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New Clause—(Compensation For Loss Pending Rehabilitation)

Volume 446: debated on Wednesday 28 January 1948

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Where by reason of labour or materials in sufficient quantities not being available or otherwise by reason of the extent of the work to be done in making good any damage to land which may have occurred during the period for which possession has been retained under emergency powers the compensation payable under paragraph (b) of Subsection (1) of Section two of the Compensation (Defence) Act, 5939, is not equal to the loss sustained in consequence of damage as aforesaid by the owner of land of which possession has been retained as aforesaid, there shall be payable to such owner a sum equal to the amount of the rents which might reasonably be expected to be payable if the land were occupied for the purposes for which it was occupied when possession thereof was taken as aforesaid between the date upon which the compensation under the said paragraph (b) accrues due and the date upon which the land is fit for beneficial occupation.—[Mr. Manningham-Buller.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

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

This new Clause raises a point of considerable importance. I can explain its purpose quite shortly. Cases exist now where property has been derequisitioned and compensation paid but where, owing to the shortage of materials and labour, it is quite impossible for the owner of that particular property to repair it so that it becomes an income earning asset. Suppose, as an illustration, a hotel or a public house, or some other building had been occupied by the military for many years, and a state of damage has occurred. The owners will get compensation at the termination of the requisition, but then a long period may elapse during which no use can be made of the property, because it cannot be put in a proper stage of repair, there being no building licence. Although there is compensation for the damage done, there is no compensation for the loss which flows from the damage done, owing to the inability, under existing Regulations, to have that damage put right.

The object is to seek to ensure that, where the damage in respect of which compensation has been paid could not be put right for reasons quite outside the owner's control—such as the fact that no building licence could be given—compensation on a rental basis should continue to be paid until such a licence is forthcoming. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will recognise that great hardship has been suffered through failure or omission to deal with this problem in the light of the circumstances of today. I hope that, if he cannot accept the new Clause in its present form, he will accept the point and will endeavour to meet it at a later stage.

I am sorry that for reasons which I have already made plain to the Committee—the ground has been gone over and pretty well trampled in discussing earlier Amendments—it is impossible to accept this new Clause. It is a pretty well accepted principle that we must stick to the payment of compensation for loss through damage. Although we sympathise with the point that is being put forward, if we extended the principle to take in cases where an owner could not get re-possession because of present shortages of manpower, and therefore could not renew his beneficial occupation of a boarding house or hotel, and we took that into account and paid compensation for it it would be difficult to know where to stop. We sympathise with people in that position, but others throughout the war, and since, have been in a similar situation where consequential losses have occurred and unfortunately, as individuals, they have had to bear them. I can hold out no hope to the hon. and learned Gentleman. Though we will look at this matter again, there is no possibility whatever of our being able to meet him to the extent and in the way which I know he desires.

I understand the position of the Financial Secretary in all these matters, but I think there is one way which he might consider of helping firms, particularly hotels. He could help by allowing an extension of the requisition. I have some experience in this matter, as the right hon. Gentleman realises, in my own constituency. Where notice is given to the owner of an hotel of a requisition being given up, an estimate should be made between the Government Department and the owners concerned of how long it will take to rehabilitate the hotel. An agreement might be come to to continue the requisition up to that time or somewhere thereabouts. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider that point.

In a case with which I am now dealing, an hotel of considerable size in my constituency was derequisitioned many months ago. The owners of the property, a company, are having the most frightful difficulty in getting the materials and obtaining the labour to do the work. They have the licence, but cannot get the work done. All the time, their over-head expenses are continuing. This is not a question of paying compensation for loss of profits but of compensating for a direct loss. It the Financial Secretary is considering it, as I am sure he will, I ask him to take that into consideration.

Perhaps I may say straightaway that we are not only considering it, but acting on it, and that we have been for some time. The Department concerned holds on to the requisition, and the rental compensation continues during the period when most of the rehabilitation is being done. That is one way in which we can help people who are suffering consequential losses due to factors outside their control.

The last few words of the Financial Secretary have made my mind much easier about this. I think it is quite true to say that this loss is due to the damage, and that it would be illegal for the owner of the property to put it right. I appreciate that there are difficulties in making it a rule of law that compensation should be paid in these circumstances, but, in view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, which I hope will be applied in every possible case, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

The next new Clause—Acquisition of land for military purposes to be subject to approval of local authority—in the name of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), is not selected.