HL Deb 18 May 1965 vol 266 cc403-50

4.32 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be again in Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Rhodes.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair]

Clause 10 [Power to require information as to building contracts]:

LORD DRUMALBYN had given notice of an Amendment in subsection (2) to insert "reasonable" after "such" where that word first occurs. The noble Lord said: As the next Amendment defines the term "reasonable time" in terms which themselves seem reasonable, I shall not move this Amendment.

LORD RHODES moved to add to subsection (2): Provided that the time specified in such a notice for furnishing any information or producing any document shall not be earlier than the end of the period of twenty-eight days after the service of the notice.

The noble Lord said: As Amendment No. 14 was not moved, I presume it is making way for mine, and I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name on the Order Paper. Clause 10 empowers the Board of Trade to serve a notice requiring evidence of the existence of a building contract, or information on who is the owner of the land, in the case of office development in Greater London in accordance with a planning permission granted before November 5. The notice may specify the time within which the information is to be supplied, and this Amendment establishes that it shall not be less than 28 days.

In the Committee stage in another place the Opposition drew attention to the absence of a time-limit, and suggested a maximum of 28 days. We accepted the idea of a time-limit, and introduced at Report stage a new subsection (2) giving the Board of Trade power to specify the time-limit in each case, and also the time and place where documents must be produced. However, in response to an Opposition suggestion that the wording of the subsection should require the Board to fix a "reasonable" time, the Government agreed to look at it again, and the present Amendment is in response to that undertaking. I think the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, will agree that his Amendment was to the same effect. I consider that the terms of the Amendment, in allowing a minimum of 28 days, are generous, when in many cases the information could probably be supplied much more quickly. The Board of Trade will use its discretion to fix a longer period where it appears necessary. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 13, line 16, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Rhodes.)


We are obliged to the noble Lord for having carried out the undertaking given in another place, and we are grateful to him for making the position so clear.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 10, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 11 and 12 agreed to.

LORD RHODES moved, after Clause 12, to insert the following new clause:

Service of notices

". Section 214 of the Act of 1962 (service of notices) shall have effect in relation to the service on any person of a notice which (not being authorised or required to be served on him under that Act) is authorised or required to be served on him by virtue of this Part of this Act, as that section has effect in relation to notices authorised or required to be served under that Act."

The noble Lord said: This new clause is consequential on the last Amendment, which provides that the time specifies by the Board of Trade within which information or documents relating to the existence of a building contract must be provided shall not be earlier than the end of the period of twenty-eight days after the service of the notice". We have therefore to say now what we mean by "service of the notice", and this clause provides that Section 214 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1962, shall apply to notices served under Part I of this Bill. These comprise not only notices under Clause 10, but enforcement notices served under Clause 9 in circumstances in which the provisions of the 1962 Act do not apply.

Under Section 214 of the 1962 Act a notice may be served on a person in any of the following ways: (1) by delivering it to him; (2) by leaving it at his usual or last-known address; (3) by sending it by prepaid registered letter or recorded delivery to that address; and (4), in the case of a company, by delivering it or sending it by prepaid registered letter or recorded delivery to the clerk or secretary of the company at their registered or principal office. This, as noble Lords will readily understand, is purely consequential, and I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 12, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Rhodes.)


This, of course, is a standard form which is well recognised, and I think that it is obviously right that it should be inserted in the Bill. I am glad that the noble Lord has proposed it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS moved, after Clause 12, to insert the following new clause:

Special provisions with respect to purchase notices

".—(1) Where any purchase notice to which the last foregoing section applies is served any conditions subject to which a planning permission has, solely by virtue of the provisions of subsection (4) or (5) of section 6 of this Act, been granted or is deemed to have been granted shall for the purposes of paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of section 129 of the Act of 1962 be disregarded.

(2) In the exercise of his powers, in respect of any purchase notice to which the last foregoing section applies, under subsection (2) of section 132 of the Act of 1962 the Minister shall not revoke or amend any conditions subject to which a planning permission has, solely by virtue of the provisions of subsection (4) or (5) of section 6 of this Act, been granted, or is deemed to have been granted.

(3) In the exercise of his powers, in respect of any purchase notice to which the last foregoing section applies, under subsection (3) of section 132 of the Act of 1962 the Minister shall not direct that planning permission shall be granted for any development to which this Part of this Act applies unless the Board of Trade shall have issued, upon the application of the Minister or of any person interested in the land, an office development permit in respect of that development."

The noble Viscount said: The subject of purchase notices under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1962, is a very involved one: indeed it perhaps ranks second in mystery after the concept of the certificate of appropriate alternative development, so far as sophistication is concerned. I wonder whether, as a background to this Amendment, I could lay a little foundation, so that the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison (as perhaps it will be on this occasion; I do not know), can see whether I have got the Bill right.

It is necessary to look at Clause 6 of the Bill, whereby there may be attached to office development permits certain conditions, and under subsections (4) and (5) of the clause the conditions which are attached to an office development permit either, in fact, get attached to the subsequent planning permission or, if they do not because of some mishap in the local planning authority's office, are deemed to have become attached to the planning permission. It does not matter whether or not they would be the sort of thing that could normally be attached by way of condition to a planning consent under the 1962 Act, because subsection (3) specifically allows any sort of condition that the Board of Trade thinks fit to be attached to the planning permission and to be intra vires. So we may have conditions of a sort hitherto unknown attached to planning consent, and certainly things with which the Ministry of Housing and Local Government will not be familiar.

Now, we come to the purchase notice procedure. Some of it is dealt with in Clause 12. The clause was put in because, as I understand it, there appeared to be a gap at the Report stage in another place, but it seems to deal only with about one-third of the problem. To start with, I think it deals only with cases where planning permission for offices was granted before November 5 last year. Whether I am right or not about that does not matter, because the main point about the clause is in subsection (2), which gives the Minister of Housing and Local Government, when he is entertaining an appeal to decide whether or not he will confirm a purchase notice, the power to do nothing. That is the new subsection (4)(a) which has been inserted. If he does nothing, then, when this Bill comes to an end in seven years' time, or after a shorter period, you can go back as if nothing had happened and go on with the purchase notice previously served.

I do not think this really deals with all the problems that are likely to arise. There are three particular fields here where I think there may be confusion. They are dealt with in the three subsections of the clause which I propose to insert. The first of them is concerned with the case of the local authority which is served with a purchase notice. The Committee will recall that under Section 129 of the Act of 1962 the main point of serving a purchase notice is because a permission has been refused or has been granted subject to conditions. Then, because the land has become incapable of reasonably beneficial use in its existing state, the owner of it can require the countcil to buy it off him. One of the things which can be taken into account to decide whether or not the land is capable of being of reasonably beneficial use is any conditions that were attached to a planning consent that may have been granted to it. It is not only a planning refusal but a planning consent subject to impossible conditions which will give rise to a purchase notice.

Here we have, under Clause 6 of the Bill, certain conditions which may be attached to planning permissions and which may produce a situation where, although there is an office development permit and, indeed, a planning consent, there is no reasonably beneficial use of the land because of conditions imposed by virtue of the office development permit. In those circumstances, as I understand it and as I think the law is at the moment, the local authority could still accept the purchase notice, not because of anything to do with planning, but because the Board of Trade had under the Bill made it impossible for the owner to make reasonably beneficial use of his land.

If there is going to be consistency in this matter, I would suggest to noble Lords opposite that the local authority ought not to be faced with this situation if the only reason for the purchase notice is the conditions imposed under the office development permit which has nothing to do with planning but has something to do with the Board of Trade over which they have no control. I am therefore suggesting in the first subsection of my clause that, in considering whether or not there is a reasonably beneficial use of land, any conditions imposed solely by virtue of this Bill under subsections (4) or (5) of Clause 6 shall be ignored. I am afraid it is very difficult to explain; but I hope I have made that part clear.

Then we come on to two further loopholes which I think still exist. If the local authority decide they do not wish to purchase the land in respect of which a purchase notice has been served, the person serving the notice may appeal to the Minister. There are a variety of things that the Minister may do. They are set out in Section 132 of the Act of 1962. I have already said that under Clause 12 the Minister has been given an extra power in certain cases to do nothing. There will be quite a number of cases which are not covered by Clause 12 at all. The particular permission sought (and the refusal of which has led to the purchase notice) may have nothing to do with offices and there may be other cases which fall outside the special cases dealt with under Clause 12.

The Minister can do several things. He can confirm the purchase notice; he can, in lieu of confirming the purchase notice (if it is one of the cases where it was the conditions attached to the planning consent that made the whole thing impossible) revoke or modify those conditions; or he can grant consent for something else. In the second case, it seems there is again a logical gap in the restrictions imposed by this Bill. If it is the conditions which are attached to the planning consent by virtue only of the office development permit which made the land incapable of reasonably beneficial use, the Minister ought not to have the power to strike them out. When an appellant goes to him and says: "If only I could get rid of these conditions, I should have a good piece of land which I could use", the Minister ought not to be able to say that, despite the Board of Trade insistence on these under the O.D.P., he will strike them out. Under Section 132(2) he will be able to do that, because they will, under this Bill, be conditions attached to the planning permission itself. I have suggested in subsection 2 of my new clause that he would not be able to strike out conditions of that sort or to modify or revoke them.

Then there is the third point where, instead of confirming the purchase note, he decides it would be suitable instead to grant consent for something else, or for the thing that had been originally refused by the planning authorities. The point that really concerns me is that the Minister should not be allowed to deal with a case where somebody has sought to put up, say, a warehouse and has been refused, has served a purchase note, has gone to the Minister and has asked the Minister to do various things. I am concerned that the Minister should not then be able, as he can without any Amendment in this Bill, to give permission for an office building. There will be no application for the office building; therefore there will be no occasion for the office development permit to be required before any application was effective. The Minister has power to grant this permission directly under Section 132(3) of the Act. I should have thought that, at any rate before he did that, he ought to have been required either on his own account or through the person with whom he is dealing and who has an interest in the land, to go to the Board of Trade and ask for an O.D.P.

There is only one other matter. I hope these have been constructive suggestions; they are intended to be so. The reason why I am concerned is not so much because I think the Ministry of Housing and Local Government is going to be silly and do something contrary to the spirit of the Bill; but because it will be the duty of the appellant, in any case that goes to the Minister on an appeal against the refusal to confirm a purchase note, to try to get the Minister to do some of these things. The loopholes will not have been stopped up. The appellant will say, "I have these obnoxious conditions. You, Minister, have power to remove them. I ask you to do so", and a great deal of time and argument may be spent over something which the Minister will have no intention at all of doing in the end; but as long as it is open to him in law to do it, he will be asked to do it.

What better way could there be of getting an office building by the back door without an office development permit than to succeed in getting oneself into a situation where one has a purchase permit based on something quite different, and then, when it comes to the point, saying, "What we think would be suitable for this site would be an office building "? Those are three loopholes. I hope I have explained them adequately, because I know it is a complicated matter, but I shall be interested to hear what the noble Lord has to say.

Amendment moved— Page 16, line 7, at the end insert the said Clause.—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)


The Committee will be much indebted to the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, for the lucidity with which he explained this matter. The first of his loopholes does not, in fact, exist, and subsection (1) is unnecessary. If he will look at Clause 8(6) of the Bill he will see that for the purposes of Section 129(1)(b) of the 1962 Act, no account shall be taken of any condition to which this clause applies, and this clause applies by subsection (1) to conditions granted in accordance with the provisions of Clause 6 or Clause 7 of this Act. Those are the conditions which the noble Viscount has in mind, and I rather gather that he agrees with me that subsection (1), if we were to take it by itself, would be otiose.

As regards the other two subsections, these really raise in another, and perhaps rather more complicated, form the kind of point which we had in another Amendment yesterday. If the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Board of Trade are to be treated as separate and as having different functions, and as engaging in a minimum of consultation with one another during the progress of any of these cases, then I see the noble Viscount's point; but what he is in fact doing is to remove from the Minister of Housing and Local Government powers under Section 132 of the 1962 Act which were given quite generally and which in the kind of case he has in mind could obviously only be exercised by consultation and agreement with the Board of Trade.

I said yesterday that just as I stand here or sit here, side by side with my noble friend, Lord Rhodes, in perfect concord and agreement, and just as the two Offices have, of course, consulted closely about the terms of this Bill, so it is absolutely necessary for the proper functioning of the Act, if and when it becomes law, that the two Departments shall keep closely in touch with one another. I think that is right. To attempt what is proposed here, to say that these are Board of Trade matters and the Ministry of Housing must not deal with them—because that is really what this amounts to—is the wrong approach.

Planning is a complex business—perhaps too complex a business—and in this case the effect would be to restrict the powers of the Minister of Housing and Local Government. His powers in other cases are those which the noble Viscount so tellingly stated, the ones set out in Section 132 of the 1962 Act, and there is just as much need for them in this type of case as there is in the other types of case. It is only because the noble Viscount anticipates the possibility of a clash of some sort between the functions of the two Departments in relation to these cases that he puts forward these two subsections as being necessary. It is always a good thing, of course, to avoid a possible clash, but not to try to avoid a possible clash and in so doing restrict the powers of one of the parties, when the point could, in fact, be met by cooperation, which I repeat is absolutely essential to properly carrying out the provisions of this Act.

It arises, quite obviously, from the nature of what is being done. What is being done here is that office premises are being controlled. That control has to be exercised, on the one hand, in relation to the business of office employment and the need for offices—matters which concern the Board of Trade—and, on the other hand, in relation to the general planning requirements (to put the matter very summarily): to the need for other buildings on the land in question, and the need for its use in some other way—matters which concern the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. I hope I shall not take up too much of your Lordships' time if I say that we have considered this matter carefully, we think these powers ought to be maintained in their full Section 132 form in these cases, and we think it is preferable to have the powers unrestricted and to rely on the necessary understanding and partnership between the two Departments.


I begin by confessing straight away that I missed the provision in Clause 8 which covers the first subsection of my Amendment, and of course this is entirely dealt with. I think I ought to say that I am not really basing the Amendment upon what I anticipate as being a clash between the two partners. Far from it. I was not supposing that was the case at all. I am interested in something which I suppose I might describe as consumer protection. These highly complicated and technical Bills have to be dealt with by landowners and people interested in development, and indeed their advisers, both legal and otherwise, and the situation I envisage is the one I described at the end of my introductory speech—and I am glad to know that the powers will be maintained in their full flexibility—that people will ask the Minister to do something which, for all I know, the Board of Trade and the Minister in consultation will think is something quite dreadful and they will not be prepared to do it. I am certain that this attempt will be made unless we have some idea of the circumstances. Again, I come back to the idea of an explanatory circular which will accompany or follow this Bill and will explain the attitude of the Minister of Housing and Local Government towards purchase notices where people are trying to get an office development permit in lieu.

There is one other practical difficulty. In the ordinary case, where one wanted to get a permit for office building, the first thing one would do would be to write to the Board of Trade and ask for an O.D.P. However, if one is asking the Minister, in appealing against a purchase notice, to modify the conditions that have been attached to an O.D.P. and hence to the planning consent, or if one is dealing with a purchase notice and it comes up in the course of the inquiry that perhaps the local planning authority would be prepared to have an office building there in lieu, what is going to be the machinery either to make the necessary relaxations to the original conditions imposed on the O.D.P. or to grant a new one in its place? What machinery would be available to deal with this, so that it would not be held up interminably, until it goes to the Board of Trade and the inquiry, resumed at a later date? These are practical difficulties and I hope that, with the great thought the noble Lord has put into this, a little further search might be done and perhaps a guarantee given as to what will be the outcome.


Before the noble Viscount withdraws his Amendment, as I earnestly hope he is going to do, I would say to him that the best consumer protection here is to leave the Minister of Housing with the powers in these cases that he has in others. I forget exactly how the noble Viscount put it, but if someone comes along to ask about these matters of the Minister of Housing, and the Board of Trade is involved by reason of these office development permits, then the Minister of Housing's immediate reply is that they must ask the Board of Trade about it. No doubt it may have been a matter of correspondence before the suppliant makes the application.

The whole point about this is: are we going to try to fix in the Bill limitations on the Minister of Housing's powers in order to secure an arrangement which might fit in some cases and might not fit in others? Is it not better to rely on the co-operation which will be absolutely necessary between the two Departments? We all have a liking for suppliants in planning matters but in some respects they lead a miserable life. I trust and hope that I shall not be led by the persuasive advocacy of the noble Viscount to make any promises about the time anything takes in planning matters nowadays.


I am grateful to the noble Lord. I am not going to press this Amendment. I do not think he quite has the point I was putting over. It is this. Sometimes these things come out in the middle of an inquiry. It is not a question of being able to write beforehand. It may suddenly emerge in the middle of an inquiry by the local planning authority saying that an applicant wanted a warehouse but they would have been perfectly happy to have an office. This is a problem that wants a little administrative collaboration and a little guidance in administrative form later on. I think that a circular on this Bill, dealing with this point and with a multitude of others, is quite essential. However, I am grateful to the noble Lord and beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.5 p.m.

LORD DRUMALBYN moved, after Clause 12, to insert a new clause on quarterly statement of permits issued. The noble Lord said: Before I move this new clause, may I draw your Lordships' attention to two misprints, which I have no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, has already detected. I am afraid that both are due to my bad writing. First, in the third line, "land" should be "local" and, four lines from the end of the first paragraph, "referred" should be "rejected"

The purpose of this Amendment is to call for a quarterly return to Parliament of applications for office development permits and of the space involved for which office development permits have been granted in the previous quarter and since office development permits in general began to be granted. I see three main reasons for requiring this information quarterly. The first is that local authorities in the metropolitan region and elsewhere, if this Part of the Bill is applied, will want to know what other local authorities are doing in order that they may avoid wasting time and resources in planning for more offices than are likely to be allowed. The second reason is that firms thinking of moving out of the Greater London area to the outer metropolitan area will want to know what is going on and where premises are to be allocated in the next year or so. The third reason is that Parliament will want to know how the control is operating, how the initial accumulation of applicants is being disposed of, how smoothly and efficiently the machine is running, and altogether where office development permits are being granted and where they are being refused.

It may be said that this should be a monthly return. Perhaps that might put too great a strain on the Board of Trade, although I would say that the Board of Trade have to have complete information along these lines month by month in order to be able to do their job properly under this Bill. They must have this information and the new clause asks that they should divulge it to Parliament, to local authorities and to the general public. But it might be that to ask for monthly returns is to ask for rather more than is required. On the other hand, an annual return by itself will not do, because it cannot possibly give sufficiently up-to-date information and more frequent statements are needed.

A return at quarterly intervals seems to be about the right compromise. I do not believe that it is possible for the Board of Trade to claim that this cannot be done because, after all, housing returns are made by the Housing Ministers at quarterly intervals—indeed, an overall statement is made monthly—in considerable detail, with an appendix which gives information for every single city, county borough, borough, U.D.C. and R.D.C. in the country. So, if that can be done by the Housing Ministries, this is a challenge to the Board of Trade to do likewise. I think that it is reasonable to ask for this information. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 12, insert the following new clause:

Quarterly statement of permits issued

(". The Board of Trade shall, within twenty-one days of the end of each quarter lay a statement before Parliament showing in total and in respect of each local planning authority area to which section 1(2) of this Act applies

  1. (a) the number of applications for office development permits for the erection or extension of a building (other than an industrial building) containing office premises which have been received but not disposed of by the Board of Trade before the first day of that quarter, the number of such applications which have been received, approved without modifications as regards the amount of office space, approved with such modifications, and rejected respectively by the Board of Trade during that quarter, and the number of such applications which remain to be disposed of on the last day of that quarter, and
  2. (b) the total amount of office floor space for which office development permits for the erection or extension of buildings (other than factories) containing office premises have been granted in the previous quarter, and
  3. (c) the total amount of office floor space for which office development permits for the erection or extension of buildings (other than industrial buildings) containing office premises have been granted since the commencement of this Act.").—(Lord Drumalbyn.)


The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, drew attention to two misprints and I notice that the second should read "rejected". I think that is the operative word. The noble Lord is suggesting that because housing returns are on a quarterly basis, these returns should also be on a quarterly basis. But he will know from his experience at the Board of Trade and his study of this Bill that this is really a far more complicated business than the housing returns. Personally, I have quite a lot of sympathy with the object here, because I think Parliament should be given quite a lot of information about this. But, with the best will in the world, I cannot see how we can possibly agree, because this Amendment lays down the requirements in considerable detail: for example, excluding offices which are part of industrial buildings, indicating separately outright and modified approvals, and giving a breakdown for individual planning authorities. It is quite a sizable order.


May I say that these qualifications are really introduced—at any rate, the one excluding industrial premises—to make it easier, and partly because the industrial premises are generally purpose built and, therefore, are of no interest to the local authorities and to possible users moving out of London from the point of view of occupying them or for the building of office premises.


I do not think that makes much difference, because all this has to be done within 21 days of the end of the quarter, according to how this is drawn. I have said that I think Parliament should be informed of the operation of this control to the greatest possible extent, but the clause, as drafted, is undesirable, because it would impose a detailed obligation to provide statistics in a particular form, and no one at this stage can say what is the best form for the purpose. We do not know; and it is only by experience that we can find out. Again, we might not be able to carry out the obligation to provide all the details laid down in a period of 21 days, because the applicant may not have provided them. Thirdly, information about planning authorities might lead to disclosure of confidential information which we should not like to disclose.

I have told your Lordships the difficulties. May I appease the (shall I say?) enthusiasm of the noble Lord by saying that I will give an undertaking that the Board of Trade will provide any reasonable information about operation of the control in reply to Parliamentary Questions, and will also publish regular figures, as in the case of the industrial development control statistics, as soon as the best form can be worked out in the light of experience. In view of the next Amendment about the annual return, and the explanation I have given, I would ask the noble Lord to withdraw his Amendment.


I wonder whether I may add a word in support of my noble friend's Amendment. Of course, I can understand the difficulty of the noble Lord's Department in not knowing exactly in what form information is likely to be required with the passage of months, and not wishing to be tied down in enactment to a particular form. My noble friend and I both appreciate the assurance which the noble Lord has just given—namely, that there will be a regular publication of information; but we should very much like to be assured that there will be quarterly publication of information in a standardised form, so that comparisons can be made between one quarter and another.

I think it is important for the noble Lord to appreciate that there will be great interest in the way the Board of Trade operate the Bill when it becomes an Act. Neighbouring local authorities will be watching each other to see how they are getting on with their O.D.P.s, as will individual applicants for office space. I suggest that it will be worth the while of the officials in the noble Lord's Department to consider at this stage the most suitable form of future—what I hope will prove to be, quarterly—returns. It will save a lot of time in the long run if thought is given to this now. Otherwise, there will be a series of what I might call ragged Parliamentary Questions in this House and in another place as individual Members of your Lordships' House and of another place seek to put forward requests for isolated pieces of information. If the Minister can refer to regular quarterly returns, such ragged requests could be more readily dealt with.

For example, Reading sees a big office block in Kingston, but has not been able to get the go ahead for an office block in Reading, and the Member for Reading is asked to table a Question. A good deal of trouble is taken to provide an ad hoc Answer. Chertsey is disappointed because Kingston is going ahead, and the Member for Kingston tables a Question a month later. This may entail a great deal of work by the Department. I suggest that it would be well worth while for the Minister to give careful consideration now to the form in which this return to Parliament, or in any other way, should be made. I hope that if we table a more general Amendment on the Report stage the noble Lord will be able to be more forthcoming than he was able to be just now.


May I say that we will give further consideration to this matter if the noble Lord will withdraw the Amendment?


In view of the way the noble Lord has received this Amendment and explained the point of view of the Government, I certainly do not want to detain the Committee on this. I am grateful to him for what he has said. I think he sees the difficulty I was in. I wanted to give a general indication—without which a vague Amendment would have been of very little use—of the sort of information that I wanted and the sort of period in which I thought the information would be required. The noble Lord may well be right in saying that 21 days is impossible. But I am not quite certain that I agree with him, from my experience at the Board of Trade, that in a case like this it would be all that difficult. However, the noble Lord has said that he will look at this again, and I agree that it would be a mistake to write into the Bill all the detail before there has been experience of what is required. I am grateful to the noble Lord for saying he will look at this matter further, and beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD DRUMALBYN moved, after Clause 12, to insert the following new clause:

Annual report

". As soon as may be after the end of March 1966 and after the end of March in each subsequent year the Board of Trade shall prepare a report on the performance of their functions under this Part of this Act, and shall lay the report before Parliament."

The noble Lord said: This Amendment calls for an annual report. This is a common requirement when provisions of this kind are written into Bills, and it seems to me that the functions which the Board of Trade are called upon to exercise in this part of the Bill are eminently of a kind on which annual regular reports would normally be required. I hope that with this short explanation (it seems to me that the Amendment is fairly self-explanatory) the noble Lord will be able to be forthcoming in regard to this Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 12, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Drumalbyn.)


This new clause, as drafted, meets with the Government's approval, and we welcome it.


I am grateful to the noble Lord. I am also obliged to him for his help and co-operation in this matter.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 13 [Meaning of "office premises"]:

5.20 p.m.

LORD ERROLL OF HALE moved to add to subsection (4): ; but in this section 'office premises' shall not include rooms used principally by supervisors, foremen. charge-hands, and other persons, together with their clerical and other assistants, whose sole or principal function is the direct supervision of production or the repair and maintenance of plant or machinery ". The noble Lord said: I beg to move this Amendment, and in doing so I should like to say how pleased we are on this side of the Committee at the noble Lord's ready acceptance of the previous Amendment, which shows that persistence usually pays off. I am hopeful that his new mood of co-operation will persist as far as this Amendment.

I should at this moment like to thank the noble Lord for the help which he gave me in understanding Clause 13, which deals with the meaning of "office premises". It may help noble Lords if I explain what was explained to me—namely, that this definition clause really falls into two parts. It deals with new office premises in subsections (1) to (3), inclusive, and then subsection (4) deals with change of use to office premises. I was desirous that my Amendment should cover both new office premises and change of use. Unfortunately, I originally tabled it to cover only change of use. I have now put it in at page 16, line 16, to insert the words on the Order Paper, as I thought that in that way it would cover both new office premises and change of use. If I am still not right—and it is only a short while ago that I received from the noble Lord a note on the subject—I hope that he will accept the placing of the Amendment in the spirit in which it is made.

During the Second Reading debate, several noble Lords and I myself referred to the growing amount of office work in this country—and, indeed, in other industrialised countries—associated with the production processes within a factory. Whereas in the old days there were more manual workers on the shop floor, there tend now to be fewer manual workers and more clerks and operatives in offices adjacent, associated with the work of improving the free flow of production of components, parts and assemblies to the assembly lines. There is also a growing tendency to accommodate supervisory staff in offices adjacent to the factory lines, often screened off from the factory noise, and to put them contiguously along one wall of the factory so that they can bob into each other for quick conferences and so on, and also to put their secretaries and clerical assistants in similar glass cubicles alongside, so that they form a kind of office unit which is an essential part of the production process.

Noble Lords who have been round factories will doubtless have seen this gradual evolution for themselves. In earlier times there would be one or two odd desks dotted along the factory floor, and the foreman would be unable to hear himself on the telephone because of the noise of the machinery. If one goes round a modern, up-to-date factory to-day, one will find manual workers in clean overalls operating the machines, and the supervisory staff, the clerical staff and the progress chasers accommodated in an office either on one side of a factory or across one end of it. As this progress continues—as I hope it will—a number of factory owners will find it necessary to provide themselves with an increasing amount of office space.

There are several examples which I should like to give. The first comes from the creation of new office buildings. They will perhaps be reorganising the flow of production in the factory building, and they will want to build alongside, perhaps as an additional bay, an extension to the factory building solely for office purposes. As I understand the Bill, it will be necessary to apply for an office development permit for that purpose. The second case would be where it was decided to bring clerical and supervisory staff into a new building erected adjacent to the existing factory, but within the existing works perimeter. In both these cases they are new offices of about 3,000 square feet and accordingly would require an office development permit.

There is also the difficult question of change of use. As a layman, I understand that one would require an office development permit in respect of an existing factory building only if there were a substantial change of use. In certain circumstances that can undoubtedly arise. There may well be two adjacent buildings, and in the course of the reorganisation of production, planning and control the management may well decide to concentrate on production in the larger of two existing buildings and take over the smaller building entirely for the office staff supervising the production processes. In that case, the smaller building would be unchanged externally, and although no more people would necessarily be employed, an office development permit would be required before the change of use could legally proceed.

The purpose of my Amendment is to make it unnecessary, in the cases which I have outlined, for an office development permit to be applied for. I feel sure that in all cases such permits would have to be granted, and therefore there is surely no need to make it necessary for managements to apply for a permit—a process which is inevitably bound to cause some delay—and to explain in great detail why they want to reorganise the office staff assisting with the production processes. It would be much better, therefore, not to have what would seem to them to be a bureaucratic delay, but to allow them to get on with the job without further interference. I hope that the noble Lord will see his way to accept this Amendment. It is my own somewhat amateur drafting. I will gladly withdraw it if he accepts the principle of it, but prefers to table on Report stage his own version of what I ask him to concede. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 16, line 16, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Erroll of Hale.)


More than a page of the printed Bill is occupied with Clause 13, and that clause is concerned only with the meaning of "office premises"—covering existing premises, premises which are to be put up, and also the meaning of "office premise" in relation to any change of use. I am afraid that this Amendment would add nothing to what is already there. It would, indeed, slightly obscure the clarity of the existing clause. The test is whether the sole or principal use of the premises is, or is to be, use as an office or for office purposes. I find it very hard to see how "office premises" can include the activities which are described here, the use by supervisors, foremen and so on, whose sole or principal function is the direct supervision of production or the repair and maintenance of plant or machinery. "Office purposes" are, in fact, to include a number of matters set out in subsection (5) of the clause. But I think it is sufficient, when one looks at the Amendment, to see what the functions of the occupants are, and then to consider whether they are, in fact, such as to make the place "office premises".

I am supported in this by the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act, 1963, which defines "office premises" in much the same way as they are here defined. It is not exactly the same, because that Act is considering offices now in existence, and this Bill has to consider offices that have yet to come into existence. But substantially it is the same. "Office premises" mean, for the purposes of that Act; a building or part of a building, being a building or part the sole or principal use of which is an office for office purposes. Then there is in the next paragraph a very short definition of "office purposes". I am quoting from subsection (2) of Section 1 of the 1963 Act. We do not want to have different definitions when the intention is to cover the same sort of buildings, and there is already a sufficient definition.

There is a further point. If, when you already have a pretty full definition, you say that office premises are not to include certain rooms used by certain people for certain purposes, that inevitably raises a little difficulty as to whether there is something else that ought to have been excluded in the same way. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Erroll of Hale, will see, when he looks at his speech to-morrow, that he referred almost entirely to factories all the time. But there will also be questions of what are offices or office premises in relation to places like shops and warehouses. And there different considerations would arise from those arising in relation to a factory.

The short answer, then, is that this Amendment is unnecessary. It is quite clear, when one looks at the definition, that these particular rooms would not be included as offices or office premises, and it is inadvisable to lengthen an already long definition by excluding some particular things and so raising the possibility that other things are, by implication, included because they have not been expressly excluded. For those two reasons I would suggest that the noble Lord might on reconsideration think fit to withdraw the Amendment. It is not a very important point, and I feel inclined to reply to him that I noticed a little phrase about bureaucratic delay, and I feel that words of this sort might add to it rather than remove it.


I am most grateful to the noble Lord for the interesting explanation of this difficult Clause 13. Is he saying that the four cases I mentioned would not require office development permits?—because that is how I interpreted his remarks.


No. My recollection, and it is pretty distinct, of the four cases the noble Lord gave was that they were all office premises and would require office development permits. But for the moment I am speaking only to this Amendment and to the words sought to be added here. For the reasons I have given, I have suggested that they are unnecessary and mildly—not acutely—dangerous.


I can confirm my noble friend's understanding. I understood, somewhat to my surprise, that the noble Lord did say that the office premises as described in the noble Lord's Amendment would not require development permits, in which case I thought my noble friend's Amendment was unnecessary.


I am sorry if there has been any misunderstanding. I was answering the noble Lord, Lord Erroll of Hale. He was referring to sundry instances he gave in his speech and it was to those that I directed my reply. I said when I was speaking, and I repeat, that what is described in the language of this Amendment obviously is not office premises.


I only hope that some noble Lords understand the gist of the noble Lord's remarks. I must confess that, in my simple way, I do not. I have given examples of what are quite clearly offices which will be occupied by people who sit and write at desks and occasionally go out into the factory or shop. There will be filing cabinets and large piles of papers connected with the production process. In the usual parlance of the factory they will be known as the foreman's office or the supervisor's office, and probably certain rude names—if things have not changed since I was in a factory. If they are offices, according to what the noble Lord has said, then new ones will require office development permits before they can be proceeded with. If that is so, I suggest that this is a quite unnecessary interference with normal factory premises and has nothing to do with the control of office development. This is seeking to extend control far beyond what was originally intended. I do hope the noble Lord will clarify the matter a little further before we proceed.


I can only repeat what I said before, but in deference to the noble Lord I will gladly look again at what he has said. It seems to me that when you are dealing with rooms used principally by persons whose sole or principal function is the direct supervision of production or the repair and maintenance of plant or machinery you can hardly be dealing with office premises. But I see the noble Lord's point, and I will gladly look at it again, in the light of what he has said. If he puts his Amendment down again, or in any other version that he prefers, I will let him have a definite reply on Report stage. There seems to be some confusion about it, because the advice I have been given has been at times a trifle confusing.


I can only say that when I was at the Board of Trade the advice was never confused, though in those days officials did not have to deal with Bills of this sort. I thank the noble Lord for his undertaking. I think there is a very important point at issue here, and it ought to be clarified in some way or other so that all those concerned may know how they stand. If I can be of any help to the noble Lord I shall be glad to make myself available. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.38 p.m.


moved, in subsection (5), to leave out "and the operation of computers". The noble Lord said: I was very surprised, on reading this Bill, to find that computers in a building make that building into an office. With the present Administration's enthusiasm for computers and their desire to see computers installed everywhere, it seems to me rather odd, to say the least, that because computers are in a building that building shall be an office or shall be a building which is used for office purposes. You are not doing anything to speed up the use of computers by industry and business if you tell them that they must get yet one more permit from the Government to set up the relatively small building which may be required to install their computers. I suggest, therefore, in the terms of my Amendment, that the phrase "and the operation of computers" should be deleted from subsection (5). I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 17, line 18, leave out ("and the operation of computers").—(Lord Erroll of Hale.)


I was obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Erroll of Hale, for his thanks for our conciliatory attitude. We are a very reasonable Government and we are only following our principles in this matter. I cannot follow the conciliatory attitude now because I must resist this Amendment. The Amendment seeks to exclude the operation of computers in the definition of office purposes. We know that this Amendment was moved in another place and debated at length. We know, too, that the use of computers is growing and that they are performing many functions that used to be performed in other ways by hand, and that the proportion of office space which they occupy is a steadily increasing one. It is only one of the many aspects of productivity. I have always given my definition of productivity as "Better machines doing more work with less labour on the same floor space, or less". This is doing precisely that. But in this case it will be in an office, and the control will be used to strengthen the present policy of persuading firms to decentralise part of their organisation if it is impractical for them to move their organisation in its entirety outside London.

The Location of Offices Bureau has found that firms consider their accounts and records departments to be most suitable for dispersal, and it is in these departments that computers are likely to be used extensively. We think it is important that this policy should not be weakened by putting the siting of computers outside the control. I think it is reasonable to make the point that the computers would not be installed were it not for the fact that they increased the productivity. It could be said that less office space would be required as the result of putting in computers. I must confess that the staff working on computers in the ordinary way is not large, but a computer tends to be a focal point for the employment of labour in outside firms and institutions who can make use of it on an occasional basis.

The inclusion of computer operation is the only way in which the definition of "office purposes" in the Bill differs from that in Section 1(2)(b) of the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act, 1963. It is only a question of emphasis, and not really of difference in substance at all. That Act was concerned only with working conditions in individual office premises and the evils of overcrowding, and so on. We are concerned with office employment as a whole, the pattern of which can be significantly affected by computer installations; and we therefore thought it best, for the avoidance of doubt, to make it explicit that computer operation is an office purpose.

The noble Lord will not feel that I am, so to sneak, easing up on this matter altogether if I say that it may be possible—I can only say that—after we have had some experience of the operation of the control, to make an order under Clause 13(6) excluding premises which are designed to house a computer for industrial use only? For offices we wish to retain the control as it is; but when it comes to the question of industrial premises it may be possible to do something there. That is the best I can say in reply to the noble Lord.


I wonder whether the noble Lord can explain one point. We, or the people who are concerned under this Bill, may be involved in the prescribed exemption limit of office floor space, and I think that the definition in Clause 13 of "office purposes" would have an effect upon that. Can the noble Lord tell me who is doing the operation for this purpose? Is it the computer itself which is operating? Is that the office? Or is it the people who are making the computer work and are feeding things into it? In other words, can the noble Lord tell me whether the actual office floor space is that which is covered by the structure of the computer, with all its wires and notable gadgets inside, or is it just the area where you feed tapes into it? It may make quite a difference when it comes to exempted floor space.


Yes, I can quite see that tremendous importance attaches to that. It strikes me that it is in the same category as the question: which came first, the hen or the egg? I am afraid I cannot give the answer to it, except to say that a computer does have attendants and, to that extent, it is an office premises.


Could the noble Lord make this quite clear? It may require an Amendment of the Bill, and I think it deserves a little attention. Is the actual computer area to be office space, or is it to be only the area occupied by the people who attend to it? Some of these computers are large, and some of them, I have no doubt, are quite small. It may be that the area which is required for people to use the computer, to extract information from it or to feed it, is quite small. It may therefore be, if that is the area and that alone is office space under the Bill, that it will be below the exempted limit of 3,000 square feet; whereas if it is the whole computer which is an office, then, of course, it would be above that limit. This must be made clear, but as I understand the drafting of this particular part of Clause 13 of the Bill it is far from clear at the moment.


Subject to correction, I would say that the computer is office space.


Well, that is not clear.


This is the core of the matter, because, if that is so, what it means is that as soon as you have a computer the place becomes an office and you automatically have a change of use. But that may not be so at all. The noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, shakes his head, but I am afraid that it is involved here. Perhaps I may be allowed to say this. I went to the Electronics Exhibition, and from one of the first remarks I made at a stand I had the rejoinder, "Oh, but you must not think that computers have to do only with offices and banks and so forth." This is precisely the point. Computerisation involves factory space as well as office space, and to say that if you take factory space and put a computer there then that part of the factory space becomes office space, with all respect, is absolute nonsense. This is really what we are talking about. I ask the noble Lord to look at this point again, because unless we have a purely circular definition that a computer in an office is office space, but if the computer is elsewhere it is not office space, I do not think it makes any sense at all. This is what we have to establish.

There are two arguments here. First of all, there is the argument that it is a mistake to require office development permits for computers in offices, because you are thereby restricting progress towards efficiency—that is one of the arguments that my noble friend put forward—and therefore computers should be excluded, even where they are used for office purposes. But there is also the argument that where computers are used for factory purposes alone, or purposes akin to factory purposes, they should be excluded. With all respect, I should have thought that was obvious.


I should not like to reduce this to nonsense, but this question of computers was debated thoroughly elsewhere, and we are quite prepared to debate it thoroughly here. We recognise that some computers are used for, industrial purposes—of course everybody knows that—or for a combination of office and industrial purposes. We cannot on those grounds alone exclude computers from the scope of the control, since in many cases they are used solely or mainly for office purposes. Where the computer is used mainly for industrial purposes in a new industral project we shall assess the case as a whole on industrial development grounds, which puts the emphasis on to the I.D.C. In the case of the office development permits which will be required for the computer premises, they will be considered at the same time as the industrial development certificate applications. I can only repeat that it may be possible, after we have had some experience of the operation of the control, to make an order under paragraph (c) excluding premises which are designed to house a computer for industrial purposes only.


Is the noble Lord saying that, because he has power under subsection (6) to make that order, therefore the computer is itself an office? This is the only way in which I can see that the particular concession which the noble Lord has just given makes any sense. The noble Lord has not answered my question whether or not the computer itself is an office. I do not want to make a fuss about this at this stage, but sooner or later the question is going to be answered. The noble Lord has not answered it, and perhaps he would like to do so at Report stage. Will he give the Committee an undertaking to find out what is the Government's intention on this point? If it is the intention that the computer itself should be an office as well as the place in which one works the computer, then the Bill should be clear. If he does not, then we must certainly return to this again.


I think that I have made myself quite clear. If the computer is in an office it is occupying office space—so is a desk, so is a safe, or anything else. I think it is quite clear.


I must press the noble Lord on this. If a computer is in a laboratory, does it cease to be a laboratory and become an office? Would the noble Lord be kind enough to explain. This is a practical matter. We want to have more laboratories put up. Are they all going to become offices if there are computers in them?


That is in a different category altogether. Where a computer is used in an office for office purposes, the control is highly desirable.


I hope that the noble Lord will not drive himself into the last ditch on this matter at this stage, and we on this side of the House will not try to drive him into it. Enough has been said to show that the matter is far from clear and that it requires further investigation. If the noble Lord would give an undertaking to look at the matter further, and sympathetically, I shall be glad to withdraw the Amendment.


Can I help the noble Lord before he withdraws the Amendment? If his version of the matter is correct, then handling money would in any circumstances turn the place into an office. It appears to follow, because the handling of money is one of the things which is included with computers here. There is, of course, no doubt about a railway booking-office, but what about a shop which is selling candle ends?


I do not wish to delay the Committee with a purely theoretical argument. I shall be glad to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD ERROLL OF HALE moved, in subsection (5), to leave out "drawing". The noble Lord said: The word "drawing", I take it, refers to drawing offices, which is an implied term of art because they can be offices in which artistic drawing is carried out or the editorial preparation of matter for publication. This would suggest that the drawing offices which are intended to be caught by this are those connected with the preparation of illustrations and the like for publications. But if one uses the phrase "drawing", it can also mean engineering drawing. In many parts of the country where there are engineering drawing offices they are referred to as "drawing offices". It is not normally necessary to describe an engineering drawing office as an "engineering drawing office", but just as "the drawing office".

I have tabled this Amendment to leave out "drawing" so as to ensure that we can have a discussion as to whether engineering drawing offices are meant to be caught by this Bill; and whether the drawing office used for the preparation of artistic and illustrative matter is also meant to be included. The word "drawing" has a number of meanings in the English dictionary, and I should be grateful for the elucidation of the noble Lord. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 17, line 21, leave out ("drawing").—(Lord Erroll of Hale.)


This Amendment, like the one about computers, is designed to narrow the definition of "office premises" for the purpose of the control in general, and, in particular, for the purpose of the exemption in Clause 2. The same Amendment was moved, and negatived, during Committee stage in the House of Commons. The effect of Clause 1(1) is to apply the provisions of Part I of the Bill to development which creates office premises, and Clause 13(1) makes it clear that "office premises"—that is a building or part of a building—means premises whose sole or principal use is "as an office", or premises whose sole or principal use is "for office purposes", or premises "occupied together with" the above premises and occupied wholly or mainly for the purposes of the activities in the above premises—ancillary premises.

The effect of deleting "drawing" from the kinds of "clerical work" specified in subsection (5) would be to make it doubtful whether the kinds of drawing which are undertaken for the office purpose of "clerical work" in, for example, advertising offices or offices preparing publications, were covered by the definition of "office premises". We clearly want to include drawing of this nature and in this we are following the precedent established in the definition of "office premises" in the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act, 1963. This Act specifies "drawing" as a form of "clerical work" in exactly the same way as subsection (5) of this Bill. We have taken care on this point to follow the Precedent established in the 1963 Act in that we have not included "drawing" as one of the "offices purposes" specified in subsection (5), but have included it merely as a form of "clerical work". If we had included "drawing" as one of the "office purposes", we might have caught the artist's studio. We certainly had no intention of doing that.

The Amendment is probably designed to exclude drawing offices from the definition of "office premises", which includes the drawing offices mentioned by Lord Erroll of Hale, but in fact it would not succeed in doing this. Drawing offices come within the definition, not because "drawing" is one of the types of "clerical work" specified in subsection (5), but because drawing offices clearly are premises used as an office under subsection (1). It may be argued that drawing offices should not in principle be regarded as office premises, but we prefer not to depart in this matter from the definition of office premises in the 1963 Act. This covers drawing offices in its reference to premises used "as an office" and "drawing" in other types of office under the sub-heading of "clerical work". We are as much concerned with the distribution of employment in drawing offices as the Ministry of Labour are concerned with the safety, health and welfare of employees in them.

We can, however, give the assurance that where the drawing office is needed mainly for an industrial purpose in an industrial project for which an I.D.C. is needed—which in the main answers the noble Lord's query—we shall assess the case as a whole on I.D.C. grounds. The fact that under this Bill an office development permit is needed for the premises housing the drawing office will not mean that the case for the office development permit for the drawing office (or for any other office premises required) need be considered separately from the case for the industrial development certificate. The fact that the drawing office is an essential component of industrial projects will be an important factor which we shall take into account in considering the case for a permit. With that explanation, I hope the noble Lord will withdraw his Amendment.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for his full explanation of the purposes behind the Bill in this regard. I think he is drawing the net far too widely in trying to rope in every single engineering office, which may be quite a small extension to an existing industrial plant. But then the nature of the Bill is that it is drawing the net far more widely than is required, and it is going to create a great deal of unnecessary permissive paper work. I should like, however, to study what the noble Lord has said and to consider whether an Amendment should be put down on Report stage. I am quite sure that the members of the Engineering Draughtsmen's Union will intensely dislike the fact that their work is described as purely clerical. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 13 agreed to.

Clause 14 [Interpretation of Part I]:

6.3 p.m.

VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS moved to acid to the clause: () Where any appeal is brought against an enforcement notice on the ground mentioned in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of section 46 of the Act of 1962, and the development to which the notice relates is development to which this Part of this Act applies, the Minister shall not give any direction under subsection (5) of section 46 of that Act for the granting of permission for that development unless the Board of Trade shall have issued, upon the application of the Minister or of any person interested in the land, an office development permit in respect of that development.

The noble Viscount said: This is a very small point. It has always been a mystery to me why, when you appeal to the Minister against an enforcement notice, you are entitled under paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of Section 46 of the 1962 Act to ask that he should grant permission; and also why, whether you ask for that or not, under Section 64(2) he has to behave as if you had asked for it. This is something that we have had for a long time, but the Bill at the present moment deals only with the situation under Section 64(2). The Minister cannot grant a retrospective permission when an enforcement notice comes before him upon a deemed application for it, which is written into every enforcement notice by virtue of Section 64, because this is dealt with somewhere in the Bill and he can grant such a consent only if an O.D.P. has been forthcoming.

Nothing is said in the Bill about what he may do if you actually ask him to grant consent for the development concerned under paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of Section 46. If you do that, there is no question of a deemed application. You are actually asking him to grant consent, and he may direct under subsection (5) of Section 46 that planning permission should be granted. He can do that, apparently, without an office development permit, and the purpose of my Amendment is to ensure that that particular part of his jurisdiction is covered as well as the part under Section 64(2). I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 18, line 36, at end insert the said subsection.—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)


I feel inclined to begin by saying that at this point the cat caught its own tail, but I think that the noble Viscount's point is already covered in the Bill in, I agree, a rather complicated way. What one has in mind here is an enforcement notice, and an appeal from that enforcement notice to the Minister on the ground that planning permission ought to be granted for the development in question. Clause 14(7) of the Bill provides that Any reference in this Part of this Act to an application made as mentioned in section 20(1) of the Act of 1962 includes a reference to a deemed application, and an office development permit is by Clause 11 required to support an application under Section 20. Accordingly, if the Minister wished to grant permission for offices on a deemed application arising from an enforcement notice, the appellant would have to obtain an office development permit before the decision could be issued.


That is precisely what I thought. But what happens if the appellant makes an actual application? As I understand it, the Minister acts under Section 64(2) only if there is a deemed application. In some cases it is actually asked for under paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of Section 46. In those cases the Minister can direct that it should be granted. As I understand, he does not have to deal under Section 64(2); he merely directs that planning consent be granted, in which case Clause 14(7) does not bite. This is precisely the point that my Amendment was put down to cope with.


With respect to the noble Viscount, I do not think that is so. Clause 11 provides for an office development permit to support an application to retain buildings or to continue the use of land. What are we considering here but that?


I think, in fact, that we are reconsidering the direction by the Minister which, as I understand it, is not the same as the one under Section 64(2). That is how I have always understood it. If it is a separate direction under Section 46(5), which has nothing at all to do with Section 64(2), then it is not caught by the Bill. I only put this forward for the noble Lord's attention. If it is covered, then I am entirely satisfied. But there have always seemed to me to be two possible methods of dealing with the granting of consent on an enforcement notice; the one is covered under Clause 14(7) of the Bill, and the other is not. I put the Amendment down only to make certain that there there was no loophole.


I see the noble Lord's point, but it seems to me that both of these points are covered in the Bill as it stands. I shall gladly reassure myself again, but that is how I understand the position, and I do not really think there is any doubt about it. It is a very complicated business.


The whole reason for the complication is, of course, the grafting of this new system on to the old, and I wanted to make quite certain that there were no holes. I am glad that the noble Lord has been so good as to say that he will look at the matter again. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14 agreed to.

Clauses 15 and 16 agreed to.

Clause 17:

Power to vary exemption limit as to industrial floor space

17.—(1) The Board of Trade may by order direct that subsection (1) of section 39 of the Act of 1962 (whereby an exemption from the requirement of an industrial development certificate is conferred by reference to the creation of industrial floor space within a limit of 5,000 square feet) shall be amended by substituting, for the number of square feet specified in that subsection as originally enacted or as previously amended under this subsection, such number of square feet as may be specified in the order.

6.9 p.m.

LORD ERROLL OF HALE moved to add to subsection (1) "being not less than 2,000 square feet". The noble Lord said: Although this Amendment looks very similar to Amendment No. 25, it raises a substantially different point, and I think it would be for the convenience of noble Lords if I were to deal only with Amendment No. 24. As noble Lords will have seen from Clause 17, the Government are proposing to take powers to lower the exemption limit to a figure below 5,000 square feet in relation to the need to obtain industrial development certificates before planning permission can be obtained for the erection of a factory or industrial premises. Although no lower limit has been specified in the Bill, the noble Lord said on Second Reading, I think, and certainly Ministers in another place have indicated, that they would propose to lower the exemption limit to 1,000 square feet in the congested areas. The purpose of my Amendment is to raise that lower limit to 2,000 square feet, because in my opinion, and in that of those of my noble friends who have considered this matter, to go down to 1,000 square feet is to go far too low.

The object of this part of the Bill, we have been told, is to secure the proper distribution of industry and to encourage—indeed, persuade—manufacturers to move to areas of the country which are not so heavily over-employed. That is a worthy objective; but, of course, it is not attainable in regard to these very small factory premises or factory extensions. In my own experience, it was hard enough to get anybody to move on the basis of a 5,000 square feet factory, which is a very small one; and it is certainly going to be quite impossible to get anybody to move when there is a matter of only 1,500 square feet of factory space at stake. I invite noble Lords to consider the applicant for an I.D.C. for, say, 1,500 square feet. It would be quite impossible for him to move this small extension to another location 200 or 300 miles away. Are the Board of Trade therefore going to grant the application for the industrial development certificate? In all probability they will have to, or else stultify a desirable and useful development. In other words, in such cases there is no need for the application to be made: it is only a matter of increasing the amount of paper work.

Or are the Board of Trade going to pursue a very tough policy? We have heard a lot about "tough policies" in the last six months. Are the Board of Trade going to refuse the majority of these small applications? If so, I can assure the noble Lord that he and his Department will find that they are in for a number of battles in the months ahead, because it is often the small application that is fought most tenaciously by the applicant. It is the small applicant who enlists the help of his Member of Parliament, because the small extension often means so very much to him. If things are still arranged in the same way at the Board of Trade, the noble Lord will find a great deal of his time taken up by receiving deputations led by individual M.P.s on behalf of constituents aggrieved at the refusal of some of these very small applications. I submit to the Committee that this is carrying detailed control from Whitehall far too far, and that, in any case, whatever policy as to the granting or refusal of these applications is pursued, it will not have the larger effect which the Government have stated to be the intention behind this Bill—namely, that of persuading industry to move.

There is a far worse effect, in my view, of imposing Whitehall control, as distinct from local authority control, over these very small applications, and that is that the small men will in all probability not apply. For many of them it will be their first direct contact with a Whitehall Government Department. In earlier cases they will have had to apply only to the local authority for planning permission, but now they will suddenly find that they have to put up a case to a great Government Department. They will have to go into great detail about the number of staff they employ, and about the machines; they will have to say what they propose to put into the factory premises if the application is granted; they will be asked about their contribution to the export effort. There will be many other questions of a detailed character which they are not in the habit of answering, and, as a result, they will be suspicious as to the real purpose which lies behind the questionnaire. So the small man will probably say, "No, thank you very much; I will not apply", which means that in many cases small but desirable development will not proceed; or, alternatively, that the small men will seek out unsuitable premises, under railway arches, in disused garages and such like, in order to get their way without having to go through the Whitehall mill. Indeed, the temptations to evade the provisions of this Bill will become very real to many otherwise honest businessmen.

The noble Lord may say in reply that it is necessary to have this control, but I would urge him to examine the fact that local authorities already have very full control over the erection of these small factory extensions, or new factories; because, of course, development cannot proceed unless planning permission is given. So it is not a case of the Minister's control or no control at all: it is only a matter of putting in an additional control because, presumably, Whitehall does not trust the judgment of local authorities in the matter of these small applications. I submit to the Committee that the local authority is in a far better position to estimate the desirability or otherwise of these very small factory extensions which will be taking place within the boundaries of the local authorities themselves, and that to carry the exemption limit below 5,000 square feet is to institute an excessively detailed control by Whitehall over small but desirable and important industrial development. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will accept this Amendment in the spirit in which it is moved this afternoon. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 19, line 44, at end insert ("being not less than 2,000 square feet").—(Lord Erroll of Hale.)


The noble Lord, Lord Erroll of Hale, has introduced this Amendment in a very genial way, but I am afraid I cannot accept it; and I will explain why. Until we have had some experience of operating a lower exemption limit than the existing limit of 5,000 square feet, we shall not be able to establish an appropriate level for the congested areas. But past experience suggests that it needs to be lower than the 3,000 square feet proposed by the Opposition at the Committee stage in another place, and that it would be prudent to have the power to go below the 2,000 square feet suggested in the first of the noble Lord's two Amendments. I think I explained on Second Reading the evidence that had come to the notice of the Board of Trade about the leakage that had taken place in development, and particularly in London and the South-East.

As ancillary floor space is excluded from the industrial development control, as the noble Lord knows, an exemption limit of 2,000 square feet would permit of the uncontrolled erection of 2,000 square feet of manufacturing space, plus 3,000 square feet of office space, and, say, 2,000 square feet of storage space—sufficient to start up a small concern. The position is not quite as the noble Lord said it was. Large estates made up of small developments of this kind have grown up in some of the most congested parts of the Midlands and in the South-East, and it is precisely this kind of development that we are seeking to bring under control. With that explanation, I would ask the noble Lord to withdraw the Amendment.


Before considering whether to withdraw the Amendment, I would say that it seems a pity that so much of the case which the noble Lord has made should refer to examples which can no longer occur, because they are taken care of by the Local Employment Act, 1960, and to the small number of other cases where, by the exercise of some ingenuity, some very desirable premises have been erected to serve an extremely pressing need. Furthermore, it is not only London and the South-East, but also small towns on the edge of the Birmingham conurbation, in Shropshire, and round about, which are very seriously concerned that this very severe control will prevent them from developing small trading estates and factory premises in towns which are at present mainly agricultural in character, and which would like to have reasonable diversification. I hope that there is some chance of the Minister's reconsidering this matter.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

6.20 p.m.


moved to add to subsection (1): "being not less than 1,000 square feet". The noble Lord said: It is becoming clear, as noble Lords appreciate, that the Board of Trade in their hurry to draft this Bill have decided to draw the net wide and work out the implications afterwards, inserting an occasional saving clause, so that if they find it unnecessary to have such wide control they can always ease up afterwards. It is an unsatisfactory way of drafting a Bill. One should be much more precise.

We have tried with a number of Amendments to tighten up the prevailing looseness and spread of the net. We have had from the noble Lord in discussing the previous Amendment an assurance, such as it is (I say, "such as it is" because he admits it depends on the way that things work out in the future), that it may not be necessary when they have had more experience to continue control down to 1,000 ft. in congested areas. But experience may work the opposite way. If a large number of people, as he appeared to indicate, are in a sense prepared to try to evade the controls then, of course, he is sure to find going up a number of factory premises having an area of 950 square feet.

It will clearly be the case that, where a local authority are sympathetic to the smaller businessman or industrialist who wants merely to replace two or three old sheds by a new building, or to remove an eyesore, they will say: "Provided it is kept under 1,000 feet, we will give permission. We want the area cleared up; and you will not need the permission of the Board of Trade." So the noble Lord will come along with an amending order (or whatever it is he will bring along), saying, "There has been a great evasion of control taking place at 1,000 feet. We had not realised the mendacity factor of the modern small businessman and, therefore, in the light of experience, in the interests of proper distribution of industry we must reduce the exemption limit to 500 square feet."—or to 250 square feet or even to nought feet, so that every single industrial development will require an I.D.C. It is because I fear this further spread of largely unnecessary detailed control that I have tabled this Amendment, so as to put a floor on to the exemption limit, so that the noble Lord and his colleagues cannot at any time in the future carry the exemption limit below 1,000 feet. I hope he will be able to accept this Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 19, line 44, at end insert ("being not less than 1,000 square feet")—(Lord Erroll of Hale.)


After that skilful example of setting up Aunt Sallies to be knocked down, I must say that I am greatly moved, and that I accept the noble Lord's Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 17, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 18 [Amendment of secton 39 of Act of 1962]:

On Question, Whether Clause 18 shall stand part of the Bill?


I have never been fond of Section 39 of the 1962 Act. My heart bleeds for the practitioner in Scotland who still has to cope with Section 19 of the Local Employment Act, 1960. In both cases he has a very hard row to hoe. The noble Lord's Bill does not make it any easier. I know that what is being done is the clearing up of a certain number of difficulties; but when the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, spoke of the abundant clarity of Clause 13, which certainly seems to involve a great deal of obscurity, it is as nothing to the obscurity involved in having this Amendment by means of Clause 18 grafted on to Section 39 of the 1962 Act. The same applies in Clause 19 to the Scottish equivalent measure.

Could not the noble Lord undertake that by the next stage, Section 39 will be re-written in full, as the noble Lord now wants it to read, with the proviso in Clause 18(2), so that it does not go too far back in its effect, and so that we can read the whole thing in one place? If the noble Lord speaks to the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack he will find that this is exactly what that noble and learned Lord would like to do to the law in general. This is a good case in point where we are dealing with a difficult concept. I am sure that the noble Lord would like to have the Board of Trade in the vanguard of the current trend to clarity in the law. Would the noble Lord look at it?


This is not an objection to the clause on its merits. It is a thirst for the ideal which is afflicting the noble Viscount, at perhaps the last moment in the progress of the Bill. One always sympathises with one who seeks the unattainable; and those who look for perfect simplicity and clarification in planning legislation may be included in those good wishes. I am afraid that I cannot give the noble Viscount the undertaking he seeks. I would say to him that, speaking for myself, I have an unholy respect for Parliamentary draftsmen. When they do it this way in a new Bill, I say to myself that there must be some good reason for it, some reason better than any that occur to me. For those reasons I do not feel inclined to interfere with their handiwork, even in chase of the ideals which the noble Viscount so clearly put.


Since the noble Lord has clearly not asked the Parliamentary draftsmen whether there is a reason, would he do so? The noble Lord assumed that there was a reason. It was quite patent that he would not know whether there was or not. Would he ask the Parliamentary draftsmen?


I am afraid I cannot give the noble Viscount the undertaking on this point in the sense he desires.


Is the noble Lord not prepared to ask the Parliamentary draftsmen? I yield to no one in my respect for the Parliamentary draftsmen, but they would be the first to agree that they are human and can make mistakes or that, on reflection, they can see an improved way to do a thing. One of the purposes of passing a Bill through both Houses of Parliament is to make improvements. Would the noble Lord at least not consult the draftsmen?


If either noble Lord likes to put down a redraft in clear language, and will communicate it to us, we will then treat it with the respect and attention it will no doubt deserve. Until that is done I prefer this version.


This is really not fair. The last Government were always anxious at least to enlist the services of the Parliamentary draftsmen to put the revised clause in best Parliamentary form rather than that the Opposition should have to draft wording which may not be quite right and which leaves very little time for it to be put right.


I disagree with the noble Lord, not only on that point but on some others. If he had never done anything better or worse during thirteen years of Tory opposition than that, it would not have mattered much.


Is the noble Lord not conceding the point?



Clause 18 agreed to.

Clause 19 agreed to.

6.30 p.m.

LORD DRUMALBYN moved, after Clause 19, to insert the following new clause:

Amendments relating to Building Grants

". Section 3 of the Local Employment Act 1960 shall have effect as if after the word 'carry on' there were inserted the words or to persons proposing to provide industrial accommodation for other purposes carrying on or proposing to 'carry on'; and if there were added at the end of that section the following sub-section.

'(5) No grant shall be payable under subsection 1 of this section to any person proposing to provide industrial accommodation for other persons unless that person shall have entered into an agreement with the Board of Trade to sell or let the premises only to such person or persons and on such terms and conditions as shall have been approved by the Board of Trade; and in the event of the premises being sold or let to any person or persons otherwise that in accordance with such terms and conditions the Board of Trade may recover the amount of the grant paid as a civil debt.' "

The noble Lord said: This is an Amendment which I admit straight away the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, thought would be out of order, the reason being that in another place it would require a Financial Resolution, and even in your Lordships' House it will ultimately, if carried, require the amendment of the Long Title. Nevertheless, I think it is a matter which is worth putting forward at this moment.

I think I can explain it best in this way. The Local Employment Act, 1960, in Section 3(1) authorises the Board of Trade in the following manner: For the purposes of this Part of this Act the Board may with the consent of the Treasury, and after consultation with an advisory committee appointed by the Board (hereinafter referred to as the advisory committee '), make grants to persons carrying on, or proposing to carry on, undertakings in any development district towards the cost of providing in the district buildings or extensions of buildings to be occupied by the undertakings.

The first part of the Amendment would introduce after the words make grants to persons carrying on or proposing to carry on the words or to persons proposing to provide industrial accommodation for other persons carrying on or proposing to carry on and so forth.

The 1963 Act fixed the grants at 25 per cent. of the expenditure reasonably necessary having regard to the purposes for which the building or the extension is required. The Board of Trade, of course, can itself build factories under Section 2 of the 1960 Act, as well as give building grants to people who build factories for themselves, and the Board of Trade can build them either made to measure for a particular tenant or speculatively for any tenants who may come along; and the Board of Trade will let the factory at an economic rent for the district, not necessarily a rent related to building cost. In contrast to that, a private person who builds a factory for a tenant to occupy will not be able to let the factory at less than the economic rent: that is, the rent based on the building cost in the development district. The point here is that it is not always easy for the Board of Trade to get the Treasury to agree to allow it to build when and where it wants to build. There are, after all, limits to public investment, and I wonder whether the time has not come to extend the building grant, under proper safeguards, of course, to firms which are willing to build factories either to let or to sell to manufacturers. I think there are respectable arguments for doing so, quite apart from the profit motive which, after all, can operate in the public interest and very often does.

Private enterprise may be able to sense the right moment and the right place to provide advance factories, and to get on with the job without having to spend time on convincing the Treasury that it is the right moment and the right place. This may be a decided advantage, because anyone who has been at the Board of Trade and considered advance factories knows that the moments to catch the expansion that will come along are relatively fleeting, and one may well miss them if one has to get Treasury consent, convince colleagues, and all the rest of it, before the advance factories can be started.

So far private enterprise has been restricted to factories below the limit of 5,000 square feet. Not unnaturally this has been so really as a matter of practice. They have not been restricted by law, but not unnaturally they have confined their activities largely to areas where the demand for factory space has been greatest, and indeed this is one of the reasons why the noble Lord has indicated the intention of the Government to reduce the limits from 5,000 square feet to 1,000 square feet in the Midlands and the South East. What is going to be the effect of that? It is going to cause these concerns that are engaged on building factories and which have great expertise in building factories below the 5,000 square feet limit to move to other areas. They may, of course, transfer their activities to building factories of more than 5,000 square feet, but all the same their expertise is in setting out industrial estates and building factories of less than 5,000 square feet.

Might it not be wise to encourage them positively to go to development districts and set up this kind of enterprise in those development districts? Otherwise, they will go again where the demand for factory space is greatest, and the Board of Trade will be taking them from the marginal areas all the time. This is what is bound to happen. They will go where the demand for factory space is greatest and will build there, unless some encouragement is given to them to build in the development districts, which is what the Amendment seeks to give.

I quite agree that there is no particular point in consultation with the advisory committee on this matter, because this a matter where the advisory committee would not have to lay out grants directly. The question of laying out grants would arise when the tenants came along and applied for assistance in order to occupy these factories. That would be a totally different matter, which will happen in any case of course, but there is no harm in consulting the advisory committee in matters such as this. In any case I should not have thought it was a fatal objection to the Amendment, if noble Lords opposite thought it better to exclude the consultation in such a case, and the drafting of an Amendment to that effect would be relatively easy.

Also the safeguards which I have proposed in subsection (5) may not be quite right. Again, one drafts safeguards as best one can, and I think the general purpose of them is to ensure that the intention of the Board of Trade in making the 25 per cent. grant is carried out—namely, that it should be possible to let the factory at less than the economic cost based on the cost of building, and to ensure that that is carried on for the future. It looks as if it is in perpetuity, but of course that is not so because the Local Employment Act itself has a seven-year term and that could always be altered again when the matter comes to be reviewed.

I suggest to noble Lords that this matter is worth considering. Here one has a productivity capacity which it is worth employing on what it knows how to do, and I think one could get the benefit of this particular skill for the development districts. I commend the Amendment to noble Lords opposite. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 19. insert the said new clause.—(Lord Drumalbyn.)


I have been very impressed by the powerful arguments adduced by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, but I should have been much more impressed if they had had anything at all to do with this Bill.


It has something to do with the Bill because, as I pointed out, the provisions of the Bill are going to prevent these people from doing what they have to do in places where they have to do it. What I am suggesting is that they should be sent to places where they can carry on their activities to the national advantage.


It has nothing to do with the Bill to the extent that it is quite outside the scope and intention of the Bill and the Money Resolution, and I think that the noble Lord realises this as well as anybody else. But his arguments were good, and so far as they were put forward in a general way I will reply to them. The Government are at present reviewing the distribution of industry policy in view of the need to replace the powers to give financial inducement under the Local Employment Acts when they expire in 1967. I spent a lot of time on the Estimates Committee going into the question of the Local Employment Acts. For many weeks and many months I ploughed through this. And I know that the Board of Trade has to have regard to the relationship between the expenditure involved and the employment likely to be provided. We cannot tell what employment is likely to be provided when we do not know the purpose of the factory. That is perfectly reasonable. The noble Lord was talking about wasting time going to see the Treasury. I am more concerned about not wasting public money. Unless we can tell what employment is likely to be provided, the whole principle of this is set aside. We also want to know whether the occupying firm is going to be sound enough to provide continuing employment. I could go on for a long time dealing with all the factors in this. It would not be easy to enforce these provisions after the money had been paid out and the factory occupied.


I am not sure that the noble Lord is right about this. Surely the point is that potential tenants may or may not want a grant to go into the building. If they do not want a grant, the probability is that they are economically viable and know what they are about. On the other hand, if they apply for a grant, it may mean they are not economically viable and, if they do not get a grant, they probably will not go into the premises. The likelihood is that the premises will serve their purpose and the money will be well spent.


The noble Lord is talking about premises he presumes will be there. I am talking about premises that will not be there, because we are not going to allow them. The noble Lord is jumping the gun. These difficulties are not necessarily insuperable and, if a way should be found of overcoming them, a provision allowing grants to be given to developers would have to be carefully drafted in the context of a Bill dealing with loans and grants generally. That is my serious answer to the noble Lord and I hope that he will accept it.


I am perfectly willing to accept that answer. What I was anxious to do was to bring this problem to the attention of the Government and I hope that the effect of putting down this Amendment will be to put this in their minds when they are examining the Local Employment Acts, as they are bound to do on their expiry in a short time. Perhaps I should not be so grateful for the noble Lord's explanation on this matter as on some other matters he has explained to-day. Nevertheless, I think the purpose of my putting down the Amendment has been served. I realised that, because a Money Resolution would be necessary and because of the actual drafting, it would not be possible for the Government to accept it. I am a little disappointed that the noble Lord has held out no hope of being able to follow this up and put something down on Report stage. Of course, there is always the possibility that in the meantime he may have a change of mind and see the advantages of my argument. I hope that that may be so, and on that rather flimsy hope I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Remaining clauses and Schedules agreed to.

House resumed. Bill reported with Amendments.