HC Deb 14 April 1965 vol 710 cc1601-4
Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Dr. Horace King)

I think that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if with the next Amendment, No. 38, we take also the following Amendments:

No. 39: in page 14, line 9, at end insert: but in this section 'office premises' shall not include lifts". No. 40, in line 9, at end insert: but in this section 'office premises' shall not includes fire escapes". No. 41, in line 9, at end insert: but in this section 'office premises' shall not include storage, canteens, ingress to and egress from office premises". No. 42, in line 9, at end insert: but in this section 'office premises' shall not include the operation of computers". No. 43, line 9, at end insert: but in this section 'office premises' shall not include lavatories". No. 44, in line 9 at end insert: but in this section 'office premises' shall not include stairs and lift shafts". No. 45, in line 9, at end insert: (2) In this section, office premises shall not include premises whose sole or principal use is as a garage.

Mr. Costain

I am in a little difficulty, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. These are the Amendments on which we talked about net and gross areas. In view of the way that the President of the Board of Trade has met us concerning gross measurements, I should be happy not to move my Amendments, Nos. 38, 39, 40, 44 and 45. I cannot, however, speak for my hon. Friends concerning the remainder of this group of Amendments. For the reason I have given, I will not move my Amendments.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

If no hon. Member proposes to move the Amendments, they will fall.

Mr. Wise

I wish briefly to move Amendment No. 43, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for the purpose of elucidation.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The only one that the hon. Member can move is No. 38.

Mr. Wise

I therefore beg to move Amendment No. 38, in page 14, line 9, at the end, to insert: but in this section 'office premises' shall not include store rooms". I move the Amendment merely to get from the Government an understanding of their reading of the position concerning the definition of "office premises". The Joint Parliamentary Secretary will recall that in Committee he made a brave effort to extend the definition of "office premises" by moving an Amendment to insert a rather omnibus proviso at the end: (without prejudice to the generality of any reference to use as an office)", which, as far as I can make out, included pretty well everything, of all kinds. That Amendment was defeated in Committee.

On that occasion, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said: … it is necessary to have some idea about what is meant by 'office purposes'. Therefore, if hon. Members turn to subsection (5) they will see the definition of 'office purposes'."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D. 23rd March, 1965; c. 573.] Subsection (5) is clear and succinct. It states: In this section 'office purposes' includes the purposes of administration, clerical work, handling money, telephone and telegraph operating and the operation of computers". That is right and we are prepared to accept that as it is in the Bill. It appears, however, that nearly all this group of Amendments which we are discussing come outside the definition of subsection (5), which specifically says nothing about fire escapes, lavatories or anything of that kind.

May we assume that the definition of "office premises" is strictly that given in subsection (5) and nothing else, and that an office development permit will not be needed for these extra things covered by the Amendments? I should very much like to have the Minister's opinion on this.

Mr. Darling

If I have the point aright—and I am not sure whether I have—the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise) is asking whether we have made proper provision for lavatories, store rooms, and so on, in the definition in subsection (5) and whether we are sticking to that definition.

Mr. Wise

What I want to know is this. Are all these things on which Amendments have been put down automatically excluded under the Bill as it stands? By my reading of the Bill, they are excluded. Therefore, we need not move the Amendments.

1.30 a.m.

Mr. Darling

They are not excluded. The gross overall figure of 3,000 sq. ft. includes lavatories, and so on. We argued this point at great length in Committee, as the hon. Member will remember, when we started to do some arithmetic as well. I would not like to go over that again, except to say that what we were concerned about was not at that stage the actual size of the office to be permitted to be developed without a development permit, but the number of workers who could be employed in it. We said that the number was 20 to 25. We said that with any number below that the building or extension could go ahead. In calculating the size of the office we had in mind the safety and welfare legislation, and that under the 1963 Act approximately 1,250 sq. ft. of space would be required for between 20 and 25 people. We dealt with this by including store rooms and all the rest. Now we are going a stage further and are giving 3,000 sq. ft., but keeping the number of workers the same. Therefore, things are improving.

Mr. Peter Emery

Although the Government have not given way on the definitions in the Bill they have met us on the point of the exact measurements, which are rising from 2,500 sq. ft. inner to 3,000 sq. ft. outer measurements. I think that deals fairly with most of the Amendments in this group.

However, the Government leave me a little unhappy over Amendment No. 42 and the computers. We shall not pursue the matter at length now, but I would urge the Government to have another look at this and to have a word with the Minister of Technology about it before the Bill reaches another place. When we are trying to encourage the computer industry and technology it really would be more sensible of the Government to take computers out of this. Computers were not in the initial legislation. Without any more ado I would ask the Government to have another look at that, and meantime I think it would be just as well if my hon. Friend would not press this Amendment.

Mr. Wise

I sympathise with whoever has to calculate the square footage of an outside fire escape, and with that sentiment I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: In page 14, line 38, leave out "section 7 (2)" and insert: sections 7(2) and (Purchase notices)".—[Mr. Darling.]