HC Deb 06 March 1959 vol 601 cc69-73W
Mr. Oakshott

asked the Secretary of State for War when safeguards will be provided for owners of land in cases of

the action taken in this matter between September, 1957, and the end of 1958. The regional hospital boards have taken this action after consultation with the interests concerned, such as boards of management, hospital medical staff, local health authorities, executive councils and local medical committees. The process is a continuing one as more beds become redundant and consultations are in progress with the interests concerned on a number of further proposals for redeployment. I will keep the House informed of what progress is made.

compulsory purchase for defence purposes to which the Land Powers (Defence) Act, 1958, does not apply.

Mr. Soames

When the Land Powers (Defence) Bill was before the House, I made it clear that it is the Government's intention to apply safeguards as proposed in that Bill to all compulsory purchases of land for defence purposes but that to do so by Statute involved amending the Defence Acts. This is a major task and although much work has been done on it we are still only in the preparatory stages. Few cases of compulsory purchase by Defence Departments are likely to arise in the near future but I, my Service colleagues and the Minister of Supply have decided that pending legislation we would provide safeguards forthwith by administrative action in cases outside the ambit of the Land Powers (Defence) Act.

Under the new procedure owners, lessees and occupiers of land which it is proposed to acquire will have an opportunity to object to the proposed acquisition and to have their objections heard at an inquiry held by an independent person. As in the case of inquiries held under the Land Powers (Defence) Act, 1958, security considerations may sometimes require that the inquiry shall be held in private but hearings will be in public whenever possible. Details of the procedure, which will be brought into effect at once, are as follows:

  1. 1. Before a Minister authorises the compulsory acquisition under the Defence Acts of any interest in land, he will inform every owner, lessee or occupier of any of the land (except tenants for a month or less) of his intention to use his compulsory powers. The notification will
    1. (a) describe the land involved by reference to a map and either be accompanied by a copy of the map or name a convenient place where a copy of the map may be inspected;
    2. (b) include a statement of the Minister's reasons for proposing to acquire the land, subject to any limitations necessary on the grounds of national security;
    3. (c) inform the recipient that the Minister will consider any reasoned objections submitted to him in writing within a specified time (which will not be less than 21 days).
  2. 2. No further special action will be required of the Minister if no objection is made within the specified time by any owner, lessee or occupier, or if all objections so made are later withdrawn, or if the only outstanding objections relate solely to matters of compensation (such objections will be dealt with under existing arrangements, including reference, if necessary, to the Lands Tribunal). The Minister will then be able to serve a notice to treat and proceed with the acquisition of the land described in the notification with, if necessary, any modifications which have been agreed with all the parties affected by them.
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  4. 3. If any objection, other than one concerned solely with compensation, is not withdrawn, the Minister will inform the objector that, if he so desires, he will be afforded an opportunity to appear before and be heard by a person appointed by the Lord Chancellor to hold an inquiry into objections to the Minister's proposal. (In Scotland the appointment will be made by the Secretary of State for Scotland and in Northern Ireland by the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland.) At the same time the Minister will tell the objector that the report and recommendations of the appointed person will be considered by him before he takes a final decision. If the objector requests such an opportunity, the Minister will make the necessary arrangements, giving the objector not less than 14 days' notice of the date, time and place for the holding of the inquiry.
  5. 4. If an objector intends to suggest at the inquiry any alteration in the Minister's proposal which would meet his objection to it, he will be invited to give prior written notice to the Minister specifying the alteration. Failure to give such notice will not preclude an objector from raising the matter at the inquiry. The appointed person may, however, decline to hear evidence or argument that any land other than that specified in the Minister's proposal should be acquired in lieu, unless the objector has given prior written notice to the Minister, not less than 7 days before the holding of the inquiry, of his intention to use the evidence or argument, and specifying the other land in question.
  6. 5. The Minister will furnish the appointed person with explanations of his reasons for proposing to acquire the land. He may disclose to the appointed person information additional to that given to an objector in the statement referred to in paragraph 1 (b) above, if the Minister is of the opinion that it would be contrary to the public interest for such additional information to be disclosed otherwise than in confidence to the appointed person.
  7. 6. Subject to the following, the procedure at an inquiry will be left to the discretion of the appointed person. Any objector may be legally represented or, by leave of the appointed person, be represented by any other person. The Minister may be legally represented or represented by any person authorised by him. This representative will be heard first unless the appointed person decides otherwise. At all inquiries the Minister will make available one or more witnesses from his Department to state the reasons for the proposal to acquire the land, to give evidence on matters of fact and expert opinion, and to be subject to cross-examination by or on behalf of any objector; the appointed person will disallow any questions put in cross-examination which, in his opinion, are directed to matters of Government policy. Departmental representatives will not disclose in answer to questions put in cross-examination any information which, in the opinion of the Minister, it would be contrary to the public interest to disclose. Persons giving evidence at the inquiry on behalf of an objector will be subject to cross-examination on behalf of the Minister.
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  9. 7. The appointed person will report his fir dings and recommendations to the Minister. If he recommends a modification to the Minister's proposal which has not been agreed by all the parties affected, and of which they have not had previous written notice, the Minister will, before accepting the recommendation, give notice of the suggested modification to all parties whose interests are affected by it and afford them an opportunity to appear and be heard at a resumed inquiry. Similarly, if the Minister of his own initiative proposes to make a modification which has not been agreed or of which no previous written notice has been given, he will follow the same procedure. When the Minister reaches a decision he will send to every objector a summary of the appointed person's findings and recommendations and will inform him of his (the Minister's) decision, giving reasons, subject to any limitation necessary on the grounds of national security, for any departure from the recommendations.
  10. 8. The administrative procedure described above will not apply when land is acquired by agreement. Nor will it apply to acquisitions under Part II of the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945. since that Act itself contains provisions for holding inquiries.

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