§ Ordered for consideration, as amended, read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now considered.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. F. V. Corfield (Gloucestershire, South)
I beg to move, to leave out "now considered" and to addrecommitted to a Committee of the whole House in respect of the Amendment to Clause 32, page 22, line 15, standing on the Notice Paper in the name of Mr. Corfieldinstead thereof.
Hon. Members will see that that Amendment is to leave out from "Board" to end of line 24 and to insert:shall pay to any person displaced from any land acquired under this Act for the purposes of any works specified in Part IV of this Act such reasonable sum as is estimated to make good any loss which he will sustain or be put to by reason of his having to quit the land.(2) The amount of any payments to be made under the provisions of this section shall be determined by the Board or if the person claiming compensation under this section so notifies the Board, by a committee composed of two members representing Huntingdonshire County Council, two persons representing the Board, two representatives nominated by persons appearing to the Minister to represent the interests of occupiers of agricultural land, and one person, to be Chairman, to be nominated by the President of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors".The object of the Amendment is to ensure that the farmers who will be displaced by the works which are proposed in the Bill shall be left in no doubt that they will be entitled to compensation for the loss to which they will inevitably be put. The need for making a Clause of this sort mandatory instead of merely permissive, as it now appears, arises mainly from the fact that the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1948, gave to tenant farmers a considerable degree of security of tenure. In spite of that, or perhaps because of it to some extent, it has never been the custom in England and Wales—unlike Scotland—for agricultural land to be let in the form that creates a leasehold interest. The normal and almost universal practice is for agricultural land to be let on a year-to-year basis and, because of the security of tenure provisions of the 1948 Act, a leasehold is becoming even rarer than it was before.
110 Though, in practice, the average length of agricultural tenancies is about twenty-five years—there is a turnover of about 4 per cent. per annum—the tenant farmer who is faced with compulsory acquisition is confined in effect to an interest in land extending to a minimum of one year and a maximum of just short of two years, it being possible once the acquiring authority has acquired the freehold to serve a notice to quit at any time after the land has been acquired so as to expire twelve months after the next following term day. In other words, if we are considering the very common Michaelmas tenancies, a notice to quit given this month would operate to end the tenancy a year next Michaelmas, that is to say, Michaelmas, 1962.
That gives rise to a state of affairs in which generally speaking, the acquiring authority has two alternative methods, largely quite different methods, of gaining possession, and although the choice is entirely at the discretion of the acquiring authority, and the farmer affected has no control whatever over the choice of method, the method chosen substantially affects the basis of compensation and the amount of compensation.
The acquiring authority may either acquire the tenant's remaining interest, by the familiar compulsory purchase order procedure, or may confine its acquisition to the freehold and thereafter step into the shoes of the landlord and give a notice to quit under the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1948. If it adopts the former method, the tenant is entitled to compensation under two heads—under the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845.
Under the first, he is entitled to the value of his unexpired term or interest, that is, the period between the serving of the notice of entry and the date on which the tenancy can be terminated under the Agricultural Holdings Act. Using the same period, again with the Michaelmas tenancies, notice of entry given now would extend the period to Michaelmas, 1962.
The second head under the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act is for "any just allowance which ought to be made to the farmer by the incoming tenant for any loss or injury which he may sustain." It has been held in a fairly recent case, 111 in 1954, that the value of that remaining interest is to be based on its market value on the assumption that there is a willing seller. In other words, it is based on the value of the right to enter into the farm and continue to crop it until the expiration of this period, a period of not quite two years at the most and never less than one year.
The House may think that the existance of a willing buyer of such a very limited and unsatisfactory interest might be somewhat hypothetical and the calculation of market value based on his existence even more so. However that may be, I am reliably informed that the compensation under this system works out at between 25 and 75 per cent. of the loss of profits over the period, and that in itself strikingly illustrates the disadvantageous position of the tenant farmer compared with the tenant of any other form of business. Nevertheless, with the second head of compensation, the right of "any just allowance" for other injury, I am told that this method of valuation almost universally produces a far more generous sum of compensation than does the alternative method.
The alternative method, which is for the acquiring authority to acquire the freehold and then, in its capacity of landlord, to give notice to quit, results in compensation for disturbance being strictly limited, under the 1948 Act itself, to a minimum of one year's rent and a maximum of two years' rent, provided that the farmer can prove necessary expenditure over and above the one year's rent. In passing, it is necessary to say that the minimum if one year's rent is often more a theoretical than a practical minimum, because there are circumstances in which the compensation may be very much less than one year's rent. It is to be noted that whatever the actual loss to which a farmer may be put, there is this rigid upper limit of a maximum sum equivalent to two years' rent.
In this, as in all cases involving a large area of agricultural land, as invariably happens when reservoirs are concerned, we have a considerable number of farmers displaced at the same time, all through the same area, all familiar with the same type of land and all looking for alternative farms, presumably again in the same area and presumably of the same type. An alternative farm 112 to let, even without those qualifications, is something which is extremely difficult to find, as the House well knows.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
The hon. Gentleman said that a considerable number of farmers would be displaced. It would be of use to the House in coming to a decision if he could tell us how many farms there are. My information is that there are seven.
§ Mr. Corfield
I understand that the total area is about 2,000 acres, and that there are 15 or 17 farms. However that may be, the job of finding a new farm, even without these complications, always does, and will, involve a great deal of time and travel, and that in itself will add up to a considerable item.
In some cases the farmer may well find that he is unable to find an alternative farm by the date on which he is due to give up his existing holding. In that case he will have to dispose of his stock, both live and dead stock, and he will not be able to substantiate a claim for the cost of moving because there will be nothing to move. If he is eventually successful in finding another farm he will undoubtedly find it a great deal more expensive to start farming de novo in the new area rather than with the nucleus of his stock from his existing farm.
Here, again, there are circumstances which are beyond the control of the individual farmer and which can vary the basis of compensation even with this method. It is common practice nowadays for tenancy agreements to include clauses providing for the resumption of possession at less than the statutory twelve months' notice—three months is very often used and sometimes six months—for some special purpose other than the use of the land for agriculture.
If that clause is included, it is open to a landlord, in this case the acquiring authority, to demand possession within that period, and in that case the compensation is accordingly affected. It is, I believe, theoretically possible under this system for the claim to compensation to be eliminated altogether, although my researches have not enabled me to find a case which has gone as far as that.
I think that it will be seen by the House that as a result of these proposals these farmers have already inevitably suffered a considerable period of financial 113 anxiety with these acquisition proposals hanging over them. They are entitled to know that they have a right to have their losses made good. The preliminary losses may already be substantial in some cases. I am informed that one farmer with a farm of 500 acres has, as a result of these proposals, been faced over the greater part of the current season with trying to farm that acreage with a single farm worker because the uncertainty has made it impossible for him to employ a full staff.
Even in the case of owner-occupiers who will get the full market value of their farms, they may well not be able to find an alternative. They may well not be able to substantiate a claim for disturbance and have to move and start again at a very much higher cost with no claim to meet that loss.
If they are tenant farmers, they will remain wholly in the dark as to the basis of compensation which they will be able to get. If the acquiring authority proceeds under the 1948 Act and the losses exceed the statutory maximum of two years' rent, they will suffer a dead loss unless they are fortunate in the use of the discretionary powers of Clause 32 of the Bill. I would have thought that it must be right that in determining what is just and fair they should not have to rely on the decision of the acquiring authority acting as judge in its own cause.
There are other matters which arise which complicate the issue where only part of a holding is acquired. If possession is taken by the acquiring authority by the ordinary compulsory purchase order procedure operating on the farmer's interest direct rather than in the capacity of a landlord, there is no entitlement for the tenant to demand the acquisition of the whole farm. That arises, too, in the case of the owner-occupier. If, on the other hand, the 1948 Agricultural Holdings Act procedure is employed there is a right under Section 32 of that Act.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Can the hon. Gentleman help on one point? This is a Private Bill and under the procedure there is a quasi-judicial stage at which anybody who is unjustly treated or feels that he has a grievance can put his objections. 114 Were these objections put at that stage?
§ Mr. Corfield
I understand that the Farmers' Union did not feel justified in the considerable cost of petitioning, and it also felt that as this matter was of considerably wider importance it might not be unsuitable for a debate in this House. I trust that the hon. and learned Gentleman will not be in major disagreement on that matter.
There is a precedent for a mandatory Clause of this type. It is to be found in Sections 41 and 42 of the Liverpool Corporation Act, 1957, which was the Act enabling the Liverpool Corporation to acquire for flooding a valley in Merionethshire, the name of which I shall not attempt to pronounce. Section 41 requires the Corporation, as far as is reasonably practicable, on the application of an owner or occupier, to reinstate him elsewhere, and this question whether reinstatement was reasonably practicable was to be determined by arbitration. Section 42 obliged the Corporation topay to any person displaced from any land…such reasonable allowance as the advisory committee may recommend towards any loss or in respect of any personal hard ship or disturbance which in their opinion he will sustain or be put to by reason of having to quit such land.The advisory committee under that Act consisted of two members of the Merionethshire County Council, two representatives of the Liverpool Corporation, and an independent chairman appointed by the President of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
The reasons given by the Chairman of the Select Committee for inclusion of this provision were, first, that the scheme would result in the disturbance of a particularly valuable type of Welsh culture. No doubt that was a loss, or a prospective loss, at the time to Wales, but it surely cannot be argued that it inflicted a greater loss on the individual farmer than the proposals of the Bill are inflicting on the farmers of Huntingdonshire.
The second reason given was that there was a comparatively large number of people who would be displaced in a short time and it would be difficult to rehabilitate them. As the shortage of land to farm, and particularly land which is to rent to farm, becomes increasingly severe, this will apply to 115 any scheme where a large area of agricultural land is concerned, and in my view the present proposal is on all fours with that of the Liverpool Corporation Act.
I hope that when my hon. Friend advises the House as to the view the Government take he will bear in mind that although his right hon. Friend has a special responsibility for Wales, he is, in his capacity as Minister of Housing and Local Government, every bit as responsible for the farmers of Huntingdonshire. I hope that we shall not establish the principle that a Welsh farm or a Welsh farmer is necessarily per se more valuable than one in Huntingdonshire.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hobson (Warwick and Leamington)
I think it my duty, Mr. Speaker, to disclose to you and to the House that I have a possible interest in the subject of this Private Bill. In my capacity as trustee I hold stock in the Luton Water Company which is affected by the Bill. Generally, I have no immediate interest in either of my trustee holdings. One is in respect of a private marriage settlement in which I may have expectations, but I do not know whether I have. The other is in my capacity as trustee to a mental hospital in which again I have no immediate interest, but I may have. I thought it appropriate in the circumstances to disclose to the House such interest as I might have.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) has explained why we have this difficult question brought before us at this stage. The National Farmers' Union was unwilling to embark on the expense of a Petition before the Committee. It occurs to me that, in accordance with the rules of the House, it might well have been possible to have moved that it be an instruction to the Committee to consider this matter before the Bill was sent to the Committee. Then we should have had the advantage of the consideration of the Committee, which could have heard full and detailed arguments on these difficult matters and considered the question in greater detail and at greater length.
It raises a very wide and difficult question of general principle. One of the 116 reasons why I respectfully suggest that the House should reject the proposal of my hon. Friend is that he is trying by this private and minor Bill, affecting in total about fifteen farmers, to slip in what is a fundamental alteration in the law of compensation. It is a great burden on the promoters of the Great Ouse Water Bill to have this matter debated when it affects so few people. I am informed that seven farmhouses and six farm cottages are affected. There are about fifteen holdings affected substantially to the extent that more than 50 per cent. of the land is being taken. A further seven holdings—making twenty-two in all—are affected to a lesser degree in that 50 per cent. or less of the holdings will be affected by what is compulsorily acquired.
My hon. Friend said that one of the unfairnesses in this proposal is that part of the holding might be taken, to the great disadvantage of the farmer, who might be left with a part, perhaps a useless part, of the holding. If my hon. Friend looks at Clause 24 of the Bill, he will find that there are provisions whereby any person from whom it is proposed that part of a holding shall be acquired by compulsory purchase can insist upon the whole being taken; unless he is affected to so slight an extent that it would be unreasonable to expect the acquiring authority to acquire the whole when it needed only a very small and insignificant part. Therefore, I think that that point falls to the ground.
I am not sure whether in this case the net cash result of our debate is likely to have any substantial result on the farmers who will be affected. While the promoters cannot in any way bind the authority which is to be set up, the members of which have to be nominated by different bodies, nevertheless the promoters do now to some extent represent the bodies which will subsequently nominate the members of the authority. I am authorised to say that it is their general expectation that claims for exceptional losses under Clause 32 of the Bill—which is what my hon. Friend is raising—will be treated liberally and probably as generously as they would be if there were a mandatory provision in the Bill that compensation at a certain scale must be assessed and paid by the water authority to be set up under the Bill.
117 The difficulty which I see about the proposal of my hon. Friend is that he is proposing that the compensation which should be paid to those farmers should be far more extensive than is paid under the general law either to residential or business householders or to agricultural tenants generally throughout the country. There is one case only in recent history, or even past history, where a similar provision has been included in a Bill providing for compensation. That is in the case mentioned by my hon. Friend of the Liverpool Corporation Act, 1957. But the chairman of the committee which laid down that provision expressly said that it was a very exceptional case. Far more people were affected. A whole village was extinguished and a large number of people moved in an area in the centre of Wales. In addition, it was established by the committee that something should be done to preserve the culture of Wales in that area. It should not be accepted that such a provision should be a precedent for any future occasion in any future Bill. I know not whether the culture of Huntingdon is exceptional, or whether the 15 or 22 farmers affected carry within themselves a particular Huntingdonian form of culture which ought equally to be preserved. I see difficulty in suggesting that there is any such reason for following the exceptional provision in the Liverpool Act.
More recently, in the Tees legislation, there was a provision almost exactly similar to the provision included in this Bill. Both provide for the same method of assessing compensation, and paying it, as is provided under the provisions of Section 13 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1959, regarding persons occupying residential buildings or persons carrying on any trade or business. I understand that recently the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food gave an undertaking that he would extend similar provisions for the benefit of agricultural tenants when it is convenient for the Government to include such a Clause in a Government Bill. In this case the tenants affected will have the advantage which is promised for all agricultural tenants for the future. Therefore, we have the position that all residential or business tenants, these tenants, and, in future—when the Government can legislate for it—all agricultural 118 tenants, will be paid special losses which they can establish to the satisfaction of the acquiring authority, upon the basis, however, that it is discretionary in the acquiring authority to pay such compensation.
My hon. Friend desires, first of all, that such compensation should be assessed by an independent body consisting of a variety of persons which shall sit judicially and assess the amount of compensation, and it shall then be mandatory on the acquiring authority to pay that amount of compensation. I quite understand that there might be an argument for saying that residential tenants and business tenants and all forms of displaced tenants ought to have the right to submit to an independent body the assessment of their compensation, and that the payment of such should be mandatory upon the acquiring authority. Surely, that is a subject that ought to be debated on general principle by the House as a whole, and applied to all such tenancies, not slipped into a Bill of this nature so that the Liverpool and the Great Ouse water authorities are the only authorities acquiring land compulsorily which are subject to these very special provisions.
There are in the Amendment some detailed provisions which are also causing considerable anxiety to the promoters. In the first place, the Amendment provides that the Board shall pay compensation for anything done under the Act, when the Private Bill we are considering contains provisions affecting a number of other bodies. The Mid-Northamptonshire Water Board, the Lea Valley Water Company and the Luton Water Company may do—and indeed have to do—things for which they would have to pay compensation, but, under the provisions as drafted by my hon. Friend, the new board would have nothing whatever to do with what had been done by the Mid-Northamptonshire, the Lea Valley or the Luton water undertakings, which would find themselves faced with the payment of additional personal loss compensation provided for in this Clause.
Furthermore, the members of the independent body who are to assess this provision, according to the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend, include the members of the Huntingdonshire County Council, who have a very small financial 119 interest indeed in the whole of this water undertaking—I think about one-fifth of the total financial interest. Bedfordshire is not represented, and many works may be undertaken there and in Northamptonshire and Hertfordshire, but they will be unrepresented on any body which is assessing the compensation ultimately to be paid.
These are some of the considerations which I would respectfully submit to the House ought to be borne in mind and which should lead this House at this stage to reject the proposals of my hon. Friend as being quite exceptional. It would be wrong to consider them in this immediate and particular context. I am bound to say, however, that the promoters are quite content that this House should decide, and are perfectly willing that whatever this House should decide should be binding upon them, and, to that extent they are not particularly interested in the arguments of principle.
It would be more expensive for the provision of the water, but not very much more so. Their principal and main interest is to see that this Bill is passed this Session, in order that the reservoir may be constructed as soon as possible and an additional supply of water made available to those persons who need it immediately. I suggest that we should reject this proposal, but the promoters leave it entirely to the House to decide.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
In regard to the merits of this proposal, we have a system of compensation which has been accepted for a very great number of years. As against that, the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) suggests the case of Lake Vyrnwy, the pronunciation of which, oddly enough, is relatively simple, in spite of the spelling being formidable. The situation arose that Liverpool was seeking water about 60 miles from the city, and this raised very great feelings in Wales, particularly because a whole village, including a church, had to disappear for the benefit of Liverpool. In these circumstances, a quite exceptional provision was made.
That is not, however, what I want to go into here, because it seems to me that, apart altogether from the merits, this is not the stage at which we ought to consider 120 this sort of proposal. For Private Bills there is a special procedure, and that procedure has been worked out through some centuries of experience. Those of us who listened to the hon. Gentleman's opening speech, detailed as it was, even those of us who have had a legal training, will have had the utmost difficulty in understanding what it was about. That is quite simply because this is the wrong form, the wrong place and the wrong procedure for that sort of argument.
This is the sort of argument which needs a judicial procedure to follow it, and that is why the judicial procedure of the Private Bills Committee was set up. There, counsel can argue and one can have the documents before one and one can understand, and a record is made. If an appeal from that Committee is brought to the House, the documents and the arguments are before the House, and by studying those documents it is possible to understand and appreciate what it is about. To try to take the sort of argument which we had from the hon. Gentleman without that preparation is contrary to the whole spirit of the procedure on Private Bills. It is not reasonable for the National Farmers' Union, when it comes to a matter of principle, to plead poverty. It is a ridiculous plea.
I say that to come here at this stage with this sort of argument and ask the House to reverse an established procedure in the interests of, maybe, seven or, maybe, twenty-two farmers, or something between the two, who are affected by the different methods of compensation, is an abuse of our procedure and one which we ought not to consider for a moment.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)
I rise to support the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield), but I should like to say two things by way of preamble. The first is that Diddington, which is the site of the proposed works, lies just over the border of my constituency, and, naturally, I have consulted fully with my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, in whose constituency it lies, before speaking on behalf of the Diddington farmers as well 121 as those in my own constituency, some of whom are also affected.
The second is that it is no part of my intention or desire to oppose this Bill or in any way to cause delay. There is no doubt in my mind that the need for this water is both real and urgent. Furthermore, it must come from the Great Ouse, and a large storage capacity is necessary. It is certainly true that I had hoped that an alternative scheme to the one now proposed might have been adopted. I had hoped that for a long time. There are in my constituency a number of large worked out clay pits belonging to the brickworks at Stewartby and Marston, which it was hoped would serve as reservoirs instead of Diddington. It was only with great reluctance that I came to accept the Diddington scheme as inevitable. There are various reasons for this—but the most cogent was that Stewartby, the name by which the other scheme came to be known—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I cannot allow the hon. Gentleman to discuss other schemes on a recommital Motion.
§ Mr. Hastings
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, but I merely meant to emphasise that it would have been better if that scheme could have been adopted, but of course I see the point.
The true effects of the Diddington scheme were clear to me only when I had talked to some of the unfortunate families who are affected by it; when I had watched them point out their boundaries, the extent of the work they had put in over the years, the plans they had had for the future; when I had seen projects which had to be abandoned and hopes frustrated—piles of bricks for instance, obtained for a barn planned long ago, but which will now never be built; new implements long saved for and which will never now be used, and probably sold at a loss.
I realise that there may be only seven farmers badly affected and only fifteen affected in all, but in my view to them this matter is just important as if there were fifty. It is not easy to make a fresh start in life, especially in farming, after ten, twelve, and, in one case, twenty-three years, on the same piece of land and when one is no longer young. It is not easy to face the break-up of a family partnership and to see a son who has helped 122 on the place, and is due to take over, barred from doing so; but that will happen in more than one case at Diddington. Because of the grave difficulties in moving, there is a tendency for farmers to hang on even though their farms, once the land has been taken by this scheme, will be uneconomic to run, and that is dangerous to them as individuals.
I do not personally know how these people can be properly compensated for the loss some of them will suffer, but what I heard and saw at Diddington was enough to convince me that it is no idle matter to take a decision to flood such a valley. This, also, is undoubtedly the view of the promoters, some of whom I know personally. I wish to quote the words of Sir Frederick Mander, Chairman of Bedfordshire County Council. In Committee upstairs, he said:It is not a pleasant experience to stand and look at a valley and know that shortly you are going to drown those farms. Although we knew that the landowners were covered by the new altered law and were assured, at any rate, of compensation up to the full market value of their land, we were not satisfied that the legal entitlement of the tenants to compensation for disturbance was adequate, and we instructed that in the drafting of the Bill there should be included the most favourable compensation clauses that the Ministry of Housing and Local Government would be able to accept.I believe that that represents accurately the frame of mind of the promoters. I was surprised to hear my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Hobson) say that they would be gravely disturbed by the proposed Amendment. I believe on the other hand—although I could not commit them in any way—that they might welcome increased compensation along the lines suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South.
The effects of the scheme on the farmers range from inconvenience, to what one might fairly call grave distress. To give an idea of what the compensating authority will have to cope with, I have divided the cases into various categories.
First and foremost, there are those who will suffer because pipelines will be driven through their land. They will lose the use of that land for a year, or possibly two. Secondly, there are those who will lose a portion of the land but who nevertheless will be able to carry 123 on although the economy of their farms will be altered. Thirdly, there are those who will have some land left but will be unable to carry on farming. Fourthly, there are those who are due to see their farms and homesteads completely inundated.
The most important difference is between an owner-occupier and a tenant farmer, as was clearly brought out by my hon. Friend. Of the farmers involved, twelve are tenants and three are owner-occupiers. The problem of rented farms applies particularly in the Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire area. Before the last war it may have been comparatively easy to walk out of one farm into another, but now it is extremely difficult to find a farm to rent. Some may have to wait for years before they can get another. When one does come on the market, it will go out to tender and the highest bidder will get it. These people will be extremely keen to get anything which comes up, which may well result in more being paid for the farm than the land is worth and more than the farmer can afford.
I shall give the House one or two examples of the various categories in an endeavour to describe the complexity of the compensation problem and to show how each case varies. Farmer A is affected by the pipeline. He is in the first category. He farms 120 acres in my constituency. He is a market gardener and this is very valuable land. He loses three fields or about 50 acres for one year and possibly two. He makes about £50 an acre and will therefore suffer a loss of £2,500 a year. Another thing: this farmer does not send his produce straight to Covent Garden, but markets it on his own account with his own transport. He depends for success on the good will of wholesaler clients in Northampton and elsewhere, and in order to maintain that good will over the period during which the works take place he may have to buy produce from neigh-hours and other farmers, and this operation will certainly prove unprofitable. There is also the question of labour which is very hard to come by in this area. He cannot allow his labour force to go. He will be forced to keep his workers, unprofitably, until he can bring his land back into use. There are also more technical questions, such as 124 the damage to soil structure and weed control, for if land is left neglected, even for six weeks, at this time of year, it can come near to wrecking a horticultural crop. This is a complicated market gardening case and I am doubtful whether anyone could appreciate what precisely is at stake if he knows nothing about horticulture.
Farmer B farms 714 acres on the edge of the Diddington area. He raises sheep and cattle, and grows feed crops for them. He will lose 150 acres and estimates that he will have to cut down operations by about a quarter. His gross profit will therefore fall by the same margin, although his overheads will remain substantially the same. This loss is permanent unless he can alter his farm economy in some more profitable way or substitute another form of farming. His compensation for the one or two years rent on 150 acres will not cover this loss for more than two years at the outside. This is a different problem. To my way of thinking, it is a question of deciding how long the loss of profits should be covered by compensation before he can reasonably be expected to recoup by new methods.
Farmer C has 208 acres in the Diddington Valley and is left with only 70 acres. His farm consists of arable land and cattle, pigs and poultry. The arable land will go and he will have to sell his cattle. The most profitable side of his business will be taken. The only way in which he can carry on is to intensify his farming, which would mean building up on his poultry and pigs. I apologise for these technicalities, but they are material to my case. He will have to build new deep litter sheds for his poultry and a new piggery. He will face a capital investment of about £3,000 and the compensation he will get will certainly not exceed £1,000.
§ Mr. Hobson
Why does my hon. Friend mention a figure of that sort in view of Clause 32 which enables the authority to take all these factors into consideration in assessing what is to be paid in compensation?
§ Mr. Hastings
I think my hon. and learned Friend will agree that what we are asking for in the Amendment is to give these farmers a right. Although I take the point my hon. and learned 125 Friend has made, that still does not establish a right, which we are trying to do. In addition to the figures I have named, this farmer was expecting to have mains electricity brought to the farm, which is extremely important to this type of farming.
This electricity is no longer to come. I cannot say whether the change is due to the Diddington scheme, but I assume that is the case. As the result of the electricity installation being cancelled, this farmer has had to install a plant of his own at a cost of about £500. Again, he wanted to build a barn in which to keep his straw dry, which is important for deep litter poultry. This had been agreed by the landlord, but since news of the Diddington scheme was received, permission has been withdrawn. This farmer's problem is one of new investments—of financing an entirely new type of farm—and his problem differs completely from the other examples I have so far cited.
Farmer D, who farms 419 acres at Diddington, will have only 200 acres left. This remaining land will be in four little bits and access to it is extremely difficult. Three bits are virtually islands, and it will be impossible for him to carry on. His farm is isolated and labour has always been difficult for him to obtain, and he is in exactly the same trouble over electricity as is the farmer I have previously mentioned. Electricity from the mains was promised and then cancelled, and I consider that the reason for that cancellation was probably the Diddington scheme. This man has also had to install his own plant at considerable expense.
Then news of the scheme became widespread, and his workers began to leave. He has had to continue to run his farm on casual labour and has been finding it increasingly difficult to keep going. He has already had to sell his cattle. Thus, losses have already been incurred.
His farm is run in conjunction with another which belongs to his brother. The two farms are run as a single economic unit, and the fact that he is to lose the land at Diddington means that it will be uneconomic to continue on this farm, for feed will have to be purchased instead of it being provided at Diddington. I find it extremely 126 difficult to assess this man's loss even in the roughest figures, and, again, his problems are entirely different from those I have previously described.
Farmer E will lose all of his 350 acres. He has farmed at Diddington for twelve years and has brought the land back from a state of dereliction to one of good heart. He has built up a good herd of dairy cattle. He has ploughed back every penny he has made into the land, and this farm, and he knows and wants no other trade. This man sees very little chance—and I am forced to agree with him—of finding another farm on anything like similar terms. There are, I believe, four farmers in the same position, and these cases are the worst of all.
I hope that these examples—and I am sorry to have dealt with them at such length—will show not only the gravity of the blow which faces these people at Diddington, but will demonstrate the variation and complexity of the problem of compensation. Losses are occurring, even though work has not yet started. Losses have been suffered. No two cases are alike, and the possibility of inequitable treatment is, in my view, infinite.
We wish—and I believe the Amendment is aimed precisely at this—to obviate this risk. It is not fair to require any single body, corporation or individual—and I suppose it would be the district valuer in this case—to judge these cases arbitrarily—and particularly since they are to be judges in their own cause. It will not be fair to those who will have to arbitrate and it will certainly not be fair on the farmers of Diddington.
It has been argued by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington that the Amendment creates, or would create, an important and dangerous precedent. But where the law is so loosely arranged, as I am sure the House will agree from what my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South said, we should not be concerned so much with precedent as with the need to reform it. That is a matter for another debate, but in the meantime, surely, our concern should be to treat each case—particularly cases of the gravity of that at Diddington—on its merits and according to circumstances. What I have sought 127 to do this evening is to describe some of these circumstances to the House.
If it is right for the Diddington farmers to be fully compensated—and I am sure no hon. Member, or the Ministry, would wish to deny that—we believe that they should have that compensation by right, and not by charity. Further, because of the extremely complex and individual nature of the claims, we also believe that there should be a right of appeal to an independent and knowledgeable tribunal. I do not wish to argue about the precise make-up of the tribunal. It might be possible to alter it in the way implied by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington. But that there should be a tribunal, and an appeal for these farmers, must go without saying. It is only in this way that justice will be ensured for the farmers of Diddington, some of whom will suffer grievously under this Bill. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government will agree that the Bill should be recommitted and the Amendment accepted.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
I hope that hon. Members will not agree to have this Clause recommitted for the reasons given lucidly and with great force by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Hobson) and by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). They proved that this would go too far.
If there is a gap in the law, this is not the time to close it, as the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington pointed out. I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) and the longer I listened the more I wished that the National Farmers' Union had petitioned against the Bill when it appeared before the Select Committee. I rise principally to say that, as I was a member of that Committee, the Committee was alive to the fact that there were farmers, and others, who would be displaced and we were surprised to find that some of them did not petition the Committee in order that their cases should be heard.
128 On more than one occasion members of the Committee—including myself—put questions to learned counsel on this point. The proceedings lasted for six days. Deliberations were not hurried and we had four learned members of the Bar appearing before us, plus a great number of witnesses.
If I am in order in doing so, I would like to read one or two extracts from the proceedings. Counsel informed us that there were 22 different tenancies affected and he went on to say:There are seven farmhouses that will be submerged and six cottages.As I understand the hon. Gentleman, he was speaking mainly for the farmers, although I assume others also are affected, and we feel sorry for them.
§ Mr. Hastings
I think that there is a little more to it than that. There are a number and although their houses will remain, so much of their farms will disappear that it will be impossible for them, economically, to carry on. In fact, they will be in exactly the same position, as far as their livelihoods are concerned, as those whose houses will go under as well.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I accept that. I understood that something of the kind was the reason why certain other tenancies were involved, but that only underlines the point which has been made several times in the debate tonight, namely, why was not all this brought out when the Committee was sitting? That was the time and place at which individual witnesses could be examined and cross-examined and the truth brought out in much greater detail than is possible in this Chamber.
May I read another quotation from the verbatim report of the proceedings of the Select Committee? I asked counsel whether those who were being dispossessed had been approached, and the answer was:They have all had notice served upon them informing them that the land will be taken from them and none of them has objected to this scheme.I asked:Is it arable land or to what use is it generally put?I was told that it was arable and pasture as well. One other member of the Committee underlined my questions and it 129 came out clearly that the farmers either were satisfied with the Clause providing for compensation in the Bill, or else had not thought it worth while to petition. That being the situation it is a little difficult for us in the House, on an occasion like this, to return to the matter and to give leave for the Bill to be recommitted.
I have been given to understand that the promoters are willing to add words to Clause 32 which may assist the individuals to whom the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire referred. I believe that the Bill has not yet appeared before a Select Committee in another place. It seems to me that if there is any body of owners or tenants in the Diddington area who still feel aggrieved, and are not sure that they will get justice under the Clauses which appear in the Bill, then will be the occasion perhaps to have words added to Clause 32 which will meet the point which they have in mind. But I am certain—and I hope that the House agrees—that the method suggested tonight is not the right method to have this matter put right.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
I rise to support the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) to recommit the Bill. It is unfortunate that this point was not raised in the Select Committee upstairs, where it could have been dealt with in detail, but I do not think that the House should be precluded from considering this point on its merits at this stage merely because it was not raised by private individuals outside the House earlier.
Precedent plays a large part in Private Bills. It plays a large part in the Committee stage of Private Bills. I do not think that the House should be bound too tightly by precedent. It should consider a Bill of this sort on its merits. The House can surely take a broad view of this point of the right to compensation as against a discretionary power to grant compensation to those who are to be displaced by operations authorised under the Bill. I do not think that the House should be put off this consideration by a vague promise of general legislation to deal with this point. If this is a point through which an individual will be harmed, then the House might well deal with it now.
130 What are the merits of the case? The Bill creates a new public authority to operate about £12 million worth of works, and it gives that authority power to take individuals' land. That land is not residential land and it is not commercial property. The compensation rules concerning residential property and commercial property therefore do not apply. The Bill does not deal merely with easements for pipelines. It does not deal merely with a strip of land for widening a road or even for constructing a road. It deals with 2,000 acres of farming land which is to be put under water.
In many cases it deals with whole farms—and that is something which deserves a little more than the ordinary compensation which can be granted under the general law. I say that because the Bill has already recognised that fact. It is recognised in Clause 32 that the owners of these 2,000 acres are entitled to something more than ordinary compensation. The damage is to be considered by the board and the board has been given a discretion to grant further compensation.
If Clause 32 is right in principle in stating that extra compensation should be given, surely it is right that the board should not be a judge in its own cause. Surely it is correct that these displaced persons should be given a right to compensation and a right to have that compensation assessed before an independent and expert tribunal so that the board is not a judge in its own cause.
It may be said, "What does it matter? We shall have an honest board which will give a fair and just decision. In any case, only a few people are concerned—only about seven farmers are concerned—and it is a small matter, not a great matter of principle. What does it matter if we leave the whole question to the board to decide?"
It seems to matter a great deal to the Ministry, because in the statement from the promoters of the Bill we read, in paragraph 7:The promoters were informed by the Ministry that their Minister and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food would feel bound to offer the strongest opposition to any clause which provided that the authority should be under an obligation to make such payments or which provided for assessment of the payments by any form of independent arbitration.131 Apparently the promoters were quite prepared to put into the Bill the sort of Clause which my hon. Friend proposes in the Amendment, for which he wants the Bill to be recommitted, but the Ministry would not agree and, therefore, the promoters decided to leave it out. That is how I read the promoters' statement.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
As I understand it, and I shall be corrected if I am wrong, the utmost limit to which the promoters suggest going is to put in words which were in the Tees Valley and Cleveland Water Act, and not words at large such as are suggested here.
§ Mr. Page
Perhaps it is fair for me to read the next sentence in paragraph 8 of the statement:Clause 32…follows, in substance, the precedent of Section 32 of the Tees Valley and Cleveland Water Act, 1959. The words 'or in respect of any personal hardship' following the words 'towards any loss' appear in Section 32 of the Tees Valley Act but have been omitted by the Promoters from clause 32 of the Bill because they were informed, before the Bill was deposited, that the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food would probably have to press for the deletion of these words.As I understand, both Ministries—the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food—seem to consider it of great importance that there should not be an independent tribunal to decide this, that the farmers here should not have a right to compensation and that words such as would give them compensation in respect of any personal hardship should be left out.
§ Mr. Hobson
I am sure that my hon. Friend will read the final sentence of paragraph 8 of the statement on behalf of the promoters, which says:The promoters would not wish to resist an amendment of clause 32 to insert reference to hardship if such an amendment can be made at this stage without delaying the progress of the Bill…I am authorised to say that they would certainly be very willing indeed in the House of Lords to give due consideration with everyone concerned to inserting words to include not only the phrase "personal loss", but "hardship". I understand that that would not delay the progress of the Bill, if that is all that 132 was concerned. In those circumstances the promoters would be putting forward exactly the same as the Tees Valley and Cleveland Water Act and the general law concerning business tenants.
§ Mr. Page
I am obliged to my hon. and learned Friend. I thought that that was the promoters' idea. I was not attacking the promoters so much as my hon. Friends at the two Ministries, who seem to have prevented the promoters putting fair and just Clauses into the Bill, if what the promoters say in their statement is correct. Therefore, according to the Ministries, what my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) wishes to put into the Bill is not a matter of small importance. According to the Ministries, it is a matter of great importance that it should be kept out.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I remind the hon. Gentleman of what he undoubtedly knows as well as the rest of us. It is not what Ministries want to put into a Bill. It is what the Committee of the House of Commons and the Select Committee of another place decide shall go into a Bill, not what Ministries want to go in or to be kept out.
§ Mr. Page
I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman. My point is that it might be thought that it is a small matter and of no concern whether the board is left to decide this or whether an independent tribunal is left to decide it. It might be thought that it is a small matter whether the words "personal hardship" go into the Bill and whether it is a right to compensation or merely a discretionary grant of compensation. I am endeavouring to point out that the Ministries apparently did not think it was a small matter. Therefore, I have become highly suspicious of the Bill as it stands.
It looks to me as if the displaced persons will not get the full compensation. It looks as if they will not get such compensation as they would get from an independent tribunal when claiming compensation as of right. If this is so, it is a negation of Clause 32, in which the principle has been recognised that these men should have something more than ordinary compensation. I hope that in some way, whether it be at this stage 133 or at a later stage in another place, the displaced persons will get a right to their full compensation.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
The hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) has not given sufficient weight to the fact that we are considering three possibilities. First, there is Clause 32 as it now stands. Secondly, there is the Tees Valley example, which differs from Clause 32 solely in respect of including the words "personal hardship". Thirdly, there is the Amendment.
As I understand, the promoters, for their part, would have been quite willing to accept the Tees Valley version with the words "personal hardship", but they adopted what I suppose is a proper deferential attitude and said that Parliament must make up its mind about it. Their attitude was that if we, as Parliament, wish to do battle with the Ministries, it is for us rather than for them. They did not feel that they could hamper their case by inserting into the Bill something which they were told two Ministries would be opposed to. I do not think that we can quarrel with them for that.
While it is true that the promoters were quite willing, and I understand are still willing, to go that far, it cannot be argued, as one hon. Member came near to suggesting, that the promoters could even consider the Amendment which we are now asked by the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) to make to the Bill. The Amendment not only brings in the question of personal hardship. It also brings in the principle of arbitration. It provides that arbitration shall be carried out by a committee, the membership of which is very far from satisfactory. It includes a county council, which has the least interest in the matter, and excludes three county councils, all of which have a greater concern. Further, I imagine that by an error of drafting it would make the new board responsible for making payments to people displaced by works which the board itself had not carried through.
Neither the promoters nor Parliament can be asked to accept such an Amendment. We shall listen with interest to what the Parliamentary Secretary has to say about why his Ministry and the Ministry of Agriculture prefer Clause 32 134 as it now stands to Clause 32 with the hardship words in it. That is a matter on which Parliament can hear the Government's argument and, both here and in another place, can judge. That is not what we are being asked to consider and vote on. We are being asked to consider an unsatisfactory, and indeed unworkable Amendment, and I hope that we shall reject it.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Sir Keith Joseph)
This has been a deeply felt debate and I shall try to deal comprehensively with all that has been said. There are two problems. First, there is the question of whether the farmers concerned—I agree that it does not matter whether there is one or whether there are seven, fifteen or twenty—will be prejudiced if the Bill goes through as it is drafted compared with how they would fare if the Bill were recommitted and amended as my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) proposes.
Secondly, there is the general question whether it is right for the people concerned with the Bill to make a major change in the law relating to compensation. Obviously, if the answer to the first question is that the farmers would be prejudiced if the Bill went through unamended, one approaches the second question whether the law in general, quite apart from the Bill, needs amendment with much more sympathy.
I hope to show that the farmers will not be in any way prejudiced by the Bill being passed in its present form. The House has heard some detailed and fairly complex—legitimately complex—cases put forward by my hon. Friends the Members for Gloucestershire, South and Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings). They have not given examples, however, of any farmers who have actually suffered under past legislation by application of the discretionary powers provided in the Bill.
I want to face straight away the fact that the Bill as drafted leaves compensation largely to the discretion of the board. The House heard my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Hobson) give on behalf of the promoters an assurance of liberal treatment. Indeed, that is only 135 what would be expected from the promoters of the Bill, but it is only in their own interest that they should give an assurance of liberal treatment because the board, if and when it is constituted, will have to live in the midst of the farming community and will be bound to try to earn and retain the respect, and indeed the regard, of the farmers among whom it will have to work.
What I have to do is to assure the House that the board will have as complete power under Clause 32 to deal with the losses instanced by my hon. Friends as it would have if the proposed Amendment were made. I am able to discharge this duty to the full. I think that the House will be satisfied if it is shown that the farmers will not be prejudiced if the Bill is passed in its present form.
I followed as closely as I could the different examples given. I shall not deal with each in turn, but I hope that the House will accept the general proposition that whatever the actual amounts the tenant farmer may claim as of right, and whatever procedure the acquiring authority uses, Clause 32 as it stands will enable the acquiring authority to pay enough in addition—in addition—to meet all losses of a financial nature. I draw the attention of the House particularly to the fact that Clause 32 specifically acknowledges two of the special problems that such farmers may encounter, and which were referred to particularly by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire.
The House will see that by subsection (2) of Clause 32 the board…shall have regard to the period for which the land occupied by that person might reasonably have been expected to be available for occupation by him…That is the first point to which the board must have regard, and the second point is:…the availability of other land suitable for occupation by him.Therefore, the attention of the board is specifically drawn to those two factors. There is, in fact, no reason at all to think that the Clause amended in the way proposed would provide more compensation than the board can and will pay under Clause 32 as drafted.
My hon. Friend spoke as though the farmers affected by the Diddington 136 scheme would have to wait upon general legislation in order to get the benefit my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture has promised that the farming community will get when legislation is introduced to increase the discretion for paying losses in connection with farmers to the same level at which it is payable in connection with business occupants. Unusually for him, my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) is wrong here, because Clause 32 already anticipates that general legislation in connection with the farmers in Diddington. In effect, Clause 32 equates the compensation for loss that would be payable for these farmers with that already payable under Section 13 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1959, for business occupants.
The first assurance I have to give to the House is really to supplement that already given in an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington; that the sort of cases instanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire could be as well met by Clause 32 as by this Amendment. I must, however, be cautious about one section of losses, and those are the pre-acquisition losses instanced by the hon. Gentleman.
It is doubtful whether pre-acquisition losses will be covered by Clause 32, since, as the House will notice, it refers to…any loss which, in their opinion"—that is, the opinion of the board—he"—that is the person displaced—will sustain, or be put to, by reason of his having to quit the land.That is a nice legal point. It might exclude pre-acquisition losses, but that comment is equally true of the Amendment. The House will see in the first subsection of the Amendment reference to…such reasonable sum as is estimated to make good any loss which he will sustain or be put to…Therefore, again, the person concerned—the displaced person—would be open to equal treatment under the Bill as drafted as under the Amendment.
I would put this general proposition to the House. The acquiring authority may well be more inclined to be generous if the power is permissive than if there is 137 a committee assessing what must be paid by some legal scale or some scale imposed by precedent. It is more likely to stretch its powers to the widest possible legal interpretation if those powers are permissive and discretionary, and particularly by reason of the assurance given on behalf of the promoters by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington.
I come now to the point made by the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) about individual hardship. As he quite rightly says, there is the precedent of the Tees Valley Bill which has been, as it were, half accepted by the promoters of this Bill; that, if the House thought it wise, they would be willing later to consider an Amendment importing into Clause 32 considerations of financial hardship. The difficulty here is that it is not immediately obvious that there are burdens of a financial nature coming under the head of hardship that would not already come under the head of loss but, certainly, if hon. Members are able between now and the proceedings in another place, or by way of Amendment in another place, to have it shown that there are such burdens that would not properly come under loss but would be properly classified under the heading of hardship, my right hon. Friend would see no objection, if the promoters thought fit, to an Amendment in another place. But that is for consideration if there is evidence that there is such a class that does not come under loss but could be legitimately quantified in terms of money.
I hope that I have said enough to satisfy the House that in relation to the compensation that could be payable to the farmers displaced there is no difference between Clause 32 and the Amendment. I come to the bigger problem, though bigger only in terms of general legislative import. I refer to the question whether this compensation should be as of right as opposed to being discretionary. I shall not take up the very legitimate technical faults found by the hon. Member for Fulham with the draft in its present form—I hope to find stronger reasons against the draft than the technical ones which, of course, are, nevertheless, still there.
It looks so easy to suggest altering the third word in Clause 32 from "may" to 138 "shall". It looks so easy to suggest that there should be some arbitration tribunal. The fact is that the argument put forward by my hon. Friends would, for those farmers affected by the Diddington scheme, make a very considerable change from the general law of compensation as it is already in being.
It is a big matter to make a fundamental change in the law of compensation even for the limited number of people affected by this scheme. I agree, of course, that no decision made by the House this evening would have any effect on the general law. Just as a precedent will not bind us tonight, so any precedent made this evening will not bind any future legislation, and will not, of course, bind the Government. But, despite that, I do suggest it would be most unwise for the House, in this Private Bill, to make a major departure from present compensation law.
It is quite wrong for my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South to pray in aid the Tryweryn precedent. The Tryweryn precedent was introduced by the Committee with a special caveat, that it should not be treated as a precedent. It was said by the Select Committee when it considered the Liverpool Corporation Bill:The Clauses which have been put in concerned with compensation should not be regarded as a precedent for future legislation when the circumstances will almost certainly be different.That could not be more explicit.
The House should know that this whole question of whether compensation for farmers displaced by this sort of scheme should be as of right or should be discretionary is not going by default. I understand that the N.F.U. is proposing to put forward its proposals to alter the basis from discretionary to mandatory to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government. Surely the right thing to do is to wait till that case has been put forward and to wait till it can be fully considered and fully discussed and only then to decide whether there is a justification for a change of the general law.
The House should remember that there is absolutely no evidence brought before us that individuals covered by this sort of discretionary compensation 139 have suffered loss in the past. The House will have heard the assurance by the promoters of the Bill that the intention is to give liberal treatment. The House has heard the assurance from me that there is as much power in Clause 32 of the Bill to provide compensation as there would be in the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend and hon. Members associated with him in it. The Amendment, if it were introduced despite all this, would go far further for these few farmers than the law covering all the other farmers in this country.
I would repeat that the case for altering the compensation law from discretionary to mandatory is going to be put forward and can be considered then, but I do suggest that it would be very wrong to make a drastic departure of this sort in the general law in a Private Bill. If the law does need altering let it be fully and properly considered and argued.
Finally, I must repeat that I am advised that farmers here involved will not suffer one jot by Clause 32 going through un-amended in the way proposed. As for what the House should now do, I can only say that my right hon. Friend has found the Bill satisfactory as it stands. I hope that the Amendment will not be pressed. If it is I hope that it will not be accepted.
§ Mr. Corfield
I have listened with great interest to the comments of my hon. Friend and of hon. Members opposite. Though I am bound to say that I am much more persuaded by the argument directed to procedure than to the merits, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill considered accordingly; to be read the Third time.