HC Deb 23 February 1955 vol 537 cc1401-8

Postponed proceeding resumed on Question, 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.

9.59 p.m.

Mr. Manuel

I had almost reached the last sentence of my comparatively short speech on these Regulations earlier this evening, but by inadvertence I forgot that other business was to be taken at 7 p.m. In extenuation of that inadvertence, perhaps I might plead that because the Government did not deal with the Regulations as they ought to have done in the first place we have had only a comparatively short time in which to put forward any points that we wish to raise.

I do not want to belabour the point. Briefly, I referred to the unexpended balance. I take it that the unexpended balance is the amount left from the £300 million. I asked a question about compensation being drawn from that unexpended balance for minerals unworked and how those minerals would be measured in land which had been compulsorily acquired. I should be obliged if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman could give me an answer to that point and satisfy certain doubts which I have about paragraph 20.

10.1 p.m.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

I rise mainly to protest against the way in which the Government are dealing with these Regulations. I was not in the House when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman rose to move them, but I hurried back and found that he had expended exactly two minutes in introducing them.

Commander Galbraith

That is most unfair of the hon. Member. He could not have heard that when I introduced the Regulations I asked the House whether it wanted a full explanation and was assured by those hon. Members who were present that they did not desire to have a repetition of the explanation given on a previous occasion. I was quite ready to give that explanation. It was to meet the convenience of the House that I did not do so.

Mr. Willis

I accept the explanation of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, but I hurried into the Chamber to try to hear what these Regulations were about. I also want to say something about the procedure by which, because English Regulations have been introduced and discussed, we accept the Scottish Regulations.

That seems to be quite wrong. It is a procedure that is not of very great service to Scottish Members trying to conduct their business. To introduce English Regulations and accept discussion on the English Regulations as being quite good enough for Scotland is doing a disservice to Scotland. I make that point, because it seems to be a practice that is extending to rather more important issues. If I were to mention them I would be out of order. However, I certainly think we ought to have an explanation of Part III of these Regulations, because it is entirely new.

I noticed that when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman originally introduced these Regulations, before Christmas, he said that there was nothing new in them. But more than half of them arise out of the 1954 Act and, therefore, they introduce new matter. We should be told how they will operate.

10.4 p.m.

Mr. James H. Hoy (Leith)

I was present when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman introduced the Regulations tonight. I agree with him that most hon. Members felt we ought not to go over ground which had been covered last December. But the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said that he had received from the local authorities agreement in principle about the Regulations. He also said that he had received agreement in principle from certain other organisations.

But what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman did not explain was what would happen if there were any disagreement. Agreement in principle seemed to imply that there were some differences which he had not been able to settle as between his office and the local authorities, and perhaps when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman replies he may care to tell the House what those differences were.

10.5 p.m.

Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Tradeston)

I quite appreciate the feeling of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman in his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), but, nevertheless, it should be remembered that when we were considering these Regulations in the form in which they were placed before the House on the Tuesday before we rose for the Christmas Recess, the decision of the House was that the Statutory Instrument as tabled was null and void.

Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)

It was the decision of Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Rankin

Very well, the decision of Mr. Speaker was that the Instrument as placed before the House was null and void, and that, therefore, following the custom of the House, a new Instrument in appropriate form must be laid on the Table. According to that decision, the proceedings must start afresh. From that point of view, even though my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East was perhaps technically out of order, nevertheless, according to Mr. Speaker, the House was entitled to deal with the Regulations before it as from the beginning.

My attention was attracted to Part III, because it contains a remarkable regulation—Regulation 12—which consists of 17½ lines comprising one sentence. That in itself, is a remarkable piece of draftsmanship, because, as far as I know, a sentence is supposed to have a subject, a predicate and an object. Obviously, that is a simple sentence. One can often find a sentence in which the subject, the predicate and the object are qualified, but, when one starts to read Regulation 12, quite frankly, it is difficult to find out exactly what are the subject, the predicate and the object, and all the modifications and qualifications that attach to each of these three fundamentals of a sentence, and how they will affect the working of the Regulation itself.

I hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will do his best to unearth the mysteries contained in Regulation 12, and will tell us, in the simplest language which he can command, exactly what the Regulation means. I do not want to parse it, or to analyse it, or to bring all the other grammatical invasions into this Regulation, but I should like, for the benefit of those of us who have not the guidance of an expert staff, to be told clearly and simply what Regulation 12 means, and the sort of case dealt with under Part III of this Statutory Instrument.

10.9 p.m.

Commander Galbraith

I was rather sorry that the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) should have thought it right and his duty to suggest that I had misled the House, but I was grateful to him for saying that no doubt I had done so unwittingly. I have since gone very carefully into the matter. The first thing about which the hon. Gentleman chided me for misleading the House was a statement which I made on 21st December, 1954, when I said: The hon. Member will be aware that most of the insertions are in respect of Regulations that were made under previous Acts.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st December, 1954; Vol. 535, c. 2711.] It all depends upon the definition of "insertions in."

I am told that if it means "words" I was right, and if it means the number of Amendments I was wrong. As a matter of fact, as the hon. Member clearly recognised, although I thought I was right at the time, events have shown that the hon. Gentleman was right, so far as that is concerned. I apologise for the error which I made in this connection.

The next matter to which the hon. Gentleman referred was the failure to initial corrections in the Regulations. I said: 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 and 2719.] Unfortunately I said, "which was laid." I suppose that technically that was not correct. What happens when Regulations are laid is that the original is signed and everything else is initialled, but it is not the original which is actually laid.

Three copies come to this House, which are laid, and three copies go to another place. The original goes back to Edinburgh. The original was signed, and it was that to which I was referring. It was initialled, and in every other respect was quite correct. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will forgive me in that connection.

Then there was a question as to the printing. The hon. Gentleman suggested again that I had been misleading the House when I suggested that the Regulations could not have been printed in time. I was perfectly correct. The final form of these Regulations was decided upon on 7th December. If the Regulations were to be through before this House rose for the Christmas Recess they had to be laid by 9th December. The hon. Gentleman will remember that the Regulations are generally finally decided upon in London, and therefore they have to go back to Edinburgh and then again to London, which involves travelling for three days. It was, therefore, physically impossible to have the Regulations printed in time to be laid on 9th December.

Mr. T. Fraser

The whole point of what I said there was that in the context in which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said what he did, as reported in col. 2715 of the Official Report which I quoted, the House was given the impression that the Secretary of State did not have as much time as did the Minister of Housing and Local Government. I did not compare the Scottish with the English Regulations. My point was that both Acts of Parliament got the Royal Assent on the same day, and that the Minister of Housing and Local Government had found time to get his Regulations printed and in the hands of Members in proper form.

We could not have known on this side of the House, nor could any hon. Member in any part of the House except those in touch with the Scottish Office, that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had not the Regulations complete by 7th December. We know that the Act was law on 25th November, and that these Regulations had been made—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)

The hon. Gentleman cannot make a second speech.

Commander Galbraith

The hon. Gentleman will realise that the English Minister, being situated in London—and the Stationery Office being situated in London—did not experience the delay which it takes for papers to go to Scotland and to come back here. That is the correct explanation of the situation.

The hon. Gentleman asked me, in connection with Regulation 5, how the depreciation of building, plant, and machinery was calculated. Depreciation is assessed by normal processes of valuation; that is, on the difference between the value of the buildings, plant and machinery, with planning permission to work the minerals, and their value without that permission. Account is taken of any use which the mineral undertaker might make of the buildings, plant and machinery for the working of any other minerals in neighbouring land. Really the whole matter is summed up in the principles of valuation to which I have referred.

The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) asked me what is the unexpended balance. As well as I can put it, the answer is that it is the balance remaining of the established claim of the £300 million fund after deduction of any payments for past acts or events made by the Central Land Board or the Secretary of State; and, secondly, the development value of any minerals covered by the claim which have been worked since 1st July, 1948.

The hon. Gentleman also asked me if I would explain Regulation 20. That Regulation provides for the division of the unexpected balance between a less or and a lessee where the mineral land is compulsorily acquired. The first factor to be taken into account in making this division is the value of any accumulated short workings, that is, of any minerals which the lessee has paid for to the less or but has not worked. The second factor is the value to the lessee of the difference between the royalty paid and a full market royalty in cases where the former is less than the latter. Cannot the hon. Gentleman hear me?

Mr. Manuel

I can hear perfectly what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is saying, but, if he can make it more intelligible, I should be very much obliged to him.

Commander Galbraith

The hon. Gentleman will clearly understand that there is a difference between the royalty which is being paid and what is known as the full market royalty, under which, it may be, the lessee would be able to make a profit which he would then take into account in making the calculation. The actual royalty may be 3d. a ton and the full market royalty might be 6d. a ton. If the lessee made a sub-lease to someone else he would be making a profit of 3d. a ton, and that profit would be taken into account in the calculation. I hope that I have made it abundantly clear.

The third deduction is the right of the less or to receive royalties up to the date of a possible break in the lease. There are quite a number of technical matters to be taken into account, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman is fully seized of them.

Mr. Manuel

I am very grateful to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for explaining, or attempting to explain to me—[HON. MEMBERS: "Be generous."]—whose understanding is not so great as some of my colleagues on these benches. I put a point, and I should like to know whether I was correct or not. I tried to get the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to explain how one measured compensation for workings not yet developed for which compensation was being paid. That was my main point. How does one measure the compensation for minerals not extracted?

Commander Galbraith

The situation is that, in the first place, a claim has to be lodged. That claim is adjusted in relation to the amount of minerals that have been worked up to date when the compensation becomes payable.

Mr. Willis

But it is based, is it not, on the difference between the original valuation and what has been worked? We do not assess the proved reserves or anything like that?

Commander Galbraith

I understand it is in connection with the claim which has originally been determined.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) asked me whether I would explain Part III of the Regulations. Part III of the Regulations modifies and adapts the provisions of the 1954 Act, and the more important points are these—and I will here answer the question put to me by the hon Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin): Regulation 12 provides for separating the development value attributable to the presence of minerals from that attributable to the prospects of surface development where the ownership of the minerals is in different hands from that of the surface. This ensures that depreciation in the value of the minerals shall not be compensated out of the claim holding or unexpended balance attached to the surface or vice versa. It means that we separate the surface development from the mineral development.

The second main set of adaptations-and here I answer the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East—is in Regulations 15, 16, 17, and 20. These make special arrangements to take account of the shifting of development values between the less or and the lessee through the operation of the "break-clause" in leases and accumulated short workings which may result in the division of development values between less or and lessee being appreciably different, at the date of the event, giving rise to a payment under the Act, from the position when the claims were determined.

Regulation 21 provides the same protection for a lessee under a mining lease as is obtainable by a purchaser of land under Section 34 of the 1954 Act, which deals with the protection of a purchaser of land which is compulsorily acquired shortly after he had purchased the land with planning permission. The House will remember that we had considerable discussion on that point when we were dealing with the matter in Committee upstairs.

The hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Hoy) took it that, because I was rather careful in the words which I used, there had been some disagreement, but I am happy to tell him that all that happened was that these people with whom we consulted made certain suggestions of detail.

Mr. Hoy


Commander Galbraith

No, suggestions of detail, which were not accepted. They did not take exception to that. There was no disagreement of any sort with the local authority associations.

I think I have dealt with the various questions, and I should be grateful if the House would now be good enough to approve the Regulations.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, 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.