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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 Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham 12:00 am, 27th November 1972

I think the hon. Gentleman will find that it is. But it is a fair point to raise. I am going stage by stage through the Bill indicating the various grounds which may give rise to public action in future. What Clause 1 recognises is that many people have suffered from the effects of public works in the recent past, and claims are to be admitted if the use of the works began within three years before publication of the White Paper—that is, back to 17th October, 1969. This is provided for in subsection (8) and is intended to take care at any rate of the hard cases which have arisen while the Urban Motorways Committee completed its work.

Clause 2 defines the interests qualifying for the new compensation. Clause 3 deals with the procedure of making a claim. Clauses 4 and 5 deal with the general provisions and assumptions in assessing a claim. The remaining clauses in Part I are mainly concerned with supporting provisions, but I would be right to draw the attention of the House to two points.

First, by virtue of Clause 3(2) and Clause 4(1), compensation will be assessed by reference to prices current 12 months after the start of the use of the works. That is intended to allow time for values to settle down.

Secondly, Clause 9 makes it clear that claims may be made in relation not only to new public works, as provided for in Clause 1, but also to significant alterations to public works already in existence. That was the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Trew). Here again, the provision is retrospective to 17th October. 1969.

Part II contains a number of provisions for the purpose of mitigating the injurious effects of roads and other public works—sound insulation—and for wider compulsory and discretionary land acquisition powers for highway and certain other local authorities, and powers to carry out remedial works.

Clause 17 enables the Secretary of State to make regulations placing a duty or giving power to the authorities responsible for the works in question to insulate buildings against noise resulting from the construction or use of public works, and lists the main items which may be covered. These regulations will be prepared in the light of the discussions we will be having and will be made as soon as possible after the Bill becomes law.

All public works other than aerodromes, for which sound insulation schemes can already be made, could be covered by these regulations. But, as the White Paper announced, the main priority is to tackle the problem of traffic noise and its effects on the occupants of dwellings. Local authorities were sent in October an outline of our proposals for a statutory right to sound insulation related to new roads and major road improvement works. Basically, the position is that either landlords or occupiers will be able to claim to have the sound insulation carried out at the expense of the highway authority. Specifications are being produced and cost limits will apply.

For the qualifying limit for noise level, the Government have in mind one where the noise exceeds 70 decibels (A), which is the level recommended by the Noise Advisory Council, for more than 10 per cent. of the time over the 18 hours from 6 a.m. to midnight. Some people say that it is too high, however, and it will be kept under review especially in the light of a comprehensive review of people's reactions to traffic noise being undertaken by the Building Research Establishment.

We are also proposing to give authorities discretionary powers to carry out sound insulation during the period of construction of a road and for any bad cases of noises that have arisen from schemes carried out over the past three years. Of course, this is an important but not too easy part of the Bill. The effect of noise on people and the technical assessment of noise represent a complex and controversial issue. It is the quality as well as the volume of noise which matters. I remember how people were very upset when jets replaced turbo-props; although we could prove in terms of decibels that the volume of noise was very little different, there was a change in the quality of the noise. It is a subjective rather than an objective test. Some people are very happy with the noise of a discotheque. Others may be like P. G. Wodehouse's golfer who was put off his stroke by the noise of butterflies in an adjoining meadow. It is not easy to measure for precise statutory arrangements, but there will be a fruitful opportunity to discuss this in Committee, when the Government will listen with sympathy and understanding to the views put forward.