UNEMPLOYMENT (RELIEF WORKS) BILL.

THURSDAY, 25th NOVEMBER, 1920.

815

The Committee consists of the following Members:—

Nicholson, Mr. William (Hants, Petersfield)—(Chairman)

Adair, Rear-Admiral (Glasgow, Shettleston)

Archdale, Mr. (Fermanagh, North)

*Barlow, Sir Montague (Salford, South)

Barrie, Mr. C. C. (Banff)

Bell, Mr. James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)

Blake, Sir Francis (Northumberland, Berwick-upon-Tweed)

Bowyer, Captain (Bucks, Buckingham)

Britton, Mr. (Bristol, East)

*Bull, Sir William (Hammer smith, South)

Campion, Lieut.-Col. (East Sussex, Lewes)

Cayzer, Major (Portsmouth, South)

Davies, Major David (Montgomery)

Dawes, Mr. (Southwark, S.E.)

Doyle, Mr. Grattan (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, N.)

FitzRoy, Captain (Northampton, Daventry)

Ford, Mr. (Edinburgh, North)

Forrest, Mr. (York, W. R., Pontefract)

Gardner, Mr. Ernest (Berks, Windsor)

*Geddes, Sir Eric (Cambridge)

Graham, Mr. William (Edinburgh, Central)

*Green, Mr. Frederick (Leicester, West)

Hailwood, Mr. (Manchester, Ardwick)

Hallas, Mr. (Birmingham, Duddeston)

*Harris, Sir Henry (Paddington, South)

Hayday, Mr. (Nottingham, West)

Hinds, Mr. (Carmarthen, Carmarthen)

Hirst, Mr. (York, W. R., Wentworth)

Hope, Sir Harry (Stirling and Clackmannan, Western)

Hope, Lieut.-Col. Sir John (Midlothian and Peebles, Northern)

Hotchkin, Capt. (Parts of Lindsey, Horncastle)

Howard, Major (West Suffolk, Sudbury)

Jones, Sir Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil, Merthyr)

Jones, Mr. Haydn (Merioneth)

Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander (Kingston-upon-Hull, Central)

M'Guffin, Mr. (Belfast, Shankhill)

*Moreing, Captain (York, E.R., Buckrose)

Morrison, Mr. Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)

*Munro, Mr. (Roxburgh and Selkirk)

Murray, Lieut.-Col. Arthur (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Kincardine and Western)

*Murray, Mr. John (Leeds, West)

*Murray, Major William (Dumfries)

*Neal, -Mr. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

Nicholson, Mr. Reginald (York, W. R., Doncaster)

*O'Grady, Captain (Leeds, South-East)

*Pinkham, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Willesden, West)

Raffan, Mr. (Leigh)

Bees, Captain Tudor- (Devon, Barnstaple)

Royds, Lieut.-Col. (Parts of Kesteven and Rutland, Grantham)

Seddon, Mr. (Stoke-on-Trent, Hanley)

*Sexton, Mr. (St. Helen's)

Short, Mr. Alfred (Wednesbury)

Spencer, Mr. (Nottingham, Broxtowe)

Stanier, Captain Sir Beville (Salop, Ludlow)

Swan, Mr. (Durham, Barnard Castle)

Terrell, Mr. George (Wilts, Chippenham)

Thomas, Sir Robert (Denbigh, Wrexham)

*Thomson, Mr. Trevelyan (Middlesbrough, West)

Townley, Mr. (Bedford, Mid)

Warner, Sir Courtenay (Stafford, Lichfield)

Waterson, Mr. (Northampton, Kettering)

Wheler, Major (Kent, Faversham)

White, Mr. Charles (Derby, Western)

Wigan, Brigadier-General (Berks, Abingdon)

Wignall, Mr. (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)

Williams, Col. Penry (Middlesbrough, East)

Wilson, Lieut.-Col. Murrough (York, W. R., Richmond)

*Wilson, Mr. Tyson (Lancaster, Westhoughton)

Wintringham, Mr. (Parts of Lindsey, Louth)

Wood, Major Mackenzie (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Central)

Young, Mr. Robert (Lancaster, Newton)

*Added in respect of the Unemployment (Relief Works) Bill.

Mr. R. P. COLOMB, Committee Clerks.

Mr. E. A. FELLOWES Committee Clerks.

816
817 STANDING COMMITTEE E Thursday, 25th November, 1920

[MR. WILLIAM NICHOLSON in the Chair.]

UNEMPLOYMENT (RELIEF WORKS) BILL
[OFFICIAL REPORT.] CLAUSE 1.
—(Provision for facilitating the compulsory acquisition of, and entry on, land required for works of public utility. 53 & 54 Vict. c. 70).

1. Subject as hereinafter provided, the enactments relating to the compulsory acquisition of land for the purposes of Part III. of the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890, by the Minister of Health and local authorities, and the enactments relating to entry on land acquired for those purposes shall apply to the compulsory acquisition of land for the purpose of works of public utility and to the entry on land acquired for that purpose, as if those enactments were herein re-enacted with the necessary adaptations and modifications and with the substitution of the appropriate Government Department for the Minister of Health and of the local authority having power to execute a work of public utility for the local authority within the meaning of the said Part III.: Provided that—

  • the powers conferred by this Section shall not be exercised except where it is certified by the Minister of Labour that, having regard to the exceptional amount of unemployment existing in any area, it is desirable that the provisions of this Section should be put into operation with a view to the speedy provision of employment for unemployed persons from that area; and
  • no order authorising the compulsory acquisition of any land for any purpose shall be made under any enactment as applied by this Section, unless an order authorising the compulsory acquisition of that land for that purpose could have been made under some enactment in force at the commencement of this Act.
  • The SECRETARY for SCOTLAND (Mr. Munro): I beg to move to leave out the 818 words "enactments relating to," and to insert "provisions of the Housing, Town Planning, &c., Act, 1909, and of the Housing, &c., Act, 1919, which relate to the procedure for." This Amendment has been put down for the purpose of meeting some criticism which was directed on the Second Heading of the Bill to the vagueness of the phrase "enactments relating to." It was suggested that there might be a Schedule setting out what the enactments were. On consideration we thought that unnecessary, but the only two enactments which really concern the matter are those which are included within the ambit of this Amendment.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further Amendment made: Leave out the words "the enactments relating" ["and the enactments relating to entry"].—[Mr. Munro.]

    Mr. MUNRO: I beg to move, after the word "utility" ["works of public utility"] to insert the words "and of land which may be acquired in connection with any such works." The purpose of this Amendment is to make it clear that the procedure under the Bill is applicable for the purpose of acquiring 220 yards on each side of a road under Section 11, Sub-section (1) of the Development Act of 1909. This is very familiar procedure. The Ministry of Health thinks it desirable and we agreed.

    Mr. TYSON WILSON: Would this enable a municipal authority or county council to acquire land for bridges or anything of that kind in connection with carrying on works of public utility?

    Mr. MUNRO: I think not. This Amendment is limited to arterial roads.

    Colonel PENRY WILLIAMS: What will the municipal authority do with the land? Are they to hold it, speculate with it, sell it, or use it for utility works?

    The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of TRANSPORT (Mr. Neal): The object of the provision in the Act of 1909 is one which I think will commend itself to hon. Members. The making of a road through vacant land almost essentially improves very much to the value of a land on either side of the road, and it is for the purpose of acquiring that 819 added value for the authority or the Government Department, or both, who are responsible for making the road and financing it that the power is given to acquire land to a depth of 220 yards on either side so that they may get the full betterment which arises from the road they are making. The Amendment is intended to make it clear that that shall not be lost under the procedure of the Act.

    Colonel WILLIAMS: The hon. Gentle-man has not answered my point. I want to know what they are going to do with the land. Are they to be in the position of speculators holding the land to sell it at an increased value or are they going to use it for housing purposes? I think it very improper that we should give authority to the local authority to act as land speculators.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Mr. HALLAS: I beg to move to leave out paragraph (a). The object of this Amendment is to prevent the great centralisation of power in the hands of the Labour Ministry that this paragraph provides. We think the local authority is fit to decide as to whether or not action should be taken under this Bill, and we prefer that that should be the case.

    Mr. MUNRO: My hon. Friend desires, I understand, to delete the provision in the Bill which requires a certificate from the Ministry of Labour as a condition precedent to putting the Clause into operation. I suggest that this is a reasonable proposal. The Bill is conferring quite exceptional and unusual powers. There ought, I think, to be some protection before these are put into operation. I cannot conceive any more appropriate protection than that afforded by the Ministry of Labour, which has the fullest information at its disposal with regard to unemployment in all areas, and therefore I suggest that the Committee should adhere to the provision of the Bill.

    Mr. HAYDAY: Some years ago during previous periods of great unemployment throughout the country, similar powers were in the hands of the President of the Local Government Board, and were used so arbitrarily that before permission was granted to carry out such 820 works, for which the Government provided money, during the period of distress the President of the Local Government Board insisted upon certain well-defined satisfaction being given to him and the whole power was there notwithstanding the fact that keen distress prevailed in many industrial centres of the country. We feel that it is not merely a matter of the Ministry of Labour certifying or issuing a certificate for permission to go on, but we are afraid it will give power into the hands of the Minister of Labour even to decline to issue unless he as an individual feels that the state of the unemployment market in the area is so very acute. We feel that the local authority should be the best judge of that. We should like, while perhaps it would not be quite the thing to strike the paragraph out altogether, to see it somewhat modified so that the opinions expressed by the local authority or any towns meeting in any locality where the unemployment is great should be the best guide and that it should not be upset by the Minister of Labour.

    Mr. NEAL: I quite appreciate the point of view of the hon. Member, but I think upon further reflection he will realise that it is not desirable for this paragraph to be struck out. The Bill does not in any sense derogate from the existing powers of local authorities. They will retain all their present rights of dealing with unemployment in their area. But the object of the Bill is expedition, and if you had to wait for the calling of meetings of local authorities and matters of that kind you might Lose the very time the Bill is intended to save. The Minister of Labour has his finger upon the pulse of employment throughout the whole land, and when it is found that unemployment is present in such a way as to make it necessary for extremely speedy powers to be applied for the taking of land, this Bill comes into operation to hasten the proceedings, and I cannot help thinking that to put that power in the hands of any other body or person might be to have exactly the opposite effect.

    Mr. MUNRO: Perhaps it might be possible to meet the hon. Member's point. I should like to consider before Report but I see no present objection to inserting the words, after "Minister of Labour," "after consultation with the local authority."

    821

    Mr. T. WILSON: Could not the right hon. Gentleman also add to that the words "and with the Minister of Labour"?

    Mr. MUNRO: I will consider that sug gestion.

    Mr. HAYDAY: It will act both ways, of course.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    The following Amendment stood on the Paper in the name of Mr. Bell: In paragraph (a), after the word "where" ["except where"], insert the words "a resolution in favour has been passed by a town's meeting or where."

    Mr. BELL: After what has been said on the last Amendment, I do not intend to move this Amendment.

    Mr. WILSON: I beg to move, in paragraph (a), to leave out the word "exceptional." We look upon this word with a great amount of suspicion. One person, or a number of persons, might call a certain percentage of employment "exceptional," while another body might say it was not "exceptional." We would rather have the Clause without the word "exceptional."

    Mr. MUNRO: I do not think that the materiality of this word is so great as my hon. Friend suggests, and I do not think there is any ground for the suspicion which he harbours as to the use of the word. He speaks about different bodies taking different views about what is exceptional, but here we are dealing with the Minister of Labour. He is not bound by the views of any local authority. He forms his opinion of what is exceptional, and if my hon. Friend trusts the Minister of Labour, I see no objection to the word "exceptional." I hope, in these circumstances, he will not press the Amendment.

    Mr. WILSON: That brings up the point that I mentioned before, namely, that everything is left in the hands of the Minister of Labour. We are of opinion that the local authority or even a special Committee set up in a Municipality, should have the power to approach the Minister of Labour and to say whether in their opinion unemployment in their district is exceptional. If it is left to the Minister of Labour, without the word "exceptional," he will deal with the matter in the same way that he would 822 if the word is left in the Clause. Therefore, with the object of getting the fullest possible information in regard to the state of unemployment in any district, the word "exceptional" ought to be left out. With all deference to the Minister of Labour, I say that the Committees and Secretaries of our trades unions in our big districts know better what is the state of unemployment in their district than the Minister of Labour.

    Sir COURTENAY WARNER: I hope the Government will stick to their point. The procedure of the Ministry of Labour is to consult, through their advisory committees, trades unions as well as anybody else in the district. I am chairman of one of the advisory committees of the Ministry of Labour, and we always get the opinion of the trades unions in the district. On such a subject as this we should be consulted by the Ministry of Labour. There are cases where if you overrule the Minister's decision by a local body there may be great extravagance on the part of the Councils. We cannot afford even one extravagant body having the power to borrow Government money. There is no doubt that the trades unions are very carefully consulted on these questions.

    Lieut.-Colonel PINKHAM: On every advisory committee the trades unions are represented. I happen to be chairman of an advisory committee, one of the largest in the kingdom, on which there are twelve employers, and twelve employés, and every one of the employés are trade unionists. They ought to know what is right in the district.

    Mr. SEXTON: Not always.

    Lieut.-Colonel PINKHAM: I am talking about my own.

    Mr. WIGNALL: I am not distrusting the Minister of Labour, but I am distrusting the word "exceptional." Some of us have had years of experience in dealing with these matters. Some of us have served on Committees, and are still serving, and our object is to prevent the possibility of a reactionary part of a Council making capital out of this word. We want to prevent unemployment reaching the destitution stage. We want to deal with it before it reaches the starvation point. My experience goes to prove that very often when unemployment is acute nothing is done of a practical character, because it is said: "It has not 823 reached a bad stage yet." With this word "exceptional" in the Bill, influences can be brought to bear upon the Minister of Labour to the effect that the unemployment is just above normal or slightly below normal, and that it has not reached the exceptional stage. The word is capable of being construed wrongly. We say that anything that is above normal and tends to show that there is unemployment and the need for its being

    Division No. 1.] AYES
    Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S. Hinds, John Neal, Arthur
    Barlow, Sir Montague Moreing, Captain Algernon H. Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)
    Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Morrison, Hugh Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles
    Ford, Patrick Johnston Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.
    Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.) Murray, John (Leeds, West) Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)
    Harris, Sir Henry Percy Murray, Major William (Dumfries)
    NOES
    Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk) Sexton, James Wignall, James
    Hallas, Eldred Spencer, George A. Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)
    Hayday, Arthur

    Mr. T. WILSON: I beg to move, to leave out paragraph (b). I move this Amendment because nobody we have consulted seems to understand what the paragraph means. If the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill can explain it in simpler language than is provided in the drafting of the Clause, we may not press the Amendment to a division In a Bill of this kind the language ought to be the simplest and the clearest.

    Mr. MUNRO: My hon. Friend has made a reasonable and fair request. I confess that I found the words exceedingly puzzling. I think the purpose of the words becomes apparent when one looks into it. If the Committee will look at the title of the Bill they will see that it is a Bill not to confer new power for the acquisition of land, but in order to "make better provision for the employment of unemployed persons by facilitating the acquisition of, and entry on, land required for works of public utility." In other words, this Clause provides that the Bill shall not confer any new power to acquire land. All that the Bill does is to provide that the powers which already exist can be exercised more expeditiously for the purpose of securing land or applying relief to unemployment. The whole purpose of the Bill is to expedite matters, but not to confer new powers, and this section does that in language which is appropriate though obscure.

    824

    dealt with ought to be provided for. I hope the Government will withdraw this word, because its withdrawal does not take away from the Minister the powers which he can exercise when it is time to take the action contemplated.

    Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

    The Committee divided: Ayes, 17; Noes, 7.

    Mr. WILSON: In the interests of economy it would have been wise to have put in two lines saying that the local authorities cannot acquire land under this Bill. This Clause will puzzle the town clerks of many municipalities, and it will waste the time of committees who have to deal with the matter. Under the circumstances, after the explanation, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Mr. MUNRO: I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, to insert the words "and where an enactment in force at the commencement of this Act, which authorises the compulsory acquisition of land for any purpose for which land has been authorised to be acquired compulsorily by an order made under this Act, contains a provision that the arbitrator in determining the amount of any disputed compensation shall have regard to the extent to which the remaining and contiguous lands and hereditaments belonging to the same proprietor may be benefited by the proposed work for which the land is authorised to be acquired, that provision shall have effect as respects land authorised to be acquired compulsorily by the said order. This Amendment is moved in order to apply the betterment provisions in the schedule of the Development Act, 1909. They are not applicable under the procedure applied by the Bill. It is suggested by the Ministry of Health that those provisions ought to be applied, and we are in agreement with that view. The purpose is the purpose explained by my hon. Friend 825 (Mr. Neal) when dealing with the 220 yards on each side of the road.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Mr. SPENCER: I beg to move, after the word last added, to insert a new Sub-section— (2) Where it is certified by the Ministry of Labour that it is advisable that the provisions in this section should be put into operation it shall be the duty of the local authority for the area to exercise the powers conferred by this section and, in the event of the failure of the local authority to exercise those powers, the provisions of this section may be enforced by mandamus.

    Sir W. BULL: Is it proposed to acquire the land first, and to compensate afterwards?

    Mr. MUNRO: Yes.

    Sir W. BULL: You Lake straight away. You do not enter into any negotiation over the matter, but proceed to make the road, and compensate afterwards.

    Mr. MUNRO: Yes. I hope that my hon. Friend will not press his Amendment. It is extremely difficult to accept. The Clause as it stands is permissive. My hon. friend wants to make it mandatory. I am surprised, after what was said a few minutes ago about the Ministry of Labour, to find that it is proposed to make the Ministry of Labour supreme over the local authorities. I thought that my hon. friend trusted the local authorities rather than the Ministry of Labour. They now propose to set up a bureaucracy to rule the local authorities I do not know about English local authorities, but Scottish local authorities would not stand for a moment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    CLAUSE 2.
    —Contribution by local authorities to works outside their area.

    2.—(1) With a view to the provision of employment for the unemployed persons in their area, a local authority may, subject to the approval of the Minister of Health, enter into agreements with any Government department or local authority by whom any work of public utility is being, or is about to be, constructed for the payment of a contribution by that authority towards the expenses which may be incurred in carrying out that work, and any two or more local authorities may, subject to the like approval, make schemes with a view to providing for the employment of the unemployed persons in their areas on works of public utility and 826 may be any such schemes make arrangements as to the manner in which the expenses incurred in connection with the works are to be defrayed. (2) A local authority shall have power, with the approval of the Minister of Health, to borrow money for the purposes of any agreement entered into or any scheme made by the authority under this section.

    Mr. HAYDAY: I beg to move at the end of Sub-section (1) to insert a new Sub-section— "(2) Any person employed on a work of public utility under this Act shall be entitled to rates of wages and hours of labour not less favourable than those commonly recognised by employers and trade unions in the trade in the district in which the work is carried out, and in the absence of such recognised wages and hours such person shall be entitled to those recognised or prevailing in the nearest district in which the general industrial circumstances are similsr." One could talk at length about this Amendment, but if there is any likelihood of its being accepted one can be very brief. We are most anxious that the Bill should leave Committee as soon as possible, in view of the special circumstances now prevailing in the industrial world, so that we may have increased facilities speedily for the absorption into productive employment of those who are at present unemployed on account of the bad state of trade. We have heard from the representative of the Government that the mere opening up of the arterial roads will improve considerably the value of the surrounding lands. In 1895 there was considerable outcry because relief works were mostly subject to charitable contributions, and the conditions prevailing for the employment of the unemployed at that time were such that there was a large margin of difference as between the then established standard rates of wage for similar kinds of work, and the amount that was paid to the unfortunate unemployed people who were taken on the relief works. In 1904, immediately after the South African War, when the State took a larger degree of responsibility for the matter, there was very little friction, because in the majority of instances where the work was of a character similar to that which is now proposed, the then recognised rates and hours were observed. All that we ask is that those who are employed on these works shall have their wages and conditions of work regulated by the customary or standard rates prevailing in the particular areas.

    827

    Mr. MUNRO: I have a large amount of sympathy with the view which my hon. Friend has expressed. I do not doubt that speaking generally the wages paid would be of the character which he desires. But I have great difficulty here and now in accepting an Amendment of this kind imposing that necessity without any exception at all, or any elasticity so far as local authorities are concerned in distinguishing between different cases. There might be cases in which it would not be justifiable to pay standard wages. All I can suggest to my hon. friends with regard to an Amendment, raising so large a question of principle, and put in so wide and sweeping a form, which I have only seen a few minutes ago, is that I will look into the matter before the Report stage, and if there is any technical difficulty in an Amendment of this kind, because it comes up on Report stage, I will, if it is necessary, have the Bill re-committed.

    Mr. SEXTON: This Bill, though called a Relief Bill, will in exceptional circumstances apply to men who are members of trade organisations. The difficulty will be in that case that you will not get a man, no matter how hard up he is, belonging to a trade organisation to work for less than the district rate. He will be on the unemployment list, either through the trade unions or the Labour Exchange. If he does not agree to work at less than the trade union rate, he will be struck off the unemployed benefit. There may be cases in which physically the man is not worth the money, and I suppose that those are the cases which the right hon. Gentleman has in mind. But you are dealing with the bulk of men who are good men doing productive work, and they ought to get the district rate.

    Mr. HAYDAY: In view of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman we are disposed to withdraw our Amendment, it being clearly understood that if there are any difficulties, the Secretary for Scotland will get the Bill re-committed, in order that we might in the light of any further enquiries which he will make, further discuss the matter.

    The CHAIRMAN: Before this Amendment is withdrawn, I should point out that I think it ought not to come into this Clause. If the hon. Member will put it down as a new Clause, on the Report stage, that would be its proper place.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    828

    Amendments made: At the end of Subsection (2) insert the words "in the case of the council of a county in the same manner as for the purposes specified in Section sixty-nine of the Local Government Act, 1888, in the case of the council of a metropolitan borough under the Metropolis Management Acts, 1855 to 1893, in the case of the Common Council of the City of London under the City of London Sewers Acts, 1848 to 1897, and in the case of any other council in the same manner as for the purposes of the Public Health Acts, 1875 to 1908."

    At the end of Sub-section (2) insert a new Sub-section— (3) In this section the expression "local authority" means the council of a county, or a county borough, or of an urban or rural district:

    Provided that for the purposes of the application of the provisions of this Section to the administrative county of London, the local authorities shall be the London County Council, the councils of metropolitan boroughs, and the Common Council of the City of London.—[Mr. Munro.]

    Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    CLAUSE 3.
    —(Interpretation and saving.)

    (1)In this Act the expression "work of public utility" means the construction or improvement of roads or other means of transit, the widening or other improvement of waterways, the construction of sewers or waterworks, the reclamation or drainage of land, and any work connected with any of the aforesaid works.

  • If any question arises in any case as to what department is the appropriate Government department within the meaning of this Act, the question shall be referred to and determined by the Treasury.
  • The provisions of this Act shall be in addition to and not in substitution for any power of any Government department or local authority to enter upon or acquire any land for the purposes of any work of public utility.
  • The following Amendment stood on the Paper in the name of Mr. T. Thomson: In Sub-section (1), after the word "construction," insert the words "of new arterial or other roads, such construction to include the acquisition of land to a maximum depth of two hundred and twenty yards on either side from the centre of such roads."

    The CHAIRMAN: The Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Middlesbrough has already been covered by an Amendment inserted by the Government in the first Clause.

    829

    Mr. THOMSON: Does it allow the local authority to acquire land to that extent— the 220 yards on either side of the road, the same as in the Development Act of 1909?

    Mr. MUNRO: Yes.

    The CHAIRMAN: That was explained by the Secretary for Scotland before the hon. Member came in.

    Major W. MURRAY: I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), after the word "roads," to insert the word "railways." There was a great deal said in the House upon the definition of the words "public utility" in this Bill. As far as the means of transport are concerned, I would like to know whether it is intended to include railways? I take it that, under the Clause, it does not do so any more than it includes aeroplanes. I represent a constituency where there is at present a very general condition of unemployment, owing to the gradual closing of the Government factory at Gretna. Now that that factory is being almost entirely closed, not only does unemployment affect the men employed in the factory itself, but the whole community round about. People connected with shops, businesses, public services and everything of that kind, arc dependant upon the factories, and are very much affected by the unemployment which daily threatens to become very much worse. Therefore it is specially important that any scheme of public assistance, which can be considered in connection with a community of this kind, should be considered. For instance, a scheme which has been put forward by the community itself for the altering of about half a mile of the Gretna and Longtown railway. That would improve greatly the employment in the district, and would find work for about 100 men.

    Mr. NEAL: I am afraid the Amendment is not one which the Government can advise the Committee to accept. As has been said, this Bill does not give any powers which do not already exist for compulsorily acquiring land. Before the Amendment could be effective the Committee would have to be satisfied that there was in existence some compulsory power of acquiring land for the purpose of a railway. I am advised that there is no such power. When a railway wishes to acquire land it has to do it under the 830 special provisions of its own Acts. In addition to that, the compulsory acquisition of land would, I think, have to be by a Government Department or by a local authority, and a railway company does not come within either definition. Even if these matters were cleared out of the way, these words are unnecessary, as they are covered by the general words "or other means of transit." The Government are not oblivious to the difficulties which arise in connection with Gretna Green.

    Mr. SPENCER: Does this include the construction of light railways? Would local authorities have the right, under the Bill, to construct light railways?

    Mr. NEAL: No powers of construction are given by this Bill to anybody; the powers that are conferred are simply the acquisition of land the right to acquire which already exists.

    Major MURRAY: Is there no power whatsoever to extend the meaning of the words "work of public utility" except so far as those words may have been defined in a former case?

    Mr. MUNRO: No. "Works of public utility" are defined in the Clause, and I propose to extend that definition. As has been stated, this Bill confers no new power to acquire land. It facilitates the acquisition of land, but the powers of acquiring that land must already exist.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Mr. MUNRO: I beg to move, in Subsection (1), after the word "water ways," to insert the words "the construction or improvement of harbours." This is an endeavour to meet a criticism on Second Beading by the right hon Member for Ilkeston (Major-General Seely).

    Mr. T. WILSON: Can I assume that this Clause will give the authorities power to put a bridge across a river or anything of that kind to connect two roads?

    Mr. MUNRO: The Amendment has nothing to do with that question, and would not confer such powers. It is a little dangerous to give off-hand a view about a concrete case of the kind, but on the best information I can get I think that case is covered. I am told that the 831 word "roads," as defined in the Act of Parliament, includes bridges. I will look into the question again.

    Sir C. WARNER: Does the Bill give any fresh powers to construct harbours and to spend a great deal of money?

    Mr. MUNRO: The Bill is confined entirely to facilitating the acquisition of land.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Major MURRAY: I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), after the word "water ways," to insert the words "the construction or reconstruction of working-class dwellings." I do not know what powers there may be for acquiring land in connection with working-class dwellings in the Acts referred to in this Bill. If there was any power to reconstruct dwellings an enormous benefit would be conferred on the community to which I have referred, and a great deal of destitution would probably be avoided.

    Mr. NEAL: There is a very elaborate and extensive code of legislation in existence with reference to the housing of the working classes, and we think it would be quite inappropriate, even if it were necessary, to add to this Bill a provision dealing with housing. What we are really doing is borrowing the housing powers and applying them to other works of public utility. Clause 1 of the Bill makes that clear.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Mr. MUNRO: I beg to move, in Subsection (1), after the word "waterworks" to insert the word "afforestation." This also is an endeavour to meet criticism of the Bill on the Second Reading by, I think, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland).

    Amendment agreed to.

    Mr. HALLAS: I beg to move, in Subsection (1), after the word "land" to insert the words "the manufacture of articles for which there may be a need." These words are rather vague. It is conceivable that a local authority in the black country may think it worth while to engage a number of unemployed in 832 levelling the pit mounds. We have in that area some 14 or 15 square miles of land of very little use, and it could be converted into valuable agricultural land with a comparatively small amount of labour. There is also the conversion of boiler and engine-house refuse into concrete slabs and blocks That is work which might be done by the unemployed.

    Mr. MUNRO: My hon. Friend candidly put his finger on the weak spot of his Amendment when he said that it was very vague. "Articles for which there may be a need." Who is to be the judge of the need? I could not accept the Amendment and would ask the hon. Member to consider whether what he desires is not covered by an Amendment which I propose to move later. The Clause as drawn seemed narrow and my Amendment is intended to widen it.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Mr. MUNRO: I beg to move, in Subsection (1), to leave out the words "work connected with any of the aforesaid works" and to insert instead thereof the words "other work, being a work which a local authority has power to execute, which is approved for the purposes of this Act by the appropriate Government Department as a work of public utility." This Amendment will extend considerably the ambit of the Clause and, I am advised, will cover the Amendment last moved and withdrawn by my hon. Friend (Mr. Hallas).

    Sir C. WARNER: I am afraid that this Amendment has the same fault as its immediate predecessor. It may cover almost any work. Supposing you are putting up a building and want cement. You might want to acquire land where cement works are. There is an enormous width. If you wanted to put some iron work in you could give powers to acquire land where the iron stone is to produce the iron. There must be some more definite words than simply "connected." I think "immediately connected" or something of that kind would narrow it a little but it is most tremendously wide. It would give power to buy almost anything in England.

    Mr. MUNRO: My hon. Friend has omitted to notice that the works the Clause applies to are works which the local authority now has power to execute. The 833 ease he put was a case in which the local authority would have power given to it by the Act to do something they had not power to do before. That is not so. The whole Clause is governed by these words, that the local authority must have power to execute the works now. The Bill is strictly limited in two respects. In the first place it gives no power to acquire land which does not exist to-day. In the second place it gives no power to execute works of public utility which does not exist to-day. What it does is to enable the appropriate Government Department to recognise as works of public utility certain works which are being carried out by a local authority. The local authority must have the power to carry out the works altogether independently of the Bill.

    Rear-Admiral ADAIR: Would this enable the Corporation of Glasgow to buy up a derelict brick field in the vicinity and start working it, or would it enable them to buy up a quarry and to quarry stone, which is wanted for housing now.

    Mr. MUNRO: It would certainly not enable them to do so for the reason I have just stated. If they have power to do it to-day they would have power to do it in the future. The Bill confers no power on them which they do not possess at this moment. If they have power to acquire a brick field to-day they could acquire it. The Bill would then step in and enable the local authority to regard that as a work of public utility which would come within the sweep of this method. No new powers are conferred by the Bill.

    Mr. T. WILSON: We welcome the Amendment. We think it widens the provision of the Bill, and we are also satisfied that no local authority will go very far in the direction my hon. Friend is afraid they will do. I am quite satisfied that the powers given to the local authorities by this Amendment will not be abused by any local authority in the county.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    CLAUSE (4).
    —(Application to Scotland and Ireland.)

    (1)In the application of this Act to Scotland references to the Scottish Board of Health and to the Secretary for Scotland shall be substituted for the references in Sections one and two respectively of this Act to the Minister of Health.

    834

    In the application of this Act to Ireland references to the Local Government Board for Ireland shall be substituted for references to the Minister of Health.

    Amendment made: Leave out the words "and to the Secretary for Scotland shall be substituted for the references in Section 1 and 2 respectively of this Act," and insert instead thereof the words "shall be substituted for references."— [Mr. Munro.]

    Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    NEW CLAUSE.
    —(Power to enter or to acquire land for construction and improvement of roads.)

    (1) If it appears to the Minister of Labour that immediate action is necessary for the purpose of dealing with unemployment and that land cannot be acquired under the foregoing provisions of this Act with such expedition as the case requires he may certify accordingly, and thereupon the Minister of Transport (in this Section referred to as "the Minister") or, with the approval of the Minister, any local authority shall, subject to the provisions of this Section, have power forthwith to enter upon and take possession of any such land as may be required for or in connection with the construction of any arterial road, being a road which the Minister or the local authority, as the case may be, has power to construct or required by the local authority for the improvement of any road, with a view to the employment of unemployed persons in the construction of the road. Provided that nothing in the foregoing provision shall authorise the Minister or any local authority to enter on any permanent building or structure, or to enter upon or take possession of any land unless that land could, under some enactment in force at the commencement of this Act, have been authorised to be acquired compulsorily for, or in connection with, the construction or improvement of a road. (2) Before entering on any land under this Act the Minister or local authority shall give seven days' notice in writing of their intention so to do to the owner and occupier of the land. A notice for the purposes of this provision may be served either—

  • by delivering it to, or leaving it at the usual or last known place of abode of, the person on whom it is to be served; or
  • by sending it by post in a prepaid letter addressed to that person at his usual or last known place of abode; or
  • by delivering it to some person on the premises or, if there is no person on the premises who can be so served, by affixing it on some conspicuous part of the premises; 835 and any such notice may be addressed by the description of the "owner" or the "occupier" of the premises (naming them) without further name or description.
  • Where the Minister or a local authority enter upon any land in pursuance of this Section they shall by virtue of this Section have power to acquire the land compulsorily, and shall, as soon as may be after entering on the land, serve notice under Section eighteen of The Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, of their intention to take the land and shall add to the notice a statement that they have entered on the land in pursuance of this Act, and shall in all respects be liable as if they had given such notice on the date of entering on the land. The power conferred by this Section to enter on land may, save as hereinbefore in this Section provided, be exercised without notice to or the consent of any person and without compliance with the provisions of Sections eighty-four to ninety of The Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, but such entry shall be without prejudice to the liability to pay compensation for the land and interest thereon as from the date on which entry is made, such compensation and interest to be ascertained in accordance with the provisions of The Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act. 1919.— [Mr. Munro.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    Mr. MUNRO: I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time." I apologise sincerely for not having put this down sooner, but circumstances precluded the possibility of doing so. The view of the London County Council has throughout been that the provisions of the Bill were inadequate to cope with the emergency of unemployment in London, and my hon. Friend (Sir H. Harris) on the Second Reading commented upon its inadequacy, and read a Resolution which had been passed by the County Council in the sense I have mentioned. Yesterday morning a deputation from the London County Council waited upon the Government and represented that view. It was carefully considered in the course of the day, and last evening we came to certain conclusions which are embodied in this new Clause. It is a very much stronger Clause than Clause 1, to which it is supplementary. It enables a local authority to enter on land at seven days' notice and to acquire it compulsorily, subject to certain safeguards. I hope the Committee will regard the safeguards as adequate. The first is that there must be a certificate from the Minister of Labour before this procedure is put into 836 operation. The second is that notice must be given not only to the occupier but also to the owner of the land. The third limitation is that the Clause only applies to arterial roads, and therefore comes within the ambit of one Ministry only, namely, the Minister of Transport. A further safeguard is that no permanent buildings can be taken under the powers of the Clause, arid further that no new powers are conferred by the Clause. It is simply an acceleration of the existing powers. The difference between this Clause and Clause 1 is that under Clause 1 we are advised that there may be a considerable expenditure of time in making the necessary arrangements to acquire land compulsorily—I think my hon. Friend on the Second Reading said possibly 28 days. The London County Council, having regard to the acute problem of unemployment with which they are faced, think that procedure is too dilatory to be satisfactory, and they have urged very strongly upon the Government that there should be, so to speak, an emergency Clause in the Statute. That is the Clause I am now moving. It is not alternative to the other Clause. It is supplementary to it, and it enables the Minister of Labour to certify that in particular circumstances an emergency has arisen which justifies the more expeditious and drastic adoption of measures which are included in this Clause as compared with Clause 1. I hope the Committee will agree, recognising the acuteness and gravity of the problem of unemployment, that the proposals we now put forward are by no means extravagant, but are better fitted than those originally included in the measure to meet the emergency with which we are faced.

    Sir HENRY HARRIS: As I raised this question on the Second Reading, I desire to thank the Government for having met the views I put forward on behalf of the London County Council. I think possibly the County Council got a little too excited over the matter, because I feel quite sure the Government, after what they said on the Second Reading, were prepared to consider a suitable Amendment in Committee. On the other hand, the unemployment question is a very urgent one in London. The Prime Minister referred the unemployed to the County Council, and therefore a very great responsibility has been thrust upon that Council. There- 837 fore they feel that it is a very serious position that they might have to wait 28 days, or even more, before they could get possession of the land which they need for these arterial roads, and certainly a great deal of blame, if that were the case, would be cast on the County Council. I understand the practical effect of the Clause is that the Council will be able to get possession of the land in seven days, instead of 28, or even more. No doubt this is rather a strong proposal, and, as an old Conservative, I might in former days have looked upon it with some suspicion, but I think if there is a case where emergency powers are required it is a case where we are dealing with unemployed ex-service men who have fought in the War, and it is intolerable that they should have to wait for work which is available for them, and therefore I hope the Committee will support the Clause.

    Mr. MUNRO: The hon. Member made an interesting reference to the County Council. It may help the Committee if he will tell me whether I am right in supposing that there is a Conservative majority upon the County Council to-day.

    Sir H. HARRIS: That is so, and on this matter, for the first time in their 838 history, the Council was absolutely unanimous.

    Captain BOWYER: We have had no chance of examining this new Clause, and, being new to the game, the examination of a Clause like this is a complicated task for a new Member. All I wish to say is that, much as I welcome the fact that the procedure is expedited, I am sure the representatives of the Government will realise that, until the Report stage of the Bill, we have had no chance of considering the matter or of putting down Amendments.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Amendment made: In Sub-section (1), after the word "construction" ["in the construction of the road"], to insert the words "or improvement." — [Mr. Munro.]

    Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Title, Unemployment (Relief Works) Act, agreed to.

    Bill, with Amendments, ordered to be reported to the House.

    Committee rose at Thirteen minutes after Twelve o'clock.

    THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:—

    Nicholson, Mr. William (Chairman)

    Adair, Rear-Admiral

    Barlow, Sir Montague

    Bell, Mr. James

    Bowyer, Captain

    Bull, Sir William

    Doyle, Mr. Grattan

    Ford, Mr.

    Green, Mr. Frederick

    Hallas, Mr.

    Harris, Sir Henry

    Hayday, Mr.

    Hinds, Mr.

    Hirst, Mr.

    Moreing, Captain

    Morrison, Mr. Hugh

    Munro, Mr.

    Murray, Mr. John

    Murray, Major William

    Neal, Mr.

    Nicholson, Mr. Reginald

    Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel

    Sexton, Mr.

    Spencer, Mr.

    Thomson, Mr. Trevelyan

    Warner, Sir Courtenay

    Wignall, Mr.

    Williams, Colonel Penry

    Wilson, Mr. Tyson