HL Deb 04 December 1951 vol 174 cc774-8

3.27 p.m.

LORD LLOYD rose to move, That the Mineral Development Charge Set-Off Regulations, 1951, reported from the Special Orders Committee on Wednesday last, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope that I need not detain your Lordships long in moving these Regulations. In point of fact they give effect to a promise which was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the late Government as long ago as 1949. Therefore, I hope that, as between the Government and noble Lords opposite, this may be regarded as a non-controversial matter.

The Regulations have been the subject of prolonged discussions between the Central Land Board, on the one hand, and, on the other, the Minerals Industry, represented by the Federation of British Industries, the owners in England, represented by the Country Landowners' Association, and the owners in Scotland, represented by the Scottish Landowners' Federation. I should like, on behalf of my right honourable friend, to take this opportunity in your Lordships' House of thanking those bodies for their co-operation over no less than three years of negotiation. Without that co-operation, I do not think these Regulations would have been possible. There were certain provisions which the industry would have liked to see included in the Regulation, but which it has not been found possible to include. Otherwise, apart from these omissions, everything which is included in the Regulations under discussion this afternoon has been agreed by all parties.

The Regulations were made by the late Minister of Local Government and Planning and were laid before the last Parliament. While the Mineral Workings Bill was under consideration last summer the Minister issued draft Regulations in a White Paper which also explained their purpose. In all the circumstances, I feel that perhaps it is not necessary for me to explain the Regulations in any detail.

Under Section 29 of the Mineral Workings Act, 1951, as your Lordships are aware, all claims in respect of what have come to be known, in the curious language which we associate with town and country planning, as "near-ripe" minerals qualified for compensation at their development value out of the £300,000,000 set aside for this purpose under the 1947 Act. These Regulations, first of all, give a general definition of minerals which are to qualify as being near-ripe, and they provide that no development charge in these cases is to be set off against the payment in respect of these minerals out of the £300,000,000 provided under the 1947 Act. As your Lordships will see, there are inevitably a certain number of exceptions, both to the general definition of near-ripe minerals and as to the provisions regarding the setoff of the development charge. But the broad purpose of the Regulations is to relieve mineral undertakers and mineral owners, so far as possible, from the financial provisions of Parts VI and VII of the 1947 Act. I think there is no doubt that when these Regulations come into force they will greatly simplify the operation of that Act. For that reason, I hope your Lordships will be prepared to approve them this afternoon. I beg to move that these Regulations be approved.

Moved, That the Mineral Development Charge Set-Off Regulations, 1951, reported from the Special Orders Committee on Wednesday last, be approved.—(Lord Lloyd.)

3.31 p.m.


My Lords, I am happy to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, on his first appearance at the Box. He has moved this Motion with great statesmanlike qualities. He has explained it with clarity, and I think that he will have a very happy experience during his term of office. So far as these Regulations are concerned, I can assure him that he will have no trouble from this side of the House, though I do not promise that he will always have an equally pleasant passage.

The noble Lord is right in saying that these Regulations have been the subject of a considerable measure of agreement—as have all matters under the Town and Country Planning Act—between the Ministry and the various undertakers. If there were any criticism of these Regulations, it might be that the mineral undertakers have been rather too generously treated. But they will be the last to complain of that, and I do not suppose that this House will wish to complain that anybody is being too generously treated. The process of negotiation has been long and difficult. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, said in moving the last Order, that it was complicated in form but simple in substance. I would say that the same applies to these Regulations—they are inevitably complex, but they are designed to meet a very simple set of circumstances which have been the subject of general agreement throughout. I hope that the House will approve these Regulations without delay.

3.34 p.m.


My Lords, I do not wish to obstruct the passage of these Regulations, so ably put forward by the noble Lord, the Lord in Waiting, but I should like to ask him one or two questions. I shall not press for an answer this afternoon, but I would ask for an assurance that he will endeavour to give the House the information at the earliest possible date. The first question which is worrying many of us on these Regulations—in fact, on the whole development charge question—is what is likely to be the sum required to pay off these mineral compensation claims. I have heard mentioned a sum in the region of £40,000,000 or £50,000,000. That is a very large slice off the total sum reserved by the last Government for compensation of all claims under the Town and Country Planning Act. I feel that it is not quite fair, in view of the fact that the moratorium has been allowed to run for three years, that we are still no nearer actuality of figures than a few suppositions.

The next point I wish to raise is how the mineral compensation claims will affect people concerned in the development of property under the Town and Country Planning Act. I can assure your Lordships that at the moment the feeling, both in town and country, is bad enough. There is a feeling—which I think most people share—that the Act is not working as it should, and that it is not being helped by the fact that the mineral compensation will have to be paid out of the £300,000,000 fund. When the Act was originally debated, the late Government were warned by the Conservative Party that minerals should not be mixed up with development of property. I have notes here to show that that was agreed to. I feel that an assurance from my noble friend this afternoon that the whole Act will be reviewed, and that The total global sum will be reconsidered, either with a view to increasing it or finding some other method of dealing with this problem, would be helpful to the people concerned in these matters.

3.37 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to take this opportunity of thanking the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for his kind references to myself, and I should also like to try to help my noble friend Lord Portman, so far as I can. I sympathise with his anxiety, which is mainly due, I think, to the fear that the global sum of £300,000,000 will not be adequate to satisfy all the claims likely to be made upon it. That is an anxiety which has been expressed in your Lordships' House before to-day. But we cannot tell as yet how we stand on this question of the £300,000,000. We cannot even tell yet how much the mineral claims will amount to. After all, this is a long process. All these claims have to be valued and gone into carefully, and therefore it is quite impossible at this stage to say how much the mineral claims will absorb and whether it will be possible, out of the £300,000,000, to satisfy all the claims made upon it.

This I can say, however. I think I need only quote what was said by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in another place yesterday, when he stated quite clearly that the Ministry has under review the whole working of the Town and Country Planning Act. He said (OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 494, Col. 2178): … my right honourable friend has under anxious and careful consideration the question of compensation under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. May I give the noble Viscount this further assurance? The fact that these Regulations are passed to-day will in no way compromise the Government's future action in regard to the Town and Country Planning Act. I hope that, with that assurance, the noble Viscount, Lord Portman, will be prepared to support these Regulations this afternoon.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for the assurances he has given.

On Question, Motion agreed to.