§ 6.30 p.m.
§ LORD MOLSON moved, That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Town and Country Planning General Development (Amendment) Order 1968 [SI 1968 No. 16231. laid before the House under Standing Order No. 62 on October 1094 21, 1968, be annulled. The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a case where, in accordance with a good many of the speeches made from both sides of the House during the debate, it would seem proper, even under the proposals of the White Paper, that your Lordships' House should ask the Government to think again.
§ I speak to-day for the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, the County Councils Association, the Greater London Council and the Association of Municipal Corporations. There is almost complete unanimity among the planning authorities that they deprecate this Statutory Instrument amending the General Development Order. In one sentence, the purpose of the Statutory Instrument is to exempt the British Airports Authority from normal planning control. It does so on the ground that the British Airports Authority is a statutory undertaker; but the exemption which is granted 1095 under this Order is substantially wider than the exemptions granted to other statutory undertakers.
§ My Lords, I proceed to give the history of this matter and to explain the Order. There were four major airports in this country which were owned and controlled by the Ministry of Aviation, and therefore enjoyed Crown exemption from control. Circular 100 of 1950 provided that although those possessions of the Crown were exempt from planning control the Ministry was in fact to consult the local planning authorities, and if a difference of opinion arose between them the dispute was to be referred to the Minister of Housing and Local Government. These arrangements worked well. The County Councils Association would be entirely happy if something analogous to that could be continued.
§ In 1965 the Airports Act was passed which vested these airports, and a number of others, in the British Airports Authority, and therefore Crown exemption ceased. It was some months after that that the Government—and I will describe it (not this Government more than a good many other Governments of recent years) as the overweening Executive—sought to give even greater independence of planning control to this statutory creature, the British Airports Authority than in fact the Ministry of Aviation itself had enjoyed. The Minister of Housing and Local Government consulted the local planning authorities about a draft Order which was what he described as the minimum that was required to enable them to discharge their functions.
The County Councils Association have been entirely reasonable in this matter, and writing to the Department on April 15, 1966, they said:
Naturally the Association recognise that the Authority should have some freedom to carry out minor works on their operational land without having to apply to the local planning authority for permission. But the Association suggest that the freedom proposed by the draft Amendment Order as it stands goes much too far and they have concluded that its possible consequences do not seem to have been fully appreciated by the Department.
There was further discussion between the Government and the Planning Authorities, but they did not reach agreement.
Some months ago, the present Order was suddenly produced. It is an interesting commentary upon the Minister's original view that the draft Order of some two years ago gave the minimum powers that were required, because two very substantial concessions have been made in the Order which is before your Lords-ships this evening.
In the first place the Authority will no longer have freedom to construct or enlarge runways without the consent of the planning authority; and secondly, the freedom which the Authority enjoy will not be extended to their lessees. We are naturally glad of those two very substantial concessions. In addition, the British Airports Authority have promised that when they exercise their powers under this Order they will consult the local authorities. I quote their words:
The British Airports Authority recognise that development of an airport can have a marked effect on the amenity of the adjoining land and on other planning proposals for the area. It therefore gives the undertaking that notwithstanding the permission granted by the Amending Order it will consult with the local planning authority before carrying out any development for which permission is given by that Order save in the case of minor works urgently needed to enable the airport to function efficiently.
My Lords, what is the value of this promise of consultation? It is only consultation; and if after hearing the views of the planning authority, the B.A.A. choose to disregard the views of the planning authority they are completely free to do so. In the second place, they may in fact feel themselves obliged to disregard the views of the planning authority. They are a statutory undertaker set up by Parliament; they are under obligation to conduct their business on commercial lines, and they may consider that they would be able to make a larger profit if they disregarded the representations of the planning authority.
§ I now come to the actual wording of the Amendment to the General Development Order. Is it the case that the B.A.A. are being given only the powers that are necessary? Recently this Parliament has been a little distrustful of the extent of the privileges granted to statutory authorities; but your Lordships will remember that you carried an Amendment to the Town and Country Planning Act which substantially reduced the compensation which they could obtain; and Her 1097 Majesty's Government, to their great credit, regarded this as being a fair and reasonable Amendment and adopted it themselves. But, broadly speaking, why in other matters should not statutory undertakers be treated in much the same way as private enterprise?
Now I will ask your Lordships to bear with me if I refer your Lordships to the actual exemptions given to statutory authorities under the General Development Order of 1963. Gas and electricity undertakings are, speaking broadly, exempted from planning control for developments that are necessary for the purposes of the production of gas and electricity, but they do not enjoy any exemption in the case of buildings. This Order follows closely the precedent of the exemptions granted to dock, pier, harbour, water transport, canal and inland navigation undertakings; and if your Lordships turn to paragraph 19 you will find there that the exemption from planning control is subject to this important exception
except the construction or erection, or the reconstruction or alteration so as materially to affect the design or external appearance 'thereof, of bridges or other buildings"—
(not being structures or erections required in connection with the handling of traffic)".
I think that exception to the exception refers to gantries and cranes and things of the sort, such as you expect to find in a port.
When we come to the freedom being granted under this Order to airports, we find that buildings are controlled, but not—and here I quote
buildings required in connection with the movement or maintenance of aircraft, or with the embarking, disembarking, loading. discharge or transport of passengers, livestock or goods at an aerodrome.
I would ask the Government: when all that has been exempted, what is left? What else are you expecting to build on an aerodrome which is going to be controlled when all these buildings which in any way apparently relate to the activities of an airport are in fact freed from this control? Perhaps—this thought is based on a reply to a Question in another place the only thing is the duty-free liquor shop which the B.A.A. are intending to build at Stansted.
§ I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to explain more fully than his colleagues in another place did what exactly is the meaning of this Order. I have contrasted the single exception with regard to transport in the case of docks and harbours with this lengthy verbiage in the case of aerodromes. Will the Minister please explain whether this verbiage goes beyond the wording in the case or docks and harbours? One would naturally have supposed that when the General Development Order was being amended much the same words would be used in the case of airports as in the case of seaports, but different words were used. Will the Minister tell us whether this verbiage goes beyond what is provided for him in the case of docks and harbours?
§ If he says "No," then I would say to him that he really should take the Order back and have it redrafted. After all, it is a general principle of Parliamentary draftsmanship that if you mean to say the same things on two occasions you use the same, and not different, words. But I do not think he will say "No", because, obviously in the Order IN e are discussing now, there is reference to the maintenance of aircraft. That surely must mean workshops, and I do not think there is any provision for exempting anything in the nature of a workshop or anything that would amount to the maintenance of a ship in the case of the seaport.
§ If he says, "Yes, this verbiage was carefully used in order to increase the privileges of the British Airports Authority over those enjoyed by other statutory undertakers", then I would ask him to explain to us why. I should have thought that airports needed to be more strictly controlled than seaports or most other statutory undertakings. There are a number of reasons for that: first, the noise of the aircraft; secondly, because the aircraft, both taking off and landing, travel low over ground and over houses which are occupied; thirdly, on account of the large numbers employed. I believe I am right in saying that when a new goods-handling depot was built at Heathrow recently the number of workers there was increased by 2,500. That throws a great burden upon the local authority in the matter of housing and education, the provision of roads and so on. The fourth 1099 reason is because of the immensely large areas which are required by modern airports, and, large as is the land required for the airport itself, the area which is, let us say, blighted by the noise of aircraft coming in and going out is much greater than the area of the aerodrome itself.
§ Under the old procedure, with which we were entirely satisfied, the Surrey County Council had a joint committee with the airport authorities, and in the case of Gatwick they planned their planning permission in the county round about so that there should not be private houses in the immediate vicinity of the aerodrome or where there were runways, in order that people should not be troubled by the entirely proper development of Gatwick, which they recognised and for which they were willing to grant facilities.
§ My Lords, this amendment to the General Development Order is a familiar case of Her Majesty's Government (any Government, not only of this political Party) seeking for themselves or for their creatures, wide powers on which, when they are asked to justify them, they are prepared to give verbal undertakings that in fact those powers will not be used. So it was that in another place, when these things were pointed out, the Minister gave a number of assurances, and I will deal with each one of those.
§ First, as I have said, the B.A.A. will consult the local planning authority. But, of course, it can disregard the views of the planning authority. Secondly, if the planning authority is dissatisfied, it can issue an Article 4 direction under the General Development Order in which it purports to stop the B.A.A. from exercising the powers which it is given under this Statutory Instrument. But that is only valid if it is approved by the Minister, and of course there is not the slightest guarantee that the Minister, who will be subject no doubt to pressure from the B.A.A., will support it. If the Minister confirms, well and good; if he does not, then this so-called safeguard is found to be nugatory. In the third place, an assurance has been given in respect of Stansted that if planning development is refused compensation will not be claimed; but that does not apply anywhere except at Stansted, and it could 1100 involve the local authority in heavy expenditure.
I would ask the Government to explain, since they emphasise all these various safeguards, why this lengthy circumlocution? If it all worked satisfactorily, it comes back very nearly to the procedure which existed under Circular 100 of 1950. But we have an uneasy feeling that the obstinacy of the Government in refusing to amend this Order so as to incorporate in the law of the land the assurances that have been given is rather sinister. In the first place, can the British Airports Authority be trusted to consult the local authorities? Well, my Lords, after the experience of Stansted I am afraid that there is widespread distrust of assurances given by the British Airports Authority. Secondly, can Mr. Masefield's assurances be trusted? It was a remarkable thing that when this matter was first brought up he wrote a letter to The Times saying:
Any necessary extensions to the interim terminal, during this time, will of course be subject to the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act.
But that is exactly what this Statutory Instrument alters. It relieves the B.A.A. of the obligation to go through the procedure of the Town and Country Planning Act and, at the time—well, the Minister shakes his head. If he would like to explain why, I shall be most grateful. No, he will not. He will reserve his explanation to a later time when it will not be possible for people who are concerned about this statutory instruction to give him a reply.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, the noble Lord will agree that it will be as possible for him to interrupt me as it is now for me to interrupt him.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, that is quite true. What was said at that time certainly was understood. I repeat the words:Any necessary extensions to the interim terminal, during this time, will of course be subject to the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act.At that time this Statutory Instrument which exempted the British Airports Authority of so much of the control of the local planning authority was already under discussion between the B.A.A., the Government, and the local planning authorities.
1101 Finally, when it is a matter of an Article 4 direction, can the Board of Trade be trusted? Their primary concern is always with the greatest possible prosperity of the aircraft industry. Their point of view is entirely different from that of the Minister of Housing and Local Government. However, I would quote the opinion of Mr. Jenkins, the Member for Putney, who was speaking on this matter in another place, when he pointed out that in important matters involving the measurement of noise that had been recommended by the Ombudsman, no action has yet been taken. My Lords, surely this is a clear case where Her Majesty's Government are seeking very wide, I think unprecedented, and, I am quite sure, unjustified exemption for the B.A.A. from the general planning law of the land. They have given certain assurances, and if it is intended that those assurances should be effective, I would ask them to take back this Order and to reduce the powers given to the B.A.A. to those which they say they intend the B.A.A. to be free to exercise.
§ Moved, That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Town and Country Planning General Development (Amendment) Order 1968 [S.I. 1968 No. 1623], laid before the House under Standing Order No. 62 on the 21st of October 1968, be annulled.—(Lord Molson.)
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Molson, appeared to think that all the ammunition would be reserved until right at the end, and I therefore thought it might be useful if I intervened at this point and dealt with one narrow issue; the point concerning Stansted. My noble friend Lord Kennet will reply to the general discussion at the end, and I am absolutely certain that he will deal quite satisfactorily with all the general propositions and the principles with which the noble Lord, Lord Molson, has been concerned. But I want here to deal with Stansted.
There is the apprehension, as I would say the misapprehension—or as the noble Lord, Lord Molson said, the distrust—that this Order would enable the British Airports Authority to pre-empt the eventual findings of the Roskill Commission. I thought it would be helpful if I dealt 1102 with that anxiety at this point so that, if possible, we could get this out of the way.
§ VISCOUNT DILHORNE
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for a moment, because I was proposing to raise certain questions with regard to Stansted to which I should like a positive answer? Not knowing what the noble Lord is going to say, I do not know whether he will answer them in the course of his speech. But if he does not, may I take it that an answer will be forthcoming from the noble Lord, Lord Kennet?
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, the noble Viscount may take it that he will get an answer to all the questions he puts, either here or at some time. He will, I think, agree that on this issue we have not, as yet, failed to give him all the information for which he has asked. But I take the opportunity of apologising now, if by intervening at this point, I spoil in any way the speech which the noble Viscount intends to deliver.
§ VISCOUNT DILHORNE
My Lords, it was not that. I did not know that the noble Lord was going to intervene at this stage. I was going to make certain observations in relation to Stansted. I can make them after he has spoken. They are not very pointed or very hostile but simply seeking information.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, it makes matters a little awkward when a list of speakers has been circulated in which the noble Lord, the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms, was not mentioned as one of those who was to take part.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, it was not my intention to speak, but as the list developed and questions were put I thought that this would be the most helpful way of giving the answers.
§ LORD BESWICK
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, the Leader of the Opposition, asked me on November 6 whether I could give him an assurance that it would not be possible for the British Airports Authority to build at Stansted without waiting for the Report of the Roskill Commission—and by "build" I understand him to mean up to the point at which it would become the third London Airport. I then said that 1103 there were various safeguards, and I gave the noble Lord a categorical assurance that it would not be possible to develop Stansted in this way. I want now to state the reasons why I gave that assurance in those terms.
First, the Order, as the noble Lord, Lord Molson, has already said, specifically excludes from the exempted items a new runway, extensions to present runways and work required on the Airport by any tenants of the Authority. Knowing a little about this subject, I say with some confidence that it will be quite impossible to bring Stansted into anything like a third London Airport if it is confined to one runway, and if the users of the Airport can construct supporting accommodation only with the express consent of the planning authority.
The noble Lord, Lord Molson, quoted the letter from Mr. Peter Masefield published in The Times on September 14, and he made a point about it which I confess I could not quite follow. He quoted the extract which said:Any necessary extensions to the interim terminal, during this time, will of course be subject to the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act.I do not know, since I have not questioned Mr. Masefield on this matter, to what extent he is aware of the wording of the Order that is now before your Lordships, but what he said was quite right. Any extensions necessary to the building up of Stansted Airport to equip it as the third London Airport would be quite impossible under the provisions of this Order. I am bound to say, in passing, that I very much regret the effort which has been made—not in this House, but by some people—to try—I was going to say to twist the words of Mr. Masefield. He is a gentleman who has always believed in giving full information. I believe that he sometimes rushes too readily into print, if I may say so, but always with the best of intentions, always with the purpose of giving information. He was trying to be helpful, and I think that he was accurate. It will be impossible to extend the buildings of Stansted Airport in the way in which it would be necessary to extend them if it were seriously intended to bring Stansted to the position of the third London Airport.
1104 The question of the use of the Airport by the airline companies has been overlooked a little. It is just not possible to develop the traffic on an airport unless there is an intention on the part of the operating companies to build up the traffic there. There can be no serious development of Stansted unless the airline companies voluntarily decide to operate from there. To do that considerable capital expenditure would be needed on their part. Quite apart from the fact that this Order does not enable them, without consent, to spend money on new buildings, they just would not want to sink money in premises which, after the Roskill findings are known, are liable to be completely wasted. They might have to abandon them. It just does not make business sense on the part of the British corporations to embark on any major development of Stansted.
To emphasise this safeguard Ministers have given various assurances. A further safeguard is that the Ministry have undertaken that they will approach any proposal by a local authority request for approval of an Article 4 direction with great sympathy. Your Lordships will be aware that the general permission to put up operational buildings can be put into suspense if the Minister approves an Article 4 direction, and planning permission would then be required. As in the case of all statutory undertakings, such permission if refused by the local authority can only be granted, on appeal, by the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Minister responsible for the undertaking. Of course, no assurance can be given that the Minister would on all occasions be willing to approve a local authority's Article 4 direction: it will be for the local authority to make its case as cogently as possible.
Then there is the point of compensation, upon which the noble Lord touched. He said that the B.A.A. were not claiming compensation in the case of Stansted. This was a delicate issue on which apprehensions were aroused. The B.A.A. have said that if the question of an Article 4 direction was refused, then they would not claim compensation. This in itself would give them very serious cause to think before rushing into any proposal designed to frustrate the findings of the Roskill Commission.
1105 I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, about the kind of work for which this Order was required. It was a very fair point, and I agree with him that to some extent it was not adequately dealt with during the discussion in another place. I took the trouble to find out the sort of thing the B.A.A. had in mind. I take as examples the following buildings or developments which will be needed. The rules drawn up by the International Civil Aviation Authority about fire precautions require that the fire arrangements at Stansted be looked at again, and it will be necessary to re-site the fire station at Stansted Airport. Similarly, to bring the Heathrow fire station into line with the new I.C.A.O. rules it will be necessary to carry out certain modifications at its fire station. I understand that there are requirements for the enlargement of heating stations at Heathrow and work may require to be done there as well.
Then again, to keep pace with the demand of the tenants at the Authority's airports, there is a continual additional request for electric light and power supply. This in turn means that the Authority now have the need to extend the electricity sub-station on the Airport. Buildings may well be needed for new or additional apron service equipment. There was some requirement for accommodation for snow-clearing apparatus. All these things are small but important to the Authority. They require that action should be taken quite quickly. I should have thought that an airport authority is precisely the kind of statutory undertaking which ought to have proper exemption from planning requirements.
The noble Lord has said that the effect of an airport's operations is more serious on the surrounding area than in the case of those of a seaport. That may well be so, but one also appreciates that the kind of operation for which the B.A.A. are responsible requires speedy action. Many things on an airport need to be done quickly, and it is surely a matter of business efficiency that they should have the exemption which is granted to other statutory undertakings. I could give a number of other instances of the sort of work which is needed now, and may well be needed in the future—for 1106 example, the development of the internal road system; the extension of aprons at the airport. This is the sort of operation that will be covered by this Order.
Some references have been made to the theoretical figure which Mr. Masefield quoted, of 150,000 movements at Stansted. It was, I think, an unwise figure to quote; it gave rise to certain apprehensions—or, again, misapprehensions. That is a theoretical figure. I frankly cannot understand how he reached it, because the movements that might be accepted by a runway or by an airport need not necessarily beat any relation to the sort of movements which will be generated by the operations of the airline companies. But, in any case, I repeat here figures which have been given elsewhere and which indicate that by 1972 the expected movements at Stansted will be of the order of 50,000 a year; and that total compares with anticipated movements of 300,000 at Heathrow. So much, my Lords, for the possibility of building up Stansted as a third London Airport.
If I were asked to give another safeguard, I would refer to public opinion. Public opinion over Stansted has been quite a significant factor. I think the noble Viscount will accept that, so far as I am concerned, and so far as the Government are concerned in this House, we have not endeavoured to frustrate public opinion. We have listened to the expressions of public opinion by the noble Viscount and others, and we have tried to meet the legitimate apprehensions that have been expressed. But I really think it would be carrying anxiety or apprehension nearer to unworthy disbelief if all the assurances that have been given were turned down.
There are restrictions in the Order itself. Assurances have been given by the Minister. Assurances have been given by the Chairman of the British Airports Authority. We must have some good faith in public life. We are going to tie each other into complete inactivity if we are to insist upon cast-iron legal safeguards. I say nothing about the general principle of whether statutory undertakings should be put in line with other undertakings in the country: that is a matter which might well be the subject of 1107 a very useful discussion in your Lordships' House, and I know that there are different views. Let us ventilate them. Let us look at them again. But, so far as this particular Order is concerned, I do not believe there is any genuine reason why it should be opposed.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
My Lords, at the outset I should like to make it clear that I am speaking as a member of the Surrey County Council, an authority which is deeply concerned in the subject-matter covered by the Order. I think it would he a very great pity if the Stansted Airport tended to obscure the more important general issues involved in this Order. It would surely be something of a nonsense to suggest that the Order has been introduced in order to allow a backstairs expansion of Stansted and thereby a predetermination of the site for the third London Airport. But it is equally nonsense to equate the development of a freight terminal, such as is now under construction at Heathrow—costing some £12 million, covering some 160 acres and involving the total employment of some 8,000 persons—with other types of permitted development under the General Development Order; and, certainly, it is the view of the Surrey County Council that under the Order as it now stands a comparable freight terminal at Gatwick would be permitted development.
The Surrey County Council, as local planning authority, are vitally concerned, in so far as they have an interest in a substantial part of Heathrow and in the whole of Gatwick, with its recognised potential for growth and development. The local planning authority are responsible to the people of Surrey for determining the impact on their living conditions and environment which the development of these two airports will have, and until now the local planning authority have been in a position to discharge this responsibility. While the Ministry of Aviation were responsible for the airports, the normal Circular 100 procedure for development by Government Departments obtained, whereby there was consultation between the Government Department and the local planning authority, and in the event of a difference of view the matter was referred to the 1108 Minister of Housing and Local Government as final arbiter. This was a comparatively fast-moving machinery, and afforded an opportunity of a hearing between the two parties concerned when the balance between national and local issues could be argued.
When the British Airports Authority assumed responsibility for the airports they became subject to normal planning control, whereby an application for development by them was submitted to the local planning authority, who could either refuse or grant it subject to conditions. Immediately appeal again lay to the Minister of Housing and Local Government against any such refusal or onerous conditions. This, again, afforded an opportunity for an inquiry when any conflict between national and local interests could be argued.
The relationship between the Surrey County Council, as local planning authority, and the Ministry of Aviation and their successors—the British Airports Authority—has always been excellent. I believe the British Airports Authority would readily acknowledge the willing assistance in planning matters which has always been afforded to them, and the local planning authority have always been prepared to give due weight to national interests as well as to local interests. But it has been the experience of the local planning authority that any airports authority, naturally and inevitably, look on development within the airport boundaries with their blinkers on, concerned with its effects on their operational area and not contemplating the wider effects on the surrounding countryside. It was noticeable in the preliminary consultations on the Heathrow freight terminal that no consideration had been given to the traffic problems engendered by the terminal.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, the noble Lord is making rather a point of this. Is he aware that the freight terminal is constructed by the airline corporations, and that this Order specifically excludes building by the airline corporations?
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
My Lords, may I say that I am speaking advisedly here, and I want to make it quite clear 1109 that the interpretation which I am giving is the interpretation placed upon the Order by my authority. If my authority are incorrect, then of course they will be very pleased indeed to know that they are wrong. May I complete my point there?
It was found by the local planning authority that no consideration had been given to the traffic problems engendered by the terminal, as to how the vehicles going to and from the terminal were to be routed; nor, indeed, as to the need for some 6,000 car parking spaces. It was upon the insistence of the local planning authority that traffic consultants were appointed to assess the likely traffic flows to and from the airport and the amount of car parking spaces available within the area. It is of interest that their estimate showed that by 1970 the average daily traffic in and out of the airport would be some 20,000 vehicles per day, with hourly peak flows of 1,500 vehicles. This illustrates the need for detailed and careful study by the local planning authority and the highways authorities concerned in order to ensure that development is planned both within and without the airport so as to avoid congestion and extreme danger on the roads from the large volume of traffic to which such development may give rise.
It may be said that the undertaking given by the B.A.A. for prior consultation with the local planning authority about development other than urgent minor development will overcome this difficulty and enable a satisfactory solution to be found in all cases. The B.A.A., however, are primarily concerned with operational and commercial considerations. In the course of consultation they may share the view of the local planning authority as to the proper disposition of a proposed building on amenity grounds, but feel unable to accept their view by reason of operational or commercial reasons. The local planning authority would accept that the Minister is the proper arbiter to determine which of these views should prevail in any particular case, and under the procedure available in the past this is what has happened.
Now as to the future—and it should be remembered that one of the purposes of the Order is to enable the B.A.A. to fulfil their functions without the delays 1110 attributable to normal planning process. In the future, if, following consultation, the views of the local planning authority are not acceptable to the B.A.A., the local planning authority will have to consider whether they should challenge the proposals of the B.A.A. Having decided to challenge, the local planning authority will submit an Article 4 direction to the Minister of Housing and Local Government, who has the discretion as to whether or not he should confirm such a direction. If he does not confirm the direction, the matter is finished and the B.A.A. proposals proceed. If he does confirm the direction, the B.A.A. are back to square one and have to submit a planning application for their proposal, and ultimately appeal to the Minister against a refusal or against onerous conditions. The loss of time and the uncertainty compared with previous practice is only too apparent.
The scope of development permitted to the B.A.A. under this Order is quite out of proportion to other types of permitted development under the General Development Order; and, even more, the effect of such development on the living conditions and environment of a large area is quite beyond the effect which may be created by any other type of permitted development. The local planning authority would accept that the B.A.A. should have a right to carry out, within their boundaries, free from planning control, minor development which would have no significant effect on the neighbourhood, but if the local planning authority are to fulfil their proper responsibilities to the people they represent they would expect to have the right to exercise full planning control over major airport development, which is more significant in its effect than any other type of development, whilst preserving the right of appeal to the Minister.
My Lords, I hope that when my noble friend Lord Kennet replies to the debate the misgivings of the Surrey County Council, if they are unjustified, will be put at rest by complete assurances, but I would ask him to understand and to accept that at the present time these misgivings are strongly held, and are felt by the Surrey County Council to be well based. I believe they merit urgent and sympathetic consideration.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT DILHORNE
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just sat down has explained to us in considerable detail the differences between the procedure under this Order and the procedure as it has been heretofore. I think he read out the whole of the brief that was delivered to him. I do not propose to follow him in that regard. It seems to me here—I scent it—that there has been a conflict and a bit of a battle behind the scenes. The Ministry of Aviation and the British Airports Authority naturally want to have the greatest freedom possible to carry on the activities which they are charged with by Parliament. At the same time, the planning authorities naturally want to see that there is no abuse of freedom which will upset the whole of the planning considerations.
The battle, I think, has been lost by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to this extent; that I suspect that the wording of this Order is wider than really is required or is desired. In the course of his speech the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, gave instances of the sort of things that the British Airports Authority might require to do: build a new place for the fire station, and so on. I do not think anyone would have the slightest objection to that kind of thing being done without any planning permission under the powers given by an Order like this. This is where the crux of the question comes, and it is probably only definition. Is not the language of this Order so wide that the British Airports Authority can not only do the kind of things to which the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, referred, but could in fact put up without planning permission a brand-new terminal building for their passengers and for dealing with passengers?
I may be wrong or I may be right, but, as I understand it, a vast new terminal building, employing many more staff, and meaning that much more use could be made of the existing runway, could be put up without any planning control. If that be so, it means a great development of traffic to and from the airport, the bringing of more workpeople to the airport, more use of the runway and more noise. All those are planning considerations. I should like a positive answer to my question, because I think it 1112 is a matter really of wording and that there is no difference of intent. Under the wording as it stands, as I understand the Order, that kind of work could be done without any planning permission at all.
I am sorry, in a way, that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, spoke before me, because I wanted to try to clear away some misconceptions in relation to Stansted. I agree it would be a pity if one considered this Order only in its relationship to Stansted, but there are misgivings and they ought to be cleared away. First of all, may I say to the noble Lord that I would certainly not suggest that Her Majesty's Government, having appointed the Roskill Commission, are now laying a Statutory Instrument with a view to providing a by-pass round the work that is being done by that Commission. I do not suggest that at all; but I do understand the misgivings which have been aroused, and, frankly, I think they are very largely due to what Mr. Masefield has said. Whether he is wise to have said it or not I do not profess to say, but what he said was this—and I think the actual words are important; they have been quoted before:Any necessary extension to the interim terminal during the time will of course be subject to the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act".I suppose he must have known that this Order was under contemplation, and I understand it is the case that an extension to the interim terminal will not be subject to the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act in the sense that planning permission will have to be obtained. This is where I think the trouble lies. You have one long runway at Stansted. I do not think anyone suggests that with only one runway you can make it into a third London airport which is intended to have four runways. But the suggestion and the fear—and this is what I would ask the noble Lord to face—is that you will so far develop Stansted, with its one runway and its theoretical capacity, that it becomes obviously much easier and less expensive to extend it then by adding three more runways. The fear is not that the whole third London airport will be built by backdoor methods, but that the position 1113 will be pre-empted by the development of Stansted.
If I may just follow this point up, the argument, as I understand it, is put this way. You have this one runway. It is a long runway. You have Mr. Masefield's estimate of the theoretical capacity. The noble Lord said it would go from the present 30,000 movements a year to, I think, 50,000. Mr. Masefield said that the theoretical capacity was five times as much. Taking his figure —for this is the figure which has caused alarm—that will mean something like five times as much noise as at present; it will mean five times as many passengers and five times as big a terminal as is now required——
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, let us be fair to Mr. Masefield. Some of the comments that have been made, both inside the House and outside, have been unfair. Mr. Masefield actually said that there is no prospect—this is where the 150,000 figure came in—that the existing runway at Stansted will attain anywhere near its theoretical capacity of 150,000 movements a year. That is what he said. And he went on to say that any necessary extensions would be——
§ VISCOUNT DILHORNE
My Lords, I do not want to take up your Lordships' time—I have spoken quite enough to-day—in discussing what Mr. Masefield said; he said many things. All I am trying to say is that this disquiet arose largely in consequence of what he said. It may have been misunderstood; but it is what he has said that has caused the alarm. I think the history shows that.
Obviously you can develop Stansted to a much greater extent and you can use it a great deal more than it is used to-day. You may have to do so pending the completion of a third London airport. That I recognise as a temporary measure. But there is planning permission now for a terminal building at Stansted. Permission has been obtained; the building is going up. But what would allay all the anxiety, I think, is this. Can the noble Lord say that there will be no major building development of any kind at Stansted other than the one for which planning permission has been given? If he could say that, I think, that would do it. There is worry about the word 1114 ing of the Order. As I read it, I do not think there is any intention of putting up any other major building at Stansted; but I think it would allay the anxiety if the noble Lord could say that that would not be done.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ LORD ILFORD
My Lords, I rise to support the Prayer which has been moved by my noble friend, and I shall detain your Lordships for only a few minutes. I should have thought that the language used in the Order was so wide that it would permit almost any form of development, and that is what has made the local authority apprehensive about this Order. Let us look at the language used. it refers to:Development required in connection with the provision by the Authority of services and facilities necessary or desirable for the operation of an aerodrome.…and so on. It would be difficult to find language more comprehensive or wider than that. That would really permit the erection of almost any building and almost any form of works without planning permission. So long as that wording remains in the Order, so long will the suspicions of the local authorities be aroused.
One of the things that astonished me about this Order has been the attitude of the Ministry towards it. Their attitude seems to be quite out of line with the latest manifestations of ministerial policy. The Minister is very anxious to secure for the new plans which his Department are preparing, or which the planning authorities are preparing, subject to the supervision of his Department, public participation in planning. What is meant by public participation in planning is that the ordinary members of the public—not the members of the local authority, but the ordinary members of the public—shall understand the importance of planning in their particular neighbourhood and should understand the purpose of the plans which are being prepared, and that they will co-operate with the planning authorities in carrying these plans into effect. I think that that view of the attitude of the public towards the planning authorities is a little sanguine. I was a member of a planning authority for a good many years and it is very unlikely that one is going to 1115 get an attitude of general co-operation on the part of the general public.
But what I want to say is this. If you translate that into ordinary terms, what may happen under this Order would produce rather disturbing results. The planning authorities will be encouraged to organise conferences in their neighbourhoods to which individuals of all sorts whom the planning authorities can contact will be invited to go. They will then be told something about the plans and invited to submit their own views upon what the plans arc going to do. Let us suppose that somebody goes to the next conference which the Greater London Council have organised and says, "At the place where I live the noise of aircraft is a great nuisance." Or he may say that the Airports Authority have built a very ugly building which completely defaces the neighbourhood in which he lives or that the airport will attract an excessive volume of traffic. What are the planning authorities going to do about this?
Under the terms of this Order the planning authority will have no authority to make any reply except to say, "We can do nothing about it at all because we have not been given powers to control the planning of these particular airports. It is all left in the hands of the air authority. They put up the buildings which suit their purposes best, and the effect that these buildings may have on the neighbourhood is only a secondary consideraion." That is how this Order is going to work out in practical terms. It is going to be a great disappointment to many people who have been encouraged to look upon the planning authority as some sort of guardian angel who will preserve them from the attacks of the dragon.
I have one other thing to say. There has been more than one arrangement between the Authority and the Ministry for consultation upon this process. There is an undertaking that there will be consultation on the development of airports. I do not think that this is worth very much. One knows very well that after a good deal of talk and many meetings one gets a letter from the Department saying that the Minister is not satisfied, or that it is not possible to carry out what has been asked for. Now at least two of these four airports which are controlled 1116 by the British Airports Authority were formerly Crown property; and, of course, as Crown property they were exempt from planning restrictions. But they had this great advantage: they came under the terms of Circular 100. Under the terms of Circular 100 the local planning authority were entitled to be consulted; they were entitled to formulate their proposals and their plans for the area, and if the Airports Authority and the planning authority were not able to reach agreement they could go to the Minister and get his decision.
With that arrangement the local authorities were quite content; indeed it worked very well from the time these airports were built until the time that the Act of 1935 was passed. I know how reluctant Government Departments are to change anything they have set their hands to. I think it is a pity myself, and I was rather gratified when, during the course of the proceedings on the Town and Country Planning Bill, a draft Amendment which I modestly formulated was actually accepted by the Minister and put into the Bill. I have never had that experience before. But it happened this time: whether it was by design or intent I do not know. In the case of these airports the Minister might well revive Circular 100 and wait to see whether that procedure will not be as effective in controlling the development of these airports as it was in controlling their development in the past.
§ 7.40 p.m.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, if there is one thing that can be said about this Order it is that it is a little unfortunate in its timing. It is not intended to have anything specifically to do with Stansted although clearly Stansted is covered by it. But to introduce in the late 1960s any Order which frees British airport authorities from the control of local planning authorities will, I think, inevitably cause trouble. For that reason I was particularly glad to hear the assurances given by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, this afternoon about Stansted in particular, and also to read the numerous assurances given in another place by the two Ministers who spoke on this Order.
My Lords, I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, to go a little further into the details of this Order. I have looked 1117 at Class XVII of the General Development Order. It is into this class that the British Airports Authority are now to be inserted on the analogy that they are now another statutory undertaker like the others there listed. My noble friend Lord Molson mentioned some of these, but those that are there already include railways and light railway undertakings. They are very limited in what they may do by way of the erection or reconstruction or alteration of buildings. Railway stations and bridges are referred to in particular and other buildings are mentioned. My noble friend Lord Molson mentioned the restriction in that respect on docks, piers, harbours, water transport, canal water and navigation undertakings. Exactly the same restrictions apply to hydraulic power undertakings under paragraph (c), because they cannot undertake development which is,the construction or erection, or the reconstruction or alteration so as materially to affect the desien or external appearance thereof, of buildings…Gas undertakings have precisely the same limitation on them, and so have electricity undertakings and tramway or road transport undertakings. The only statutory undertakings which have not this particular restriction on what they are allowed to do without express planning consent are lighthouse undertakings. It may be that your Lordships will think that that is reasonable, since lighthouse undertakings probably are not going to do very much except build lighthouses. They may be noisy things but they are comparatively rare in this country.
I think the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, owes a little more explanation than has hitherto been given either in this House or, I think, in another place as to why in the whole of this list of statutory undertakers, only the British Airport Authority is to get wider powers in relation to buildings. One can very well imagine a dock or harbour undertaking wishing to put up buildings. One can well imagine that the railways want to do so, and one can well imagine that the others want to as well; and yet they are not allowed to. It is perfectly clear that we cannot amend this Order, and therefore if the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, cannot describe why it is that hangars or terminals, freight terminals, fuel depots, tank farms, or whatever it is are not to be controlled—as I think would be the case if they were 1118 under the control of any other statutory undertaking—he must go a little further in explaining the scope of the consultation procedure with the local planning authorities which is now covered by the undertaking; and also tell the House a little more about the view that the Ministry will hold on Article 4 directions.
My noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne mentioned the sort of things that are going to worry local planning authorities; as indeed did the noble Lord Lord Garnsworthy. I can under-stand these things very well. Under this Order a noise will probably not come in a new place because the runways will stay as they are, but it could certainly intensify in degree and frequency. Traffic could certainly be increased as a result of operations which were not—except by the consultation machinery—under the control of the local planning authority, and so indeed could employment. I can also envisage that the services of the local authorities might have a greater burden put on them by the erection of some new buildings. I happen to know that Gatwick is either in the confirmed or in the proposed extension of the Surrey Green Belt, and I have no doubt that the Surrey County Council will wish to look with extreme care on any new development which is likely to attract a demand for more housing in the area. How many times have I been told that by the Surrey County Council when I have sought to do that very thing.
My Lords, those are the sort of services and departments of life which are of the greatest importance to local planning authorities and upon which they always express strong views—as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, knows only too well—if anybody has to apply to them for planning permission. It is not just a matter of their views, it is their money too, because they may have to contribute either to the services or to making up roads or something of that nature. They are the people who will have to pay some or all of the resultant costs of development which could take place under this Order without planning permission. If the Minister is going to suggest to this House that the wording of the new paragraph in the Order should be so wide as to cover all these buildings, I think he should go as far as he possibly can to indicate the type of circumstances 1119 in which he is prepared to consider (I accept that he cannot say he will undertake to grant or to approve an article or direction) that an application could properly be made to him.
Have Article 4 directions ever been made in relation to development by other statutory undertakers? If so, how often? Were they general or were they specific? Can the noble Lord tell the House whether he is going to look with particular sympathy upon an application by a local planning authority for an Article 4 direction if the conflict between what the B.A.A. want and what the local planning authority does not want involves the liability of a burden on the local planning authority of the sort which has been mentioned? If we are to have these words, this seems to me to be the crux of the matter.
Since we cannot amend this Order, if the noble Lord can give some comfort on this I think that is probably the best alternative we have. I suspect, my Lords, that the noble Lord will be as helpful on this matter as he always is, because it is a matter which has plainly aroused a great deal of worry in the most responsible quarters. I hope that your Lordships will be satisfied with what he says. In view of the other assurances given, about Stansted in particular, and the general protection which has been explained by the Government in relation to the whole operation of this Order, I cannot imagine that it is really a matter on which (I hope that this is the case) my noble friend Lord Molson will wish to divide the House. At any rate, I think it would have to be a very unsatisfactory reply for the House to be justified in trying to object to this Order.
§ VISCOUNT FALMOUTH
My Lords, I intervene only very briefly because I happen to have the fortune to have lived at the end of a jet runway for ten years. I support my noble friend in his Prayer, and I hope that the Government will in no way weaken the authority of local planning committees and authorities in this airport menace.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
My Lords, I shall not detain the House for more than one minute. As noble Lords will know, I have had a fairly long experience 1120 of local government and I am conscious of the jealousy with which local authorities prize their planning powers. At the same time, I feel that many of these State-run organisations, public utility organisations, are going to be very severely handicapped if they are not given the kind of powers, limited powers, that are suggested in this Order. Therefore I shall have no objection whatever to this Order. What I had felt very apprehensive about was the possibility of the powers which this Order seeks to grant being exploited by the British Airports Authority in order to establish at Stansted Airport buildings of a size and variety that would, so to speak, preempt the decision of the Commission which is now considering the future of the third London Airport. But I have listened very attentively to my noble friend Lord Beswick and I am completely satisfied with what he said. I am convinced that there is no attempt behind this Order to try to introduce a third London Airport at Stansted "by the back door". I hope that what my noble friend said will be widely reported, so that any doubts and fears which may have been aroused in the minds of people living in the Stansted area will be set at rest. I hope that the House will now pass the Order.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (LORD KENNET)
My Lords, I have many points to deal with, and they are of such interest and importance that I had better not scamp my reply to any of them. I apologise for detaining a thin House after three especially heavy days. Let me start with Stansted. The only way Stansted could be developed into a large airport before the Roskill Commission reports is either if the British Airports Authority do so or if the lessees of the Authority, the airlines, so develop it. If the lessees develop it, it will remain subject to planning control. As regards possible development by the British Airports Authority, we have heard the statements made by the Authority and I should like to repeat an assurance given in another place to the effect that my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade will not authorise substantial 1121 capital expenditure involved in other than minor development at Stansted. There is no intention of any further major building at Stansted before the Roskill Report. Of course, the Authority cannot spend money without authorisation from the President of the Board of Trade.
Turning to the kinds of development which would be permitted under this Order, in comparison with the kinds of development already permitted to other statutory undertakings, I expect the House will agree that the nearest parallel to the British Airports Authority is the Docks and Harbours Authority, because they also deal with moving people and goods. On their operational land, the Docks and Harbours Authority have the right to build buildings, bridges and roads without planning permission in the normal sense, provided they are in connection with the handling of traffic. This Order would give the British Airports Authority the right to build on their operational land buildings, bridges and roads—but not runways, of course—provided they are in connection with the operation or maintenance of the Airport in handling passengers and freight. What is the difference? It is true that in the present Order there are somewhat more words, but their effect is exactly the same. The Authority can build these things provided they are in connection with the main purpose of the whole of the installation as it stands.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, may I intervene? Do I understand the Minister to say that these numerous words put into the Statutory Instrument we are considering will not be any wider or extend any further than the simpler words used in the General Development Order in respect of docks and harbours?
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, before the noble Lord answers, may I point out that there is this curious difference in the proposed paragraph (h) relating to the British Airports Authority which says… buildings, not being buildings erected in connection with …and the words, in talking about docks, piers and harbours:… buildings not being structures or erections required …When Parliament passes an Order which has this distinction between the two 1122 pieces of phraseology used, one would expect them to mean something different.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, I should have thought it was the same. I know that the distinction between a building and a structure, between a building and an erection and between a structure and an erection is one which bristles with the possibility of litigation, but my understanding is that both these Authorities may built, without getting permission, buildings, bridges and so on to get on with their principal job, but ate not allowed to built without permission buildings, bridges and so on which are not connected with their principal job.
The noble Lord, Lord Molson, made the point that other statutory undertakers did not have any freedom to build or put things up without planning permission. This is not quite so, because other statutory undertakers, in common with all industrial undertakings, have the right to put up, without specific permission, plant or machinery not more than 50 ft. high, and to build buildings within their existing curtilages up to 5,000 sq. ft. or to one-tenth of the cubic capacity of the original building they are beside. And I would remind the House that there is an entire industry—namely, agriculture—which does riot have to seek any planning permission for the siting on any land of any building or structure not more than 40 ft. high or 5,000 sq. ft. in area.
Turning to the question which I think is the main one—that is, the comparison between the old procedure in regard to Crown land and development operating under Circular 100 and the new proposed procedure as a statutory undertaker—the noble Lord, Lord Molson, asked about consultations and said that if the consultations did not work out the statutory undertaker would then be completely free to disregard the views and wishes of the planning authority. That is not so, my Lords. Under Circular 100 the Airport Authority would have to go to the local planning authority and say that they wanted to do certain building. If the planning authority said, "Yes", it was done and that was that. Under the new procedure, the B.A.A. will go to the local authority for permission and if the authority agree, it will be done exactly as it was before.
1123 The question arises of what happens when the local authority says, "No, we do not like this and we wish you would not do it." Under the old procedure, if the B.A.A. could not talk the planning authority out of it themselves they would have recourse to the Minister of Housing and Local Government, who would come in to hold the ring and try to ajudicate between them and reach an agreement. This still happens in Crown development. Under the new procedure, this is exactly what will happen once again in the long run, because if the local planning authority do not like it, the Airports Authority can go to the Minister and ask his approval to make an Article 4 direction. If the Minister thinks that there may be something in it—he does not have to do more than that—he will allow them to make a direction. Like anyone else under any sort of development, the Authority will apply for permission, and if the planning authority refuse permission the Airports Authority then appeal to the Minister, who either allows or disallows the appeal.
That is really very much the same sort of thing that he used to do under Circular 100, only in this case it will be done in public, which is an advantage itself from the participation point of view. If he allows the appeal, that is that. If he disallows it, he thereby generates a right to claim compensation for the Airports Authority. But the Airports Authority have already promised, as in the case of Stansted, that if this were to happen they would not claim compensation; and whether or not they refrained from claiming compensation, both at Stansted and at all other airports, it would be open to the Minister to direct that compensation should not be paid in the case of a refusal. So it all comes out to the same in the end.
The noble Lord, Lord Molson, said that he would deal with the list of guarantees and reassurances which were given by my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government in the other place, but he did not actually finish the list. I think it is right to remind the House of all of them. First of all, on the question of the Article 4 direction he said—and I quote him, since one is allowed to quote the Minister speaking in the House of Commons. He said (column 228): 1124I cannot undertake to approve any direction which may be submitted, but if consultation has failed to produce an agreed solution. I would certainly approach any such direction with considerable sympathy and take into account the impact of airport development on the surrounding area.I think that answers the question put by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, as to what kind of application would be properly made. In my opinion, any application is always properly made, but this is some indication of the thoughts that would be in my right honourable friend's mind when he set out to determine such an application.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
I knew of these words. It is not just the impact of airport development on the surrounding area in narrow terms it is also a matter of finance and local government responsibility, which may be something rather beyond the surrounding area.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
No. The services that the local authority may have to pay for— roads, sewers and other services.
§ LORD KENNET
Of course, those would be included. He would take into account all the factors.
The other assurances made were six in number. Some I have already mentioned, and I may be repeating myself here. First, the President of the Board of Trade controls capital expenditure of B.A.A. and would not authorise other than minor development of Stansted until the Roskill Report. Secondly, the Airports Authority themselves have assured the public and Parliament that there is neither the need nor the intention to carry out other than minor development of Stansted, pending the Roskill Report.
Thirdly, the Airports Authority will consult planning authorities in all cases, not only Stansted, which is the matter we have been discussing. Fourthly, if the Article 4 direction were made and planning permission were refused, the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Housing and Local Government would consider the merits of development on appeal. We have 1125 touched on that already. This also includes the possibility of the Minister ruling out compensation under Article 4. Fifthy, the Airports Authority have themselves undertaken not to claim compensation at Stansted. Sixthly, to remind the House of what I think it already well knows, the proposed freedoms in this Order do not extend to the lessees of the Authority; namely, the airlines.
My Lords, I should like for a moment, in conclusion, to stand back and look at the major arguments. Three years ago Parliament created a new statutory authority, the British Airports Authority, about which we arc talking. Statutory undertakers have had a special regime under the planning law. They are not exempt from planning law, and I have described the ways in which they are not exempt. But, as I say, they have a special regime under the planning law, and have had it since 1947 when our planning law came of age. Members of either House may dislike that regime as a whole. We must remember that we recently cut down the regime very severely when the Government accepted Lord Ilford's Amendment to the Town and Country Planning Bill (and once more I should like to to congratulate the noble Lord on this), and reduced sharply the number of circumstances in which compensation would be payable on a refusal of planning permission. In general, I should have thought that that was eonugh for the moment. But whether or not it is enough for the moment is a general question which relates to all statutory undertakers.
Whatever may be our opinions on the general question, I believe it would be quite absurd to run after the last entrant to the club and say: "No; you shall not come in because things have changed." Of course they should come in, and get broadly the same régime as the other six or eight do, unless and until Parliament, after full consideration of the whole field, decides that the regime itself is wrong. I think this is the way to look at it. I express no opinion in this debate on the merits on the general régime: it would be out of place to do so. I only hope that the House will agree with me that it would be right to admit the British Airports Authority to this regime unless and until there is a general change. I 1126 need hardly say that if any noble Lords want to come and talk to me about the general question in the next few months of this regime of the statutory undertakers, I shall be only too delighted if they will do so.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, I am not sure whether I have a right of reply, but at any rate I would ask your Lordships' indulgence to say just a few words in reply. I think that this debate is ending extraordinarily happily. I am most grateful for the assurances that have been given by the Government this evening. They go, I think, certainly in feeling, a good deal further than the assurances that were given in another place. I am sorry if, when referring to the assurances, I omitted one. I was in fact quoting from Mr. Rodgers, the Minister who replied, when I made my list of the assurances, and I am sorry to have missed one variable one which was given by the Minister of Housing and Local Government.
The words which I am sure will be of immense comfort to the planning authorities are those nice, familiar words so typical of the Parliamentary Secretary: "All comes out the same in the end." So we have his assurance that, as a result of this Statutory Instrument, things are going to work exactly as they used to do under Circular 100 of 1950; and since the County Councils Association side have regarded that procedure as quite satisfactory, I am sure they will be entirely satisfied with the assurance which the Parliamentary Secetary has given. I am bound to say that all this long debate might have been avoided if either the Statutory Instrument had not been drafted in the form that it has or this elaborate procedure which has been described could have been cut a little shorter.
We have had a most interesting statement from the Parliamentary Secretary that it is his view (and no doubt he has been advised) that the entirely different wording used in this Statutory Instrument really means the same thing as the one word that was used in the original Development Order. I repeat what I said earlier: that normally the courts, and anybody else, assume that when Parliament uses different words on different occasions it means different things. But 1127 that will not be so in this case. A whole plethora of words and verbiage in this Statutory Instrument to-day will all come to the same thing as the shorter words which were used in the general Development Order 1950, which the Statutory Order is now amending. That is most valuable information, which I am sure will be of great help to the planning authorities.
I did not know of the power of the Minister to order that where planning permission was refused no compensation should be paid. We have had the voluntary assurance by the British Airports Authority that if planning permission was refused in the case of Stansted no compensation would be claimed. It is most valuable to be told in this connection that the Minister has a similar power to give a direction in the case of other airports; and the very fact that it has been brought out in this debate no doubt means that on suitable occasions he would exercise that power. I am very glad indeed to know that.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, I should perhaps say, just to clarify the Record, that it is the Minister of Housing and the President of the Board of Trade jointly who have that power.
§ LORD MOLSON
I am very much obliged, my Lords. And so it is that this debate, which I suppose has lasted about an hour and twenty minutes, has ended so extremely happily. Again I quote "It all comes out the same in the end." In view of this assurance from the Government, I ask permission to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.