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Orders of the Day — Land Compensation Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th November 1972.

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Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman , Manchester Ardwick 12:00 am, 27th November 1972

I join other hon. Members in welcoming the Bill. I also join in making suggestions for improving it. The opportunity should not be lost to make improvements in compensation law since, in view of the complicated nature of the subject, further legislation on it is unlikely for some time. My constituency is one of those most affected by compensation matters as its inhabitants are mucked and messed about continually by the question of clearance, road projects and other developments such as the freight liner terminal in Ardwick. I wish to suggest three ways in which the Bill can be improved, all of them based on cases in my constituency.

One arises from an area—the New Bank Street area—which has been greatly affected by the noise of traffic travelling to the freight liner depot. I have pressed for compensation to be paid to people affected by that traffic and for sound insulation to be provided for them at public expense. I have been unsuccessful, and I fear that it is uncertain whether those people will qualify under the Bill for being injuriously affected because of the definitions of change of use in the Bill. Clause 1 is too loose and Clause 9(7) may be too exclusive. What is a change of use? If a road is unchanged in its character, if it is not built on or altered, but a totally new kind of traffic, such as freight liner traffic, travels on it, I submit that that is a change of use and that the people who live by it should be paid compensation for injurious affection and should be provided with sound insulation.

I should like the Minister to tell us whether a change of use of an existing unaltered road as a result of a new kind of traffic travelling on it is counted as a change of use under the Bill, and, if it is not, whether he will amend the Bill appropriately. Also, will he consider giving earlier retrospection than 1969 so that people like my constituents whose lives have been made hell by freight liner traffic and to whom no financial assistance for the provision of sound insulation has been given may at last have their living conditions improved?

I greatly welcome the home loss payment. However, I join hon. Members who have questioned whether the seven-year period is too long. Should it be an unbroken period of seven years? Will the Minister allow discretion under Clause 23? Cases can arise, and in my constituency have arisen—I have the correspondence here—in which a householder, knowing that his home will be affected by development, decides, ahead of dispossession, to move and to find fresh accommodation before the final date. He does that so that he is not in a hurry when the time comes and, in these days of enormous escalation of property values, to buy fresh accommodation before the price is beyond his pocket.

This kind of providence by one of my constituents, far from being rewarded, has been penalised by loss of compensation because the householder was not living in the house right up to the date of compensation. Under this provision he would be deprived of the home loss payment. I therefore ask the Government to look again, not only at the seven-year period, which I regard as too long, but at the other circumstances and whether someone who gives up his home earlier for the reasons I have given should nevertheless qualify for both compensation and home loss payment.

The third case to which I draw attention concerns the right to advance payment. Clause 40 imposes it at the rate of 90 per cent. when dispossession has taken place, and that is a considerable advance. But the Government should go further. Instead of just recommending up to 90 per cent. compensation ahead of possession, as specified in paragraph 3 of the White Paper, they should make that obligatory, in the same way as Clause 40 imposes an obligation.

I have a vivid, current and poignant example in the case of a constituent of mine. This is a Mr. Smith of 9, Elgin Grove, Longsight, in my constituency. He lives in a house scheduled for clearance and he needs to move quickly because of the state of his wife's health. The corporation does not dispute that it is a hardship case. He has found a new home in a satisfactory district at a price within his pocket at the moment.

But he cannot get advance compensation ahead of dispossession to help him to buy that house. Negotiations are taking place with Manchester Corporation and the matter will be considered by a sub-committee on Wednesday and I trust that it will be sorted out satisfactorily.

If there were such a provision in the Bill as an obligation, the case of Mr. Smith and similar cases would be put beyond doubt and from Mr. Smith's life and from the lives of many others in similar circumstances there would be removed the nerve-racking anxiety to which they are now subjected. While the Minister is doing this job, I hope that he will do it thoroughly and iron out as many as possible of the enormous number of anomalies now existing in this respect. I ask him to take the opportunity to remove burdens that have been clouding the lives of my constituents and many others for years on end.