§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Further considered on Report (according to Order).
§ Debate resumed on the Amendment moved yesterday by the Lord Chancellor, as already amended: after Clause 84 to insert as a new clause:
§ Temporary provision as to development of land in London
§ " .—(1) It shall be the duty of the Commission and of the Boards to consult the London County Council as to the use of their land in the administrative county of London so far as that land is not required for the purposes of their business, and to submit for the approval of the Minister of Housing and Local Government proposals with regard to the use of that land in a manner which is consistent with proper planning and which, in particular, is consistent with the need for keeping a proper balance in the use of their land as between new office accommodation and other accommodation for trade business and industry on the one hand, and new living accommodation (with the amenities required by a resident community) on the other hand; and in making those proposals account may be taken of living accommodation provided or to be provided on any land belonging to the Commission or the Boards which lies outside, but in the immediate vicinity of, the administrative county of London.
§ (2) The following provisions of this section shall have effect as regards any application made before the date certified by the Minister of Housing and Local Government as that on which he has approved proposals under the foregoing subsection, being an application for permission under Part III of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, for development of land in the administrative county of London which belongs to the Commission or a Board at the time when the application is made; and the said date shall be certified by the said Minister by order contained in a statutory instrument.
§ (3) If on any such application for permission for development consisting of the construction, reconstruction or alteration of a building—
- (a) which is designed or intended for use as office premises, or
- (b) part of which is designed or intended for use as office premises and is suited for separate occupation,
§ (4) Subsection (3) of this section shall not apply to an application for permission for development consisting of the reconstruction of a building destroyed or damaged by fire or accident.
§ (5) In this section references to the Minister refusing permission or granting permission subject to conditions include references to the Minister and the appropriate Minister refusing permission, or granting permission subject to conditions, under paragraph 1 of the Fifth Schedule to the said Act of 1947."
LORD MOLSON moved, as a further Amendment to the Amendment, at the end of the proposed new subsection (3) to insert:
nor shall any such compensation be payable in respect of any application for permission for development which is inconsistent with the scheme as certified by the said Minister under subsection (2) of this section except as provided in subsection (6) of this section;
The noble lord said: My Lords, your Lordships may remember that we adjourned last night in order that there should be an opportunity for this Amendment to be more fully considered and for my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor to reply to it. I had it in mind to ask my noble and learned friend some questions about the meaning of this clause on the first day, when he first introduced it. I did not do so, because I assumed that it was entirely my own stupidity which had caused the matter not to be entirely clear. However, I have had the opportunity of talking with a number of noble Lords, and with people outside the House who have special knowledge of the matter, and I am afraid that exactly how this clause is going to work is still extremely obscure. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has repeatedly said that the purpose of this clause is to meet the points of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. At col. 11 of the Official Report [Vol. 242 (No. 100)], he said it was to meet
!particularly his second point, that compensation involved in the refusal of planning permission might deter the planning authority from refusing permission for office development on surplus land.
On the other hand, my noble and learned friend said (col. 32):
The new clause has no permanent effect on the compensation rights of anyone.
If that be so, the clause cannot meet Lord Silkin's point, which is also the point of the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Conesford, which was
carried against the Government by a majority of 20 on May 29.
§ On this Amendment Which I am now mowing, let me put the whole problem as simply as I can. Let us suppose that the consultations provided for in subsection (1) take place and reach a satisfactory conclusion. Let us suppose that, of the 1,000 acres in the administrative County of London, 800 are made available for housing and 200 for commercial development. Let us also suppose that the Railways Board intend loyally to see that these approved proposals are, in fact, carried out. My noble and learned friend has urged several times that we should have no unworthy suspicions, and I wholly accept that. As the clause is drafted, the Railways Board will be able to claim in respect of the 800 acres to be used for housing the existing use value of that land plus 10 per cent., and the night to receive this payment could anise from the moment the Minister of Housing certifies by order that the scheme provides for a proper balance in the use of the land.
§ As I understand this clause and the general law, there is no ban on the Railways Board's seeking planning permission for the use of the whole of the 1,000 acres for commercial development. In this case, the Railways Board, or anyone who had acquired the land from them, could seek permission to develop, knowing that it must be refused under the approved proposals. The effect of the refusal would be to entitle the Railways Board or the purchaser to compensation amounting to the difference between the value of the land for working-class housing and for industrial purposes.
§ I have been at pains to inquire from the London County Council what kind of figures would be likely to apply. In the East End of London, where the greater amount of this surplus land is to be found, the difference between the price for housing and for commercial purposes might be the difference between £5,000 or £6,000 an acre and £30,000 an acre. It follows that in respect of the whole 1,000 acres the amount of compensation payable would amount to millions of pounds. If this interpretation of the clause is right, it means that the only effect of this clause as at present drafted is to require a comprehensive 339 plan to be made for the use of the 1,000 acres and to postpone the collection of compensation until after the Minister of Housing has certified that the plan provides for a proper balance in the use of the land. The cost of carrying out the development would be in no way diminished and would almost certainly be far too heavy for the London County Council to bear. The approved plan would, therefore, be frustrated by the very difficulty which my noble and learned friend has said this clause was designed to remove.
Repeatedly in his speeches my noble and learned friend has said that, under the Plan, planning permission would not be given for land which under the approved proposals should be used for housing, to be used for commercial purposes. He has, however, omitted to mention that this refusal (which I entirely agree would come about) would at once give rise to a claim for compensation. There is nothing in the clause which would make it an act of bad faith for the Railways Board to claim that compensation: indeed, it might be considered their duty to do so. As a public Board, it might be considered their duty to produce the largest possible sum of money for the land which is in their administration. I repeat my noble friend's words at column 32 of the Official Report for July 9:
The new clause has no permanent effect upon the compensation rights of anyone.
I derive some hope that what I am asking is what the Government intend the clause to give from another passage in my noble and learned friend's speech, in the same column. He there said:
But what they "—
that is the Boards—
will not be able to do, if complying with the proposals, is to claim from the London County Council or the Minister planning permission which would enable them to sell the land for more valuable use, including the existing use.
I am sorry, but I do not know exactly what my noble and learned friend means by that. There is nothing in the clause to prevent the Railways Board from applying for planning permission. It will, of course, be refused; but that very refusal will provide the basis for a claim to heavy compensation. It is apparent, I think, that this clause as at present
drafted would enable the railways to get the best of both worlds.
§ Let me again give a practical example of something which is in contemplation at the present time. The Railways Board desire to build themselves additional offices over the central London stations. Normally the London County Council would refuse planning permission for this purpose; and they could refuse it without having to pay any compensation. But it is apparent, I think, that under the proposals to be approved by the Minister some additional office development of this kind should be permitted to the Railways Board. In present circumstances, this can give an immense increase in value to the land concerned. But the clause does nothing conversely to require the Railways Board to set off this increase in value against the compensation which they could claim on commercial land—for example, railway sidings—if it were to be used under the approved proposals for the less valuable purpose of housing. That is why I say that the clause as at present drafted gives the Railways Board the best of both worlds.
§ I know my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor and his extreme accuracy of expression so well that I feel quite sure that he has not, in fact, been saying inconsistent things, although I find it extremely difficult to reconcile them. All this matter of town and country planning and compensation is so immensely difficult that I make no apology for still being in a fog about it. The only way that I can think of to reconcile these quotations from my noble and learned friend is this. Does he consider that if the Railways Board have made proposals under subsection (1) which have been approved by the Minister they are thereby precluded from asking for planning permission to do something contrary to those proposals in order to found a claim for compensation? It is certainly not illegal for them to do so. And I should not have thought that it implied any bad faith at all; I should have thought it was provided for in the wording of this clause.
§ It is, I am told by the London County Council, a fact known to planning authorities, and approved by them, that an application for planning permission can quite legitimately be made by 341 persons who have no intention of availing themselves of the permission; the application is made solely for the purpose of providing a basis for a claim to compensation. Are we to understand that my noble and learned friend and the Government assume that the Railways Board will not do this? Do they take the view that it would be wrong for the Rail-ways Board to do so? I think the Government could, by administrative action—by a direction given by the Minister of Transport—prevent the Railways Board from acting in that way. But any action that the Government took to prevent the Railways Board from claiming compensation would not at present bind any purchaser of land from the Railways Board—and I happen to know that negotiations which would involve the whole of this question have reached a fairly advanced stage. As there is nothing in the clause to give effect to this interpretation which I am putting forward as a possible way of reconciling these various things, I am moving this Amendment. I beg to move.
§ Amendment to the Amendment moved—
§ At the end of subsection (3), insert the said words.—(Lord Molson.)
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, it might be convenient if I say a few words in support of the noble Lord's Amendment at this stage, although there are various aspects of the clause which he has not—and rightly so—covered in his speech and which we might have to come back to later on when we discuss the clause as a whole. I think the real issue—and I fully agree with the way in which the noble Lord has put it—is this: What will be the liability of the London County Council as regards compensation once this clause has been passed? There is a good deal of misunderstanding and ignorance as to what are the general obligations of a local authority as regards compensation, and I hope the noble Lord will not think me unfriendly if I say that I believe he has put the case as to the liability for compensation rather higher than is actually the fact.
As I understand it—and I do not claim to be an expert, if ever I was one, because it is a very long time ago since I had to deal with these matters in a practical way—there are three circum- 342 stances in which a local authority may become involved in compensation in respect of the refusal of planning permission. The first is where the applicant has an existing user right. The existing user right would take the form of having a building before the appointed day under the 1947 Act which they wanted to redevelop, or which had been destroyed and they wanted to rebuild, and where they would normally, under the Third Schedule to the 1947 Act, be entitled to expect to rebuild to the same cubic content together with 10 per cent. They have not an automatic right to rebuild, but if they wish to do so and they are refused, then they are entitled to compensation. That is the first instance. Applying that to the Transport Commission, there will be many old buildings that the Transport Commission might want to redevelop for office purposes, which they could redevelop to very great advantage by providing considerably more superficial space for offices than exist together with 10 per cent. If they were refused, then the compensation might be quite considerable.
The second instance is where a person desires to build in conformity with the development scheme. Taking the case of the Commission, if they want to build offices in an area which is zoned under the scheme for commercial purposes and they are refused, that, in my view, would give rise to a claim for compensation. The third case is the case where, as a result of refusal, land has been rendered incapable of reasonably beneficial use. Then, under Section 19 of the 1947 Act, subject to various Amendments, the owner of the land is entitled to ask the local authority to purchase that land; he serves a notice under Section 19 and the local authority is required to purchase. Those are the three circumstances in which, in my view, a claim for compensation might arise.
I am somewhat puzzled by the wording of the new clause because, like the noble Lord, Lord Molson, I fail to understand what is the purpose of having disposals discussed with the London County Council, approved by the Minister and becoming operative, if, after that, the Transport Commission can either make an application which is in conflct with the proposals or make an application which complies with the proposals 343 which they have agreed upon, and then claim compensation. For instance, these proposals contemplate that there will be a balance between residential development and commercial development. If they apply for permission to carry out residential development in accordance with the agreed proposals, but it is in an area which has been zoned under the London County Council scheme for commerce, are they to get compensation in respect of a refusal, or are they to get compensation because they are not allowed to build offices? If they were to apply for permission to erect offices in such an area where they have agreed there is to be housing, are they then to get compensation in respect of the refusal to permit offices, even though they have agreed under the proposals, which they themselves have submitted, that this is to be housing land?
I should be grateful if the noble and learned Viscount could, first of all, confirm whether I am right as to the various cases in which an applicant can claim compensation. Am I right as to the circumstances in which the Commission might be entitled to compensation; and as to how these general rights are affected by the new clause, and particularly by the fact that they have to submit proposals which have to be confirmed, and that, presumably, they have some binding force? I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Molson, that this is a most difficult clause to follow. I think I have it right, but I am not even now clear as to what is the position about compensation. If the right to compensation remains unaffected, then I think the whole of this new clause would be a façade, merely a pretence that something is being done when in fact it is not. There is nothing to stop the Commission from doing exactly what they want to do, what they would have done apart from this clause, and what they could have done after the clause, and get the same amount of compensation as they would have got under the original Clause 11 which this House rejected. I should be very grateful if the noble and learned Viscount could clarify the position.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, I think it may be convenient to my noble 344 and learned friend on the Woolsack if at this stage I add such words——
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT KILMUIR)
My Lords, I think we ought to have a fair distribution. I should like to hear what my noble friend has to say, but I think that both my noble friend Lord Molson and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, have dealt with the clause very widely. I hope that we shall not repeat in the discussion on the clause exactly what we have said now, but I should very much like to hear my noble friend Lord Conesford.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, I certainly shall not repeat at a later stage what I propose to say now. I am under the impression that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, is right when he says that my noble friend Lord Molson has, in certain respects, overstated what would be, I think on any showing, the right to compensation. My fears, however, are so similar to those of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, fears which would be alleviated by an Amendment on the lines of that now proposed, that I think that I should say why I think that some such Amendment is needed.
In one respect the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, overstated the effect of the clause when he talked about the proposals approved by the Minister becoming operative. Nothing so decisive ever happens under the clause. The only effect in law, I submit (I am sure my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack will correct me later if I am wrong), of the approval of these proposals by the Minister is to fix a date. It does nothing of any kind apart from that. I believe that the universal desire of all those who supported my Amendment which was carried on the Committee stage, and of all those who have considered this problem, is that the new clause of the Government shall effect a real improvement. I am sure that that is also the Government's own intention, but the Government's intention will not be achieved if the proposals approved by the Minister fix the date and do nothing else, and if, that date once past, those proposals can be torn up and nobody need look at them again for any purpose whatsoever.
The two defects to which I drew attention—the defects which the noble Lord, 345 Lord Silkin, has mentioned in the speech he has just made—would be cured substantially either by the Amendments that I moved yesterday or by the Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Molson this evening. I think that there is one drafting matter which makes Lord Molson's Amendment wrong at the moment in its actual wording, because he refers to the "scheme as certified"; and there is, of course, no such thing. I think we can all guess the amendment which could be made to that; but the general line of the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, would cure the trouble seen both by the noble Lord himself—though I think he has exaggerated the compensation which would be involved—and by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and by myself.
The only other matter I want to mention is this. My noble and learned friend on the Woolsack has said very emphatically on several occasions in the course of these discussions that it would be wrong to subject a public body to permanent limitations such as those proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and myself. May I say, quite briefly, why I believe my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack is wrong about that? The reason I think he is wrong is that the land with which we are concerned is public land for which the public have already paid. The body at present owning that land are by this very measure being relieved of an obligation to repay the public immense sums of money. They are being relieved of immense debts. Is there really anything wrong in saying: "By Act of Parliament you are excused all those debts, and you should not have the right to claim compensation if you cannot put the land to a use which would be contrary to the public interest"? I do not think there is any sense in saying that that is wrong.
Let me put this as a test. When we say that we want to give a public Board all possible freedom, we mean that, if we give it, we give the Railways Board, for example, all possible freedom to run the railways. But would anybody have said there was anything improper, or unjust or inequitable in this measure, if it had been said that, in return for relieving them of this immense public debt, they must hand over their surplus land to the Government for their use? 346 Nobody could have said that that was utterly wrong in principle, and therefore I suggest that what we ought to do, to make this clause a reality and to secure justice, is to decide that under the Government scheme proposals should be put forward by these bodies and approved by the Minister of Housing and Local Government.
Once the proposals are approved two results should certainly follow. Any application to develop the land in any way inconsistent with those proposals should be capable of being refused without a liability to compensation, and irrespective of who is the owner at the time the application is put forward. The only exceptions I make, of course, are for some of the circumstances dealt with by my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, when he pointed out that wholly new circumstances might arise—new land might come in and all that type of thing—with which Parliamentary draftsmen are most capable of dealing, but which we amateurs can hardly tackle. But the general principle should be this: that the proposals, once approved by the Minister, should be proposals which, if they are contravened, will not involve a liability on the planning authority, and that should be the case no matter by whom the application is made.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, we have had three more interesting speeches and I shall try to deal with all the points that are raised. I am rather disappointed in that on the six occasions (I think it is) when I have tried to make the point to your Lordships I have obviously completely failed to convey comprehension to those who have been listening to me. But, as a countryman of Robert the Bruce—and it was the seventh time that the spider attempted and was successful—and with a very cheerful heart I also shall try for the seventh time.
The main aim of the Amendment is to deprive the Commission or the new Boards of compensation for refusal of planning permission for office development in land where such development would be at variance with the proposals submitted by the Commission or the Boards under subsection (1) of the new clause and approved by the Minister 347 under subsection (2). I want to deal with the points in the three stages: first of all what actually happens before the approval by the Minister, which, as my noble friend Lord Conesford has just said, fixes a point of time.
Let us look at the real problem which we, as a House, were trying to solve. The real issue, and I think the basis of the feeling created among your Lordships, was that in London we have two problems which are interrelated. On the one hand, in the opinion of most people there has been too much office building, and on the other, the office building creates transport difficulties both in the streets and for the commuters coming up. That is the problem with which we are trying to deal. Here we have—I do not want to be tied to an actual figure, as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Molson, yesterday—something between 1,000 acres and 1,500 acres of new land coming in. We have to see that that is dealt with according to a sensible view of the two problems that I have mentioned; that is, that we do not want excessive addition to office building and we do not want an addition to our transport problems.
Let us take the stage that is going on now. What is going on now is negotiations between the Commission and the L.C.C. I think that none of your Lordships who has spoken to-day, with great respect to your knowledge and ability, has really paid sufficient attention to subsection (1) of the new Clause, because that says thatIt shall be a duty of the Commission … to consult the London County Council as to the use of their land in the administrative county of London so far as that land is not required for the purposes of their business, andsecondly,to submit for the approval of the Minister of Housing and Local Government"—will your Lordships look again because it seems to me that your Lordships have forgotten the next words time and time again—proposals with regard to the use of that land in a manner which is consistent with proper planning and which, in particular, is consistent with the need for keeping a proper balance in the use of their land as between new office accommodation and other accommodation for trade business and industry on the one hand, and new living accommodation.348 This is the first stage in the matter. Of course, one must impute beneficial motives to two public bodies as a matter of law; I do it also as a matter of fact. Both sides will be trying to solve that problem.
At that point, until the Minister has given his certification, then under subsection (3) if an application is madeconsisting of the construction, reconstruction or alteration of a building (a) which is designed or intended for use as office premises, or (b) part of which is designed or intended for use as office premises and is suited for separate occupationand permission is refused, then the compensation will not be payable. What we have really been arguing about, and we have gone round in circle after circle about exactly the same point, is whether it is likely that either by themselves or the purchasers the Boards are going to apply for planning permission for something entirely different from what they have agreed with the London County Council and put up to the Minister as a proper balance. I submit that I completely demolished the practicability, the possibility, of any suggestion of that kind in the way that it was put up to me yesterday.
But my noble friend Lord Molson puts it a new way to-day and I admit that I have a new point to meet. His suggestion, summarising it, is that the Commission or the Boards might still wish to put in an application for planning permission for office development which would be quite inconsistent with the certified proposals, purely for the purpose of securing compensation for its refusal. Perhaps my noble friend was inclined to put it on the sort of general duty of protecting their assets, and I suppose he had in mind the possibility of safeguarding existing use value for office purposes in a site which they had agreed under the proposals to devote to housing. In other words, and this is what it comes to really—they might intend to use the land for housing in accordance with their proposals but at the same time feel it right to obtain compensation for giving up existing use value of the site for office purposes.
I think there are at least two reasons why that is so remote a possibility that to legislate for it would really be outside the approach of legislation. You do not legislate for remote possibilities in 349 order to attain a logical and dialectical perfection which we do not reach on this terrestrial planet of ours. I give two reasons. In the first place it could have reality only in those cases where the Commission are using existing buildings for office purposes and where, as part of the proposals under subsection (1), those buildings are to be turned over to residential use. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, to note that there must be the two things, because one of the points that was worrying him was using an existing office building for office purposes. If he will follow me, I think he will agree that it could only have any reality, first, where the Commission are using existing buildings for office purposes; secondly, where, as part of the proposals under subsection (1), those buildings are to be turned over to residential use, and where there would be substantial compensation payable under Section 20 of the 1947 Act for refusal of planning permission to rebuild the office buildings in modern form with an extension up to a 10 per cent. tolerance. You have only to state these points to see that that is almost as limited a possibility as one could imagine. May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, I will come back to his compensation points specifically at the end.
Secondly, while the new clause does not provide in terms for that remote possibility—and I do not think it should be taken into account and form part of the proposals put to the L.C.C. under subsection (1)—although it is not in the clause, clearly in the interests of both parties it would be inevitable that account should be taken of it in settling the overall proposals. If that remote possibility were likely to occur, it would be a matter which both sides would take into account, and therefore in practice any attempt would be contrary to the basic intention of the discussions.
Now I want to say one word about the questions of compensation which were worrying the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. The provisions of the new clause proposed by this Amendment would, in respect of office building in London, exclude the Commission and the four new statutory Boards from all compensation, under two heads. I am sure my noble and learned friend Lord Conesford sees that I am not making a bad point. 350 At the moment I am discussing it up to the critical date. I think the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, would agree with this: that the first of the two heads is that if any person is refused permission to enlarge, improve or alter an existing building by operations which do not increase its cubic capacity by more than 10 per cent., compensation is payable under Section 20 and the Third Schedule to the 1947 Act.
The noble Lord will also remember Chat compensation can be reduced by any undertaking of the Minister on refusing permission to grant planning permission for any other development. We all know the 110 per cent. floor space point. As I told the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, on Monday, that is not a problem in relation to new office building; it applies only to existing offices. That is not really the problem which raised this difficulty in the House. We were not considering—I do not think my noble and learned friend Lord Conesford was really considering—that question, if it did arise, and I do not see how it can. That was not a problem. The problem which was worrying the House was that unused land would be devoted to office building. Compensation applies only to existing offices. I do not think that was the intention of the House, and I do not see any reason why that matter should cause us any trouble at all.
The second point is, where permission is refused or is granted only conditionally for the development of operational land, special compensation provisions apply again, as Lord Silkin remembered, under Section 35 and the Fifth Schedule, and there surely the compensation is equivalent to the loss suffered by the undertaker by reason of the refusal, including the estimated net loss of the receipts of the undertaking. That basis of specially favourable compensation is excluded by Clause 84 of the Bill, where the Commission or the new Boards wish to develop surplus land commercially for non-operational purposes. It would apply to any refusal of planning permission to build offices for railway or other operational purposes on operational land. But that is not one of the matters which we are really considering. What is done on operational land is nihil ad rem of the problem which has been troubling the House.
351 The next stage in my argument is to deal with what is really the point of this Amendment and the point which my noble and learned friend Lord Conesford made, that it is not enough to come up to this date of approval by the Minister, that this ought to go on; and, allowing for differences in the Amendments, what both my noble and learned friend Lord Conesford and my noble friend Lord Molson say is that in the future, after this date, after the agreement has been made, the Commission should not have the right to deviate from the agreement which they have made. That is really what it comes to. I have given my views on that.
There are really three points. First, I think it would be too rigid in effect. There may be changes in circumstances over the passage of time Which would make it desirable and acceptable on planning grounds for development of land belonging to the Commission or the new Boards otherwise than in accordance with proposals already approved under Subsection (1). My noble and learned friend Lord Conesford, quite naturally, replies to that argument by saying," Very well; the Minister of Housing can give permission." But as I answered him when he put this point, that is not the problem which we are considering. We are considering when, in the future, for reasons entirely unconnected with the discussions between the L.C.C. and the Commission, the Minister, from his view, thinks that there ought to be certain conditions attached to a permission to build, conditions unconnected with this altogether, that the Boards are not to get compensation when these conditions are attached. I think that is wrong and that it is too rigid; and I think we disagree fundamentally on that point.
My second point, which I do not need to repeat at length, was that the effect of the Amendment might be to throw doubt on the position of additional land becoming surplus to operational requirements in the future; and my third point was that one should not freeze the matter. A future new development plan and the changing requirements and aims of the planning authority might make the original proposals considerably out of date. I really cannot see why one should put on the public Board this 352 freezing into the future. Of course, my noble and learned friend Lord Conesford, as he always does, met that point; and his answer to the point is a most dangerous one. What he is saying is that under this Bill the railways, the Commission and the Boards that run the railways are getting financial advantages. There has been great argument, largely on Party lines, as to whether or not there should be relief on their capital charges. Certainly over the last seventeen years, I should have said—ever since the question came up—there has been great dispute on that point.
However, assuming that there is a basis for the argument that the railways are going to get some financial advantage, surely it would be a bad way of giving financial advantage if you were, with your next breath, so to speak, to hamstring the financial policy. If they had said "No, we are not going to consider the London problem. We are not going to consider the need for limiting office accommodation and putting up housing accommodation," then one could have said, "All right, if you are not prepared to play, we shall have to find some method of relieving you of what we think are wrongful gains." Here they are prepared to play; the two great bodies are prepared to work together. I cannot see that it would be unfair if they got financial advantages which everyone thought they should get quite irrespective of this point. They were not given to the Commission with the point in mind that they could use that fact in order to justify the position that is taken to-day.
I should like finally to say a word on the question of the quantum of compensation I think my noble friend Lord Molson realised that he gave a completely exaggerated and impossible estimate of what would happen, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, threw out a defensive line on that point at once. The situation which Lord Molson described will not apply to all the land owned by the British Transport Commission, but only to a small part. I do not know what amount of land is to be developed for office use or retained for existing office use, because that will depend on the outcome of the current discussions with the B.T.C. Those who have considered it tell me 353 that they do not think it will be a large proportion: they think it will be a small proportion. There could be no question of compensation for existing value and 10 per cent. for 800 acres. There is no compensation for refusal of planning permission unless the refusal relates to an application to add a 10 per cent. increase in the limited case I mentioned. The amount of this compensation is dependent on the existing use of a building, and the total would not be anything like the figure that was mentioned.
My Lards, I have the greatest possible respect for the views of my noble and learned friend Lord Conesford, and those of my noble friend Lord Molson; and, as I have already stated, I respect anything the noble Lord, Lord Silkin says, in this field of town and country planning (I am speaking quite genuinely, and I am not saying this as a debating point); but I should like to explain where I feel the difference between us anises. We started out on this exercise with the intention of getting a proper balance for the use of excess railway land between housing and office or commercial or business or industrial use. We have put forward a method which clearly will enable that to be done. All my noble friends have forgotten the original "war aim", if I may put it in that language, and are now really prepared to oppose anything which will give the Commission the chance of compensation in the future in respect of any part of their land, whatever changes may occur. The Government accept that, and I hope noble Lords will feel that, even if they disagree with my points, I have certainly done the utmost, to the extent of my poor ability, to explain what these points are based on and the general reasons why the Government have taken this position. Therefore, I must ask the House not to accept this Amendment, and to pass the new clause.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, I am sure we are deeply indebted to my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack for the very great patience with which he has expounded what everybody, including himself, agrees is a difficult and obscure clause, dealing with a very difficult subject. I can only say, with 354 regard to the figures of compensation that might be involved, that the figures of £5,000 to £6,000 for housing and £30,000 for commercial development were obtained this morning from the London County Council as applying in the East End of London. If that does not apply to the whole of the 1,000 acres—and I agree that it does not—I did not commit myself to any figure as to what the total compensation would be. It is obviously a matter nobody knows about, although those most competent to make an estimate say that it would be a very heavy burden.
I am much relieved toy what my noble and learned friend said about the Government's intentions with regard to claims for compensation where land is used in accordance with approved proposals. My advice is that there is nothing to prevent the owner of land from making a claim for development even though he has no intention of asserting that claim. It was not exactly under this provision of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, but there is a famous case where a golf club made a claim for permission to develop, while making it quite plain they had no intention of doing so, and in fact recovered compensation out of the £80 million available for that purpose. But it is quite clear, I think, from what my noble and learned friend has said, that it is not the intention of the Government that the Railways Board should exercise what I think would be their legal rights. It can no doubt toe dealt with in the proposals Which would have to be approved toy the Minister. In view of what I regard as the partly satisfactory explanation which my noble and learned friend has given, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment to the Amendment.
§ Amendment to Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 89 [Interpretation]:
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, Amendment No. 81 is consequential. It inserts into the interpretation clause a definition which makes it clear that a reorganisation of the police under a scheme in pursuance of the new police clause 355 should be deemed to be a reorganisation "effected by this Act" for the purpose of compensation in Clause 79. In other words, it makes clear that if any of the officers or servants of the Commission suffers loss of employment, or toss or diminution of emoluments or pension rights, or whose position is worsened in consequence of a police reorganisation scheme under the new clause, then he shall be eligible for compensation.
The eligibility for compensation applies not only to the reorganisation made by the original police scheme, but also by any amendment to that scheme made not later than six months after the scheme initially comes into effect. It may well be that experience in the working of the scheme will show the need for an immediate adjustment, because some part of the scheme was not quite right in its original form. It is right, therefore, that any such immediate change should also come within the meaning of "reorganisation" for the purposes of compensation, but that any change made after six months should be regarded as a matter of ordinary organisation and management and not part of the original reorganisation effected under the new Clause. I beg to move.
Page 99, line 13, at end insert ("the re-organisation effected by this Act' includes any re-organisation effected by a scheme under section (Organisation of transport police) of this Act, including any amendments of the scheme made not later than six months after the date on which the scheme comes into effect.")—(Lord Mills.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Fourth Schedule [Distribution of Commission's securities]:
§ LORD MILLS moved, in Part V, to insert at the beginning of paragraph 2, "Subject to the following provisions of this Act". The noble Lord said: My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, Amendment No. 89 might be considered with Amendments No. 93 on the Fifth Schedule and Nos. 94, 95, and 96 on the Sixth Schedule. These are incidental Amendments to clarify the effect of the Bill on the distribution as between the Railways Board and the Holding Company of the existing rights and liabilities of the Commission under agreements with bus companies.356
§ It will be remembered from our previous discussions that under the Railway Road Transport Acts of 1928, the main line railways were empowered to run road transport services or to enter into agreements with bus companies to provide services. They decided to conclude agreements, and the principal agreements were made with the British Electric Traction Group and the Tillings Bus Group. In 1948, the British Transport Commission acquired all the shares in the Tillings Group. Agreements subsist at present between the British Electric Traction Group and the Commission, who were vested with the railway interests by the Transport Act, 1947.
§ There are two categories of agreement: the working agreements on co-operation between the railways and the individual bus companies and the parent agreements between the Holding Company of the bus groups and the railways, in relation to the acquisition and maintenance of shareholdings in the operating bus companies by the railways. Joint Standing Committees which were advisory in function, were set up in respect of each of the bus companies. Under this Bill the Commission's shares are to be transferred to the Holding Company, but the Bill also provides that the rights and the liabilities of the Commission in the working agreements with the bus companies are to be transferred to the Railways Board. We have come to the conclusion that the vesting provisions in the Bill are not precise enough in their operation on these agreements and the Amendments put this right. I beg to move.
Page 115, line 22, at beginning insert ("Subject to the following provisions of this Act").—(Lord Mills.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Fifth Schedule [Miscellaneous Items in the Distribution of the Commission's Assets]:
§ 8.36 p.m.
§ LORD MILLS moved, at end of paragraph 5 (b), to leave out "and". The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 91 and 92 might be conveniently taken together. These are minor Amendments. Under the Transport Act, 1953, the road haulage undertakings returned to private enterprise, 357 and in this connection leasehold lands and properties were sold, but there are a number of contingent liabilities left with the Commission. Under Section 77 of the Law of Property Act, 1925, there is still an implied covenant on the person who assigns a leasehold property to pay the ground rent and perform the covenants of the lease if the assignee fails to do so. These liabilities are, of course, contingent liabilities, but under the Bill as drafted they will pass to the Railways Board on vesting date. They really have nothing to do with the railways, so we feel it is more appropriate that these contingent liabilities—and they are contingent liabilities—should be transferred to the Transport Holding Company, which is to take over the road haulage companies of the Commission. The Amendments provide accordingly, and I beg to move.
Page 116, line 35, leave out ("and").—(Lord Mills.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 116, line 38, at end insert ("and
(d) any rights or liabilities of the Commission under covenants, express or implied, relating to land disposed of by the Road Haulage Executive on behalf of the Commission or to land disposed of by the Commission which was at any time in the possession, as between that Executive and persons other than the Commission, of that Executive").—(Lord Mills.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 116, line 38, at end insert:
("6.—(1) This paragraph applies to any agreement—
In the following provisions of this paragraph 'the omnibus company' means any such company as is mentioned in paragraph (a) of this sub-paragraph.
(2) There shall be transferred to the Holding Company any rights and liabilities of the Commission under so much of the agreement as relates—
(3) Any rights or liabilities of the Commission under the agreement which are not under the foregoing provisions of this paragraph transferred to the Holding Company shall be transferred to the Railways Board.
(4) Without prejudice to the foregoing provisions of this paragraph, any term of the agreement to the effect that the omnibus company shall not without the consent of directors of the company nominated by the Commission compete with railway services of the Commission shall have effect, as from the vesting date, as if it referred to the consent of the Railways Board and to the railway services of the Railways Board.").—(Lord Mills.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Sixth Schedule [Distribution of Commission's undertaking]:
Page 118, line 42, after ("divided") insert ("or distributed").—(Lord Mills.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 120, line 26, leave out from beginning to ("references") in line 31 and insert ("In this paragraph references to the Board include").—(Lord Mills.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 121, line 22, leave out ("and the Holding Company").—(Lord Mills.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.359
§ Seventh Schedule [Transitional provisions]:
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, we have discovered a modest and minor defect in paragraph 6 of Part II of the Seventh Schedule, which deals with the transitional arrangements for the control of passenger fares in London. This Amendment is to cure it. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 125, line 45, at end insert ("for the alteration of all or any of their faxes subject to the London fares orders (whether or not all or any of those specified in the application were the fares affected by the order).
(2) Any application by the Commission in compliance with subsection (5) of the said section twenty-three (which requires the Commission to apply within a prescribed time for confirmation of an order under subsection (2) of that section) which is pending before the Transport Tribunal when section forty-three of this Act comes into force shall be deemed to have been made in compliance with the foregoing sub-paragraph, and the proceedings on that application shall be continued in such manner as the Tribunal may direct as if they were proceedings under section forty-five of this Act.")—(Lord Chesham.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, this is the other half of an amendment, the first half being Amendment No. 49, to give effect to certain things we wanted. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 127, leave out lines 16 to 21 and insert:
("11.—(1) If when the principal section comes into force there is before the Minister a recommendation of the Central Transport Consultative Committee or the Transport Users Consultative Committee for Scotland or for Wales and Monmouthshire—
(2) The principal section shall not apply to a closure in connection with which directions can be given under the foregoing sub-paragraph.
(3) If when the principal section comes into force the Commission are providing, or assisting in the provision of, alternative services in connection with a closure which has taken place before that date, the Minister may from time to time give to the Commission or the Board concerned such directions with respect to those services, or any other services in substitution for, or in addition to, those services, as he thinks fit.
(4) The Minister may refer to an Area Committee any matter relating to alternative services provided by or with the assistance of the Commission or a Board—
and the committee shall consider and report to the Minister on that matter.")—(Lord Chesham.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Tenth Schedule [Constitution, powers and Proceedings of the Transport Tribunal]:
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, Amendments Nos. 98A and 98B are both minor drafting Amendments. I beg to move them both together.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 139, line 43, leave out from ("rules") to (" under")
§ Page 139, line 45, after ("paragraph") insert ("which are in operation immediately before this Schedule comes into force").—(Lord Chesham.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, Amendment No. 99 is a continuation of Amendment No. 80, applying Clause 70 to the Holding Company. I beg to move.
Page 141, line 37, after ("Board") insert ("or the Holding Company").—(Lord Mills.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.361 362
§ Reported, without Amendment, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
§ House adjourned at eighteen minutes before nine o'clock.