HC Deb 23 February 1955 vol 537 cc1341-6

6.42 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Commander T. D. Galbraith)

I beg to move, That the Town and Country Planning (Minerals) (Scotland) Regulations, 1955, dated 28th January, 1955, a copy of which was laid before this House on 3rd February, be approved. These Regulations, of which approval is now sought, have been made by the Secretary of State under the powers conferred on him by Section 78 (1) of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1947, and Section 56 (3) of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1954. I think it right to remind the House that these are the Regulations which were laid in a somewhat imperfect form on a previous occasion, and, due to the vigilance of hon. Members opposite, were withdrawn. They are now laid again. I apologise to the House for the error which occurred on that occasion, and for having to take up the time of the House again in reintroducing them.

The Regulations have been discussed with the local authority associations and with the principal trade organisations concerned, and they have been approved by them in principle. The only difference between these Regulations and the corresponding English Regulations, which were approved by both Houses in December, are those necessitated by the difference between the laws of the two countries.

When approval of the English Regulations was sought, a very full explanation was given, and I do not think that the House would wish me to repeat it now. If it does, I am quite ready and willing to do so. There are no particular Scottish points that arise. It may be that the House would wish me to give a full explanation again on this occasion. I should think it would be rather an imposition on the House, and if, as it seems, the House thinks so, in view of the lengthy explanation that was given previously, I content myself with thus simply moving the Motion.

6.44 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)

As the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has said, these Regulations are a repetition of the somewhat imperfect Regulations that we discusssed in this House on 21st December, and I am hopeful that we shall be able to dispose of them in a somewhat shorter time than it took us to discover that the last Regulations were so imperfect as to make it impossible for us to deal with them.

The Regulations which the House discovered could not be passed on 21st December had previously been agreed to in another place on 16th December. It is not for me to inquire how the Government were able to withdraw Regulations passed in another place and to put forward these Regulations and ask another place to approve them. They are substantially the same Regulations.

I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will now agree that on that other occasion on 21st December he did, perhaps unwittingly, mislead the House. He said: The hon. Member"— that was myself— will be aware that most of the insertions are in respect of Regulations that were made under previous Acts and are merely repetitions of the previous Regulations. They are not new. He said that in response to my complaint that the roneod Regulations we had before us had a great number of inked insertions. He was there saying, I think the House will agree, that most of those insertions were in respect of Regulations there were merely repeated. I thought he was wrong, and, of course, I checked the point later, and I found that a great many of the insertions were in respect of Regulations which were new.

Then he said: Hon. Members will remember that the Royal Assent to the Town and Country Planning Act was received on 25th November, and it was necessary that these Regulations should be laid at the earliest possible moment. He went on to say that there was no question of disrespect, etc. He was then giving the House the impression, I think, that there was not time between 25th November and 21st December, or 9th December, when the Regulations were laid, to have the Regulations printed in the normal way.

I ventured the opinion that night—21st December—that the English Act had received the Royal Assent on the same date, namely, 25th November. I have, of course, consulted the record, and I have found that the English Act received the Royal Assent on the same day as the Scottish Act, but the English Minister found it possible to have the Regulations printed, and submitted to the House in the proper form.

Then, when Mr. Speaker had said that what the House was discussing was Regulations that were laid in the Library, and we complained that each of the insertions had not been individually initialled, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said: I think that if the original copy which was laid is consulted it will be found that all the alterations have been initialled."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st December, 1954; Vol. 535. c. 2711–19.] In fact we consulted, and Mr. Speaker consulted, the copy that was made. Not only were the insertions not initialled, they were not even in the copy. I recall these things to show that it was fortunate indeed that some of my hon. Friends were awake at that date and saw to it that we did not pass Regulations which were imperfect.

I do not want to delay the proceedings, but I should be glad if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman could say a few words about Regulation 5, which is a re-enactment of an old regulation. It provides that in the event of a revocation or modification of planning permission… compensation may be claimed in respect of buildings, plant or machinery which the applicant is unable to use or can use only at a loss. In such circumstances, how will the compensation be measured? Will account be taken of the possibility of disposing of the buildings, plant, or machinery by sale?

Quarrying plant and machinery provide an appropriate example. The modification of planning permission might lead to greatly reduced activity in the quarrying operations. The owner of the quarry might be in a position to say that, with his restricted planning permission, plant and machinery costing £5,000 would be adequate for his new purpose, but the plant and machinery which he had on the spot had been installed three years earlier, when he had wider planning permission, and that plant had cost him £10,000.

How would compensation be measured in such a case? Plant and machinery might have been transferred to another quarry undertaking and appropriate plant and machinery might have been brought into the quarry. I should be grateful if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman could give us some explanation of how the old Regulation worked, and how it is intended that Regulation 5 should operate.

6.53 p.m.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

I rise only because I like to finish a speech once I have started it. Hon. Members will find that HANSARD of 21st December reports you, Mr. Speaker, as saying: … and the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has the Floor."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st December, 1954; Vol. 535, c. 2720.] As a result of a considerable number of points of order arising during my speech, we eventually reached the position where you, Mr. Speaker, ruled that the Regulations which had been laid by the Gov- ernment were completely ultra vires and had to be withdrawn. I now have the opportunity of completing my speech.

We had on that occasion an opportunity of seeing how the official mind works. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, in introducing the Regulations on that occasion, said that we had a long explanation of the English Regulations and that there was really no point in going over the Scottish Regulations. That was perfectly true, because we find on comparing the original Regulations made by the Secretary of State with the copy which was corrected in ink that practically every correction was designed to bring the Scottish Regulations entirely in line with the English ones.

If I had gone through the copy to discover exactly why all the changes were made, I could have prepared a very long speech to deliver on such questions as why there was a comma in one place in the English version and one in an entirely different place in the Scottish version. If the Scottish Department would work on its own Regulations, ignoring copies of the English equivalents, and do its own work, it would not get into the mess into which it got on 21st December. I sincerely hope that the Scottish Office has learned that lesson from what happened on that occasion.

6.55 p.m.

Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

I also took a certain interest in the previous occasion when the Government tried to get these Regulations approved by the House. On this side of the House we were very keen to expedite the business, but then we discovered that the Regulations had been wrongly laid, and that there were three different versions, some of the roneoed copies containing insertions whilst none had been made in other copies. When that information reached you, Mr. Speaker, you in your wisdom asked that the matter should not proceed further that day.

I can assure you tonight, Mr. Speaker, that I have examined the copy of the Regulations in the Library and, so far as my knowledge goes, I find it correct in every respect. I see on the Front Bench one of the Lords Commissioners to the Treasury, the hon. Member for Bebington (Mr. Oakshott), who signed the Regulations. He may be able to deal more competently with a rather complicated point in the Regulations than can the Joint Under-Secretary of State.

The point arises on Regulation 20, which states: Where any interest of a lessor or a lessee under a mining lease is compulsorily acquired as mentioned in subsection (1) of Section 31 of the Act of 1954, the amount of compensation payable under subsection (1) of Section 32 of that Act to the less or or the lessee shall, notwithstanding any other provisions of that section, be ascertained as follows— that appears to be an awfully long preamble to the words— (a) the amount of the unexpended balance of established development value attributable to the lessor's interest shall be the whole of such balance reduced by… The Regulation then enumerates various things which I will not now bother to read.

The Regulation appears to me to be quite incomprehensible. I should like the Joint Under-Secretary or the Lords Commissioner, who signed the Regulations with full knowledge of what he was doing, to explain how this unexpended balance of established development value…. is ascertained. If compulsory acquisition of mineral rights in certain land in Scotland is undertaken, how will these unexpended balances be ascertained? I know that in local authority circles great difficulty has been experienced in the past in trying to measure the value remaining after the construction of certain roads—through Ayrshire, for example—or after the building of municipal houses in areas where coal has been extracted. I should like some information on that point—

It being Seven o'clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of The Chairman of Ways and Means under Standing Order No. 7 (Time for taking Private Business), further Proceeding stood postponed.