HC Deb 14 October 1975 vol 897 cc1210-5

Amendments made: No. 316, in page 25, line 11, leave out from beginning to 'to' and insert: '(1) Except as provided in subsection (2) below, this section shall apply— (a)'.

No. 317, in page 25, line 14, leave out from 'on' to 'in' in line 15 and insert: 'a date on or after the second appointed day, and (b)'.

No. 318, in page 25, line 18, at end insert 'interest in'.

No. 344, in page 25, line 19, at end insert: '(2) This section shall not apply where—

  1. (a) during the period beginning with 12th September 1974 and ending with the date mentioned in subsection (1)(a) or (b) above, the interest in land has not been owned otherwise than by a charity, and
  2. (b) that period is a period of not more than ten years;
and for the purposes of paragraph (a) above, the interest in land shall not be treated as having been owned otherwise than by a charity at any time if, at that time, a charity had entered into a binding contract for its acquisition.'.

No. 319, in page 25, line 23, leave out 'relevant'.

No. 320, in page 25, line 26, after 'specified', insert: 'in Schedule (Exempt development) to this Act or'.—[Mr. John Silkin.]

Mr. John Silkin

I beg to move Amendment No. 321, in page 25, line 35, leave out from 'of' to end of line 38 and insert:

  1. '(i) any change, effected by an order under section 22 of the Act of 1971 or section 19 of the Scottish Act of 1972, in the uses of land not involving development, or
  2. (ii) any change, effected by the making, variation or revocation of a general development order, in the kinds of development falling within paragraph 1 of Schedule (Exempt development) to this Act,
being (in either case) a change effected on or after the second appointed day or, if the interest in land is being compulsorily acquired and notice of the making or preparation in draft of the compulsory purchase order was first published before that day, on or after the day on which it was so published'.

Mr. Speaker

With this we shall take Opposition Amendment No. 208, in page 25, line 38, at end insert: 'or after the date of the compulsory purchase order'.

Mr. Silkin

The Government amendment arises out of the recasting of these clauses and is related to them. I shall come back to the effect in general, but I want to point out the effect of the latter part of the Government amendment, which says: if the interest in land is being compulsorily acquired and notice of the making or preparation in draft of the compulsory purchase order was first published before that day, on or after the day on which it was so published". This meets a point put by the hon. Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Budgen) in Committee. He wanted to point out that it was possible that someone might not have objected to a compulsory purchase order on certain assumptions, and then one might get a change in the use class order or general development order, or something like that, and the effect would be, as the Bill was then drafted, that he would get a lower value because, for example, one might get—to use a fanciful situation—a use class order on industrial premises grouped together but then a person might make a new use class in which industrial premises of a particular sort were put into a separate use class.

The result would be that, of course, the limits of the original value in that particular use class would be varied. I was not unsympathetic to the point, and the Government amendment therefore exactly meets the point, although only incidentally. To that extent, it is the same, in effect, as the Opposition amendment. I hope, therefore, that the Opposition will support our amendment instead.

The other part of the Government amendment arises because of the recasting of these provisions, but it deals with much the same point on the question of values that arise on the second appointed day. It freezes the assumptions as they were on the second appointed day just as we are freezing the assumptions for the compulsory purchase order. In other words, we are saying that because other changes may take place in, say, the use class order or the general development order, a person is not to be denied the original assumptions of what the current use value would have been at the set date of the second appointed day. I hope that the amendment as a whole meets the Opposition's view.

Mr. Rossi

The right hon. Gentleman has put the Government amendment to us on the basis that he is meeting a point made by the Opposition in Committee. It just shows how difficult it is to deal with technical and complicated matters of this kind at such short notice, because, again, this amendment is one of the eleventh-hour group put to us. We marked this amendment with the word "Divide"; now we are told that it is a helpful amendment, designed to meet a point that we made in Committee. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can help us further in his explanation. This is a very difficult area.

As the Bill now stands, we are told by Clause 27 that when compensation is being assessed for payment to a dispossessed land owner, no account is to be taken of any changes that may take place in the kind of developments which are relevant development by virtue of regulations that may be made under the Bill. In other words, if the value of a man's interest in his land is altered by the Secretary of State changing his regulations under the Bill, no change will take place in the compensation being paid, either up or down. I assume that it could work both ways.

Subject to the reservations that we made concerning the effective date, we accepted the concept that anything being done under this Bill after the given date should not affect the valuation, but the amendment seems to depart from that concept, because we are moving entirely from the subsection, as I understand it, by reference to changes which may be made in that concept of relevant development by regulations that the Secretary of State may choose to make under the Bill. It is being replaced by changes which may take place in the use class under the town planning legislation, and any change that may take place because of changes in a general development order.

These are slightly different things, because, at the moment, if changes are made in the planning effect upon land an owner does not benefit from them, or suffer from them, to an extent, either way. This seems to be a somewhat different concept from the one in the Bill as we considered it in Committee. It was this change in concept that alerted us and made us consider that perhaps it was not acceptable.

Primarily, what the Opposition are concerned to do is to ensure that the compensation payable to a dispossessed owner is as generous as possible and not as mean and niggardly as possible. It seemed to us that what was happening now was that we were being asked to accept that changes in matters outside the Bill itself should not be taken into account when assessing the compensation. Even if those changes augmented the value of the land and enabled the owner to obtain a more generous compensation than he otherwise would, we were being required to say that that should be disregarded. To that extent, we felt that the Government amendment was not acceptable.

I should be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman, bearing in mind that we are trying to grope through these technicalities at a late hour, would enlighten us on the question whether the concept which I have put to him is correct or incorrect, so that we may decide whether or not to divide the House.

Mr. John Silkin

I am awaiting confirmation of what I believe to be the case. In the meantime, I shall say what I believe to be the situation and we shall see whether my view is correct. This is what I was trying to achieve, and in doing that I was hoping to meet the legitimate point made by the Opposition not just in relation to the compulsory purchase order question but in general terms. In principle, I do not think that we are far apart from one another.

The amendment effectively deletes subsection (3)(d) of Clause 27. The reason for that is that "relevant development" now has no meaning in that clause. The intention of the amendment is to freeze the basis of current use value at the second appointed day, so that the owner is neither prejudiced nor advantaged by any changes made for planning and not for compensation reasons. The hon. Gentleman will see that that exactly parallels the compulsory purchase order concession made in recognition of the Opposition's argument, and that we have succeeded in doing exactly the same thing. We have given a certainty to the owner of the land that whatever change in planning there may be it will not affect him. He will know exactly where he is and he will not be disadvantaged accordingly. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be satisfied with that explanation.

Mr. Graham Page

Surely the amendment deals only with certain specific matters, namely, those under Section 22 of the 1971 Act, the corresponding section in the Scottish Act, and the General Development Order. In respect of the use classes orders and the General Development Order I have it at the back of my mind that we have always recognised the principle that if they are changed to the disadvantage of an owner he will not be paid compensation for that change.

If one owns property one runs the risk of the property being increased in value by more things being included in the GDO or the use classes, or being decreased in value by a more stringent GDO. That is what seems to have crept into the amendment—and it seems to be all that has crept in.

I feel that the amendment must have been drafted after the amendments which delete "relevant development", because the Minister put his amendment on the basis of merely tidying up. It has to recognise that "relevant development" no longer exists in the Bill and there is, therefore, no point in mentioning it in this subsection. The amendment must have been drafted before Amendment No. 261, which brought in the new classes of excepted development by regulation. If those regulations are changed, that may have exactly the same effect as a change in the General Development Order or the use classes orders. Should they not come into the amendment?

Amendment No. 208 contains simply the words: or after the date of the compulsory purchase order". The Minister has cluttered this simple phrase with words about the draft of the compulsory purchase order being first published, and so on. I suppose that there is some precedent for that, but the normal date of a compulsory purchase order is the date when the draft order is published and awaits confirmation by the Secretary of State.

The Minister may have omitted to include the regulations introduced by Amendment No. 61, and I feel that they should be included in the amendment.

7.15 p.m.

Mr. John Silkin

I should like to assist the House to come to an early decision on the amendment, one way or another. I think that the Opposition understand that the Government were trying not only to make the parallel changes necessary but also to meet the Opposition's point. I take the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) that he and his hon. Friends had not realised that, but he will take my point that that is what we intended to do.

If the House is willing to agree to the amendment, I undertake to reconsider the matter between now and the time when the Bill goes to another place to see whether there is anything in the point made by the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page), that because the drafting was somewhat out of order, as he believes, we may not have the wording quite right. If the Opposition are satisfied with that undertaking, I am happy to give it.

Mr. Rossi

With the leave of the House, may I say that in view of that assurance, we shall not divide the House on this occasion.

Amendment agreed to.

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