§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (THE EARL OF MUNSTER)
My Lords, the purpose of this short but slightly complicated measure, to which I believe there will be no opposition in this House, is to enable the Parliament of Northern Ireland to legislate on the lines of Section 53 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, with regard to the compensation payable in respect of the compulsory acquisition of war-damaged land in Northern Ireland.
The main Act under which compensation for war damage is paid is the War Damage Act, 1943, which applies throughout the United Kingdom. This Act provides for two main classes of compensation, one known as "cost of works" payments and the other as "value" payment. The former type of payment is nearly always the larger. But the Act made special provision for compensation where war-damaged land is compulsorily acquired. In such cases, payment of war-damage compensation in respect of damage not already made good is confined to a "value" payment instead of a "cost of works" payment. It was later realised that this would react unfairly on those owners whose land was compulsorily acquired, as almost invariably the "value" payment would be much less than a "cost of works" payment.
The Town and Country Planning and the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Acts of 1947 amended the War Damage Act, 1943, and made the rate of compensation for the acquisition of war-damaged land in Great Britain more favourable to the owner. Thus the element of unfairness recognised by the passing of the 1947 Acts was removed for all owners of land except those in Northern Ireland. It was not the intention of Parliament that this distinction should be maintained, and accordingly this small Bill enables the Parliament of Northern Ireland to remove the anomaly in the law relating to compensation in Northern Ireland by legislating, if it so wishes, for purposes similar to those of Section 53 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. My Lords, I commend 124 the Bill to the house for a Second Reading.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Munster.)
§ LORD MILNER OF LEEDS
My Lords, your Lordships will be indebted to the noble Earl for the simple explanation he has given of this Bill. It would appear to be a simple measure of justice and equality to the people of Northern Ireland. There was an inadvertent omission from the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, and, as I understand it, this Bill puts that position right. It will enable the owners of property which has been acquired compulsorily by local authorities to claim from the war damage authorities compensation for "cost of works" payment, which means full compensation, rather than the limited compensation which a "value" payment entails. I feel sure that your Lordships will approve the Bill, which would seem to be, at any rate, a slight contribution towards acknowledgment of the gallant part which Northern Ireland played in the last war.
§ LORD PETHICK-LAWRENCE
My Lords, I have no wish to detain the House in giving a Second Reading to this admirable Bill, but there is one question I should like to ask the noble Earl. How did it come about that there was this considerable delay? I should imagine that this non-controversial matter could have been carried at any time during the last eight or ten years. Why is it only now that it is brought before your Lordships?
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
My Lords, I am not aware of the reasons for the long delay. The necessity for the Bill is due to the fact that constitutional lawyers are in a certain degree quarrelling amongst themselves as to whether the Northern Ireland Parliament can legislate itself, or whether legislation of the United Kingdom Parliament, enabling the Northern Ireland Parliament to legislate, is first required. That is what, in fact, this Bill does. The reasons for the long delay are quite unfamiliar to me, as they are to the noble Lord.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.