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Clause 8—(Application Of Provisions As To Rental Compensation Where Land Requisitioned Before Commencement Of Act)

Volume 446: debated on Wednesday 28 January 1948

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I beg to move, in page 7, line 2, to leave out from "in," to "to," in line 3, and to insert "writing."

I suggest that we might discuss with this Amendment the next Amendment in line 5, to leave out "six months," and to insert "two years." A limit is placed in the Clause upon the time within which a person can claim an increased compensation to which he may be entitled under this Measure. A form is provided, under regulations made by the Treasury. Copies of the form are not very easy to procure. I have seen the form, which is fairly long and detailed. The applicant has to complete that form and to send it in in the manner prescribed in the rules made by the Treasury, and to do so within six months.

I know that the six-months period is prescribed under the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, Section but I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that it is one thing to say that a person who has had his property made the subject of a fresh requisition should have only six months in which to claim it—which is an unjust and much too short period—and another thing to say that a person who has already had his land held on requisition should have only six months within which to claim the increase. That is the effect of the Bill as it stands.

I suggest that great injustice can be done to the ordinary person in this country by prescribing that unless he makes his claim in the prescribed form and manner and within the period of six months, he may be entirely deprived of the increase he is claiming. It may be that some individuals would be entitled to claim a substantial sum by way of increased compensation. On the other hand, there may be many small occupiers of property who, as we have just been told, will receive the compensation and to whom an increase, although small, will mean quite a lot. Are these people to be debarred from obtaining that increase merely because they have not claimed it in the form and manner prescribed in regulations made a long time ago?

From the paint of view of the requisitioning authority, it would be sufficient, I suggest, that there should be a claim in writing and that it really is not necessary to stipulate, from the very first, that there should be a detailed claim such as is now required under the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939. If there is a claim in writing, the requisitioning authority will know that Mr. A wants to avail himself of the benefits offered by this Measure and to, get the increased compensation. If the property is already held under requisition, nearly all the information will be already available. What justice is there in saying, as it can be said, "Although you claimed in writing within six months and although you have given notice of your claim, none the less the claim was not made upon the prescribed form, and therefore we are going to stand upon our rights and refuse to pay you anything."

The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I can tell him that I have personal knowledge of a case under the 1939 Act in which the Ministry of Food adopted that very line in relation to property worth a very considerable sum. The property was requisitioned during the war. There was a claim in writing, but no claim in the prescribed form and manner, in six months. The particular form prescribed by the regulations had not been filled in. Therefore, the claim was refused, and an ex gratia payment was offered. That has happened. So far as lies in my power, I want to ensure that that kind of thing will not happen to occupiers of small property. Under this Measure, if they do not claim in the right form, they will not be entitled to the increased compensation. I suggest again to the right hon. Gentleman that if he says that claims should be in writing, that will give him all the notice that he requires. So much for the Amendment under consideration.

5.0 p.m.

The second Amendment, to which I am referring, is in regard to time. Why should this matter be limited to six months? It may mean very great hardship if this provision is adopted. Surely, a period of two years would be reasonable. Two years is now becoming almost a normal period for a limitation of claims. Why should the subject be deprived of his statutory right to increased compensation merely because he has not submitted his claim within six months? It means that when that period has passed, the requisitioning authority can continue to pay the reduced compensation, thus depriving the subject of the benefit of this Measure. The right hon. Gentleman should not be guided in this matter by the Measure passed just before the beginning of the war, in fixing a period of six months.

I desire to support my hon. and learned Friend. Government and official circles do not appreciate sufficiently the lack of information among owners of requisitioned property. For example, the owner of a house of considerable size in my constituency came to me the other day in great distress and said, "The War Office have had my house for a number of years. I hoped they were going to give it up, but I hear that it has been taken over by the Ministry of Works. What does that mean?" Of course, it only meant that the War Office were giving up the house and that the Ministry of Works, who are a sort of land agent among the Ministries, were taking it over with a view to seeing whether it should be derequisitioned or passed to some other Ministry. There was nothing to be frightened about, but the owner of the house had never been told that the Ministry of Works had taken the place of the War Office.

There is a sequel to that story. In the Second Reading Debate, I declared an interest in this matter because I had a house which was requisitioned. I went back and found that my house had been in the possession of the Ministry of Works for six months, and I never knew it. There is a considerable lack of information about these matters, and for that reason I submit that six months is too short a period in which people should give notice. If I, as a Member of Parliament, write to the War Office, often I do not get a reply giving the information I want for two months. Other people who are not Members of Parliament probably do not receive replies for considerably longer. If one has only six months, it does not give much time in which to have proper correspondence with a Government Department.

On the subject of the prescribed form, I do not think one can expect the owner of a small house which has been requisitioned—and in my constituency a lot of cottages were requisitioned for munition workers—to write out the application in the prescribed form. If he is very conscientious, he will go to his local solicitor and get him to make the application in the prescribed form. That will be to the advantage of the solicitor who, if there are many cottages, will do quite well out of it. Surely, a reasonably sensible letter is all that should be expected from the owner of small property, or, indeed, of large property. For those reasons, I hope these two Amendments will be considered. If the Clause is passed as it stands, it will be onerous on owners of property and particularly small owners.

The two conditions which the Government propose for the payment of increased compensation are distinctly unfair. First, with regard to the period of time, I do not understand why the Government are so sure that all the owners of property affected will be aware of the coming into effect of this Measure, so that immediately the six months begin to run, they can start to take steps to ascertain whether they are entitled to fresh compensation and, if necessary, make the necessary application for it. On that point alone, a great many people are in danger of never knowing, until it is too late, that they might have rights in this matter.

As to the prescribed form, if I may say so without undue digression, I wrote to various Government Departments not long ago asking for all the more common forms which they send to the public. The result was that I had to buy two large filing boxes to hold all the forms. I am certain that in this case if I tried to find the prescribed form from among all those forms, it would be quite impossible to do so. These forms are very varied. Even the headings of the forms vary enormously. In the book of advice which is issued by the Stationery Office on the compilation of forms by Government Departments, the only point which is not mentioned is that they should be easily intelligible to the people who have to fill them in, which to me seems the most important point.

There will be real difficulty for people who do not act through solicitors in getting the right form. Perhaps the Financial Secretary, could say how ordinary individuals, who cannot afford to employ solicitors, are to obtain that form. Do they have to fill in a form to get the right form, or what do they have to do? This is an important point, because it seems that Government Departments will have everything to gain by the procedure being as confused as possible. A premium is being set on making these matters difficult for the public. That is absolutely wrong in principle. A very strong case will have to be made out by the Government if we are not to press these Amendments to make sure that all these terms of compensation which we have been discussing at some length will really mean something, not only to solicitors but to ordinary men and women who only have small properties and who cannot afford additional charges.

I am sure the Financial Secretary is not hypocritical, and therefore he will see my point. In Committee yesterday he said the Service Departments had had difficulty in making up their minds in two years, and that therefore they had better have a few more years in which to make quite certain what they want. On the other hand, the subject of the Crown is told, "Six months is all we shall give you; we can take two years or seven years to make up our minds, but you must fill up these forms in six months. Come along and double up about it." I am sure that is not what the Financial Secretary wants, because I am certain he wants to be fair. He cannot let it got out from this Committee that that is the Government's intention.

Having listened to the admirable proposition of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller), it seems that the purpose of this Clause is to meet the convenience of civil servants. I can imagine the draftsmen appealing to the civil servants who have to administer the provision, and saying, "What is the easiest way? You want the form filled up so that it is easy for you to deal with." I ask the Financial Secretary to consider the subject and, as a representative of the people, to say to the civil servants, "You have got to do a little more yourself. You have got to read through the rather illiterate handwriting. Possibly it will not be written in a legal manner; it will probably take you five minutes more, but, nevertheless, we feel that will be best for the individual."

I ask the Financial Secretary to consider the arguments which we on this side of the Committee have submitted in all sincerity, and to try to get away from the system, with which we seem to be getting entangled, by which legislation appears to be for the benefit of the civil servants rather than for the benefit of His Majesty's subjects.

We are all agreed that none of us likes filling up forms. We all look forward to the time when the present emergency will have passed away, and the enormous number of forms which are now, unfortunately, necessary will be a nightmare of the past about which we will tell our children when we desire to frighten them. But that, unfortunately, is not yet. What we have to do in this matter is to be reasonable.

We are in the process of putting this Bill through, and, among other things, we are going to increase the amount which will go into certain people's pockets by way of rental compensation. We are dealing here with compensation for rent, not terminal compensation. Some people have been receiving, in many cases for all too long, a quarterly payment by way of rental compensation. After the Royal Assent to this Measure is obtained, they will be entitled to an increased amount, and the suggestion contained in the Bill is that people should apply for that increase. I do not think that is unreasonable. They can apply in two ways. As the hon. Gentleman said, they can apply in an ordinary letter, and let it go at that. There may be something to be said for that, but the difficulty is that there is an enormous number of cases to be dealt with in the Department, and a shortage of staff. Letters will come, in all sorts of handwriting, from people who have not the faintest notion what details they ought to give, or what are fundamental to the claim, and would help that claim to he traced quickly.

We did not start this. The kind of form we are using here is almost exactly the same, except that experience has shown that it can be slightly simplified, as that started by the Conservative Government in 1939. Under Section 11 of the Act of that year, these forms were prescribed by the Treasury. I will come to that point in a minute. The matter was continued in Section 45 of the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945. Therefore, these forms are still in existence, although they have been simplified. There are now very few of them, I am delighted to say. They are there as a convenience, not only for the Department handling the matter, but for the claimant. It gives him a chance of knowing what information we want him to give, and no more. Up to now it has worked extremely well, and we suggest that it should continue as, otherwise, it will lead to a tremendous amount of work. Of course, some old lady who is entitled to claim may have to go to a solicitor because she just does not know what she must do.

The Financial Secretary mentioned that there was a quarterly payment. Would he consider issuing instructions that, with the final quarterly payment, notice should be sent round from the Department concerned saying that the Bill has been passed, and that action should be taken by the claimant?

I would certainly look at that, but it is very easy for me to promise that somebody else shall do a great many things. The Civil Service is greatly overworked. Hon. Members realise that by the time it takes even with the best will in the world, to answer the letters they send it. I am anxious not to make promises which might impose an undue burden on the Civil Service. Nevertheless, if it is possible, without too much difficulty in regard to labour, to inform the public, or those entitled to this, in due time of the fact that they should make application in some simple straightforward way, we should be only too glad to do it. It is our duty, if possible, to do it, either over the wireless, through the Press, or, as the hon. Gentleman suggests, by inserting a notice when the quarterly payment is made for the last time at the old rate. At any rate, that is why we believe the forms are necessary, and why we want them to be included in this Bill as being necessary.

I will now come to the other point put by the hon. and learned Gentleman and other hon. Gentlemen opposite as to the period. We do not think that six months is unreasonable. It was the period inserted in the 1939 Act, and it worked very well. It was also the period put into the 1945 Act. We think that six months is not an unreasonable period, because it is coupled with the proviso that, if the circumstances are such that it is not reasonable or possible for the claim to be made within that period, it can be received at some later time.

5.15 p.m.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether that proviso has ever been exercised by the Treasury under the 1939 Act?

Perhaps I may say here what I was going to say later on in the time allotted me. Qf course, I do not know the circumstances surrounding the case which the hon. and learned Gentleman quoted about the Ministry of Food—that, because some claim was not made in the proper form, it was disallowed. Of course, I accept what he says, but I would add that it surprises me enormously, and I would like to have details of the case, because it does not march in any sense, shape or form with the information that I have had, and the experience that has come my way. What we have had—and this has occurred since the Government have begun to pay sums by way of war damage—is an enormous number of people who thought, "Good Lord, this money is coming along," and who searched about to see if they could not, even at this late time, make application for some of it. We have had some astonishing out-of-time claims, and the War Damage Commission have, down the years, been accepting certain of such claims. But now we are getting some distance from the day when the last bomb fell, and a great deal of damage which might have been attributed to the bomb has been overlaid by wear and tear. We have to consider the taxpayers' money. We cannot accept, five or six years after the damage is reputed to have occurred, an application for recognition of that damage as war damage. That is the kind of claim which, I agree, the War Damage people have had to turn down flat as definitely out of time, although, even there, where a good case could be shown, they have been willing to consider it. But here, any legitimate claim, even though out of time, would be considered.

We put in six months because we thought it fair. As I say, the people concerned will be getting their quarterly cheque, and will know beyond any doubt what is the amount they should claim. It is quite a simple calculation, and we do not think that the period of six months is out of the way, particularly as it is money going out. We are not claiming money from people. At any rate, two years is far too long because it means two years plus, just as the wording of this Clause means six months plus. As I say, we think six months plus is reasonable, and I hope the Committee will allow us to keep the words.

I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has met the point. He has put forward quite an interesting argument about war damage, which is really not relevant to the matter under discussion. In the first place, I wish to deal with his argument with regard to the first Amendment. He said that forms are useful. I am willing to concede that the form may be useful to the civil servants who have to, operate this business, and that it may be useful to get that form from the claimant. But this Amendment does not stop that form being asked for. All it does is to say that the claimant shall not be disqualified from receiving compensation because he has not put his claim on the appropriate piece of paper. Indeed, if the practice under this Measure is going to be the same as it is under the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, people will have to fill up a long form, asking all sorts of questions, in order to comply with the regulation. If they do not, the Ministry in question can, and has a discretion, to reject their claim.

Why should the Ministry have discretion to reject a perfectly proper claim purely on that ground? That is the point. Why should it not be permissible for the subject to submit his claim in writing—for the occupier of some small premises which have been requisitioned for a rental compensation to write and say, "I want my extra compensation," and to sign his name and give his address? If he does that, it is perfectly open to the civil servant to write back and say, "We will give you your compensation when you have filled up this form." There is no difficulty about that.

It is not the same thing at all. I am sorry that the hon. Member has not followed my argument.

Obviously, the hon. Member has not. Unless the claim is in the prescribed fashion and sent in within six months, there will be no compensation. The point is this: whether a man gives detailed information at some time or another, his claim for compensation should not be barred merely because he has sent it by a letter and not on the prescribed form. I hope that is clear to the hon. Member. I am sure it will be if he reads the Bill.

The second point the right hon. Gentleman dealt with was the six months' period. He made an extraordinarily thin case in saying that the subject must claim within six months; and it was a contradictory case. He sought to justify it by saying, "After all, there is power for the authority to extend the period." Why should the authority have this discretion? On what principles do the authority exercise that discretion? Do they refuse to exercise it properly? If they do not, what are the principles on which it is exercised?

The proof of the pudding is very often in the eating. What we do know is that this thing has been running for some years now. So far as I know—I speak subject to correction—there has not been, and I cannot remember, a single Parliamentary Question about it. The thing does work. We ask people to make their claims in six months. As the money is coming to them, that is reasonable. We do not tie them down to an exact date.

The right hon. Gentleman says that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I am surprised that the particulars of the case I referred to have not yet come to his attention at the Treasury. The proof of the pudding is in the eating: we have a Ministry rejecting a claim on the ground that it is not in the proper form, when notice of claim has been given by a firm of solicitors, and the application has been made to the Treasury under the proviso to Section 11 to extend the time. Why should that have to be done? What harm is there in asking for 12 months' time?. The right hon. Gentleman says that two years is too long. What about 12 months? We can compromise on that, perhaps.

What I am saying is that it is quite wrong here to assume that people throughout this country will have the knowledge to make their claims within six months in the prescribed form; and that it is quite wrong that it should rest 21 the discretion of a Government Department whether or not a claim should be recognised if it is made after that date. The right hon. Gentleman's answer to this point is really very unsatisfactory. He did not give an assurance that he would consider the matter again. It is a point of some substance, as I am sure he will find that there have been cases under the 1939 Act in which property has been seized and payment has been refused on the ground that the claims have not been made in six months, the prescribed time.

I thought that the Financial Secretary's argument was extremely good except for his conclusion. I was under the impression that he was thoroughly in favour of two points in our Amendment, but he refused to accept them. That was the impression I had, and which I think most Members in the Committee had. He argued that he could not agree that people should be allowed to send in letters stating their claims, but that they should have to put the details of their claims on to a prescribed form. We quite agree with that. That is a completely reasonable outlook.

All we are asking by this Amendment is that the writing of a letter asking for the form should be tantamount to putting in the claim. Of course, the claim would not be paid until the prescribed form had been returned, and, therefore, the Treasury would have the perfect safeguard that they would not consider the claim in detail until the prescribed form had been returned. The fact that the prescribed form had not been returned within six months, however, would still not debar that claimant from his claim. I am quite convinced that the Financial Secretary is in agreement on this point. He is sympathetic. The only thing that seems to stop him accepting our proposal is the consideration that he cannot accept an Amendment from this side of the Committee. That is altogether an unreasonable outlook.

As to the second point, the arguments put forward were even more astonishing. The main ground on which the right hon. Gentleman objected to our second point—the period of two years—was that the War Damage Commission had had claims which were four, five and six years out of date, and that it was unreasonable to expect the taxpayer to bear the financial cost of claims which had arisen so long ago that the bomb holes had been blown over. I agree with him that that would be a reasonable outlook; and if we were asking that these claims should be considered four, five and six years after the passing of this Bill, I would agree with him that that would be an unreasonable request. The fact of the matter is that we are asking only for a period of two years. As he has already advanced the argument that six months is not, in fact, the amount of time which is allowed, but that it is six months plus, and that that "plus" is an indefinite period, then, surely, it would be much more reasonable to make a definite time of two years and stick to it.

I am certain that the Financial Secretary agrees with us on this matter. I ask him to reconsider the matter, especially in view of the concrete evidence which has been placed before him that the present law has, in fact, caused an injustice which could easily be put right by a simple Amendment which would in no way cause additional money to be spent, but which would have the effect of ensuring reasonable justice to claimants.

The Financial Secretary used the argument that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and he referred to the fact that it was an excellent Act in 1939, and that it had run quite smoothly and quite well ever since, as far as he knew. Of course, the evidence we have heard during the discussion of this matter does not show that he knows very much about it. Let us look at the curious argument that, because a thing is working well, when it applies to a citizen of this kind, who is having his property, or has had his property, taken away from him, we are not entitled to ask for extra safeguards to help to protect him in the future. That is the line which is put forward by the Government—that the citizen is really not entitled to ask for safeguards at this time, because the thing has gone all right, and that apparently, so far as the Financial Secretary knows, there has been no trouble.

Shall we apply that all round? The right hon. Gentleman will remember a very vivid speech made from the Government Front Bench in respect of another Measure, in which it was argued that the Government had to be prepared against any trouble. I use that only as an illustration of the futility and unfairness involved. I think the Committee will recognise the Bill to which I refer, which was designed for the protection not of citizens but of a political party. We are here dealing on a much higher plane than the future chances of a political party, for we are concerned with the protection of the ordinary citizen.

5.30 p.m.

That brings me to an aspect of the Financial Secretary's speech, on which we are in agreement to a certain extent. He argued that it is his duty, as Financial Secretary to the Treasury, to look after the interests of the ordinary taxpayer of this country. He illustrated that by means of the compensation for bombing, where there were a number of claims which were not very strong, to put it mildly. He would not have made that speech with quite the same ease had any of the Plymouth Members been present to listen to him, for there would have been a considerable uproar had he done so. The fact remains that it is his primary duty to protect the rights of the citizens; but it is also the primary duty of this Committee to protect the rights of the individual whose property is being taken. We have had illustration after illustration, in one of which it was recounted how the transfer of a house had taken place from the War Office to the Ministry of Works, with which the hon. Member concerned was closely acquainted for six months, without his having the foggiest idea that it was being done.

When a transfer is being effected, the first thing should be, not that the individual has to write to the Treasury—as is apparently laid down here—but that the Department concerned should inform the individual, and that there should be a form which the Department must send to the individual concerned straightaway. If we could be assured that no difficulty would be raised by the Treasury to letting the individual have the form at the earliest possible moment, that would help us. It is the responsibility of the Treasury to let the individual have the appropriate form, and see that he knows what has to be done.

The right hon. Gentleman asked us to be sorry for the officials who have to deal with this vast number of forms, and he pointed out how much more difficult it would be to deal with private letters. I suppose an official automatically becomes used to forms, and it is easier. Un- doubtedly, in this respect the Treasury, like other Government Departments, is overburdened with work. It is not so easy for an ordinary citizen, who is not a professional form filler, as a civil servant must be, to understand how to fill in these forms, so I ask that it be a fairly simple form. Wherever possible—it would not be very often—the individual concerned, or his representative, should be able to visit some central office to see the officials and try to transact the negotiations quickly. If the right hon. Gentleman would meet us on that point, I believe we should be getting somewhere. I think he secretly wishes not to put an undue burden on citizens in this respect.

I turn to the rather more controversial matter. We are here dealing with two Amendments of considerable importance. The Financial Secretary has not really dealt with the fact that only yesterday he was arguing that Government Departments must have a greater length of time for reaching decisions on matters of vital importance, even with first-class brains and experts to assist them. The six months allowed here is much too short, although I am not saying that two years is the ideal time. We have had evidence from more than one hon. Member that it often takes a Government Department two months to acknowledge a letter. I do not know whether my letters are more vigorous, but I must say that has very rarely happened to me—and I have sent a large number of letters. Government Departments do not generally take two months to acknowledge my letters, perhaps because they think there would be more trouble coming to them if they delayed. However, apparently that delay is the fairly common experience of some hon. Members. It takes an infinite time for a form of the kind with which we are dealing to roll on through the Department, with all the chances that it is an overworked Department; also, the form may get lost—anything may happen to it.

In view of the fact that there has been considerable evidence adduced this afternoon on the question of delay, I urge that six months is too short a period. The Financial Secretary made no considerable effort to rebut that argu- ment, except using the illustration of bomb damage. Would he extend the six months, or consider extending it between now and Report stage, to a year? I do not believe he wants to be harsh, and I am the last person to urge him to do anything which would involve lax Treasury administration.

The right hon. Gentleman argued that people were being given money. They are not. Something is being taken from them, and they are being compensated in respect thereof. They are not being given money in the sense that it comes out of funds in other ways—in the sense that money is given to us as Members of Parliament. In many cases people's whole lives have been disturbed. I only wish we had someone here with a really fine heart, like the Chancellor of the Exchequer who, I am sure, would at once meet us on this point and give us the longer period. I believe the Financial Secretary would like to, and I cannot imagine that anybody would turn on him were he to do so. Of course, I know the hon. Members behind him will take no part in helping us here; but suppose it happened to be a local authority—for a local authority can come into this. Suppose a local authority had made a mess of it, were incompetent, and nothing happened, and at the end of six months they were told their claim fell to the ground?

I am sorry that I have not been able to develop this matter as fully as I should have wished. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to go half-way towards making a concession a few minutes ago. Will he not therefore accept this period of two years, or, if necessary, some shorter period, to meet the case of these humble people who have been turned out of their homes, and have not the same sources of information available to them as the right hon. Gentleman? I ask him to approach this matter with some sympathy. I feel sure that if he realised the great difficulty in which these people are placed, he would be prepared to make some concession.

This is a relatively small matter. It is really a matter of administration. There is no great principle involved. The Opposition take the view that the period should be two years, and we take the view that it should be less. If I had been convinced by the arguments which have been used, and if the Department had had any further information to give me, I should have been willing to meet hon. Members in this matter. From my own experience, however, and from the experience of the Departments, I am convinced that the provisions made in the Bill are reasonable. They are flexible, and many of the fears which hon. Members opposite have voiced are without foundation. We are all very anxious to speed up public business. Members are constantly trying to get civil servants to speed up their decisions, but what we want to do here is to get the public to do likewise. We have fixed the period of six months for these claims to be made. I do not think we are being unreasonable, particularly as it is provided that where the circumstances are such that this cannot be done within six months, an extended period will be allowed. We consider that it is far too much to stretch the period to two years.

5.45 p.m.

The hon. Member for Ecclesall (Mr. P. Roberts) suggested that we might send out a notice with the quarterly cheques. All we are asking these people to do is to apply for the extra amount to which they are entitled under this Bill. I have been considering the suggestion, but the difficulty, apart from the difficulty of increasing the work of the Civil Service, is that the Royal Assent will not necessarily be given at the time when we are sending out these quarterly cheques. Nevertheless, we will consider whether we can, without involving too much extra work, issue these forms with the quarterly cheques. As I have said, we cannot accept this extended period, which we think is unreasonable.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 255; Noes, 116.

Division No. 62.]

AYES.

[5.47 p.m.

Acland, Sir R.Gooch, E. G.Oliver, G. H
Alpass, J. H.Grenfell, D. R.Orbach, M.
Anderson, A. (Motherwell)Grey, C. F.Paget, R. T.
Attewell, H. C.Grierson, E.Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)
Awbery, S. S.Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)Parker, J.
Ayles, W. H.Gunter, R. J.Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.Hall, Rt. Hon. GlenvilPaton, J. (Norwich)
Bacon, Miss A.Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.Pearson, A.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.Hardy, E. A.Perrins, W.
Barstow, P. G.Harrison, J.Poole, Cecil (Lichfield)
Barton, C.Haworth, J.Popplewell, E.
Battley, J. R.Herbison, Miss M.Porter, E. (Warrington)
Bechervaise, A. E.Hewitson, Capt. M.Porter, G. (Leeds)
Belcher, J. W.Hicks, G.Price, M. Philips
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.Holman, P.Pryde, D. J.
Benson, G.Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)Pursey, Cmdr H.
Berry, H.House, G.Ranger, J.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)Rees-Williams, D. R.
Bing, G. H. C.Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)Reeves, J.
Binns, J.Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Reid, T. (Swindon)
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)Richards, R.
Braddock, T. (Mitcham)Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
Bramall, E. A.Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)Irving W. J. (Tottenham, N.)Royle, C.
Brown, George (Belper)Janner, B.Scollan, T.
Brown, T. J. (Ince)Jeger, G. (Winchester)Scott-Elliot, W.
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)Segal, Dr. S.
Buchanan, Rt. Hon. G.Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)Sharp, Granville
Burden, T. W.Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)
Burke, W. A.Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)Shurmer, P.
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)Keenan, W.Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Callaghan, JamesKenyon, C.Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)
Carmichael, JamesKey, C. W.Simmons, C. J.
Castle, Mrs. B. A.Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.Skeffington, A. M.
Chamberlain, R. A.Kinley, J.Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.
Champion, A. J.Kirkwood, Rt. Hon. D.Skinnard, F. W.
Chetwynd, G. R.Lang, G.Smith, C. (Colchester)
Cluse, W. S.Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. JSmith, Ellis (Stoke)
Cobb, F. A.Lee, F. (Hulme)Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)
Collick, P.Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)Solley, L. J.
Collindridge, F.Leslie, J. R.Sorensen, R. W.
Collins, V. J.Levy, B. W.Soskice, Maj. Sir F.
Colman, Miss G. M.Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)Sparks, J. A.
Comyns, Dr. L.Lewis, T. (Southampton)Stamford, W.
Cooper, Wing-Comdr G.Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.Stokes, R. R.
Corlett, Dr. J.Longden, F.Stross, Dr. B.
Cove, W. G.Lyne, A. W.Summerskill, Dr. Edith
Crossman, R. H. S.McAllister, G.Sylvester, G. O.
Daggar, G.McEntee, V. La T.Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Daines, P.McGhee, H. G.Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Davies, Edward (Burslem)McGovern, J.Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Davies, Ernest (Enfield)Mack, J. D.Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Davies, Harold (Leek)McKay, J. (Wallsend)Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)McKinlay, A. S.Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Deer, G.Maclean, N. (Govan)Thurtle, Ernest
Delargy, H. J.McLeavy, F.Tiffany, S.
Diamond, J.MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)Timmons, J.
Dobbie, W.Macpherson, T. (Romford)Titterington, M. F.
Dodds, N. N.Mainwaring, W. H.Tolley, L.
Driberg, T. E. N.Marshall, F. (Brightside)Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Dumpleton, C. W.Mathers, Rt. Hon. G.Ungoed-Thomas, L.
Durbin, E. F. M.Medland, H. M.Vernon, Maj. W F
Dye, S.Mellish, R. J.Viant, S. P.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.Middleton, Mrs. L.Walkden, E.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)Mikardo, IanWalker, G. H.
Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)Mitchison, G. R.Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Evans, A. (Islington, W.)Monslow, W.Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Evans, E. (Lowestoft)Moody, A. S.Warbey, W. N.
Evans, John (Ogmore)Morgan, Dr. H. B.Watkins, T. E.
Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)Watson, W. M.
Fairhurst, F.Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Foot, M. M.Mort, D. L.Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Forman, J. C.Murray, J. D.Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.
Fraser, T. (Hamilton)Nally, W.Wheatley, J. T. (Edinburgh, E.)
Gallacher, W.Naylor, T. E.White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.)
Ganley, Mrs. C. S.Neal, H. (Claycross)White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Gibbins, J.Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Gibson, C. W.Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)Wilkins, W. A.
Gilzean, A.Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Glanville, J. E. (Consett)O'Brien, T.Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)

Williams, D. J. (Neath)Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J.Zilliacus, K.
Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)Wise, Major F. J.
Williams, W. R. (Heston)Wyatt, W.

TELLERS FOR THE AYES:

Willis, E.Yates, V. F.Mr. Joseph Henderson and
Wills, Mrs. E. A.Younger, Hon. KennethMr. Richard Adams.

NOES.

Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.Gammans, L. D.Nutting, Anthony
Amory, D. HeathcoatGeorge, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)Odey, G. W.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.Glyn, Sir R.O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.Granville, E. (Eye)Osborne, C.
Bennett, Sir P.Grimston, R. V.Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Birch, NigelHarvey, Air-Comdre. A. V.Prescott, Stanley
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)Head, Brig. A. H.Rayner, Brig. R.
Bowen, R.Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Bower, N.Hollis, M. C.Roberts, Peter (Ecclesall)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.Hope, Lord J.Ropner, Col. L.
Bracken, Rt. Hon. BrendanHulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J.Sanderson, Sir F.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.Hurd, AShephard, S. (Newark)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.Hutchison, Lt.-Cm Clark (E'b'rgh W.)Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W
Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)Jeffreys, General Sir G.Smithers, Sir W.
Byers, FrankJennings, R.Snadden, W. M.
Challen, C.Keeling, E. H.Stoddart-Scott, Col. M
Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.Langford-Holt, J.Studholme, H. G.
Clarke, Col. R. S.Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Conant, Maj. R. J. E.Lennox-Boyd, A. T.Taylor, Vice-Adm. E A (P'dd't'n, S.)
Cooper-Key, E. M.Lipson, D. L.Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.Low, A. R. W.Thorp, Lt.-Col R. A. F.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.Lucas, Major Sir JTurton, R. H.
Crowder, Capt. John E.Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.Vane, W. M. F.
Cuthbert, W. N.Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.Wadsworth, G.
Digby, S. W.MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.Walker-Smith, D.
Dodds-Parker, A. D.McCallum, Maj. DWard, Hon. G. R.
Donner, P. W.McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie
Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G (Penrith)Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)
Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness)Maitland, Comdr. J. W.Wheatley, Col. M J (Dorset, E.)
Drayson, G. B.Manningham-Buller, R. E.White, Sir D. (Fareham)
Drewe, C.Marshall, D. (Bodmin)Williams, C. (Torquay)
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)Maude, J. C.Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Duthie, W. S.Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Eccles, D. M.Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)York, C.
Eden, Rt. Hon A.Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.Neven-Spence, Sir B.
Fletcher, W. (Bury)Nicholson, G.

TELLERS FOR THE NOES:

Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.Nield, B. (Chester)Major Ramsay and
Gage, C.Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.Brigadier Mackeson.

I beg to move, in page 7, line 6, to leave out "that authority," and to insert "the Treasury."

This point is cognate with that which we were discussing on the last Amendment. The subject matter is the amount of time allowed to the applicant to send in his claim. We have tried to get the time extended from six months to a longer period, but that has been resisted by the right hon. Gentleman on many grounds, one of which was that there was a discretion to the authority to extend the time limit in suitable cases. As the Bill is drafted, this semi-judicial discretion to say whether or not a claim shall be considered to be in time, even though it is later than six months, is spread among every authority which can requisition land.

The Amendment seeks to substitute the words "the Treasury" for "that authority." The general argument is that we think that if there is to be this power to extend the time within which a claim can be considered valid, that power ought to be in the hands of one single authority, namely, the Treasury, rather than be spread about among the other authorities which can requisition land. In support of that, I would refer the Committee to the statute on which this Bill is fundamentally founded, the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, in Section 11 of which there is a similar time limit to that which we were discussing on the last Amendment. It says notice must be given
"to the prescribed authority within the period of six months, or such longer period as the Treasury may, either generally or in relation to any particular claim allow."

6.0 p.m.

Yes. The power given to the Treasury by Section 11 of this Act allows them to decide that a certain claim shall be considered valid, even if it is out of date after the six months, and they may make their decision either generally or in regard to a particular class of claims or particular individual claim. That is a better way of setting it out than is proposed in this Bill. There is liable to be a great difference where people are treated according to the Department to which they apply.

We must note in every case here that the authority which has power to extend the time limit has acquired land, or is a requisitioning authority, whose interest it is to get the land as quickly as possible and save confusion. I can conceive, unless this Amendment is accepted, great inequalities of treatment in the future. It may he that the Ministry of Works, not acting through any bad motive, will adopt one set of rules to say where the time limit should be extended; the Ministry of Health for their purposes may adopt another; and we may get two citizens, who have in common that their land is being requisitioned, receiving differences of treatment when the question of a time limit is proposed.

I would prefer to see Section 11 of the 1939 Act duplicated, because I think there is merit in the Treasury being made the power to extend the time limit generally as well as in particular cases. In reply to the last Amendment, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury dealt with the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ecclesall (Mr. P. Roberts) to the effect that notice' might be given to the people of this time limit so that they would not be kept in ignorance of the law as to what their rights were. His answer to that was valid so far as it went—that the payment of cheques with which it was proposed to circulate the required notice might not coincide with quarter day, and might be useless for the purpose of having relation to the date on which the Royal Assent to this Bill is given.

If the right hon. Gentleman were to adopt the wording of the 1939 Act he would be able to make six months run from the date of the notice. That would be no hardship on the Treasury though we still think the time is too short, but it would be mitigation of the hardship to a man who might be misled into thinking he had no rights, when, in fact, he had. I hope this point will be reconsidered by the right hon. Gentleman. The argument is that there should be one set of rules for judging whether time limits should be extended in a claim, and that the central body to make it should be the Treasury. It should not be the duty of a number of modern Departments which have no experience. Perhaps they have not got any permanence like the Treasury, because many of them are wartime departments, and certainly they lack the experience to make general rules as to when a claim should be accepted even though it is without the six months. The Treasury should take advantage of its power to send out a notice informing people of their rights and dating it from the time when the cheque is delivered. There are other Amendments on the paper to the dame effect, but the general argument which I have applied to this one applies to them all.

The reason why in this case we have not followed the wording of Section 11 of the 1939 Act is a simple one, namely, that the circumstances here surrounding claims are different from those which surrounded the many claims envisaged under that Section. I was able to interrupt the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) when he was quoting from the relevant Section of the 1939 Act because I wanted him if he would—and he was kind enough to do so—to remind the Committee what the words originally meant which were included in the Section, namely "class of claims." The fact that we have left the phrase "class of claims" out of the present Bill is deliberate and not casual at all.

During the war there were a number of men in the Forces, and they might be in Tobruk or in the Far East; therefore, there was a particular class to which we could refer globally. It was desirable that some direction for a global class of that kind should come from the centre, namely, the Treasury. Nothing of the kind, I am glad to say, takes place here. We are dealing almost exclusively with individual cases, and the circumstances which might lead to an extension of time being given will arise almost entirely with regard to the individual. That is why we have used the words that we have, and one reason why we have not followed the wording and the plan of the 1939 Act, which makes it essential that these applications should go to the Treasury. We suggest in the Bill that they should go to the requisitioning Department concerned in order to save time.

Even if the Amendment were accepted and we inserted the word "Treasury" instead of "authority" as is suggested, an applicant would still have to go back to the requisitioning Department because it is that Department which considers the individual case. It is the man on the spot who knows, and he should be ready to judge the merits of a particular case and say, "Yes, this is a fit case for extension. This man' has been abroad, or has not been very well, or this has happened or that has happened. It is quite unreasonable that he should be expected to put in his claim in the proper time, so we of the requisitioning Department, who know this case, recommend and decide that an extension is reasonable."

I that should come through the bottleneck of the Treasury and then have to pass to and fro between the Treasury and the Department concerned, it would add to labour and correspondence, and make for delay. I hope that, having pointed out what I am sure has been overlooked by the right hon. Gentleman and his friends, he will be willing to withdraw his Amendment. What we suggest is, I venture to think, the most reasonable way of handling this matter.

I listened with care to what the right hon. Gentleman said, but I am not convinced by his arguments for departing from the principle laid down in Section it of the 1939 Act. It is quite true that that Act permitted extensions of time to be decreed generally or for classes, but it also made the Treasury the authority for extending individual claims. Nor was his answer about classes quite as strong as he seemed to think. There are still many of our men in various parts of the world. The disruption of the war has not so totally subsided as to remove altogether from consideration the facts which made the Treasury in 1939 have the power to make classes exempt from the time limit. There are also classes who ought to get a little more extension of time, as in cases where land is vested in trustees. It may be that the trustees of a charity are dispersed, and to call them together in order to get a conjoint application with all the names on it takes time. In such cases there is a valid case for extension and for the Treasury to make certain rules to enable that to be done.

I was sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman refer to the great Department as a "bottleneck." I had always understood that it was the soul and inspiration of the entire Civil Service, goading them to fresh activities, and that far from being a strangulating influence, it inspired them with great zeal and vigour in the public service. While I agree that in these days a great deal must be left to the man on the spot, it would be to the public advantage if the right hon. Gentleman accepted this Amendment and considered issuing to Departments some general principles to guide them.

What I apprehend, and why we move this Amendment, is that we may get different treatment from different Departments. The right hon. Gentleman knows that we are not now dealing with experienced men in every case in the Civil Service. We expanded the Service during the war and for reconstruction purposes we have included a lot of men who have not gone through the profound experience of the old-fashioned Civil Service. I am anxious that grievances should not arise. I have made my point, I have listened to the right hon. Gentleman and I have given my reply to what he was good enough to say. I know that he and his Department will consider the matter, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 7, line 28, at end, to add:

"or the date when the person making application for the increase became entitled to the rental compensation, whichever is the later."
This is an Amendment of a rather technical nature designed to provide for a case for which the Subsection as drafted does not properly provide. A property may change hands, say, some three months after the Royal Assent to the Bill has been given, and the former owner may not have made a claim for the increased rental compensation. Obviously in those circumstances, if the new owner makes a claim for the increased rental compensation, he should receive it as from the date when he becomes the owner and not from the anterior date, namely, the date of the Royal Assent. Otherwise he would be receiving rental compensation in respect of a period when he did not own the property. That is obvious commonsense, and the Amendment provides for that case.

The Amendment is an improvement and may meet a case that may arise. Therefore, I hope the Committee will accept it.

Amendment agreed to.

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