HL Deb 07 May 1934 vol 92 cc16-21

Procedure for making Orders.

1.—(1) Water undertakers who apply to the Minister for an Order shall cause notice in writing of the application to he served—

(2) A notice under this paragraph shall state the general effect of the application and that representations may be made to the Minister with respect thereto within seven days from the date on which it is served or, in the case of a public notice, from the date of its first publication, and in the case of an application for an Order authorising the compulsory purchase, or the occupation and use, of land shall specify the land to which the application relates.

4. Before making an Order the Minister may, in any case in which he considers it expedient so to do, and shall, if an objection to the making of the Order is duly made and the objector so requests, cause a local inquiry to be held:

Provided that the Minister may require the objector to state in writing the grounds of his objection and may make the Order without causing a local inquiry to be held if he is satisfied that the objection either is frivolous or relates exclusively to matters which can be dealt with by the arbitrator or other person by whom compansation is to be assessed.


The first two Amendments in the Schedule are drafting Amendments.

Amendment moved— Page 14, line 16, leave out ("a contract") and insert ("an agreement"). Page 14, line 17, leave out ("contract") and insert ("agreement").—(Viscount Gage.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

LORD STRACHIE moved, in paragraph 1 (2), after the first "application," to insert "the place where copies of the draft Order may be obtained at a reasonable price." The noble Lord said: I move this Amendment formally. I do not know whether the noble Lord will accept it.

Amendment moved— Page 14, line 36, after ("application") insert ("the place where copies of the draft Order may he obtained at a reasonable price").—(Lord Strachie.)


I think the noble Lord is under some misapprehension. The object of the Amendment is to secure that the advertisement which has to be issued when an application for an Order is made to a Minister shall state the place where copies of that Order may be obtained at a reasonable price; but there will be no draft Order at that stage. What will have happened at that stage is that an application will have been made to the Minister asking him to make an Order giving water undertakers powers under the Bill. It is therefore not possible to do more at that stage than to require water undertakers to state generally the effect of their application in the advertisement, and this the Bill as it stands does.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

LORD STRACHIE moved, in paragraph 1 (2), to substitute "fourteen days "for" sever days." The noble Lord said: The object of this Amendment is to give more time for lodging representations when proceedings are commenced for obtaining an Order. So far as I understand paragraphs 1 (2) and 2 (2), the period of seven days runs from the date of the notice or from the date of the first publication of a public notice, a provision which shows that in some cases there will be only a public notice and no notice to individuals. I venture to suggest to the noble Viscount that that is wholly insufficent, and that, especially when applied to Orders under Clause 3, it is exceedingly difficult to justify. If retained, it will in practice involve an enormous number of objections, as the only course available to persons who think they may possibly be affected would be, in order to protect themselves, to send in representations in order to protect their position pending their making inquiries. The mere fact of limiting it to seven days instead of giving fourteen days—and I would much rather have an even longer time—is to encourage people to send in all kinds of objections, which may be really more or less frivolous, in order to keep the question open. It seems to me that for the purpose of getting on with the matter it would be of much greater advantage to give them more time, and then they would not be likely to put in frivolous objections. If the seven days remains, the solicitor to a landowner will say: "You must put in every objection that you can: you will safeguard yourself then. You have only got seven days, and you cannot possibly go into the question whether you are going to be damnified or not, so that there is nothing to do but to put in an objection." There is no doubt that some landowners are going to suffer very much under this.

Amendment moved— Page 14, line 37, leave out ("seven") and insert ("fourteen").—(Lord Strachie.)


Again we admit that the time is a short one, but the emergency is serious, and if measures are to be taken in time to meet it, it is unavoidably necessary that the procedure must be expedited. For this reason it is in our judgment really not prudent to allow more than seven days; I submit that seven days is not unreasonable in the circumstances. After all, it will be generally known whether the local supplies are running short or not, and interested parties may therefore be expected to be alive to the possibility of an application under this Bill. The fact that the making of an application is being considered will probably be known before the application is actually made. I think the noble Lord must consider in this connection the safeguards which were inserted in another place. An Amendment was accepted providing that an objector might request that a local inquiry should be held, and if he so requests, under this Amendment a local inquiry must be held unless the objection is frivolous or relates exclusively to compensation. That appears in paragraph 4 of the Schedule, on page 15. That secures that if an objection is serious, and an objector feels that he has not had sufficient time to make out his case, he will assure himself of ample opportunity of doing so and of having his objection fully considered. I hope this meets my noble friend's point.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I do not propose to move any of the following Amendments until I come to paragraph 4, where I propose, before the first "inquiry," to insert "public." I hope the noble Viscount may be inclined to give me one Amendment, and this Amendment seems a very simple one. If there is a local inquiry, surely it ought to be a public inquiry, otherwise people may say that it is only a hole-and-corner affair. As a rule these inquiries are held in public. It seems a very simple matter one way or the other. I do not want to waste any time, and I therefore ask the noble Viscount whether he will allow a public inquiry or whether he insists up on a private inquiry.

Amendment moved— Page 15, line 47, after ("local") insert ("public").—(Lord Strachic.)


I think this is largely a matter of phraseology. "Local inquiry" is a term used in Section 290 of the Local Government Act, 1933. That Act, passed, as your Lordships will remember, after long consideration by a special Committee, consolidated the provisions of many laws relating to certain matters of local government. The Committee found that various terms were used in Acts, and deliberately adopted the term "local inquiry"; and it would he very unfortunate if, immediately after that Consolidation Act, in which that practice was adopted, another term were used in this Bill. I feel sure that my right honourable friend the Minister of Health would wish to accept the general intention of the noble Lord. The noble Lord no doubt realises that under the present Bill, at any local inquiry a member of the public may be admitted. It is, I think, desirable that the Minister should have some discretion, but that is the general effect of the Bill—that the Minister will in practically every case allow members of the public to be there. But it is perhaps desirable that the wording should not be changed, and that he should have discretion in certain particular cases. I do not think there is any desire to make the local inquiry a kind of Ogpu.


I quite see the difficulty of the noble Viscount in meeting me about this particular point. Both he and I have a good deal of difficulty in discussing these questions at such short notice. I will not press this Amendment. I ask leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD STRACHIE moved, in paragraph 4, at the end of the paragraph preceding the proviso, to insert "at which the objector shall be entitled to appear and be heard either in person or by counsel, solicitors or agents." The noble Lord said: On the face of it, it does not seem to be a very unreasonable thing that the landowner should not be bound to appear himself. The question may be very intricate indeed, and there does not seem to be any reason why he should not be given power to appear by counsel in this matter. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 15, line 47, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Strachie.)


I think these words are unnecessary. It is a common practice now to allow objectors to be heard either in person or by counsel or solicitor or agent. Again, when the law was consolidated words of this kind were not inserted, and it is submitted that they are no more necessary here than they were in the Consolidation Act. There is the further objection that to insert these words here would be to raise doubts in other cases where the words do not appear, whether an objector could appear by counsel, solicitor or agent.

Amendment, by leave, withdraw.

LORD STRACHIE moved, in the proviso in paragraph (4), after "Provided that the Minister may," to insert "without the interests of the objector being thereby prejudiced." The noble Lord said: It seems to me that an objector is undoubtedly prejudiced in his objection to principle if he is compelled to raise both the question of principle and the compensation before the same tribunal. It seems to me that if we insert these words it will do something to safeguard the objector, because I suppose the whole object is not to rush anything upon an objector without giving him every opportunity of bringing his case before the Minister. That seems to me to be only fair.

Amendment moved— Page 16, line 2, after ("may") insert ("without the interests of the objector being thereby prejudiced").—(Lord Strachie.)


Again, we submit that these words are unnecessary, because the objector cannot possibly be prejudiced. If he makes a claim for compensation and his claim is not agreed, he can have it decided by an independent arbitrator. It will be the business of the arbitrator to consider the claim on its merits and to award such compensation as he thinks just. The Minister would not, for a moment, think of reducing the award because of any objection made to the arbitrator. It is a further objection to this Amendment that these words do not appear in other Acts where there is a similar proviso.


Having got the assurance of the noble Viscount that an objector would not be prejudiced, I accept it at once and ask leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule, as amended, agreed to.