§ 10 p.m.
§ The Clause gives the holder of a licence power to acquire land on which work is to be carried out under the licence. It is obvious that the owner of the licence may find it important to get land in a way which will render the licence nugatory and which is entirely opposed to the spirit of the Bill. I am suggesting that we should leave in the power to search and bore for, get, carry away and store petroleum and delete the treating and converting of petroleum. These words give the licensee an opportunity of acquiring by compulsion land for setting up a refinery. That is a very serious matter. We were told upon the Second Reading that one refinery could be smelt for 20 miles. Suppose the output of petroleum were small; no one would think of taking land for the purpose of treating and converting oil on the spot. The oil would no doubt be conveyed to some existing refinery. In the case of a large output, the Clause will give power for the setting up of a refinery in a district without any regard to the wishes of the landowner, of the inhabitants, or anybody else. I submit that the power is excessive.
§ We know that in every part of the world, petroleum is carried through pipe lines. It is no good putting up a refinery if it is to be a nuisance in the district, but the man who gets a licence is to be given facilities for searching, boring for, getting, carry away and storing, and he may very well be left to acquire land by agreement in some place where no one will object, and he might convey his oil through pipe lines.
§ 10.5 p.m.
§ Mr. SPENS
Under the Mines (Working Facilities) Act there are five ancillary rights for which a person who desires to work minerals can apply. Sub-section (2) of this Clause adds two more, the one the right to enter upon land and sink bore-holes therein for the purpose of searching for and getting petroleum, and the other the right to use and occupy land for the erection of buildings for a 1686 number of purposes, including the purpose of treating and converting the petroleum, that is to say, for the purpose of putting up a refinery. I suggest that it is unnecessary, if there is a right to get petroleum, to have any right beyond that of getting and storing it, and that, when it comes to a question of compulsorily taking additional land for the purposes of a refinery, a special case ought to be made out that that is necessary, and that the land cannot be made use of unless there is a refinery in that place. If there is a store, the petroleum can be taken from the store to the refinery, wherever it may be situated, in the most convenient place for refining.
In practice, however, when an applicant goes to the Railway and Canal Commission, he simply asks for the main right, and, if the court is satisfied that it is in the national interest that he should have the right to work the mineral in that particular place, this string of ancillary rights is nearly always granted in addition as a matter of course. It seems to me that the inclusion of the ancillary right of taking land, putting up buildings upon it and using them for a refinery, may be rather onerous to private owners, and they may consider that any compensation which they get is inadequate in view of the loss of amenities or of the inconvenience that they may suffer. Accordingly, I suggest that either these words should be left out or the right to have land and buildings for a refinery should be made a special ancillary right, for which a special case should be made out.
§ 10.8 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
Lincoln shire, which is one of the places where petroleum may be found in this country, is at present entirely unspoiled by unsightly buildings. There are certain well known beauty spots there, and, if these large storage tanks are going to be put up, they will spoil the amenities, whereas a mere borehole would probably not be much worse than a pylon. We should like to know exactly what will be the rights of the landowner, and also of those living in the neighbourhood, with regard to protesting—
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
We rather object to large storage buildings, whereas we should not object so much to the actual boreholes.
§ 10.9 p.m.
The DEPUTY SOLICITOR-GENERAL
This Amendment does not cover the question of storage, and, therefore, the point just made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Louth (Lieut.-Colonel Heneage) does not arise on it. The Amendment proposes to leave out "treating and converting," but the granting of ancillary powers in respect of any of these matters only arises if the applicant satisfies the Commission that the proper and efficient working of the mineral is unduly hampered by inability or failure to obtain such rights or facilities. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ash-ford (Mr. Spens) suggests that, so far as these words would cover a refinery, they would not be really necessary, as the oil could be easily pumped or otherwise conveyed to a refinery in some other part of the country. If that be right, my hon. Friends' objection, in my submission, answers itself, because in that case it would be impossible for anyone to say that they were unduly hampered by the fact that they could not get land adjacent to the well for setting up a refinery. Accepting that distinction for the purposes of my argument, the Commission would obviously have regard to it.
Further, having got before the Commission, as one would, ex hypothesi, in such a matter, there is a later provision in the Clause which deals with amenities, and those affected will be able to appear. I mention that in passing, because it does not really arise on this Amendment, although it has been referred to. For these reasons I would ask the Mover of the Amendment to withdraw it. We think it right to keep in these words to cover a case which might arise where the person with the licence would be unduly hampered if he could not get land for treatment, but we suggest that the sort of cases with which the Amendment is designed to deal are already covered by the words in the Mines (Working Facilities) Act.
§ 10.10 p.m.
§ Mr. RHYS
The Solicitor-General has said, quite rightly, that before the 1688 ancillary right to set up a refinery could be granted the application would have had to reach the stage of being heard before the commission. Could he tell me whether, before the hearing, the interests concerned will have the right to be heard and to make objections before the commission?
§ Amendment negatived.
§ 10.11 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE
I beg to move, in page 3, line 23, at the end, to insert:and any authority, body, or person appearing to the Commission to be interested with respect to suck amenities shall be entitled to appear and be heard by the Commissioners with respect thereto, notwithstanding that such authority, body, or person may respectively not be an authority, body, or person having power to grant the right applied for or any authority, body, or person from whom such right must be obtained.The right hon. Gentleman will have realised by now that I do not like his Bill, and would like to destroy it, but at the same time he will realise that this is not by any means a wrecking Amendment. Clause 3 requires the Royal Commission to have regard to the question of amenities before granting compulsory powers, but there is no provision making it necessary for them to hear the view of those who are affected in regard to amenities. We conside that county councils, district councils and people living in the neighbourhood should be able to give evidence before the commission, but, unless some such power as this Amendment provides be given, the application may come before the commission and the whole thing may be finished before they hear of it. By the time this stage is reached the whole thing will be public and the need for secrecy on which the Government insists, as we think so wrongly, will have gone. There seems to be no reason why this right of appearance should not be granted to local authorities and other people in the district.
§ 10.14 p.m.
§ Mr. RHYS
I do not know whether hon. Members have any idea what a large oil refinery looks like. I have some slight connection with the Anglo-Persian refinery in South Wales, and it covers a very large area of ground which is extremely 1689 unsightly and very smelly, A very strong case can be made out at this stage of the proceedings for representations to be made by people who are interested in the neighbourhood. We have on several occasions raised the point of the right of local authorities to have some say in the development of their areas. I hope the Minister will give very serious consideration to the request that my hon. and gallant Friend has put forward. I do so with the most genuine desire to safeguard the amenities of the countryside and without any desire to hold up the oil industry which may or may not develop.
§ 10.16 p.m.
I wish to support the Amendment and the idea underlying it. The part of Lincolnshire that I represent contains that part of the country in which the poet Tennyson was born and bred and wrote many of his most noted works, and references to that part of the country are contained in many of his best known poems. It is known generally as the Tennyson country. If some unsightly building, such as a petroleum refinery, were put up in that country, very many people would regard it as an outrage. To those who desire to preserve that kind of amenity, people perhaps who have no representative organisation to voice their views and feelings, but who nevertheless feel very strongly on such a point as this, some sort of power to make such representations should be given. Such amenities as these are treasured very highly by large numbers of people, and any interference with them would be regarded with strong feelings.
§ 10.19 p.m.
§ Viscount WOLMER
If the Government do not accept the Amendment, I feel certain that they will arouse a great deal of resentment, particularly among local authorities. The Bill has slipped through with very little public attention but, when the people in some beautiful part of England wake up and find that Parliament has enabled a huge oil monopoly to erect a refinery in their midst and that they have no locus standi, they will be justly indignant. Anyone who has seen an oil refinery knows what a terrible blot it is on the landscape, and the fumes are capable of being smelt 20 miles away. It is a very grave interference with the amenities of the whole 1690 neighbourhood and the value of property. People will not be able to sell land or sell or let houses so readily if they have a thing of that sort dumped down in their midst. It is a matter in which local authorities and the community generally are vitally interested. Local authorities have a right to be heard when this matter is being considered. On our local authorities now is charged the whole duty of town planning. We are town planning the whole of the countryside, and I am very glad that it is being done under proper safeguards, but how can a local authority town plan the countryside if it has not the right to be heard on a matter of this sort? I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept the Amendment, or, at any rate, some other form of words which will have the same effect.
§ 10.21 p.m.
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
I should like to add my voice to the urge which has been given by my hon. Friend on this Amendment. I do so in this particular case because I have in mind the possible effect of a refinery being built, say, just outside the boundaries of a city like that of which I have the honour to be one of the representatives. The corporation might not have the smallest chance of going before the Railway and Canal Commission, and certainly it might not be in their area that the oil would be found. A big city would constantly be smothered with fumes from the refinery every time the wind came from South-East, South, or South-West, and they would have no access at all to the one body who might look after their interests and safeguard their rights. I reinforce every word the Noble Lord has said on this subject. If we are to have a Measure which, as my right hon. Friend says, will make provision so that anyone subjected to a disturbance shall be compensated, he is bound, I think, to accept the Amendment, or one similar to it. Disturbance does not come only from being kicked out of a house; one can be sadly disturbed by the smell which comes through the windows.
§ 10.23 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
If there is to be a local public inquiry at which everybody is entitled to be heard, I think that possibly the Amendment is not necessary. If there is only to be an inquiry before the Railway and Canal Commission 1691 in London, it will make it very hard for local people to be represented. The local authorities are engaged in country planning to a certain extent. At the same time they are very much exercised as to the question of employment, and if they see that treating and storage tanks are to be put up, they may realise that they are an employment factor, and they may be persuaded in their favour, and some of the beauty spots of England may be spoilt. I suggest to the Government that they should think of that case, and that people interested in beauty spots and amenities generally should be enabled to make representations. The beauty spots of England are not only amenities enjoyed by those who live in the neighbourhood, but many of them are the property of the nation and are places to which people can go from the industrial centres. It would be a very sad thing for England if they were to be destroyed by this new development. I beg of the Government to do all in their power to safeguard the remaining beauty spots of this country and not allow them to be destroyed as in some foreign countries where industrial development of this nature has taken place.
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
I am in the happy position of being able to assure the Movers of this Amendment that these words are not necessry, because the parties in question have full right to appear or to make application to appear, which is all that the Amendment asks, before the Railway and Canal Commission. The general position in our law is that a body such as the Railway and Canal Commission are entitled, and indeed it is their duty, to hear those persons or bodies whom it is necessary and proper to hear in order to decide the matters which have been entrusted to them by the Legislature. In an ordinary case of law it is the two parties, but in this case, where the commission is enjoined to have regard to the effect of the amenities of the locality, the commission will have the fullest power and, indeed, the duty to consider applications made to them by persons who said that they were interested in the preservation of the amenities. Of course, they must be the judges, and that would be so under the Amendment, whether they are proper interested parties. If I may take the words 1692 of the Amendment, I think they accurately define what would be the position of a body of this kind. The Amendment says:Any authority, body, or person appearing to the commission to be interested …I think that is a very fair statement of what would be the powers and duties of the commission in a matter of this kind, and I think the Committee will see that any other result would lead at once to an absurdity. The parties interested, that is to say, the person who owns the land and the person who wants the land, might have no interest in and no knowledge of the amenities, and yet Parliament has said that that is a matter to which the commission are to have regard. Therefore, our law, which is sensible in this as in many other matters, implies a power without any expressed words, and that they must hear all proper parties in order to inform themselves on the matters to which Parliament says they must have regard. There is also power, if the commission think fit, to order a local public inquiry to be held. That is in the Act and it would no doubt be exercised on an appropriate occasion. I hope my hon. Friends will see fit to withdraw the Amendment.
§ 10.27 p.m.
§ Mr. CROOM-JOHNSON
I have been listening with great attention to what my hon. and learned Friend has said, and I am not quite sure, and I should like an assurance, that he has quite covered the point that was made on this side of the Committee. I agree with him that under the Act of 1923, of which I have had some experience, any persons who are interested can apply to the Commission and get leave of the Commission to appear and put their case, but the point which has been suggested is a little wider than that. The point expressly put was that of a local authority where facilities have been asked in respect of a property which is outside their area, and therefore they have no rights over the area. Of course, people within the area and people directly affected as adjoining landowners have a right under the Act of 1923 of going to the Commission, of explaining how they are affected and getting leave to appear, and leave is granted in a proper case, but here is a local authority which does not own the land, which is not directly affected in its own area but 1693 desires to represent a body of people who are its constituent inhabitants and who may themselves be affected, not directly with regard to their property but with regard to their sense of taste, smell, hearing and sight, and I am not at all sure, with great respect to my hon. and learned Friend, whether the assurance that he has given us really covers that point. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will be able to give us an assurance, because I confess from my own experience, which is a small one but it is an experience, of the working of the Act of 1923 that I doubt whether, under the existing way in which the legislation is carried on, the Commission have power to do what is suggested.
May I put one other point. Under the Act of 1923, when the application relates to the supply of water, in Sub-section (5) of Section 5 there is an express provision under which notice has to be given where any local authority is affected so that the application may be brought to the direct notice of the authority, and the local authority in that case is empowered to take such steps as they may think fit to bring their views before the commission. It looks, therefore, as though under that Section water is placed in an exceptional position and express power is given to a local authority to intervene and place their views before the commission. In these circumstances, inasmuch as the amenities of the people generally are being aimed at by some of my hon. Friends in connection with this matter, I still venture to doubt whether the Amendment may not be necessary for the purpose of enabling a local authority to put its views on this particular matter, and I hope that before this question is disposed of this particular point will receive a little further attention.
§ 10.32 p.m.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
I should like to deal shortly with the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Croom-Johnson). With regard to Sub-section (5) of Section 5 of the 1923 Act, my hon. and learned Friend has not noticed that it also refers to any other right which appears to the Board of Trade to affect any local authority. There is no question of a local authority not knowing what is going on. With all respect to my hon. and learned Friend, he has not appreciated the change 1694 or the extension which is necessarily affected by the fact that in this Bill the amenities may be made, and are a proper reason for opposition to the application. It would, of course, be improper and impossible for me to lay down some general principle as to what authority would be proper to be heard by the commission, but I hope he will agree that under the Bill anyone who can properly speak for those whose amenities are affected would be a proper person for the commission to hear. We are satisfied that this is the position, and we hope it will satisfy my hon. Friends.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE
In view of the assurance given by the Solicitor-General I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed:
§ "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 10.33 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
Among those who can appear before the Commission are local authorities and "persons interested." I am not referring to amenities but to the granting of licences. Catchment areas have been established since the original Act was passed and I should like to know whether it is clear that where a catchment board is affected it will have the right to appear before the Commission. They will be interested in cases where pipe lines are laid across streams or where a certain amount of digging has to be done, and I should like to have an assurance that they will have the right to appear if they wish to object to the granting of any licence.
§ 10.34 p.m.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
There is one point in regard to Sub-section (2) that I want to deal with, the extra 10 per cent. allowance which is to be given in determining the amount of compensation to be paid. It used to be quite a familiar feature in the old days, in compensation cases, to give the extra 10 per cent., which was always said to be for the purpose of paying the costs of reinvestment. In the days when practically the only alternative form of investment was land itself, and the cost of conveyancing and so on on re-investment was very often heavy, especially in the case of small sums of money, 10 per cent. was offered over and above fair compensation. Nowadays it is 1695 generally accepted that the basis of that argument has disappeared, because there are various forms of alternative investment which are very small in cost; one-eighth or one-quarter per cent. is quite sufficient to cover the cost. If the compensation is to be fixed at a fair sum, as one assumes, what is the object of this extra 10 per cent. over and above the fair compensation which is to be paid? In the Assessment of Compensation Act of 1919, this was dropped, and one had hoped that it had finally passed out of compensation law. Why is it necessary to reintroduce a feature which, if compensation is properly assessed by a tribunal, cannot possibly be deserved by any persons whose interests are compensated to If it is necessary to pay the 10 per cent. extra it only shows that the assessment was 10 per cent. too low.
§ 10.37 p.m.
§ Mr. HERBERT WILLIAMS
I wish to ask a question with regard to the proviso to Sub-section (1). It is laid down that where a licence is granted the people who receive the licence are to have the rights which waterworks have with regard to the digging up of streets, and in connection with that there are all sorts of restrictions regarding the guarding of the excavated streets. I have some connection with the electrical industry, which enjoys rather similar powers under the Electricity Acts; and there are the provisions in the Gasworks Clauses Act of 1847. In this proviso it is stated that the appropriate Clauses of the Waterworks Clauses Act of 1847 are to apply in the case of pipe lines butsubject to any modification or adaptations specified in the order.In other words an oil company will be given rights by the order which are denied to any waterworks or gas or electricity undertaking in the country. Why? It seems to be a rather unusual provision, whereby the well-established Statute law which has now been running for nearly 100 years and covers nearly all public utilities, will be modified in this Bill.
§ 10.39 p.m.
§ The SOLICITOR - GENERAL
The reason for the wordssubject to any modification or adaptations specified in the orderis that whereas the Waterworks Clauses Act of 1847 deals with pipes which 1696 carried water, this Clause deals with pipes which are to carry oil and, therefore, contains the necessary modifications. That is what the words are intended to cover. As regards the point about catchment areas, I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Louth (Lieut.-Colonel Heneage) appreciates the fact that I cannot lay down definite decisions as to particular cases. The general principle is quite clear and it was stated by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Croom-Johnson). Any party or person who can satisfy the Commission that he or they are interested, that is to say that their rights are liable to be affected and who make application, if they are considered proper parties to be heard, will be heard, and the authority of a catchment area just like anybody else can make application. If they satisfy the Commission that their position is likely to be adversely affected the Commission will, in a proper case, allow them to be heard. As regards the 10 per cent., I cannot add anything to what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) will find in the Bill, namely, that the 10 per cent. is to be paid on account of the acquisition of the right being compulsory. It is one thing when a person decides to dispose of his own property. In that case he, no doubt, gets the fair market value and he is able to look after his own interest, but it is another thing when his property is taken away compulsorily and the 10 per cent. addition is to be made as set out in the Bill, on account of the acquisition of the right being compulsory.
§ 10.42 p.m.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I am sure the hon. and learned Solicitor-General does not really mean that, because these words have become absolutely technical words in the law of compensation and have been discussed ad nauseam on the question of what this 10 per cent. allowance was for. It has always been held that it could not be part of the value because the application is to fix the fair value, and there cannot be any more value after you have fixed the fair value. The theory was that the allowance was made originally to meet the cost of re-investment, which was reasonable when the only alternative was re-investment in land and 10 per cent. in cases of small sums of compensation Was 1697 about the cost of re-investment. It has in recent days, however, been argued that the 10 per cent., which was a notional allowance under the 1847 Act, ought to be reduced in view of that very fact, and I have (myself argued that l£ per cent. was the proper allowance in the case of a big award instead of the customary 10 per cent. Whether it was made in that case I do not know, because the arbitrator wisely gave a lump sum and did not go into the point. It is impossible to say that just because a right is acquired compulsorily you ought to give 10 per cent. more. That has never been the theory, and apparently in this case the old practice has simply been adopted without anybody in the least understanding what it meant or why it was there. I suggest to the hon. and learned Gentleman that before the Report stage he ought to look into this point and see whether we have not arrived at a stage in the history of compensation when this ridiculous anachronism ought to be wiped out. Let him, if he thinks it necessary, put in a reasonable sum for the cost of re-investment, over and above the value, but do not assume that the value to be given by the tribunal is not a fair value. If it is a fair value, there can be no excuse, except some such thing as the cost of reinvestment, for any addition of this kind.
§ 10.44 p.m.
§ Mr. D. D. REID
I think the hon. and learned Solicitor-General has treated the Committee to a rather scanty explanation of these words "subject to any modifications or adaptations," when he says that they are due to the fact that these pipes will convey oil and not water. I should be obliged if he would tell us what these modifications or adaptations are to be and why they should apply to pipes which are carrying oil and not to pipes which are carrying water. These words seem to give an unlimited power of legislation to a Government Department and I have had some experience of the pranks played by Government Departments in making use of powers of this kind. I suggest that if the hon. and learned Gentleman wants to retain these words, some such words should be inserted on the Report stage as "subject to any modification which may be required owing to the fact that the pipes are to carry oil and not water."
§ 10.46 p.m.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
The Solicitor-General's explanation was a very bright one on the spur of the moment, but it obviously indicated that I was raising a new point. As long ago as 1847 we had laid down the conditions to be observed, and only a few weeks ago we were discussing on the Report stage a Bill to modify the Electricity Acts, and the strongest opposition was raised by, I think, the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Parkinson) about the very provisions in that Bill with regard to digging up roads. That all dated back as long ago as the Gasworks Clauses Act, 1847. This is the Waterworks Clauses Act of the same year, dealing with the same point, but both gas pipes and water pipes must be so arranged that they do not leak. If a water pipe leaks, it blows up the road, and if an oil pipe leaks and someone happens to drop a match, it blows up the neighbourhood. Here we have power given to a body to modify these safeguards to the community with regard to the security to the public when roads are being dug up, and I think we ought to have a fuller explanation why it is proposed that the Order shall apply these Clauses subject to any modifications or adaptations specified in the Order. I have not observed this point in time to put down an Amendment to leave out these words, but I think we ought to have an adequate explanation as to why what has been the general law of the land in respect of all public utilities should be modified in this case.
§ 10.48 p.m.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
May I suggest what the reason is? I think it is that the Waterworks Clauses Act and similar Acts are only intended to be incorporated in subsequent private Acts subject to such modifications as the private Acts may make, and the practice has always been in subsequent private Acts from time to time to make modifications of the Clauses Acts to suit them to the particular cases with which the private Acts are dealing. The hon. Member will find many cases where the Clauses Acts, the Land, Water, and Gas Clauses Acts, have in fact been modified in detail to suit some particular local circumstance. In this case, the only way in which you could modify those Acts would be by an Order, because there is no other operative legislative Act except a subsequent Order.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
Can the hon. and learned Gentleman tell me any case where the general provisions about digging up streets have been modified in an Order?
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I cannot tell the hon. Member offhand, but there is a number of cases where the general conditions of Clauses Acts have been modified in particular Acts. The safeguard that modification can be made in special Acts is always maintained in the Clauses Acts themselves and in the subsequent private Acts. I suggest that the object here is to give a similar right in an Order, which otherwise could not be done.
§ Mr. D. D. REID
May I suggest that the Clauses are in a private Act by Parliamentary authority. That is quite a different thing from suggesting Clauses by the whim of a Department.
§ 10.50 p.m.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
I think there has been some misunderstanding. The Order referred to here is not made by Government Departments but by the Railway and Canal Commission. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) has pointed out that it is not infrequently necessary to make modifications in these General Clauses Acts, and the mere fact that the liquid concerned in the Act of 1847, though it might cause some damage would not blow up a whole neighbourhood, may have afforded a reason why the Commissioners in this Order made some modification. It is not a Government Department Order.