HC Deb 11 November 1975 vol 899 cc1427-51

Lords Amendment: No. 120, in page 22, line 22, at end insert ;provided that in the case of land on which there is at least one dwelling-house such resolution shall not be passed unless the purposes mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (c) of section 12(1) of the Act of 1971 or paragraphs (a) to (c) of section 10(1) of the Scottish Act of 1972 (publicity in connection with the preparation of plans) have in the opinion of the authority been adequately achieved by the steps taken by the authority.

Mr. Oakes

I beg to move, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Here we are back to disposal notification areas, which have occupied so much of the time of the House and Committee. The amendment is unnecessary. Worse still, it could be damaging to the real interests of those with properties in areas which may be declared development notification areas. It provides that an authority cannot declare a disposal notification area which would include any dwelling-house unless it first carries out adequate public participation as defined in the 1971 Act. The amendment appears to be based on a misunderstanding of the purpose and effect of disposal notification areas in providing for some prior procedure before such an area can be declared. The amendment assumes that the declaration of a DNA will have far wider implications than in fact will be the case.

6.15 a.m.

The prime purpose of the DNA provision is to enable an authority to safeguard the position of an area in respect of which it is considering acquisition. Authorities will identify land for acquisition in their rolling programmes and it will then be for them to decide whether or not to use the DNA provisions. To use them will have certain advantages, as it will enable authorities to learn of land coming on to the market. It will also have considerable advantages for the owners of land in the area.

The procedures under Clause 23 enable owners to require an authority to purchase their land if there is blight and if, in response to notification, the authorities state that they intend to acquire. It follows from this approach that the declaration of a disposal notification area will not have any particular consequences for owners of land in the area. The fact that a DNA has been declared will not in any way prejudge the decision of any compulsory purchase order that might need to be made. There is no question of anyone's rights being affected by the declaration and there is no need for a special procedure for public participation given the declaration of a DNA.

Mr. Michael Latham

How can the Minister possibly say that people's rights are in no way prejudiced by the declaration of disposal notification areas when their whole purpose is to indicate that the local authority is considering substantial acquisition?

Mr. Oakes

Acquisition of the area as a whole. That can be of benefit to the people in the area, because they can then make application for the blight provisions to come into effect. I consider that the amendment weakens rather than strengthens the safeguards for owners of properties in potential disposal notification areas. The Government's approach is to insist that any DNA must conform with the planning framework and rest on the procedures for public participation and inquiry as set out in the Planning Acts. There is power for the Secretary of State to veto any DNA which does not provide that basis of control.

We accept that there must be arrangements for publishing the existence of DNAs when they have been declared. That is adequately provided for in the arrangements for publicity and registration in the land charges register. That is clearly laid down in Schedule 8. I ask the House to reject the amendment as both unnecessary and damaging to the real interests of those with property in areas which may be declared development notification areas.

Mr. Graham Page

We have listened to the most extraordinary statement. We have been told that it is advantageous to have one's throat cut. The Minister is suggesting that disposal notification areas are for the benefit of those with property in the areas concerned. It can be said that covenants on property to keep it residential are beneficial, but what happens when a local authority creates a disposal notification area? A person might decide, while having a bath, that he had better sell his property over the next 12 months. He must notify the local authority and the authority can stop him from selling. That is the great benefit, we are told, of the disposal notification area.

We believe that there should be full publicity before a local authority passes a resolution declaring an area to be a disposal notification area. Clause 23(2) provides that An authority may pass a resolution declaring any land in their area to be a disposal notification area". In other words, anybody in that area who intends to sell his property may be stopped from selling it. Therefore, we wish to add a provision requiring publicity to be given to the proposal before the resolution is passed, provided that in the case of land on which there is at least one dwelling-house such resolution shall not be passed unless certain publicity has been given.

This proposal deals with a matter that has been of great concern to people when they appreciate that they may fall within a disposal notification area. Such a designation may be imposed on any kind of property, not necessarily only on slum property. We must remember that in this respect we are talking not of action areas but of areas where a local authority may wish to take control of a property standing in two or three acres of ground. The Minister said that there was no question of anybody losing his rights, but surely he cannot maintain that the establishment of a disposal notification area does not take away the rights of a property owner.

Before a resolution is passed, the amendment would require publicity to be given to the preparation of local plans. The situation is set out in Section 12(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, as follows: A local planning authority who propose to prepare a local plan shall take such steps as will in their opinion secure—

  1. (a)that adequate publicity is given in their area to any relevant matter arising out of a survey of the area carried out by them under section 6 of this Act and to the matters proposed to be included in the plan;
  2. (b)that persons who may be expected to desire an opportunity of making representations to the authority with respect to those matters are made aware that they are entitled to an opportunity of doing so; and
  3. (c)that such persons are given an adequate opportunity of making such representations;
and the authority shall consider any representations made to them within the prescribed period. That is a duty that is already laid on local authorities by Parliament before those authorities prepare local plans. The local plan sets out planning ideas only in respect of that area. A local plan does not say, "You shall not sell your property without giving us a chance to take it from you"—but that is what a disposal notification area does. Such an area will cause far greater damage to the rights of property ownership than will the preparation of local plans. It will undoubtedly cause damage to owners of dwelling-houses within a disposal notification area. The Lords amendment applies only to dwelling-houses. It deals only with the item that has proved of great concern to people who are beginning to understand the meaning of the Bill—namely, with disposal notification areas. Clause 23(2) contains one of the most damaging provisions in the Bill.

I hope that the Minister will accept the Lords amendment because it will give a little relief to those who own dwelling-houses within what the Minister likes to call a "DNA". Those initials hide the true meaning of that concept—namely, an area in which an owner will not be allowed to sell his property without first notifying the local authority, and, indeed, may possibly be stopped from selling it.

Mr. Michael Latham

A few minutes ago the Under-Secretary was kind enough to make some pleasant remark about me. I reciprocate by saying that I have always appreciated the answers that he has given to the Committee and the House. But he fell below his usual high standard in introducing this motion to disagree with the Lords. For anyone to try to pretend that a disposal notification area is of benefit to the citizen is ludicrous. The purpose of such an area is stated clearly in Clause 23 (1) which says that An authority may exercise the powers conferred by this section for the purpose of obtaining information about disposals of development land. The local authority does not want to obtain the information for the good of its soul, or to fill itself up with paper—although that will certainly happen. It wants information so that it may subsequently undertake substantial acquisition in the area. The reason for requiring the information before undertaking that acquisition is that if anyone is rash enough to want to carry out development, the local authority can get in first and suspend the planning permission and make a compulsory purchase order. That does not seem to be of great benefit to the citizen.

When the Lords tabled this amendment, and subsequently Lords Amendment No. 140—which I understand the Government are to accept, with a change—they were wisely drawing a distinction between the present wording of Schedule 8(1) and that of Section 12 of the Town and Country Planning Act. The publicity arrangements in Part III of Schedule 8 of the Bill are not very wide. The schedule provides that: (2) As soon as practicable after passing the resolution, the authority shall—

  1. (a) publish a notice of the effect of the resolution and naming a place or places where a copy of the resolution, and, in the case of a resolution affecting a part only of the area, a map on which that part of 1432 the area is defined, may be inspected at all reasonable times, and
All hon. Members know exactly what that means, from their constituency experience. It will be a small advertisement in the local paper, and possibly one notice, written in legal jargon, pinned up outside the town hall—a notice which only those with knowledge of the matter can understand. For the private citizen this is meaningless, because he is unlikely to understand it or to know whether his home is being threatened.

The provisions in Section 12(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act are much wider. They place a duty on the local authority to conduct a much more substantial participation exercise. It is required to see that adequate publicity is given in its area to any relevant matter and to ensure that persons who may be expected to desire an opportunity of making representations to the authority are made aware that they are entitled to do so. Specific duties are placed on the local authority under Section 12—duties wider than those in Schedule 8 of the Bill. If we are to try placing on the statute book a law that says that people should be required to notify their local authority before disposing of their property, so that the local authority can decide whether it wishes to acquire it, the least we can do is to tell people that they have the right to object, and to circularise them in accordance with Section 12. I am amazed that the Minister, who is normally a reasonable man should seek to resist the amendment.

6.30 a.m.

Mr. Mayhew

I cannot emulate the expertise of my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Mr. Latham), but I invite the Minister to explore further his thesis that a development notification area confers a benefit upon the owner of property. The Minister says that the disposal notification area concept enables the owner of property to claim compensation for blight, but the very argument in our discussions on Lords Amendment No. 93 in respect of the five-year rolling programme—that it enabled compensation to be claimed for blight—was rejected. It is impossible to avoid the impression that the Minister is changing his mind from amendment to amendment in a manner that borders on the frivolous.

The Minister rejected our amendment to Lords Amendment No. 83, on the ground that it was unnecessary, when it was clearly necessary. He rejected Lords Amendment No. 93, which was necessary, on the grounds that it was unnecessary. Now, he advances the argument that the DNA confers great benefit on the householder because it enables him to claim compensation blight, when he has rejected the argument that we advanced on Lords Amendment No. 93 that it allowed compensation to be claimed for compensation blight. What ground is the Minister advancing, or is he taking a frivolous, light-hearted approach to amendments which were seriously considered in another place and deserve to be accepted by him?

Mr. Sainsbury

I am worried about the disposal notification areas. I am no scientist or biologist, but I believe I am right in saying that DNA is a vital ingredient in the cell structure and a basic aspect of human life. I cannot conceive that a disposal notification area has much to contribute in that sphere.

I am doubtful whether the Under-Secretary appreciate the implications of disposal notification areas upon the ordinary householder. Those who take a not too close interest in the proceedings of the Houses of Parliament may be vaguely aware that there is a Bill called the Community Land Bill. If they have read the White Paper, any other publication, or newspaper comments on the Bill, they may be under the impression that it applies to development land. Those people will probably think that development land could properly come within public ownership without any damage being caused to their affairs. It would not occur to a home-owner who does not regard his home as having development potential that legislation which is concerned with development land could affect his ownership of his home or anything he did with it if he moved elsewhere.

Yet people who live in the disposal notification areas are liable to find that their rights are affected in a nasty and remarkable manner. I go along with my hon. Friends who have commented on the extraordinary behaviour of the Under Secretary of State in advancing the theory that the concept of the disposal notification area is not dangerous to the rights of individual home-owners but is positively beneficial. It baffles me.

I am not a member of the legal profession, but there are many legal gentlemen around me, including the Under-Secretary of State. He may even have had some passing experience of conveyancing. Anyone who owns a home knows of the uncertainty and distress that can result when what he thinks is an agreed deal does not go through. Even in the most perfectly regulated market, mixed economy, or whatever system the Government are seeking to create—it changes frequently—it is unlikely that we shall have a balance of supply and demand and absence of gazumping and other techniques in the house market. With DNAs we can be certain that transactions affecting ordinary people's homes—single houses owned by people who want to move from one town to another—will be delayed.

People will find that they have to notify the local authority. I know that the Under Secretary is just waiting to say that here I go again criticising local authorities, but let us face the fact that they are not the perfect administrative machine. There is a local authority of a not inconsiderable size not very far from here, of which it is said that it sometimes takes over a week for correspondence to get from the front door even to the desk of the person meant to be dealing with it, let alone to the top of the pile—and what happens when that person is on holiday or on strike? The idea that there will be a reply in a month is not borne out by the experience of planning legislation of those of us who are at the receiving end—not inside the local authority, although I have been that at one time—of the non-delivery.

Mr. Durant

It may be an advantage if there is just a month for the local authority to make up its mind. If the papers got lost, it might be to the advantage of the resident.

Mr. Sainsbury

I appreciate the point that my hon. Friend is making, but I am saying that the likelihood of any reply before the maximum time allowed is very small. In town planning legislation, as we are only too unhappily aware, there are some local authorities that just laugh if it is suggested to them that they can give an answer to a planning application in less than six months. They say that they are very busy, or that the planning committee meets only every month, or something like that.

The public has an unhappy experience of the reaction of local authorities. They are very busy people and, sometimes, unfortunately, we make them busier by giving them too much to do. We must anticipate that local authorities will make a meal of this provision and will get into a muddle and ask for extensions, make one decision and then want to change it because it is the wrong decision. All this will have a serious effect on people owning homes in a disposal notification area.

I do not want to go into the hideous cost of the administrative bureaucracy that will be created for a disposal notification area.

Mr. Lawrence

Please do.

Mr. Sainsbury

I am being invited to do so, but perhaps my hon. Friend will enlarge on that a little. Undoubtedly disposal notification areas are one of the most ghastly aspects of this bureaucratic nightmare that we are being asked to process at a very appropriate time in the morning for nightmares.

It is not without significance that questions have failed to elicit any information from the right hon. Gentleman as to what assumptions are made about the number of disposal notification areas in his costings for the scheme. It appears that no serious assumptions were made about the number of and expenditure on disposal notification areas and the number of property transactions that would have to be processed. All the assumptions and the costings of the scheme seem to have been based on even more frivolous ground than was apparent.

We shall have delay, cost and bureaucracy, and, most of all, we shall have a serious risk that a number of people owning homes in a disposal notification area will find when they try to sell their property that the local authority will delay; and so the deal will fall through and there will be a ripple effect and a whole series of deals will fall through, and a lot of people will be upset. People should be given the opportunity to express their views on the matter indirectly, and they should be made more aware of the circumstances in which they are likely to find themselves, so that it does not come as an unpleasant shock at the last moment, when people have thought that they have set the sale of their house under way, to find out, probably from their legal adviser, that the local authority cannot proceed and that there is no way in which to help.

This is another of those instances when one hopes that the Government will look at all the circumstances and will consider the implications for those likely to be involved. What is there to lose in accepting the Lords amendment? In his helpful manner, the Under-Secretary has tried to persuade us that this system will actually be helpful to people living in disposal notification areas. He has not explained why it would be helpful. Can he give us any reason for not accepting the Lords amendment? What would be the cost to those who might be affected?

Dr. Glyn

It is incumbent on the Minister to explain one or two simple points. We should have some indication of the number of these areas and he should take notice that a very large number of people own fairly large houses with reasonably-sized gardens—perhaps with an orchard. These are the very people who will be affected by the Bill.

All that the Lords amendment attempts to do is to give them a measure of protection. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Mr. Sainsbury) said, these are people whose rights are being taken away by the Bill. It is about time people realised that the Bill applies to very small holders of medium-value property. My hon. Friend mentioned the problem of delay, and there are other facets, such as the difficulty of selling, and perhaps the almost impossibility of selling to anyone but the local authority.

The provisions in the schedule are not sufficient. There should be far better machinery for informing these people of the position they are in by being in a disposal area and if they are single occupiers of dwelling-houses. The Government should accept the Lords amendment.

Mr. Lawrence

My hon. Friends have put their finger on the principal reason why the Government are ashamed to give publicity to this facet of their Bill. The Government appreciate that these disposal notices will affect owner-occupiers, and may do so in a big way. The Labour Party's election manifesto said: The Labour Government will take into public ownership land required for development, redevelopment and improvement. These proposals do not apply to owner-occupiers, whose homes and gardens will be safeguarded. Sixty per cent. of the population are owner-occupiers. The Government dare not alienate them for their semi-Communist principles of a desire to take all land. The Government are moving in stages towards the full aim of public ownership of land, but cannot move too fast because of the owner-occupiers among the electorate. That was why they went out of their way in the manifesto to say that owner-occupiers would be safeguarded.

But under these provisions there will be no safeguarding of owner-occupiers who will be affected. The amendment would give publicity to the fact. It would mean, if the 1971 Act provisions were applied to the Bill, that owner-occupiers would be given the opportunity to object. One can understand owner-occupiers in a whole street or whole area of a town rising up in an extremely agitated way against their local councillors, if they are Labour, or against their Member of Parliament, if he is Labour. People should understand why the Government are reluctant, on this issue of fundamental justice and interference with the rights of the individual, to give ample warning of the incursions about to be made on them so that they may make representations and protect themselves.

For the Minister to pretend—as though we are particularly stupid at this time of the morning—that there is an advantage to people to have these notices over them, and that in some way they will benefit from the blight that will result, is an insult to our intelligence.

At moments like this it is surely incumbent on the Minister to come clean. If the Government have some diverse reason for wanting to defend their Bill without giving these fundamental rights to people, it is only right and proper that they should say so. If they do not say so, the people will know how to judge them.

6.45 a.m.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

I am sure that the House is aware that what is coming to the fore yet again is the difference of philosophy between the two sides of the House—a point to which the Minister referred earlier. In rejecting the amendment the Government are rejecting a small protection for the individual by way of the publicity called for in the amendment.

Earlier in the course of our debates the individual was asked to trust the benevolent discretion of the Secretary of State, but now he is being told that he will be deprived of the benefit of blight provisions. I do not think that the Under-Secretary of State has explained at all adequately to the House why, if the amendment is not accepted and if the information is not given to him, the individual house owner or occupier can thereby be deprived of the benefit of these blight provisions.

Mr. Oakes

Whatever Opposition Members may or may not think of the principle of disposal notification areas, what I was trying to describe to the House is the effect of the amendment from the other place on people who would be living in disposal notification areas.

Two things are being confused here. One is publicity and the other is participation. There is no issue between us on the need for publicity concerning a disposal notification area. Clearly it is essential in the interests especially of the people in the area that there should be full and adequate publicity where a disposal notification order is being made, and that is provided for in the Bill. The amendment from the other place seeks to go beyond that: it wants publicity and public participation.

May I spell out again what could be the detrimental effect of the amendment on people living in a disposal notification area? Where local authorities carry out a public participation exercise in precisely the way that their Lordships request in the amendment and then declare a disposal notification area, some of them, having done this, might wish to claim that the planning issues had been adequately dealt with by means of this process. This is something we do not want to happen, and neither do hon. Gentlemen opposite. The result could be to bypass the ordinary procedures for public participation and public inquiry under the Planning Acts. We are not discussing disposal notification areas generally but are discussing the effect of the amendment from the other place.

There is one reason why we as a Government think that it would be wrong to accept their Lordships' amendment.

Mr. Durant

Surely the hon. Gentleman is now admitting that our proposals to strengthen the public inquiry provision were right. He is now saying that there is insufficient public inquiry facility and, therefore, that this provision must be made.

Mr. Oakes

I am not saying that. I am stressing the need for publicity, but I am saying that if the Lords amendment were accepted the ordinary planning process could be bypassed by the device of using public participation on the disposal notification area.

We heard this discussed in relation to the five-year programme. The five-year programme that we were discussing earlier will not list sites and, therefore, cannot be used for the foundation of a blight notice. The disposal notification area comes much further along the line for the local authority. It is not the rolling programme, and one gets this constantly with disposal notification areas.

I said on Report that anyone would think that the entire length and breadth of England, Wales and Scotland was to be one huge disposal notification area. I say now that the rolling programme is not a disposal notification area. A

Division No. 403.] AYES [6.54 p.m.
Abse, Leo Cant, R. B. Doig, Peter
Allaun, Frank Carmichael, Neil Douglas-Mann, Bruce
Anderson, Donald Carter, Ray Duffy, A. E. P.
Archer, Peter Carter-Jones, Lewis Dunn, James A.
Armstrong, Ernest Cartwright, John Dunnett, Jack
Ashley, Jack Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Eadie, Alex
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Clemitson, Ivor Edge, Geoff
Atkinson, Norman Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Coleman, Donald Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Conlan, Bernard English, Michael
Bean, R. E. Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Corbett, Robin Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill) Ewing, Harry (Stirling)
Bidwell, Sydney Crawshaw, Richard Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.
Bishop, E. S. Cronin, John Fitch, Alan (Wigan)
Boardman, H. Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony Flannery, Martin
Booth, Albert Cryer, Bob Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Davidson, Arthur Forrester, John
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Freeson, Reginald
Buchan, Norman Davies. Ifor (Gower) Garrett, John (Norwich S)
Buchanan, Richard Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) George, Bruce
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Delargy, Hugh Gilbert, Dr John
Campbell, Ian Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Ginsburg, David
Canavan, Dennis Dempsey, James Golding, John

disposal notification area is far more concrete than that where an authority has made up its mind about a relatively small area that it is in the interests of the authority that it should be notified where people intend to sell within that area because it has development plans for the area as a whole.

The Opposition have asked what possible advantage there can be in living in a disposal notification area. The right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) said that anyone in such an area would have to tell the local authority if he intended to sell and that the authority could stop him from selling. If the authority says vaguely to that person "We want this at some time in the future," he can say to the authority "Oh, no, you don't. You buy it now, at market value." That is the advantage that a person gets if he is in a disposal notification area. If it is not declared a disposal notification area, he does not get that advantage.

I know that that is going beyond the subject matter of the amendment, but it is a problem to which reference has been made. The main point of the amendment is that it could be used by an authority as a device to bypass ordinary planning procedures. For that reason, we ask the House to reject the amendment from the other place.

Question put, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 254, Noes 239.

Gould, Bryan McGuire, Michael (Ince) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Gourlay, Harry Mackenzie, Gregor Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
Graham, Ted Mackintosh, John P. Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)
Grant, George (Morpeth) Maclennan, Robert Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
Grant, John (Islington C) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Grocott, Bruce Madden, Max Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Magee, Bryan Sillars, James
Hardy, Peter Mahon, Simon Silverman, Julius
Harper, Joseph Mallalieu, J. P. W. Small, William
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Marks, Kenneth Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Hart, Rt Hon Judith Marquand, David Spearing, Nigel
Hatton, Frank Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Spriggs, Leslie
Hayman, Mrs Helene Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Stallard, A. W.
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Maynard, Miss Joan Stoddart, David
Heifer, Eric S. Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Stott, Roger
Hooley, Frank Mikardo, Ian Strang, Gavin
Horam, John Millan, Bruce Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.
Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N) Swain, Thomas
Huckfield, Les Molloy, William Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Moonman, Eric Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Hunter, Adam Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Moyle, Roland Tierney, Sydney
Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Tinn, James
Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Tomlinson, John
Janner, Greville Newens, Stanley Tomney, Frank
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Noble, Mike Torney, Tom
Jeger, Mrs Lena Oakes, Gordon Tuck, Raphael
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Ogden, Eric Urwin, T. W.
John, Brynmor O'Halloran, Michael Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Johnson, James (Hull West) O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Orbach, Maurice Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)
Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Jones, Barry (East Flint) Ovenden, John Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Owen, Dr David Ward, Michael
Judd, Frank Palmer, Arthur Watkins, David
Kaufman, Gerald Park, George Watkinson, John
Kelley, Richard Parker, John Weetch, Ken
Kerr, Russell Parry, Robert White, Frank R. (Bury)
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Pavitt, Laurie White, James (Pollok)
Kinnock, Neil Price, C. (Lewisham W) Whitehead, Phillip
Lambie, David Price, William (Rugby) Whitlock, William
Lamborn, Harry Radice, Giles Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Lamond, James Richardson, Miss Jo Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Leadbitter, Ted Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Lee, John Robertson, John (Paisley) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Roderick, Caerwyn Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Litterick, Tom Rodgers, George (Chorley) Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Loyden, Eddie Rodgers, William (Stockton) Wise, Mrs Audrey
Luard, Evan Rooker, J. W. Woodall, Alec
Lyon, Alexander (York) Roper, John Woof, Robert
Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock) Young, David (Bolton E)
Mabon, Dr J. Dickson Rowlands, Ted
McCartney, Hugh Sandelson, Neville TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
McElhone, Frank Sedgemore, Brian Mr. Thomas Cox and
MacFarquhar, Roderick Selby, Harry Mr. J. D. Dormand.
Adley, Robert Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Aitken, Jonathan Bryan, Sir Paul Drayson, Burnaby
Alison, Michael Buchanan-Smith, Alick du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Arnold, Tom Buck, Antony Durant, Tony
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Budgen, Nick Eden, Rt Hon Sir John
Awdry, Daniel Bulmer, Esmond Elliott, Sir William
Baker, Kenneth Burden, F. A. Emery, Peter
Banks, Robert Carlisle, Mark Eyre, Reginald
Beith, A. J. Chalker, Mrs Lynda Fairbairn, Nicholas
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Channon, Paul Fairgrieve, Russell
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Churchill, W. S. Fell, Anthony
Benyon, W. Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Fisher, Sir Nigel
Berry, Hon Anthony Clark, William (Croydon S) Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)
Biffen, John Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Fletcher-Cooke, Charles
Biggs-Davison, John Clegg, Walter Fookes, Miss Janet
Blaker, Peter Cockcroft, John Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)
Body, Richard Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Fox, Marcus
Boscawen, Hon Robert Cope, John Fry, Peter
Bottomley, Peter Cormack, Patrick Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Costain, A. P. Gardiner, George (Relgate)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E) Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)
Braine, Sir Bernard Crouch, David Glyn, Dr Alan
Brittan, Leon Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Godber, Rt Hon Joseph
Brotherton, Michael Dodsworth, Geoffrey Goodhart, Philip
Goodhew, Victor Loveridge, John Ridsdale, Julian
Goodlad, Alastair Luce, Richard Rifkind, Malcolm
Gorst, John McAdden, Sir Stephen Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) McCrindle, Robert Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Cower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Macfarlane, Neil Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C) MacGregor, John Ross, William (Londonderry)
Gray, Hamish Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Grieve, Percy McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Griffiths, Eldon McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Sainsbury, Tim
Grist, Ian Madel, David St. John-Stevas, Norman
Grylls, Michael Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Scott, Nicholas
Hall, Sir John Marten, Neil Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Mates, Michael Shelton, William (Streatham)
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Mather, Carol Shepherd, Colin
Hampson, Dr Keith Maude, Angus Sims, Roger
Hannam, John Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald Sinclair, Sir George
Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye) Mawby, Ray Skeet, T. H. H.
Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Hastings, Stephen Mayhew, Patrick Speed, Keith
Havers, Sir Michael Meyer, Sir Anthony Spence, John
Hawkins, Paul Mills, Peter Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Hayhoe, Barney Miscampbell, Norman Sproat, Iain
Heseltine, Michael Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Stainton, Keith
Hicks, Robert Moate, Roger Stanbrook, Ivor
Higgins, Terence L. Monro, Hector Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Holland, Philip Montgomery, Fergus Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Hooson, Emlyn More, Jasper (Ludlow) Stokes, John
Hordern, Peter Morgan, Geraint Tapsell, Peter
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Morris, Michael (Northampton S) Taylor, R (Croydon NW)
Howell, David (Guildford) Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Howells. Geraint (Cardigan) Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Tebbit, Norman
Hunt, John Mudd, David Temple-Morris, Peter
Hurd, Douglas Neave, Airey Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Hutchison, Michael Clark Neubert, Michael Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Newton, Tony Townsend, Cyril D.
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Nott, John Trotter, Neville
James, David Onslow, Cranley Tugendhat, Christopher
Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd) Oppenheim, Mrs Sally van Straubenzee, W. R.
Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead) Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Pardoe, John Viggers, Peter
Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Parkinson, Cecil Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Jopling, Michael Pattie, Geoffrey Wakeham, John
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Percival, Ian Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Kaberry, Sir Donald Peyton, Rt Hon John Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Kershaw, Anthony Pink. R, Bonner Wall, Patrick
Kimball, Marcus Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch Walters, Dennis
King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Price, David (Eastleigh) Weatherill, Bernard
King, Tom (Bridgwater) Prior, Rt Hon James Wells, John
Kitson, Sir Timothy Pym, Rt Hon Francis Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Knight, Mrs Jill Raison, Timothy Wiggin, Jerry
Knox, David Rathbone, Tim Winterton, Nicholas
Lamont, Norman Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Langford-Holt, Sir John Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal) Younger, Hon George
Latham, Michael (Melton) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Lawrence, Ivan Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Lawson, Nigel Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex) Mr. Adam Butler and
Le Marchant, Spencer Ridley, Hon Nicholas Mr. Fred Silvester.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.

Lords Amendment: No. 127, in page 23, line 10, at end insert— (c) to a transaction which is not for valuable consideration, (d) to a disposal, or a contract for a disposal, to any authority or to the Crown; and as respects any transaction to which Part IIA of Schedule 8 to this Act applies notice may, but need not, be given under subsection (5) above.

Mr. John Silkin

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

The amendment excludes from the requirement to notify disposals in DNAs a transaction which is not for valuable consideration. Of course it is acceptable. It was a Government amendment in response to a point made in the Lords Committee.

Mr. Rossi

It would help us if we could identify the amendment. Line 10 on page 23 is the end of subsection (7), which does not contain paragraphs (a) or (b). The Notice Paper therefore must be wrong. I wonder whether the Chair can assist us, because we do not know what we are amending.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)

Perhaps the Minister could help the Chair.

Mr. John Silkin

The Minister will try, but he would like to point out that the effect of the amendment, even if we are not quite certain where it arises, must be exactly right and something which the hon. Gentleman will appreciate. It was introduced in the Lords to meet a Lords Committee point.

Mr. Rossi

I understand the right hon. Gentleman's explanation of the amendment he intended to move, but the amendment on the Notice Paper is not the one that he has moved. The amendment on the Paper seeks to add two paragraphs to the Bill in a place where they clearly cannot go. The Paper is therefore incorrect. Is there a precedent for this? What happens when an amendment is moved which makes nonsense of the Bill?

Mr. Silkin

The answer is that Lords Amendments Nos. 123 and 126, to which we agreed in the last group taken formally, were paving amendments to No. 127.

Mr. Rossi

With respect, that is still not the solution. I believe that I know it, but I do not know whether I should help the Minister. Having teased him sufficiently to show that he is not clear what he is moving, I would say that his amendment should be inserted in line 6, since it should be an amendment to subsection (6), not subsection (7). That is my guess, but it is for the Minister to tell us what he is doing.

Mr. Peyton

Might I suggest to the Minister that it would be a novel practice to start throwing amendments into the air and hoping that they land in the right place in the Bill? I realise that he has to sustain himself with a certain amount of optimism in our passage through the Bill, but this is overdoing it. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot immediately clear up the matter beyond doubt, we should leave this amendment and come back to it another time. We should not leave the matter to chance.

Mr. Silkin

The information I gave was correct. Amendments No. 123 and 126 were paving amendments. Now we come to Amendment No. 127.

Mr. Rossi

If those other amendments were paving amendments, why was not Amendment No. 127 taken with them? No. 123 and No. 126 were taken with the fifth group of amendments which we discussed at about 5 o'clock yesterday. It is nonsense to deal with the matter in this way.

Mr. Hastings

This is a very serious incident. I have some sympathy with the Minister. He has had about enough and he does not know which amendments we are discussing. This will get us into even more confusion than we are in at present.

It is clear that we cannot go on discussing the Bill any longer. The Minister cannot lead us. He does not know where he is. The simple solution would be to adjourn now. When we return refreshed we shall be able to identify the amendments we are supposed to be discussing.

Mr. Fairbairn

I have looked at this matter with some care and, being a mere lawyer and only learned—

Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

And half asleep.

Mr. Fairbairn

I may be half asleep but I am also half awake, which is more than can be said for the hon. Member.

This amendment means nothing, but that is helpful because the whole Bill means nothing. It is incomprehensible gobbledegook.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are not going to have a Second Reading debate on the Bill.

Mr. Fairbairn

I am a member of the senior house of the legal profession. Perhaps the geniuses in the lower House will explain to a simple Back Bencher like me how Amendment No. 127 will apply, regardless of whether there are paving amendments. It does not conform with the lineation or pagination of the Bill. There are no subsections in line 10 of page 23.

Mr. Hastings

What exactly is pagination? It is bad enough not to know which amendment we are on, but now the language is becoming a little obscure.

Mr. Fairbairn

For someone who had been introduced to the concept of LAM-ing, which I understand means some obscene form of bureaucratic tyranny, I should have thought that pagination was quite a decent English word. For a Scot to produce it at this hour of the morning shows that he has spent the night over his dictionary.

Let us deal with page 23, line 10. Regardless of any previous amendment, paragraphs (c) and (d), which have no application whatever, cannot be added to Clause 23(7). That makes nonsense, and no attempt by an English solicitor to cure the nonsense will convince a Scottish counsel that he has done so.

7.15 a.m.

Mr. John Silkin

I must attempt to assist the hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) and the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings). Since they were leading me, and since both of them refused to divide against the group of amendments which included Lords Amendments Nos. 123 and 126, the paving amendments, I assume that they were in favour of them. Since they were in favour of them, they should have known what they were doing.

Are they really now looking a gift horse in the mouth? If we could fit the amendments in and they made sense I believe that the Opposition would welcome them, as they were welcomed in another place.

I urge hon. Members to turn to page 23 of the Bill. The effect of Lords Amendment No. 123 is to alter paragraph (a). It says Subsection (5) shall not apply to and there we insert Lords Amendment No. 123 to amend paragraph (a).

Lords Amendment 126 deletes paragraph (b), which is a disposal to any authority, or and (c), which is a disposal to the Crown". Then comes subsection (7), which after line 10 will read (c) to a transaction which is not for valuable consideration, (d) to a disposal, or a contract for a disposal, to any authority or to the Crown and so on.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I think that the Minister has made that satisfactorily clear.

Mr. Graham Page

I think that the right hon. Gentleman is wrong. He left out paragraph (b) altogether.

Mr. John Silkin

I thought I made it clear that Lords Amendment No. 126 keeps (b) as that part of subsection (7) which follows Subsection (5) above shall not apply". Those words are being deleted. One then comes to the words "to a transaction é and then Lords Amendment No. 127 comes in to give (c).

Mr. Page

The Minister said that the amendment took out (b), but it leaves it there.

I shall read subsection (6), inserting the amendments, the last of which we are now debating. It then reads: Subsection (5) above shall not apply to—

  1. (a) a disposal in performance of a contract for that disposal of which notice has been duly given under this section.
  2. (b)"—
We leave that little (b) there.

Mr. John Silkin

It says "or (b)".

Mr. Page

No. The word "or" has been taken out by Lords Amendment No. 125.

The subsection continues: (b) a transaction carried out before the effective date specified in the resolution in accordance with subsection (3) above (but can apply to a disposal in performance of a contract before that date). Then we add the (c) that we are now discussing: to a transaction which is not for valuable consideration, and (d) to a disposal, or a contract for a disposal, to any authority or to the Crown;", followed by three more lines on the Notice Paper.

I take it that that is how the subsection will read if we include all the amendments from No. 123 to No. 127. With all respect to the draftsman who drafted the amendments, we are left with a very ill-drafted subsection. It is very difficult to understand.

However, I think that the Minister is giving us something for which we asked at an earlier stage. I hope that he is, and I am prepared to trust him on this matter. I see that the right hon. Gentleman is nodding his head. As I think that we have what we want, even if it is ill-drafted, I ask my hon. Friends to support the amendment.

Mr. Peyton

On a point of order. Would the Minister like to have the sitting suspended for two or three minutes to enable him to consult his advisers, so that he can make the position clear beyond peradventure? [Interruption.] I hope he will understand that, despite the barracking of some of his hon. Friends, this is intended to be a helpful and serious suggestion.

Mr. John Silkin

I fully accept that the right hon. Gentleman is being helpful, but I think that between us his right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) and I have at last got to what the drafting is. This is a point to meet the Opposition, and in those circumstances perhaps we have gone far enough.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords Amendment: No. 129, in page 23, line 29, at end insert and as if an interest qualifies for protection notwithstanding its failure to comply with section 192(4) of the Act of 1971 or section 181(4) of the Scottish Act of 1972.

Mr. John Silkin

I beg to move, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Subsection (9) of Clause 23 already provides that when an authority has served a counter-notice to a disposal notification stating that it intends to acquire the land, or has failed to serve a counter-notice within the required period of four weeks, the blight provisions of the Planning Acts shall apply so that those within the protected categories can serve a blight notice on the authority requiring it to acquire their land in advance. The protected categories are residential and agricultural owner-occupiers and owner-occupiers of premises with a rateable value not exceeding £2,250.

The effect of the amendment is to provide that anyone with a material interest in land, and not merely those within the protected categories, could serve a blight notice. The effect, therefore, would be to remove the present limitation that applies to residential and agricultural owner-occupiers and owner-occupiers of property whose rateable value does not exceed £2, 250. Those are the only categories of persons entitled to serve blight notices. The system is designed to protect those who suffer the greatest hardship from blight—for example, residential owners who need to sell their houses because they have to move to other areas. It has always been accepted hitherto that this protection should not be extended to other categories—for example, the absentee landlord—

Mr. Clegg


Mr. Silkin

That has been accepted by both sides of the House. The hon. Gentleman may recall that we have cantered round this course before. The blight categories were carefully considered by the Opposition when they were in Government when dealing with the Land Compensation Act 1973. Part V of that Act contained a number of important provisions concerning blight. The Conservative Government took the same view that we have taken. That is one reason for my expecting the Opposition to support the Government on this matter.

Mr. Clegg

At this time of the morning there is nothing I enjoy more than a canter round a course to which I am accustomed. The right hon. Gentleman has been carefully quoting Acts dealing with blight which were passed by a Conservative Government of which I was a member. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that before that I introduced the Planning Blight and Worsenment Bill. The Labour Government of the day saw fit to reject it.

In arguing in support of the Lords amendment I contend that blight, if proved, should be capable of remedy. The right hon. Gentleman has said that we should reject the amendment because it widens the area of blight. I believe that if a subject of the Crown suffers, it matters not whether he be rich or poor. It seems that we are in the process of saying "If your property is of a certain kind and under a certain rateable value and you suffer a wrong, that wrong shall be put right. If, however, you suffer a wrong and your rateable value is above a certain figure, and if your property is of a certain nature, you shall not be recompensed by the State." I totally reject that point of view. There is either justice or injustice. The amendment provides for justice for all and not merely for a few.

I reject the right hon. Gentleman's arguments. If there is blight and the State induces it, the State should recompense those who suffer. That is why I say that their Lordships have been right to present us with the amendment.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.

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