HL Deb 07 June 1945 vol 136 cc478-97

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

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The Lord STANMORE in the Chair]

Clauses I to 4 agreed to.

Clause 5:


5.—(i) Where there are Government war works on the land, the power of acquisition shall be exercisable if those works were constructed wholly or partly at the expense of the Crown or some other person having no interest or a limited interest in the land and, in the opinion of the Minister, either—

  1. (a) the value of the works ought, by the acquisition of the land, to be preserved either for the Crown or the said other person, his legal personal representatives or his successor in the carrying on of a trade or business in connexion with the carrying on of which he incurred the expense in question; or
  2. (b) the right to use the works (whether then or thereafter) ought, by the acquisition of the land, to be preserved or secured either for the Crown or for some other person having no interest or a limited interest in the land, and the case is not one where the land can be acquired under the Defence Acts apart from this Part of this Act; or
  3. (c) the right to determine the use to which the works are put (whether then or 479 thereafter) ought, by the acquisition of the land, to be secured for the Crown, and the case is not one where the land can be acquired under the Defence Acts apart from this Part of this Act.

(2) In any such case as aforesaid the power of acquisition shall extend not merely to the site of the works but also to any contiguous or adjacent land which, in the opinion of the Minister, must be held with the site of the works if the works are to be properly utilized and maintained.

3.45 p.m.

THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH moved to insert at the end of subsection 1: Provided that any use to be determined in pursuance of the right thus secured is a use designed to keep the works available or adaptable for war purposes or for the purpose of preparation for war. The noble Earl said: I think that perhaps I owe His Majesty's Government an apology because, on the Second Reading of this Bill, I did not have the opportunity of indicating the lines upon which my noble friend Lord O'Hagan and I proposed to move certain Amendments. But, if the Government's legislative time is short, the pressure is equally ha rd on the private individual. I should like to say that this Bill, which is the child of the Caretaker Government, has suffered some most excellent surgery—plastic and otherwise—in another place, which has greatly improved it. But it is still, I think, capable of improvement. It brings to one's mind the old catch: If the caretaker is busy taking care, who is taking care of the caretaker's daughter? With regard to this particular Amendment, I do not think that any words are necessary to commend it to your Lordships. In general it is designed to clarify what is obviously the intention of the Government so that there will be much less chance of mistakes in litigation being made.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 31, at end insert the said proviso.—(The Earl of Portsmouth.)


I do not think that any apology is needed from the noble Earl for not having told us in the debate on the Second Reading that he was going to move these Amendments. There has been plenty of time to consider them, and there is one of them which has favourably affected the Government, as I will say in due course. But it is not this Amendment, and the reason is this. The Amendment seeks to limit the words contained in paragraph(c) of subsection(I) to cases in which the "use" is "a use designed to keep the works available or adaptable for war purposes" and the like. No doubt in many cases that will be so—in the case of aerodromes and so on. But it is not the only case which has to be covered. As I explained on the Second Reading, and as I think your Lordships then generally agreed—at least I heard no dissent of any kind—there will be instances where we would wish, or might want, to use their powers of purchase for a different purpose. It is not only a matter of the war potential. For example, when you are considering what is the appropriate disposal of war factories—and this is a very important part of the Bill—war factories built up by public money, and it may be erected on an area which is not actually owned by the State, you will have to think not only of possible war potential but also of the needs of the export trade. It may be made to ensure that a factory shall really be devoted to this purpose and therefore it is quite deliberate that this provision takes the wider form. I quite understand the noble Lord's point, but I am sorry that I cannot accept the Amendment.


I am very grateful to the noble and learned Viscount for his reply, but I am rather deeply disturbed that a wider interpretation was intended. I had not, from my previous conversation with those who were present in another place, understood that at all, but if that is the case I am personally rather deeply disturbed. Owing to the congestion of business, however, I will not press the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.

Clause 8:

Reference to Commission of proposals to acquire land or rights

8.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, before proceeding to acquire compulsorily by virtue of this Part of this Act any land or any easement over or right restrictive of the user of any land or to discharge or modify under this Part of this Act any restriction as to the user of any land or as to building thereon, the Minister shall publish, in the manner hereinafter specified, a notice of his proposals, specifying the grounds thereof and a time, not being less than three months from the date of the publication, within which written notice of objection to the carrying out of the proposals may be sent to the Minister.

The said notice shall be published as follows, that is to say, the Minister shall— (c) cause to be published a copy thereof in such newspapers, if any, and in such other manner, if any, as appear to him to be appropriate, and the Minister shall also cause to be deposited with the said local planning authority a map identifying the land, and the authority shall permit that map to be inspected at all reasonable hours without payment.

3.52 p.m.

LORD O'HAGAN moved, in subsection (1) (c), to leave out "if any" in both places where those words occur. The noble Lord said: I have been asked to move this Amendment. It is not merely a question of drafting; some of us feel that it is important that there should be no question of the Minister being able to get out of the necessity for putting the advertisement in the papers and so on, as is indicated in paragraph (c). It is with that object that I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 28, leave out ("if any") in both places where those words occur.—(Lord O'Hagan.)


I think, if I follow it correctly, that the Amendment of my noble friend would really make it mandatory to have a newspaper insertion and to provide no qualification to that general practice, but if he will consider it he will see that in regard to the subject matter that is not quite appropriate. There are many cases, of course, in which Parliament requires information to be published in newspapers as a condition of something going on, but while publication in newspapers may in many cases be appropriate, let us imagine the case where the Government are buying from a single owner, where no other interests are involved at all, and where no question of amenity arises. What would be the object of making an announcement in the newspaper even supposing that the newspaper would provide the space to print it? It would have no object at all. The only reason for giving an announcement in the paper is that third parties are affected.

As for the second part of the Amendment, which I think we might, with your permission, take at the same time because it is a very similar point, if it is examined closely it will be seen that it does not mean quite what it says. The second Amendment would seem to produce the result that even if publication in a newspaper had taken place the Minister would unfortunately be compelled to think out some other method of publication as well. I do not think that that can be intended. The broad consideration is really that in this question of legislation there are instances where it would be quite unreasonable to put upon the Minister concerned the obligation of making a published advertisement. Very many cases, of course, would arise in which it was absolutely essential to do it. I think the Minister might well be trusted to make a proper use of these powers, and if he does not he would soon hear about it either in this House or in another place.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9:

Powers of Minister on receipt of report of Commission.

(5) Where the Commission report either—

  1. (a) that land consists of a dwelling-house; or
  2. (b) that land consists of the whole or part of a building occupied with or a garden or park of a dwelling-house and that it could not be severed from the dwelling-house without seriously affecting the amenity or convenience of the dwelling-house; or

3.58 p.m.

THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH had given Notice of an Amendment, in paragraph (b) of subsection (5), to leave out "the whole or part of a building occupied with or a garden or park of a dwelling-house" and insert "a building occupied with a dwelling-house or a garden or park of a dwelling-house or part of such a building garden or park." The noble Earl said: In view of the conversation I have already had with my noble and learned friend opposite I shall not move this Amendment on the understanding that he has something else to say on the matter.


Will my noble friend move the Amendment so as to put it in order?


I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 9, line 17, leave out from the first ("of") to ("and") in line 19, and insert ("a building occupied with a dwelling-house or a garden or park of a dwelling-house or part of such a building garden or park").—(The Earl of Portsmouth.)


This was the Amendment of the noble Earl to which I referred when I first spoke and he has said that I gave him the information in advance that we might do something here, which may save the labour of long explanation. To put it briefly, the two noble Lords have bowled the Government out on this point. The language of the clause is not quite what it ought to be and bears an interpretation against which there might be protest. If the judges ever had to interpret it they would have a strong leaning in favour of making it sensible but if it is strictly read it is not quite right. If the noble Earl will withdraw his Amendment I will move an Amendment so that the subsection will read: Where the Commission report either—

  1. (a) that land consists of a dwelling-house; or
  2. (b) that land consists of the whole or part of a building occupied with or garden or park of a dwelling-house and that it could not be severed from the dwelling-house without seriously affecting the amenity or convenience of the dwelling-house; or
  3. (c) that land which would be adversely affected by the acquisition of an easement or other right or by the discharge or modification of a restriction is a dwelling-house or the whole or part of a building occupied with or garden or park of a dwelling-house, and that the acquisition of the easement or right, or, as the case may be, the discharge or modification of the restriction, would seriously affect the amenity or convenience of the dwelling-house."
That puts right this subsection. It is not very clear as it is. If my noble friend will withdraw his words I will thank him for calling attention to the matter and ask that the Amendment may be made in the form I have suggested.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move the first two Amendments which are necessary in this case. These minute omissions will have the effect of making the clause satisfactory to everybody.

Amendments moved— Page 9, line 18, leave out the first ("a"). Page 9, line 26, leave out ("the").—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 10 agreed to.

4.1 p.m.

Clause 11 [Principles on which Commission are to act]:


There is a consequential Amendment to Clause 11, subsection (4).

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 46, leave out ("the").—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 11, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 12 to 20 agreed to.

Clause 21 [Temporary continuance of stopping up, etc.]:


In view of the conversations which I have had with some of the more learned of my noble friends, I do not wish to move the two Amendments to Clause 21 standing in my name.

Clause 21 agreed to.

Clauses 22 to 5o agreed to.

4.3 p.m.

LORD HEMINGFORD moved, at the beginning of Part X, to insert the following new clause:

Registration in local land charges registry.

".—(1) As soon as may be after a decision to which this section applies has been made, it shall be registered in the prescribed manner in the register of local land charges by the proper officer of the council of each county borough or county district in which the land affected by the decision or any part thereof is situated, or, if that land, or any part thereof, is situated in the City of London or any other part of the administrative County of London, by the proper officer of the Common Council of the City of London or of the London County Council, as the case may be.

(2) It shall be the duty of the appropriate authority for the purposes of this section as soon as may be after the decision has been made to notify that fact to the proper officer of any other authority by whom it is required to be registered as aforesaid, and to furnish to him all information relating to the order requisite in that behalf.

(3) The decisions to which this section applies are the following:

  1. (a) where the Minister has formed an opinion under Section 5 or Section 6 which renders the power of acquisition exercisable,
  2. (b) where the Minister has made an order under Section 7 discharging or modifying any restriction,
  3. (c) where the Minister has decided under Section 8 (2) not to proceed with any proposals,
  4. (d) where the Board of Trade have given a certificate under Section 8 (5),
  5. (e) where the Commission have made a report upon any matter arising under Part II or Part III of the Act,
  6. (f) where the Minister decides to proceed with the exercise of any compulsory powers otherwise than in accordance with the report of the Commission,
  7. (g) where any order is made by the Minister of War Transport under Part III of this Act, or
  8. (h) where a compulsory purchase order is made under Part V of this Act.

(4) The appropriate authority for the purposes of this section shall as the case may require be the Minister exercising the particular power, the Board of Trade, the Commission or, in the case of an acquisition by a local authority, that local authority.

(5) The power conferred by subsection (6) of Section fifteen of the Land Charges Act, 1925, to make rules for giving effect to the provisions of that section shall be exercisable for giving effect to the provisions of this section, and in this section the expression "prescribed" means prescribed by rules made in exercise of that power."

The noble Lord said: This Amendment, which I move in the form of a new clause, is one which I trust will be understood to be for the general benefit and satisfactory working of the Bill. It is to enable notice to be given of these various transactions which can be effected under the Bill, so that, when the land or real estate comes to be dealt with, the purchaser or the solicitor acting for him will not be put to very great difficulty or have it made impossible for him to find out what clogs under this Bill there are on the property in question. The clause has been carefully drafted, and I hope that the noble and learned Viscount will be able to tell me that it will be accepted. Short of that, I would venture to call the attention of the Committee to the fact that there are now quite a number of Acts already on the Statute Book, and I fear that perhaps we may be threatened with more, under which various Government Departments will have rights in the interests of the public of acquiring certain powers in regard to different portions of the land of the country. The acquisition by the Government of those powers must of course make a considerable difference to the use which can be made of the land, if not to the value of it, and unless those peculiar attributes of the land can be discovered and made known without much trouble, it will put a great deal of difficulty in the way of transactions in real estate.

I do not want to exaggerate the importance of it from a political point of view, but I think it will be generally agreed that in the matter of housing, which is one of the most important matters before the country, difficulties of this kind in the way of the disposal of real property are likely to interfere with the free activity of those who are doing their best to deal with the land in this way for the public good. If the noble and learned Viscount cannot see his way to accept this Amendment, I should be grateful to him if he would assure the Committee that this matter is receiving very careful attention; because, as I have said, this question arises under other Acts as well. I would go so far as to suggest that if he cannot deal with the difficulty or the evil by accepting this Amendment, the whole matter should be looked into with a view to the possible introduction in future of some short Bill which would make it necessary for all these clogs upon land to be registered in such a way that the purchaser or his solicitor can find out the position without difficulty or waste of time. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 39, line 9, at end insert the said new clause.—(Lord Hemingford.)


My noble friend Lord Hemingford has put this matter, which is a very important one, before the Committee with remarkable brevity and with his usual moderation I recognize entirely that there is a serious point involved. I cannot accept the Amendment, and indeed I think that the way in which the noble Lord spoke showed that he hardly expected that I should; but it is worth while looking at the proposal for a few minutes, because I do agree that it raises a question of some general importance. What he seeks to do by this Amendment is to require registration in the local land charges register of all Departmental decisions to acquire land, or any right over land, under Part II of this Bill, as soon as those decisions are made, and to register every subse- quent stage in the machinery set up under that Part of the Bill; and in some cases there are no fewer than three stages.

The noble Lord said—and he speaks with great knowledge—that it would be a convenience to those who professionally advise owners of land if there were a more complete record of what is contemplated or done. I really do not think, however, that this particular instance of that difficulty—the instance suggested by this Bill—is a very strong one. Under the Land Clauses Act, if I remember rightly, there is no obligation to put on the local land register the notice to treat. That is a stronger case, because, of course, there the land may appear to the observer to be land which, for all he knows, has nothing unusual about it; but here we are dealing with land and buildings which anybody who looks at them can see have been the subject of Government interference during the war. Somebody's field has had an enormous factory put on it, which did not grow up in the night like a mushroom; somebody else's ground, which may have been good agricultural land, has been torn to ribbons by making it a tank training ground. The cases with which we are dealing here, therefore, are cases where the party concerned, and certainly his very prudent and well-advised solicitor, may very easily suppose that there is something which might prevent a complete title being given.

There are one or two cases in the law where we do stipulate that there shall be put on the register of land charges what amounts to a sort of warning. I think that there is one in the Town and Country Planning Act. That, however, is in very special circumstances, in connexion with a particular form of speedy acquisition. I notice that my noble friend referred to housing. There we have a very strong case the other way, because, if I understand the matter rightly, the general rule is that compulsory purchase orders are not registered at any stage, and, in the case of the Housing and other Acts where compulsory purchase takes place on a large scale, nothing at all is registrable at any stage.


I hope that the noble and learned Viscount has not misunderstood me. I was looking rather to the position after the houses had been built, and thinking of the acquisition of small pieces of land by private enterprise for the purpose of building houses upon that land.


I do not want to exaggerate the matter, particularly as my noble friend has been so entirely reasonable. All that I would say is that as things stand we have a great bundle of Statutes which in different ways authorize compulsory acquisition, and certain steps in that process might influence a prospective sale or purchase, but in most cases there has not been found any means by which you could put a notice of all these things on the local land charges register. How many additional entries would have to be made if my noble friend's Amendment were accepted it is difficult to calculate, but the Committee will see that the first thing that it is suggested should be put upon the land register—this is a carefully drafted Amendment —is indicated in the words "the decisions to which this section applies." The decisions include a decision where the Minister has formed an opinion under Section 5 or Section 6 which renders the power of acquisition exercisable. It would be a very odd state of affairs, I think, in which you would put upon a register open to inspection, "Please note that the Minister of such-and-such a Department has formed this opinion." You can hardly do that. And there are other instances I could take.

But I do myself very sincerely agree with the noble Lord in what I think was the real substance of his remarks. I think it would be very likely to the public advantage if time were found to have a more general consideration of this subject, because it does not apply only to this Bill; and while, of course, I cannot give any undertaking which binds the Government, either this or any other, for what it may be worth I venture to assure my noble friend that I myself would be in favour of trying to get some general inquiry set on foot which would deal not only with this but with other cases which are quite outside this Bill altogether. I rather suspect that my noble friend, with his usual acuteness, put down this very long and elaborate Amendment really with the purpose simply and solely of getting that consolatory declaration. Having made that statement I will not say any more except that I cannot accept his Amendment.


I am very grateful to the noble and learned Viscount for what he said, but I am afraid I was rather more guileless than he gives me credit because I certainly had not perhaps realized how strongly he would oppose this particular Amendment. But at least I am very grateful to him for what he has said about the subject generally, because, admittedly, the question which arises in this particular Bill does arise in a great many Acts of Parliament, and in the end I trust something may be done which would be even more satisfactory than the acceptance of this Amendment now. I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 51 agreed to.

Clause 52:

Power of Ministers to defray cost of rehabilitation of land in certain circumstances.

52.—(1) Where land has been damaged by Government war work done thereon or by Government war use thereof and either—

  1. (a) a person has, in connexion with proposals for the acquisition of the land by virtue of Part II of this Act, given an undertaking in pursuance of a report of the Commission to deal with the land in a particular manner with a view to the total or partial rehabilitation thereof; or
  2. (b) in the opinion of a Minister it is expedient in the public interest that the land should be dealt with in a particular manner with a view to the total or partial rehabilitation thereof,
the Minister may undertake, either absolutely or subject to such conditions as he may specify, to make good to any person interested in the land the whole or any part of any expenses incurred by that person in dealing with the land in that manner, in so far, in a case to which Section two of the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, applies, as those expenses exceed any sum paid or payable under paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of that section in respect of the damage.

4.14 p.m.

LORD MESTON had given Notice of three Amendments in subsection (1)—namely, to leave out "may," where that word fist occurs after paragraph (b) and insert "shall"; to leave out "or any part" ["whole or any part"]; and to add to the subsection the words "and shall have power to pay those expenses by instalments."

The noble Lord said: I rise to move the three Amendments which stand in my name. Clause 52 (1) provides in effect among other matters that the Minister has a discretion in the public interest to make a payment over and above the maximum amount of compensation that can be awarded under the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939. In this connexion I may remind your Lordships that on the 14th December, 1943, there was a very interesting debate in your Lordships' House on the amount of compensation that could be awarded for damage done to requisitioned agricultural land, and on that occasion it was pointed out that in the case of agricultural land, in fact in the case of all land, the compensation under the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, is limited to the value of the land. The matter is actually governed by Section 2 (1) (b) and the second proviso to Section 2 (1) of the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939. Further, in the course of the debate on the 14th December, 1943, it was emphasized that the limitation of compensation might operate peculiarly in certain cases. For example, an acre of agricultural land worth £20 might be requisitioned but at the end of the period of requisition it might cost £200 to rehabilitate that land. Under the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, the landowner will only recover £20.

If I read Clause 52 (1) correctly, and if I apply that subsection to the example which I have just given, the position is as follows. The Minister may say to the landowner, "I need not help you at all unless I wish to do so, but in this case the necessary circumstances exist and I have a discretion to help you. I exercise that discretion and I grant you x-pounds." x-pounds may be £5 or £10, or it may be substantial amount, such as £50, or it may be the whole balance, £180. In my view that is not quite fair to the landowner. In those cases where it is the opinion of the Minister in the public interest that land should be rehabilitated, I think that the State ought to pay the whole cost of rehabilitating the land.

There are numerous cases, of course, where rehabilitation will not be necessary. There will be numerous cases where rehabilitation will be prohibited by the cost. Some of your Lordships may know the County of Yorkshire. I have been informed that there is an area of moorland in Yorkshire twenty-five miles long and twelve miles wide which has been entirely ripped up by tanks. The Govern- ment in the national emergency, have taken the soil and the heather off that moorland entirely. It will clearly be impossible to rehabilitate that land. The answer is, "Let nature do its work and in the course of ten years or so the heather will grow and the land will be restored for the grazing of sheep." That is a classic example of where rehabilitation is not necessary. But in the ordinary case of agricultural land I think that if the Minister is of the opinion that it is expedient in the national interest that the land should be rehabilitated, then the State should pay the whole of the cost of rehabilitation, and not leave the unfortunate landowner in peril of having to pay some money, possibly a lot of money, out of his own pocket.

So far I have been dealing with Clause 52 (1) (b), but let me invite your Lordships' attention to paragraph (a) of that subsection which speaks about "an undertaking" and at this point we must refer back to Clause 10 (2) which reads as follows: Where land is proposed to be acquired on the ground that it is desirable in the public interest that the whole or some part thereof should be dealt with in a particular manner with a view to the total or partial rehabilitation thereof, the Commission may, if they think fit, report that the land ought not to be acquired if such person as may be specified in the report undertakes in writing to the Minister within a time so specified that he will take steps so specified within times so specified for the total or partial rehabilitation of the land or that part of the land, as the case may be: Provided that the Commission shall not specify a person under this subsection as a person to give an undertaking unless they are satisfied that he has sufficient rights in the land and in any other relevant land to enable him to carry out his undertaking. Then the proviso to Clause 10 (3) is even more important because it implies a penalty. It reads as follows: Provided that where such an undertaking as is mentioned in the last preceding subsection is given but is not carried out, the Minister may then proceed with the acquisition of the land.

The position is this. We are not dealing with the rehabilitation of half an acre of kitchen garden, but we are dealing with cases which may involve the rehabilitation of a thousand acres of land. The landowner may be actuated by a sincere desire to rehabilitate the land, but as far as I know landowners in modern times are not individuals with inexhaustible bank balances or inexhaustible credit. It may well happen that after a few years the landowner and his bank balance become worn out, whereupon he cannot carry out his undertaking, and the Minister will then be entitled, under the proviso of subsection (3) of Clause 10, to enter upon the land and to acquire it. That, in my respectful submission, is another argument why the State should pay the full costs of rehabilitation in those cases where the Minister is of the opinion that it is expedient in the public interest that the land should be rehabilitated.

If my Amendments are accepted—and I do not think they will be—the power of the Minister will not be weakened at all. It will still be open to the Minister in every case to say whether or not, in his opinion, it is expedient that the land should be rehabilitated at all, or that it should be rehabilitated in a particular manner. There is no question or suggestion of any individual landowner dictating to the Minister in any way whatsoever. Those are the substantial points in the Amendment.

The part of the Amendment which deals with the power to pay by instalment is subsidiary but, I hope, not without merit. Let me take a concrete example. Suppose I have 100 acres of land—in point of fact I have not; I have about a third of an acre in Scotland, and I had some railings but the Secretary of State took a fancy to the railings some years ago and I have never seen them since. But suppose, for the purpose of argument, that I have 100 acres of land worth £ 2,000, and at the end of the period of requisition it costs me £ 5,000 to rehabilitate that land. So far as the £ 2,000 are concerned I can go to the Claims Tribunal under the Compensation (Defence) Act and get that money. So far as the £ 3,000 are concerned, however, I am entirely in the hands of the Minister under this Bill. Let us assume, for the purposes of argument, that the Minister is very kind to me and agrees to grant me the whole balance of £ 3,000. As I read the Bill, I shall not be reimbursed a penny of that £ 3,000 until I have spent the whole of the £ 3,000 out of my own pocket. Now I am very l0th to say anything about the War Damage Act, 1943, having been animadverted upon very severely for having mentioned it, but I do ask the Gov- ernment to allow the landowner to be paid by instalments in the same way as a person is entitled to a payment of cost of works by instalments under the War Damage Act, 1943. I must apologize for having spoken for so long, but it is rather difficult to deal with this intricate matter in a few minutes. I beg to move this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 40, line 37, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").—(Lord Meston.)

4.24 p.m.


My noble friend has no reason at all for suggesting that he has occupied time needlessly or at too great length. On the contrary, he has explained a very difficult subject, if I may say so, very clearly, and I sincerely envy him the nimbleness with which he can pass straight from one clause, to another in this decidedly complicated bundle of clauses. At any rate in one thing he is right: he said he anticipated that his Amendments would not be accepted, and I am afraid that that is so.

This is rather an interesting variant really or the sort of question which not infrequently arises when details, of Acts of Parliament are discussed. In the old days, when I was a Law Officer I had many times to explain, as other lawyers have had to do, where you should say "must" instead of "may." On the other hand, this issue is raised in quite a different connexion from the way in which it is ordinarily debated. What my noble friend seeks to do, as I think he has made very clear, is this—I will just put it in a sentence. He wishes to alter the provision that is now in Clause 52 by which the power given to the Minister is a discretionary power. The Minister may make this full payment but, as it stands, the Minister need not give any undertaking at all and, if he does, it may be limited in amount and may be hedged around with conditions. To that my noble friend seeks to put the simple and superficially attractive alternative to cut out all that cackle and just say the Minister "must."

But some consequences would follow if you made this provision obligatory, which I think should be mentioned. It would, in the judgment of the Government and those responsible for this Bill, be quite wrong to provide that the Minister should have no discretion in the matter. It is true that, as my noble friend proposes it, the clause would be restricted to cases where the Minister is satisfied that it is expedient in the public interest that the work which the landowner is doing ought to be done. That is quite true. But it does not at all follow that the landowner himself ought to do it. In place of that, it may be that you would get, for instance, the situation dealt with by the Minister purchasing the land under Clause 6. That may, in some cases, be the most convenient course. Suppose that the particular piece of land is not like my noble friend's tenure in the Kingdom of Scotland but is part of a larger tract belonging to a great number of small owners. It would be a most inconvenient arrangement that each small owner must, out of his own resources, make the necessary restoration and rehabilitation and then ask for the cost from public funds. The proper course there is provided for in the Bill. Whoever owned the area and however many people owned it, if a great area has been damaged on an extensive scale and remedial works are required, it may very well be that Clause 6 is the right clause to use. Take another case. The Minister, under Clause 29, is given power to do the remedial work himself. That: may be the more convenient course. There is a further objection, if I might just mention it—not in the least in any spirit of severe rebuke; we must discuss these things in the most friendly way across the table.

As to the second Amendment put down by my noble friend stands, it has this effect: that the Government have to make good the whole of the costs incurred by the landowner—so far as it is not covered, I mean, by the compensation. That would mean that the landowner could spend as much money as he liked. He has merely to send in his bill and say, "This is what I have spent and now you must pay it." No doubt my noble friend would adjust his Amendment to meet that difficulty, but that is how it stands.

I really think, on reflection, we had better leave the Bill as it is. I remember this point being raised before by another member of this House in reference to a particular piece of land in, I think it was, Midlothian. The sort of way in which I apprehend Clause 5 will work is as follows. In cases where it is right, proper and fair that the public funds should be used to indemnify the owner completely, I think the Minister may be trusted !o use his discretionary power, as of course he ought to do. Parliament will certainly bring him to book if he does not do so. But if you were to give the Minister, not the right and the duty to exercise discretion in the matter but some absolute Parliamentary order that he must do it, I think my noble friend's nimble mind will see that there are cases where that really would not be right. Therefore I offer the assurance, as far as I may about another Minister, that I am sure he will use his power, as in fairness we must recognize it must be exercised, with discretion. I hope with that explanation my noble friend will feel he has done a useful service in bringing forward this Amendment and that he will withdraw it. As to the other small point raised in the last two Amendments in his name on the Paper the Minister is perfectly free to give his assistance as he thinks right in the payment of expenses by instalments.


I thank the noble and learned Viscount for the explanation he has given of the position. I must confess that it is a very complicated matter. There may be one or there may be many private individuals who take in hand any rehabilitation of land, and in view of all the difficulties I think it is best to leave the clause as it stands. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 52 agreed to.

Clauses 53 to 58 agreed to.

Clause 59:


"war period" means the period during which the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939, is in force;

4.32 p.m.

THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH moved, in the definition of "war period," to omit all words after "period," where that word occurs for the second time and insert "from the commencement of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939, until the date on which that Act expires or the date of the expiration of six months after the termination of hostilities with Japan, whichever of those dates is the earlier." The noble Earl said: I regard this Amendment as one of some considerable importance. I am not unduly optimistic of the reception it will get from my noble and learned friend opposite, but I think it is of great importance that the threat in Clause 14 of the Bill should be of the shortest possible duration and that is covered by the definition of the war period in the Amendment that I beg to move.

There is at present an uncertainty which is extremely bad for all those concerned and it can lead to great injustice for two reasons. Unfortunately, we have no guarantee that there will not be a state of minor war going on for many years. If that is so a war period may drag on almost indefinitely. Yet there would be no reason for carrying on the operations of this clause during that period when otherwise things could be cleared up. On the other side, there is also the possibility that in legislation by good intention, which this is, there will arise a Mini3ter who knew not Joseph and who will be delighted to have the war period carried on for some time because that would give him extra powers. Therefore to confine the war period either to six months after the cessation of hostilities with Japan or to any earlier date seems to me a reasonable Amendment and one that is of great importance to all the people affected by the land which may be requisitioned under the purposes of this Bill. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 44, line 41, leave out from the second ("period") to end of line 42, and insert the said new words.—(The Earl of Portsmouth.)


My noble friend's Amendment does not really make very much difference except that it provides against the possibility that the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act of 1939 shall continue in operation for more than six months after the termination of hostilities against Japan. I agree that it is no good prophesying. I think it is perhaps true that the German war, or at any rate the German fighting, did end rather more suddenly than was the expectation of some people, on a clear cut date. We cannot be certain that the same will be true of the Japanese war. Still, I think the better argument really is that we should leave the clause as it is. The words that are proposed in the Amendment are really objectionable on the ground of uncertainty. The period of two years beyond the war period is a very reasonable proposal. I do not think it has really been challenged. We have got now to go through a process, as it were, of unwinding what has been wound up.


I was not referring to the two years period.


Yes, I agree, but when you put the whole thing together I think the clause as it stands is best, and I do not think I should care to alter it in this respect. After all, the noble Earl has had the very unusual success this afternoon of compelling the Government to confess it had written something down very badly. One has to be very careful on these occasions of triumph not to overdo it. I would therefore, in all good temper, ask my noble friend to rest on his laurel.


In the circumstances I would accept my noble friend's invitation to rest on a small and rather prickly laurel, and I would wish to say that I am doing so mainly because an improved, but still not perfect Bill is better than no Bill at all.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 59 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Schedule agreed to.