§ PART I.
§ Purchases by local authorities.
§ 3.—(1) Before submitting the order to the confirming authority the acquiring authority shall—
- (a) in two successive weeks publish in one or more local newspapers circulating in the locality in which the land comprised in the order is situated a notice in the prescribed form stating that the order has been made and is about to be submitted for confirmation and the purpose for which the land is required, describing the land, naming a place within the locality where a copy of the order and the map referred to therein may be inspected and specifying
720 the time (not being less than twenty-one days from the first publication of the notice) within which and the manner in which objections to the order can be made;
- (b) except in so far as the confirming authority directs that this provision shall not have effect in any particular case, serve on every owner, lessee and occupier (except tenants for a month or any period less than a month) of any land comprised in the order a notice in the prescribed form stating the effect of the order and that it is about to be submitted for confirmation, and specifying the time (not being less than twenty-one days from the service of the notice) within which and the manner in which objections thereto can be made;
§ Provided that no direction under head (b) of this sub-paragraph shall have effect in relation to an owner, lessee or occupier being a local authority or statutory undertakers or the National Trust.
§ PART IV.
§ Validity and date of operation of compulsory purchase orders.
§ 15.—(1) If any person aggrieved by a compulsory purchase order desires to question the validity thereof, or of any provision contained therein, on the ground that the authorisation of a compulsory purchase thereby granted is not empowered to be granted under any such enactment as is mentioned in subsection (1) of Section one of this Act, or if any person aggrieved by a compulsory purchase order or a certificate under Part III of this Schedule desires to question the validity thereof on the ground that any requirement of this Act or of any regulation made there under has not been complied with in relation to the order or certificate, he may, within twenty-eight days from the date on which notice of the confirmation or making of the order or of the giving of the certificate is first published in accordance with the provisions of this Schedule in that behalf, make an application to the High Court, and on any such application the Court—
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ LORD O'HAGAN moved, in paragraph 3 (1) (a), to substitute "twenty-eight days" for "twenty-one days." The noble Lord said: If I may have the permission of the Committee to move both the Amendments on this Schedule standing in my name, I think it would be for your Lordships' convenience. The points are very similar. They are certainly not in their intention antagonistic to the Bill; in fact, I think if they are agreed to, they will expedite some of the working of this Bill These matters, of course, not only affect the larger but also the small landowners. Both these Amendments are designed to extend to twenty-eight 721 days the period in which objections shall be lodged. In the Bill as originally introduced, no period was fixed, but it seemed that it was desirable that some period should be specified and it was felt that twenty-eight days would be of considerable assistance to landowners in this matter. With regard to precedents in this matter, I find that in the Town and Country Planning Act of 1944 and in the Water Act of last year, a period of twenty-eight days is prescribed.
§ An extra week will make little or no difference to an acquiring authority, but it is obvious that it would be of considerable importance to a landowner, who would almost certainly have to consult his solicitors. If the Government persist in retaining the shorter period, the result will very likely be that in order to safeguard themselves landowners will automatically lodge objections, because there will not be time to give the matter adequate consideration. On these grounds I hope the Government will see their way to allowing this longer period. I beg to move.
Page 13, line 25, leave out ("twenty-one") and insert ("twenty-eight")—(Lord O'Hagan.)
§ LORD WOLVERTON
I should like to support my noble friend on this Amendment, because I think it is important having regard to the fact that there are so many people who may have land who are away on foreign service. Twenty-one days seems to me a very short time and I should like to support my noble friend in his proposal that it should be extended to twenty-eight days. I cannot see that that extra time will make a great deal of difference to His Majesty's Government, but it may make all the difference to owners.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
We have taken the period of twenty-one days because we consider it a very reasonable compromise. Your Lordships will remember that the period under the Public Works Facilities Act, which we are proposing to terminate by this Bill, was fourteen days. That also was the period under the Housing Act of 1936. It is quite true that under the Water Act of 1945 and, I think—I am speaking from recollection—the Town and Country Planning Act of 1944, the period was twenty-eight days. The Local Govern- 722 ment Act of 1933 established a happy mean between those two periods—that is twenty-one days. We have two precedents for fourteen days, two for twenty-eight, and one for twenty-one. We thought we would take the happy mean, on the principle in medio tutissimus ibis.
I would like to point out to your Lordships that, after all, there is a period of twenty-one days from the publication of the first notice in which to give notice of objection, but there is no need to give the grounds of the objection; it is only necessary to say, "I object." Your Lordships will remember that in another place we used to object to all sorts of private Bills coming on, and we simply said "Object." It seemed to us that twenty-one days is a very fair time to take, because surely a man can simply say, "Object," within twenty-one days, and thereafter have ample time to discover, if he did not know beforehand, what is the ground of his objection. We ask you to accept this period of twenty-one days.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 4.35 p.m.
LORD WOLVERTON moved, at the end of the proviso to paragraph 3 (1) (a), to add:
and no such direction shall be given unless the confirming authority is satisfied that the acquiring authority has no information in its possession from which the name and address of the owner, lessee or occupier can be ascertained and that in such a case the acquiring authority has ascertained that the inspector or collector of taxes or, where the acquiring authority is not a rating authority, the rating authority for the district in which the land is situated has no such information.
§ The noble Lord said: With the permission of the House, I would like to move this Amendment, and also refer to a consequential Amendment on page 22, in the Third Schedule. The object of this Amendment is to make certain that before the confirming authority give permission to the acquiring authority, steps shall be taken to find out who is the owner of the land. If this Amendment is agreed to, it will mean that the acquiring authority will have to inquire of the local taxation authority, giving a certificate to that effect, and not just to stick a notice on the fence to the effect that they cannot find him I beg to move.723
Page 14, line 3, at end add the said words.—(Lord Wolverton.)
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I should like to support my noble friend on this Amendment. It seems reasonable that before a notice is stuck up the authority shall have inquired from any other authority who may have information, such as the rating authority or the taxation authority, as to who the owner is. It seems to me a very reasonable provision to make, and I very much hope the Government will see their way to accept this Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT MAUGHAM
I also wish to support this Amendment. There is something very similar to this in the Lands Clauses (Consolidation) Act. The way in which it is expressed there, if my memory serves me correctly, is "where the address cannot be ascertained," or words to that effect. Here there should be some limitation on the power of the confirming authority to give a direction because, as far as I can see at the moment, the authority is left absolutely free in any case to say, "We do not like that man; we will give a direction in his case, so that he will not have the chance of a personal notice." I do not think that can be the intention of the Government. However, whether this suggested Amendment is in the best form or not is a matter for the Lord Chancellor to consider.
I wish we could accept this Amendment, but I am afraid it is impossible to accept either this one or the one on the Third Schedule which the noble Lord, Lord Wolverton, described as consequential upon it. I do not want to quibble, but as a matter of fact they are distinct Amendments. One is concerned with the Clause I procedure, and the other with the Clause 2 procedure. With your Lordships' permission, I will deal with both at the same time.
The House will realize, I am sure—I am dealing with the first of the two Amendments, which refers to (the Clause I procedure—that we have no intention to set up machinery whereby as a general rule a local authority will be permitted to forgo the trouble of discovering the owner and sending him a notice. In the ordinary way, in the vast majority of cases, the owner will receive a personal notice. It is intended to have this power in reserve—I am still referring to Clause I procedure—but it is intended, in cases 724 where it is extraordinarily difficult to obtain all the addresses within a reasonable time, that it shall be open to the Minister, considering the merits, to sanction the method referred to in the Bill. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will not carry away any idea that in the ordinary way the Minister will allow authorities not to bother about finding out the addresses. There are cases where a direction of this sort may be given by the Minister; perhaps the most usual case is where land has been "blitzed" and boundaries obliterated, but I understand it might also arise where land which it is proposed to purchase is divided into small ownerships, and a great deal of time and effort will be required to trace all the lessees and sub-lessees. So far as the point raised in the first Amendment moved by the noble Lord is concerned, the power to give the direction would be used only in very exceptional circum stances, but if the power is to be of any real value in the exceptional case under Clause 1, the Minister really must have the discretion, subject always, it is fully understood, to Parliamentary scrutiny.
As regards the second Amendment referred to by the noble Lord, the proposed procedure is slightly different as it comes under Clause 2, and we know that Clause 2 in any case will only be used in exceptional circumstances. We are clear in our minds that much of the value of the speedy procedure, and much of the solid advantages which would accrue from it in the exceptional case, would disappear if an Amendment of the kind the noble Lord has proposed were accepted. I remember that on the Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, argued with some force that it was difficult to see where the gain in time did result; but a substantial gain of time does result in Clause 2. Clause 2 is a good deal faster, or may be in an extreme case, than Clause I and such benefits as will accrue from Clause 2 might largely disappear if in fact the Amendments were accepted.
Replying to both the Amendments, I can only say we sympathize with what the noble Lord has in mind, but we hope he will be good enough to withdraw them.
§ VISCOUNT MAUGHAM
I am not sure that the noble Lord who has just been speaking realizes quite the effect of leaving the Bill as it stands. The clause 725 in question provides that, except in so far as the confirming authority directs, service shall be made on every owner, lessee and occupier, and there would be some circumstances in which that provision is not to apply. If it is left as it is, as a matter of construction the clause is in effect saying this, that the confirming authority shall, where it thinks fit, serve a notice on every owner, lessee or occupier of the land comprised in the order. Surely that is not intended. There should be something stated, and for my part I think it might be in very general language, but there should be some statement made in the Bill which in some respects compels the confirming authority in the normal case to serve the notice, and only in exceptional cases of a special kind to give the direction which makes the notice unnecessary. It really is bad legislation, in my respectful opinion, to leave it to the confirming authority to say whether or not a notice shall be served. If the clause was so framed that the confirming authority should have power to make a direction in any case where it is impossible or where it is very difficult, or something of that sort, to serve a notice on all these people, we should then understand where we are. After all, confirming authorities include a lot of bodies who are not constantly in touch with the Minister and they may be dealing with people who have a very wide view of how they are entitled to exercise their powers.
I hope the noble and learned Viscount will forgive me, but I think he may have used an expression he had not intended to use when he said the confirming authority may not be in touch with the Minister. In the case we are considering the confirming authority would be the Minister. I do not know whether the noble Viscount intended to say the acquiring authority.
Without wishing to quibble over words, it did seem to me that some of the expressions he used about the confirming authority were intended to apply to the acquiring authority, which would be the local authority, whereas the Minister would be the confirming authority. In the ordinary case the acquiring authority, the local 726 council, would have to trace the owner or occupier of the land unless the Minister excused him. That is the intended procedure, and I am not quite sure whether that was what the noble Viscount had in mind when he was speaking.
§ VISCOUNT MAUGHAM
I am afraid I am guilty of a slip of the tongue. I did mean the acquiring authority, but, with that amendment, I do suggest that the Government should consider before the next stage—if they cannot accept this Amendment—whether some limitation should not be put on the cases where the direction can be made.
§ LORD WOLVERTON
I am very disappointed with the answer. I cannot see that it does cause a great deal of hardship. If the noble Lord would make every endeavour to find out to whom the land belongs through the local authority or taxing or rating authority, and I could have some assurance that the noble Lord would look into it before the next stage, it need not go any further. But I am disappointed.
I can promise to have a very good look at it, but I am afraid I must not hold out any hope on that point. I will refer it to others who will also have a very good look at it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 4.49 p.m.
LORD MESTON moved to add to paragraph 5:
Provided that where the confirming authority seek to confirm an order authorizing the acquiring authority to purchase compulsorily any land which was not included in the order as originally submitted to the confirming authority by the acquiring authority (such land being hereinafter referred to as 'the added land') the confirming authority must direct the acquiring authority—
§ The noble Lord said: I rise to move the Amendment which stands in my name. Paragraph 5 of Part I of the First Schedule provides in effect that an order as confirmed by the Minister must not authorize the local authority to purchase compulsorily any land which was not included in the order as originally submitted to the Minister, unless all persons interested consent. First of all I should like, with great respect, to ask the Lord Chancellor a technical question, which is, what is meant by the term "all persons interested "? Does that include mortgagees and trustees? I do not pursue that matter any further for the moment because it does not, strictly speaking, come within the terms of the Amendment.
§ In order to explain the Amendment I can give this very simple example. Suppose that the order as originally submitted to the Minister includes all the land in the parish of A. At some later stage in the proceedings—you do not know precisely when—either the Minister or the acquiring authority decide that they would like to include all the land in the adjoining parish of B. So far as the parish of A is concerned, all the people in that parish would have received notice of the original order by means of publication in the newspapers, and unless the Minister has dispensed with it by means of notices served on owners and lessees and occupiers. But the people in the parish of B may know nothing about the original order, and they will certainly know nothing about the desire of the Minister or the acquiring authority to include the parish of B in the original order which only relates to 728 the parish of A. Moreover, I would point out that paragraph 5 of Part I of the First Schedule involves the doing of a positive act, that is to say the expression of consent or dissent, by all persons interested.
§ This Amendment is really intended to help the Minister as much as the people in the parish of B. Summarizing the position, the object of the Amendment is to devise machinery whereby, firstly, all persons interested in the parish of B shall be ascertained; secondly, all persons interested in the parish of B shall be informed of the fact that the Minister or the acquiring authority desires to include the parish of B in the original order; and, thirdly, all persons interested in the parish of B shall be apprised of the fact that their positive consent is required before the parish of B can be included in the original order. It may well be that a matter of this description can be dealt with by regulations, but I must confess that I prefer to see a thing in the Act of Parliament rather than in regulations.
Page 14, line 42, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Meston.)
In reply to the particular question that the noble Lord raises, I am authorized to say that mortgagees and trustees and others who possessed a legal interest would be covered by the expression to which the noble Lord referred. I do not think that there is any difference between the noble Lord and ourselves in respect of the way in which we would like to see this operate in practice. I hope that when I have explained the meaning of the paragraph the noble Lord will agree that our words give effect to the intention which he has in common with us. I hope that the noble Lord will be satisfied, in fact, that the paragraph gives him already what he wishes. The point is that the Minister can only include fresh land in the order, when he confirms it, if the consent of all the parties interested has been obtained, so that if there was an order referring to the parish of A, there could be no question of it afterwards being extended to cover the parish of B without the parish of B consenting. If there was anything of that kind contemplated, there would, in practice, have to be a new order for dealing with the separate parishes and the people 729 of the parish of B would be allowed to raise their objections.
As a matter of fact, this part of the procedure is not intended to cover that kind of case at all. The kind of case it is intended to cover is this. Supposing an order is advertised which refers to the land of the noble Lord, Lord Meston; suppose that discussions follow and, finally, he suggests that if they are going to take that much land they might take a little more—if they are going to take land in one direction they might take it in another. There may be discussions, and, in the end, they may take land which it was not originally announced they were intending to take. But they cannot take from the noble Lord or from anyone else land which, was not advertised originally, unless the consent of the noble Lord or whoever is concerned is obtained. Therefore he, himself, is absolutely safeguarded.
On the other hand, if the noble Lord is thinking of an amenity society who might, in this way, see a small piece of land disappearing because the noble Lord has conceded it by agreement to the Minister without the society getting wind of what was going on, then that, I would point out, is something that can already take place. If the noble Lord had his way, what would happen would be that the Minister could buy, or the local authority subject to the confirmation of the Minister could buy, the extra land from the noble Lord and the amenity society would not come into it at all, because in cases of acquisition of land by agreement for statutory purposes no advertisement is necessary. So, looking at it from the point of view of either the noble Lord or of the party who has no legal interest in the matter, we can say in the one instance that there is adequate safeguard, and in the other that no right is being removed which exists at the present time. So I hope that the noble Lord who, I think, quite clearly has the same intention as we have, will realize that our words cover what he wants.
I am very much obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, but I still remain very dense on the subject. I took a rather exaggerated example when I mentioned the parish of A as being in the original order and the parish of B as being in what one might call the added order. In point 730 of fact, it would be a better example to say that the original order included 1,000 acres of land, and after it had been submitted but before it had been confirmed the Minister or local authority decided to take in another 100 acres in the parish of B. In those circumstances if there were only one owner or occupier of that 100 acres there would be no difficulty in getting his consent. But suppose there were 50 or 60 occupiers of the 100 acres. How are you going to get their positive consent unless you advertise? That is the object of my Amendment.
I can only assure the noble Lord that unless their consent is secured, the extra land cannot be compulsorily acquired. So it would be up to the Minister or the local authority to see how it was possible to let them know and to enter into negotiations with them. There is no question of taking land from them without their full consent unless that land has been advertised originally.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ LORD MESTON moved, in sub-paragraph (4) of paragraph 7, to leave out "as soon as may be."
§ The noble Lord said: May I take my next two Amendments together? Their object is simply to purify the English language.
Page 15, line 19, leave out ("as soon as may be").—(Lord Meston.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I have great sympathy with every Amendment designed to purify the English language, but this particular purification has been left rather late. I am told that these words have a rather considerable antiquity and go back a very, very long time. I confess that I should be sorry to say precisely what they mean. I suppose it is something of this sort—"with reasonable promptitude, having regard to all the circumstances." And that, I think, is a more clumsy phrase than "as soon as may be". Of the two phrases I would rather have "as soon as may be." I had thought of the word "forthwith." It 731 reads badly, and "forthwith" does not bring in the idea that you may be delayed by circumstances—if we had flood, famine, murder, civil war, or pestilence. It must be "as soon as you can in all the circumstances," and I think we had better stick to the words we have made use of in the last 100 years and resist this attempt to purify the English language.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ LORD PAKENHAM moved, in paragraph 15 (1), before "any such enactment," to insert" this Act or." The noble Lord said: This is slightly more than a drafting Amendment and relates to the grounds on which a compulsory purchase order may be challenged in the High Court. As we have just seen, under the procedure we have just been discussing, under Clause I procedure, it is possible by agreement between the public authority and the owner for land to be added which was not advertised as coming within the scope of the compulsory purchase order in the first place. To put it briefly, unless we make the small Amendment standing in the name of the Lord Chancellor, it would not be possible for the owner or other person who wishes to raise an objection to challenge the order on the ground that it is ultra vires because no voluntary arrangement has been entered into. It is a small point, but unless we make this small Amendment, we deny the right of challenge which obviously should belong to the challenger who wishes to complain that the order in this particular case is ultra vires.
Page 17, line 20, alter ("under") insert ("this Act or")—(Lord Pakenham.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ LORD O'HAGAN moved, in Part IV, paragraph 15 (1), to leave out "twenty-eight days" and insert "two months."732
§ The noble Lord said: I hope the Lord Chancellor will take more kindly to this suggestion than the last suggestion I made. I beg to move to leave out "twenty-eight days" and substitute "two months." I would remind the House that the procedure which it is proposed to codify in the present Bill will apply to powers exercisable under at least forty-four Acts of Parliament, those shown in the Fourth Schedule, and will probably be applied to Acts passed in the future which confer compulsory powers of acquisition. In the corresponding provisions in the Local Government Act, 1933, the period is two months, and the Housing Act, 1936, and Water Act, 1945, each specifies six weeks. I very much hope that even if the Amendment proposed is not accepted, some extension of time will be given in dealing with what must be difficult cases. It is considered that twenty-eight days is not long enough to consider whether grounds exist for testing the validity of a compulsory purchase order. In such a case it would almost certainly be necessary to take Counsel's opinion on what might be a very involved point of law. In the Public Works Facilities Act of 1930, only twenty-one days was allowed, it is true, but this Act was a temporary measure and concerned with the express object of expediting procedure and facilitating the acquisition of land. I hope very much the Government will reconsider this matter and give at any rate some extension of time.
Page 17, line 26, leave out ("twenty-eight days") and insert ("two months").—(Lord O'Hagan.)
§ VISCOUNT MAUGHAM
I would like to support the Amendment, at any rate in so far as it suggests that twenty-eight days is not quite long enough. Nothing is more complex than the legislation in connexion with these particular questions. I cannot imagine a layman who found that his land had been compulsorily taken—he perhaps being abroad at the time when the preliminary proceedings were taken—being able to advise himself, if he had access to books, on the question whether he had any case which would justify an application to Court. All that is really necessary, I think, is that he should have time to consult Counsel in the ordinary way. This involves the employment of a solicitor and the drawing 733 up of a case, Counsel being in London and unable to help him. I think something of that sort should be borne in mind by the Government to increase the 28 days to something rather longer.
I would only add this. It is a point on which I am afraid my memory does not serve me. We know quite well that there is a statutory meaning to twenty-eight days when it is used with regard to the proceedings of Parliament, and it does not include the time when Parliament is not sitting, but I am not at present aware of any general Interpretation Act which provides that an application which has to be made within twenty-eight days can be made whilst the Courts are in vacation. I would suggest that if the period of 28 days is not increased to some period which would cover the vacation, the Government should consider whether they should not somewhat enlarge it by defining what they mean by twenty-eight days—days which ought not to be counted if the Court docs not happen to be sitting. I hope the noble Lord who sponsored this Bill may be a little more kind to the suggestion made than he has been hitherto this afternoon.
§ LORD WOLVERTON
I would support the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, in what he has said on this point. Solicitors are very, very busy in these days, and twenty-eight days is not sufficient.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
May I just add one word? The noble and learned Lord Chancellor said they were taking the middle way in the other three instances quoted, and I think perhaps in this, too, we might take the middle way.
I think I can say we are not too impressed by the argument brought forward. I think it is right to remind your Lordships that in practice the month or six weeks or whatever it is which elapses under this heading is probably time wasted as far as action on the part of the local authority is concerned. Although there is nothing about this in the Bill, I understand that in practice, having obtained an order, the authority wait a month, or whatever the period is, to make sure that an objection will not be forthcoming. So that one must add in this month when one is working out the time schedule and is asking how long it takes from first to last to acquire the land and put a house on it. I would remind your Lordships that in 734 the case of the Public Works Facilities Act, as the noble Viscount has told us, twenty-one days was the time allotted, while the Town and Country Planning Act of 1944, which is not a temporary Act, prescribed a period of twenty-eight days. In choosing the twenty-eight days therefore we are following the precedent set by the Town and Country Planning Act which was intended to be permanent and which was passed in 1944 by the Coalition Government. At the same time I am authorized to say that we will have a look at it before the next stage.
In withdrawing my Amendment, I would remind the noble Lord that the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act with respect to authorizing compulsory purchase are comparatively few and straightforward. I do not know if that applies or can apply with respect to this Act. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ First Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
§ Second Schedule [Incorporation of enactments]:
Page 19, line 37, leave out ("those provisions") and insert ("the provisions of those sections").—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Second Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
§ Third Schedule: