HL Deb 12 November 1975 vol 365 cc1917-20

[Nos. 2 and 3]

Clause 3, page 3, line 39, leave out from beginning to ("and") in line 40.

Schedule 1, page 51, line 21, at end insert— ("4. Development consisting exclusively of the building of a single dwelling-house.")

The Commons disagreed to these Amendments for the following Reason:

Because the power of authorities to acquire land should not be unduly limited.

5.23 p.m.

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I beg to move that this House doth not insist on their Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 en bloc, to which the Commons have disagreed for the Reason numbered 3A.

While I sympathise to some extent with the noble Baroness in the comment she has made about the speed of this procedure, nevertheless all the way through Committee stage, Report stage and Third Reading we clearly indicated where Amendments were matters of principle. We also emphasised that while we accepted them, it was without prejudice to what would be done in another place, and gave extremely broad hints about the likely outcome.

These Amendments would remove the building of a single dwelling-house from excepted development and place it in exempt development. It was argued in support of the Amendments that they were necessary to make clear in the Bill the exclusion from the land scheme contained in paragraph 34 of the White Paper for the building of a house for owner-occupation on a single plot which was owned by a prospective owner-occupier on White Paper day. There are two objections to this premise. First, virtually all the exemptions from the scheme dealt with in paragraphs 34 to 35 of the White Paper are being dealt with through excepted development. The only significant exception to this is agricultural development. There is no reason in logic to treat the single plot exception any differently from the other White Paper exceptions. Secondly, what the Amendments would achieve goes far beyond anything contained in the White Paper because no time-limit is imposed on the ownership of the plot, so it cannot be claimed that the Amendments are necessary to implement what was contained in the White Paper. Further, there might be circumstances in the future when it would be right for an authority to buy land for building a single house. We have recognised, by putting the building of a single house into excepted development, that such cases would be rare; but, equally, within the terms of the land scheme, if there are such cases, then an authority ought to have the power to buy land for such development.

As in the previous arguments on this point, the Opposition cannot have it both ways. If they accept that local authorities already have powers to buy land for a single house as they do under the housing Acts, then what objection can there possibly be to bringing such development within the scope of the new acquisition power? If, on the other hand, they say that what the Bill provides is an extension of authorities'powers—that is, that the present powers do not run to this—our answer must be that we want to give authorities wider powers, which is obviously part of the fundamental basis of this Bill.

Moved, That this House doth not insist on Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason numbered 3A.—(Baroness Birk.)

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I regard the reason in this case as one of a sequence of quite extraordinary statements that we have heard over this Bill. The reason for not agreeing to the Amendment which we inserted in the Bill is that the power of authorities to acquire land should not be unduly limited. The first reason why one finds this an extraordinary statement is that it suggests, as the noble Baroness rightly said, that this is to be an extension of the powers of acquisition of local authorities, but it comes in a place where the White Paper deliberately, in paragraph 34, exempted the single dwelling plot. When we come to write it into the Bill we now find that it is to be taken out and treated as excepted development, where, of course, the powers of compulsory acquisition are still possible. We find at the same time that it is included as the rights of individual owner occupiers automatically and absolutely to have a right to object to a compulsory purchase order are to be taken away.

Many people will regard this not only as an attempt to deceive the public—to deceive those who own single plots—but as a very sinister application against the rights of individual owner occupiers throughout the country, and this is not something that will be forgotten in a hurry. I consider that the argument that it will be impossible for local authorities to get together a number of pieces of land because they may be dotted around with owner occupied plots a singularly weak argument when the Government have deliberately excluded the owner occupied house from the disposal notification areas; if one principle applies in one case it ought to apply in the other, so the Bill is being inconsistent. We shall not, of course, insist on our objections, but this is not—I draw this to everybody's atten- tion—a matter that will be forgotten in a hurry.

5.24 p.m.