HC Deb 14 May 1990 vol 172 cc712-4 11.50 pm
The Solicitor-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

There are four Bills relating to town and country planning matters before the House and, with permission, I shall speak to all four, as they should be considered as a unity.

The four Bills, taken together, amount to a consolidating measure. The Town and Country Planning Act 1971 was the last major consolidation of the Town and Country Planning Acts. The 1971 Act has been considerably amended by primary legislation, including the Town and Country Planning (Amendment) Act 1972, the Local Government Acts of 1972 and 1985, the Land Compensation Act 1973, and the Town and Country Planning Act 1984.

The result of the constant addition of material into the text of the 1971 Act and the repeal of extensive parts of it has been a loss of coherent structure. That is especially apparent in part IV of the 1971 Act dealing with special controls. The system of controls relating to listed buildings and conservation areas and to hazardous substances are so voluminous as to justify whole Bills relating to those topics alone. They have therefore been consolidated separately in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Bill and the Planning (Hazardous Substances) Bill.

In other respects, there is a broad correspondence between the Town and Country Planning Bill and the 1971 Act. The only difference is the creation of a new part which relates to Crown land and includes material from the Town and Country Planning Act 1984 and the Building Restrictions (War-time Contraventions) Act 1946. Finally, the Planning (Consequential Provisions) Bill, which is ancillary to the other three, deals with a number of technical and transitional matters, including repeals and consequential amendments.

In preparing the consolidation, the Law Commission issued a report in which it made a number of recommendations for amendments to and minor clarifications of the existing legislation, and those amendments appear in the Bills. All four Bills were referred in the usual way to the Joint Committee and on Consolidation Bills &c. during their passage in another place. The Committee reported that the recommendations of the Law Commission were necessary to produce a satisfactory consolidation of the law and that the four Bills, taken together, amounted to a single consolidation.

I should tell the House that a small number of further amendments will be brought forward.

As always, our thanks are due to the Law Commission and to the draftsmen for their excellent work in the process of keeping the statute book in modern and accessible form.

I commend the Bills to the House.

11.53 pm
Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

As usual, one welcomes consolidation legislation as it makes life easier for practitioners. This set of four Bills is a remarkable achievement.

Is the progress of consolidation now being speeded up by putting statutes and amendments to them on the equivalent of a word processor, albeit an extremely large one? Are statutes being computerised to any degree to make that process easier and quicker in relation to the Bills before us and other heavy, voluminous, much-amended legislation that will come before us from time to time?

11.54 pm
Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield)

I did not know whether you were going to call me, Mr. Deputy Speaker

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

The Standing Order says that the hon. Gentleman must rise in his place. His place is not in the middle of the Chamber. Does the hon. Member wish to speak?

Mr. Haynes

Are you having a go at me, Mr. Deputy Speaker? I am sorry. I get carried away from time to time when you are in the Chair. I wanted to contribute. I am not pulling your leg. I want to have a go at the Solicitor-General, because he is talking about hazardous substances. From time to time, I have had a go at the Secretary of State for the Environment because we have problems in my area——

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am sorry to check the hon. Member, but I am bound to tell him that we are discussing a consolidation measure and we cannot discuss the merits of the contents of Bills which are the subject of consolidation. We can only discuss whether it is appropriate to consolidate at this time. The hon. Member cannot discuss hazardous substances now. He has to look for another opportunity.

Mr. Haynes

I accept your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I fully understand, but the consolidation measure is hiding a problem back home in my constituency, and I want to express myself here tonight.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am sorry, but the hon. Member will not be allowed to express himself on that subject tonight. If he seeks an early opportunity, I am sure that Mr. Speaker will look favourably on an Adjournment debate application. I wish that the hon. Member would not keep smiling at me in that way. I doubt whether the matter which he wishes to raise would be in order if he persisted in seeking to raise it. I hope that we will now allow me to put the question.

Mr. Haynes

I accept what you say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I hope that you will put in a good word for me upstairs.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time and committed to a Committee of the whole House.

Committee tomorrow.