HC Deb 17 February 1970 vol 796 cc310-2

Amendments made: No. 49, in page 30, line 45, column 3, leave out 'Section 1(1)(b)'and insert'The whole Act'.

No. 50, in page 30, line 47, at end insert

7 & 8 Eliz 2, c. 70 The Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1959 Section 46.
—[Dr. Dickson Mabon.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.—[Queen's Consent signified.]

Mr. Gordon Campbell (Moray and Nairn)

I would like to draw attention to the first two Clauses of this Bill because they are of particular significance. On Second Reading we expressed our disquiet at the reduction of the minimum period for objections from three months to six weeks, as set out in Clause 1. Although the Government have given some assurances while the Bill has been passing through this House, the main provision has not been changed. The position therefore is that if the Bill passes through the other place in this form there will be a new situation in Scotland, quite different from that in England. This is being introduced first in Scotland.

There will be a shorter period for objections. I give the Government notice that we will watch very carefully the interests of individual freedom on the question of the time allowed for objections. There should be proper opportunities to learn what is proposed, and there should be time to lodge considered objections. All will now depend upon the way in which the Government of the day administer this Measure when it becomes law. Six weeks will be the minimum, and the Government will have discretion to make it longer. As the government of the day will most probably, before long, be a Conservative Government, there is that assurance to all concerned that this power will not be abused.

I turn now to Clause 2, which is a very important Clause. I acknowledge that the Government are allowing proceedings to run concurrently, which has been happening in England and Wales, and which was needed in Scotland. We hope that it will speed up road-building procedures and that the trunk roads will be built without avoidable delay. There have been many other points raised, and this side of the House has obtained a considerable number of improvements. I acknowledge at once that the two Ministers who have been responsible at various times for the Bill have been very reasonable in some of these matters. It is greatly to the credit of my hon. Friends that so much has been achieved, and much of it is the result of hard work by them.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

Before dealing with the two points raised by the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell), I would say "Thank you very much" to the Opposition for the way in which they have co-operated in what has been a sensible and constructive Report stage. We have reached substantial agreement, and that is the best that could be said of any Government or Opposition at any time.

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman welcomed Clause 2, which means that we are catching up with the English. The English have pioneered concurrent procedure and done it very well. Now we are copying them. I am only sorry that when the hon. Gentleman referred to the other matter, reducing the period from three months to six weeks, he did not observe that we in Scotland are pioneering and hope that the English will copy us.

We in this Administration are anxious that everyone will feel that their rights are preserved. It is perfectly possible for someone to lodge an objection in general terms within six weeks, for example: This road will sever my land. At a later stage he can fill out the technical details. We shall be watchful of this, as the present Administration and as the next one. We will now get to work on consolidation when the Bill proceeds to its later stages. The record of motorway building which we have achieved in the last five years, 101 miles as opposed to 68 miles in the preceding five years, will be even better.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.