HC Deb 06 July 1961 vol 643 cc1816-48
Mr. Willis

I beg to move, in page 4, line 2, after "lease," to insert "feu."

I do not wish to spend a long time on this. Why has "feu" not been put in? In other parts of the Bill we have been puzzled by the continual use of English legal terminology. We never seem to use Scottish legal terminology. Why should it be excluded from a Bill dealing with Scotland?

I hope that the Lord Advocate will accept the Amendment. I hope that he will not allow Scotland to be disposed of in the words "or otherwise dispose of." I hope that he has a higher sense of the importance of his profession than to allow us to be dealt with in this way.

The Lord Advocate

I am sorry that we have not included as much Scotch—I use that word in the non-technical sense—in this Bill as the hon. Gentleman wishes, but it is unnecessary to include "feu" here. It is covered by the words "sell, lease or otherwise dispose of." To put in "feu" would be both inaccurate and inapposite, because although one talks generally about feuing something, what one does technically, legally, when one creates a feu estate for the first time is "to sell, and in feu-farm dispose" which I think would be rather a mouthful, and we would also have to deal with cases where the consideration was not the feu duty but the ground annual, and that would be even more complicated.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the word is unnecessary. Also, it is inapposite, because we talk about selling, leasing or otherwise disposing of not only of land but of any right or privilege over or in relation to any such land and one does not feu or dispone in feu-farm any right or privilege over or in relation to any such land but only the land itself.

Mr. Willis

I am very interested in the clear exposition which the learned Lord Advocate has given of this rather obtruse Scottish point. The right hon. and learned Gentleman made the point that we do not need the word "feu" because this is covered by the words "or otherwise dispose of." I suggest that "lease" is also so covered. Why put in "lease"? Why should we always be open to this desire to give priority and prestige to anything English? I would have thought that it would have been an adornment to the Bill to have included the grand Scottish words in all their pristine glory which the right hon. and learned Gentleman read out. It would add dignity to the Bill and would let us see that we were included in the Bill and that the Scottish legal aspects had been given the attention which they deserve. This is not the Scottish Grand Committee; had it been, we could have got down to an examination of these words and to the arguments in connection with them. It is rather late and, having had the explanation from the Lord Advocate, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Solicitor-General

I beg to move, in page 4, line 7, at the end to insert: but excluding any element of monopoly value attributable to the extent of the Crown's ownership of comparable land".

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. G. Thomas)

It would be convenient at the same time to discuss the Amendment in page 5, line 22, at the end to insert: (8) Notwithstanding anything contained in subsection (1) of this section the following provisions shall apply to the determination of the consideration to be given by a person for a disposition by the Commissioners of any land of the Crown Estate comprising any portion of the bed of the sea, or any right or privilege over or in relation to any such land—

  1. (a) the value of the land shall, subject to the provisions of paragraphs (b) and (c) of this subsection, be taken to be the best obtainable in the open market and capable of justification on normal considerations of supply and demand and on the assumption that other equally suitable facilities could be obtained by negotiation from other landowners;
  2. (b) the purpose for which the land, right or privilege is required by the person to whom the same is disposed of shall be taken into account but no account shall be taken of so much of the value of the land, or of the right or privilege over or in relation to the land, as is attributable to the fact that all or a substantial part of the bed of the sea in the neighbourhood of that land is vested in the Crown Estate;
  3. (c) there shall be taken into consideration for the purpose of reducing the value of the land or of the right or privilege over or in relation to the land the estimated cost of executing any works which may be required or authorised to be executed on over or under the land under the conveyance lease or other instrument by which the land, right or privilege is disposed of to that person;
  4. (d) any question or difference arising as to the amount of the consideration shall be determined by the Lands Tribunal.
In this subsection "bed of the sea" means the shore or bed of the sea or any river channel creek bay or estuary.

Mr. Mitchison

Shall we also discuss now the second Amendment in line 7, at the end to insert: or except at the valuation of the appropriate District Valuer made as between a willing buyer and a willing seller"?

The Temporary Chairman

That would be convenient.

The Solicitor-General

Clause 3 (1) deals specifically with the principles to be observed by the Commissioners in their management of the Crown Estates and provides that the Commissioners, apart from exceptional cases, which are dealt with later, can dispose of Crown Estate land and interests only for the best consideration … which in their opinion can reasonably be obtained in all the circumstances of the case. It is a relaxation of the existing law. Previously the best rent had to be obtained, in addition to the best sale price. The best rent was interpreted by the courts as meaning the best uniform rent throughout the term, and it did not give the Commissioners the opportunity of granting leases containing provisions for a periodical review of the rent reserved.

The reason for requiring the Commissioners to get the best consideration is that this is public property, and where public property is sold or leased to a great commercial undertaking, which can afford to pay a large rent for the easement or the lease or the land itself which it takes from the Crown Commissioners—because it is of great commercial value to that firm—there is no reason why it should not pay the rent which is reasonable in the circumstances.

But a formidable case was developed on Second Reading by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) to the effect that that might operate very harshly in certain cases where the Crown Commissioners have a monopoly or semi-monopoly of the land. In the ordinary case, it can be left to the ordinary determination of the market. A commercial undertaking, for example, would approach the Crown Estate Commissioners and offer what it considered to be a reasonable price for the land or a reasonable rent for the lease or easement. If the Commissioners ask a price for the land or a rent for the easement which the commercial undertaking thinks is inordinate, the undertaking will go elsewhere and take another piece of land. I will deal with public authorities separately. I am now dealing with commercial undertakings. In ordinary cases, the ordinary supply and demand in the land market can take care of the matter.

11.30 p.m.

Different considerations apply to the foreshore and to the seabed, because there the Commissioners are virtual monopolists of the seabed and own very substantial parts of the foreshore. It is true that where the foreshore is developed it has largely passed out of the hands of the Commissioners. It has largely passed out of the Crown Estate. The bulk of ports are not part of the Crown Estate. The great Port of London, for example, is the property of the Port of London Authority.

Nevertheless, in the undeveloped parts of the foreshore there are great portions in the possession of the Crown Estate. It was represented that in such a case the operations of the market would not produce a fair consideration. For example, if the Commissioners asked what a purchaser felt was too high a price, he could not go to an adjoining landowner and pay a lower price, because there are not, or may not be, adjoining landowners. As a result of the pertinacity of the hon. Member for Pembroke in connection with oil companies in his constituency, a new policy was agreed with the Crown Estate Commissioners whereby the monopoly element had to be discounted.

It was argued very strongly on Second Reading that, if that was to be the principle which obtained, it ought to be written into the Bill. I considered that with my right hon. and learned Friend and we have tried to meet that case. The Amendment would insert the words: but excluding any element of monopoly value attributable to the extent of the Crown's ownership of comparable land. I had hoped that that would go the whole way to meet the objections put forward, but I will deal with the other Amendments and say why I think that the Government Amendment is preferable. I will take first the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman in page 4, line 7. The first disadvantage of this Amendment is that it does not deal specifically with the point about monopoly value. It may be that the hon. and learned Gentleman would wish it to be read together with the Government Amendment, which is acceptable to him.

Mr. Mitchison

Grammatically it would follow perfectly.

The Solicitor-General

That is so. My real objection to it is that the words used are in fact a repetition of what may be expected to be meant by "the best consideration". Therefore, it is not a real alternative to the other part of the Clause. If it means something different from the best consideration that can be reasonably obtained, I ask how can a district valuer reach a fair valuation except on the test of what is the best consideration that can be obtained in the circumstances. Therefore, to my mind, the words are either unnecessary or would lead to a conflict between the two parts of the Clause.

As I say, it seems to me that the Government Amendment is preferable because it deals specifically with monopoly value, and that, from the hon. and learned Member's Amendment, if it means anything other than what is already in the Clause, it is very difficult to see on what basis the valuer can operate. I would have thought that the price as between a willing buyer and a willing seller is the best consideration. It seems to me that there is no advantage, and that there are many disadvantages, in adding the words which the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to add.

I come now to the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Pembroke. That seeks to put into the Bill two things—first of all, a valuation formula, and, secondly, a requirement that any difference arising as to the amount of the consideration shall be determined by the Lands Tribunal. It seems to me that there are major defects in the valuation formula suggested.

In the first place, the reference to "normal considerations of supply and demand" and the assumption about other facilities being obtainable are mutually inconsistent, in a way that they are not in the express discounting of monopoly value in the Government Amendment. Secondly, with regard to paragraph (c) of the hon. Gentleman's Amendment, I am not sure that I entirely understand the intention of that. Perhaps I may have an opportunity of saying a word or two after the hon. Gentle- man has explained the purpose of that paragraph. But, taking the words at their face value, paragraph (c) seems to suggest that the greater the cost of the works the less should be the price of the land.

That does not follow at all. What matters is the degree of benefit likely to be obtained from the development, irrespective of its cost and size. I would suggest to the hon. Gentleman that all the words in his suggested valuation formula which are really appropriate are already covered by the words in the Clause— the best consideration … having regard to all the circumstances of the case. Before coming to the arbitration point, may I say a word or two about having regard to all the circumstances of the case."? As I indicated on Second Reading, those words are designed to allow a certain flexibility between, say, an oil company bringing in a pipeline across the sea bed and the foreshore with a view to commercial exploitation at a profit, on the one hand, and, on the other, a local authority taking a sewer out to sea in pursuance of a statutory duty and with no aim of making a profit. That is a matter which can be taken into consideration.

I now come to the question of valuation. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) brings in the district valuer. I have already indicated that in any questions of foreshore valuation the Crown Estate Commissioners are willing to submit the matter in dispute to the Valuation Office. So I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will feel that his point is met in that respect. I do not see that it is appropriate in any case except where there are these elements of monopoly value to be discounted. In the other case the price can be left to the ordinary bargaining of the market.

With regard to the Amendment in the name of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Pembroke, I suggest that it is unnecessary to bring the question of the valuation of the sea bed into the sphere of the Lands Tribunal. The conception of arbitration is inconsistent with transactions for the disposal of rights and interests in land. The price call ordinarily be settled by the haggling of the market.

We bring in the Lands Tribunal in the case of compulsory purchase. But we do not do it, for example, in what seems to be the closest comparable case—where one gets the comprehensive development of a town centre by a local authority. If it acquires the land compulsorily, that will go to the Lands Tribunal because there is no bargaining possible—none of the market bargaining. But when the local authority sells or leases off the property which it has acquired for comprehensive development, we would not dream of saying that that is a matter which should go to the Lands Tribunal. It is the same here. The way to find what is a fair price in those cases—the local authority leasing its property and the Crown Commissioners leasing or selling their property—is the same; to find what people will pay for it by bargaining.

I apologise to hon. Members for talking for so long over these Amendments at this hour, but I thought that it would be better to deal in advance with the Amendments in the names of the hon. Gentlemen the Member for Pembroke and the hon. and learned Member for Kettering and to state the objections to them, so that they can consider them when they come to deal with their own Amendments.

Mr. Mitchison

Concerning my Amendment, which comes first on the Paper, I do not entirely agree with the Solicitor-General. The form of this subsection is a prohibition. It states: … the Commissioners shall not sell, lease or otherwise dispose of any land of the Crown Estate, or any right or privilege over or in relation to any such land, except for the best consideration … It is, I quite agree, a common form. Suppose an alternative is put in, then if the Commissioners complied with either—what is stated in the subsection at present … for the best consideration … or what is stated in the alternative, they will have escaped any consequences of non-compliance with this subsection.

Therefore, if, in fact, the two things were always going to be the same, all that could be said would be that this is unnecessary. But I am not satisfied that the two things mean the same, for two reasons. Firstly, it was the Solicitor-General himself who imported the district valuer, and the way the district valuer came into the picture was this; the Crown Estate Commissioners had made, very informally, what appeared to people later to have been an extortionate demand over the right of a foreshore. I think it was desired to acquire it by an oil company in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly). It was not until that demand had been made that the practice arose of calling in the district valuer, or so we were told on Second Reading. In the circumstances, I agree entirely with the practice, and I should like to make sure that the practice assumed for that occasion is not abandoned by some subsequent Government. We are here legislating for what may well be a considerable time in the future.

11.45 p.m.

I see no reason against putting the district valuer in as an alternative, and I see a very good reason for putting him in. It was suggested by some hon. Members on Second Reading that the district valuer was too much in the position of a Government servant. But he is not, of course, a Government servant. He is constantly used between local authorities and owners of property of various kinds to fix a fair price, and he is the sort of person who, I think, has the confidence of practically everyone in this matter. Certainly, he has a very wide experience. I should like to include the district valuer. Although I am rather disposed to agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman about arbitration clauses, to leave out both arbitration and the district valuer would be to leave much to much in the hands of the Commissioners in practice, even if not in theory.

Is there any difference between the best consideration … which can reasonably be obtained, having regard to all the circumstances of the case and the alternative I suggest of valuation … as between a willing buyer and a willing seller"? I think that there is. I can imagine a case where the Commissioners would have a bargaining power considerably above the average, to put it in that way. Monopoly, of course, is the extreme case. There, they have a complete bargaining power. But there are other cases where they may have to choose between two competitors—the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself gave one instance—and the best consideration they would get would clearly be from one competitor. It is said that that is met by putting in the words having regard to all the circumstances of the case". I speak with great deference on this matter, but my opinion about those words is that they mean precisely nothing. So far as I know, they occur nowhere else in this connection. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong. What do they mean? They are so wide as to cease to have any meaning at all, I should think.

One ought to know what it is that the Government had in mind when using the words all the circumstances of the case". They have not told us, and I do not think they can because they have not thought it out. I much prefer the very well known and common formula, which any district valuer or any other valuer would understand, based on dealings as between a willing seller and a willing buyer.

I have no objection to the Government's Amendment. I should like to see it in as well as mine just to obviate any doubt about the matter. But, in fact, my Amendment would have met the case. It was the Solicitor-General himself who referred to the laws of supply and demand under a monopoly, but the point about a monopoly is that there may be much demand but there is no supply except the one. That is the reason why we have to have some phrase like as between a willing buyer and a willing seller It is such a common and well understood phrase that I much prefer it to what I had at one time in mind, namely, a reference to the terms of compulsory acquisition in recent town and country planning legislation. That would make it altogether too complicated, but I think the reference to the district valuer and then to a valuation on the basis of the willing seller and willing buyer would meet the case simply and with fairness to all concerned.

Having said all that, I know my Government well enough to realise that there is not the foggiest chance of their accepting my Amendment. So there it is, at this time of the night.

Mr. Desmond Donnelly (Pembroke)

I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his attempt to meet the point made by several hon. Members on Second Reading. I think that he has made a genuinely sincere endeavour to allay some of our fears, but I must regretfully say that I do not think he goes far enough. He criticised the terms of the Amendment standing in my name and that of the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), but he knows that its form is based on the general instructions which the Treasury has been considering giving to valuers. That is the real source of the Amendment's terms.

Three points ought to be made on the Amendment. First, whilst I agree that the purpose for which the land is required should be taken into consideration in the valuation, the value of the land or the facility to the purchaser is something quite different; indeed, for practical purposes, I should have thought it very difficult indeed to calculate. It is one thing to say, "Yes, this is an area where you might put an oil pipeline" or "This is an area where you might put a sewage pipe for a local authority," thus giving two valuations in return for the same sort of concession, in practical terms, according to what the land is required for. That is one thing, and I entirely agree with the Solicitor-General that there should be a differentiation in that respect.

When one examines the mechanics of how one values what the concessionnaire will do with the property subsequently to receiving the concession it becomes a different matter and raises all sorts of problems which I should have thought were most unwise to include in the general attitude of valuation, and unless there is an Amendment such as that in my name and that of the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury, the Government will find themselves in this kind of difficulty in the future.

Secondly, the Solicitor-General said that he did not quite see what we were driving at. What I am suggesting is that there are certain facilities that might be granted by the Commissioners to an oil company or some other undertaking which may not actually involve any gain to them. A dredging operation confers no proprietary interest in the sea bed, may well improve the Crown property at very considerable cost to the developer and cause no detriment to other Crown land. My purpose in drawing that part of the Amendment was to ensure that this possibility was covered and, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman will discover on inquiry, there is a specific case at this moment under consideration with one of the oil companies where there is some dispute over the valuation.

The Solicitor-General's third point of criticism was in relation to the introduction of the Lands Tribunal. The reason for that inclusion is that although I appreciate the right hon. and learned Gentleman's good will in his Amendment the exclusion of the monopoly element in the value can be only notional. It does not cause any practical change because, as I said on Second Reading, I do not consider valuation to be an exact science but only an art. When it comes to an assessment, two valuers can always arrive at two totally different figures, and as long as there is no free market operating it is really impossible for anyone to have any sanction against the decision of the valuer other than recourse to this House. That would be, I submit, an undesirable and impracticable administrative proposal in dealing with valuations which might arise from time to time. It would leave any would-be undertaker ultimately in the hands of the Commissioners. The suggestion to introduce the Lands Tribunal is one way over the difficulty.

The Solicitor-General compared this with the leasing off of a comprehensive area of development in the central area of a town. I suggest that that is not a comparable proposal, because if somebody wished to lease a shop site in, say, the centre of Leicester, which was one area of comprehensive development, and found that it was too much, it would still always be possible for him to go to Coventry or Nottingham. He is not finally bound to have a shop only in Leicester; there are other places. But undertakers in this country actually have to leave the country. This raises practically very much more difficulty.

So I suggest to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the only way in which justice not only is done but can be known to be done is by having some second court of appeal in which some people can say "Yes, that is fair" or "No, that is unreasonable"—people who are not actually interested parties in the way the Crown Estate Commissioners are.

I must be perfectly frank and say that a lot of this difficulty would not have arisen but for the behaviour of the Crown Estate Commissioners over Milford Haven. This is where the lack of confidence in the administration of the Commissioners has arisen. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman said on Second Reading, there is a great disparity between what the Commissioners were asking at one stage in the Milford Haven case and what they ultimately had to accept. The very fact that there is that vast difference of many thousands of pounds shows that there was something wrong in the Crown Estate office and something fundamentally wrong with the administration of that body. It is because we want to avoid this sort of difficulty arising again that we have raised this matter at this stage in the discussions on this Bill.

There is one last point that I would suggest to the Solicitor-General. While we are anxious to facilitate the passage of the Bill, I am also deeply concerned about the future development of the port of Milford Haven, naturally, as it is in my constituency. While I have no doubt of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's own personal good will in the matter, I am still not satisfied that any future undertakers in developing the port of Milford Haven will avoid considerable difficulty and be certain that their problems will be resolved speedily unless some such proposal as this is incorporated in the Bill.

I am not tied to the words here. I should be very happy if the Solicitor-General would look at the matter again at a later stage of the Bill to ascertain whether some instructions should not be written into it so that people who are proposing to undertake development know precisely where they are. I apologise to the Committee for having taken up so much time.

Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)

I, too, am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for having argued so cogently the case for the Amendment standing in the names of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) and myself. I think he can also be thanked for having gone as far as he can to table an Amendment which covers at least the major part of the point which I feel should be met.

It crosses my mind that the Clause can be made to apply to such things as oyster beds, the supply and demand and the purpose for which oysters are to be grown. I feel that the matter of supply and demand in relation to oysters might actually allow the Commissioners to force up the price.

That is not so important, however, as the industrial installations of which we have been talking. The aspect which makes a foreshore development different from anything which takes place in a town or on dry land is that many of these docks and installations have to be put on one or two specific points around the coast, where there is probably no alternative site. One cannot, for reasons of depth or currents, or transport, find an alternative site.

12 m.

It is a pity that my right hon. and learned Friend's Amendment does not allow either the district valuer or the Lands Tribunal to be mentioned in the Bill. I do not think that it particularly matters which is the arbitrating authority. It can be argued either way. I favour the Lands Tribunal. If neither the Amendment to line 7 in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) nor the Amendment to line 22 is accepted, there will be absolutely no cure if there is disagreement.

It is easy to see that in the case of a few acres of foreshore the Commissioners will be able to say what the monopoly value should be, and there is no outside authority written into the Bill to give a decision. This is analogous to compulsory purchase by a local authority, but in this case one may say that it is compulsory purchase of a monopoly position, where it is even harder to put a value on the facility or the right to enjoy it, because there is no yardstick anywhere else in the country.

I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will consider whether we cannot write into the Bill some final arbitration authority, either mentioning the district valuer or perhaps following our suggestion of bringing in the Lands Tribunal, because there should be some appeal where there is definite disagreement on the value of the rights obtained.

Mr. Parkin

The Solicitor-General obviously had in mind his duty to pacify my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) and solve that particular problem. It was, none the less, extremely interesting to hear him unfolding what is in his mind in tackling what is, in effect, a new principle. I was more than delighted with the last few sentences of his speech, where it seemed that suddenly he came to meet us on this side of the Committee on an extremely important point of principle.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman's approach is an entirely new one. He is trying to establish a new principle and a new problem. I suppose that is so because he is dealing here with land which, in almost every case, had no previous use value. There is no intrinsic value in the foreshore. Of course, there is the manifestation of the half-a-crown which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) mentioned on Second Reading, but even so it is a socially created value if seaweed is worth half-a-crown to somebody inland who is ready to use it.

Ordinarily, however, the foreshore has no value until it suddenly attains a socially created value. I hope the last few sentences of the right hon. and learned Gentleman will fructify in the minds of the Commissioners and others who have rejected our arguments. I hope, moreover, that, in the restrained view he is now taking of the rights of the Crown in this matter, he will consider legislation to restrict some of the monopoly value which has passed into the hands of private owners of the foreshore through the laziness of some of his predecessors in office.

I wish that there were time to develop the interesting story of the Severn Estuary, where Dr. John Smith, a Member for Gloucestershire and the nominee of the Berkeleys, did not occupy himself with the great problems of the Civil War, but achieved a great victory by establishing the rule that the riparian owners of the Severn Estuary lands owned the bed of the river up to the middle of the navigable estuary, as a result of which some people now get a monopoly of the salmon fishing in the area, to the detriment of the old fishermen. There may be other examples of private monopolies which would be worth the attention of the Law Officers of the Crown if they have hit on the right solution to this.

I wonder whether the Solicitor-General can tell us about other devices which have passed through his mind and by which the Crown could obtain some share in the equity of industrial developments. I suppose he would say that it would mean some kind of Customs or something legally undesirable. Right at the close of his speech he seemed to be drawing an exact parallel between what a local authority would do in the case of leasing its property for development and what the Crown Commissioners would do under his proposals. But that is what we have been arguing from these benches throughout the debates. It is precisely that the local authority uses its powers for a social purpose, a planning purpose. The Commissioners could not possibly come to any conclusion about leasing the foreshore to an oil company unless it was desirable as part of the economic planning of the area that that development should take place. That must be one of the prime considerations, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman has conceded the case by making that comparison with local authorities.

Seaside resorts are certainly often in the position of using the profits from letting out pitches to the ice-cream man on the beach—jugs of tea and that sort of thing—to attract to the neighbourhood opportunities for employment for their residents out of season. It was the seaside resorts which had the earliest experience of the problems of seasonal unemployment, and they sought to attract balanced employment into the area. The prime consideration in the use of land in such circumstances is what contribution it makes to the balance of employment in the neighbourhood and to the prosperity of the people.

If at this hour of the night the Solicitor-General is to argue that that is the right way to tackle the problem, I would not mind giving any kind of three hearty cheers which are permitted by the rules of order, and I would applaud his lead in this matter and disagree with those who are trying to perpetuate this system with some sort of device for passing the buck to someone else—the district valuer or a tribunal—who would know no more than anyone else what the value of the land was because its cash value could not be estimated, unless there is a straightforward tax on the production which passes from it. However, the social value must be estimated as part of the development and it cannot be argued that that is not part of the process of the development taking place in the area as a whole. There is no legal formula and the district valuer cannot make this an exact science, as has been said.

The balanced judgment must be whether it is better to make a concession at a low price to attract the right kind of industry into the neighbourhood, or whether there is no need to make such a concession and no need to attract any kind of industry, in which case a share of the equity can be taken in a prosperous industry which is asking for the concession.

What he has just said has been the most helpful speech that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has made. I hope that it looks as good when I read it in HANSARD as those last two or three sentences sounded. If it does, I shall begin to feel that we are getting somewhere.

Mr. Swingler

In the light of previous discussions we have had, we are entitled to underline those things which may save discussion that otherwise might just be approaching. We had previously the Solicitor-General's attempt to persuade us that we must not put into the Bill any considerations about industrial and social planning which were obligatory on the Crown Commissioners. He attempted to persuade the Committee that the Commissioners, although they might take into account the public interest as they went along, as it were, were nevertheless to be mandated to enhance the value of the land and to exploit it to the maximum extent in monetary terms.

It is in this Clause that we get the crassest statement that the Commissioners are to get their "money or money's worth". My hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) and others have complained about how that might work out, and has worked out, in certain monopolistic positions. Now we find that the Solicitor-General is ready to concede that there is something wrong about the crass pursuit of the highest profits in these cases and that something must be done to curb the powers of the Commissioners.

There are three questions I wish to address to him. What on earth did he mean when he talked about the district valuer in relation to the Bill's terminology about … the best consideration in money or money's worth."? As I understood him, he said there was no difference between the proposition of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) that the district valuer should be introduced to make a valuation in these cases and the terms of the Bill, which say they must go to … the best consideration in money and money's worth …

The Solicitor-General

I must have put it very badly. My intention was to say precisely the opposite—that I thought the price arrived at between a willing buyer and willing seller was the best consideration.

Mr. Swingler

What I do not understand is the objection of the Solicitor-General to the introduction of someone who is generally regarded as a fair authority in such cases and to whom cases should be referred for the fixing of a fair price. This requires same further explanation.

Secondly, how under the terms laid out here are the Commissioners supposed to make a distinction in practice between a profit-making oil company bringing a pipeline across the foreshore and the local authority desiring to lay a sewage pipe? The Solicitor-General says it is somehow covered by the phrase … having regard to all the circumstances … I should like to know exactly how they do have regard to all the circumstances of the case. What does it mean? In money terms? In terms of evaluation of the land and the action they are supposed to take? Which kind of sale or lease are they to prefer when there are such alternatives? Unless we have some exemplification of that we do not know what the words … having regard to all the circumstances … mean, except in so far as the Bill says they are to go for the highest price. In this case that seems to be contrary to what the Solicitor-General has told us.

12.15 a.m.

Thirdly, what is meant by "monopoly value"? How will it be interpreted? The hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) referred to the case of the foreshore and drew attention to the especially monopolistic character of these cases; that only a few places around the shores of this island were suitable for certain kinds of installations.

This could be said about dry land; about many parcels of land. In my constituency there are only a few places which are suitable for the erection of houses for my constituents. If we are to avoid making inroads into the best farming land, and if we are to avoid the hazards of mining subsidence, there are only a few parcels of land which are suitable for the erection of houses, schools, and other things.

This monopolistic character, this element of monopoly value, exists all over the place and has a very powerful influence on land values and on the speculation in land values. It is not confined to the foreshore.

I want to know exactly how the element of monopoly value attributable to the extent of the Crown ownership of comparable land will be excluded. If the Solicitor-General can answer that in practical terms, and also the other question, I am sure that we will make very speedy progress.

Mr. Mitchison

I was going to make the Solicitor-General an offer. It is a bit hard to bring forward a gift horse and then have everybody looking at the beast's teeth in the way we have perhaps been doing for the last minute or two. I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was trying very hard to meet the point that was put, but honestly—and I hope that he will take this from me—I am not sure that he has gone far enough. I think that the root of the difficulty is not so much the basis of valuation as the method of it.

I think that on both the Amendments there was a feeling that this ought not merely to be a prohibition on the Commissioners as it is at the present time, but that there ought to be some arrangement for enabling a fair price to be arrived at by someone expert in these matters, be it the Lands Tribunal which my hon. Friend or the hon. Gentleman opposite suggested, or the district valuer, or whoever it is.

We ought to be fair in a matter of this sort. We do not want this rather unfortunate incident which happened in my hon. Friend's constituency, which has, after all, been discussed as much as it is good for any slightly unpleasant incident to be discussed, to happen again.

With the memories of the Franks Report still fresh in our minds, we did not want to err on the side of giving too much statutory harshness to the Commissioners. I will willingly withdraw my Amendment if the right hon. and learned Gentleman will look at the matter again. There are two ways of looking at the matter again. In one case one first makes up one's mind that one is not going to make any alteration and then looks at the matter again, and in the other one looks at the matter and then makes up one's mind whether or not to make an alteration. I am sure that the Solicitor-General will adopt the second and more equitable method.

Mr. Donnelly

I associate myself with what was said by my hon. and learned Friend. We are anxious that this kind of incident is not repeated in other parts of the United Kingdom.

The Solicitor-General

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) and the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) for their very courteous and helpful approach, which is no more than characteristic of them. I should like to accept the hon. and learned Member's offer, but I should be less than candid with the Committee if I did not state that, with my hon. Friend, I have already considered the matter very carefully. We saw the force of the case which was put and we tried to meet it, and we considered carefully whether the use of the district valuer should be made mandatory in all cases, or whether an arbitration procedure proper should be adopted. After careful consideration we came to the conclusion that it was inexpedient. I will carefully consider all that hon. Members have said, with my hon. Friend; but it would be wrong to leave the Committee with the idea that we have a completely open mind about it.

The hon. Member for Pembroke was right when he said that there was a vast difference between the price originally suggested and the final negotiating bracket. The difference is represented by the difference between the old and new formula, and particularly the new formula as it will be in statutory form if the Committee accepts my Amendment. I confess that, even after hearing the hon. and learned Gentleman's explanation, I still do not like his Amendment. In the first place, it seems to me wrong to bring in the district valuer in all cases.

Mr. Mitchison

It is only one of two alternatives.

The Solicitor-General

I mean, not to limit that provision to the foreshore but to bring it in generally. In the ordinary case, where there is no monopoly or semi-monopoly or oligopoly, there seems to be no reason at all for bringing in the district valuer. It is much better left to ordinary bargaining. Secondly, it seems to me that there is still a false antithesis between what is the best consideration obtainable and what is the price arrived at between a willing buyer and a willing seller, and because it suggests that there is that antithesis, I think that it would be wrong to accept it.

Mr. Mitchison

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman consider talking to a valuer about it? I dare say that he has already done so. We had similar points on the Town and Country Planning Act. The valuers have views of their own.

The Solicitor-General

I have discussed this point with the Valuation Office. May I make one point plain which I do not think was appreciated? In practice we have not abandoned the district valuer. On the contrary, in respect of the foreshore and the sea bed it remains, and will remain, the practice adopted by the Commissioners to bring him in. It is precisely because it is necessary or desirable in the case of a monopoly that this very difficult assessment of the discounting of monopoly value should be independently carried out that the Commissioners are willing to take the Valuation Office view in the event of a disagreement with a potential purchaser or lessee.

The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that valuation is an art. This is the way it will work. In the event of a disagreement between the parties, the matter will be referred to the local valuation officer. I echo the tribute the hon. and learned Gentleman paid to local valuation officers. The valuation officer will say what he thinks is a fair price—he will name the consideration to be paid. The instruction to him runs in this way: The district valuer should assume, for the purpose of making his valuation, that there is a measure of competition, and, that if the negotiations with the Commissioners break down, equally suitable facilities could be obtained from other landowners on payment of a consideration which is reasonable in the circumstances of the case. I hope that answers the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler). I am told that the Valuation Office thinks that is a workable formula from its point of view.

Mr. Mitchison

I am sorry to intervene once more. I am just as anxious to be rid of all this as is the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Why not put it in the Bill in relation to the foreshore, if that is to be the practice?

The Solicitor-General

It is far better left as an instruction. I have an undertaking to the Committee that, in respect of the foreshore and the seabed, in the event of disagreement the machinery of the district valuer will continue to be invoked. I do not like the rest of the hon. and learned Gentleman's Amendment, so if only for that reason I could not advise its acceptance. I hope that, with those assurances, the Committee will feel that we have met the gravamen of the complaint made on the last occasion and will allow my right hon. and learned Friend's Amendment to be accepted.

Mr. Donnelly

I want to raise again a point with which the Solicitor-General did not deal. It is the question of dredging. This is a very important point, because dredging can cost a great deal of money. It adds a certain amount of insult to injury if the Commissioners then charge a great deal of money for the privilege of dredging, when the dredgers may well be rendering a service to the Commissioners.

The Solicitor-General

I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for not dealing with this point. The cost of an operation like that would be reflected in the profit. It would therefore in turn be reflected in the price that a willing buyer would be willing to pay, to adopt the hon. and learned Gentleman's phrase. My own view is that in such a case he would find the benefit to the Crown Estate and the cost to the intending purchaser reflected in the best consideration which could be given for the property.

Mr. Mitchison

My last suggestion about putting the district valuer into the Bill in relation to the foreshore was unconnected with the precise terms of the Amendment. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman after thinking about the matter still objects to the reference to the willing buyer and the willing seller, that would not prevent him putting in the district valuer's machinery in relation to the foreshore. The Committee would never dream of not accepting his undertaking, but we may be legislating for a considerable time and, thought I rather doubt it, even the Solicitor-General is not immortal.

The Solicitor-General

I apologise to the Committee for not making one point clear. The Commissioners will not use the district valuer only if they get into disputes with applicants. They have agreed to go straight to the district valuer without any prior negotiation if that is wished on the part of applicants.

Amendment agreed to.

12.30 a.m.

Mr. Parkin

I beg to move, in page 4, line 10, to leave out "one hundred" and to insert "fifty."

I have often heard right hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite refer to drafting Amendments when the right word to describe them would be probing Amendments. Therefore, perhaps I may be allowed to use the same phrase about this Amendment.

I wondered why the term of one hundred years was put into the Bill. Was it just laziness, was it just a matter of following convention, or was there any special significance for its inclusion in the Bill? I should have thought from the experience of the working of the leasehold system—I am sure that in other circumstances. I should have support on that matter from this side of the Committee—that a hundred years has not turned out to be a happy period at all. It is just long enough for the form of the community's life to have been completely changed and long enough to drag out the life of a house longer than it should. It produces a mass of schedules of dilapidations and the right of appeal and requires people to restore things which are no longer required because they are out of fashion. In fact, there is no sense in it at all.

Many of the more farsighted free-holders are now granting leases for much shorter periods with certain rights of renewal and extension which bring them nearer to the point, which has arisen before in our discussion, when a change in the terms of a lease is desirable, namely, the point of change of user of the land concerned. Therefore, although I have moved to delete "one hundred" and to insert "fifty," I would rather have a shorter period and the option to discuss fresh terms in a sensible way instead of copying the old custom of a hundred years lease with all its disadvantages and all the odium attached to it now and giving no chance of a shorter lease renewable on Landlord and Tenant Act terms which gives the opportunity to discuss again the use to which the land shall be put and the proper rent which shall be paid. It is for the purpose of extracting information from the Financial Secretary that I have moved the Amendment.

Sir E. Boyle

As an old veteran of the Standing Committee on the 1954 Bill, I should be glad on some future occasion to have an opportunity of debating long leases and all that with the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin).

The effect of the Amendment would be to limit the powers of the Commissioners to the granting of leases for fifty years. I am advised that, in practice, that would make it impossible for the Commissioners to let any part of the Crown Estate on a building lease, because the term of fifty years would not be sufficiently long to enable the developer to recover his capital.

Subsection (2) replaces Sections 4 and 5 of the 1927 Crown Lands Act whereby the Commissioners may grant leases for a term not exceeding a hundred years from the date of the lease or the contract from that lease if such a contract were made. It is for the reason which I have given that this provision has been inserted in the present Bill, and I must ask the Committee to accept the period of a hundred years.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Mitchison

I beg to move, in page 4, line 37, to leave out from "money" to the end of line 38 and to insert: by trustees and subject to any conditions attaching to such investment: Provided that for the purposes of this sub-section any such conditions may be adapted or modified by an order made by the Treasury in the form of a statutory instrument and subject to annulment by resolution of either House of Parliament".

The Temporary Chairman

I think that it would be for the convenience of the Committee also to discuss the Amendment in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), in page 4, line 38, at end insert: Provided that no moneys shall be invested in any such securities or investments as are mentioned in the last foregoing paragraph where the holder is not entitled to repayment of the principal within twelve years from the date of investment.

Mr. Mitchison

That will be convenient, Mr. Thomas, for although they are separate points they are closely related.

This is a case where the Government have been rather naughty. The Eve Report recommended that the Commissioners should have the powers of investment of trustees for the time being. The Government, very quietly, confined them to what I will call "savings bank powers". The Commissioners have not had a very good history about investment—at any rate, since the 1956 Act since when they have had to publish Reports—and in their Report for the year ended 31st March, 1958, they came to the conclusion that they should have an investment policy in which securities should fulfil the following conditions:

  1. "(a) all should be dated;
  2. (b) none should have a life of more than 15 years;
  3. (c) the portfolio should be so arranged that a proportion matures every two or three years."
These were rather excellent conclusions, though possibly, as I shall suggest, fifteen years was a shade long for the purposes of the Commission. The Commissioners pointed out that: The securities held by the Commissioners are needed as a reserve of liquid capital for re-investment in real estate, as opportunities offer, and for financing interest-bearing improvements; they cannot properly be regarded as a regular means of obtaining a high income or capital appreciation. Indeed, they could not be in this case. They have been a substantial means of obtaining a substantial amount of capital depreciation.

The statement of investments held at 31st March, 1958, shows that investments that originally cost £3,800,000-odd had depreciated by that time to £2,800,000-odd, which is a fairly good loss on a not very large quantity of investments. The reason is reasonably obvious. When one looks at the investments one discovers that a substantial part of them were either irredeemable or long-dated. Why did the Commissioners think it necessary to buy anything of that sort? I can suggest an explanation.

They no doubt made the purchases at a time when the Labour Government were keeping interest rates low. Whether or not one thinks that is right or wrong, it would not have involved them in the losses which the financial policy of successive Tory Governments involved them in. In any case, that is what happened, and one does not want it to happen again. Anyway, they have cleaned it up now, for two years later, in their Report showing the securities held on 31st March, 1960, they now have £2,500,000—and I am giving round figures—cost price and a market value of £2,300,000. I suppose that that is not so bad—in what is left, at any rate—for it is a loss of only about 10 per cent. instead of a loss of 30 per cent. or 40 per cent. They refer in their Report to having carried out the recommendations of the earlier Report.

I think that these gentlemen want looking after in this matter. They have discovered it themselves and I hope that we shall, later on in the day, be discussing the same problem in a rather wider context and in connection with an even more distinguished body of people—the National Debt Commissioners, whom I have not had the advantage of meeting. These gentlemen do meet, but this is rather a sad story. They have pulled up their financial socks and have got the matter right at last, but they should not be allowed to do it again. They may be tempted. Who knows? Let us see that their investment powers are proper.

The first Amendment suggests that the provisions of the Eve Report should be followed—a revolutionary suggestion which will undoubtedly be turned down by the Government at this hour of the night. They have previously found the Report rather convenient and have relied heavily upon it. It is now inconvenient, and they will turn it down. Such is the nature of Governments. There is an additional proviso because the Trustee Investment Bill, if it goes through, will contain some conditions about investment by trustees which are inappropriate to this particular case and which might have to be modified—and could easily be modified—by a Treasury order. That would be a quite proper thing to do in this type of case.

The second proposal, which one can treat as an alternative if the Government wish—since they will turn down both, it does not much matter—is simply that the Commissioners should be kept to securities redeemable within twelve years. If the Government like to say fifteen years, I shall not reject the offer on that account. It is really rather naughty to take the Eve recommendations, after what has happened to the securities in this case, and introduce merely savings bank powers, without any modification. Quite a lot of public money has been lost, in what seems to have been a comparatively short time, in such a simple matter as dealing with long-dated or irredeemable investments.

Sir E. Boyle

I agree that these two Amendments are among the more important Amendments which we have discussed this evening, and I shall endeavour to explain to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) the Government attitude in this matter.

The present Statutes enable the Commissioners to invest in trustee securities, but they are subject to the approval of the Treasury and, in practice, the Treasury has authorised investment only in the limited range of Government or Government-guaranteed securities authorised, as the hon. and learned Member intimated, for the investment of money paid into the fund for the banks for savings. The general Treasury view on the matter is that it is inappropriate in the case of funds like this to go beyond what one might call the Exchequer family of securities, which provide relief to Exchequer borrowings and which have other practical advantages today, for example, in the use of the machinery for investment provided by the National Debt Commissioners.

The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the Eve Report. It is true that the Eve Committee in 1955 recommended that the Commissioners should have powers of investment similar to those given from time to time to other trustees under the general law. But in this case subsequent discussion between the Government and the Commissioners has led to the acceptance of the proposition for which the Bill provides. This being what one might fairly describe as a management reserve, it should be kept in liquid form, and suitable investments for a fund of this kind are Government securities.

The present Clause is a modification of the Commissioners' powers of investment in securities from the point of view of Statute, though it is in accordance with current practice as approved by the Treasury. I can sum it up by saying that the Crown Estate is primarily a landed estate and, therefore, surplus capital will normally be used for the purchase of land. Apart from the power to lend money on the security of real, leasehold or heritable securities in accordance with Clause 3 (4, a), the funds invested from time to time in securities represent the management reserve of the Commissioners. They need to be kept liquid so that they can be used for investment in the purchase of land whenever suitable opportunities occur.

12.45 a.m.

I quite agree that, looking at it from the point of view of public interest and the management of public money, a wider investment Clause might in present circumstances enable the Commissioners to get a little higher return. If the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) were here, I think that I would be prepared to stand up to him on what I said in the Budget debate about the gilt-edged market but, whether he is right or I am, I do not think the importance of this is very great, because the interest on investments in securities is a pretty small proportion of the revenue of the Crown Estate. In the financial year 1959-60, it was only about £100,000 out of total receipts of over £3 million.

The Commissioners, in determining their precise investments, must also have in mind the desirability of at least maintaining capital value and, of course, of having funds readily available—and this is the main point—for financing current transactions. I think that there will also be some practical difficulties in making full use of the provisions of the Bill which we shall be discussing later today, because these are not really designed for an estate which is primarily a landed estate and uses its investments and securities only to hold its reserve readily available for investment in real property when opportunity presents itself. It is for that reason that it seemed to us best to keep to the limited range of investment provided for in the Bill, in accordance with present practice.

I come now to the hon. and learned Gentleman's second Amendment, which we are also discussing. Here, I can say that there is no dispute on the policy that the investments should be kept in dated stocks that do not mature a long time into the future, but we feel that it would be undesirable to have a rigid provision, or that Parliament should seek to impose this kind of restriction which, even if it appeared all right now, might prove to be an impediment to the efficient investment of money needed for a particular long-term need of the Estate. The Commission's policy has been, within the range of Exchequer securities, to keep to a portfolio of dated stocks maturing in not more than fifteen years so that, in any case, the suggested restriction of twelve years would be rather too short.

These considerations surely underline the undesirability of trying to set a precise period. The Commissioners have sold their former holding of undated stocks, and their present aim is to hold a well-balanced portfolio of dated stocks maturing in not more than fifteen years. There is no reason to think that after this Bill becomes law that policy will be changed, and the Government are perfectly in agreement with it.

For those two reasons, I could not advise the Committee to accept these Amendments, and in answer to the hon. and learned Gentleman I think the short point is this. The investment of the money which the Commissioners will have available to meet their needs for working capital and awaiting re-investment is secondary to their function of real estate management. For the most part, not only will these investments be secondary but they should, I think, be held in such a form as to be readily available to meet commitments in connection with the management of the Estate and to take advantage of such opportunities as may present themselves. I must therefore advise the Committee not to accept this Amendment.

Mr. Mitchison

Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve was the chairman of the Eve Committee and, at the relevant time, was chairman of the Commissioners. Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve is far from being half-witted, and I read out the paragraph in his Report which explained the nature of the fund the Commissioners desired to have and its requirement exactly as the hon. Gentleman has just stated. They came to the conclusion that for these reasons a fund of a certain character was required, and it is that character that we desire to import by the second Amendment. There is really nothing in the point that there is some obscure difference between twelve and fifteen. I will not argue it at this hour of the night. I think there is a case for twelve, but be that as it may.

There are two alternatives here. One is that we should trust the Commissioners and give them the powers which the Government themselves are proposing to give to ordinary private trustees but think it improper to give the people who are trustees of this fund. After all, other trustees will have funds exactly like this one to administer, and they have the sense to choose the right kind of securities for those funds. Surely, if private trustees are competent to do it under the terms of the Bill which we shall consider later in the day, then these gentlemen ought to be able to do it, too. I have no reason to suppose that they cannot do it.

That is what the Eve Report recommended, but the Government will not do it. On the contrary, they say "We cannot do that. We can only give them savings bank powers.", and they then refuse to put the limitation on the savings bank powers which the Commissioners themselves have recommended. Either we trust them or we do not. This is an extraordinary way of hovering in between, half trusting them and half not trusting them. It is contrary to what they themselves suggested or, at any rate, to what Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve suggested in the Report. It is contrary to their own practice, and it is simply there because this is the conventional form which has pleased the Treasury. It is Treasury practice. Later in the day we shall come to the National Debt Commissioners, and then we shall see where Treasury practice leads us.

Amendment negatived.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Swingler

This is the second time that we have found ourselves passing a Clause in the Bill that emphasises the money-making character of the Crown Estate.

We have passed Clause 1 which said that it should be the general duty of the Commissioners to maintain and enhance the value of the estate and the return obtained from it. We are now asked to pass a Clause which says that they shall not sell … except for the best consideration in money or money's worth". Further on there is a proviso which says more or less that everything is to be determined in such manner as, in the opinion of the Commissioners is calculated to secure to them the best consideration in money or money's worth". These things they shall do.

I would point out to the Solicitor-General that there is no mention of the public interest, community welfare or industrial planning or any of the elements of the national interest. An hon. Member has pointed out that we are just about to reach a Clause which deals with some public purposes. The interesting thing is that this Clause says that the Commissioners may do certain things for public purposes or the welfare of the community, for charity and other things, but so far we have repeated half a dozen times that the Commissioners shall put the pursuit of profit first in all their considerations. It is against that that I protest.

Mr. Mitchison

I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) has just said. I do not emphasise it because I mentioned it, and I intended to mention it on the very first Amendment.

There is one small point here. I am afraid that I did not hear quite all the discussion about the insertion of the word "feu", but I gathered from what the Lord Advocate said on the matter that it was covered, in effect, by "disposal". Looking at the Bill, I have a feeling that the Scottish aspect of it in the matter of language may have been somewhat neglected. There are spasmodic references to Scotland. It would have been easy to put in the word "feu" by appropriate words. It is a very common method, of course, when disposing of land in Scotland, and it is rather odd to put in the English words "dispose of" and not put the Scots word in. I wonder whether it would be too much to ask that the Lord Advocate or the appropriate person in the Scottish Office should look not only at this part of the Bill but at others, too, to ascertain whether the adaptation to Scottish practice is sufficiently complete. It is rather odd to put a word like "advowson" in what I thought was an exclusively English term. I speak with deference. I do not know Scots law. There may be cases where the corresponding Scottish equivalent has been omitted. I do not know. Perhaps I may take the comparatively affirmative gestures of the Solicitor-General and the Lord Advocate as an indication that there is some possibility of that being so.

The Solicitor-General

I have only two things to say.

The first is in answer to the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler). I draw his attention to the fact that Clause 4 is invoked into this Clause by the opening words of Clause 3: Save as provided by the following provisions of this Act … I come now to the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison). My right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate closely scrutinised the drafting of the Bill. I am told that there is no such concept as advowson in Scotland, and, therefore, the Bill does not give a Scottish equivalent. In line 31, page 4, the hon. and learned Gentleman will find the words "heritable securities", which he can hug to his soul with delight.

Mr. Mitchison

I have seen "heritable securities," and I have hugged the creature, but it is rather strange not to refer to feuing when dealing with questions of disposal of land in Scotland. I hesitate to say this, but it is common knowledge that it is a very frequent method of dealing with land in Scotland, and it is odd not to put it in. It looks as if the right hon. and learned Gentleman has neglected Scotland. I should have thought that, even in the light of tonight's experience, the right hon. and learned Gentleman would have learnt how unwise it is to do that.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.