HL Deb 15 May 1958 vol 209 cc394-9

4.23 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Earl Bathurst.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]

Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Power to require use of land for limited training purposes]:

On Question, Whether Clause 6 shall stand part of the Bill?


I wish to raise a point at this stage of the Bill because I am particularly interested in Clause 6. Speaking from memory—I have not the Bill in my hands at the moment—Clause 6 is one which, with certain amendments of the Act of 1897, gives authority for temporary occupation and the like. I am concerned as to the effect of this particular clause in the case of farm lands of varying character—land bearing different crops and things of that kind. In order to arrive at his exact position, if the ordinary farmer gets a notice he has somehow or other still to refer to the Act of 1897.

What occurred to me—I do not know whether your Lordships will agree—is that when there is what becomes almost a major Bill of this kind, consolidating the powers of a whole range of former Defence Orders, it is a pity to include a considerable amount of legislation still by reference. It seems to me rather too much that the ordinary farmer or similar person who comes under (as is quite right and proper in the security of the country) orders of this kind should be able to check them only by going to a lawyer and finding out exactly what the powers of the 1897 Act are. I should have hoped that, even if the Government cannot do anything about this Bill, in future Bills they should endeavour to leave out as far as possible legislation by reference.


With your Lordships' permission, I should like to remind the noble Viscount opposite that we went into all the purposes of the Bill a little while ago in your Lordships' House. I assure the noble Viscount, and all noble Lords, that in fact the measures under Clause 6 have been most carefully considered with regard to farm land; farmhouses and all farm buildings are, of course, out of any form of temporary training area. It will be only with the previous knowledge of a farmer or owner or occupier that such small areas of land will be used, and after reasonable notice—fourteen days in fact. If that particular area proved inconvenient, it is quite obvious that the powers that be might be able to vary their needs for that piece of land to suit the circumstances of the farmer or occupier concerned. I assure your Lordships that in every way Clause 6 will work for the convenience of farmers especially, and of occupiers of land, and it is believed that it will work even better than the old Manœuvres Regulations which were in existence before the war, when very little trouble was experienced.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clauses 7 to 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 [Prevention of obstruction of airfields]:

THE EARL OF DUNDEE moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "occupier", where that word first occurs, and to insert: owner or (in the case of a movable structure) the occupier", The noble Earl said: This clause deals with the removals of obstructions to airfields. If the Minister desires to move an obstruction he has to follow the procedure laid down in Part 1 of the Second Schedule to the Bill, and if, in spite of this procedure, the object is not removed, then under Clause 10 the Minister has to issue an order to the occupier of the land—not the owner—on which that object is situated requiring him to remove it. In subsection (2) the objects referred to are described as: trees, hedges, fences, poles, masts, cables, wires, walls (other than a wall forming part of a roofed structure)… Many of those, of course, may be the property not of the occupier at all, but of the owner. It is difficult to see why, in the case, let us say, of half a dozen trees growing in a field which is rented by a farmer, but which do not belong to the farmer, it should be the farmer and not the owner of the trees who may be required by the Minister to remove them.

In subsection (4) it is laid down that if the Minister requires the removal of trees, the Minister shall issue instructions to secure that the removal is carried out "in a woodmanlike manner". It seems to me a little unreasonable that the tenant farmer should be required to remove trees which do not belong to him in a manner which he may never have had the opportunity of acquiring. I am told that the reason the occupier, and not the owner, is made the object of the order is that in some circumstances the Minister might find that the owner of the land had got lost and could not be found. It may therefore be convenient to the Minister to issue the order against the occupier, who is there and can be found, instead of against the owner who is not there and cannot be found. But even if this difficulty should arise, it does not seem to me to justify the Minister's issuing an order requiring an occupier to remove some object which is not his property. It seems to me that in those circumstances the Minister, if he really cannot identify the owner or discover his whereabouts, should remove the obstacle himself. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 14, line 15, leave out ("occupier") and insert ("owner or (in the case of a movable structure) the occupier").—(The Earl of Dundee.)


I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Dundee for placing this Amendment before your Lordships, because it does bring to light some small point in this very complicated measure. I assure your Lordships that in fact both the owner and the occupier will always be notified of any obstruction, and in fact of any step that may be needed to be taken throughout this Bill; and when that is done the full measures that have been recommended by the Franks Committee will of course apply. Such fears as my noble friend has will, of course, be effective only if the owner flatly refuses to comply with the Minister's request, or, as the noble Lord so rightly said, if the owner is away or it is quite impossible to find him. In such a case, however, my right honourable friend finds that it is often easier and causes less disturbance if the occupier carries out the work himself on behalf of my right honourable friend or his Department. On the other hand, quite obviously, should the occupier be in no position to do that, my right honourable friend and my noble friend from the Admiralty have powers to carry out the work themselves. Again, full compensation will be paid for all damage that may occur and for any rights that the owner or occupier may lose. Of course a full inquiry will already have been held before such measures take place. I will look into this extremely complicated clause on behalf of my noble friend, and perhaps at a later stage I shall be able to give a still further assurance that in fact all the fears that my noble friend has stated are unfounded, as indeed I believe they are because of the safeguards in Part I of the Second Schedule.


I am grateful to my noble friend for his explanation. The only point I am not quite sure about is why the onus of having to do this should be placed on the occupier if the owner cannot be found. As my noble friend has been good enough to say he will look at the point and give further explanation at a later stage of the Bill, I ask your Lordships' leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clauses 11 to 24 agreed to.

Clause 25 [Interpretation—general and in relation to Scotland and Northern Ireland]:

THE EARL OF DUNDEE moved, in paragraph (b) of subsection (1), to leave out all words from "undertaking" to the end of the paragraph. The noble Earl said: Subsection (1) (b) of Clause 25 defines the word "owner" in the case of land in Scotland. The Subsection reads: 'Owner' … in the case of land in Scotland, includes any person who, under the Lands Clauses Acts, would be enabled to sell and convey the land to the promoters of an undertaking and a tenant of the land under a lease the unexpired term of which exceeds three years …

My Amendment proposes to omit the words "and a tenant of the land under a lease the unexpired term of which exceeds three years." My reason for moving this Amendment is to ask for an explanation of what is meant by the Government draftsmen in defining an owner of land in Scotland, because only a few weeks ago your Lordships passed a measure which has now received the Royal Assent, the Land Drainage (Scotland) Act, under which the owner of land in Scotland is defined in a very different way. That Act says that the "owner" of land in Scotland, if the land is not held on a long lease means, if the land is feudal property, the proprietor of the dominium utile"—

that is, the feuer— or, if the land is not feudal property, the owner of the land.

If the land is held on a long lease "owner" means the lessee, and a "long lease" is defined as a lease …capable of being recorded in the Register of Sasines under the Registration of Leases (Scotland) Act, 1857. Under that Act, the Registration of Leases (Scotland) Act, 1857, leases of 31 years or more, or which contain an obligation for renewal so as to extend for that period, can be registered under the 1857 Act to give the leaseholder a real right under the lease.

I am quite willing to believe there may be good reasons for having completely different definitions of an "owner" of land in Scotland in two different Acts which are passed and receive the Royal Assent in two successive months. There may be good reasons for having different definitions of the word "owner" in every piece of legislation we pass, but I think we ought to have some explanation of the reasons for these differences in definition. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 29, line 28, leave out from ("undertaking") to end of line 30.—(The Earl of Dundee.)


When my noble friend was moving his last Amendment he explained how difficult it was at times to locate the actual owner. Landowners, no doubt, are called a good many names in various places, and I understand that in Scotland they are all called one and the same. I assure the noble Lord that the precedent for the wording in this Bill is covered by two previous Acts, with which I will not weary your Lordships. Nevertheless, we shall look into this wording and the precedent, and I hope to be able to assure the noble Lord, the next time the Bill comes before your Lordships' House, on Report stage, that the wording is in order.


In view of my noble friend's assurance, which I appreciate, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 25 agreed to.

Remaining clauses and Schedules agreed to.

House resumed.