HC Deb 20 February 1969 vol 778 cc896-8

Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Mr. Skeffington

In the normal way under that Act and under statute law, the notice to treat must be served within three years and the compensation payable is the compensation payable at the time of the service of the notice. The Liverpool Corporation Act allowed owners to grant an option to the authority to purchase. This was to be a long-term project taking perhaps over 20 years so that long after three years from the Act the corporation could exercise the option to treat, which meant that compensation would be payable at that date. Those who took up such an option might have received less compensation, but the general view was that they would not. No doubt most of them have enjoyed the benefits of the Act.

I will ensure that the comments which have been made about compensation are communicated to my right hon. Friend. This is a complex matter and fairly radical Statutes would be needed to alter this basic law. I hope that the hon. Member for Crosby and my hon. Friend will not think that this is lip service. I agree with my hon. Friend. He did right to put on record the changes which the Government have made in the law of compensation and the fact that in Clause 69 of the Housing Bill, the proceedings on which we started today, there is a new provision giving additional compensation to the owner-occupier which I am sure will be welcomed by the hon. Member for Crosby. At least, in view of what he has said in the past, I shall be very surprised if he does not welcome it.

The hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) referred to what I might almost call his King Charles' head. It would not be right for me to enter into the polemics of the matter, for two reasons. First, when he originally introduced this subject, I made a speech very much like that of my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English). I particularly remember dealing with the 20 cases. Secondly, whether it be the district valuer or the valuers employed by the local authority they must act under the Statute and quite impartially. If they do not, there are certain remedies open to the citizen.

I should go a stage further in case there is any suggestion that the staffs of local authorities act differently or appear to be biased or unfair. I have looked at this matter carefully and I can find no evidence whatsoever that the staffs of local authorities act unfairly or are biased. I do not say that that was the charge of the hon. Gentleman, even by implication. This is a very honourable profession dealing with complex matters. Having looked at the evidence and from personal experience, my view is that they discharge their task with great skill and usually with great humanity.

The Bill is complex. The reports will be coming from the Ministry. As the hon. Member for Crosby said, it is an important Bill which makes very useful provisions. I hope that the House will feel that it can give it a Second Reading.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time and committed.