HC Deb 19 October 1954 vol 531 cc1162-5
Mr. Willis

I beg to move, in page 41, line 41, after "writing," to insert: in the manner prescribed by regulations issued by the Secretary of State for Scotland. The purpose of the Amendments and my Amendment in line 45 is simple. Clause 38 is designed to protect prospective purchasers, and it is the duty under that Clause of the local planning authority, on application made in writing, to give notice to the applicant whether the authority proposes to buy land or acquire any interest in the land, or has been notified by a public authority that it intends to do so.

The local authority in which my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Mr. Pryde) is interested has expressed concern at the looseness of the Clause, feeling that it should be much more specific as to the nature of the application to be made in writing and as to the notification to be given by public authorities to the local authority of interest in the land. The experience of this local authority is that very few purchasers of land are able to specify the land with any degree of accuracy and that conversations take place on the telephone affecting these matters. They feel that applications or conversations of this character should not be sufficient.

In view of the duty imposed upon the local authority by the Clause, it feels that the local authority should be safeguarded by more specific differences being made to what those duties should be. I do not think that the wording of these Amendments is necessarily very good, but the intention of them is worth while in the interests of the local authorities.

Mr. Hector Hughes

I beg to second the Amendment.

The question here is whether the procedure should be regularised by regulations so that all parties concerned shall know exactly where they stand. It is right that everyone interested in land should find the procedure cut and dried.

Commander Galbraith

The present position under the Clause, as it is proposed to amend it later, is that anyone thinking of buying land may, for his own protection, ask the town-planning authority whether it or any other public authority proposes to buy the land in the ensuing five years. The Amendment to which I refer is in page 41, line 43. It is the next but one Amendment on the Notice Paper.

Mr. Willis

The Secretary of State's Amendment?

10.0 p.m.

Commander Galbraith

Yes. That is the position, taking that Amendment into account. I am sorry to say to the hon. Gentleman that the Amendment appears to be unnecessary. The reason I say that is that, normally, a man will clearly state the land in which he is interested. If he does not, the local planning authority can ask him for full particulars and can send him a form to fill up made out to suit their own requirements. If desirable, the Secretary of State can issue a model form to the local authority. There is no need for the heavy stick.

There is the further Amendment in the name of the hon. Gentleman, and the reason I feel that I must reject that is that the regulations are neither necessary nor desirable to ensure that local authorities give an accurate answer. Generally speaking, their answer will be a straight "Yes" or a straight "No." If only part of the land is to be acquired, they can be trusted to designate the part concerned. I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, but, for the reasons I have given, I cannot accept the Amendments.

Mr. Willis

I am quite willing to accept the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's rather harsh words about the wording of the Amendment, but, as I have said, the experience of local authorities proves that it does not operate quite so simply as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has suggested. Will he not have another look at, this to see whether it can be tightened up a little more in order to assist the local authorities and to protect prospective purchasers?

Commander Galbraith

I really think it is all right as it is.

Mr. D. Johnston

May I suggest a compromise between the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis)? It is that the word "written" should be inserted between "to give" and "notice." I can see my hon. Friend's point, which is this. It will be suggested, no doubt in good faith, by some applicant or prospective purchaser that the local authority has given him to understand over the telephone or in conversation that they are not interested in planning for the next five years. That person will go away and will complete his purchase, and then, within a couple of years, a compulsory purchase power will be exercised and the purchaser will feel aggrieved. Indeed, I think that both parties will feel aggrieved.

I suggest that that could all be avoided if it were made obligatory for local authorities to give a written notice and that such a solution is worth looking at during the next stage of the Bill.

Commander Galbraith

Section 101 of the principal Act lays it down that it must be in writing.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. J. Stuart

I beg to move, "That further consideration of the Bill be now adjourned."

I am very grateful to hon. Members for the manner in which they have handled the Bill during Report, and I regret that there were so many Amendments, and that they were so complicated. The House will realise that I have not taken a very vociferous part in the debate because, like some other hon. Members, I find considerable difficulty in mastering some of the points. At any rate, I wish to express my sincere gratitude for the very helpful attitude which hon. Members have displayed throughout the debate.

There is only one other thing I must say in moving this Motion and that is that I have moved it after discussions through the usual channels and on the understanding, to which I hope the House will agree, that we should complete consideration of the Bill tomorrow by about 7 p.m., or by 7.30 p.m. if it should be found that a little extra time is necessary.

Mr. Woodburn

I agree with the Secretary of State that we have made considerable progress. I think I should make it clear that never at any time during the Bill has there been on the part of the Opposition the slightest intention of filibustering, nor have we done so. We have only asked that there should be reasonable opportunity for the Bill to be made clear to ourselves and, through us, to the general public. My hon. Friends have done a considerable amount today in trying to get such explanations as have been thought necessary.

We know, of course, that some of these matters have been explained in the English Bill. That is not necessarily an explanation to the Scottish people, because we know that news in England is not always regarded as news in Scotland, nor is news in Scotland regarded as such in England in every case. It is necessary, therefore, that the House should deal with its business in regard to Scottish Bills in a thorough fashion and my hon. Friends have been trying to carry out their duties as hon. Members of the House.

In response to the Secretary of State, I think that my hon. Friends will not see any difficulty in complying with arrangements, made through the usual channels, for the termination of the remaining part of the Bill tomorrow. I hope that we shall make that progress. Part of the progress made this evening is due to the fact that at an early stage both the Secretary of State and the learned Lord Advocate found that it was much quicker to make a proper explanation than to try to push off hon. Members with a shorter one. Having learnt that early on, much quicker progress was made. I think it is a rule of the House that courtesy leads to results.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee and on recommittal), to be further considered Tomorrow.