Orders of the Day — Compensation (Acquisition and Planning) Bill

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st February 1958.

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Order for Second Reading read.

11.5 a.m.

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The main object of the Bill is to alter the basis of compensation in cases of compulsory acquisition, and rectify the hardships and injustices to which the present system gives rise. It is a complicated subject, and I think that I ought to apologise in advance for a speech which will take a good deal longer than you normally advise for back benchers, Mr. Speaker.

The defects of the present system have been apparent for a very long time. They have been raised from time to time in the House, in particular by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. G. Longden), who cannot be here today. He raised it in a debate in March, 1955. I had another private Member's Bill on this matter in the following Session, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) and my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Sir A. Spearman) reintroduced the matter in July last year. At the same time, it has been a matter of constant discussion and inquiry amongst professional organisations.

The great weight of responsible opinion in this matter is that the only solution lies in a relationship between compensation for compulsory acquisition and the free market value—and that is the basis of the Bill. I suggest that if it is not acceptable to the Government it is incumbent upon my right hon. Friend riot only to say why but to suggest a workable alternative.

The main causes of hardship and injustice that arise under the present system are the two definite sets of values for land—the free market value, at which land changes hands between private individuals, and the normally very much lower figure which represents compensation for compulsory acquisition. There was the case of a theatre which was purchased in 1946 for £45,000. The site was said to be fully developed, and there was no claim under Part VI of the 1947 Act. In 1957, offers were received—for a purpose for which planning permission was available—for £18,000, but a compulsory purchase order left the owner with only £12,000, which was a loss of one-third of the true value. In addition, he had to carry the depreciation. Cases of this sort can be multiplied almost indefinitely, and I think that I could guarantee to provide by right hon. Friend with reading material from them for the remaining Sundays of this Session.

Nearly all the letters that I have had refer to this process as legalised robbery. Many of them regard a Bill of this nature as nothing less than a Bill of Rights, and a very large number of them display a tragedy which, though not as spectacular as that of Mr. Pilgrim, is every bit as genuine. I suggest that it is this sort of situation which has caused anti-Socialist protestations in the Conservative Party to cease to be accepted at their face value by the electorate. But it is fair to say that, in spite of the fact that the present system is a very definite advantage to them, many local authorities dislike being placed in the position of Shylock almost as much as their victims resent exploitation.

A recent case occurred in my constituency. A rural district council was anxious to acquire a plot of land which was ideally suited to its purpose, but on finding that the cost of compensation was under £500 for this plot of land, which had been recently purchased by the owner for over £2,000, it very properly refused to proceed. The result was that it looked for other land, which was not so suitable for its purpose from the planning point of view. This week, I have received a memorandum from the County Councils' Association supporting the principle of a fair market value as the basis of compensation. The memorandum pointed out a number of very serious anomalies with which the Association now has to deal.

One of the most striking of these arises where land was to be exchanged between a county district and a commercial firm. It was found that although this was approved by the county council, as the planning authority, as in the best interests of planning in the area, the district valuer felt that he had to value the council's property at the full market value and the company's property at the compensation value. The deal was successfully concluded only by the personal intervention of my right hon. Friend.

A similar case is quoted where land acquired proved surplus to the requirements of the council and where the council wished to offer it back to the original owner. That land had to be offered back to the original owner at a price which exceeded by £500 the price which the council had paid for it. I suggest that, on the face of it, these cases appear so unjust that it is almost incredible that they should have been allowed to continue in a democratic country. I feel that although public outcry takes a long time to reach proportions commensurate with the gravity and injustice involved, that time is arriving.

It is very relevant that the Franks Committee, although this matter was entirely outside its terms of reference, felt compelled to draw attention to the problem. Paragraph 278 of its Report says: The evidence which we have received shows that much of the dissatisfaction with the procedures relating to land arises from the basis of compensation. It is clear that objections to compulsory purchase would be far fewer if compensation were always assessed at not less than market value. It is not part of our terms of reference to consider and make recommendations upon the basis of compensation. But we cannot emphasise too strongly the extent to which these financial considerations affect the matters with which we have to deal. Whatever changes in procedure are made dissatisfaction is, because of this, bound to remain. This point is further emphasised in the conclusions of the Report, in paragraph 404.

It is necessary, briefly, to examine how this state of affairs has arisen. As the House well knows, the present law is still derived, to some extent, from the 1947 Act. That Act proceeded on the unexceptionable principle that any increase in value conferred on an individual landowner's property as a result of public expenditure should accrue to the State. It tried to solve that problem by, in effect, nationalising development values and creating a system by which future development would be carried out upon payment of a development charge for the right to do so. Unfortunately, like so many theories, it did not work out in practice.

Although I do not wish to weary the House with a great deal of past details, a very admirable statement of the defects of that system is to be found in a White Paper, "Amendment of Financial Provisions," published in 1952, and issued by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when he was Minister of Housing and Local Government. But very shortly, that part of the White Paper can be summarised as saying that, apart from difficulties of assessment of development charge, the system was found to hinder rather than stimulate private development. The current use value proved little incentive to property owners to sell their land for private development with the result that such land as did change hands tended to do so at a price much in excess of the existing use value.

The result was, of course, that the development charge came to be regarded not as a payment for the right to develop but as a system of taxation, and one peculiarly unpopular. The proposals which my right hon. Friend made to rectify this state of affairs are summarised in paragraph 26 of Part III of the White Paper. It says: Her Majesty's Government propose:

  1. (1) to abolish development charge altogether;
  2. (2) not to pay out the £300 million fund, but to pay compensation for planning restrictions … as and when development of land is prevented or restricted;
  3. (3) to use the once-for-all reckoning of the 1947 Acts as setting the upper limit of compensation payable for loss of development value—i.e., compensation for planning restrictions will not exceed the value of the claim ranking for payment from the fund, and compensation for compulsory acquisition will be based on the current value of the land for its existing use at the time of the acquisition plus any unexpended part of the claim."
A very important criticism of that state of affairs is to be found by looking at the Second Reading debate in another place. I am particularly interested in the comments of Lord Silkin: "as between two adjoining landowners", the noble Lord said, the one whose land is quite fortuitously, perhaps, chosen as land to be acquired for public purposes, is going to suffer considerably. He then went on to say: The Government seem to me to be living in a fool's paradise in imagining that they can hold compensation down for all time, or even in the relatively near future, to 1947 values."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 24th March. 1953; Vol. 181, c. 266–8.] I am bound to say that I agree with the noble Lord. I draw comfort, however, from the fact that many hon. Members on this side of the House, many of whom are members of the present Government, made similar comments. I think that I could, perhaps, quote with advantage the comment made by my noble Friend the Lord President of the Council when sitting as a Member of this House. He said: There is only one criterion on which compensation should be paid, and that is what the property is worth."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th May, 1947; Vol. 437, c. 1192.] I suggest, with all due respect, that the conclusions which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister drew from this excellent summary of defects were misconceived, and that compensation based on current use value, plus the unexpended portion of the Part VI claim, has given rise to almost as many anomalies as it was sought to cure. In spite of the fact that one of the aims of the amending legislation was that private landowners should be encouraged to make their land more freely available for private development, it seems to me that it is precisely the problem which is produced by change in ownership of land which was largely ignored. Land changes hands between private individuals at free market value, for that is, of course, the very definition of the term: that value must include existing use value as well as the development potential, subject to the restriction of the development plan.

In the case of compulsory acquisition, therefore, the difference between the market price and the much lower compensation value is an integral part of the freehold which the owner has acquired properly and honestly for full value. And injustices of this sort which involve the confiscation of that part of the property are bound to increase as time passes and more and more land changes hands. Yet a free market in land is quite clearly essential to any expanding economy, and, indeed, has been one of the problems running through the whole history of our law of property.

It is somewhat alarming to find that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary—certainly, in correspondence—still tries to justify the present system by ignoring the fact that this development element in the value of land is a freely marketable commodity and that, if one ignores that, one is not administering a system of compensation but only a system of confiscation. Moreover, it is quite clear that in a period of inflation the falling value of money makes absolute nonsense of any system which tries to tie any part of compensation to values at any particular date, and, of course, the injustices inherent in any attempt to do so are bound to become more and more apparent as that date recedes into the past.

I am reminded by a correspondent of the words of my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal in a debate upon the Franks Committee, in October last year. He said: It is easy to say that the trampling of human rights, the perversion of justice and the denial of redress against the immense powers of the State have no relevance to our own country—and that may well be true … but unless we are constantly on our guard these diseases may attack the body politic almost unnoticed, and if they are not resolutely checked at the outset they may eat right into its structure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st October, 1957; Vol. 575, c. 401] I am asking the House this morning to check it long after the outset.

I am also reminded of the old country rhyme which goes back to the days of the enclosures and shows that the problem then was not altogether different from what it is today: The law locks up the man or womanWho steals the goose from off the common;But lets the greater villian looseWho steals the common off the goose. I do not wish to get involved in arguments on the question of betterment. Suffice it to say that I admit the force of the argument that where public expenditure gives rise to increased value of private land some way should be found to recompense the State. But it is not the business of a private Member to impose taxation. If it is found that adequate compensation is not being made to the State on the basis of the ordinary assessment for rates and Schedule A Income Tax, that is a matter for the Government. Only a Government Department could have the necessary information upon which to decide whether such additional recompense is necessary.

I suggest that it would be very much easier for it to do so if it recognised the merits of relating rating assessment to site value. It is only changes in the value of the site that truly reflects the varying effects of development in the neighbourhood. However that may be, I ask the House to remember that private expenditure, every bit as much as public expenditure, contributes to increases in development value, and I have yet to hear a reasonable suggestion of how one can be differentiated from the other.

As in the case of the theatre I have already mentioned, it must be remembered that the loss when development does not proceed as anticipated falls entirely on the individual, and I find it a little difficult to accept the argument that where the loss falls on the individual the gains in toto should accrue to the State. As a countryman, I would remind the House that we are in danger of assuming that all development is necessarily beneficial. In an expanding industrial economy a lot of it, on balance, is beneficial; but all too often we destroy before we create, and that which we destroy in the English countryside is quite irreplaceable and beyond price.

There is a further feature of the present law which is as ironical as it is unexpected. It so often happens that the small man suffers proportionately more than his richer neighbour. Cases abound in which a person has invested the whole of his life savings in a house or a business, probably with the assistance of a substantial mortgage, only to find that upon compulsory acquisition he loses his property or savings and may well be still saddled with part of the mortgage which the compensation has proved inadequate to meet. On the other hand, the rich property owner normally has the advantage of being well advised professionally and has at least probably established a sound claim, under Part VI of the Town and Country Planning Act so far as that was ever possible. The small man often has not been in that position, as was exemplified by the notorious Pilgrim case.

In spite of the so-called "Pilgrim Clause" in the 1954 Bill, which has given some relief, the passage of time makes it even harder to relate the claim that should have been made, to conditions in 1947 and that remains the criterion. I am bound to conclude that the only possible answer is that these compensation scales should be based upon the free market value of the land, subject to the restrictions of the development plan. I wish to make clear that I am not advocating, nor does this Bill propose, that free market value should be accepted on the assumption that there is no restriction of development.

Nevertheless, cases do arise in which the land is zoned for a purpose which has no market value. I am thinking, in particular, of such things as sewerage works. In those cases it is necessary to disregard such zoning when arriving at the market value. That is the purpose of the proviso to Clause 2, which defines the market value made, by Clause 1, the basis of compensation. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that if the efforts of my hon. and learned Friends in drafting this Bill do not achieve that result, surely that is a case for Committee discussion.

Clause 3 is designed to meet the case where the local authority can acquire land at a reduced value as a result of restrictions in the development plan and then change the development plan to its own advantage, thereby being able to use the land for some other purpose which would have greatly enhanced its value to him, had such developments been open to original owner. In this case, we suggest the difference in value should be payable to the person from whom the land was acquired. It is clear that there must be a time limit. In the case of property which has been for many years in the hands of a local authority it would be quite wrong to put an obligation upon the local authority to pay an additional sum for a different type of development. We therefore suggest a period of ten years.

The remainder of the Bill tries to deal with specific anomalies which would not be cured purely by the acceptance of the free market value as the basis of compensation. Clause 4 attempts to deal with a problem where the local authority has, in pursuance of its compulsory purchase powers, issued notices to treat before 1st July, 1948, and have not proceeded in the meantime to acquire the land. In such cases the compensation payable is calculated in accordance with the law ruling on the date of the notice to treat. This makes it necessary to calculate on the basis of 1939 prices, and I think it would be generally agreed that that is a quite impossible state of affairs.

To help my right hon. Friend, and not to be too ambitious, we have brought these notices forward only so as to get the benefit of the 1947 Act. We have chosen 1st January, 1954, as the date on which these notices shall be deemed to have been served because it is the date on which the purely transitional provisions of the 1947 Act expire.

Since the object of the Bill is to remedy hardship we have tried in Clause 5, without making the Bill in any way retrospective, to give some means by which hard cases can be alleviated. Where land has been acquired since 1954 we have provided purely permissive powers, for which the consent of the Minister is required for ex gratia payments to be made where the council is of opinion that undue hardship has been suffered.

Clause 6 deals with the problem of disturbance to agricultural tenants. Security of tenure under the Agriculture Act has not only greatly increased the tenant's interest in the property but has also, as a corollary, made it very much harder for him to find an alternative farm. The value to the tenant of his interest in the land has increased out of all proportion to the adequacy of the compensation under the present law. That compensation is limited to two years' rent, one year as normal and the second year only on proof of extra expenditure. We have tried to meet that by making two years' rent normal and by removing the ceiling where a special case can be made out.

Clause 7 is somewhat more complicated, because it deals with three specific aspects of compensation in clearance areas. Where, in a clearance area, a building or house has ceased to be fit for human habitation, it may well have a considerable value for some other purpose, provided that it does not trans- gress the restrictions of the development plan. In these cases the compensation should be paid on the basis of value for that purpose, and not on its mere site value.

Subsection (2) of Clause 7 deals with one of the most scandalous aspects of the present procedure. Where a clearance area consists of a number of very small sites which, individually, have no useful purpose for redevelopment these are paid for under the present law at a purely nominal rate, sometimes a matter of a few shillings and very seldom more than £1. An aggregate of these plots may well he an area of very considerable value. Cases frequently arise where a plot of this sort may in the aggregate be worth £2,000 or £3,000, but because it was divided into 20 or 30 small plots it was purchased for an amount under £20. We suggest that that amount is due to the owners in proportion to the size of their original plot.

Subsection (3) of Clause 7 is directed at an anomaly which has arisen under the special provisions for compensation, first enacted in the Slum Clearance (Compensation) Act, 1956, and now forming part of the Second Schedule to the Housing Act, 1957. Under it, it was decided that owner-occupiers of slum property should receive full compensation value, provided they or a member of their family were in occupation on or before 13th December, 1955, the idea being that most of those people had paid a very large sum of money as a result of post-war shortages and that compensation for site value would, in practice, he very considerably less.

The difficulty arises because the law says that the extra compensation will only be available if the particular owner or family is still in occupation at the time the land is actually acquired. Where families have to move, they have either to sell their houses at an entirely knockdown price, or they have to leave the property vacant, and cannot realise any of its value until the land is actually acquired. We have endeavoured to ensure that the right will be kept alive in the original owner.

In some cases a practice has come to our notice whereby a purchaser, after insulting an owner whose land has been compulsorily acquired under a clearance order by offering him £1 or a few shillings for the site, injury is added by charging him for the privilege of demolishing the building. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] Quite clearly, this practice should cease universally throughout the country.

Clause 8 confronted us with very considerable difficulties. Here, we are concerned with people whose property becomes virtually unsaleable as the result of the publication of a development plan which means that it will be demolished at some wholly indeterminate date in the future. Once Clauses 1 and 2 are on the Statute Book, people who are able to stay on in their houses until actual development takes place will not suffer hardship. They will get the fair market value, which should be sufficient to enable them to acquire other property of a like nature elsewhere. We are up against the problem of the man who has to move and whose house is unsaleable in the meantime.

I have in mind a case which occurred in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, of a house which was the property of a serving officer in the Forces. On leaving the Forces, he wished to realise the capital to enable him to start in civilian life. He had two offers of £8,000. Before the contract was signed the local authority stepped in and zoned the site of the house for a school. The property promptly became unsaleable. Moreover, as there was no possible means of finding out the date on which the property would be acquired or the amount of compensation that the officer was likely to get eventually, the house ceased to be a realisable asset or a satisfactory security for a loan.

This kind of case deserves attention. Nevertheless, it has not been our purpose to force local authorities to acquire large quantities of land which they do not want for the time being and which, as a result of changed circumstances, they may never want at all. The proper thing to do seemed to be to make hardship the criterion and to say that, where the owner could show hardship in the county court, the local authority should be forced to acquire. We have not attempted to define the word "hardship," because hardship is a subject with which, under the long series of Rent Acts, the county courts are very familiar. Any attempt to define it might well add confusion rather than give clarification.

Clause 9 merely makes mandatory the permissive powers of local authorities to make compensation for disturbance in clearance areas and similar cases. It was felt that these were powers which should not rest on the discretion of individual authorities. There should be uniformity throughout the country and some means of appeal as to the amount.

Clause 10 is the standard monetary Clause. I was advised by the Public Bill Office that this was an integral part of the Bill, but I must say that my hon. Friends and myself have been unable to find any authority for this proposition. Not only that, but we can find no precedent for a Clause of this nature in a Bill of this kind, dealing with compensation. Be that as it may, it is to some extent the linch-pin of the Bill. We all know that the Clause cannot be secured without Government support.

I do not know whether my right hon. Friend's Department is in a position to make any calculation as to the total cost of the measures outlined in the Bill. That is clearly beyond the competence of a body of private Members. I suggest that in considering this matter it is relevant to bear in mind that there are also some savings. In view of what was said by the Franks Committee, it is clear that a large number of inquiries come about solely from the fear of the financial loss which is involved in the present system. It must be obvious in the development of such things as roads, which we all have so much in mind, that the administrative savings would be very considerable if compensation were not resisted to the last ditch, as it at present nearly always is.

I would also remind the House that there are cases which, under this Bill, will receive lower compensation than under the present law. The obvious example is leaseholds, which, clearly, become less and less valuable as the term runs out. It may be that in cases of leasehold valuation there is some advantage in tying part of the compensation to 1947 values, despite the fall in the value of money. There, again, only a Government Department can possibly have the information on which to assess the extent of this problem and, what is more important, to decide whether and what special provision should be made. As a general proposition, I would think that where lower compensation results, perhaps because of development not being carried out as originally anticipated, that would appear to be an ordinary commercial risk against which it is no part of the duty of the State to attempt to insure.

I do not know what recommendations my right hon. Friend will make to the House, but I hope that he will be in no doubt whatever of the strong feeling on this side, and, indeed, in the country. I hope that he will spurn the entirely irrelevant arguments which are so often pushed upon him by his advisers. This is a complicated subject and it cannot possibly be covered entirely by a Private Member's Bill. I suggest that that is no argument whatever for rejecting an attempt to cover part and to remedy the worst of injustices, to argue that it is no good because the whole has not been covered. Of course, to the tidy mind of the civil servant omnibus legislation which covers the whole thing has a tremendous attraction, but this is a case of ordinary elementary justice and I suggest that the civil servant's tidiness of mind is wholly inappropriate.

I hope that we shall not have the issue clouded by arguments about betterment. As I said, I accept the force of much of the argument, but the present law makes no provision whatever for betterment accruing to the State. It is simply a means of national economy at the expense of the individual on a principle of confiscation carried out by chance. The vast majority of landlords whose property is increased in value as a result of public expenditure compensate the State solely through rates and Schedule A tax. It is nonsense to argue that there is no injustice to unfortunate people whose land happens to catch the covetous eye of the local authority.

This is very much a human problem. It affects men and women, and families. Although my files do not actually record suicides, I could quote many cases where anxiety caused by the threat of financial loss resulting from compulsory acquisition hanging over people's heads have led to chronic ill-health, strokes, heart attacks, and premature death. I hope that in discussing the two Bills before us today the House—and the country—will preserve a sense of proportion. I submit that the injustices of the present basis of compensation are wholly inconsistent with the freedom of the individual, a belief in private enterprise, or with a property-owning democracy to which we profess to aspire.

11.44 a.m.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

I beg to second the Motion.

I am quite certain that the whole House will wish to congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Captain Corfield), not only upon his decision to submit this Bill, but upon the comprehensive and clear way in which he has commended its terms to the House.

I sometimes wonder if we in this House will ever learn our lessons. Time and time again experience should have shown us that valuations tied to the past are unjust, and that ultimately they become indefensible. War damage legislation, rent restriction, compulsory purchase—all these have shown exactly the same. First, in order to overcome a particular difficulty, the expedient of tying a value to a date is adopted by the Government of the day and, as time passes, a percentage uplift is given to restore some appearance of justice to the compensation which is paid. Finally, the whole thing proves to be an unreliable yardstick which gives rise to great injustice to individuals.

I see no reason why the assessment of compensation for compulsory acquisition by reference, at any rate in part, to prices in 1947 should be any more permanent than these examples from the past. The sooner we get away from the system the better. I will give one or two reasons why that should be the case. In speaking today I shall try to cover fresh ground from that covered by my hon. and gallant Friend.

There has been a steady rise in land values since 1947. That has been because, with every increase in economic efficiency, the greater has been the pressure upon the limited area of land in these islands to provide the services necessary for a rising standard of living for our people. Secondly, it is because the tendency for monetary values to fall, and therefore for values of land and real property to rise, is unlikely, so far as I can see, to be entirely reversed.

As my hon. and gallant Friend pointed out, the 1954 Act has already created two values for land. First, there is the value of the land in the open market as between a willing buyer and a willing seller, and, secondly, there is the value received by the owner if that land is acquired compulsorily by a Government Department. In nearly every case the price which the unfortunate owner receives in those circumstances is less than the cost of equivalent reinstatement. The further we get from 1947 the more difficult it becomes to assess values at that distant date. I can speak personally about this because, as a chartered surveyor, it is my task to deal with this kind of thing. I know how difficult it is.

We have two difficulties under this code of compensation. There was not any unusual difficulty about assessing development values in terms of 1947 prices in 1947 and 1948. It was difficult, but there was nothing unusual about it. Difficulty was created in 1954 when Section 35 was inserted in the Act as it passed through this House because of the unfortunate suicide of Mr. Pilgrim. The Pilgrim Clause provides broadly that where no Part VI claim has been established, the district valuer shall assess what that claim might have been if it had been established.

There is even greater difficulty than that. There is absolutely no yardstick to tell us what is the existing use value of land. Anywhere near a town the value consists of two components; first of all, existing use value and, on top of that, development value. Except in remote country districts, it is almost impossible to say what is the existing use value of land. I have skated very quickly over this, but for these reasons I am sure that my hon. and gallant Friend was right in insisting that a proper basis for compensation in the cases of compulsory acquisition must be the market value of the land.

I think, too, that he was wise to limit it to the market value as determined by the development plan. I have heard it argued very cogently that since the development plan materially alters values by prohibiting a certain development here and allowing it there, it inevitably detracts from values in one place and adds to them in another. Since the development plan is itself liable to be changed at intervals of five years, or perhaps even more frequently, it has been argued that the limitations which it imposes should be disregarded. I have given very considerable thought to this problem over a number of years and I do not hold that view. I will try to tell the House why I have come to that conclusion.

Both sides of the House will agree that planning the right use of land is a desirable thing. The fact that some gain and some lose in the process of planning must, I think, be accepted as part of the price of the orderly development of the land of Britain. Moreover, the shift of values has taken place over a longish period of years. The development plans have been with us five years, and we have had public inquiries about them. There have been changes in them, but by and large land has changed hands, sometimes over and over again, with the knowledge that development plans provide certain things in relation to it. Sales have taken place at prices commensurate with the possibility of profitable development.

Again, I am sure that my hon. and gallant Friend is right in saying that compensation should be at market value but, secondly, that that value should be limited—because that clearly is what it does—to the market value as determined by the provisions of the development plans. I want to ask what objections there can be to a code of this kind. It could be said that that compensation will prove excessive because development value in itself is speculative and liable to over-assessment, since every owner thinks, in his optimism or his greed, as the case may be, that floating value, if I may presume to use a term so often used by that blessed trinity, Scott, Barlow and Uthwatt, will in fact "settle" on his land.

Land which has been selected by local authorities or public authorities for development, however, is by its very nature land upon which floating value has already settled. Moreover, compensation will not be the owner's estimate of valuation but will be the amount agreed by the district valuers of the Inland Revenue, with all their sources of information, all their records of past sales, and all the records of present transactions in land open to them.

Secondly, the objection might be raised that compensation at market value could be justified only if it were part of a system in which there were some balance by the extraction of betterment from those owners whose land has been benefited. But does anyone with a knowledge of taxation and rating at the present level upon all transactions in land and real property doubt whether the public coffers are sufficiently plenished with the profits of ownership, in so far as they add to the value of inheritance or increase the income from property? Betterment is already taxed in various ways and, one might add, taxed heavily.

I am anxious to be brief, but may I advance one further argument in favour of compensation which I am sure ought not to be overlooked? Inadequate compensation defeats the purpose of planning, which must be, I think, to secure the best use of land in these islands in the public interest. My hon. and gallant Friend gave the House the benefit of the views of the County Councils' Association on this point. I am a member of the Executive Committee of the Town and Country Planning Association, and in that Association I have time and time again come across examples of public authorities who have found themselves unwilling to buy land, although it was the best available, because of the inadequacy of the present scale of compensation.

I have letters from county planning officers, the practical planners of the country, and although I will not read them all perhaps I may quote a sentence from one or two of them. One reads: Since the Town and Country Planning Act, 1954, became law, the difference in values of land in certain circumstances has been felt by a wide circle to be a stumbling block. It is extremely difficult for local authorities to buy land by agreement under the present law. Another planning officer, this time in the north of England, tells me of six cases in which he knows that the county council in the last year or two wishing to acquire sites for purposes such as police houses, clinics or libraries have found that compensation for acquisition would be appreciably less than the market value and, rather than cause hardship by compulsory purchase, they have sought alternative sites. He goes on to give an example of one plot of land which would have brought between £1,000 and £1,200 in the open market, but the amount the district valuer authorised was about £250. This land was needed for a library, but in the circumstances the county council decided to look elsewhere and in the end had to place their library in a remote and less accessible site.

A Midland county planning officer writes: We find in this county that (a) planning proposals have had to be modified from what would have otherwise been regarded as the best arrangement in order to avoid hardship to particular owners; (b) the choice of sites for public purposes is being increasingly influenced by the willingness or otherwise of the owner to sell; (c) land for local authority housing, particularly in overspill reception areas, has been lost because the local authority concerned was unwilling to go to compulsory purchase and thus deprive the owner of a very large part of the value of his land; (d) where local authorities have made compulsory purchase orders, these have quite frequently not been confirmed by the Minister presumably, although never explicity stated, for the same reason. Finally, one from the Home Counties: Our own experience here at County Hall is that occasions have arisen where committees of the county council have been so reluctant to use their compulsory powers with their attendant low compensation that they have forgone sites which otherwise would have been chosen. All those examples show that the right planning of the land of Britain is, in some cases, being hindered. I will not say "frustrated"—that is too strong a word, and we have a strong enough case without exaggeration; but, undoubtedly, the right planning of the use of our land is being hindered, impeded, by this out-of-date code.

I have wondered what dangers we face with regard to this Bill. I think that the greatest danger is that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government does not like the thought of bringing in legislation that is not fully comprehensive. But let us consider his unfortunate position. He has the Local Government Bill on his hands. He has goodness knows what troubles about the Rent Act, and all sorts of other things. I very much wonder when he will have time to bring in the comprehensive legislation that is so urgently needed. Were I in his position, I would, quite honestly, welcome the opportunity that this Private Member's Bill affords to deal with what is coming more and more to be recognised as a manifest injustice. The refinements can wait until later.

12.1 p.m.

Photo of Mr Morgan Price Mr Morgan Price , Gloucestershire West

I should like to join with the hon. Member for North Angus (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) in congratulating the hon. and gallant Member for Gloucestershire, South (Captain Corfield), first on introducing this Bill, and, secondly, on the lucidity with which he explained it to the House. There is no doubt whatever that over recent years many anomalies have arisen over this matter of compensation for land acquired for public purposes. We have all had cases in our constituencies concerning the person who has put his money into a smallholding on which to build a house and have a small orchard or the like, and then has had it requisitioned by a public authority at a price entirely out of keeping with the price he paid for it.

In my own constituency I have had many of that type of case. The Forest of Dean is probably more than usually a place where there are small landowners—cottages, orchards, paddocks. There are miners who have lived there all their lives, and their fathers and grandfathers before them. Many of these small plots have been owned by them for generations. Now, to them have been added those people coming from neighbouring towns like Gloucester to settle there on a pension, who have acquired a piece of land, as I have described.

I have frequently had to deal with cases where road authorities have wanted to widen a road or make a roundabout. In addition, of course, local authorities have their housing schemes. What is worse, as, I think, the hon. and gallant Gentleman pointed out, is that many of these people have bought their plots on mortgage, and though they get their compensation they may be left, not only without the land but with a mortgage that they must continue to pay.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that he did not want to enter into the question of betterment. I am inclined to join issue with him there. I think that it is very much the way in which compensation is being financed today that has brought about these anomalies that his Bill seeks to rectify. These troubles have come because there is now no means by which a fund can be built up, out of taxation of so-called betterment of land values created by the community, to finance the compensation of those whose land development has been stopped for some public reason.

In order to avoid local authorities having to pay excessive or speculative values, the price of land to be acquired for public purposes is now based on the 1947 price. In other words, whereas formerly a landowner could do more or less what he liked in buying and selling land, he is now restricted too much the other way. The time was, of course, when a landowner could ask almost anything for his land.

I well remember cases in my own young days where large sums were made by landowners' holding up the sale of land wanted for public purposes, and often asking five, six or even ten times the proper value. In the days of railway development, there is no doubt that the railway companies were terribly handicapped, and had to issue large amounts of what was then known as "watered" stock because of the enormous sums they had to pay to acquire land for their railways. Large profits were made in this way, and this created a very bad impression on public opinion.

In the last part of the nineteenth century that public opinion began to harden against such practices and in favour of some kind of control. We heard the cry, "God gave the land to the people." Over the waters, in the United States of America, there was Henry George with his theories of single tax, some of which had repercussions over here.

I remember that the hon. Gentleman who was then the Member for Burslem, I think—Andrew McLaren—waxed eloquent about it in this House. I think that that went too far. To imagine that land is the only source of wealth in the world is now quite ridiculous, but I am old enough to remember the Lloyd George Budget of 1909, when the first real practical attempt was made to deal with this problem by imposing an unearned increment tax on land sold at increased values—an undeveloped land tax.

A valuation was to be made of all land. A kind of Domesday Book was to be set up, which would value land at a certain figure to be the basis for future calculation of what later came to be called betterment. That, unfortunately, was all scrapped. The First World War came, and the war-time Coalition Government scrapped everything. Speculation in land went on merrily as before, and private landowners made their bit.

Public opinion again began to harden against this kind of thing until, in 1930, with the second Labour Government in office, Mr. Philip Snowden in his Budget of that year introduced something rather similar to what Mr. Lloyd George had introduced in 1909—a kind of undeveloped land tax. I was a Member of this House at that time—it was my first Parliament—and I remember his speech, and his arguing that land, being a monopoly, should contribute to the public exchequer something of the values created by the public. That again was scrapped. When the second Labour Government left office and the National Government came into power, within twelve or eighteen months all that went by the board. Again the "Domesday Book" which was to be set up was scrapped and we went on merrily as before.

Public opinion again began to form, and during the war we all felt that something had to be done. Reforms of all kinds had to be considered. There was the famous Uthwatt Report which went a long way towards justifying the attempts which had been made and pointed to further legislation along these lines.

In 1947 when the third Labour Government were in power the present Lord Silkin introduced a very important Measure, the Town and Country Planning Act, which set up a Land Fund of £300 million to be financed by betterment payments. The Act provided that all owners of land which could be developed and which was prohibited from being developed under local authority plans had to pay into this fund the whole value created by the public demand, and from this fund compensation was paid to landowners who were not allowed to develop their land.

Anyone who held land, say, in a green belt area such as exist outside our towns under the new powers which local authorities have acquired since the last war would find himself severely handicapped and the value of the land reduced. It was felt that such people should be able to get some compensation out of the fund which should have accumulated in course of time.

I think, however, it is also true to say that the 1947 Act—and here I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Gloucestershire, South—was not 100 per cent. successful. There was a case for amending it but not for ending it. I have had in my constituency examples of anomalies arising out of that Act. Small people have had to pay high development and betterment charges before they have had any means of doing so. They have been unable to borrow money because the return on any possible improvement in the value of their land would not mature for some time.

I agree, too, with the hon. and gallant Member that if one takes away the whole 100 per cent. betterment, there is no incentive left to the owner, whether he is big or small, to develop. I believe it was felt on both sides of the House that something had to be done about the 1947 Act and, as I say, there was a case for amending it but not for ending it. Unfortunately, when the Government came into power in 1952 they proceeded to torpedo the Act, and in a series of other Acts in 1952, 1953 and 1954 development or betterment charges were abolished and compensation was placed on an entirely different basis. Up till then compensation and betterment had been closely linked, and an owner paid betterment, through the Land Fund, to the owner who needed compensation for not being allowed to develop. This was implicit in the whole conception of the Uthwatt Report.

When these Measures were introduced by the present Prime Minister when he was Minister of Housing and Local Government, interesting debates took place. I should like to refer to one debate on the Town and Country Planning Bill in December, 1952, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), on behalf of the Opposition, made the following observation in an interesting speech: This Bill, I submit, abandons what has come to be regarded by many people as an essential principle in planning legislation of these times—the link between betterment and compensation. He moved a reasoned Amendment to the Bill, which was voted upon, the first part of which contained the following words: That this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which provides no means for the recovery by the community of socially-created land values …"—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 1st December, 1952; Vol. 508, cc. 1128 and 1127.] I think that shows that we on this side of the House were in those days very well aware of the kind of danger which the country might run into, and that the kind of anomalies which the hon. and gallant Gentleman is now trying to rectify in this Bill would arise.

I have narrated these facts and have gone back into history—I hope you agree, Mr. Speaker, that I have kept in order—because I wish to try to show that there is some historical reason for this Bill, and that it is the fact that certain things have been done and other things have not been done which have brought about this situation. First, the war-time Coalition Government wrecked the Lloyd George plan. Then the National Government in 1931 wrecked Mr. Snowden's Budget proposals, and then the present Government did the same to the 1947 Act which was introduced by Lord Silkin.

I am prepared to admit that the Acts of 1952 and 1954 did not return everything to the status quo. Private owners are not allowed to do what they could in the days when I was young. Compensation is still paid, but paid out of taxation, as I understand it. The present-day landlord's compensation is based on the 1947 value of the land, which means that he can no longer hold up the community to ransom; but I must say that the scales have been tilted too far the other way now. For that reason there is a case for the hon. and gallant Gentleman's Bill, although the need should not have arisen.

If there had been development and betterment charges on owners of land who have profited by development, those landowners would have been able to finance those in need of compensation through not being allowed to develop their land. The Fund has now gone, and compensation is being paid for out of taxation. One can understand that the Chancellor of the day will be very careful if he does not want to have unlimited charges placed upon him for compensation. Therefore, the tendency is to squeeze the wretched landowner, who may be large, or even small as in my constituency.

As the full compensation cannot be paid by the Exchequer, some attempt ought to be made to rectify the position in some way, but I am afraid that the Bill is only a bit of ambulance work to try to relieve some of the anomalies created as a result of the events I have described. I am glad that there is provision in Clause 6 for dealing with the position of agricultural tenants, and I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Gloucestershire, South that the present position is quite unsatisfactory.

Under the 1948 Agricultural Holdings Act, inadequate compensation is given for disturbance of agricultural tenants. The demand for agricultural land for farming purposes has increased enormously, and we all know the difficulty of obtaining a good farm, or indeed any farm. A tenant farmer who is dispossessed because his land is required for some public purpose will have much greater difficulty in obtaining another farm than he ever had before and than was the case in 1947. I have had an example of that kind in my own constituency. There are a good many developments going on in the Forest of Dean and West Gloucestershire, such as roads being struck across the country, and developments of all kinds.

Photo of Sir Arthur Irvine Sir Arthur Irvine , Liverpool Edge Hill

My hon. Friend is making a very interesting speech, but I wonder if he will inform me how far he is prepared to go. Is he supporting the provisions in the Bill that agricultural tenants should be compensated for disturbance without proving actual loss or expense?

Photo of Mr Morgan Price Mr Morgan Price , Gloucestershire West

No, certainly not. If my hon. Friend the Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Irvine) had waited for a moment, he would have seen that I was coming to that point. There is no case for an agricultural tenant farmer being given compensation without proving his case, but I think there is reason in giving him the right to greater compensation than he has now, if he can prove that, owing to being unable to get another holding, he is subjected to further expense and difficulty. If he can prove that, I think there is a case for giving him more compensation than under the present law. That is the point, and it is only fair, after all.

Personally, I think that the Bill should have a Second Reading, and then be thrashed out in Committee, where we shall find out whether it is practicable or not. There are many serious anomalies which this House cannot leave unrectified. In what I have said, I may not have gained the approval of both sides of the House, and I know that in my historical discourse I did not have the approval of hon. and right hon Gentlemen opposite, but on that point I feel very strongly.

I remember the days of the old Liberal Party—"the land for the people" and all that. Indeed, there was a time when I was a member of that party, and I still have the feeling that where land is concerned public values should not be privately annexed. It is for that reason that I have stressed the fact that the anomalies which the Bill tries to remove could have been avoided if better legislation dealing with betterment and land values had been passed in the past.

12.24 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robin Turton Mr Robin Turton , Thirsk and Malton

I think that all of us have listened with a great deal of sympathy to many of the arguments which have been addressed to us by the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price), but I could not quite understand his argument that if we had had the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, amended, but not ended, the difficulties and this muddle that we are in today would no longer be with us.

Listening to the hon. Gentleman's very clear history of what had been done by successive Governments from the time of the late Mr. David Lloyd George and the late Mr. Philip Snowden up to the time of the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), I came to the conclusion that all their efforts had only resulted in muddling this problem of land values and betterment, and that, as a result, we have the present injustices. I have the very greatest sympathy with my right hon. Friend the present Minister of Housing and Local Government, who now has to tackle this muddle himself.

As I see it, there are two great weaknesses in the present law. First, there is the attempt to tie values to a certain date. It is a habit which we have in Britain, whether it concerns rent, rating valuations, compensation or even the number of pigs or poultry on our holdings, to say, "Let us assume that what you had in 1939 has not changed, or that the value has not changed year after year," and then we go on with the rather happy game of imagining that we are back in 1939 or 1947. I believe that this has caused many of the difficulties with which Parliament has been faced in the last twenty years. It is from the fact that this payment under 1947 values is made in the coinage of 1958 that a good deal of the injustice arises.

When I heard my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley), in his clear and excellent speech, say how he wanted to stop tieing values to certain dates, I was reminded that in Clause 4 this Bill is doing that very thing. It is very doubtful whether this House should approve a Clause tieing the compensation to 1947 values, as Clause 4 does. It may well be difficult to devise another method, but it is time that Parliament got away from this business of tieing values to certain dates.

The other weakness in the present law is that we try to take the value of any property and to say, "This has been produced by the man's own efforts, and that by the efforts of the community". I am always tempted to ask how we would value Naboth's vineyard? What is the existing use value of Naboth's vineyard and what is the betterment value? We cannot, in such matters as the attraction of price, sub-divide it and say that a certain man shall not be granted so much of the value of his own property, because he did not create it himself.

I can assure the House that every acre of the land I am now farming has had its value built up not by my farming, but by succeeding generations of farmers, all of whom have added to that value. The value never can be sub-divided up into different compartments, which was attempted by the 1947 Act, and, even later, by the Act of 1954.

What worries me is that the present position is working very great injustices between man and man. I do not so much mind something being incorrect, but I hate it when one man is being treated much more unjustly than his neighbour, which means that his neighbour is getting an advantage which he does not possess. I will give an illustration of that which, I think, will put the situation clearly before the House. It does not come from my own constituency, but from just outside, where we have the great developments in Tees-side.

There, the problem of the farmer—the type of farm I have in mind is a pedigree dairy farm—is to keep near the fringe of the suburban tide, and yet not be engulfed by it. In other words, he must farm near the town so that he can keep his markets—his milk going into the town. After all, he was born and bred in that area, and he would find it impossible to move his farm to the top of Swaledale, which would be a kind of country unsuitable to his type of farming. These farmers, therefore, are always watching development coming, when they will be forced to sell their existing farms and buy new farms or fields outside the fringe of development. This is a very dangerous occupation under the present law, and it may well be that a man is put, quite wrongly, to great expense.

The farmer I speak of is in that sort of situation. He has two fields, one of seven acres and one of 16 acres, all the land in the area being on the fringe of the Tees-side development. The field of seven acres has been used now for a school by the local education authority. With the Part VI compensation and the price agreed under the 1954 Act as existing use value, that particular farmer is receiving exactly one-quarter of its value for his land compared with what all the surrounding farmers are receiving as their farms are engulfed by the Tees-side development coming westwards. Moreover, when this farmer has to look for another field, he has to go beyond the area, some distance off, and he will not be so lucky as the local education authority was and get his field at a 75 per cent. discount.

The 16-acre field has been selected by the local education authority as a site for a secondary school to be constructed at some future date. Directly that selection was made the farmer put in his claim under the 1947 Act. For two and a half years he has received nothing. Yet for that land, had it not been sterilised, he would have been offered four times what he received per acre for his other field. At some time, the 16-acre field will be taken for the school.

Meanwhile, he is to be paid about one-eighth per acre of the current market value under Part VI of the 1947 Act, and he will receive about one-tenth of the value when, eventually, the local education authority wants to build. Ultimately, that farmer will receive less than 22 per cent. of the full value. In the meantime, he can carry on his dairy farm on the land, knowing that he is eventually to be robbed of his property and that he will find great difficulty in recompensing himself when he moves elsewhere.

Therein lies the weakness and injustice of the present system. It may be said that it is quite wrong for land to have great value round the fringes of development. That is an arguable case. I myself feel that it is very hard to distinguish what the community has created from what the farmer or, to put it in another way, what the Naboths of this generation have created. What is absolutely unjustifiable is that there should be a difference of four times the value between what is received by one man and another for similar fields merely because the purchaser happens to be in one case a Government Department and in another a private company. This is why I am so pleased that the Bill introduced by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Captain Corfield) lays down fair market values for all.

There are two other problems to which reference should be made. First, there is the growing problem which arises when new road developments, bypass or otherwise, are put in hand. As we plan our new road systems, there will be very many farmers who will suddenly find that they are to be recompensed for their farms on a rate per acre very much lower than would be the case had not the Minister or the local authority selected their land for the route.

I agree that tremendous amounts of money are not involved in this, but it means that in each case of a road improvement there will be objections, a public inquiry, and all the rest, because farmers feel that they will be unjustly treated compared with their neighbours because there has been an arbitrary selection of their land by the Ministry or highway committee. Here again, I believe that the Bill will have the advantage of avoiding the necessity for quite so many objections and public inquiries in respect of by-passes, and for that reason I commend it to my right hon. Friend.

There is also an anomaly, which, I think, is not touched on by the Bill, which arises when there is to be a road improvement scheme and on the present road there is a small petrol station. Perhaps a man, after demobilisation, has put all his savings into that petrol station, which is his livelihood. The highway authority comes along and says that there must be a new road development there. I can think of an example on the Great North Road, where a man was told that his small petrol station would have to be submerged but he would be allowed to have a site on one side of the new double highway.

The man's answer was, "That is all very well, but my compensation is quite insufficient. Before the highway was improved, I was getting the customers going north and south, whereas, with the new system, I shall get only the customers travelling down one traffic lane, and I shall be robbed of the others". That is one type of injustice which is not met by the compensation provisions of the Bill. In my view, if the community wishes to provide better roads it should compensate such men fairly for what is taken from them, either giving them a site on each side of the main thoroughfare, or paying the true value of what has been lost.

There are other cases which arise where petrol stations are sited on a road that is to be by-passed, so that although they are now established on a busy main road, when the by-pass comes the whole of their trade will be taken away. As the law stands at the moment, such people have no compensation at all. Frequently, one of the conditions attached to a scheme for a new by-pass is that there shall be no petrol stations upon it. A man may have sunk all his capital in a petrol station on the road which is there now, yet, by the action of the local authority or the Ministry, he can lose his entire livelihood and not be allowed to continue his trade on the by-pass. He receives not a pennyworth of compensation at all. I ask my hon. and gallant Friend to bear in mind cases like that, and see whether they can be included for remedy in the Bill.

I commend especially the new compensation for tenants. It is all very well the hon. Gentleman the Member for Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) to ask whether it is really suggested that a farmer should not have to prove the two years. It is very difficult to prove the real monetary value of disturbance. If a farmer loses his land today, it is very hard to get another tenancy. One of the effects of the Agriculture Act, 1947, has been to make it very difficult for young men to get farms and much harder for men who have been farming and who have been dispossessed by local authorities.

I am glad, therefore, that the minimum standard is to be raised from one year to two years, and I feel that the House generally should commend the change. If the man is able to prove more, then by all means let him get more. In passing, surely, in this Bill, we ought to make the same provision that which we made recently in the Opencast Coal Bill, whereby, if there is a forced sale, a man shall receive as of right compensation for loss resulting from that forced sale.

I hope that, notwithstanding the financial difficulties of the Bill, the House will not only give it a Second Reading, but will take steps to see that it becomes law. It is wrong that the present injustice about land should continue without amendment. The sooner it is ended, the better.

12.41 p.m.

Photo of Mr Roderic Bowen Mr Roderic Bowen , Cardiganshire

I rise to support the Bill, and I hope to give my reasons for doing so without detaining the House for an undue length of time, partly because the hon. Members for Gloucestershire, South (Captain Corfield), and North Angus (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) respectively—and I hope it will not be thought presumptuous of me to say so—expressed in clear terms the objective that they had in mind in bringing the Bill before the House; and also because I am interested not only in trying to ensure that the owner of property which has become the subject matter of a compulsory purchase order receives a square deal, but I am equally interested in the protection of deer.

The Franks Committee Report, which has already been referred to, deals with the desirability of having openness, fairness and impartiality in the procedure adopted by tribunals and inquiries, particularly in relation to the compulsory purchase of land. I suggest that it is idle to talk about fairness in relation to procedure unless that is coupled with fairness in dealing with compensation.

It is clear that a very large number of people whose property is subject to a compulsory purchase order have felt, and have continued to feel, a deep sense of grievance at the way in which they were compensated by the authority involved. From my own professional experience in my constituency, I fully endorse what has been said already by hon. Members that, not always, but in the overwhelming majority of cases, a deep-seated sense of grievance and injustice is fully justified.

I have tried to look at this problem not only from the point of view of the owner of the land involved, but also from the point of view of the acquiring authority. It occurs to me that local authorities as a whole would welcome a Measure of this kind. It may be that it will cost them more to acquire land that they want to acquire for development.

However, I have had similar experience to that of the hon. Member for North Angus, of local authorities who have been deterred from carrying out a particular development because they were acutely conscious that the carrying out of that development would involve hardship to the owner of the land that they proposed to take. It is particularly so in the case of small local authorities operating in relation to an owner whose circumstances they know particularly well, and feel that they cannot, even in carrying out their public duty, inflict a blatant unfairness upon another member of their own community.

That has led to desirable development not taking place, and it has also led to the development taking a form which was not as beneficial to the community as it might otherwise have been—for instance, taking an alternative site which was far from being the ideal site.

Another consequence is that persons may oppose compulsory purchase orders which they would not otherwise oppose. I have had many cases in which the basic grounds for objection to a compulsory purchase order is the question of compensation. We rightly hear complaints of the great delay in dealing with compulsory purchase orders and delay in obtaining the decision of the Minister following upon inquiries. From my experience, very many of these inquiries would prove unnecessary in that the opposition would be withdrawn if there were a fairer basis for compensation.

I have been involved professionally in many cases where the owner of the land has raised, as he is entitled to do in law, a series of objections. When the matter has been inquired into, it has been discovered that the fundamental objection to the project is the fact that the owner will not be fairly compensated. I have known successful objections when the real opposition was not to the scheme itself, but to the unfair basis on which the compensation would have to be calculated under the existing law.

I agree with a great deal of what the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) had to say about betterment. I will not follow his excursions into the history of the matter, although it is as well that the House should bear them in mind. There may, indeed, be uneasiness on the question of betterment, but the fact that an owner may be compensated for unearned benefits is no conceivable argument against this Bill. It may well be that alteration of our rating law or of Schedule A taxation, or a Measure directed towards the taxation of land values, will have to be introduced to deal with this aspect. The betterment problem cannot be used as an excuse or reason for failing to deal with what is obviously a real injustice at present.

There are only two other points to which I wish to refer. I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) has said about Clause 6, dealing with the compensation for disturbance of tenants of agricultural holdings purchased compulsorily. One of the effects of the 1947 Act has been that the agricultural ladder is now more difficult to climb than at any time during the last hundred years. In my constituency, we have probably the highest percentage of owner-occupier farmers in Great Britain. A high percentage of the farmers in my constituency are the sons or grandsons of farm labourers. That is something of which we are particularly proud. The fact that that progress has been made more difficult is a matter for real regret. While I do not say that Clause 6 would make a great contribution to the solution of that problem it certainly would be of some help.

The other Clause to which I want to refer is Clause 8. I do so particularly because of the position which exists today in parts of South Wales. It is a problem which was referred to recently by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert), whom I am pleased to see in his place, because this is a matter on which he feels deeply, when he spoke in the debate on Welsh affairs.

In Aberdare and the Rhondda area this is the position. At Aberdare, there is a proposed county redevelopment plan for the town which will involve about 3,600 homes. For the Rhondda there is a plan which, I understand, will involve about 3,000 properties. Those plans are still under consideration, but what is happening in the meantime? Those properties which are within the area of the proposed replanning have become virtually unsaleable.

They are largely owned by working men and women. I would estimate that at least half of them are owner-occupiers. If one of them wants to move from a smaller property to a larger property, let us say because his family is increasing, or to another area because he is offered employment in it, he is faced with the difficulty that, because of this proposed redevelopment plan, he will not get for his home anything like its true economic value in ordinary circumstances. His plight is accentuated by the not unnatural attitude of the building societies towards such properties. They are extremely reluctant, as is shown in the Aberdare area, to advance money on those properties which it is proposed to bring within a redevelopment plan.

There is no doubt whatsoever that very real hardship will be caused to those we sometimes call "small people" if something is not done to change the law in this particular. I do not know whether Clause 8 is necessarily the ideal solution, but it does offer a solution, and, while it may be necessary to look closely at it in Committee, it is a real attempt to deal with a difficulty which, if it is not dealt with, will cause considerable hardship to a number of people.

I welcome the introduction of this Bill. The only ground on which, I think, it should not be given a Second Reading would be that the conscience of the Minister had now been sufficiently quickened to induce him to give an undertaking to introduce Government legislation on similar lines with the least possible delay. If that undertaking is not forthcoming, I hope that the Bill will be given a Second Reading and that we shall have an opportunity of improving on it in Committee in due course.

12.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Deedes Mr William Deedes , Ashford

In common with everyone who has spoken so far, I warmly support the principles enshrined in this Bill, and most of its proposals. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Captain Corfield) is to be congratulated upon his courage in submitting this Measure. He has charged with lance aloft into one of the deepest and darkest legislative thickets which exists. Many have entered it and some have never emerged again. There has been nothing like it since Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.

He is seeking by this Bill to make fundamental changes to the Town and Country Planning Acts. This Bill has 13 Clauses. It will be within the recollection of a number of hon. Gentlemen here that the 1947 Act, which is the basic Act we are discussing today, has 120 Sections and 11 Schedules, that the 1953 Act has four Sections, that the 1954 Act has 72 Sections, and that together they occupied upwards of 100 Parliamentary days here on the Floor of the Chamber or in Standing Committee. Therefore, I think it is appropriate that most of one Parliamentary day should be given to considering some of the main areas in which those Acts should be amended.

In common with at least two hon. Members who have spoken, I regard the history of those Acts as most relevant to the provisions of the Measure which we are now discussing. I do not want to go back, as the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) did, to the Lloyd George Budget of 1909. That is not, I think, necessary, but it is worth recalling that after the Second World War the Coalition Government of the day foresaw that the acquisition of land would provide us with a major problem. They saw extensive development in prospect, a great deal of which has already occurred, and it was the desire of all that we should do better after the Second World War than we did between the wars.

That would not be very difficult. I have always regarded the sporadic, unplanned development in the 1920s and 1930s as one of the major scandals of our time. I have always thought it a much darker scandal than some of the scandals members of the Opposition sometimes cite against the Government of those days. I make hon. and right hon. Members opposite a free gift of this criticism. I have never known why the Opposition have not spoken more about the scandals of the sporadic development which occurred in this country and ruined large tracts of it in the 'twenties and 'thirties.

In their plans for the new world, the Coalition Government drafted a White Paper which was followed by the 1947 Act. Into that the Labour Government injected ideas of their own. The 1947 Act, I should say, is sometimes called, by Members who are no longer willing to support all its provisions, the Silkin Act. I say they injected into it some of their own ideas. What, in fact, happened—and this is most relevant to the consideration of this Bill—was that they decided that enhanced land values should be nationalised: nothing more nor less. This is sometimes overlooked when we talk of the things which have or have not been nationalised.

That is what happened. I am not being unduly critical about their action because the background was very far from respectable, as I have said; but that is what happened. As has been said, and there is no need to rehearse it, the development charge provided for in that principal Measure did not work at all well. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, before he became Prime Minister, was faced in 1952 with the task of unscrambling it, as he did, in one short Measure, and in a following Act, in 1954, providing a new basis of finance.

Those two steps were sufficiently arduous and complicated. I think that perhaps it should be stressed now that they precluded at the time the revision of other provisions which practical experience of the 1947 Act had shown to be drastically in need of review. The fact is that we have had no chance since 1947 to put right the many anomalies which have arisen. It is not in the least the fault of the draftsmen of the 1947 Measure. It is because of the speed with which post-war development has moved. We have had no chance to put right the practical difficulties which have arisen in the light of experience. The Bill covers many but by no means all of them.

If these corrections were overdue in 1953 and 1955 the position is much worse now. We are confronted with an indefensible jumble of jargon and injustice in a number of provisions of the Town and Country Planning Acts. The injustice has already been stressed, but I want to stress how very inefficient many of these provisions are, and to what inefficiency they lead. What a waste of time it is for busy men and women to comply with provisions of an Act which many experts find it extremely difficult to understand. We may reflect upon the millions of hours which experts in local government and central Government, lawyers and others have had to give to the unshredding of the provisions of these three Acts to try to ensure that justice is done in the administration of the law.

I would add one word about the Minister. Though it sounds reassuring. I really doubt whether he ought to have to approve every contested compulsory purchase order which has been made the subject of an inquiry. Admirable though the work of the inspectors is in their effort to see justice done, a heavy imposition is still laid upon the Minister. The existing provisions are not only unjust but are a millstone around the neck of efficient administration.

I wonder whether many hon. Members have studied the mineral Regulations which were brought in under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1954. At one time I had a little to do with them, and I was always in doubt whether I should learn them parrot-fashion and recite them to Members, or string together a whole lot of rather meaningless phrases in the style of James Joyce in the hope that they would pass the scrutiny of the experts who were listening. There are many lawyers who find it almost impossible to interpret and explain some of the provisions of the Acts.

This complexity has a distinct bearing upon the injustice which we are now seeking to remedy. A law which only some experts can understand—and even then I do not say that they can master it—is bound to work unequally. The main injustice about some of the provisions arises because of the ignorance of the small man and woman who come up against them and who cannot always rely. Even upon the advice they receive from a source which is quite unable to master the complexity of the law in this matter. That is particularly so in respect of designation, which is covered by Clause 8, which is probably the most important Clause. What was designed to avoid a gamble in land values between the landowner and the acquiring authority has become an enormous gamble between one private individual and another, and it is often a game played with the dice already loaded by the local authority.

Then we must consider the time which has been taken in preparing, driving through and getting approval of county development plans. In the original Act it was envisaged that this might be done in three years, from 1st July, 1947. That was one of the post-war aspirations which have been disappointed. I am not sure how many of these plans the Minister has already been able to approve, but it has been a very long process, and in the case of designation it has cast a long shadow over a great deal of private property.

I support the proposal about this contained in my hon. and gallant Friend's Bill, but I want to go a little further. I have always thought it wrong that in the guidance given to local authorities it should have been suggested that plans for 15 or 20 years ahead should be tenable. In post-war days a period of 15 or 20 years was much too long. If we take that period and consider with it the diagrammatic rather than precise marking of maps which some local authorities have been encouraged to indulge in, we are left with a large area of sterilised or doubtful land over which the future casts a shadow for 15 or 20 years.

It is well known that the more authority plans the less an individual can plan for himself. We have to strike a balance between the two, but the balance has certainly not yet been struck. A period of 15 to 20 years is a bad balance. Who in the world could see, in 1946 or 1947, what the next ten years were likely to bring forth? I should like to see a period of five or seven years. Any authority which is allowed to plan ahead for an almost unlimited future will be tempted to try to do so.

We then come to the main proposition, which is dealt with in the other important Clause relating to the 1947 values, which are held to be out of date. I suggest not only that they are out of date but that Governments have already unwittingly admitted that they are. We should consider the action which they took in respect of war damage. When the war damage claims had reached a certain point the Government of the day decided that a deadline must be drawn because it was impossible to calculate or to reconstruct the earlier values upon which war damage was based. I have forgotten the period, but it was certainly shorter than from 1947 to 1958. We therefore have evidence that Governments themselves realise that after a period of years it is impossible to reconstruct a fair value and base it upon an earlier period.

It is much easier to say what is wrong than to say how it should be put right, far though the Bill goes towards it. The post-war problem was really much greater than it now seems to have been. It is always easy to have hindsight. About 50,000 acres have been taken each year since the war, which means that a total of 500,000 acres have been taken, by one means or another for the very necessary development of schools, roads, houses, hospitals and so on. I castigated what happened between the wars, and so I must now admit that we cannot leave what remains of the problem entirely to a free market. I accept that a balance must be struck between private rights and public good.

Mention has been made of the effect of taxation in dealing with untoward or deliberate profit made out of betterment.

I do not wholly accept that argument. It does not prevent a local authority paying a very steep price for a piece of land even though the owner who sold it may subsequently be mulcted of most of the price by way of tax. One object of the provision was to stop local authorities having to pay ten or twelve times the value of the land they were receiving, and using ratepayers' money to do it.

What I should like to know is how far we have studied this problem as it occurs in other countries. I refer especially to European countries, and not America, where they have plenty of space. How far can we apply their experience to our own difficulties? Although the Bill covers a very brave amount of ground in its relatively slender compass, it leaves many things uncovered. My personal detestation, which is not covered by the Bill, is the provision whereby a local authority acquiring land under the 1947 and 1954 Acts and thereafter finding itself unable to use the land for one reason or another, and being willing to dispose of it, must sell it at the best available price, thereby unwittingly making a profit for itself at the expense of the original owner. There is something odious about compulsorily acquiring land from a man and then, for what are no doubt honest reasons, finding that it is not wanted and selling it to the highest bidder, who is usually not the original owner.

My hon. and gallant Friend agreed that the Bill could not be comprehensive. But we are reaching a period when review is, not desirable, but possible. That is partly because the rush of postwar development has been subsiding. A very large amount of work which was going forward five or six years ago can now be seen in much clearer perspective.

I must admit that I think this is a colossal task for a private Member to undertake, and I fancy that when my right hon. Friend replies to the debate he will say that it is too big. That is a familiar argument on any Private Member's Bill, but I think that on this one it carries more weight. However, we cannot leave the matter there. We all know that March is a rotten month for any Minister to have to predict what may occur in a programme in the autumn, but I think that my right hon. Friend ought not to be left in any doubt that there is overwhelming feeling on this side of the House, supported by some hon. Members opposite, that we cannot postpone this business sine die.

I make only one reservation on what my hon. and gallant Friend said when moving the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill. This is a political matter; it is not an administrative matter. It is quite wrong to suggest that permanent officials, civil servants, or anyone else, are proving difficult or represent any factor in what we do or do not do here. This is a political matter for which the Government of the day are responsible, and we on this side of the House have no more bearing on it than anyone else. That, I think, is the fairest way of putting it. I repeat, it is a political matter, and I know that my right hon. Friend accepts that. For all this inability to meet the problem in this Bill, as my right hon. Friend may put it, I myself am unwilling to exchange the substance for the shadow. I regard the Bill as very much the substance, and, as such, it will get my vote.

1.13 p.m.

Photo of Sir Arthur Irvine Sir Arthur Irvine , Liverpool Edge Hill

It has happened that a succession of speeches have been delivered from both sides of the House in support of the Bill. It must be clearly understood, however, that that measure of support is not indicative of the state of feeling either in the House or in the country on the issues raised by this Bill.

There is no doubt that the Bill was moved in a very able, comprehensive and reasonable speech and that it has been supported by a succession of impressive speeches throughout the debate. One of the reasons why speeches in support of the Bill have been so impressive is that they are trying to remedy what is, admittedly, hardship. Therefore, it is possible to bring forward undoubtedly persuasive arguments in support of the Bill.

What has been the fallacy throughout, in my view, in the approaches made to the problem in the speeches so far delivered is the conclusion which they all embodied that we must, in order to put right individual hardships and injustices, impose an overall hardship and deprivation upon the community. That has been the fundamental defect and fallacy in the case to which we have listened today.

I must say that I was a little taken aback that the Measure should win the support of so respected a colleague of mine as my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price). I listened to his argument with the care with which I always listen to him, but what took me aback about his series of propositions was this. He said that in the history of this matter, since the beginning of the century, repeated attempts had been made to collect for the community this element in the value of land which derives from community effort. My hon. Friend pointed out how, successively, these attempts had been made and had failed.

My hon. Friend referred to the attempts made by the late Mr. Lloyd George and by others, and he then referred to the attempt comprised in the 1947 Act. I agree with his account of the matter, but what I feel so strongly is that out of all the wreckage of these hopes and endeavours one thing in the history of this kind of legislation has been saved from the wreckage. What has been saved in a long succession of attempts to get for the community that element of value in land which arises from community enterprise? The one thing which has been saved is this very provision that it is possible compulsorily to acquire land for community purposes at its existing use value. That is precisely the factor which this Bill is out to eliminate from this branch of the law. That is the reason why I think it is surprising that my hon. Friend, with his well-known views on these matters generally, should come to the conclusion that he has.

I agree that there are cases of hardship—many of them—and I agree with my hon. Friend that the heart of the problem probably lies in the fact that we have abandoned the endeavour to put into practice and effect the collection of betterment balancing compensation. I agree with all that, but simply to say, in face of arguments of that kind, that, therefore, we should give up for good and all any endeavour to preserve for the community this element in the value of land which derives from community enterprise and effort seems to me, with great respect, wrongheaded and misconceived.

Photo of Mr Morgan Price Mr Morgan Price , Gloucestershire West

I certainly did not wish to convey that impression. I said expressly that I regarded the Bill as an ambulance Measure, and I did not in the least exclude from my mind that we should return again to the charge and again tackle the problem of public values when it was possible politically so to do.

Photo of Sir Arthur Irvine Sir Arthur Irvine , Liverpool Edge Hill

It is all very well for my hon. Friend to say that, but the fact remains that repeated attempts have been made to get back for the community this element of value created by it, that these attempts have failed, and that this Bill would put the seal upon their failure.

It has been said on both sides that these values are extraordinarily difficult matters to quantify, to collect by taxation, and all the rest. That is agreed. Although there has been such a measure of failure in the endeavour to acquire for the community this acknowledged product of the community, it has not been a total failure because, when land is compulsorily acquired by the community for community use, it is not necessary for the community to pay all over again in the compulsory acquisition price for that element of value which it itself created.

That is the principle which this Bill, of course, attacks. I am glad to see that an hon. Member opposite nods consent to that. If the Bill were to become law it would represent a final surrender to the point of view that it was utterly hopeless for the community to extract out of expanding values in land the element which it itself had created by its community enterprise and effort.

There is one consoling feature. It comes somewhat uncharacteristically from the fact that the Minister is here on the Front Bench. The Government, I think, are not going to accept this proposition. With hon. Members opposite listening, I would say that the historic capacity for survival of the Conservative Party arises from its instinct to reject just this kind of Bill. The Conservative Party has not occupied, either in principle or detail, the position which the hon. and gallant Member for Gloucestershire, South (Captain Corfield) has taken up.

In 1944, a Coalition Government, with a predominantly Conservative element, tied the price to be paid for compulsorily acquired land to 1939 prices, and rightly, too. It was very wise and an acknowledgment by a Conservatively disposed Coalition of the fact that the enhanced value accruing between 1939 and 1944 was in large measure—although it might not be easily calculable—due to the element of community enterprise.

Then came the Act of 1954, when the present Prime Minister was Minister of Housing and Local Government. The development charge was eliminated as was the global fund, and if ever there was a time for making market value the appropriate price for compulsory acquisition, it might have been thought to be 1954. I do not want to make too many concessions to the Government, but the present Prime Minister was then Minister of Housing and Local Government and he has a feeling for these things. He does not belong to the rearguard of the Conservative Party which we see represented on benches opposite today, except on the Government Front Bench. The right hon. Gentleman was not disposed to take that opportunity, and he was quite right.

The Government took the view—I hope that the Minister will be good enough to corroborate this interpretation of the matter—that although the development charge and the global fund were going, it would be inappropriate to take away existing use value as the basis on which to determine the price of land to be compulsorily acquired. To do so would have the unjust consequence that the community acquiring the land compulsoritly by its instrument, the local authority, would have to pay a price which included just that element of value which the community had itself created. Fortunately for the country, not the rearguard of the Conservative Party, but the Minister is in charge of this issue of principle which concerns the House today.

Were it not for the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West went into the historical aspect, I would not mention it, but I should like to remind the House that when compulsory acquisition began in the period of the first Land Clauses Act, the social, political and economic climate was such that an owner of land compulsorily acquired was paid an increment of 10 per cent. just because it had been so acquired. The basis of the acquisition then—the outlook of the people being what it was in these long past days—was that there was a transaction between an unwilling seller and a willing buyer. This lasted until 1919, generally speaking, when the Act of that year altered the position.

Now, public opinion has moved further in this matter. It has not gone so far or fast as many hon. Members on this side of the House would wish, but it has reached the point of view that where there is compulsory acquisition of land by a local authority, the owner should be paid, not a little more because the acquisition is compulsory, but a little less. We all admit that the application of that principle is difficulty, but I insist that the principle is essentially correct.

Photo of Mr Norman Cole Mr Norman Cole , Bedfordshire South

May I ask the hon. Member a simple question? In view of the theories of betterment about which he has been speaking, is he prepared to continue the perpetuation of the present hardship to many people whose land is compulsorily acquired?

Photo of Sir Arthur Irvine Sir Arthur Irvine , Liverpool Edge Hill

I am saying that the way to deal with these hardships is not that propounded in the Bill.

It has been put forward by certain hon. Members opposite that the provisions of the Bill will make for better planning. I am dealing now with a different aspect of the subject. I should have thought that the opposite was true. For many years it was recognised—it has been recognised by the various commissions which have reported on the matter—that considerations of a financial kind were the greatest obstacle to good planning. We should all agree that the object of planning is to obtain the best use for the land.

Take the case of a local authority which acquires land at a high price enhanced—as it would be under the provisions of this Bill—because it has been acquired for a valuable use shown on the development plan. Is it not unlikely that subsequently the same authority would desire to alter the development plan in such a way that that piece of land would be put to a less lucrative use. Yet good planning might so require. I hope that that illustrates the fashion in which tieing compensation to the provisions of a development plan has necessarily—human nature being what it is even among local authorities—got the consequence of hamstringing and restricting planning. It gets straight in the way of a policy designed to put the land to the best possible use.

It is interesting to observe that the Bill goes out of its way to protect the owner who has an interest in land which is purchased by the local authority, if the local authority alters the development plan in order to carry out a different development from that originally intended. That is very significant. The Bill provides no equivalent or reciprocal protection or advantage for the local authority if it puts acquired land to a less lucrative use and in that respect the Bill reveals one-sidedness and unfairness.

We shall not get good planning so long as development plans are tied to standards of compensation. Local planning authorities who have compulsorily acquired land at an enhanced value will not feel free to put that land to less lucrative use even though good planning so requires. In many cases good planning will be thwarted because the best use of land will be that which will make the land less valuable in financial terms than the use for which the authority originally acquired it.

The Measure is put forward to deal with admitted hardships and difficulties, but it has not put forward the correct remedy. [HON. MEMBERS: "What is it?"] We are dealing now with the remedy proposed in the Bill, and which, I think, is not the correct remedy. The Bill endeavours to eliminate injustice and hardship in particular cases by imposing burdens upon the whole community.

Photo of Mr Tom Iremonger Mr Tom Iremonger , Ilford North

Would the hon. Gentleman do justice to the argument that he has used by answering the question which was put to him by my hon. Friend? Does he or does he not believe that the owner of land compulsorily acquired should be compensated at the fair market value or not?

Photo of Sir Arthur Irvine Sir Arthur Irvine , Liverpool Edge Hill

No. That is the proposal in the Bill, which I oppose.

1.33 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) has done a service to the debate by bringing out the real nature of the opposition to this Bill.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) that we must achieve the correct balance between private rights and public good. The hon. Member for Edge Hill is so obsessed with what he considers the public good that he is prepared to sweep away quite happily the private rights. I invite him to consider what he accepts, in the argument that he has put forward. I fail to understand why the principle of the Bill should be opposed. Surely the hon. Member agrees that owners of property should receive compensation if their property is acquired by the State. Surely he would go further than that and accept that such compensation must be fair; yet no one would deny that there is an ever-widening gap between 1947 land values, upon which compensation is based under the present law, and the price which property commands on the open market.

As the result, the owner of property receives considerably less than the market value if his land is acquired by the community. This means in most cases that he receives less than it will cost him to reinstate himself in a similar property for which he will have to pay the full market value. I simply do not see how that state of affairs can be justified as fair compensation. If the hon. Member for Edge Hill can do so, I shall be only too pleased to give way and provide him with an opportunity to tell me how that can be justified. I notice that the hon. Member does not attempt to do so.

Another argument is that we can disregard private rights because all owners of property are wealthy, so it does not matter what we do to them. I am utterly opposed to the premise of that argument. I cannot see why the state of any man's finances should affect his right to fair treatment. Of course, the whole contention is utterly false, because many owners of property are anything but wealthy men. I should think everyone would accept that property owners have suffered considerable hardships from the present method of assessing compensation.

I do not intend now to deal further with that point because it has been thoroughly considered by other hon. Members. Nor do I intend to enter into the question of betterment which I do not think can be divorced completely from the Bill, although I do not believe it should be used as an argument against the principle of the Bill.

I turn from the more general aspects of the Bill to particular points raised by Clause 6, which deals with compensation for owner-occupiers and tenants of farms. Under the present agricultural legislation, the farmer has been given a measure of security of tenure. This is considered desirable in the interests of efficient farming but it is completely destroyed when land is purchased compulsorily, because the present terms of compensation are fixed on the assumption that when an occupier or farm tenant is dispossessed—

Photo of Sir Arthur Irvine Sir Arthur Irvine , Liverpool Edge Hill

Why does my hon. Friend say that Clause 6 covers owner-occupiers?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

Perhaps my hon. Friend will pursue that argument if he is fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. I will continue by referring only to tenants of farms, if that will please my hon. Friend and I will leave out anything to do with owner-occupiers.

If the tenant is dispossessed he has to obtain another farm, but compensation is based on the principle that he will be able to do so on similar terms to those on which he holds his present farm; but this is not the case. Farms for sale with vacant possession command very high prices. For a large number of reasons with which we are not concerned in the Bill, there is a great scarcity of farms to let. There is a limited amount of farm land in the country, and every time some is acquired compulsorily for other purposes the total is reduced. This, in turn, makes it increasingly difficult for the dispossessed tenant to find a replacement.

Nor must it be forgotten that a particular farm has a very special value for the farmer. Every farm, often every field, has its own individual characteristics. Only experience can provide the special knowledge required to farm them to the best advantage. A move to a new district may demand a change in the farmer's purchasing or marketing arrangements, and in such cases he may well find that he has to build up his good name all over again.

Many farm workers' families are loth to leave the district where they have settled and so farmers, forced to move, may often find their labour force completely upset. Then the farmer has to find fresh men, with all the inconvenience and difficulty that that entails. The present compensation in the case of disturbance of farms is based on a maximum of two years' rental and a minimum of one year. For all the reasons I have stated. I am convinced that in most cases such compensation is totally inadequate for men who lose their livelihood, or have it thoroughly disturbed through no fault of their own. I welcome wholeheartedly the provisions of Clause 6 whereby a tenant will receive in any case two years' rent, and more if he can show that the actual loss he has suffered by disturbance is greater than that.

I want to say a word or two about Clause 8, whereby local authorities are required to purchase the interest in the land if the owner has suffered hardship when his land has been included in a development plan. I give one example from my constituency, which would seem to indicate the value of this provision. Before purchasing a house in a local town a constituent of mine took the precaution of consulting the local authority concerned. He was informed that there were no clearance plans for the area in question. Some time later he wished to sell that property as he had to move elsewhere. On that occasion, the prospective purchaser was informed by the local authority that its plans had been changed in the interval and the property was scheduled for demolition under a future clearance plan. The value of that property immediately dropped seriously.

As a result, my constituent, who had to sell, suffered a considerable loss through no fault of his own. The local authority concerned was most sympathetic as the change in its plans was due entirely to unforeseeable circumstances, but it had no power to help that individual. It would seem that such an authority would be given that power in Clause 8, which I feel is only right.

In general, I agree with those who say that the Bill will assist local authorities and other public bodies in negotiations for acquisition of land. If owners know that they will receive fair compensation, surely they will be far readier to reach agreement. That will save much expense and all the trouble involved in public inquiries where compulsory purchase orders are resisted. It will also save considerable time which, surely, is of immense importance in such cases as programmes for new roads. I do not think it would be contested that much of the resistance to compulsory purchase plans is caused by the owner feeling he is not being treated fairly.

That brings me to the basic principle behind the Bill. It not only acknowledges the right of the property owner, whether large or small, to receive compensation from the State, but it sets out to ensure that he receives it. That I support wholeheartedly. I appreciate that this Bill deals with a most complicated part of the law. I realise that it may be difficult for my right hon. Friend to accept the Bill as it stands, but, whatever the hon. Member for Edge Hill may say about the van or the rearguard of the Conservative Party, I would be in no doubt that my right hon. Friend accepts the principle behind the Bill. If he does, I hope he will say so and tell us how he plans to implement that principle in future.

1.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

One thing we all recognise is that this is a very important Bill. It is important for its inherent nature. It is important, also, for the immediate Parliamentary context in which it has appeared. For both reasons, it has had very considerable discussion. It has produced some of the most extraordinary changes of front that I think any Bill in this House has produced for many years.

Even I find myself in some embarrassment. I do not love the Minister of Housing and Local Government. I never thought the day would come when I should feel to some extent compelled to step in to protect him. I have, as so many of us have, a warm, natural, human emotion that one should come to the rescue of the cornered stag. As I saw the right hon. Gentleman sitting there with the hounds, or dogs—I am not sure which they are—barking and baying around him, I felt it my duty to say something in his defence. Poor man, he has many crimes to his name and there are very few Ministers who have so earned the natural dislike and even hatred of hon. Members, but, if there is one thing for which he is not responsible, it is the mess he has now to face in standing up against angry party members and the difficult legislative situation before him.

So far as I know, of all people he is one of the least to be blamed for that. Who are the people to be blamed, the villains of the piece? The Prime Minister, of course, is the biggest of them, but the hon. Member for North Angus (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley), who seconded the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill, is one of the main culprits. To my amazement and astonishment—I could hardly believe my eyes and looked again to make sure—I found among the supporters of the Bill the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald). If ever there was a person responsible for leading hon. Members up the garden, it is the right hon. and learned Member. I will have something to say about that in a moment, but first I want to say something about injustice.

Among the party opposite, there has been a great deal of talk about injustice being caused and of the need for something to be done about injustice. I will quote what my hon. Friend the Member for Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) had to say on that in the Third Reading debate on the 1954 Measure. His words are worthy of very considerable thought. Talking of the whole problem we shall have to tackle in this Bill—which, after all, is the essential thing—my hon. Friend said: It is not part of the policy of my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side of the House to encourage iniquitously unfair treatment as between different classes of property owners. That was precisely the point made by the former Minister of Health the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) in this debate.

My hon. Friend continued: Far be it from me to suggest that it is any part of our policy to do that. Yet that is happening in this Bill. Some owners of property will come well out of this, and some ill, but as between them there will be a remarkable lack of equity and fairness, and I regard that as being the consequence of the recognition, on the one hand, of the importance of the financial provisions to make planning effective and, on the other, the refusal to give any recognition to the principle of betterment".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th July, 1954; Vol. 530, c. 420] Those were the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Edge Hill, one of the people who have been denounced today for being indifferent about social injustice.

We had a very moving account from the hon. Member for North Angus when he seconded the Motion today. I do not know where he is; I am sorry he is not here and I thought he would have been here to listen to the debate. I do not think his absence is any reason why I should not quote what he said. He said, when the 1954 Bill was under discussion: I am led to think that such theoretical injustice as there may be in basing compensation for compulsory acquisition upon values back in 1947 is outweighed by the administrative convenience of being able so to do in view of the fact that these values are already made and agreed. But I am not so sure about the theoretical injustice of the business. Ever since the 1947 legislation, landowners have not expected any more."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 118.] He went on to develop a convincing argument for basing compensation on the 1947 values. Yet, without turning a hair, he can advise the House today to support this Bill, which is an attempt, I think misguided, to try to clear up some of the mess caused by that Act. Surely the time to make such remarks is when one can convince one's colleagues to vote against the Bill, as we voted against the 1954 Bill. I know that the hon. and gallant Member for Gloucestershire, South (Captain Corfield) was not in the House at the time, and to some extent, therefore, he can plead that he is not responsible for the situation, but I am amazed that the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey should dare to put his name to this Bill.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

I will quote what the right hon. and learned Member said in a moment, but I should first remind hon. Members that in 1954 I said how bad it was to put on the Statute Book legislation which people could not understand. I was challenged to quote from the right hon. and learned Gentleman and that is why I am venturing to do so; I should not otherwise have detained the House. I had made a point in that debate that a distinguished surveyor, who was a friend of mine and who is at the top of his profession, confessed that he was unable to understand the Bill, and I had also said: I do not understand the Bill and do not pretend to understand it. At that point the Attorney-General said: … why waste time in that case? I therefore found it necessary to point out the following: What may be a great shock to the Attorney-General to understand is that there are a great many people in this House who are not highly-paid professional men but who have some responsibility to their constituents to try to see that something like justice will be done to them. There are large numbers of laymen serving on local authorities who have to sit on committees and study Bills of this sort to try to find out what they mean. It is not enough for leading counsel and highly-paid civil servants to produce incomprehensible nonsense and then laugh at hon. Members who are trying to do their best to understand what it is all about."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 15th March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 77.] The Attorney-General told us on Second Reading that he understood what the Bill meant, but we had some long and painful times in Standing Committee between 8th April and 22nd June and we learned more and more as we went on with the Bill that the Attorney-General understood less and less about it, until eventually he was in such a confusion that the whole thing had to be re-drafted on Report. That was the contribution made by the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey to produce simple legislation, easily understood, doing justice as between man and man. Nobody except the Prime Minister has more direct responsibility for this mess than the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey, the Attorney-General, who piloted the 1954 Bill through the Standing Committee.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

A beneficent providence robbed us of his services shortly after his performance in the Standing Committee.

I want to speak about the Prime Minister's attitude. We were quite clear in our view that the 1954 Bill was a great mistake. The Prime Minister made a number of comments and he referred specifically to the problem of the complicated system of compensation which was being proposed. I want to quote what he said. I am sorry to give these long quotations, but I am sure that however I may have abused the confidence of the House in quoting my own humble words, everyone will agree that they want to listen to what the Prime Minister said. He said: It would have been all very much simpler, of course, if the Government had decided to pay compensation according to development value at the time of the refusal—to scrap the claims, to get rid of the Domesday Book, as I called it on the last occasion, and to look at the position when the adverse decision is made, and then to pay the full amount of current depreciation in all cases. That is precisely what this Bill is trying to do. I do not think that many people wanted that, either, least of all those who believe in planning, and nobody really seriously demanded it, for it would ruin planning."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 44.] In other words, with the Prime Minister well aware of the injustice in this system, he said, with his authority as the Minister, that the proposal to attach compensation to current values instead of the 1947 level of development value would ruin planning. Does he still think that? It would be interesting to know. I wonder whether any attempt has been made to find out whether that is still his view.

In my final quotation I rather act as barker to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas), because I have no doubt that he will be speaking in a moment. I want to quote what he said on that occasion, in contradistinction to what I have quoted from the Prime Minister's speech and what I have quoted from the ex-Attorney-General's speech. My hon. and learned Friend said: What the landowner gets for his land will depend entirely on the chance of who happens to be the purchaser, whether it happens to be the local authority or a private individual. That is exactly what the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) said so eloquently a few moments ago. My hon. and learned Friend continued: That is an extraordinary price structure to set up. I cannot see how a price structure of that kind—the two-tier price system—if imposed upon the country can possibly survive. It will certainly be subjected to the most acute opposition from amongst those on the Government benches. I should be amazed if the Minister has not already had trouble about it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 70.] That is the history of this question. The 1954 Bill was attacked from this side in the House, and in Standing Committee, our point being that once there was established this two-tier price structure, with one price in the open market for private enterprise and another price for compulsory acquisition by public enterprise, tensions would be created that would lead to a breakdown. That is exactly what my right hon. and learned Friend said in the passage that I have just quoted. That was clear to him, and to many of us from the very beginning of our deliberations.

It never became clear to anybody in the party opposite. It never became clear to any of the pundits of planning, to the surveyors, the lawyers and all the hon. Members who speak with such information and knowledge on this subject. Day after day, in the House and in the Committee, they went on; and, on Third Reading, they forced the Bill through. There are many hon. Members now sitting opposite who voted in support of the 1954 Act. We did not, and we did not do so for precisely the reasons now given; that it would cause injustice as between landowner and landowner, and would set up a two-tier price structure that would have within it the seeds of its own dissolution.

We can, therefore, claim a good conscience here. I recognise that there is a problem—we anticipated that there would be—but is it wise now to have another shot at dealing with it piecemeal? That is the danger of this present Bill, and that is why I cannot support it. The trouble in 1954 was that it was treated in just that piecemeal manner. The Prime Minister, who did not understand what he was doing, who did not understand the 1947 Act, blundered in to try to do something in a hurry. As a result, as is now generally agreed, he made a most frightful bloomer.

The thing that I can never cease to marvel at is how, in the Conservative Party, the bigger the bloomer a man makes the more quickly he becomes Prime Minister. For that reason, the present Minister of Housing and Local Government is soon likely to reach higher office. If anybody has touched the party opposite in its most sensitive part—the rich landowner—it is the present Prime Minister. Now safely out of that, he leaves his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government to come here and be bashed about because of it.

I make no secret of the fact that I am a believer in the 1947 Act. I think that the solution it contained, had it been persisted in, would have succeeded. It is a pity that the Conservative Government got cold feet and dropped it in the middle. I have no doubt at all that if we had continued with the 1947 Act procedure, collected development charges, and paid the compensation out of the £300 million, the position would in time have adjusted itself and we should not now be faced with this problem.

Admittedly, we would have had individual cases of hardship and difficulty before the money was paid out. I am sure that it was the postponement of the payment out of the money that created difficulties in the working of the system. Nevertheless, that was the system that might have solved this problem. It would have been rough and ready, but it would have done justice between man and man. It would have made it perfectly clear, as has already been pointed out, that development values were nationalised and the property of the community, and the existing use values would have remained in the hands of the private owner for disposal on either the public or the private market.

The whole trouble really began when the two-tier system was set up. Whether we can now go back to the 1947 Act, I very much doubt, but I remember saying, on Second Reading of the 1954 Bill, that if the 1947 Act was abolished, the only real alternative was nationalisation of land. I still feel that something like that is probably the answer. I do not mean so much the nationalisation of the land, but that we should encourage public authorities to buy in advance of their needs, so that the benefits accruing from their activities and development will accrue to the public purse, and not to the individual speculator in, or owner of, land.

That, however, cannot be done on a 7 per cent. Bank Rate, and that is the trouble about Clause 8 of the Bill. I do not object to the principle of the Clause at all, but I do think that it would be very hard indeed to compel local authorities to buy land, because their plans have affected existing use value, when they are expected to borrow the money at 7 per cent. It could not be worked that way, but, given reasonable interest rates, the public acquisition of land in anticipation of need is one solution.

If we are not to do that, there are only two other methods. The Bill seeks to abolish the public acquisition tier in the two-tier system and to have a common market price for all land, but I would advocate abolishing the top tier and going back to acquisition of existing use values only. Some injustice might be caused if we did that, but I very much doubt whether it would be greater than the injustice that will be created otherwise. It is certainly an extremely difficult problem to tackle at this stage.

The difficulty at present is that the large landowner advances in the shelter of the widow and the orphan, as always. We always hear of the hard case and the little man. The way to deal with the hard case is to have a perfectly frank hardship Clause to deal with incomes or capital below a certain amount. Otherwise there is always quoted the case of the unfortunate small man, and, as a result, unnecessary compensation is given to those who are anything but small—the great property-owning companies and the like.

Great difficulty faces a local authority. Let us suppose that a public authority wants to buy a certain amount of land in order to develop a new town. Once it moves towards acquiring that land, what had, up to then, been agricultural land which nobody had ever thought of using for any other purpose, suddenly becomes valuable as a cinema, railway station, multiple store or garage, because people are to be brought to that place as a result of the authority's own administrative efforts.

The plan may be to use a site for an open space or for playing fields, but if the landowner can give a seemingly reasonable story and say, "Oh, but with the establishment of the new town, it is quite likely that there would have been a multiple store here," that would be the measure of the development value on which compensation would have to be paid. That shows the inherent difficulty of applying a broad market value, unless there is also some way of mulcting the profits obtained from betterment.

To move again into this sphere without taking into account the problem of betterment would be a very great mistake. We have got into a mess about hat once. If we are to tackle the problem once more we must have a comprehensive review. That means considering both sides of the case, and looking, not only at the unfortunate man hit by public activity but at the lucky one who makes a good profit from the same activity. Unless we balance the two, we shall cause injustice.

I do not know what the Minister intends to say. I hope that he will not in a rather feeble way say that he will take the Bill upstairs and then take jolly good care that it does not go through. That would be the wrong attitude to adopt. He has got to say that the Prime Minister led the whole of the Tory Party up the garden. He has got to admit that the Government have got themselves into a frightful mess—a fearful political mess and a frightful financial mess; that they have messed up the whole administration of planning which is due entirely to their mulish obstinacy when the 1954 Measure was considered, and that, therefore, the only thing that can be done is to start again from scratch and have a comprehensive review of the whole position.

It may well be that we shall have to have another Uthwatt Report. Having missed the opportunity of letting the 1947 Act mature and develop, we have lost ten years of valuable time which might have led to a settling down of the position. That is the pitiable fact. I think that Lord Silkin's name will always be honoured in the future.—[Laughter.]—I am glad to extract from hon. Members opposite that laughter, because I think it shows, if I may say so within the limits of Parliamentary decency, how ignorant and shortsighted they are about this whole problem. Really, for a party of hon. Members who have made such prize asses of themselves as they did in 1954, to have the nerve to laugh at my noble Friend who was the great architect of a Bill which, at any rate, was constructive and comprehensible, merely shows how discredited they are.

I say that it is no use going back. Those days have passed. People are more and more beginning to realise that that was the real answer to the problem, and more and more people will come to realise it as this kind of pressure is put upon the Government. If the Government think that the 1947 Act was wrong, it is up to them to produce a comprehensive alternative solution.

2.13 p.m.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

The speech of the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) was one of the most extraordinary that I have heard. I did not gather that much of it had much relevance to the Bill that we are discussing. The only thing for which the country ought to be grateful is the very clear repetition by him of the fact that the Socialist Party still believes in the nationalisation of the land, and that it is absolutely against fair compensation—

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

The hon. Gentleman made a personal attack.

Mr. Glenvil Hall (Come Valley):

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I think that it will be within the recollection of all hon. Members that the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) made a statement which was quite untrue, and that when my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) tried to correct him he refused to give way.

Photo of Mr Gordon Touche Mr Gordon Touche , Dorking

That is not a point of order.

Photo of Mr Joseph Sparks Mr Joseph Sparks , Acton

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it in order for an hon. Member on the opposite side of the House to make a perfectly untrue statement and then to deny the hon. Member accused the right to reply?

Photo of Mr Gordon Touche Mr Gordon Touche , Dorking

That is not a point of order. That is a point of argument.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

It will be within the recollection of the House that the hon. Member said most clearly that he believed in the nationalisation of the land.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

Give me a chance.

Mr. Glenvil Hall:

My hon. Friend did not say that. It is a filthy, dirty trick.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

Mr. Deputy-Speaker, is it in order for the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall), who is seated, to use abusive language of that sort?

Photo of Mr Charles Doughty Mr Charles Doughty , East Surrey

On a point of order—

Photo of Mr David Williams Mr David Williams , Neath

Further to the point of order. Is it not absolutely scandalous for a right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench opposite, whose standards we on this side of the House do not regard as very high, to make such an offensive remark about my hon. Friend?

Hon. Members:


Mr. Glenvil Hall:

I will withdraw if I am given an opportunity to do so. I spoke in the heat of the moment. I certainly think that the hon. Gentleman should have allowed my hon. Friend to speak. He did not. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] In my view, it was ungentlemanly, but I do withdraw most wholeheartedly the other remark that I made.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

I accept the right hon. Gentleman's apology.

Photo of Mr David Jones Mr David Jones , Hartlepools, The

Now the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) should withdraw.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

If the right hon. Gentleman had been able to contain the heat which he engendered, I would have liked to give way to the hon. Member for Widnes. I was in the middle of a sentence. Furthermore, I observe that my remarks, which are absolutely true, as will be found on the record, seem to have stirred some members of the Socialist Party to indignation. I imagine—

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

Is not that the end of the sentence?

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

No. I was saying, "I imagine …". I imagine that divergent views are held on this subject on the other side of the House, just as there are on other subjects.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

There is nothing complicated at all about this. The Labour Party Conference has at no time come out in favour of nationalisation of the land. That is not part of the Labour Party's policy. I wish it were. I said—and I made absolutely clear that this is only my personal view—that it was now the only answer to the problem, which is exactly what I said on the Second Reading, in 1954; but that is not the same thing as saying that the Labour Party holds that view. I am a very insignificant and worthless member of that great party.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

The hon. Member must not decry himself too much. He often speaks with authority from that side of the House on these subjects of local government, and other things.

To return to the subject that we are discussing, I want to congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Captain Corfield) on the able way in which he presented this very important Bill. We on this side of the House appreciate that there are considerable difficulties about the question of compensation. I suppose that there is hardly any other subject about which there has been so much law and so much written about it. The people who rush into it are likely to disappear entirely from sight, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) said. The difficulties which have now arisen are not the consequence of the Act of 1954. They are a consequence of the 1947 Act. It is the difficulties of that Act which we are now trying to clear up.

As has also been said, one of the difficulties about fixing compensation as related to any particular date is that the further we get away from that date the more out of line with the existing values does that value become. The merit of my hon. and gallant Friend's Bill is that it does away with the question of date. We have this new criterion of the willing buyer, the willing seller and a fair market value. Perhaps I may correct the impression which I believe my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) has, that this question of date is repeated in the Bill. It is true that in one of the Clauses, but only in a minor one—the Clause relating to notice to treat—the question of a date is mentioned, but that is a passing phase. None of those cases will arise again.

Therefore, we now have the position in which we are trying to relate the compensation to which a person is entitled for the compulsory acquisition of his land to a fair market value at the time. That seems to me to be a very important advance. It is quite possible for the extra, or betterment, value which is given to the land to be controlled in another way. It can be controlled by the change in rates and in Schedule A, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South mentioned. That, surely, would take care of the increases in values from time to time.

If, owing to the activities of somebody else, a man's land increases in value, the rates on that land and the Schedule A payment could easily be made to rise. If that were the system, he would be paying out yearly a little more because of the increased capital value of his land. If he is unwilling to pay that he can sell. He can get the market value of that land, and he will be able to realise a fair price.

I suggest that that is the way to deal with betterment in future, and that the very heavy attacks that are always made on this subject are not justified. In a nation which can afford to see with a certain amount of jovial kindness a pools win of over £200,000, I do not see why it should consider that an improvement in the value of land bought by chance is necessarily a very bad thing. I think that the people who take that line are using it as a cloak for other things, that it is really due to their hatred of property, and that they are only using this argument as a cloak for saying that only those who work hard for their living should be rewarded.

Whatever solution we adopt, it is certain that the present law is grossly unfair, has worked unjustly and ought to be amended. I would take the opportunity of detaining the House for a very short time—because I know many other hon. Members wish to speak—by giving one or two examples from my own constituency of the way in which it has worked. I have not had to go round and grub out these examples; they appear every day in the newspapers. I have yesterday's paper from Gloucester with yet another gross example of the way in which the system works, and which has scandalised the conscience of the neighbourhood.

The first case is that of seven cottages which were bought for £550 in 1938. Last year, they were compulsorily acquired for £350, plus 10 guineas for the "well-maintained" payment under Section 47 of the 1936 Act. That was about half their value after twenty years. In another case, three cottages on which £142 had been very recently spent were acquired for £30. There is also another case, not actually in my constituency but just across the border, in which a farmer has had 13½ acres of land taken for a new school, and has been paid a total of £6,400. There is not the slightest doubt that in the open market that land was worth more than £12,000, so that we have reached a position in which this farmer and his family, who work for their living on this farm, have been forced to contribute £6,000 beyond what the other ratepayers have contributed to the new school set up in that area.

Finally, there is another case which is right in the middle of my constituency, of another farmer, in which compensation has not yet been fixed. We have heard this week that 13 acres of land is to be taken from that farm. It is flat land, and nobody will quarrel with the proposition that it is the best land that could have been found for that purpose. In 1942, the owner refused an offer of £1,000 per acre for it, but I doubt very much whether he will get more than just three figures for his 13 acres now. He will certainly lose thousands of pounds. In point of fact, his farm is so laid out that, when the land is taken, he will not be able to carry on in business, and he will have contributed thousands of pounds beyond what other ratepayers have found to the provision of a new school set up there for the public good.

This is not only a question of compensation on the money side, but I believe that the present law on compensation leads to other evils. Local councils, naturally, go for the cheaper land. In this case, which is in the middle of Stroud, as I have already mentioned, the inspector's report states that he has visited various other sites which could possibly be used in the immediate neighbourhood. There is, for instance, another site at Stratford Park, one right across the road from there, and one at Field Place, all of which are suitable, but which will cost a little more to build upon, because they are not so level as the other site.

The inspector, in his report, says: The cost of acquiring these different sites varies considerably, and should be considered. It is a very natural and very proper remark by the inspector, but it shows the great injustice worked by the size of the compensation. The fact that a local authority can acquire this more suitable land—the flat land which has not yet been built on—for the job naturally leads them to go for it and take it away from its existing use, whereas the other sites nearby, which are already built on and in which case they would not be disturbing anybody anything like so much, are left, because they are likely to be more expensive. That land is just as useful and valuable to the farmer as is the land across the road to its occupiers, but now that there is this two-tier system of compensation and the local authority can get his land cheap, they go there for that reason. It is a gross injustice. Justice is not seen to be done.

We also know that the local government interests in the acquisition of land have also contributed to ruin the possibility of a sale in some cases. There is another case in my constituency, at a cross roads, called Cainscross, where it was thought that the county council might wish to widen the road. There was a house and quite a number of shops along the side of the road, and it was rumoured that a compulsory purchase order might be applied for in respect of this property, which thereupon became absolutely unsaleable, and which the county council was eventually able to acquire for much less than the market price, and never had to go in for the compulsory purchase order at all.

Thirdly, I believe that the present position leads to what I might call the Crichel Down kind of mentality. The knowledge that a local council can acquire land if it pleases has given a certain air of overriding private rights, because they know that they can do it if they wish. Furthermore, it is possible for a council to sell at a profit land which has been acquired for a purpose which has expired. This has happened, and when it is compulsorily acquired the position is little different from that in the case of land acquired voluntarily. In my constituency I know of land which was voluntarily acquired by one council and which has recently been sold to another for use as playing fields for a local college. It was sold at a greatly enhanced price, which seems to me to be grossly unfair.

I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government is favourable to the principle behind this Bill. I realise the great pressure under which his Department works at present, because of the Local Government Bill and also because of the Rent Act as well, and that it is very tempting to try to get the whole of the law changed so that a complete job is made of it. But I do not think that this matter brooks any further delay. As time goes on, it becomes more and more insistent.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance was being pressed by hon. Members on the other side of the House recently about payments under National Assistance in respect of increased rent under the Rent Act, and, in reply, he said something which I am sure no Conservative or Liberal will contest. My right hon. Friend said that if a subvention was necessary to enable people to pay their rent, it should be paid by the community and not by the individual landlord.

That is also the answer to the question of what compensation should be paid to the occupier of land whose land is taken from him compulsorily in the public interest. It should be paid for by the public, and not by the individual landlord himself.

I have given the House two cases of farmers whose land has been acquired, causing many thousands of pounds to be paid by the owners to public purposes above what is paid by other ratepayers. There are thousands of other cases, and I suggest that it is important that my right hon. Friend should accept the principle of this Bill, because this is something which every Conservative will expect him to be able to say.

Photo of Sir Frederick Messer Sir Frederick Messer , Tottenham

Would you accept a Motion for the Closure, Mr. Deputy-Speaker?

Photo of Mr Gordon Touche Mr Gordon Touche , Dorking

I cannot accept the Closure.

2.29 p.m.

Photo of Mr Joseph Sparks Mr Joseph Sparks , Acton

I hope that the House will see fit to reject the Bill. First, it is a Bill designed to place the interests of a small section of the community, the landowners, above the interests of the community as a whole. We have listened today to many speeches from the benches opposite, all intended to show cause why the interests of landowners should be supreme, but not a word have we heard about the interests of the community.

Photo of Sir John Hall Sir John Hall , Wycombe

Does the hon. Gentleman classify as "just a small section of landlords and landowners" the owner-occupiers of slum dwellings?

Photo of Mr Joseph Sparks Mr Joseph Sparks , Acton

If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to make my speech in my own way, I shall probably deal with that point before I finish.

There is no doubt whatever that there is a wide gulf between the philosophy and conception of society held by hon. Gentlemen on the Conservative benches and that held by those sitting on this side of the House.

Photo of Mr Joseph Sparks Mr Joseph Sparks , Acton

The principal difference is that hon. Gentlemen opposite always seem to think that the rights of the private individual are supreme and that the rights of the community come at the end of the queue.

Photo of Mr Joseph Sparks Mr Joseph Sparks , Acton

I listened with some interest to what was said by the right. hon. Gentleman the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), when he gave us a very interesting picture of a dairy farmer owning two fields on the fringe of Tees-side.

Photo of Mr Joseph Sparks Mr Joseph Sparks , Acton

He said that it was necessary for that farmer to farm on the fringe of Tees-side because the markets for his products were situated in Teesside itself. His complaint was that the farmer concerned had to—

Photo of Mr Joseph Sparks Mr Joseph Sparks , Acton

Mr. Speaker, am I to be allowed to address the House without interruption, or am I not?

The farmer himself was faced with the possibility of a compulsory purchase order on one of his two fields which, if proceeded with, would provide him with compensation of approximately 25 per cent. of the supposed market value of the field. The fact remains that, if there had not been a Tees-side and there had not been any people living in the Tees-side area, the value of that farmer's land would have been very small indeed. Whatever value was attached to it was not created wholly by the farmer or the owner of the land, but was created by the Tees-side community and the people living there. I do not, therefore, see why, in cases of that kind, where the community, through its own effort, creates value and wealth, the private owner of land should take for himself something which he has not created.

The present rate of compensation, by and large, is fair and just. Where land is acquired by a local authority through a compulsory purchase order, it is based upon the existing use value plus the development value as at 1st January, 1948, plus one-seventh. In many cases, that value is very little different from what is commonly called the current market value. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] In many cases—I do not say in all cases.

By and large, therefore, the existing basis for acquisition of land by local authorities is a fair and proper one. If there is any increment of value attached to it from the passing of the years, that increment, in my opinion, comes from the work of the community which creates it, not from the private land owner. That is where the two sides of the House part company.

If this Bill were to pass into law, it would make complete and absolute nonsense of the development plans of local authorities. When a local authority prepares a development plan, it takes, as a rule, a fairly wide area where there is a mixed development of industry, residence and, sometimes, open space and vacant land. The whole idea of a development plan is to remodel an area so as to provide for the inhabitants suitable and acceptable arrangements for their living accommodation, for the needs of industry, and to provide open spaces and the like for the people, particularly the children, who live round about. This means that some parts of the area in a development plan which, at the time, may be vacant land may be zoned in the development plan for industrial or residential purposes. Parts of an area at present used for industrial or residential purposes may, in the plan, be zoned for open space or some other use.

When a local authority proceeds to acquire land to effect the purposes of a development plan, it pays for the existing use value, plus the development value as at January, 1948, plus one-seventh. Apparently, if land at present used for residence is to be purchased, and, in a development plan, it is zoned for industrial purposes, hon. Gentlemen opposite would claim that the owner who has to sell his land and houses to the local authority should be entitled not to the value of the land for residential purposes but to the value of it for industrial uses, a very much higher value.

Who has created the value of that piece of land? Had there not been a development plan, such a residential site would not have acquired an industrial use value at all. It has acquired industrial use value only because it is zoned as such in the development plan. The local authority, apart from the cost to itself of redeveloping the area, would have to pay the highest industrial use value for land which, at the moment, may be in residential use, or even may be vacant land and have a still lower present value.

What of the parts of an area now in use for industrial purposes which are zoned in a development plan for open space? There is a great deal of difference between the value of existing industrial sites and vacant sites. Hon. Gentlemen opposite say that in cases like that the local authority should pay to the owner of the industrial site the industrial use value, although the plan determines that it should be used only as open space or a vacant site, or, perhaps, for residential purposes, which attracts to it a value very much lower than the existing industrial use value.

If supporters of the Bill on the benches opposite wish to be fair in their approach to this problem, they would say, in cases where the local authority was acquiring industrial sites for replacement with open space for the community, which would be a use far below the existing use value, that the local authority ought to pay the owners of the sites only the reduced value as an open space or as a residential accommodation.

Hon. Gentlemen opposite are trying to have the best of all worlds for the private landowners. Therefore, if this principle were introduced, it would make sheer nonsense of the development plans of local authorities and would make development completely impossible financially. The net result would be that development plans might be provided, but they would never be implemented because of the very considerable and substantial costs involved.

Photo of Mr David Williams Mr David Williams , Neath

This is a simple intervention. Is the hon. Gentleman in a position to reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall), who asked him whether he was in favour of owner-occupiers of property being paid less than they paid for their property when they acquired it.

Photo of Mr Joseph Sparks Mr Joseph Sparks , Acton

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is referring to owner-occupiers' property in clearance areas or development areas. There is a great deal of difference between the two, as he will know. What applies in the case of local authority acquisition applies in all cases, whether they are owner-occupiers or not. They are paid the existing use value, plus the development value at 1948, plus one-seventh, which is not a bad value, despite the fact that it is based on 1948 values.

Photo of Sir John Hall Sir John Hall , Wycombe

Am I to understand that the hon. Gentleman therefore opposes Clause 7 of the Bill and would approve of a system which enables a local authority, under the Slum Clearance (Compensation) Act, to acquire property at much less than the own-occupiers paid for it?

Photo of Mr Joseph Sparks Mr Joseph Sparks , Acton

I do not know what the owner-occupier may have paid for it. Some people are prepared to throw a great deal of money away, and some poor people are misled by astute people who have land to sell. If people, whether they be owner-occupiers or anything else, pay a ridiculous price for a property they cannot blame anybody else for being "stung." Therefore, there is no problem in this connection, because the rate of compensation is a fair one.

As for Clause 7, Compensation in respect of certain buildings in clearance areas, etc. here again one meets the problem that I have been trying to explain which arises from a development plan. In a clearance area, more often than not industrial sites, as well as residential sites and vacant sites, are included, all of which have differing values, the industrial site carrying the highest value and the vacant site carrying the lowest value. If, therefore, a derelict house in a clearance area is to receive compensation equal to the value of an industrial site in the clearance area, as the Bill provides, in my opinion that is a most unreasonable demand to make upon the community.

I hope that this Bill will not be carried by the House. I believe that the rights of the community are paramount in these matters. I believe that fair play and justice should be awarded to those whose land is taken over for public purposes. But I do not believe that the community should be blamed, and I do not believe that private landowners should take to themselves values which they have done nothing to create, but which the community has created. Those values are entitled to remain with the community. Why this Bill is so unreasonable is that it seeks to appropriate for private landowners something to which they are not entitled.

I trust, therefore, that the House will reject the Bill on account of its unfairness to the community, on account of the fact that it will make complete nonsense of the development plans for our towns and cities, and will deprive the people of rights to which they are entitled.

2.48 p.m.

Photo of Sir Lionel Heald Sir Lionel Heald , Chertsey

I suppose that there are few hon. Members opposite with whom I would agree more in principle than the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks). In the past we have had a lot of discussions. They have always been very friendly and I hope that they always will be. I refer to that in contrast to what was said by the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), on whom I will not waste any time at all. During the passage of the Town and Country Planning Bill, I had the duty of assisting the Prime Minister and of explaining some of the Clauses. The hon. Member for Widnes said that I did not understand what I was talking about. The hon. Member for Acton on one occasion very kindly said that I had managed to explain to him a most difficult matter, and I remember it. I used to live quite close to the constituency of the hon. Member for Widnes, so I understand what comes from there sometimes.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

Would the hon. Gentleman tell that to the hon. and gallant Member for Poole (Captain Pilkington)?

Photo of Sir Lionel Heald Sir Lionel Heald , Chertsey

The case for the Bill has been so powerfully presented by the mover and seconder, the hon. Members for Gloucestershire, South (Captain Corfield) and North Angus (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley), that I feel it would be nothing but impertinent and a waste of time to try to add anything to what they said.

I shall occupy only a few minutes, because I know that other hon. Members intend to, and should, address the House. However, I should like for a moment or two to emphasise the importance of this Bill. The hon. Member for Acton has his views regarding ownership, development plans, and so forth, but I suggest to him and to other hon. Members opposite that they are dealing with something that is most important. The House exists for the redress of grievances as much as for anything else, and we are bound, if there is a grievance, to see what we can do to remedy it.

We have not only the examples which have been cited in hon. Members' speeches, examples from their constituencies, to which all of us could add, but we have something else in addition, which has not been sufficiently stressed. We have in the Report of the Franks Committee a very remarkable feature. That Committee went out of its way to make a positive statement about something which was not within its terms of reference, and I do not believe that any Committee of that status would do a thing of that kind unless it thought it absolutely essential. I think the House ought to be reminded of the powerful statement made by the Committee and of what that Committee was.

Let me point to one or two of the members of the Committee which made this recommendation which is at the very root of what we are discussing today. We start with Sir Oliver Franks as Chairman, whom I have never regarded as one of the vintage Tories. Then there was the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen), and the hon. and learned Member for Paisley (Mr. D. Johnston). Then there were Dame Florence Hancock and Lord Silkin, and there was Lord Justice Parker, of whom we have heard in other connections into which I certainly will not go now. Those were some of those sitting on the Committee.

I think it may be useful just for a minute of two also to remind the House of the sort of evidence on which this Committee was proceeding in regard to this question of hardship. It started with evidence from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. A very eminent person came from there to make the statement that In a very high proportion of cases price is the fundamental trouble about the whole thing. The Chartered Institute of Surveyors, who are people of great experience, spoke of great unrest being traced to the basis of compensation. Then there was an important witness, Dr. Jackson, who is Reader in Public Law and Administration in Cambridge University, and he made a very strong statement with regard to it. He certainly did not approach the matter from a political point of view. One important thing he stressed was the difficulty which is created in the smaller localities where all know one another and the people on the local authorities do not like taking a man's property away from him when they know he is not getting a fair price for it. That was not some imaginative politician. That was a gentleman whose business it is to study these matters in his ordinary daily work. He put it in this way: If I get one price when I sell my land voluntarily and another when I sell is compulsorily I shall never feel forcing me to sell is just. There were others who gave evidence, and I cannot spend time on them now, but one very important body which gave evidence before that Committee was a body of lawyers, and they were even more important, perhaps, to hon. Members on the other side because they were Labour lawyers. They made a particular point of this matter and said Many current objections to the present proceedings would disappear if adequate compensation were given in many of the cases of compulsory purchase. When they were asked what they meant by a large number of cases they said: Well over 50 per cent. of the cases, in our view, would disappear altogether. That is the kind of view on which the Committee proceeded.

I do not believe it is necessary for us to underline it or add to it today. The question is, what are we to do about it? A Bill has been introduced, which has been considered with great care, with the assistance of people who have been dealing with this matter and considering it for many years. We very sincerely hope and believe that it will have the most careful attention of the Government.

I think we ought to appreciate that it is no good our looking back and saying it is all the fault of Henry George or Lloyd George or Lord Snowden or Mr. Ramsay Macdonald or even the present Prime Minister or someone else. We are here as Members of Parliament, and not as members of parties, to deal with a case in which the public have shown they have a deep sense of grievance. I believe they will not have much patience with people who get up in this House and on academic or doctrinaire grounds say, "We are very sorry, but in order to satisfy our political theories you have to go on suffering injustice."

I do not believe people want that. I sincerely hope that we shall hear from my right hon. Friend today—I feel quite sure we shall—that he intends to deal with the matter fully, and that is the reason why I shall be only a minute or two before I sit down.

I think we ought to appreciate that this is not something which has arisen for the purpose of this debate. I have been referred to personally, and I take myself as an example. I dealt with this matter on the first occasion I spoke in the House after ceasing to be a member of the Government. During the time I was a member of the Government I was a Law Officer, and it is not the business of a Law Officer to deal with policy. It is his business to deal with the law, or to try to. As soon as I was uninhibited in those respects I made a speech in this House in which I dealt with this among other subjects.

I raised it at the General Election. The hon. Member for Widnes, of course, finds this is very humorous, but he is not really interested in the rights of the individual. My constituents are. I found in my constituency

Photo of Sir Lionel Heald Sir Lionel Heald , Chertsey

No I will not give way. The hon. Member does not give way to me on occasion.

Photo of Mr Arthur Skeffington Mr Arthur Skeffington , Hayes and Harlington

On a point of order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has made insulting references to my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl). Surely he ought to have the grace to give way to my hon. Friend if he wants to intervene?

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way? I do not mind his insulting me at all. I hit him hard. However, I am always willing to give way. The comment I wanted to make was that I thought that that confession from a lawyer that he does not worry about the policy of the Bill he is getting through was only in line with lay people's view of the legal profession.

Photo of Sir Lionel Heald Sir Lionel Heald , Chertsey

The hon. Member seems rather to be taking advantage of my giving way to him.

On the question of individual freedom, I was just saying that there were large numbers who raised this matter from the very beginning, and it was very strongly raised before the last General Election. Indeed, there was some correspondence in The Times, I seem to remember, at that time. We made a prominent feature of it in our election addresses. I certainly did. I found in my constituency that this was something which caused a good deal of interest.

Incidentally, I believe that as a result of the line I took upon it there were a number of people—we had not the advantage of a Liberal candidate—who, I believe, may call themselves Liberals whether with a large or a small "I", who took the positive line they did because of the line I took upon this matter. A most important point is involved. Many of those who are described as floating voters would like to hear my right hon. Friend make it quite clear today that the Government support these ideas of individual rights and freedoms, in contrast to some of the views we have heard expressed by hon. Members opposite.

The proper course would be to give the Bill a Second Reading and allow the difficulties to be considered in Committee. No doubt there are difficulties—there always are in these matters—but I believe that they are greatly overrated. Several of the provisions are of the utmost importance to many individuals. At the very least, three or four provisions should become law, and I hope that every effort will be made to see that they do.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West) rose

Photo of Sir Lionel Heald Sir Lionel Heald , Chertsey

I am sorry, but I cannot give way. I promised not to be very long.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

I was trying to help the right hon. and learned Gentleman.

Photo of Sir Lionel Heald Sir Lionel Heald , Chertsey

I am sure of that. I have been helped in that way before.

With great respect, and in all humility, in relation to the argument about the difficulty of doing anything, I would remind my right hon. Friend of some words used by a person who has been very much in our thoughts for the last few days. In a Minute sent to the Chief of Combined Operations, on the question of the "Mulberry" floating piers, he said: Let the best solution be worked out. Do not argue the matter. The difficulties will speak for themselves. I venture to think that that is the line upon which we should proceed.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

I wanted to suggest that, speaking as a former Attorney-General and having the respect of the House attached to his views, the right hon. and learned Gentleman might say to my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), in a discussion of a matter of law, in a House about to make law, that a knowledge of law is not of itself necessarily a disqualification.

Photo of Sir Lionel Heald Sir Lionel Heald , Chertsey

I am much obliged to the hon. Member.

I do not want to delay the House any longer. This is an occasion when we have the great advantage of dealing with a Private Member's Bill, and such Bills provide the means of dealing with public grievances. There is a public grievance here; let us agree to deal with it.

3.1 p.m.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Leicester North East

I am rising to address the House long after the time I had hoped to be able to do so. I am sure that everybody would agree that it is most important that in a discussion of a Measure such as this the Minister should have as much time as possible to deal with the various arguments which have been put forward. I therefore intend to reduce my remarks to a comparatively small compass, and I hope that the House will bear with me if I try to go through all that I have to say comparatively quickly.

This is a complicated Bill, and I very much admired the way in which the hon. and gallant Member for Gloucestershire, South (Captain Corfield) moved the Second Reading. The Bill is complicated not so much by the intention which is incorporated in the separate Clauses as by the necessity to read the Clauses in conjunction with the background against which the Bill has to be placed. The inevitable result is that its draftsmanship is complicated, and it involves important decisions of Government policy—indeed, an important reversal of Government policy. We are, therefore, not having a Second Reading debate of a Private Member's Bill in the ordinary sense of the term, but we are seeing a large-scale, co-ordinated body of opinion being brought to bear upon the Government to induce them to reverse their policy in relation to the Macmillan Act.

That would mean the Government eating their own words and swallowing their own policy—a very indigestible process. The hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), who was himself a Minister at the relevant time, referred to the Act today as jargon and injustice, and the hon. and gallant Member for Gloucesteshire, South said that the Act was the sort of Measure which had resulted in "anti-Socialist protestations of the Conservative Party ceasing to be taken at their face value by the electorate." I can tell him that the Macmillan Act was not in any sense a Socialist Measure. It was a Conservative Measure, introduced against the vote of the Labour Party, strenuously opposed by it all through the Committee stage, and voted against on Third Reading—because, among other reasons, we foretold that it would result precisely in the hardships which have now, in fact, resulted.

The difficulty behind the agitation which is going on against the Government is, of course, the difficulty of a two-price system for the acquisition of land. If land is sold on the open market voluntarily, then the owner gets the market price consisting of two elements, current existing use value and development value. But if the land is affected by planning or compulsory acquisition, then the owner gets current existing use value, as he would in the event of the voluntary sale of the land—that is a common element in both prices—but, instead of getting the current development value which one gets on the voluntary sale of land, he gets the development value in 1947. That means a lower price for compulsory acquisition than for voluntary sale. That is not the result of the Silkin Act, but the result of the solution produced by the present Prime Minister in order to do away with the Silkin Act.

The two-price system is the product of the Conservative Government. It was voted for by hon. Members opposite who have now had the audacity to speak against the very thing for which they voted in the Government Lobby. We on this side of the House voted against it and spoke against it, pointing out precisely the kind of difficulties which have been enumerated in speech after speech by hon. Members opposite in the course of today's debate.

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

I think that if the hon. and learned Gentleman will cast his mind back, and if he wants to be fair, he will find that the two-price system had arisen long before that.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Leicester North East

The two-price system which is causing the difficulty here is precisely the difficulty foretold by us in 1954.

The hon. Member for North Angus (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) referred to the distortion of planning. Has the hon. Gentleman in mind the terms of the Amendment which we on this side put down to the Motion for the Second Reading of the 1954 Bill? Our Amendment stated: This House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which fails to safeguard the public interest in land values created by community endeavour, prejudices the planning work of local authorities and will be detrimental to future land use planning."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 61–2.] In the course of discussion on that Bill we made precisely the point about distortion of planning which the hon. Member for North Angus made so effectively in the course of his speech.

In the course of his winding-up speech on that occasion, the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) made a very interesting observation in view of what he has said this afternoon. He said: The final words of the Amendment deal, presumably, with the difference between the two values. That is exactly what we have been talking about in the course of this debate. The right hon. and learned Gentleman then went on to deal with the matter of the difference between the two values, and added: I can say that if ever there was, in the most literal sense of the word, a red herring, that is it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 158–9.] Here he is today, of course, fishing for that red herring.

The problem is, of course, how are we to maintain and provide planning provision of land for public purposes, which we all agree, as the hon. Member for North Angus said very fairly, to be essential, and, at the same time, ensure a perfectly fair price for the land?

We cannot have planning and the provision of land for public purposes without compensation. The problem is how is the compensation to be provided? What we on this side of the House have said; what the Liberal Party used to say—unrepresented today by the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen)—was that this compensation should be provided for out of the unearned increment made by landowners by public enterprise to which they do not contribute. That is the difference between the two sides.

Photo of Mr Roderic Bowen Mr Roderic Bowen , Cardiganshire

It would appear that the hon. and learned Gentleman has missed entirely my references to the taxation of land values.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Leicester North East

Well then, I am sorry, and I apologise to the hon. and learned Member. If he is coming with us against the Conservative Government on the method of providing compensation for the provision of a fait price as required by this Bill, he will have to withdraw his sponsorship of this Bill, and we shall accept him with open arms as one whose conversion results from this debate.

How is compensation to be provided? I have said how we say it should be provided. We say that the provision of compensation out of betterment is an essential part of any system of providing fair compensation. How did the Prime Minister provide for it? Not by betterment; not by the unearned increment from land. He provided for it, not in any way by culling money from the unearned increment of the development value due to public enterprise. He did it in two ways: first, by taxation whereby the Treasury helped to contribute towards the purchase price or compensation for land; and secondly—and this is where the difficulty has arisen—by the owner affected by planning or compulsory purchase bearing a lower price than he would otherwise get. That was a deliberate decision and an essential part of the Macmillan Act. It is the counterpoise to the advantage which landowners were getting from the Macmillan Act of the full unearned development value resulting from public enterprise. In other words, it was a system of swings and roundabouts. They took a chance in the gamble and the losers in that gamble are now squealing because of the gamble which they themselves supported in 1954.

I will quote the way in which the present Prime Minister dealt with this very problem in 1952 when he faced exactly the same difficulty; only, of course the difficulty was brought forward then not by the hon. and gallant Member for Gloucestershire, South or by the hon. Members opposite who have made eloquent speeches today. The Prime Minister had then to meet the difficulty advanced from this side of the House against the speeches and votes of hon. Members opposite who are now supporting the Bill. I propose to give hon. Members opposite a little of their own medicine as prescribed by the Prime Minister. In a debate in 1952 when the scheme was introduced he said: Now, of course, it may be argued that values should be paid for as they accrue—in other words, compensation should not be fixed to the 1947 value. That is exactly what hon. Members opposite are saying in this Bill, and I will show how the right hon. Gentleman goes on to deal with it. He said: That is a fair point, but there are two answers to that. First, in many cases these values will have been created by the efforts of the community, and secondly, the landowners have had no expectation of receiving more than the 1947 claim. Therefore, they are by no means worse off except to the extent that claims are postponed or never paid. Later, the right hon. Gentleman said: In future when compensation is paid either for compulsory purchase or on refused planning permission, it will be on the basis not of the value at the day but as laid down in the 1947 valuation. I say that that is a fair thing because of the first reason that I have given. The first reason was that the value was due to community effort. Government supporters carried that proposal against our opposition.

Photo of Sir David Price Sir David Price , Eastleigh

I was not then a Member of the House.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Leicester North East

All right. If hon. Members do not agree with it, let them turn out the Government with whose policy they disagree.

A third reason was given by the right hon. Gentleman. He said: The third reason, and to my mind an overwhelming one, why we should retain the 1947 valuation, is that if compensation had to be paid in future on values as they accrued, unknown and perhaps heavy claims would fall upon the community. Thus the broad principle of the 1947 settlement—no compensation for values which accrue after 1947—has been generally accepted as fair. I believe that Government supporters, except those who came in since 1954, also accept it. I except also hon. Members on this side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman went on: If that were destroyed, new controversies would arise, and the revival of those controversies, I feel sure, would have been equally injurious to the long-term interests of landowners and those of the general public. We can well imagine the way in which the present Prime Minister put that sentence across. When he was tackled on this matter of the remedy for ensuring there is not too great a divergence between the two prices, the voluntary sale price in a free market and the sale price on compulsory purchase, he said: But there is another safeguard"— he had been speaking about safeguards— to which I now come, and that is a point to which the Government attach great importance and which has been foreshadowed in the White Paper. We now have in our hands"— I call the attention of the Minister particularly to these words— an instrument which is more comprehensive than in the time of the old land disputes. That is the compulsory purchase order by which land can be bought at existing use value with a fixed ceiling upon its development value, and that fixed ceiling is the 1947 valuation. He went on to explain that sentence later on: But the problem arises, what about the land for private development? It is our firm intention that the local authority should, where necessary, arrange that this part of the estate should be acquired in the same way and made available to the private developer. The same will apply as necessary should the land be required for industry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st December, 1952; Vol. 508, c. 1116–20.] In other words, the Prime Minister was saying this: "We have the instrument of the compulsory purchase order, and if there is too big a difference between the free market value and the compulsory purchase value, we will use the compulsory purchase order in order to acquire the land and keep down the free market value, and sell that land to industry and those who want to develop it."

It is not that the Prime Minister did not have these difficulties in mind. Column after column of his speech deals with them. They were brought before him not from Government benches but from this side of the House. His answer was what Government supporters would use the Socialist solution of the compulsory purchase order in order to keep down the market price of land to within a reasonable distance of the compulsory purchase price of land. [Interruption.] Here are the beginnings of a full-scale, full-blooded revolt among Government supporters.

Of course, this two-price system is iniquitous. We said that when Government supporters supported the Bill and voted for it. It is wrong. The solution to it is by the one-single-price system for everybody, but that can be done fairly only by a system of betterment, as we advocated in 1954. These difficulties and hardships, which have been caused open-eyed by the Macmillan Act and by the present Government, can be solved only by adopting precisely the policy which we advocated in 1954 to meet the very difficulties of which Conservatives en Government benches are now complaining.

This Measure cannot go through as a Private Members' Bill; it can be dealt with only by the Government, if it is to be dealt with at all. The way to deal with it is that put forward in an extremely able and effective speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes, to which naturally so much exception was taken by hon. Members opposite. That way is by a comprehensive Bill which will provide a true, fair and permanent one-price solution by making money available out of the unearned increment which at present accrues to landowners.

What this Bill would achieve would be, not the balanced swings and roundabouts system of the Macmillan Act but that landowners will get everything, always. Planning would be thwarted, and we all agree that planning is essential. I recommend that the Minister should go back to the 1954 debate, read what was said, and adopt the policy we then advocated and advocate now as the only true solution to the difficulties we then foresaw and foretold and which are now the cause of the Bill before us.

Photo of Mr Albert Hunter Mr Albert Hunter , Feltham

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I want to ask for your guidance. This debate has gone on for more than four hours. In view of the very wide public feeling on the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Sir F. Messer), the Protection of Deer Bill, will you allow the vote to be taken on the Question now before the House?

Photo of Mr Gordon Touche Mr Gordon Touche , Dorking

I cannot accept the Closure.

3.22 p.m.

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

I am sorry that in his speech the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas) did not pay more attention to the doing of justice in the present situation, which is what I have always understood Parliament through the ages has existed to preserve.

I think that whatever our individual feelings we should all like to express appreciation to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Captain Corfield) for bringing so important a subject before the House and giving us the opportunity for an exceedingly interesting debate. He spoke with great power and lucidity on a subject which I must confess I do not myself find translucently clear. He and my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) put with great plainness and strength the case which it was their opportunity to lay before the House, that the present state of the law does not do justice.

The main object of the Bill is the proposal to establish fair market value as the basis of compensation for compulsory acquisition, "Fair market value" has a ring about it such as I think we should all approve. The Government thoroughly sympathise with the view that the present basis of compensation works very hardly in some cases. It is not that an owner is paid less than he gave for the land. There may be exceptions, but in the normal case, that should not happen under the present law if, in buying the land, the owner has acted with common prudence. It is all too true, as has been said by several hon. Members—not only on this side of the House—that an owner whose land is bought compulsorily is often paid less, it may be a great deal less, than he would get if he sold the land privately.

It is not the case that there is always a big difference between the two prices. The really big differences arise mainly on open land on the fringes of growing towns, where land for building is relatively scarce and development value, in consequence, has sharply increased since 1947. Where most of the value is in the existing use, as is normal in the case of a house or business premises, the local authority pays the market value, or something near to it, under the present law.

All the same, the fact that there are any cases in which an owner receives from a public authority using compulsory powers a great deal less than he would receive in a private sale, and perhaps a great deal less than his neighbour actually receives who sells privately, seems to me on the face of it to be indefensible, and I have complete sympathy with that point of view.

It is worth while going back for a moment and tracing how this has happened. Under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, the State, in effect, took over all or virtually all development value in land, leaving private owners only with the value of their land for its existing use. Under the 1947 Act they were to be compensated for their lost development value on the basis of claims which had been made in 1948 and then, if they were given planning permission to carry out development, they had, as it were, to buy back the value by paying the development charge.

What has created the present divergence between the price paid on compulsory acquisition and the market value has been the abolition of the development charge. I am certain that very few people will be found to regret that abolition. So long as the development charge existed, private sales, like sales to a public authority, were supposed to take place at existing use value. The vendor had no development value to sell and the purchaser was supposed to pay for it by way of the charge. While the development charge existed, therefore, market value in free sales, just as in forced sales, was, or should have been, the value of the land for its existing use. We all know that the practical effect was that very little land came into the market. I think that the prize understatement of the year was that of the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price), when he said that the 1947 Act was not a 100 per cent. success.

When the Government decided, in 1952, to abolish the development charge they deliberately decided to retain the restricted basis for compulsory acquisition—that is, market value for the existing use together with the development value which the land had in 1957. The Government did that recognising that, since we were freeing private sales, there were likely to be difficulties in what has come to be called the two-price system which would result. The Government believed at the time that we must retain the restricted basis for compulsory acquisition, at any rate, for a time. They did not wish to throw away the compensation settlement which had been reached in the 1947 Act. Their desire was, while continuing to retain planning control, to bring land into the market, to encourage development and to get rid of all the intolerable difficulties and discontents connected with the development charge. The whole of this enterprise was in itself very successful.

One of the great problems which arises in considering the question of the price which ought to be paid by public authorities when buying land is that it sometimes happens that much of the value has been created not only by the activity of the community, but perhaps directly by public expenditure from the rates or taxes. A case that is familiar to me at present is that of land within the area of a new town. Before the new town development corporation came along and provided water, sewers, access and the rest, that land usually had very very little value. Today, as the result of all this expenditure, the value of the land that is still undeveloped has vastly increased.

This question of unearned increment, or betterment, or whatever one may like to call it, is a very old one. A great many efforts have been made to find a fair balance between the private owner and the public purse. It is a long story. It was a problem, I know, that was a great deal in the mind of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when he laid before the House the 1952 White Paper, to which reference has been made. It is a problem we need, at least, to think about if we are to make changes in the present law.

I have gone over the history of all this to show that it is not a matter on which one can end years of detailed study and argument just in a few moments, and I think that my hon. and gallant Friend realises, in his heart, that whatever view one takes of it, it is not really a matter that can adequately and successfully be dealt with by way of a Private Member's Bill. Indeed, he virtually indicated that in his admirable speech.

If the 1947 and 1954 Acts are to be amended, it must be done by a Government Measure, and I want to tell the House that the Government share my hon. and gallant Friend's view that the basis of compensation for compulsory acquisition does work very hardly in some cases, and that, as a Government, we are considering how it might be amended.

The subject is extremely complicated. There is no doubt whatever that when, in 1952, the Government of the day—and I was a back bencher then, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister held my present position—decided to abolish that bad invention, the development charge, they did so well recognising that there would be difficulties in the two-price system. It was believed that the 1952 solution was right, at any rate for the time, and it was embodied in the 1953 and 1954 Acts—

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Leicester North East

Is the Minister now saying that everything that the Prime Minister said, and that I ventured to quote, was just "baloney"?

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

I am making my own speech. Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will be good enough to listen to it.

The Government fully agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that a reexamination of this policy is due. They have been pressing on with this, and I can tell him that we started before he actually presented this Bill, and before the Government knew anything about it. Examination may well lead, I should think, to amending legislation, but the task cannot be a simple one. If we are to abandon one system, we must replace it with another, otherwise we shall merely be taking people out of one set of difficulties into another. Nobody will thank Parliament for doing that.

It is not enough to promulgate the general idea, as this Bill does in Clause 1, unless one has first thought out in advance all the implications and applications. With the utmost respect to my hon. and gallant Friend, he must not dismiss this by pretending that tidiness and precision in legislation matter only to civil servants.

I shall not dare to suggest whether lawyers like the law to be precise or not, but, unless the law is precise, all those who buy or sell land or property, or who advise on and handle these matters in their professional capacities, and who must have precision, will be left in uncertainty and chaos, and that will happen if Parliament shirks the practical difficulties that are bound to be encountered. Whatever one thinks of the broad principle in it, I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend will be sure that I am not criticising him when I say that this Bill will not do as the basis of an Act of Parliament.

Photo of Mr Peter Roberts Mr Peter Roberts , Sheffield, Heeley

I have followed my right hon. Friend's argument so far, but can he say when the Government are likely to come forward with any constructive proposals?

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

I am sure that my hon. Friend will appreciate that it is not easy, on a Friday afternoon in February, to say precisely what will be contained in the Queen's Speech the following November.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

Surely the right hon. Gentleman is not in that difficulty, because he said to the House only five minutes ago— and he has plenty of time—that when the Bill was introduced, in 1954, the Government thought that it was right to introduce the Bill but that it was the wrong Bill. They have since considered the matter carefully and they have come to the conclusion that the two-price system would not work at all and that they would have to think it over.

Is the right hon. Gentleman now saying that having introduced a Bill which deceived the House in 1954, and which they knew was the wrong Bill, they have not yet applied their minds to it by 3.30 on a Friday afternoon in February? Are they now trying to get away from it by saying that Friday is not the right day, and that if we had only put down Questions on the subject on a Monday or a Tuesday the Government would have been able to deal with it?

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

If the hon. Gentleman had entered the Chamber a little earlier he might have had an opportunity to make his own speech. I am sure, judging from this intervention, that we would have enormously enjoyed hearing him at greater length.

I cannot commend this Bill. The fact is that no one can erect a building that is to last on foundations which are weak, however sound and just the purpose. The Government will not vote against the Bill, but they really cannot support it, and I think that the House will understand why if I now go into its provisions more closely, which I was anxious to leave myself time to do.

The Bill simply will not work as it stands. It is based on a memorandum compiled by associations representing the landowners. These are certainly bodies well qualified to represent one point of view, but, with great respect to them, they are not the leading experts either in valuation or in law, and it is on these technical issues that I am advised that the Bill would not work. I understand that neither the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors nor the Law Society had any part in producing the Bill or has yet been able to examine it.

These are, both of them, great bodies to which the Government would look for technical advice before producing a Bill which sought to establish a wholly new basis for compulsory acquisition. I think it will be found that both these bodies, when they have examined the Bill, will advise that it leaves far too much in the air to be regarded itself as a workable Measure.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Leicester North East

In view of the non-committal attitude which the Government are adopting on the Bill, although they say it is unworkable will they provide a Money Resolution?

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

A good deal has to happen before we reach that stage. One thing is that I have got to finish my speech, and I hope that the hon. and learned Member will allow me to do so.

First, there is one Clause in the Bill which stands rather apart from the rest, and that is Clause 4, which deals with notices to treat that were served before 1948. The present position is that where a notice to treat was served before 6th August, 1947—the Bill gives the wrong date—and where compensation has not yet been determined, it will be assessed at pre-war prices. The object of the Clause is to provide that in these cases compensation shall be assessed on the current basis. The Clause as drafted would need some amendment, but its intention is perfectly clear.

Photo of Mr Walter Monslow Mr Walter Monslow , Barrow-in-Furness

On a point of order. In the light of the declaration made by the right hon. Gentleman that the Government do not intend to support the Bill, would he not now, in common fairness to my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Sir F. Messer), give way and enable him to introduce his Protection of Deer Bill to the House?

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

I think that the House is entitled to know the reasons why I have said what I have said.

I can tell hon. Members, because I have been going into this Clause 4 matter, which was raised in the House last year, that over 1,000 properties are involved. In some cases, I believe, the authorities have entered on the land and carried out some work. Why the owners have not insisted on completion by now I do not know, because they could do so at any time. In other cases, the owners have asked the authorities to defer completion, and in other cases the property has changed hands since the notices were served.

I am not at all sure that there is any one simple solution which would be applicable equally to all cases and which would do justice everywhere. I agree that these cases ought to be cleared up, and I also agree that a prewar price is not now right, where nothing has happened since the notice was served.

The Government's intention is to consult the local authority associations and see whether it is possible to get a good and just solution, and it would then be our wish to get amending legislation on to the Statute Book at the earliest opportunity. I am, therefore, grateful to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South for bringing this again to the attention of the House.

There is another Clause in the Bill which stands apart from the rest, and that is Clause 8. It provides that the owner of land affected by proposals shown on a development plan, if he can prove to the county court that he has suffered or is likely to suffer hardship, may require the authority to buy the land. Here again, the Government have every sympathy with this intention. A typical case is that in which a plan shows that a road or a road widening is going right through a house, but the work is not to be done for a number of years. That house may become unsaleable in the meantime, and hon. Members on both sides of the House have written to me about cases of that kind in their own constituencies.

This is a real problem. It is another matter upon which we have been working, but I am bound to say that this Clause would not do the trick. For one thing, the machinery under Clause 8 is to be that of Section 19 of the 1947 Act, and, by Section 19 of that Act, where permission to develop land is refused and the owner can establish that the land has become incapable of reasonably beneficial use, he can require the authority to buy it.

The decision under that Clause rests with the Minister, and that is not consistent with decision by a county court. For another thing, Section 19 deals with cases where there is no reasonably beneficial use, and to apply the machinery of that Section to cases where there is reasonably beneficial use, but the trouble is that there is no market, simply would not achieve the purpose. However, we are working to try to find a better way than that.

I now want to come to the heart of the Bill, which is in Clauses 1 and 2. [interruption.] I know that many hon. Members are interested in this, even if right hon. and hon. Members of the Opposition are not. Clauses 1 and 2 would initiate a wholly new basis of value, and one cannot do that in just a few lines. The existing code for assessing market value starts with the 1845 Lands Clauses Act: it was amended by the Acquisition of Land Act, 1919; and, finally, by the Planning Acts of 1944, 1947 and 1954.

None of these Statutes is referred to in the Bill, but Clause 12 provides that in so far as relevant provisions of any Statute would be inconsistent with the provisions of this Bill—and many existing provisions certainly would be inconsistent—they are all to be swept away.

I am advised—and I have to rely greatly on my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General in matters of this kind—that one result would be that all the case law on the subject of the past forty years would become open to doubt and much of it would probably be found to have disappeared. I cannot suppose for one moment that this is the intention of the authors of the Bill.

Photo of Sir Frederick Messer Sir Frederick Messer , Tottenham

Sir F. Messer rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put; but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent and declined then to put that Question.

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

I believe that the main intention of the authors is to get rid of the assumption imported by the postwar planning Acts and to substitute other assumptions. I must tell the House, however, that the Bill would go a great deal farther than that.

The 1919 Act lays down six rules for the assessment of compensation. Clause 2 of the Bill re-enacts, with some amendment, rule 2, the rule about a "willing seller", but it apparently sweeps away all the other five. At least one of the rules, rule 5, operates in favour of the owner, dealing with the case of land for which there is no market, such as church premises. The House may wish to know that I have already had a protest against the Bill on this point from the Churches Main Committee, the body which acts for all the Churches in matters like these. I am quite sure that my hon. and gallant Friend does not wish to hit at a body like that. It may well be that, if the Government amend the law, the opportunity ought to be taken to reconsider one or two of the rules, but I am sure that Parliament will not want just to drop them overboard.

I ask the House now to look at the proviso to Clause 2 (1), which was referred to in the debate.

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

This tries to deal with cases where land is scheduled in a development plan for a use for which there is no market value—say, where there are plans for a new road, an oven space, or a sewage works. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."] There is a real problem here, and the authors of the Bill sought to tackle it by providing that Where the development plan provides for the land being used for a purpose for which powers of compulsory acquisition exist or precludes permission for the development of the land altogether, any resulting decrease in the value of the land shall be disregarded. With great respect, I do not think that that would answer. I do not know, and I do not believe that anybody knows, what is meant by a provision of a development plan which precludes development altogether, apart from the case where the land is reserved for a public purpose, such as open space—which is the first alternative here. I do not think that a plan ever does preclude development altogether.

On the first alternative—the allocation of land for a purpose for which compulsory powers exist—I am not sure whether my hon. and gallant Friend realises that this would include almost any land, because powers of compulsory acquisition exist for a very wide range of purposes, and it would include, for instance, land allocated for housing. Yet I am quite sure that that is not really his intention.

What the authors of the Bill are after here is the problem where land is reserved for a public purpose for which there is no market value, for instance, a school or public open space. The trouble is that their proposal leaves a vacuum. Having wiped out the proposal that the land should be used for the public purpose, what have you left? What are you to assume? One has somehow to deal with the question, or else the answer is sheer guesswork and the owner, and the authority will never come to terms; the position would be left worse than before. What the private purchaser does is to find out before he buys any land what use will be allowed, and it may well be that that is the principle which needs to be applied here to settle somehow what would have been allowed. The one thing perfectly clear is that there must be a firm basis.

I have consulted the Valuation Office of the Board of Inland Revenue, which acts for local authorities when buying land, and I am advised by the Valuation Office emphatically that, on what is in the Bill, it would be impossible for its officers to produce results in which either they or anybody else would have confidence. When I say "confidence," I mean confidence that they were implementing the intentions of Parliament.

It is reasonable to suppose that the Lands Tribunal would feel the same. I gather that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South appreciates that a market value basis which assumes compliance with the development plan might, in some cases, result in less compensation than is obtainable under the present system.

For example, let us take land that is allocated now for residential use which an authority wants to buy for housing purposes, but which had a great commercial or industrial value in 1947. Would it then be right that the owner should get less than he would have received under the present system? I think that that question needs more thought than it seems to have received in the drafting of the Bill, or, indeed, in the course of the debate.

Another obscurity in the Bill arises in connection with the compensation to be paid on slum clearance. If we read Clauses 1 and 2, we find that a "fair market value" is to be paid for all land—and that includes buildings—ascertained in accordance with the Bill. We deduce from that that a "fair market value" is to be paid for slum houses as for others. But when we turn to Clause 7, we find special provisions for improving the compensation payable for houses in clearance areas. We have to conclude, that, after all, the basic provision that nothing is payble for an unfit house as such is intended to remain as part of the law.

The one thing that Parliament must ensure is that the courts are not left in any doubt. Certainly, the Bill as drafted leaves this question open to many different interpretations.

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

I shall come to that, maybe, if I am given time.

Subsection (2) of Clause 7 attempts to deal with a point of real difficulty—and here again I have received many representations from hon. Members—namely, the sometimes negligible compensation payable for the small site which by itself has little or no market value. I certainly have sympathy in this matter, but, again, the Clause as it is drafted will not do. In the Bill the assumption is to be made, as I understand it, that the small site is to be deemed to form part of a larger site. But how much larger? [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."] That is what the valuer will want to know, and that is what we are not told.

Even if we can solve this question, the Clause provides for paying all the small owners in an area alike, which may be quite unfair. I am not sure whether this Clause, read together with Clause 2, would not enable the owner of a small site adjoining areas under larger ownership to stand out for a blackmail price, owing to the special need which the local authority may have for his particular bit to complete the whole. I am not a lawyer, and sometimes I am thankful for that; but I have taken advice and I have my right hon. Friend the Attorney-General beside me.

I must tell the House that there are a great many other points in the Bill which I say at once mark the existence of a real problem that Parliament has to tackle. The Bill is so obscure as to cause the greatest difficulty to owners and to those advising them as well as to everybody concerned. I will not take the House through more examples. The fact that it fails to face so many of the practical problems demonstrates that, whatever we may think about the general objects of the Bill, it would not do, and it cannot be reshaped to do, as a legislative Measure.

I have been perfectly frank with the House. I know that my hon. and gallant Friend will understand how distasteful it is to me to have to criticise the structure of a Bill which has been universally commended from, at any rate, this side of the House on grounds of principle, but I am sure that he and all my hon. Friends know, and agree, that any Minister who failed, perhaps for reasons of personal popularity, to tell the House why a Bill was unworkable would be guilty of neglect of his duty to Parliament.

I am not concerned with personal popularity or otherwise nor. I am sure, is my hon. and gallant Friend. My desire, like his, is to see justice done. I can promise him that the Government will pay heed to everything that has been said today and to the atmosphere in today's debate, but what is before the House today is not a resolution but a Bill, and for the reasons which I have given, and in which, I know, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General concurs, I simply cannot advise the House that this is a practical and workable Bill.

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

Captain Corfield rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 136, Noes 57.

Division No. 43.]AYES[3.56 p.m.
Agnew, Sir PeterDigby, Simon WingfieldHesketh, R. F.
Arbuthnot, JohnDodds-Parker, A. D.Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.
Armstrong, C. W.Doughty, C. J. A.Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n)
Ashton, H.Drayson, G. B.Holland-Martin, C. J.
Atkins, H. E.du Cann, E. D. L.Hope, Lord John
Barter, JohnDugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)Hornby, R. P.
Baxter, Sir BeverleyDuncan, Sir JamesHornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)Errington, Sir EricHoward, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)Fisher, NigelHoward, John (Test)
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)Fletcher-Cooke, C.Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral, J.
Bishop, F. P.Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)Hulbert, Sir Norman
Body, R. F.Freeth, DenzilIremonger, T. L.
Bossom, Sir AlfredGibson-Watt, D.Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)Glyn, Col. Richard H.Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
Butcher, Sir HerbertGodber, J. B.Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)
Channon, Sir HenryGoodhart, PhilipKerby, Capt. H. B.
Cole, NormanGraham, Sir FergusKershaw, J. A.
Conant, Maj. Sir RogerGrant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)Kimball, M.
Cooke, RobertGreen, A.Lagden, G. W.
Corfield, Capt. F. V.Gresham Cooke, R.Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)Leavey, J. A.
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)Gurden, HaroldLegge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
Currie, G. B. H.Hale, LeslieLegh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)
Dance, J. C. G.Harris, Reader (Heston)Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)
Davidson, ViscountessHarvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)Linstead, Sir H. N.
D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir HenryHay, JohnLucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)
Deedes, W. F.Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir LionelLucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)
Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughPrice, Henry (Lewisham, W.)Summers, Sir Spencer
Macdonald, Sir PeterProbert, A. R.Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)Ramsden, J. E.Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Maddan, MartinRawlinson, PeterTeeling, W.
Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)Rees-Davies, W. R.Temple, John M.
Marshall, DouglasRemnant, Hon. P.Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Mathew, R.Ridsdale, J. E.Vane, W. M. F.
Maydon, Lt.-Comdr, S. L. C.Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Medlicott, Sir FrankRodgers, John (Sevenoaks)Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Moore, Sir ThomasRoper, Sir HaroldWall, Patrick
Morrison, John (Salisbury)Russell, R. S.Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Nabarro, G. D. N.Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.Webbe, Sir H.
Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)Sharples, R. C.Whitelaw, W. S. I.
Oakshott, H. D.Smithers, Peter (Winchester)Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Partridge, E.Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Peyton, J. W. w.Spearman, Sir Alexander
Pike, Miss MervynSpeir, R. M.TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Pitman, I. J.Stevens, GeoffreySir Colin Thornton-Kemsley and
Pott, H. P.Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)Mr. Baldwin.
Price, David (Eastleigh)Studholme, Sir Henry
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.Hastings, S.Oram, A. E.
Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)Holman, P.Pargiter, G. A.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)Parkin, B. T.
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.)Hunter, A. E.Plummer, Sir Leslie
Boyd, T. C.Hynd, H. (Accrington)Prentice, R. E.
Brockway, A. F.Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)Redhead, E. C.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)Reeves, J.
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Jeger, George (Goole)Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Chapman, W. D.Johnson, James (Rugby)Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Corbet, Mrs. FredaJones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield)Skeffington, A. M.
Deer, G.Jones, David (The Hartlepools)Snow, J. w.
Delargy, H. J.Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)Sparks, J. A.
Edelman, M.Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)Lipton, MarcusThomas, George (Cardiff)
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)Messer, Sir F.Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)Mikardo, IanWarbey, W. N.
Gibson, C. W.Mitchison, G. R.Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Greenwood, AnthonyMonslow, W.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)Moyle, A.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)Mulley, F. W.Mr. MacColl and Mr. MacDermot.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Leicester North East

On a point of order. Can we determine, Mr. Speaker, whether the Government will provide a Money Resolution, as otherwise, of course, a vote on the Second Reading of the Bill would be quite farcical?

Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 123, Noes 2.

Division No. 44.]AYES[4.7 p.m.
Agnew, Sir PeterDrayson, G. B.Howard, John (Test)
Arbuthnot, Johndu Cann, E. D. L.Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral, J.
Ashton, H.Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)Iremonger, T. L.
Atkins, H. E.Duncan, Sir JamesIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Barter, JohnErrington, Sir EricJenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
Baxter, Sir BeverleyFisher, NigelJohnson, Howard (Kemptown)
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)Fletcher-Cooke C.Kerby, Capt. H. B.
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)Kershaw, J. A.
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)Freeth, DenzilKimball, M.
Bishop, F. P.Glyn, Col. Richard H.Lagden, G. W.
Body, R. F.Godber, J. B.Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Bossom, Sir AlfredGoodhart, PhilipLeavey, J. A.
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)Graham, Sir FergusLegge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
Butcher, Sir HerbertGrant-Ferris, Wg cdr. R. (Nantwich)Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)
Channon, Sir HenryGreen, A.Linstead, Sir H. N.
Cole, NormanGresham Cooke, R.Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)
Conant, Maj. Sir RogerGrimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)
Cooke, RobertGurden, HaroldLucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Corfield, Capt. F. V.Hall, John (Wycombe)Macdonald, Sir Peter
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)Harris, Reader (Heston)Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)Maddan, Martin
Currie, G. B. H.Hay, JohnMaitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)
Dance, J. C. G.Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir LionelMarshall, Douglas
Davidson, ViscountessHesketh, R. F.Mathew, R.
Deedes, W. F.Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.Maydon, Lt.-Comdr, S. L. C.
Digby, Simon WingfieldHobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n)Medlicott, Sir Frank
Dodds-Parker, A. D.Hornby, R. P.Moore, Sir Thomas
Doughty, C. J. A.Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)Morrison, John (Salisbury)
Nabarro, G. D. N.Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)Teeling, W.
Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)Roper, Sir HaroldTemple, John M.
Partridge, E.Russell, R. S.Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Peyton, J. W. W.Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.Vane, W. M. F.
Pike, Miss MervynSharples, R. C.Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Pitman, I. J.Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)Wall, Patrick
Pott, H. P.Spearman, Sir AlexanderWard, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Price, David (Eastleigh)Speir, R. M.Webbe, Sir H.
Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)Stevens, GeoffreyWhitelaw, W. S. I.
Ramsden, J. E.Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Rawlinson, PeterStudholme, Sir HenryWood, Hon. R.
Rees-Davies, W. R.Summers, Sir SpencerTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Remnant, Hon. P.Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)Sir Colin Thornton-Kemsley and
Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)Mr. Baldwin
Boyd, T. C.
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)
Mr. Mulley and Mr. Mikardo

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelli

In view of the fact that supporters of the Government have defeated the Government, may we ask what are the Government's intentions in the matter?

Hon. Members:


Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Order. That cannot be done at this stage. We shall shortly be on the Adjournment and then it would be proper to inquire.