Land Reclamation Bill, 1949—Recommitted.

Agreed: That the Bill be recommitted for consideration of amendment No. 3.

I move amendment No. 3:—

In page 4, before Section 6, to insert a new section as follows:—

(1) Any persons who suffers damage by reason of any interference, caused by the execution of works pursuant to this Act, with any land owned or occupied by him or any easement, profit-a-prendre or other right belonging to him shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, be entitled to be paid compensation in respect of such damage by the Minister.

(2) Every claim for compensation made under this section shall be made in writing to the Minister before the expiration of the period beginning on the commencement of the works which caused the interference to which the claim relates and ending either two years thereafter or one year after the completion of such works (whichever is the later).

(3) In default of agreement, the amount of any compensation payable by the Minister under this section shall, if the amount claimed in respect thereof does not exceed £20, be determined by the District Court or, in any other case, be determined by arbitration under the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919 (as amended by subsequent enactments) as if the compensation were the price of land compulsorily acquired and the court or the arbitrator, as the case may be, shall have jurisdiction to determine whether compensation is, in the circumstances, payable at all.

(4) In determining compensation under this section, regard shall be had to any protection or benefit enuring to the claimant by reason of the execution of the works to which the claim relates.

(5) A justice of the District Court when making an order under this section may at his discretion order the costs, to an amount not exceeding three guineas, incurred in relation to the proceedings by any party thereto (together with such witnesses' expenses as the justice considers reasonable) to be paid by any other party thereto.

(6) Where, in the case of an application to the District Court to determine the compensation to be paid under this section by the Minister, the compensation determined by the court does not exceed that offered unconditionally by the Minister before the application was made, the court may order that such costs and witnesses' expenses of the Minister as the court considers reasonable shall be deducted from the compensation determined by the court.

(7) The jurisdiction conferred by this section on the District Court shall be exercised, at the election of the claimant, by the justice within whose district the works or any part thereof were executed or by the justice within whose district the interference or any part thereof occurred.

With regard to this amendment, I hope Deputy Smith will recognise the rebuttal of his suggestion that any proposal emanating from the Opposition was rejected for no better reason than that it was proposed by the Opposition, Amendment No. 3 is an amendment offered by me to meet a point raised in an amendment put down by one of the Deputies in opposition on Committee and subsequently withdrawn to permit this being drafted. It is substantially the same as the compensation proposal incorporated in the Local Authorities (Works) Act. I believe it meets the various suggestions put forward by Deputy Smith and Deputy Aiken and other Opposition Deputies on the Committee Stage. I want to say quite clearly that I did not think it was necessary, and I do not now think it is necessary, but where it is possible, without creating insuperable difficulties, to incorporate into any Act something that the Opposition earnestly desire, I think it is right for the Government to go as far as they possibly can to meet their wishes. I do not think this proposal places upon the Government any obligation that they would not have felt themselves bound by had this amendment not been here, but, of course, Deputy Smith and Deputy Aiken are perfectly right in saying that the average individual is entitled to have a more than a pious expression of intention by a Minister. He is entitled to have a legal right and the means to enforce it and in their judgment it was desirable that that should be placed in the Bill. It affords me satisfaction to recognise the position of the Opposition in this House and, inasmuch as the general plan of the Bill is not interfered with by meeting their wishes in that matter, I trust they find this amendment substantially what they would wish it to be.

Sub-section (2) is the only part to which I can take exception. In the main the amendment is satisfactory; but the time limit of two years after the date of the commencement of the work or 12 months after the date of the completion of the work is not satisfactory in the circumstances that I envisage could arise. It is, however, an amendment designed to meet some of the criticism levelled against this measure in its earlier stages. To that extent it is, of course, welcome. Personally, I think I could make a good case to show that the time limit is not sufficiently generous.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment reported and agreed to.
Amendment No. 4 not moved.
Question: "That the Bill be received for final consideration", put and agreed to.