HL Deb 11 April 1946 vol 140 cc734-47

1.—(1) No authorization under Section two of this Act shall be given with respect to land of any description specified in subsection (2) of Section one thereof, or with respect to any dwelling house.

2.—(1) Before an authorization is given under Section two of this Act the acquiring authority must—

  1. (a) have published in one or more local newspapers circulating in the locality in which any of the land to which the authorization relates is situated a notice stating that the confirming authority is about to take into consideration the giving of an authorization under Section two of this Act with respect to land described in the notice, being land consisting of or comprised in the land to which the authorization relates, and that representations which any person desires to make must, be made to the confirming 735 authority in writing within fourteen days from the date of the publication of the notice; and
  2. (b) have served on every owner and occupier of any of the land to which the authorization relates a notice in writing stating that the confirming authority is about to take into consideration the giving of an authorization as aforesaid, and that representations which any of the persons required to be served desires to make must be made to the confirming authority in writing within fourteen days from the date of the service of the notice on him.

3. Before giving an authorization under Section two of this Act the confirming authority shall consider any representations duly made to the authority.

5.13 p.m.

LORD LLEWELLIN moved, at the end of paragraph 1 (1), to add "or with respect to any building on his use of which the occupier is dependent for his livelihood." The noble Lord said: When this Bill originally saw the light of day there was no restriction on its being used in any way under this Third Schedule with regard to any description of property. But as it comes to us, paragraph 1 (1) of the Third Schedule reads: No authorization under Section two of this Act shall be given with respect to land of any description specified in subsection (2) of Section one thereof, or with respect to any dwelling house. My Amendment would add the words or with respect to any building on his use of which the occupier is dependent for his livelihood. The kind of case one has in mind is the small garage, small smithy or shop on which a person is dependent for his livelihood. If my Amendment were accepted it would only mean that such a man or woman, would not have that business on which he is absolutely dependent for his livelihood taken away without the right of being heard and saying why it should not be taken. It would still mean that it can be taken under the provisions of the First Schedule, which we have already discussed, but cannot be taken under the Third. Really, when a man is dependent for his livelihood on a building, a provision that he shall not be denied the right to be heard must appeal to any noble Lord with a heart that throbs in sympathy. I very much hope that not only will the heart of the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, or whoever replies for the Government throb in sympathy, but that his tongue will utter the words which will allow these men the right which otherwise we shall be denying to them. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 21, line 26, at the end add ("or with respect to any building on his use of which the occupier is dependent for his livelihood").—(Lord Llewellin.)


My heart is with the noble Lord but my tongue, I am afraid, will give utterance against this Amendment, and for this reason: I cannot too often remind your Lordships that this Clause 2 procedure, which is an unpleasant procedure, as we all agree, a regrettable procedure we all agree, is nevertheless an absolutely necessary procedure, because we shall inevitably find, however wisely we plan, that we have made mistakes, or we ought to have taken this bit of land, and we have not done it, and, therefore, we have got to have prompt powers. It is good to have a giant's strength in these matters. It is most certainly tyrannous to use it as a giant. I quite agree with the noble Lord that, where we have a lock-up garage or a lock-up shop from which a man earns his livelihood, that is a most relevant factor which the Minister ought to consider in making up his mind whether to allow this summary and sharp procedure under Clause 2 at all. With that I agree. When the Bill was originally discussed in another place in Committee, I think I am right in saying there was a great deal of argument because the provision in paragraph I about dwelling houses was not there. We conceded on the Report stage the provision about dwelling houses, and it just shows how dangerous it is to make concessions. Having given way in that respect we are asked to give way further by the noble Lord, and we really cannot, because, if we do have to use this procedure, the less we have to use this procedure the better tribute it is to the efficiency of our planning, and the more we have to use this procedure the more obvious it is that our planning is not sound.

I am presupposing a case, however, where you have got to use this procedure. In these circumstances I am bound to ask your Lordships to say that, these circumstances arising, the public welfare must be preferred to the individual welfare, and, although it is a most legitimate consideration for the Minister in making up his mind whether to use this procedure or not, to consider facts such as the noble Lord has mentioned, yet, if notwithstanding these facts, the Minister comes to the conclusion that he must act, then he must have power to use the Clause 2 procedure in such a case. Consequently I am very sorry that I cannot accept this Amendment.


Of course I am not at all satisfied with that, but suffice it for me to say to-day that I hope the Government will not in future stand up as being the defenders of the small man, because they are not. They override him in this kind of way, and it should be known throughout the country that they do so.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

5.18 p.m.

LORD O'HAGAN moved, in paragraph 2 (1) (a), to leave out "fourteen days" and insert "twenty-one days." The noble Lord said: With the leave of the House I should like this Amendment and the next one standing in my name to be considered together. I submit that a period of fourteen days is really far too short. Although the fourteen days period is taken I suppose from the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act, 1944, the circumstances are quite different, since that Act was in operation for less than fifteen months and was confined to a single object. Allowing for the possibility that several days may elapse before the owner receives a notice, he has then to consider its effect in conjunction with his legal adviser and decide what action he ought to take. He must then draft his representations, which provide the only means through which his ground of objection can be conveyed to the Government Department concerned, in sufficient time for the controlling authority to receive them within the fourteen days period. As this procedure stands at present it is possible for an owner to have been dispossessed of his property within the space of less than a month from the date on which the matter was first initiated by the acquiring authority with no rights of appearance at a public inquiry. The owner's sole protection is provided by the requirement that the confirming authority must consider all representations made before giving an authorization under the clause. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 21, line 42, leave out ("fourteen") and insert ("twenty-one").—(Lord O'Hagan.)


We are here dealing with the Clause 2 procedure, and I would remind your Lordships again that the hypothesis on which, and on which alone, Clause 2 procedure can be used is this: the Minister has to be satisfied that it is urgently necessary in the public interest that the acquiring authority should be enabled to obtain possession of the land without delay. Only in those circumstances can he avail himself of this procedure. If those are the facts—that it is urgently necessary, in the public interest, that the acquiring authority should, obtain possession of the land without delay—then I must ask your Lordships to see that you really do have a sharp and summary procedure. After all, to extend the period of fourteen days to any longer period, say up to twenty-one or twenty-eight, necessarily slows up this procedure and will therefore be slowing up the accomplishing of that which, on this hypothesis, is urgently necessary in the public interest. To my mind, it is quite necessary, if we are going to have a summary procedure of this sort which none of us likes very much, that it must be summary; otherwise there is no point in it at all.

I would remind you that after the last war, in the Unemployment Relief Works Act, 1920, the corresponding period then proposed by Mr. Lloyd George's Government was seven days. We are so anxious, in spite of what the noble Lord who spoke on the last Amendment said, to preserve the rights of the oppressed individual, that we have doubled that period and made it fourteen days. For that we have a good precedent, for, after all, that was the period fixed in the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act, 1944. It is true that that was a temporary Act; but is it the doctrine of the noble Lords opposite that you can do injustice to the individual so long as you do it in temporary Acts? No, that was a reasonable provision, and therefore, following the example of the Coalition Government, we are doubling the period allowed by the Government after the last war. If you are having a summary procedure, you must take care to see it is summary. I think the objection to this procedure has been very largely met by our having removed dwelling houses from it altogether. In those circumstances, I must ask your Lordships to stick to the period of fourteen days.


The Housing (Temporary Provisions) Act was only for twelve months, and this is for five years. That is the difference.


I must say I am very disappointed by what the Lord Chancellor has said, but at the same time I do not think I will trouble the Committee to go to a Division. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.24 p.m.

THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH moved, after paragraph 2, to insert the following new paragraph: 3.—(1) Where it is shown to the satisfaction of the confirming authority that the owner or occupier of any land to which an authorization under Section two of this Act relates is at the date on which notice is published in accordance with head (a) of sub-paragraph (1) of paragraph 2 of this Schedule engaged on the service of His Majesty outside the United Kingdom, the period in which that owner or occupier may make representations in writing to the confirming authority shall be fifty-six days from the date of the publication of the notice. (2) A statement embodying the effect of sub-paragraph (1) of this paragraph shall be included in any notice published or served under paragraph 2 of this Schedule.

The noble Earl said: Having listened to the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, on previous Amendments, I feel the shrift he will give this Amendment will be very likely the same on the plea of urgency, with which I and many noble Lords are Still not quite so impressed as the Lord Chancellor himself. I do believe that this Amendment, even if not in the right form at least in spirit, is an attempt to do genuine justice to the man who is serving his; country abroad. He fights for his piece of land and then comes back to find he does not own it. A man abroad at the bidding of His Majesty cannot possibly have a chance to raise objection within a fortnight. With the present speed of postal services to the further ends of the earth, where quite possibly he may be, it may easily not be possible for him to make his objection within fifty-six days.

It may be argued that, after all, a man who goes abroad should leave somebody with a power of attorney. I have held a great many powers of attorney during this war for persons serving abroad, and I am quite certain I should hate to have to give a decision quickly on such a major problem affecting the livelihood and vital interest of somebody abroad without being able to consult him himself. But how many small men do give a power of attorney? They have not thought of it, and the difficulty of getting hold of Private Smith, who may be in Egypt or in Burma, is a very serious one. A great many of those serving His Majesty abroad are not in uniform, but are probably the finest body of civil servants the world has ever seen. They also are in a similar difficulty, and I have therefore ventured, in the intention of this Amendment, to include them. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 22, line 30, at end, insert the said new paragraph.—(The Earl of Portsmouth.)


I am bound to say, with the greatest regret, that the anticipations of the noble Earl are perfectly accurate and I cannot possibly accept this Amendment. The Amendment, if I accepted it, would finish altogether the summary, sharp procedure. It would no longer be quick at all if we had to give fifty-six days from the publication of the notice, and I regret we cannot possibly do it. Besides, look at it on principle. Why should it apply only to the man engaged in the service of His Majesty? Are there not other equally reputable employments? For instance, take merchant seamen, or the fellow who is travelling abroad trying to push up our export trade. Why should they not all come in? If one is to have fifty-six days, why not another? Why should not everybody absent have fifty-six days? The long and the short of it is that, in the whole history of the law on this topic, there has never been an express provision of that sort for an absentee class. The provision for objection under the Housing Acts is fourteen days, and that has been in operation since 1925—more than twenty years. In the Public Works Facilities Act it is fourteen days, in the Local Government Act twenty-one days, and in the Water Act twenty-eight days. But the old tradition is fourteen days, and in none of those cases has there ever been a provision made for the special treatment of particular categories of people who happen to be away. I really think we have met the great bulk of the objection to this clause once we have said that this summary procedure shall not apply to dwelling houses. If we are going to have this procedure at all, it must be summary, and in those circumstances I cannot possibly accept this Amendment.


The noble and learned Lord said that there was no reason for exempting one class of person serving abroad. I think there is a very strong reason. Certainly, even if you omit the civil servant, the soldier has no option but to be abroad while conscription lasts. While that continues, I feel there is a very strong reason for the Amendment. I cannot imagine there would be many cases to which this procedure would apply, where the man concerned would be serving abroad. Should it happen, however, though the time limit I have suggested may be too long for summary procedure, I still feel that it is an unjust and unfair thing for a man serving his country without choice abroad to be unable to make any representations when it is proposed that his land shall be taken from him, even though it may be a rare case. In the circumstances, however, and under the almost indecent haste of the steam roller, I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.30 p.m.

LORD WOLVERTON moved, in paragraph 3, after "shall," to insert "afford to any person by whom a representation has been made (other than a representation relating exclusively to matters which can be dealt with by the tribunal by whom the compensation is to be assessed) an opportunity of appearing before and being heard by a person appointed by the confirming authority and shall."

The noble Lord said: I should like in moving this Amendment to refer to the next one, which proposes an addition to paragraph 3. The object of these Amendments is to give an opportunity of appearing before a person appointed by the confirming authority. In the Second Reading debate the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Maugham, dealt with this at considerable length. He said: I think that is a very important provision, but what I am not at all sure about is this—whether something more could not be done to temper the wind to the lamb about to be shorn by empowering the Minister (and I am not quite sure whether it need be compulsory that those representations had been made by the person or persons whose lands are going to be taken), to send down an independent person to interview the objectors and to report to the Minister. We feel that there should be some opportunity, before the confirming authority gives a direction to the acquiring authority, for these people to be heard. That is why I wish to move this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 22, line 32, after ("shall") insert the said words.—(Lord Wolverton.)


I should like to support this Amendment. I do not see that any time would be lost if the Government were to accept it. On the other hand, I am quite certain it would take a lot of the sting out of this provision if the man were allowed to be heard. The Amendment is so wide that he could be heard at a Ministry. There is no question of a public inquiry; it merely means somebody would be appointed by the Minister to see the man who had these representations to make. With a letter, one never knows who has read it; nobody outside the particular department would know who had seen it. If this Amendment were accepted, the Minister would appoint somebody who would go into the matter for him and who would see the person making the representation.

I believe that many cases of grievance which otherwise might well arise from the wording of the Schedule would be removed if the man had the right to express his views to someone. I do not see that you would lose anything by it. On the contrary, you would gain, in courtesy and in satisfaction to the person concerned. He would have to attend at once, and an appointment would be made. He would see the person appointed by the Minister and have the matter explained to him, and in that way much friction that might well arise under the Schedule would be avoided. I think it is a reasonable Amendment, and I do not think any time would be lost if it were accepted.


I should like to support this Amendment. As it stands now, paragraph 3 of this Third Schedule reads, Before giving an authorization under Section two of this Act, the confirming authority shall consider any representations duly made to the authority. How are these representations to come to the authority? The individual concerned may not have an opportunity, as far as is known, to make any representations at all, and I feel that the individual will be left with a sense of injustice if he is not given the opportunity to put his own case. As it stands, only the authority puts the case. After all, we know what sometimes happens in these cases; it has been known for the individual's interest to be entirely overlooked. I know of a case which occurred not long ago when a certain town councillor heard for the first time in the council that his land had been taken. That is an instance of what can happen, and if it can happen in the case of the town councillor, what may happen in the case of a more humble individual? I beg to support very strongly this Amendment put forward by my noble friend, and I hope that the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, will be able to give sympathetic and practical consideration to it.


I am in favour of this Amendment, or at any rate in favour of something which, as far as possible, without interfering with the efficiency of Clause 2, will cause people whose property is being compulsorily taken to feel that everything has been done in their cases that can fairly be done. Your Lordships will remember that in relation to Clause I procedure there is a somewhat similar provision in the First Schedule, which provides in paragraph 4 (2) that If any objection duly made as aforesaid is not withdrawn, the confirming authority shall, before confirming the order, either cause a public local inquiry to be held"— we do not, of course, press for that because we know the answer will be that it takes too much time— or afford to any person by whom any objection has been duly made as aforesaid and not withdrawn an opportunity of appearing before and being heard by a person appointed by the confirming authority for the purpose… What happens there has got to be considered and the report of the person appointed has to be borne in mind by the confirming authority.

I venture to support what has been said in so far as it deals with the question of time. This is not going to increase the time required to make an order effective under Clause 2 by more than possibly forty-eight hours; it is something quite trivial. We are not suggesting that there should be anything except an opportunity for the man or woman whose property has been taken away under this very special clause to be heard—to be given a chance to explain why it is not just, why it is not reasonable, or why it may be most improper to make a compulsory order under that clause. I cannot help thinking, therefore, that those are right who say that the main objection to Clause 2 (which the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack feels as strongly as any of us) ought as far as possible to be removed by giving the persons affected the right to be heard.


This is the position as I see it, in regard to this Amendment. First of all, let us remember that we are dealing with the summary procedure. You have to give a notice and you have to allow time for representations to be made. You will see from the bottom of page 21 that the representations which any person desires to make must be made to the confirming authority in writing within fourteen days. Then on page 22 it is said that before giving any authorization under Clause 2 of this Bill the confirming authority shall consider any representations duly made to the authority. I quite agree with what the noble Lords opposite have said—namely, that very often you can, by meeting a man and letting him have a talk with you, remove a sense of grievance which otherwise would exist.

I do not think there is anybody who has had any Ministerial experience who likes the people with whom he is dealing to have a sense of grievance. Every sensible Minister wants to remove a sense of grievance. The practice has recently developed whereby, when a man has sent in his letter with his objections, which have to be considered, he is given a chance of coming up to the Ministry to make his objection in the flesh, and sitting beside him the Minister's officer will hear what he has got to say and argue it out. It does not take very long and very often you remove the grievances altogether. At any rate, the fellow will think, he has had a chance of stating his case.

I am entirely with your Lordships that this is a practice which should be done, and in the normal case it is a practice which will be followed. But if you ask me to say it is an absolute condition precedent to this summary procedure, and that you cannot go on with the summary procedure unless and until this is done, then that is something I am not prepared to do, because' there may be cases of a man being abroad or something of that sort. There is the case just referred to of the soldier in Burma. Are you to hold up all this summary procedure until our friend has come back from Burma and can go and have a talk with the Ministry of Health? That is impossible. Therefore, what I say is this. You cannot ask us to accept this as an absolute condition, but I do give your Lordship the assurance, that this is the practice which ought to be followed wherever possible. It is the practice to-day to do this wherever possible, and in the future we shall intend, when we are using this procedure, wherever possible to see the man in the flesh and see if we cannot remove his grievance. I hope your Lordships will accept that, and not press me to accept the Amendment.


In view of what the noble and learned Lord Chancellor has said, and if it is going to be the usual practice, I am satisfied and I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.43 p.m.

LORD LLEWELLIN moved, at the end of paragraph 3, to add "and as soon as he makes a decision shall cause replies to be sent to such representations as he has received, informing those making the representations of the reasons for his decision." The noble Lord said: This is another Amendment which is also designed to try to get rid of any sense of grievance there is at the moment. The confirming authority has to consider any representations duly made to the authority, but there is nothing to say that they are going to communicate the result to anybody except the acquiring authority. I want them to answer the man and give the reason. I must say a number of us were quite satisfied with the undertaking just given by the noble and learned Lord Chancellor that the man would be answered wherever it was practicable to do so. It may be thought with regard to this Amendment that it is un- necessary to put it into the Bill. If an undertaking will be given that where the man is not seen the letter will be answered within a reasonable time, or, if we may use the words, "as soon as may be," I shall be satisfied. Could we have some assurance that something was going to be done to try to eliminate the sense of grievance which people will have if either they are not seen or their letters are not answered giving them the reason why the Minister has been unable to reply to their representation? I should like the words, included, but it may not be possible. If I get the undertaking I require I shall not press for that. At any rate at this stage I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 22, line 33, at end, add ("and as soon as he makes a decision shall cause replies to be sent to such representations as he has received, informing those making the representations of the reasons for his decision.").—(Lord Llewellin.)


I am afraid we have been very hard-hearted this afternoon. Noble Lords have asked for bread and we have given them nothing but stones, or very little more than stones. Here we should like to concede half a loaf if it is possible, but it is not quite so easy as the noble Lord perhaps conceives. I am grateful to him for the suggestion that perhaps an indication about the general practice to be followed would satisfy him. I am afraid I cannot hold out the hope that the general practice would be to give an owner the reasons for the decision of a confirming authority. At the present time, I understand, it is not usual when land is being compulsorily acquired, and an inquiry has been held, to inform the owner of the reasons for the decision. There are various administrative factors governing that practice of which the noble Lord is probably well aware, but it is not the usual practice at the present time, and I cannot hold out any hope that it will be the normal practice to give the owner the reasons for the decision. I can hold out very strong hope that if pressed very hard we might find words to include in the Bill that an answer to the person making representations will be given. If the noble Lord feels very strongly about that, words might be found before the next stage to meet it, but not, I am afraid, with regard to the reasons.


I am obliged to the noble Lord, and I think it would be a nice gesture, if he can find suitable words, to put them in the Bill to cover this point. I think it is most important that it should always be in front of people that it is an absolute practice that these representations when received must be answered. I appreciate the point about giving the reasons, but the two cases are not quite analogous, because in one case he has had the advantage of hearing the case argued at a public inquiry and then afterwards the reasons are not given. In this case one must remember he has never come in contact with any sort of inquiry, any sort of clash of minds on the thing at all, and this representation may just be in writing and a reason should, if possible, be given. I can understand they may write back and say they are very sorry having to do this in his case, but there is a very important public interest and it has to take precedence, which I suppose would be the reason. I understand it might be difficult to put those words in, but I should like some words in if the noble Lord can find them. That cuts down my Amendment a little, but I hope the practice will always be to answer these representations. I am sure it would be the right thing to do, and I would like to see it in the Bill. If the noble Lord would look at this before another stage I would be obliged. I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Third Schedule agreed to.