§ [The References are to Bill No. 68]
§ Page 3, line 21, at end insert the following new clause—
§ Power to determine Appeal against Development Charge
§ ". Any person aggrieved by the determination of a development charge by the Central Land Board under section seventy of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, may within twenty-eight days of the receipt by him of the notification of the development charge, appeal against such determination to the Lands Tribunal and the Lands Tribunal shall have jurisdiction to hear any such appeal 4 and shall make such determination as it may think fit and section three of this Act shall apply to an appeal under this section."
§ The Commons disagreed to this Amendment for the following Reason:
§ Because they consider that the Amendment raises questions not relevant to this Bill.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist upon this Amendment. I cannot help feeling that when this Amendment was moved and carried there was in regard to the existing legal position some misapprehension for which I am responsible, in that I should have attempted to clear it up. It is always rather consoling to find that a Homer is nodding, and there were occasions when both the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon, and the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, were in slight error as to the existing position owing, no doubt, to my failure to point it out.
Your Lordships will remember that the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, contains two material provisions: one in Section 60 which relates to claims against the £300,000,000 Fund, and the other in Section 70 which relates to the assessment of the development charge. Under the existing law (of course, I am disregarding this Bill, which is not the law of the land and may never become the law of the land) the position is this, and it is the result of either the section of the Act or of regulations to which this House has assented, made under the Act—if any noble Lord wants chapter and verse, I will gladly give it. Under Section 60, claims have to be sent to the Central Land Board and the assessment is made by the Central Land Board. If anybody is dissatisfied with the assessment so made by the Central Land Board, he can appeal to the official arbitrator. That is the existing law, and the only effect of this Bill would be to substitute the Lands Tribunal for the official arbitrator; that is to say, it gave no right of appeal where a right of appeal had not existed before, but merely said that the appellate tribunal, instead of being, as heretofore, the official arbitrator, was in future to be the Lands Tribunal. That is all.
There was undoubtedly some misapprehension about this. May I refer for a moment to what the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, said on this matter? I am reading from the bottom 5 of Column 362 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, where the noble Viscount said:But it is not only a question of having second thoughts; a wholly new situation has arisen. When the proposal that there should be an appeal tribunal under Section 70 was previously before your Lordships, the whole structure of the Bill was to the effect that there was to be no appeal under Section 60. But the Government have now come forward with an amending Bill in order to give an appeal under Section 60.I want to point out—and I am sure that the noble Viscount will appreciate it—that this is a misapprehension. There was an appeal under Section 60; it was an appeal to the official arbitrator. All we have done is to provide that that existing right of appeal, instead of being an appeal to the official arbitrator, shall be an appeal to the Lands Tribunal.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I admit that I made a mistake of fact, but I am sure the noble and learned Viscount will agree that all that followed in my speech as to the reasons why an appeal should be given are unaffected by that mistake of fact.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am not seeking to tie down the noble Viscount. He did argue that there ought to be an appeal on the broad general question. All I want to do is to correct that error; it was an error for which I feel myself partly responsible, since I could not have made the matter sufficiently clear at the time.
There is provided a most elaborate code. Heaven forbid that I should read it to your Lordships! The code is to be found in Sections 60, 61 and 62; and those sections incorporate the Acquisition of Land Act, 1919, in many of its material provisions. There you have an elaborate code which tells the Central Land Board what they are to do and on what basis they are to assess claims on the £300,000,000; and, of course, the Lands Tribunal (as it will be) will have regard to the same code. Now observe for a moment the wholly different structure of Section 70. The position with regard to Section 70 is that there was not, and is not contemplated, any appeal from the Central Land Board; and none was intended to be provided by this Bill. I think that for several reasons that could not be, when you compare the language of Section 70, leaving this assessment to the Central Land Board, with the wholly 6 different language of Section 60 which provides that precise code.
Take the regulations made under Section 70, about which we had some discussion in this House, and which were affirmatively passed. The governing principle is this—and it is the principle in accordance with which the Central Land Board have to do their duty. They have to secure, so far as practicable, that land can be freely and readily bought and sold, or otherwise disposed of in the open market, at a price neither greater nor less than its existing use value.. That is the governing principle by which the Board are to be guided in determining development charge. But it is vague and indefinite. The second rule is this: that development chargeshall not be more than the amount which, to the satisfaction of thee Central Land Board represents the additional value due to planning permission.The third section is to the effect that development charge shall not be less than the amount referred to in the second paragraph unless in the opinion of the Board the charge ought properly to be less. The fourth section says that in any special case of land referred to in Part VIII the governing principle shall apply, subject to such modification as in the opinion of the Board is appropriate. Therefore, unless you are prepared to have some code under Section 70 which is more or less equivalent to the codes under Section 60, this matter is necessarily and inevitably left to the opinion of the Central Land Board. There cannot be an appeal from a body if, at the same time, a charge is to be levied by that body in their discretion to do what they think right. The only question is, Have the Board exercised their discretion? And that is really not the subject of appeal at all.
There are other reasons why I think we should find ourselves in great trouble if we were to attempt to add words which would make substantive alterations in the law. Consider the case of Scotland. By this Amendment we are proposing to grant an appeal. If it is right to grant it in the case of England, how can we justify not granting it to Scotland? If I had suggested such a clause, very many of your Lordships who are concerned with Scotland would have said to me at once "If this is right in the case of England, how 7 in the name of justice can you deny the same rare and refreshing fruit to Scotland?" Yet the fact remains that by passing this Amendment we should be passing an Amendment which relates only to England and not to Scotland. That is one of the difficulties which arise when one tries to tack on to mere machinery in a Bill substantive alterations in the law. For these reasons I suggest that we should not insist on this Amendment.
I have gone into the question of the specific cases to which reference was made in the debate in your Lordships' House. I do not want to say more about that than this. There are two attacks on the Central Land Board, working, as they do, through their district valuers. It has been said that the valuers do not offer to discuss or do not disclose the process by which they have made their valuation. I have had no illustration of that. If that be the fact, I should welcome some illustration of it, because it is entirely opposed to the instructions upon which these valuers should work. All the illustrations which have been given in your Lordships' House are cases where they did discuss. Let me take one. First of all, there is the case of the Union Club. I really think this is rather hard. The Union Club proposed to acquire premises—whether on lease or freehold or for what term I do not know—in Grosvenor Square. They rang up the district valuer and asked him to give them a purely provisional figure as to what he thought the valuation should be, in order that they might negotiate with their landlord about the price. The more you are going to pay for a development charge, the less you are inclined to pay to your landlord, and many people wanting to know what price they should offer, want, first of all, some indication of what the development charge is likely to be.
At that time, they told the district valuer that they were contemplating purchasing the interest in these premises for the sum of £100,000. The district valuer said "Well, the valuation which I propose is"—the figure which has been given. He gave that on the telephone, without having any figures put before him, simply because they requested it. They wanted a purely provisional figure, to know the sort of thing he had in mind. When he went into the figures afterwards and realised how much it was going to cost to convert those private houses and make 8 I them suitable for the purpose for which they were going to be used, he came down to the final figure of which your Lordships are aware. So much for that case. It was one where, if the district valuer is to be blamed at all, he is to be blamed for being too forthcoming, for trying to help people by giving an approximate figure without having gone into the facts at all, in order that they might negotiate.
I come next to the case of the nursing home at Bath. As the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, said, the first valuation worked out at £1,943. The capitalised sum represents a difference in the hypothetical rents. This was a case of a most worthy lady and a most worthy cause, and the Central Land Board were anxious to help. They looked at the figures again and came to the conclusion that they had not allowed enough for the cost of conversion of the premises. They said, "We think that there will be more cost than has been allowed for; therefore we will make the valuation £1,000." The lady was not able or willing to pay £1,000; therefore, in order to help her, the Central Land Board said: "If you cannot do that, we suggest that you do this. Get a limited concession in point of time—for instance, five years—and if at the end of five years you want it extended you can get it extended and make it permanent. That will be a cheaper way of doing it." There is nothing Machiavellian about it. They wanted to help what they conceived to be a worthy case, and they did it in the manner which I have indicated, and which was quite within their rights.
The only other case mentioned in your Lordships' House was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, who drew a distinction between a house at Selby and the conversion of a barn into a house at Paignton. I should here point out to your Lordships—it is quite an elementary point; no doubt you have it in mind—that the cost of the work which has to be done before conversion affects the value of the development charge. For instance, if I am going to build a house upon a bog or a swamp, where I have to put in piles and incur much expense, obviously I should pay little for development rights. If, on the other hand, there is a good hard high road, with sewerage and water already laid on, then I should pay much more. It is difficult to compare these two premises. The Selby 9 house was of a suburban type with three bedrooms and two living rooms, on a made-up road where all the services were available. The district valuers suggested the sum of £144 and that was, so far as I know, accepted by the developer as being a reasonable sum, and the purchase was made.
It is difficult to compare the Paignton case with the other. It was a proposal to convert a barn and fodder store into two dwelling houses, one of three bedrooms and two living rooms, the other of four bedrooms, two living rooms, a kitchen and dairy. The amount of charge was, I think, £750 or thereabouts. That also was accepted as a reasonable charge. It is quite impossible to compare one case with another unless one knows all the relevant circumstances. So far as I know, the charge the Central Land Board made in these two oases was a reasonable charge. I repeat again—although I can assure the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton that my mail, which is very heavy, is by no means a fan mail—it is the fact that I have not received a single complaint about the way in which the Central Land Board are doing their work. Even after the publicity given to this topic in the debate in your Lordships' House, I have not received one complaint. From an interjection in another place, I notice that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country 'Planning said virtually the same thing. So far as I am concerned, I can give your Lordships only my own limited experience. I see nothing whatever wrong in the three cases which have been aired in your Lordships' House, and I will not trouble to deal with the two extra cases which were mentioned in another place. I have not received a single complaint, and that is substantially true of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. I think the present system is working well.
Like the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, I am not a person who never changes his mind, and it may hereafter be desirable to have a more precise code under Section 70, a counterpart of the code we have today under Section 60. In that event, it may be desirable to put in some sort of appeal. But if we are to do that, we must do it by some substantive alteration of the law itself, and not by trying to tack the alteration on to a mere procedure Bill which is designed to substitute one tribunal for another. There must be some 10 substantive alteration of the law. Therefore, I think there has been some misapprehension in this matter, for the reasons I have given. I think, further, that we should leave Section 70 and the regulations made under Section 70 which have been approved in this House, as they are, leaving the whole matter substantially to the discretion of the Central Land Board. It is impossible to think that you can have am thing like a judicial tribunal in such circumstances. I beg to move that this House do not insist on the said Amendment.
§ Moved, That this House do not insist on the said Amendment.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
My Lords, the Lord Chancellor is evidently very well content with the situation as it stands. Whether everybody who is called upon to pay a development charge is equally satisfied, it will be for others to ascertain. I confess that such information as has come to me—and I do not claim it to be specially extensive—does not indicate that everybody thinks that this present system is working so well or that those who endeavour to improve it are plainly following the wrong path. As the noble and learned Viscount knows very well, I, too, am perfectly willing to admit to my mistakes. If there were any in the speech I made previously, I am very willing to have them corrected, though I did not observe that the noble and learned Viscount had any correction to address to me. Since he thinks that the Amendment was moved under a misapprehension, however, perhaps in my turn I may state what my understanding of the matter is. It is a complicated matter, and in any event it will be an advantage, perhaps, if the situation is presented as some of us believe it to be.
The Amendment which was made to this Bill by this House last month, which the Commons have now rejected and which my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack asks us to concede should be rejected, would have provided for an appeal to the Lands Tribunal (which this Bill very wisely sets up) from the determination of a development charge by the Central Land Board. As my noble friend has pointed out, the Central Land Board fixes the amount in each case. He might have added that when the amount is fixed 11 and collected, it is paid into the Exchequer. It becomes part of the public funds of the country, just like any other payment that goes into the Exchequer and is received from the pocket of a citizen.
Under the Act of 1947 the Central Land Board, over which an experienced King's Counsel, an authority on land valuation, presides, has two duties in connection with the development of land. One is under Section 60, the other under Section 70. Under Section 60 what is determined is development value. Under Section 70 what is determined is development charge, a charge which has to be paid before the land can be developed by its owner. The Lord Chancellor has just been contrasting the two cases. Consider for a moment how they compare. Both are highly complicated and technical questions, and in both cases the answer requires a subtraction of what is the value of the land when restricted to its present use from its greater value when it is free to be developed. That is true of both Section 60 and Section 70. Therefore the two sections deal with closely comparable problems and in both cases it is the Central Land Board which has the duty of working out the result. As' your Lordships have just been reminded, under Section 60 there is an appeal from the decision of the Central Land Board to the official arbitrator; and this Bill, very properly in my view, substitutes for that an appeal to the new Lands Tribunal, which will be a tribunal drawn from a panel consisting partly of lawyers and partly of persons experienced in the valuing of land.
If we are to criticise one another on small points—though it is a difficult and complicated matter with which we are concerned—I do not think the Lord Chancellor was quite accurate just now when he said that the only effect of the Bill is to substitute the new Tribunal for the official arbitrator. I know what he meant but that is what he said, and what he said was not accurate, because the new Tribunal is also going to be substituted for the present body of appeal in rating cases and in some other cases. But of course he was talking about this subject. As things stand, however, in cases of development charge, the amount a person has to pay as a development charge is fixed by the Central Land Board without 12 appeal. There may be what I think on a previous occasion the Lord Chancellor called "higgling." Whether it is a good practice to higgle the people who require you to pay money to go into the Exchequer, I do not know. It is quite true there may be higgling, but when there is higgling it is between the Central Land Board, which has the right to tell you what you must do, and the subject, who at best is endeavouring only to persuade the Land Board that they ought not to ask for so much. It does not seem a very good example of higgling on equal terms.
However, when the higgling is over one has to pay what the Board tells one to pay or give up development. As I have said, the money goes into the Exchequer and becomes part of Sir Stafford Cripps' surplus, and that is the end of it. Not only is that so, but in practice it is the district valuer of the particular area who fixes the amount, though no doubt the Central Land Board in a proper case would intervene to correct it. A district valuer necessarily operates in a limited area and so there is the risk at least of a different sort of estimate and demand being made in one area from that which may be made in a similar case in another.
I hope that up to the present I have not stated anything which calls for correction. I have endeavoured to state it accurately and, assuming that up to the present I am correct, what I wish to point out to your Lordships is this: that the Amendment which this House adopted on May 5 last and which the Government now wish to reject, is one which would have enabled a person who considers himself to be aggrieved by the determination of the development charge to appeal to the new Lands Tribunal and in case of need have the proper figures determined by that Tribunal according to law.
As noble Lords may remember when this Amendment was proposed last month it was strongly supported by a number of your Lordships, some of whom mentioned instances of which they knew. I must confess I thought that when Lord Hylton spoke he gave a striking example of the need for some change of system. He showed how a lady who had bought a private house at a price of £4,700 in order to turn it into a nursing home was told that the development charge she would have to 13 pay was nearly £2,000. There are a good many citizens in this country, men as well as women, who, when they get a demand from those who collect money which goes into the Exchequer, imagine that they must accept it, and the less instructed and poorer members of the community are the very people who find it most difficult to challenge what they may feel is a grossly excessive claim. But this particular lady had the pluck or the persistence to challenge it. It took six months—the Lord Chancellor did not mention that—and at the end of six months of protest the amount demanded was reduced by the Central Land Board to £1,000. There was a certain man in the Bible who at a certain moment said:Sit down quickly and write fifty,and the Central Land Board—though I would be far from calling the Central Land Board by any opprobrious name—found that the amount claimed was exactly twice what it ought to be. That was one of the cases quoted, which the Lord Chancellor thinks do not raise any point of criticism at, all.
The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, pointed out that there is no guarantee of equal treatment by different district valuers. That is perfectly true. I do not recollect that the Lord Chancellor said anything about that in the speech which he has just delivered. Then the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, gave some instances—with which he may deal further, if he pleases—and pointed out, apart from the case of the Union Club, another case in which it appeared from his information that in two different parts of the country there had been an unequal application of the law. Whether or not it is true in that case, it is plain that it might be so.
The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, who as your Lordships know is a prominent and emphatic supporter of the whole system of town and country planning in this country, warned the Government—speaking, I am certain, from experience—that unless this grievance was seriously tackled the success of our town and country planning legislation would be jeopardised. The present arrangements, he said, were profoundly unsatisfactory. It is a great thing now for the Lord Chancellor to be able to say that there is not a whisper of complaint known to him or to the Under-Secretary. What a patient 14 country we live in! But in the opinion of some noble Lords of standing and great authority the fact seems to be that there are a great many people who do not consider the present situation satisfactory. I do not believe that there is the slightest doubt that there is strong feeling about this matter in some quarters. I should not be surprised to find that it existed even in members of your Lordships' House!
What is the Government's answer to these complaints—some of which, surely, cannot be regarded as entirely ill-founded—which, some people tell me, could be multiplied from different parts of the country, the complaints of the unequal and the apparently arbitrary way in which development charge is being fixed? I need not say that the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor has offered some plausible excuses, and, so far as I can see, the answer really comes down to two points. The first is that this Bill is confined to substituting a new tribunal of appeal for an existing tribunal of appeal; and that in the case of the fixing of development charge there is at present no appeal and therefore, nothing can be done in this Bill. Your Lordships will judge whether that is a very complete answer or not. It is not suggested that it is beyond the general scope of the Bill. The Bill is actually creating this highly expert Tribunal for the very purpose of arriving more accurately at calculations which compare the value of land under its present use with the greater value it would have if there was authority to develop it. It seems to me that, inasmuch as we are engaged in constituting a well-equipped tribunal to be called the Lands Tribunal, specially selected and specially appointed in order that it may deal and decide these difficult questions of land valuation and decide on the comparison between restricted and unrestricted value, there is very good reason for placing upon this new body jurisdiction to hear appeals from Section 70 decisions no less than appeals from Section 60 decisions. That, at any rate, is the submission which I respectfully make.
I remember, and I am sure your Lordships will also, that the Lord Chancellor lost no time at all when this Amendment was brought forward. He jumped up immediately and told us that sooner than 15 accept it he would drop the Bill altogether. That was the answer which he immediately gave. He was saying, in effect: "Lay your hands on this particular little Ark which I have constructed, dare to touch it, and I will drop the whole Bill." It seems to me rather a pity for, after all, ordinary people to-day, when they are required to pay substantial sums as development charge without appeal, have no means of knowing whether the charge is just or of proving that the calculation is wrong. It seems to me rather a pity, when the opportunity exists to provide for the use of machinery which might meet a widespread feeling of bewilderment, if not of injustice, that the opportunity should be refused under threat that if it is insisted upon there will be no Bill at all.
That is one reason. The second reason which appears to lie at the back of the Government's objection is, I agree, more subtle and more important and is worth a little examination. Of course, if the development charge were rightly regarded as a tax—as I have pointed out, it is exacted from the subject and paid into the Exchequer—it would be intolerable that it should be exacted from the taxpayer without any machinery for testing whether the tax was correctly calculated. No one would dream of such a thing. No one doubts the good faith and expert knowledge of the Central Land Board, but no one doubts the good faith and expert knowledge of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue either. Would anyone tolerate for a moment that the Commissioners of Inland Revenue should fix income tax without there being any right of appeal? Therefore if this charge is analagous to a tax, the present situation is clearly one that ought to be reconsidered. Taxes ought to be certain in amount and openly calculated, and they ought to apply equally all over the country to everyone in the same circumstances.
But, it may be said—and this is a subtle but, I dare say, legitimate distinction—that really this is not a tax. The excuse—or I would rather say the explanation, for I do not want to quarrel at all—for the view taken is the suggestion that the district valuer is not really fixing a tax but is fixing a payment which the Government require to be made as 16 the price of something they have to sell. It is like a shop. If you do not want to pay the price which is attached to an article you wish to buy, then you need not buy it. What they have to sell is development right. If that is the argument against having the calculation fixed according to the law by a tribunal which has the duty of examining whether the law has been applied, then the argument is surely fallacious. Under the Act of 1947, development rights in land have become a Government monopoly. If one wants to buy from the Government any development rights, one has to pay for them, and the money goes into the Exchequer; and the Act and the regulations made under it lay down with precision the rules according to which the price is to be calculated.
I think ordinary people, therefore, will ask, "Are we not entitled to request that the price should be correctly calculated in accordance with the rules laid down?" And if the price is not correctly calculated, surely one ought to be given the opportunity of satisfying a tribunal of appeal that the calculation is not according to the law. I recollect from our previous debate on the Bill of 1947 that it was suggested that the amount under Clause 70 would be reduced according to the discretion of the Central Land Board, if in certain cases they thought it proper. That was the argument against the Amendment which your Lordships wished originally to put into the Bill. That is all very well, but how does it work out? In fact, the regulations issued under Section 70 of the Act amount to this: that the 100 per cent. figure is to be the amount to be paid in all cases, unless in the opinion of the Central Land Board it is right to reduce the charge so that in accordance with the Governing Principle the land will pass in open market at its existing, use value.
What does that mean? It means, first of all, that by law there is a maximum, and if anybody demands from me more than that maximum he is breaking the law; but I am to have no redress. The maximum fixed by the law is fixed, I agree, with a discretion to reduce it. But there are limits within which the exercise of discretion can be reviewed. I am familiar with the conception which the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor put before the House 17 just now, that where discretion rests with such a body, cases cannot be interfered with by appeal. There are also cases where it can. It depends on whether the discretion has been exercised on proper principles. It seems to me that on principle there is a great deal to be said for having the opportunity of an appeal to an expert body which must hear in public what the estimates are, and not to rely on some "higgling" in private, and come to a conclusion whether or not the decision is one that should stand. On that view, development charge ought to be capable of challenge on the ground that the prescriptions of the law have not been complied with in calculating the charge.
I suggest, with great respect, that at present if in fact the net amount demanded by the Central Land Board in a given case exceeds a maximum which can be attained by subtracting one of the two figures from the other, none the less the taxpayer has to pay more than the maximum which the law requires him to pay and to refuse an appeal in those circumstances seems to be more consonant which a totalitarian régime—with which, of course, the Government will have nothing whatever to do—than with a system of Parliamentary government which claims to maintain the rule of law.
I apologise for detaining your Lordships, but I thought it well to set out as clearly as I could the reasons why we press that an Amendment of this sort should be passed. I should be sorry indeed if the valuable proposal of the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, to set up a Land Tribunal, were not persisted in. In any event, when it is set up and, as I anticipate, is found to work well in other compartments of its duties, I trust the day will not be distant before, either by means of an appeal to this tribunal from the determinations of development charge or by other Amendments to the Town and Country Planning Act which appear to me to be urgently needed, Parliament will do something effective to meet the grievance which many people feel that under the present Government they are required to make payments the size of which they cannot check and which have all the appearance of arbitrary demands, without any right to obtain a public judicial decision whether the amount is 18 correctly calculated in accordance with the law, and also without any security that they are not being charged at a different rate from that charged to other people in the same position in other parts of the country. That is the case for this Amendment. At any rate, I hope I have satisfied some of your Lordships that there is matter here which is well worthy of consideration and that we are not in the happy position where existing legislation and regulations are so perfect that anybody who suggests the opposite must be guilty of what I think is called "misapprehension."
One of the explanations given by the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor surprised me extremely. It appears that the Central Land Board was kind enough to intervene to reduce what would otherwise have been a charge because they thought they would want to help in "an eminently worthy case." What sort of exaction is this, in which an official body, when they think a case is "eminently worthy," say, "Well, you need not pay 100 per cent"? That does not seem to me the way in which we have hitherto managed our affairs. I am glad to know from the noble and learned Viscount that the system as a whole is working well, but I submit to him and to the House that there is a great deal of good sense in this Amendment.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, obviously the noble and learned Viscount is upset by the suggestion that he has made an error. I am not suggesting. If the noble and learned Viscount will turn to page 345 of Hansard of May 5 he will find there repeated what he said on April 5. He said:By this Bill, that jurisdiction of the Central Land Board is—very properly, I think—transferred to the new Lands Tribunal.That was the error he made on April 5. I hope he will forgive my pointing this out. In a complicated matter of this kind, even Homer sometimes nods.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
Is it correct to say that jurisdiction is transferred from the Central Land Board to the new Tribunal?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The jurisdiction of the Central Land Board remains where it was. It is the jurisdiction of the official arbitrator which is affected.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
Then let me gratefully accept the correction that when I said the Central Land Board I should have said the official arbitrator. The rest of my argument still holds good.
§ 3.30 p.m.
My Lords, I rise not for the purpose of making a speech but merely to ask a question. It is this. If the Government are not prepared to have the appeal, or if they do not consider there is room for appeal, would they consider laying before Parliament a White Paper containing the general principles on which the Central Land Board are going to work? That would at least ensure that Parliament could discuss the matter, and presumably it would have some binding effect on the Central Land Board. If there is to be no appeal, and if there is to be no Parliamentary discussion, the Central Land Board will be using these enormous powers to make or mar any new enterprise, either private or public (and we have had very little reference to municipal activities—private streets works, and so forth), and will be able to exercise them entirely at their own sweet will. I have the greatest possible respect for Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve and his colleagues. I have no case to bring forward, and no comment to make on the Practice Notes which have been issued, except that they can be withdrawn at any time. But I do complain that we have had so little Parliamentary discussion. All we have had is a short regulation—short, that is, in comparison to others in these days—which it is difficult, if not impossible, to understand. I agree that it would be inappropriate to develop this argument further, other than on the question of appeal. I ask the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack to consider the suggestion that I have made, in order to avoid the only alternative, as I see it—namely, a discussion in Parliament of a whole series of individual cases.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
It would probably be convenient that I should answer the noble Viscount at once. As the noble Viscount knows, there are Practice Notes, and they have been published. I should not have the slightest objection to showing precisely the principles on which the Central Land Board are trying to work out what is a very 20 difficult jurisdiction. I certainly want Parliament to keep this whole machinery under review, and I will certainly see that any further information that can be given from time to time is made available.
I understand that these Practice Notes are issued by the Central Land Board, and can be withdrawn by them at any time; they have no binding effect.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The regulations are binding, but the Practice Notes are merely what their title suggests. However, they show the principles on which the Central Land Board are acting. If there are any alterations in those principles, I should certainly be willing to bring them to the notice of the House.
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has referred to some of the remarks I made on the previous occasion when this matter was before your Lordships. Frankly, I do not find myself very satisfied with the Lord Chancellor's explanation of what happened in regard to the houses in Grosvenor Square. A responsible firm of solicitors got in touch with the district valuer, who told them that a development charge of £60,000 would be payable for them to be allowed to change the user from two private houses to a club. District valuers do not give haphazard answers like, "Oh, it will be £60,000," over the telephone without making some previous inquiry. Indeed, the Lord Chancellor's account, if I may say so, showed the district valuer to be rather more irresponsible than I, at any rate, would have said he was. It was only after pressure by the firm of solicitors that the original charge of £60,000 was reduced to £35,000. As I pointed out on the previous occasion, the difference in the two estimates of £25,000 is a considerable amount of money. My facts have not been disputed by the Government; indeed, they cannot be, because, as your Lordships will realise, I obtained them from a very reliable source.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Perhaps I may interrupt the noble Lord, because here is a question of fact, on which again I do not like to quarrel, and the position of the district valuer is in some way concerned. My instructions are that the 21 district valuer was asked for a rough, informal assessment, and in response to that request he gave a rough, informal assessment over the telephone and he gave that without making any formal valuation, and without going into any figures. He did that at the request of the solicitors in order that they might negotiate with the landlord.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I will take it from the Lord Chancellor that perhaps that is what happened. However, I still think that to give an assessment of £60,000, without going into any figures or considering the matter at all, is a most irresponsible thing for any district valuer to do. But let us all realise that he was doing it as the agent of the Central Land Board. I think I was justified in drawing attention to that fact, and also in saying that it is a wrong thing to do. It shows how irresponsibly some of these actions are taken, solely and simply, I believe, because there is no appeal to any court which can keep these people straight. With regard to Grosvenor Court, there is only one other comment which perhaps I may be allowed to make. This matter seems to have passed into new channels. The dispute, I gather, is now at an end, because the Government appear to have requisitioned these two houses for the use of the Americans in connection with Marshall Aid. And of course we all want these officials to have good office accommodation. I assume that there is no development charge now for the change of user from private houses to offices for the Americans in connection with Marshall Aid. At any rate, the Government cannot themselves he charged; they have requisitioned these houses and, therefore, the Exchequer have lost £60,000 or 05,000, or whatever was to have been the ultimate sum for development charge on these two houses.
With regard to the other cases that I quoted, I did not say that there was any complaint by the householder in Selby, Yorkshire, about the £144 development charge for building a house on a main road, with full services. I was comparing that case with the two houses which were built from the conversion of a barn in Paignton, Devon. There were a farmhouse and a farm cottage, on which there was a development charge of £375 each—and that in spite of the fact that they were similar-sized houses to the one at Selby, 22 on which there was a development charge of £144. I said that the houses at Paignton were over-assessed; I did not make any comment about over-assessment in regard to the house in Selby.
Perhaps I may quote one other instance that has come to my notice in regard to these development charges. Just outside Luton there are about nine and a half acres of land, at present part of a farm holding, which a commercial firm want to take over as a recreation ground. It means putting up a few goal posts, and allowing the work-people to have this recreation ground. It converts a piece of land, from being part of a farm, into a playing field for work-people, which of course brings in no profit. It is not one of those grounds which is to be enclosed with public matches played upon it and entrance fees charged. It is simply a place for the work-people to use on Saturday afternoons or Sundays for the purpose of a little healthy recreation. The charge for the change of user from this piece of land bringing in a profit to a piece of land bringing in no profit was assessed at £600. Something is wrong, and what is really wrong is that the Party opposite—if I may say it with all good humour—have become a reactionary Party. They are going hack to the old monopolies of the Stuart Kings, against which the independent citizens of this country fought, and fought successfully. By not allowing any possible appeal from a charge like that imposed by the Central Land Board they are going back once more to something very akin to the Star Chamber of those times. The Government would be well advised to accept an Amendment of this sort, and try to free themselves from the reactionary label which they are inevitably attaching to their necks.
§ 3.42 p.m.
My Lords, may I at once thank the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack for going so thoroughly into the case of the nursing home at Bath? He has taken great pains to cover all the facts, but to my mind the result still seems to have the opposite effect to that which has impressed itself on the mind of the noble and learned Viscount. The Lord Chancellor said that because it was a worthy case, and for other reasons, the original development charge of £2,000, was in six months brought down to £1,000. That is so, but it must prove 23 that the original assessment was perfectly wrong. There can be no doubt on this question.
What is the effect of the system upon the ordinary person who wishes to develop? He receives a development charge or assessment; and perhaps he thinks it is too high. So he at once has to secure the services of his own valuer, at great expense to himself. Those of your Lordships who have had to employ valuers know that it is no cheap operation. These additional costs of higgling with the district valuer are all added to the eventual development charge: if the man gets no reduction, he has to pay more than he would have paid if he had accepted the original assessment. Your Lordships may think he was very foolish not to do so, but in my experience—and, I think, in the experience of many noble Lords—the only way to get a district valuer to reduce his assessment is to employ an equally skilled artist (we have been told that valuation is an art) to argue the facts with him. Only a valuer knows the keys which open ways to reduction in original assessments. I think all your Lordships are agreed on that point.
I am quite convinced that all district valuers are a hard-working and extremely able body of men. I myself have had many dealings with district valuers and have had only too happy relations. In that respect I would like to take this opportunity of withdrawing a phrase I used when this Bill was last before your Lordships' House, when I described the state of affairs which might arise from too much higgling. I do so with great pleasure, because I do not wish any reflection of anything that I might have said to rest on district valuers as a body. But the fact remains that they are, and always will be, the servants of the Government. Therefore they must try to make the best bargain they can for their employers, the State; and, as my noble friend Lord Llewellin has just pointed out, the acquisition of the whole of the development rights in this country has created an absolute monopoly. Noble Lords who look at the top of the first page of Practice Notes issued by the Central Land Board will see that they have something to sell; and, of course, they want the highest price. You cannot 24 get a reduction in this development charge except by very difficult means—by being a better bargainer than the district valuer. That, I feel, is not a burden which should be placed upon the ordinary citizen who wishes to develop, and in fact not one in a hundred of ordinary developers can possibly enter into these negotiations with a district valuer. In spite of what the noble and learned Viscount has said, it still seems to me that to deny the ordinary citizen a right of appeal in this case is very deplorable.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
My Lords, speaker after speaker in this debate has brought out clearly the point that the initial valuation by the Central Land Board of development rights is very commonly too high. We have had instances of substantial reductions in the original estimates. I could give your Lordships figures of even more substantial reductions than that. I was recently concerned in a small piece of development when I turned my stables into a little bungalow cottage. I can assure your Lordships that the difference between the original estimate of the sum which was to be taken by the Central Land Board and the sum which I actually paid was greater than the 50 per cent. of which we have heard to-day. Now I am not at all dissatisfied with my bargain. I am prepared to accept the estimate finally reached as a fair and proper one, and although I am sensible of the kindness of the noble and learned Viscount in offering to review any case which is brought to him, I shall not trouble him, because all has ended happily so far as I am concerned. I would, however, make this point: that when I was originally told of the very large sum which was likely to be demanded I nearly abandoned the whole scheme. I had no expectation whatever that I should be able to obtain as substantial a reduction in the valuation as I did, in fact, obtain through the very reasonable attitude of the surveyor whom I saw myself.
But what I would suggest as a subject of inquiry on the part of the noble and learned Viscount—or of the Minister, if he reads the report of this debate—would be whether any large number of schemes of development were altogether abandoned when the original 25 figure was received. When they learn what a large sum is involved, many people feel that it is not worth their while to proceed. It is certainly not worth while for the ordinary small man to employ agents; and he is likely to say to himself that there is no money in his particular scheme, and that he may as well throw away the plans. I beg that this matter may be examined. I know that there is a theoretical remedy. When the surveyor came to see me about the development charge I said to him, "Of course, the answer lies in your hands; the Central Land Board can take over my tiny bit of garden and develop it themselves if they like." But they would never trouble to do that in the case of a small estate. Living, as I do, in a small country village, I know the desperate need and the small opportunity for such small pieces of development as that in which I have been engaged, and I would earnestly beg that no obstacles should be placed in the way of such small-scale enterprises.
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ LORD QUIBELL
My Lords, I should like to respond to the invitation given by the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor. He has invited us to give details of cases that have arisen in which difficulty has been caused. Quite recently I have been approached by a co-operative society. I met their representative yesterday morning with reference to the siting of land which I should have thought would have been worth, at a fair price, something like 10s. per yard. The land, which has an area of about half an acre, has been used by a small firm for the purposes of joinery manufacture. It is now for sale, and this particular society approached the owner and asked the price. The price asked was in the neighbourhood of £1 per yard. That was for the site itself. I should have thought that the price asked would include any development charge, but the society thought we had better get in touch with the district valuer. I should add that the society were proposing to use the land as a coalyard, there being a siding near at hand.
I cannot understand there being any development charge on a piece of land like that, but the district valuer said that there would be a development 26 charge if the society were to alter the use of the land in the way suggested. The amount of the charge, I understand (I am not prepared to commit myself), would be round about £1,400, bringing the price of the land up to something of the order of £1 12s. 0d. or £1 13s. 0d. a yard. And that land is in a side road where there is no possibility of any other kind of development. But that is not all. The society were warned that in one corner of the land the existing owner had a small pigsty and a chicken run; the rest of the land was used for machine shops. The society were told that development charge would arise because of the proposed change of use from pigsty and chicken runs to coalyard. I cannot understand this kind of thing. I sometimes wonder if it is I who am wrong; I feel that somebody ought to be in the asylum, and I am not sure whether it is myself or the other fellow. But, seriously, this sort of thing beggars description. No one can afford to buy land at the sort of price I have mentioned, and pay development charge. Moreover, a purchaser would never know what liability he was undertaking.
The case I have quoted is by no means a rare one in my experience. Moreover, it is difficult to obtain definite rulings from the officials: they do not know whether land is ripe, or whether it will or will not be ripe. And this sort of thing, after all, is preventing development. Such land is not likely to find perchasers—particularly as potential purchasers do not know to what liabilities they will be subjected. I have a good deal of faith in these valuers, but they are not always right. Some time ago I bought fourteen acres of land for an agricultural society for half the price that somebody else paid for a piece of land on the other side of the road. I think there should be some means and opportunities for those who feel aggrieved about this kind of inequality to put their case to someone.
§ 3.59 p.m.
THE EARL OF RADNOR
My Lords, I should like to reinforce the argument of the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, regarding the effect of there being no appeal from the Central Land Board development charge assessment upon the smaller people in the community. I know for certain of four cases in which development—and very desirable development—has been 27 dropped because the charge imposed upon the individual was too great. People of this kind do not employ professionals. If they are proposing to go in for a small development they employ a builder who usually knows little or nothing about the Town and Country Planning Act—except that it gets in his way at almost every turn—and they just drop what they had thought of doing because they cannot afford development charge and do not know how to get at the person who decides the development charge in order to see whether he will change his mind.
As the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has asked for details of cases where there are excessive development charges, may I also quote this case of my own? A plot of land suitable for building was to be sold for building purposes. The purchaser was there, and it was a case of a willing seller and a willing buyer. I followed the practice as laid down by the Central Land Board—namely, to put a price on the land for its existing user value and then to apply to the Central Land Board to find out the probable development charge for the purpose for which the land was to be sold. The district valuer, of course, had to do the valuation. In point of fact, when he told my agent what the development charge would be, it proved to be a figure approximately 20 per cent. higher than I would have charged for the whole land, including its development value. I could have let it go at that and made a good case of it. Fortunately, my agent has my interests at heart; he knows that he has to work with the district valuer, and he went round to see the valuer and told him what sort of a fool he was likely to make of himself. The district valuer said: "What are you charging for the existing user value? What would you charge?" He was told the figures, and he did a small sum. He subtracted the existing user value from my figure of the total value of the land, and the difference he assessed as the development charge on the land.
I quote that example only as showing the difficulties under which district valuers labour to-day. I think that any competent valuer will tell you that at least 50 per cent. of his work is guesswork. It is guesswork largely based upon competent knowledge, and in these cases the district valuers have very little to go 28 upon. In the result, there may be one level of charges here, another level of charges there, and yet another level elsewhere. It is very desirable, therefore, that there should be some form of appeal against these development charges to enable evidence from other parts of the country to be brought forward in order to ensure some sort of uniformity throughout the country in development charges.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, whatever may be said about the merits of this Amendment, those of your Lordships, including the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack, who have heard this debate will be forced to agree that the whole situation is far from satisfactory. It cannot be left where it is. Our whole object is to secure uniformity, fair dealing and equal dealing. In the cases that have been cited the very fact that a valuation has been reduced by one-third, one-half or even more than one-half, does show the hopeless lack of uniformity between the original assessment and the final settlement. The existence of those cases which have been on appeal to the Central Land Tribunal, or higgled out with the district valuer—those very cases which are cited by the Lord Chancellor as instances in which an individual has been fairly, and indeed in one case generously, treated—seems to me the best argument for some sort of appeal. I have admitted to my mistake in fact; and, what is much more serious, the ex-Lord Chancellor has been convicted of a much less grave mistake! But when all is said and done, and we have admitted those heresies, on which side do the fundamentals of belief and sound judgment rest? Undoubtedly on the side of those who are proposing that there should be some form of appeal.
I will not argue at length whether this development charge—as it is called—is a tax or a levy, or a price to be exacted for something that is sold. It is called a development charge, and I think everybody who has to pay it regards it as a charge. I should have thought it was assessed, in fact, as a charge. But let us give the Lord Chancellor the benefit of the doubt; and let us assume that this is not a charge, but that it is a purchase price which is exacted by the Government monopolist for something which he has to sell—in fact, a development right. Is that any 29 reason for giving the Government, the sole monopolist, the right arbitrarily to fix the price which is to be charged? That is not the way in which the Government act when they come into the market to buy in order to create a monopoly. What is fair in one case is surely fair in the other.
When we have nationalisation Bills brought before us, what would be said if I or some of my colleagues said, "The reasonable thing to do when you are buying is to let the vendor fix the price." We are not allowed even to have what is a fair price as between a willing buyer and a willing seller. When it comes to the Government buying, the last person who is to be heard in fixing a price is the seller. I should have thought that in this case the fair thing was that, even treating it as a sale, there should be an independent tribunal to which appeal could be made and which would lay down the principles upon which the purchase was to be made. What is the charge? Is it not in fact—I hope the Lord Chancellor will answer this—100 per cent? We were told originally—I think I am right in saying this, but I speak subject to correction—that it would not necessarily be 100 per cent. The Lord Chancellor himself said that there would be some higgling.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Under this Bill, it was always proposed to be 100 per cent., but I always said that the question of the amount would he subject to some higgling. We did not take 80 per cent., as under the old proposal.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
Then 100 per cent. of what? It may be that it is 100 per cent., and not 80 per cent. But then you reduce the value of which it is 100 per cent. Let me test this and see how it is assessed. In fact, if not in form, is not the instruction given to these district valuers: "Exact 100 per cent."?—which really means "as much as you can get." And that is what is being done. We have had evidence to-day that the district valuers, quite reasonably, have said: "Well, we are told to get as much as we can."—that is, 100 per cent. of some sort of mathematical formula. It 30 may look all right in the Practice Notes. There may be some remarkable formula in that, but when the district valuers all over the country come to work it out, what is their principle? It is: "How much can I get?"
Look at the example which the noble Earl cited just now, where the authorities tried to exact from him far more than he would have exacted from the most willing buyer if he had been able to sell, development charge and value as well, if this Act had never gone through. That is a practical example and shows what is being exacted—namely, as much as can be obtained. I think the Lord Chancellor himself admitted that (I shall be corrected if I am wrong), and he said that in such a case of course you have to take into account how much the alteration is to cost. Obviously, if you are going to work things on the basis of a monopolist selling on a scarcity value, you cannot exact more than the man can afford to pay. When you have added to the agricultural value of the land the maximum 100 per cent. which the valuer can exact, and then the cost of the property, if the total sum is more than the figure at which you can let the land or the building, or for which, if you are a speculative builder, you can sell it when you have built it, obviously you do not go in for the transaction.
Let me put this case. We all hope that building costs are coming down. One thing which is being pressed, quite rightly, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer is that the only way to salvation in this country is to bring clown costs, including costs of production. One of those is building costs, and we all have our views on how building costs can be brought down. I would like the noble Lord, Lord Quibell, to have a much freer hand in this respect than he has to-day. But suppose the Government for once take the advice of Lord Quibell, instead of taking the advice of the "brains trust," the Fabian Society, about hew to get building costs down, I ask the Lord Chancellor, what is going to happen? If building Costs come down 10 per cent., will not the development charge, when that happens, go up 10 per cent? What is the district valuer going to exact? He is going to exact as Mach as he can get, and, as building costs come down, I venture to prophesy that he development charge or the sale price, whichever I am 31 to call it, will go up. If that is the position, it is a perfectly hopeless argument for ever getting our building costs down at all.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
May I intervene? In the old days the lower the building costs the higher the value of the land. That always has been so under the old system. But there is no direct relation between the immediate amount of the deduction in the one case with regard to the building. It is quite obvious that a a man can afford to pay more for land if he can build a house for £100 than he can afford to pay for the land if the house is going to cost £1,000. There is a tendency that way, but nothing more than a tendency.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I am obliged to the noble and learned Viscount. The Lord Chancellor has really let the cat out of the bag, I think. I do not differ from him; in fact we agree that the person who is not going to exact that extra cost is the landlord himself because he is only to get the agricultural value which is not affected by whether building costs go up or down. As the noble and learned Viscount says, it is a tendency which cannot be avoided, although, indeed, I did think that in the "brave new world" which Socialism was bringing us all this "old Adam" was to be expelled. But, not at all! It is not. Who, then, is to get the benefit of this tendency of the rise in the price of land as the cost of building comes down? It is the district valuer, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who all the time is going to exact this charge. I am very much obliged to the Lord Chancellor. Our economic views we share, however much we disapprove of some, and we differ only in that in the old days the wicked landlord got something whereas now it is to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer who gets it. But the one thing that is not going to happen is that the ultimate cost of the building, the price of the finished article (which is what matters) will come down.
Certainly other developments will be held up. Surely development is being held up to-day. The problem with which we are faced and which this debate, following upon the other, has brought out very clearly, goes far deeper than even this Amendment. I am perfectly certain 32 that there are all over the country numerous cases—and very often small cases, although Lord Balfour of Burleigh assured us on one occasion that there were also very big ones—where developments are held up to-day because it is not worth while to carry them out. That is the result of a planning and developing Act! Many of us were sceptical, not about the general idea but about the details of the Act, and gave warning about it. What is happening? I do not believe that a great sum is being collected to-day in development charges. It would be interesting to know what is being collected. I venture to say that it is far less than the Government anticipated they would collect. That may be a disappointment to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but what is a much greater disappointment is that it means that development is not going forward. I believe that, sooner or later, we shall have to undertake a review of the whole system and tackle it on a much wider basis.
My Lords, what can we do to-day to deal practically with this Amendment? I think it would be a good Amendment. I think it has been justified again in the arguments advanced to-day. But if the choice which is offered to us by the Government is either to lose the Bill and to have no Tribunal at all or to accept the Bill without this Amendment, then I have no doubt at all what is the wise thing to do—namely, to take what we can get and to have this Tribunal set up for the purposes of Section 60. I am fairly certain that sooner or later (and probably sooner than later) the Government and their chief advisers on this matter will say the right of appeal ought to be granted, or, what is more likely, a much larger reform will have to be produced.
My Lords, may I close with one other remark? However much we may differ on the details of this Bill and, in particular, on this Amendment, there is one matter on which we shall all be agreed, and that is in tendering the congratulations of this House to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House who is 80 years old and growing younger and younger. We hope he may for the residue of the time which is accorded to this Government reside upon that plane, and then I hope that for many years afterwards he will lead the Opposition from this Bench.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
Before the Lord Chancellor replies may I say that he intervened when my noble friend was speaking to say that the development charge under the Act was 100 per cent. and that the Act did not provide for variations. I venture to think that perhaps at that moment he had not in mind the provisions of subsection (3) of Section 70, although I am sure he knows it. Subsection (3) provides that:… regulations made under this Act … may prescribe general principles to be followed by the Central Land Board in determining … whether any and if so what development charge is to be paid …Then it goes on to sayand without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provision, such regulations may in particular provide for securing that the amount of the said charge shall be determined on different principles in relation to operations or uses of different classes, or in relation to operations or uses carried out or begun at different periods.My impression was—I am speaking subject to correction—that when the Bill was passed this was one of the principal reasons given why there should not be an appeal. It was said "How can you have an appeal when there is this possibility of variation—of varying the general principle?" What has happened, unless I am mistaken, is that by the regulations which have been made (in particular, Regulation 1189 of 1948) that scheme has been abandoned, and the new regulation is one which says that the general principle is to govern all things. The only instance in which the Central Land Board may vary the result of the subtraction is in cases where they feel that the general principle would not be fulfilled. That surely is quite a different scheme, and the general principle is the invariable rule.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble and learned Viscount is right to point out a mistake if he thinks I have made one. I often make mistakes, but I never mind people saying that they think I have done so. But I do not think I was wrong in what I said in answer to the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. I do not recall that in this Bill at any stage there was anything analagous to the Bill which we had in Coalition days. My recollection is that we always intended throughout this Bill to take the full 100 per cent.
May I add this? I have to leave, but I do not, of course, want to bring this 34 debate to an end before your Lordships are ready. I realise the difficulties and problems which your Lordships have pointed out. I have never concealed from myself that there are these difficulties. You are entrusting this body with very great powers, and when you entrust such a body with great powers you must review its working very carefully in order to make sure that the powers are not abused. As at present advised, I do not believe that you will safeguard that by providing for an appeal. I believe it is wise that the Central Land Board should have a very wide discretion. In the ultimate result the great majority of these cases are settled. I would be sorry to see the discretion taken away from the Central Land Board. If you are going to give discretion to the Board I do not believe you can cope with the situation by way of appeal. If of course, you were going to have a fixed aid final code, as in the case of income tax, then clearly you could have an appeal.
I concede—and I will have the observations made by your Lordships conveyed to the proper quarters—that the matter is one which needs very careful consideration. We must consider it carefully to see whether or not we have now found the best formula. Like the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, I claim the right to have second thoughts. I feel it would be quite inappropriate to do what is suggested in a procedure Bill. I think we may have to introduce some modification in the light of experience of the working of this Bill. In the course of a few months all sorts of difficulties may appear, in which case I shall not hesitate to come to your Lordships and tell you of those difficulties, and I shall not be ashamed in the least, if anyone says to me, "You have thought a second time about this."
§ 4.14 p.m.
My Lords, I feel that I cannot allow this debate to come to an end before putting to the Lord Chancellor one question. In the debate on May 5 he gave the House this assurance. He saidI feel that the present tribunal presided over by Sir Malcolm Eve, consisting as it does of lawyers and surveyors is the best that we can devise …35 When the noble and learned Viscount spoke of the "present tribunal" he referred to the Central Land Board. Being closely connected with matters pertaining to the land in town and country I at once began to think "Of whom does this tribunal consist?"—or, rather, "Of whom does this Central Land Board consist?" I have taken the trouble to go very carefully into its composition, bearing in mind the powers it holds, the matters it is called upon to weigh, and upon which it has to pass judgment. I have to tell the Lord Chancellor that in the course of my investigations I found that the Board includes two members of the legal profession—one of them Sir Malcolm Eve—but I cannot find that there is a single member of the surveyors' profession. I hope that I have not misunderstood the Lord Chancellor, but having regard to his words on May 5, I do not feel that we are getting the finest authority—in view of what I have discovered—to deal with matters of taxation so weighty as those which are being brought up every day.
No, with the Central Land Board. It appears in Hansard for May 5, at the bottom of column 358 and the top of column 359.
I would like at this juncture, if your Lordships consider it in order, to give you the names and professions of the Government-constituted Central Land Board. The Chairman, as your Lordships know, Sir Malcolm Eve. Next on the list is Dame Myra Curtis, the principal of Newnham College, who is not in the list of surveyors. Then comes Sir Luke Fawcett, general Secretary of the Building Employees' Trade Union. The noble Lord, Lord Quibell, will probably correct me, if I am wrong, but I believe that Sir Luke is not a surveyor. Next is Sir Basil Gibson, one-time Town Clerk of Sheffield. Again the Institute of Chartered Surveyors have failed to find his name as one of their members. After him on the list, come Mr. J. R. Phillip, K.C., who is, of course, a member of the legal profession, and then Mr. A. Macdonald, one-time general manager of an insurance company. He is probably good at fire insurance values, but not perhaps at land 36 values. Finally, there is Mr. J. R. Rutherford who has spent his life in Scottish local government. I ask: Where are these surveyors, valuers and land agents of whom we have heard so much?
I regret that the Government have seen fit in the light of existing circumstances to refuse so peremptorily the right of appeal. I can assure the Government that the whole Town and Country Planning Act is fast falling apart. Development will slow down, and when it is learned who are guiding our interests and the interests of the country, with so much authority but with so little knowledge, I am afraid that it will fall apart faster still.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.