Catalogue description War Works Commission: Records

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Details of T 180
Reference: T 180
Title: War Works Commission: Records

Includes agenda and minutes of meetings of theWar Works Commission; general policy files; case files on closures of highways and footpaths, and acquisition and retention of land; together with related case papers, proceedings of private and public enquiries, and reports to ministers.

Date: 1945-1964
Related material:

There is one file of the War Works Commission in IR 39

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

War Works Commission, 1945-1964

Physical description: 169 file(s)
Access conditions: Subject to 30 year closure
Administrative / biographical background:

The Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945 (8 and 9 Geo. VI c43), dealt with the problems arising out of the emergency use of private land for the construction of essential installations during the 1939-1945 War.

The main provisions of the Act related to the recovery of expenses incurred by either the Government or private interests The Defence Regulations gave the Government power to authorize private firms (ordnance factories were particularly involved) to extend their premises on to land which they did not own., under the Defence Regulations, in constructing works on land in which they had no legal interest, works which would have reverted to the owner of the land at the cessation of hostilities.

Under the 1945 Act certain ministers-the First Lord of the Admiralty, Secretary of State for War, Secretary of State for Air, Minister of Supply, Minister of Aircraft Production, Minister of War Transport, Postmaster-General, and Minister of Works - were given the power of compulsory acquisition of such land, declaring the purpose of the acquisition to be:

  • to realise the value of the installations
  • to continue to use the installations
  • or to control the future use of the installations.
The ministers appointed were also empowered to acquire such land as had been badly mutilated as a result of the use to which it had been put during the War, and to rehabilitate it in any suitable way. Any pertinent easements or restrictions on use of the land could be purchased at the same time.

The Minister of (War) Transport was given further powers under Section 3 of the Act to authorize the permanent closure or diversion of any roads or footpaths which, in order to help the smooth operation of wartime establishments, and particularly airfields, had been so treated during the War, and to close or divert further roads and footpaths as required.

In order to see that these ministerial powers were not abused, the Act provided for the establishment of the War Works Commission, chaired until 1949 by Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve, and from that date by Sir Thomas Phillips, to inquire into and report upon Ministerial proposals to acquire land, or close or divert roads and footpaths, where the Minister received reasonable objections to his proposals from individuals or organizations with a legitimate interest.

Objections were only normally accepted from individuals with a legal interest in the property affected by the proposal, or responsible organizations (for example The Society for the Preservation of Rural England), or local authorities. Unopposed proposals were not referred to the commission. When the commission, which had power to require anybody to furnish evidence, had considered the case fully, often holding a public inquiry in the neighbourhood during the course of its deliberations, it reported its findings and recommendations back to the Minister.

The degree of control exercised by the commission varied according to the reason for the proposed action. If the grounds were purely financial - to recover as much as possible of the capital outlay - or if the rehabilitation of land or the compulsory purchase of a dwelling house were involved, than an adverse report by the commission was binding on the minister. If, however, the grounds were the continued use, or control of the future use of an establishment, the minister was still entitled to carry out his proposals provided he laid before both Houses of Parliament a copy of the commission's report and his reasons for wishing to proceed in spite of it, and provided that neither House passed a resolution against it within 40 days.

The period during which all proposals had to be brought, within two years of the end of the wartime period (measured by the date when the Defence Regulations ceased to apply - February 24th 1946) under the original Act, was extended by the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act 1946 (9 and 10 Geo.VI c49), and the Supplies and Services (Defence Purposes) Act 1951 (14 and 15 Geo. VI c25).

The commission was dissolved by Order in Council in October 1964.

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