§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Report received.
§ Clause 1 [Acquisition of land for purposes connected with offshore petroleum]:
Lord CAMPBELL of CROY moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 8, leave out from ("for") to (" the") in line 11 and insert (" purposes relating to exploration for or exploitation of offshore petroleum in ")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, Clause 1 of the Bill covers its scope and this Amendment is addressed to that scope also. The need for a short Bill was clear nearly a year and a half ago—a Bill with a very narrow scope—because the attainable programme to extract our offshore oil as soon as possible was likely to be seriously delayed. If certain types of special concrete platforms could not be built in time, oil which could have been extracted in 1977 and 1978 would be delayed.216
§ There are exacting conditions for the building of such platforms, and few areas where it can be carried out. The prime illustration was at Loch Carron, where the conditions are to be found and where two applications were made for planning permission. Eventually, after well over a year, permission was given for one site there at Kishorn, but we must face the fact that we have lost valuable time, and a quantity of oil which we would otherwise have obtained from our own oil-fields in 1977 and 1978 has been delayed. As a result, our balance of payments in those years would have been substantially better than it will now be, and some orders for platforms worth over £100 million went abroad, because, I believe, it became clear last March that urgency in this matter was no longer recognised by the new Government. So the requirement a year ago was the quick passage of a Bill adding a modernising adjustment to streamline planning procedures for a limited range of projects—mainly, platform building and pipeline terminals. That was the scope of the Bill required a year ago.
We now have before us a Bill, Clause 1 of which would apply to virtually anything connected with offshore oil. Sub-section (2) of Clause 1, defines four categories for which an expedited acquisition order procedure is prescribed, but subsection (2)(d) is very wide and, in particular, refers to,
sources of material or other services or facilities ".
Subsection (1), in addition, provides for compulsory acquisition—not expedited, but compulsory acquisition—
for any purpose relating to exploration for or exploitation of offshore
oil; and subsection (2), is so wide that it is difficult to see why subsection (1) is needed. In the discussion which we had at Committee stage on two Amendments, the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, told us that it was most unlikely that this power would be used; that was his defence of it—it was a general insurance policy for possibly unexpected requirements in the future. That is not an attitude which normally commends itself to Parliament, which considers it one of its tasks to limit additional powers to what are needed by the Executive.
§ I have not myself charged the Government with seeking to use and extend 217 public ownership for doctrinaire reasons, although some of my noble friends may be anxious on this score as a result of the speech of the Secretary of State for Industry in another place yesterday. For my part, I have simply queried the necessity of seeking these powers which we are told are most unlikely to be used. The examples given by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, last week at the Committee stage—and I refer to column 1099 of Hansard—were the need for service leases which he foresaw, pipe-coating works and warehouse storage. These fall within the categories of subsection (2)(a), (b) and (d) respectively, and it is largely because the noble Lord was unable to give examples which fall outside subsection (2), and to tell us of something which would fall within subsection (1), that we felt we must put down this further Amendment. Indeed, he encouraged us to do so.
We believe that subsection (2) is much wider than is necessary, and covers all the possible purposes for which the expedited compulsory acquisition system and the ordinary compulsory acquisition system would be needed. I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, to give us examples, if he does not agree, of projects that would not be covered by subsection (2) and, in particular, by the words
sources of material or other services or facilities
which are very wide. Secondly, can he really tell us that he needs compulsory purchase in order to deal with them? This Amendment includes the Government's drafting of those four categories, so that the drafting should not be defective. I recognise that some consequential Amendments might need to be made later in the Bill, but that is a drafting matter and I have not attempted it. I think this Amendment crystallises what came out of our debate last week, and I hope that the Government will be able to accept it. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Lord FOOT
My Lords, when we debated this same issue in the Committee stage, and noble Lords on the Opposition Benches moved an Amendment which had virtually the same effect as this Amendment today, I urged upon them then that they should carry it to a Division. They were dissuaded from 218 doing so by the persuasion of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, at the last moment. But on this occasion, unless we receive a more satisfactory answer from the Government than we did then, I hope that the noble Lord who moved the Amendment will indeed carry it to a Division, because I believe there is here a matter of important principle—a particularly important principle to this House.
I make no apology for attempting a short analysis of subsections (1) and (2) of this Bill as they now stand, because it is conceded—indeed, it is said in the Explanatory Memorandum to this Bill— that they comprise the very heart of the Bill. They are the main provisions of the Bill, the guts of the Bill, and I think it appropriate and right that this House should understand quite clearly what it is being invited to do, what it is being asked to do, and what powers it is being asked to vest in the Secretary of State for Scotland, so far as the exploration for and exploitation of offshore petroleum are concerned.
My Lords, what is the chief objective —indeed the whole objective—of this Bill? It is to provide an accelerated procedure for the acquisition of land that is required for the purpose of extraction of the petroleum from the North Sea. If one looks at subsection (2)(a), (b), (c) and (d), one will see, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, has just said, that the Government are seeking the most comprehensive powers for the acquisition of land. What they are seeking in subsection (2) is to be allowed to use their accelerated or expedited procedure, in order to acquire land for any purpose connected with the construction of works and installations and so on for getting the oil out of the seabed. When you turn to subsection (2)(b), you find that they are seeking power to acquire land by the expedited procedure for any purpose connected with establishing equipment for getting the oil ashore. Then, under subsection (2)(c), you will see that there they are asking for everything which is necessary in order to receive the oil on the land, to store it on the land, and eventually to dispatch it to wherever it has to go.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell, has been pointing out, that in subsection (2)(d) you then have a sort of long-stop clause 219 which gives the Government, the Executive, power to acquire land for all sorts of ancillary purposes connected with the purposes denned in subsection (2)(a), (b) and (c). One would have thought that that was enough. But when you turn back to subsection (1) as it now stands, you find that there the Government say, "No, that is not enough; we also want the Secretary of State to have a general, undefined, imprecise power to acquire any land at all in Scotland, so long as it is related, however tenuously, to the exploration for and exploitation of offshore petroleum".
The root objection to this proposal, is that we are being invited to vest in the Executive these wide, undefined powers to acquire any land that the Secretary of State may seek to acquire—and, if necessary, acquire compulsorily. The only limitation put upon that enormous power is that the acquisition shall in some way be related to the exploration for or exploitation of the offshore oil. I suggest that this is a classic example of Executive arrogance, a classic example of the thirst of the Executive for arbitrary and undefined power. To my mind, that is the root objection to the general power sought under this provision.
I follow in the footsteps of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, in saying that I do not attribute to this Government any sinister purpose. I am not complaining that the Government have something up their sleeve which they do not want us to know about. I am concerned with the general principle; that is, the role of Parliament vis- -vis the Executive. In my respectful submission, one of the fundamental duties of this House and, indeed, of the other House and of Parliament as a whole, is to see that the Executive is not given wide, imprecise, undefined powers at its request. The Executive should be given powers of this order, particularly powers to acquire land and interfere with individual rights and to take other people's property away, only if they are prepared to define precisely how they will be used. This is what the Civil War in this country was all about, if I may say so. It is a mournful thought that it may be appropriate that a Government should be seeking to obtain these arbitrary powers for the Executive at a time when the statue of 220 the Lord Protector is boarded up. When the day comes, and I hope it will be soon, when they take the boarding down, it may not be surprising if we find that Cromwell has turned in his temporary tomb as a result of what is being done here today.
My Lords, what does this Amendment seek to do? It seeks to do something very simple. It says," No, you are not entitled to have powers of this kind; take, if you will, your expedited procedure in relation to all those purposes defined in subsection (2). It may be that they are too widely drawn; if so, let us reduce them. It may be that they are too narowly drawn; if so, let us enlarge them. But what you are not entitled to do is to set out in detail all these purposes for which you want to take powers, and then ask, over and above that, to have a general, imprecise, undefined power to do virtually anything you like ". The noble Lord laughs, but the only qualification for doing anything you like, or for the Secretary of State to do anything he likes, is that it shall be related in some way to the extraction of oil from the North Sea.
I suggest that in a case of this kind, when the Government seek powers of this order, the burden of proof is on them—indeed, a very heavy burden of proof lies on them—to show that there is some overwhelming need for the Government to be given such powers. As the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, was saying, in the previous debate we were given no justification for granting these wide powers to the Government. In effect, we have heard two arguments attempting to justify subsection (1). The first argument is that those of us who seek to resist the granting of these powers are, in effect, thwarting or forgetting the national interest. I reject that argument completely. I think it comes close to being a contemptible argument, because it assumes that everything must give way to the urgency of getting oil out of the North Sea—that must be the paramount consideration and everything has to be subordinated to it.
In my book, the national interest is not entirely a matter of economics, even if it is vitally important economically that we should extract the oil from the North Sea as quickly as possible. There are other considerations to be borne in mind. When one talks about the national 221 interest, the two things which come to my mind as being comprised in it are the defence of individual rights, and the defence of the environment. How often in the past have we been persuaded to allow our countryside to be despoiled? How often have we been persuaded to allow civil rights and the rights of property to be taken away in the name of immediate economic expediency? I reject that argument altogether.
My Lords, the other justification which was advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, on a previous occasion was the argument that in subsection (2) the Government have endeavoured to set out all the occasions when they may need to acquire land, or when the Secretary of State, may need to acquire it, but they may have left something out. We may not find that it is foreseen—
§ The MINISTER of STATE, SCOTTISH OFFICE (Lord Hughes)
My Lords, may I be permitted to interrupt the noble Lord, Lord Foot, at that point? I did not say that. I said that in sub-section (1) we had attempted to name all those cases where the urgency procedure might arise. The reason for the other part being there is that we could not argue beyond that the need for the expedited procedure.
§ Lord FOOT
My Lords, I accept what the noble Lord has said. If he will refer back to the debate on the Committee stage, he will find that he did, in fact, use the argument of urgency in relation to the powers which he seeks to acquire under subsection (1). However, we will not argue about that. The argument of the noble Lord was that they have tried to set out in subsection (2) all those occasions when they may need to use the expedited procedure for the acquisition of land. But they want this long-stop provision, this imprecise and uncertain power given to the Secretary of State in order to deal with cases that have not been foreseen, and with circumstances which they have not been able to allow for.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, quoted just now three examples which we were given by the Minister on that occasion of when these powers under subsection (1) may be required—the acquisition of land for service leasing, the acquisition of land for the purpose of 222 Pipe-coating works, and the acquisition of land for warehouse storage. Those were the only examples which the noble Lord gave. It seems to me two points are to be made about them. The first has already been made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy. Is it not clear that all those three examples given by the noble Lord are covered by paragraph (d)? The noble Lord shakes his head. If he is right, I go on to my second point, which is that if they are not already covered by paragraph (d), why not put them into that paragraph now? Then we should know exactly what powers we are conferring on the Secretary of State. It is a very simple operation, not at all difficult. All the noble Lord has to do is go away with the draftsman and put his three examples into paragraph (d) and the whole of our problems will be over. It is for those reasons that I would again ask and invite the proposers of this Amendment, if we do not receive a more satisfactory answer than we have had before, to carry this; matter to a Division, because I believe it is in this House that this sort of issue ought to be discussed, and indeed ought to be decided.
§ Viscount MASSEREENE and FERRARD
My Lords, I should like to support this Amendment very warmly. The words "for any purpose" in sub-section (1) are far too wide. If you carry it to the limit, you might say that you could acquire land in, say, the centre of Perthshire to manufacture paint for the oil rigs. I should say, as the noble Lord, Lord Foot, has said, that the powers granted under subsection (2) are ample— probably too wide in themselves—to cover any eventuality. I have taken no part in the debate on this Bill because I was not able to be here, but what I cannot quite understand in regard to exploration is why Her Majesty's Government want to acquire land on the mainland of Scotland to explore for oil. I quite agree that this is perhaps not relevant to the Amendment, but I should like some enlightenment. I was under the impression that if you are exploring for offshore oil you are exploring in the sea and are therefore exploring with ships. There are plenty of harbours for those ships. Why do they want to acquire land to explore for oil in the sea? It does not really add up.
223 To return to the Amendment, you might have a position where a Government take over salmon fishing or acquire some land for a golf course in order to amuse the individuals engaged in the exploitation of offshore oil. Since I have been in this House—about 18 or 19 years —I have seen every year, rather like the Hindu expression, "slowly slowly catchee monkee", more power going from Parliament to the Executive. The public appear to be quite unaware of it.
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Viscount could not have spent some of the last 18 or 19 years reading the reports of Second Reading debates, because a good many of these points have already been made at considerable length.
§ Viscount MASSEREENE and FERRARD
My Lords, I did not quite hear what the noble Lord said. I know the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will say that we had the Highlands and Islands Development Act about 10 years ago and we have not used those compulsory powers. I accept that, but if you are speaking to a civil servant he knows that he has those powers. If you do not agree he has that threat; these powers are there. I will not detain your Lordships, but I warmly support this Amendment. It is far too wide to say "for any purpose"; it can embrace anything.
§ Lord SLATER
My Lords, I was not here at the beginning but I have listened to the last two speeches. I was rather surprised, and I was almost on my feet to intervene, when the noble Lord, Lord Foot, and the noble Viscount were speaking. The whole argument has been on compulsion and compulsory powers because of North Sea oil. If noble Lords look back in history to previous Governments right from the beginning of this century, and even to when the Liberal Party were in power, certain powers and rights were conferred upon local authorities. They were given compulsory powers to purchase land for the development of certain sectors within their areas for the benefit of the general public, even for social services—the building of houses, the building of the main highways running across the country at the moment. Compulsory powers were given to local 224 authorities acting as the agents of Her Majesty's Government, principally in regard to the motorway system which is now in operation.
I want to put a question to the two noble Lords who have spoken, and it is this. Each and every one of us is aware that one of our basic commodities in this country is coal. We have been reminded, in speeches and Statements that have been made in your Lordships' House, that there is one area in this country where there are millions of tons of coal not yet tapped. It is there, according to the geologists, and it will be of great service to this nation once extraction does take place. I refer to the area of Selby, in Yorkshire, and compulsory powers would have to be used to take over that land, as the old coal owners used to do when they wished to sink their shafts and engage miners to produce coal for the benefit of the nation. That is just what the Government are doing here in trying to extract the principal commodity which this country urgently requires, because of the position with which we are faced following the action taken by the oil countries of the Middle East.
Therefore, listening to the speeches I cannot for the life of me understand, speaking as one who spent so long in local government before entering the other place, the approach taken by noble Lords sitting on the Liberal and Tory Benches. I cannot understand why they should take this line of approach when they have been parties to giving powers to local authorities up and down the country, to enable them by compulsion to take land away from landowners for the benefit of their own areas and of the nation.
§ Viscount MASSEREENE and FERRARD
My Lords, with due respect to the noble Lord, I do not think what he has said is really relevant to the Amendment.
§ Lord HUGHES
My Lords, if I may use the same language as used by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, with respect— I did not notice an awful lot of it—I do not think anything that has been said so far would justify me in accepting the Amendment. If in the past, when I have been moving an Amendment in your Lordships' House which has been the 225 subject of opposition from the other side and have occasionally felt that I might be wrong, those doubts were sometimes totally removed when I found that the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, was on the other side. I knew then that I could not possibly be wrong.
Today the examples which he gave were similar to the kind of thing said on the Highlands and Islands Development Bill when it was before your Lordships' House. The idea that we would want to acquire a piece of land in the centre of Perthshire in order to construct a factory to make paint to apply to pipes for North Sea oil, puts, perhaps, in less reasonable language the same kind of argument as was being advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, in his much more brilliant oratory, when he talked about the tenuous connection that might exist between subsection (1) and the necessary purposes of the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, indicated that his Amendment might be technically defective. I must concede that that may be so; but, as I indicated at the last stage, I never like arguing against a proposal merely on grounds of drafting, because if that is all that is wrong with it, it can be sorted out. That is not my objection to the Amendment. My objection is that, although it purports to retain the more general reference in subsection (1) to exploration and exploitation, it effectively restricts the scope of land acquisition under the Bill. In connection with exploration, although I think that the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Henley—unfortunately not heard by the noble Viscount —-effectively dealt with his queries on that point, I would draw his attention to the fact that exploration of the North Sea does not depend on somebody descending from mid-air in the Atlantic; almost every one of the operations starts on land, and mostly in Scotland.
The Amendment would effectively restrict the scope of land acquisition under the Bill to the purposes listed in subsection (2). As I have made perfectly clear, subsection (2) defines as narrowly, or as widely—whichever way one likes to look at it—the subjects for which the Government think that the powers of the expedited procedure are necessary. The Government accept that the powers of 226 expedited procedure are a limitation of the ordinary rights of property in this matter and, for that reason, they felt under an obligation to confine it to those situations where it could reasonably be expected that it would cover the whole range. If there was any possible ground of need, where the question of this urgency would not arise, the Government felt that they were not justified in seeking to subject these other matters to the expedited procedure.
The noble Lord, Lord Foot, and I think by implication the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, invites us to contemplate all the purposes for which we might require land for oil exploration, and to apply the expedited procedure to them all. We do not think that we would be justified in doing that. We have said that there are two types: one where, because of urgency, we apply the expedited procedures, and others, where it would be desirable, or quite satisfactory, to go through the ordinary procedure, which would cover acquisition by agreement or by compulsory purchase. This is where the paint factory in Perth-shire of the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, and Lord Foot's tenuous connection with oil come into the same category. If the Secretary of State is proposing to acquire land by the ordinary compulsory procedure, he has to be able to satisfy that a requirement exists for that to be done. A compulsory purchase order would not go through, unless it was shown quite clearly that the need existed for the land to be acquired for that purpose. I can assure the noble Lords, therefore, that the question of land being acquired for a ridiculous or tenuous purpose is so unlikely to be accomplished that it ought not to carry weight in support of this Amendment.
However, the Amendment would not just do this; it would similarly restrict the powers of the Secretary of State to carry out or contribute to the cost of works under Clause 10, and to make loans or give guarantees under Clause 11, since these clauses are tied to the purposes for which land may be acquired. If the amendment was made, it would be only in those cases where land had been acquired under the expedited procedure that we could use the powers in Clauses 10 and 11. I am quite certain that nothing that the noble Lords, Lord Campbell 227 or Lord Foot, have said, would indicate that they wished these powers to be so restricted.
The effect of the Amendment would be to make the Bill a less versatile, less useful tool, for the Government's task in helping to ensure speedy development of, and lasting benefit from, our offshore oil. At Committee stage, I mentioned examples of purposes for which land could be acquired under subsection (1), and the noble Lords have both referred to this. But I am informed that subsection (2) does not cover service bases—and, incidentally, in Hansard, it says "leases"' where it is the word "bases" that is intended—it does not cover pipe-coating works, and it does not cover general warehousing facilities. Subsection (2)(d) related only to services, et cetera, for the development or use of land, and that is what is normally referred to in the rather unlovely word "infrastructure". I have been invited to give further examples, and this my advisers anticipated.
Would the noble Lord permit me to give them and then I shall give way. Suppose that a shore-based testing facility is required for underwater apparatus intended for use in the North Sea, there might be difficulty in obtaining a site or in obtaining finance. Under subsection (1) of the Bill as at present drafted, the Secretary of State could step in to provide the land, pay for part of the cost, or make a loan to enable the work to proceed. Yet facilities for testing, and for research and development are not mentioned in subsection (2). The kind of assistance that I have described would not be possible under the narrow terms of the Amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Foot, invited me, having identified something of this kind, to insert it in sub-section (2). I would say, No, because on known information we should not be justified in seeking the expedited procedure for that purpose. If it is not justified, then we ought not to do it.
Alternatively, a need might emerge for the establishment in Scotland of a repair yard for, perhaps, semi-submersible drilling rigs. There could be difficulty over obtaining a suitable site, or the intending operator might have difficulty in obtaining a loan from the banks and finance houses. Once again, the Secretary of State could—if he thought the yard was 228 necessary for oil exploration—take action under subsection (1). He would not, however, be able to do so if this amendment was made, because subsection (2) says nothing about repair facilities. This is not a defect in the drafting; it is a point of substance.
As I have said, subsection (2) is concerned with developments where land may be needed as a matter of urgency. It represents the Government's well considered and strictly limited list of such developments. We have no wish to add to it; nor need we do so, since subsection (1) permits us to acquire land for other purposes of the kind I have mentioned, either by agreement or under normal compulsory purchase procedures. For years the normal compulsory purchase procedures have been regarded as a satisfactory method of dealing with Government or local authority acquisition of land for these purposes. In this connection I can see no reason why the ordinary compulsory purchase machinery should be regarded as defective. I said that I would allow the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, to intervene.
§ Lord CRAIGTON
My Lords, I apologise if I have misunderstood the noble Lord, but was not one of his arguments, in rejecting our Amendment, that if subsection (1) were deleted, he would have to acquire land by expedited procedure? Subsection (5) says quite clearly that if he considers that the land should be purchased as a matter of urgency, he may, instead of being authorised to purchase the land, purchase it by the quicker procedure. Surely even without subsection (1) he still has powers of compulsory purchase without using the expedited acquisition procedure?
§ Lord HUGHES
Not if the Bill is amended as proposed in this Amendment. That is why the Government do not wish to accept it. I have tried to give concrete examples—
Lord CAMPBELL of CROY
Will the noble Lord give way? The two examples he has given raise the question of the definition in paragraph (a). His first example, we would have thought, would have come under the wording:or other installations for use in or under the sea in connection with the exploration for or exploitation of offshore petroleum ".229 If it is not covered by that what do these words mean?
§ Lord HUGHES
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, was Secretary of State for Scotland, and he must have discussed exactly this sort of situation with the lawyers and draftsmen in the office. All I can say is that this matter has been gone into very thoroughly and the advice we have is that the Bill as drafted would be defective in these respects if the Amendment were accepted.
§ Lord FOOT
My Lords, if that is right then we are being asked to accept from the noble Lord that the words of paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) do not include and cover the examples which he gave us the other day and those he gave us today; and we are being asked to accept "that simply because the noble Lord is informed by somebody or other that they are not inclusive of his examples. Are we to hear from the Lord Chancellor, for example, or have a legal opinion as to why it is said that the words of paragraphs (a), (b) (c) and (d) do not include these examples?
§ Lord HUGHES
No, my Lords, it is perhaps a defect in your Lordships' House that the Liberal Party have for so long been out of office that they do not get the benefit of this experience.
§ Several Noble Lords: Oh‡
§ Lord HUGHES
It is a perfectly fair point. Any of your Lordships who has been a Minister knows the machinery inside Government Departments for seeking the explanation, the need and necessity for the language used in Bills; and when that is obtained within the Department you do not rush off to seek the advice of the Lord Chancellor or another legal officer.
§ Lord WINDLESHAM
My Lords, it is quite true that Ministers have the advice of civil servants, but it is also customary for Ministers to be able to explain that advice when they come to Parliament.
§ Lord HUGHES
This, then, my Lords, I must accept is a defect attributable to me and not to the civil servants because in two stages I have endeavoured to 230 explain. But there is a saying, the truth of which is often demonstrated in your Lordships' House, thatA man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still,and at the Committee stage, when a similar Amendment was made, I used the language against the noble Lord, Lord Foot, that he had encouraged, if not incited, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, not to withdraw the Amendment at that stage. The noble Lord has made it perfectly clear that nothing I said then, and nothing I am saying now, is having any effect on him whatsoever. This I must accept as being due to my deficiency.
I have endeavoured to make it plain that there is a difference between the need for acquiring land quickly and acquiring land without need for speed. In the clause as drafted, in these two parts, we have endeavoured to cover both aspects, limiting the expedited procedure to those aspects which we have identified. The advice which I have been given, departmentally, from my officers, is that matters to which I have referred are not covered by the clause. I am not a lawyer and I am not competent to argue against that advice. I have been persuaded that the advice I have received is correct. Other people, not having had it directly but second-hand through me, may not find that advice as convincing as I found it at first hand. That I must apologise for, but the procedures of the House do not allow me to produce the civil servants here to advance to your Lordships the arguments which they have advanced to me. If it is the desire of noble Lords opposite that the procedures of the House should be so altered as to make that course possible, then that is not a subject for this afternoon.
§ Lord STRATHCLYDE
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord for one moment, I understood his argument in relation to paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d). I may be wrong, and if so I should like him to correct me, but I believe it was based principally on the fact that they referred to the expedited procedure. But I have read this clause through time and again and can find no reference to these applying to the expedited procedure. Will the noble Lord correct me if I am wrong?
§ Lord HUGHES
My Lords, speaking from memory I think it is Clause 1 (5) so the noble Lord will not have to read too far into the Bill to find it. But perhaps for a moment we may leave aside this question because I think I could talk long enough and not persuade noble Lords who have already spoken from the other side of the House about the need for differentiating between land acquisition for these two purposes. The fact remains that the Amendment would prevent the powers being used for Clauses 10 and 11, and nothing that either the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, or the noble Lord, Lord Foot, have said, has indicated that they wish Clauses 10 and 11 to be dissociated from Clause 1. So, from that point alone, the Amendment could not possibly be accepted. It would be straining the word a little to say that the effect of the Amendment would be "wrecking", because it would in fact be capable, if it were insisted upon, of making all the other Amendments necessary. But if this Amendment were inserted it almost requires a redrafting of the Bill, and not just the insertion of other consequential Amendments. At this stage a redrafting of that nature could certainly not be carried out in your Lordships' House.
Viscount COLVILLE of CULROSS
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I say I have been interested to follow what he said about these compulsory powers, but can he enlighten me about this point? If he will look at Clause 1 and imagine that it reads, as I think it would if the Amendment were passed,The Secretary of State may acquire by agreement, or compulsorily, any land in Scotland for the purposes of (a), (b), (c) and (d) "—If he then turns over to subsection (5) he will find that the Secretary of State may use the expedited procedure instead of compulsory purchase in the ordinary way. He is not required to use expedited procedure. He is merely enabled to. If therefore he wished compulsorily to acquire under the ordinary procedure for any of the four purposes now set out in subsection (2), he could do so. What therefore prevents him doing it in the ordinary way if he so wishes? This is the way that it is being narrowed down in my noble friend's Amendment, and 232 I do not see why, or upon what basis, the noble Lord is criticising my noble friend's drafting in that respect.
§ Lord HUGHES
My Lords, the noble Viscount has completely missed the point. If the Amendment is carried it is perfectly true that the Secretary of State may acquire land for the purposes (a) to (d) by the expedited procedure or by the normal procedure. But these are the only purposes for which he can acquire either one way or the other. If it is narrowed he cannot even acquire by agreement. He cannot acquire outside these purposes. This is why the Amendment so restricts the operations. I have tried to make it perfectly clear that we have deliberately narrowed them down to the cases where we would be justified in using an expedited procedure which no one on the Government side, either here or else-where, has denied is an interference with the ordinary rights of property. Because it is an interference it has to be justified on the narrowest possible base that will accomplish the purpose. The noble Viscount has completely missed that point. Certainly, if for any of these purposes, urgency does not arise, then the ordinary procedures will be carried out. But if there are other purposes for which land is required, which we do not envisage at this stage, we may be wrong in excluding some of these other things from the expedited procedure. However, if we are not wrong and it becomes necessary to acquire land for other purposes, we are bound to do so under the ordinary procedures which are laid down—the ordinary machinery of compulsory purchase following, if there is a planning application, the necessary planning procedures.
My Lords, I had virtually concluded what I wanted to say when the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, intervened. It is fairly clear from the number of interventions that there have been that I have miserably failed in trying to persuade noble Lords opposite of the intention of the Bill. All I can say before your Lordships divide—and the indications are that that is what your Lordships will do—is to ask your Lord-ships not to blame the Bill for the deficiencies of my explanation and to remember that if your Lordships accept the Amendment there is an obligation upon you, in justice, to seek to remedy 233 the other defects which will arise particularly in respect of Clauses 10 and 11. Your Lordships have until Thursday to find such a remedy.
§ Lord STRATHCONA and MOUNT ROYAL
My Lords, I must admire the noble Lord for fighting a single-handed battle against an enormous amount of heavy artillery, but it will not be news to him that the examples that he has given have not convinced my noble friends or noble Lords on the Liberal Benches. I feel that we must get away from the argument that it is unreasonable to expect the Government to use the powers in the way suggested. Rather, we must stand that argument on its head. If the Government think that the sort of powers which could be used are so unreasonable, why take powers to do those things? The Government must accept that, if they want very wide powers, the obligation to prove the case lies with them.
The same argument applies to the CPOs. If the noble Lord is so pleased with the CPO procedure, would it not be best to continue with the present CPO procedures? There is one very grave objection—that they end up with the Secretary of State as judge and jury in his own case. We accept, of course, that there are the two different types of case. In spite of what my noble friend Lord Strathclyde said, we realise that there are the non-expedited cases that the noble
§ Lord wishes to maintain. But I believe that, at the end of the day, we are bound to turn back to what the noble Lord has said both at the end of his last speech during the Committee stage and today. He has invited us to do the Government's work for him. With respect, I do not think that he can reasonably expect us to do that.
§ Lord HUGHES
My Lords, I am not inviting the Opposition to do the Government's work for them. What I am inviting the Opposition to do is. if they make a mess of the Bill, to meet the obligation which falls upon them to sort out their own mess.
Lord STRATHCONA. and MOUNT ROYAL
My Lords, we do not accept that at all. What we are saying is, "If you do not like the mess we have made of the clause, let us go back to what you said at the Committee stage and see whether you can have a better shot at it". So far as Clauses 10 and 11 are concerned, we feel that anybody could draft the quite small consequential Amendments needed. I cannot recommend my noble friend to withdraw the Amendment.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 88; Not-Contents, 56.235
|Alexander of Tunis, E.
|Mowbray and Stourton, L.
|Elton, L. [Teller]
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.
|Emmet of Amberley, B.
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.
|Boyd of Merton, V.
|Brougham and Vaux, L.
|Campbell of Croy, L.
|St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller]
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.
|St. Helens, L.
|St. Just, L.
|Colville of Culross, V.
|Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L
|Masham of Ilton, B.
|Strathcona and Mount Royal,
|Massereene and Ferrard, V.
|Stuart of Findhorn, V.
|Wakeficld of Kendal, L.
|Ward of Witley, V.
|Fisher of Camden, L.
|Fisher of Rednal, B.
|Milner of Leeds, L.
|Morris of Kenwood, L.
|Bruce of Donington, L.
|Greenwood of Rossendalc, L.
|Shepherd, L. (L. Privy Seal)
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.
|Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.
|Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
|Jacques, L. [Teller]
|Stow Hill, L.
|Lee of Newton, L.
|Taylor of Mansfield, L.
|Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
|Wallace of Coslany, L.
|Darling of Hillsborough, L.
|Lloyd of Hampstead, L.
|Lovell-Davis, L. [Teller]
|Wilson of Radcliffe, L.
|Davies of Leek, L.
|Douglas of Barloch, L.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Lord CRAIGTON moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 2, line 29, at end insert—
( ) An expedited acquisition order shall not be made in respect of any land or part thereof which has been declared to be inalienable by virtue of any enactment.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, with the permission of your Lordships I should like to discuss this Amendment with Amendment No. 7. This Amendment is to exclude inalienable land from the expedited acquisition order procedure. I will not repeat all the points I made during the previous stage. Nearly all the properties of the National Trust for Scotland are declared to be inalienable and we are talking today of that small part of the land which the Trust holds in Scotland, which is the coastline representing 40 out of the 6,400 miles of Scottish coastline. Therefore, very little land so far held by the Trust is involved.
§ The presumption in seeking to persuade the Government to accept this Amendment is that the value of land held by the Trust is valuable because it is held as sacrosanct, as untouched. If it is donated to the National Trust for Scotland, it is often donated on condition that it shall be held as inalienable. That is the main reason for the giving of the land in the first place. So anything that strikes at the present legislation on which inalienability is based is also striking at 236 one of the reasons why the Trust has been able to build up this precious heritage of land that it holds in Scotland. The Trust fears that any breach in this good faith and in this legal protection will lead to a substantial diminution in the future giving of land. The Trust feels and I agree with it, that if the expedited acquisition procedure once overrides the procedure for declaring land inalienable and the rights that were given, it can be done again.
I must thank the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for having written to me very courteously in reply to a number of points I raised during the previous stage, and I wish to read part of the letter that the noble Lord wrote to me about this Amendment which I am now moving for a second time. The noble Lord stated:
… we think that failure to provide for the acquisition of inalienable land by expedited order could prove a serious defect at some time in the future. There could arise a case when the national interest in terms of acquiring land quickly for a crucial oil development had to be balanced against the ' national interest' as represented by the National Trust's inalienable tenure of land. The Bill provides a means—through the Affirmative Resolution procedure—for Parliament to resolve any such conflict. That is what should be allowed to happen. To accept the amendment"—
would be to prejudge the issue now and to say in effect: 'We cannot foresee what situation we may face in the future but inalienable land—and the qualified nature of that "inalienability" and the Trust's power to declare additional land to be inalienable must be
emphasised—must remain in this respect forever inviolate'. In these uncertain times, that seems a judgment that we would find it hard to justify.
The noble Lord made three points there. He said first, without doubt, that if my Amendment is not agreed to inalienable land will come under the Affirmative Resolution procedure laid down in this Bill. Secondly, he agreed that the national interest is represented by the National Trust's inalienable tenure of land. But, finally, he said that inalienable land,
must remain in this respect forever inviolate ",
if my Amendment is accepted. If that were so, I would not move this Amendment.
I regret to point out to the noble Lord that I am not suggesting for one moment that inalienable land should be forever held inviolate. In the Acquisition of Land Authorisation Procedure (Scotland) Act 1947, it is stated in paragraph 9 of Schedule 1:
A compulsory order shall, in so far as it authorises the compulsory purchase of land … belonging to the National Trust for Scotland which is held by the Trust inalienably, be subject to special parliamentary procedure in any case where an objection has been duly made by the … National Trust for Scotland, … and has not been withdrawn.
§ So, my Lords, we are not arguing that the National Trust for Scoiland should, against the national interest, hold land which it holds by law as inalienable. We are simply arguing about two methods of Parliamentary discussion and approval. There is already, as I say, an alternative procedure.
§ What does the argument come down to? On the one hand, how much quicker—if at all—is one procedure compared with the other? Under the Bill, the expedited acquisition order goes under the Affirmative Resolution procedure. But there might, as your Lordships know, be a Special Order—it might come under the Special Order procedure—before that Affirmative Resolution is considered by this House. There may be delay, although it is fairly quick. But how long would the method of giving your Lordships the right to decide about inalienable land take? As I calculate it, there are 52 days of statutory delays for various reasons. There is the time taken by the Chairman of Committees in this 238 House, and by the Chairman of Ways and Means in another place, to satisfy themselves that there is substantial ground for objection and to make a précis of the case to be reported to both Houses. And then there is, if it is so ordained, consideration by the Joint Committee, and the only case I can find is that concerning the Saltrom by-pass which, in 1968, involved a sitting from the 19th to the 26th November in consideration of a case similar to the sort of case that would arise if my Amendment were accepted. So the delay which may be 70 days, is surely worth while in the vague possibility of this happening to alienable land without the Trust having agreed to accept whatever the Government want.
§ So your Lordships have to judge: on the one hand, the little longer time and, on the other hand, the near certainty that the amount of land given to the National Trust for Scotland—and later, also, I believe, the English National Trust will feel this;—will be less because this Amendment is not passed. I hope that the noble Lord will consider my Amendment and will consider with it the substantial undertaking given by my noble friend Lord Wemyss at the Committee stage of the Bill. I beg noble Lords to consider this carefully and hope that the noble Lord opposite will be able to accept my Amendment.
§ The Earl of WEMYSS and MARCH
My Lords, in supporting the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Craigton, I find that it is becoming more and more difficult to say anything new on this extremely important subject. The noble Lord has said it all very well and much else has been said by other speakers at earlier stages of the debate. There is one special point which I should like to emphasise. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, understands the matter very well; but if noble Lords—or, what is much more likely, anybody outside this House—were to read literally the noble Lord's words uttered in Committee stage on February 10th (and they can be found in col. 1146 of Hansard) they would find that he said something to the effect that somebody in the future—meaning, presumably, somebody in Scotland—can make land inalienable. I repeat, "somebody". This is not so. Nobody in Scotland and nobody 239 in the United Kingdom, except for the two National Trusts, can make land inalienable. This is a special privilege granted to these two Trusts by Parliament and to them only.
It is possible that some person in the future could offer land to one or other of the National Trusts on the condition that it should be made inalienable. But the Trust does not have to accept this; the Trust does not have to declare land inalienable because of such a condition. It could always refuse the offer. Even if it were heavily bribed to accept it, I can assure noble Lords that in the present crisis (as I have already assured you) this would not happen. You may take my word for it. In other words, I can repeat what I have said before, having since the Committee stage had discussions with the Executive Committee of the Trust, that the Trust will not, without the greatest care, and, if this Amendment is agreed, without consulting the Government, declare inalienable any more land which might well be wanted for oil-related purposes.
This, therefore, I submit, with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and to your Lordships, narrows down the whole field. All that we are talking about in practice is the present inalienable land of the National Trust for Scotland and nothing else at all. Everyone has admitted that the use of this land for something of the kind envisaged in the Bill, though not impossible, is most unlikely. Even so far as the expressions in the noble Lord's letter which has already been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, are concerned—" the land being forever inviolate "—I confirm that this is not an accurate statement of the situation; and this kind of expression exaggerates the fear that ought to be felt. The land is not inviolate. Parliament can always release it from its inviolability, from its inalienability, if you like. Not only that, but the Trust itself, if it were convinced of the pressing national need in some example (which would probably have been shown by the planning process) is most unlikely to resist to the death not to do much more than go through the motions of resisting inalienable land acquisition under existing procedure.
240 I think that this narrows the case to a most unlikely contingency affecting only a small extent of coast and, we all hope, probably only for a few years. For this very small thing, Her Majesty's Government, unless they accept this Amendment, propose to destroy this principle of inalienability which is of great moral force and of great practical use. I beg Her Majesty's Government to think again about this. We still hope that they will accept the Amendment; and if they will do so, I can make a promise which goes beyond what was said in our executive discussions last week. I feel compelled to go beyond it because our discussions were held in the comparatively sunny climate brought about by the noble Lord's words in the House last week, before the clouds came over again and we all buttoned up our overcoats as we now must, in view of the letter that he wrote to my noble friend Lord Craigton.
I can promise positively—and I do not think I shall be repudiated by the National Trust for Scotland—that we will declare no more land at all inalienable until we have had time—with the Government—to make a genuine effort to work out a formula for the future for testing whether land should be declared inalienable henceforward, if it might possibly be wanted for the purposes of Clause 1(2) of this Bill. This could be on the lines of the procedure already in use by the National Trust with the Government in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will have a last-minute, an llth-hour, repentance on this matter. I almost said a "deathbed repentance";but I bit the words back because I hope that the noble Lord has not yet gone to that length.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Lord CHORLEY
My Lords, I, too, have spoken on this point at both earlier stages of the Bill. Some of your Lordships know, that I speak from long experience as the Deputy Chairman of the English, Welsh and Northern Irish National Trust which has close on half a million members and which—I can assure your Lordships—is solidly behind the National Trust for Scotland on this point. I do not want to repeat arguments which I have put forward previously. At the 241 end of the Committee stage on this matter, the situation looked rather promising because of a valuable interjection by the noble Earl, Lord Perth, who asked whether the danger was not that some people might come along and wish to transfer their land to the National Trust of Scotland, not for the purpose of protecting its beauty but because they did not want the Government to get it. If the National Trust of Scotland made it inalienable, that would give rise to an unfortunate and difficult position.
The noble Earl, Lord Perth, suggested that this could be overcome in every case where the National Trust for Scotland was offered land—at any rate, coastal land— by their inquiring of the relevant authorities in the Government how they would view such an acceptance and such an inalienability order made by the National Trust for Scotland. As appeared from the earlier part of the debate, my noble friend Lord Hughes said that so far as he was concerned, he was quite satisfied as regards the existing land. It was such a small area; it had all been looked at and there had been this careful inquiry at Drambuie. He said that what worried him was the possibility of this subterfuge type of transfer to the National Trust in a case where the object was not really to protect natural beauty but to defeat the Government.
I had a dim recollection that in the National Trust of England we had been faced by this kind of difficulty on a few occasions just after the end of the war. Your Lordships will remember that during the war years there was a great deal of requisitioning of land and some landowners felt they had not been treated at all fairly over it. At the National Trust we were offered land in a number of cases—not many—in some of which it rather seemed to us that there might be an indirect motive of the kind which the noble Earl, Lord Perth, mentioned and of which I have already spoken in my earlier remarks tonight. Therefore, we laid down—I should say in the late 1940s or early 1950s—a rule that we would never accept land with the intention of making it inalienable without first submitting the matter to what is now the Department of the Environment and obtaining their views on it, and making quite sure that it was not required in the national interest by the Government, by 242 local government, by a statutory corporation or any organisation of that kind. That procedure was introduced and has been pursued, I think on every occasion, since that time. I have checked this point with the Secretary of the National Trust during the last 48 hours and he assures me that that is so.
Surely, this is as much as is needed. It has worked admirably throughout the last 25 years so far as England, Wales and Northern Ireland are concerned. Why should it not work equally well in Scotland? I assumed that that was what the National Trust of Scotland had been offering to the Government as a result of the deliberations of their executive committee last week. Surely, if it works so well in England it will work equally well in Scotland. That knocks the bottom out of the argument which the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has now produced, which is going back a long way from what he said at the end of the Committee stage last week. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will insist. There is the safeguard, as has been pointed out, of the Parliamentary procedure. It could be in only a rare case that it would have to be brought into effect, but the safeguard is there. In all these circumstances, I appeal to my noble friend Lord Hughes to accept this Amendment and to rely on the ample safeguards which exist.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Viscount NORWICH
My Lords, as a member of the executive committee of the National Trust for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, I should like to add my support to that of previous speakers for this Amendment. The point is an extremely simple one. It is that since 1907, when the National Trust Acts were originally passed, the privilege that the two National Trusts have had to declare land inalienable has been more than any other single factor responsible for the tremendous success that they have had. Our own English, Welsh, Northern Irish National Trust now has under its protection something in the nature of 1 per cent. of the total acreage of England, Wales and Northern Ireland—something like 1 mile in every 10 of coastline. It is an extraordinary achievement. It is absolutely unquestionable that only a minute percentage of that amount of land would ever have been given to us had the donors not been confident in their 243 hearts that, by declaring this land inalienable, they were in fact protecting it for ever.
Every time this principle of inalienability is chipped away unnecessarily, and, above all, when it is chipped away indiscriminately—it is not a question of taking each case on its merits but of simply saying, "Inalienability does not count" and striking it off—it not only makes it easier for successive Governments to take away what has, after all, been given to us in trust in the past. It also, equally importantly, diminishes the possibility of other potential donors in future trusting us to look after land they love and know is worth preserving. I assure your Lordships that the decision to declare land inalienable is not taken easily. It is taken only after great care and great consideration. There is no serious risk. We have already seen in the case of Saltram how, when good reasons apply, the decision can be revoked. I therefore implore your Lordships to give all your support to this Amendment, which will protect and uphold the greatest single trump card we possess for conservation in this country.
Lord CAMPBELL of CROY
My Lords, I hope that when the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, comes to reply he will consider sympathetically what has been moved by my noble friend Lord Craigton. When he replies, could he clarify a point mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley? We understand that subsection (6) of Clause 1 would have the effect of cutting out the special Parliamentary procedure of a Joint Committee of both Houses where inalienable land is involved. Our understanding is that under the expedited procedure the Petition and the Select Committee would not be possible. The two National Trusts made clear in a letter in The Times last November, to which I referred when we considered the Bill earlier, that they are content where inalienable land is concerned to go by the decision taken in the appropriate way by Parliament, but that they are against the special Parliamentary procedure being truncated. If that is the proper interpretation of the Bill, that the Statutory Instrument under subsection (6) would not allow petitioning and the setting up of a Joint Committee, I would put it to 244 the noble Lord that it is detracting from the Parliamentary procedures.
We believe that Members of your Lordships' House and of the other place, because they know of the urgency of our need to obtain offshore oil, would not in this Parliamentary procedure waste time, and it would simply be a matter of a few days, if that. If the Government are proposing to cut out that procedure, would they even now consider changing the Bill to make sure that that procedure is retained? To include inalienable land within the scope of the Bill and yet, as my noble friends have pointed out, at the same time to cut out the traditional, prescribed procedure for taking a decision in Parliament, seems to us to be dealing with inalienability in a cavalier fashion.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Lord HUGHES
My Lords, I must admit I am somewhat surprised at the last statement by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy. The Government have not at any time concealed the fact that the purpose of this provision is to substitute an Affirmative Resolution, in the case of the National Trust land as in other expedited procedure matters, for the special Parliamentary procedure which would apply. I do not know why the noble Lord is asking about that at this stage. That was made abundantly clear at the last stage of the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Craigton, in moving his Amendment has enabled me to shorten my remarks, because much of my brief was contained in a letter which I wrote to him; and as he read it very accurately (I followed it with what was before me) there is no need for me to repeat it. The only thing I want to say in that connection is that there is a certain misunderstanding about a reference I made in the letter.
I think the noble Lord referred to three points which I made; accepted the validity of two, and queried the last one. I think the noble Earl, Lord Wemyss, also found that one a little difficult to swallow. But I would point out that they have missed some words in the letter. I did not say that the land would be forever inviolate, because it was in relation to the expedited procedure; that was what was covered by the three words "in this respect". Therefore, it would be in 245 respect of the use of the special procedure (hat the land would be for ever inviolate though, obviously, if we went through the procedure and the House confirmed an Affirmative Resolution in relation to a piece of land which hitherto had been inalienable, it would cease to be inalienable—just as it would if the House considered it through the special Parliamentary procedure.
The noble Lord, Lord Craigton, concluded his remarks by saying, "I hope that the noble Lord will find it possible to accept this Amendment". We had a discussion before coming into the House in which the noble Lord made it perfectly clear that, no matter what I said, he was going to divide the House. Equally, I made it perfectly clear to him that I did not think he would be able to persuade me to accept the Amendment. Therefore, we know where we finish on this Amendment. I do not think I shall be able to persuade the noble Lord not to divide the House on his Amendment, because I do not believe that I can say to him anything which is new. However, what I hope is that, in dividing the House, noble Lords will not do so under the misapprehension under which the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, is suffering.
This Bill does not destroy inalienability. What the expedited procedure docs is to subject inalienable land to the same procedure as otherwise; but land which is not touched by an application of that kind remains inalienable and in future any land which comes under this procedure will so remain. Therefore, the principle is not touched by what is included in the Bill. What is touched is the application of the special procedure to a particular piece of land. When the noble Lord talks about the Bill not allowing each case to be looked at on its merits, in this regard that is just exactly what the Bill does do, because it is any particular piece of land which is looked at on its merits; whereas what the Amendment asks the Government to do is to give a blanket exemption to National Trust land.
Fortunately for me, National Trusts do not operate like certain political Parties. A number of people have declared an interest in the National Trust for England, Wales and Northern Ireland and also in 246 the National Trust for Scotland. I can also declare a very minor interest in that I am a contributor. If, therefore, the National Trust were a political Party I should be in danger of expulsion for not agreeing with them in what I am saying, and it is just possible that there are other people who find themselves in the same position. I think that the noble Earl, Lord Wemyss, will concede that, generally, the attitude of the Scottish Office and of individual Ministers of all Governments has been to lean over backwards to help the National Trust for Scotland. In this respect, I think our record is pretty good, particularly in the Drambuie situation where the Secretary of State showed that he was conscious of the need to differentiate between different aspects of the national interest. In that case, where it would have been so easy to come down on the side of oil, the Secretary of State came, down on the side of amenity.
I appreciate very much what the National Trust has done. Even more do I appreciate the extent to which the noble Earl, Lord Wemyss, has gone beyond the terms of the letter which he wrote to me. I should like to say—this fits in very much with what my noble friend Lord Chorley said about the position which applies South of the Border—that if the consultations which have been offered take place, it would, at the very least (and it might do a good deal more than that) identify sites which are unlikely to be needed for oil development. If that were the case, the probability is that the Government of the day would say to the National Trust, "If you wish to make this land inalienable, go ahead and do so because, so far as we can see, it is unlikely to be required for oil".
At Committee stage I suggested a possible way of dealing with this matter that would take care of the doubts for the future and would relate matters solely to the present position. However, I was sticking my neck out when I suggested that we might look at the possibility of exempting from the effect of the Bill land presently in the inalienable ownership of the National Trust. This question has been looked at very carefully and, as the noble Earl, Lord Wemyss, said at the last stage and has said again today— because he has been completely fair in this matter—he, and, by the same token, 247 we, cannot exclude the possibility that some of the land in the existing ownership of the Trust might be affected. It seems to be unlikely, but we cannot say with certainty that all of the 40 miles which are referred to are excluded completely from possible oil use. I feel that we should all prefer it if they were excluded, but we cannot say so with certainty. For that reason, the suggestion which I put forward as a possible compromise cannot be accepted by my colleagues who have primary responsibility in this matter.
The noble Earl, Lord Wewyss, has said that if there were a case where land —may we take it that at the moment we are talking about the land in this category which is in their possession at the present time—was required for oil purposes, he did not think that the National Trust would fight this proposal to the last ditch. It seems to me that the Affirmative Resolution procedure is being offered in this Bill as a substitute for the more prolonged special Parliamentary procedure. In a case where the National Trust disagrees with the Government (although we must accept that there may be circumstances in which the National Trust, on consideration of the matter, would not oppose the acquisition of its land, because that has not been ruled out by anything they have said) and feels that it is necessary to oppose the Government in taking over the land, the Affirmative Resolution procedure gives to the National Trust the opportunity of the case being stated
§ fairly before both Houses of Parliament. It seems to me, therefore, that, as the Bill stands, it will give to the National Trust the opportunity of stating its case but that it will not give to the National Trust the opportunity of fighting to the last ditch. If, however, it has deprived itself in advance of any wish to fight to the last ditch, then I do not think that the procedure which is included in the Bill will be unfair to the National Trust.
§ I am sorry, therefore, that I am unable to advise acceptance of the Amendment. However, I shall be surprised, having regard to the fears which are held about this matter—and I must admit quite frankly that they are fears which are widely and sincerely held—that I shall have persuaded the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, to withdraw his Amendment. However, the Amendment involves the Government in a commitment which in the national interest they do not believe that they would be justified in accepting.
§ Lord CRAIGTON
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for his careful and good-humoured reply. Clearly he has not fully appreciated the vital importance in the national interest of not breaching the legal status of inalienability. For that reason alone, I hope that my noble friends will support me.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 63; Not-Contents, 46.249
|Alexander of Tunis, E.
|Emmet of Amberley, B.
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.
|St. Aldwyn, E.
|Campbell of Croy, L.
|St. Helens, L.
|St. Just, L.
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.
|Colville of Culross, V.
|Craigton, L. [Teller. ]
|Stuart of Findhorn, V
|Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
|Cromartie, E. [Teller. ]
|Wakefield of Kendal, L.
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.
|Massereene and Ferrard, V.
|Ward of Witley, V.
|Fisher of Rednal, B.
|Milner of Leeds, L.
|Greenwood of Rossendale, L.
|Bruce of Donington, L.
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.
|Shepherd, L. (L. Privy Seal)
|Jacques, L. [Teller.]
|Stow Hill, L.
|Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.
|Taylor of Mansfield, L.
|Lee of Newton, L.
|Wallace of Coslang, L.
|Darling of Hillsborough, L.
|Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
|Lovell-Davis, L. [Teller.]
|Wilson of Radcliffe, L.
|Davies of Leek, L.
|Pusher of Camden, L.
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Lord CAMPBELL of CROY moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 2, line 43, at end insert—
(") Where more than eight months have already elapsed between the receipt by the competent authority of an application for planning consent and the issuance of a decision letter granting consent in that case, in accordance with the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972, subsections (5), (6), (7) and (8) of this section shall not apply.")
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment arises following the helpful setting out by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes [Official Report, 10/2/75, col. 1156] in reply to our questions at Committee stage, of situations where there are obligations to hold public inquiries following applications for planning permission. The noble Lord told us of the occasions when a planning inquiry was obligatory, and of others where it could be held at the discretion of the Secretary of State, depending on the weight of objections which had been lodged. He confirmed that unless an Amendment was made to the Planning Act, inquiries must accordingly take place, no matter how urgent and essential a project to win offshore oil might be. At col. 1196, the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, in describing similar inquiries, said
A compulosry purchase order which is subject to a public inquiry rarely takes less than six months … and sometimes it can take very much longer …
§ The noble Lord has really made my point for me. We can all recall urgent matters in Scotland where an inquiry following a planning application has taken 250 well over six months. Dunnet Bay was one that was concerned with the oil industry—it was to build steel platforms. Fortunately that did not delay the operations because the company, Chicago Bridge—and the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, is familiar with this as it was near his area—decided after planning permission had been given, to go to Ireland. I think I must point out, since the news has just emerged in the last few days, that that company has now decided to give up its operation in County Mayo in Ireland—having already started a considerable amount of work—because they did not get an order. I think that completely vindicates the condition of the planning permission at Dunnet Bay which I gave as Secretary of State, that the Company should obtain an order before work started, otherwise we would now have at Dunnet Bay a great mess, a large hole having been dug, and the company packing up and going away. I need hardly say I also laid down conditions of reinstatement.
§ The inquiry took a considerable time. Other examples are Edinburgh Airport, the motorway near Perth and, of course, the Loch Carron situation which took over a year. But, so far as I know, there have been no delays over acquisition of land. At Kishorn in the Loch Carron area, the landowner was a willing seller; there was no need for any compulsory purchase order or compulsory acquisition procedure. This Bill could not have helped at all in that Loch Carron situation.
§ I think the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Campsie, was under a misunderstanding on this point at Committee stage—at column 1102 of Hansard—because he 251 spoke of delays arising from lengthy procedures which could be invoked. I agree with him. I pointed out how these delays have occurred, that they were to do with planning procedures and not with the acquisition of land. If the noble Lord knows of any cases where offshore oil has been held up because of difficulties over the acquisition of land, I should be glad if he would let me know in due course, because I do not myself know of any. It is the protracted planning procedures which have caused delay to date, but this Bill does nothing to streamline or improve them. It does not touch on them at all. I know that the Government have been saying for months that they did not want to disturb the planning procedures, and I hope that that was not simply in order to be different from us. But as a result they now feel unable to do what is really required; that is, to have an effective time-saving system for urgent cases of national importance relating to the winning of offshore oil.
§ This Amendment considers the situation where an inquiry has been found necessary under the planning Acts in such an urgent or important case, and where the proceedings have been prolonged for more than eight months. If a delay of that order occurs, is it really then reasonable to use a special expedited procedure system to save further delay, probably measured in a few days? I know that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes may say, "Yes, it is, because if it happens to come in the early summer the three months weather window may be missed." I understand that point, but it is illogical —indeed, some might call it crazy—to allow the first stage of the most likely cause of delay, a planning inquiry, to go meandering on unchecked and then, after it has taken eight months or more, to slap on an accelerated system for the later stage of land acquisition.
§ I do not intend to press this Amendment; the Government could not accept such a basic change in the Bill at this stage. But I suggest it illustrates how this Bill, if it is used at all when it is enacted, would face that difficult situation where the expedited acquisition order procedure would be used after many months of delay had already occurred over a site. This is an illogical way of 252 tackling what we all recognise could be a problem of national importance.
§ On the day on which Mr. Dobry has made a report about planning procedures concerning England and Wales, and has made recommendations as to how they may be streamlined—he has dealt with a lot of minor cases such as building garages, but has also made recommendations for England and Wales on the similar problems of the time taken by planning inquiries in controversial cases, like most of the ones we are considering —I hope the Government will recognise the stage where delay over land needed for offshore oil purposes is likely to occur. Further I hope they will recognise that the procedures for compulsory acquisitions, which they are putting forward in this Bill, could prove quite irrelevant compared with the months of delay which could still occur owing to planning procedures. I beg to move.
§ Lord HUGHES
My Lords, the thought occurs to me, perhaps rightly and properly, that the subject of the Bill which never was is almost becoming the King Charles' head of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy; the constant reiteration of the advantages of curtailing planning procedure, compared with the advantages of curtailing compulsory purchase procedure. Obviously it is a point of view which is held quite strongly by the opposing sides of the House in this matter, and I think I could not possibly say that one is wrong and the other is right. We happen to think that what we are doing is the better way of dealing with it, in that it does not interfere with the widest ranging examination of a problem and that to curtail the examination on the first stage and then allow unlimited examination on the second stage is in fact the wrong way to go about it. However, I do not think any useful purpose will be served by arguing that, because what has been said already makes it quite clear that we differ in our views. I want to emphasise that we did not do this merely in order to be different, although generally speaking it would seem to us to be right if we differed from what the Administration of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, had done, but in this case we did not arrive at it in that simple way.
253 I can see the argument that the noble Lord has put forward: that the planning procedure has been allowed to run on for more than eight months; there is in fact no need for urgency, and therefore why apply an urgent procedure. I am afraid the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, is overlooking the fact that the length of time that will elapse in a matter of this kind is not necessarily within the control of the Secretary of State. There have been, and there could be, circumstances of desperate urgency where a proper examination should be made. For instance, at Drumbuie, where there was a proper examination as to whether it was the view of the National Trust— and after all, the House has just said that in certain circumstances the view of the National Trust must have preference. In such circumstances it would have been wrong for us to cut short the procedure that was carried out in that inquiry.
There could be another case of the kind, and we have therefore said that we want to take all proper steps to eliminate needless delays in planning. In this connection, in view of what the noble Lord has said about the Dobry Report which has been published today, I expect to be able to make a Statement on Thursday concerning improvements in planning procedures in Scotland, to which I referred briefly at the last stage of this Bill. I am hoping that it will be completed in time for me to make a reference to it at the next stage of the Bill. As the matter has been touched on so much in your Lordships' House, it would seem appropriate that your Lordships should be among the first to know what we are proposing to do to help in this direction. If there were a circumstance in which the delay in planning lasted more than eight months, and perhaps in a case where there was no obvious need for urgency during the inquiry, but the urgency could have developed at a later stage, the effect of the Amendment would be to compound the delay by compelling the normal compulsory purchase procedure to go through.
The noble Lord has asked whether there is any case where we have been prevented from acquiring land. The answer is, No, there has not been such a case, because up to the present all the land acquired for our purposes has been acquired by agreement. If it can be 254 so acquired, so much the better, because everyone knows that acquiring by agreement is always a much more speedy process than acquiring by compulsion. As I say, if that is the position, then so much the better. But at the present time there are cases where, if the statements are to be followed up, there is at least the possibility that we shall be unable to acquire by agreement the land at present needed for oil purposes. In that case, compulsory purchase may in fact be followed out. The one thing which is quite certain is that if you have an owner determined to avoid a compulsory purchase there are many ways in which the procedure can be carried out at considerable length.
I rather hesitate to tell your Lordships, "I am informed ", because the next thing I shall be asked is, "What is the value of this information that you have got". While I cannot bring my informants along, I am probably quite in order in reading what I have just been informed, and you can at least see from where the information has come even if you do not know the informants:Zetland County Council have found it necessary to make a compulsory purchase order in relation to land at Sanaignore. Purchase with the scheme may have been delayed by other factors at the same time, but the county council clearly regarded early possession of the land to be an important factor.The need for powers of compulsory purchase in this connection are, of course, very similar to those which were taken by the Zetland County Council in their Bill.
The noble Lord has said that he does not intend to press this Amendment. I am grateful for that, because as he has admitted, it would be going completely in opposition to the procedure which the Government have pursued in this Bill. It would be quite wrong for me to say that I can prove that this procedure is better than the procedure which the noble Lord would have preferred. What I can say is that we think it is better. We believe that we will do less injustice to the rights of communities and to the rights of individuals if we accelerate on compulsory purchase rather than on planning. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, will be content that we each rest on our declared beliefs in this matter.
Lord CAMPBELL of CROY
My Lords, I make no apology for having returned to this point, because I believe it is the most important point in our bid to win offshore oil as soon as we can, and in order to keep in perspective where delay has occurred and is likely to occur in the future. We regret the delay that has already occurred in that offshore oil that we would have been able to extract in 1977 and 1978 we shall not now be able to extract, and we hope that in future such delays can be avoided.
With respect to Zetland, I suspect that the compulsory purchase order there was more related to their need to control development than to any delay which has been caused, because I was much concerned about their private legislation that was passing through. Of course they made it clear that their intention to try to control what would be a great development in a very small area of their island caused them to seek special powers, which I am glad to say Parliament granted to them.
Having again pointed out where the delay is likely to occur, in planning procedures, where it has occurred already and where we shall not get the oil we might otherwise have got, I think the point has been made, and I seek leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 5 [Terms and effect, etc. of licences under s. 4]:
§ 7.44 p.m.
Lord BALOGH moved Amendment No. 4:
Page 5, line 35, at beginning insert (" Subject to subsection (4) below,").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, noble Lords will notice that I shall move certain drafting Amendments on a topic of which I know very little. This is one of those Amendments. Its purpose is to make it absolutely clear that subsection (3) does not prevent a person from raising a court action under subsection (4) where, for example, a licensee in a designated sea area fails to pay agreed or awarded compensation. I beg to move.256
§ Clause 9 [Arrangements to ensure reinstatement of other land developed for purposes connected with offshore petroleum]:
Lord BALOGH moved Amendment No. 5:
Page 8, line 32, leave out (" at the end of a specified period ").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, at the Committee stage this Amendment was tabled in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Cromartie. He was unfortunately unable to be present to move it. The Government would have accepted it, because it was very closely linked to the Government Amendment which removes from Clause 9(1) the reference to Section 27(l)(b) of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972.
§ While we do not agree with the very restricted interpretation of the words "specified period", which were argued for when the matter was debated in another place, we accept that there is need to clarify that the use of the power in Clause 9 is not restricted to circumstances where it is possible to specify in advance an exact period of time in a planning condition. The Amendment achieves this purpose by removing the words which have given rise to doubt. We hope it will assist planning authorities in imposing the requirement under Clause 9, whether the related planning condition is expressed in terms of a period of years or in some other less narrowly defined specific period. I beg to move.
§ The Earl of CROMARTIE
My Lords, I have a very nice letter from the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and this Amendment follows very much one for which I was not able to be present. I had suggested a period of six or seven years. A "specified period" could have been one year to 100 years. I support this Amendment as it stands now.
§ Clause 12 [Supplementary provisions as to acquisition and appropriation of land]:
§ Lord BALOGH moved Amendment No. 6:
Page 10, line 21, at beginning insert:
( ) The power of the Secretary of State to acquire land compulsorily under this Act shall
include power to acquire a servitude or other right over land by the creation of a new right.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this Amendment is two-fold. The first is to clarify the position of the Crown Estate Commissioners under the Bill. Crown interests in land are dealt with in Clause 16(5) and the intention has always been that such interests would not be prejudiced by anything in the Bill. This Amendment provides an express saving for the powers of the Commissioners who are responsible for managing the Crown's interests.
§ The second purpose is to extend the list of enactments in relation to which a specific saving from the provisions of the Bill is provided. In particular, it is necessary to make it clear, for the avoidance of doubt, that the provisions of these listed enactments continue to have effect within designated sea areas and are not overridden by the provisions of this Bill in any such areas. It is, however, also necessary to make it clear at the same time that this saving for the effect of the listed enactments does not over-ride the need for a licence in respect of any "relevant operations" which may be authorised under any of them, or by any of the bodies mentioned.
§ Lord HUGHES
I am sorry, my Lords, but my noble friend has turned over two pages and it will not be necessary to repeat the story which he has given you most beautifully when we come to Amendment No. 8. I suspect your Lordships might well have passed this Amendment, notwithstanding the fact that it was the wrong explanation. But the Amendment we are dealing with is a technical one to provide a means whereby the Secretary of State can exercise his power of compulsory purchase for the purpose of the Bill, so as to create a servitude or other right in or over land without having to acquire the land itself in which the right subsists. A power of this kind may well be useful and could in fact be more acceptable to the landlord in enabling the Secretary of State to provide a new right of way under Clause 2(6) in place of the right of way extinguished by an order under Clause 2(5). I apologise to my noble friend for not noticing earlier that he had turned over two sheets instead of one. When 258 we come to Amendment No. 8, your Lordships perhaps will allow him to move it formally.
Lord CAMPBELL of CROY
My Lords, I was only about to say that when the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, was telling us about this, it sounded as if he were referring to other Amendments coming later, as though this was, indeed, a paving Amendment.
Lord CRAIGTON moved Amendment No. 7:
Page 10. line 41, leave out subsection (3).
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment arises out of Amendment No. 2, on which your Lordships have already divided. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will be able to accept this Amendment, and not divide the House again on it. I beg to move.
§ Lord HUGHES
My Lords, I cannot accept the Amendment, but that does not mean that I am forced to divide on it.
§ Clause 18 [Savings]:
§ Lord BALOGH moved Amendment No. 8:
Page 13, leave out lines 19 to 24 and insert—
(" (a) the: powers of the Crown Estate Commissioners;
(b) the powers of the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses;
(c) the Pilotage Act 1913;
(d) Part II of the Coast Protection Act 1949 (safety of navigation);
(e) the Land Powers (Defence) Act 1958; (f) the Pipelines Act 1962;
(h) the: Dumping at Sea Act 1974;
(i) the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974;
but this subsection shall not enable any person to execute any relevant operations requiring a licence under section 4 of this Act without obtaining such a licence.")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I apologise to the House. As I said earlier, I was interested in Amendments about which I knew nothing, and I have demonstrated it. I beg to move.259
§ Clause 20 [Short title, interpretation and extent]:
Lord BALOGH moved Amendment No. 9:
Page 14, line 10, leave out ("sea bed") and insert (" foreshore ")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, may I take this Amendment and Amendment No. 10 together. These two Amendments are interrelated; they are essentially drafting changes and do not make any alteration in the provisions of the Bill or in any way in which these provisions will be operated. It is desirable that the power of acquisition, for the purposes of the Bill, should extend to areas of the seabed adjacent to platform sites. On reconsideration, it appeared more satisfactory to achieve this by applying to the seabed provisions for the temporary acquisition of land rather than by including the seabed in the definition of land, which I am advised might have left the matter unclear. Amendment No. 10 achieves this. Amendment No. 9 is to cover expressly the position of the foreshore. I beg to move.
Lord CAMPBELL of CROY
My Lords, I should like to raise a query about this, because the whole question of the seabed comes up in a new way when dealing with offshore oil. From what the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, has just said, it sounds as if he is catering for areas of the seabed in the United Kingdom Continental Shelf, which could be 10 miles, or even 100 miles, away from the shore. The noble Lord spoke of the seabed for platforms. Most of these platforms will be installed for something like 20 years about 100 miles from the shore. On the other hand, I recognise that the noble Lord may be speaking simply of the period during which they are constructed. For example, some will have to be assembled in the Firth of Clyde, and because there is only a clearance of about 25 fathoms, they will have to be further assembled at Loch Carron. It may be the noble Lord is speaking of national waters, because this is inside not only territorial limits but also inside a firth or a bay. Therefore the word, "land "covers" water ". The seabed can be treated in the same way as ordinary land.
However, if the noble Lord is talking about the seabed outside territorial waters, 260 then I should like to raise a point—and if it is too short notice to get a reply now I shall understand this. My understanding is that the agreement on allocating the Continental Shelf, so far as the North Sea is concerned, was not an agreement concerning sovereignty over the seabed, but was an agreement on ownership of the minerals—in this case the hydrocarbons—under the seabed. If we are apparently treating the seabed around a platform 100 miles away from shore as though it was land in the United Kingdom, I suggest this sounds like a new departure. So I can only assume that, in fact, it is the construction of a platform that is intended, and not its final station out at sea.
§ Lord BALOGH
My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right. Only the seabed in territorial waters is affected by the Bill.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 14, line 39, at end insert—
(" Except where the context otherwise requires, this Act shall apply in relation to any estate or interest in or right over the sea bed as it applies in relation to land, and the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) (Scotland) Act 1947 and the compulsory purchase enactments specified in paragraph 1(2) of Schedule 2 to this Act shall apply accordingly."—(Lord Balogh.)
§ Lord CAMPBELL of CROY moved Amendment No. 11:
Page 14, line 43, leave out subsection (4) and insert:
(" (4) This Act shall not extent to Northern Ireland.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I think it might be convenient if this and Amendment No. 12 were considered together. I say straight away they are probing Amendments. The first one simply queries why the Bill is not being extended to England and Wales. The second Amendment takes up a point which was made on a previous occasion by the noble Lord, Lord Balogh. If it is the case that only Scotland is involved because certain requirements can be found only there, why not restrict the Bill accordingly to that part of Scotland? During the Second Reading debate on
28th January 1975, the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, said that the reason for confining the Bill to Scotland was that,
… the problem of making semi-submersible and fixed concrete structures requires sites adjacent to deep water and that these are to be found only in Scotland".—[Official Report; 28/1/75; col. 442.]
§ The second Amendment covers all the suitable Scottish coastline in question, and its hinterland. But, demonstrably, after our discussions the Bill is not restricted to such structure-building projects, nor is it limited to pipeline terminals, which also might conceivably be restricted to that coastline of Scotland.
§ My Lords, as has emerged again today, Clause 1 covers a wide range of projects connected with offshore oil, and such projects might just as well be sited in England and Wales as in Scotland. For instance, if land were required for a factory to make shoes worn by men working on oil rigs or special vessels, this would no doubt come under "other services or facilities" in paragraph (d) of Clause 1(2). That factory could as well be near Newcastle as near Edinburgh, but the Bill would apply to it only if it were near Edinburgh.
§ What happens when oil is found, as it is expected to be found, below the Celtic Sea or, as expected also, off the Scilly Isles and Cornwall? That area is the subject of arbitration between our country and France as to where the median lines should be drawn. To give a practical example, if a trans-shipment terminal were required at a pipeline landfall in Wales or Cornwall, and following experience in Scotland we found the conditions required meant it had to be at a place of outstanding beauty, and there were weighty objections from amenity bodies, the tourist industry and local communities concerning the possibilities of oil spills, what legislation, if any, would apply in Wales or in England? That would be a similar situation, which could be a very urgent one of national importance if the production of that oil could be carried out, and everything was ready for it in other respects, and yet the terminal and the trans-shipment facilities were holding it up.
§ Do the Government intend to leave legislation for England and Wales on planning and compulsory purchase as it now is, having taken out this very wide 262 insurance policy on compulsory acquisition so far as Scotland is concerned? This is the opportunity for the Government to give us some indication when this sort of problem arises—as it undoubtedly will if oil is discovered in England and Wales—whether it is their intention simply to present Parliament with a kind of carbon copy of what has already been done for Scotland, or whether they would expect to tackle it in some different way, or do nothing.
§ I recognise that my second Amendment might make the Bill a hybrid Bill, and there may be other defective points in it, but my purpose has been to show how the application of the Bill, being limited within Scotland at present, would mean that similar situations arising else-where in Britain—and we must expect those—would not benefit from anything that is now in this Bill. I beg to move.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Lord HUGHES
My Lords, perhaps it would help if I were to go back to the Statement made on 12th August by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy. In that Statement the crucial importance of obtaining sites for concrete platform fabrication was emphasised. Most concrete designs require sites with at least 12 fathoms of water close inshore, and all designs require access to much deeper water, of the order of 85 fathoms, to be completed. The most suitable sites are deep inlets of the sea with adjacent flat coastal land and these physical conditions exist only in Scotland.
More generally, regardless of the location of the area on the Continental Shelf in which exploration or production is taking place, it is in Scotland that the onshore effects are being directly felt. It is in relation to Scotland that the powers are needed. It was a follow-up of that to which my noble friend Lord Balogh was speaking in the reference made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy. That was in his reply to the Second Reading debate. These factors seem to point strongly in the direction of a Scottish Bill.
An important additional factor, however, is that the powers in the Bill have been criticised—and once again very extensively criticised today—in relation to the debate on Amendment No. 1. The 263 Government have been accused of taking unnecessary, indeed Draconian, powers to deal with oil-related developments. We feel that in asking for these powers we are fully justified by reference to the situation which exists in Scotland. We do not claim that there is a similar need, or that there is any evidence of a similar need, elsewhere in Great Britain. If the impact of oil developments were felt more directly in England and Wales, the Government would, of course, look at the question of the adequacy of their powers to cope with it. But if we had made this a Great Britain or United Kingdom Bill, then I am quite certain that Amendments would have been tabled—even if it were accepted that these powers are necessary in Scotland— saying: Why apply them to an area of Great Britain where there is no need known at the present time? While we hope that there will be major oil discoveries in the Celtic Sea or the area at present in dispute with France—which would, incidentally, present our mutual friends in the Scottish National Party with a new problem, if the discoveries no longer merely referred to Scottish oil —that is possibly very much in the future. However, I think it would have been wrong to take these powers—which we think can be shown to be necessary in relation to an existing situation which arises only in Scotland—and extend them to areas of Great Britain where there is no justification for them at the present time.
I would remind your Lordships, also, in relation to the last Division we had in connection with the National Trust for Scotland, that on Committee stage I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, who, in reference to the National Trust said,Let the National Trust in England beware. The Red Flag had been hoisted.They would undoubtedly have had cause to beware if we had sought to apply these provisions over the whole country, because they would not have been defending themselves against a possible future attack of this kind, but would have been defending themselves against one which was already in the Bill. I am quite certain that, if this Amendment had been going to a Division, a considerable number of those who 264 voted in the National Trust's defence in the last Division would not have been able to follow the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, into the Division Lobby on this one. So the justification for confining it to Scotland is well made.
I come to the second one, which goes the other way. It is said: "Very well then, if it is right to confine it to Scotland, why spread it to areas of Scotland not going to be involved? "There are technical objections to the Amendment arising from the fact that, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, indicated, it might make it a hybrid Bill; but leaving that aside, it seems to us to be impracticable to restrict the Bill's application in the way proposed. It may be true that the developments with which we are most immediately concerned in the Bill, concrete platform fabrication, are restricted, because of the site conditions they require, to geographical areas referred to in the Amendment.
The Bill is concerned not only with concrete platform fabrication, but with other sites for other types of installation which may be developed, for instance for sub-sea completion systems, and for other purposes. Pipelines and shore terminals are examples of development covered expressly by the Bill which are more likely to occur on the East Coast than the West. In fact one of the actions taken by the noble Lord himself when he was responsible at the Scottish Office, in facilitating oil developments, was to agree to the operations taking place at Peterhead Harbour, which, if I am right in my recollection, is not in the Highland Region. The operations in connection with oil are most prolific at Aberdeen; they have extended to Montrose; they have reached my home town of Dundee. So if he were seeking to restrict it to areas of Scotland, he would at least have to add to his list the Grampion Region and the Tayside Region.
Lord CAMPBELL of CROY
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I tried to make it clear that it was only if the Bill were confined to the building of special concrete platforms that it would need to apply only to that part of Scotland. But if it applies, as now, to virtually anything connected with offshore oil, the building of rigs and steel platforms and supply vessels and many 265 other things, then, of course, it would need to apply to the whole of Scotland, and one might say to England and Wales when the time comes for such things to be built there in greater quantity than they are at present.
§ Lord HUGHES
My Lords, the noble Lord makes my case against the second Amendment better than I can make it myself. Why should I seek to destroy it when he does it for me? The noble Lord indicated that these were probing Amendments. I have indicated, I think to his satisfaction, why it should be a Scottish Bill rather than a Great Britain Bill, which would be the effect of the first Amendment; and I think having accepted that the Bill applies to more than platform sites then it does extend beyond the regions of Scotland defined in his second Amendment. I, therefore, with more confidence than I would have had, invite him to withdraw the first Amendment and not to move the second one.
Lord CAMPBELL of CROY
My Lords, the noble Lord has again done what has happened in this Bill before, which is to say that, because of the Statemeat on August 12th and the special conditions required for building certain kinds of concrete platforms, that would of course confine it to Scotland and also confine it to virtually the West and Northern coastlines of Scotland. If that were the case, my second Amendment would be appropriate, and that was why it was put forward as a probing Amendment. But the noble Lord went on to say that the Bill covers a whole lot of other things as well: that there are pipelines and service facilities and other things at Montrose and Peterhead and other places. Indeed there are, and so there are in the North of England. A pipeline is being laid to the North of England. There is a steel platform being built on Teesside, and rigs and other installations and equipment connected with North Sea oil are being produced—particularly supply vessels—in England. That brings us to the first Amendment.
The amenity bodies are worried that the Government have the intention of simply extending this to England and Wales. I quite agree with the noble Lord—I do not think that the amenity bodies would be particularly keen to do so by this Bill. I certainly would not 266 press this probing Amendment, but the amenity bodies are anxious that when problems arise in England and Wales the Government intend simply to try to extend the provisions in this Bill to England and Wales. If I understand what the noble Lord has said, that is not his intention, and I hope that they may get some comfort from that.
I must make it clear again that the noble Lord has not really answered the question. He has answered one point by saying that the intention was to confine the Bill to the building of certain special concrete platforms—and that is certainly the impression that the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, gave—but on the other hand the Bill, when we look at it, extends to a very wide range connected with exploration, sub-sea projects, which he mentioned, and pipelines, and these are already happening not only on the West Coast of Scotland but on the East Coast and also in various parts of England. The pressure is not so great South of the Border, but that does not mean that it will not increase later on.
These probing Amendments have been moved to try to discover the Government's intentions, and to point out that the Government really cannot pretend that the Bill is connected only with certain special concrete platforms. It is not; it is much wider than that. We accept that the Bill is simply confined to Scotland, and we hope that the Government will learn lessons from it when it is enacted, and when problems arise in England and Wales perhaps bring forward rather better proposals.
§ Lord HUGHES
My Lords, before the noble Lord withdraws the Amendment, I should like to make it clear that I did not say that the Bill was confined to the purpose of oil fabrication. The Statement of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State said that that was what caused a Bill to be necessary. We should have been failing in our duty if we had produced a Bill for only these purposes. The Bill in fact covers things which are essential and which are confined to Scotland; and other things, while necessary in Scotland, could, as the noble Lord indicated, also be necessary in England, but there is no need at this stage for any of the procedures in relation to fabrication, so therefore there is 267 no need at this stage for any legislation to cover what is taking place, or may take place, in England or Wales at the present time.
I would repeat that if the impact of oil developments—and I think that I said the same sort of thing earlier on—bears more directly in England and Wales, the Government will of course look at the question of the adequacy of their powers to cope with it. In any case, the problems, if any, which arise might well take on a totally different form from those in Scotland, and might demand different solutions to those contained in the Bill. I think it perhaps would meet the noble Lord's wishes that I should emphasise that point; we do not see that all that would be required, should the situation change in England and Wales, is a short Bill applying these principles South of the Border.
Lord CAMPBELL of CROY
My Lords, I am grateful for that further explanation. The noble Lord has confirmed that when the Bill was an idea, it was because of the especially exacting conditions required for building these concrete platforms, and then while it was being drafted it was expanded into something embracing a great deal more.
§ Lord HUGHES
My Lords, I did not say, "while it was being drafted." I said that having accepted the need for legislation, we then considered what else should be in the Bill. It was no after-thought. Having accepted the need for this special thing, we then had to consider what were all the subjects the Bill should cover.
Lord CAMPBELL of CROY
My Lords, after 12th August, when the Statement was made about the special concrete platforms and the fact that they could be built only in certain parts of Scotland, the Government, whether it was at drafting stage or some other stage before the Bill was presented, decided that they would put in the Bill a whole lot of other things. The original reason for limiting it to Scotland had, by that time, I suggest, disappeared. We have a clarification now of what is more important, which is what the Government's intentions are for the future, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.268
§ Schedule 1 [Making and revocation of expedited acquisition orders]:
§ 8.18 p.m.
Lord HENLEY moved Amendment No. 14:
Page 16, line 14, leave out ("conclusive").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, at Second Reading, pointed out that paragraph 7 of Schedule 1 ousts the jurisdiction of the court. This means that an order cannot be challenged in the courts at all. I wonder whether, by taking out the word "conclusive", it would enable it to go before the court if it was necessary to do so.
§ I see one defect in this; that is, that there probably ought to be some limit as to how long an order could be challenged, and I see that in the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act 1946 at Schedule 1, paragraph 15 and paragraph 16, there is a provision by which what I want to effect could be done. It says that a certificate given by the Secretary of State should not be capable of being challenged after the expiry of a particular period. I discovered this too late to put down an Amendment that would embrace that particular provision, and for that reason I would not want to spend too much time arguing about "conclusive" or to seek to divide your Lordships on it. But I believe that it is not right that the Secretary of State should have quite such conclusive powers as he has given himself in this subsection, and I should be interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has to say about it.
§ Lord HUGHES
My Lords, I must admit that when I saw the brief on this Amendment this morning, I was not satisfied with it at all. It did not seem to me that it presented me with any reasons whatever for declining to accept this Amendment. The result was that I spent a considerable time disagreeing with the advice that I was being given. As a result, they went back to examine it because it seemed to me that leaving out the word "conclusive" would not imperil the procedure which we were seeking and lead to any lengthy delay. In the result, I am now in the position that I am to ask the noble Lord not to press the Amendment because all the argument that has taken place has enabled them 269 to present me with the real reasons, which apparently were so obvious to them that they missed them out, and I got a lot of the subsidiary material.
There is a good case for having the word "conclusive" in. The intention behind paragraph 7 of Schedule 1 is to eliminate the possibility of challenge to the validity of an expedited order arising in the courts as a result of some technical defect in the observance by the Secretary of State of the procedural requirements in paragraphs 1 and 3 of Schedule 1. These deal with such matters as the service of notices related to expedited acquisition orders and the contents of such notices.
It it is accepted that in cases of urgency there should be a rapid way of gaining access to and developing sites for oil-related purposes—and the Government regard this action as fundamental—then, in our view, it follows that the risk of such developments being delayed by challenges on technicalities should be eliminated so far as possible. Without the existing provision in paragraph 7 it would be possible for someone to go to court to challenge the validity of the order because of some minor defect in a notice. The courts would no doubt dismiss the case if it were found to be without real substance, but we all know that the determined litigant, improperly advised, can prolong—sometimes at great length—the judicial decision-making process. There have been a number of cases in Scotland where this has happened under the ordinary compulsory purchase procedure. We must ensure that this does not happen in the case of expedited orders; otherwise the whole point of having the procedure disappears.
There must of course be the possibility of a mistake being made and remaining undetected in relation to such an important matter, but we think it is extremely remote. Secondly, where a mistake of that kind comes to light early enough, the Secretary of State will be able to take appropriate action to remedy matters. He could serve an additional notice if need be or, indeed, start the whole proceedings all over again. The point is that no Secretary of State will present to a court a certificate which he knows to be false. If an error is detected then there is the opportunity of remedying it.
270 But if we take out this word "conclusive", all the value that the certificate has is reduced to a statement which could be challenged, point after point, and which could compel the procedure to be gone through item by item, requiring proof that it was advertised in a paper at such and such a time; proof that something was posted on such and such a date and that a recorded delivery receipt had been received, and so on. The whole purpose could be defeated. I gave my people a great deal of work because, on the basis of the information which I first had, I did not think I had reasons for objecting to the omission of this word. But I am now satisfied by what I have been told that it would be a cause for delay, not on the part of the person whom one would want to help, but on the part of the person who was deliberately seeking, as occasionally happens, to use the machinery of the courts to frustrate the proper purpose.
There are precedents for this sort of situation. In this case I do not think it is any great advantage to create precedents. Other precedents are related to particular subjects, and the next time this subject comes up the precedent in this Bill may be of no value. The merits of the case must be the justification. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will find it possible to withdraw his Amendment.
My Lords, I agree that I could find no effective precedents; they were all rather small ones. I accept in considerable measure that difficulties can arise due to a litigious person. This is one of the effects of law and one tries to get around it. As my noble friend Lord Foot said earlier, it is important that if a Government are asking for extensive powers, and are seeking to shortcut various safety nets, one must look very closely at what is proposed. I think I am happy with what the noble Lord has said. I shall need to read his remarks tomorrow, to see whether, in spite of what he said, I feel that some form of words embracing what is in the Acquisition of Land Act 1946 ought to be included. I will think the point over. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.