HC Deb 25 January 1967 vol 739 cc1553-6

Lords Amendment: No. 8, in page 7, line 39, at end insert: () So much of Schedule 1 to the Acquisition of Land Act, or of any regulations made under that Act, as requires a notice relating to a compulsory purchase order to specify the purpose for which the land is required, or for which it is authorised to be compulsorily purchased, shall, in relation to any such notice published or served by the Commission on or after the second appointed day, be construed as requiring the notice to specify the reasons for which the Commission propose to acquire the land.

Mr. Skeffington

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

Mr. Allason

My hon. Friends and I heartily welcome Amendment No. 9, which is identical to an Amendment which I moved in Committee but which was rejected by the Government on a vote.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are dealing with Amendment No. 7, not No. 8.

Mr. Allason

In that case I will extend my lesser enthusiasm to Amendment No. 8, because while that replaces something which will disappear if we agree to Amendment No. 9, it is difficult to refer to No. 8 without referring to what will disappear as a result of No. 9.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

If it is agreeable to the House, Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 could be discussed together, although they must be moved separately.

Mr. Skeffington

That would be an admirable course.

Mr. Allason

The effect of the two Amendments is to remove a great injustice which remained in the Bill all the time it was with this House. It is only the persuasive powers of another place that have caused the Government to make a last-minute repentance. The Government's intention was that where there was a compulsory purchase order after the second appointed day, there need be no stated purpose for the acquisition. The effect of the two Amendments—in place of removing this right—is to give a fresh right. The wording of Amendment No. 8 substitutes the requirement that the purpose, in the case of a compulsory order, should be stated, into the reason being stated—so that "purpose" will now read "reason".

There must be some reason why the Government have introduced eight more lines into the Bill to deal with this change of position after the second appointed day. To a certain extent the Government have fallen into their own trap because, while the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, 1946, uses "purpose"—which, to the layman, would seem to mean "reason"—when referring to a compulsory purchase order, the Government have chosen the word "purpose" in Clause 6(4) and thereby have laid a trap for themselves. I say that because they have realised that if the two Measures were construed together, it might be thought that the purposes appearing in Clause 6(4) of this Measure were the same sort of purposes referred to in the 1946 Act. It is an unlikely explanation, but the Government have chosen that course and have replaced "purpose" with "reason".

Clearly, the safeguards which we discussed on the previous Amendment, to Clause 6(3), obviously have little validity. I hope that we have now disposed of the pretence that the fact that there should be a planning permission or something of the sort is a sufficient safeguard for the citizen. The Government are now giving a safeguard to the citizen as regards compulsory purchase, and this does not refer to acquiring land by the Commission.

If the Commission was not prepared to state its reasons when negotiating for land it would not be likely to find very much land coming forward, because few people would want to part with their land unless they were told the purposes for which it was being taken from them. I regret to have to confuse the issue by referring to "purposes" and "reasons", since to the layman they seem to mean the same. However, this switch adds eight lines to the Bill and I suppose that one must take the view that the Bill is so complicated that eight lines do not make much difference in the 189 pages of the Measure.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Willey

The hon. Member is making rather heavy weather about this. We have added the lines because the Opposition in the Lords wished us to do so. We were content to leave the position as it was. It was clear enough. The burden of satisfying the inspector was obviously upon the Commission. The Lord Chancellor's rules would have provided for the burden to be on the Com- mission without this Amendment. The Commission would have to give its reasons, but it was felt that we should make this requirement explicit on the face of the Bill and that is what we are doing.

Mr. Graham Page

First the right hon. Gentleman took it out of the normal procedure that the Land Commission should state its "purposes" before acquiring land. He restores it now by saying that the Land Commission should state its "reasons". Suppose the Commission says that this is derelict land and that is the reason for the Commission purchasing it, whereas the real purpose is to put a sewage works on it. The Commission would say that it was taking the land in order to clear it up, but that would not be the real purpose. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will realise how mean and ungenerous he is being over this Amendment.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendment agreed to.