HL Deb 01 July 1937 vol 105 cc1005-35

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Munster.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Registration of particulars of ownership]:

THE EARL OF MUNSTER moved to add to the clause: (7) The person on whose application particulars have been registered in respect of a holding and any person authorised by him or by an order of the High Court or by rules made by the board, but no other person, may inspect and make copies of and extracts from the entries in the Register relating to the holding. The noble Earl said: The object of this Amendment is to make it quite clear that the Register is not a public one, but is open to inspection only by persons who have an interest in it for the purposes of this Bill.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 41, at end insert the said subsection.—(The Earl of Munster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2:

Expenses of Board of Trade.

2. All expenses of the Board of Trade under this Act shall be defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament, and shall not be taken into account in computing the amount of the expenses of the Department of Mines for the purposes of the limit imposed by subsection (2) of Section five of the Mining Industry Act, 1920, upon the expenses of that Department.

LORD STRICKLAND moved to add to Clause 2: And all expenses incumbent on any person required to register under this Act or having an interest that the registration should be made by a trustee or other party shall be a liability subject to be refunded by the Board of Trade provided that within six months of the passing of this Act the Board of Trade shall have been requested and have declined to authorise an agreed sum in reference to such liability and any question that may arise under this section may be referred to the High Court or to the Court of Session. The noble Lord said: The object of this Amendment is to co-ordinate this clause with the very welcome assurance given by the Leader of the House on the Second Reading that there would be no expropriation without compensation. So far as careful examination of this clause and of the Schedules goes, the costs which it is proposed to pay are the costs of legal proceedings. If one may be allowed to digress into the language of the solicitor's office and the counting house, by costs of proceedings we must understand either taxable costs or costs between solicitor and client, or costs that are not costs of legal proceedings but are remotely connected therewith, such as the cost of obtaining expert opinion. There are costs of ascertaining the value of coal, such as the diamond drill bores, the cost of expert opinion as to the calorific value in thermal units of various seams of coal, the cost perhaps of legal proceedings in the interests of the unborn.

We must remember that this wording is going to be interpreted by lawyers in the Courts of Law, and it cannot be anticipated that the costs of legal proceedings will be interpreted otherwise than narrowly. The wording of the clause refers to Board of Trade Votes. It refers certainly to Votes already passed, that is, to lump sum Votes that are on the Estimates which are at the disposal of the Executive. It certainly has no reference to future Votes which may be passed, and chargeable on the wording of a Vote of an unknown amount, with no indication of the authority which is to deal with the same. Every Department has a lump sum Vote for ordinary routine proceedings, and it is inconceivable that the necessities of this Bill can be dealt with from that small, usual recurrent Vote if—and this is the point—it is really meant that this Bill does not indirectly involve expropriation without compensation. No doubt in regard to coal holdings there are gilt-edged securities and there are speculative securities. As the Bill now reads it may be that gilt-edged securities in coal are amply protected. But in regard to holdings in coal that are speculative, I put it to your Lordships that the legal interpretation of the Bill as it stands does mean expropriation without compensation, because there is no Vote to which expenses of other legal proceedings could be legally charged.

Another phrase which calls for definition, even more than the word. "costs," is "marketable value." "Marketable value" may not exist to-day, but may exist six months hence or six years hence. In order to ascertain the marketable value to-day, there must be the hope of finding a willing purchaser at the price of a willing seller, and of being able to register that sale within six months. Your Lordships must be aware that, although sometimes properties in land and houses are advertised in the news-papers day after day, in most cases they are not marketable within six months or even perhaps six years. Nevertheless they have great value, and that value has to be ascertained by long search for a purchaser and painful and protracted negotiations. The point I wish to put is that if the payment of expenses is to mean, besides the payment of legal proceedings, the payment of ascertained marketable value of those points that call for investigation other than in a Court of Law, this Bill makes no provision, and therefore it does not meet the pledge given by the Leader of the House that there should be no expropriation without compensation. The Schedules contain some mitigation of these doubts, but they do not go far enough, nor do they go so far as would assure an interpretation in the Courts of Law which those expected who put on the assurance of the Leader of the House the interpretation which I am sure this House desires.

Legislation by Schedule is very unattractive, and it may cause considerable difficulty and ambiguity. Members of your Lordships' House who give their services day after day no doubt read Bills, but in the short time available the studying of Schedules is certainly a great difficulty, and it seems to me that the Schedules, as they stand, are not entirely reconcilable with the text of the Bill. Moreover, they give ample powers to the Board of Trade to do all sorts of things which are not contemplated in the Bill, but which can be so interpreted that there would be expropriation without compensation. One way out of the legal difficulty is to give the Courts of Law absolutely unlimited authority to deal with any question that arises. If that is done it will be possible to construct an interpretation in accordance with the pledge of the Leader of the House because, whether there be a Vote or not on the Board of Trade Estimates, a Bill passed by both Houses of Parliament implying legal liabilities will require a consequential Vote sooner or later. It is with the object of co-ordina- tion that this Amendment contemplates widening beyond what is stated in the Bill, or even implied in the Schedules, the power of anyone interested to apply to the Courts.

The interests of reversionaries are very carefully provided for, but in coal holdings there may be very wide interests of remainder men, there may be very wide interests of residuary legatees, and unless there is definition, and more power is given to the Courts, these interests appear to be unprotected. It is all very well to say that there is no compulsion under this Bill. There is no compulsion if anybody owns coal as a tenant in fee simple for his own benefit; but take the case of a trustee. A trustee is, of course, compelled. He is not going to run the moral risk of not registering. What would be thought or said if a trustee does not register? Most coal holdings are held by trustees. If they are not held by trustees, what any person of foresight would do is to sell as quickly as he could any mines which are filled with water. But trustees, the Public Trustee, and trustee companies will have great difficulty in deciding whether or not to register under this Bill.

The last point I wish to consider is whether this Bill, as it stands, is or is not a Money Bill. If the clause is to be interpreted as no doubt the draftsman intended—that is, to deal only with expenses that are costs of legal proceedings—then it is not a Money Bill; but if it is interpreted in accordance with the assurance given by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House that there is to be no expropriation without compensation, then expenses must cover costs as between solicitor and client and costs that are not costs of proceedings such as might be involved in getting the opinion of engineers as to the possibility of dewatering, the cost of boring with diamond drills to see whether coal is at 3,000 or 4,000 feet, and so on. It has happened before now that after years of careful work, just when capital was becoming exhausted and a company was spending its last resources, coal has been found. Therefore I put it to your Lordships, if there is to be no expropriation without compensation, there must be money available not covered by the Schedules and not covered by the wording of the Bill. The consequence of that is that the Bill would become a Money Bill.

It is with very great regret that one has to discuss a Money Bill introduced into this House by the Government. The practice has arisen, notwithstanding the Parliament Act of 1911, for private members to propose Amendments which are money clauses. In another place, the House which has the power of the purse and which makes and unmakes Ministries, no private member would be allowed to place on the Paper a proposal that involved expense beyond the strict wording of the Estimates. If the Bill is to have the interpretation which I have suggested, it will have to be preceded by a Financial Resolution. This is an argument suggesting that it would be better to postpone consideration of the Bill until it has been thoroughly sifted from the constitutional point of view. That depends on the interpretation put on the word "costs" and on the word "expenses." I regret the practice of supplementing the principle of the Parliament Act of 1911 because the growth of these complications makes it more difficult to amend that Act, and on the amendment of that Act I feel that the salvation of democratic government must ultimately depend. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 7, at end insert the said new words.—(Lord Strickland.)


I was not quite familiar with the object of the Amendment which the noble Lord placed on the Order Paper, but the speech he has delivered has given me some indication of it. This Bill does not make provision for deciding the value of property nor, indeed, whether property has or has not a marketable value. If my noble friend will look at Part II of the Third Schedule, as I hope it will be altered by the Amendments standing in my name, he will observe that the Board of Trade are pledged to pay reasonable costs incurred in making application within the time specified except in cases where there is no reasonable doubt that the property is valueless. In cases of disagreement the Court has jurisdiction. I trust that with this explanation my noble friend will be satisfied that the provisions of the Third Schedule, as I hope they will be amended by your Lordships, will substantially meet his point and that he will not therefore press his Amendment.


I am not satisfied with the reply, but I am satisfied that I must withdraw the Amendment. The Board of Trade is not constituted in a manner to assess these costs in the generous manner indicated in the assurance given by the Leader of the House. What is more, whatever may be said of the Schedules, the Board of Trade can only dispose of lump sums already provided by the Vote of Parliament. Therefore my argument holds water in every direction. Whether it is weighty or not will have to be judged and argued in the House that has the power to make and unmake Ministries.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill?


I think this is an appropriate point at which the noble Earl, Lord Munster, should tell us what this Bill is going to cost. When a new Department or a new section of a Department is set up in a Ministry, an estimate has to be, or always used in the old days to be, given to the Treasury of the cost of its operation, the nature and size of the staff, and the probable duration of the Department. I think it would be suitable if we had a little information on this subject. At the same time, I think perhaps the noble Earl might tell us if, when this Bill is introduced in another place, it will be preceded, as I should imagine would be the case, by a Money Resolution.


In answer to the first part of my noble friend's question, I unfortunately have no figure which I can give him as to what the registration and the expenses that have to be met by the Board of Trade will actually come to, and I am not certain whether a Financial Resolution is necessary in another place.


That is a very unsatisfactory statement and is a departure from the usual course. If a new Department is going to be set up attaching to any Department of the Government and expenses are going to be incurred—


No new Department is being set up under this Bill.


If it is not a new Department surely there must be somebody who is going to deal with the registration, and it has always been the custom for the Government, before any expense has been incurred, to go to the Treasury and get permission to establish the officers who are going to be appointed in connection with the provisions of a Bill. That surely is the usual practice. The Treasury has control of the expenditure of the country, and before expenses can be incurred by any Department Treasury sanction has to be given. If the Government do not know what their estimate is of the cost of this Bill, that seems to me to be a very extraordinary state of things.


I understand that there will be a Financial Resolution when this Bill goes to another place, and I hope that will meet the question that has been raised.


Then the Bill is out of order in this House, and should be withdrawn from your Lordships.

On Question, Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3:

Definition of "coal" and application of Act to certain associated minerals.

3.—(1) In this Act "coal" means bituminous coal, cannel coal, anthracite and lignite or brown coal, and all other solid fuels (except peat and oil shale) which are contained in the earth's crust, and has also the extended meaning assigned to it by subsection (2) of this section.

(2) This Act shall have effect in relation to minerals or substances other than coal, that art comprised in a lease which confers a right to work and carry away both coal and those minerals or substances, in like manner in all respects as if they had been coal, and references in this Act to coal shall be construed accordingly.

(3) In this Act references to coal, other than references to the carrying away, making merchantable or disposing thereof, shall be construed as references to coal that is unworked, that is to say, not so severed from the earth's crust as to have become a chattel.

THE EARL OF MUNSTER moved, in subsection (1), after "cannel coal," to insert the word "and." The noble Earl said: This Amendment is consequential or the one I am moving afterwards, so perhaps your Lordships will accept this Amendment and I can give an explanation on the next one.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 9, after the first ("coal") insert ("and").—(The Earl of Munster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My next Amendment is to delete from subsection (1) the words "and lignite or brown coal, and all other fuels (except peat and oil shale) which are contained in the earth's crust," but it will leave "coal" to mean "bituminous coal, cannel coal and anthracite." The reason for the Amendment is that there is practically no lignite or brown coal worked in this country, and therefore it is not necessary for the purposes of the Bill that the meaning of "coal" should be wider than is proposed by my Amendment. The definition, as it will be amended, is the same as that which appears in other coal legislation.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 9, leave out from ("anthracite") to ("and") in line 11.—(The Earl of Munster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD HASTINGS moved, in subsection (2), after "coal," where that word first occurs, to insert "not being minerals or substances worked or capable of being worked by surface operations." The noble Lord said: This Amendment is of some substance. If your Lordships will be so kind as to look at page 3, Clause 3, subsection (2), you will find that: This Act shall have effect in relation to minerals or substances other than coal, that are comprised in a lease which confers a right to work and carry away both coal and those minerals or substances.… There are habitually included in leases, gravel pits and such like surface workings for the convenience of the lessee. The Government, as I understand it, take no real interest in this coal legislation in these surface workings, but it might be excessively inconvenient, where a lessee has sublet those surface working of minerals other than coal if that sublease and those minerals were to be included in this, and the words proposed say that they should not be. The subsection says: This Act shall have, effect in relation to minerals or substances other than coal.… It is quite clear the intention of the Government is to include all minerals or other substances which come up out of the pit mouth. It is not intended—I am certain I am right in that—in any way to interfere with the surface workings of other minerals. I am, therefore, hopeful that, without further ado, the Government will see their way to accept this well-intentioned Amendment which must carry out their views.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 14, after ("coal") insert ("not being minerals or substances worked or capable of being worked by surface operations").—(Lord Hastings.)


In regard to this Amendment I should say there is very little coal worked with other minerals by surface workings.


May I interrupt the noble Earl? This does not affect coal; it has nothing to do with coal.


I think I said that there is very little coal worked with other minerals on the surface; therefore broadly speaking the Government do accept the royalty owners' view that the Bill need not cover minerals worked by surface workings. The only immediate question here, I am advised, is whether there are in fact any other mineral "comprised in a lease which confers a right to work and carry away both coal and those minerals or substances." If, as a result of this Bill, it is found that in fact there are then this point can and will be considered in framing the vesting provisions of the Unification Bill. I honestly do not think that there is any necessity for this Amendment in the Bill for the reasons which I hope I have made clear to the noble Lord.


The noble Earl, I am sure, will forgive me. He says he has made it quite clear, but I am afraid it is not quite clear to me. Subsection (2) of Clause 3 reads: This Act shall have effect in relation to minerals or substances other than coal, that are comprised in a lease which confers a right to work and carry away.… The noble Earl correctly says that there is at the present time very little surface working of coal, but it does occur from time to time, particularly in the case of strikes, where there is an outcrop of coal. I have known coal taken even from the foundations of houses on those occasions. But that is neither here nor there, because this Bill, according to this particular clause, shall have effect in relation to minerals or substances other than coal. We want to make it clear that it merely is affecting such minerals as may be worked together with the coal. That is all it affects.

I said in the first instance that we quite admit that minerals worked with coal that come out of the pitmouth must necessarily be included in this Bill, but minerals such as gravel and brick earth, which are included for the convenience of the lessor and the lessee in the same lease, which are not affected by coal at all, but over which the lessee desires to have some measure of control should he sublet to some other working company of another character altogether, should be excluded from the operation of this Bill. I do not know if I have made myself clear, but the mineral owners are strong about this. They think it is unnecessarily confusing the Bill itself by not having in words which will make for clarity and general convenience. If these words are included the intention will be clear. It is not in any spirit of obstruction but rather in order to be helpful that I have moved these words.


I do not know whether I shall be regarded as unduly inquisitive, but I cannot help wondering why it is necessary to include in a Register of coal, minerals other than coal. In the Forest of Dean coalfield, where I happen to be the only owner other than the Crown of coal, there is immediately above the lowest seam of coal a very valuable building stone, known as blue sandstone. As a matter of fact, New Scotland Yard was built partly of that valuable blue stone. That is bound to be included in colliery leases, because it comes immediately above a certain seam of coal, but when the coal is worked out, or even when the coal is not worked out, it would be very natural, owing to the value of this stone, to sub-let it to others for working from the surface. A good part of our coal in the Forest of Dean is worked by adits, level workings from the surface, and so also are quarries of this extremely valuable blue stone. If I visualise aright the purport of this Bill, I do not quite understand why other minerals should be included in the Register.


I thought I pointed out quite clearly on the Second Reading the reason why the Government thought it necessary to include other minerals. If I may, I will quote from my speech on that occasion: It might be asked why the Government thought it necessary to include in the Register minerals worked with coal. The reply would, I think, undoubtedly be that where a lease covers not only coal but other minerals worked in conjunction with that coal, it is desirable that the fact should be known and noted in the Register. In further reply to my noble friend Lord Hastings, I may say that we do not think at the present time that there are any cases at all such as those he mentions. If he has knowledge of them, and brings it to us before we deal with the main Bill, it would give us assistance, but I did not hear the noble Lord mention any case in which he knew of such surface minerals.


I do not know that I can be called upon to give individual cases, but the noble Earl may take it from me that there are very important if leases to colliery companies which include the right to work from the surface, and where those rights have been accorded to the leasing company, they have sub-let them to other companies who are working them with no relation to coal. I am assured there are many such cases.


It seems to me that what the noble Earl has said introduces a very notable element of doubt into the construction of the subsection. It seems to be assumed that this only refers to surface working. There is nothing in subsection (2) to limit it to surface working. There must be cases where ironstone is let on lease and there is no provision for coal, and vice versa. Is it meant that where coal is associated with the ironstone lease, the ironstone to be taken into account and presumably paid for by the Government? Does this clause involve purchase by the Government of ironstone as well as coal? The subsection says this Act shall have effect in relation to minerals or substances other than coal that are worked in connection with coal, that is to say, worked in the same lease. Is the Government going to buy ironstone as well as coal?


The short answer to the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, is that under this Bill the Government are not going to buy anything. The intention is perfectly plain. Subsection (2) says that the registration shall have effect in relation to minerals or substances other than coal and—these are the governing words which I think were not entirely present to his mind— that are comprised in a lease which confers a right to work and carry away both coal and those minerals or substances. My noble friend did his best to make it plain that it was thought desirable, and indeed necessary, to include other minerals which are leased with coal in the general registration provisions. Let me at once disabuse the mind of the noble Earl of the idea that this Bill buys anything.


Do not let us confuse ourselves over the use of terms. This Bill does not buy anything, but its whole object is to introduce registration and record of minerals that are to be bought. That is the whole object, and the sole object, of the Bill. It does not contain a buying clause, because it has been impossible hitherto to draft a buying clause. But I do think we are entitled to know what is the main policy of the Government. Are they going ultimately to purchase minerals other than coal, as I think is indicated in subsection (2) of this clause. This clause is not going to buy them, but to register them. When they are registered, are they going to be subject to purchase? There is one other point I would like to put. It may be only the turn of a phrase. The Minister spoke about commercial surface working. There is no need for this clause in relation to commercial surface working. I think we ought to have an explanation of that. There are some very large businesses entirely worked from adits, surface working. You may say that the whole of one county that produces an immense quantity of ironstone is entirely surface worked. If there happens to be a coal lease in connection with that, is it to be registered, and if so, to be dealt with under the main section of the main Act?


I realise, of course, the difficulty in which my noble friend finds himself as to the implication that may be held to exist between this Bill, which is a Registration Bill, and what he terms the main Act which is not yet before Parliament. It is very natural, of course, that he should endeavour to elicit from me exactly what will be the provisions of that main Act if and when it is introduced to Parliament, and if those provisions were in my hands at this moment I should be extremely glad to make him party to them, and take his opinion upon them. But I am afraid I must tell him that that is not the position. The purpose of this Bill was thought to be adequately explained when we discussed it last week. I can only repeat what I then said, that we have adopted the method which we think is a convenient one not only from the point of view of the State but also, I should have thought, certainly from the point of view of the royalty owners in the event of a Unification Bill. It is not possible for me to deal further with that subject, but I say that nothing in this Bill prejudices the reception by Parliament or the action by the royalty owners if and when that main Bill is introduced and laid before Parliament.


If my noble friend the Leader of the House could dispel a little more mystification from my mind, I should be glad if he would tell me this. The Bill is now being looked into by people who consider themselves to be owners of coal and likely to be expropriated under the fifteen years' purchase scheme. Does that apply to the owners of all other minerals in every lease which mentions the word coal? That we really ought to know.


I am acquainted with certain properties in the County of Durham from which a good deal of coal has been worked especially in certain periods to which Lord Hastings alluded: periods of strikes. It is a moot point for the Committee what is to be included in this registration. I cannot understand why there is any difficulty in accepting the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hastings: not being minerals or substances worked or capable of being worked by surface operations. Let us assume that ganister is the material that is required in making the furnace work. If that material is on the surface and worked from the surface under a mineral lease, why should a royalty owner be compelled to register a material which has nothing to do with coal? It seems to me that the words of the noble Lord might be accepted without any difficulty.


I think it has been said by the Government that there would be no point in this Bill at all unless some other Bill were introduced later on to purchase coal. Although I should accept what the Government say, that it is very convenient for them to register at this stage minerals or other substances other than coal, I do not think it is at all a help to the owners of those substances to register. When an individual is trying to support the Government in legislation which they may think it beneficial to introduce, it makes his task much more difficult if a suspicion is placed in his mind that they are getting information other than what they want to make use of immediately. The only suggestion which would at once come to one's mind would be the intention to make use of that information at a later stage and to buy out a substance when they thought it convenient to do so.


I should be very sorry if any result of my efforts were to implant suspicion in the mind of my noble friend or of any other noble Lord who is interested in these affairs. I cannot help thinking that there has been perhaps a little undue anxiety over the effect of what I must still maintain to your Lordships to be essentially a very simple provision. Given the situation as we know it, and the relation of this Bill to a Bill which is not at present before Parliament but about the connection of which with the present Bill the Government have been perfectly frank with the Committee, I do not think it is unreasonable that the Government should desire to know what is included in a coal mining lease so as to be able to deal with the operations of that lease and with its separation into its constituent parts if and when they come to the main Bill. I think that there will be general acceptance of that necessity. My noble friend Lord Hastings proposes to exclude surface workings.


Other than coal.


Other than coal, and my noble friend Lord Munster has given reason for maintaining what I certainly believe to be the truth; that the extent to which the facts as anticipated by Lord Hastings are involved is extremely limited. There again, I think that we ought to proceed by means of registration so as to be able to exclude what should be excluded when we come to the Bill. Those two purposes and those two reasons are, I think, eminently justifiable. I have one word to add. My noble friend Lord Crawford has asked me, as he is fully entitled to do, whether it is the intention of His Majesty's Government, if and when this Unification Bill is proceeded with, to purchase minerals other than coal. The answer to that question is, I think, a very simple one, and indeed I should be surprised if the noble Earl does not already know it. The answer is that the global figure, the sum that was awarded under the arbitration, does not include any minerals other than coal, and that where other minerals were included in a lease they would be purchased but would not be included in that global sum but would be a subject of separate compensation.


What sum? This is an entirely new and most important announcement, that apart from the fifteen years' purchase, which is entirely addictable to coal, a further sum is to be provided to compensate for minerals other than coal which are worked under a lease that deals with coal. It throws the whole Bill again into the melting-pot. Would it not be as well to adjourn the discussion? There have been several very serious contradictions by noble Lords on the Front Bench. I will quote the noble Viscount, Lord Halifax, who said this moment that it was necessary to schedule minerals and substances other than coal because they were not coal and therefore were not going to be introduced in this Bill, and therefore were not going to be included in the fifteen years' purchase on Lord Plender's allocation. But the noble Earl, Lord Munster, had three minutes beforehand said that these substances had to be taken into account in order that they might be known and noted in the Register. Now Lord Halifax indicates that there is to be a further sum of compensation for these substances other than coal. I really think that we might have the assistance of the Lord Chancellor upon a matter which depends upon the construction of clauses to so very notable a degree.


I am unwilling to trespass upon the attention of the Committee, but I am bound to point out that there is no discrepancy whatever, so far as I am aware, between what I have just said and what my noble friend said. The noble Earl has again, if he will forgive my saying so, associated the business of registration with the business of compensation under another Bill, and that identification, as I tried to make plain just now, is not justified under this Bill. There is no incompatibility and there is no contradiction between saying what my noble friend said just now with regard to associated minerals and saying what I have just said, that the value of associated minerals was not taken into account in the global figure, which covered only coal.


But would be included in another figure. That is the whole of my point. Lord Halifax says: "What is wrong with that?" We have been told, and it is within your Lordships' knowledge, that a claim was made by royalty owners for a particular sum that was considered to be excessive by the Government, and the matter was referred to arbitration, with the result that fifteen years' purchase was said to be adequate for these particular coal royalties. Everybody has assumed that this is a Coal Bill, and it is called a Coal Bill, and the substances mentioned are coal and allied mineral fuels. Now Lord Halifax announces that there is another matter, and that is ironstone, or what Lord Bledisloe called the bluestone of the Forest of Dean. Now he says that that is not going to be paid out of the fifteen years' purchase but out of another fund. In other words, this Mineral Bill is not limited to the expropriation of coal, but goes to other substances as well, and not merely to registration but to payment for those other substances. I asked earlier what the cost of this Bill was going to be, and I think it all the more important we should know now, seeing that its scope is so enormously increased.


I do not know whether I may speak again on this Amendment, but the motive behind my Amendment, which has been so very much enlarged, is perhaps the motive to which I should return. It was intended by those with whom I act, and by myself, to avoid if possible a number of unnecessary complications—to avoid drawing within the ambit of this Bill persons who were in no way concerned with the operation of coal. It would only add, and must only add, to the cost of this Bill, if it becomes an Act, if those exclusions that I have suggested are not permitted, and the Government are laying up for themselves in our view unnecessary trouble by not accepting these words. Mineral owners as a whole do not desire to take up a non possumus attitude, but if the noble Earl in charge of the Bill is in any way disposed to take the advice of those who have given the matter much study—and I would refer him to what Lord Gainford said—I think he will be well advised if he accepts this Amendment.

On Question, Amendment negatived.


My next Amendment is merely a drafting Amendment. If we leave these words in they are unnecessary, and they might conceivably raise the question "What is the earth's crust?"

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 22, leave out ("from the earth's crust").—(The Earl of Munster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 4 [Interpretation]:

LORD HASTINGS had on the Paper two Amendments to this clause. The noble Lord said: Owing to unfortunate circumstances I missed the first Amendments standing in my name which are consequential on an Amendment to omit the Second Schedule. Presuming the Second Schedule is left out the consequential Amendments will have to be put down on the Report stage, and possibly it will be more convenient if I pass these two Amendments to Clause 4, and allow them to follow the same course as the Amendments which I missed, and which will be brought up on the Report stage.

Clause 4 agreed to.

First Schedule agreed to.

Second Schedule [Property and rights associated with coal and matters to which coal is subject, as to which particulars are to be registrable]:

LORD HASTINGS moved to leave out the Second Schedule. The noble Lord said: The Second Schedule of the Bill is really the only important part of the Bill to which mineral owners take a great exception. There are at least four indictments against this Schedule, to which I shall refer as opportunity occurs, but if your Lordships will be so good as to look at this Schedule you will find that there are certain obligations upon persons who are to register their property. The Schedule says: The property and rights held in associations with any coal or mine of coal, and the servitudes restrictive covenants and other matters subject to which any coal hereditaments are held, particulars whereof respectively are to be registrable under this Act shall be—

  1. (a) such property and rights as would have vested with that coal or mine, and
  2. (b) such servitudes, restrictive covenants and other matters as those coal hereditaments would have vested subject to …"
We then go to a further paragraph in which it says: "The said conveyance shall be deemed" and so on; and if your Lordships will read it you will see the obligations of that paragraph.

The first thing which occurs to anybody is that the owner of minerals has to solve a certain problem before he can register. He has got to solve a problem as to what is registrable, and, without elaborating the matter, he will when he turns away from the simple wording of Clause 1 on page 2, in which there is there described the particulars which may be registered, to the Schedule, find qualifications and conditions put into the Schedule which leave one in complete and insoluble doubt as to what is to be registered. That is quite undeniable. The mineral owner and his agent are not going to be in a position to know what is registrable under this Schedule, and what is not, by reason of the quite remarkable complications introduced into this Schedule, until they have sought the highest legal opinion. What is going to be the result of that? No mineral owner will be able or will dare to complete his registration until he has sought counsel's opinion. In order to seek counsel's opinion you have first to prepare at great expense a vast amount of copy and particulars upon which counsel can give you an opinion. Mineral owners all over the country are being compelled to the same course. It is not to be supposed that their circumstances are all the same, and that counsel's opinions are going to be on the same plane, nor even where they are on the same plane are counsel in the slightest degree likely to agree upon the opinions which they give. What is going to be the consequence of that? The Board of Trade are going to receive, in due course and after great delay, an immense heterogeneous mass of counsel's opinions, the bulk of which will differ, upon the same subject. What is the Board of Trade going to do with it? The unhappy officials who are given this duty will clearly themselves have to seek counsel's opinion as to what the other counsel have meant. The Law Officers of the Crown and eventually the High Court will be brought in.

The object of the Mineral Owners' Association is, curiously enough, not to obstruct this Bill. I want to make that perfectly clear, because noble Lords are familiar with the fact that I am personally very strongly opposed to nationalisation, either of coal or any other commodity, and therefore, they might possibly suspect that I was introducing this Amendment for the moving out of this Second Schedule with an obstructive motive. Curiously enough, it is nothing of the kind. I adumbrated on the Second Reading a scheme of which a pre-requisite is this Registration Bill. We cannot do without it, and therefore it is the motive of the mineral owners to expedite, and not to obstruct, the operation of this Bill. I say that because I would desire the Government to realise that here again it is not a case of obstruction, it is a case of pointing out that we want to secure the same object as they do, and that is the effective operation of this Bill in the least possible time. It is perfectly obvious that if the purpose of this Schedule is to be fulfilled and the conditions which it imposes are to be satisfactorily met, an immense amount of delay is implied. It is true that six months is more or less given as the period during which this registration must take effect, but the Board of Trade are given extensive powers. That is absolutely necessary, and they will have to exercise these options to extend the time almost inch finitely. Well, these counsel will be having these matters put before them, and counsel will, in turn, have to be employed by the Board of Trade. The provisions of the Schedule make for very great trouble to the mineral owner and his agent, and they also make for prodigious delay.

That is one indictment, and that is a matter of principal interest to royalty owners. But there is a matter arising out of it which is of very wide national interest. Attention has already been drawn to the fact that under Clause 2 the costs of registration are to be met out of public funds dispensed by the Beard of Trade. I have endeavoured to show that the labour and trouble given to mineral owners and their agents are going to be very gross and very unfair. But what of the cost? The mineral owner is not going to pay the costs; the State out of public funds is going to meet the costs. It is quite true that we are not the House of Commons, and it is equally true to say that that place is perfectly competent to safeguard the national finances. But that is not to say that we as legislators are to take no interest in such a matter, nor are we as taxpayers to take no interest such a matter. We are here confronted with the certainty that the provisions of this Schedule are going to lay upon mineral owners a very unfair burden. They are going to necessitate the employment of legal advice on an immense scale, and we are going to make perfectly certain by passing this Bill that the Board of Trade, out of public funds, is going to pay for all that manœuvre and all that expense just think of a mineral owner on a large scale. What manner of fee is he going to pay to his counsel? Well, he is not going to pay it himself, and the counsel would know that he is not going to pay it himself. And counsel would be hard to come by, because everybody else would want counsel at the same time, and he would be in a position to ask anything he liked. And he will. It would be unreasonable that a man with an opportunity put on his doorstep would not pick it up. Of Course he will. The expense will be prodigiously vast, and the State is going to pay.

Well, those are two indictments. I am inclined to think that those two are themselves sufficient to show that this Schedule ought not to pass into law. But, serious as those two objections are, I have a third, which I think the Committee generally will consider to be very much more than either of those two. This Schedule, if it is studied—and it requires only a very superficial study to discover the fact—will be found to contain what lawyers describe as a "notional conveyance." I do not know whether anybody in the House knows what that is, but quite recently I discovered what a "notional conveyance" was, and I will tell your Lordships. I would first remind your Lordships of something that fell from the Leader of the House only a few moments ago. In answer to the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, he said, "Please bear in mind that this is not a buying Bill, but a Registration Bill." By what conceivable justi- fication are provisions for conveyancing included in a Registration Bill? I ask that question in all good faith. Here is provision after provision, made for what is known to lawyers as a "notional conveyance" in a Bill which purports to be nothing more nor less than a Registration Bill—a Bill which we have been told commits nobody who objects to the nationalisation or expropriation of any form of property to anything at all. We have been told that constantly, but here we have a Schedule which most definitely commits everybody to everything.

A notional conveyance, as contained in this Schedule, implies certain things. Power is taken in the Schedule to acquire at a later date, without any payment whatever, rights which should normally of course only pass when a conveyance is required and given at the time those rights are needed. I will give examples of that. At the present time, a pit of coal is worked from a certain surface. The head workings are placed where they are, and power is being taken, quite reasonably, to include within the word "coal" the means of getting it out. Well, nobody objects to that. But this Schedule takes power to sink new workings wherever the new owners of the coal think appropriate. It might be any place at all. The owner has in mind the surface development of his land. It may go to the seashore, where there are residential houses. He may have it in mind to develop it, he may be in process of developing it. Along comes the new owner, and says, "We are going to sink a shaft here." The owner of the surface says, "Well, I am only a humble citizen, and I cannot stop a powerful body like the Government from sinking a shaft wherever it likes, but I would remind you that I am going to be paid a pretty figure for your interference." The new owner replies, "You are going to do nothing of the kind, because we are going to take all the rights under the Registration Bill." Those are the actual facts, and that is what is known as a "notional conveyance."

I shall be interested to hear what may be said by whoever is going to answer the indictment which I have made in respect of this Schedule. There are the arguments. There is the inconvenience, trouble, and delay which must be occasioned—and that of course cannot be denied—to mineral owners under the provisions of this Schedule. There is the prodigious expense from public funds by reason of the difficulty and delay and consultation with highly-placed officers of the law which will be necessitated. On top of that we have a Registration, Bill which we have been told is a Registration Bill, and only a Registration Bill, here converted into a conveyancing measure; and on top of that again we have a notional conveyance sandwiched into this Bill which is going to give rights that the Bill does not purport to give and which will operate to the greatest disadvantage of surface owners in the future. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Leave out the Second Schedule.—(Lord Hastings.)


I must try to the best of my ability to answer the main points in what my noble friend called the indictment on which he framed the charge against this Schedule. There is one small point that perhaps I might get out of the way at the start. He had a good deal to say about the complexity of the Schedule and the difficulty that the lay owner would have in interpreting it. In that connection he referred to the fact that a six months' limit was imposed within which applications normally must be made in order to qualify for costs. I was not sure from what he said whether he intended to convey to your Lordships the suggestion that, if owing to the complexity of the affair as it presented itself to him, it was in fact impossible for owners to supply all the particulars required in six months they would thereby be penalised as regards costs, because, if so, he would unwittingly have fallen into error; what the Bill says is if a man has not made his application within six months. Therefore if that was a point in his indict-it is one on which he must rest no great weight.

A good deal of his complaint seemed to me to lie against what he regarded as the unfair burden on mineral owners. May I speak quite frankly in this regard? I have the fortune, or misfortune, to be a mineral owner myself, and I must confess it had never entered my head that I should find it necessary to employ counsel, of whose capacity to charge great fees no doubt many of your Lordships are well aware. Accordingly it would require a good deal to induce me to do that. I think my noble friend in his capacity as being in charge of the interests of royalty owners would be able to devise a much better plan than that. If he has not thought of it, I venture with all humility to suggest it to him. If there is the complexity of which he complains—and certainly I should be the last to deny it—in this Second Schedule, will it not be the case that the royalty owners as a body, a not unduly impoverished or pauperised body, will charter the best counsel they can get and will consult him on any point of difficulty that the solicitors for the royalty owners find themselves unable to resolve? Then I expect my noble friend and his Committee, in return for the subscription I pay to the Royalty Owners' Association, to furnish me with that measure of good advice. I imagine that would be the position of royalty owners as a class, and that accordingly we need not be unduly alarmed at the prospect of ourselves having to go to Lincoln's Inn and pay large fees to individual counsel.

My noble friend referred to a matter which, if I may respectfully say so, is a matter of real substance in this Schedule when he dealt, in legal terms I cannot hope to emulate, with what he called a notional conveyance. If I may put the question in more lay language, the point in his mind there is whether, as drawn, the Schedule has the effect of assuming, in the case of coal which is in the same ownership as the surface, a conveyance of an implied right to use the surface so far as necessary for working the coal. I am advised that that is, in fact, the practice in the Common Law to-day, but it is not the intention of His Majesty's Government that the Schedule should go as far as that. The examination of the Schedule in the light of my noble friend's Amendment has had the effect of bringing to light the fact that that may unwittingly be the effect at the present time. Accordingly there is, I think, a point of substance of my noble friend's that calls to be met. It will therefore be the duty of the Government to introduce an Amendment to the Schedule or the Report stage to meet what my noble friend has lodged as an objection on that score. I do not know that I need say more about that at this stage than to give my noble friend that undertaking.

The last point to which I would make one reference is this. My noble friend says that he does not deem it unreasonable that there should be registration. He indeed contemplates there should be registration for the scheme that he adumbrated when we had the Second Reading of this Bill. But what he does consider unreasonable is that the registration should be as complete and as precise as this Schedule seeks to make it. With all respect to him I would suggest that if this Second Schedule were struck out you would be left with the wording as it is found in subsection (4) of Clause 1, and registration would be demanded accordingly of the property and rights. I refer to Clause 1 (4) (b) which says: the property and rights … which are held in association with such coal and mines.… I do not profess to be a lawyer, but I should have supposed it was quite useless to have a vague registration of that kind, which would be meaningless to lawyers and would be useless for the sake of defining property rights, the accurate registration of which this Bill seeks to establish.

For these reasons it is impossible for the Government to accept my noble friend's suggestion to leave out the Schedule; but he has done a valuable service by drawing the attention of the Government to the point of substance to which I have referred, and in regard to which it will be our desire to introduce an Amendment on the Report stage which I hope will meet him.


I hope the Amendment may be serviceable but the Leader of the House had his illustrious tongue in his cheek when he used the word "precise" in relation to this Schedule. It is really one of the most confused and confusing documents that has ever been submitted in my experience to your Lordships' House. The noble Viscount seems to think that it is based upon what he calls the practice in Common Law. Anybody who is concerned with coal knows that there is nothing more controversial in declaring a lease, or in making a counter proposal about a lease, than are the decisions of Common Law. They are full of contradictions. There is no agreement in the practice of Common Law about three or four factors in the elements of coal, or in assessing the possibilities of the coal- field. This partly comes from legislation by Schedule, and it is really entirely against the traditions of Parliament for the operative clauses of a Bill to be hidden away in a Schedule. This Schedule, so far from being precise or helping one, goes far to confuse one.

The noble Leader of the House, who is always noted for his optimism, seemed to think that he, amongst others, was going to get off with moderate fees in respect of these schedules and registrations, but the expenses, as my noble friend below me said, are going to be prodigious. But that is not because the lawyers are going to charge high fees or excessive fees. The expenses are going to be prodigious because the task is going to be prodigious. In paragraph 2 on page 9 you will find one reference—and I think the only reference in the Bill—to one of the most complex and controversial aspects of coal valuation and coal responsibilities and that is the support which coal has to leave for buildings on the surface. It is difficult enough to value coal, but the valuation of coal is nothing compared with the complexity of valuing the surface affected by the coal; and here, casually, in two or three words, it is revealed that the Government are conscious of the fact that the surface has got to be valued. This is, as the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, pointed out, a conveyance which is imposed upon somebody or other by this Bill, compulsorily imposed upon them, and has got to be paid for by the Government. Now we know, roughly speaking, or we can guess, the process of valuation as regards the coal itself. There is a series of established figures in that matter—namely, the payment of royalties by the lessee to the lessor, the assessments to Income Tax and mineral tax and the other tax—I forget what it is called—connected with coal royalties. Relatively speaking that is a simple matter of assessment compared with the far more complicated and complex matter of assessing the right to withdraw support, and you cannot work coal unless you have satisfied yourself as to your right to withdraw support; otherwise you will be "mandamused" in the County Court and your pitshaft will be closed the next morning.

I want to know what the Government's view about that is. Is there going to be any payment for the right to use sup- port or withdraw support—payment on one side, compensation on the other? The deeper the coal the larger is the area of the coal measure required to give support for a valuable building at the top which may be affected by a really deep seam of coal. It may involve that hundreds of acres of coal be sterilised for the purpose of giving the support. But when you have done that what is the position about conveyance in respect of the right of this coal support? Half an hour ago the scope and extent of this Registration Bill was enormously increased when the noble Viscount, Lord Halifax, announced that it was going to apply to ironstone and other substances which happen to be worked in connection with coal and which happened to be mentioned in a coal lease. Now I ask him a corresponding question: Who is going to pay for the expenses of those who have the right of support for surface buildings in and through the coal of which the Government are going to take possession, and is that going to be paid for by the Government? It is a perfectly distinct and clear question, and I think we should have as clear an answer about that question as we had about the existence of ironstone or other minerals in coal leases.


I am afraid my noble friend is always trying to lead me further afield than it is possible for me to follow him. He has argued with great force and asked many questions about who is going to pay, and what is going to be paid, in connection with the rights of support enjoyed by surface owners as against those who work the coal under the surface. The answer that I must make to him, which is of course the answer that he would expect, is that it is impossible for me to specify those provisions which are exactly the provisions which must find their place in the main Bill. This Bill is a Bill of registration and does not give or take away support to or from anybody. The only point where the Schedule laid itself open to fair criticism on that side is the point that my noble friend Lord Hastings made and on which I expressed my willingness to introduce Amendments to meet him. If I might suggest to my noble friends, I think it would really be the more profitable and the fairer course if they would await the Government Amendment and see whether it does or does not meet the anxieties that they legitimately hold with regard to the effect of what my noble friend called the notional conveyance. If they do not think it meets them they will be at liberty to say in what respect they think it fails.


There are just two points on this Bill that I should like to have elucidated if the Leader of the House would kindly do that for me. I could not follow the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, quite on the point that he was satisfied that all the expenses incurred would be paid by the Board. Reading further on in the Third Schedule, we find in paragraph 5 (1) on page 14, line 12, the expression "reasonably" used. There is no Amendment down in regard to that, and I should like to know who is to put the interpretation on the word "reasonably." I do not wish to go over the ground that has already been traversed, but one knows that when one goes to law and gets costs one gets only a fraction of the actual costs, because the costs are taxed. I should like an assurance from the Leader of the House that all expenses except those which are proved to be unreasonable are to be paid by the Board, which is rather a different interpretation.

There is one other point. It has been admitted by the Leader of the House that there will be items included in the registration which in fact will not be used to implement the second Bill. He said that they might be used although their cost would not be taken from the global figure. If an individual owner registers any form of revenue which he derives from the working of his coal, will it be implied that he agrees that that income or the capitalised figure of it should be included in the global figure taken before the independent tribunal? There are leases which contain clauses which it might reasonably be argued should be included, but which it might also reasonably be argued should not be included. I think, as my noble friend Lord Hastings sad, the chances are that counsel would answer "Yes" on one side and "No" on the other.


May I suggest, as the Government are going to introduce an Amendment in the Schedule, that we should have an opportunity of debating it in Committee of the House? If we adjourn this stage of the Bill now, we should be able to see the definite proposals of the Government and be able to debate them much more satisfactorily than it is possible to do either on Report or on Third Reading.


May I be allowed to say a word in support of that suggestion of the noble Lord? The noble Earl, Lord Minister, did me the favour of giving me private notice of the probable intention of the Government to introduce some Amendment, without going into detail. Naturally, I was bound to tell him, as I tell him now, that it is impossible to accept Amendments until you have seen them. You cannot debate alternatives until you know what they are. If we agree to postponement of the discussion of this division of opinion until the Report stage, we have to take into account how much time will elapse before the Report stage, and what time will be given for consideration and so forth. If my noble friend could see his way to agree with the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, of adjournment in order to debate in Committee the Amendments which the Government propose to the Second Schedule, we should be in a position to debate them in a much more satisfactory atmosphere than is possible now.


It is technically impossible to discuss Amendments to this Schedule except in Committee.


I do not want to ask your Lordships, and indeed it would be little good for me to ask you, to do anything you do not yourselves consider reasonable. I make no complaint at all of the debate that has arisen, or of the differences of opinion that appear to prevail on some of the points we have been discussing. I should naturally wish to meet the wishes of your Lordships in regard to the conduct of our business, but, at the same time, your Lordships will, I hope, believe me when I say that it is a matter of some difficulty—as no one knows better than the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, though he is not so much interested in the matter as he once was—at this stage of the Session, so to arrange business conveniently between the two Houses as to afford a reasonable opportunity of securing the Royal Assent to Bills before we adjourn. It may possibly be that the noble Earl would survive his disappointment if this Bill failed to secure the Royal Assent. At the same time I think he will realise my point in regard to this consideration.

I am bound, however, to have regard to what my noble friend opposite and my noble friends on this side feel, and I am willing in the circumstances to ask you to adjourn now and resume the committee stage next Monday. I will use my best endeavours to see that the Amendment foreshadowed is placed on the Paper as early as possible. In return I would ask my noble friend Lord Hastings to meet me and to allow us to proceed with the Report stage at as early a date as is convenient—perhaps rather more rapidly than would have been contemplated if we had finished the Committee stage to-day. I am bound to make that request for the reason I indicated a moment ago, and if he can meet me in that way I would propose to your Lordships that we should adjourn now.


May I point out that certain difficulties arise? The noble Viscount the Leader of the House has met us in every way he can and we are very grateful to him, but is it certain that he will succeed in getting the Mines Department to evolve Amendments to this Schedule which they might easily have done a week ago, but which when they are asked to do it at a few minutes notice they may very likely fail to do? To-day is Thursday. Is it certain that they will reach us on Saturday morning? They cannot reach us earlier than that. Then if we are to debate them on Monday afternoon there is the difficulty of getting together the proper persons to discuss them in order to enable those of us who speak with their minds and for ourselves to debate them properly. It is going to- be a very difficult matter. This Bill is of vital importance to a large number of His Majesty's subjects. Monday may be found too early a day.


May I add a word in reply to what the noble Viscount the leader of the House has said? This Bill is not going to be passed by the end of the month of July. Judging from what I know of the House of Commons it will require six or seven days in Standing Committee. It has got to be put into order before it is passed into law. As it is now, it is an inexplicable mess and confusion. We are not to-day in the ordinary position of trying to correct mistakes in a Bill from another place. In the interests of our own reputation we should have sufficient time to go into the whole matter before the Bill is sent to another place. The Bill as it stands is not going to be workable.

Debate adjourned.