§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD MORRISON
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. Its object is to re-enact the Acquisition of Land (Authorization Procedure) Act of 1946 as a whole in the form in which it applies to Scotland. That Act, it will be remembered, lays down the standard procedure for the compulsory purchase of land, both by local authorities and by Ministers—a procedure which is also being applied by subsequent legislation to statutory undertakers. The provisions which were found to be necessary for applying that Act to Scotland are contained in Section 9, which is extremely complex. It covers more than three pages, thus comprising more than a quarter of the body of the Act, and contains seventeen subsections. In the circumstances, it is not surprising to learn that serious difficulty is being experienced by Scottish local authorities and others concerned in construing and using the compulsory purchase code set out in the Act. The Act of 1946 is, of course, one to which reference must often be made, and to which reference will in future have to be made to an increasing extent, not only by Scottish local authorities and Government Departments, but also by statutory undertakers, the legal profession generally, owners of land and other persons affected. It is clearly important that these provisions should be made as easily comprehensible as they can be made, having regard to the nature of the subject dealt with. In the interests of efficient administration it is considered urgently necessary that something should be done to overcome the difficulties I have mentioned, and it is thought that the wisest course will be to re-enact the whole Act, giving effect all the way through to the adaptations provided for in Section 9, so that we shall 1037 have the purely Scottish form of the Act. While it would perhaps be too much to say that a town clerk who "runs may read" this Bill, at least a town clerk will not have to keep turning to a Scottish application section to see how the particular provision he is consulting has to be modified in relation to the compulsory purchase of land in Scotland.
This Bill does not make any alteration to the existing law as to the compulsory purchase of land in Scotland by means of the 1946 Act code; it merely re-enacts that law in a more readily understandable form. In the circumstances, I hope it will not be necessary for me to explain the provisions in detail. If your Lordships agree to give the Bill a Second Reading, in view of the fact that its purpose is limited to the re-enactment of the provisions of the Act of 1946 in the form in which they apply to Scotland it is proposed to refer the Bill to a Joint Committee of both Houses for examination. In this way I hope it will be possible for the Bill (which, in the circumstances I have explained, is non-controversial, and which will be of great use in Scotland) to be put on the Statute Book at an early date. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a—(Lord Morrison.)
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ The DUKE of BUCCLEUCH and QUEENSBERRY
My Lords, I understand that this Bill has been carefully examined and that it is a reenactment and an application to Scotland of provisions which have been accepted as appropriate in England. If the compulsory acquisition of land can be arranged with such simplicity, may I ask His Majesty's Government if it is necessary to proceed any further with the Town and Country Planning Bill? I would ask them to give consideration to that point. Then may I ask whether I am correct in understanding that there is power to extinguish public rights of way and to substitute other rights of way, and whether there is any precedent for that in times of peace? I have no doubt that the noble Lord is aware how very strong are feelings in Scotland about the destruction of any of these ancient rights of way. I think noble Lords on this side would wish to give a Second Reading to this Bill.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Lord BALFOUR of INCHRYE
My Lords, my noble friend the Duke of Buccleuch has said that noble Lords on this side of the House agree that this Bill, which is virtually non-controversial, should be given a Second Reading. I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, say that One of its purposes is that these provisions should be made easily comprehensible, because I must confess that on reading these pages I find difficulty in comprehending some of the legal language used therein. As the Bill is going to a Joint Select Committee, perhaps it will emerge in a form which laymen can understand much more easily.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a.