HC Deb 25 June 1974 vol 875 cc1359-62
Mr. Stallard

I beg to move Amendment No. 61, in page 41, line 10, at end insert: '() Section 41(1) of the Bill should be preceded by a new inserted subsection (4) to read: (4) In Section 72(1)(a) of the Housing Act 1964 the words 'a local authority have made an order under Part I of Schedule 1 of the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act 1946 (the Act of 1946) shall be deleted and replaced with the words 'a local authority have resolved that an order be made and submitted under Part I of Schedule 1 etc …' and after the word 'family' at the end of the section there should be added 'Provided that this section shall cease to apply where an order is not confirmed by the "confirming authority" under the Act of 1946'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, we are to discuss Amendment No. 7, in line 20, at end insert: '(c) the compulsory purchase order became effective from the date of the decision of the local authority to make it'.

Mr. Stallard

Although I was not a member of the Standing Committee, I am aware of the discussion which took place there. Anyone who has been associated with local government will agree about the need for some simplified and speedier procedure to deal with compulsory purchase orders.

I was hoping to be able to go into much more detail on these amendments than time permits. Amendment No. 7, for example, is a very small but important one designed to speed up the compulsory purchase order precedure and to extend the effect of the protection clauses for tenants outlined in subsection (4) by making a CPO take effect from the time that the resolution to make it is passed by the local authority rather than from the time that it is formally submitted to the Secretary of State.

Those of us who have experience of these matters know that there can be a worrying delay between the two procedures, and I ask for the protection for tenants to be brought back to the stage where the local authority decides to make the application for the CPO rather than after the long delay which often ensues.

Mr. Kaufman

Although my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard), like me, is anxious that the delays occasioned by the processing of compulsory purchase orders should be reduced to a minimum, nevertheless there is a very important structure of checks and balances within that procedure which has to be protected for the benefit of people living in compulsory purchase order areas. There was a time when my own constituency appeared to consist of nothing but CPO areas, and I was as concerned about what became of the peope living in them as I was that the local authority should be able to demolish unfit dwellings and get better dwellings erected. Therefore, I temper my sympathy with my hon. Friend by warning him of the necessity to protect those checks and balances within a procedure streamlined as much as possible.

I accept that some time often elapses between the local authority resolving to make a CPO and its being made. But there is a serious difficulty of principle about the way in which my hon. Friend wishes to extend protection to tenants of properties involved in the interval. An authority's resolution to make a CPO is of uncertain status in law and need never be followed up by an actual CPO.

That being so, a better way to tackle the problem would be for local authorities to relate their programmes of acquisitions realistically to the number of conveyancing and administrative staff whom they can make available, thus avoiding long delays. There are some London boroughs, in particular, whose attitude in this matter is not as admirable as it might be. Large areas of certain London boroughs are blighted for periods far longer than necessary simply because the authorities slap on CPOs without making sure that they have adequate staff to follow through the procedure speedily—

Mr. Ronald Brown

Which boroughs has my hon. Friend in mind? Is he aware that, due to the fact that the Government have not yet decided on London weighting, we cannot get sufficient staff?

Mr. Kaufman

I have no specific boroughs in mind with which my hon. Friend is connected. What is more, my hon. Friend is the last person with whom I should care to tangle on the subject of London weighting. But I have certain London boroughs in mind. If others of my hon. Friends who are involved in those boroughs are present and care to provoke me, I may be inclined to mention them. However, we ought to maintain the decencies over public grief if we can.

We believe that local authorities should think carefully about CPOs. Clause 45(2) should also help by making it easier for authorities to obtain information about the ownership of premises in a reasonable time.

In view of what I have said, I hope that my hon. Friend will be prepared to withdraw his amendment.

Mr. Stallard

I accept what my hon. Friend said, although I am not 100 per cent. happy about his reply. I, too, would have liked further information about the London boroughs to which he referred. I hope that he was not including the borough with which I am connected.

I should have liked to make a number of suggestions about the speeding up of the compulsory purchase order procedure, but I recognise that this is not the time to do so.

I accept what was said by my hon. Friend, as far as he went and as far as my amendment goes. Therefore, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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