HC Deb 19 October 1954 vol 531 cc1075-81
Commander Galbraith

I beg to move, in page 26, line 31, to leave out from operations," to the end of line 33.

This Clause deals with compensation being excluded in certain cases. It lays down that compensation shall not be payable in respect of the imposition on the granting of planning permission of any conditions relating to various matters and it goes on to state what they are in paragraphs (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e). The provision which we are excluding by the Amendment is that in Clause 23 (1, b), which was intended to relate only to the rather infrequent case where planning permission was sought for a means of access by itself—that is, not linked to a new development.

It has been pointed out in the interval that the provision is capable of other interpretations and is open to the danger that it might be applied to prevent a development which in the view of the authority is undesirable, without liability for compensation, merely by refusing permission for a means of access. We have not found it practicable to devise a form of words which would make the intended limitation plain and it has therefore been thought best, as the problem is one which will very seldom arise, to delete the provision altogether.

Mr. D. Johnston

I see the purpose of the Amendment, but I suggest that the deletion of these words creates another anomaly. If the Amendment is carried, is it not the case that refusal of permission in connection with the formation or laying out of any means of access to a highway will qualify for compensation? May I have an answer to this question? Surely it is a simple question. I will give the right hon. and gallant Gentlemen time to collect his thoughts by repeating the question. The effect of the Amendment is to remove what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman considers to be an anomaly, but in removing it, is he not creating another anomaly by allowing compensation in the circumstances for which provision is made in subsection (1, b)? I suggest that that clearly is so.

Commander Galbraith

I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman is correct, subject to the provisions of the Bill.

Mr. Hector Hughes

This Amendment should not be accepted without a fuller examination. The Clause is concerned solely with the circumstances in which compensation shall be refused. It is mandatory and it applies in three kinds of case—three kinds of case in which compensation shall be refused.

Incidentally, at an earlier stage the Government induced the Standing Committee to insert an Amendment about the display of advertisements, which is now part of the Clause, but the aspect with which this Amendment deals is that which comes within the mandatory part of the Clause. Compensation shall not be payable in respect of the refusal of planning permission in these three cases. One relates to development arising out of building, engineering, mining or other operations. The second relates to the formation or laying out of any means of access to a highway. I invite the Committee to notice the similarity between these two kinds of exclusion. One relates to building and engineering and the other relates to means of access to a highway. The third relates to the display of advertisements, and nothing turns on that.

The Amendment would eliminate that part of the Clause relating to highways, and no adequate reason has been given why that should be done. Where is the line of principle to be drawn between the first and second set of exclusions? I draw particular attention to the similarity between them and remind hon. Members that building, engineering and mining is to be retained and the laying out of a means of access is to be omitted.

At the end of the first paragraph occur the words "or other operations." What are "other operations"? Does the phrase mean the formation or laying out of any means of access to a highway"? If this vagueness and ambiguity is permitted in the Statute, will it not give rise to litigation and expense and to difficulty in administration?

If the Amendment is accepted, the expression for the formation or laying out of any means of access to a highway will be deleted and anomalous consequences will follow. What will become of subsection (7) of this Clause, which reads: In this section the expression 'means of access to a highway' does not include a service road"? It should be noted that this expression occurs also in Clause 23 (2, e) in a somewhat similar connotation to that which is now sought to be deleted. The Minister should explain this, because both involve the refusal of compensation. If one goes out, therefore, why should not both go out? If it is the intention of the Government to exclude compensation in respect of means of access to a highway under Clause 23 (1, b) why not exclude it also under Clause 23 (2, e)? Is it the intention to accept or reject the entire idea of compensation in respect of access to a highway?

If the intention is to reject the idea, then why not delete it in both cases? If, on the other hand, the intention is to accept the idea, why not accept it in both cases? If there is a distinction in meaning between them, I invite the Minister to explain it. It is obvious that this simple and innocent Amendment will give rise to complications which the Minister should explain in order to avoid confusion in administration and consequent expense to all parties affected by this complicated Statute.

Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)

The Committee would be grateful to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman if he could say at what stage and when this anomaly was discovered. In introducing the Second Reading of the Bill he said: The White Paper foreshadowed that compensation was to be excluded for planning restrictions imposed in the interests of good neighbourliness, and it cited the 1932 Act as a precedent for that. The Clause in this Bill—Clause 23—follows that Act closely, and I do not think anyone could possibly challenge the proposed code which is laid down as being harsh. Certainly, since the publication of the Bill, there has been no violent criticism, and the planning authorities consider that it is rational and workable."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 12th May, 1954; Vol. 527, c. 1244 and 1245.] By putting down this Amendment the Government have evidently concluded that the Clause is irrational and unworkable. What is the point of making this alteration? The subsection which it is proposed to omit refers to— the formation or laying-out of any means of access to a highway. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will look at subsection (7) he will see: In this section the expression 'means of access to a highway' does not include a service road. That seems to be related to the subsection we are discussing.

My point is that first a Clause is introduced, which is then qualified by an Amendment, and subsequently further qualified by this statement in subsection (7). If Clause 23 gives effect to all the good things suggested by the right hon. Gentleman on Second Reading, at what stage and where was the anomaly discovered which now makes subsection (2, b) redundant? This Bill is complicated enough in all conscience, so will the Minister consult his advisers about the seeming contradiction between his statement during the Second Reading debate and what he has said today?

5.45 p.m.

Mr. Woodburn

I understand that during the debate on the English Bill the Minister moved the deletion of a similar part in response to certain questions put by my hon. Friends at the time which raised certain anomalies. The Minister then found it impossible to supply words to cover those anomalies and therefore he deleted the entire passage. However, in doing so, he created further anomalies, and the position is as reasonable as the old story of the man who told another that he was not fit to live with a pig, whereupon his friend said in his defence, "I assured him that you were." There must be a happy medium which will meet the anomalies to which we object but does not create the anomalies produced by this Amendment.

In another part of the Bill there is a provision that if a local authority refuses planning permission on the ground of good neighbourliness, they are not bound to pay compensation. I do not know whether safety is included in that definition. If, for example, planning permission for access to a road is refused on the ground of the safety of children, does it mean that compensation would have to be paid, or are they protected from paying compensation for doing what is right in the interests of the community? I hope the Government will make another attempt to find adequate words when this Bill goes to another place.

Mr. Willis

In his argument for the deletion of these words the Minister said that the power might be wrongfully used by local planning authorities, but surely the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will not deny to local authorities the right to use it in a proper manner simply because there might be cases in which it might be used wrongly. Surely alternative words could be found to give local planning authorities the right which it was considered they should have when this provision was first inserted.

Mr. Ross

I am not entirely satisfied with the reasons given by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. If local planning authorities use this provision improperly the Secretary of State can be appealed to by anybody who is refused permission to develop, so if that is the sole objection to the words, it is covered already by existing legislation. The Minister has told us that he does not know what is the financial commitment of the Treasury under this Bill, how many claims there will be, or what development there will be.

There are many people who would like compensation. It is obvious to everyone that one of the ways of obtaining compensation is to get the local planning authority to refuse permission. If people did not know that before, they know now, thanks to the Government's having to think a second time and having put something in the Bill in the first place which they now wish to delete. People know that one of the things for which they can apply for permission, and apply in such a way that it will be refused, is to lay out a means of access to a highway.

That can be done by every owner of a bungalow throughout Scotland. It can be done in such a way that the local planning authority, for good planning reasons, will have to refuse the permission. People may never have thought of it before but, thanks to the explanation now given, all they need to do is to have that planning permission refused and they obtain compensation under this Clause.

This will also affect the local planning authorities. They are not going to turn down plans to develop, even if those plans are such that they really feel they should not be carried out, if turning down those plans will make them liable to pay compensation. I am not at all satisfied that the way in which the Amendment has been explained in any way leaves me convinced that it is absolutely necessary to make the change.

Commander Galbraith

The hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) referred to what I said in Committee about good neighbourliness. I do not depart from what I said then, but I suggest that if this provision were left in the Bill it might be rather tempting to local authorities to use it for purposes other than that for which it was intended. The right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) asked if the local authority would have to pay compensation. Under Part II of the Bill it is the Secretary of State who pays and not the local authority. Provision is made in Clause 23 (2, e) that no compensation is payable by anyone on the imposition of conditions, made, for example, in the interest of safety, restricting means of access to a highway. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) raised much the same question as the hon. Member for Maryhill.

Mr. Woodburn

I gather from what the right hon. and gallant Member now says that if permission to have access to a highway is refused on the grounds of safety, compensation is not payable.

Commander Galbraith

I repeat what I said, that under Clause 23 (2, e) no compensation is payable by anyone on the imposition of conditions in the interests of safety restricting means of access to a highway.

Mr. Ross

What about the absolute refusal of access in the interest of safety? That was the point made.

Mr. Willis

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman answer the specific point which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross)? The right hon. and gallant Gentleman said that local authorities might be tempted to use this provision for undesirable purposes and my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock asked about the final right of appeal to the Secretary of State. If there are certain undesirable purposes for which local authorities might use this provision, I should have thought that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman ought to have a better opinion of Scottish local authorities than is implied in his Amendment.

Commander Galbraith

We can all be tempted in certain circumstances. The hon. Member knows that as well as I do. If means of access is refused there will be no compensation, unless the value of the land is definitely depreciated as a result of the refusal.

Mr. Willis

But what about the right of appeal to the Secretary of State?

Amendment agreed to.

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