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New Clause—(Temporary Provisions For Eliminating Special Value Attributable To Vacant Possession)

Volume 437: debated on Monday 12 May 1947

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Where the notice to treat giving rise to the claim for compensation is served at any time before the first day of January, nineteen hundred and fifty-four, and the interest in land in respect of which the compensation is payable carries the right to vacant possession of the land or any part thereof, or the right to obtain such possession at any time before that date, then, unless the land is agricultural property within the meaning of this Section, the value of that interest shall be calculated as if there were derived therefrom a lease of the land, or of that part thereof, as the case may be, for the term, subject to the conditions and at the rent specified in this section.

(2) The term of any such lease as aforesaid shall be deemed to be a term beginning on the date of the notice to treat and ending on the first day of January, nineteen hundred and fifty-four:

Provided that—

(a) where the interest in question is subject to an actual lease on the date of the service of the notice to treat, the said term shall be deemed to begin on the first date thereafter on which the owner of the said interest would be lawfully entitled to obtain vacant possession of the land; and
(b) where the interest in question is a leasehold interest which is limited to expire at any time before the first day of January, nineteen hundred and fifty-four, the said term shall be deemed to end on the day before the expiration of that interest.

(3) The conditions of any such lease as aforesaid shall be deemed to be conditions by virtue of which the tenant would be liable to pay all usual tenant's rates and taxes and to bear the cost of repairs and insurance and other expenses, if any, necessary to maintain the land in the state in which it was on the date of the notice to treat, and the rent payable thereunder shall be deemed to be a sum equal to five per cent. of the capital value of the premises, or a sum equal to the rent which might reasonably be expected to be payable by a tenant in occupation of the premises, under a lease for the term and subject to the conditions aforesaid, whichever is the less.

(4) In this Section the expression "agricultural property" means agricultural land or agricultural buildings as defined by the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act, 1928, and includes a house used as a dwelling house by a person who is primarily engaged in carrying out or directing agricultural operations on land in the neighbourhood of the house; and for the purposes of this Section the capital value of any premises shall be deemed to be the value of an unincumbered freehold interest therein calculated in accordance with the provisions of any enactment other than this Section which would apply to the assessment of compensation on a compulsory acquisition thereof by a government department or a local or public authority within the meaning of the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919.

(5) For the purposes of this Section, an interest in land shall not be deemed to carry the right to obtain vacant possession of the land or any part thereof if at the time of the service of the notice to treat the land or that part thereof consists of a dwelling house which is subject to the Rent and Mortgages Interest Restrictions Acts, 1920 to 1939. or any future enactment amending or extending those Acts, and any person other than the person entitled to that interest is for the time being in possession thereof either by virtue of a tenancy or by virtue of the provisions of the said Acts.

(6) Compensation for disturbance in respect of an interest in land the value of which is calculated in accordance with the provisions of this Section shall not be assessed at any greater or less amount than that at which it would have been assessed apart from the provisions of this section.—[ Mr. Silkin.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

This Clause has already been discussed in general terms on previous Amendments, and I propose only to refer to four major issues in it. The first is in the case of land on which there is a right to vacant possession. There is assumed to be a notional lease based on the current rent, which expires on 1st January, 1954. The land is subject to this notional lease, either at the current rent or at the rent which represents five per cent. of the market value of the land whichever is the least. We have had a considerable discussion on that and I do not think I need add anything to what has already been said. There are two exceptions to the principle of the notional lease. The first is that agricul- tural land is not deemed to be subject to any lease and that the compensation for agricultural land will be ordinary market value. The reason for the distinction is that, generally speaking, agricultural land has not risen in price as much as other types of land. That is to say, there is not the same element of scarcity in the price of agricultural land as in that of other land. The other exception is land with property which is subject to the Rent Restrictions Act—although that is not really an exception because there the market value is paid having regard to the fact that there is a restriction of vacant possession. Lastly, in order to ensure that compensation for disturbance is not unduly increased, there is a provision that there should be no increase in the compensation for disturbance as compared with the existing provisions. Those are the main points of the New Clause, and I hope the Committee will be prepared to accept it.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time.

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, in line 6, after "section", to insert:

"or the interest to be acquired is the interest of an owner-occupier of a building within the meaning of this section."
It might be for the convenience of the Committee if we considered at the same time the other Amendment to the proposed new Clause, in line 41, at the end, to insert:
"(5) An interest in land consisting of or comprising a building shall be deemed for the purposes of this section to be the interest of an owner-occupier of such building if any of the following conditions is satisfied, and not otherwise, that is to say—
  • (a) if he is in occupation of the building at the time of the service of the notice to treat;
  • (b) in the case of a building so damaged at that time as not to be fit for occupation, if he was in occupation thereof when the damage occurred;
  • (c) in the case of a building of which possession has been taken without other title by virtue of any enactment, or by an authority by whom, and in circumstances in which, possession thereof could have been so taken and has not been given up before that time, if he was in occupation thereof when posses. sion was so taken; or
  • (d) if—
  • (i) the title under which the building is held at that time is such that he then has the right to enter into occupation thereof or will be in a position to obtain that right within five years from that time, and
  • (ii) it was at that time his intention, subject to its being possible for him so to do, to enter into occupation of the building within the said five years, or, if it is so damaged as not to be fit for occupation, to cause it to be restored for his occupation or to enter into occupation of premises to be substituted therefor, within the said five years."
  • This matter has been discussed in general terms both in the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer earlier on and in other speeches during the course of the Debate today, and I do not wish to go into it again in any great detail at this time of the night. The Amendment to line 41 merely supplies a definition of what is meant by "an owner-occupier." That is necessary because in this Bill there is no such definition, and indeed no such category of possessor of land is contemplated at all. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the right hon. Gentleman the Minister have justified this Clause upon the argument that there now exists in our community a scarcity of land which has the facility of offering vacant possession upon a change of ownership. The right hon. Gentleman seeks to eliminate the scarcity by imposing upon the land a notional lease of seven years' duration so that though in fact the land does carry with it the right of vacant possession so greatly desired, we are to step in here in this Committee—in the first place—and say, "Though you have the right to give vacant possession yet we shall take that right from you and presume you to be burdened with a lease of seven years' duration."

    11.0 p.m.

    The Chancellor of the Exchequer described this very lightheartedly as a device of valuation, but surely it is far more than that? It is saying that an unburdened estate is burdened when in fact it is not. That may be a valuation device, but it is a device which starts by saying something which is not true about the estate we are purporting to value. I do not propose tonight to widen the discussion to cover the possible excision of this notional idea, but to put in a plea for a particular class-of landowner, and that is the owner-occupier. He is defined in this Amendment as a person who not only has possession of the land, but also owns it. It is true that owner-occupiers of agricultural land are already excluded from these notional leases, but I can foresee many others who ought to be excluded and are not. To such a man, his wealth consists not in the value of the site, but in the fact that on the site he carries on his business.

    Take again the case of the owner of a small factory. He is the owner-occupier of the premises, and the value to him of the site is not its investment value, but its value as a base for his operations—the ground upon which he stands to make his living. If such a man is dispossessed by a public authority, he has to go out into the world and try to get another site, where he will be confronted with the scarcity value and the difficulty of getting vacant possession. In other words, what is being proposed in this Clause is to invoke on behalf of the public authority the existence of a scarcity of vacant possession, and to deny to the man who is being dispossessed the existence of any such scarcity when he wishes to recoup himself.

    I have always believed that the only sure way through this jungle of land legislation is to look how it affects the citizen affected. Though the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the right hon. Gentleman can put up a great plea here on the difficulty of getting vacant possession, it is no answer to the man who says "I had vacant possession, but you took it from me by Act of Parliament. You turned me into the world where vacant possession is hard to come by." From the public point of view, if there are owner-occupiers—and I am sure there are many—who will be disturbed by the public taking away their land, we had far better pay them the full scarcity value of the vacant possession they are able to convey, so that they shall have enough to be able to go into the world and get possession of some other land. Otherwise you are not only taking the man's land, but denying him the opportunity of restarting his business. To meet that is, shortly, the purpose behind the Amendment.

    It is curious to reflect how things run more or less in full circle. When we had discussions, in 1944, on this business of the 1939 price for land, there was a great difference of opinion between the two sides— and it was not confined to party lines— when we thought the best compromise we could come to was to pin down the investor owner to the 1939 value. We recognised in that the peculiar position of the owner-occupier. In other words, we recognised the fact, to which I am now drawing attention, that the occupation of his land was much more than his investment. The years have in no way lessened my affection for the owner-occupier, whom I regard as a very stable member of society, and one to be encouraged. Although he is generally a small man, it is all the more necessary for us to be careful that we do not adversely affect his interests. It is wrong that if you take land from him for public purposes you should give him less than he would have to pay outside to reinstate himself.

    Perhaps it would be useful if I intervened in the discussion now, although I do not suppose that it will have the effect of terminating the proceedings on this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman opposite commented on the fact that feeling on the question of the owner occupier had, apparently, turned full circle, and that the owner occupier was to get less generous treatment than he was getting under the 1944 Act. The right hon. Gentleman posed as the friend of the owner-occupier, thereby implying that we, presumably, were not his friends. As a matter of fact, we are being more generous to the owner-occupier, under this Bill, than the right hon. Gentleman was, even in relation to the investor. The hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) explained that the value of a property, subject to a lease, was no greater today than it was in 1939, or not substantially greater. Paying the owner-occupier market value, he said, was not really giving him substantially more than 1939 value. The hon. Member made a calculation, from which it appeared that the owner-occupier would get £833 as against £800, which, he thought, was about right. The investor, he said, was not going to get very fat out of being paid market value.

    On the other hand, the owner-occupier, even when his land is subject to a notional lease, will get a very substantial benefit over and above the 1939 value, even with the addition of 60 per cent. The benefit is really substantial. Indeed, on the hon. Member's calculation, he can get five-sixths of the full market value, which is not bad. What is the case for not paying the full amount? Why not give the owner-occupier the whole amount, to enable him to buy other premises? There are several reasons. We have to consider, not only the owner-occupier, but the public as well. After all, it is the community that pays. It has always seemed to me to be inequitable that the community should be called upon to pay these highly inflated values for vacant possession. After all, the scarcity of housing is one of the consequences of the war. Apart from the war, there would not have been this tremendous scarcity and these high values for vacant possession. Before the war, we were gradually getting over the scarcity of housing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear,"] We were. What is the comment of hon. Members on that? Would they like to comment on that statement?

    Then we are in agreement. We were gradually getting over the shortage of housing, and, therefore, the element of scarcity value in respect of vacant possession was very small. The war intervened, and as a result of the destruction of large numbers of houses, the impossibility of building, the increase in the number of separate families, and various other causes, a great shortage of housing has arisen, and consequently the scarcity value is very high. That is a factor for which the community is not responsible. It is something which arises as a result of the war in very much the same way as in the case of a person whose property has been damaged by enemy action. Nobody has suggested that you should pay an owner whose property has been destroyed by enemy action full market value of his property. Only a very short time ago the House accepted without dissent—without even a dissenting voice—the proposition that the value payments should be 45 per cent. above the 1939 value, and that is what a person whose property has been destroyed by enemy action gets. I think there was a general recognition that, as between the individual and the community, this was reasonable justice, and I submit that it is reasonable justice in the case where the community requires for public purposes to purchase a property which could be sold subject to vacant possession to pay something less than the full market value, including the high amounts that are due to scarcity value. This measurement at least is admittedly a compromise. It is something more than the ordinary invest- ment value and something less than the full market value.

    The right hon. Gentleman referred to hard cases. Of course, one can always make a great deal of play by producing hard cases, and hon. Members always produce the small business man and the small owner-occupier as the hard cases; but, in fact, if the community paid in every case full market value, including scarcity, they would be paying considerably more than the occasion called for in a great many cases. There are a great many people who are not going to acquire other property. Only a limited number of people will necessarily go into the market and acquire other property. People adjust themselves, people make other arrangements, but they do not go into the market and buy other property. Those people who do not will have been getting more than the needs of the case merit and more than that to which they are strictly entitled. Moreover, there is an obligation contained in the Bill itself to provide people in residential property with other accommodation suitable to their reasonable requirements. People living in dwelling houses which are being acquired for public purposes have an absolute right to be provided with other accommodation, and it would be wrong to pay these people inflated values for their property and, at the same time, provide them with other accommodation suitable for their reasonable requirements.

    11.15 p.m.

    The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the business man. Even in those cases there is an obligation in the Bill to provide such people with other accommodation wherever practicable—[Interruption.]— "So far as is practicable," really does mean something. It means that, except n cases where it is not practicable, you lave to provide alternative accommodation. There will be an obligation, and have always contended in answer to ion. Members opposite, that "so far as practicable" really has a significance, and that it was only in cases where it vas physically impossible, or undesirable from an amenity point of view to provide other accommodation, that it would not be done. In the vast majority of cases it will be practicable to provide alternative accommodation, so that now we have the case of the dwelling-house, where there s an absolute obligation to offer other accommodation and where in the majority of cases it will be practicable to provide it.

    Could the right hon. Gentleman say to which Clause he refers? He says there is an obligation to rehouse the occupants of dwelling-houses and businesses so far as is practicable, but I cannot recollect any provision in this Measure, although there was provision in the 1944 Act.

    My recollection is, that the 1944 Act is not attracted, with regard to that particular provision. The argument on the Committee stage was that it was possible in the case of the redevelopment of the small area, but would not be possible in the case of the large area.

    It is the case that there is an absolute Obligation to provide other accommodation in respect of houses.

    If it would assist the right hon. Gentleman, what he seeks is in Clause 42, which attracts Sections 19 to 30 of the 1944 Act, and it is, of course, Section 30 of the 1944 Act which provides for re-accommodation where practicable, on the lines to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, but that applies only to residential property, and does not apply to businesses.

    I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I cannot refer to it at the moment, but I will do so. We will be meeting again, and I think I can then satisfy the right hon. Gentleman that that is the case. But the substance of my contention is that a large number of people, at any rate, will be provided with alternative accommodation, and it will be inequitable and unfair to the community that they should have their accommodation provided and also get compensation for their existing accommodation at the present-day inflated values due to vacant possession. Admittedly there is a residuum of cases where other accommodation cannot be provided, and there will be a number of cases where the persons do not desire to have other accommodation provided for them. Even of these, there will be a number who will not desire to acquire other accommodation, and you will have left a limited number of people for whom other accom- modation will not be provided, and who will have to go into the market to acquire other property. But I submit that number will be very small indeed in relation to the total number.

    As regards this, one can say that they are being treated even more favourably than if their property had been destroyed by enemy action. Apart from that, it would be quite wrong to pay a large number of people more than is justified, at the expense of the taxpayer. For those reasons, I feel that the case for the notional lease has been made out, and, while I have every sympathy with the very small number who may be adversely affected, I think it would be wrong to impose an unduly heavy burden on the community where this treatment would not be justified.

    I think that the right hon. Gentleman, in moving this new Clause, has moved what will prove to be a great blemish on the general scheme which he is substituting for the 1939 basis. In the first place, in an Act which, in most of its provisions, is designed to be a permanent contribution to our planning law, he has inserted a temporary Clause which is continuing a practice established by a certain part of the Act of 1944. The Act of that year applied an artificial price on compulsory acquisition for the next five years. In an exactly similar way, this Clause provides an artificial price where the notice to treat is served before 1st January, 1954.

    I have listened carefully to what the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the right hon. Gentleman have said in defence of this temporary provision, and I do not think that they have given any sufficient defence of it. The Minister has said that it would be wrong that the community should pay an unduly large price. Of course, I agree. The whole of the Committee will agree, but the question is, what is an unduly large price? The excuse and defence of the compensation under the 1944 Act was that there was, at that time, because of enemy action which was continuing, no market price to which to appeal. That was the only justification for the reference to the last date when there was a stable market, which was in 1939.

    The general scheme of the Government is based on the fact that it is once more possible to refer to market values. But then the Government puts in this exception. What they are really doing is not saying that there is no market in houses with vacant possession, but saying that they do not like the prices which that market gives, and they would like a scheme by which they could be lowered. What is the justification for this very artificial method of lowering prices, and what is the justice of lowering them? The right hon. Gentleman said these prices were inflated as a result of the war, and the consequent scarcity. Suppose they are. The same applies to motor-cars. Let us suppose that the Government decided compulsorily to acquire a motor-car. They would not say, "We will give you much less than the market value because the war has inflated the price." If we say that such a sum is the market value, that is the value of which we are depriving the legal owner; therefore, if we can ascertain the fair market value, we give him that. Now in exactly the same way, there is a much more real market for determining in the ordinary way what is the value of a house with vacant possession than there is for ascertaining the value of a house subject to a notional lease.

    The effect of what the right hon. Gentleman is doing is, first of all, quite unnecessarily, to put a blemish on his Bill by introducing what is, admittedly a temporary provision. Secondly, the temporary provision is highly artificial; and thirdly, it admittedly causes hardship in some cases, though the Minister thinks they may not be so many as we suppose. He is, I think, wrong in thinking that we should only be troubled about the hard cases. We ought to be troubled wherever a man has suffered an injustice. I can understand the Communist thesis that you should not give a certain class of the community any compensation at all. That, though I think it entirely wrong, is, at least, a contention which can be put forward clearly, and presumably on Communist principles can be defended. What I find so very difficult to understand is the right hon. Gentleman's contention that we should give compensation, but that compensation should only be five-sixths of what the market says is fair. What is the basis of that? No basis has yet been suggested, either by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or the right hon. Gentleman.

    I do not know how this thing will work out, but there are enormous advantages in having your compensation law, and the rest of the Bill, as simple as it can be made, and not as complicated. Market value for the owner-occupier, without exception, is something which everyone can understand, and which would generally be considered fair. To deny market value in the case of vacant possession, when the owner-occupier will, as a result, be deprived of what may be the basis of his living, and in some cases at any rate will be unable to find anything equivalent for the compensation he is given, seems to me to be obviously unfair and obviously inequitable. I cannot imagine what public service the Minister thinks it will serve,

    11.30 p.m.

    The argument which I am going to put to the Minister is not the argument put with so much force and eloquence by my hon. and learned Friend, but it is, nevertheless, addressed to this particular Amendment. In regard to the 1944 Act, an hon. Friend of mine and I had a good deal to do with extending the scope of the definition of the owner-occupier, and I hope, and believe, that it is the intention of the present Government to continue to apply that general principle in the matter of compensation. I had nothing to do with the drafting of this Amendment. Indeed, I was abroad at the time it was drafted. Therefore, I brought a completely independent mind to the consideration of the Amendment. I quite understand the point of view of the Government in introducing this idea of a notional lease. I think that in cases where property is going to be permanently acquired for the State it would be unreasonable or unjust that two properties identical in value should be acquired at entirely different values, according to whether there happened to be vacant possession or not. Therefore, I accept the general principle of this Clause that in determining the rate of compensation—purchase price is a more accurate way of putting it—where there is compulsory acquisition, in ordinary cases, the existence of vacant possession or otherwise should not be allowed to affect the price at which that property is acquired.

    This Amendment has been drafted in order to meet only the case of the owner-occupier and the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Town and Country Planning did not do himself justice when he argued that although there might be a certain number of hard cases and in- justices there would not be a great many of them. If the State or any local authority decides to acquire property from somebody who owns and occupies that property, it seems to me to be only fair and equitable that the State shall pay not only the permanent value of that property, but shall also make some fair compensation for the disturbance that is occasioned by that compulsory acquisition. This Amendment as I say is directed only to cases of the owner-occupier and, therefore, the price that should be paid must take into account the incidence of ownership-occupation. I shall be prepared to accept this quite artificial idea of the notional leasehold if it were to prevent owners obtaining quite different prices for their property according to whether there was vacant possession or not. But this Amendment has been drafted in order to meet that point, the legitimate point, in my view, of the Government that there shall be compensation for the disturbance that is caused. Now, the right hon. Gentleman surely is not justified in saying that we cannot legislate to deal with individual cases. If there is a disturbance to somebody who owns property and who occupies it then, surely, there is nothing unreasonable in saying that the State if it turns him out of property which he owns, which he is occupying and using, shall pay him compensation to enable him to set up in business again in another property?

    I have never seen the right hon. Gentleman so embarrassed in replying to any Amendment before, and I ask him to consider this matter again. I think that the whole of his argument was directed to this point, that it was not right that the price to be paid by the State for acquiring property should depend upon the existence of vacant possession. That is not the gist of this Amendment as I see it. That is not in dispute. The Amendment deals only with the case of the owner-occupier and surely a person who is occupying property and is turned out of his property by the Government is entitled to such additional compensation as will enable him to set himself up in business again. If the right hon. Gentleman says—and, with all respect, I ask who is he to judge the issue—that in the vast majority of cases this proviso is not going to create injustice I reply that that is not the way in which the British. House of Commons should deal with this matter. We have made it perfectly plain that this Amendment deals fairly with the owner of property, and is directed to making fair compensation to those who are occupying property and using it for their own substance.

    The right hon. Gentleman put forward three arguments which I cannot accept and which I sincerely hope the Committee will not accept. First, he said that only a small number of people would be adversely affected. I do not think it will be a small number of people. It is much more likely to be a considerable number, but even supposing it were a small number, are we to do an injustice, merely because not many people are going to be affected by it? Surely that argument could be used both ways. If only a small number of people will be affected, why not prevent any injustice at all, since it is not going to cost so much money? The second argument that I cannot accept is that which puts war damage on the same basis as acquisition by a local authority. If I understood the point aright, the right hon. Gentleman said if a man's property were damaged by bombing, he was only entitled to receive a certain amount of compensation. Surely we are not going to drag this Bill down to the level of bombing by the Luftwaffe. There is a difference between the man whose house has been knocked down by the hazards of war, and one whose house is knocked down by the machinations of local authorities. I think that that argument is unworthy of the right hon. Gentleman and of the Bill which he is piloting through the Committee.

    The third argument he used was that a number of people who were going to be dispossessed, might not need another house, but if they did need accommodation, he would do his best to find it for them. It is all very well to say that, but what is to happen? Here we have people who have bought houses for themselves and lived in those houses for a number of years. Along comes the local authority and pushes them out. What do they get in place of their own house? Half of a requisitioned house. t is accommodation in the literal sense of the word, but it is not the equivalent of what has been taken from them. The least that we can do in such circumstances is what has been done for a long period of years, by this House when a Government Department or a local authority takes away somebody's possessions whether it be a house or anything else— to give what is the equivalent of that which was taken away.

    At first sight it would appear that there is something to be said for the new Clause because it is clear that in the majority of cases where land is acquired compulsorily, the owner will not, in fact, have had the vacant possession of that land. But it seems to me that in setting up these distinctions we are going to get into difficulties. It was made clear earlier in this discussion that owners of business premises would have no right to obtain other business premises equivalent to those which they had lost and from which they could continue their businesses. The Minister of Town and Country Planning was at pains to emphasise the importance of the fact that this land was to be acquired by the community, and he gave that as a reason for saying that it should pay something less than the full market value. It seemed to me that he should have pointed out that it is not only a question of the community in the sense of Government Departments and local authorities. We are also dealing here with new State trading undertakings which will, in some cases, be in competition with other traders affected by this particular Clause.

    If we take the case of the Transport Bill which we were discussing recently, this provision for compensation will apply under Clause 8 of the Bill. Of course, there are a number of owner-occupiers in the road haulage industry who will be in direct competition with the new State undertaking. If the State undertaking acquires under these powers it will do so without having to pay for vacant possession. The road haulier who has been dispossessed will then have to go into the open market, where he will be obliged to pay what he received in compensation and, in addition, will have to pay for vacant possession. In other words, he will be penalised as against his competitors.

    Hon. Members opposite are often at pains to assert that they want fair competition in these matters. This is only one illustration of the way in which competition would be most unfair. There is no doubt at all that many owner-occupiers in businesses, whether they are in competition with State enterprises or not will be unduly penalised if they have to go out into the open market. One thing is quite certain: after they have received their compensation no property in the open market' will be any use to them unless they also obtain vacant possession. They will have to pay for that element of vacant possession as well and will be placed in a most unfair position.

    I feel that this issue is a narrow one, under the Amendment which we are arguing now, but at the same time it is a deep one which raises a great personal and human issue in this question of owner-occupiers and the rate at which they shall be compensated if their property is acquired. With his characteristic felicity of phrase, my right hon. Friend said a little earlier in the consideration of this Amendment that when he was seeking his way through the jungle of our land laws he took as his guide the way in which the individual citizen is affected. Here is a case in which the individual citizen is affected very markedly in his life, and on a large scale. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister has suggested—and I think the argument is unworthy of him—that if injustice is being done, it is being done only on a small scale and therefore does not matter very much, and further that those who are suffering this injustice must remember that we are living in a hard world. That, I thought, was an argument as unsympathetic as it was unfounded.

    In fact, the number of people who may be affected in practice by this Clause is very substantial. The right hon. Gentleman attacked that part of the problem. by suggesting that very few of those who were dispossessed in this way would come into the market to seek alternative, accommodation, but he was not good enough to go on and elaborate that argument by explaining just how otherwise they were to be accommodated. It did, it is true, pray in aid the provisions of a Section of the 1944 Act, the exact number of which he had temporarily forgotten. It is, in fact, Section 30, which says:
    "Where the carrying out of redevelopment of land acquired or appropriated by a local planning or highway authority for the purposes of this Part of the Act will involve the displacement of persons residing in premises thereon it shall be the duty of the authority in so far as there is no other residential accommodation available on reasonable terms to secure the provision of such accommodation in advance of the displacements from time to time becoming necessary as the redevelopment proceeds."
    I do not know whether the words "available on reasonable terms" have yet received any judicial interpretation in the courts. I shall be interested to hear from the Attorney-General whether they have yet secured the advantage of judicial interpretation, whatever the interpretation may be. I do not think it could for one moment be admitted that the words of the Section in any way solve the problem of large-scale dispossessions of owner-occupiers. There will always be a substantial number who are displaced from their residential premises, who will have to go into the open market to seek alternative accommodation, and in addition to the large category of residential owner-occupiers, there are the people in business premises. I have a recollection of moving an Amendment, some 12 months ago, to include in the Acquisition of Land Act, a provision to extend to owners of business the advantages of re-accommodation prescribed for residential owner-occupiers under Section 30 of the 1944 Act. Unfortunately, that is not now law, because the Whips were put on against my Amendment.

    Therefore, we have these two substantial bodies of persons in whom we on this side are interested, the residential owner-occupier who will not be found accommodation under the 1944 Act, and the small businessman whose land is taken away under compulsory acquisition. The right hon. Gentleman has said that they should be content with something less than market value, but he put forward no valid argument why that should be so, other than the fact that there was a shortage of housing accommodation and that in any case it was a hard and difficult world. I agree with the two propositions, that there is a great shortage of housing accommodation which will continue for some time, and that it is a hard world. But these are people who have already enjoyed the benefits of housing accommodation who are being displaced, not because of an act of God or any act of the enemy, but because of compulsory acquisition of land carried out in the name of the community. If that is so, it is wrong that they should be penalised and paid less than the market value. The Committee I think will agree that the Minister, when he addressed himself to the considerations advanced on this Amendment, fell well below his usual standard of reasonableness. I hope we can look forward to a more constructive and helpful reply from the Attorney-General, and that he will show that he appreciates the great human problem raised by this Amendment.

    The hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith) usually impresses the Committee with his wisdom and moderation. He accused the Minister of falling short, but the hon. Member himself has certainly fallen short of his usual standards of morality. There is a moral question involved here, which seems to have escaped entirely, not only the hon. Member, but the hon. and learned Member for the English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss). The Committee should be grateful to the hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley), who introduced a note of realism into the Debate by giving certain comparative cases, with actual figures. One case he took was that of a house which, before the war, was worth £800, and was now worth, to the owner-occupier, in the open market, £2,000. Running right through the arguments from the Opposition benches was the suggestion that 2,000 for an £800 house was reasonable, fair, and moral—

    Indeed hon. Members opposite have been arguing entirely for the market price. In that, they differ entirely from Members on this side of the Committee, because we regard £2,000 for an £800 house as an outrage—

    Does the hon. Member mean to say that if the State compulsorily acquired a house from an owner-occupier, it should pay to him a price for it which is not sufficient to enable him to buy another house, in which to reside?

    If the hon. Member will allow me to continue, I will meet that precise point. There is only one justification for that price, and that is that a man paying another man £2,000 for an £800 house, knows that in the present conditions of housing scarcity, the man who receives the £2,000 will have to pay that sum to get equivalent accommodation. That is the only justification for the transaction. While we should like to see some control over price, and some relation to the actual construction value and a price paid in the first place, it is impossible without creating the likelihood of a black market on an enormous scale. We are not proposing merely to deny the right of a man to get £2,000 value. The hon. Member for Hertford said, quite rightly, that this Bill attracts Sections 19 to 30 of the 1944 Act. Clause 30 (1) lays down an absolute obligation and duty on the Minister to provide the person whose house is being acquired with alternative accommodation which is suitable and reasonable to his needs. If hon. Members opposite accept that as the fact, they are left with only one slight argument, that it does not apply to business premises. Section 19 (6) of the 1944 Act lays the obligation, not quite so strong, on the Minister to find alternative accommodation even in respect of business premises.

    Does the hon. Member suggest that Section 30 of the 1944 Act is applicable to every case of compulsory acquisition? It applies to

    Division No. 203.]


    [11 57 p.m.

    Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone)Nutting, Anthony
    Amory, D. HeathcoteFraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)Prescott, Stanley
    Baldwin, A. E.Gage, C.Ramsay, Maj. S.
    Barlow, Sir J.Gammons, L. D.Rayner, Brig. R.
    Beamish, Maj. T. V H.Grimston, R. VRoberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesall)
    Bower, N.Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)Ropner, Col. L.
    Bracken, Rt Hon. BrendanHarvey, Air-Comdre, A. V.Sanderson, Sir F.
    Braithwaite Lt.-Comdr. J. G.Herbert, Sir A. P.Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)
    Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.Hinchingbrooke, ViscountSmithers, Sir W.
    Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Hollis, M. C.Spearman, A. C. M.
    Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)Keeling, E. H.Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)
    Byers, FrankKendall, W. D.Stuart, Rt. Hon. J (Moray)
    Carson, E.Lambert, Hon. G.Sutcliffe, H.
    Challen, C.Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)
    Clarke, Col. R. S.Lindsay, M. (Solihull)Teeling, William
    Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
    Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
    Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col O. EMacpherson, N. (Dumfries)Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
    Cuthbert, W. N.Maitland, Comdr. J. W.Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.
    Davies, Clement (Montgomery)Manningham-Buller, R. EVane, W. M. F.
    Digby, S. W.Marshall, D. (Bodmin)Walker-Smith, D.
    Dodds-Parker, A. D.Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)Ward, Hon. G. R.
    Drewe, C.Maude, J. C.Wheatley, Colonel M. J.
    Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)Mellor, Sir J.Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
    Eden, Rt. Hon. A.Molson, A. H. E.
    Elliot, Rt. Hon. WalterMorrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
    Erroll, F. J.Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (C'nc'ster)Mr. Studholme and Major Conant.
    Fletcher, W. (Bury)Neven-Spence, Sir B.


    Adams, Richard (Balham)Berry, H.Champion, A. J.
    Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)Beswick, F.Clitherow, Dr. R.
    Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V.Bing, G. H. C.Cobb, F. A.
    Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)Blackburn, A. R.Cocks, F. S.
    Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Blenkinsop, A.Collindridge, F.
    Anderson, A. (Motherwell)Blyton, W. R.Collins, V. J.
    Attewell, H. C.Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.Colman, Miss C. M
    Awbery, S. S.Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)Comyns, Dr. L.
    Ayles, W. H.Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)Cook, T. F.
    Ayrton Gould, Mrs. BBraddock, T. (Mitcham)Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.
    Bacon, Miss A.Bramall, E. A.Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)
    Baird, J.Brown, T. J. (Ince)Corlett, Dr. J.
    Barton, C.Burke, W. A.Crawley, A.
    Bechervaise, A. EButler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)Crossman, R. H. S
    Belcher, J. W.Callaghan, JamesDeggar, G.
    Benson, GChamberlain, R. A.Daines, P.

    acquisition, in certain cases, by local authorities or highway authorities, but this Clause applies among other cases to acquisition by Government Departments, to which Section 30 of the 1944 Act has no application at all.

    I would certainly say that the Clause applies to the vast majority of cases under consideration, but Clause 19 (6) applies to business premises. Here the point made by the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) is completely met. We are not saying, "You will get £2,000"; we are saying "You will get reasonable and fair compensation, and at the same time we will, as far as is practicable, provide you with alternative accommodation." For the Government to accept the Amendment would be to put a premium on inflation.

    Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

    The Committee divided: Ayes, 80; Noes, 192.

    Davies, Edward (Burslem)Hughes, H. D. (Wolverhampton, W.Pearson, A.
    Davies, Ernest (Enfield)Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)Peart, Capt. T. F.
    Davies, Harold (Leek)Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)Piratin, P.
    Davies, Hadyn (St. Pancras, S.W.)Janner, B.Popplewell, E.
    Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Jay, D. P. T.Porter, E. (Warrington)
    Deer, G.Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)Price, M. Philips
    Delargy, H. JJones, D. T. (Hartlepools)Pritt, D. N.
    Diamond, JJones, Elwyn (Plaistow)Ranger, J.
    Dobbie, W.Jones, J. H. (Bolton)Rankin, J.
    Donovan, T.Rhodes, H.
    Driberg, T. E. N.Keenan, W.Robens, A.
    Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)Kenyon, C.Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
    Durbin, E. F. M.King, E. M.Royle, C.
    Ede, Rt. Hon. J. CKinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. ESharp, Granville
    Edelman, M.Kinley, J.Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (St. elens)
    Edwards, John (Blackburn)Kirby, B. VSilkin, Rt. Hon. L.
    Evans, E. (Lowestoft)Lang, G.Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)
    Evans, John (Ogmore)Lavers, SSmith, C. (Colchester)
    Fairhurst, F.Lever, N. H.Snow, Capt. J. W.
    Farthing, W. J.Levy, B. W.Solley, L. J.
    Fernyhough, E.Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)Sorensen, R. W.
    Field, Capt. W. JLipton, Lt.-Col. MStrauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
    Foot, M. M.Lyne, A. W.Stross, Dr. B.
    Forman, J. C.McAllister, G.Swingler, S.
    Ganley, Mrs. C. S.McGhee, H. GSylvester, G. O.
    Gibbins, J.Mack, J. D.Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
    Gibson, C. WMcKay, J. (Wallsend)Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
    Gilzean, A.Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
    Glanville, J. E. (Consett)McLeavy, F.Thorneycrott, Harry (Clayton)
    Gordon-Walker, P. C.MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)Tiffany, S.
    Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)Mallalieu, J. P. W.Ungoed-Thomas, L.
    Grierson, E.Mann, Mrs. J.Walkden, E.
    Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)Manning, Mrs. L, (Epping)Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
    Guest, Dr. L. HadenMarshall, F. (Brightside)Weitzman, D
    Guy, W. H.Medland, H. M.West, D. G.
    Haire, John E. (Wycombe)Mellish, R. J.Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W
    Hale, LeslieMiddleton, Mrs. L.Wing, Col. G. E.
    Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. RWilkes, L.
    Hannan, W. (Maryhill)Mitchison, G. R.Wilkins, W. A.
    Hardy, E. A.Moody, A. S.Williamson, T.
    Hastings, Dr. SomervilleMoyle, A.Wills, Mrs. E. A
    Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)Nally, W.Wilson, J. H.
    Herbison, Miss M.Neal, H. (Claycross)Wise, Major F. J.
    Hewitson, Captain M.Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)Woods, G. S.
    Hobson, C. R.Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)Zilliacus, K.
    Holman, P.Noel-Buxton, Lady
    Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)Oliver, G. H.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
    Hoy, J.Paget, R. T.Mr. Michael Stewart and Mr.
    Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)Palmer, A. M FSimmons.
    Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Parker, J.

    Clause added to the Bill.

    It being after Twelve o'Clock, and objection being taken to further Proceeding, the CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

    Committee report Progress; to sit again this day.