§ '(1) Until the end of the transitional period—
- (a) no offence is committed under section 58H of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971: and
- (b) no hazardous substances contravention notice may be issued, in relation to a hazardous substance which is on, under or over any land.
§ (2) Where a hazardous substance was present on, under or over any land at any time within the establishement period, hazardous substances consent may be claimed in respect of its presence.
§ (3) A claim shall be made in the prescribed form before the end of the transitional period and shall contain the prescribed information as to the presence of the substance during the establishment period.
§ (4) Subject to subsections (5) to (7) below, the hazardous substances authority shall be deemed to have granted any hazardous substances consent which is claimed under subsection (2) above.
§ (5) If at the commencement date notification in respect of the substance was required by Notification Regulations, hazardous substances consent is only to be deemed to be granted under this section if notification in respect of the substance was given before that date in accordance with those regulations.
§ (6) If at the commencement date such notification was not so required, hazardous substances consent is only to be deemed to be granted under this section if an aggregate quantity of the substance not less than the controlled quantity was present at any one time within the establishement period.
§ (7) If it appears to the hazardous substances authority that a claim for hazardous substances consent does not comply with subsection (3) above, it shall be their duty, before the end of the period of two weeks from their receipt of the claim,—
- (a) to notify the claimant that in their opinion the claim is invalid; and
- (b) to give him their reasons for that opinion.
§ (8) Hazardous substances consent which is deemed to be granted under this section is subject to the conditions that—
- (a) the maximum aggregate quantity of the substance that may be present—
- (i) on, under or over the land to which the claim relates;
- (ii) on, under of over other land which Is within 500 metres of it and controlled by the same person; or
- (iii) in or on a structure controlled by the same person any part of which is within 500 metres of it,
- (b) the substance shall be kept and used in the manner in which it was kept and used immediately before the commencement date.
(9) In this section—
commencement date" means the date on which this Part of this Act comes into force;
the establishment period" means the period of 6 months immediately preceding the commencement date;
maximum established amount" means, in relation to any land—
- (a) where before the commencement date there has been a notification in respect respect of a substance in accordance with Notification Regulations, the quantity notified or last notified before the commencement date;
- (b) where such a notification was not so required, the maximum quantity which was present on, under or over the land at any one time within the establishment period;
Notification Regulations" means the Notification of Installations Handling Hazardous Substances Regulations 1982 or any regulations amending or replacing them;466
the transitional period" means the period of 6 months beginning with the commencement date;and other expressions have the same meanings as in the Town and Country Planning Act 1971.'.—[Mr. Tracey.]
§ Brought up, and read the First Time.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Richard Tracey)
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
With this it will be convenient to take Government new clause 15 and Government amendments Nos. 73 and 82.
§ Mr. Tracey
New clause 14 would replace clause 20, which contains transitional provisions for the granting of hazardous substances consent in respect of land where hazardous substances are already being used. At the outset I should like to emphasise that the provisions of part IV are not intended to be confiscatory. Where a hazardous substance is lawfully being kept or used prior to the day on which these provisions come into force, it should, in principle, be allowed to continue to be kept or used in the same manner after that day. The Bill is intended to control new uses of such substances and increases in existing uses. Therefore, it is necessary to identify from the outset what is the entitlement of existing operators to keep or use any particular substance on their land. The function of clause 20 is to establish that initial entitlement.
My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Powley) suggested in Committee that the existing clause is inadequate in a number of respects, and similar points have been put to us by the Confederation of British Industry. We are grateful for the representations made by my hon. Friend and by the CBI. Clause 20 as it stands would require existing operators to apply for hazardous substances consent. If the application is refused, compensation would be payable.
This provision would impose a considerable burden on industry, which would have to make the case for retaining hazardous substances at each of the 2,000 or so sites where they are currently being kept or used. It would require hazardous substances authorities to consider whether to grant consent, which, in spite of the compensation provision, would inevitably open up questions about whether established uses of hazardous substances should be allowed to continue.
I realise that there is an argument that authorities should be able to consider whether to discontinue the use of hazardous substances. The House will know, however, that local planning authorities already have power under section 51 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 to order the discontinuance of use subject to a liability to pay compensation. Hazardous substances authorities will have power under section 58(F) to revoke hazardous substances consent, similarly subject to a liability to pay compensation. Therefore, authorities already have general powers to reconsider any use of land involving the presence of a hazardous substance. They do not need the power to consider and refuse consent under clause 20 as it stands. To give them such a power would simply create uncertainty for industry.
It is because of those criticisms that we have introduced the new clause in place of clause 20. Under the new clause, existing operators will be able to claim entitlement to hazardous substances consent and, unless the claim is 467 invalid, consent will be deemed to be granted when a claim is made. That will be a much simpler and more certain provision than the existing clause. I hope that it meets most of the points to which my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South drew attention in committee.
I shall not detain the House by describing the new clause in great detail. It provides for a six-month period of grace during which claims may be made. The form of claim will be prescribed in regulations. Although the details of the regulations will require careful consideration, our intention is to require only straightforward factual information about matters such as the area of land and the quantity of the substance to which the claim relates and the manner in which the substance is kept or used.
Where the substance is notifiable to the Health and Safety Executive under the Notification of Installations Handling Hazardous Substances Regulations 1982, consent will be deemed to be granted for the amount of substance last notified. In other cases, the consent will be deemed to be granted for the maximum amount that was present on the land in the six months preceding the commencement. In both cases the deemed consent will be subject to a condition that the substance shall be kept and used in the same manner as immediately before the commencement date. Those standard conditions, which are set out in subsection (8), are similar to those in the existing clause.
I said that I did not wish to detain the House. However, I want to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South and say how grateful we are to him for having raised this matter in Committee and for drawing our attention to the problems that are caused by clause 20. It has led us to reconsider the clause and come up with a proposal which is both simpler and less burdensome for operators and authorities alike.
§ Mr. Powley
I express my grateful thanks to my hon. Friend the Minister for the care and trouble that he has taken to meet the points that were raised by the CBI and myself. I am grateful for the new clause and for the more flexible attitude that has been taken to the problems that we outlined to him.
I have one slight reservation about the six-month period, which I hope my hon. Friend will take into account. He will be aware of the number of companies and the number of applications that will need to be made. One must consider the existing burden on the planning departments of many local authorities because of the other planning applications with which they have to deal and the pressure which they are under from those who make the applications. I hope that companies will make their applications within the period, but if some delays occur for administrative reasons, I hope that those circumstances will be taken into account and that firms will not be penalised for something which is no fault of their own.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.