§ Read 3a.
§ Clause 94:
§ Saving for inclusion of certain lands in Improvement Scheme under Housing Act, 1925.
§ 94. Nothing in this Act shall operate to prevent the Corporation from including in an improvement or reconstruction scheme prepared by them under Part II of the Housing Act, 1925, any of the lands within the limits of deviation shown upon the deposited plans of New Street (No. 1) by this Act authorised and situate between the commencement of the said new street and Fox Street but the provisions of Section 46 of the Housing Act, 1925, as to the assessment of compensation in respect of land included in an improvement or reconstruction scheme and acquired compulsorily shall not apply to land in respect of which notice to treat shall have been served under the powers granted by this Act for the compulsory purchase of lands.
§ LORD DYNEVOR moved to omit all words after "compensation" and to insert "shall not apply to any land within the said limits of deviation." The noble Lord said: My Lords, I move an Amendment to this clause because it raises a very big question of principle and one in which the Government are concerned. Under Part III of this Bill the Corporation is authorised to make a new arterial road through Liverpool, and 530 for that purpose to acquire land in the ordinary way. This would be done under the provisions of the Lands Clauses Act, but by Clause 94 the Corporation can acquire some of the land as though under the Housing Act. As originally drawn the Bill provided that if they did so the compensation payable would be governed by Section 46 of the Housing Act of 1925, which was a re-enactment of Section 9 of the Housing Act of 1919.
Now this scheme of compensation has been proved to work most unfairly and unjustly, for the compensation for houses and shops, which in themselves were quite sanitary and in good condition, has been assessed at the value of a bare site, without any allowance for the building or good will. And the question of compensation for good will is one which the Government is very interested in in the Bill now before the House of Commons called the Landlord and Tenant Bill. This valuation as a bare site was made possible, as I said before, by the Housing and Town Planning Act, 1919, brought in by Dr. Addison, the Minister of Health in the Coalition Government. The protest was so strong that he appointed a Departmental Committee to inquire into the grievance and Mr. Neville Chamberlain, the present Minister of Health, was president. In 1921 the Committee reported and used such expressions as these:—
Owing to the inequity of paying nothing for buildings which in themselves might be unexceptionable but which happen to be within an unhealthy area, it is suggested that the local authority will be deterred from representing areas as unhealthy.
The Report goes on to say:
The impression left upon our minds after conversation with witnesses in the various towns is that none of them like the procedure under Section 9. Its drastic provisions are considered likely to lead to such inequality and injustice as between individuals as to encounter violent opposition.
Notwithstanding this unanimous Report no remedial legislation has been introduced.
In December, 1925, Mr. Chamberlain consented to receive a deputation from the Land Union. An agreed report of the meeting contained the following statement:
Mr. Neville Chamberlain, the Minister of Health, intimated that he adhered to the
views expressed with regard to Section 9 of the Housing and Town Planning, etc., Act, 1919, in the Report of the Departmental Committee, and in particular expressed his opinion that the reduction of the compensation according to the use proposed to be made of the property was unreasonable and that new legislation was desirable, and he said he would be glad to receive suggestions from the deputation.
Again, in the House of Commons, on November, 25, 1926, in reply to a question by Colonel England as to what steps the Minister of Health was taking with regard to removing the injustices to owners of certain properties in slum areas, the Minister replied:
I hope to be able to introduce legislation on this subject, but I am unable at present to give any indication of the date of its introduction.
That I take from the OFFICIAL REPORT.
§ Unfortunately, my attention was only drawn to Clause 94 of this Bill after its Second Reading in your Lordships' House. But I immediately wrote to Mr. Chamberlain drawing his attention to it, as it seemed to me most undesirable that a provision should be put into a Private Bill which he himself felt was an undesirable one in a Public Act of Parliament. In the Committee of your Lordships' House upstairs this clause has been amended, but its present form is most unsatisfactory, for Section 46 of the Housing Act, 1925, still applies, if the corporation wish to take certain lands as part of an improvement scheme under the Housing Act and then subsequently use that land for the new highway and compensate the owners of the latter property under the discredited scale of compensation of Section 46 of the Housing Act, 1925, which was panic legislation passed in 1919 to cope with the housing question at the time. There is no reason for extending this confiscatory legislation to Private Bills, for if this is done we shall have the extraordinary position of the Public Act being in future altered by Mr. Chamberlain, but it might not affect this Bill as the Corporation would have obtained their powers and probably have carried them out. MY Amendment does not interfere with the Corporation carrying out improvements and reconstruction schemes for housing, because naturally I want slums to be swept away. All I say is that where land and houses are taken for this new road the owner should 532 receive ordinary compensation and not be penalised merely by the fact that the recommendations of the Departmental Committee have not been carried out and amending legislation introduced. I beg to move.
Clause 94, page 51, line 28, leave out from ("compensation") to end of the clause and insert ("shall not apply to any land within the said limits of deviation").—(Lord Dynevor.)
§ THE EARL OF CLARENDON
My Lords, I hope that you will allow me to make a few observations in reply to my noble friend, inasmuch as I had the privilege of presiding over the Committee which had to consider the Liverpool Corporation Bill last week. I want to say at the outset that the Committee over which I presided gave the most earnest and careful consideration to the provisions of this Bill, and heard the case both for and against it for some considerable time. The hearing lasted, I think, for rather more than three days, and in addition to hearing the case both for and against the Bill we had the advantage of securing certain information in the course of a conversation with representatives of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Transport before we reached our decision.
So far as concerns the clause with which my noble friend has dealt, it really is nothing more than what one might, think, describe as a permissive clause, as it preserves the right to the Corporation to include certain property shown upon the deposited plans in any improvement or reconstruction scheme that they may desire to put into effect under Section 46, Part II, of the Housing Act, 1925. The effect of my noble friend's Amendment would be entirely to destroy the usefulness and effectiveness of this particular clause in the Bill. One of the main objects of the Bill is the construction of the new street to which my noble friend has referred, for the purpose of completing a connection between a point in the centre of the City of Liverpool and the new arterial East Lancashire Road, and that street happens to pass through a certain area which has for some years been under the consideration of the Corporation of Liverpool, for an improvement under that section of the Housing Act to which I have referred.
533 Some point was made when the Committee was hearing this Bill as to why it was necessary to come to Parliament at all, as the Corporation had the right to proceed with any improvement scheme under Part II of the Housing Act of 1925. But I should like to point out that it was made quite clear to us that it was essential for the Corporation to come to Parliament in order to schedule this particular land, so that a complete scheme might be presented to Parliament in regard to the new street. But there was also another reason. It is contemplated by the Corporation that a tramway shall be constructed along this street and it is necessary, in order to do this, that the Corporation should present to Parliament plans of the site which was scheduled for compulsory acquisition. I think that the Committee, in reaching their decision—and I believe that what I am going to say now has the entire Committee's approval—had to be satisfied that this whole question of a town improvement was not an afterthought and that it really had been carefully considered and gone into for some time past.
During the hearing which took place before the Committee we had evidence from the ex-Town Clerk of the Corporation of Liverpool, from the present Town Clerk and from a distinguished member of the Corporation, and I think it was made quite clear to us from the evidence given by those three gentlemen that this question has been under consideration and was in no way an afterthought arising after they had decided to come to Parliament for permission to build this new street and tramway. It may be argued that this question might have been dealt with some time before, but owing to the War that could not be done and the difficulties which exist nowadays in dealing with the demolition of workmen's dwellings for the purposes of a town improvement scheme, and providing the dispossessed tenants with houses in which to live while the improvement scheme is proceeding, are too well known to your Lordships for me to recite them.
With regard to the protection of property owners, I suggest to your Lordships that the Corporation is empowered by law to make use of Part II of the Housing Act of 1925. I do not suppose for a moment any of the Committee deny—nor do I myself—that the existing law 534 does operate most inequitably in so far as individual property owners are concerned. My noble friend has quoted a letter written by the Minister of Health which we had the advantage of seeing during the proceedings, and, as has been indicated by my noble friend, the writer not only expressed the view that the Act does operate unfairly but that he is going to do his best in the near future to put it right. The point of view the Committee took was that, the law being what it is, it was no part of the duty of the Committee sitting on this Bill either to refuse the Corporation the right which they had under the existing law, or to do anything in our decision which would prevent the law as it stands to-day from functioning.
I would like, too, to point out that in so far as the rights of individual property owners are concerned the matter does not rest there, for they still have a further court of inquiry before whom they can lay their case. If your Lordships this afternoon give the Liverpool Corporation their Bill, then the Corporation will have to present a memorial to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Health will then have to direct that a local inquiry be held. To that local inquiry they will send down an official representative from the Ministry, who will hear the case both for and against the Bill. But the matter does not even rest there, because, after having heard the case both for and against the Bill, this Ministry of Health representative has the right of inspecting personally the property concerned and if, in his opinion, the property has been scheduled as insanitary incorrectly he has the power and the right to alter that decision. I do not suppose anyone would argue that the official sent down from the Ministry of Health to conduct this most important inquiry would be any other than a responsible official fully acquainted with his job and primed with plenty of experience in matters of this kind. He would not be a mere stripling, as was suggested by one of the Counsel appearing for the Petitioners against the Bill. For these reasons I would submit that the rights of property owners, as the law stands to-day, are protected as far as it is possible to protect them.
Before I sit down there is one further point I would like to make. My noble friend will exonerate me of 535 any discourtesy to him when I say that I think he is seeking, by bringing this matter in this way before your Lordships' House when it has already been before a Committee of this House, to set up rather an awkward precedent which I do not think your Lordships would desire to perpetuate. In these circumstances I most respectfully urge your Lordships to refuse to pass the Amendment which stands in the name of my noble friend.
My Lords, on behalf of the Ministry of Health I have very little to add to what the noble Earl who has just spoken has said. The real issue raised by the noble Lord seemed to me to be whether there were sufficient grounds to reverse a decision already arrived at by a Committee of this House. As far as the Minister of Health is concerned, he does not think there is sufficient reason to reverse the decision of the Committee. The question of fairness to the owners under the existing law has been dealt with by the noble Earl, but the further question arises as to the admitted deficiencies which exist in the Housing Act, 1925. The noble Lord has really taken this opportunity of drawing attention, not to any inherent evils in the Liverpool Corporation Bill, but to those that exist in the Housing Act, 1925, and, as he has said, the Minister has admitted they do exist. But I submit it is not right to attempt any Amendment in a particular case. Clearly the same law should apply throughout the country. It would obviously not improve the position if any changes are made which only apply to certain districts; indeed it may be argued that if this practice were once started it might weaken the case of those who wish to amend the law.
It is extremely doubtful whether the clause as it stands in the Bill does more than make the existing law clear. Although it is a legal matter, I am advised that in all probability, if the clause were omitted from the Bill, the position of the Corporation and of the owners in the matter of compensation would be actually the same as it is with the clause inserted. That being so, I do not know whether the noble Lord wishes me to go into the question of the merits of the Housing Act, which is obviously a very large question and one that it is 536 scarcely probable your Lordships would consider as suitable to be gone into now. I can only conclude by reasserting what the noble Earl has already said, that the Committee have heard all the evidence for and against and have come to the conclusion that the clause is to the public advantage as it stands and, therefore, that it would be contrary to the practice of your Lordships, and not in the public interest, to take any action other than confirm the decision which the Committee have reached.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE)
My Lords, after the very thorough exposition of the case by my three noble friends I do not think it necessary for me to do more than add a few sentences, and I think a few sentences can sum up the position. It is clear now that for several years past the Liverpool Corporation have contemplated dealing with this area under the Housing Acts. They also propose to deal with this area under the scheme in this Bill, that is, for the new arterial road. All the clause says, I think, is that because they desire to deal with it under this Bill they should not at the same time lose their rights under the Housing Acts. That is to say they are not to be forced into the position of possibly having to buy property which is technically insanitary as if it was not insanitary. That seems to me to be only fair to the Corporation.
I should like to pay my tribute to my noble friends and colleagues who listened to this matter while it was argued on both sides for three days. I have, of course, read the proceedings, as I always do in these matters, and I really feel I have nothing more to do than to thank them for the patience they displayed and to say that I should be very sorry if the result of their labours were reversed.
§ LORD DYNEVOR
My Lords, I should like to be permitted to say that I regret that my Amendment was not received with more favour by the promoters of this Bill, because, had they accepted it, it would have saved a good deal of time and probably expense when the Bill goes to another place. The Bill, as your Lordships are aware, has not yet been before the Committee of the House of Commons. Now I suppose it will go to 537 a Committee of the House of Commons and the whole question can be raised afresh. I shall do nothing further in the matter at the moment and with your permission I will withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.