I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This Clause deals with land which is compulsorily acquired under existing enactments whilst it is in a damaged condition. The subject was originally dealt with by a paragraph in one of the Schedules relating to Clause 8 (2, c). An Amendment was put down to delete that paragraph. It was generally felt in the Committee that it was not a satisfactory way of dealing with it and this Clause is now substituted. Under the proposed new Clause, the hypothetical person who has suffered damage will be entitled to his cost-of-works payment on the same principles as those which apply to other people. But there is a provision that if the works have not been fully executed at the time of the acquisition, he may get the extra amount that would have been expended on the works if they had been completely carried out. I think this is a simpler and fairer arrangement than that originally in the Bill. It is, of course, a consequence of the Clause that the acquiring authority will have to pay only the value of the site as damaged by war action.
I presume that the Government have considered the definition of the words "compulsorily acquired," because, as the Committee will be aware, in this war land is taken over by many different authorities under many different statutes. A Government Department will acquire land for some purpose directly, and "compulsorily acquired" might be held by the courts to refer only to land taken in that way. On the other hand, war agricultural committees may take possession of a farm because it has been badly farmed. I am given to understand that, in many cases, they merely notify the farmer that they have decided to take possession of the land and in some cases do so without any actual order being made. I only want an assurance that the words "compulsorily acquired" cover all such cases—that is where the Government acts indirectly through its agent, as well as where it acts directly.
I will look into that point. I think the phrase would cover those cases. It would cover cases where the acquisition is under a statute but by a body other than the Crown. In the case which the Noble Lord mentioned I do not think it would be "acquisition" within the meaning of this Clause, because acquisition means purchase, and the requisitioning of land by war agricultural committees is, I think, merely taking possession of the land temporarily for the period of the emergency.
A considerable amount of land is acquired by local authorities and other authorities as a result of negotiation, but with the vendor having the knowledge that there are compulsory powers in the background. A local authority will buy the land, but they know that they can serve a compulsory acquisition order. What is the position where the negotiations take place in a friendly atmosphere, but with the definite knowledge that, if they are not concluded, then a compulsory acquisition order will be served?
The Clause provides for those cases where compulsion falls to be exercised. If the property is acquired by negotiation it would, so far as I can see, be in exactly the same position as any other property which is acquired. The result would be substantially the same as that provided for under the Sub-section. The owner would be entitled to a value payment or a cost-of-works payment. There is the possibility that if the cost-of-works payment had not been completed the owner might get slightly more beneficial terms if the compulsory powers were exercised.
I should like to thank the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the Clause, which meets the wishes of the local authorities. The only difficulty is a rather subtle piece of drafting by which a cost-of-works payment is treated as a value payment when the works are not done. That would vest the right to payment in the vendor of the property, and if it does so, that meets the point.