Авторы: 159 А Б В Г Д Е З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Э Ю Я

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LAND FOR PUBLIC PURPOSES

The Acquisition and Valuation of Land for the purpose of public improvements is a branch of the question to

which a great deal of attention was drawn during and immediately after the war. The Government appointed a

Committee, of which the present Solicitor−General was chairman, and which, in spite of a marked scarcity of

advanced land reformers amongst its members, produced a series of remarkably unanimous and far−reaching

recommendations. These recommendations dealt with four main topics:−−

(a) Improvements in the machinery by which powers may be obtained by public and private bodies for the

acquisition of land for improvements of a public character;

(b) Valuation of land which it is proposed to acquire;

 (c) Fair adjustment as between these bodies and the owners of other land, both of claims by owners for

damage done by the undertaking to other lands, and of claims by the promoting bodies for increased value

given by their undertaking to other lands; and

(d) The application of these principles to the special subject of mining.

The Government in the Acquisition of Land Act, 1919, has adopted a great part of the Committee's

recommendations under the second head, and this Act has undoubtedly effected an enormous improvement in

the prices paid by public bodies for land which they require, although, most unfortunately, the same immunity

from the extortion of the land−owner and the land speculator has not been extended to private bodies such as

railway companies who need land for the improvement of public services. Moreover, it has not attempted to

bring the purchase price of land into any relation with its taxing valuation.

The whole of the rest of the Committee's recommendations dealing with the other three points which I have

mentioned, the Government has wholly ignored. Powers for public development can still only be obtained by

the slow, costly and antiquated processes in vogue before the war; private owners of lands adjoining works of

a public character are still in a position to put into their own pockets large increases in value due to public

improvements to which they have contributed nothing, and which they may even have impeded; the

development of minerals is still hampered by the veto of unreasonable owners, by the necessity of leaving

unnecessary barriers between different properties, and by other obstacles which were dealt with in detail in the

Committee's report. An illustration of the importance of this aspect of the question was put before the

Committee and has been emphasised by recent events. It was stated on behalf of the railway companies that

they were prepared with schemes for the extension of their systems in various parts of the country, which

would not only provide temporary employment for a large number of men on construction, and permanent

employment to a smaller number on the working of the lines, but would also open up new residential and

industrial districts, but that it was impossible for them to find the necessary funds unless they could have some

guarantee that at least any loss upon the cost of construction would be charged upon the increased value of

land in the new districts which would be created by the railway extensions. Remarkable instances were given

of the way in which the value of land had been multiplied many−fold by the promotion of new railways,

which, nevertheless, had never succeeded in paying a dividend to their shareholders, and the capital cost of

which had been practically lost.

On the other hand, the Committee were assured that, given a charge on the increased value of land likely to be

created, there would be no difficulty in obtaining the necessary funds without Government assistance. When

the pressure of the unemployment problem became acute, and not before−−and then it was, of course, too

late−−the Government turned their attention to this problem, and have guaranteed the interest upon new

capital to be expended on a few of these railway extensions, but instead of charging the guarantee upon the

increased value of land, they have charged it upon the pocket of the tax−payer. The most striking instance is

that of the tube railway from Charing Cross to Golders Green, now being extended under Government

guarantee to Edgware. Those who provided the original capital have never received any return upon their

money, yet millions have been put into the pockets of the owners of what was undeveloped land now served

by the line, and now that the extension is being carried out with the tax−payers' guarantee, the land−owners

will again reap the benefit untaxed.

The development of the natural resources of our country was one of the promises held out by Mr. Lloyd

George to the electors in 1918. Schemes were ready, and are still in the official pigeon−holes, for the

production of electricity on a very large scale both from water power and from coal, which would not only

provide employment, but cheapen the cost of production in all our industries. France, Italy, and other

countries are at this moment carrying out similar schemes whereby they will relieve themselves to a large

extent from dependence on British coal. But here, four years of Coalition Government have left us practically

where we were. In France, although in many respects her social system seems to me less enlightened than our own, the power of the land−owner to obstruct enterprise and development is by no means so great. Land

Reform in this country is a necessary preliminary to the fulfilment of Mr. Lloyd George's promises.

Development at the public expense without such reforms will result chiefly in further burdens upon the

tax−payer and further enrichment of the landowner.