HL Deb 30 July 1930 vol 78 cc1099-106

Provisions with respect to the Validity and Date of Operation of Compulsory Purchase Orders.

VISCOUNT HAILSHAM had given Notice to move, after sub-paragraph (c) of paragraph 1 of Part II, to insert:— and (c) Where the order is made with respect only to a local authority, the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1910. The noble and learned Viscount said: This is an Amendment of some little importance. It proposes to alter the provisions in the second part of the First Schedule. Under the Bill as it stands, a compulsory purchase order shall incorporate, amongst other things, the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of compensation) Act, 1919. That sounds a very innocent proposal, but it is not quite so harmless as it sounds. This is a Bill which is designed, as I understand, to accelerate and simplify the procedure in starting these works and obtaining the necessary orders. It is not designed, or does not purport to be designed, to alter the basis upon which property can be acquired. That is to say, it is not, as I understand it, one of the objects of the Bill to deprive people whose property is compulsorily taken of the compensation which they would otherwise get, if the ordinary procedure had been adopted.

Your Lordships probably know that, where a statutory undertaking, such as a railway or any other undertaking carried on for profit, acquires land compulsorily, there has been for nearly a century a well-recognised principle under which a sum of 10 per cent. is given for the compulsory acquisition, and there are certain well-known principles as to what you may or may not take into account. In the case of a local authority, provision is made by the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919, which does away with the 10 per cent. and very much limits the matters that may be taken into account in assessing compensation. There are certain provisions as to pot taking into account amenity values, and things of that kind which are taken into account ordinarily. As the Bill is drawn, this Act is to be applied to all these compulsory orders, with the effect that, wherever an order is made under this Bill, persons would get less compensation if the purchasing authority were not a local authority than if they went under the ordinary procedure, to a Select Committee.

That seems unjust, and therefore I am asking your Lordships to amend the Schedule. I am sorry to say that I have to make a slight alteration. It is really not my fault, but I have been in communication with the Government draftsman and I shall propose it in the form in which he desires to put it. The reason of its being put in is that there are some statutory authorities which are not carried on for profit which already have the advantages of the Acquisition of Land Act. My purpose is to preserve the rights of people whose land is taken in exactly the same way as they are under this Act, but to leave the procedure only altered. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 11, leave out lines 29 and 30, and at the end of line 33 insert: ("and (c) in the following cases the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919; that is to say, in the case of an order made by a local authority or by a public authority within the meaning of that Act").—(Viscount Hailsham.)


I think I ought in one sentence to remind your Lordships of what your practice has been for the last ten or eleven years. I confess at the time I was not enthusiastic about the Act of 1919, but it was accepted by Parliament because it was felt that public authorities not trading for profit were in a special position, and required and were entitled to this special treatment. But Parliament then took the view that bodies trading for profit ought to be no more favoured than anybody else, and that has been the attitude of Parliament ever since. I cannot remember any case where a company trading for profit has been specially favoured. I can remember several cases where they have asked that they should be so favoured, but I have consistently informed them that if the matter came before your Lordships I should advise you not to accept it, and I have been flattered to the extent of finding that when I have made that statement the matter has not been pressed before your Lordships.


As the noble Lord in charge of the Bill knows, I have had some consultation in reference to the effect of this Amendment. I thought the noble and learned Viscount was going to move it as it appears upon the Paper, and I was anxious in regard to the position of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. For instance, if the Amendment was passed in the form in which it appears on the Paper I was anxious to learn whether that undertaking would be prejudicially affected. I was of opinion that it would, but, having regard to what the noble and learned Viscount has said with respect to the amendment of his Amendment, I feel that I can rest assured that no difference will be made in regard to an undertaking of that character by the Amendment as it is now proposed.


This again is an important point which has been raised by the noble and learned Viscount. I do not want to stress the argument that in several instances the Minister of Transport now makes orders authorising the compulsory purchase of land by a railway company. He has, for instance, applied to a railway company the provisions in the Schedule to the Development and Road Improvements Act of 1901, under which the owner of land is deprived of the 10 per cent. allowance for compulsory purchase. In several cases that has already been done. I only quote that to show that this is not a revolutionary proposal which has been surreptitiously introduced into what appears to be a harmless Bill. I would also remind your Lordships that considerable trouble has been taken with this Bill so as to get the approval of the various parties interested, not only railway companies, but various other statutory undertakers who are necessarily interested in this particular clause which, I may also remind your Lordships, has been passed through the House of Commons without any comment whatsoever.

It is not a matter of favouring any particular company that is trading for profit. The object of this Bill is to expedite procedure, to make schemes for the relief of unemployment more numerous and more rapidly brought into execution, and there is no question that in this particular case, as the Bill stands, these various statutory undertakers will be more likely to be encouraged to go forward than if this Amendment is put in. Moreover, I should like to put this case to the noble Viscount. We desire to get simplicity and, so far as possible, uniformity. You might have a light railway, for instance, that was partly municipally-owned, and you might have a light railway that was not owned by a local authority but belonged to a company. It seems unreasonable that the light railway that belonged to a municipal authority should have an advantage over the other light railway. That is still more frequently the case with electricity undertakings. It seems rather unreasonable that an electricity undertaking that is municipalised should be in a preferential position to an electricity undertaking which is not.

Your Lordships will excuse me if I look at this question not so much from the point of view of a landowner as from the point of view of the necessity of getting work for the unemployed, of the necessity of giving all assistance possible to these various great enterprises which are anxious to bring forward schemes. The Railway Rates Tribunal is responsible for fixing the rates of railways, and if any extra expense falls on the railways they must go before the Railway Rates Tribunal and the rates may be raised by that Tribunal. Although I quite appreciate the point which the noble and learned Viscount, with his usual lucidity, has brought before your Lordships, I must say that the Government, having got the Bill through in this form in the House of Commons without any sort of opposition, and having consulted so many interests concerned, and feeling that it is an agreed measure, cannot at this last moment withdraw from the position they have taken up. I regret therefore I cannot accept the Amendment.


If the noble and learned Viscount had not put down his Amendment, I had been asked by the Central Landowners Association to put down a similar Amendment, and should have done so. I need not trouble your Lordships with any arguments, as the noble and learned Viscount has so fully and clearly, as he always does, put the matter before your Lordships. I should, however, like to say a few words in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, who has just spoken. He said this Amendment would not expedite the purpose of the Bill. I cannot see any argument at all in that. What is the whole discussion between us? It is whether we are, or whether we are not, to do an injustice to landowners when land is taken compulsorily for the benefit of some private company by which its dividends will be increased at the expense of the landowner.

I am aware that in cases where the national interest is concerned landowners do suffer by having their land taken away. On the other hand, I strongly object to the proposal of the Government by which a body trading for profit is to be able to buy its land compulsorily in order to increase its profits. The noble Lord talked about light railways. We know that light railways are not built now because the services are given much more cheaply by motor traffic. Then the question of electricity undertakings was introduced. An electricity supply company is simply a trading concern, and as far as I am aware most electricity companies are making very large profits at the present moment. The only argument that holds water—and I consider that a very leaky one—is that this will stop any one putting into force these facilities. It will do nothing of the kind. I only hope, as a matter of justice and fairness to landowners, who are suffering very heavily indeed—and not least from the Budget of the present Government—that the noble and learned Viscount will press the Amendment.


I said that I was unwilling to press a previous Amendment to a Division because I wanted to give the Government whatever powers, in reason, they asked for, but I really cannot accept the answer of the noble Lord opposite. He says the object is to expedite procedure. Nobody can suggest that procedure will be any quicker whether a man gets the compensation he is entitled to or something less. The argument really amounts to this, that it is hoped by putting in this provision that probably statutory undertakers would embark upon work which they otherwise would not undertake because they would be getting land cheaper than they would be entitled to get it without this Bill. That is not an argument which can be seriously put before this House. As to the arguments about simplicity and uniformity, whether light railways or electricity undertakings are concerned, the position will be the same. I am not asking that the law should be altered. I am merely asking that the law should not be altered, but that your Lordships should preserve the existing position and preserve to people the rights they now have, so that they should get exactly the same sum as they would get if the ordinary and more cumbersome procedure had been followed. If the Government will not accept the Amendment, I must ask your Lordships to insist upon it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The next Amendment is consequential.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 2, after ("order") insert ("made with respect only to a local authority").—(Viscount Hailsham.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY moved, in the proviso to paragraph 1 of Part II, to leave out "thirty-two" and insert "thirty-three." The noble Lord said: This is an Amendment put down on behalf of the London County Council, and I understand the Government are disposed to accept it. I do not know whether it is necessary in those circumstances to say more than that the London County Council, when promoting Bills under the existing practice of Parliament, have almost always succeeded in getting inserted in their Bills a clause excluding Section 133 of the Land Clauses Act. That is a section which deals with deficiency rating. It is a somewhat complicated matter and probably I need not trouble your Lordships by explaining it at this moment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 3, leave out ("thirty-two") and insert ("thirty-three").—(Lord Stanley of Alderley.)

LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE The Government will accept this Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The next Amendment is consequential. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 4, after ("1845") insert ("or any of those sections").—(Lord Stanley of Alderley.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE moved to add to Part III: 6. Until rules of court are made regulating the procedure on applications to the High Court under this Part of this Schedule, the following temporary rules shall have effect with respect thereto—

  1. (i) The application shall be made by an originating notice of motion to a Judge of the High Court selected for the purpose by the Lord Chancellor:
  2. (ii) The notice of motion shall state the grounds for the application, and the date mentioned in the notice for the hearing of the application shall be not less than eight days after the service of the notice:
  3. (iii) The notice of motion shall be served before the expiration of twenty-one days after the publication of the notice of confirmation of the order to which the application relates on the local authority or statutory undertakers by whom the order was made and on the Minister, and shall be entered at the Crown Office within the same period:
  4. (iv) The evidence upon the hearing of the application shall be by affidavit except in so far as the Court at the hearing may direct oral evidence to be given:
  5. 1106
  6. (v) The ordinary practice and rules of the King's Bench Division shall apply so far as they are applicable, and are not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act or of these temporary rules."

The noble Lord said: This Bill comes into operation the moment it receives the Royal Assent, and the temporary rules contained in this Amendment will be effective until rules are made by the Rule Committee after the long vacation. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 14, line 39, at end insert the said new paragraph.—(Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

First Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Second Schedule:


There are two consequential Amendments to this Schedule. I beg to move.

Amendments moved—

Page 15, line 7, after ("bridge") insert ("and the approaches thereto").

Page 15, line 15, after ("the") insert ("scheme or").—(Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Second Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

House resumed.

Then (Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended), Amendments reported, Bill read 3ª, with the Amendments, and passed, and returned to the Commons.

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