§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time. In doing so, may I just say that your Lordships may remember that on February 28 the House instructed the Committee to which this Bill would be committed to give to the House a special Report on the Bill, in the terms set out in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, on that occasion. I should like to say now that, in accordance with the Instruction of the House, the Committee have made this special Report. Copies have been available since the beginning of this month in the Printed Paper Office, and no doubt your Lordships have had access to them.
I do not propose to read the Report, but I should like to emhasise the penultimate paragraph. The Committee were posed two questions, and they say:The Committee therefore answer the questions raised by the Instruction as follows:—I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, will feel that the Committee have carried out the Instruction which he proposed. I should only like to add that there are Amendments to these Bills, but the Amendments are not connected in any way with the subject matter of the Report. I beg to move.
- 1. Clause 4 of these Bills does not increase any persons' liability to pay compensation.
- 2. Clause 4 of these Bills could, if the owner of either of these churchyards were to require the Common Council of the City of London to purchase the churchyard, substantially increase the price which the Common Council would be required to pay on the purchase."
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Merthyr.)
My Lords, I think it would be appropriate if, on behalf of any of your Lordships who are interested in this matter, I were to express thanks to the Committee for this extremely clear Report on an extremely involved matter. When I moved this Instruction, it was not intended in any way as a criticism of 1255 these particular Bills. It was merely that there had been a considerable number of such Bills coming, it seemed to me, more and more frequently before your Lordships' House, and that there was probably a difficulty arising from them for the planning authority if it desired to retain these graveyards as open spaces. If the noble Lord, the Lord Chairman of Committees, will forgive me for a suggestion of criticism of the Report, it does not seem to me to have answered quite the whole of the Instruction, which went on to say:…or in any other way acts to the detriment of the planning authority concerned…The Report does not give an opinion as to whether the planning authority will be obliged to pay the market price—in other words, the price of building land in a closely built-up area, where land is extremely expensive—and whether that will act to the detriment of the planning authority. I should have thought that almost inevitably it does.
However, I am most grateful for this clarification of an extremely complicated position. It occurs to me to wonder whether perhaps the Minister could not send out to local authorities a short memorandum, indicating what is the position in these cases. I took these cases as typical, not as particular examples of which I was critical but simply because these two Bills were almost common form for this purpose. Should not the local authorities be told that, if they desire to preserve graveyards as open spaces (and this kind of graveyard always occurs in a very closely built-up area of the town in which it happens to exist), then the way they must do it is by opposing the Bill when it is presented to your Lordships' House? It also occurs to me to wonder whether the Unopposed Bill Committee, on suitable occasions, could require the Promoters of a Bill to see that any developer buying land for development should be put under a compulsion to make an equivalent quantity of land available as open space within the neighbourhood of the development. I repeat that I am most grateful to the Committee for the elucidation of this position, and I hope that it will have served a useful purpose.
My Lords, if I may speak briefly in reply to the noble Lord, I wonder whether he has studied the paragraph, on the second page of the Report, which begins with the wordsSection 129 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1962…May I emphasise part of that sentence, which says that…the owner may in certain circumstances compel the local authority…to purchase the land.That refers, of course, to Section 129 of the 1962 Act. It goes on to say—and this is, I hope, the answer for which the noble Lord was looking:The purchase price of the land would broadly speaking be its market value; and that value would no doubt be greatly enhanced by the removal by clause 4 of the restrictions attached to a disused burial ground.I hope that that answers the noble Lord, because I can assure him that the Committee had no intention whatever of evading any of the noble Lord's questions. If that extract does not answer the noble Lord, I will go into the matter again and let him know.
With regard to the other point which the noble Lord raised, the suggestion that the Unopposed Bill Committee might take certain action on future churchyard Bills, I hope that I shall be excused if I do not commit the Committee to action of that kind in the future. I believe the noble Lord will agree that this Committee, like any other, must consider every Bill as it appears before them; and I could not give any undertaking that they will take any action in the future on such Bills. I can only say that they will bear in mind what the noble Lord has said.
My Lords, if the noble Lord will excuse me, I thought I said that the Committee would, at their own discretion, and in what seemed to them to be suitable cases, take the action that I suggested.
My Lords, I admit that the Committee could do so, but I should not like to go so far as to promise that they would. I think that would be going too far.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, may I add one word to the noble Lord by way of comment on his remarks? He is quite right, of course, in thinking that the position of a local authority might be prejudiced if they wished to retain open spaces where these burial grounds were to be abolished. But, of course, they would have to petition to oppose the Bill, and that is the only way. I understand that the practice in London is for the Church authorities themselves to consult the local planning authority informally before promoting such a Bill, and certainly the implications of Churchyard Bills are carefully considered by the Minister, and the views of the local planning authorities sought, before he makes his Report to the Unopposed Bill Committee, if those views of the local authority are not already known. So I do not think there is much danger that a local authority will be put into an unhappy position financially unless it wants to be in that position; and in such a case it would not be unhappy, because it would mean that development could go on.
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed, and sent to the Commons.