§ 4.5 p.m.
§ House again in Committee (according to Order).
§ [The EARL OF DROGHEDA in the Chair.]
§ Clause 79:
§ Mineral workings.
§ 79.—(1) In relation to development consisting of the winning and working of minerals, 894 the provisions of this Act shall have effect subject to such adaptations and modifications as may be prescribed by regulations made under this Act with the consent of the Treasury.
§ (2) Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provision, any such regulations as aforesaid may provide for securing—
- (a) that in the case of such land as may be prescribed by or under the regulations, no development charge shall be payable under Part VII of this Act in respect of the winning and working of any minerals in the land during a period of three years after the appointed day;
- (b) that the restricted and the unrestricted values of any interest in such land as is mentioned in the foregoing paragraph shall be calculated for the purposes of Part VI of this Act as if any operations carried out for the winning and working of minerals during the said period of three years had been carried out before the appointed day;
- (c) that the amount of any development charge payable under Part VII of this Act in respect of the winning and working of minerals in accordance with planning permission granted or deemed to have been granted under Part III of this Act shall be calculated by reference to the amount of minerals got from time to time in accordance with such permission.
§ (3) Regulations made for the purposes of this section shall provide for securing—
- (a) that where a development charge is payable under Part VII of this Act in respect of the winning and working of minerals comprised in a mining lease which was in force on the appointed day, the terms of the lease may be varied. by such tribunal as may be prescribed by the regulations, so far as may be just having regard to the amount of the charge;
- (b) that where a development charge is payable under the said Part VII in respect of the winning and working of minerals authorised by an order made under Part I of the Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Act, 1923, the provisions of the order may be varied by the Railway and Canal Commission so far as may be just having regard to the amount of the charge.
LORD LLEWELLIN had given notice of an Amendment in subsection (2), after paragraph (b), to insert:
(c) that where—
The noble Lord said: We now come to the clause dealing with minerals. As your Lordships may remember, on the Second Reading of this Bill I suggested that this clause had somehow got into the Bill at the last moment in a rather haphazard fashion. Perhaps I might remind your Lordships that the clause starts:
In relation to development consisting of the winning and working of minerals, the provisions of this Act shall have effect subject to such adaptations and modifications as may be prescribed by regulations made under this Act with the consent of the Treasury.
That indicates to me, whether rightly or wrongly, that as full consideration had not been given in advance in the drafting of this Bill to the case of mineral land, as had been given to the case of other land. In fact, in the case of mineral land, quite differently from the case of land for building development, we have no provision whatever for ripe mineral land.
Your Lordships will remember that last night we had a considerable discussion on what was the right test of ripeness for building development land. There was a test for that put in the Bill itself, but there is no test whatever in this Bill in regard to what is ripe mineral land. For myself, I think that may well be an oversight, into which it is right that your Lordships should look. That is why I have put down this Amendment which I am moving. Clause 79 (2) says:
Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provision,
that is the one where any adaptations can be made—
any such regulations as aforesaid may provide for securing—
There, I think, the three years ought to be increased, because it will certainly take three years for anybody to understand what adaptations are going to be made, and how minerals will be affected. I would like to see the period longer than three years.
Then paragraph (b) says:
that the restricted and the unrestricted values of any interest in such land as is mentioned in the foregoing paragraph shall be calculated for the purposes of Part VI of this Act as if any operations carried out for the winning and working of minerals during the said period of three years had been carried out before the appointed day.
That does give a moratorium for the paying of any development charge on minerals for the period of three years. But I do not think that is enough. What is the position in regard to minerals? Let us remember when we are discussing this point that it is not in any way a landowners' question. It is a question that goes to the very root of the whole of our production effort in this country—certainly in the case of iron ore; certainly in the case of clay for bricks and pipes, and things of that sort; and certainly in a number of other cases which I could mention, where we have the surface minerals which enter very vitally into some of our most important fields of production.
§ Production is not going as well as all of us would like to see it go at the moment, but it is, at any rate, going along on fairly sensible lines in regard to the working of these minerals. Now under this Bill the whole of this is going to be put into the melting pot. I am only dealing in this Amendment with the case of minerals development that is really ripe. I am not touching the case of the man who has got minerals under his land, or on the surface of his land, which he has not attempted to develop; that will be quite outside my definition. The only ones I am attempting to deal with in this definition are those which are, in one way or another, being worked to-day. In my submission, you cannot have anything riper than that, because people either own a mining lease, or if they are operating their own minerals—as in a lot of iron ore cases, where it is being done by the user himself, and in the cases of brick and pottery works, of which I know something; we make quite a lot in Dorset—they are being worked by the owner who is using them for his own production897
What I seek to do is to say that regulations may provide for securing that where
a mining lease was in force on the seventh day of January nineteen hundred and forty-seven, having on that day an unexpired term of not less than"—
and here I would like to move the Amendment in a slightly different form. I would like to say that the term should be "not less than three years." Quite frankly, when I put the Amendment down I thought we were going to put down another Amendment to alter the "three" to "ten" in paragraph (a). Then in subparagraph (ii) the Amendment says:
minerals were being won and worked immediately before that day by a person having an interest therein otherwise than under a mining lease."—
that is the man who is working his own minerals, whether he is the owner of an iron ore mine, a claypit, or whatever it is—
no payment shall be made under the said Part VI in respect of any interest in the minerals comprised in the said mining lease, or in any minerals which form part of the same seam or deposit as that in respect of which the operations mentioned in sub-paragraph (ii) of this paragraph were being carried out and in respect of which an interest was held.….no development charge shall be payable under the said Part VII in respect of the winning and working of the said minerals under the mining lease…
§ My Amendment attempts to say that just as where you get ripe building land and disallow any claim on the £300,000,000 and exempt them from development charges, so in logic and in fairness we should do exactly the same in regard to minerals. I am only seeking this, as I say, for minerals that are being worked now. I am not attempting to touch any minerals which the owner previously has not sought to develop. The great advantage of this is that our industry can then go on uninterrupted knowing where it stands under its existing mining leases.
§ In the case of those which have not previously been developed, they may fall into the same realm as other undeveloped land and, of course, where there is not a lease in force then they will have to come into the scheme of the Bill just the same as any other undeveloped land. I claim that when for the first time we are bringing minerals into a planning Bill, the sensible way of doing it is to see that we do not interrupt what is going on at the present moment; that we let these 898 leases go on and the man who has bought a piece of land in order to get the gravel, the clay, the ironstone, or perhaps the Fuller's earth out of it, to go on just as he is. In most of those cases he will certainly already have paid the development right in that land, because he will have bought it knowing that the minerals are underneath it. Let him go on working it, and let the mining leases go on. We must not have interference with this production by leaving people in a state of uncertainty over the next three or four years. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 91, line 46, at end, insert:
("(c) that where—
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
Perhaps it would be for the convenience of your Lordships if I said on this Amendment what I might have said on other Amendments standing in my name; I think that might tend towards shortening the debate. I should like to explain that the Amendments which stand in my name, and in the name of the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, are put down at the request of the cement industry, the chairman of whose federation I am. I would, of course, like to say that I support what my noble friend Lord Llewellin has just said. I think what he has said is borne out by the practical repercussions of the Bill as it is now drafted upon a particular industry. As shortly as possible I wish to indicate to your Lordships the 899 injury that this Bill, if it becomes law in its present form, would inflict upon the cement industry.
I am not pretending that the cement industry is affected more severely than other industries, but after all it is an important industry, an industry which the Government are seeking to expand very much at the present moment in order to supply concrete for houses, and I think it is important that we should realize how legislation is affecting these great extractive industries. The first Amendment which I have on the paper is simply to provide that where a cement manufacturer has leased a quarry, his development charge should not exceed what he is already paying in royalty. Perhaps I should explain that if you want to make cement, what you have to do is first to acquire some chalk and then some clay. You then erect very expensive machinery, fuse them together at a terrific heat, and then you grind the result to powder. That is how cement is made. But a modern cement factory costs something in the neighbourhood of £2,000,000, as my noble friend Lord O'Hagan mentioned yesterday.
Therefore, no company or person will invest £2,000,000 in this very expensive machinery unless they can first secure for themselves an adequate supply of chalk (or limestone) and clay which ought to last about sixty years at the very minimum, in order that the capital cost of the factory may be amortized. All the cement works in this country to-day either own their raw materials or else lease them. My first Amendment provides that the lessee should not be obliged to pay more in development charge than he is already paying in royalties. The justification for that was a promise the Minister gave in another place, and I would like to direct the attention of the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, to this point. The Minister said in another place on March 26 last that the mineral worker should be no worse off than he was before. Well, clearly if he is to be no worse off than he was before the royalty that he pays for his raw materials should not be increased, otherwise you are just increasing the costs of manufacture which must send up the price of cement and all similar products.
900 The second Amendment deals with the question of taxation. At the present moment a person who is mining either chalk, clay, ironstone, or brickearth, can charge the royalties that he has to pay against his expenses for tax purposes. My Amendment intends to secure that that should continue. I should be grateful if the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, could tell us how he proposes to deal with that point. I am advised that the Bill at the present moment is quite vague on the matter, but surely it is very important that all manufacturers in the extractive industries should be sure as to whether they can continue to allow royalties as an expense for taxation purposes.
The third Amendment deals with the man who has bought his raw materials. The first two points deal with the man who has leased them. As to the man or company who has bought the raw materials, whether they be chalk or clay or some other material, as I understand the Bill that man or that company would be subject to an even greater tax than the man who has leased them. As I have just told your Lordships, in the case of a cement factory it is necessary to acquire raw materials for sixty years—sixty years consumption of raw materials is regarded as the minimum. Therefore you have either to purchase freehold enough land bearing these minerals to last you for sixty years, or acquire a sixty-year lease of them. All that this Amendment asks is that a company which has done this shall be excluded from development charge if the Minister is satisfied that such minerals represent reserves reasonably required for the purposes of trade or business of such company or person. I was not asking for as much as the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, who wished to take the whole formation of minerals. I agree with him, but I am only concerned in this Amendment with a much more limited scope, and I am confining myself to such supplies of minerals as the Minister is satisfied are necessary to the conduct of that business.
I should like to draw the attention of the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, to the words that the Minister used in another place when this case was argued before him. He said thatthere may be a case for special consideration in the case of a person engaged in mineral workings who owns his own land. In that 901 respect if the case were put I would be prepared to give consideration in order to put such a person in the same position, relatively, as a person who is working under a lease.As the Bill stands at present a person who has acquired his own mineral deposits is definitely in a worse position than the person who is merely leasing them. He may be practically forced to buy them again, and it is in order to protect companies in that position that I am at this stage, at any rate, seeking an assurance from His Majesty's Government.
As the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, pointed out, this has nothing to do with the land-owning interest; but it has a great deal to do with industry. You have these great industries, cement, bricks, iron ore, and other industries of a like nature, which are all being asked by His Majesty's Government to make a special national effort to expand in the interest of housing. If you want people to put the vast sums required into a cement factory you must give them some security of tenure. Who is going to put £2,000,000 of his own money, or is going to the public to ask them for £2,000,000 to erect great and costly works if he has no security that he will be able to use the minerals which are necessary for the process at a cost which can be calculated? Finally I would remind your Lordships that everything which adds to the cost of manufacture must inevitably have its effect on the cost of the finished product.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MAUGHAM
I should like to support the Amendment, and in truth my own opinion is that the whole of the clause ought to come out. I agree entirely with what the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin said, that it looks as if this clause is an afterthought. When you dig out of a piece of land any sort of mineral, whether it be coal or ironstone or gypsum, or any of the other things, you are not improving land, you are taking something away; you are making a hole in the land. And when you have worked out the mine, if it is a mine which consists practically entirely of such a mineral as limestone, you leave nothing. It is ridiculous to treat that as if it were in any way improving your development. "Development" is the wrong word. It is not development in the least, as the word is used in relation to the improvement of land, which was the main thing which was 902 going to be taken away from the land— owners in consideration of some compensation out of the £300,000,000; and on the other hand the Board was to get a charge.
As an old lawyer who has been concerned with things of this sort for many years, there is an enormous difference to my mind between what lawyers call the open mine and what they call a piece of land which has not yet been opened. And the reason is very largely that mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Selborne. When you are opening a mine you spend maybe thousands, maybe millions of pounds to turn it into a going concern from which a profit may perhaps be extracted, and accordingly an open mine is nothing more nor less than a factory for the production of the mineral, whatever it may be, under the surface or on the surface, if possible at a profit.
We are dealing here not with coal, because the Government have already got the coal under an Act which I had some share in passing. We are dealing here with all sorts of minerals and perhaps I may be allowed to give a summarized list of minerals we are dealing with. Metalliferous ores—I will give the number of tons extracted in the last year before the war—represented 11,000,000 old tons; salt, 2,630,000; gypsum, over 1,000,000 tons; oil shales, over 1,500,000 tons; fireclay, 2,600,000 tons. And for building and road making—vital matters in the present condition of the country—there were: limestone, 15,926,000 tons; sandstone, 4,346,000 tons; clay and shale, over 26;500,000 tons; gravel and sand, just about 22,000,000 tons; and igneous rocks, over 11,000,000 tons. (These are yearly figures.) Those vast quantities of stone are dug out of the earth at great expense. Nearly all of them require buildings or works in which men can be accommodated and machinery housed. Many require quite a lot of machinery. All these things have got to be put together at the expense of the people who undertake the operations.
I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I spend five minutes in telling you something on the subject of ironstone mining. My noble friend Lord Selborne has told you about cement, and my noble friend Lord Llewellin has told you about some other matters, such as Fuller's earth and things of that sort. Now let me tell 903 you something about ironstone. Fortunately, the materials are available if you can get the right boring. My noble friend Lord Kennet was put at the head of a Committee to make a report on the restoration of land damaged by iron ore working, and he made his report in 1939. There is here a full and elaborate account of ironstone mining in the Midlands, and an examination of all the economic difficulties that arise in connexion with the business. What caused the Committee to be appointed was this, that over 90 per cent. of the ironstone which is removed in this country is taken by workings in the nature of removal of the over-burden, and it is not mining in the sense of tunnelling, as a rule. The result is that inasmuch as you destroy the surface when you remove the over-burden, you leave the land in a state of hill and dale, all the agricultural value having been taken away from it.
The Report of the Committee was a unanimous report. There was a very strong recommendation that a board should be set up for the purpose of collecting a royalty from all the workers of ironstone—from the landlord, if there was a landlord separate from a lessor, and from the local authorities, because the local authorities receive substantial sums in rates—and using the sums so collected for the purpose of restoring the surface. The amount of the surface concerned at the present time is some 80,000 acres which, if nothing is done, are going to be left in a desperate and miserable condition. The Report shows in eloquent terms how this portion of the land is being destroyed, but the Report has not yet been utilized for the purposes of an Act of Parliament, and no board has been appointed. I think that has got to be done sooner or later.
It is one of the many things which makes it unjust and improper to try to collect from these people who are doing this valuable work of supplying Britain with practically the whole of its iron at the present time. Practically none is now being imported from abroad, and makes it almost impossible, or at least more difficult, for them to carry on their business. As my noble friend Lord Selborne has pointed out, it would be almost impossible for any man to start a new business in ironstone, because he would have 904 no idea how much he was going to be charged in respect of a rate or a special royalty payable to the board set up by the present Bill. Therefore, he would be in a state of uncertainty as to his finance and his prospect of recovering the very large sums necessary for the purpose of this operation of getting ironstone, or, I may say, any other particular mineral beneath the land. You have to remember that a great deal, or at any rate a substantial amount, of the materials that I have mentioned as being subject to the present Bill, if the clause goes through, consist of materials which are worked either by the landowner himself or by a lessee in quite a small way. You need not have a company to dig gravel. A person who digs gravel himself, say a builder, gets a particular area of land, probably an acre, and is allowed to dig gravel in the neighbourhood of some works on which he is engaged. There are many incidental things of that sort which can be dug by small concerns, and it will be almost impracticable, except at vast expense, to collect from them royalties on the amount of work they do.
Moreover, the Bill does not seem to recognize the fact that there are local customs involved. There is a local custom to win tin in Cornwall and in Devon, and another to dig lead in Derbyshire. Iron as well as coal may be secured in the Forest of Dean by a local custom. There are individuals who have a right to go to particular officials and get licences to dig these things. All these matters ought surely to be considered. There are, I think, 4,990 quarries in this country, as well as the individual people who do not open a quarry but simply dig the stuff they want. Are you going to attack all those people, many of whom make a very small profit by getting out materials for roads and buildings, in order to get some wholly new tax for the benefit of the Exchequer?
This claim to a charge on the digging of the minerals I have mentioned—that is to say, the whole of these materials in the land of this country excepting coal—is nothing more nor less than a tax. It is a tax intended to be paid out of the royalties which the land would presumably pay if there was a lease, and is subject to all sorts of considerations which do not apply at all in the case of the building of a house. Take, for instance, the 905 reinstating of the land. How are you going to work that? This royalty ought to be applied in putting the land right again, but if you build a house you have not then got to reinstate land which you have destroyed. There really is no true analogy between the development charge as intended to be levied under the provisions of this Bill, and the use of land in the ordinary way. The so-called development charge, which, it is suggested, is going to be imposed on royalties, without any limit in the Bill, with a completely free hand being left for the amounts to be changed from time to time, and in circumstances of the utmost complexity as regards the people who are concerned, cannot properly be dealt with by regulations of this kind, It is not right that in this country the levying of tax should be open to the volition of the Minister, I do not care how able he may be. Tax should be imposed on this country only by the operations of the Houses of Parliament, and they ought to say when and if a tax ought to be imposed on people who dig materials which are in the land for the benefit of either themselves or their country.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ THE DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH AND QUEENSBERRY
I wish to support this Amendment, and also to speak rather more widely in favour of the exclusion of minerals from this Bill. I am not sure if it is considered quite convenient and appropriate to do both at the same time. When the proposal for the inclusion of materials was sprung upon another place I think that it came as a surprise there. Certainly it was a surprise to all those in the industries affected, as this was a matter which had not been previously raised in discussions. There was no forecast of it. So far as I am aware, it had not been expressly mentioned in the King's Speech, nor had it been the subject of a Government announcement, although I understand that on all other occasions when there has been a nationalization or socialization of any industry or subject of importance, a rather special point has been made of making an announcement. The Government have had much longer to consider the implications of this clause, and I hope that it is appropriate now to urge withdrawal or at least some substantial concession.
The Government, perhaps, do not regard this as nationalization, but, in effect, 906 the result is the same. I submit that in this connexion there are differences from other subjects dealt with in this Bill which render it inappropriate and unnecessary. The values and the assets are not floating in the same way as are surface development rights. They are much more certain and fixed; they are generally known, and are worked as and where suitable. The noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, has said that there is no provision for ripeness. I hope it is acknowledged that there is just as much reason for such provision as in the case of ripe land on the surface. This Amendment helps to make allowance for it and to bring the clause more into line with other parts of the Bill. In this way we are only helping to carry out what the Government are themselves advocating. I do hope that they will find good reason for approval. This Amendment probably falls far short of what had been hoped for by many who are associated with the working of minerals—perhaps iron ore in particular. I think it certainly falls short of what had been hoped for by many by whom I have been asked to take part in these discussions. But I feel that the Amendment is strengthened by its very moderation.
I understand that the present effect upon people who own and lease ironstone is that there will be a moratorium for three years and thereafter all financial interest will be removed. But they will be left, at the same time, with a great many other disadvantages. I suppose it is inevitable that there will be a considerable amount of work and expense falling upon them in connexion with the development charges, and all the other arrangements. Then there are the ugly results which are often inseparable from the working of these minerals. There are the injurious effects upon, and damage to, the land itself and to adjoining land, for which I do not think provision has been made, and compensation though it should be equivalent and may, in some cases, be equivalent, seems to be uncertain. I understand that there is no right to payment for what is taken from these people by the Government, but merely permission to claim on the ground of hardship for a possible percentage of their loss from the pool. Surely there should be some definite provisions of compensation for these particular industries.
907 I would like to point out again what is not often realized and may often be overlooked—that this source of revenue from below the surface of the land is in all these cases a most valuable help to those who have the responsibility of equipping and improving the land. Thus, this enforced loss of revenue must mean removing money which would otherwise be available, and has generally been spent upon the land itself, and upon cottages and other buildings. Certainly, in most cases if not in all, this revenue is very much needed at all times. It is particularly needed at the present times and will be in the future, when obligations in respect of land management will be increased and their discharge insisted upon. Now it may be, in the case of the larger owners of royalties, that, naturally, a very much bigger percentage goes in taxation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and in that respect they are good citizens. But I think it is also true to say that a very large majority of the people affected are the owners of farms and small owners of land, and they will feel the loss of this revenue very keenly indeed in carrying out their obligations.
The Barlow Report, the Scott Report and the Uthwatt Report have often been quoted and referred to as a background and as justification for this Bill. But when you come to minerals, surely it is the other way round. Whenever minerals are mentioned in any of those Reports, either specifically or incidentally, the argument is against inclusion, or there is an assumption that they need not be and will not be included. The noble Viscount, Lord Maugham, has drawn our attention to the effect on the surface of the land of this iron ore working and the importance in attending to this aspect of the problem. I would like to support what he says, and go farther. In the Scott Report the emphasis is on preservation of the countryside, on prevention of disfigurement and devastation, and the restoration of the surface after working. I would claim that this problem of restoration must be considered at the same time as you are dealing with minerals in a vast Bill of this nature. Surely, this is the natural place and opportunity for the planner and for co-operation between him and all 908 those who are connected with the getting of ironstone. These are planning affairs and, what is more, they are recognized as matters of urgency.
There have been a tremendous number of representations on the subject over a number of years. There have been investigations on behalf of the Government and by others separately. There have been various Reports, including first of all the very valuable Kennet Report just before the war started and more recently a most useful Report, the Waters Report, with recommendations in which approval and confidence have been expressed. This Report embodied the evidence and recommendations of a joint local authority committee consisting of representatives of all the people engaged in different phrases of the industry. I suggest that it is a very valuable Report which could be implemented very easily by a short agreed Bill. I would say that all this confirms the many difficulties which arise about the restoration of the surface. But what happens? After this interval, during which this last Report has been ignored, we have instead this Bill, which removes from those concerned, from those who have and will have much of the responsibility of the costs of restoration, the source of funds so necessary for carrying it out.
Surely the restoration side and the proposals for acquisition should go together. There really is a strong practical argument here and I am sure there will be agreement that planning and finance ought to go together. I would refer also to the representations of the planning authority in the County of Northamptonshire and of the County Council and other local authorities who have protested. I urge the Government to try to tie up this with their proposals in the Bill one way or another. It will do no harm to them to take them together. I also urge in connexion with the problem to which the noble Viscount referred, the great variation which exists in conditions in all these iron ore fields, the necessity for very careful handling and common sense in the treating of each particular quarry and the necessity for co-operation between the Government, the local authority and all those on the spot.
When the Bill was first introduced, the Government did not have figures showing the total value of minerals affected and a separate valuation was strongly urged.
909 There was every appearance of an underestimate by their advisers, which is another reason for reconsidering the global figure and for something being done if extra provision is needed. I would like to ask the Government if there has been any ascertainment of the total figure of these minerals. There have been large payments in Estate Duty and recently, too, in connexion with these minerals, and I should like to ask if the Government regard it as equitable to acquire these assets without payment, except for such nebulous share as may be obtained out of the pool. I believe I am correct in interpreting the remarks of leading Ministers as meaning that fair compensation for assets nationalized or socialized will always be given. In view of the many arguments which can be advanced—there are many other points, but I fear I have been too long already—I do ask the Government to look again very carefully into this matter and I trust they may find reasons for withdrawing minerals from the Bill. I hope not only that this Amendment will be accepted but that they will go even farther.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ LORD HARLECH
Could I say a word about slate quarries? There is another typical example of complexity. The Government have received quite recently a report on the difficulties of slate quarries consequent on the war and on the whole position in the industry and its needs. If the development of these quarries is to be prejudiced by anything in this Bill and fears are going to be aroused among landowners or mineral owners or mineral developers or companies, I am quite sure it is a mistake. But it is one of those cases where you do completely destroy all existing values. You have got to go to quarries like Festiniog on what were sheep farms and take the huge slate banks. Although one gets used to them, they are terribly ugly. There is no possibility of putting any future value on them once mineral workings have begun. Where minerals have been taken out it is all right.
It is the custom in this House to declare an interest. I have only a minor interest but I have one within my own property, which is an example of what I have in mind. I did own a sheep farm near Festiniog, with a charming old house at the bottom of a valley where a stream runs 910 down. Right up the steep mountain I side, up in the very high land, is a sheep run, useless for anything else but for producing the little Cambrian, Welsh or mountain sheep. It is next a slate quarry. I know that I and my forbears have only received a very small ear-marking sort of rent from the neighbouring company for working the slate quarry, which is gradually approaching the area of the sheep run. The first time I ever talked to that company, I asked if they were really going to develop the slate they wanted and they said: "Oh no; it will be some years yet before we work up to your land." I said: "I hope you are not going to turn the family out of their house and destroy the sheep farm altogether? Can we come to an arrangement?" They said, "Oh, look at it. We have got to mine our slate up there, and the only place for dumping, where everything has to be pitched out and thrown down, is on top of that house and it has got to come down." You have an agricultural tenant to go and to be compensated; you have land which is now sheep land which will be permanently ruined as and when the slate is exploited for house roofing and other purposes.
This subject bristles with problems of taxation, of right of way, of compensation for various things and charges, and I do just wonder whether this clause is wise in this Bill and whether it is not a matter which has got to be made the subject of a special Bill. It does seem to me that to put into a Town and Country Planning Bill in a highly specialized way a possibly very unknown and very undefinable charge or compensation out of the pool, is not the way to deal with this problem, where the minerals which have been mentioned—slate is another typical example—completely change the whole character of the land and the neighbourhood. I think it needs an ad hoc Bill in the light of the many Committees and Commissions that have reported on it, and that this Bill is not the Bill in which to attempt to deal with the matter.
§ 5.3 p.m.
THE EARL OF RADNOR
I do not speak as an owner of minerals, unless millions of tons of ungotten chalk in Wiltshire make me an owner, or with any expert knowledge of the subject; but there are two points I wish to make. The first is one of which your Lordships are 911 well aware, but I think it ought to be repeated at this stage in this debate. It is that, whatever may happen to this clause, the getting of minerals will still continue to be subject to planning control. It does not affect that in any way. Although it has been mentioned before, I think it ought to be mentioned again.
The second point is quite a simple one, and concerns the effect of the clause as it stands upon the owner of minerals. If an owner of minerals is approached to-day by someone who wishes to work these minerals, it is interesting to realize what his reactions are. He looks at this Bill and he sees that for three years he may get his royalties on those minerals and thereafter he will be subject to a development charge of an unknown amount, though it is indicated in the Bill that that development charge may well be 100 per cent. of the royalties which he gets. His immediate reaction is to say at once: "Well, I will not give the lease to this man because at the end of three years all I shall get out of it will be no money and a good deal of derelict land." That is going to have a considerable effect on the getting of minerals which are necessary from the country's point of view—for various reasons—a very large proportion of them, as the figures given by the noble Viscount, Lord Maugham, show —for building and road making, both of which are very necessary. The owner of the land is going to be very reluctant indeed to consider leases for the getting of minerals, for the reason that he will be left with land which is virtually derelict. He will therefore prefer to maintain the land in its existing condition, probably agricultural, and draw his rents for its agricultural use.
It will be for those who have more knowledge of local authorities to say whether the compulsory powers which the local authorities will have under this Bill will enable them effectively to work those minerals if the owner will not lease in those circumstances, but it is a problem which the Government must face if this Bill goes through. It is a problem which the Amendment of Lord Llewellin mitigates somewhat, though it does not by any means remove it. Beyond that, I would emphasize what my noble friend the Duke of Buccleuch said, and that is that the getting of minerals possibly is a 912 planning problem, and the restoration of the land behind the minerals is also a planning problem which is not dealt with or touched on in this Bill.
§ 5.7 P.m.
I would like to speak for a moment from the point of view of the highway authorities. As your Lordships know, the highway authorities have an enormous financial task in repairing and making good the King's highways every year. The effect of this Bill as it is now drawn surely must be that all materials used for road repairs will be more expensive to the user, that is, to the highway authorities, because I think it stands to reason that, if there is to be a development charge on the extraction of all road repairing materials, there must be an increase in the cost to the user.
In the South-West of England there are a very large number of small limestone quarries worked by individual owners, and personally I am not one of those owners. If there is to be a development charge, these operating owners will have to pay it to the Central Land Board and thence to the Treasury. As your Lordships know, the Treasury every year make a very large grant to the Ministry of Transport to pay back to the local highway authorities in respect of repairs to roads. You will therefore have this circle of the Treasury taking money from the operators of the quarries and at the same time having to pay probably an equivalent sum back to the highway authorities in the increased grant for the upkeep of the highways. That surely is a ridiculous position. It is administrative folly to subject the operators of these quarries to this tax and then have to repay the amount of the tax to the highway authorities. That surely does not make sense.
The same considerations will apply very largely to the increase of the cost of housing materials. Your Lordships know the immense quantities of cement which are used every year by the local authorities, the housing authorities, for the housing programmes now in course of being carried out. All these materials—the cement, the bricks, the tiles, the drains—will be more expensive to local housing authorities, and thereby you must increase the cost of building to these authorities. I think it has been pointed out that the Minister in another place said that 913 the owner-operator might be no worse off after this Bill has been passed than before. If that is so, why include this provision? If there is to be no development charge on the small operator, why should it be included in the Bill? I think that there are the very strongest reasons why this clause should be most substantially altered. I support everything that has been said by my noble friend Lord Llewellin.
§ 5.10 p.m.
I would like to add a few words on this Amendment. I do not know whether it is realized how important it is that we should not see any brake put on productive industry as the result of this Bill. Noble Lords have said that they fear an increase in the price of materials due to the development charge. We shall find it will come into the cost of steel, through iron ore, dolomite, ganister and limestone. The latter, particularly, is used in very large quantities. We shall find an increase in the cost of steel—a basic material—which will be felt through all the processes of manufacture. Similarly in the case of chemistry gypsum, salt and other materials are used in very large quantities indeed. Most of these materials are extracted by concerns who themselves own the mineral deposits, and who, I suppose, if one is right about this Bill, will have to pay a development charge. I feel that has very little to do with planning. There is no doubt that the physical disfigurement of the land must be subject to control, in the same way as is the form of buildings, and so on. I suppose the reason why this mineral clause has been added is because of the difficulty of compensating those who are prevented from working minerals by planning laws. Nevertheless, I feel that there is perhaps a rather complicated approach to it.
Some noble Lords have spoken to-day about the ownership of minerals. I must confess that I do not know the problems connected with that, but it does seem that there will be hardship on certain individuals. Granted that, would it not be better and simpler for industry and the country as a whole, to say that planning forbids the extraction of minerals from certain places? It will be bad for the individual concerned, but there will be somewhere else, and he can go and work there. It will be a matter of hardship between one individual and another. That 914 is rather rough justice, but apparently better justice than what is proposed here. For that reason, I have a little doubt in my mind as to whether this Amendment is the best solution to offer. I would add that there are planning difficulties in regard to the extraction of minerals where there are no financial considerations whatever. I have had experience in local authority matters of trying to decide whether a quarry should be allowed to go on extracting its stone for the roads. It is a small matter, but it shows that there are not only questions of compensation and financial difficulties in the way. Further, there are cases of quarrying on certain special sites which will have to be preserved. In those cases it is a question of making preservation orders, and so on, and financial considerations do not come into the matter. Again, the disfigurement of the land by open cast coal working conducted by the Government in many places, is contrary to the best interests of planning. That, I submit, is another example where financial considerations and questions of compensation do not arise. In conclusion, I hope that something will be done to make it possible for the agencies who must get these minerals for the satisfactory life of the country to get them simply and more easily than apparently they will be able to do under this clause.
THE EARL OF GAINSBOROUGH
I would like to add a few words on this Amendment. I am a mineral owner of some considerable acreage. I think it is a great pity that there is nothing in this Bill to bring about restoration of the surface. I have 1,000 acres of land where minerals may be worked, and there is no statutory provision, such as is suggested in the Waters Report, for the restoration of this land. It is agricultural and forestry land, which is very much needed at the moment, and will always be needed. I hope that something will be done to insert in this or some other Bill some statutory provision for the restoration of land.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
It is obvious from the speeches that have been made that there are a good many of your Lordships who are not altogether wedded to this clause. Yet, if we think about it, I imagine I shall have everybody's agreement when I say that there is no single aspect of our life to-day in which the 915 amenities of the countryside can be more completely destroyed than by these operations, conducted without proper skill and without due regard to those amenities. Therefore, the next step is this—and here I think most of your Lordships would be in agreement. It is, at least plain that these operations must be under, and must remain under, planning control. I think the third step is this. Where you get operations under planning control, you must be able to say to a man: "No, you shall not develop that particular pit or open that particular mine"; and you must be able to say that to him without paying him compensation. That is the fundamental problem. This is the problem of compensation and betterment. If you are going to be confronted with the situation where, if you say "No" to a man, you have to pay him enormous sums of money by way of compensation, then you will not say "No," and he will develop this mine in the very place where it should not be developed. That is a state of affairs this Bill seeks to redress. Therefore, you must be able to say "No."
Speaking broadly, if you say to a man to-day that he must not work a pit or mine, you must pay him compensation. There are exceptions, of course, but I will not trouble your Lordships with them; they are all stated in the Act of 1932. A scheme cannot, except in very exceptional cases, exclude compensation. Then what have we to do? If we are right in saying that we must be able to say "No," and yet not pay compensation, is it right that if we say to a man, "Yes, you may develop there," we should let him "get away with it" altogether? The noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, seemed to think that the luck of the draw should prevail in this matter, and one fellow just happens to be lucky where the other is not. Is that really logical or sensible? We came to the conclusion that it is not, and it is for that reason that we felt it necessary to introduce this clause in the Bill.
Before I go any further may I answer a question—otherwise I shall forget it—which was asked by the noble Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, as to whether I had any estimate of the value of these minerals. So far as I know, there has been no official estimate made; and the only estimate I have seen is an estimate submitted to the Institution of Mining and 916 Metallurgy on July 28, 1944. I do not know whether the noble Duke has the paper. It was submitted by Professor Jones, and is based, I understand, on fifteen years' purchase of the pre-war value. On that basis, he brings out the figure of £22,000,000.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
£22,000,000 as the amount that would be necessary to buy out the owners. If his figure is right, that has to be brought up to date to ascertain the modern figure, but it is something, I should estimate, of the order of £30,000,000. I have my self no sort of knowledge about this, but having read the discussion which took place amongst all the other eminent professors and doctors, I noticed that most of them seemed to express agreement with the figure which Professor Jones stated.
The Government scheme, therefore, is this. We propose that we should allow the owners of the ungotten minerals to claim under Part VI on the £300,000,000 fund. I may tell the noble Duke—and I think I have said it before—that the way in which that £300,000,000 is allocated depends, as he knows, upon the scheme which in due course will be promulgated by the Treasury. As the noble Duke also knows, that scheme provides within itself for there being two or more classes—what I call the preference shareholders and the ordinary shareholders. I think, and the Minister thinks, that there is at least a case, and a strong case, for allowing the mineral people to go into the preference class, because certainly in regard to those minerals which are now being worked there is much less element of chance, speculation and float, and there is a much greater element of certainty than there is in the other case. I am not committing anybody because, of course, the scheme is not yet thought out or formulated, but I gather that the present trend of opinion is that the mineral owners should, to some extent at any rate, be placed in the preferential category. If that is so, they will claim either in whole or in part up to the full 100 per cent. on the £300,000,000 and get preferential treatment. I have never concealed from your Lordships that the extent to which the fund is exhausted in that way means that there will be less for the others.
917 Assume that we create this preferential class. The Government scheme would be that the mineral owners would claim on the fund and, having got out of the fund a certain amount of money, they would, in return for it, be called upon to pay something by way of development charge. It is quite obvious that the exaction of development charges on an onerous basis—whether in the case of cement, gravel, road material, or anything of that sort—must have a most damaging effect on the industry. By putting your charge at a sufficiently high rate you could manifestly knock the industry out altogether. That is obvious. I may assume that it would be quite obvious to the Central Land Board who, in exercising their functions, must be credited with a little elementary common sense. The mineral owners would have received moneys out of the fund and it is fair that some development charge should be paid. In this way, you will get the whole scheme on a fair basis. You will no longer have to differentiate in an arbitrary way between the man to whom you refuse compensation and the man whom you allow to work, and we believe that this is the fair and simple way of doing it.
Now I turn to my noble friend's Amendment. Of course, this Amendment is very much better, from my point of view, than the other Amendment which appears in his name, which is to leave out the clause altogether. That Amendment I could not accept, and I am bound to say that I cannot accept this Amendment either, although I do not dislike it so much as I dislike the other. Let us see what the difficulty of this Amendment is. The first test is simple enough: Was there a mining lease in force on January 7, 1947, having three years to run? Look at the second test: Minerals which were being won and worked by a person having an interest. The Amendment provides in that case that no payment shall be made under Part VI in respect of any interest in the minerals comprised in the lease or in any minerals which form part of the same seam or deposit. Now just think what that means. There is the difficulty of defining what is the area of the seam or deposit. It may run for miles; it may be 100 square miles quite easily, and I imagine, although I do not know, that in the iron ore districts that may be so. 918 It means to say, therefore, that anybody who dug a little hole and got out a little iron ore is to be allowed to go on to the full extent of the seam and deposit, if you can in any way define what that seam and deposit is—and I suppose geologists can. That seems to us an absolutely impracticable solution and an argument which makes this question of current workings impossible, because you cannot define in any way to what point the actual working may carry you. You may start from John O' Groats and finish up at Land's End, and you may fairly claim. "I am following the same seam all the way through and there is no limit so long as I follow the same seam." We think that is impossible, Of course, there are no seams running all that way, but there may be seams running over very large areas. We do not believe that to be a practical solution, and we believe that the solution which I have indicated will be a fair and workable solution, more especially, I think I may say, if the royalty owners are given some kind of preferential claim on this fund.
I quite agree that this is a question where we have a general clash of opinion on what is an issue of principle of a very important kind. I can see at once that it is a very difficult question. We have given a great deal of thought to it and have come to the conclusion that our Clause 79 does afford the best solution, although I do not suggest it is perfect. I do not think anything is perfect in this unhappy world, but we believe this clause is as good as any clause anybody else can formulate. In those circumstances, I invite your Lordships to support us in adhering to the clause and I invite your Lordships, therefore, to resist the Amendment. I realize that the Amendment is not intended in any way to be a. wrecking Amendment, and I realize further that the spirit and the brevity with which the noble Lord moved this Amendment should commend it to me. If anything could, that would. We feel that this matter is fundamental, and we desire to stand on the clause in the Bill.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I am obliged to the noble and learned Viscount for the speech that he has just made. It was a very conciliatory speech, if I may say so, except in the all-important particular. The noble and learned Viscount started 919 by saying that a good many of my noble friends who spoke in this House today did not seem altogether wedded to the clause. Perhaps it would be no secret if I told him that they would have been perhaps more wedded to it had I moved to delete the whole clause. But it was thought that this was a particular problem with which we should deal, for the reasons that I originally gave. The noble and learned Viscount told us what was the origin of this clause, which was that there was a necessity to give planning permission before you dug these minerals; that the planning authority ought to be able to deny permission, and that the whole scheme of this Bill was not to pay compensation if such denial were made. That does not touch my Amendment at all. My Amendment is completely within that principle. I am only dealing with minerals that are already subject to mining lease and minerals that are already being dug by their owner. So the principle that the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, enunciated as the background to this clause does not apply to my Amendment at all.
I am not going to make very many more comments. The noble and learned Viscount has given an estimate of the amount that the minerals might be worth if bought out in the way he mentions. It is interesting to realize that in the Scott Report in a footnote on page 3 occur these words:…the official figure of £165,580,000 as the value at the mines and quarries of minerals in 1935 in the whole of Britain.…That includes coal. Coal was bought out at £66,000,000 and £66,000,000 from £165,000,000 leaves something far nearer £100,000,000 than the £30,000,000 which
§ the Lord Chancellor has given. The estimate we make is something between £80,000,000 and £100,000,000. That is why we are somewhat reluctant to say that figures of that sort should be quoted as a preferential dividend on the £300,000,000 which was originally assessed when making any allowance for minerals at all; and the £300,000,000 was not assessed taking into account the £80,000,000 to £100,000,000. That is why we are not so easily falling to the blandishments of the Lord Chancellor when he speaks of a "preferential claim."
§ I am grateful to the noble and learned Viscount for realizing and expressing the view that my Amendment is not a wrecking Amendment. It is not meant to be. There is no provision for ripe minerals, and I only intended to deal with ripe minerals. If it be true that the seams stretch from John O'Groats to Land's End—which I do not believe—if they are too extensive as defined in my Amendment, that is not a matter of principle; it is a matter of degree; and some later Amendment to my Amendment on Report stage might put that small comment of mine right.
§ I agree with the Lord Chancellor when he says it would be extremely damaging if high development charges were charged by the Central Land Board. I feel equally that it is damaging to industry if they are left in a position where they do not know where they are. For that reason I am afraid I cannot take the advice given me by the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, and I must ask the House to support me in this Amendment.
§ On Question, Whether the said new paragraph shall be there inserted?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 71; Not-Contents, 22.921
|Aberdeen and Temair, M.||Onslow, E.||Templewood, V.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Radnor, E.||Trenchard, V.|
|Reading, M.||Selkirk, E.||Wimborne, V.|
|Buckmaster, V.||Addington, L.|
|Abingdon, E.||Elibank, V.||Altrincham, L.|
|Craven, E.||Falmouth, V.||Balfour of Burleigh, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Hailsham, V.||Balfour of Inchrye, L.|
|Lambert, V.||Brand, L.|
|Dundonald, E.||Long, V.||Braye, L.|
|Fortescue, E. [Teller.]||Margesson, V.||Broadbridge, L.|
|Gainsborough, E.||Maugham, V.||Carrington, L.|
|Iddesleigh, E.||Ridley, V.||Cherwell, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Simon, V.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)|
|Munster, E.||Swinton, V.|
|Clwyd, L.||Hutchison of Montrose, L.||Remnant, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Hylton, L.||Rotherwick, L.|
|De L'Isle and Dudley. L.||Kenlis, L. (M. Headfort.)||Savile, L.|
|Dulverton, L.||Llewellin, L.||Sinha, L.|
|Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Lloyd, L.||Soulbury, L.|
|Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Lyle of Westbourne, L,||Stanmore, L.|
|Gifford, L.||Mancroft, L.||Strathcona, and Mount Royal, L.|
|Grenfell, L.||Mendip, L. (V. Clifden.)|
|Hampton, L.||Newall, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Harlech, L.||O'Hagan, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Hatherton, L. [Teller.]||Rankeillour, L.|
|Jowitt, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Foley, L.||Mountevans, L.|
|Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)||Nathan, L|
|Addison, V.||Henderson, L.||Piercy, L.|
|St. Davids, V.||Holden, L.||Quibell, L.|
|Kershaw, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Ammon, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Rothschild, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Marley, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Dukeston, L.||Morrison, L. [Teller.]||Walkden, L. [Teller.]|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ THE DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH AND QUEENSBERRY moved in subsection (3), at the end of paragraph (a), to insert: "the liability for the restoration of the surface, the value of the land after the winning and working of the minerals, and any other relevant circumstances." The noble Duke said: Under this Amendment there are one or two rather more technical matters and, if possible, I should like to have a little information and some assurance regarding them. I think the paragraph as it stands at present is rather uncertain and will cause some apprehension. It does seem that these matters should be taken into consideration: "The liability for the restoration of the surface, the value of the land after the winning and working of the minerals, and any other relevant circumstances." There will be agreement that under a liability for restoration there may be a very heavy expenditure. There will also be agreement that the value of the land after working minerals may be worth very little; it may be worth nothing. Indeed, as in a previous clause in this Bill, it might have a minus value and be worth less than nothing. It may be worth minus ten shillings, or it may be worth minus two hundred pounds, if you have a liability for restoration.
§ But there are also these points in that paragraph in connexion with the variation of the terms of a lease, and the question of the tribunal: If the variation of the terms of lease are simply to do with the adjustment of expenses, and nothing further, there is probably no case for apprehen- 922 sion; but there may be visualized under this a power to extend workings to places where they were not intended. Without some safeguard there would be anxiety. In that case, one would require to know beforehand more about the tribunal, and of its nature and constitution. There would be an argument for a legal or judicial tribunal if the powers for altering the lease were extensive. I beg to move.
Page 92, line 14, at end insert the said words.—(The Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry.)
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think the noble Duke has a point here which is worth looking into, and I will look into it. On the other hand, I think the Amendment is rather widely phrased. So far as the liability for the restoration of the surface is concerned, of course, if that arises from a contractual obligation with the landlord, or if it arises from a planning condition known at the time of the lease, it would be taken into account in fixing the payment under the lease. A man would say to himself: "As I am going to have this onerous responsibility thrust upon me, I will pay less than I otherwise would pay." But the question may arise where a planning permission, granted after the lease, imposed on the mineral undertakers a liability for restoring the surface, and there is a case there for allowing a contract entered into beforehand to be reviewed in the light of the new liability. Any development charge imposed would have proper regard to conditions of that sort, but there may be a point of substance in that that ought to be met. It may be argued that the oppor- 923 tunity ought to be taken to adjust the lease, not because a doubtful charge has become payable, but because there are now conditions which were not in existence when the terms of the lease were settled. I am not sure that this Amendment is the right way of meeting the point, but I will give the noble Duke my assurance that I will look into the matter to see what words are needed to meet the point he has in mind.
§ THE DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH AND QUEENSBERRY
I thank the noble and learned Viscount, and I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 79, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?
Before we leave this clause, I would like to ask a question upon its working. It seems plain, as the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, has pointed out, that if the owners' incentive to sell is reduced there will be a strong tendency for them to clamp down on their land. I am afraid I have said this before, but it does appear that if an owner has land of agricultural value, and can only sell it at that value, or near agricultural value, then presumably he will wish to keep it for agriculture. Therefore, a good deal seems to me to depend on the application of the compulsory principle in this clause. It certainly seems to me that some fairly difficult decisions have got to be taken by someone. Someone has got to decide whether or not it is in the national interest that a particular firm should acquire a particular piece of land, and all kinds of factors might have to be taken into consideration in that connexion—the state of trade in that particular industry, the efficiency of the firm the availability of labour, and the availability of housing and so on—particularly if expansion were contemplated. And that has all got to be put up against the question of amenities.
I wonder if the noble and learned Viscount could explain the effect of subsection (4) of this clause? A question which I would like to have answered is this: Are all these decisions going to be taken by the Railway and Canal Commission? I ask that because, reading 924 on in the clause, it seems to me that these powers can only be exercised in regard to land which appears in the development plan as being land designated for compulsory acquisition—for the purpose of mining development, I presume. I must confess that I am wondering just a little bit what the responsibilities of the local planning authorities are. I am rather wondering if in addition to doing the jobs of planning, building up derelict areas, developing industrial estates, controlling advertisements, preserving buildings and trees and so forth, they have also got to be experts on mineralogy. I think that some immediate information on this subject is rather necessary.
I have not got it with me, but the Ministry of Town and Country Planning recently issued a circular to all local authorities which—I am speaking from recollection—instructed them to make a survey of the likely requirements of firms engaged in mineral extraction for some years ahead. Incidentally, firms thus approached have, in turn, approached the owners of adjacent land, and already owners are wondering what attitude they should take in regard to these inquiries, having the Bill in their minds. I think that there may be some difficulty about the local planning authorities completing their survey. That is really all I want to know. I think it is rather an important point. It is certainly a matter of interest to the local planning authorities to know if they are going to do this designation, on which everything turns in the matter of compulsory purchase, or whether that job is also going to be done by the Railway and Canal Commission or by the Minister of Fuel and Power or by anyone else.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The powers under subsection (4) are not confined to land designated as subject to compulsory acquisition, but extend to land which is shown on the plan as land which is to be used for the winning and working of minerals. The subsection says so in express terms:Where a development plan provides that any is to be used for the purpose of securing the winning and working of any minerals comprised therein then…various conditions follow. The first condition is that a person who is desirous of working minerals should go before the 925 Railway and Canal Commission. Paragraph (b) provides:that for the purposes of the determination by the Commission of an application for any such right, it shall be assumed that the winning and working of the minerals is expedient in the national interest.The noble Viscount knows that the Railway and Canal Commission already have to do this task under the old Act to a certain extent.
I think the answer to his question is that we hope that the local planning authorities will undertake that their plan of the land is to be used for the purpose of securing the winning and working minerals. If they do not so undertake, then, obviously, the Minister will have to take steps to provide that there is land. Then, if the landowners will not play—and I agree that there may be many cases where they will not—you will have to have resort to the compulsory powers and go to this Tribunal, and ask that you may work the minerals. They will assess the terms, conditions, rent, and so on, at which you may work them.
So far as I can understand, my assumption was correct except that the land has not got to be designated but only shown. I am afraid that my fears about the responsibilities of local authorities are confirmed. We are people who are very suspect on all sides of the House. We are suspect by many noble Lords of being too Socialistic and by the Government of being too Conservative. I can only say that the only thing that I suspect is some form of mild insanity for ever going into this business of local planning at all.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I may add to what I have just said that the existing powers of the Railway and Canal Commission will continue. Under the provisions of the 1923 Act they have powers, and those powers operate whether land is shown on a plan or not, so that really the effect is to step up the powers where land is indicated in the plan.
§ Clause 79, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 80 agreed to.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ESHER moved, after Clause 80, to insert as a new clause:926
§ Land held by National Trust.
§ ".—(1) No payment shall be made under Part IV of this Act in respect of any interest in land the fee simple absolute whereof, whether in possession or in reversion, is vested at the appointed day in the National Trust.
§ (2) No development charge shall be payable under Part V of this Act in respect of any operations carried out on, or any use of, land the fee simple absolute whereof, whether in possession or in reversion, is vested at the appointed day in the National Trust. Provided always that, if at any time after the appointed clay the fee simple absolute aforesaid in respect of such land shall cease to be vested in the National Trust, this subsection shall thereupon cease to apply to such land.
§ (3) In the case of land the fee simple absolute whereof, whether in possession or in reversion, shall become vested in the National Trust after the appointed day—
- (a) no payment shall be made to the National Trust under Part IV of this Act in respect of its interest in such land;
- (b) no development charge shall be payable under Part V of this Act in respect of any operations carried out on, or any use of, such land which shall take place after the fee simple absolute thereof shall have become vested in the National Trust in possession:
§ Provided always that, if at any time the fee simple absolute, whether in possession or in reversion, in respect of my such land shall cease to be vested in the National Trust, this subsection shall cease to apply to such land."
§ The noble Viscount said: The National Trust are a body which I feel sure the Government would not wish either to diminish or to undermine, and the Trust consider that they have a very reasonable case for asking that all their land, whether land already owned by them or to be acquired by them in the future, should be exempt from the provisions of the Bill. The National Trust, as your Lordships are well aware, exist for the acquisition and preservation for the benefit of the nation of land and buildings of national, architectural or historic importance, or of natural beauty, and they are recognized as a charity. The Bill, as drafted, contains, in Clause 83, certain exemptions in respect of charities. It was originally thought that this clause would include National Trust property. But it has now been ascertained from the Ministry that this is not so. No doubt the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, will be able to explain the reason for that.
§ Land owned by the National Trust falls into two categories. The first is inalienable land—that is, land which the Trust considers proper to be held in perpetuity for the benefit of the nation. Once a 927 resolution has been passed by the executive committee of the National Trust that it is proper for it to be held, the Trust is prohibited by law from alienating or otherwise disposing of it save by virtue of a lease. It is in the last degree unlikely that the National Trust would ever wish to develop, within the meaning of the Bill, any of its inalienable land. If no question of the development of land arises, it surely might be taken, and probably will be taken by the Government, that it is a matter of indifference whether such land should be exempted or not, since, ex hypothesi, no question of development charges would arise and no case would be made for a claim on any part of the £300,000,000 fund.
§ The Trust take the view that while this may be substantially the case, it is eminently desirable that the Bill itself should show that inalienable land of the National Trust is to be treated in a special way. This land is held in perpetuity for the benefit of the nation in a way that no other land is held. Crown land, generally speaking, is held with the object of producing revenue. National Trust inalienable land is held with the object of giving enjoyment and—in the widest sense of the word—education to the public. In a word, the Trust feels that its prestige, not only with the public but with past donors and prospective donors, demands that its inalienable land should be shown in the Bill to have received special treatment. We feel very strongly that if this is not the case we shall find great difficulty in future in assuring prospective donors that their land is safe from development after it has been donated. I quite realize that the Lord Chancellor will be able to put a strong legal ground for not putting this in the Bill. On the other hand, I feel that if he were to consider this from a psychological rather than from his habitual legal point of view, he would understand that it is important to reassure those rather apprehensive and nervous donors who are in process of giving property of immense value to the State by not merely stating something this afternoon but by inserting something definite in the Bill.
§ The second category of land is alienable land. At the present moment the Trust owns approximately 126,000 acres, of which 98½per cent. has been declared inalienable and the remainder, about 2,000 928 acres, is alienable. Alienable land falls into one of two categories. Either it is land which is substantially up to the standard of inalienability and deserves to be preserved for amenity purposes but for financial reasons the Trust cannot afford to declare it inalienable because at some future time a financial liability may arise which will require capital expenditure and such expenditure could only be met by the sale of property; or it is land held under the powers of the National Trust Act, 1937, purely for the purpose of endowment, although even this land may also have important amenity value. Land in the first class would not be sold or indeed developed within the meaning of the Bill unless some eventuality not immediately foreseen were to arise. The chance of development is, therefore, small. Endowment land of the second class is held as a concession. Generally speaking the Trust hopes that the income which it yields will be adequate for the purpose of upkeep of the property for which it is required. The Trust, however, reserve the right to develop it at any time if financial necessity arises.
§ There may be one or two cases where endowment land is given to the Trust on the specific understanding that if certain capital expenditure arises it should be defrayed by the sale of the land. I suggest that the Trust has a very special claim to land that is of this character. It is true that, subject to the consent of the Charity Commissioners, it would have the right to dispose of such land and turn it into cash. But though it holds land as endowments, it has the primary purpose of preserving land. It does not and is not likely to hold a bulk of town property. Endowment land consists mostly of agricultural land. Any other charity may well feel hound to be moved by purely financial considerations in deciding whether to dispose of endowment land. This is not so with the National Trust. The Trust can only sell this endowment land as a last resort, and, under the proposed clause, the sale of the freehold would incur the liability to development charge. I hope what I have said indicates sufficiently clearly the Trust argument for exemption. I beg to move.
After Clause 80, insert the said new clause —(Viscount Esher.)
I wish to support the case which has been made so 929 clearly by my noble friend Lord Esher. I do so not only on the grounds which he has put forward and which I hope the Lord Chancellor will accept, but also because a similar question must arise in connexion with the Scottish Town and Country Planning Bill. The National Trust of Scotland is not affected in exactly the same way as the English Trust, but, generally speaking, the same questions arise. If this Amendment or something of its nature is not accepted by the Government, when the Scottish Bill comes before your Lordships' House the same issue will be in jeopardy and I feel it is very important that it should he passed.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I should like to say a word in support of the Amendment. I believe this is a problem that might have been sympathetically considered by the Government. The National Trust is becoming a great national institution, an institution which has been praised by the leaders of all political Parties, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself has spoken of it in high terms. All those who have spoken have stressed the desirability that houses and property of a requisite standard of beauty should be transferred to the Trust. Your Lordships know that such houses are being not only transferred but also endowed by their late owners, and this takes a tremendous burden off the rest of the community. But land will only be transferred and endowed if the people who have owned and loved these houses feel that they are permanently safeguarded in their present character. That is their main object in transferring the houses. In many cases they have a long family connexion with these houses and are willing to undergo financial sacrifice to see that, even if they cannot live in them themselves, they will be available to the rest of the community. Now, if that certainty has gone, the desire of the owner to transfer to the Trust will be very greatly reduced.
Of course, if the Trust is not exempted from the provisions of this Bill, those houses could be technically compulsorily acquired—there is no doubt about it—and the noble and learned Lord may say it is a most improbable thing to happen, but it is not an impossible thing. You have a house in the neighbourhood of a great industrial town, and very naturally a com- 930 munity centre or something of that kind, which is a very laudable object, might be wanted. This house might be chosen as the simplest place to go to, and yet that house might be most undesirable for the purpose for which it was needed, because the whole importance of it to the country and to visitors would be that it should be maintained in its present form. Therefore, I think it would be a great misfortune if it were felt that the certainty had gone.
Moreover, supposing those houses were taken over by the local authority, there would be this great disadvantage the houses might remain, they might be very well kept up by the local authority, but the contents would be gone, they would be dissipated. The main interests of those houses, after all, is to see how over the centuries there has been a growth of life in that connexion, to see how people have lived century after century, making history. It is one of the most valuable educational things. That is the sort of purpose which the National Trust does perform, and obviously for that reason it stands in rather a special position. The noble and learned Lord may say that you cannot exempt any particular portion of the land of this country or the property of this country from a Town and Country Planning Bill which is intended to be comprehensive. The land owned by Government Departments is exempted, and I think very few of us would say that Government Departments are the most fit custodians for the beauties and amenities of this country as a national trust. Therefore, if this vast exemption is given to Government Departments, who are, after all, the only people at the present time with the money to cause real harm and to be real vandals, I should have thought that a similar exception should be made in the case of the National Trust. Those very briefly are the considerations I wish to put before your Lordships. I do hope that, even if the noble and learned Viscount cannot give a positive assurance today, he would be willing to ask his colleagues to consider the matter further.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Marquess's eloquent plea did not seem to have a great deal to do with the Amendment. As to whether or not there should be a special protection so that the local planning authority cannot compulsorily acquire the property of the National Trust, I think there is a lot to be said 931 for that in theory, but that has nothing to do with this Amendment. This Amendment is about their not getting any payment under Part VI, which they somewhat annoyingly call Part IV, and not paying any development charge under Part VII, which they call Part V. That makes it a little bit more confusing, but we understand the principle.
If I really thought there was much danger of historic buildings being taken over by planning authorities—I agree the power is there—I should be the first to make representations; but I cannot help feeling that the noble Lord and his colleagues are quite powerful enough and vigorous enough people to make very proper and urgent representations. I have no doubt that, as a result of such representations, unless the circumstances were altogether peculiar, the local planning authority would receive a sharp lesson and be told not to be so foolish again; but I do not think it is a practical point. If it is a practical point, I assure the noble Marquess that I will look into it. I agree with him that we should keep our houses as lessons of living history, which is one of the most precious possessions we have. It preserves our continuity as a nation and shows how one generation hands on to another.
With regard to the payment of the development charge, with which this Amendment is concerned, the noble Viscount's remarks had nothing to do with it. The next question is the question of inalienable land. Here, the noble Viscount said he would wish that this land should not be parted with—it should not be really alienable. I agree with him, but it is less likely to be alienated according to all the arguments we have been hearing, if this Amendment is not carried. If this Amendment is carried, the purchaser would not have to pay a development charge. As the Bill stands to-day, without this Amendment, the purchaser would have to pay a development charge and would, therefore, pay less and would not tempt the National Trust to do these wicked things. And now to put them in some privileged position, not that it would really affect their minds at all, would make it slightly more lucrative for them to alienate it. Therefore, this is another barrier against alienation which the noble Lord is trying to remove, and 932 here is the noble Marquess actually asking that this barrier should be removed and asking for that when he wants to prevent alienation. I cannot feel that with regard to that part of the land—98½per cent. of the whole land, I think, was the figure—there is any argument really, except that he said "psychology": I would prefer to say "prestige." I am afraid I really cannot meet him on that.
Now, as to the other lands, I think it was something under 2,000 acres —that is the land that there is a right to alienate. It is asked that the Trust should be able to develop their land free of development charge and should be able to reap the development value if they dispose of it by way of sale or lease to a private developer. In fact, the Amendment as drafted is not to that effect, because it provides that the land, if sold, ceases to be within the subsection —the subsection ceases to apply—so that the Amendment is wrongly worded, but we could put that right. To meet the Trust it would mean exempting a private individual from development charge simply because he happened to have bought land from the Trust instead of some other person. I admire the boldness of the claim. Even Crown estates, though the Bill does not bind the Crown, are not put in that privileged position. The National Trust are asking for something quite unprecedented here. A purchaser of the Crown lands is liable to development charge in the ordinary way, and Crown revenue is correspondingly reduced because the purchaser will pay less to the Crown by reason of the fact that he has to pay a development charge.
It may well be that the Trust would be better off under the provisions of the Bill as drafted than they would be if they secured the exemptions proposed. It is not often even now that the Trust disposes of lands in order to realize the development value, whereas they will be able to claim on this amount of £300,000,000 over the whole of their land. How much they receive depends on the Treasury scheme. I have every sympathy with the National Trust. That sympathy is shared strongly by my colleagues, and no one more strongly than the two colleagues who are particularly concerned with this Bill—the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of 933 Town and Country Planning. Really, the position of alienable lands is broadly similar to that of the endowment lands of the universities and the charities. The Minister feels that he could not concede anything here to the National Trust without having to make the same concession to the universities, the colleges, the churches, and the whole range of major and minor charities. This could not be done without prejudicing the effectiveness of the whole system which this Bill is designed to set up. Therefore, I am sorry to say, although I have great sympathy with the work which the noble Viscount is doing, that I cannot give way to him on this Amendment.
Can the noble and learned Viscount say that what he has stated will not necessarily prejudice any Amendment that may be moved on the Scottish Town and Country Planning Bill, in the light of the arguments which may be advanced from the Scottish point of view? As the noble and learned Viscount made no reference at all to the point I made, I feel that Scotland is practically closed down altogether from the point of view of their National Trust, if and when an Amendment is moved on that Bill.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
We can never close Scotland down altogether! I am afraid I have no knowledge of the facts relating to Scotland, but, in so far as the arguments are applicable, no doubt they will apply.
In view of what the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, has said about the alienable land, and the smallness of the quantity of it. I feel that I cannot persist with my argument in that respect. I was, of course, very susceptible to the flattery of the noble and learned Viscount when he said that the National Trust were so powerful a body that every local authority would collapse instantly if we were to protest at any of their actions; but I do feel that in these dangerous days I should be much happier if I had some words in the Bill, as well as my strong right arm, with which to meet the onslaughts of local authorities. The noble and learned Viscount has given an ingenious twist to the words of the Amendment, and has made it seem that we should lose by obtaining 934 acceptance of it. If the words of the Amendment are badly drawn, the purpose at any rate of it seems to me to be perfectly clear. It is that we desire that the inalienable land should be exempt from the operations of the Bill. The noble and learned Viscount has given an assurance to the noble Marquess that he will look into this matter. I hope that he will do so, and that he will himself bring forward some words on the Report stage which will make it clear, not only to the local authorities, but also to the prospective donors, that the inalienable land of the National Trust is, in fact, exempt. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Clause 81:
§ Land acquired by local authorities and development corporations for comprehensive development or re-development.
§ 81.—(1) No payment shall be made under Part VI of this Act in respect of any interest in land, being—
- (a) the interest of a local authority in land acquired or appropriated by that authority under Part I of the Act of 1944 for the purposes of the development or redevelopment of any area as a whole; or
- (b) the interest of a development corporation in land acquired by the corporation under the New Towns Act, 1946.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER had given notice of six Amendments to this clause, the first being an Amendment to omit "development or" from paragraph (a) of subsection (1) and the second an Amendment to leave out paragraph (b) of the same subsection. The noble Earl said: Of these six Amendments which stand in my name on the Paper the last four are consequential on the first two. I think it would be appropriate if I spoke on these two Amendments at the same time, and it will certainly save a good deal of discussion. There are two points in these Amendments. The first is that I seek to lay down, where virgin sites are developed by a local authority, that a development charge should be payable in precisely the same fashion as it would be if a private owner were developing an estate. If a local authority carries out a re-development of a blitzed or blighted area, then I agree with the proposal of the Government, that they should not have to pay a development charge.935
§ If your Lordships will turn to the Third Schedule, paragraph 3, you will observe there that a private owner can build a cowshed without having to pay a development charge; but if he desires to build a cottage in which to house the cowman, then he is called upon to pay a development charge. On the other hand, if the local authority should erect a cottage for the cowman to go into they do not pay a development charge. It does seem to me that that is extremely unfair. All I seek to do here is to level it up, so that local authorities and private individuals are put in precisely the same position. Neither of them will gain an advantage, and there will not be, as there is at the moment, a concealed subsidy in aid of the local authority.
§ The second Amendment deals with the case of a new town under the New Towns Act, 1946. In that case, the buildings which a new towns corporation may erect are completely free from development charge. All I seek to do there is to put the new towns corporation in precisely the same position as the private owner developing a large estate. There are, then, two quite separate points, one dealing with the local authority, and the other with the new towns corporation. At the moment, not having heard the Government explanation, I am quite unable to understand why the new towns corporation should be excluded from paying the development charge. For the local authority there may be something to say—in fact, there is something to say when they are re-developing in blitzed and blighted areas. But where they are developing a building estate I maintain, in fairness to everyone, that they should be in precisely the same position as the private owner who wishes to develop a large estate. I beg to move.
Page 94, line 8, leave out ("development or").—(The Earl of Munster.)
§ LORD CHORLEY
I am sorry that I cannot accept these Amendments. I think that the noble Earl has rather failed to grasp the object of this clause, which is confined to schemes of comprehensive development and re-development. It is not the case of the local authority just building a cowshed, as he stated—an isolated building—
§ LORD CHORLEY
Or a house for the cowman. This clause is concerned with large schemes of development. If the noble Earl will look at the clause as a whole, he will see that in subsections (3) and (4) a scheme of payment to and from the Treasury is provided for. Let me take first the case of the local authority. You may have a local authority dealing as a whole with a substantial area of land, part of which may be what is called "blitzed" or blighted land and the other part consisting of areas on the edge of the town—where the people who are being moved, as the houses are pulled down, are put into the new and much pleasanter houses. Obviously, the effect of this is going to be to put a burden upon the local authority. Under the new development of the "blitzed" area the houses will be much more scattered over the ground and the result will be a drain on the local authority's resources.
It is perfectly true that in regard to the newly developed area into which the people are decanted from the blighted area, the local authority should stand to make a profit. But surely the loss on the one, from the point of view of the local authority, should be balanced against the gain on the other. It may well be that at the end of the whole proceedings there is on balance a gain to the local authority. That is where subsection (3) of the clause comes in, because that provides that a scheme may be made under which the Treasury will take benefit in the form of what would be a development charge on the profit obtained by the local authority from the scheme as a whole, putting the bad part against the good. I am quite sure that in the light of that explanation the noble Earl will agree that the position of the local authority is not in any sense comparable with that of a private developer who takes a new area of land outside a town and develops it, so to speak, ab initio. He has no loss in a blighted area.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
I wonder if I may interrupt the noble Lord in order to get one matter quite clear. I understand that he is talking about blitzed and blighted areas. There is one small local authority I know intimately in Surrey who are now building thirty houses 937 in an urban district—in other words in one large field. If this is to be done in the future, why should that local authority be free from paying development charge?
§ LORD CHORLEY
The question is whether the matter is one of comprehensive development as laid down in the clause. Obviously one cannot give an opinion in a case without knowing a great deal more about it, but the clause is quite definitely directed to this sort of case. With regard to the new towns, obviously the noble Earl has a rather stronger case there, because the development corporation which will be occupied with the building of these new towns is obviously going to stand a very much better chance of making a profit on its development than is the local authority dealing with a blighted area by opening a new housing estate on the edge of its town. But even here these new towns will be largely developments of old towns, as we all know. In many of these cases, if not in the majority, in taking over, so to speak, the nucleus of the new town they will have an area which may correspond closely to the blighted area of the local authority under the earlier part of the clause.
In those circumstances, it seems to the Government perfectly reasonable and fair that the development corporation for the new town should be treated in the same way as the local authority. It will not escape for a moment, because it will come under subsection (3). If, as I imagine is probable in the case of these new towns, there is a good profit on the balance of the whole undertaking, then it will come under the scheme which will be made and contribution will in due course have to be rendered. In these circumstances the noble Earl will see that what I am sure he thought was quite an attractive proposition is not really so at all. The position of the private developer is in no sense comparable with that of the local authority or the new towns development corporation as dealt with in this particular clause.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
This Amendment just shows haw impartial we are. We have been told from time to time that we are trying to deprive the Treasury of something they ought to have. In this case we come along and say that the Treasury ought to have the benefit not just of such sums as may afterwards be determined, but of the whole matter. I want 938 it put down to our credit that we are in this case trying to be most helpful to the Treasury. And the noble Lord just turns us down! It is, of course, unfortunate that when we come to later clauses the fact that these people, apart from Crown lands, are an exception to the rule may possibly be prayed in aid to help those charitable institutions which do not get quite the same treatment. The only Amendment I now suggest the noble Lord might insert on the Report stage of this Bill is in subsection (3): that the development corporation shall from time to time pay to the Central Land Board such sums, if any, in lieu of development charges, as the Minister may, with the prompting of the Treasury, determine —because prompting is obviously what it is going to be.
§ LORD CHORLEY
May I intervene to make just two points? The noble Lord rather chaffed me yesterday about Achilles and the tortoise, on which I am glad to assure him that I was correct. But Achilles was associated with another hero who produced a wooden horse, and I am equally suspicious. I would like to inform the noble Earl that the clause does not in fact apply to a local authority who are making a housing scheme under the Housing Acts, which was the specific case he put to me.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
I am obliged to the noble Lord. That certainly does answer specifically the question I put to him. There is one further point on subsection (3). As I understand it, a local authority will never know what the Central Land Board may demand from them. The Board can come down and demand any sum for development charges as the Minister may, with the consent of the Treasury, determine, if the local authority are making a profit on their new estate. Could the noble Lord tell me what is the intention of putting the provision in there to say that that money can be paid back again?
§ LORD CHORLEY
It is obviously necessary for the proviso to do that, because it might well be that as the scheme of development proceeds it will be found that there will not in fact be a profit, and it might show a loss.
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
There is one point I should like to ask the noble Lord, 939 upon which I think I may have misunderstood him. So far as I followed his remarks, he certainly spoke as if dealing with a blighted area was the sole concern of the local authority. Yesterday, in answer to the noble Duke, the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, I understood the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, to say that no development charge would be put upon any of the blighted areas, and I therefore presumed that the freeholder whose house was blighted and whose property was damaged would be fully exempt. If he is not, he may lose as much on the re-development as he gains on his war damage.
§ LORD CHORLEY
I think the distinction—and this answers the noble Lord's question—is that in regard to war damaged areas, which are colloquially called blitzed areas, what he says is quite right; but what are called blighted areas are areas of slum, and that sort of thing, which do not come into the same category.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 81 agreed to.
§ Clause 82 agreed to.
§ Clause 83:
§ Land held for charitable purposes.
§ 83.—(1) This section applies to land an interest in which is held on charitable trusts or for ecclesiastical or other charitable purposes, being—
- (a) land used for any purpose of such a nature that there is no general demand or market for land for that purpose; or
- (b) land contiguous or adjacent to any such land as aforesaid, and used for any purpose ancillary to the purpose for which that land is used.
§ (3) In the case of land which, on the appointed day, was land to which this section applies, no development charge shall be payable under Part VII of this Act in respect of any operations carried out on the land by the person entitled to any such interest as aforesaid, or in respect of any use of the land by any such person, if the operations are carried out, or the use effected, as the case may be, for any such purpose as is mentioned in paragraph (a) or paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of this section.
§ (6) Where any interest in land is held on the appointed day on charitable trusts or for ecclesiastical or other charitable purposes, then if the Minister is satisfied—
- (a) that the land would have been used on that clay for any such purpose as is
940 mentioned in paragraph (a) or paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of this section but for the occurrence of war damage or but for the fact that the land was requisitioned land; or
- (b) that the land is intended to be used for any such purpose as aforesaid at any time within the period of twenty years from the appointed day,
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL moved, in subsection (1), after "This section applies to land an interest in which," to insert "on the appointed day." The noble Viscount said: The Amendments to this clause which stand in my name and in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lyle, are numerous and somewhat complex. They all deal with the same point, and all the earlier ones are preparatory to the last one to subsection (6) of this clause. Therefore, I am sure it will be for the convenience of your Lordships if, on the first of these Amendments, we take the discussion of the whole matter. I trust that the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, will concur that this is advisable.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
These Amendments are put down at the instance of a number of educational and other authorities. I submit this case on behalf of the university and colleges of Oxford, the university and colleges of Cambridge, the colleges and schools of Eton, Winchester, Rugby, Westminster, St. Paul's, Christ's Hospital, the Harpur Trust, Guy's Hospital, the Foundling Hospital, and the Salvation Army. There are other institutions no doubt which are affected in the same way as these, and possibly some noble Lords may speak on behalf of some among them. All of these are, for the purposes of this clause, charities; and all of them are owners of land which has been bought as investments. The question raised by this Amendment is whether 941 these lands should or should not be treated in the same way as lands in private ownership are treated, and whether the development values of such lands should or should not be transferred to the Central Land Board.
Let me say, in presenting this case, in the first instance, that all these charities—I must use that technical term have been free from taxation since our system of direct taxation was inaugurated 250 years ago, for the lands of such bodies have been exempted from land taxation and from all Income Tax legislation. They are, of course, exempted by the nature of the case from Death Duties. And that obviously is right, for it would be absurd for the State on the one hand to encourage the foundation of such institutions, and in modern times to give them subsidies, and on the other hand to penalize them by taxation. When the principle of the taxation of unearned increment was adopted by the Labour Government in the year 1931, which was the method then proposed for dealing with unearned increment—this Bill would attain a similar object in a different way —these institutions were included within the scope of the Bill when it was introduced. But on representations made by these authorities to the Government of that day they were taken out from the Bill and no such tax was imposed at that time. And, in fact, until this day the whole of these authorities have been exempted from such taxation, and this will be the first case setting a precedent by bringing them in.
Clause 83, however, does in certain respects give them exceptional treatment; and the Minister of Town and Country Planning, in another place, discussing this matter in the Standing Committee of that House, said that there was no disagreement about the fact that the charities referred to in these cases should get special favoured treatment and that there was no disagreement that they are, in fact, getting favoured treatment under this clause. The institutions are most grateful to the Government for having made provision in some degree. But the provision only covers a part of the ground, and perhaps not the greater part.
In order to avoid possible misunderstanding, I would mention that the Amendment now proposed is not the same 942 as the Amendment proposed in the other place, which was subjected to the opposition of the Minister of Town and Country Planning. The Amendment on that occasion proposed the complete exemption of all such land, whether now owned by the charities or to be purchased in the future. That was the same as the provision under the Act of 1931. The Minister of Town and Country Planning took the strongest exception to that and based his opposition to the Amendment not wholly, but very largely, on the fact that it would propose to allow these charities to engage in land speculation in the future, and would leave them free to employ any capital that they could raise in going into the market, buying lands, and getting the advantage of any future development—with serious results, as he said, to the whole policy of the Bill. He considered that that proposal was contrary to its principle and he laid special emphasis on his opposition to that part of the proposal. That has now been abandoned and it does not appear in this Amendment. These Amendments exclude altogether any favour being extended to future purchases of land with a view to gaining a development advantage which could not be obtained by any other person, and promoting a continuance of some degree of land speculation. This clause was not discussed on Report stage in another place—it fell under the guillotine —and the promoters of these Amendments had no opportunity at that stage of presenting their revised opinion. It is only now that on their behalf I propose an Amendment which is not open to that one of the objections raised by the Minister of Town and Country Planning.
I should like also to make clear to those of your Lordships who have not closely studied this clause in the Bill that it does not in any degree touch the planning powers of the Bill in general. These charities do not ask for any exemption of any kind from the general planning provisions of the Bill. If they asked in any particular case for special consideration that would be done on the merits of the case, according to the ordinary procedure, and would not be in virtue of any statutory exemption; and no preference is asked for with regard to the submission of their properties to the ordinary planning provisions of this Bill. The point of difference is this. Under Clause 83 of the Bill, land on which a college or a hospital has in fact 943 been built, or adjacent land used for any purpose ancillary to that, is exempted from these provisions with regard to development charge and development compensation. That is to say the land actually occupied, so to speak, by these institutions for their own purposes, and any further land which is used, or intended to be used for that purpose, within the next twenty years. The land which is not allowed any exemption is land of a different character—namely, land bought, perhaps, in some other part of the town or of the country as an investment, and is part of the endowments of the institution.
These institutions have been encouraged to invest precisely in that kind of land which is ripening for future development, and will bring in a later increment. All their investments have, by law, to be made with the approval, in some cases of the Ministry of Agriculture, in other cases the Ministry of Education and in others the Charity Commissioners. All these institutions have been encouraged to invest in precisely this class of property, and all these properties now held are held under the authority and with the approval of these Government Departments. These institutions, like many others, are passing through times of great financial strain, partly due to the fall in interest rates on securities which result in a steadily decreasing income, and partly due to the fall in the purchasing power of the pound, which means, of course, increasing costs in every direction. Against this rising expenditure they have all looked forward to the time when, on the other hand, the gradually increasing values of these lands will come in to support their finances. That is the situation.
I understand—indeed, I know from the discussion in another place—that the principal objection of the Government to this proposal, in the main and apart from any minor details, is that it runs counter to the underlying policy of the Bill. The Minister in another place said: "I thought we all accepted the principle that the community ought to be entitled to the benefit of increases in the value of land which the community has itself created." That is the ground on which he stood. For my own part I agree entirely. All my life in public affairs I have advocated 944 that that increment should belong to the community; and the Party to which I belong has always included that in its political programme. I should certainly not support, and much less propose, any Amendment to any Bill which runs counter to that proposal.
But what is meant by "community"? That is the point to which I should ask your Lordships' to address your minds. It is not only the State and the local authorities, for in those words, the Minister of Town and Country Planning spoke of "increases in the value of land which the community has itself created." But the State and the local authorities have not themselves created these increments in land values, it is the living body of the nation as a whole which has created them; and long before the State took any interest in universities or schools, or hospitals, private initiative, or sometimes the benevolence and wisdom of kings, or cardinals, or bishops, founded these great institutions. If those institutions had never existed, it is obvious that the community would have suffered, and by their existence the community gains. Therefore if here they are allowed to retain those increments, it is not some private interest which benefits but the community in one of its aspects.
It has always been one of the most important and characteristic features of our British institutions that we have never regarded the State itself as alone representing the community, but that there are other institutions which must be similarly so regarded. We are engaged now in incorporating many institutions which are neither State nor private. The B.B.C. is the classical example. Hospitals and so on have been created by the community out of its own native energy for the benefit of the community itself. They bear much the same relation to the State as the Common Law bears to the Statute Law, and I suggest to your Lordships that it is not in the interests of the community that they should now be financially injured in the way which is proposed.
That is my case. I do not propose to enter into many minor issues or details. I would deal with one point that might perhaps be dealt with by the noble and learned Viscount, though I do not know whether he will deal with it—namely, that the definition of a "charity" for the purposes of these Acts 945 is a very wide one, and that many institutions are included which are not of the same nature as those to which I have been referring, and on whose behalf I speak. However, with regard to that I would say that hardly any of these institutions own land; that the great land-owning institutions are such as those I have been mentioning. There may be a few marginal cases of institutions that would be brought in who have not got the same claim as this. If that is so, we should not object to a more limited definition. The definition of "charities" in the Bill is the Government's own choice, and if they prefer a more limited definition we should not, of course, raise any objection.
Questions of wording I do not propose to deal with at all. I admit that the Amendments which I am moving are difficult to follow. They, have to adapt themselves to the wording of the clause, which itself is extremely complicated and somewhat difficult. If the Government, between now and the Report stage, would undertake the re-drafting of the clause as a whole, while embodying the principles that I have been advocating, we should cordially welcome it, because it really needs the skilled hand of a Government draftsman to get it into its true form.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am going to say in due course that I contemplated taking the clause back and altering it in certain respects, but the distinction between what I call the "investment land" and the "operational land" is a distinction to which I must adhere.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
Then I shall not go into any question of drafting or phraseology on this occasion, but I do submit to your Lordships that the Government and Parliament will be taking a very grave decision, and a definitely wrong decision, if they propose to treat these institutions on the same footing as private landowners. All through the centuries such institutions have been endowed by gifts of land, or with money which has been invested in the land; and with the industrialization of this country, and the rapid increase of its population, these values, as we know, have enormously increased. The consequence has been that we have existing at present these great universities, colleges, schools 946 and hospitals which are some of the finest features of our civilization. Also there has been, through this growth of land values, much private profit and a large development of private fortunes. It has been decided that that process shall now be stopped so far as those private fortunes are concerned, and this House, by passing the Second Reading of this Bill, assented to that principle. But the question now before the Committee, to which I hope your Lordships will give an impartial consideration, is whether or not there should be an indirect and undesired consequence of applying that principle, and serious injury done to institutions which have been created by the community, and which are now rendering to the community most beneficent service. I beg to move.
Page 95, line 38, after ("which") insert ("on the appointed day").—(Viscount Samuel.)
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
I have explained to the Lord Chancellor, and to my noble friend who has just spoken, that it is impossible for me to be here after the break. If your Lordships will so far indulge me I should like to say one additional word, and I will undertake that in no event shall I be the cause of delaying anybody beyond ten minutes past seven. I have this qualification for speaking, that I have for a great many years of my life, in connexion with one of the Oxford Colleges, had absolutely first-hand contact with the sort of question which is involved—in principle, of course—in the Amendment which has just been moved, and which I support. It is perfectly true that an institution such as the one I am thinking of has not only been permitted, but has been definitely encouraged, by Government Departments to invest in land which has a prospective development value. We are doing it not for the purpose of making a penny piece for any individual. We are pure trustees, and our object is one which is not in itself dishonourable, I hope, nor without public merit: it is to do the utmost we can to support education. In fact, the body for which I speak makes contribution every year, be it large or small, to such a great institution as the Bodleian Library and to education where their assistance seems to be specially needed, quite outside the bounds of the college. Anyone who 947 examines our accounts will see at once that we are, in fact, discharging a work of great value to the community.
What is going to happen if this Bill remains as it stands? There is, as I understand—no doubt the Lord Chancellor will explain it at the proper time—an exception for such a college under the first words of Clause 83. I confess that I find those words very difficult to understand. But there is exemption, I gather, under Clause 83 (1) (a) for what you may call the college site, the college grounds. That I think is what is meant but, as I say, I do not find the words easy to understand. Paragraph (b) in subsection (1) speaks of:land contiguous or adjacent to any such land as aforesaid, and used for any purpose ancillary to the purpose for which that land is used.I am sure those words will need to be revised, and I shall not be surprised if the Lord Chancellor agrees to that at once, because of the sort of questions that arise. Westminster School, for example, has its boat-house at Putney. I think that this paragraph is intended to secure that that boat-house at Putney should be exempt from these charges. But is it contiguous or adjacent to Westminster? Are those places on the other side of Folly Bridge, which the Lord Chancellor knows so very well—I mean the places to which you have to go for cricket or football—adjacent to the college? There will certainly have to be some revision of these words.
But this is the main question. Is this Bill really going to apply this charge in this way for the first time in the history of the imposition of burdens of an enforceable and exactable kind upon the public? Are these institutions going to be exposed for the first time to development charge, notwithstanding that they are trustees administering land, ordinary land, agricultural land, or land near towns purely for the purposes of their trusts. See what will happen if it is so. There will be a development charge—at present what it is likely to be is very vague but no doubt it will be fixed ultimately—which the trustees will have to pay. I am assuming that they get leave to develop the land, as indeed the college of which I speak has done, not only by making roads and sewers but by making and carrying out plans in 948 respect of the land the result of which is to increase the funds of the educational trust. That is the object, that is the reason why the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Education have urged such institutions to work in this way. We have thereby been able greatly to increase the support which we, as trustees, can give to educational institutions, and they are by no means confined to what you might call academic institutions.
If, of course, the trustees have to pay this development charge—which may be a large one—before they can develop the land at all, then manifestly on the whole transaction they are going to have a substantially smaller sum to direct to the purposes of this educational work. I really do not think that at present their chances of getting something out of the £300,000,000 can be brought into the calculation. I have heard that minerals are to have a preferential rate. I do not know whether the institutions of which I am speaking are to have a preferential rate or not. I understood from the Second Reading speech that the £300,000,000 was intended as a sort of consolation for hard cases. My submission, and the submission of my noble friend Lord Samuel, is that it is right to make this exemption. It has always been done before. It was done by Lord Snowden in his Land Values Act of 1931. From the beginning of our legislation no one has ever sought to impose a direct tax on charity, and for a very good reason. But this Bill does impose this charge upon charitable trusts, and the consequence, undoubtedly, must be that however well they are administered—as they are now, I believe —in the interests of the community, their opportunity of doing their beneficial work is very seriously diminished. I think that that really makes a serious case for this exemption.
I quite agree with what the Lord Chancellor said in reference, I think, to a previous Amendment by the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, that this would make a considerable difference—I do not know how much—to the total amount that would be gathered in under the development charge. But already these institutions have to be subsidized by the Treasury. I cannot believe that this Government or any Government are going to see efforts for education, for higher 949 education and for general education cut down; and if institutions such as I am thinking of, who are discharging their duty to the best of their ability, not in the interests of themselves or indeed of certain colleges only but of education as a whole, are by this means going to be limited in their opportunities, then I must say that I think that such a result is greatly to be regretted.
I will say little more. I am greatly obliged to the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, and to other noble Lords for the opportunity of saying these few words. I feel very deeply on this matter, and I know the way in which this thing works very well. If you do this thing you will be creating a precedent, a precedent which has never existed before in reference to exactions imposed by the State on a certain class of citizens, exactions which are quite indistinguishable from tax, except that they are not defined beforehand in amount. It will be doing something which will not assist the education of the country and which will not redound to the credit of the Government who do it. I submit that this is a matter which deserves full consideration, and one which ought not to be disposed of on the grounds that it will interfere—as no doubt it would—with the full scope which the Bill now seeks to cover.
It is true that in another place, in so far as this was discussed at all, the objection principally made was that this would enable these colleges to go in for land speculation. As a matter of fact it would not, because different Government Departments concerned have to give leave in respect of every scrap of land we buy and every scrap of land we sell. We are completely under their direction as regards those matters and they see that we stand up to our trust. The point is that this Amendment is limited entirely to land held, it is true, as an investment, but held at the date here prescribed, and does not apply in the least to future charges on land at all. I will not attempt a peroration and will merely thank the Committee very much for allowing me to say this before the adjournment.
§ [The Sitting was suspended at ten minutes past seven o'clock and resumed at twenty minutes to nine.]
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
We now come to this very troublesome question 950 of charities and the land. I need hardly say that I have very great sympathy with the Oxford colleges and rather less for the Cambridge colleges, because I am an unworthy son of Oxford, and anything that helps them pleases me. I was surprised, when the noble Lord read out the list of the various bodies for whom he was speaking, to hear the list was so small. I have no figures, but I should have thought the amount of land held by charities must be formidable, and a very large number of most worthy persons are interested in this matter. The noble Viscount expounded, and so did Lord Simon, the case and merits of the constituents for whom he was speaking, but he said very little about the merits of his own Amendment. Perhaps he was wise; I am inclined to think he was. I submit to your Lordships that the suggestion he made is absolutely unworkable, whatever may be said for some other scheme, or about the merits of the Oxford Colleges.
I think we must differentiate between operational land and investment land. By that I mean, land which is used by colleges for purposes of their working is operational land; but land owned in various parts of the country from which they derive their income is investment land. I submit that we must maintain a sharp distinction between these two types of land. For the rest I am willing to concede that the clause, as drafted, is, to my mind, unsatisfactory. It is a piece of rococo architecture. Odd bits have been added to it at various times, and there is no very coherent basis. What I propose to do, presuming your Lordships pass the clause, is to ask the draftsman to try again and see what he can make of it. I want to make quite plain that so far as operational land is concerned, whilst there is no claim to a payment from the £300,000,000 fund, equally there is no obligation to pay any development charge. If a college wants to build a new wing, it should not have to pay a development charge for that. I want, however, to get away from the idea of "contiguous or adjacent"—I do not quite know what that means. Anybody looking after the young must look after their bodies as well as their minds, and surely college grounds and the Westminister Boat Club are all used for the purposes of the institution, whether they are contiguous or adjacent 951 or not, and I regard them as being operational. And, being operational, they should be exempted from any development charge.
Investment land seems to me to come into a completely different category. I do not like to think how long ago it was when I used to go to the Albert Hall, in the days when I was a good Liberal and looked to the noble Viscount as my leader, as I still do in many things, and we used to sing:God gave the land to the people.We did not say He gave it to the Oxford colleges. It was all a little obscure to whom the land was given. Lord Oman would ask, "Was it given to the early Britons or the Iceni?" He always used to ask when it was given, had it roads and drains? Passing these distinctions by, we all agreed that it should be given to the people. This Bill makes a fundamental change in the rights of landowners, and special treatment of one particular class of landowners is and would be quite illogical.
Secondly, let me say that the development charge is not a tax. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and I regard it, and have regarded it for the last forty years, as a recovery by the community of something which the community claim as a right. Exemption from development charges, therefore, would virtually amount to an ex gratia payment from the Exchequer on land that charities happen to hold, based on the accident of planning requirements and other factors which bear no logical relation to the charities' financial needs. What I would rather say is that if further State assistance is necessary it should be given directly and based on more rational considerations than these purely accidental considerations.
Now let me turn to what the noble Viscount is seeking to do by his Amendment with regard to investment land. He did not tell us what he is seeking to do, but I will tell you what he is seeking to do. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that in respect of any piece of land —here we have again the difficulty of the unit; I call it a "piece"—a sum of £500 is paid under Part VI. What the noble Viscount proposes is this—I beg your Lordships to follow this, because I think many of you have not done so— 952 that so long as the charity, in respect of that land, does not go beyond what I may call the standard of neighbouring user, it may go on developing in one way or another (always consistent with neighbouring user) for ever, without paying more than £500. If the charity has land on the front at Brighton—assuming that its Statute is alive and is not ultra vires—it can first of all start shops, if that is within the existing user; and if the shops fail it can start a hotel; and if the hotel fails it can start a dance hall, or even a pin-table. It can go on doing this for ever, and so can anybody buying land from this charity.
That is the noble Viscount's Amendment—I do not know whether he realizes it: that anybody buying land from the charity can go on developing it for ever. Whereas the object of our scheme is to try to get rid of the development rights in land, you will now have two classes of land: land in which charities are concerned, and land which anybody can buy free of development charges. I quite agree that there is the same idea with regard to local authority land, but local authority land is not for sale, and the point of Viscount Samuel's Amendment is that this land is land in regard to which these charities do a certain amount of trading.
A further question arises: how is the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, going to fix his unit? Let me assume that you have £500 under the Part VI Fund in respect of 2,000 acres of land and you are selling off one plot: how much do you attribute to that plot? If the plot is twenty acres it is £100 for the whole thing, and you cannot take £100 for the £500, because presumably the plot that goes first is the ripest and best plot. You are again in this unit difficulty and it will not work. I would suggest to the noble Viscount that he should really consider the terms of the Amendment which he has been asked to move. If he does, I think he will see—because I am not saying this without having given it very careful consideration with the aid of the advisers that I have available—that in any such scheme the charity might go on developing and re-developing and re-developing, and never exceed the £500 which was first paid. That is absolutely impracticable. What was the scheme of the clause? The scheme of the clause 953 was this. It differentiated between operational and investment land; but, for my own part, I think it attached much too narrow conditions to operational land.
Let us leave the Oxford College, and consider the case of the country vicarage. The country vicarage would have escaped from this clause if it adjoined the church. But if it was half a mile away from the church, it would have been caught, because it would not have been contiguous or adjacent. That seems to me to be wrong. If it is being used for the purposes of providing a home for the parson, it ought either to escape or not escape in all cases. That is why I propose to get the Minister's approval, and get the Parliamentary draftsman, if he will be so good, to redraft this clause so that we do away with those tests. My test is a much simpler one: For what purpose is the land used? If the answer is that the land is used for the broad purposes of the charity itself, then I think it ought to be exempt from paying any development charge (I am, of course, referring only to land in the possession of the charity at the appointed day), and equally it ought not to claim under Part VI.
But when we come to investment land, our clause is much wider, I think, than some of your Lordships perhaps understood. What we said was this. It is subsection (6):Where any interest in land is held on the appointed day…then if the Minister is satisfied"—I will leave out subsection (a) and read subsection (b)—that the land is intended to be used…at any time within the period of twenty years from the appointed day"—let me say that I am in no way wedded to twenty years; I do not think there is any magic about that period—he may, at any time within the period of three years from the appointed day, direct that this section shall apply to the land…"—that, your Lordships will note, being investment land, but being investment land in regard to which you have a real hope of developing the land within twenty years—and until any land to which such a direction relates is used for any such purpose as aforesaid, no development charge shall be payable under Part VII of this Act in respect of any 954 such use of the land, or in respect of any such operations carried out thereon, as are mentioned in paragraph (a) or paragraph (b) of subsection (4) of this section.That is a very far-reaching clause. I am not tying myself to the proposition that that exact phraseology will be reproduced in the new clause. I am, however, saying this. I will ask your Lordships to withdraw the clause now, because it is more convenient to do that, and I shall on the Report stage submit a new clause to your Lordships on the lines I have indicated. That will involve consultations with the Ministers concerned, of course, and I do not in the least mind saying that in the course of those consultations I will most certainly bring to their notice the wider point which the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, made; and if his words as conveyed by me succeed in melting their hearts, so be it. I shall then put something of that sort in the new clause. But if, as I strongly suspect, the new clause will still maintain the distinction between operational and investment land, but will give to operational land its more extended meaning, I shall show this clause to your Lordships on the Report stage, and I shall confidently expect the support of your Lordships in passing it.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I think we are all glad to hear that the noble and learned Viscount is prepared to have this clause redrafted before the Report stage. For myself, when I read it I did not like the words, "contiguous or adjacent to." I was thinking of some of the instances which the noble and learned Viscount has himself cited, where it, is quite obviously just as much a part of the activities of a college to have a playing field, even if it is some mile or so outside the town, as it is to have a thing like a squash rackets court in the college itself. One is exempted and the other is not.
I also dislike very much this limited term of twenty years, because a lot of these colleges bought land some years hack and it has not yet been developed. As building goes at the present time, I do not know who could honestly say, if they were going to build a really big extension to a college, when they would be able to complete it or get a licence for it, and I think twenty years is far too short a period. If they declare their intention within three years to use that land for their own particular purposes, I do not see any reason why they should 955 be asked to determine when they will put those purposes into operation by actually building upon it. That is a matter I would like the noble and learned Viscount to look into when he is having this clause redrafted.
I am one of those who are sorry that the Government have thought fit to incorporate in this Bill provisions which for the first time take away—I do not use the word "tax"—from these charitable institutions a part of their normal revenues, because whether you call it a tax or whether you do not, that in fact is what is going to happen. They have received special treatment for a very long time. The Land Tax of 1693 exempted them from the Land Tax which was then applied. The Income Tax Act of 1842—which I believe was the start of that pernicious system under which we all live —exempted these charities from Income Tax. The Customs and Inland Revenue Act of 1885 exempted them from Corporation Tax (which was then invented for the first time) and the Finance Act of 1927 made special provision for them. There is also the case that has already been quoted to your Lordships, when a Land Tax was proposed in 1931 by the then Labour Government, with Mr. Philip Snowden as its Chancellor of the Exchequer. These charities were to be exempted from that tax. Whatever may be said on one side or another, it is a fact that this is the first Government since 1693, when regular taxation more or less started, to take away from these charities something upon which they rely to help the education of our people. That is a fact, and it is just as well that everybody in the Socialist Party should realize that it is a fact.
In regard to our particular discussion to-night, I should have thought—and at any rate this is what I myself personally would propose to do—that we should wait and see. I believe it was a former leader of the noble Viscount who proposed this Amendment who coined that phrase, "Wait and see." I myself would like to wait and see what this new clause looks like when the Government produce it on the Report stage. That still leaves open whether we then return to the charge and try to see that these charities are treated with that distinction which their very work deserves—work which they have 956 done throughout the ages in this country. For myself—and I can speak for one or two other noble Lords—it would be of considerable advantage to us if, before the new Bill is printed (if the clause is decided upon) the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, could let us have copies, because I gather that there is going to be not too much time between the issue of the new Bill and the Report stage; and where it is a question of a whole new clause and the fitting in of Amendments, it would be very helpful if we could have an early typewritten copy.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I will show the noble Lord the clause before it is finally prepared—when it is "in the cooking," as it were.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I think we should be well advised to wait and see what the new clause is. I am much obliged to the Lord Chancellor for incorporating some of these new Amendments to cover the functions of educational establishments. I should think we had better leave the matter open until we see the new draft clause that the Government are going to reproduce.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
With regard to the drafting of the new clause, I hope that the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor will take a sympathetic attitude towards the great new obligations that will be imposed upon ecclesiastical bodies by the planned development which this Bill contemplates. The dispersion of the population will necessitate the erection of a large number of new churches and of new schools. I had it in mind, had we been having a general discussion on the Amendment, to point out that there is some logical connexion in the case of ecclesiastical bodies between the incremental revenue that may result from planned development of their particular land and the increased responsibilities resulting from the dispersion of the population. It does seem opportune to remind the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, of the factors that are present in many minds on this question.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
There will be widespread regret in all parts of this Committee and throughout the country that the Government have not found it possible to accept this very moderate Amendment. I was still more 957 surprised at the reason given by the noble and learned Viscount in his exposition of Labour philosophy, in what I may call the post-prandial indiscretion he was good enough to give us. He said that God gave the land to the people and not to Oxford or Cambridge colleges; but he thought that nobody in the Labour Party, or anyone else, could say who the people were. It appears to me that the only people to whom the land certainly does not belong are the people who have paid for it!
I feel that the noble and learned Viscount and the Government might at least make an exception in favour of these bodies, who acquire land for the benefit of the community. It appears that they have paid, and therefore they cannot have the benefit. I would hardly have thought that was the very best way to encourage charitable feelings in the communities. However, the noble and learned Viscount has said that he will think this matter over again, and see if he can draft an Amendment which gives at any rate some satisfaction, to those—and they are a large number of people—who are behind this Amendment. We will wait and see what that Amendment is, but I do hope that it will be possible for the Government to go a little bit further than the noble and learned Viscount was able to go in his reply to-night.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I should like to make a few observations on what the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, has said. In the first place, he commented upon the comparatively small number of persons who were concerned in the promotion of this Amendment. I do not think that any effort was made to rope in for the Amendment a very large number. It was felt that the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, the colleges and those institutions that I mentioned when moving this Amendment, could speak in the name of all the rest, and would naturally be regarded as presenting the case of the very large number of other institutions that might be affected. With respect to his criticism of the terms of the Amendment, I was somewhat surprised at the interpretation which he put upon it: that if a piece of investment land were exempted from the provisions of this Bill, then that exemption would continue for ever, no matter to whom the land was sold or otherwise 958 transferred. I do not think that was the intention of the promoters of this Amendment. The intention was that the exemption should attach not to the land as such, but to the land in the ownership of the charitable institution. If the Amendment does not properly carry out that intention, a very slight and simple alteration could be effected which would prevent that unintentional expansion.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Supposing the college sold the land to somebody. That somebody who buys the land from the college would have to pay a development charge, I suppose. How would he stand Would he pay the college the whole price, and would he have to pay a development charge?
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I should have to take legal advice before attempting a reply to that. I did not anticipate that question of exemption continuing after sale would arise at all. I have not considered in what way that intention could be carried out. However, that is a matter which we can discuss together when we come into conference—if we do come into conference on that matter—when I shall be fortified with the necessary assistance from the noble and learned Viscount's profession. He said that to give an exemption from a charge of this character would be illogical—"Why should they be treated differently from any other landowner?" The answer is: For precisely the same reason that every other landowner is liable to Income Tax, and they are not. Why are they not liable for Income Tax? Is it illogical to exempt them from Income Tax? The reason is that they stand in a special relationship to the nation as a whole, and for that reason they have always been exempted from all taxation; and if this is illogical, that also is illogical.
Furthermore, they are now being exempted from development charges and so forth, by general consent, for what the noble and learned Viscount calls "operational land"; that is to say, land which is being used for their own purposes. Why is that done? Is that illogical? Why are they not being charged on the development of their own properties exactly the same as anyone else? I should be interested to know why the noble and learned Viscount not only approves of that, but is willing to make it more extensive, and to remove 959 any possible difficulties in the way of the full application of that principle. If that principle is agreed—and it is at the very basis of Clause 83—I cannot see why further application of it in another form is by nature illogical and must be rejected on grounds of principle. However, the course now proposed by the noble and learned Viscount, is not to withdraw the clause to-day, but to withdraw it when we reach the Report stage, with a view to inserting a substitute, and that substitute, he believes, will be more simply drafted than the present clause. I certainly think that might well be done. That simplification and clarification, as I have said, would also be possible with regard to this Amendment, which is difficult to understand because the clause itself is difficult to understand. When the clause itself has been tinkered with the position remains even worse. So I am glad that the noble and learned Viscount is going to have the clause drafted de novo.
I only trust that the fresh draft will be ready in good time. As the Lord Chancellor will appreciate, many have to be consulted on this matter, and various institutions have to be informed and their views ascertained. Therefore, I trust that the Lord Chancellor will be able to assure us that we shall have the draft in good time before the Report stage. The fact remains, and this is really an essential point, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has most amiably rejected our main plea. He has given a direct negative in the most charming manner. He has scuttled our ship. But I trust that the matter may be further considered. It will be well, I think, that public opinion should take the opportunity of expressing itself before the matter comes before the House again, so that we may know by that time what is the view taken, not only by the particular institutions concerned but by public opinion at large, with regard to the course taken by the Government in rejecting quite definitely, without compromise or misunderstanding, the main claim which we have put forward to-day. As things are, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 9.12 p.m.
LORD HAMPTON moved, in subsection (1), after the end of paragraph (a), to insert:
(b) land used for the purpose of any national youth organisation (not being land which is held as an investment by any such organisation), or.
§ The noble Lord said: With the leave of the Committee I should like to propose this Amendment in spite of the fact that the noble and learned Viscount has indicated his intention of redrafting the clause altogether, because the Amendment covers a different point from those which we have just been discussing. I am fortified in proposing this Amendment by the fact that in the course of this Committee stage I have so far proposed two Amendments, both of which His Majesty's Government have been good enough to accept. I hope that, with his well-known sporting instincts, the learned and noble Viscount will grant me my hat trick in this case. I see certain signs of encouragement upon his face, so I will be as brief as I possibly can. I would explain that I am putting this forward in the main on behalf of two Associations that are well-known to your Lordships, the Boy Scouts and the Girl Guides, numbering between them close on a million young people. If the Amendment is accepted, or if I have from the noble and learned Viscount some assurance which will calm a great many anxious people in these associations throughout the country with regard to this clause, it will give satisfaction to other like associations which hold land on charitable trusts.
§ It ought to be enough for us to know that between the two wars there has grown up a tremendous enthusiasm for camping and the open air. As was mentioned in the discussion on an earlier Amendment, this has led to a lot of abuse in unrestricted camping and upsetting of amenities; but none the less this growing love of the open air, and especially of camping, should be encouraged. No doubt the two Associations I have mentioned have been greatly responsible for this growing enthusiasm, as also has the cheap motor car, with its capacity of drawing a caravan about the country. I am dealing particularly with camping sites and sites for club rooms. Camping sites, as the Associations visualize them, are not merely fields upon which young people can enter and pitch a tent. They have to be properly developed. They must have water laid on, roads or well made cinder tracks provided; huts for 961 storage of gear and proper washing and latrine facilities must exist; and in the larger camps we have to build a house where the warden in charge can remain throughout the summer—perhaps throughout the year. With club rooms it is not quite the same, but when a site is bought there have to be additions to make it fully useful. I mentioned the other day, in the discussion on Lord Addington's Amendment to Clause 11, that there has been a great deal of anxiety among landlords who have been used to letting their land for camping.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Perhaps the noble Lord is not aware of it, but I had in mind to accept his Amendment in principle.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Lord has it exactly right—"Land used for the purpose of any National Youth Organisation not being land which is held as an investment" and that is exactly what I want to try and cope with in my new clause.
May I ask one paint? Subsection (1) limits the operation of the clause to land which is used for purposes for which there is no general demand. That is a snag which we find ourselves right up against. It is extraordinarily hard to tell whether there is a general demand or not.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I am not sure that it matters very much whether it goes in now or not. The noble and learned Viscount has accepted it on principle, and I think we may rest assured that we shall see some provision like this in the clause.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I would like the noble Lord to withdraw it. I do not want to trouble about where it comes in this clause. I will trouble about where it comes in the new clause.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 83 agreed to.962
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Clause 84:
§ Land subject to claims for betterment under other Acts.
§ 84. Where, on the carrying out of any development after the appointed day, any payment falls to be made to a local authority by virtue of the provisions of any Act in force at the passing of this Act, in respect of any works carried out (whether before or after the passing of this Act) by that authority, then—
§ LORD CHORLEY
This is substantially a drafting Amendment for the purpose of linking up this clause more effectively with Clause 46. I beg to move.
Page 97, line 24, leave out ("any Act in force at") and insert ("Section forty-six of this Act or of any Act passed before").—(Lord Chorley.)
I beg leave to move the next Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend, Lord Saltoun. Very shortly its effect is as follows. Where street works are carried out, and subsequently taken over by the local highway authority, then the amount which the developer has to pay to the local authority for taking them over shall be taken into account when assessing development charges. It does appear that this would be a fair amount to be considered. I beg to move.
Page 97, line 26, leave out from ("Act") to ("then") in line 27.—(Lord Hylton.)
§ LORD CHORLEY
The noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, has found a gap, so to speak, within the ambit of this particular clause. The clause is, of course, intended to protect the local authority in respect of the collection of betterment rights, but it is perfectly true that under the Public Health Act of 1875 the local authority can either carry out the works itself or require the landowner to carry them out. In the latter event the landowner certainly ought to be protected. This clause is devoted purely to the protection of the local authority and therefore, although in principle I accept this Amendment, I would ask the noble Lord to withdraw it here. The necessary protection which we are quite prepared and glad to give ought to appear somewhere else. I am taking advice as to the right place where it should be included, and as at present advised we think it should go 963 with Clause 67, subsection (2). I mention this just in case it will assist die noble Lord. We certainly accept the Amendment in principle.
May I thank the noble Lord for his assurance? I know Lord Saltoun will be deeply grateful, and with the assurance that the noble Lord has given I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
May I ask a question? Do the Government intend to put down a certain Amendment to deal with this point?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 84, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 85:
§ Crown Land.
(2) Notwithstanding any interest of the Crown in land being Crown land as defined by this section but subject to the following provisions of this section,—
(a) a development plan approved or made under Part 11 of this Act may include proposals relating to the use of the land and may designate the land as subject to compulsory acquisition, and any power to acquire land compulsorily under Part IV of this Act may be exercised in relation to any interest therein which is for the time being held otherwise than by or on behalf of the Crown;
§ LORD ADDINGTON had given notice of four Amendments, the first being, in subsection (2) (a), to leave out "use" and insert "development."
§ The noble Lord said: These Amendments are designed to subject the development by Government Departments to planning control in the same way as development by other persons or bodies. This matter was mentioned in Clause 11. It was then decided that it would be more convenient to deal with it on Clause 85, so all this hangs together. The position, so far as I can understand it, is that at present Government Departments and statutory undertakers are not subject to control by the local planning authority. Their proposals for development, from the planning aspect, are dealt with by the Minister of Town and Country Planning, who has on a number of occasions stated that he exercises planning control by administrative means over develop- 964 ment proposals by Government Departments. Now the coal industry and hospitals are free from direct planning control; very soon transport and electricity will be in a similar position; and before long gas, probably iron and steel, and other industries as they become nationalized. As it is there often occur cases of proposed development by Government Departments which appear to conflict with planning considerations, and, indeed, raise a public outcry.
§ Moreover, it has been suggested that it places the Minister of Town and Country Planning in an extremely difficult position. He has to consider and pass judgment upon the projects of other Government Departments. On the other hand, the local planning authorities are better able to give a detached judgment on these matters, and give full weight to local considerations. At the present day there is no reason why property belonging to, or used by, a Government Department or those other bodies whom I have mentioned, should not be used in such a way as to conform to the requirements of the local planning authority, and why these bodies should not be subject to the same obligation to consider the amenities of their neighbours as a private developer.
§ If the local planning authority are to plan their area effectively, they must be able to plan the whole of it, except perhaps where Crown land is used for defence purposes. It should be simple and cause no very great difficulty, if their plans are submitted to the expert local planning officer of the area, for any alterations he may require to be carried out (which are confirmed by the local planning committee) in order to ensure that the design is suitable for the particular site on which the building is going to be placed, and that it will be an asset to the community rather than an eyesore. Siting, presumably, will be settled generally by designation under the development plan. Here again, the exact position of a building on a site might well be subject to planning control. I would submit again that these Amendments make planning more effective, and they raise an important question of principle. I beg to move.
Page 98, line 5, leave out ("use") and insert ("development").—(Lord Addington.)
§ LORD CHORLEY
I think the noble Lord must realize that we cannot accept this series of Amendments. They raise the whole question of the constitutional position of the Crown. I think he will agree with me, on reflection, that this Bill is not the proper place to raise a constitutional issue of the first importance in this way by a side wind, so to speak, because it affects the Position of the Crown not only in relation to planning but over a much wider field. With that as a preliminary, may I say that I do not see how the first of the noble Lord's Amendments, which proposes to introduce the word "development" instead of the word "use" at page 98, line 5, fits in with the other of his Amendments, and in view of the definition of "development" as it is used in the earlier part of the Bill, his first Amendment really does not, as I am at present advised, seem to make sense. However, he has not dealt with that point, and I think he will probably agree with my main contention that this is not a suitable occasion upon which to raise this very fundamental constitutional question. I hope that he will be prepared to withdraw all these Amendments en bloc.
I should like to make one or two observations in regard to his speech. With a good deal of his remarks I frankly and cordially agree, because the Minister, and I think all of us, appreciate the importance of properties owned by Government Departments and the Crown being brought into proper relationship with the plans of the local planning authorities, and it is certainly the intention of my right honourable friend that as close a co-ordination as possible should be achieved. With all that part of his speech we entirely agree, but we suggest that co-ordination could be achieved perfectly satisfactorily by the administrative methods to which he himself referred.
In moving his Amendment the noble Lord made references to what would happen under the National Coal Board, the Transport Commission, the Electricity Authority and other authorities of that kind, and made the suggestion that they were in effect the Crown, and that the interests in land which they own would not be within the scope of this Bill. That, of course, is not true, and I think he has a misunderstanding of the position in regard to those great authorities which will, 966 generally speaking, be bound by the provisions of this Bill. The effect of the noble Lord's Amendment would be that the local authority would in fact control the planning arrangements of the Crown, with an, appeal to the Minister of Town and Country Planning who is a servant of the Crown; so that if the noble Lord's Amendments were accepted you would, in effect, just be establishing a circle. I am quite sure that in the light of the observations I have made the noble Lord will withdraw his Amendment.
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
I understood from something said the other day by the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, that Ministers responsible for Crown lands could completely override the restrictions of the local authority, and could do it quite independently of the Minister of Town and Country Planning. The point I put to him was this. Suppose that the local authority have a restriction saying that on a certain piece of land nothing noxious or dangerous might be deposited, none the less the War Office could put an explosive dump on it apparently without reference at all to the other Department. I rather gather from the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, that that remains the position, but I may have misunderstood the answer I received. It seems rather serious that whatever arrangements are made by the local authority, some Department may come along and override them if they see fit.
Having mentioned that, might I ask if this is a new definition of Crown land, or has this definition prevailed for some time? I looked into the Interpretation Act for a definition of Crown land and I could not find one. I understand that the original Crown lands were lands in the personal possession of the Sovereign, which were taken over some time in the reign of Queen. Victoria in exchange for a Civil List charge on the Consolidated Fund. But of course some new definition may have arisen since. If so, what is it? And is this definition the new one?
§ LORD CHORLEY
The noble Lord is quite right. This Bill does not apply to the Crown, and it was the object of the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, to make it apply to the Crown. It is perfectly true that it would be possible for the Crown to make use of a particular piece of land owned by the 967 Crown in a way which was in contravention of the local authority's plan. I endeavoured to explain that the Minister of Town and Country Planning is, after all, responsible to Parliament for the administration of this Act, and he has the duty of co-ordinating the whole of this work; and obviously the type of case to which the noble Lord is referring would be gone into and by him. With regard to the definition of "Crown land" in Clause 85, this definition is in fact a standard definition which is found in other Acts of Parliament, certainly recent ones like the War Damage Act of 1943 and the Public Health Act of 1936.
THE EARL OF RADNOR
I am deeply interested in this question of the definition of "Crown land," as I have considerable interest in the activities of the Duchy of Cornwall. It is true, as the noble Lord has said, that Crown land in the past referred to those lands in which His Majesty had a direct practical interest. But developments in recent years, and particularly in recent months, have meant that the scope of Crown lands has been very greatly widened, and that Government Departments are now controlling increasingly large areas of land, which areas, being Crown land within the definition of this clause, are outside the scope of this and other Bills. This is a matter of considerable concern to a number of people.
There are two very clear distinctions given in Clause 85 (1) of the Bill. I would be the last person to suggest that there should be any invasion of the age-old rights of the strict Crown lands contained in the earlier half of the definition in that subsection, but I would like His Majesty's Government seriously to consider whether the time has not come when there should be a division between the two types of Crown land: those in which there is an interest belonging to His Majesty in right of the Crown; and those lands the interest in which belongs to a Government Department or which are held in trust for His Majesty. There is a very distinct difference between the two, and while in the former case I would like to see all their rights, and I think the Royal Prerogative, fully maintained, in the latter case I would like to see some rather stricter control applied than is applied to Crown lands. Perhaps the noble and learned 968 Viscount might apply his mind to it when he has a little leisure, because it is a matter which has implications which I, with my non-legal mind, probably do not know. But it is a possible and an important change in the definition of Crown lands, which may become necessary in the very near future.
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
I must thank the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, for what he has said, but it appears to me that he puts the Minister of Town and Country Planning in a very awkward position. Apparently he is responsible to Parliament for his actions, but he can only justify thorn in certain cases by giving one of his colleagues away. He can say, "Certainly I approve of this restriction proposed by the local authority, but my right honourable friend, the Secretary of State for War, is a very hard man, and I have not been able to soften his heart; therefore I have to put up with it." It does not seem a wry happy conjunction at all. But perhaps I might again ask: Has the definition of Crown lands differed in different Acts? As I say, there was nothing in the Interpretation Act of 1889 about Crown lands at all.
§ LORD ADDINGTON
I am a little reassured by the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley. I think, however, that there is some justification for raising the matter on this Bill, because as more land is taken from the public there seems less planning control over it, and more difficulties for the Minister of Town and Country Planning in dealing with all the widely separated areas under public or semi-public control. I hope that there may be more consideration of plans and that they may be carried out by the local planning authority by administrative action, and rather less taken out of their hands and done, as it were, behind the scenes at Ministries. However, the question is obviously not one that can be pressed in your Lordships' House, and, having raised it, I intend to withdraw it, and not move the other Amendments.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD CHORLEY
This is a drafting Amendment. We are really indebted to the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Maugham, for noticing this point, and this Amendment has been drafted to replace the Amendment that he has put down.
Page 98, line 37, after ("to") insert ("(and shall be determined in default of agreement, in like manner as)").—(Lord Chorley.)
§ Clause 85, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 86 [Agreements and arrangements relating to Crown Land]:
Page 99, line 26, leave out ("been approved and made") and insert ("become operative").—(Lord Chorley.)
§ Clause 86, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 87 [Requisitioned Land]:
§ Clause 87, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 88 agreed to.
§ Clause 89:
§ Land acquired by notice to treat served before appointed day.
§ (2) Where any interest in land is compulsorily acquired before the appointed day by any government department or local or public authority within the meaning of the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919, in pursuance of a notice to treat served after the passing of this Act, then—
§ (3) Nothing in this Part of this Act shall be construed as exempting from the payment of a development charge under Part VII of this Act any operations carried out on land acquired as is mentioned in the foregoing subsection, or any use of such land.
LORD CHORLEY moved to leave out subsection (3) and insert:
(c) subject as hereinafter provided, nothing in this Part of this Act shall be construed as exempting from the payment of a development charge any operations carried out on the land by the person entitled to any such interest, or any use of the land by any such person:
Provided that paragraph (c) of this subsection shall not apply to any operations or uses
of land which are exempted from the payment of a development charge by virtue of any of the provisions of Section, eighty-one of this Act.
The noble Lord said: The effect of this Amendment is to leave intact the exemption from development charge which is conferred by Clause 81 in respect of land held by local authorities for the purpose of comprehensive development—a matter which your Lordships will remember we were discussing a few minutes ago on an Amendment by the noble Earl, Lord Munster. That exemption appears inadvertently to have been removed to some extent by this clause, and the object of the Amendment is to make it quite clear that it is to stand.
Page 102, line 45, leave out subsection (3) and insert the said new paragraph.—(Lord Chorley.)
LORD CHORLEY moved, after subsection (3) to insert:
(3) Where any interest in land is compulsorily acquired (whether before or alter the appointed day) in pursuance of a notice to treat served after the passing of this Act, and the compensation payable in respect thereof falls to be calculated in accordance with any of the provisions of Sections fifty to fifty-two of this Act, that provision shall apply, subject to any necessary modifications, for the purpose of calculating under Part VI of this Act the restricted and unrestricted values of that interest, and any calculation of those values previously made thereunder shall be adjusted accordingly.
§ The noble Lord said: The purpose of this Amendment is to apply in Part VI certain of the modifications of the market value rule which are contained in the three clauses of Part V which we were discussing, I think, yesterday. They are Clause 50, which deals with vacant possession where an assumed lease is brought in to affect the market value; Clause 51, which relates to war damage which is assumed to have been made good and which therefore puts the value up; and Clause 52, which deals with requisitioned land which is assumed to have been derequisitioned and therefore again puts the value up. It is necessary that these modifications should also be applied in Part VI, which deals with the distribution of the £300,000,000 fund. The object 971 of this Amendment is to make this modification in Part VI.
Page 103, line 2, at end, insert the said subsection.—(Lord Chorley.)
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I said that the last Amendment was a fairly long one. I was in fact dealing with all three. I think that they are all right.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 103, line 3, leave out subsection (4) and insert—
("(4) Subject as hereinafter provided, the foregoing provisions of this Section shall apply where an interest in land is acquired by agreement by any authority or person who have power or could be authorised to acquire that interest compulsorily under any enactment, as they apply where an interest in land is compulsorily acquired, and in relation to any such acquisition any reference in those provisions to the service of notice to treat shall be construed as a reference to the making of the contract, and the reference in the last foregoing subsection to compensation payable in respect of the compulsory acquisition shall be construed as a reference to the compensation which would be so payable if the land were compulsorily acquired:
§ Clause 89, as amended, agreed to.
§ 9.49 P.m.
§ Clause 90:
§ Determination of questions under Part VIII.
§ 90. Any question whether land is land to which Section eighty, eighty-one or eighty-three of this Act applies shall be determined by the Minister.
THE MARQUESS OF READING moved to leave out "determined by the Minister," and insert:
referred to a judge of the High Court nominated by the Lord Chancellor for the purpose in accordance with rules of Court and the decision of the judge shall be final.
The noble Marquess said: In the enforced absence of my noble friend Viscount Buckmaster I beg to move the Amendment standing in his name. Your Lordships will observe that Clause 90 gives power to the Minister to determine questions under Clauses 80, 81 and 83 whether the land concerned is land to which those three sections apply. But this is putting a very heavy burden on the Minister and rather carries out the policy of the Government which seems to tend towards a child-like belief in the omniscience of the Minister and a more adult desire for his omnipotence.
There is a very real distinction to be drawn between the tasks to be performed under these three clauses. Your Lordships will see that Clause 80 deals with land held by local authorities for general statutory purposes, and Clause 81 with land acquired by local authorities and development corporations for comprehensive development or re-development. I concede that it is not unreasonable in those two clauses that a decision should be left with the Minister, because those are matters between him and the local authorities, and it is perhaps not in any way an excessive use of his powers that he should decide those matters; but Clause 83 is a very different proposition. That deals with land under charitable trusts. The noble and learned Viscount knows, even better than I do, that the Law Courts are full of cases—very complicated and difficult cases—about bequests for certain purposes which are brought up for decision as to whether or not those purposes constitute charitable purposes.
I strongly urge on the noble and learned Viscount that decisions taken under Clause 83 are not matters which can properly be decided by the Minister and are emphatically matters which require the decision of a Judge. The noble and learned Viscount, in the course of discussion the other day, rightly said that he did not want to put upon a Judge the function of valuation which his experience did not qualify him to discharge. That argument cannot be used in this case because this is the type of case which Judges, especially in the Chancery Division, are called upon to decide; and very often it causes them a great deal of thought and consideration before they arrive at a decision. Clauses 80 and 81 973 might be left to the decision of the Minister but I would press the noble and learned Viscount as regards the decision under Clause 83, I beg to move.
Page 103, line 18, leave our line 18, and insert the said new words. —(The Marquess of Reading.)
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think I can concede something to the noble Marquess. I agree with him about the division between Clauses 80 and 81, on the one hand, and 83 on the other. I think Cause 83 is a matter fit for a Judge. The best way in that case is to confer the right of appeal to a Judge against the decision of the Minister. If that satisfies the noble Marquess I will see that words are put down on Report stage.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
I think that is a perfectly satisfactory solution, so long as decisions are ultimately taken to a Judge. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 90 agreed to.
§ Clause 91 agreed to.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Clause 92:
§ Other Exchequer grants to local authorities.
§ (3) Grants payable under regulations made for the purposes of this section shall not exceed an amount equal to sixty per cent. of the amount of the expenditure or loss in respect of which the grants are made.
§ LORD HENDERSON
This is a drafting Amendment. As line 18 stands, the clause may be misread as excluding from grant expenditure incurred in taking action under Clause 24, whereas the intention is to include it as eligible for grant. It is therefore thought advisable to put the matter beyond doubt. I beg to move.
Page 105, line 18, leave out ("or") and insert ("and in respect of expenditure incurred by those authorities.")—(Lord Henderson.)
§ LORD HENDERSON moved, in subsection (3), to substitute "fifty per cent." for "sixty per cent." The noble Lord said: This Amendment is really consequential on the new rates of grant which are to be provided under Clause 91. The rate of grant payable to a local 974 authority under Clause 92 is intended to be the same as that applicable under Clause 91 to the final grant period in respect of the re-development of blight areas or derelict land. The range of grant applicable to Clause 92, as originally proposed, was between a maximum of 60 per cent. and a minimum of 10 per cent., according to the financial position of the local authorities concerned. The revised range will be between a maximum of 50 per cent. and a minimum of 20 per cent. On that basis, the maximum rate of grant payable under Clause 92 should be 50 per cent. instead of 60 per cent., and the Amendment seeks to achieve this. I beg to move.
Page 105, line 35, leave out ("sixty") and insert ("fifty")—(Lord Henderson.)
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I suppose there is no breach of privilege when we reduce what is paid out of the money of the taxpayers. It is rather extraordinary when the elected representatives in another place who from time immemorial, as we all know, have looked after expenditure and seen that no unnecessary expenditure is made by any Government, have put in sixty and we reduce it to fifty. Are not we being rather mean?
§ LORD HENDERSON
The Amendment arises from the fact that the new rates of grant were announced in another place and this clause is just brought into line with the grant as accepted.
§ Clause 92, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 93:
§ General provisions as to Exchequer grants to local authorities.
§ (2) Any approval of the Minister required for the purposes of the payment of grant under section ninety-one or section ninety-two of this Act in connection with the acquisition of land may be given subject to compliance with requirements imposed by the Minister for securing that any negotiations for the acquisition of the land by the local authority will be carried out by the Valuation Office, and that any valuation of such land for the purposes of such acquisition or for any purposes of the regulations, well be made by that office.975
LORD ADDINGTON moved, in subsection (2), at the end to insert:
provided that any such negotiations and any such valuation as aforesaid shall not be binding upon a local authority.
The noble Lord said: This concerns a matter of valuation. It is normally the rule that where a local authority expenditure is concerned in the acquisition of land and attracts a Government grant the district valuer will negotiate on behalf of the local authority for the acquisition of the property. In doing that, however, the district valuer does not act as a plenipotentiary or even as a delegate, but merely as a representative of the local authority; he is authorized by them to negotiate terms but not to settle them.
§ It happens in a great many cases—in fact, invariably—that the arrangement you arrive at with the opposite side is a matter for recommendation by him to the local authority. One knows from experience of sitting on these authorities that the negotiations for land, where it is subject to Government grant, are negotiated on terms which have been arrived at by the district valuer. The local authorities are rather apprehensive that under this clause as now worded the Minister might regard it as entitling him to require the local authorities to leave the settlement of all terms in the hands of the valuation officer. That has never been the position before; and as they are a little anxious the Amendment is put down so that the position may be clarified. I beg to move.
Page 106, line 22, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Addington.)
§ LORD HENDERSON
The Bill does not alter existing practice at all. The provision follows Section 7, subsection (2) of the 1944 Act. As the noble Lord has said, the valuation officer's services are invoked in these matters, but any settlement negotiated by him is not binding on the local authority; it is subject to the approval both of the Government Department and the local authority concerned; and in practice is almost invariably accepted by them. Since Exchequer grant is payable, it is necessary for the protection of the Exchequer that the district valuer should be satisfied with the price. It is best, therefore, that he should undertake the negotiations throughout. If he does not come 976 in at the start, it is likely that when he does the position will already be prejudiced, and that the price payable will involve more money than is necessary being paid from public funds. As I say, the practice under the new Act is in harmony with what is provided for in the 1944 Act. In those circumstances, I hope the noble Lord will not press his Amendment.
§ LORD ADDINGTON
So long as I understand that there is nothing new being adopted under this Act, I think that satisfies the fears that have been expressed.
§ I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 93 agreed to.
§ Clauses 94 and 95 agreed to.
§ 10.2 p.m.
§ Clause 96:
§ Power of local authorities and statutory undertakers to contribute towards expenses of local planning authorities, etc.
§ (2) Where any expenses are incurred by a local authority in the payment of compensation payable in consequence of anything done under Part III of this Act (including any compensation payable in respect of land compulsorily acquired by virtue of Section eighteen of this Act), the Minister may, if it appears to him to be expedient so to do, require any other local authority to contribute towards those expenses such sum as appears to him to be reasonable having regard to any benefit accruing to that authority by reason of the proceeding giving rise to the compensation.
§ LORD ADDINGTON moved in subsection (2) after "authority" where that word occurs a second time, to insert "or statutory undertakers." The noble Lord said: The first subsection of this clause enables both the local authorities and the statutory undertakers voluntarily to contribute towards expenses incurred by a local planning authority. However, when it comes to the question of the Minister requiring contributions to be made, whilst taking power to compel local authorities to contribute the Minister takes no such power to compel contributions from statutory undertakers. It is thought that where in fact statutory undertakers derive benefit by performance by a local planning authority of any of their functions under Part II or Part III of this Bill, if it is equitable to compel the local 977 authorities to pay, it is equally equitable to compel the statutory undertakers to do likewise. I beg to move.
Page 108, line 5, after ("authority") insert ("or statutory undertakers"). —(Lord Addington.)
§ LORD HENDERSON
I am afraid I cannot accept this Amendment. I think it is sufficient to say in reply to the noble Lord that up to the present there has been no power to compel contributions from statutory undertakers, and no circumstances are known which suggest that power ought now to be taken for this purpose. Statutory undertakers are responsible organizations which can be expected to recognize the justice of making a contribution under their voluntary powers towards expenses incurred by a local authority in measures from which they specially benefit. In the light of experience, and in the light of what I have said, I think the noble Lord might feel disposed not to press his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 96 agreed to.
§ Clause 97 agreed to.
§ Clause 98 [Default powers of Minister]:
Page 109, line 43, leave out ("been approved or made") and insert ("become operative").—(Lord Henderson.)
§ Clause 98, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 99 agreed to.
§ LORD HENDERSON moved, after Clause 99, to insert the following new clause:
§ "Applications for planning permission, determination of development charges, etc.
§ 100.—(1) An application to a local planning authority for planning permission under Part III of this Act and an application to the Central Land Board for the making or confirmation of any determination under Part VII of this Act, shall be made in such manner as may be prescribed by regulations under this Act and shall include such particulars 978 and shall be verified by such evidence as may be required by the regulations or by any directions given by the local planning authority or the Board thereunder.
§ (2) Subject to the following provisions of this section, regulations made under this Act may provide for the combination in a single document, made in such form and transmitted to such authority as may be prescribed by the regulations, of—
- (a) an application for planning permission in respect of any development;
- (b) an application for a determination of the Central Land Board in respect of that development;
- (c) any submission or application required to be made to a local authority in respect of that development under any enactment specified in the regulations.
§ (3) Any regulations made for the purposes of this section which relate to any such application or submission as is mentioned in paragraph (c) of the last foregoing subsection shall be made by the Minister and the Minister of Health, after consultation with such local authorities or associations of local authorities as appear to them to be concerned; and different provision may be made by such regulations in relation to areas in which different enactments are in force.
§ (4) An application or submission required to be made to a local authority under any enactment specified in such regulations as aforesaid shall, if made in accordance with the provisions of the regulations, be deemed to be valid notwithstanding anything in that enactment prescribing or enabling any authority to prescribe the form in which or the manner in which such an application or submission is to be made, but without prejudice to the validity of any application or submission made in accordance with that enactment, and without prejudice to any provision of that enactment enabling any such authority to require further particulars of the matters to which the application or submission relates."
§ The noble Lord said: This looks rather a formidable clause, bat in fact it is fairly simple. As the Minister stated in another place, he desired, if possible, to secure that a composite application on a single form shall be made for planning permission, bye-law permission and development charge. This will necessitate discussion with the Associations of Local Authorities concerned before it can be finally settled, but in the meantime it is desirable that power should be taken in this Bill to secure that any such composite form that may be found practicable can be validly accepted for the purposes concerned. In the light of that explanation, I do not think it is necessary for me to go through the individual subsections of the clause, and therefore I beg to move.979
After Clause 99 insert the said new clause. —(Lord Henderson.)
LORD ADDINGTON had given Notice that he would move to amend the proposed Amendment by adding, at the end:
(5) Nothing in the regulations made under this section shall require any person to furnish plans and drawings, other than a site plan, in any case where the proposed development is sufficiently described by the particulars sent with such plan.
The noble Lord said: This is a matter we have discussed before, and it is very desirable that it should be dealt with. I understand that the matter will be dealt with in the regulations, and therefore I will not require that it shall be in the Bill. Accordingly, I will not move my Amendment.
§ Clause 100 agreed to.
§ Clause 101:
§ Local inquiries.
§ 101. The Minister may cause a local inquiry to be held for the purpose of the exercise of any of his functions under this Act; and the provisions of subsections (2) to (5) of section two hundred and ninety of the Local Government Act, 1933 (which relate to the giving of evidence at, and defraying the cost of, local inquiries) shall have effect with respect to any such inquiry as if the Minister were a department for the purposes of that section.
LORD CARRINGTON moved after "Act," where that word first occurs, to insert:
and before holding any such enquiry shall publish in at least one local newspaper circulating in the area, and in the London Gazette, a notice stating the general nature of the enquiry and specifying the place where such enquiry will be held, and where any particulars including any relevant map or plan may be inspected by any person, free of charge, at all reasonable hours for a period of seven days from the date of the publication of the notice.
§ The noble Lord said: I think the noble and learned Viscount accepted a very similar Amendment to this earlier in the Bill, and therefore I shall be very short. Clause 101 of the Bill allows the Minister to hold an inquiry if it is needed in the exercise of his functions under the Bill. What I am asking—and I think it is quite reasonable—is that if such an inquiry is held it should be advertised beforehand and that any relevant papers should be allowed to be inspected beforehand. It seems right, if the inquiry is to be con- 980 ducted properly, that all the people concerned, and the public, should be able to get the facts right. I beg to move.
Page 113, line 26, after ("act") insert the said words.—(Lord Carrington.)
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think it much depends upon the nature, extent and importance of the inquiry as to whether these steps should or should not be taken. I have, as the noble Lord said, accepted an Amendment already, making it plain that there shall be an inquiry in the more important class of case. In those cases, such as the refusal of the permission to make or amend a development plan which affects a large number of leases, I think a local inquiry is appropriate. These other things, however, are just questions as to whether a bungalow may be built in a certain place, or something of that sort. To have a notice in the London Gazette about it is really using a steamhammer to crush a nut.
During the nine months ended June 30 last we have had over 1,200 appeal inquiries and only 31 inquiries into proposed designation or compulsory purchases. Of the 1,231 appeal inquiries, not one half of one per cent. had any significance beyond the five mile radius. In those cases it is the Minister's practice to ask the local authority concerned to give notice of the inquiry to those owners and occupiers of property near the site who are considered by the Council to be affected. I am sure the noble Lord will agree that it would be absurd to put notices in the London Gazette about something like 1,600 inquiries annually. You would defeat your own object, for when you had an important inquiry, people would say: "That is the old stuff over again," and would never trouble to read it. Some of these inquiries are such as whether an individual bungalow may be built on a site adjoining a residential area, or whether a site may be used as a builder's yard. I am sure that that sort of thing is not the noble Lord's intention, and I suggest that he had better leave it as we have got it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I understand the difficulty about the London Gazette, but in cases of small inquiries there might be something to be said for some intimation in the local newspaper. After all, these affairs, which may 981 seem very small, often have a special interest for the people in the area; and it is important to those people that they should know that nothing is being clone in a hole-and-corner way and that every possibility is given to the people concerned to hear the case prepared and to be sure a correct decision is being reached —as in the vast majority of cases I am sure it would be. I do not know whether the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, would consider the omission of the London Gazette notice and the inclusion of one in the local newspaper.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I quite agree with the noble Marquess—of course you must see that proper notice is given. But some of these things are so very small that I think even a notice in the local newspaper would be quite unnecessary. Sometimes people in the neighbourhood would not read the local newspaper at all; you would have to advertise in one of the great dailies to get attention, and it is very likely you would not get it then. This system has worked very well. I have not heard of a single case where it was said to be "hole-and-corner." I suggest we had better leave it.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
The purpose of this Amendment was that we did not want these inquiries to be a hole-and-corner affair, and if the noble and learned Viscount will say that any important inquiry will be duly advertised beforehand, I shall beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
THE EARL OF MUNSTER moved to add the following proviso to the clause:
Provided that every person entitled to attend any such inquiry shall have the right, by himself or by any person attending on his behalf, to present his case, to call for such evidence and to conduct such cross-examination as may be required for a full and true disclosure of the facts.
The noble Earl said: This is a somewhat important Amendment to me—and to the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, for it deals with an important point of law. If the noble and learned Viscount can say now that he is prepared to accept it, it will save me the
burden of making, and your Lordships the infliction of listening to, my explanation.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
As the noble Earl fully anticipated, the answer is that I am not prepared to accept it.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
Under this clause the Minister may cause a local inquiry to be held for certain purposes—namely, the exercise of his functions. At a quick glance through the Bill, I find that the Minister will hold these local inquiries under Clauses 18, 27, 29 and 98. All I want is to ensure that the individual whose case is going before the Minister—a Minister with all the power of government behind him, and all the powers of the Treasury's solicitor also, if necessary—should be granted the right to appear before that inquiry either himself, or by nominating some person to appear on his behalf to present his case and, as the words of my Amendment say, "to call for such evidence and to conduct such cross-examination" as is necessary.
Let me here say that I am not dealing with the small case such as the noble and learned Viscount just mentioned; I am concerned with the big, important matters which from time to time may come before the Minister. I am strengthened in the plea that I put before the Minister, for the provisions which I am endeavouring to insert within the Bill are in accord with the fourth recommendation of the Donoughmore Committee, and perhaps I may be permitted to read it:Before the decision is given, whether it be judicial or quasi-judicial each of the parties to a dispute should be given the opportunity of studying his case (not necessarily orally) and also of knowing the case which he has to meet and of answering it if he can.Nothing would seem to be more fair than that.
The second Amendment which stands in my name, with which I think it would be convenient that I should deal in conjunction with the other Amendment, provides that the person who holds this inquiry shall make a report which shall be published. I will not read the words of my Amendment because, no doubt, the Lord Chancellor has read them. Here I am strengthened by recommendations V and VI of the Donoughmore Committee, which say that:Every Minister exercising a judicial or quasi-judicial function and every Ministerial 983 Tribunal exercising a judicial function should give the decision in the form of a reasoned document. This document should be available to the parties. Where the decision is purely judicial, it should take the form of a judgment; but where it is quasi-judicial, the specimen letters conveying decisions of the Minister of Health seem to us to be suitable for their purpose and as a precedent they might be generally used.Recommendation VI says:In any case in which a statutory public inquiry is held in connexion with the exercise of judicial or quasi-judicial functions by Ministers, the report made by the person holding the inquiry should be published; and only the most exceptional circumstances and the strongest reasons of public policy should be held to justify a departure from this rule.That is all I ask and I am strengthened in my plea that the Committee were quite unanimous on this point and were supported by no less a person than Mr. Laski. I feel quite certain that the noble and learned Viscount would be only too happy to associate himself with the decisions on law which were made in this report and supported by Mr. Laski. It is vital that the private individual who comes before the inquiry held by the Minister should have every conceivable opportunity of stating his case and of arguing the evidence before the court, and I cannot see why such a procedure should not be adopted in this particular clause. I trust that the noble and learned Viscount has given this a great deal of thought, because it is a matter with which I know he is very much concerned—namely, the fair treatment of any person who comes before a Court of Law or a local inquiry, and for that reason, with full confidence, I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.
Page 113, line 31, at end insert the said new proviso.—(The Earl of Munster.)
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Earl has discussed these two Amendments together. It was a convenient course, and if I may I will discuss both of them together. I have had a long experience of this sort of subject now, and for a long time I have, rightly or wrongly, had very definite views on this matter. None of the Acts—and they have been really legion in recent years—has contained anything like a stipulation of this type. The Donoughmore Committee said this:Whether the function be judicial or quasi-judicial, its exercise pre-supposes the existence 984 of a dispute and parties to the dispute, and it is this feature which separates the judicial and quasi-judicial function on the one hand from the administrative on the other.The noble Earl will follow: on the one side there is a dispute, in which case there are parties, and on the other side are administrative matters. As I have said, none of the Acts contains this provision. As to the rights themselves, let us consider first the right of a person to present his case. It is difficult to imagine that it will be asserted in any quarter that persons entitled to attend these inquiries have been precluded from stating their case. I have never heard of such a case. Secondly, with regard to the right to call for evidence and to cross-examine. I presume that these two rights go together. I have never heard a case where it has been complained that persons who are called as witnesses have not, as the price of that, had to submit themselves for cross-examination. Of course if a person gives evidence in chief he must be cross-examined. It is the way in which the value of his evidence is tested.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
This Amendment does not state counsel. It speaks of "any person attending on his behalf." A man who gives evidence in chief has always been subject to cross-examination. The complaint that has been made is this: first, that officers of the Ministry when stating the Minister's case, as they do do at these inquiries, do not do so as witnesses; and as they do not give evidence they are not subject to cross-examination. Secondly, it is complained that when the Minister holds an inquiry into objections he does not tender evidence in support of the proposals to which the objection is taken. It is obvious that the real objection is not to the officers stating the case but to the Minister not tendering evidence on behalf of his own proposals. That is the real point. It was made, I believe, in the Stevenage case, and it was made specificially some years ago in the Kingston By-Pass case. In that case the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Hewart, said this:No evidence was called on behalf of the Minister and as the object of the inquiry was to hear objections to the proposals, it was not essential that evidence should be called on his behalf. It was for the objectors to state their objections and to call such evidence as they 985 might think proper in support of those objections.In the recent Stevenage case the Court of Appeal followed the case which I have just mentioned and held that "there was no obligation on the inspector to insist upon having the case in favour of the order put forward by anybody on behalf of the Minister." I hinted at this the other day when the Stevenage case was still sub judice. I think it is still sub judice to some extent, at the moment. So I will not speak very directly about it just now. It does seem to me most extraordinary, when objecting to a proposal, to complain that the other person does not give evidence in support of his proposal. If you make objections you must make a statement in support of them, and if he in answer does not choose to give evidence why should you complain? Normally, one side is only too pleased if the other does not give evidence. I suggest that the answer given in the passage from Lord Hewart's observations which I have quoted is quite clear.
On the other hand, you may take the analogy of a dispute where there are two parties contesting and the Minister, is, as it were, the referee deciding the contest.In such a case,said Lord Oaksey, in his judgment in the recent Stevenage case,it is obvious, it seems to me, that each of those parties must have the opportunity of calling any evidence which he wishes to call, and if he is prevented from calling such evidence then he is not being properly treated. But it cannot be said, I think, that he was under any obligation to call any particular witnesses, or any witness at all.And I think that is obviously right. Whether you regard it as a dispute or a case for the hearing of objections, in both cars it seems to be quite obvious that the function of the body is to hear objections, and there is no reason why the case should be stated en behalf of the Minister or evidence called on behalf of the Minister.
I move to the next question, that of publicity of the report. Here also I hold strong views. It is essential that the inquiry should be public; it is equally essential that the report should not be public. So far as I differ from the Donoughmore Report, I regret it; but I do not think I differ so much. For years past the existing practice in the Civil Ser- 986 vice has been to regard the inspector's report as a confidential document for the information of the Minister, and only to publish it when there are special reasons. Let us see what the Donoughmore Committee said in regard to the distinction drawn between judicial and quasi-judicial on the one hand, and ministerial on the other. At page 106 it says:We do not wish to be misunderstood as recommending the adoption of any general rule that reports submitted by inspectors to their Ministers should be made available to the public.And I am perfectly certain that if any such general rule were adopted, the report would tend to become a more formal and uninformative document, and the real position would be conveyed to the Minister orally or by letter, and that would be a most unfortunate practice. The Report continues:Our recommendation is to be considered as limited to those cases where a public inquiry of a judicial character has been prescribed by Parliament as a step in the process of arriving at a judicial or a quasi-judicial decision.…Our recommendation has no application to those cases where the Minister in the ordinary course of administration may arrange for some local inquiry or investigation, the better to inform his mind before he takes some decision which is within his competence as the head of an executive Department … The ordinary processes of administration might indeed be gravely impeded were the Minister to be tied down to any particular procedure and the fact that the Minister may be armed by statute with a general power to proceed by way of local inquiry in suitable cases makes no difference so long as the matter is in essence administrative.Let us look at Clause 101 in the Bill. It says:The Minister may cause a local inquiry to be held for the purpose of the exercise of any of his functions under this Act.If there is anything which is plainly administrative, it is this. It is not judicial, it is not quasi-judicial, it is administrative, and in these circumstances I myself cite and rely on the Donoughmore Report, though I admit that in some matters they go very much further than I myself would be prepared to go. But in this case the Donoughmore Report would be in complete accord with me, and it would be a very unfortunate thing if we were to accede to this proposal. The arguments are, that the inspector's report is only one factor in the Minister's ultimate decision. The inspector is expected not only to ascertain the facts, but to advise 987 the Minister on what form his decision can take, and I believe that the effect of publication in these circumstances would be to impair the confidential relations between the Minister and his officer. It is creating a strong pressure upon the Minister to implement the inspector's recommendations, and thus transferring the real power of executive decision to an official and not to the Minister. In the event of the Minister's decision conflicting with the inspector's advice—and the Minister would have to hesitate before he would go into conflict with the inspector's advice, because he knows he would "be for it"—it would create a demand for the publication of the evidence upon which the Minister came to a decision, and generally would subject him to Parliamentary criticism. In cases where no inquiry takes place, it would create a demand for publication of the evidence on which the Minister has acted. I have had considerable experience of administration, and I say quite firmly that I believe that this would be a detrimental step to take in the interests of fearless administration where the Minister, rightly or wrongly, has to take a decision on the facts as presented to him. It must be the Minister's decision, and he should not hesitate to take a decision which be believes to be right because, in one event, he will find himself exposed to Parliamentary criticism. In these matters, I agree with the Donoughmore Report, and I think it would be a very bad step to accept this Amendment.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I would like to say one word about this matter, because it is true that more and more concern is growing in the country in regard to these inquiries. I remember one some twenty years ago in which I myself took part. I was appearing for a highway authority which was claiming to take some 200 or 300 feet back from a new highway that was being made, and there were a certain number of objectors who were objecting to the land being taken, although they were not objecting to the road being built. I said to the solicitor instructing me, who was acting for the authority: "Who is going to preside over this inquiry? Whose inquiry is it?" He said, "The Ministry of Transport inspector." I said: "Have we any idea of the line the Ministry of Transport is taking on this 988 matter?" He said: "They are paying 70 per cent. of the grant." And that was how I went to that inquiry, quite honestly rather ashamed that all these people had been called to make objection when I knew that the whole thing had been agreed with the Ministry of Transport long before the inquiry took place. That struck me as rather odd.
Of course, I appreciate that, if it is a purely administrative act, the Minister has to take the decision himself—that must be quite clear—but I think, and I have always thought, that there is a strong case when there are disputes of this sort, to have an independent panel of arbitrators, or whatever you like to call them (I would place them under the Lord Chancellor's department) to act in inquiries for various Government Departments. Then people would feel that they were getting justice when they appeared before these inquiries, and that the case had not really in effect been decided, as I gather the Stevenage case was decided, before the inquiry was held.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
If I may intervene, I would point out that the object of the Stevenage inquiry and of most of these inquiries is to hear objections to a provisional scheme. In 99 per cent. of the cases it is decided, but it is a provisional decision. Then the inquiry is held to hear what the objections are to that scheme—for you cannot object unless there is some provisional scheme.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I appreciate that, but I think that the time has come—after all, I am not saying this in regard to the present Government or any particular Government—to change the tendency of recent years, which has been to take more and more out of the purview of the courts of this country and put more and more into the hands of Ministers holding these inquiries. It is a tendency that we ought soon to stop. These public inquiries should be held quite impartially, and without any kind of pre-conceived idea that the scheme itself has got to go through. Although we in this country may have pigeon-holed the Donoughmore Report, it is interesting to know that our friends in the United States have considered it very carefully, because the same tendency was thought to be growing there. They have actually, in an Act called the Administrative Procedure Act; 1944, incorporated provisions very much like 989 those which my noble friend has suggested should be incorporated in this Bill. I am not suggesting that we should insist on incorporating them in this particular clause, but I do say that something on the lines of what the Americans have done is the kind of action we ought to take very soon in this country in relation to this type of thing.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
May I say one word in pursuance of what the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, has said on this matter? I have had to look a little into this particular aspect of inquiries, in connexion, some of your Lordships will remember, with certain provisions of another Bill before your Lordships House. My recollection is that when this practice inquiries of began, and the power to hold them was introduced by Statute, it was a term of the section of the Statute that the person holding the inquiry should not be in the service of the particular Government Department concerned, or of any other Government Department; that he should, in fact, be an independent person. I desire to say no more at this stage than that I think it would be a very salutary measure if that practice were revived.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Perhaps I might say one further word on this, because it is a matter of some importance. The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, said that he had given much thought to this question over a number of years, and he had come to quite definite conclusions. I am sure that is true, but I still think that they are surprising and even extraordinary conclusions. As I understand it, his thesis is that the purpose of an inquiry of this kind is to hear objections, and there is no obligation on the Minister to justify his actions at such an inquiry; it is a matter for the other party to justify his objections to the Minister. That seems to me to be a very narrow view of the purpose of these inquiries. It is not really a question of whether there is any obligation on the Minister. The question is: Is it desirable for the Minister to do such a thing? After all, the Minister is the man who is giving a decision, and he is often the person who is giving a decision, or about to give a decision, which is going to cause great bitterness of feeling, and possibly considerable hardship in the case of the local inhabitants of the place 990 concerned. That is really the cause for the complaint which they put forward to the Ministry; that is the reason why they object to the scheme.
Therefore, in my view, the object of these inquiries is not merely, as the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, has said, to hear objections, but to remove grievances and to allay criticism. It is to make these people understand that the Minister has very good reasons for what he is doing. It may be that they would not agree entirely with the decision he proposes to take. That is a common feature of our national life. We have to have things explained: we think we ought to have things explained. That is the purpose of Parliament. The noble and learned Viscount, to my mind, might just as well say: "There is no obligation upon His Majesty's Government in this House to justify the measures which they are introducing; it is for the other Party to make objections to them." I have often thought, if I may say so with due deference, that the justification with which His Majesty's Government have put forward certain measures has not been very adequate. I have always slightly resented that; and that is the position of these people in these local inquiries.
I do feel that unless the Government take a wider view of these inquiries, and regard them not merely as a one-sided affair, where the representative of the Ministry comes down and hears what the local people have to say, but find means by which the local people can feel that they have heard the real reason for the decision, and can become convinced that that decision is a justifiable one, then these inquiries will be regarded as a dead letter. They will do very much more harm than good, and will leave behind a sense of rankling injustice. It is for that reason that I would strongly support the Amendment which has been moved by my noble friend. Your Lordships will notice that I have devoted myself to the first part of the Amendment. I do not wish to weary the House by going to the latter part, although I agree there also. I believe the first part to include a point of very great importance, and I would like the noble and learned Viscount to give it further consideration. If my noble friend is not satisfied with the answer, he will consider the course of reverting to the matter at a later stage of the Bill.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
Perhaps I may say one word. I am extremely disappointed with the noble and learned Viscount's reply. I honestly thought that I should receive at least some sympathy from the noble and learned Viscount. It does seem to me that we have reached a stage now where the Minister may hold an inquiry caring very very little indeed for the individual to be inquired about. All I wanted to ensure—and I am sure the noble and learned Viscount wants it also—is that the individual should receive a fair inquiry; that every fact should be considered by the Minister; that the individual who attends, either personally or by some person on his behalf, can cross-examine anybody sent by the Minister in order to ensure that that individual has a perfectly normal and natural hearing before this inquiry; and that he is satisfied at the end of the inquiry that the decision which has been reached is fair and equitable to him in view of the evidence which has been placed before the inquiry.
That is all I am asking, and frankly I should like to divide the House on this question, because I feel I am on a strong point. But I will do this. I would like to consult my legal advisers, who have assisted me on this particular clause, and I will reserve the right—subject to the noble and learned Viscount not objecting to it—to put some Amendment down on the Report stage. Perhaps the discussion then will take place at an earlier hour in the afternoon when other legal lights may be present in the House who will, I think, support me. In those circumstances I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 101 agreed to.
§ Clauses 102 to 106 agreed to.
§ 10.42 p.m.
§ Clause 107:
§ Determination of disputes as to compensation, etc.
§ (3) Any party to any such dispute as aforesaid who is dissatisfied with the determination of the Central Land Board may, within such time and such manner as may be prescribed by regulations made under this Act, appeal to the Minister, whose decision shall be final.
LORD LLEWELLIN moved, in subsection (3), to leave out "the Minister, whose decision shall be final," and insert:
a Tribunal consisting of a member or members of the panel constituted under Part I of the Schedule to the War Damage (Valuation Appeals) Act, 1945, selected in accordance with the provisions of Part II of that Schedule, and the provisions of Part III of that Schedule shall in so far as they relate to appeals to a Tribunal have effect in relation to appeals under this Act as if for any reference to the War Damage Commission there were substituted a reference to the Central Land Board and as if for any reference to the War Damage Act, 1943, there were substituted a reference to this Act, and the Lord Chancellor shall makes rules for regulating, subject to the provisions of that Schedule, appeals to a tribunal under this Act.
The noble Lord said: This, of course, is an Amendment in exactly similar terms to the one upon which we had a slight dispute on Clause 67, and which was inserted there. I am being quite frank with the Committee when I say that I do not think it is so important here as it was there. On the other hand, it is the kind of Amendment which, if we accept it in one place, perhaps we ought to accept in the other. I think in these cases this is the right tribunal and place. I laid a great deal more stress on this type of tribunal in Clause 67 than I do now. I think it is more important in Clause 67. I hope very much that the Government will accept the decision of this House on Clause 67. If the Lord Chancellor can hold out any indication of that I should be grateful. I beg to move.
Page 116, line 36, leave out from ("to") to the end of the clause and insert the said new words.—(Lord Llewellin.)
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
We have had this out once, and I quite agree that it was much more germane and important in the previous case than here. The noble Lord has won his victory and I hope he is not going to rub my nose in it by making me accept this one—because I really cannot do it. I hope he will rest content with his great victory on the other occasion.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
All I will say is that as long as it is never held against me that I did not move it here, I accept the reply of the noble and learned Viscount. I should hate to rub his nose in anything. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 107 agreed to.993
§ 10.47 p.m.
§ Clause 108:
§ Regulations and orders.
108.—(1) The Minister may make regulations under this Act—
(a) for prescribing the form of any notice order or other document authorised or required by this Act to be served, made or issued by any local authority;
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH moved, after "Minister" to insert:
(after consultation with such organisations as are in his opinion representative of local authorities)".
The noble Lord said: Clause 108 provides that the Minister may make certain regulations under the Act for prescribing the form of the notice, and so on. I have no doubt that the Minister will in fact consult the local authority associations, and if so I think this provision ought to be in the Bill. This Amendment was put down in another place, but it was guillotined and never discussed. I think it ought now to have a run, and I hope the Lord Chancellor will accept it. I beg to move.
Page 116, line 38, after ("Minister") insert the said words.—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)
§ LORD HENDERSON
After the noble Lord has allowed the Amendment to have a run, I hope that the answer I am going to make will lead him to call it off. The Amendment, very simply, imposes a statutory obligation on the Minister to consult local authority associations before making any of the regulations he is authorized to make under the Bill. In regard to some of the regulations such consultation would be quite unnecessary. For example, regulations concerning the procedure of the Central Land Board (Clause 2, subsection (5)) and on the assignment of rights to payments from the £300,000,000 (Clause 61 (2)). But I can give the noble Lord an assurance that it is the intention to consult the Local Authorities Associations about all regulations which in any way affect local authorities, and indeed such consultations have already been begun at official level.
LORD BALFOUR. OF BURLEIGH
I am happy to accept the noble Lord's assurance, and I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 108 agreed to.994
§ Clause 109 [Assumptions as to permission for development]:
Page 117, line 35, after ("class") insert ("specified in the Third Schedule to this Act"). —(Lord Henderson.)
THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, at the end of the clause to insert:
(2) For the purposes of paragraph 2 of the said Third Schedule, the erection on land within the curtilage of any such building as is mentioned in that paragraph of an additional building to be used in connection with the original building shall be treated as the enlargement or the original building; and where on the appointed day any two or more buildings comprised in the same curtilage are used as one unit for the purposes of any institution or undertaking, the reference in the said paragraph 2 to the cubic content of the original building shall be construed as a reference to the aggregate cubic content of those buildings.
The noble and learned Viscount said: Paragraph 2 of the Third Schedule provides an exemption from development charge in respect of the enlargement, improvement, or other alteration of certain buildings within a 10 per cent. tolerance. As drafted, the paragraph might be interpreted as being limited to actual extensions adjoining and forming part of the original buildings. It is not intended that it should be interpreted in this narrow way. For example, it is intended that the paragraph should apply to a garage put up for use in connexion with a house whether or not it happens physically to adjoin the house. It might be separated by a few feet, or it might be at the bottom of a garden. In the same way a factory may be made up of a number of separate buildings—in some cases it is compulsory —and the exemption is intended to operate if further separate buildings are erected within the prescribed 10 per cent. I beg to move.
Page 117, line 38, at end insert the said subsection. —(Lord Henderson.)
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I am very grateful to the noble Lord for this Amendment. I think it is quite right. It is right, too, on planning grounds. If you had to have your garage attached to the house it might not be the right place to put it; it is often much better if a garage, with its risk of fire, is not attached to the house. All I can say is that I believe this will com- 995 pletely meet the case that my noble friend, Lord Saltoun, wanted in regard to the small man who had a little shed at the back of his premises where he carried on some small trade or other. I think that will be met, because a little shed is not likely to be more than a tenth of the original. I welcome the Amendment.
§ Clause 109, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 110 [Amendments and repeals]:
§ LORD HENDERSON
This and the next two Amendments I think I can take together, and the simple explanation of them is that they are drafting Amendments. They secure the repeal of the 1939 standard provisions of the 1944 Act as applied by other Acts, in particular the New Towns Act. I beg to move.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 118, line 16, at end insert ("(other than an enactment specified in Part I of the Ninth Schedule to this Act)")
§ LORD HENDERSON
This Amendment introduces the new Eleventh Schedule, which is a reprint of the unrepealed provisions of the 1944 Act, as amended by the Eighth Schedule to the Bill and by further Amendments to that Schedule which it is proposed to move later in the Committee. I beg to move.
Page 118, line 30, at end insert ("(6) In accordance with the foregoing provisions of this section, the Act of 1944 shall, as from the appointed day, have effect as set out in the Eleventh Schedule to this Act").—(Lord Henderson.)
§ On Question, Whether Clause 110, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?
§ 10.59 p.m.
I regret having to trouble your Lordships with one point at this late hour, but I am told that this is the only proper place in which I can do it. I think it could hardly be denied that the Government's compensation and development charge scheme will produce very considerable disparity as between various classes of owner, and I submit 996 to your Lordships that, in the case of owners of very small plots, this disparity will be very exaggerated. For example, take three people who have bought plots of a quarter of an acre at exactly the same time, and in exactly the same condition as regards planning consent; and suppose one of those men built before the war a small bungalow or house upon his plot, but the second man did not do so, but is still allowed to build under the development scheme of this Bill, and that the third is prevented from building under the new development plan produced under this Bill. They all started in the same way, but the first man has got a house which has gone up in value since the war. His plot has probably slightly increased in value owing to the fact that the surrounding land may be sterilized. He has had value presented to him by this Bill. The second man may be left very much as he is, particularly if his land is dead ripe for development. If it is not, he may have to pay development charge, and he may get something out of the compensation fund. But above all he has his plot and he can build. The third man, whose plot is sterilized, is left with an entirely valueless piece of land. All he can look out for is, at the end of five years, a bit of the £300,000,000.
I know a lot of these cases, and I assure the Committee that very real hardships are going to arise in the case of those people whose land is sterilized and who have to wait five years for compensation. This is the reason why I raise this matter on this clause. A lot of these people are old, and the prospect of receiving money in five years' time will not perhaps appeal to them because of the possibility that they may die in the meantime. What they want is some land, and they want that land now. I am given to understand that there was a provision in the Act of 1944 which enabled local authorities to buy land for exchange in cases of this sort, and I understand that that provision is repealed by this clause and it no longer appears in terms in this Bill. These are complicated drafting matters, but I would ask the noble and learned Viscount if his experts could look into this and see if anything can be done to meet these hard cases. I do so because I am convinced that, whatever the feelings of the Government may be towards landowners, nobody could wish 997 to deal really quite savagely with one particular section of them and comparatively leniently with another. I feel that unless something is done the local authorities—who are, after all, the elected representatives of the people—may in certain cases prefer to plan badly rather than to see rank injustice done, as would appear to be possible.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I will certainly ask my experts to look into the drafting matters involved. I did not anticipate that the noble Viscount was going to raise the matter on this clause, with which, in fact, it has no direct connexion. But I am glad that he has done so, because it enables me to say that I will have this properly considered, and we will do what we can. I am afraid that our planning system involves that you must sometimes say "No" to a man. There are cases in which he must not be allowed to develop. If you are not prepared to do that, you can give up planning altogether, and have your towns as we have them to-day. That, I think, would be disastrous. On the other hand, we are providing this fund of £300,000,000 in order that those who suffer, those to whom we have to say "No," shall be able to get some compensation. I quite agree that any system you invent must to some extent involve this—that one man comes off more luckily than another. And because that is so, I agree that we should take all the steps we can to see that the difference in treatment is mitigated so far as possible by the provisions of this Bill.
I am very much obliged to the noble and learned Viscount. He will perhaps remember that I did specifically relate the point to this clause, because under this clause the provision of the 1944 Act relating to the exchange 998 of land has, I understand, been repealed and I am asking that that exchange of land should still be open to the local authorities.
§ Clause 110, as amended, agreed to.
§ LORD AMMON
Before we adjourn, I hope that your Lordships understand that the first business on Monday at 2.30 o'clock will be the resumption of the Committee stage of this Bill.
§ House resumed.