§ (1) Nothing in this Act shall authorize the acquisition of any interest in any common, open space, or allotment, or the acquisition otherwise than by agreement of any land which forms part of any park, garden, or pleasure ground, or of the home farm attached to and usually occupied within the mansion house, or is the site of any ancient monument or other object of archaeological interest, or of any interest in such land or grounds.
§ Provided that
- (a) nothing in this Sub-section shall prevent the acquisition, whether by agreement or compulsorily, of a right to use and maintain any cables, lines, or pipes which have been laid under any such land as aforesaid; and
- (b) where before the passing of this Act there have been erected on any park, garden, pleasure ground, or farm, as above-mentioned, any buildings for the manufacture of munitions of war, the Commission may authorise the compulsory acquisition of the whole of such property, including the mansion house, if any, where they are satisfied that it is of national importance that it should be acquired.
§ (2) Nothing in this Act shall authorize the retention of the possession for more than three months after the termination of the War of—
- (a) land belonging to any local authority within the meaning of the Local Government (Emergency Provision) Act, 1916; or
- (b) land belonging to any company or corporation carrying on a railway, dock, canal, water, or other public
1698 undertaking other than land which before the commencement of the present War had ceased to be used for the purposes of the undertaking; or
- (c) land held by or on behalf of any governing body constituted for charitable purposes which at the commencement of the War was occupied and used by that body for the purposes of that body;
§ (3) Where possession has been taken of any land under any agreement authorising the retention of the land for any period specified in the agreement, nothing in this Act shall authorise the retention of possession after the expiration of such period without the consent of the person with whom the agreement was made or the persons deriving title under him.
§ (4) Nothing in this Act shall authorise the compulsory acquisition of land with respect to which an agreement has been made for the restoration thereof to the person previously in occupation thereof (other than an agreement to give up possession of land at the expiration of a tenancy) or, in the case of land subject to an agreement for sale to a Government Department, shall authorise the acquisition of the land otherwise than in accordance with the terms of the agreement.
§ (5) Nothing in this Act shall authorise the compulsory acquisition of land without the consent of the Commission where the purposes for which it is to be acquired are purposes other than those for which land can be acquired under the Defence Acts, 1842 to 1873, or the Military Lands Acts, 1892 to 1903.
§ (6) For the purposes of this Section the expression "governing body constituted 1699 for charitable purposes" includes any person or body of persons who have a right of holding or any power of government of or management over any property appropriated for charitable purposes, and includes any corporation sole, and the governing body of any university, college, school, or other institution for the promotion of literature, science or art.
§ Lords Amendments:
§ In Sub-section (1), paragraph (b,) leave out the words "authorise the compulsory acquisition of the whole of such property, including the mansion house, if any, where they are satisfied that it is of national importance that it should be acquired," and insert instead thereof the words "by order authorise the compulsory acquisition of the park, garden, pleasure ground or farm, or any part thereof, where they are satisfied that it is of national impotance that it should be acquired, so, however, that if the owner so requires the whole of such property, including the mansion house, if any, shall be acquired, and that before the order made by the Commission comes into effect, a draft thereof shall be laid before each House of Parliament for a period of thirty days on which that House has sat, and if cither of those Houses before the expiration of that period presents an address to His Majesty against the draft or any part thereof, no further proceedings shall be taken thereon."
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
§ Sir T. WALTERS
I beg to move as an Amendment, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
With great respect to the other House, I maintain that this is a ludicrous provision to insert. In the Bill as it left this House we proposed to take powers to acquire a mansion house or a park when national necessity requires. For instance, if the park was to be a site for the building of huts, or anything else required for national purposes, and it was necessary in the national interests we should take it over, then we should take over the man- 1700 sion house too. What is this strange provision inserted in another place? It is, forsooth, that if in the national interest it becomes necessary to take someone's park and mansion, and we proceed to take it, we are to lay Papers on the Tables of both Houses of Parliament to show that we are going to take So-and-so's mansion house and park, and anybody who thinks that it is an outrage to take Lord Tom Noddy's park and mansion may protest against it and try to raise some opposition. I object to the levity of such a proposal, and I think we ought to remind the other House that we are at war and that we cannot play at legislation in this fashion. It is absurd to suggest that because a nobleman's park and mansion house is to be taken there should be special provision for laying Papers upon the Table. If Parliament comes along and, under the special powers which have been granted to Government Departments during the War, takes the whole of a man's business or takes the whole of his huge factory and everything that he possesses, we do not have to put Papers upon the Tables of the House of Commons and the House of Lords in order to give somebody an opportunity of raising a question against it. Why should we do it in the way that is now proposed? It is a matter of unduly pressing a privilege, and I beg to move that this House doth disagree with the Amendment for the purpose of marking our dislike of the introduction of principles of levity upon a serious matter like this when we are in the midst of a great national crisis.
§ Mr. SHERWELL
I beg to second the Amendment of my hon. Friend. May I remind the House that the adoption of this Amendment violates the practice which has been universally observed by the Ministry of Munitions throughout this War. Where the Ministry of Munitions wants additional accommodation they have not had a moment's hesitation in taking hotel after hotel or any other important public or private building. We have not quarrelled with the action of the Ministry of Munitions in that respect because we have thought that the severity of such action was amply covered by the necessities of the War. I fail to see why there should be an important departure from the administrative practice, which, so far, has been uniform, and that we should make that departure solely in the interests of the landowner. Surely the 1701 landowner must be content to stand with his fellow-citizens in all respects so far as loss or temporary loss is concerned and should not ask for exceptional terms. I am glad to endorse what has been said by my hon. Friend that it is reducing the proceedings to a farce to suggest that where the Ministry of Munitions or any other Government War Department requires a special estate or a special portion of land it will be open to any hon. Member of this House during a period of thirty days to object to the Department having what the Department has already decided that it requires for urgent war purposes. I hope the House will not accept the Lords Amendment.
§ Dr. ADDISON
Perhaps my hon. Friends have forgotten what happened in respect of this matter in the Committee and Report stages of the Bill in this House. In the Committee stage a proposal which was inserted deliberately to enable certain munition factories which had been built wholly or partly on private land to be continued was deleted because, in the main, the discussion ranged round the general question of the preservation of open spaces, parks, and so forth. On the Report stage, as the matter was of such first-rate importance, because on one particular place we had erected a factory at a cost of nearly £800,000, and it was obviously necessary that some provision enabling us to acquire the land must be inserted in the Bill, I brought up an Amendment which narrowed the question down to the cases existing at the time of the passing of the Act, and narrowed it also to the cases where buildings of a permanent character and so on had been put upon the land: That was in Sub-section (1), paragraph (b) of this Clause of the Bill as it left this House. It was only after a Division that we succeeded in this House in getting this power in the Bill. So far as the Amendment goes it brings the Bill into line with the Amendments which have been inserted earlier relating to open spaces, and so on. As a matter of fact, there are only two cases that are really involved, and I do not anticipate that any of the procedure which the hon. Member (Sir Tudor Walters) seems to fear will be likely to arise.
§ Dr. ADDISON
We must have the provision in the Bill. The hon. Member is well aware that Members of this House are 1702 very jealous of any acquisition of land which may now or hereafter be likely to become a public open space. It was mainly on that account, I believe, that the jealousy of our suggestion first arose. In this Amendment the desires of the Government are incorporated in the Bill, and we obtain what we want. We must agree with their Lordships' Amendment in this matter; it is the result of prolonged discussion, in consequence of which we are paying a minimum price for what we require.
§ Sir T. WALTERS
May I ask a question, so that the right hon. Gentleman may really answer the question involved? I think he has not read the Lords Amendment. He is addressing himself to arguments dealing with the question of public parks and pleasure grounds, whereas this Amendment of the Lords deals with another thing.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I am well aware of the object of the Lords Amendment. When the Bill was in this House, as I have explained already, this particular provision was involved, in that part of the Bill which related to public open spaces, and there is no doubt that owing to that it was deleted in Committee. Afterwards I took the question up myself on the Report stage and made the provision specially applicable to this class of case, and it was inserted by the House after a Division. In respect to the point raised by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sherwell), he seems to have overlooked the very essential difference between the taking over of hotels for the duration of the War and the permanent acquisition of private property. There is a great difference, and I do not quite appreciate his argument. The taking over of the Hotel Metropole, or any other hotel, is quite a different matter from putting an enormous factory on a man's park and permanently acquiring it. There is no comparison whatever between the two cases.
With respect to the provision to which the hon. Member for Brightside referred, that again is not a departure from the provision as it left this House, because the Commission may authorise the compulsory acquisition of the whole of such property. The reason is this, and I think it a very good reason: In one place a factory conies down on sloping ground below a man's mansion. I think it fair for a man to say, "You have put this horrid factory in front of my drawing-room window. If you are going to buy 1703 my park, and I have no further use for it as a park, you must buy the whole lot." I admit that it goes beyond what this House contemplated when it passed the Amendment on the Report stage, but I cannot anticipate that this House or the other House would present an Address to His Majesty against either of these two cases which are involved. Neither of them would stand discussion. I am perfectly satisfied with that, and it would be impossible to make a case, so far as I know, on any basis existing at present on which an Address could be founded. I have no fear of an Address, and this is some safeguard against unnecessary or arbitrary action in this matter, and I hope that the House, having obtained what it really wanted, will not persist in its objection to this Amendment.
Mr. D. WHITE
I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would have dealt a little more fully with the real point of this Amendment. The main part of his speech was devoted to matters which do not touch the point raised. The simple question before the House is this: We have certain words in the Clause. The question is whether the words proposed in the House of Lords should be substituted for them. Anyone who considers these words on their merits will agree that the Clause as it left this House is better than the proposed Amendment. The particular vice of the Amendment is this: We are by this Bill setting up practically new machinery. We are enabling these matters of valuation of premises and so on to be decided by the Railway and Canal Commission and subject to certain conditions to other tribunals. The essential feature of the matter is that these should be the tribunals. But now a totally different feature is brought in. Instead of their decisions being final, hon. Members will remember that in an Amendment of the House of Lords which we have just accepted, it is proposed that their decisions be the subject of arbitration where one of the parties wants it.
Having set up these tribunals, why not leave them to decide the question? The right hon. Gentleman suggested that there were only two cases in which this might apply, and that in fact it will not apply to either of them. What 1704 then is the rational ground for putting it in at all? It is not merely superfluous, but most undesirable, and for this reason. This is a quasi judicial proceeding, and where proceedings of a judicial character are taken, it is highly undesirable that this House should interfere with those to whom it has confided judicial functions. In the practical working of the Clause the case is still stronger. Suppose some land is taken under conditions to which this would apply. If the owner of the land is a Member of this House or the other House, or has what is called in certain classes of politics a pull over any Member in either House, then he can get an address presented and can get special consideration of the case by Parliament. That seems to me a most undesirable thing. It is going against the fundamental principle of judicial decision, and is a thoroughly bad example for the country. It suggests that those who are in either House, or who have a pull in either House, can stop judicial proceedings or vary the result. This is thoroughly undesirable. It would be very much better if we left these questions to be decided by the tribunal, and limited the power of presenting an address in either House of Parliament to those cases where public affairs, and not private affairs, are concerned.
§ Sir G. CAVE
It is really not worth while discussing this at length. I have a great desire to see this Bill pass. We are all agreed that parks shall not be taken by compulsion, but as the right hon. Gentleman has told the House, there were two cases in which parks were in fact being used for munition factories, and he asked the House to make an exception of those cases and allow us to take those two parks under this general provision. Neither of them belongs to a Member of either House. Many Members know who they are. They are persons who will not sell, except at a very high price, so that if we can persuade the House to accept this special provision, it will cover those two cases. When the matter came up in another place objection was taken, and this was taken out of the Bill. This was a very serious matter. Therefore, at a later stage, in another place, it was agreed that the provision should be reinserted in an approved form with this special proviso about laying Papers on the Table of the House. In my view it can have no practical effect at all. We have got to do the best we can. We have got our Bill 1705 subject to this, which I think will be waste paper, and I hope that the House will not spoil a very good bargain, and risk our Bill for something which is really of no practical importance at all.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that in its practical application this Amendment is not likely to be of serious importance and that the House, especially in these days, would not be well advised to spend a very long time on it. At the same time I cannot help saying that it is a provision which in principle and in form somewhat offends the sense of fair play of many Members of this House. Apparently, even if common land is taken under this Act for national purposes, there is no question of either House of Parliament being invoked to override that action.
§ Sir G. CAVE
A provision about common land has just been inserted, as to buildings on common land, but common land is not taken at all.
At all events this is a most exceptional provision. It does not apply generally to lands which are taken under this Act, but where it comes to be a question of taking park land, then either House of Parliament is to have laid before it a formal statement of the facts, and either House is to be entitled to move and pass an address which would have the effect of repealing the action which has been or is proposed to be taken. That is a most exceptional provision to be inserted in an Act of Parliament, and in days such as these I do not hesitate to say that it ought not to appear in any Act of Parliament. At the same time the Government say that this is part of an agreement, and in return for this provision, which they do not contemplate will ever be used, a point of real substance has been conceded to this House in the other House. And I have no doubt that my hon. Friends may probably not wish to press the matter to a Division. At the same time, I think that a very strong protest should be entered against the Amendment made in the Bill, and I hope that this exception will not in future be used as a precedent.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I am not impressed by the speeches from either of the two Front Benches. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has endeavoured to set 1706 the matter in a fairer light than it was put by the Minister of Munitions, but the explanation which he has given is one which should set this House on its guard. We were told by the Minister of Munitions that a provision was introduced into this House which would apply only to two cases, and in one of these cases buildings to the value of over £800,000 had been erected on the land, and it was because of the value of these buildings that the Government of that day held that it was absolutely necessary, in the public interest, that the Government should have the right compulsorily to acquire land. That was the form in which this provision left this House for another place. Then the Home Secretary tells us that in another place, on a Division, that provision which the former Government regarded as so necessary in the public interest was omitted from the Bill. In other words, by a Division in another place, it was decided, on a provision essential in the public interest in which a sum of £800,000 was involved, that the public interest should give way to the private interest of the landlord. The effect of this compromise, as the Home Secretary called it, is that after the Commission has decided it will be possible for thirty days to move an address in either House of Parliament. By this provision you expressly encourage the people who carried the Amendment in another place omitting a provision essential in the public interest, once more to come forward with an address in another place, stultify the intentions of the Government, and obtain a victory for private selfish interests over the public interests. We know that those interests are sufficiently powerful in another place to carry an address.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
You got it in subject to this proviso, and I say that the House of Commons ought not to agree to this in spite of the appeal of the late Home Secretary. If anybody else is willing to go to a Division I am willing to go to a Division. It is a very bad beginning of the career of the new Government, this great Government of national safety, that it should come down to the House of Commons and recommend an Amendment of this kind in which private interests are going to prove themselves superior to the interests of the public. In the circumstances I hope that my hon. Friend who has moved this Amendment will persist in it, and that 1707 we shall have a Division, and see whether public or private interests are to prevail in this hour of our national peril.
§ Question put, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
§ A Division was challenged, and Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER. declared that the Ayes have it.
§ Sir G. CAVE
On a point of Order, Sir. The Motion was, "That the House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
I put the Question, "That the House doth disagree with the Lords Amendment," and hon. Members on my left said "No."
That is true. I said to the House that the Ayes had it, and the Noes persisted. I called the Noes, and the Ayes did not persist.
§ Sir T. WALTERS
When you declared that the Ayes had it, Sir, why did the Ayes persist? If you had said in the end that the Ayes had it, the Ayes would not have persisted further.
The hon. Gentleman has been long enough in the House to know that it is the custom when a Division is challenged to put the Question more than once where there is any uncertainty. But clearly on the second and third time of calling the unanimous voice was in the negative. I cannot allow the matter to be the subject of further argument.
§ Lords Amendment agreed to.
§ Lords Amendment:
§ In Sub-section (2), paragraph (b), after the word "undertaking"["purpose of the undertaking"], insert the words "had before that date ceased to be so used."1708
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—[Sir G. Cave.]
§ Sir G. CAVE
If the hon. Gentleman will refer to the Bill, he will find that there are two classes of land: (a) land belonging to any local authority and (b) land belonging to a company or corporation. The Amendment is only a drafting Amendment.
§ Lords Amendment agreed to.
§ Lords Amendments:
§ In Sub-section (4), after the word "to"["restriction thereof to"], insert the words "the owner or."—Agreed to.
§ In sub-section (5). at the end, insert,
§ "(6) Nothing in this Act shall authorise the retention, except by agreement, of the possession of land taken with a view to maintaining the food supply of the country for any longer period than is necessary for securing any annual crop growing thereon at the termination of the present war."
§ Dr. ADDISON
The reason I move to disagree with the Lords Amendment is that it goes beyond the scope and intention of the Bill, and quite beyond anything contemplated.
§ Lords Amendment disagreed with.