HL Deb 28 February 1963 vol 247 cc196-225

3.36 p.m.

LORD OGMORE rose to move, That it be an Instruction to the Select Committee to which the Bill has been committed, in view of the degree of hardship and disturbance which will be caused to the agricultural community of the Clywedog Valley, to consider to what extent the provisions of the Bill relating to compensation are inadequate, and to insert such further provisions as will ensure that all persons affected receive compensation fully commensurate with the loss and damage suffered by them. The noble Lord said: My Lords, on the general issue raised by the Clywedog Reservoir Joint Authority Bill I am making no comments to-day. My views have been expressed on numerous occasions to your Lordships, on the difficulties arising from the policy in the past of some large municipal authorities laying their hands on remote English or Welsh valleys. In this case, in the Bill which recently has had its Second Reading, the situation is better, because this is a Joint Authority Bill. Furthermore, I hope that in the future the position will be much improved by reason of the Water Resources Bill which is now wending a rather leisurely way through your Lordships' House.

It is unusual but by no means unprecedented in your Lordships' Chamber to seek to move an Instruction to a Select Committee when an issue of substantial principle is involved affecting land in both England and Wales. The Motion standing in my name is moderately phrased, and attempts in no way to curtail either the Select Committee's freedom of inquiry or their freedom of decision. Furthermore it does not attempt to decide the issue for them. It merely asks that the highly experienced members of the Committee should consider how far those provisions of the Bill relating to compensation are adequate or inadequate, so that if the Committee are satisfied that it would be wise and fair to insert different or improved provisions they can do so, in order to ensure that all persons affected receive compensation fully commensurate with the loss and damage suffered by them.

The Bill to which the House has given a Second Reading would give to a number of statutory water authorities and to the Central Electricity Generating Board, mainly in England but also partly in Wales, the right to abstract considerable quantities of water from the main stream of the River Severn. The flow will be augmented for this purpose by the creation of a large reservoir, costing some £4½ million, in the upper reaches of the Severn, in the valley of the Clywedog. The River Clywedog is a tributary of the Severn in the west of Montgomeryshire. This scheme will differ from the normal orthodox impounding reservoir, from whose waters pipes run to cities and towns near and far, in that it will be a balancing reservoir; that is to say, it will use the River Severn as an aqueduct. For the main part the water will be fed to the acquiring authorities via this river aqueduct, instead of by pipes. To create this reservoir a dam will have to be built across the neck of the valley and some 700 acres of land flooded to a depth of about 225 ft. at the deepest point. The reservoir will be over 5 miles in length and will be yet another artificial lake in mid-Wales.

Unhappily, as is so often the case, the building of the dam and the flooding of the valley will take the best grazing and sheltered land, the bottom land—or the hendre, as it is called in Welsh—from some fifteen farmers whose farms extend to about 4,250 acres. Most of the farmers are owner-occupiers. Only one or two are tenants. All are entitled to compensation for disturbance calculated in accordance with the existing law. In addition, the acquiring authorities seek to take power, by virtue of Clause 32 of the Bill, to reinstate any displaced occupier; and, by Clause 33, to pay any such person a sum of money, on an ex gratia basis, as they think fit towards any loss, or in respect of any personal hardship, which, in their opinion, he sustains, or is put to, by reason of his having to quit the land. In view of the words that I have just read, your Lordships may wonder why it is necessary to include such provisions, which are purely permissive and discretionary, if the occupier's legal entitlement to compensation is adequate to recompense him for the loss and hardship involved in having, in some cases, to quit both his home and the land from which he derives a livelihood, and to move to other pastures if he can find them.

My Lords, the answer is inescapable. The existence of this clause is a recognition by the promoting authorities that circumstances can and do arise in which statutory entitlement to compensation for disturbance is unsatisfactory—inadequate, in other words—for leaving the occupier no better off but no worse off as the result of the acquiring authority's proved need of his land. It is not merely the promoting authorities who have recognised that statutory compensation can be inadequate: Her Majesty's Government have recognised it as well in various Bills. In legislation dating back to pre-war days, housing authorities rehabilitating slum dwellers were given discretionary power to make similar grants. This was because the legal entitlement to compensation was based upon the strict legal interest of the occupiers of slum dwellings; and since, in most cases, the occupants were merely weekly tenants, it naturally followed that the compensatable interest was negligible, although the actual loss and hardship sustained in quitting and finding other premises might well have been considerably greater—in fact, usually was.

In 1959, under Section 13 of the Town and Country Planning Act, now incorporated in Section 30 of the Land Compensation Act, 1961, this provision to make ex gratia payments was extended to cover not merely cases where slums were pulled down and occupiers displaced but where business and commercial premises were similarly affected. It did not, however, cover agricultural land. But now the Government are going to put that right—belatedly and tardily, it may be, but they are going to put it right—in Clause 19 of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which is being discussed in the other place and of which, officially, we have no knowledge. It is in fact the case that a permissive power may be given to acquiring authorities in respect of occupiers of agricultural land if that provision is inserted by the Members of another place and comes up to us in that form. However, that is the Government's intention, whatever the actual effect may be, in another place. The conclusion, as I have said, is inescapable: that there would have been no justification for such provisions, either in public legislation or in the measure under discussion, unless both the Government and the promoting authorities had been satisfied that cases could arise where the legal compensatable interest produced a sum inadequate fairly to recompense the occupier for having to lose all or part of his home and livelihood.

As your Lordships know, the law relating to compensation on compulsory acquisition is both complicated and obscure—not by any means, of course, the only case where the law is complicated and obscure. Charles Dickens once said that English law was more remarkable for close shaving than for always shaving the right person; and there are many cases in which, we know, it is both complicated and obscure. But this is a fine, classic example of that. I would say that, if the Government themselves recognise that the law can produce unjust consequences by leaving a displaced person worse off than he was before, thus offending the maxim laid down by many learned Judges over the past half century or more that this should not be the case, then it is only reasonable that it should not be left to the unfettered and unpredictable discretion of the acquiring authorities to remedy any such defect.

In this case, the acquiring authorities are many, and most of them are geographically quite remote from the scene of the appropriation. So, if any heart-strings are to be wrung, they are not likely to be wrung by the people in the Clywedog Valley. They are more likely to be wrung by the ratepayers in the district over which the local council has sway. But in the Bill it is proposed to leave it to these remote authorities, out of the goodness of their hearts, to decide whether and how far to do justice to a group of farmers in a remote valley of which they have never previously heard, which has a name that in all probability, they cannot pronounce, and which is soon to be flooded out of existence. If there is a case, as both the Government and the promoters have recognised there to be, for the making of extra statutory payments, it is surely an invidious responsibility to place upon the acquiring authorities, who have responsibility either to the Government or to their ratepayers to minimise their outgoings and who, as I have said, would probably feel little responsibility to these few farmers far away, on the principle of, "Out of sight, out of mind". It makes the local authorities subject to all sorts of pressures; and, even if they do exercise their discretion, there is nothing to stop them from making the sums inadequate or even derisory.

The position is bad enough for the owner-occupier who is compulsorily bought out, but the hardship is usually less in his case than in the case of the lessee or the statutory tenant holding his land from year to year under the protection of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1948. The owner-occupier may obtain development value or he may not. Where there is no question of development value, the compensation is based upon the open market value, which can often be much less than the cost of an equivalent reinstatement. For example, one farmer in the Clywedog Valley has built an additional dwelling-house to suit his own circumstances, and at considerable cost, but this has only negligibly enhanced the open market value of the whole farm because it is unlikely that a hypothetical tenant would require two dwelling-houses on the same farm.

The more serious problem arises in the case of a tenant farmer, particularly if he is a tenant farmer who is getting on in years. He is such a one as would find it almost impossible successfully to compete for the tenancy of another holding. His entitlement to compensation for disturbance is usually one year's rent, under Section 34 of the Agricultural Holdings Act. In some cases it is possible for it to be greater, but in no cases more than two years' rent. This level of compensation applies where entry is effected as a result of a notice to quit under the Agricultural Holdings Act, which leaves the tenant in full possession, as your Lordships know, for twelve months. If, however, earlier entry is required, then the acquiring authority may expedite the procedure and, instead of serving a notice under the Agricultural Holdings Act, he may bring into play the provisions of statutory compulsory acquisition. So, in this case, under the Land Clauses Act, the value is based upon the measure of the tenant's truncated legal interest in the land. Here again, in most cases, it is limited to around one year's loss of expected profits.

In other countries not far away—Holland and Belgium, for example—a tenant's entitlement to compensation is very much greater in these cases than it is in this country. Nearly six years ago, when a neighbouring Welsh valley at Tryweryn in Merionethshire was threatened with a similar fate, a Bill was before your Lordships which, among other things, succeeded in altering the Standing Orders. Questions came forward at 6 o'clock in the evening. In those days Private Bills used to come forward as first Business. Some Members, of whom I was one, were talkative on this Bill. Consequently Questions now precede a Private Bill. Your Lordships then accepted the case for making such payments mandatory and not permissive. There is therefore in this Bill no question of creating a precedent. Under Sections 41 and 42 of the Liverpool Corporation Act, 1957, which gave Liverpool the power to acquire and flood Tryweryn, the corporation was obliged to reinstate persons displaced so far as possible, and not merely empowered to agree on reinstatement with the occupier. Under Section 42 the corporation was obliged to pay any person displaced such reasonable allowance as an advisory committee may recommend towards any loss or in respect of any personal hardship or disturbance which in their opinion he will sustain or be put to by reason of having to quit such land". The Committee referred to was a small body consisting of representatives of the Liverpool Corporation and the Merionethshire County Council with an independent chairman appointed by the President of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. The effect of putting these two clauses in the Bill was a very successful one. The circumstances in the case of Tryweryn and in the case now before us are very similar. They are both isolated valleys in a beautiful part of the Welsh uplands. Many of the families in the Clywedog Valley have farmed their land for generations and had good reason to expect to continue to do so in peace, were it not for the water-demanding towns and cities east of the Severn.

Like Tryweryn, Clywedog can be considered a centre of Welsh culture. Many inhabitants speak Welsh as their first language, and the Valley abounds with historical and religious associations and Welsh tradition. From the agricultural point of view their best lands providing their essential winter keep and shelter will go, severely disturbing the delicate balance between the hendre or lowland and the hafod or rough grazing on the hills. In many cases the farmers will have to lose their homes. Those of your Lordships who understand hill farming will know what it means to flood the winter grazing and lowlands and restrict the farming which still goes on to the uplands, which in the winter are probably impossible of access.

These people are not people who are accustomed to migrating from one part of the country to another as the American farmers are. They and their families and their forbears have remained there for hundreds of years. It will not be easy or cheap to move to any other part of the country to find other farms which have the characteristics they know and with whose circumstances they are familiar. In some cases it may be that no pecuniary settlement can compensate to the full for the loss of a man's house and land where his forbears have lived for generations. We all know the ties country people have with the soil. This is all the more reason why compensation should be made fully and properly.

As a result of the feeling aroused by the Liverpool Corporation Bill and as a result of the reasonable way in which the compensation provisions have operated (introduced in the Bill, as they were, by your Lordships in Committee) the acquisition of the land in the Tryweryn Valley and the task of rehabilitating those moved out has, I am told, gone exceedingly smoothly. Compensation has been fair. It is a negligible fraction of the cost of the reservoir scheme but it has done much to reduce tension and ensure co-operation among those whose lives are affected. I must emphasise that this issue is not isolated to the Clywedog Valley. It is important apart from the Clywedog Valley because more and more Welsh and English upland valleys are liable to meet this fate in the future. Unless we wish every acquisition in England or Wales to be attended by prolonged and bitter battles and feelings of injury, I suggest to your Lordships that it is prudent and equitable to ensure that the injured parties can be satisfied that justice is being done. I beg to move the Instruction standing in my name on the Order Paper.


My Lords, the noble Lord has explained the position so clearly, even if shortly, that I do not propose to take any time in repeating what he has said. But may I just remind your Lordships that this Bill is an opposed Bill which has already had a Second Reading in this House? The position can be explained, as the noble Lord has explained it, very briefly. If the Bill is passed there will be a reservoir in this valley which is situated very close to the town of Llanidloes in the County of Montgomery. There will then be inundation, as is inevitable in these cases; and, equally in- evitably, the owners and occupiers of the land inundated will be adversely affected so far as their interests are concerned. Equally obviously the question of compensation at this point arises, and there may be questions and controversies as to whether compensation finally awarded is adequate or otherwise.

I come next to the choice arising out of the ordinary law; and that law would apply to this Bill in the ordinary case unless Parliament makes some Amendment to it. But in this Bill additional compensation is authorised under two clauses which the noble Lord has mentioned—Clauses No. 32 and 33 of the Bill. So we have here the ordinary law of compensation plus these clauses. Opinion may differ as to what they are worth.

As I said, this was an opposed Bill, by which I meant there is one Petition against this Bill which, unless it is withdrawn, will in due course be heard by a Select Committee upstairs. Provision has already been made for the eventuality that this Petition will not be withdrawn. If your Lordships wish to inquire further what the Petition says, I would refer you to paragraphs 5 and 6 of it which really set out the case of the sole Petitioners, who are the National Farmers' Union. The noble Lord has put down and proposed an Instruction to the Select Committee. What I should like to say more than anything else this afternoon is that if one looks carefully at the words of this Instruction and at the two clauses to which I have referred, then I believe the House will come to the inevitable conclusion that those two documents raise precisely the same points; that both refer to compensation and that both say the compensation is at present inadequate.

I think that is an important matter, because I am going on to say, and putting it crudely, at the risk of being disagreed with, that it does not really matter whether your Lordships pass this Instruction this afternoon or not. I say that it does not matter because, if it is passed, the Committee upstairs will in any event have to consider this point, and if it is not passed they will similarly have to consider this point. Therefore, in my judgment, it does not matter whether the Instruction is passed or not.


My Lords, surely one of the objects of debate in Parliament is to collect voices and get the opinions of Members of Parliament. Surely one of the objects of any Instruction is that the Committee may have the benefit of reading or listening to the speeches of a number of noble Lords, some of whom might be highly experienced in the subject, who are not members of the Committee and who are not witnesses. I think that is the great merit in the Instruction.


My Lords, I do not disagree with the noble Lord on that point, but I am sure that, in turn, he will allow my voice to join in the voices of other speakers to say that it makes no difference at all whether this Instruction is passed or not this afternoon. I agree that it affords an opportunity for other noble Lords to express their views. The Committee upstairs will have to consider this point, and they can, if they deem it necessary, amend the Bill before it receives a Third Reading.

The only other thing I want to say is that, if your Lordships look carefully at the wording of the Instruction, I am bound to say that I do not think it is entirely discretionary. This makes rather a difference, because Mandatory Instructions—that is, ones compelling the Committee to make an insertion in the Bill or to leave something out—are, in my opinion, rightly unpopular in this House. This does not go so far as that, but if your Lordships look at the Motion you will see that the wording is that the Committee is …to consider to what extent the provisions of the Bill relating to compensation are inadequate… Strictly looked at, that means that the provisions are inadequate to some extent, and that is a proposition which, I think, will not be agreed to by everybody. Here I may say that it is my duty to be neutral on this issue and not to say whether they are inadequate or they are adequate; but it does not follow that the noble Lord will get 100 per cent. unanimity of opinion when he says that they are inadequate, and I think that is what these words inevitably mean.

The Motion goes on to say …to insert such further provisions… Again that presupposes that some further provisions are necessary, and again that might not be entirely agreed with. I am not saying that the compensation is adequate. I hope I make myself clear on that point, because it is not for me to say whether it is adequate or inadequate.

For these reasons, I do not think that this Instruction is entirely an innocent one which ought to be at once accepted. Your Lordships may think that to some extent the wording is rather inadvisable and perhaps unacceptable. For the rest, I leave it to your Lordships to decide what should be done about this Instruction. Although I should be only too pleased to explain further, if any noble Lord wishes me to do so, I do not think I am called upon to say anything further on this Motion.

4.5 p.m.


My Lords, I am going to ask your Lordships not to give such an Instruction to the Committee. In view of what the Lord Chairman has said, it will not be necessary for me to speak at length, but I would point out to your Lordships that among the Promoters of the Bill are the Montgomeryshire County Council and the Montgomeryshire Water Board, and, though it may be true that the citizens of Birmingham do not know a great deal about farming in the Welsh valleys, certainly the members of the Montgomeryshire County Council do, and they, together with the rest of the Promoters, are very much alive to the disturbance and loss that is bound to arise from an engineering project such as this. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, called attention to that awareness by suggesting that the insertion of Clauses 32 and 33 in the Bill itself shows that the general provisions may not be sufficient to provide adequate compensation for those who are disturbed.

The noble Lord is a lawyer and I am only a workman, so I will not cross swords with him on the law; but I was under the impression, through my association with previous Bills, that in a Bill such as this the Promoters could not bind an authority yet to be set up by mandatory powers. But it is a fact that the Promoters of the Bill will nominate the members of the authority, and I can say definitely that, having put these clauses into the Bill, it is their intention to honour them, just as those that are mandatory.

Before the Bill was deposited there was a discussion with the local farmers, and, rightly and understandably, knowing the provisions included within the Bill, they would not commit themselves to either a favourable or an unfavourable acceptance of them and they have gone to their trade union, the National Farmers' Union, who have brought this Petition, which is to go before the Committee. In spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has said, I would suggest to your Lordships that this House is not satisfactory as a Committee in which to elicit the full facts. As your Lordships are fully aware, under our Select Committee procedure, the case for and against is presented, there is argument by eminent counsel, who draw out all the facts, and there is cross-questioning of witnesses. The Select Committee can come to a judgment on the basis of full consideration of the evidence presented before them and of the facts elicited. With the greatest respect to all noble Lords, I suggest that if we stayed here for five or six hours discussing this subject, in the manner in which our debates are conducted we should not be competent to elicit the full facts from one side or the other. Therefore I suggest to your Lordships that it would be wrong to carry this Motion.

In spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said, I feel, on my reading of it, that this would be an Instruction to a Committee, and to instruct a Committee before we have arrived at the facts is rather prejudging the issue and not giving the Select Committee, with its judicial function, the right scope in which to operate. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred to the Liverpool Corporation Act, 1957. I think it is relevant to point out that since that time there have been two Bills in which Parliament has accepted clauses identical to Clauses 32 and 33 in this Bill. They were the Tees Valley and Cleveland Water Act, 1959, and the Great Ouse Water Act, 1961. I am not certain about the Tees Valley Bill, but I am certain about the Great Ouse Bill. While that Bill was under discussion the Country Landowners' Association and the National Farmers' Union strongly advocated before the Committee that the Liverpool Corporation Act clauses should be included in the Great Ouse Water Bill. But Parliament, in its wisdom, did not agree. There may be some reason for it relevant to this case.

My main point is this. If we are to have the Select Committee procedure, the great thing is to let this Select Committee act in its judicial capacity with all the facts before it; to be in a position to call witnesses and cross-question, and come to a decision with full knowledge of all the facts. I suggest that we could not come to a decision in the full knowledge of all the facts to-day, and therefore that we ought to oppose the Motion.

4.11 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord who moved this Motion pointed out that under this Bill persons whose land is acquired by compulsory procedure will receive the normal compensation which the law allows. This Bill contains two additional clauses, to which the noble Lord referred. It extends compensation to any person who is displaced under the Bill or for the purpose of reinstating a person whose land is acquired under the Bill. As the noble Lord pointed out, both these clauses are voluntary and not mandatory. The question with which the noble Lord is really concerned is whether these two clauses ought not to be made compulsory. As has been pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, there is nothing new in these two clauses. Both of them appear in the two Acts to which the noble Lord referred. So far as I am aware, there is no reason to think that these clauses have not operated fairly and equitably towards persons affected by compulsory acquisition under those two Acts. There is no reason to suppose that persons affected by this Bill will not be fairly and equitably treated under these two clauses by the proposed new Authority.

Persons affected by this Bill are to enjoy rights of compensation which are more generous than the law normally allows. I would submit to your Lordships that the existence of some reason for giving them a special right to compensation ought to be shown. As the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, pointed out, that is essentially a matter which the Select Committee, to whom this Bill will be referred, are best able to determine. They can determine it with the assistance of witnesses and of counsel. They are better qualified than your Lordships are in a debate of this sort to determine such matters.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord one question? What happens if the Petitioner withdraws? The Committee will then be without witnesses, counsel and arguments.


My Lords, I am assuming that the Petition which has been lodged against the Bill will not be withdrawn, and that those who were concerned to lodge it, and concerned, as the noble Lord is, with the rights of these people, will continue to be concerned with the protection of their rights when the Bill is considered by the Select Committee.

The noble Lord, in the course of his observations, made some reference to the Liverpool Corporation Act, 1957, under which, as your Lordships are aware, the Liverpool Corporation were authorised to construct works at Tryweryn. In that Act, as the noble Lord has said, compulsory provisions were inserted requiring that owners and occupiers of land affected should be reinstated. It is, I think, not without interest to look at the reasons which prompted the Select Committee to whom that Bill was referred to make these recommendations.

The Select Committee reported that clauses concerned with compensation which had been inserted should not be regarded as a precedent for future legislation, when circumstances would almost certainly be different; and the Chairman of the Select Committee stated two reasons which had prompted his Committee to take this course. He said that the scheme would result in the disturbance of a particularly valuable type of Welsh culture. I am not quite clear what was meant by that, but, so far as am aware, no outstanding question affecting Welsh culture arises in the proposals for works in this valley. Then the Chairman went on to state the second reason. He said, secondly, that a comparatively large number of people would be displaced in a short time and it would be difficult to rehabilitate them. In the present case this Bill will affect only seventeen agricultural holdings, and the numbers of persons who will be affected must be relatively small compared with the number of persons who were affected by the Tryweryn scheme.

In these circumstances, I should have thought your Lordships might quite safely leave it to the proposed new Authority to act fairly and justly towards persons who are affected by their operations. I submit to your Lordships that the best course we can take this afternoon is to send this Bill to the Select Committee without any special Instruction, with which, after all, the Select Committee may not agree. The Select Committee, as I have said, will have the advantage of hearing the parties, and they are better placed to determine these rather intricate questions of compensation and individual rights than your Lordships are in such a debate as we are having this afternoon. I hope your Lordships will decide not to send this Instruction to the Select Committee, but to leave it to the Committee to deal with it in the way in which they think right after they have heard the parties.

4.20 p.m.


My Lords, I am bound to say that I think the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, made a very powerful case in support of his Motion. I have no quarrel whatsoever with the way in which the noble Lords, Lord Lindgren and Lord Ilford, have objected to this Motion. But I think there is a little more to be said on this matter. I noticed that the noble Lord the Lord Chairman, from a great height of neutrality, poured quite a lot of cold water on this Motion. I think there is something more in this Motion than would appear from the speeches of the three noble Lords.

The Bill to which this Motion relates is a Bill which has rightly been given a Second Reading by this House (it is now in Committee upstairs) and we all recognise it as a step in the right direction, a direction projected in the Water Resources Bill, which is now going through your Lordships' House. I am bound to say, in fairness to the authorities promoting the Clywedog Bill, that they were at great pains to win the support of the local authorities concerned. They were careful in their approaches and have won, as the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, said, the support of the Montgomeryshire County Council and the Newtown and Llanidloes Rural District Council. But what we are asked to do by this Motion is to try to ensure, as I see it, that those displaced from their farms shall have adequate and, indeed, generous compensation for the loss of their property and their livelihood. I would stress the word "generous", for if the compensation decided upon by the Authority under Clause 33 of the Bill rests only on the financial returns to the farmer from his holding, then in my opinion the compensation is bound to be inadequate.

The area involved is just outside that part of Wales which was the subject of the Mid-Wales Investigation Report of 1955. In Appendix O of that Report we are given what is called: an economic description of eight case-study farms in the reference area. The first-mentioned of these studies is of a small livestock rearing farm in the relatively better land found in the Eastern part of the area. That is the nearest point to the farms to be covered by the Clywedog Reservoir. The net farm income for the year ended March, 1954, from this farm of 80 acres, is shown to be £399, and from that sum there is a deduction of £395 as the value of the labour of the farmer and his wife, leaving an enterprise net profit of £4 per annum. If the farmers in the area to be flooded by this reservoir are to be compensated on the basis of that similar enterprise profit, then the amount of the compensation is bound to be a derisory figure. But, my Lords, we all know in this House that farming is so much more than just a profit-making enterprise. It is a way of life. Parliament has recognised that fact, at any rate since the passing of the Agriculture Act, 1947. It is considered to be a part of our national life which is well worth while preserving; and, indeed, the nation pays vast amounts in order to ensure that this way of life is preserved to the nation.

The Report I have previously mentioned says this of the countryman in Wales: His devotion and allegiance to the land is peculiarly local; loyalties were originally directed to the men of his comute, since transferred to the men of his parish and largely men of his own kith and kin. The limitations of the social set-up decreed that he was above all largely in social isolation and much anchored to his own land. Despite the fact that there are few people involved in this scheme, I believe that these words apply. These words are setting out something which is to be called the culture of mid-Wales. I am not afraid of this term. I must admit that I would not accept the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, as a judge of what might be Welsh culture. The anchors of the farmers concerned by this Bill are to be rudely wrenched up. Those are the intangible factors for which some way of adequately compensating must be found—adequately compensating not just for the financial side but for these other things that I have mentioned. I know the difficulty of expressing that in the compensation clauses of a Bill, but if the Select Committee can find a way it must be done.

I do not think we should run away from the precedent created by the Liverpool Corporation Act. They considered this matter, and the circumstances were similar. They inserted in that Act a clause which I should regard as being reasonably satisfactory for inclusion in this Bill by a Committee upstairs. If the Committee cannot find such words, or are not prepared to put them in the Bill, then I would say to the Clywedog Reservoir Authority that they must be made aware of the feeling of this House in this matter. Passing this Motion will do just that. It will make the authority aware that we do not think only in terms of the financial aspects of this but also of the cultural and other aspects I have mentioned. The noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, said that it does not matter very much whether this Motion is passed or not. I must say that I believe this House exists to express opinions, and I am hoping that it will express an opinion this afternoon in favour of the Motion and in support of the farmers who will be disturbed by the creation of this great reservoir.

There is just one further point that I should like to make: it is one that I have tried repeatedly to make on the Water Resources Bill. Wales has the water, and nothing must be done to exacerbate Welsh feelings on this matter of collecting it for use outside Wales. My plea in this connection was recognised to some extent by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, who was in charge of the Water Resources Bill, and he included the words which I thought favourable to this aspect of the matter on the question of the Board to be set up under the Water Resources Bill. I believe that compensation based only on financial considerations would strengthen those forces in Wales which are in opposition to the construction of these vast reservoirs in this country. That is something we do not want to do. The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, remarked yesterday on the stupidity of allowing our lives to be dominated by the idea of "keeping up with the Joneses". I agree with him but in this matter of water I think it would be a very wise policy if we were to "keep in with the Joneses", and this is something we have to do in this connection, and can very well do by passing this Motion this afternoon. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, when he comes to make his intervention, will not express hostility to the Motion. If he cannot support it, I hope that at any rate he will have towards this Motion a really benevolent neutrality. But my hope is that your Lordships will pass this Motion this afternoon, as I certainly regard it as one of some importance.

4.31 p.m.


My Lords, the passage of this Bill is a matter of great importance to a very large area in the West Midlands, and as two of the promoters of this Bill come from Shropshire—the Shrewsbury Corporation and the East Shropshire Water Board—I thought I might say a short word on the Bill. The first thing I want to say, and this is to the noble Lord, Lord Champion, is that we in Shropshire are farmers, too. We are perfectly well aware of the conditions of farming, arid although we have not such things as hendres and hafods we come fairly near it in South Shropshire. Therefore, I think I can safely speak for Shropshire, and almost equally safely speak for the rest of the West Midlands, in telling the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and this House that I am certain that it will be the wish of every authority which is down as a Promoter of this Bill to see that the farmers in Montgomeryshire get full and fair compensation for the loss that they have suffered.

Having said that, I have to go on and take the point which my noble friend, Lord Merthyr, raised. Certainly the Shropshire authorities and, I imagine, the others could not agree for one moment to the implied proposition in the Motion that matters as they now stand, or the arrangements for compensation as they are now proposed, would result in injustice to anybody. One could not accept that, and therefore I should prefer that noble Lords should follow the advice of my noble friend, Lord Merthyr, and take the line put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, in which I understood him to say that in his opinion the existing arrangements for compensation in matters of this kind and the precedents which existed were already sufficiently ample to make it possible for the Committee to deal with these matters. If this is so, I am sure that the Committee and everyone else can be certain that those to whom it will fall to pay compensation will not be backward in paying the fullest compensation that it is decided is due to the farmers in Montgomeryshire.

But I would add that it would be a great disaster if anything happened in the course of this Bill to prevent its passage into law. It is most urgently needed for the area in Shropshire and the West Midlands which it is designed to serve. Shrewsbury Town is desperately short of water, and, as everybody knows, we in Shropshire are committed to a New Town of Dawley. The supply of water for that proposed New Town depends on the passage of this new Bill. We in Shropshire are most anxious to make Dawley a success, and it is clearly our business to see that those who come into the New Town are able to wash.

Therefore, I would repeat, none of the Promoters wish to do anything other than pay full and fair compensation to the Welsh farmers. On the other hand, we do not agree that the present arrangements are defective for that purpose, and, for the reasons I have given, we attach extreme importance to the passage of this Bill into law at the earliest possible moment.

4.34 p.m.


My Lords, I want to say nothing about the merits of this Bill, which has already received a Second Reading from this House, nor do I want to enter into the question of whether or not the compensation provisions are adequate. My only purpose in intervening is that I wish to repeat what I have said on many other occasions, that I think it is most undesirable that this House should give an Instruction to a Committee which it has itself set up except in the most exceptional circumstances. So far as I can see, and I have heard what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and others, there are no exceptional circumstances in the case of this Bill which justify this House in intervening to give an Instruction. The particular matters to which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, wishes the Committee to pay special attention are matters to which any Committee is bound to give attention in the normal course of its duties.

The Bill is an opposed Bill and the views of the National Farmers' Union will be expressed. Those are views which, I understand, are particularly the views of the people that the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, wishes to protect. The noble Lord, in an interjection, asked what would happen if the opposition were withdrawn—if the Petition were withdrawn. I imagine that it would be withdrawn only if the opposition were satisfied, because they are representing the very people whom the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, wants to protect.


My Lords, I have argued a good many Instructions in my time and this point about the Instruction is one of the few loopholes the House has got. If an individual or a group petitions, it is a very expensive matter—I do not say that it will be in the case of this Petitioner, but it may be. I have known cases where the Petitioners have been unable to carry on because of the expense, and in that case the Committee never hear these remarkable arguments which are going to be put up, according to the Lord Chairman. That is why the Instruction procedure is part of the procedure of this House and it seems to me a valuable one.


I followed that, but I am dealing with this particular Instruction. The Petition is by the National Farmers' Union, who presumably represent the very people who are affected by this Bill, and I can only conceive of their withdrawing, not through lack of funds, but because they have been satisfied by means of some arrangement in the Bill or otherwise. Therefore it seems to me that it is wholly unnecessary to give the Committee an Instruction of this kind.

I said earlier that I think, generally speaking, that it is undesirable to give Committees Instructions. I would go further and say that I think it is offensive to set up a Committee and instruct them to do the obvious; that is, to do the right thing by the people who are going to be affected by the Bill. It is even less necessary where those people will be represented by counsel, where they have an opportunity of cross-examining witnesses, and where one can be quite sure their case will be fully put. In my view it would be necessary to give such an Instruction only if we were of the opinion that the Committee were inadequate to carry out their duties, or that, apart from the Instructions, they would fail to discharge the obligation which rests upon them. I do not believe that is so; therefore I would resist this Instruction as I would resist any other Instruction, save in the most exceptional circumstances.

4.39 p.m.


My Lords, I want to intervene only briefly to support the Motion of my noble friend Lord Ogmore, purely from the point of view that compensation paid to farmers who are disturbed should be fair and adequate. I would not for a moment enter into the argument which we have heard from eminent noble Lords as to whether an Instruction should or should not be given to a Select Committee, because I should not be qualified to do so; but I have had some experience of compensation paid by local authorities acquiring land for development purposes; and, of course, it is obviously necessary for land to be preserved for water supplies for large towns. I hope, however, that when this matter is being discussed the Committee will give attention to safeguarding the interests of these people, who, probably for many years and sometimes all their lives, have been farming their land. Whatever compensation in money they get will never adequately repay them for the years of hard work they have put into farming their land and trying to do their part as farmers. It is purely on those general principles that I would support the Motion of my noble friend.

4.40 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to say a word about this on two points, one of which my noble friend Lord Silkin has been underlining again. We had, of course, the Ullswater case only about a year ago, and at that time I made a pretty careful study of this problem. It was quite clear that there have been a substantial number of Instructions of this kind, and they have in a number of cases been very effective. While I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that it is a procedure which ought not to be used lightheartedly and frequently, I feel very much in sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, when he says that this is one of the occasions when the House has a possibility of looking at these matters as a whole and giving an Instruction which seems to it to be in the national interest. These Select Committees here, as we who have served on them all know, have very special cases put before them, often supported by very special evidence; and sometimes one has the feeling that the interests of the nation as a whole rather tend to get lost in the woods of the particular interests represented before the Committee.

I felt like adding another Instruction to the one which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has put down—namely, an Instruction in relation to the amenities effect of this Bill. I did not do so because there is an amenity clause there, and no doubt the Committee will pass it. But there are some other aspects of the Bill which do not seem quite to fit in with the amenities clause, or which might be used in such a way as to take away a substantial part of the value of the amenities clause. I have particularly in mind the clause which provides for speedboats and motor-boating generally on this new reservoir, which is going to be a pretty big lake. I calculate that there are only about three lakes in the Lake District which are as large as this reservoir will be when it is completed. At the present time this is a very secluded valley, a charming place frequented by people who want to get away from things like speedboats, which, as anybody who has heard them will know, make a terrible noise and completely destroy any sort of seclusion. I hope that the Committee will consider what is said in this House and that, without any precise Instruction, they will give very special attention to these aspects.

Another aspect is that a completely new road is to be constructed, not as an alternative to a drowned road, right across a hillside. This new road will be a very obvious feature of the landscape and may do harm to it. I think that this Bill no doubt got under way before the Water Resources Bill, to which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore referred, but I hope that it will be the end of these rather specialised efforts by local authorities like Birmingham to stake a claim, as it were, in advance of the general survey which the new Water Resources Board is being given the duty of making so that these matters may be looked at from a national point of view, and not just from the point of view of local interests in the way that has been characteristic of this sort of thing in past years.


My Lords, I would agree with the Lord Chairman that this is really a permissive Instruction, and I think that was intended by the Mover, to draw the Committee's attention to certain things. It has been very useful because it has brought the matter to light. But, of course, it is one of the Committee's duties to see that the people affected are fully compensated: that is what they are there for. But under the extraordinary wording of this Instruction, even if they find that under this Bill as it is now the people affected are fully compensated, the Committee have to insert other provisions. So I hope that the House will not pass this Instruction.


My Lords, before the noble Lord replies, might I refer again to the two points made by the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin? Some of us feel that it would be most unfortunate if it became a tradition that no Instructions of any kind should be given to Committees. I very much sympathise with the way the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, put it: he did not go as far as the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren. But surely if some offensive Instruction were put on the Paper the extent of the offence to this House would soon be seen by the way the Instruction was voted upon in this Chamber. I suggest that an Instruction such as was given in the case of the Manchester Bill, when the fate of Ullswater hung on an Instruction to the Committee, can be very useful, and I am quite sure that if they were unsuitable Instructions this Chamber would deal with them in a proper way.

4.47 p.m.

LORD HASTINGS My Lords, I think I owe it to the House, and in particular to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, to explain why my noble friend, Lord Brecon, is not replying to this Motion, which has been moved by Lord Ogmore with his customary moderation. On the face of things, it would seem as though the question of compensation in the Clywedog Valley must be a matter limited to Welsh interests and therefore to be dealt with by the Minister of State for Welsh Affairs. However, during the discussion we have had it will have become clear to your Lordships that the Clywedog Reservoir Joint Authority Bill affects many authorities outside Wales, as well as some inside. In fact, the Promoters of the Bill are a mixture of local authorities and statutory water undertakers and, when we include the Central Electricity Generating Board as well, they number no fewer than thirteen, most of them operating in England.

That, of course, would not be sufficient reason for my noble friend to refrain from using his persuasive powers on behalf of his compatriots—indeed quite to the contrary—but the matter of compensation which has been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, goes well beyond the particular case in dispute and must, we feel, be treated as a matter of principle affecting compensation values in cases of compulsory acquisition throughout England as well as in Wales. I think your Lordships will appreciate during the course of my reply why my right honourable friend regards the matter in this light, but I thought I ought to explain at the outset why the subject of the noble Lord's Motion is being treated as a matter for the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, and not as Welsh Affairs.

If I may now turn to consideration of the terms of the noble Lord's Motion, I should like to say at once that where-ever land is acquired compulsorily there is almost certain to be some degree of hardship. It is part of the price we pay for progress and for actions taken in the public interest. But there are general laws of compensation designed to meet the normal case, and in the Bill to be considered by the Select Committee there are, in addition, as we have heard, other provisions to reinforce the effects of general legislation. Yet the opening phrase of the Motion (and this has been referred to by Lord Ogmore) seems to imply that the degree of hardship in this case is of an exceptional nature, and this implication is, I think, borne out by the reference a few lines later to the possibility—indeed the probability, as I read it—of the provisions for compensation proving inadequate: accompanied by a clear invitation to the Select Committee to insert further provisions in order to safeguard the interests of the farmers concerned. That this is, in fact, the correct interpretation of the noble Lord's Motion would seem to be confirmed by the Petition of the National Farmers' Union against the Bill; and I think my noble friend the Lord Chairman came to the same conclusion.

It is not my business to examine the merits of the case this afternoon—that will be the duty of the Select Committee—but I think it may be helpful to your Lordships if I elaborate a little upon the present arrangements for compensation and upon the extra provisions proposed in the Bill. Under existing legislation land taken compulsorily is paid for at open market value, and extra payment is made to cover disturbance arising from the purchase. In the present case eighteen farms are affected, all but three of them owner-occupied, but it is my understanding that less than half of them will be seriously affected. The amount of land to be purchased compulsorily is not likely to be a high proportion of the total area. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, mentioned a figure of 700 acres. I do not know whether that is accurate or not. But the fact that it is the best land will perhaps reduce the remainder of each holding affected to an uneconomic unit.

This is where the payment for disturbance, or severance as it is sometimes called, comes to the rescue. Any tenant farmers concerned will, of course, be entitled under the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1948, to not less than one year's and not more than two years' rent, as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. Under Clauses 32 and 33 of the proposed Bill the Joint Authority will, as we have heard, in addition to the statutory obligations just mentioned, have powers enabling them to deal with any special problems of owners or occupiers affected in the Clywedog Valley by making arrangements for their reinstatement on other land where appropriate and paying them reasonable allowances in respect of any loss sustained by reason of their having to quit the land; and regard would be had—I do not think this has been mentioned—to the length of time that an owner or occupier could have expected to have the use of that land—in most cases in this instance that might well have been for ever.

I think it will be of some interest if I remind your Lordships that Clause 33 of this Bill is similar to Section 63 of the Housing Act, 1957, and Section 30 of the Land Compensation Act, 1961, which enable authorities to make discretionary payments to occupiers of business premises acquired in the course of slum clearance redevelopment. Again, as was also mentioned, in order to bring legislation affecting agricultural land into line with these provisions, a clause has been inserted in the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which has just completed its passage through another place and will be having its Second Reading in your Lordships' House next week, allowing public authorities to make payments to mitigate hardship in a similar manner when agricultural land has been acquired under compulsory powers. I think it is a matter of considerable importance that Clause 33 in the proposed Bill is in line with existing legislation and new legislation to be brought in under the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.

When these matters come before the Select Committee there will be full opportunity for those concerned to plead their case, either for or against the Bill, with the help of counsel; and my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government will also be able to make known his views about the general and special laws of compensation involved. The noble Lord who moved this Motion asked what would happen if the Petitioner withdraws before the Select Committee opens its proceedings. He got, I thought, a good answer from the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, who suggested that it would be highly unlikely that the National Farmers' Union would withdraw in this case if they were not completely satisfied. But even if they did withdraw, no Bill can go through your Lordships' House without a Committee stage, and the Bill in that case would go to an Unopposed Bill Committee, to which my right honourable friend would again report and be available for helping the Lord Chairman of Committees in going through this Bill. Further than that, if for any reason the Lord Chairman decided that there was a special case for it, he could recommend to the House that even an unopposed Bill should go to a Select Committee. I hope therefore, that the noble Lord will be satisfied on that point.


My Lords, there is one other point which I think is worth making—namely, that there may be more than one Petition, and the Petition which deals with the point dealt with by the Instruction may be withdrawn. There may be another Petition outstanding. In that event the Bill would not go to an unopposed Bill Committee and, in a sense, the Committee might possibly be cheated out of the chance of dealing with the matter which was the substance of the Instruction. A Petition dealing with that point having been withdrawn, another Petition may remain outstanding.


My Lords, this sounds rather like snakes and ladders—going to the bottom if you get on the wrong square. In point of fact, that would be most unlikely to happen, because the Select Committee would in any case be considering the whole Bill and, as I pointed out, the Lord Chairman always has powers to refer matters to the Select Committee. But of course this Bill is not affected as there is only one Petitioner.

What I have said this afternoon has been by way of clarification only, and I hope I have not impinged, or even appeared to impinge, in any way upon the proceedings of the Select Committee. In this respect, I find myself in something of a difficulty. I always think it is rather difficult for Ministers to reply to this sort of Motion regarding an Instruction because it is rather the tradition of this House that Ministers should not go into the merits of the Bill on these occasions, even though other speakers may have done so—and some of them have. But if I may mention one or two points without transgressing too far, I think it is worth stating that the Liverpool and Tryweryn case is not really comparable with this one, and that two Water Bills, as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, have since been introduced and put into effect with this same clause, without ill-effect.

Finally, to come to some remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Champion, I am quite sure that the Government and the whole House would agree that the essence of this matter is that there should be generous compensation. I must admit that the calculations that the noble Lord adduced were somewhat beyond my ability to follow, and I am not sure they were relevant to the present argument. In regard to his request that I should show benevolent neutrality, of course, as I said, the views of the Ministry which I represent will be put much more fully in respect of the special compensation laws and the general laws involved, not only in this particular case but in so far as they affect the rest of the country as well.

I could not possibly take that argument further this afternoon. Nevertheless, I think I must make clear our feelings upon this particular Instruction, and I trust that I have said enough to convince your Lordships, including the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that there is really no need for his Motion. This point has been made by more than one speaker. I suggest that, on the one hand, it would be difficult for this House to accept that there is a prima facie case of exceptional hardship which justifies an Instruction to the Select Committee to insert additional provisions in the Bill in respect of compensation. On the other hand, I suggest that the existence not only of the general legislation but of the special legislation proposed in the Bill, both of which I have outlined very briefly, must ensure that the whole question of compensation in this particular case will, of necessity, be thoroughly investigated by the Select Committee, and that if after such investigation they feel the compensation provisions of the Bill are inadequate they will undoubtedly say so.

In these circumstances, my Lords, I very much hope that the noble Lord will not press his Motion, but that he will feel that, having aired this subject in your Lordships' House, the Motion will have already served its purpose. Indeed, it would not be surprising to me to learn that that really was the purpose of the noble Lord in introducing this Motion. I note, if I may say so, that the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, managed very successfully to draw the attention of the Select Committee to matters affecting amenity and speedboats, without moving an Instruction at all. Therefore, your Lordships' House is undoubtedly serving a most useful purpose, as indeed it always does in these cases and on many other occasions. I trust that the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, Will withdraw his Motion, which in all the circumstances Her Majesty's Government cannot recommend your Lordships to accept. He can do so without in any way prejudicing the interests of the farmers of Clywedog Valley.

5.2 p.m.


My Lords, I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon on this Instruction, whether they agree with me or not. I am particularly grateful to the Minister who has just replied for the very charming way in which he did so. I am surprised, of course, that he should have cast any aspersions on my intentions. Far be it from me ever to raise anything without an object in view, or, at any rate, the object I presume to have in view. I do not intend to pursue this matter any further because, as the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, quite rightly said, one of my objects has been served. In other words, we have had a very interesting debate, I have listened to most interesting speeches from both sides on this matter, and I feel that it has, to that extent, served part of my purpose. The noble Lord, Lord Ilford, rather took the view that there were only a very few people concerned, but I should have thought that this was an example of how democracy should work. Here the House of Lords—I suppose the oldest debating chamber in the world—has for some two hours been discussing the compensation, the future, of fifteen farmers in a remote part of the country, some of whom cannot speak English very well—nor perhaps can some of us, but at all events English is not their first language. I should have thought that that was a great tribute to democracy. I, for one, do not feel that your Lordships' time has in any way been wasted this afternoon. I believe that the Committee (several members of which are here) will have heard the various arguments for and against the Instruction; the Lord Chairman of the Committee has spoken this afternoon; and I am sure they will take note of what has been said.

I would commend to them particularly the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Champion, which I felt was a very powerful one, concerning the reward which these people get, and hence the compensation they can expect. I feel that the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, did the noble Lord, Lord Champion, less than justice when he pushed aside—


My Lords, I am sorry, but, frankly, I did not absorb the calculations.


The calculations come down to £4, so there was not much to absorb—that was the whole point. However, as I gather the Government are determined to put on the Whips this afternoon, and as the Labour Party are divided on this issue and only the Liberals are united—we are a select, but small, body—it only remains for me to ask your Lordships' permission to withdraw the Motion on the Order Paper.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.