§ 2.49 p.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE, DEPARTMENT of the ENVIRONMENT (Baroness Birk)
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will make a short Statement on the Community Land Bill. It is proposed that a paper giving the text of the Bill, incorporating the Government's proposed Amendments in another place, should be laid before the House, and this will be available in the Printed Paper Office later this afternoon.
639 My Lords, this paper is being provided for the convenience of the House in order to help noble Lords in the preparation of their Amendments to the Community Land Bill. It sets out the Bill as amended in Standing Committee in another place together with the Amendments proposed by the Government for Report stage there, and so gives the text of the Bill to which we are seeking agreement in another place. The original Bill is expected to be received from another place by the middle of the week. We have already by agreement discussed the principles of the Bill and so it is hoped there will be no objection to taking the Second Reading on Thursday. It will then be possible for Amendments to be tabled immediately after Second Reading in the normal way.
§ Baroness YOUNG
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that Statement and for saying that a Bill will be laid in the Printed Paper Office this afternoon which will incorporate the Government Amendments which are to be proposed on Report in another place. However, that does not completely get over the difficulties, as she will no doubt appreciate, because there are some 250 pages of Amendments to be moved in another place, and of course we have had to study them to see which Amendments we in this House would, if necessary, wish to support. Would the noble Baroness not agree that very important Amendments concerning churches and charities are still to be moved, as those organisations are not yet satisfied with what the Government have done?
I entirely accept that, by agreement through the usual channels, we have agreed to take the Second Reading on Thursday, which we will keep to, but I am sure the noble Baroness did not wish to imply that it would be a formal Second Reading. She will be aware, as we are, of the number of documents that have emanated from her Department since 4th August. There was the document on planning framework, the September document on the scope of the Bill and the two annexes, the White Paper on Development Land Tax, the memorandum on the arrangements in Wales, the explanation of the schedule on exemptions from the Bill, the paper on exceptions to the Bill, the annex on minerals and that on 640 physical recreation. To suggest, therefore, that we were able to deal with the Bill adequately on 4th August would not be an entirely accurate statement, as I am sure the noble Baroness will agree, and we shall therefore need to have a complete Second Reading on Thursday with a proper amount of time for it.
§ Lord BYERS
My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, whether there really is any urgency about this Bill? Is it not quite wrong, at the tail end of a very heavy Session, to try to bulldoze a controversial and far-reaching measure through this House? Those of us who were in the 1945–50 Parliament remember what happened when we guillotined the first Silkin Bill. We made a hash of it and we are going to do the same now; we are going to get an ill-digested measure which will cause planning blight throughout the next two, three or four years. I appeal to the Government to think again and reintroduce this at the beginning of the next Session, and let us get it right this time.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, in reply to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, I must point out that most of the Amendments which are being tabled by the Government are being tabled in response to requests made by the Opposition and by outside organisations. The Government are putting forward these Amendments both in order to make the Bill more acceptable to everyone else, and to come to terms with some of the proposals that have been put to the Government; and this includes the clauses on charities and the other points mentioned by the noble Baroness, who is obviously at liberty to speak for as long as she likes, as is any other Member of your Lordships' House. I should have thought that we had a thorough going over of the Bill and its principles on Second Reading of the No. 2 Bill.
We have kept the Opposition in touch with everything that has been published and have been quite meticulous—as I think the noble Baroness will agree—in sending on any papers as they have come forward, and I should have thought she would find this extremely helpful and not something that would necessarily add to the amount of words spoken. It is entirely up to individual noble Lords to decide how long and 641 how often they speak, but I should not have thought they would want to go over the Bill again and to re-hash its principles. After all, we have allowed a considerable amount of time for the Committee stage, when the various points could be discussed. Indeed, I feel that most of the points which the noble Baroness now raises would be better dealt with in Committee. In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, this Bill, as he knows very well, is a commitment of the Government; it was in the Queen's Speech and we have known perfectly well that we intended to get it through this Session, and we intend to do so.
§ Lord ALPORT
My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness whether it is the view of the Government that a commitment must be carried through in the first Session of Parliament? Is it not a fact that a Manifesto which contains commitments is designed to last for the whole of the Parliament and that, therefore, there will be plenty of time in the years ahead—although there may not be as much time as the noble Baroness would wish—to carry this Bill through?
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I have no doubt that there will be plenty of time in the many years ahead for the Government to carry through their legislation, but they have embarked on the Bill and have decided to take it through this Session. I would point out that there have been very few Bills about which there has been as much consultation with outside bodies and as much effort to try to meet the various representations as has occurred with this Bill. Neither the Government in another place nor we here feel any guilt, or feel that we have fallen down in any way either in the discussions on this Bill or in the passing on of information, and there has been no rush about it at all.
§ Lord HALE
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that I spent months studying the increment value duty and did much filling in of forms when Lloyd George passed it and that it was promptly repealed, and that I listened to a two-hour speech by Mr. Silkin on his Bill, my partners had lectures on it and the only conclusion they could reach at the end of the day was that we should double 642 our insurance for negligence? Is she aware that, however welcome and admirable it may be from a Socialist point of view, this is a very complicated measure that should not be rushed through without discussion? Is she further aware that I found out this week that while Mr. Crossman was writing his diary he let me into a position in which I am now insolvent?
§ Baroness YOUNG
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, for sending me those documents during the summer, and I did not wish any discourtesy in my opening remarks if I did not mention that, because I have been grateful to her. But as she will appreciate, and as the noble Lord, Lord Hale, said, this is an extremely complicated matter and although we accept that the Government have carried out extensive consultations with all the professional organisations concerned, I have yet to find one such organisation that is in any way satisfied about the major principles of the Bill. There are all these various matters to which, of course, we must return on Second Reading.