expenses arising out of the Bill. It would include the printing of labels, irrespective of how they are dispensed.
The Resolution says:(ii) any sums necessary to enable any Minister of the Crown…"Any sums." That is fantastically wide, when we consider some of the things that have been raised today. We had a suggestion from an hon. Gentleman who takes a leading part in local government affairs on the Conservative side, the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Rippon). He made a plea for retrospective compensation. He would like to bring in a great number of cases in which notice to treat has already been given, but where the actual calculation of compensation has not been finalised. Am I right in saying that there is power within this Money Resolution for the Minister of Housing and Local Government to accede to such an Amendment?
So far as I can see, there is no limiting provision within this Money Resolution which would enable the Chair to rule the hon. Member out of order. This is the kind of thing that we on this side of the Committee have been up against time and again in respect of other legislation. When a subsidy was being reduced from £42 to £24 we tried to suggest going half-way and making it £30, but we were ruled out of order. This Resolution is so wide—I hope either to be contradicted or confirmed in my belief—as to have no restricting effect.
Another question which is being raised is that of planning blight. As the Bill is drawn, the right is given to owner-occupiers to unload that on to local authorities. There has been more than one plea for that to be extended to commercial and industrial premises. When we examine the Money Resolution we find that an Amendment along those lines would be acceptable and within the provisions. Why is it that the Treasury, which usually rules so tightly on Money Resolutions and helps Secretaries of State and Ministers of Housing and Local Government out of the difficulty of facing unpleasant Amendments in Committee, this time has drawn the Resolution so wide as to enable additional provisions to be put in which, in some cases, will affect Government expenditure?
699 Is it a fact that under the Bill not only will the Exchequer be liable, but local treasurers and ratepayers? Is it for that reason that the Financial Secretary is prepared to ask us to accept such a widely drawn Money Resolution? If so, as in the past, it shows that he has great concern for Government expenditure but very much less concern about the liabilities of ratepayers.
I still hope that when the hon. and learned Gentleman comes into the Committee it will not be necessary for me to recapitulate my speech. These are important matters and they have to be answered for by the person who put this Money Resolution on the Order Paper. It is bad enough to have the subject of an Adjournment changed, and for hon. Members to try to make speeches on other matters of which they have not given notice, but when a Minister of the Crown give notice to move a Resolution and is not present to nod agreement with it, that is a matter for complaint from both sides of the Committee.
Another point we have to consider is what the Treasury is to do with this money after it has got it. We are giving the Treasury the money to collect and it will appear in Votes added to the Votes we have passed in the current financial year. Before we give the Treasury the right to collect that money, we have to consider the wisdom of doing so. How is it to be expended? We did not get much information from the Secretary of State for Scotland, who did not talk of the principles of the Bill at all. He tried to excuse the legislative servility which he has displayed during the whole humiliating situation in which Scotland has been patchworked through the English Bill. He gave us little or no information about what will happen to Scottish local authorities if we pass the Money Resolution.
There is no guarantee in the Act which dealt with block grants that these authorities will get any additional money in this respect, and before we allow the Government to get away with the Money Resolution we should point out that Scottish local authorities which incur additional expenditure as a result of the Bill will not receive a return from the Exchequer in accordance with their expen- 700 diture, because the return will go into an aggregate block grant and local authorities which have carried out nothing at all may get a share of it.
I had hoped that this matter would be covered by a skilfully drawn Money Resolution, but there is no indication of that. It may be that it is wrong of me to go on in this way and that I am mistrusting the Treasury and the Secretary of State, but we have had no statement of the position from the Treasury tonight. I do not think there is a member of the Treasury present.
Another important point which we must consider arises from the limitations of the Treasury in respect ofthe payment out of moneys provided by Parliament ofthe various sums mentioned in the Money Resolution. We read:any increase in the sums becoming payable into the Exchequer under section sixty-four of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1954and any Bill of the present Session.
Perhaps hon. Members will, however, look at Clause 34 of the Bill, which I remember is near to one of the few Clauses in the Bill which has even a glimmering of sense and intelligibility about it. I refer to the Clause which says:This section shall not apply to Scotland.If hon. Members look at page 48 of the Bill they will see that I am right and that my memory has not failed me. Clause 34, entitled,Acquisition of land in connection with town development schemes in Scotland",is preceded by the sentenceThis Section shall not apply to Scotland.That refers, of course, to Clause 33. I could not fail to remember that.
Clause 34 permits local authorities to acquire land compulsorily for purposes in connection with town development schemes under Part II of the Housing and Town Development (Scotland) Act, 1957, even though that land is not immediately needed. That will lead to considerably increased expenditure on the part of local authorities in respect of these town development schemes. We were told by the Secretary of State that this will be met by direct grant under the Housing and Town Development (Scotland) Act, but there is no reference in the Money Resolution to meeting additional expense arising out of changes made in 701 respect of the 1957 Act. As far as I can see, it is not covered by the Money Resolution.
I therefore question the wisdom of the Secretary of State in telling us gaily, "It is all right. Local authorities will be recompensed to the tune of 75 per cent. of their additional expenditure." I think that someone from the Treasury should be here to answer what I think are very important questions. I will rest my case there at the moment, but I am sure that many of my hon. Friends will be equally anxious to make it clear that we are wise in not allowing this matter to pass lightly.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)
The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has asked a number of questions about the Money Resolution and he made some remarks about the absence of a Treasury Minister.
§ Mr. Willis
On a point of order, Sir Charles. May I have your guidance? I, too, have a number of Scottish points to raise on this Financial Resolution. Will it be in order for the Secretary of State to speak twice upon it?
§ The Chairman
Yes. We are in Committee and can speak a thousand times if we like.
§ Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)
On a point of order. This Motion appears in the name of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who is not here. Can anybody else move it in his absence?
§ The Chairman
One member of the Government can reply for another.
§ Mr. Maclay
If those hon. Members who have raised the point study precedents, they will find that the practice or principle that one member of the Government can answer for another goes back to 1921.
I should like briefly to explain what the Financial Resolution does. In the latter part of his speech, the hon. Member for Kilmarnock asked a number of questions which one hon. Member or another asked during the debate. I am certain that it would be wrong for me to repeat my Second Reading speech, because I dealt with every point raised by the hon. Member about the 75 per cent. and all these other matters arising 702 under the Bill. If the hon. Member wants an explanation, here it is.
I should have thought that the Financial Resolution was fairly straightforward. Paragraph (a) covers expenditure under four headings corresponding to those in Clause 42 of the Bill. The first is the administrative expenses of the Minister and the Secretary of State. Clearly, a certain flexibility is required as to what these must be. The second heading is the additional compensation payable by Government Departments under Clauses 14 to 16 when additional development occurs after land is acquired. Clearly, the hon. Member understands what that means. The third point is the payments by Government Departments to persons displaced under Clause 11. Nothing could be more clear, specific or exact. The fourth point covered is any increase, due to the Bill, in expenditure under any other Act. That is a clear and precise statement. It could not be drawn in clearer terms
Paragraph (iii) covers the main increase in expenditure due to a change in market value. This is not mentioned specifically —I know that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock gives these matters great attention, but this is an interesting and slightly difficult one—because the liability to pay compensation arises under other Acts. The Bill merely amends the basis on which it is assessed. That is quite clear. Paragraph (iv) also covers increases in Exchequer grants to local authorities, a very necessary provision.
Paragraph (b) covers increases in payments into the Exchequer under Clause 37, which amends the powers of the Minister and of the Secretary of State to recover certain sums from local authorities under Section 52 of the 1954 Act and the corresponding Scottish provision. These sums are payable into the Exchequer by virtue of Section 64 of the 1954 Act.
That is a clear, concise and detailed explanation of what this Financial Resolution does and it is right that I should explain these matters. At the beginning of his remarks, the hon. Member for Kilmarnock said that the Resolution was in wide terms. What he is complaining about is that he has nothing to complain about in it. That is the most I could get from his remarks. There is not much more that I can say helpfully to the Committee.
§ 10.20 p.m.
§ Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)
I do not for one moment accept that the Secretary of State for Scotland can speak for England and Wales in this matter.
§ Mr. Sparks
He may be interpreting the Money Resolution in relation to the situation in Scotland, but I am not satisfied with his explanation.
First, what we must realise is that if we accept the Financial Memorandum, a substantial sum of money—over £12 million—is to be given as a private gift to landowners out of the public purse. How it is to be provided out of the public purse as a free gift to landowners is supposed to be contained, I presume, in this Money Resolution.
There are some factors connected with this Money Resolution and its financial implications that deserve, and ought to have, further consideration. For instance, the Minister of Housing and Local Government, in winding up the debate on Second Reading, referred among other things to agricultural land which was zoned for residential purposes. I think he argued from that that the value of land for residential purposes would be paid by way of compensation, rather than the agricultural value of that land. He said that there was a great deal of difference between the two values.
We can go one step further than that, and we can say that that agricultural land might well be zoned for industrial uses, which would mean a still higher value than that of residential land. To illustrate the problems which will face the authorities in finding this money, I would quote, for instance, the fact that the value of agricultural land, equating it, more or less, with values in my own area, might be somewhere between £2,000 and £3,000 an acre as vacant land, and £10,000, £15,000 or £20,000 an acre as land which is zoned and planned for industrial use. The difference between the two values, which might run into many thousands of pounds for one acre of land, must be provided for as a result of the proposals in this Money Resolution.
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury is not here to move this Money Resolution, but, during the time of the Labour Government between 1945 and 704 1951, hon. Members opposite, who then sat on this side, would never allow a Money Resolution to pass through "on the nod". They kept us here for hours, always insisting that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury should explain the Financial Resolution to the Committee. We have been particularly lenient, and we have allowed a number of these Money Resolutions to go through "on the nod". In this case, in view of the importance of the Bill and the large sums of money that are to be taken out of the public purse and handed over as gifts to private landowners, I think the Committee is entitled to a detailed explanation of the financial liabilities that will fall upon the various bodies.
The Ministry of Transport, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the local authorities are all in this, and all have to provide money for this purpose. In some cases, we are not quite clear what the liabilities are likely to be. I believe that the local authorities will be involved in a far greater expenditure than the right hon. Gentleman himself seems to think is likely to be the case.
If the Financial Secretary to the Treasury had been present I would have asked him to indicate to the Committee precisely the cost to the local authorities of giving effect to Clause 31. This Clause requires local authorities to take over owner-occupied properties in their areas and acquire them at the market value. I also believe that other parts of the Bill provide not only that owner-occupied property, but other properties, such as shops, offices, factories and industries, may be acquired. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman begged his hon. Friends not to allow a situation to develop in which all this was unloaded upon a local authority.
In many of these areas where a development plan exists local authorities have to undertake extensive reconstruction of an area. They cannot do it in twelve months. It may be a ten-year job, but under the Bill the local authorities would be or could be required to buy all the houses and factories, shops and offices in that area. In that case it would cost them many millions of pounds. They would not be able to redevelop that area within a period of ten years, which means that at the outset they would be 705 saddled with a heavy capital cost of acquisition. Added to that would be the cost of demolition and clearance of sites, and added to that again there would be the new construction in the redevelopment area. This involves a colossal sum of money to local authorities, all of which comes out of the public purse.
I feel, therefore, that we are not being awkward when we ask that the responsible Treasury Minister should be here to explain the implications of the Money Resolution. As far as I can see, it is so widely drafted that it is not merely a question of £12 million a year being handed over to private landowners from the public purse. There may well be considerable sums of money in advance of what is anticipated in the Bill. Therefore, some more precise information is due to the Committee on how the Bill will work in relation to local authorities, Government Departments, the Ministry of Transport, and all the 706 other Government and public bodies that are involved in this matter.
The Secretary of State for Scotland, with all respect, may have been seeking to appease my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) and other Scottish Members, but we in our turn would like to have an English interpretation of the Money Resolution and to be assured that we are not giving unlimited gifts from the public purse to land racketeers and landowners for something which they themselves have done nothing to assist in creating and to which they are not entitled. We cannot see the Financial Secretary anywhere on the horizon. I wonder whether a message ought not to be sent to him to come here to explain precisely what financial obligations will devolve upon the respective Government and public departments as a result of the provisions of the Bill.
§ 10.28 p.m.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
I trust that the right hon Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland, when he gives the information for which my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) has just asked in relation to the expenditure likely to be incurred under Clause 31, might also break it down into the expenditure in Scotland and the expenditure in England and Wales. One of the troubles with the Bill is that we have the very difficult job of disentangling the Scottish provisions from the English provisions and of finding the facts in relation to Scotland.
I should like to have some assurances about the provisions of Clause 15 (7) which reads:(7) In the application of this section to Scotland, for any reference to section sixteen of the Act of 1947 there shall be substituted a reference to section fourteen of the Scottish Act of 1947; and the preceding provisions of this section, except subsection (6), shall apply to claims for additional consideration such as is mentioned in paragraph (c) of subsection (9) of the last preceding subsection as they apply to claims for compensation payable under that section, with the substitution, for any reference to the person entitled to receive the compensation or purchase price in respect of such an acquisition or sale as is mentioned in subsection (1) of that section, of a reference to any person who has received consideration under section one hundred and eight of the Lands Clauses Consolidation (Scotland) Act, 1845 (as read with section sixty-two of the Scottish Act of 1954) in respect of such an acquisition or sale.I do not see any reference in the Financial Resolution to the Land Clauses Consolidation (Scotland) Act, 1845. Therefore, I should like to hear what the right hon. Gentleman has to say about it. When we examine the financial memorandum which explains the Financial Resolution and gives us an indication of what we are now being asked to pass, we are told that the net increase due to the inclusion of additional loan charges in the expenditure of local authorities by reference to which such grants are determined is not likely to exceed £150,000 per annum initially but will increase annually.
If I have the proposition correctly, I gather from that and from the figures provided by the Secretary of State during the Second Reading that, while the local authorities in Scotland can expect to 708 face a bill of about £250,000 or £300,000, what the Treasury is called upon to meet is about £6,000. Is that correct? In other words, it is easy to be boastful about being generous at the expense of the local authorities when the Exchequer will contribute only £6,000 under the Resolution. We ought to have a statement about this from the right hon Gentleman.
Further on we are told that the increased expenditure in respect of rates is about £1x million. The Secretary of State told us that the additional expenditure under the Clause in respect of rates in Scotland would be £20.000. That is one-fiftieth of the expected total national increase. Why is the sum for Scotland so small? Why is the sum that we are being asked to vote in respect of rates so very much larger for England than for Scotland?
Also, does the Financial Resolution include provision for a vast expansion of the road programme? During his speech the right hon. Gentleman said that the work on our roads was being held up because of the inadequacy of the compensation arrangements under the present compulsory acquisition procedure. He said everyone knows that it is delaying matters. He interrupted my speech to emphasise that the present arrangements were so inadequate that the programme was being held up. If we pass the Bill can we expect a very much larger road programme in Scotland, and will the Clause allow the Government to meet the additional financial outlay incurred by the expansion?
Of course, there are quite a number of points about which we should like to ask, but I am a very modest sort of individual—modest in my demands upon the Secretary of State for Scotland. We ought, too, to have a splitting up of the figures in the Financial Memorandum. Paragraph 6 says:Clause 37 amends section 52 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1954 (and corresponding Scottish provisions)"—I like the casual manner in which Scotland is slung into the Bill—with the following effects:—(a) to clarify the powers of the Central Land Board to recover from acquiring authorities amounts paid to owners under 709 Part I of the Act of 1954 in respect of past transactions; this will facilitate the recovery of about £250,000 which is still outstanding.How much is outstanding in Scotland? I think we ought to have that figure.
The right hon. Gentleman, of course, recalls the fact that we had a special Committee set up to deal with the problem of disentangling Scottish figures from United Kingdom figures, and I think it is only right that he should assist Scottish people to understand what is going on.
Then there is sub-paragraph (b) which states:to make provision corresponding to section 52 (6) (a), under which the amount recovered in the last financial year was some £50.000.How much of that was in Scotland? I think that we ought to be told that too. Then there is sub-paragraph (c) which states:to repeal the powers of section 52 (6) (b), under which the Central Land Board have recovered only £5,000 to date.How much was recovered in Scotland? I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give us more of these details. He has treated us rather shabbily about the Bill. He seems to doubt that, but he has only to look at the Scottish Members to realise that there is a very large volume of opinion very angry with him for the manner in which he has treated us over the Bill.
The least that the right hon. Gentleman can do now is to provide us with this information, particularly this financial information, because one of the bones of contention in Scotland is that we do not have our financial statements split sufficiently to enable us to understand what Scotland is contributing and getting out of things. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will endeavour to answer the questions which I have put to him before we pass the Money Resolution.
§ 10.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)
I understand that earlier this evening the Minister expressed his regret at the absence of Liberal representation on these benches. Of course, I appreciate his interest in that regard, and I hope that he will find an opportunity before the end of this debate to express his regret that, at the moment, only some eleven Con- 710 servative back benchers see fit to be present and that he has not been able to persuade any Treasury Minister to attend while a Money Resolution is being discussed. While I accept the right hon. Gentleman's rebuke, I hope that he will show his impartiality by extending it to other spheres.
§ 10.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Maclay
I am always willing to try to help all hon. Members of the Committee, as I think is well known. I would point out to the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) that at the time when there was a certain lack of bodies on the Liberal benches.—[Interruption.] One must not be parochial. The English must not get as parochial as all that. I must point out that the Liberal interest has been admirably looked after in years past by a number of Liberal Unionists elected to this House. Although I might be straining the debate as far as the Money Resolution is concerned, I think that I ought to give some comfort to the hon. Member for Cardigan.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me whether there is any provision for a contribution to Liberal Unionist funds?
§ Mr. Maclay
If I pursue this line of country, I shall not be strictly within the terms of the Motion.
I cannot help feeling that there has been a certain confusion about some of the matters which have been raised, for the Financial Resolution and the Financial Memorandum are not the same thing. I hope that I gave a fairly clear and lucid explanation of the Financial Resolution when I spoke earlier today. Some of the questions asked about the Financial Memorandum raised matters which will be considered at a later stage and which are not strictly related to the Financial Resolution.
§ Mr. Willis
We are being asked to pass a Resolution to cover expenditures which are explained in the Financial Memorandum. I am sure that it is pertinent to question some of the expenditures.
§ Mr. Maclay
I said some of the matters. Much of the detail of what I have been asked has already been covered earlier. I am always nervous about how far one can go when one is speaking on 711 a Financial Resolution. The estimate for roads expenditure, for instance, is the best that my advisers and I can obtain. Hon. Members will have noticed that the countryside through which some Scottish roads run—apart from the industrial belt —is lonely, unlike comparable roads in England, and they do not carry high values.
§ Mr. Maclay
Far be it from me to speak for Wales. I have enough to do speaking for Scotland.
That explains why there is a certain disparity in the conclusions which hon. Members opposite have drawn. For instance, I was asked about the passage in the Financial Memorandum which reads:The net increase due to the inclusion of additional loan charges in the expenditure by reference to which such grants are determined is not likely to exceed £150,000 per annum initially but will increase annually.Hon. Members asked me to split up that figure and give the figure for Scotland. If hon. Members study what I said earlier, they will see it all explained. Too detailed explanations would require complicated analysis and statistical computation. This matter has been adequately and fully explained, as I am certain hon. Members will concede when they have considered it.
The hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) asked a number of questions. He will find the explanations to most of the queries he raised in the Financial Memorandum. With the utmost goodwill, I cannot help feeling that these things must be clear to hon. Members who have read the Financial Memorandum and the Financial Resolution and listened to the debate, as I am sure hon. Members opposite have. I should be trespassing on the patience of the House if I tried to explain matters further.
§ Mr. Ross
I asked two very important questions to which I have not had answers. I suggested that, unlike previous Money Resolutions, this Resolution was drawn very wide. I instanced certain matters raised in debate and asked whether it would be open to hon. Members to raise those subjects in Committee and whether, because of the width of the Money Resolution, it would be possible in Committee for hon. Members to discuss the fact that local authorities will have far heavier 712 burdens of compensation while very little liability will fall on the Treasury, and whether it would be open to the Minister to accept Amendments dealing with that and similar matters. That is purely a matter of fact, and I can surely have an answer to it.
Secondly, if my assumption is correct, was it done deliberately? We cannot but note that the liabilities arising out of any changes which may take place in Committee as a result of drawing this Money Resolution in this way will put fresh and increasing burdens upon local authorities and accrue to the benefit of the landowners. Is that why it was done? Can I have a simple answer to that question?
§ Mr. Willis
If the right hon. Gentleman does not know the answer to the point I raised in connection with Clause 15 (6), will he send for the Solicitor-General for Scotland or the Lord Advocate in order that we can have an answer? We did not get an answer to that question. The right hon. Gentleman said nothing about it, or about my reference to the Central Land Board. He might at least have said that he would provide the figures later on. It is not good enough to try to fob us off with a lot of pleasant generalities which do not mean very much.
§ Mr. Maclay
It is at least a concession that the generalities were pleasant. The question of the Central Land Board is a Committee point.
§ Mr. Maclay
How does the hon. Member know that? Various points have been raised, and I am anxious to deal with them seriously and, I hope, conclusively. As for the point raised by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock, the Money Resolution is concerned with payments made out of the Treasury, and not by local authorities. I hesitate to suggest it to the hon. Member, but when listening to him I thought that there was a slight confusion on his part. I believe he wanted to know whether there was some ingenious drafting of this Money Resolution in order to allow something to happen which he thinks ought not to happen. Is that his point?
§ Mr. Mitchison
Perhaps I might help the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. 713 Friend. I can tell the Minister what I believe to be the substance of the matter. My hon. Friend's question—if I did not misunderstand him; he will no doubt tell me if I did—was this Can local authorities be called on to incur further expenditure without Treasury assistance, or with only a small amount of Treasury assistance, under the wide terms of this Money Resolution? There is no reference, as there often is, to the equalisation grant, or anything of that sort. It looks to me, as it does to my hon. Friend, that Amendments in Committee could put an indefinite burden on local authorities, certainly if there were a small Treasury contribution.
I see the Minister for Housing and Local Government shaking his head. I hope that there is no difference of opinion between the two occupants of the Front Bench. If there is it would he better to have two Bills.
§ Mr. Maclay
I cannot anticipate what will be the rulings of the Chairman of the Committee. That is quite impossible for me to do. I said earlier that it seemed to me that the point of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock was that the Money Resolution had been drawn wide so as to allow a wide discussion in Committee, and he therefore had nothing to complain of. I cannot venture further into a prejudging of the ruling of the Chairman of the Committee. But I repeat what I tried so hard to get over earlier—and hoped that I had—that the effect of this Bill on cost is small.
§ Mr. Maclay
It arises out of what the hon. Gentleman was questioning. I do not think I can usefully add anything to that. I cannot dodge the issue, but it would be wrong for me to try to prejudge the decision of the Chairman of the Committee.
I did say earlier that the Money Resolution has been drawn fairly widely. I have always understood that, from the point of view of hon. Members who sit on the back benches, that was a desirable thing. In this case the Money Resolution has been so drawn with that very much in mind.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported.
§ Report to be received upon Monday next.