HC Deb 30 July 1981 vol 9 cc1328-40 2.30 am
The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Giles Shaw)

I beg to move, That the London Docklands Development Corporation (Vesting of Land) (Newham London Borough Council) Order 1981, a copy of which was laid before this House on 11th June, be approved.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

With this it will be convenient to take the next motion— That the London Docklands Development Corporation (Vesting of Land) (Southwark London Borough Council) Order 1981, a copy of which was laid before this House on 11th June, be approved.

Mr. Shaw

The orders were laid before the House on 11 June. On 1 July the House approved orders setting up the London Docklands Development Corporation, vesting in it certain lands owned by the Greater London Council and the Port of London Authority. In the debate on the orders my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State explained that further orders had been laid affecting some 142 acres of land belonging to Southwark borough council and some 87 acres owned by Newham council. It is those two orders that we are concerned with tonight.

The Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 enables urban development corporations to acquire land compulsorily and, in the case of publicly owned land, by means of a vesting order subject to affirmative resolution of both Houses. The principal purpose of the latter provision is to enable UDCs to have enough land at the outset for their own early projects and to prepare a range of sites for private development. Accordingly, in the shadow period, the LDDC discussed likely demand for land with the present owners, the transport and planning authorities, financial institutions and private sector agencies such as the volume house-builders.

The corporation put forward proposals for the early acquisition of some 840 acres of publicly owned land. Orders vesting about 280 acres of PLA land and 15 acres of GLC land have already been approved. Two more orders vesting land belonging to Tower Hamlets and further GLC land have also been laid and will come before us on another occasion. The LDDC is also negotiating the purchase of land from the British Gas Corporation, British Rail and the Central Electricity Generating Board.

The Government's case for the orders is that, to be effective, the London Docklands Development Corporation needs to own a substantial amount of vacant or underused land on which it can carry out any necessary preliminary work and then release it for development. That is a key component of its strategy. Most such sites are in public ownership and several of them are included in the orders before us. Hon. Members will recall that the Government's proposal to set up the development corporation was considered by a Select Committee in another place. It heard evidence, sat for 50 days and produced a unanimous report that endorsed the Government's proposals for a proposed change in the boundary. Although that Committee did not consider the specific proposals for vesting land, it clearly accepted the need to vest land in the corporation.

The two vesting orders before us today were laid on 11 June and were open to petitions for a period of 14 days.

No petitions were received against the Southwark order. One petition, by Newham borough council, was received against the Newham order. In its petition, Newham argued that the vesting order would deprive the borough of potential sites for public sector and/or mid-tenure housing, that the inclusion of all or part of the sites of the proposed local centres would prejudice the timely provision of the community facilities envisaged and that the inclusion of statutory allotments would deprive allotment holders of their statutory rights while leaving Newham with the commitment to relocate them. The Secretary of State said that the availability of housing land had been considered during the lengthy proceedings on the designation order and that Newham had been given assurances that the land required for community facilities in the local centres would be made available when needed. He said that the LDDC had already acquired certain sites from the Port of London Authority for the relocation of allotment holders and had offered the sites to Newham for statutory allotments.

Newham borough council's petition and my right hon. Friend's representations were considered by the Hybrid Instruments Committee in another place. That Committee took the view that the issue of land for housing and allotments had already beem dealt with sufficiently by the Select Committee. The Committee felt that there were no substantial grounds of complaint concerning the land required for community facilities within the local centres. It concluded that no further inquiry into any of these matters was required.

I commend the orders to the House. They will enable the LDDC to take possession of the sites and make them available for early development.

2.36 am
Mr. Ted Graham (Edmonton)

The hour is late and I do not intend to delay the House for long. However, I remind the House that the Opposition have opposed the concept of the corporation. I am pleased to see that my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) is in his place. He played a notable part in our proceedings in Committe when we considered the Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Bill. He explained what the issues meant for his constituents and he mounted a vigorous defence of the organisation that has been superseded by the urban development corporation.

We must come to grips with reality. In the debate on 1 July my right hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes) maintained our opposition to these measures. However, we are moving on to the next stage. The Minister has explained what the orders mean. This is an opportunity for us to raise our queries and to express our objection. Our basic objection remains that the local people will have taken from them a great deal of expertise and the opportunity to control their own affairs.

I have read the list of members of the Docklands urban development corporation. The team that has been assembled by the Secretary of State is strong on entrepreneurial skills. It has a great deal of experience of national governmental matters. It has some local governmental experience, but it is extremely light on intimate knowledge of the docklands area. The exception is the vice-chairman, who is my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish). I pay tribute to his service to the area that he represents and to London and the docklands generally over many years. Whatever else his future may hold, I see him making a notable contribution in his new role to those whom he has represented. I wish him well.

On 1 July my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey said that it was the intention of the Secretary of State to issue an invitation to each of the three local authorities concerned. As I have said, the deficiencies in the team that has been assembled stick out like a sole thumb. There is an absence of people who really understand the area.

This matter is not directly within the brief of the debate, but the Minister should expect questions such as this. How far has the Secretary of State got with his intentions to invite each of the three local authorities to provide a person to sit upon the urban development corporation? As he will appreciate—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but that has nothing to do with the orders, which are simply concerned with the transfer of land from the London boroughs of Newham and Southwark. It is not a general debate on the development corporation.

Mr. Graham

I appreciate that, but I should have thought that the ability of the urban development corporation to use the land better could depend on the quality of the members who serve on the board. I take your point, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Will the Minister say to what extent the attitude of the three local authorities is changing? I can appreciate that the urban development corporation is a fait accompli and that we are now involved in matters which are changing if the operation is to be a success. Hitherto, the local authorities maintained a united opposition.

There are a number of matters of great significance concerning the vesting of land. Will the Minister tell us something about the compensation which will be paid to the local authorities and the other present owners of the land? We are talking about the land being vested by compulsory purchase and by the other procedures, taking it away from the present owners and giving it to the new owner, the urban development corporation. Will the Minister outline not only the terms but how they will be determined? Will this additional capital receipt have an effect on the housing improvement and the HIP allocation? The Minister will know from his experience that, whenever land or properties are sold, particularly council houses, that helps to enhance the HIP allocations of the local authority. Will the additional sums which will come to the local authorities from the forced sale of their land affect the HIP allocations? That is germane to what we are discussing tonight.

I was intrigued when I read the debate on 1 July to see that the Minister of State had said that he looked forward to there being a greater emphasis on private housing and housing associations. Is the Minister aware of the current depression in the house-building industry as a whole? On the vested land, will there be a proper mix of private as well as council or publicly owned housing? The Minister said that the plan could not succeed without support and the enthusiasm of the local communities. Will he tell us a little about that?

In the Southwark order there is a reference to the Greenland dock, which is the oldest dock in dockland. It dates back to the sixteenth century. At the moment it is used substantially for leisure purposes and as a play area for children. Will the Minister tell us, when land which is presently used for one purpose is used for the UDC, what will happen to the displaced people? He made particular reference to the fears at Newham about the allotments.

The House of Lords third report from the Hybrid Instruments Committee which was printed on 16 July states: The Hybrid Instruments Committee, however, are satisfied that the position of the allotment holders was adequately canvassed before the Docklands Select Committee. I wonder what "adequately canvassed" means. How satisfied are people with what they will get from that? It continues: The matter is dealt with in paragraph 8.6 of their Report. Paragraph 8.6 states: Certain allotment holders in Beckton also expressed fears that their position would be adversely affected by a UDC but the Committee do not share these fears. To be fair, in opening the Minister indicated certain ways in which he or his advisers believe that those fears can be set at rest. However, it is legitimate to raise that fear—which, no doubt, my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South will also mention—and also the fears of local community centres.

The die is cast in this order, but not for future vesting orders. Tonight we are trying to get an idea from the first vesting order. There are lists and plot numbers concerned with the maps and orders, and the maps state: These maps are for illustrative purposes only. However, it would have been useful to have marks on the maps or areas delineated with a number so that we could link a spot on the maps with a plot number. The plots are not numbered on the maps. The debate serves a number of purposes, as other vesting orders which have been laid are yet to come before us.

The official Opposition are far from satisfied, although we do not intend to divide the House. However, that does not mean that we shall not do so on future orders.

2.46 am
Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

It is perhaps appropriate that I, rather than my hon. Friends representing the Southwark area, should speak to the order. As my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Graham) suggested, the position north and south of the river is now somewhat different.

The Lysander site in the borough of Southwark is, we will hope, well under way, so the vesting orders will be of much greater significance north of the river, in particular in Tower Hamlets. Land remains to be vested in the London borough of Newham, particularly in relation to the Port of London Authority, the Gas Corporation, British Railways and the order that we have tonight relating to land in the ownership of the London borough.

I cannot promise to be as succinct as my hon. Friend. The constitutional significance of the urban development corporation and of the first of these vesting orders should not be underestimated. Any hon. Member with a compulsory purchase order laid in his constituency for 80 acres of publicly owned land for which plans have already been made would feel equally indignant, whatever his party. The Minister for Local Government and Environmental Services, who piloted the Wildlife and Countryside Bill through Committee, would feel equally indignant if a future Government designated a wetlands conservancy corporation on the levels of Somerset where his constituency is situated and went about compulsory acquisition of land there. He would feel as strongly as I do about this matter.

The first matter that I wish to raise was touched on by my hon. Friend. It concerns the statement by the Minister for Local Government and Environmental Services on 1 July. He spoke about informal plans. Atformal plans will, no doubt, be laid at some stage in relation to these sites. This vesting order gives permission for them to be vested in the LDDC but the Minister, apart from generalised remarks, has not stated the use to which they will be put.

At column 962 the Minister said: I sought to make it clear that the success of Docklands and of the development corporation will be determined not by the ability to impose plans produced behind closed doors— which indeed will be the case, because the LDDC will not be open to the public— on an unwilling local population but by the ability to get the enthusiastic support of people in the area."—[Official Report, 1 July 1981; Vol 7, c. 962.]

I would like to come back to that last point on a number of other questions that I want to put to the Minister. That is the benchmark that the Minister for Local Government and Environmental Services has laid down and I know from the Secretary of State that he agrees with that. The vice-chairman of the LDDC, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), said that in the last debate. So we are all agreed on that. What will these sites be used for?

The borough petitioned against these orders. The third report from the Hybrid Instruments Committee of the House of Lords refers to this. The borough council raised a number of issues with the Committee, which said that these matters had already been dealt with. My hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton has referred to this and quoted the reference to the allotments.

This is my first question to the Minister. I have five altogether. I understand that there has been an assurance from the LDDC that if, particularly on the triangle site, existing allotments are required for other uses, equivalent areas will be made available or acquired by the Docklands Corporation elsewhere in the area. I hope that if he has not already done so, the Minister will confirm that that is the case and, if it is not the case, that instructions, if necessary under the terms of the Act, will be given by the Secretary of State.

I emphasise the case of the allotments because the Government's record in respect of even the existing allotment holders has been particularly bad. There was the Croydon scandal, when there was great wrath in the country among allotment holders. I tell the Minister that when the borough council sought to deal with the allotment question when there was a need for land and a land transfer, an army of allotment holders complete with forks, spades and other implements that could be described as weapons in these days descended upon my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) when he was Prime Minister and visiting our constituency. They were by no means constrained by party political considerations. I assure the Minister that we do not want a repetition of that should a future Secretary of State act inadvisedly. I have been told that there are already people camping on the land to illustrate their disquiet.

I come to my second point about the use of this land, and that is to do with the possible use of it for housing.

My hon. Friend has referred to the findings of the Select Committee of the House of Lords and to the fact that it wanted to see a change of priorities. I quote from its findings at paragraph 8(4): Private investors will not put money into docklands on any large scale unless they are encouraged by the presence of an environment attractive to them, including the availability of some private housing. Furthermore the evidence which the Committee have heard suggests that low-priced housing might not be beyond the. range of some young people in docklands and that the present lack of it may be one of the causes of their drifting away from the area. On the other hand, it is to be remembered that council tenants now have the right to buy their homes, and this may contribute to a solution of the problem. That is the emphasis of the Select Committee. We can assume that quite a number of the 80 acres will be used for new housing.

The London borough of Newham is already conscious of the need to retain young people in the area, and has its own scheme for providing them with new private houses. Contrary to the general view on the Government Benches, my borough council, which is heavily of my political persuasion, provides young married people with private houses to buy, and it is pleased to do so—when it can get the money to do it.

The original Beckton plan shows that no less than 44 per cent. of the area of the Beckton redevelopment would be in mid-tenure, equity-sharing or housing association, or for owner-occupation: 27 per cent. mid-tenure and 17 per cent. for owner-occupation, making 44 per cent. altogether. That might be regarded as a mix that is not to the liking of the Government or of the LDDC, but if they are to attract owner-occupiers and speculative developers—perhaps of the volume and variety that the Minister said—they must also perhaps consider housing associations.

My second question arises immediately out of the Select Committee's recommendations and findings. Can the Minister direct the LDDC to say that nominations for the purchase of any new houses that are built, or nominations to houses that may be constructed by housing associations, will be given to nominees of the council either from existing council houses of those who were on the housing list? The Minister has often told us that council people should be allowed to buy homes. If he believes that, would it not be logical to give first preference to those in council accommodaion to buy private houses in the borough?

Mr Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is going a little wide of the orders, which are concerned only with the transfer of the land from Newham or Southwark to the Docklands Development Corporation. I understand that the hon. Gentleman is speculating on what it might be used for, but he should not go further.

Mr Spearing

I of course bow to your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, but whether the order should be approved—which is the question before us—should depend to some extent on the information before the House about the purpose for which the LDDC wishes to use the land. We need an indication of that and of the safeguards available to the community. That has some bearing on whether the order meets with the approval of the House.

I pass on, at your prompting, Mr Deputy Speaker, to the valid point, which is well on the centre of the order, of the cost and valuation involved in the transfer. I understand that the London borough of Newham will receive about £2.3 million for 80 acres, and that that is the statutory valuation. My primitive arithmetic makes that work out at roughly £30,000 an acre. If we think of a reasonable density of, say, 70 or 80 people per acre, e arrive at a cost of about £2,000 per dwelling. That is not the end of the basic land cost. There are also the costs of services. But, given the cost of housing today, I should think that a cost of £2,000 to £3,000 for the site is relatively low. But we have no guarantee that that is the charge to be made upon any owner-occupiers coming into the area. They will presumably not buy the land directly from the LDDC. The LDDC will, I suspect, through housing associations — in which case rent and not occupation will be the criteria — invite volume builders to tender. The Minister thinks that that may be so. The difference between the cost of the acquisition of the land and the cost of a house which is on the land will be part of the equation. I suspect that somewhere along the line the value of the land will markedly increase from the price at which it is purchased from the borough council.

Mr Graham

It is not only a question of the purposes for which the land is ostensibly to be used. Once the land is vested in the urban development corporation it can be sold, leased off or given to anyone else for any other purpose. In other words, once the land is vested in the urban development corporation, not only does it leave the ownership and control of the public authority as we know it but, in effect, it can be sold to anyone for any purpose.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for illustrating the constitutional implications of the order. Coupled with the ownership of the land, it is entirely within the LDDC's discretion to decide what planning permission that land is given. Having got the power of compulsory purchase and the power of providing planning permission, the LDDC has realised the medieval man's dream of the stone that turns land to gold. The LDDC, presumably, takes any profit, which the new owner-occupier, paying to a building society or mortgage fund out of hard-earned wages, has to finance. The vacuum has to be filled, and someone will make a great deal of money. Will the Minister therefore explain the cost to owner-occupiers of the land element, which is currently publicly owned?

My hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton referred to community facilities. These were extensively dealt with in the Hybrid Instruments Committee report on this order. It dealt with the petition sent in by the London borough of Newham. There are two areas of new town centres in the Beckton area—the North Beckton local centre and the West Beckton (North) local centre. The Committee says on page 3 The Hybrid Instruments Committee do not see this as a substantial ground of complaint., given that the only relevant statutory function of the Petitioners is to provide community facilities. I like the legal phrasing of those last 13 words. We are all aware of the importance of community facilities to a local centre—a school, a centre for information, and so on. But in practice much more than the statutory minimum is needed. I instance particularly—and this is related to the other centre as well—the work of the dockland churches joint committee, which is keen to provide local community facilities, which are not statutory. But they must have the statutory land or the planning zones in a statutory sense. I am not sure that the LDDC will be as sensitive to the provision of these community facilities as the existing local authority. The less land that is taken for community facilities, the more there is available for disposal, including land in the Beckton district park that is already open space and would do nicely for building.

The chairman of the LDDC has stated that the corporation does not expect to change substantially the existing Beckton district plan, but it is changed to some extent by these vesting orders. I hope that the Minister will be able to inform the House about his instructions or wishes in respect of community facilities. These must surely consist of more than the statutory provision of libraries, schools and, if I dare mention the subject, school playing fields. The Department of Education and Science has just passed through the House an order that restricts the statutory amount of school playing fields. Fewer school playing fields may be statutorily required in the borough of Newham.

I should like the Minister to deal with the matter of grants for community facilities. Delay has occurred in paying grants under the partnership agreement. There have been six weeks in which the new urban development corporation could have paid out money which was not possible before the House passed the establishment order. I understand that the delay affects payments to industrial enterprises and also to voluntary agencies with facilities related to sites south of the Barking road.

I turn now to the issue of planning permission for the sites. Plans have been made for the area that will have to be changed. Section 140 of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 specifies that within a given time in the course of a year a code of practice must be agreed between the LDDC and the local borough councils covering relations between them. The section states: An urban development corporation shall prepare a code of practice as to consultation with the relevant local authorities about the exercise of its powers.

I hope that the corporation will agree to consult the local authorities on planning permission for the zones. If that does not happen, it is not much of a code of practice. Such a code must involve mutual agreement on how one operates, similar to the procedure of the House. The Government appear to be saying that the code will be determined, in the end, by the LDDC even if the borough councils object. I hope that this will not happen. There should be consultation over planning permission for the sites.

There may be changes in the density of population which will affect demand for local authority services. Some of the land on the sites has been earmarked for purposes relating to the rest of the borough. If these plans cannot now go ahead, the borough will have to find sites elsewhere to fulfil these purposes. Such co-operation is essential if the borough is not to be prejudiced and having to spend more money. I am sure that the Secretary of State would not want it to do that.

I return to my hon. Friend's question about membership. I see no reason why an official letter should not be sent to the boroughs inviting them to submit the names of persons who in their view have particular knowledge of the area and are thus eligible to be appointed by the Secretary of State to the board of the LDDC.

I must make it clear that, even if names were suggested by the boroughs, it would be wrong for the Secretary of State to claim that those persons represented the boroughs. They would not. They would be appointed by the Secretary of State. Nevertheless, if there is to be an official invitation, I hope that it will be sent to the boroughs because the use of these sites may well rest in the contributions made by such people to the deliberations of the LDDC. Indeed, I suggest that it might be improper for the LDDC to go ahead and discuss the future use of land before any such appointments are made. The nature and suitability of such appointments will, of course, have considerable local impact, however they are made. I see no reason why an official letter should not go to the council. If any of these people were unfortunately no longer available, the Secretary of State would have to go back to the council. Even if this were done, however, they would not represent the local authority because they would be the Secretary of State's appointments. Nevertheless, such people would at least have some local knowledge of the area.

I turn to the attitude of local people to whatever is built on the land. They will say that whatever happens is being proposed and imposed upon them by the LDDC. They will look very carefully indeed to see whether the use of the land forwards the objectives mentioned in paragraph 8.4 of the House of Lords Select Committee report on the order. Whether the Minister likes it or not, the fact that their Lordships compressed the representations of local people, boroughs and individuals, into 500 words and did not say in their report to what extent their case was proved or not proved has not been well received in the area. If the LDDC is to gain the confidence of the local people, which everybody says is crucial to the undertaking, it has a good deal of work to do to redeem what was regarded by some people as something of a judicial leap in the dark with regard to the regeneration of Docklands.

Finally, I hope that when more of these orders are introduced there will be no need for detailed points of the kind that I have made in this debate. I would hope that the mere fact that the House must approve by affirmative resolution acquisition orders of this kind will mean that there is proper and adequate consultation all the way round. Therefore, although they may not be approved in principle, at least it will not be necessary late at night, or by other means such as Adjournment debates or questions, for the Member or Members concerned to make a nuisance of themselves in the House. I hope that that will not be necessary. A great deal will depend upon the good sense and common concerns of all.

These sites could be used in a way which will meet the mutual concerns of everybody. Indeed, any other site and any other order could do the same. I personally would wish to co-operate with the LDDC to try to identify those areas of common agreement. Having identified such areas, if they exist, and having seen how large they are, we could then discuss how common objectives could best be met so that, whatever happens in the future, proper regeneration of an uncontroversial nature takes place.

I should like to list the questions that I have put. First, what is the position regarding allotments? Will this be in the form of a letter, and, if so, what will it say? Secondly, in the light of the Government's views on home ownership and the report of the Select Committee, do they expect nomination from the borough for the purchase of houses, including housing associations nominations? Thirdly, what will be the structure of land charges, the betterment, if any, and the profit on the land arising from the relatively low charge that appears to be made by the borough under the statutory obligation? Fourthly, what has caused the delay in the grants for projects by industry and voluntary agencies in the last few weeks? Fifthly, will there be a formal invitation to the boroughs concerned to suggest a name or names with local knowledge of the area?

3.16 am
Mr. Giles Shaw

Both the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Graham) and the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) asked a number of detailed questions about how these orders affect important local issues. I fully appreciate the detailed way in which the hon. Member for Newham, South put his questions. In no way do I suggest that he has detained the House unnecessarily, because this is an important matter for his constituents. I shall seek to answer all the questions to the best of my ability.

I was asked about the membership of the LDDC. I give both hon. Members the assurance that my right hon. Friend will be consulting local authorities about the possible appointment of persons who have local knowledge to this board. I understand that at least one person from a local authority has indicated an interest. It is important to provide the confidence that members with local knowledge will bring to the board. I therefore give the assurance that consultation about board appointments will take place with the local authorities.

The hon. Member for Newham, South asked about grants. A problem has recently arisen over prospective overspending en urban programme projects by the local authorities. This is not directly a matter of concern to the LDDC. It is a matter for my Department and the local authorities. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we hope to resolve it shortly.

Mr. Spearing

In an effort to save time, I did not go into this matter in great detail. Perhaps the Minister will explain his last remark. As I understand it, the dockland partnership set up under the Inner Urban Areas Act by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) will now be taken over by the LDDC, which will replace the council. I also understand that the money will be paid to the council by the LDDC and not direct from the Department of the Environment. The council will therefore apply to the LDDC for additional moneys and for the continuation of revenue grants that have already been made.

I understand that commitments already entered into are being cut back because no money, either last year or this year, has been paid from current account. It is that matter which requires explanation because the exercise was meant to provide easier channels for the granting of such moneys.

Mr. Shaw

The hon. Gentleman has not understood what I have said. I confirm that the LDDC will be a grant-providing authority, but I suspect that the matter he has raised concerns delays in grant payment. There is a delay at present in dealing with grants, primarily because of potential over-expenditure on inner urban area projects and not in relation to the LDDC. If, on reflection, the point that the hon. Member has raised requires further explanation, I shall write to him about it, but that is the best answer I can give now.

Two points were raised both by the hon. Member for Newham, South and Edmonton. The first concerns compensation. I confirm that compensation will be paid on the basis of the 1961 land compensation code. Section 141 of the Local Government Act is relevant to that. It is too early to say what the amounts will be as the parties are still in discussion. I do not wish to prejudice those discussions, but there will be proper compensation available under that code. The hon. Gentleman can be reassured that that is the procedure that we shall follow.

The second point raised by both hon. Gentlemen concerned allotments and allotment policy. I confirm that the corporation has acquired a site from the Port of London Authority which will replace the existing triangle site on which statutory allotment holders are presently sited. it is hoped that that will be transferred in due course to the allotment holders. I believe that both hon. Gentlemen will understand that the position of statutory allotment authorities is involved and it is taking time to resolve, but there is no doubt in our minds that the LDDC will be able to offer an alternative site to those statutory allotment holders.

The question of housing policy was also raised by both hon. Members.

Mr. Graham

And the HIP allocations.

Mr. Shaw

Yes, indeed. Capital receipts will be available to count towards the HIP allocations.

The LDDC is not a housing authority as such, as the hon. Member for Edmonton will understand. Its main role will be to provide service sites for builders and developers. Under its general powers it will be able to build houses or flats, but the Government's intention is that the LDDC should, wherever possible, work through the private sector or housing associations rather than engage directly in the provision of housing. Therefore, the boroughs will remain responsible for exercising their traditional functions of housing authorities as well as undertaking any new initiatives for low-cost home ownership and matters of that sort.

Concerning the scale of the developments envisaged, house builders believe that there will be a market for up to 1,000 houses per year in the Beckton area alone and the development corporation will seek to maximise the opportunities for private sector houses throughout docklands by providing prepared sites for these purposes. I hope that that clarifies the LDDC's housing policy.

The hon. Member for Newham, South raised an esoteric point about the cost and transfer of land. It is subject to the overall plan for the docklands area. There will always have to be planning application and planning decision about what constitutes a suitable piece of planning and development. But I take the point that on disposal or acquisition of land under compulsory purchase there will be no capital gain or capital loss depending on what the ultimate disposal of that land should be. The hon. Gentleman will understand that the LDDC's main role is the restoration, development and marketing of prepared land. That will provide an important facility to enable the land to be brought into a wide use for both housing and other appropriate uses.

I confirm our intention about community centres. The LDDC will hope to be able to provide land for the Beckton centre and appropriate centres in other areas such as the boroughs would wish to see. The corporation would not want to ride roughshod over what the local community regarded as appropriate development.

I stress that the importance of the project is to provide development prospects that communities in those areas will share. The prospects for community development in the docklands reclamation scheme will be large and we hope that in time a co-operative spirit will emerge between the boroughs and the corporation and that the appointment of those with specialist local knowledge should enable the LDDC and the boroughs to work more harmoniously than the boroughs may envisage.

The hon. Member for Edmonton registered formally the Opposition's disagreement with the concept of the LDDC, of which the vesting orders are the first step. I understand that, and I welcome the fact that he will not press a vote against the orders.

The hon. Gentleman raised a particular point about Southwark, which has not featured in the debate, concerning the Greenland dock. We do not know exactly what the corporation's plan will be and discussions are under way. A study has been launched and it will determine what is to be done with that site. It may need some adaptation, and that will be undertaken in the light of circumstances. I will write to the hon. Gentleman when we are clear about what proposal will be forthcoming.

Mr. Graham

Is the hon. Gentleman giving me an assurance that when existing users are deprived of land the corporation will be sensitive to the need to consult users so that they are given a comparable and satisfactory alternative?

Mr. Shaw

That may be going further than I have suggested. I cannot prejudge how the LDDC will wish to develop certain parts of the land that it will acquire. However, I assure the hon. Gentleman that the corporation intends to engage in as much consultation as possible, not only with the boroughs where land is being acquired but to ensure that local community interests and so on are properly worked through. I hope that there will be a better atmosphere in which those consultations can be carried out. The hon. Member for Newham, South referred to the code, and I assure the House that consultation will be an important part of the LDDC's task.

Mr. Spearing

Will the hon. Gentleman follow up those encouraging remarks by being more specific about the consultation on nominations for housing? The House of Lords Committee made clear its view that the JDC had failed because young people were moving away from the area. Will boroughs be allowed to make nominations for houses in order to stop what the House of Lords drew attention to? Unless there are such nominations, the objectives of the LDDC, as seen by another place, will not be achieved.

Mr. Shaw

I give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. The LDDC chairman has already indicated his willingness to consult local authorities and to consider with them nominations to new housing. That should meet the hon. Gentleman's point.

I hope that I have clarified at least some of the matters raised by the hon. Member for Newham, South.

I hope, likewise, that in relation to the compensation provisions and housing policy, the two main matters raised by the hon. Member for Edmonton, I have shown that the development corporation will take a sensitive attitude and that compensation will be payable under the appropriate legislation.

I hope that, in the light of those considerations, the House will see fit to approve these vesting orders.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the London Docklands Development Corporation (Vesting of Land) (Newham London Borough Council) Order 1981, a copy of which was laid before this House on 11th June, be approved.

Resolved, That the London Docklands Development Corporation (Vesting of Land) (Southwark London Borough Council) Order 1981, a copy of which was laid before this House on 11th June, be approved.—[Mr. Giles Shaw.]