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Clause 7—(Maxima For Rental Compensation)

Volume 446: debated on Tuesday 27 January 1948

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I beg to move, in page 5, line 31, to leave out "instead of," and to insert "or."

The following Amendment, in line 33, after "taken," to insert "whichever is the greater," is consequential. This Amendment is put down to make it quite clear that the maximum ceiling may in certain cases be the present maximum under existing law, if it is higher than the 160 per cent. of 1939 values. In other words, in some cases the rent at the time of taking possession may be more than 160 per cent. It applies especially to opencast coalmining, and in view of the interest of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, I presume he will accept this.

In that case, I must go into the matter in greater detail. I thought the right hon. Gentleman wanted me to move the Amendment, and that he would then deal with the drafting. From what was said earlier the Government are trying to make out that in certain cases where the 60 per cent. over the level obtaining at 31st March, 1939, is the maximum, all is well, but there are other cases where the level obtaining immediately before the possession of the land was taken is higher.

I gather the Government would say that under Clause 8 (2) that owner need not make application and that in that case the existing level would be maintained. If that is so, surely when a maximum for rental compensation is being laid down it is far better, for drafting purposes, to have it in Subsection (2). It is for these purposes that I and my hon. Friends are moving this drafting Amendment. I hope that the Government will consider it. It is important that a Bill of a very complex nature should be as simple for the layman to read as can be devised. As it is at present drafted it is difficult for the layman to realise that if he wishes he can opt to have the present maximum rental compensation instead of the new maximum as laid down by this Bill. I suggest that my words are an improvement on those of the Government.

10. 15 p.m.

I am sorry if any action of my head raised false hopes in the heart of the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton). It is quite impossible for the Government to accept this Amendment. I was nodding my head to indicate that I understood what it was that he and his hon. Friends intended by this Amendment. As I understand their intention, it is to secure that rental compensation shall be either 160 per cent. of the 1939 value or 100 per cent. of the present market value. That is not actually what the hon. Member's Amendment does, although I agree it is what he hoped that it would do. If he reads it carefully in association with the rest of the Clause of which it would form a part he will find that if we accepted his words the Clause would mean that it would be open to anyone entitled to compensation to take either 160 per cent. of the 1939 value or 160 per cent. of the current market value, whichever was the higher. That would be grossly unfair. In fact, the Government's intention, the reasons for which the Solicitor-General has given with great clarity and at some length on a previous Amendment, would be completely nullified. What we set as a ceiling, which in the circumstances we think is a reasonable ceiling—we agree that these things are difficult—namely, the 1939 value plus 60 per cent. would be made into a floor and not, as we consider it should be, a ceiling. Therefore, I must ask the Committee to reject this Amendment.

Would the Financial Secretary explain this point about the 160 per cent.? Under Clause 8 (2), assuming that an owner does not give notice of application to accept his 160 per cent., does he still continue to draw the old rent which he had before that? That is the relevant point, that is assuming that the occupier is paying a rent based on how much it was when he went in. Under this new Clause the owner could get 160 per cent. of the 1939 value. What happens if he does not make application within six months under Clause 8 (2)? Does it mean that he forfeits the right to all compensation or does it mean that he con tinues to draw his old compensation—that if it was higher, he would draw it?

He will not forfeit his right. As I understand it, the question is whether, if a man does not apply for his increase up to 60 per cent. he forfeits, by that failure, all right to compensation. He will go on drawing the old compensation to which he was entitled and which he is then drawing.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.