§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [THE EARL OF KINTORE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:
§ Tribunal for assessing compensation in respect of land compulsorily acquired for public purposes.
§ 1.—(1) Where by or under any statute (whether passed before or after the passing of this Act) land is authorised to be acquired compulsorily by any Government Department or any local or public authority, any question of disputed compensation and where any part of the land to be acquired is subject to a lease which comprises land not acquired, any question as to the apportionment of the rent payable under the lease, shall be referred to and determined by the arbitration of such one of a panel of official valuers to be appointed under this section as may be selected in accordance with rules made by the Reference Committee under this section.
§ (2) Such number of persons, being persons with special knowledge in the valuation of land, as may be appointed for England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland by the Reference Committee, shall form a panel of persons to act as official valuers for the purposes of this Act in England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland respectively: Provided that of the members of the said panel for England and Wales one at least shall be a person having special knowledge of the valuation of land in Wales and acquainted with the Welsh language.
§ (3) A person appointed to be a member of the panel of official valuers shall hold office for such term certain as may be determined by the Treasury before his appointment, and whilst holding office shall not himself engage, or be a partner of any other person who engages, in private practice or business as estate or land agent surveyor or valuer.
§ (4) There shall be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament to official valuers such salaries or remuneration as the Treasury may determine—
§ (5) The Reference Committee—
- (a) for England and Wales, shall consist of the Lord Chief Justice of England, the Master of the Rolls and the President of the Surveyors' Institution;
- (b) for Scotland, shall consist of the Lord President of the Court of Session, the Lord Justice Clerk and the Chairman of the Scottish Committee of the Surveyors' Institution;
- (c) for Ireland, shall consist of the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, the Master of the Rolls in Ireland and the President of the Surveyors Institution, or (if the President of the Surveyors' Institution thinks fit) a person, being a member of the council of that institution and having special knowledge of valuation of land in Ireland appointed by him to act in his place.
§ LORD BLEDISLOE moved, in subsection (1) after' "authority" to insert "or the promoters of any housing scheme under the Housing, Town Planning, &c., Act, 1919, which has been approved by the Ministry of Health."
§ The noble Lord said: It is a very short point which is raised. This Bill provides for a case in which a valuation has to be made, as between the Government Department or the local authority on the one side, and a private owner on the other. It will be remembered that under the Housing Bill a new body is being brought into existence which is likely to be very freely utilised for the purpose of promoting housing schemes, namely, Public Utility Societies, and I want to be sure that those societies will have all the benefits of the rapid valuation and acquisition of land which the local authorities will have. With this object I move my Amendment. There is no more urgent matter to-day than the early acquisition of land for the purpose of cottage building, particularly in the more crowded industrial towns. As the Local Government Board or Ministry of Health are definitely encouraging these Public Utility Societies to undertake, so far as possible, this work of housing, I suggest that such societies should have all the benefits which the local authorities will have under this Bill.
Page 1, line 8, after ("authority") insert ("or the promoters of any housing scheme under the Housing, Town Planning, etc., Act, 1919, which has been approved by the Ministry of Health").—(Lord Bledisloe.)
§ LORD PARMOOR
As I have an Amendment down in similar terms, I may perhaps say a word upon this Amendment before the noble and learned Lord replies. My object was to have one system of compensation in force, and one system of 189 procedure, whether the land is to be acquired compulsorily by any Government Department or by any other competent authority. At the present time the general principle would be that where there is no special scheme of compensation the procedure would be under the Lands Clauses Act. I quite agree, from very considerable experience of the working of that Act, that the scheme which hitherto has been in operation under that Act requires simplification and amendment, and particularly I am in favour of what is part of the fundamental suggestion of this Bill, that there should not be any allowance under the head of compulsory acquisition in cases of this kind. My desire is that you should have one scheme of compensation. That can be met in two ways—either by inserting the words which are suggested in the Amendment, or by not putting any special scheme of compensation into any housing scheme under the Housing and Town Planning Act of 1919, and so leaving compensation under that Act to the general provisions of the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act with which we are dealing at the present time. My main object and desire is to have one scheme and one only in all these cases, because I know there no more fertile source of expense and trouble than to have different schemes for different cases.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
This is an Amendment with the objects of which every one will sympathise, but I cannot appreciate that it is really a necessary one. We are asked after "authority" to insert "or the promoters of any housing scheme under the Housing, Town Planning Act, 1919, which has been approved by the Ministry of Health." It becomes necessary to ask, Who are the promoters of any housing scheme under this Act to which this can apply? I am a little puzzled, because the only promoters I can think of are county councils, local authorities under the Housing Act, public utility societies, and housing trusts. I do not know that I have overlooked any in that enumeration. If the promoters then of a housing scheme are the county council, or the local authority under the Housing Act, they would be a local authority authorised under statute to acquire land compulsorily and the Bill would automatically apply to them. It is not in the least necessary therefore to have a special Amendment to meet their case. Let us 190 deal with the other persons. It cannot be housing trusts or public utility societies because neither of these two have the power to acquire land compulsorily for housing purposes. Therefore so far as they are concerned the Amendment would be meaningless. Power is taken by the local authorities to acquire land with a view to a subsequent sale to and development by a public utility society, but in that case the local authority would be the acquiring authority, and the Bill would apply. I cannot really think that if the Amendment were adopted it would add anything, and it would in one respect at least be wholly unacceptable.
§ LORD PARMOOR
Having regard to what the noble and learned Lord says, that under the Bill as it stands the principle of compensation would apply to the promoters of any housing scheme, for my part. I should not think it necessary to press the Amendment.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I really have no doubt, but I may add that I will carefully fortify myself before we reach the later stages of the Bill, but it seems clear.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD PARMOOR moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "valuers" and insert "arbitrators." The noble and learned Lord said: The object of this Amendment is to make clear what I understand the purpose of the Bill to be. We are dealing with arbitration, and not with valuation. The noble Lord, the Lord Chancellor, is perfectly well aware that from a legal point of view there is a great distinction between a valuation and an arbitration. An-arbitration is in its essence a quasi judicial inquiry where, in the case for valuation, there is such element at all, and if the object of this Bill is that there should be arbitration to determine what the value of land is, then the proper terminology would be arbitrators and not valuers. I do not want of course to snake any long address to your Lordships on what might appear to be a mere matter of words, but I think it goes deeper than that, and that the word "valuers" ought not to be inserted, but that there ought to be inserted in its place "arbitrators."
Page 1, line 13, leave out ("valuers") and insert ("arbitrators").—(Lord Parmoor.)
§ LORD BLEDISLOE
This Amendment also stands in my name, and one reason why I ask that it should be adopted is that unfortunately the term "official valuer" has now a sense which is not very acceptable to a large number of those who are interested in land in this country, having come into existence under the provisions of the Finance (1909–10) Act. At the present time the expression consequently means something totally distinct from the meaning intended to be conveyed in this Bill. They are in fact to-day the advisers of the Inland Revenue Department as to the value of land. Those persons who will act under this Bill as adjudicators are not themselves valuers or advisers as to value, but they are the actual adjudicators on contested questions of value. Perhaps the strongest reason for adopting this Amendment is that it is specifically stated in the Bill that the work of these persons, when questions arising on the Bill are to be determined, is that of arbitration and not that of valuation. If your Lordships will refer to Clauses 4, 6 and 8, you will find in every one of them that it is perfectly clear that the function of these gentlemen will be that of arbitration—a judicial function—and not that of valuation, which is a more commercial or professional function.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
There is a good deal to be said for the view that the functions discharged by these persons are functions which would be more accurately described by the term arbitrations than by that of valuation, and I observe the additional objection stated by the noble Lord who spoke last as to the use of the term official valuers. The Government are by no means wedded to the term "valuer," and especially when it is not used in the most appropriate context. I feel a slight difficulty about the word "arbitrator," because the word official must be used, for reasons into which I need not enter, and the term "official arbitrator" is a little too general for application to a particular Act, or at least it is open to that criticism. It rather suggests a function to discharge duties comparable to the duties, very general in scope, that can be discharged by official referees, but I am not disposed to enter, at any rate at this stage, into any dispute upon the point. I will accept at this moment the term arbitrator in the form of the Amendment moved by my noble and learned friend, 192 subject to this, that if in the interval I happen to think of a better term I shall adopt it.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD CLINTON moved, in subsection (2), after the words "with special knowledge in the valuation of land," to insert "or experienced in the law and practice of arbitrations in cases of disputed compensation for land taken under compulsory powers." The noble Lord said: In the absence of my noble friend, Lord Saltoun, through indisposition, I hope your Lordships will allow me to move this Amendment which stands in his name. It is an Amendment suggested by a number of bodies in Scotland. The noble and learned Lord has been good enough on behalf of the Government to accept the word "arbitrator" in the last clause, and I hope he will also see his way to accept this Amendment. I would draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that these arbitrators are to be persons with a special knowledge in the valuation of land. They are entirely arbitrators, and will have to decide upon all cases which may be brought before them under this Act. Consequently it seems almost necessary that their qualification should be widened, so that they may be selected not for their knowledge of valuation alone but for their knowledge and experience in arbitration matters.
Page 1, line 17, after ("land") insert ("or experienced in the law and practice of arbitrations in cases of disputed compensation for land taken under compulsory powers").—(Lord Clinton.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Lord has really attempted to erect far too elaborate an edifice on an Amendment which was accepted on the pure point of nomenclature. I adopted the word "arbitrator" because it did seem to me that there was something to be said for the view that, whatever you may call him, he had to arrive at an arbitral conclusion, and the word "valuer" suggested a man who arrives at his conclusion without going through the form of hearing persons before him, and arguments, and so forth. But that is a mere question of names. The 193 noble Lord is now requesting me to do a very different thing. He asks that one should add to the panel of persons qualified those who are experienced in the law and practice of arbitrations.
For myself nothing would give me greater pleasure than to accept at once this Amendment, because I accept on principle, and as the result of long habit, any proposal which can obviously enure to the benefit of lawyers and lawyers alone. And nothing could afford me more pleasure than to add to these panels. I have not the least doubt I should be called upon to nominate them, which would be an agreeable addition to my own patronage and I should have the privilege of providing thousands a year for esteemed former colleagues of mine at the Bar. But I doubt whether the proposal would be received with the same general enthusiasm by the public as a whole, or even by your Lordships. The idea here—and it is essential in this scheme of coordinated measures—is as far as possible to strip these things of formality and to bring them to a conclusion with the utmost celerity which is compatible with the doing of justice.
The legal profession possesses many great merits. It possesses, above all things, this merit, that in matters which are proper for delay, and which admit of delay, they ensure that a conclusion is not reached till every point of view has been examined and explored. But where practical knowledge, where extreme expedition are required, where a measure, if it is to be carried through, must be carried through at once, I am sure your Lordships will think the Government are wise in having decided to commit this matter to practical men.
§ LORD CLINTON
I accept the noble and learned Lord's explanation and his suggestion that this would enure to the advantage of all those who are connected with the law. I have already admitted that the Amendment was put forward at the suggestion of some very learned bodies in Scotland; it is just possible that they may have been animated in their desire to put forward the Amendment, by such a motive. Although I am not going against the opinion of the noble and learned Lord, it is practical men that we require and those who have a knowledge and experience in the practice of arbitration; and it seems to me that if you are to have arbitration, if you are to have men who are to act as arbitrators, 194 it is not so necessary that they should be learned in the actual valuation, but that they should have had an experience in those particular methods which are being brought before them. I rather regret that the Amendment cannot be accepted, but I shall not press it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD ASKWITH moved, in subsection (3), to delete all words after "shall hold office for," and to insert "a term of five years," and to delete subsection (4). The noble Lord said: This Amendment would strike out the rest of subsection (3) and the whole of subsection (4). The result would be that powers in this Bill such as those of single arbitrators or the abolition of allowance for compulsory purchase and the power of the arbitrator over costs would not be disturbed. But there would be a larger panel of arbitrators, who would be paid by fees, instead of a small panel consisting of people who would have a vested interest, and who would be paid large salaries.
§ My points upon the matter are two. One is that to have this small fixed panel of men is unnecessary and undesirable—I would go so far as to say unwise; and the second is that the one method is likely to cost the country far more than the other and to give us a number of place-men with large salaries—considerably larger than the majority of the Civil Service. If this body of eight or less arbitrators are to be popular people and are to have such business as the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack appeared at one time to foreshadow in his financial statement, they will have to proceed by lists, and have to deal with cases in a certain order. And they would not be able to cope with their work. You would get the exact delay which the noble and learned Lord has so much deprecated. If, however, they are unpopular you have these men getting £3,000 apiece—I presume with pensions also and with clerks—and they would have little or nothing to do because under Clause 8 (1) if parties are allowed to go to any arbitrator whom they may agree upon or to some other body—another body which was very much pressed upon the Government in the House of Commons as a body which should have control of the whole of the business, the Commissioners of Inland Revenue.195
§ It is extraordinary how easy an arbitrator may find it to become unpopular from time to time. He may have his periods when be is popular or unpopular, but a very little thing may throw an arbitrator out of popularity for the time being. He may not be popular in that particular part of the country. One of these gentlemen speaking Welsh, for instance, is appointed for Carnarvonshire, but it does not follow that he will be listened to in Carmarthen-shire or Breconshire, and he might receive still less respect in the Rhondda Valley. It might be said that he knew the Welsh language, but he would not know about the agricultural land in the counties I have named or the peculiar situation in the Rhondda Valley.
§ Then again, this larger panel of arbitrators is not only supported by the Institute of Surveyors (as I know it is from the Press) but also it was supported by Mr. Leslie Scott's Committee, and was advised as the best method of dealing with this matter. I do not know why it should have been changed. But I speak, myself, from experience. I have had during the last few years to deal with scores and scores of arbitrators, and I have found elasticity to be of the very greatest value. You cannot possibly foist an unpopular and undesired arbitrator upon people, or put him before those who will not accept his finding because they do not believe in his justice.
§ It is much more important with this waxing and waning, as it were, of arbitrators that you should be able to choose from a wider field. You get much more elasticity, you get much less delay. The arbitrators can be chosen extremely quickly; you have a Government list and men consider it an honour to be put upon that list. The names would be before the country, and they would get known by the people. This matter has been successfully proved in cases where a lot of arbitrators have to be appointed.
§ The observation is made that these men should be ready to give their whole time, and that they should not be doing any private business. I have not heard that there has ever been any complaint in the past with regard to arbitrations conducted by surveyors, yet they are continually doing their own private business; not a word has been said anywhere, of which I am aware, as to the fact that they are influenced because they are engaged in private business. In the legal profession does the 196 noble and learned Lord say that the lawyers are not able to carry on their business because they are engaged one day in their business at the Bar and another in delivering judgment from the Bench? Or is his mind, as Lord Chancellor, influenced by the fact that during two-thirds of the day he is occupied in judicial business and for the other one-third in attending to his business in the House, with unpaid overtime, in dealing with the multifarious duties of his office?
§ I come now to the question of expense. The Lord Chancellor made the remark that the arbitrator would be appointed for a definite time by what is known as the Reference Committee, and that the cost to the State of their salaries would be entirely or almost covered by the fees which are, of course, properly to be charged to the parties who come before them. It is mentioned that there are to be up to eight arbitrators with £3,000 apiece. I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord can produce any list of the number of the cases, but it is a very notable fact that from this Bill all the great trading companies—railway companies, gas companies, water companies, and electric light companies—are excluded. Of the nineteen witnesses heard before the committee not one came from those great companies. What is the deduction? That they will not have anything to do with this Bill. The Bill, therefore, is confined to the Government and to local bodies. What is the number of cases the Government and local bodies have which are to go to this arbitration? I am informed that before the war the number of these arbitrations had been considerably reduced; that the principles on which these arbitrations were founded were becoming established and known; that an arbitrator was far less required, and that there was every prospect of the number growing less. Is there any reason why they should now increase? On the contrary. The objection to the question of cost would mean that they would not like this Bill. The Land Clauses Act dealt with the cost in a way that would rather lead people to arbitration than to lessen arbitration; I think this type of arbitration will be still less because of the fear of the cost.
§ To raise this money, excluding Sundays and holidays, these eight men would have to work, for, say, 270 days. I doubt very much whether they would average £10 a day apiece. Again, are you going to get 197 £3,000 a year from Ireland, and is it likely that you will get so much from Scotland? You cannot raise the fees above the market rates or people would go and take an agreed arbitrator under Section 8 (1), which would still more lessen the amount of work they would have. To create these appointments of six or eight new arbitrators at a salary of this kind—one-third more than the Permanent Secretaries of some of the great Departments of State, one-third more than some of the Ministers at the present time, double that of the Permanent Secretary of the Office of Works, who has to deal with building all his time; men who would have vested interests, who would probably want pensions, and who would probably have honours also—that they should be created at a time when the amount of work the arbitrators are going to do is uncertain, when it; may lessen considerably, is not in accordance with the Resolution passed by your Lordships, "that the serious condition of the finances of the country calls for the strictest economy in all directions."
Page 1, line 26, leave out from ("for") to the end of subsection (4) and insert ("a term of five years").—(Lord Askwith.)
§ THE EARL, OF SELBORNE
The noble Lord who has just sat down has put his point with great knowledge and lucidity. I think it will facilitate our discussion here if my noble and learned friend in charge of the Bill would take the opportunity of this Amendment of making a statement to the Committee as to the reasons which led His Majesty's Government to adopt the particular plan embodied in this Bill; a plan which, I think I am correct in saying, is a departure from the universal previous practice of the Government and different from the plan recommended by Mr. Leslie Scott's Committee. It has seemed, as the noble and learned Lord knows, to many people to be a worse plan than the existing one.
The two fears that have been mainly held on this subject are these, Firstly, that the best men in the profession would not be prepared to abandon their practice to take an official post under the Government; and, secondly, that unless the number of official valuers was most unduly multiplied they would not be able to do all the work that would have to be done. I admit that this is a. contradictory argument to the one 198 just made by Lord Askwith, but there certainly are those who do not share his view that the business to be done will be little; who, on the contrary, think there will be a great many cases to be decided by these arbitrators. Therefore the first thing I would ask my noble and learned friend to do is to explain to the Committee carefully and fully, with that perfect command of explanation which he possesses in such a large degree, why the Government have adopted this plan.
The second point on which I ask him to be precise is, what is going to be the position of these gentlemen after appointment? It seems absolutely essential that the arbitrators appointed should be fully qualified persons who know their business thoroughly and that we should not have in these posts only men who have failed in private practice or who have recently joined the profession. Therefore we ask for assurances—and here we are only repeating the views of members of the House of Commons, because this point was repeatedly put before the Government in Committee in the House of Commons and on Report—that the position of these gentlemen is going to be such that a really qualified person will be prepared to take it. It is therefore not only a question of salary; it is a question of the terms of appointment, and also, as the noble Lord who has just spoken said, of pension. I am not one of those who think that this work is going to last for two or three years and then cease altogether. No doubt there will be more work to be done probably in the next two or three years than there will be in an average two or three years; but I believe that this particular plan adopted by the Government, if it passes into law, will find work for competent men permanently. It is therefore of the utmost importance, as I am sure my noble and learned friend will agree, that the attractions of the post should be such that the best men, and not the failures of the profession, will offer themselves as candidates for them.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
Before the noble and learned Lord replies, I want to put a case to him which has not been put by either of my noble friends who have spoken. By far the largest experience of arbitrations in land values has occurred in Ireland, where the whole of the land has been transferred from one hand to another by valuation by different Com 199 missioners. What I would ask the noble Lord to remember is what has occurred in regard to Irish land valuers who are brought into this Bill. It has been perfectly notorious that certain valuers were trusted by neither party; but if they had a permanent employment it was impossible for the Government or anybody else to remove them. And be it remembered that in all these cases there was an appeal. There is no appeal in this Bill.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Viscount said there was no appeal under this Bill; that is the reason I said that.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I happen to know a case in the Midlands in which, almost directly, a question involving hundreds of thousands of pounds must be taken up by one man. It is a single arbitrator, and no appeal. Even if that arbitrator gave a decision which in the opinion of all those concerned was a wrong decision, unless the Government alter the Bill, they will have to put him on to another job at once and he will go on and give similar decisions.
One other point. Two arbitrators may take different views on questions of value, as defined in the section which defines value. Having regard to the existing taxation they may take a wholly different view, and there will be absolutely no power of control of those differences of opinion unless there is a power, as my noble friend suggests, of employing men at the head of the profession rather than keeping a panel of men who must be given a certain period of years in which to operate and who during that period of years may in some instances prove themselves to be quite unequal to the task they have undertaken.
§ LORD PARMOOR
Before the Lord Chancellor answers, may I say that I have an alternative Amendment to that which has been proposed by the noble Lord, but I think it will be better to take the 200 decision upon his Amendment than upon mine. My alternative Amendment is—That those holding the appointment of arbitrator under the Act should be entitled, in spite of being official arbitrators, to carry on their ordinary business, although whilst holding office they shall not give evidence in disputes in connection with the acquisition of land tinder compulsory powers.There are only three points I should like to add to the arguments which have already been addressed to your Lordships. From a very considerable experience of what are known as compensation cases, I should like, in the first instance, to state that it is most important that the particular arbitrator should have business knowledge of the particular subject-matter with which he has to deal—that is to say, it may be building land, or it may be agricultural land, or minerals, or what not The great advantage of the present system is that when you select a valuer or an arbitrator who is carrying on business you select him because he has knowledge of the particular subject-matter in which you wish him to determine the value. I think that is a very important matter indeed.
Secondly, I should like to say that the difficulty appears to be, as regard the purely official arbitrator, what is to happen to him at the end of his period of service. Suppose he is unsatisfactory. It is a very invidious thing to turn him on to the world, almost into the poor-house; whereas if you left him as a member of a firm, or carrying on an agency in the ordinary way he would not suffer much loss. It should be a matter for other people to consider whether he should continue as an agent or not; but he may be, although a most competent valuer in the ordinary sense, an unsatisfactory arbitrator. I think it is an important matter that you should not cut him off from his ordinary business.
Thirdly, on the score of expense it is quite clear that if you do not cut off a man from his ordinary business, the salary to be provided is less. An illustration was given of a case of a Recorder. The payment of a Recorder would be in effect small if at the same time he could not in ordinary cases carry on his business. With regard to the amount of arbitrations, I take the view of the noble Lord who moved the Amendment, that they would be comparatively small in number. I take that view, not because there may 201 not be a large amount of land taken compulsorily, but because at the present time under the provisions of the Lands Clauses Acts, in 999 times out of the 1,000, and indeed in many more cases than that, the matter is settled by ordinary arbitrators with only a nominal expense. Under Clause 8 I am glad to see that a procedure of that kind is maintained in the present Bill. I believe that in nearly all cases the amount will be settled in that way. I feel very strongly, however, that if you are to have arbitrations for the purpose of, say, valuation, they should be held by business people who are perfectly impartial as regards a particular case which is likely to be brought before them, but who have a knowledge of the particular subject-matter in reference to which they have to fix the value of land.
The noble and learned Lord is quite aware that on questions of fact their determination is final. If they go wrong on a point of law their determination may come for settlement before the Courts. The important factor is that their decision on fact should be satisfactory. In order to obtain that, I think you ought to have the choice of men carrying on business and cognisant with the particular subject-matter.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
This is a very important proposal, and the change which it is desired to introduce into the Bill and which has been recommended in very eloquent and informing speeches, would be a far-reaching one. I should give a wrong impression if I did not make it clear, by every means in my power, that it is an Amendment to which the Government is very strongly opposed. A Committee, which was formed to consider the matter and to advise the Government, held many meetings and examined all the arguments that have been used to day and (if I may say so without giving offence) many arguments, by no means lacking in weight, which have not been used to-day, against the course which they ultimately adopted, and they came—I will not conceal from your Lordships, only after considerable hesitation—to the conclusion which was embodied in the Bill. That conclusion was unanimously approved by those members of the War Cabinet, and several others who were invited in for the purpose, to whom the matter was submitted. It is, therefore, a question on 202 which it must be taken, for what it is worth, that the Government, after the most careful inquiry and deliberation, reached a clear conclusion, and they would be very sorry if that conclusion should be varied by your Lordships. Let me attempt to reply to some of the objections that have been taken. I had already noted what the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, pointed out, that much of the argument he advanced was entirely inconsistent with what bad been pressed—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think they were argumentative questions. I think there was some considerable argument underlying them. If I am right in that view, it is true there was some degree of inconsistency between the points put by the noble Earl and the apprehensions which have been expressed by Lord Askwith. Lord Askwith spoke of the great salary which, he said, was greater than that of some Ministers and greater than that of half-a-dozen other functionaries, whose names or positions he took by way of illustration. He also pointed out that they might have pensions and they might have honours—although I do not know that there is any reason why distinguished public servants should not have honours as a reward for their careers—and he gave the impression that there would not be enough work to justify the appointment of men whose emoluments and other advantages would be so considerable. I disagree, for what my opinion is worth, with Lord Askwith on that point, and I agree entirely with what was said by Lord Selborne. I believe that the number of cases that will be tried and pronounced upon by these arbitrators will be very great indeed. I also agree with what the noble Earl said—and this again was the view of the Committee—that it is not in the least likely that their activities will be concluded when three years are over.
What then is the issue which the Government had to decide and upon which your Lordships must form a view this afternoon? We had to decide between having panels of whole-time arbitrators and adopting the course, which is involved in this Amendment, of allowing those whom we were to employ to continue their private practice— 203 to go from a private arbitration one day to preside over a case in which the Government were concerned on the next. I say quite plainly that when the choice is presented in that way—and there is no other way of presenting it, because those are the only two alternatives—I have no doubt whatever, for the reasons which I will give, that although there is much to be advanced in argument on both sides, the course which the Government have chosen will in the end prove to be more economical of money and will prove, which is even more important, to be immensely more efficient in its results and in the manner in which the work is carried out.
My noble and learned friend Lord Parmoor brings, as everybody realises, remarkable experience to this kind of discussion. Nobody was concerned in more arbitrations than he was. He asked a question which had also been asked by a previous speaker—what is to happen to the arbitrator at the end of his time?—and he said it would be very difficult to cut him off. What would happen to him at the end of his time would depend, I suppose, in the first place, upon how long he had adequately discharged important public functions. If he had discharged those functions efficiently for a very long time I presume he would have the same claim to the gratitude of the State which could be put forward by any other public servant who had served the State for a long time.
If, on the other hand, he had served the State for a short time—the period is at present not decided; the noble Lord puts forward a period of five years, but I should have thought it wiser to leave the Treasury a free hand in such a matter—be it assumed that a period of three or five years was, in the first instance, selected, and let us take the case of an individual arbitrator. His three years are over. The opinion is perhaps formed, without any grave reflection upon him, that it would be desirable to have some fresh blood in the panel. Perhaps some special kind of arbitration is more than usually frequent. Such a man could perfectly well go back to the practice of his profession. There is not the least reason why he should not go back, so far from going with a lessened prestige, with an additional prestige, in the circumstance that he has been for the whole period in heavy practice on behalf of the Government and has had before him great industries and estates represented on matters 204 of importance, the decisions upon which have given some guarantee of his ability.
I confess I see no difficulty there, and so I come to the main question—why have the Government preferred this system? I will tell your Lordships quite shortly. It seemed to those who examined this subject that, when you were dealing continuously with matters in which the Government and the citizens of the State were interested, it was intolerable to have a system under which those who were to give decisions, those who would be appointed as judges in these arbitrations by the State, should very likely next day be advising a landowner against the Government and, in other words, have standards which, I say quite plainly and with every desire not to give offence to those who practice a historic profession, exhibit the most amazing and inexplicable disparities that have ever, I think, been known among any class of witnesses who habitually give evidence on oath.
Let us take one or two illustrations of that. I remember appearing in an arbitration in which the Corporation of Liverpool was concerned. I am not sure that my noble and learned friend was not engaged in the same arbitration; he will remember if he was. It was a case in which the Corporation of Liverpool, by compulsory powers, took a very large estate belonging to a noble Lord who was then a Member of the House of Commons—Lord Leverhulme, who now sits in your Lordships' House. I do not, of course, tie myself to the exact figures, because I have conducted many cases since that day. It was many years ago when I was a member of the Junior Bar, but I should be very much astonished if the disparity between the valuations that were put forward on the two sides was not somewhat in the following proportions. I appeared for the Corporation of Liverpool. I believe that my expert witnesses, who were men of the highest possible distinction and gave evidence on oath, said that the property in their opinion was worth about £70,000, or £80,000. I quote the figures from memory—it occurred twelve or fourteen years ago. The expert witnesses on the other side, again the most distinguished men in the profession, with profound and emphatic conviction, swore that the property was worth something like £500,000. I do not recollect the precise figures, but if the noble and learned Lord was engaged in 205 the case he will recollect that the disparity was something of that kind. This is not, in my judgment, by any means an isolated case.
I had the good fortune in my career at the Bar to be occupied in as many of these cases as any one of my standing who was not a regular member of the Parliamentary Bar, and with that experience I say that the constant disparity between the evidence which was given on oath by expert witnesses, as they were called, was such as could not be explained by any reasonably divergence of view. And the same gentlemen who took so pessimistic a view of the claims of a private owner when they happened to be employed by a corporation had not the slightest difficulty a week later, if they appeared against the corporation in a similar case, in revising every figure and valuation which had been the basis of their finding in the other case.
I cannot believe that it is good for the country or for the subject that there should be this kind of uncertainty of standard. Get your court, your panel, and let those men say, "We have deliberately made a selection, we have given up the greater prizes of our profession, just as those who accept Judgeships make great sacrifices in order to accept the Judgeship, though they have been the most successful practitioners at the Bar. They make this sacrifice for the sake of the position and honourable rank of a Judge, and in no small measure for the possibility of making useful contributions to the fortunes of the State. We will make this sacrifice "; and I am sure we shall obtain a good class of man in return for the security and distinction these positions will confer. No doubt they will lose increment by accepting these positions, but on the other hand they will not have the slightest inducement except to apply all their powers to standardising the conclusions which they reach upon similar or comparable facts.
I lay the greatest possible stress on this. You have eight or ten men. They are ex hypothesi experienced men, because no one will be appointed who is not a man of experience. They will meet together, confer together, and their conclusions will all become, not indeed uniform, but you will attain a degree of standardisation which will be absolutely impossible to obtain under the method, and as I think the dangerous and unsatisfactory method, suggested by the Amendment. I hope I 206 have examined the arguments put forward not in the spirit of a man who does not admit their force. To be quite frank with the House I hesitated between the arguments, but I reached this conclusion. It is a conclusion on which the Government holds very strong views and I should be sorry if your Lordships found it impossible to acquiesce.
§ LORD BLEDISLOE
In view of the announcement by the Lord Chancellor of the fact that the Government are strongly opposed to the acceptance of this Amendment I suggest it would be undesirable to push the matter to a Division. I do not think, however, that I could sit silent and accept as gospel the Lord Chancellor's expression of opinion upon the possible lapses into undue partiality on the part of what we may call the cream of the surveyors' profession—and we are seeking to obtain the cream of that profession. I suggest that the cream of that profession are just as honourable, just as reliable, and jug, as impartial, when appointed to exercise judicial functions, as the cream of the legal profession. The chief guarantee against the appointment of persons who will act in a partial manner lies in the method of their appointment. It is open to a body of men, whom we all admit are above suspicion, to select these individuals. That is the best possible guarantee that you are going to have men of the highest integrity and men whose judgment as arbitrators can be fully trusted.
The Lord Chancellor has suggested that these men will say, "We are giving up the greatest prizes in our profession in order to become Government servants." That is true. But there is still a danger, if the Lord Chancellor's apprehensions are well founded, that these men may have a professional bias, because having a duty to the Government, and owing a renewal of their appointment to the good favour of the Government, they may act partially in the interests of the Government as against the owner of land. I do not want to press this point, but the fact that the Government have during the last few weeks selected one of the leading valuers, Sir William Peat, to act as Chairman of a Royal Commission composed of sectional interests—a man who has conducted as many valuations as any one—is evidence that, in the opinion of the Government themselves they can be trusted to do justice as between one conflicting interest 207 and another. After the first flush of work these gentlemen will not have very much to do. The deterent effects of the uncertain danger of chargeability in the matter of costs is going to render these compulsory valuations extremely rare after the first year or two. I am inclined to think we shall soon revert to a voluntary means of assessing the value of land in consequence of the serious burden which may be east on either party in the process of carrying out the intentions of this Bill.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD PARMOOR had an Amendment on the Paper in subsection (3), to leave out from "appointment" to the end of subsection (3), and to insert "and whilst holding office shall not give evidence on behalf of either party in disputed cases connected with the acquisition of land under compulsory powers."
§ The noble Lord said: I do not move this Amendment, but I desire to make a statement. I propose to put it down on the Report stage because it seems to meet some of the difficulties which were suggested by the Lord Chancellor.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I thought the noble and learned Lord would have accepted the decision on the previous Amendment.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I want to explain that this Bill has taken rather longer than I had hoped, and a Royal Commission is fixed for 7.30, to give the Royal Assent to the Housing Bill, which it is desirable to pass into law at once, and to the Finance Bill. I am afraid that that involves my moving that the House do resume, which in turn I am sorry to say involves, in view of the fact that the Government has not the right to rearrange its business—which right will be given if the Motion on Monday next is assented to—that we shall not be able to resume this Bill this evening, because other measures will have intervened.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
No, because there is other business which must be taken. I therefore suggest that I should now move that the House do resume; that Lord Parmoor's Bill, which is a pure formality, should receive a Third Reading; that the Finance Bill should receive its Third Reading; and that we should then adjourn till 9.15, and that on resuming we should continue the Committee stage of the Ministry of Ways and Communications Bill.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I agree that it is a most inconvenient day, but there is great pressure of business, and other Peers are pressing that other Bills shall not be put down for that day. Lord Midleton, for instance, does not wish us to take the Transport Bill. We shall not meet before 5.15 on Monday afternoon.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I have been making inquiries about trains on Monday, and I can get no information at all.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I am afraid we cannot altogether congratulate His Majesty's Government on the course of business, though it may not be entirely their fault. It is, for one thing, surely unfortunate that the Transport. Bill, as we are now to call it, by far the most important in its details of any of the Bills with which we have to deal, has apparently always to be taken in the late hours of the night. That is a marked inconvenience to a large number of your Lordships, and naturally affects the attendance. In the circumstances, we seem to be without any business for Monday; at all events, so far as the wishes of various noble Lords are concerned. There is a strong desire not to take the Transport Bill on Monday, and I understand that my noble and learned friend strongly objects to this Bill being taken. In those circumstances perhaps the noble Earl will tell us what he thinks is the most advisable course for the Government to take.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
The business already down for Monday is the Housing, Town Planning, etc. (Scotland) Bill, Second Reading; the Restoration of Pre-War Practices (No. 3) Bill, Second Reading; and two small measures, the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, and the Retired Officers (Civil Employment) Bill, and the further stages of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Bill, of which we have taken the Committee stage this afternoon. I am most reluctant to put down business which is inconvenient to your Lordship, but I would beg you to appreciate that there is a very heavy programme of business before us, and we are anxious to end this part of the session.
§ LORD PARMOOR
Might I suggest that as the judicial business is soon coming to an end the House might meet each day at an earlier hour.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
In the absence of the noble Marquess I stated what our proposal was, and I stated the objections to that proposal in various parts of the House. One proposal was that this Bill should be resumed from its adjourned position to-night, and the other that we should continue the Transport Bill. I understand that Lord Midleton finds it very inconvenient to attend for the Transport Bill, and Lord Parmoor to attend for this Bill—
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
And Lord Selborne, and I have no doubt other Peers as well. A further group find it difficult to attend for the Scottish Town Planning Bill.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I have had a pretty long experience of Parliamentary business, and I never remember a Bill like the Transport Bill being taken on a day like Monday, with the difficulties of locomotion and with peace celebrations going on all over the country. Therefore I made an appeal to the noble Earl privately not to take the Transport Bill on Monday, but to take other measures, of which there are numbers before the House.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
May I support that appeal. The Transport Bill is a very important measure, and after to-night we shall have had two nights on it when the Bill has not come on until very late. If we do the same on Monday we shall have had a third such night.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
What I rose for was to ascertain of the Government what they intended to take on Monday, and the noble Earl was good enough to tell me the objections. Be did not tell me what the ultimate effect of those objections was upon his mind. I confess I do not thigh it is very regardful of the dignity of Parliament—
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am sorry if I used the word disrespectfully of anybody. I think the word may pass without comment from the noble Earl. I was going to say that it is not very regardful of the dignity of Parliament to discuss such a Bill except in the presence of as many noble Lords as desire to attend.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Yes. I think the noble and learned Lord will agree that it is a more important matter than the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Bill, and it is very inconvenient that it should be taken at a time when noble Lords have difficulty in attending. It is not a question only of the convenience of your Lordships, for I gather that many are unable to attend because the trains do not run. I think as the process of passing Bills through Parliament is supposed to be by the united wisdom of your Lordships, it is not a good thing to take such a Bill at a time when many of your Lordships are not able to attend.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
We cannot get both Bills and. I suggest that we content ourselves on Monday with getting the last stages of the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Bill, but we shall have to finish that on Monday, and make a great effort next week to get through the remaining stages of the Transport Bill. Otherwise we shall get well into the third week in August before the Commons receive the Lords' Amendments.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I am not going to ask the noble Earl to reconsider his decision, but he must not be surprised if those who cannot attend on Monday try to make those observations on Report which otherwise would have been made in Committee. It may not, after all, mean greater progress.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE
Will the noble Earl say whether it is proposed to sit after dinner every night next week?
§ House resumed.