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Clause 84—(Land Subject To Notice To Treat On Appointed Day)

Volume 437: debated on Monday 12 May 1947

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I beg to move, in page 91, line 18, to leave out from "land," to "the," in line 23, and to insert:

"is compulsorily acquired after the appointed day by any authority or person in pursuance of a notice to treat served before the passing of this Act."
The purpose of this Amendment is to provide that in cases where notice is served before the passing of the Act and completion takes place afterwards the basis of compensation is the existing basis—that is, the 1939 value—and that the owner is paid on the full value of his land without any reduction in respect of development value, but that he is not in a position to make any claim out of the £300 million. That is to say that even though completion takes place after the coming into operation of the Measure he is deemed to be completing and carrying out the transaction as if it were carried out before the passing of the Act.

We have had a very short explanation from the right hon. Gentleman as to the purpose of this Amendment, but on my reading of the Clause, and having regard to later Amendments and new Clauses which are on the Order Paper, I should have thought that it had precisely the contrary effect to that stated by the hon. Gentleman. I am in a little difficulty in discussing this because it comes before the discussion on the new Clauses, but as I understood the right hon. Gentleman he said that the purpose of this Amendment was that where a notice to treat was served before the passing of this Measure, and completion takes place afterwards, the purchase should still be on the basis provided in the 1944 Measure. As I read the Clause with the Amendment it provides that where an interest in land is compulsorily acquired after the appointed day in pursuance of a notice to treat served before the passing of this Measure then, in the words of the last four lines of the Clause itself,

"… the provisions of this Act and of any scheme made under … Part V shall apply in relation to that interest as if the purchase had been completed immediately before the appointed day."
I hope I shall be allowed to put this point because we really should have an answer on this before we go any further. As I understand it, where the completion takes place after the passing of the Bill and before the appointed day the right hon. Gentleman is proposing to bring in a different scale of compensation to that provided by the 1944 Act. And that is how I read something which stands in the Minister's name later on the Order Paper. If my interpretation is right then what the hon. Gentleman has said in moving this Amendment would appear to me to be completely wrong. I do not know what is behind this Amendment. In some cases the object which the Minister has stated would be to the serious disadvantage of persons who are likely to lose their land, because where the values which the right hon. Gentleman is going to provide for payment under the other Clauses are higher than the 1939 values I assume that the local authorities will rush in with their notices to treat before this Bill becomes an Act. Where the present prices are lower they will, of course, hold their fire. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to be a little more specific about this because as I understand it this Amendment, read with one of the new Clauses on the Order Paper, will mean that the effect will be precisely the contrary to that which he stated in moving the Amendment.

If the hon. and learned Gentleman is right about this, I think the Government may find certain difficulties in regard to compulsory purchase under the Transport Bill. It may be within the recollection of the learned Attorney-General that when the Transport Bill was before the House, on the Report stage, last week, the Solicitor-General allayed certain fears which we expressed about compulsory purchase under that Measure by telling us that all would be well, because the 1939 value was to be swept away under this Town and Country Planning Bill. If the appointed day under the Town and Country Planning Bill is to be a long time after 1st January, 1948, on which day the Transport Bill comes into operation, the fears which we expressed and which the Solicitor-General allayed with regard to compulsory purchase under the Transport Bill will remain. I feel, therefore, that before we part with this matter we should have some assurance from the Minister that the intention expressed by the learned Solicitor-General last week will not be defeated by the Amendment now under consideration.

I have enough troubles of my own without having to deal with the Transport Bill, but the intention is that the operative date of determining the basis of compensation should be the date of the notice to treat, regardless of when completion takes place. Otherwise, it would be possible for a person to put himself on a different basis of compensation to his own advantage by delaying completion. He could almost decide what suited him best and endeavour to manoeuvre the date of completion accordingly. As I understand the Amendment, the provision is that where a notice to treat has been given before the passing of the Bill the basis of compensation shall be the 1939 value, regardless of whether completion takes place afterwards or not. That is the intention of the Amendment.

I do not think we can leave it like that, with the greatest respect to the right hon. Gentleman. I appreciate his difficulties, but I am myself in a difficulty in dealing with this since there is later on the Order Paper a Clause headed "Compensation for compulsory acquisition after passing of this Act and before the appointed day." I cannot enter into a discussion of that new Clause in any detail, but perhaps I may be allowed to say that it sets quite a different standard from the 1939 prices. This Clause says—concerning the interest in land in respect of which notice to treat is given before the passing of the Act—the provisions of this Act shall apply in relation to that interest as if the purchase had been completed immediately before the appointed day. The point I am putting to the right hon. Gentleman is this. Will that not have the effect of bringing into operation the new Clause to which I have referred—if it is inserted in the Bill—and so of abolishing the 1939 prices as the basis in relation to any land acquired under a notice to treat served before the passing of the Act and in respect of which the compulsory acquisition has not been completed before the passing of the Act?

The right hon. Gentleman put a point of some force with regard to the necessity or desirability of using the service of the notice to treat as a determining factor, but that cuts both ways, because just as you may have a delay in completion taking place to suit the pockets of the individual acquiring or selling, you may equally have local authorities taking advantage of the difference so as to benefit themselves by the service of the notice to treat. I assume from what the right hon. Gentleman says that he contemplates that local authorities shall have power to serve their notices before this Bill becomes an Act so as to claim the advantage when they can of being able to acquire at lower prices than they would have to pay for that particular interest directly after this Bill becomes an Act.

It is not at all clear whether they will obtain any advantage because after the passing of the Act they will be able to buy at the restricted values with the development value taken out. It is not at all certain, therefore, that it would be to their advantage to serve notices to treat in anticipation. In that way they make themselves liable to pay the full 1939 value. It is a question for consideration whether the 1939 value is higher than the restricted value. I do not believe that the local authorities are going to act irresponsibly and rush in, even if they were in a position to do so, merely to get some advantage over the owner. As a matter of fact, a good deal of the pressure to change the basis of compensation has come from the local authorities themselves. They would be the last to seek to take advantage and act so as to deprive an owner of compensation to which, in their opinion, he was entitled.

6.30 p.m.

In regard to the Minister's reply to me just now, I quite appreciate that he has enough trouble with this one Bill, but I must ask him to tell us how this Bill will dovetail in with Clause 8 of the Transport Bill, as read with Clause 46 (2) of that Bill. It is not until that dovetailing has been done, that we can be assured there will be no injustice when the Transport Commission are purchasing compulsorily, as is envisaged.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 91, line 24, leave out "the said Part V," and insert "Part V of this Act."—[ Mr. Silkin.]

I beg to move, in page 91, line 26, at the end, to insert:

"(2) Where any interest in land is compulsorily acquired before the appointed day by any government department or local or public authority within the meaning of the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919, in pursuance of a notice to treat served after the passing of this Act. Then—
  • (a) the provisions of Part V of this Act and of any scheme made thereunder shall have effect in relation to the land as if that interest had been subsisting on the appointed day with all incidents to which it was subject immediately before the date of the notice to treat, as if the land had been on the appointed day in the same state as it was immediately before the date of the notice to treat, and as if the person who was entitled thereto immediately before the date of the notice to treat had been entitled thereto on the appointed day; and
  • (b) except as aforesaid, no payment shall be made under the said Part V in respect of the interest so acquired, or in respect of any interest derived therefrom.
  • (3) Nothing in Part VII of this Act shall be construed as exempting from the payment of a development charge under Part VI of this Act any operations carried out on land acquired as is mentioned in the foregoing Subsection, or any use of such land.
    (4) Subject as hereinafter provided, the foregoing provisions of this Section shall apply in relation to land, or an interest in land, which is acquired by agreement by any authority or person who had power or could have been authorised to acquire the land or that interest compulsorily under any enactment as if the land had been compulsorily acquired, and as if notice to treat in respect thereof had been served on the date on which the contract was made:
    Provided that where the land is so acquired as aforesaid before the appointed day in pursuance of a contract made after the passing of this Act, the contract may provide that Subsections (2) and (3) of this Section shall not apply to the land or any interest therein."
    We are dealing here with the basis of compensation where a notice to treat has been given after the passing of the Bill and completion takes place before the appointed day. Here the basis of compensation is that the owner will get the restricted value, and will be entitled to claim compensation in respect of development value out of his share of the £300 million.

    I find that the right hon. Gentleman's short statements are wonderfully clear and easy to follow, and I congratulate him upon it, but he has said nothing in regard to the new Subsection (3) which he proposes to incorporate in this Clause. Will he say what is its purpose, and what it is meant to do? The Subsection reads:

    "Nothing in Part VII of this Act shall be construed as exempting from the payment of a development charge under Part VI of this Act any operations carried out on land acquired as is mentioned in the foregoing subsection, or any use of such land."
    Presumably, it is meant to deal with land which is acquired under the notice to treat served before the passing of the Act and the compulsory acquisition taking place after the appointed day. How, under these circumstances, will there be a liability to pay a development charge? If the effect of what the right hon. Gentleman has said is to remove that particular burden, what is the point of Subsection (3) which appears to contemplate in certain circumstances the levelling of a development charge.

    Subsection (3) contemplates that in those circumstances there will not be exemption.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

    I wish to revert to my point on the previous Amendment, as I did not catch the Minister's last observation. Does he say that the effect of Subsection (3) is to exempt from liability to pay development charge, or is it to keep the liability alive? As I read it, it is drafted so as to keep liability for payment of development charges alive, and if that is so, my question still requires an answer. What is the point in keeping it alive, in view of the earlier Amendment the Minister has moved?

    It is very difficult to understand the application of Part VII to the problem under discussion. Part VII, referred to in Subsection (3) of the Minister's Amendment, deals with applications to special cases. It is a collection of the odd cases, in respect of which the general rules of the Bill do not make automatic provision, and which require special enactment to fit them in. There are, for example, unfinished buildings, compensation for abortive expenditure, land ripe for development, mineral workings, land held by local authorities for general statutory purposes, land held for charitable purposes, Crown land, and so on. It is very difficult to follow how it is conceivable that anything in Part VII can be construed

    "as exempting from the payment of a development charge under Part VI of this Act any operations carried out on land acquired as is mentioned in the foregoing Subsections, or any use of such lands."
    I am wondering if there is not some drafting mistake, or whether there is not a misprint. I hope the Minister will clear up this point in regard to Part VII, which puzzles me considerably.

    The relevant Clauses in Part VII are Clauses 76 and 78. These Clauses provide that in respect of certain land held by local authorities and statutory undertakers, on the appointed day, no payment can be made in respect of compensation, and no development charge will be levied. Where land is acquired after the passing of the Act, then it is right development charges should' be levied, and Subsection (3) provides that nothing in Part VII—that is anything in Clauses 76 or 78—is to be construed as exempting these cases from development charges. I hope that I have made it clear.

    Clause 76 (2) definitely says that no payment shall be made under Part V of this Act

    "in respect of any interest in land which, on the appointed day, is land to which this Section applies."
    It goes on to say that there shall be no liability for development charges under Part VI. We now have this curious Subsection which says that nothing in Part VII shall be construed as exempting payment of a development charge under Part VI.

    It seems to me that the Minister's explanation is perfectly clear, but I suggest that at some later stage, there should be substituted for the words "nothing in Part VII" the words "nothing in Clauses 76 and 78 of this Act."

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.