§ Mr. Brooke
I beg to move, in page 52, line 30, at the end to insert:(2) Section fifty-two of the Act of 1954 shall also have effect, and shall be deemed always to have had effect, as if the following subsection were inserted after subsection (2) of that section:—(2A) Without prejudice to the last preceding subsection, where the interest was acquired in pursuance of a notice to treat served, or a contract made, before the eighteenth day of November, nineteen hundred and fifty-two, and on the date of service of the notice to treat, or on the date on which the contract was made as the case may be, the land in which the interest subsisted was used wholly or mainly for agricultural purposes, subsection (1) of this section shall not apply to so much of any payment referred to in that subsection as is attributable to any part of the land in respect of which it is certified by the Minister that he is satisfied that the acquiring authority have no intention—This Amendment is designed to implement an undertaking, which I gave in Committee, to exempt local authorities from the obligation to repay payments by the Central Land Board under Part I of the 1954 Act in respect of agricultural land.
- (a) of using it (otherwise than temporarily) for purposes other than agricultural purposes, or
- (b) of disposing of it by way of sale, exchange or letting with a view to its being so used."
I am very willing to explain it to the House, if desired. It arose originally from a case affecting Banstead Urban District Council, on which I have had some correspondence with my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head). I wrote to my right hon. Friend saying that I was desirous of finding a means of relieving that Council from what appeared to me to be a hardship and that the right way was by suitable Amendment of the Bill.
There might be three or four other cases which will be affected by the Amendment and where the councils will gain exemption. But the total number will be small and I think that it will commend itself to everybody that we should exempt this small class of case.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I moved an Amendment, dealing with the Banstead Council, on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member 1270 for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren), who had been asked to do so by the Urban District Councils' Association. We thank the Minister for having done what he said he would do, to give some relief in these cases.
This is retrospective legislation and I can only say to the right hon. Gentleman that we regard retrospective legislation differently when it relieves hardship and imposes a burden. As a whole, the Clause imposes a burden on certain local authorities, including both Kettering and Widnes, upon which we had a discussion in Committee. I would not wish to repeat that discussion, but my objections to retrospective legislation, when it imposes a burden or solves a difficult point by legislation instead of making it necessary to go to the courts, remain as strong as ever they were. I dare say that my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes would like to say a word or two on behalf of that great borough.
§ Mr. MacColl
I cannot refrain from responding to an invitation of that sort from my hon. and learned Friend. I warmly welcome the fact that the Ban-stead case has been met. I merely deeply regret that it has been necessary, in meeting it, to introduce the words:shall have effect, and shall be deemed always to have had effect …It is an extraordinary thing that no way has been found to deal with this problem except by stating that the law is what it probably was not.
This is a Clause which, on the whole, is one to which my hon. and learned Friend and I have the strongest objections, for precisely the reason that those words appear in it. Our complaint is that our constituencies have been cut off from access to the courts because we dared to stand up to the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman talked about local authorities being free agents and about interference with them. But as soon as he is frustrated he alters the law to suit his own ends and to avoid being challenged in the courts. It is a shameful thing and I deeply regret it.
§ Mr. Brooke
Bearing in mind the attack which hon. Members opposite launched on me during the Committee stage on the issue of retrospective legis- 1271 lation, I am a little surprised that they do not take exception to the words:… and shall be deemed always to have had effect …in this Amendment which, apparently, they welcome.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. N. Macpherson
I beg to move, in page 54, line 3, at the end to insert:(c) subsection (2) of this section shall have effect as if, in the subsection (2A) set out therein, for the words "the Minister", there were substituted the words "the Secretary of State"; andThis Amendment applies to Scotland the provisions of the Amendment which has just been made in respect of England.
§ Amendment agreed to.