Lords Amendment: In page 20, line 40, at end insert:
A. (1) The provisions of this section shall have effect in relation to a compulsory acquisition to which section one of this Act applies where—
(2) Where the preceding subsection applies, the compensation payable in respect of the compulsory acquisition shall be assessed as if the notice referred to in pararagph (c) of the preceding subsection had been registered before the date of service of the notice to treat and had remained on the register of local land charges on that date.
(3) For the purposes of this section a planning decision or order shall be taken to give rise to a claim for compensation for depreciation of the value of an interest in land if (subject to the making and determination of a claim in accordance with the relevant provisions, and to the effect of any direction of the Minister under section twenty-three or section forty-five of the Act of 1954) a person is entitled to compensation for depreciation of the value of that interest in consequence of that decision or order.
(4) In this section any reference to compensation for depreciation of the value of an interest in land is a reference to compensation payable either—
(5) In the application of this section to Scotland—
§ Mr. Bevins
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.
I ought to say a word or two in explanation of this. There are certain planning decisions, for example, the refusal of a permission or the grant of a permission subject to conditions, which may lead to the payment of compensation under Part II or Part V of the 1954 Act. Similarly, the confirmation of an order revoking or modifying a planning permission may lead to compensation under Section 22 of the 1947 Act as qualified by Part IV of the 1954 Act. When this happens, the amount paid is registered in the local land register as a charge on the land, and, unless some part is remitted by the Minister, the amount charged on the land has to be repaid before any future development of the land can take place.
If such land is bought for development in the open market, the price will be reduced because of the liability to repay the charge. Similarly, the compensation on a compulsory purchase with the benefit of assumed planning permission would be reduced. However, this may not, in practice, work properly if the notice to treat is served after the 1668 planning decision or the confirmation of the revocation or modification order but before the registration of the payment of the compensation.
All that it is sought to do by the new Clause proposed in the Lords Amendment is to provide that, in such circumstances, the payment will be deemed to have been registered before the service of notice to treat. The operative feature is that registration is the important thing, and we are putting it right in this way.
§ Mr. Ross
This is rather important. I am not quite sure that it is as clearly put in legal language as the Parliamentary Secretary would have us assume from his explanation. I found great difficulty in believing that what he suggested was what was being done or that it was being done in that way Subsection (1) begins:The provisions of this section shall have in relation to a compulsory acquisition to which section one of this Act applies where"—and then follow paragraphs (a), (b) and (c). One would expect these paragraphs, from the layout, to relate to three specific cases. As far as I can see, no such thing is provided for here at all. It is too late now to invite the Government to look at an Amendment they have accepted, but, to my mind, this is a very illogical way of doing what the hon. Gentleman wishes to have done.
If the Parliamentary Secretary cannot give an explanation or justification for this way of doing it—as far as I can see, there are only two things really concerned, and the Government have confused conditions with specific instances—I hope that we shall have some explanation from the learned Solicitor-General for Scotland. The hon. and learned Gentleman will, of course, have to give us an explanation of the Scottish application. It is here, but we have to turn over to page 4 to find it.
In subsection (5) of the new Clause it is provided that:In the application of this section to Scotland …(b) for references to the Act of 1954 and to the following provisions of that Act, that is to say, subsection (5) of section twenty-eight, the provisions of that subsection as applied by section thirty-nine, section forty-five and the provisions of the said subsection (5) as applied by section forty-six there shall be substituted respectively references to the 1669 Scottish Act of 1954 and the following provisions of that Act, that is to say, subsection (1) of section twenty-nine, section forty-one. section forty-seven and the provisions of the said subsection (1) as applied by section forty-eight;I do not think anybody will quarrel with that. It could not be clearer. But then we go on to paragraph (c):for any reference to the registration of a notice in the register of local land charges there shall be substituted a reference to the recording of a notice in the appropriate register of sasines".Let us stop there for a moment.
Whatever is meant by the "appropriate register of sasines"? One would think that there were dozens of such registers. Perhaps the learned Solicitor-General for Scotland would tell me whether it is legally right or wrong so to describe an historic part of Scottish law and administration of Scottish law in relation to land. I hope that he will not tell me that this is lifted straight from another Act of Parliament, because it is not. This is the kind of slipshod thing to which I referred earlier when we objected to the hurried way in which this had been developed.
If it had been lifted properly from a previous Act of Parliament there would have been a capital "R" to register and a capital "S" to sasines. There is only one so far as I know. If it is right here, then it was wrong in the 1947 Act. "Appropriate register of sasines" takes us back to the law of Scotland in 1868. There were at that time various registers of sasines, but by the Land Registers (Scotland) Act, 1868, Section 8, these particular registers were wiped out and there was substituted one general register.
Certainly within that general register the writs and conveyances coming from particular counties were put into the appropriate county registers within the general register. The fact remains that Section 8 says: the whole of the particular registers of sasines in Scotland should be discontinued. Now, 100 years afterwards, we are talking as if they were still there. If we create new law and do it in the most difficult possible way for Scotsmen to understand, we might as well stick to the letter of the law, even though it was passed in 1868.
The fact is that these registrations will now only be in the general register of sasines. If there is any doubt about that, 1670 I was wondering whether there was any relic of the old burgh registers of sasines, but these were wiped out in 1926. It may well be that there is some relic there, and, if so, we should be told. Why have we got this insult to an ancient and dignified office in Scotland, dating back to the sixteenth century?
Can we have from the learned Solicitor-General for Scotland an explanation of why this has slipped his eagle eye, and can he give an explanation why paragraph (d) states:'and has remained' to the end of the subsection shall be omitted.In English law that means that if,Where the preceding subsection applies … in paragraph (c) …such a notice is registered in or after that date, the compensation payable in respect of a compulsory acquisition shall be assessed as if the notice referred to in paragraph (c):had remained on the register of local land charges on that date.That is in respect of England and Wales, but these vital words are missed out, for some unknown reason, for Scotland. I am eaten up with curiosity as to why these words are left out in respect of Scotland, but are insisted upon in respect of England and Wales.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) will receive an answer from the learned Solicitor-General for Scotland, but before that happens I should like to say that from the English angle this is a welcome new Clause. As I have been critical of plenty of the creatures of Government policy in this matter, I wish to make that clear. I think that this new Clause is likely to assist the acquiring authority, but I want to be sure that I have it right.
My understanding is that when we had a refusal of planning permission, compensation might have become payable for that refusal. On the other hand, although compensation either has become payable or has been paid, there may be a liability to recoup the central landlord with the amount of that compensation if, subsequently, permission is given to develop the land in the fashion that had been previously refused, and it is that liability to repay the central landlord 1671 the compensation which is registrable as a land charge.
It is only right and fair, that liability to recoup the central landlord being something that is reducing the market value of the land, that the acquiring authority, in arriving at the compulsory purchase price, should not have to pay an amount in the compulsory purchase price that may have to be paid back to the central landlord in recoupment.
Therefore, the effect of this new Clause is that as the liability for repayment is deemed to have been registered at the date of the service of the notice to treat, the upshot of the whole thing is that the acquiring authority does not have to pay that enhanced value. Therefore, as I understand the position in England—and these are complicated matters—this is a provision that should be welcome to the House. It is favourable to the acquiring authority and I welcome it as such, but I shall be very interested to hear what the Solicitor-General for Scotland has to say to my hon. Friend.
§ The Solicitor-General for Scotland (Mr. William Grant)
The hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) spoke not as a Scotsman but as a lawyer, but I will try to deal briefly with the two points that have been raised. First of all, "appropriate register of sasines"—the word "register" not having a capital letter—is an old phrase well known to lawyers, despite the Act of Parliament to which the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has referred. In this connection, it means the appropriate register within the General Register, which was established a long time ago. As I say, it is a phrase well known to lawyers—
§ The Solicitor-General for Scotland
Speaking entirely from memory, my recollection is that in the 1954 Act the same phrase was used, possibly with capital letters on the words "register" and "sasines".
As to the further point about the words proposed to be omitted, the position in Scotland is that once the item is on the 1672 register, there it remains. It is accordingly unnecessary to have the words "and had remained" following on in subsection (2) in regard to Scotland—
§ Mr. Mitchison
I am a mere Sassenach. Is there one register, or more than one? If there is only one register, the word "appropriate" seems unnecessary.
§ The Solicitor-General for Scotland
It may be unnecessary, but there is a register with various divisions.
§ The Solicitor-General for Scotland
I was merely saying that there is one register, and that there are the various appropriate parts of it.
§ Mr. Willis
Like most explanations that the Solicitor-General for Scotland gave in Committee, this is a deplorable explanation that he has just given us. It is an apologia for failure on his part to ensure that the Bill is correctly worded, and it is a very poor apologia at that. If there is only one register, why use the word "appropriate"? Surely, there is no need for it. One might as well say that the register is divided into pages or something else.
When there is only one register of sasines, why do we want the word "appropriate"? It is all very well for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to say that it is a legal phrase which has conmon usage in Scotland, but if it is wrong, is it not time to put it right?
§ The Solicitor-General for Scotland rose—
§ Mr. Willis
There is no need for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to be too eager. What about the local authority official who has to deal with this matter? He might not be familiar with these provisions. When he reads the Act of Parliament which statesin the appropriate register of sasines",he does not know, as the Solicitor-General for Scotland knows, that this is a general legal phrase. He immediately starts to find out what it means and he asks, "What is the 'appropriate register'?" When somebody says to him that there is only one register, he replies. "But 1673 there must be more than one register, because the Act says 'the appropriate register'." Therefore, the local authority official who has to deal with this legislation proceeds to waste probably a day in finding out what this means.
Is there not an obligation on the Solicitor-General for Scotland to say what he wants to say in language that is intelligible to the man who has to put it into operation? Surely, the function of this House is to try to make its legislation intelligible and not to clog it up and deceive people by phrases because they happen to have been in use by lawyers many years ago. That is a poor excuse. The Solicitor-General for Scotland should delete this word and put in the capital letters. Then, everybody will know what he is talking about.
As it is, the drafting is misleading. It is liable to cause busy people to waste an immense amount of time quite unnecessarily.
§ Mr. Willis
This is poor draftsmanship. The right hon. and learned Gentleman should make this correction, which has been drawn to his attention by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross).
§ Mr. Ede
The discussion of the Lords Amendment so far is a complete justification for the objections we made earlier to this way of dealing with the Bill. Here we have a Clause of seventy-one lines which we are asked to take virtually under what would be the last stage in the consideration of the Clause in Committee, when the Chairman would put the Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill." In normal conditions, in view of the observations of my hon. Friends from Scotland, we would have started discussion of the Clause possibly with a number of Amendments to omit certain words, merely to get from the Minister in charge of the Bill an explanation of the exact force of those words in the circumstances in which they were used.
I thought my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) was particularly gentle in his handling of the general explanation by the Solicitor-General for Scotland when he came to 1674 what he said about subsection (5, c). As one who has had considerable administrative experience in the handling of Town and Country Planning Acts since the first of those Measures was introduced into this House by John Burns nearly half a century ago, I know the difficulties which confront ordinary people whether they be members of councils or persons whose business happens to bring them within the realm of the operation of those Acts.
When there is a reference to "the appropriate register" the first thing which happens is that a man inquires for the register. He gets the register. If he does not find the charge in which he is interested entered in that register, then when the word "appropriate" is in front of the word "register", he is haunted by the fear that he may not have got hold of the register in which the charge in which he is interested has been registered.
It seems to me that it is highly important that this matter should not be left in the unsatisfactory condition in which the explanation by the Solicitor-General for Scotland has left it. With each attempt at dealing with the points raised by my hon. Friends he really has only introduced fresh causes for misgivings. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) very kindly gave us what the Government did not give us—an explanation of the Clause. He gave us an explanation of the Clause as he understood it to be. Having listened to a good many expositions of town and country planning legislation by gentlemen learned in the law I have generally found that there is plenty of room for dispute between them, and that when we have five of them explaining a Section then at the end we have had six explanations tendered to us. I should like to know whether the Government agree with what my hon. and learned Friend said.
This is a highly technical Clause and it appears to me to provide for cases in which compensation has become payable but has not yet been registered as a land charge, the compensation to be assessed as if there had been registration. Of course, those are so few words into which to condense the meaning of the Clause that I am quite sure that there are several catches in it which I have 1675 not managed to spot, as I have been trying to reduce it to layman's language.
The Government ought to give some explanation why this Clause is here at all. We were told, when the original Bill was before the House, that it would be necessary in another place to introduce a Clause of this nature? Why was it not included in the original Bill? Is there anything which was in the original Bill which has been struck out by the various Lords Amendments to strike things out of the original Bill and which is now replaced by this Clause?
I think that on a Clause of 71 lines, 22 of which are about the application of the Bill to Scotland, the Government ought to be able to give us and ought to give us some further explanation beyond the very short one which was tendered by the Parliamentary Secretary. I am quite sure he would not have expected to get away with as short an answer on the Clause as a whole had he followed the ordinary procedure and had he been replying to a debate on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." After all, that is what we are restricted to on the procedure which the Government have seen fit to force on the House in handling the matter in the way which the Government have chosen.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. MacColl
I understand my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr Ede) being in difficulty about the Clause. I think that his difficulty arises from his being a very distinguished Unitarian. If he were a Trinitarian he would not have found it difficult because what the Government are doing is to introduce a Clause from the Athanasian Creed into the Bill. It is an odd use of the powers of a revising Chamber. As I understand the situation, there is one register of sasines—if I pronounce the word correctly.
§ Mr. MacColl
Within that register there is a series of different volumes, or in whatever it may be that sasines are put, for each district, and therefore the appropriate register of sasines is one that is appropriate to a particular area in the whole register. The position to a Trinitarian like myself is child's play to understand.
§ Mr. MacColl
I can. I have spent happy hours, believe it or not, in the Register Office in reading through the registers, because my brother was a keen genealogist and I was press-ganged into copying them out. They are most fascinating and interesting documents with a great deal of historical value attached to them. If there was a disposition of land affecting a member of my own particular clan there would be found in the sasine the names of all the tribal ancestors going back to the particular MacColl who had obtained the grant several centuries ago and to the original founder of the clan. There is, therefore, a very considerable genealogical value in these documents. In those days they were different registers, before the Athanasian Creed was introduced into Scottish law.
Now, I gather, there is one register, but yet there are appropriate registers within the one register. If the Government think that they are helping the ordinary, common man to get round this bewildering rigmarole, which is at the best of times a complicated piece of legislation, why make things more difficult? If the Government could not have found better use for their time in another place than to introduce something as complicated and difficult as this they ought to have abandoned the Bill long ago. They are making the thing an absolute mockery. Nobody will understand what a particular Clause of the Bill means.
The Bill is becoming completely confused and is breaking down. The only people who can keep it together are my two hon. and learned Friends the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) and the Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) who clearly understand more about it than anybody on the Government Front Bench. If only my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edge Hill could be appointed Solicitor-General for Scotland pro tern across the Floor, we might have some lucid explanation of what the Bill means and we might get to bed some time tonight.
§ Mr. Gibson
Surely somebody is going to reply to the very authoritative and important request made by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) for information about what is happening, why it is happening and whether this provision replaces something which we have not yet spotted. This gets more and more curious as we go along. It is not fair to the House or to the public, or to those who will have to administer the Bill if it becomes an Act, that the clause should go by without the Government at any rate trying to explain what they are doing.
§ Mr. Bevins
If I may reply, by leave of the House and out of courtesy to the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend, I would say simply that the difficulty we are trying to tackle by this proposed Clause arises chiefly in cases of compulsory purchase, where the notice to treat is served after the planning decision, whatever that planning decision may be, but before registration of the payment of compensation. The Clause states that in those circumstances the payment will have been deemed to be registered before the service of notice to treat. That, of course, will have its impact on the compulsory purchase price which is paid for the benefit of an assumed planning permission.
§ Mr. Sparks
There may be some possible connection between the two. Subsection (1) reads:The provisions of this section shall have effect in relation to a compulsory acquisition to which Section one of this Act applies where—Then it refers to the registration of a notice to treat, which appears in paragraph (a) and (b), and states that such a notice must be registered, presumably in some document. I have read through the Clause and the only link I can make with the question of registration of a notice to treat, as referred to in subsection (1), is in subsection (4) which states:In this section any reference to compensation for depreciation of the value of an interest in land is a reference to compensation payable cither"—1678 then came paragraphs (a) or (b), followed by these words:any reference to registration is a reference to registration in the register of local land charges under subsection (5) of section twenty-eight of the Act of 1954, or under the provisions of that subsection as applied by section thirty-nine or section forty-six of that Act …I am not clear what those words have to do with the registration referred to in subsection (1), which speaks of the registration of a notice to treat. Do they mean that the notice to treat must be registered in the register of local land charges under either of the various Sections mentioned there?
There is another question as to whether there is one register in this case or whether there are special divisions of the register applying to the different Sections of different Acts there enumerated. There is also a reference in subsection (3) which reads:For the purposes of this section a planning decision or order shall be taken to give rise to a claim for compensation for depreciation of the value of an interest in land if (subject to the making and determination of a claim in accordance with the relevant provisions …Subsection (4) states:'the relevant provisions,' in relation to compensation under Part II or Part V of the Act of 1954, means the provisions of the said Part II, or those provisions as applied by the said Part V, and, in relation to compensation under subsection (1) of section twenty-two of the Act of 1947, means the provisions of regulations made under the Act of 1947 with respect to claims for compensation under that subsection.I do not know whether any Member of the House knows exactly what that means, but I suggest that it is extremely complicated, and I cannot see what connection it has with the reference to "relevant provisions" in subsection (4) of the proposed Clause.
I do not know whether anybody on the Treasury Bench can indicate to us what precisely is the connection between the notice to treat being registered as outlined in subsection (1) and this reference to registration in subsection (4). Are they one and the same thing? Has the notice to treat to be registered in a different register? Presumably, it would be registered by the local authority. If the local authority issued a notice to treat, it would be entered in some form of register by the local authority, but that would not be, I should have thought, 1679 the local land charges register. Are we involved in one, two or more registrations here? If the notice to treat must be registered in the local land charges register, it should be clearly stated that that is so.
This is very confusing, and I do not know whether we shall have any better luck than my Scottish hon. Friends have had in trying to get an explanation of the wording of that part of the Clause which refers to Scotland. I hope that somebody can give us an explanation of what we are talking about when we refer to registers and registrations, because it is not by any means clear, and we ought to have advice on what is the connection between subsections (1) and (4).
§ Mr. Bevins
With respect to the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks), I think he has rather misread this Clause. If the hon. Gentleman has a later opportunity of reading it in detail, he will find that it is quite clear that registration refers to certain compensation payments which are payable in certain circumstances. I referred to that when I first spoke on this new Clause. There is, in fact, no question of registering the notice to treat. It is simply a question of registering the compensation in the local land charges register.
§ Question put and agreed to. [Special Entry.]