HL Deb 12 November 1975 vol 365 cc1931-2

[Nos. 11 and 11A]

Clause 16, page 15, line 32, leave out ("31st December 1975") and insert ("29th February1976").

The Commons disagreed to this Amendment for the following Reason:

Because it is necessary for land acquisition and management schemes to be made in good time.

5.56 p.m.

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth not insist on their Amendment No. 11, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason numbered 11A. This Amendment would postpone the date for the making of land acquisition and management schemes from 31st December 1975 to 29th February 1976.

We have been over this ground many times. This date has been in the Bill since it was introduced, and authorities have had ample notice. By now, informal preparations should be well advanced and once the Bill is enacted authorities should be able to translate into formal schemes the agreements that have already been reached. To change the date at this stage could only encourage unnecessary delay. Where there are genuine problems, the Secretary of State, as I have said before, will be prepared to consider individual applications for an extension of time on their merits. But there is no good reason for a general change of date. Prudent authorities will have begun to give thought to their LAMS on receipt of the Department's guidance note which was issued in May 1975. Indeed, there have been consultations between the local authorities and by local authority associations since October last year.

There is nothing new in authorities preparing well in advance of new legislation —indeed, the 1972 Local Government Act provides a recent example—and I repeat what I have said on a previous occasion, that this is an area in which Parkinson's law operates; the more time people are given, the longer they take to produce their plans. There is nothing that concentrates the mind and activity so much as having a given date on which one has to be prepared. Directly this Bill reaches the Statute Book, I am quite certain that activity, where it has already started, will proceed, and action will begin where perhaps it has not yet begun. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House doth not insist on their Amendment No. 11, to which the Commons have disagreed for the Reason numbered 11A.—(Baroness Birk.)

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, when I first read this Reason I thought that, although this is really rather a serious matter, the Reason must be somebody's idea of a joke. The right reverend Prelate said that we ought to have a definition of the word "concession", and, although it is a very long time since I studied philosophy, I recall once having to write an essay entitled, "What is time?" One might well ask, "What is good time?", which seems to be the answer for putting the date as 31st December. No doubt someone in the Department of the Environment could answer that question—I was going to say in the twinkling of an eye—but to give as a Reason for doing something that a scheme must be made "in good time" is a rather sloppy explanation, if I may say so. I was very glad that the noble Baroness expanded on this in her statement. I do not agree that it will be at all easy for a great many local authorities to produce their schemes by 31st December, and I think that for these important matters a rather better Reason might have been given.