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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 Mr Graham Page Mr Graham Page , Crosby 12:00 am, 27th November 1972

All the rights to injurious compensation under the Bill apply to new roads or enlarged roads where there is some alteration in structure. I take the point mentioned by some hon. Members that in the case of feeder roads which may not themselves have been altered, the great increase in traffic is due entirely to a new motorway or trunk road. I admit that that point is not covered in the Bill. Therefore, let us consider it again, and what it will cost to cover it.

I come to the question of decibels. I have not a clue what a decibel is, except that it is a measurement of noise. We do not merely call it a decibel; it is a db(A) and it is on the basis of a scale L10. The Building Research Station suggested 70 dB(A) as a starting point for discussion of remedial measures to protect people from traffic noise. It was not simply a theoretical, academic discussion. The social studies which were undertaken showed that half of those exposed to that level were not dissatisfied.

Although that was a practical exercise, there is no doubt that we must consider this matter again. The Noise Advisory Council supported what we have proposed but recommended that in no circumstances should existing residential development be subjected by an act of conscious public policy to L10 levels in excess of 70 dB(A) unless some form of remedial or compensatory action was taken by the responsible authority. We have started with the figure which the practical researchers found half the people they asked did not object to. Now we had better consider the level at which people do object. It may well be lower than 70 decibels. We shall take further advice from the experts and carry out more practical experiments.

A number of hon. Members have raised the "room-with-a-view" question. The compensation given under the Bill will be compensation for a legalised nuisance. The law of nuisance has never protected a view.

Generally, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Sydney Chapman) said, "If you can see it, you can hear it and smell it". Compensation would be payable under the Bill as it stands, and giving compensation only for legalised nuisance is a principle of the Bill. I was asked whether compensation would be given for opencast mining. That is a public works not protected in any way and to which the law of nuisance applies. From what has been said, it may well be that we should amend the law of nuisance to make it easier for people to claim in all the circumstances.

I finally come to the simplification of claims. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South mentioned this subject, as did many others. We are discussing with my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor what form of court should be set up, or what use of existing courts could be made, in order to prevent delays and to make it easy for claims to be heard. Perhaps we should have a registrar of the Lands Tribunal, rather as one has a registrar of a county court to deal with small claims, and perhaps we should set up a small claims court. I am certain that legal aid should be provided for these claims, and that they should give a speedier remedy than at present. I hope that we shall be able to sort that out with my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor.

I wish that I were Father Christmas, with a bottomless sack, and that I could increase the compensation in all the ways suggested this afternoon. But I hope that the House will think that this is an acceptable hamper of goodies to present as Christmas approaches. We have some new goods in the hamper—compensation for depreciation by proximity of public works, home loss payment, farm loss payment, advance payment of compensation, and many improved things such as sound proofing, disturbance payments, rehousing obligations, and so on.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State said that this was a new outlook—and certainly it is—to ensure fairer compensation and to reduce damage to the environment. It contains the most extensive reforms of the law of compensation in favour of the individual that have been put before Parliament for more than a century, and I hope that the House will accept it.