HL Deb 17 June 1953 vol 182 cc1030-4

2.52 p.m.


My Lords, this draft Order is one which my right honourable friend the Minister is required to prepare under Section 10 of the Coastal Flooding (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1953. That Act deals with the restoration and strengthening of sea defences in the areas mainly affected by the floods last January, and it gives the Minister power to authorise river boards to enter on land and carry out works necessary for the purpose of sea defences. Where highways are affected, highway authorities also can be authorised to carryout work. The Act also gives other powers to do works ancillary to the actual work on sea defences. The exercise of any of these powers may result in injury to the rights and interests of private people, so that this draft Order seeks to provide for proper compensation to be paid.

The Scheme of the draft Order is this. The first person who will be affected by works carried out on any land will be the occupier, so Article 4 entitles him to receive a payment in the nature of rent. The amount of this will represent the depreciation in the annual value of the land. He will go on receiving this periodical payment until the end of what the draft Order calls the "restoration period." This is defined in Article 6. In the ordinary way the restoration period ends when it is possible to estimate how far the land will suffer permanent injury and to make a final settlement. In the special case where the land is purchased compulsorily the period ends when the first step is taken in the purchase. In some cases, for example where the land has been used for temporary buildings, the river board will normally restore the land to its original condition. If this were done there would be no permanent damage, no one's interest in the land would suffer and payments to the occupier would stop when the land was restored.

Where the land is permanently affected, the restoration period will come to an end either when the river board—or it may be the highway authority—give notice that they do not intend to restore the land, or when the period allowed by the Act for works of restoration has elapsed. At this date it will be possible to see how the land is affected by the work done on it, and everyone whose interest in the land suffers will be entitled to claim compensation. Apart from claims which depend on depreciation in the value of the land, there are other ways in which an occupier may be affected. Land which a river board use for their works may be sown with a crop, or the value of manure applied to it may not be fully utilised, either of which means loss of the farmer's time or money. Losses of this kind can be compensated under Article 5 (1) (b), under the heading of disturbance.

There is another heading which I should mention, as this is also dealt with in Article 5 (1) (b). This is the case of land which, although near to a river board's works, is not actually the land on which the work is done. If any such land is depreciated in value, a claim can be made for compensation, if the claim is of the kind for which compensation is payable, or for compulsory purchase. However, I think there will be very few cases of this kind; in fact I am sure that in nearly all cases the adjacent land will benefit greatly.

Those are the main provisions of the draft Order. If I may touch briefly on the others, Article 7 deals with damage to private ways. Article 8 provides protection for sanitary authorities and statutory undertakers—for example, where gas or water pipes have to be removed or given protective covering to prevent damage. Article 9 provides for compensation carrying interest from the time when it is due. Article 10 fixes a time limit for making claims and Article 11 provides for disputes being determined by the Lands Tribunal. The last Article, No. 12, is more important. It deals with the case where land on which work has been done under the Act is purchased compulsorily. The river board may decide that they need to own the land on which they have built a bank. In such cases we have thought it simpler for all concerned to pay compensation, as far as possible, on the compulsory purchase. In a compulsory purchase which takes place in circumstances where work has already been done on the land, certain adjustments have to be made in the purchase price in order to ensure that it is a fair one. Article 12 works out the details of this. I think that gives in broad outline what we are intending to do. Our aim is to make sure that everyone who suffers as a result of works carried out under the main Act is fairly treated, and I hope that in this Order we have achieved this. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Coastal Flooding (Compensation for Emergency Work) Order, 1953, reported from the Special Orders Committee on Thursday last, be approved.—(Lord Carrington.)


My Lords, I do not wish to make any detailed comments at all on this Order. On a first reading it certainly looks all right. But I should like to ask the noble Lord whether there have been any consultations with the persons affected. If they are satisfied, then certainly this House will be satisfied. I take it that there have been consultations, and that broadly speaking the persons who are affected are in agreement with what is proposed to be done.


My Lords, I do not really know what the noble Lord means by consultation with people representing the persons affected. All sorts of different people are affected by this Order and we have consulted a great number of people. I do not think there is any argument about it at all. I believe everybody is perfectly happy.


My Lords, when Clause 10 of the Coastal Flooding Act was before this House my noble and learned friend Lord Maugham, who is not here to-day, and I raised a question as to whether the Order which was about to be laid was one under which it would be possible to secure, in the case of settled property, that the compensation was distributed among the persons really affected. I am not quite clear from Lord Carrington's statement whether or not the Department considers that that difficulty is met by the Order which he is asking us to approve. There may be a case in which the property is under a settlement, and if the property was damaged the question would then be whether the compensation for that property should be paid to the trustee under the settlement—whether it should be regarded as going into the settlement to take the place of capital—or whether it should go for compensation for loss, and questions of that sort. I myself am not familiar with this kind of question. It is much more a Chancery question and no doubt the Lord Chancellor knows it very well, as does Lord Maugham. But as Lord Maugham is not here I thought it right to ask whether or not the Order which has been laid is one which would enable those questions to be satisfactorily adjusted.


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble and learned Viscount will allow me to answer the question which he put to Lord Carrington. I know that Lord Carrington is willing that I should do so. The hypothesis of tile question was this: that for the injurious affection of any land a global sum might be awarded and then there might be a dispute between persons having different interests in the land as to how that global sum should be distributed. But the hypothesis was not a correct one, for the Order proceeds upon the footing that whoever suffers any injury to his interest shall get the appropriate compensation. Therefore the Order does not proceed by way of a global sum being awarded which will be the subject of contest between those who have rival interests. Anybody who has an interest which is affected is entitled to claim compensation, and be awarded the appropriate compensation.

But it is relevant to add this. It is a common enough thing nowadays for an Act to prescribe for compensation to be awarded for damage to land, and often enough, of course, that land is subject to divers interests, whether of landlord or tenant, or of tenant for life or remainder-men; and it is common practice, even where a global sum is awarded, not to prescribe machinery for the division of that sum. I think that the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Maugham, must have been in error if he thought it was the practice so to provide. Machinery is not provided. I could refer the noble Viscount to a number of Acts which would confirm this—namely, the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, the Indemnity Act, 1920, the War Damage Act, 1943, and, going right away back, the Riot Damage Act, 1886, where machinery has never been provided for dividing up a global sum between the several interests, and in respect of which no difficulty has been found to occur except on very rare occasions. Those who advise me have, I think, found three cases where it has been necessary to go to the court to determine how such a sum should be divided Here the question does not arise because the Order itself prescribes that those who are injuriously affected in respect of their interests, whatever they may be, make their claims and get compensation accordingly. I have no doubt that in cases of damage of a permanent character to settled land a common claim would be put in by all those interested, and if they were not in agreement there would be a proper division between them.


I am much obliged to the noble and learned Lord for his explanation which, no doubt, will be of much interest to my noble and learned friend, Lord Maugham.

On Question, Motion agreed to.