HL Deb 22 October 1975 vol 364 cc1422-504

3.1 p.m.

Lord SHEPHERD

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, that the House do again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Shepherd.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Baroness YOUNG

Amendment No. 15C is consequential on an earlier Amendment and is not moved.

Clause 4 [Expressions relating to land and planning law]:

The Earl of BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 16: Page 4, line 24, leave out ("or machinery") and insert ("machinery or any internal fittings").

The noble Earl said: The object of Amendment No. 16 is to make certain that any internal fittings are included within the provisions here. If we say just "machinery" it could, I feel, have the effect of including storage space or things of that nature in these provisions. This is basically the object of the Amendment. We have our definition of "building", but I want to make quite certain that it covers all types of industrial buildings, whether used for storage or for machinery purposes. I beg to move.

Lord MELCHETT

This definition would depart from the well precedented definition in planning legislation as it is given in Section 290 of the 1971 Act. To alter the definition in this way is in our view unnecessary. I am advised that any sensible view of the meaning of "building" would include internal fit tings as well as plant and machinery. The Amendment would also be undesirable because it would cause confusion throughout the existing planning legislation where this definition as it appears in the Bill also appears, because if we made this Amendment it would cast doubt on whether the definition of "building" in existing planning legislation included internal fittings.

The Earl of BALFOUR

With that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness YOUNG moved Amendment No. 16A:

Page 4, line 31, at end insert— (""community" means the body of people living or working in the area of the relevant local authority,").

The noble Baroness said: I think the Amendment must be self-explanatory. We are of course debating the Community Land Bill and yet at no point in the Bill is the word "community" defined. Sometimes, perhaps unkindly, I suspect it was the intention of the Government that it should not be defined because it is one of those words which are sup posed to have a cosy overtone and there fore to be interpreted well by everybody. However, there is a much more serious point to it. We ought to know what is meant by "the community", for two reasons. First, it would be a mistake to regard "community" as being synonymous with a local authority or a local council, because a great many people are involved in the community who are not members of the local authority or, alternatively, have interests in the community which are not necessarily the same as those of the local authority. Here I am thinking particularly of amenity societies of one kind or another and many others who take a very real interest in the place in which they live but are not members of a local authority.

The second reason why I think the word should be defined is that when a council is acquiring land it is important to define for whose benefit the land is being acquired and to indicate the intention that it is not being acquired by one authority in another authority's area for the benefit of the community in the first authority but not necessarily in the receiving authority. Therefore, there are serious reasons for needing to define "community", and I hope the Government will be prepared to consider this Amendment. I beg to move.

Lord GRIDLEY

May I support my noble friend Lady Young who is pro posing this Amendment. I support every thing she has said which comes to my mind in connection with the development industry, but there are other reasons why I rise to support her. Under this Bill great and extensive powers are given to statutory authorities and even to local authorities, and this Amendment will go some way to protect the interests of the private citizen and the individual. For those reasons I strongly support every thing my noble friend has said.

Lord SLATER

Can we ascertain from the noble Baroness whether she is serious in moving this Amendment regarding the community? What is "the community"? Surely to goodness her intelligence must be so far advanced that to come along with an Amendment such as this seems to be outrageous! I think that the noble Baroness or those who are responsible for the Amendment are insulting the intelligence of the general public in regard to the community and this Bill.

Lord CAWLEY

Does the word "community" occur anywhere in this Bill except in the Short Title?

Lord HYLTON

Before the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, replies and before noble Lords opposite use very strong language, it should perhaps be noticed that in other spheres the expression "community"—for example, as in the social services, community care—very often relates to no care at all. The expression "community industry" some times has been thought to mean making bricks with no straw.

Lord HAWKE

There is some doubt here because to my mind "the community" means the whole British people, and in the minds of some of my noble friends it means the people in the local authority area. I think if the word "community" is going to be used in the Bill we must say which we mean.

Baroness YOUNG

Perhaps I may reply to the noble Lord, Lord Slater, and say that all my Amendments are serious. I would not dream of taking up the time of the Committee on anything which I did not regard as a serious matter. If he is so sure what "community" means in this context, perhaps he would give us his definition of it; a definition does not appear in the Bill. It is quite clear from what my noble friends have said that there are a good many variations, and it would be useful to know what the word means in the Short Title.

Lord SLATER

I would not for one moment seek to outwit the intelligence of the noble Baroness for which I gave her credit in our debate yesterday.. That is my answer to the question she has now raised.

Baroness BIRK

We have had a short, sharp debate to open the proceedings to day. There are two Amendments on this point. If this Amendment is not coupled with the other, it is pointless. It is true that the word "community" does not appear anywhere except in the Short Title, but the explanation is given in paragraph 1 of Schedule 6, where it is spelled out that in carrying out their functions under Clause 17 authorities should have regard to the needs of persons living or carrying on business or other activities in the area, or wishing to do so. I find it rather extraordinary to have an Amendment of this kind. I should have thought that the word "community" was self-explanatory. If the noble Baroness and her friends want it to be incorporated in the Bill, they will have to give a far more precise definition than they have given. It was not spelled out in the Local Government Act 1972, and as a result of that Act there is a series of bodies and organisations which have found it very difficult to define things in a precise way.

The Amendments are intended to ensure that in exercising their functions under Clause 17 authorities have full regard to the interests of the community in their area. We accept that the intention behind the Amendments is a commendable one. In fact, this point is written into the Bill, but Amendments of this type are quite superfluous for two principal reasons. First, it is inherent in the duties of councillors to look to the needs and wants of the community in their area and, indeed, to those of future communities. It would scarcely be proper to write into the Bill an instruction to local authorities to exercise these functions for the benefit of the community. I am amazed that the noble Baroness, who has such great experience in local government, should not assume that it is through the local authority, which is representing and dealing with the needs of the community and whose members are elected, that you have to channel anything that you wish to do.

Since there have been strictures about definitions and not narrowing things enough, to have inserted in this wide and woolly way words which mean nothing seems to me wrong and superfluous. The noble Baroness mentioned amenity societies, but one would have to spell out every group, organisation and society in order to make it hold in a statutory manner. It is quite clear that the local authorities are the bodies through which all that we are discussing in the Bill is channelled. Together with the explanation in respect of Clause 17, this covers the point quite adequately.

Lord LEATHERLAND

It is difficult to define the term "community" in a Bill such as the one which is now before the Committee. In a little village which I know, the village churchyard is regarded sacredly as the very heart of the community, yet the people who are lying in that churchyard are neither, in the words of the Amendment, living nor are they working in that area. The term "community" is something which is incapable of material interpretation and I suggest that without doing harm to anybody the noble Baroness might very well withdraw her Amendment.

Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS

Before that happens, it would be as well to bear in mind that this short debate may well have served a useful purpose. Governments ought not to use words in a Statute which are incapable of being defined. It may well be that the lesson to be learned from this debate is that greater care should be taken to ensure that that is done. Indeed, in the Trade Descriptions Act Parliament has gone to a great deal of trouble to prevent misleading labels being put on articles. We have shown that we want to do that by all Parties having subscribed to the Trade Descriptions Act. Therefore, the lesson we ought to learn from this debate is that in a Statute which affects so many people very deeply we should try very hard indeed not to use words which are incapable of being defined.

Baroness GAITSKELL

The noble Lord, Lord Hawke, who sits on the same side as the noble Baroness has answered her by saying that "community" means the British people in that area with which the clause is dealing.

Lord RHODES

The noble Baroness the Minister endows local councillors with more knowledge about their constituents than they possess at the moment. She has said that "community" is not spelled out in the Local Government Act 1972, and the more is the pity because today we have more remote control than ever. If there was ever a time when we needed to denote what is meant by "community", and not just the privilege of a few councillors who are as remote from their constituencies as they are at the moment, this is it. Therefore, it would be far better if this Amendment were included in the Bill.

Baroness BIRK

I find this contribution quite absurd in this context. One is still left with a wide, woolly lack of definition if one uses the word "community". In this Bill "community" is used to define that the taking over of the ownership of land and planning will be done through the community by means of the local authorities. This differentiates it from one central body. The fact that in various circumstances councillors are remote from their electors is a matter for them and their areas. It does not mean that if you insert the word "community" it will make their behaviour any better.

I agree that the object is right, but I do not agree that inserting a word like "community" will change the whole structure. What we are concerned with—and it is quite clear that the Opposition are against it—is that the owner ship of land and planning should be in the hands of the community and exercised through the local authorities. I do not know what the noble Baroness will say, but if the Opposition accept this principle we do not need to spend more time worrying about a word which cannot be defined in the Bill in a way that makes sense in their context. May I suggest that it has been carefully spelled out all through the Bill that this will operate through the local authorities who represent, and who for generations have represented, the community. The fact that the 1972 Act happens to be a bad Act so far as local government is concerned, does not affect the relationship between local authority members in general and the people they represent. It is the Act that is wrong, not whether or not one uses the word "community".

Baroness YOUNG

I feel that this debate has been well worth while. The 1972 Act refers in Section 27 to "communities". There are several sections upon it. As a result of moving this Amendment to try to find out what "community" means, we have heard that it is incapable of interpretation, a point which was well answered by my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls. It goes to show that it is intended that nobody shall quite understand what it means. Other noble Lords have said, "Ah, but every one knows what it means". When any body makes that statement it nearly always means that nobody knows exactly what it means. We hear that it is to apply only to the British people. That is nice for anybody else in the community who does not happen to carry a British passport! It means that they will not benefit by it. At the end of the day the only definition that the Government can give is that in towns "community" means the municipalisation of land. I am not quite sure what its equivalent is in the country, but its definition is perfectly clear in towns, and that anybody who is not connected with local authority need regard himself as outside the community. I think at least it is something to have got this narrower definition. I beg leave to with draw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.20 p.m.

Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 17: Page 4, line 32, leave out from beginning to end of line 4 on page 5.

The noble Baroness said: With the leave of the Committee, in moving Amendment No. 17 I will speak also to Amendments Nos. 75, 181, 200 and 218. These are drafting Amendments, the effect of which is to bring together in one clause all the references in the Bill to private interests in Crown land. This will also make it clear, by implication, that the Bill does not bind private interests in Crown land except where specifically mentioned.

The references transferred to the new clause are: (a) from Clause 4, the definition of "Crown land"; (b) from Clause 23(12) which provides that the clause (Disposal notification areas) applies to a material interest in Crown land which is a private interest; (c) from Clause 44(4), which provides that the clause (Disposal of land at direction of Secretary of State) applies to a material interest in Crown land which is a private interest; (d) from Schedule 4, paragraph 24 (Crown land) which provides that the power to acquire land compulsorily under Part III may, with the written consent of the "appropriate authority" be exercised as respects a private interest in Crown land.

Although this may sound complicated, I can assure noble Lords that these are drafting Amendments. I think they should be welcomed because they tidy up some of the definitions, to which reference was made when we were discussing Clause 1. I beg to move.

Baroness YOUNG

I am sure the noble Baroness will be glad to hear that in my opinion these are a considerable improvement and we on this side of the Committee welcome them.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

The Earl of BALFOUR

With the leave of the Committee, I shall move Amendments Nos. 18 and 19 en bloc. In the first of two clauses concerning definitions, we have the term "disposal". I argue that if I were to lease a house to somebody else I should not have disposed of it. Yet it says that disposal includes a lease or a grant or assignment, et cetera. I feel that in the case of a lease a person has not disposed of something and there fore this definition is misleading. I beg to move.

Amendments moved— Page 5, line 15, after ("exchange") insert ("or") Page 5, leave out lines 16 and 17.—(The Earl of Balfour.)

Lord MELCHETT

These two Amendments will affect two provisions in the Bill in particular, namely, Clause 41 which deals with consent for disposals, and Clause 44, which deals with the disposal of land at the direction of the Secretary of State. Their effect would be that the Secretary of State could not control leasehold disposals by an authority nor could he direct an authority to grant a leasehold interest. The Government's policy is that leases should not be of an unlimited term. Discussions are still going on with interested bodies as to what the limit should be. We also intend that there should be provision for regular rent reviews.

We feel that there needs to be a limit to the period of a lease so that the authority may have a say in the redevelopment of the land and thus fulfil the objective of positive planning which is central to the whole of this lands scheme. Similarly, the requirement about rent reviews is necessary so that the community may secure a proper share in any future in creases in value, and so that nobody shall ask me after I have sat down, may I say that I am using the word "community" here to mean all the ratepayers in that area and ultimately all taxpayers in this country. In view of that explanation of why this definition has been adopted, I hope the noble Earl will withdraw these two Amendments.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I am sorry, but I must press a little further here. My point is, that if one leases something one has not disposed of it. I should have thought that was quite simple, and I argue that there should be a separate definition for a lease, where you do not dispose of anything, and where you actually sell something, in which case you have disposed of it. I feel that this definition of the word "disposal" is quite misleading.

Lord FOOT

Is not the noble Earl labouring under a misapprehension as to what this is about? This is an interpretation clause, the object of which is, as I understand it, to state what a particular word or words mean for the purposes of this Statute. It is not saying that the word "disposal" in the English language or in the Oxford Dictionary, includes leases. This is trying to define the meaning of this word as it is used in the Statute. That is all it is about, and it is perfectly appropriate, is it not, to define in clear terms what the word "disposal" means as used in this particular Statute?

Lord HYLTON

I do not want to go into the technicalities of these Amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has mentioned that consultations are proceeding at the present time as to the terms of future leases to be granted. I hope the Government will take great care over the consultations, because in the past where an industrialist has had freehold premises of any sort he has been able to borrow against his freehold in order to finance his business and his manufacturing activities. If leaseholds only are available in future, and if the terms of those lease holds are very stringent and the rent reviews are frequent, there will be no security against which the industrialist can borrow.

Lord MELCHETT

To take that point first, I accept what the noble Lord has said, and had he been here at a late hour last night—

Lord HYLTON

I was.

Lord MELCHETT

The noble Lord may not have been in the Chamber at the time, but on the possibly more import ant point of the investment that pension funds make in leasehold properties, I said that their interests will be borne in mind when these consultations are taking place. However, that is not, I think, the central point of this Amendment. As the noble Lord, Lord Foot said, the definition of "disposal" in the Bill is included for the purposes of the Bill, and in my original reply I explained why the Government felt it was important that "disposal", for the purposes of the Bill, should include leases. I am advised that it may well be that "disposal" would actually include the disposal of leasehold interests even if it was not spelt out, but it is in fact spelt out in the Bill for the avoidance of doubt.

Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS

I think the explanation given on the definition of the word is clear enough, but in answering that particular point the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has rather underlined the question of the rent reviews. I had not appreciated until now that it was contemplated that there would be compulsory rent reviews and, if that is to be the case, I consider it is quite essential that very early on people should know what is considered to be a reasonable period before there is a rent review. I support 100 per cent. the noble Lord who explained about keeping a business running through difficult periods; that when you are perhaps losing money on your actual trading, you keep the thing afloat in the knowledge that the value of your premises, if they are freehold, at any rate are compensation for the period of down turn.

This is removing the freehold. If in addition to removing the freehold, which I believe is an important thing in maintaining a coherent, healthy company, you are replacing it with a leasehold, and if rent reviews are so frequent that you never really know what you are under taking in terms of the value of your property, the position will be very dangerous indeed in maintaining the private sector in industry, and business generally in this country. I am not so much concerned with the words of this Amendment, but the explanation given by the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, is one that ought to be examined. We ought to have a clear explanation before we go much further, so that people who are making arrangements for their businesses know where they stand.

Viscount RIDLEY

Are we going to be allowed to debate this matter on Clause 41, or are we supposed to debate it under this clause? I have a lot to say on this, and perhaps I should wait till Clause 41, if we ever get there.

Lord MELCHETT

We shall certainly get there in the end, but I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, that it would be better to leave this discussion until the substantive clause. I do not think I used the phrase "compulsory rent reviews". To put the record straight, I said there would be provision for regular rent reviews. I take note of what the noble Lord said. This will be a matter for consultation, but perhaps it would be better to concentrate on this Amendment for the time being.

Lord SOMERS

Before we decide on this, could the noble Earl define the word "excambion"? I have never heard of it, and find that even the noble Lord, Lord Strang, has not either.

The Earl of BALFOUR

It is a Scottish legal term for "exchange". It is as simple as that. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Foot, for what he has said. If I may respectfully say this to the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, the noble Lord, Lord Foot, gave me a far better answer than he did. However, I beg leave to withdraw these Amendments.

Amendments, by leave, withdrawn.

3.32 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG moved Amendment No. 19A: Page 5, line 34, after ("building") insert ("other than an occupied dwelling-house and any garage, outhouse, garden, yard, court, forecourt or other appurtenance occupied with, and for the purposes of, the dwelling-house").

The noble Baroness said: I have put down this Amendment out of concern for the security of the home. Since the Bill was first published the position of the owner-occupier has not altered a great deal, but I believe that it is worth while to debate this subject because so many people are affected as owner-occupiers that at some stage we ought to have a discussion on their future. The object of this Amendment is to remove completely from the provisions of the Bill, the occupied dwelling-house, in particular from the compulsory purchase provisions in Clause 15, and consequently from the modifications of the Acquisition of Land Act in Schedule 4, paragraph 3, and from the disposal notification area provisions in Clauses 23 and 24. The Amendment would also remove the occupied dwelling-house from the existing use value pro visions of Clause 25; thus, in effect, continuing the exemption of owner-occupiers permanently from development land tax. The wording of the Amendment is precedented in Clause 3(2).

What I hope the Amendment will do is to highlight the effect of the Bill on homes, since all aspects can be concentrated on one Amendment. I hope the Government will consider it seriously. It is an issue which was debated in another place, although not precisely in those terms. It is an Amendment to which I look in order to get a statement from the Government as to what they think will be the effect of the Bill, which makes a major alteration to law and a major alteration to the presumptions underlying planning decisions and compulsory purchase orders. I beg to move.

Lord FOOT

Is the noble Baroness, Lady Young, not making precisely the same mistake as the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, made in his last Amendment? The object of this definition clause is to tell the people who come to read the Bill when it becomes an Act what is the meaning of the word "land", wherever it is used throughout the Bill. That is the whole purpose of this part of the interpretation clause. It has no other object. The noble Baroness is striving to introduce into the interpretation clause what is the substantive content of the later provisions of the Act. It is wholly inappropriate to bring that in at this stage.

If the noble Baroness wants to argue the case for excluding the single dwelling—I do not know whether that is not now beyond argument—the appropriate stage is when we are considering the powers of acquisition, and so on, which are to be given to local authorities. Surely we can dispose of this fairly quickly.

Lord GRIDLEY

With reference to what the noble Lord, Lord Foot, has just said, would it not be better if the Liberals brought forward some Amendments to this Bill if they want to speak—

Several Noble Lords

Oh!

Lord GRIDLEY

—to subjects of this kind? I feel that the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, have relevance to this Bill. It is most desirable that the interests of the individual, the house owner-occupier, who may have buildings on his land, should be protected from acquisition by very powerful authorities which have this power under the Bill.

Baroness BIRK

I do not imagine for a moment that the noble Lord, Lord Gridley, and certainly not the noble Baroness, Lady Young, are suggesting that nobody except Tories should speak to their own Amendments, and that Liberals should be counted out if they want to join in what is, after all, a Committee stage of the whole House. The noble Lord, Lord Foot, of course, is absolutely right about this, on two counts. First, he is right on the whole question of where in fact the noble Baroness has landed her Amendment which, for the purpose that she is seeking, which is a general debate on house ownership, is the wrong place. Secondly, the definition, as the noble Lord, Lord Foot said, just defines "land" as it follows throughout the Bill.

The Amendment would effectively exclude from local authority powers of acquisition under Clause 15 any land occupied by a dwelling-house or its appurtenances: and if I may say so, the right place to discuss all this is on Clause 15and Schedule 4. This is not the right place to discuss it. However, as it has been brought up, perhaps I can make two or three short points, and hope that the general discussion will take place on the right clause. That will make things much easier for the whole Committee. I am certain that the noble Baroness does not want to delay us more than is necessary.

To bring about this exclusion in the way suggested by the noble Baroness, particularly in this Part, means that it would run all the way through the whole Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Foot, pointed out, we must be absolutely clear that this will be not at all feasible. Clearly, cases will arise—for example, in urban development—when the acquisition of land occupied by a dwelling-house and other appurtenances could be necessary, and to exclude this completely and absolutely might utterly undermine the re development or development plans of an authority. I must point out there are no precedents at all in any other compulsory purchase legislation, or in any other legislation, for excluding buildings from the power to acquire in any circumstances. Such a restriction could produce a ridiculous distortion in the pattern of development. For example if this suggestion really were taken on hoard as it is, an authority could be forced to leave an existing house in the middle of an area of new development, even if the owner was willing to sell. I cannot believe this could possibly be the object. It is also quite inconceivable that one could have a general power to buy land that does not include houses. This is an accepted principle of compulsory purchase orders.

Finally, it is quite legitimate to discuss the protection of owner-occupiers. I am not trying to stifle that, but, as has been pointed out both by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, and myself, it would be far better and more productive if that matter were discussed on Schedule 4.

Lord FOOT

Before we leave the point, may I inquire, purely out of curiosity, why it is that when one comes to the definition of "land", in Scotland, one finds that it includes land covered by water whereas apparently in England it does not include land covered by water. May I ask whether this Bill applies to Lake Windermere?

Baroness BIRK

I think I need a little longer notice of that question: per haps the noble Lord would wait a few moments until I get the answer.

Baroness YOUNG

I listened to the strictures of the noble Lord, Lord Foot, about where I should have put down my Amendment. I am bound to say that, interesting as I found his question, I did not quite see that it was relevant to my Amendment. Strictly speaking, it should have come up on the Question, Whether the Clause shall stand part?, if we are out to correct one another on the correct procedure.

The essential point of my Amendment is that it is a probing Amendment, and it precedes quite a number of others that we on this side have put down on the question of the security of the home, a matter of very great consequence to a very large number of people in this country. At this stage, I think it is very important to have on the record a statement from the Government that we can study as to what are the intentions in this respect. I entirely accept that an Amendment such as this would be unprecedented in planning legislation and I quite appreciate that it would create great difficulties. The point of my argument, and the reason for the fears of so many people about this Bill—which I have no reason to think will be allayed by anything which has yet been said—is that the asumptions which have under lain planning law are now to be altered, on the Government's own showing; because this is a major Bill of land reform affecting everybody, and people should not be in any doubt as to what it means. Evidence is already beginning to come in as to the way it might affect people.

It think it is useful to have had this debate. We shall, of course, study what the Government have said and we shall return to this matter on Clause 15 and on Schedule 4, and at one or two other places in the Bill where the matter arises. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Baroness BIRK

May I answer the noble Lord, Lord Foot. It just came suddenly back to my mind that corporeal hereditaments in England include water, and, therefore, Lake Windermere is included.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.45 p.m.

Lord SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 19B: Page 6, line 7, after ("assumed") insert ("unless an intention to the contrary is proved").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 19B, which is to Clause 4(2) at the top of page 6, and would have the effect of the first part of that sub section reading: … For the purposes of the definition of 'material interest' above it shall be assumed unless an intention to the contrary is proved that any option … is exercised". The point of this Amendment is that without it somebody who has an option but for good reasons would be quite unable to exercise it is put in a disadvantageous position compared with somebody who has no option at all. This seems to us to be unfair.

Therefore, I think the assumption there must be qualified with the words, "unless an intention to the contrary is proved". It may be that the exact purpose that I am seeking to achieve could be met better with rather different drafting. The situation we want to create is where it is possible for the person with the material interest to show that it would be quite impossible or is quite impossible for the option to be exercised. The person with that material interest ought to be in the same position as a person who has no option at all. I beg to move.

Lord MELCHETT

The concept of a material interest as a substantial interest in land is central to the Bill's provisions. Public ownership is interpreted in Clause 21 as meaning ownership by an authority (or by another public body or a charity), of all material—in other words, substantial—interests. For the purpose of calculating the life of a lease it is clearly necessary to assume that any option to renew is exercised. Otherwise, someone could take his interest out of the category of material interest by having a lease granted for a six-year term with an option to renew, with each extension running for only six years.

As I understand it, the Amendment accepts the general principle but would attempt to prevent this assumption about renewals running in a case where it could be proved that there was no intention to renew or extend. This looks harmless in principle. It is easy to imagine circum stances in which it would be clear that no extension was intended, as the noble Lord said, but this is really not some thing that can be written into the legislation without a great deal more effort than this simple Amendment suggests. There are difficulties.

In particular, if an intention not to renew has to be proved, it would be necessary to provide some procedure for establishing what was the owner's intention, perhaps including the possibility of an appeal to the Secretary of State or some other body. This would be to introduce a complex and unnecessary jurisdiction for dealing with what would, in our view, be a very limited problem. Furthermore, it would be necessary to provide the time at which the intention has to be proved. I would be interested to know from the noble Lord how this would work if at the time the duty to acquire applied the time for exercise of the option was several years away. I should have thought at that stage it might be quite impossible to say whether or not, in the event, it would be possible to renew the option, let alone whether or not some body intended to renew the option. I think there are great practical difficulties here, and I hope the noble Lord will reconsider the Amendment.

Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS

The reply says very clearly that this cannot be done because it would be difficult to find the answer. The principle behind it is surely so important that a great deal of trouble ought to be taken to find it. The point my noble friend put is a very simple one, and I think it would be accepted as fair by everybody; that any one who cannot take up the option, for reasons they can prove are genuine and good reasons, ought not to be in a worse situation than someone who has not got an option at all.

One understands that to put that in a form that would be acceptable in a Statute would not be easy, but it is quite clear that it ought to be attempted and much trouble ought to be taken to see whether it can be brought about. If it can be proved that it is not the fault of the individual, that it is not to avoid obligations or to avoid having to pay compensation if they do not take up the option, if it can be shown that it is, in fact, a situation where it is not possible for good reasons—even though it may mean setting up machinery where the Minister is able to judge whether or not the reasons are genuine—I believe it ought to be done. The only answer that we have had from the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, is that it would be difficult. I accept that it would be difficult, but, nevertheless, efforts ought to be made to achieve it.

Lord SANDFORD

I think I owe an apology to the Committee for perhaps having made this problem look more difficult than it really is, by using the word, "intention" where I ought to have used the word, "ability". If the word "ability" were substituted for "intention"—I am not moving a manuscript Amendment but just probing the matter at the moment—then what my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls has said has a considerable amount of force, and I think my own original case has force also.

The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, asked me to suggest how this might be brought into operation. I would say that the moment when this proof needs to be produced is the moment when the land on which the material interest is held gets caught in a disposal notification area or a five-year rolling programme. That is the moment when the issue arises and if somebody wants to take advantage of it because they have an option and foresee that they really will be in a position of not being able to exercise it and would have no difficulty in proving it, there must be something somewhere in the Bill which puts them into the same position as a person with a similar lease but with out the option. I should be well content—and I hope that my noble friends will be—if the noble Lord can say that, despite the difficulties which he foresees, he will look into this matter to see whether, with expert draftsmanship, some thing along the broad lines of what I intended could be devised, because if it is not devised there will be a serious injustice.

3.52 p.m.

Lord MELCHETT

The noble Lord has put to us a slightly different problem which I think raises different issues. If what he intends is that somebody who simply will be unable to take up the option should not be caught, then subject to any legal advice which I might take I should have thought it would be possible for the person with the lease to get rid of his option; to assign it to the free holder, and avoid any possibility of this business of the option arising. That would be simple. It would avoid having to write into the Bill what in any event would be complicated provisions.

May I raise one other difficulty which occurred to me while we have been discussing this. What would happen if a leaseholder with an option proved to the satisfaction of whatever body is to have jurisdiction in this that they did not intend to take up the option in five years' time and subsequently did? There are real difficulties, and if somebody has no intention of taking up their option the best thing to do is to get rid of the option, and that solves the problem.

Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS

There is a precedent for having the approval to withdraw and then taking it up later. If a planning permission is revoked for good planning reasons, there are procedures which lay down quite clearly that the person having accepted the compensation for a revoked planning permission cannot take advantage of development later even though they find it possible to do so without repaying the compensation, or having to pay some penalty to do it. I believe that the principle behind this is an important one, and it is possible to find a way out. I should have hoped that the noble Lord would have said that he would go to some trouble out side the Chamber to see whether it is possible to find the words, while acknowledging that it may not be easy.

Lord SANDFORD

I wish that I could persuade the noble Lord to be more forthcoming. I do not want to press this Amendment because I can see that it does not accurately express my wishes. The noble Lord argued as though the precise words that I had used, and which I have already renounced, represented my case. My case is the one which would be more accurately represented if the Amendment were to read, "unless an ability to the contrary is proved". That is a rather different situation, and I should have thought that it deserved some consideration. That is all I am asking the noble Lord, but if he is not willing to do that I shall have to consider seriously whether I shall press this Amendment despite its defectiveness.

Lord MELCHETT

I shall consider it. I thought that I had considered it in my previous reply. I said to the noble Lord that it seemed to me that the solution to my difficulty and to his was the one I suggested, if that was not based on his original wording but on his amended wording that the person with the lease should surrender the option. Neither of the noble Lords who replied to me took up that suggestion. It may well be that we all need to think about this. I will certainly say from this side of the Committee that we will think about it.

Lord SANDFORD

I am grateful to the noble Lord. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.55 p.m.

The LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord Elwyn-Jones) moved Amendment No. 20:

Page 6, line 13, leave out from ("Act") to ("by") in line 14 and insert ("unless— (a) it is owned").

The noble and learned Lord said: Amendments Nos. 20, 21 and 22 are purely drafting Amendments which eliminate some rather unattractive double negatives in the present draft. Amendments Nos. 20 and 21 substitute a positive provision for a negative one in defining material interests which shall not be treated as outstanding for the purposes of the Act. Amendment No. 21 attempts to make it clearer that an interest must have been owned by a charity during the whole of the stated period in order not to be treated as an outstanding material interest. It also makes it clear that charity ownership need not be by the same charity throughout. Amendment No. 22 is consequential on Amendments Nos. 20 and 21, and substitutes a positive provision for a negative one, ensuring that for the purposes of subsection (3) a material interest shall be treated as one being owned by any of the bodies listed in subsection (3) if at any time they had entered into a binding contract to acquire the interest in question.

There are consequential Amendments, Nos. 188, 189, 190 and 191 to these Amendments. They are purely drafting, and the substantive discussions upon charities which the right reverend Prelate has been waiting so long to have discussed will come up on the next Amendment. I beg to move.

Lord SANDFORD

If it were not pre sumptuous of me to do so, I should like to congratulate the Lord Chancellor on the drafting of the law and thank him for it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

The LORD CHANCELLOR

I beg to move Amendment No. 21.

Amendment moved▀×

Page 6, line 17, leave out from ("authority") to ("or") in line 24 and insert ("or (aa) during the whole of the period beginning with 12th September 1974 and ending with the relevant time, it has been owned by a charity (but not necessarily the same charity throughout)").—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

3.58 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of LONDON moved Amendment No. 21A: Page 6, line 23, after ("1974") insert ("or any later date").

The right reverend Prelate said: In moving this Amendment I am aware of the heavy responsibility which lies upon my shoulders because, as chairman of the Churches Main Committee, I am speaking for all the religious communities of this country, Christian Churches and the Jewish community. Although I have no remit from the charities of this country, I know that this Amendment has the approval of Sir Philip Allen and important representatives of the National Council for Social Service. Therefore, I can justly claim to be speaking not only for the religious communities but also for all the charities of this country. In his speech at about ten o'clock last night the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor paid a nice tribute to those who work in these organisations in referring to the unique contribution which the Churches and charities make to the life of the nation; therefore, it is for them that I am moving this Amendment.

I hope I shall not try the patience of the Committee if I remind your Lord ships of the history which has brought us to this moment as regards the Churches and the charities. When the White Paper on land and the Bill which depended upon it were issued, the Churches were so deeply disturbed about the possibilities of the Bill impoverishing and impeding their work that they felt it necessary to make strong representations to Her Majesty's Government. When those representations at a lower level did not seem to be bearing fruit, the Archbishop of Canterbury accompanied by the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, the Chief Rabbi, the representative of the Moderator of the Church of Scotland and the representative of the Archbishop of Wales led a deputation to the Prime Minister, who gave over an hour of his time, received the deputation with great courtesy and acknowledged that there was substance in their anxieties, and said that the Government would look very carefully at the representations that had been made to them.

So it was that in a Statement in another place on 15th July the Minister indicated some very considerable concessions that would be made to Churches and charities, and it was in the light of those representations by the Minister that the Amendment in the name of Mr. Kevin McNamara, which would have exempted all Churches and charities from the operation of the Bill and which certainly had the support of the Churches and charities—and I believe the support of a considerable number of representative people—was withdrawn. On Report in another place some of these concessions were written into Clause 4(4) and Clause 25 of this Bill and their purpose, as expressed in a Press release from the Department of Education, was that, These Amendments were made to the Bill at report stage to enable churches and charities to carry out development on land that they owned on White Paper Day without the land having to come into the ownership of the authority. Churches and charities would also be entitled to receive compensation at market value for at least ten years from White Paper day when they sell land that was held on White Paper day which they no longer require. Since that Statement and the Amendments on Report in another place, there have been considerable consultations between officers of the Department of Education and officers of the Churches Main Committee, and I think also of the National Council of Social Service, and there has been growing concern about the way in which the Government interpret these Amendments and the way in which they will work. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, on Second Reading of the Bill in this House, said that the provisions setting out the basis of compensation had raised a number of complex issues which had to be examined.

Therefore a deputation, which was led by Sir Philip Allen and myself, waited on the Minister last Friday. Again, he gave us a very considerable amount of his time, received us with much courtesy and heard us, I think, with great interest and concern. The Press release about our deputation recorded that, There was a useful exchange of views on matters of concern to the churches and charities following the introduction of special provisions for them into the Community Land Bill at report stage in the House of Commons last Monday. The Ministers undertook to give further consideration to some of these points before the final stage of the Bill in the House of Lords in a few weeks' time. We are in very great difficulty, because the Minister did not reveal to us what his reaction would be to the matters we had put before him, or indeed what they would look like when they reached legislative form. Here we are at a very late stage in the passage of this Bill, here is a body of the very greatest importance in this country—the Churches and the charities—and yet still we have no idea whatever as to what will be the Amendments to this Bill which will affect our work so vitally.

I do not want in any way to be interpreted as being discourteous to the Minister. On the one hand, I feel it would be ludicrous that this debate could take place in Committee without any word being said about the concerns of the Churches and charities; and therefore, though I do not wish in any way to impugn the word that the Minister has given to us—that we shall know what he suggests—yet I have felt bound, in order that we can have a debate, to table this Amendment. I am sure your Lordships will appreciate, as I hope Her Majesty's Government do, that by being left un informed until this very late stage—it may be, I presume, next week—about any of the Amendments which will affect us, we shall be hard put to give expert examination to those Amendments and then, if necessary, table our own Amendments if we are not satisfied with what the Government are proposing. It is for this reason, and this reason only, that I am moving this Amendment; in order that we may be able to have a debate.

I shall listen with great interest to who ever replies on behalf of the Government to the points I am making. I hope I shall be given sufficient grounds to believe that we are to be met on the important points we have made. I confess that my confidence was somewhat shaken by the rather rigid and hard line which the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor took in reply to the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, at about 10 o'clock last night, and I hope that the rigidity of that reply does not really represent the mind of the Government in this matter. I do not want to have to press this Amendment to a Division, but I may have to think very seriously of doing so if I am not given some satisfaction that when we see these Amendments on Report we will be satisfied and be given a very full opportunity to debate them at that stage of the Bill.

I should perhaps express the reasons for our continued anxiety about the Bill as regards the Churches and charities. Some of these are matters of interpretation. We want to know the details of the concessions that will he made on this vital matter of current use value. We want to know what is meant by charities developing land "for their own use". We have been given an assurance by the Minister that a mixed development will be permitted; that is to say, if we have a down-town site with a redundant church and a large vicarage with a garden attached to it, and we want to develop in such a way that there is a community centre, a church centre, a vicarage, flats for old people and some shops, which may be able to make the whole thing a financial viability, then that kind of development will be permitted. We want some very clear definition of what is meant by "own use".

Again, we will need some very clear advice as to what is meant by "curtilage", because it may mean anything or nothing. We should like all charity land to be included, but in the case of a school, for example, is a playing field that may be some way from the school regarded as the curtilage of the school? If there is a detached graveyard or cemetery belonging to a church some way away, does that constitute part of the curtilage? We want these matters to be very clearly expressed for us. We also hope—though this is a rather technical point—that the period of charitable use be reduced to one year as is set out in the Land Commission Act 1967.

These are matters on which we want clarification. But there are also three main matters of fundamental importance which we discussed with the Minister and about which we are very anxious to have encouraging information. The first concerns the impact of the development land tax; the second concerns the 10-year period, and the third concerns the very rigid differences between pre and post White Paper day land. As regards the development land tax, we are very grateful for the concession that this will not be applied to land owned by Churches and charities before White Paper day. On the other hand, it will be applied to land obtained by both after White Paper day, and this seems to be clean contrary to the normal practice observed over a long period whereby Churches and charities have been relieved of such taxation. As recently as the Finance Act 1974, such a concession was made in the development gains tax. We are told that this con cession cannot be made because the development land tax is not a tax at all but is a bridging operation. This may astonish some noble Lords, as it has astonished me. How can a tax not be a tax? It suggests a riddle, "When is a tax not a tax'?" Apparently, the answer is, "When it is the development land tax". But we do not feel the force of this argument, and we hope very much that land obtained by a charity or a Church after White Paper day may also be relieved, as has been customary, of the impact of the development land tax.

There is a 10-year period during which the Minister has suggested that Churches and charities are to put their house in order and come, so to speak, into the scheme. If there is to be a 10-year period—we hope that there will not be, and one of the intentions of our Amendment is that there should not be a 10-year period—we regard this as altogether too short a period. I do not believe that I am revealing any confidences if I say that the Minister has said he will look at this point to see whether the period cannot start at a more profitable time because we have already lost a year and the 10-year period is now nine years from White Paper day. In any case, we regard this period as much too short. This is so, for instance, in the raising of loans and it will very much affect the whole development of the schools programme.

Moreover, we live in a changing world and, as pre White Paper land is replaced, so the Church or the charity which replaces it will lose its privileges under the Bill. This affects certain Churches more than others. For instance, the Methodist Church has always worked on a policy of looking forward to where it thinks a community is likely to grow up, and of buying land which may be needed for a church at some future time. Then the community does not develop so the land is sold and the Methodist Church goes somewhere else where it is more greatly needed. That kind of activity which, as I say, is especially exercised by some of the Free Churches, will be very heavily penalised because the land will be post White Paper day land.

Again, what will happen if a Church or a charity receives by legacy a gift of land which takes place after White Paper day? That land will not be relieved of the impact of the Act, and that seems very unjust. Indeed, over the exemption limit, it may well be that we shall be unable to develop land for our own use without the intervention of the local authority, so that the 10-year limit is one which has very many disadvantages and difficulties.

However, our main anxiety is the rigid distinction between pre and post White Paper day land. As it now stands, the Bill will lead to an undue rigidity because Churches and charities will be very reluctant to sell their pre-White Paper day land because it will immediately be transferred into the other area. So, also, they will he reluctant to negotiate voluntary exchanges; for example, for the readjustment of boundaries. It very often hap pens that a local authority will go to a Church or a charity which owns land and ask it for a voluntary exchange. I know of one case in Scotland where a builder has suggested to somebody that it would be a great convenience to swap a piece of land in an operation which had been previously agreed.

Clearly, no Church or charity will in volve itself in that kind of exchange if, by so doing, the land which it has retained for its own use and which is pre-White Paper day land becomes post-White Paper day land. So all these difficulties will arise if there is this rigidity. Indeed, if White Paper day land is compulsorily purchased one might have the ridiculous situation that replacements cannot be developed after the second appointed day without the intervention of the local authority. So, we ask, why should the Churches and charities be worse off as regards post-White Paper day land than those others who are being given exceptional treatment? The statutory undertakers will not be subject to the Act and we are told that there are certain commercial activities and concerns which will also not be subject to the operation of the Act. The Churches and charities feel, with some reason, that they should be allowed to have the same privilege.

In his intervention yesterday evening. the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said: It was never the intention of the Government that development by Churches and charities should be completely excluded from the land scheme, since such exemption would lead to the establishment of a particularly privileged class of land owners."—[Official Report, 21/10/75; col. 1380.] There are already exceptions which are to be made and there will already be certain classes of privileged owner. The Churches and the charities have been here for several centuries, and I find it very difficult indeed to believe that the operation of the whole Bill will be imperilled if this concession is made to them.

So my Amendment is designed to remove this difference between pre- and post-White Paper day land. We believe that this is a reasonable thing for the Government to give the Churches and charities. It is not for me to plead for the recognition of the work done for this nation as a result of the community and charitable work done by the Churches of every denomination and by innumerable charities which are directed by their trust deeds to use their resources in particular ways. This is a vitally important element in the whole of our national life. If we are not given these concessions, then after 10 years we shall be back where we started, and all the things that have caused us such immense anxiety will be operative once more. Therefore, we very much hope that the Government will accept this Amendment which so simply does all that is needed. I beg to move.

Viscount GAGE

I wish to associate myself with what the right reverend Prelate so positively said, particularly with reference to the 10-year limitation. I am connected with the National Federation of Housing Associations which comprises a large number of these associations. I say at once that the majority of these are satisfied with the concessions that have been given to them, and are accordingly grateful to the Government. But the majority of housing associations are not holders of land; they buy land ad hoc for their purposes, and they are not really affected by measures involving investment in land. However, there are some associations—in a minority—which are holders of land. I happen to be a member of the Chichester Diocesan Housing Association which is developing Church land and building houses on pieces of land, intended largely for retired clergy and other worthy people. We are, I believe, doing very well, and we very much hope to bring the whole scheme to a successful conclusion.

There are other Church housing associations. One was referred to the other day by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford. It would be really intolerable if our efforts to deal with these housing problems—which I suppose would otherwise fall as a burden upon the local authorities—were prejudiced by uncertainty regarding the type of threats that might be hanging over our efforts. Therefore, I strongly support what the right reverend Prelate said.

Lord SOPER

I wish to support the right reverend Prelate and I hasten to declare an interest—in fact, a number of interests. It is for two reasons that I would delay your Lordships. One is that at present the financial position of many admirable charities is grievously threatened and any prospect of an increase in this kind of threat would throw a great many of them out of business altogether. The essential point that I seek to con tribute—rather than repeat what has been so admirably said by the right reverend Prelate—is that if charities today are to be viable they must be capable of improvement and change; the nature of those charities ought to change with the nature of the needs to which they are devoted. I wish to give one or two illustrations of what is meant by that generalisation.

In the beginning when the Churches endeavoured to do something about alcoholism, they were engaged upon a plan which had a good deal to do with medicaments like Salvarsin and Antabuse; they had very little to do at that time with the more sophisticated methods of community care which, in their turn, demand a very different kind of hostelry from those originally set up to try to make some first-hand improvement in the condition of alcoholics. If work among alcoholics is to continue effectively—and surely it must—then it must adapt itself to new methods and acquire new premises in which to put those methods into effect.

This is equally true of the new definition of the bail hostel and of the requirement of premises for other institutions. Premises which we were able to acquire in past days are no longer suit able. If many of the charities with which I am concerned are to continue to be more effective, they must increasingly adapt themselves to new needs and, in many cases, that quite definitely means new types of building and new acquisitions of property. In the mission in which I work, we are already engaged in negotiations to do that in regard to a number of charities for which I am responsible. Speaking on behalf of many others—and not only religious charities—there are already in the field programmes of adaptation which will require new premises. If indeed the White Paper day becomes the focal day, then in many cases it will be impossible to carry out these new enterprises which are so required.

I agree that we are asking for exceptions, and I recognise that exceptions have already been made. But I humbly claim that we are exceptional, and that a great many of the efforts which voluntary charities now undertake become the bellwethers of intelligent and enlightened public enterprise later. It would be a total impoverishment of the general well being of the community if we were not facilitated in our attempt not merely to maintain the charities to which we are now committed, but to move into the future with a more intelligent and more practical method of dealing with the ones in a community where, by its best endeavours, the community as a whole can possibly deal with only the "ninety-nines". I make this plea as a cri de cœur, but I also believe it has a substantial and very practical relevance and I hope that this Amendment will be accepted.

Lord GORE-BOOTH

As one who is very active both in Church and charity work, I wish to add my plea to that so eloquently and so movingly expressed by the right reverend Prelate. I do not need to make his speech all over again, nor the speech which has been made on behalf of the charities. I wish to make two points, and I hope that your Lordships will for give me if I make the first one a little, you may feel, crudely. The principle which it is sought to alter in this Bill, is one of religion and of charity which has been cherished in this country over the centuries. To seek to alter the principle, either by abolishing it or tinkering with it, is rather like saying that until 12th September 1974 plus X years, "thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house", but after that there will be amendments.

Secondly, I wish to add to what the right reverend Prelate and the last speaker said the point that people do not help a Church or a charity for pay or for profit; they do it for nothing. Of course, I am not referring to the clergy; but the many other people who help Churches of all denominations do so without remuneration and without expecting profit on earth, or possibly in Heaven. People working for charities, again in enormous numbers, do for the community what they do not need to do in the least. Not only that, but certainly, in the case of the charity I know best, they do a good deal of what government probably ought to be doing but know that they cannot do, or have not the means nor perhaps the will to do. Therefore, it is small wonder that this exemption that Mr. McNamara has so rightly asked for in another place, has been enjoyed and understood by our people for many years. Therefore, in supporting the Amendment put forward by the right reverend Prelate, I must also be understood to support the other points that he has made.

Baroness WHITE

I should like to support briefly the Amendment moved by the right reverend Prelate and sup ported by other noble Lords. I do so as a member of the Executive Committee of the National Council of Social Service. I am afraid that I am perhaps more familiar with charities than with Churches. We had our executive meeting yesterday, Sir Philip Allen reported to us, and considerable anxiety was expressed. I have every hope that my noble and learned Friend will be able to come at least some way towards us this afternoon. I would perhaps remind him that the Prime Minister is to address our annual meeting in a few weeks' time, and the warmth of his reception will depend a great deal on what my noble and learned friend says now.

The Earl of KINNOULL

I should like to support the right reverend Prelate and congratulate him on the very clear and careful case he presented. I think he moved his Amendment with great eloquence. There is very little left to say on his case, except that this issue of the exemption of charities and the Churches from both the development land tax and the new acquisition powers has been simmering for the last five or six months, ever since the Bill was published. Indeed, I do not think the attitude of the Government has so far been very charitable.

I recall that on the first occasion when the Bill was published there was no exemption for the charities and Churches in it. Then, after a good deal of pres sure, Amendments were brought in by the Government, I think at midnight on 15th July—perhaps when the Treasury were not watching—and certain assurances were given that further Amendments would be made. So it is disappointing that not all of these assurances have been incorporated in the list of Amendments that we now have before us. I hope that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will say when all those assurances which were given will be implemented; and I hope it will not be too late in the passage of this Bill, because this is a very important issue.

As the right reverend Prelate advised us, it seems that the reply that the noble and learned Lord is to give perhaps slipped out quite unexpectedly yesterday, when, as the noble and learned Lord has already said, the Government declared their attitude. I must say that I find that statement, as indeed the right reverend Prelate has said he does, quite contradictory, because already the Government have made an exception in their Amendments by partly giving way. They have given way on about 50 per cent. of what the charities and the Churches want, so why not go the whole way? When one considers precedents on this issue, I do not think one needs to go further back than the Act setting up the Land Commission, when the then Government, in which the noble and learned Lord played a very distinguished part, made a decision which must be the same as their decision today; and, again, I hope that the noble and learned Lord will tell us what happened in the case of that Act. How were the charities and Churches dealt with on that occasion? And if they were dealt with, as I suspect, as an exception, then perhaps he could say why the arguments which the Government used then cannot be used in this case.

The last and fundamental point which I would put to the noble and learned Lord is that the Bill which we are now studying with such care has, as we all know, two main objectives; to allow the community to control development, and to restore to the community the increase in value. One must ask: what is the purpose of the charities and the Churches? It is, of course, to serve the community—I think no one would quarrel with that—and if these bodies come to the Government and say, "Under this legislation our service to the community is damaged, our work is impeded and our assistance is impoverished", then I believe that the Government can only be seen to be totally churlish if they do not heed their words. I know that the noble and learned Lord is a very compassionate man, and I can not believe that when he replies he can be anything but convinced by the right reverend Prelate's case.

The Countess of LOUDOUN

I am very worried about the position with regard to the land owned by the sub normality hospitals. As your Lordships know, these hospitals are being gradually phased out, but in some cases the large ones own vast areas of land. In some cases this land is their most valuable asset, and it is one which must be safeguarded for them. Can the Minister give me any information as to how they would stand? With regard to the financial needs of these hospitals and their patients, will it be possible to make sure that any benefit which should arise will be returned to them and will not go into the general local authority kitty? It seems to me that the time limits in this clause are too rigid, and for this reason I should like to support the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London.

Lady KINLOSS

I am concerned about land in trust for any Church charity. The Roman Catholic communities support many charities for trust land, not least the partial financing of the Hospital of Saint John and Saint Elizabeth. Also, what is the position of churchyards, which may not necessarily be near their church? They may be full and are perhaps waiting to be re-used after a lapse of the required number of years. I should like to feel that there was not a set time limit. There fore, I should like to support this Amendment which has been moved by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London.

Lord HYLTON

I should like to sup port as strongly as I can the Amendment moved by the right reverend Prelate. The noble Countess, Lady Loudoun, has raised the question of land belonging to subnormality hospitals, and I very much hope she will raise the question again in your Lordships' House. However, I would respectfully suggest to her that this is not the ideal moment for it. We are considering Churches and charities, and I think we must start from the position that, of their very nature, charities exist to serve the community. They are subject to the Charity Commissioners, and if they do not serve the community they will fall foul of the Commissioners. On the question of Churches, in my view any Church that is true to its calling will automatically serve the whole community and not simply its own members, and one has seen countless examples of this wide, general, open service.

On these grounds it seems right that any windfall gains that may accrue to Churches and charities should be allowed to be retained by them. One understands that windfall development gains accruing to private individuals or companies may be taken from them by the community, as represented by the State, to be applied to public as opposed to private purposes, but I urge most strongly that Churches and charities should be allowed to retain their windfall gains This seems right if one considers, for example, how, over the past centuries, the Churches have pioneered health services and hospital services, have led the way with schools and have led the way by introducing many and very varied forms of social welfare, the majority of which have, in the fullness of time, been taken over as State welfare services. No one complains about this; most of us look on it as a very natural progression, leaving both Churches and charities free to continue pioneering and free, also, to provide a choice for the person in need of service.

It is for this kind of reason that I agree so strongly with the right reverend Prelate that the ten-year period is far too short and far too rigid, and that post-White Paper development land should be just as free as pre-White Paper land. What is needed is some kind of "roll over" provision, as has been worked out in the case of other taxes, and also a provision for subsequent gifts of land to both Churches and charities. I support this Amendment most strongly.

Lord CACCIA

May I also rise to support this Amendment? It has been rightly said that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is a most compassionate man. From what he has said in your Lordships' House he has also shown that he likes to pursue a logical argument. It is not very long since your Lordships were considering the work of the voluntary societies, and on that occasion those of us who spoke for those societies had much encouragement. On this occasion I speak particularly for St. John's and to a certain extent for the Red Cross, in which I am also involved. We had great encouragement from the Government to think that our work was valued, and was valued in a way which they would wish to support. They showed then that they fully under stood the difficulties of financing charities at a time of rapid inflation and, there fore, we had every hope that when other measures were brought forward this point would be logically borne in mind.

It is not very much in terms of money that is involved for the State; when you think of the amounts that might accrue to the charities in this country out of an Amendment of this legislation such as is suggested by the right reverend Prelate. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us this year, for instance, that the borrowing requirement—that was at the Budget time—was to be of the order of £9 billion. We now understand that the borrowing requirement is of a very much larger order. That is in one year.

We are talking of sums of money that could not be of any relevance to that kind of economic situation. What we ask is this easement in order for us to do with voluntary work, in many cases, things which otherwise would be left undone to the detriment of the com munity—and that word comes into the Bill—and in this case it must mean the community of the whole British public. We ask for alleviations which will enable us to do this work through voluntary support and voluntary effort and, there fore, I should like strongly to support the Amendment suggested by the right reverend Prelate and hope for both the logic and compassion of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor.

Lord CLITHEROE

I had intended to speak in support of the Amendment of the right reverend Prelate. I have listened to the speeches made by other noble Lords. All the points that I would have made have been made by them better than I should have made them, so I shall sit down.

4.41 p.m.

The LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord Elwyn-Jones)

I well understand the concern and interest that is shown in this remarkable Chamber in the problems related to the Churches and charities. I venture to use the word "remarkable" because we have heard today in this House some of the leading figures of the Churches and of the world of charities expressing their views. If I may say so, this has been one of the aspects of belonging to this Chamber which has most delighted and excited me since I have had the honour of becoming a Member.

I am sorry that the right reverend Prelate should think that I have been rigid. I do not think that rigidity is one of my customary postures and, if I may say so, in dealing with the problems connected with the Churches and charities the Government have sought to be fair to both. The concessions which have been made have been made in a spirit of concern and willingness to help to the extent of not destroying the fabric of the Community Land Scheme. The discussions came to a successful climax which resulted in the Statement that was made on 15th July. My information is that it was not made at midnight but at mid afternoon on a Monday when I am in formed that everyone in the other place was as fresh as a daisy and as alert as a fox; so that if there are any shortcomings it is not due to the midnight oil that it is thought was burning on that occasion. The Statement that was made on 15th July was positive and I am a little surprised that the right reverend Prelate feels that those who like him are concerned and have responsibility in the field still feel that there is a great deal that is uncertain. There have been more recent discussions since 15th July which may result in a further meeting of the wish of the Churches which I shall refer to before I sit down.

May I first turn to the terms of the Amendment under the umbrella of which—and I am not complaining that the debate has ranged rather widely over the whole field—we are conducting this debate. Perhaps I could first assist noble Lords by indicating what would be the effect of the Amendment. It would re move the distinction between pre- and post-White Paper day land owned by Churches or charities for the purpose of creating a non-outstanding material interest. That, as noble Lords will by now know as we become steadily familiar with the jargon of the Bill, is relevant to certain major provisions of the Bill; namely, Clause 18(2) under which an authority may be given the duty to acquire all outstanding material interests in land needed for designated relevant development and Clause 22(8)(a) which has the effect of disapplying the provisions for suspension of planning permission where the permission is granted in respect of land in which there are any material interests outstanding.

The effect of the Amendment will be to extend considerably the special provisions for charities which, as I have indicated, were announced by the Minister on 15th July in another place. These provisions were rightly accorded to charities in recognition of what I ventured to describe last night, and which I happily repeat today, as the unique service that the charities and, of course, the Churches provide to our community and in order to assist them to make the transition to the full land scheme. It has never been intended that an exemption from the acquisition duty should apply to any land acquired by a charity at any time. As I ventured to say last night, that would lead to the creation of a specially privileged position for them as owners of land.

It has been urged with his customary eloquence and skill today by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London that the exemption should apply to all of the land of Churches and charities, regardless of when it was acquired, since to do otherwise would cause them financial hardship and would cause (as has been said, if not today, on another occasion) their commitments to be frozen into the existing pattern and prevent them providing new services where these are needed. I venture to express the view that that argument and those anxieties are not well-founded.

First, charities and Churches will be able to undertake any type of development for which they receive planning per mission on land they owned on White Paper day. This will cover the situation where a mixed development is proposed —for example, in a city centre site—and where the charity is dependent on realising the commercial value of the site in order to finance that part of the development which is intended for their use. Secondly, under the terms of the special provisions, they will not be liable to development land tax in respect of development value realised through such developments. Thirdly, they will continue to receive market value where their land is acquired by an authority for 10 years, or until the second appointed day, whichever is the longer period. That provision was designed to overcome the problem which I appreciate has been of great concern to the Churches and to charities, that of redundant church or charity sites, particularly in city centres which have a high hope value for future development.

Regarding the ten-year period, during which, as I have said, the charities will get full market value for their land if they own the land on White Paper day, the Minister has said that he will—and I will be disposed to encourage him so to do—consider what one might call the lost year that has passed between White Paper day and the date of Royal Assent. I am certainly happy to indicate to the Committee that he has said he will consider it, and I will encourage that consideration in a favourable direction. The expectation regarding the ten-year period was that it would give sufficient time for the Churches and charities to deal with the situation and to arrange their affairs to enable them in the ten-year period to face up to the problems raised by the transfer to current use value. I should have thought that that period of a decade ought to suffice for that purpose.

The fourth concession—if that is the right word—that I wish to mention is that Churches and charities will be able to take advantage of the excepted development regulations which will be published in due course under Clause 3 which will provide that development where the total floor space does not exceed 10,000 square feet will be permanently excluded from the Land Scheme Duty. This will no doubt include many charity buildings, church lands, parcels of which of that kind of size, or less, may become available.

Finally in this part of my indication of how the Government have sought to enact needs of Churches and charities I should like to add this. The Government will be introducing Amendments in fulfilment of the promise of the Minister in his Statement of 15th July in another place to provide for the circumstances in which the prevailing use value basis of compensation will apply when charity land is acquired for development. These circumstances will apply after the ten-year period of the market value basis for land held by a charity on White Paper day is completed or the second appointed day is reached, whichever comes later, and also after ten years of continuous charitable use of land acquired by a charity after White Paper day. As the Minister has explained there have been some technical problems in framing the provisions and he was anxious to meet the Churches Main Committee and the National Council of Social Services before finalising them. I understand that a useful meeting was held last week, and I am assured that the Amendments will be tabled in good time for Report on this aspect of the matter. I will certainly do my best to ensure that they are made available as soon as possible.

The term "prevailing use value" is one which is used to describe a method of valuation originally conceived in the Planning Act of 1947 in which it is assumed that planning permission would be granted for any development by virtue of which the use of the land would be made to correspond with the use which prevails generally in the land round about. Whether that explanation of it makes it very much clearer I know not, but perhaps a reading of Hansard may elucidate the matter. The special provisions to which I have referred are substantial, and I hope and think ought to solve most of the problems that the Churches and charities felt they would be facing. It has been made clear from the beginning that whatever provision was made it would have to be consistent with the principles of the land scheme; and one of its cardinal principles is that land needed for development should in the end pass through the hands of the community at large, mainly through the agencies of the county and district councils and, in Wales, the Land Authority.

The Government consider it reasonable and right that the exemptions for land owned by Churches and charities on White Paper day, before which date they had entered into commitments without knowledge of the land scheme, should be given special treatment. But the Government have felt unable to accept that developments that took place in the clear knowledge of the scheme should enjoy exemption from the acquisition duty. Nevertheless, this is a fresh Amendment; considerable thought and effort has been given to its preparation and much in support has been said about it today. In the light of what has transpired, I am able to undertake on behalf of the Government to look further at what is suggested. It is right that I should make if clear that I say that without commitment. I emphasise that because, although clearly the Government have a duty to charities and Churches, they also have a duty to others. The points that have been raised in the debate on this Amendment will have to be closely examined in the light of the viability of the whole scheme.

As to certain particular matters that were raised, the position regarding sub normality hospitals is that if they arc National Health Service hospitals they will belong to the Government and their land will be Crown land; that is to say, it will be outside the scheme. Private subnormality hospitals may or may not be charities, depending upon their foundation. It would involve an examination of the circumstances and status of each. I was asked questions about curtilage problems which are dealt with to some extent in the 15th July Statement. I do not think problems are likely to arise about the dilemmas which the right reverend Prelate raised about that because it may come to be dealt with when we come to consider the prevailing use pro visions when we reach the Report stage. These are matters which I hope will be finalised as soon as that becomes possible.

I was asked by the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull—and I am most grateful to him for his gracious reference to myself—about the position of charities under the Land Commission Act. The Land Com mission Act exempted charities from betterment levy in respect, first, of land forming part of their permanent endowment and, secondly, land which had been used for the purposes of a charity for at least a year. The analogy, if there is one, with the present scheme arises on development land tax, which we shall be debating in due course when the Bill concerning that matter comes before your Lordships. The difference is that betterment levy was not meant to be a transition to current use value, as the development land tax is to be; but that goes into a field which we shall be able to discuss later.

I do not know whether I have covered all the matters that have been raised in this important debate, but I hope I have indicated that I recognise the weight and seriousness of the submissions which have been made. I will do what I can to carry out the further consideration that I have promised and bring before your Lordships as soon as possible the ancillary matters which have flowed from the latest discussions with the Minister.

Lord HAWKE

May I ask the noble and learned Lord to clarify whether White Paper land will be free from the provisions of this Bill: (a) forever? (b) for 10 years? or (c) up to the Second Appointed Day? I do not think that was made quite clear.

The LORD CHANCELLOR

I would not venture to answer that without giving it consideration. I am not absolutely sure at this moment whether or not it goes beyond the 10-year period. It certainly covers the 10-year period, but perhaps before the debate on this matter is concluded I shall receive guidance from a well-known corner of the Chamber. I will certainly answer the point before the end of the debate.

The Duke of ATHOLL

While the noble and learned Lord is receiving guidance, may I raise a point concerning a charity with which I am particularly concerned: that is, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution? Because the coast line of this country is changing over the years and because the demand for our services varies according to the traffic over the years, we find it necessary from time to time to close down lifeboat stations and to start new ones in other places. This is obviously an expensive operation, and to a certain extent the cost is met by selling the lifeboat houses in those places where there is no longer need for a life boat. So far as I can gather, we shall be all right for the next 10 years, but the coastline will goon changing after that time and the demand for our services will also continue to change. Therefore we shall find it extremely difficult to start new lifeboat stations, although they might be very much needed, after 10 years have passed. So I should like to ask the noble and learned Lord and the Government to take that point into consideration when they are looking at the matter.

5.3 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of LONDON

I am most grateful to noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, and also for the very courteous way in which the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has replied to the points made. I am. however, not greatly encouraged by the response that he has made, because the intention of my Amendment is quite clear—that is, to remove all difference between pre-and post-White Paper day land as regard the Churches and charities, so that they may be entirely free to develop their land in the way which will give them freedom to do their work for the greatest possible benefit of the community.

I need hardly remind your Lordships, since others have spoken about this, that neither the Churches nor the charities are in business to make money for them selves. They are here to serve, and it is their desire to do so as freely as possible. I am sure the noble and learned Lord will have noticed that not one single speech has been made so far in this debate in favour of the point of view that he has expressed, and against the principle which is enshrined in my Amendment. Nevertheless, we have been given an assurance that this matter will be looked at. Also, as I said earlier, I am deeply sensitive of the fact that the Minister has told us that he will table Amendments on Report. My only regret, and indeed my difficulty, over this is that the welfare of the Churches and the charities should be left until such a very late hour in the progress of this Bill. I therefore think it right that I should not force this matter to a vote at the moment, although I appreciate, as I am sure does the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, the pressure I am under from the Churches and charities, as it has been expressed in this Chamber. Therefore I think it right not to press my Amendment at the moment but to wait and see what comes to us on Report stage. I should like to give due notice that if I am not satisfied with what is presented to us then I shall again introduce my Amendment and test the feeling of your Lordships.

Lord HYLTON

I am sure that all those who have spoken in support of the Amendment are most grateful to the noble and learned Lord for promising to have a second look at certain matters, and are also grateful for what he said about prevailing use value being taken into account in compensation matters. However, it seems clear that the Government are really thinking only in terms of transitional help and are excluding a privileged position for Churches and charities. This I regret very much.

Regarding the 10-year period, the noble and learned Lord said he hoped this would be enough. I think there is quite clear evidence that it is far too short. For example, in connection with the GLC's housing plans, it is generally known that it takes at least 11 years, if not more, from when the decision is taken to acquire a piece of land up to the time it is occupied by tenants. From my own experience in Somerset of trying to develop some industrial land, I know that we have been planning, negotiating and waiting for various things to happen for 14 years, and still there are no factories. Therefore, I would submit that 10 years is far too short.

Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS

Before we leave this matter, I should like to put a "machinery" point to the noble and learned Lord: that is, that those who were not born yesterday as regards Parliamentary procedure know that it is possible for a Government, who are doing things against what may be the general will, to use time. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has said that he will use his endeavours to get the wording of the Amendments on the paper as soon as possible. I believe that special efforts ought to be made to see that the words which will be enshrined in the Bill are made known to the people who are responsible for looking into this. There is not much time left. We are getting very near to the end of the stages where Parliament—and at the end of the day it is Parliament and not the Government which makes the decision—can do any thing about it.

The right reverend Prelate has explained that he is speaking for many organisations and he has outlined the various Churches and charities for whom he is speaking today. He indicated in an excellent speech that to get them together in order to consider the best way of using their knowledge of procedure will not be easy. We are not very far from the end of this Session, after which nothing can be done at all, and I believe that a special effort ought to be made to make the words that will be enshrined in the Bill known to those who are involved, so that they can call together their advisers and, if it is considered right—and from the reaction today of your Lordships I rather suspect that it may well be considered right—for Parliament to overrule the Government without in any way interfering with the general principle of the Bill, that should be done.

We have in this Chamber noble Lords who have been Chief Whips of Parties and they know only too well how one may use the last minute or two of the passage of legislation in order to get time on one's side sometimes to defeat the will of the people. I should like to feel that that method will not be used on this occasion and that every effort will be made to see that the words which can be examined arc produced soon enough so that when the matter is eventually put to Parliament to decide on its final stage there will not be the excuse that the wording is not right or that in some technical way it conflicts with another part of the Bill. I believe the principle behind this issue is so important that that kind of manoeuvre, which has been used to often in the past, ought not to be used on this occasion. It can be avoided, and seen to be avoided, only if the words to be considered are in the hands of those who are in a position to examine them in detail soon enough for them to do the job properly.

The LORD CHANCELLOR

I wonder whether your Lordships will bear with me while I endeavour to answer the questions directed to me by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke. Before I do so, may I assure the noble Lord, who, like my self, as to political matters knows a hawk from a handsaw, that I will certainly use my best endeavours to get the drafts of the Amendments for Report stage as soon as possible; and I hope he knows me well enough not to think me capable of deliberately delaying putting those matters before the House as a "gimmick" to achieve a Govern mental advantage. I am sure he was not suggesting that. If he was, I hope he will indicate the contrary.

Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS

On that point, it has been known in the past that a Government wishing to have their way, because they believe their way is the right way, usually put up the most charming and persuasive of their spokes men in order to gain the time they think they ought to have.

The LORD CHANCELLOR

That leaves me less satisfied than ever, but having disagreed with the noble Lord for 25 years, I suppose the disagreements will continue. However, the answers to the matters that were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, are these. White Paper day land—that is to say land owned on White Paper day—will be exempt from both the acquisition duty and development land tax forever. White Paper development land will receive market value if it is sold for 10 years or until the second appointed day, which ever is the later. After that there will be some prevailing use value provisions which, as I have said, would be brought before the House on Report.

5.13 p.m.

Lord SANDFORD

Before embarking on this debate I must declare an interest. Like the noble Baroness, Lady White, I have had strong associations with the National Council of Social Service, but I have an even stronger interest in that I am an ordained clergyman in the Church of England—but, I am afraid, probably unable to be quite as charitable on this issue as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, even when soothed by the soft, Welsh tones of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor in that long explanation he offered us. In fact, I am afraid I must say that I think the way the Churches and the charities have been treated by the Secretary of State is the greatest of all the scandals in this scandalous Bill and the procedure that has been followed is the most grotesque of all the grotesque procedures that are being imposed upon us. The Secretary of State certainly has used time on this occasion.

I should like to run through the process that has been followed so far. First of all—and this is astonishing—there was no recognition at all, no consideration at all, of the Churches or of the charities to begin with; no recognition or pro vision in the White Paper that was produced in September 1974, at paragraph 35 which dealt specifically with exemptions of various kinds. There was no recognition or provision in the original Bill as published early in the New Year, and therefore no discussion on Second Reading in another place as there was no provision in the Bill.

Following Second Reading, as the right reverend Prelate has said and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has confirmed, there was no further public announcement until 15th July. That was at the very end of the Committee stage, on the very last day. I will certainly confirm, as the Lord Chancellor has said, that it was not in the middle of the night. It was in fact at 10.45 in the morning. But there was a good deal of consternation because the document on which the debate took place was not available to the members of the Committee until they arrived in the Committee Room; and I think that that was reason for consternation. There was then, on 15th July, a debate of about two hours. There was no further debate until a mere week ago on Report stage in another place—an other debate of an hour and a half. So there has been no proper discussion of this whole issue in Committee in another place.

As we have heard, there was a further deputation only last Friday after which we again had no further public statement, and, although we welcome his explanations and his promise to look again, there was nothing new in what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has just said. So we are in a position where we already know now that we are not to have a proper Committee stage debate on the Government's further proposals which they have now promised. We are not having that debate because those further proposals are not ready.

If before Report we hear, as I hope we shall, that on mature consideration the Government have decided to relieve the Churches and the charities entirely and completely from the damaging effects of this Bill, that will be fine. We also hope to hear that they have decided to relieve the Churches and the charities from the development land tax—and, of course, as the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, said, so far Churches and charities have been relieved of every tax and all taxes and here we should be meeting for the first time a proposal that the Churches and charities should be taxed. If we can hear of that double relief for both Churches and charities, of course we shall be foremost in our thanks and congratulations. But if before Report we are faced with another complex set of proposals and compromises—and I was glad to hear the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor say that he will use his best endeavours to ensure that we get the proposals well before Report—we shall seriously have to think of recommitment so that at least one House of Parliament can give full and detailed consideration to this whole difficult matter. I venture to say that it is a matter which could hardly be of more concern and anxiety to every community of every kind through out the entire United Kingdom.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The LORD CHANCELLOR

I beg to move Amendment No. 22.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 28, leave out from ("shall") to ("entered") in line 29 and insert ("be treated as owned by any person mentiond in that subsection at any time if, at that time, that person has").—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Lord SANDFORD

I beg to move Amendment No. 22B and to take with it Amendment No. 22C.Without them this clause would be too imprecise. Noble Lords will see what the effect of the Amendments would be and will, I hope, agree that taken together they will improve the Bill by giving the necessary extra precision.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 35, leave out ("in construing").—(Lord Sandford.)

Lord MELCHETT

The wording of the subsection is, in fact, taken straight from Section 290(1) of our old friend the Town and Country Planning Act 1971. In general, references to planning permission, both in the Bill and in the 1971 Act, are to be read as relating to permission granted on a planning application made in accordance with the normal procedure. The point of the wording which the Amendments seek to change is that the reader ought always to have in his mind the possibility that planning permission may be granted in some other way, and in particular on an application to retain development which is already in existence, rather than to carry out fresh development. This is something that has to exist in parallel with the main provision, and which cannot replace it entirely as the Amendments suggest, for planning permission granted on a normal application remains the "normal" case, and it would certainly not be right to replace this with the much more unusual per mission to retain development, though the possibility that planning permission may have been obtained in this way always has to be borne in mind.

Lord SANDFORD

With that explanation. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of LISTOWEL

If Amendment No. 22A is agreed to I cannot call Amendments Nos. 23 and 23A.

5.22 p.m.

Lord MIDDLETON moved Amendment No. 22A:

Page 7, line 5, leave out subsection (8) and insert— ("(8) In this Act any reference to planning permission shall include planning permission for relevant development or for any other kind of development under section 22 of the Act of 1971.")

The noble Lord said: One has to read this Amendment with subsection (8), which states: In this Act any reference to planning per mission for relevant development, or for any other kind of development, includes a reference to planning permission for development which includes that kind of development. The more one reads this clause the more obscure it becomes. The notes on clauses shed some light on the meaning by saying that this subsection means that a permission is still to be regarded as a permission for relevant development even though it covers not only relevant development, but also some development which is not relevant.

Earlier today reference was made to the intelligence of my noble friends. If I am being particularly obtuse and the noble Lord opposite can tell me that the wording of this subsection cannot possibly be altered to make its meaning clear, I shall certainly apologise and withdraw this Amendment. If, however, the sense of this subsection is expressed better by the wording in my Amendment, will the Government accept it in place of the wording in the Bill, because it appears to me to be incomprehensible. I beg to move.

The Duke of ATHOLL

I speak as a member of the Renton Committee. If this Bill had been in existence when we collected our so-called gems or master pieces of the draftsman's art, I feel that this subsection might easily have been among them. Might I ask the Government whether or not they could word it in a slightly more felicitous way?

Lord MFLCHETT

I will do my best to explain the subsection and see whether we are any clearer when I have finished. The existing subsection (8) makes it clear that in deciding whether or not a planning permission is relevant development, the fact that the permission includes both relevant and non-relevant development does not stop it from being relevant development. For example, if a large development were to include a single dwellinghouse that larger development would still remain relevant development although planning permission for a single dwellinghouse is, of course, not relevant development. The words "any other kind of development"—and it is those words, in particular, which may make the subsection less clear than it might other wise be—are included so that the same principle applies to references to designated relevant development in Clause 18. If a planning permission contains both designated relevant development and non-designated relevant development, or even—and I hesitate to add this—non-relevant development, it will still be designated development. To put it simply, the greater subsumes the smaller in all these situations. It is a very simple point. Unfortunately, to get it legally correct needs fairly complicated wording.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I am very much concerned about this matter and I will tell your Lordships why. Both in this House and in another place we have made a genuine effort to separate, and make a clear distinction between relevant and exempted or non-relevant development. This is another excellent example of where we should separate completely the definitions of "relevant" and "non-relevant" development with regard to planning permission. I am even more concerned than I was when my noble friend Lord Sandys moved his Amendment.

Lord FOOT

May I ask the noble Lord this question in order to try to clarify my mind on this matter? He has given us an explanation and justification of the words as they now appear in sub section (8) of the Bill, but he has not, unless I missed it, told us in what way the words proposed in Amendment No. 22A would not cover the situation to which the noble Lord has referred. I should have thought that the words suggested in the Amendment were much more desirable, because they are much more comprehensible. If, however, they are not apt to cover the situation that the noble Lord has described, could he tell us in what way they are not apt?

Lord MELCHETT

I accept what the noble Lord has said. It may well be that they are more comprehensible. With out taking expert advice, I could not say whether there is any technical respect in which they are defective. It may be that it would be for the convenience of noble Lords if I took back this Amendment for technical advice. If I find that the words in the Amendment do not contain any technical defects, I can say that we shall bring forward an Amendment at the next stage.

The Duke of ATHOLL

Could the noble Lord try to find some other way? This is a piece of gobbledygook which we cannot allow to pass. This Amendment was on the Marshalled List, yet the noble Lord says that he and his advisers have been unable to consider it. This seems very surprising to me. It is not a manuscript Amendment, it does not have a star against it, and, so far as I remember, it was on yesterday's Marshalled List. I think that it is almost the duty of this House to include this Amendment until the noble Lord can tell us why it is no good. It is much easier to understand and far more comprehensible.

Earl FERRERS

I apologise for the fact that although the Amendment is down in my name I was not in my place when it was moved. The purpose of having put down this Amendment is for clarification and to make the Bill simpler. As it stands now this subsection is utterly unintelligible. If the noble Lord has been unable to find out whether the Amendment which stands in the name of my noble friend Lord Middleton and myself is inadequate, surely he will agree that it can be accepted. If it proves to be inadequate, then the Government can correct it at Report stage. To leave this subsection as it is does not make sense to anybody.

Lord FOOT

Before the noble Lord answers, may I say that it is a little ungenerous of the noble Duke to take this attitude and to complain that the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, is unable to give a view as to whether or not this proposed Amendment is apt. I should have thought that those of us who have been here throughout the whole debate owe a considerable debt of gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, for the extra ordinary way in which he has been able to deal with every aspect of this Bill. When he says, "I will take this away and look at it again and take advice", I think it is a bit much that we should not accept that and leave it at that.

Lord MELCHETT

I am grateful for what the noble Lord, Lord Foot, has said. I confess we had assumed that this was an Amendment to probe the meaning of the subsection and not an attempt to improve the drafting. In my response to the Amendment I thought I had set out farily clearly—although I acknowledge that it was a complicated point—what this subsection was getting at. Unfortunately, noble Lords have "spiked their own guns" as it were, because in the meantime I have had a chance to reflect on the aptness of the Amendment and I have to say that it will not do because it does not cover the point. In particular, the words in Amendment No. 22A do not define "planning permission for relevant development", and therefore they are not a substitute for the words in the Bill.

Lord MIDDLETON

I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Foot, for pressing the point that I made. Also I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, for agreeing to look at these words that I have introduced—

Lord MELCHETT

I am sorry, but I agreed to do that some time ago. I have now done so, but I will not look any more because I am afraid the Amendment is not right.

Lord MIDDLETON

As I understood the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, he was going to look at the wording of the Bill. I appreciate that my Amendment may not be adequate, but I understood the undertaking was given to look at the sub section again. If he will give the assurance that he will look again at subsection (8) of the Bill I will withdraw the Amendment.

Lord MELCHETT

I will look at sub section (8) to see whether any improvement in drafting is possible, but I say that without any commitment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.35 p.m.

Lord SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 23A: Page 7, line 8, after ("includes") insert ("any substantial amount of").

The noble Lord said: This, again, is another small effort to improve the drafting, or so I think. I invite the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, to say whether or not he would agree that it would be wrong for a tiny plot of land to tip the balance of judgment as to what was, and what was not, planning permission for the purposes of defining "relevant development". We feel that with this small Amendment there would not be any doubt about it. I beg to move.

Lord MELCHETT

To take the Amendment first, I regret to say that in our view it would add uncertainty to the Bill. It provides no basis for saying how one is to determine what is "substantial", nor does it provide any procedure for resolving disputes, for example between an authority and an applicant. Therefore in our view the Amendment would produce a situation which would be administratively impossible, as it would not be clear in some cases whether or not certain provisions of the Bill applied, and there would be no way of resolving this question.

I think the point is already covered in the Bill, however. Now that "relevant development" is being defined in such a way as to exclude a wide range of minor development, there is no doubt that any application or permission which does include what is now relevant development ought to be within the full scope of this scheme. Relevant development, by definition, because of what is excluded from it, must be "substantial" compared with any non-relevant development included in the same application.

Lord SANDFORD

That reply does not really meet the point that I was making. It is the actual physical amount of the development; the type of development being insignificant and of a minor kind. But the noble Lord has plenty of expert advisers to guide him, and on this occasion at any rate I will certainly bow to the advice he has been given. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 4, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

5.37 p.m.

Lord SANDFORD

I should like to say a brief word on Clause 4, and particularly with reference to subsection (4). The Committee will know that the whole concept of material interest was introduced into the Bill at the Committee stage in another place in the consideration of Clause 20. It was discussed there and its value was urged on behalf of parish councils. Subsequently, as we have now heard, the concept was used for the benefit of Churches and charities, and we do not want to go into that any more just at the moment. But in the text that we now have transposed from Clause 20 into this clause at the Report stage in another place we also have the addition of subsection (4)(b).

The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, has been very kind and has supplied us with notes on clauses so we can look there to see what it is all about; but all we find is that the subsection provides for certain other cases in which a material interest is not to be treated as outstanding, and the actual words of the clause are repeated in the text of the note. So we are not really very much further on. On this occasion I am not being particularly suspicious. All I really wish to know is what that is there for, and what kind of things are to be specified in the order. I cannot for the life of me find out, other than by asking the noble Lord.

Lord MELCHETT

This is a technical point and, as the noble Lord has said that he is not suspicious, I wonder whether he would allow me to write to him with the answer?

Lord SANDFORD

Of course, normally I would agree to that, but I would ask the noble Lord to bear in mind that we are working through a very abnormal procedure. Therefore if the answer is of any significance, or, better still, if he has it now he can give it to me and it will go into the Official Report. Then everybody, whether they are suspicious or not, will know what the answer is, if he has one.

Lord MELCHETT

If I give the noble Lord one example of the sort of thing that subsection (4)(b) would apply to it may be that that will set the noble Lord's mind at rest. I am advised that one thing that might be specified in an order would be something like the Welsh Development Agency.

Lord SANDFORD

I understand the sort of thing that is envisaged. I think perhaps if the noble Lord and his advisers were given a little longer and would like to spell that out and then put it in the Official Report, it might be helpful. I am grateful to the noble Lord.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5 [Statutory undertakers]:

5.40 p.m.

The Earl of BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 24: Page 7, line 200, leave out ("persons") and insert ("bodies").

The noble Earl said: I feel quite strongly that statutory undertakers are today almost invariably "bodies" and not just "persons". I always think that the term "persons" covers individuals, which clearly is not the case where we are dealing with the modern type of statutory undertakers. Although per haps it appears in other Statutes that a statutory undertaker may be described as a person, I think in today's understanding it would be much better if we were to use the words "bodies" as they always consist of more than one. I beg to move.

Lord MELCHETT

As the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, knows, wherever possible throughout this Bill we have adopted the wording of the Town and Country Planning Acts, both to add to the simplicity of planning legislation in general and, of course, to make life easier for every one who has to deal with this Bill once it becomes an Act. That is why that word is used in this particular subsection. I do not think the noble Earl's alteration would make very much difference because the word "persons" would, by virtue of Section 19 of the Interpretation Act 1889, include a body of persons, and, therefore, bodies.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.41 p.m.

The Earl of BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 25:

Page 7, leave out lines 31 to 33 and insert— ("(c) any housing authority, body or under taking involved in housing").

The noble Earl said: In order to save time, I put this down as a single Amendment. I felt it might perhaps be of use. First of all, as noble Lords will note, I intend to leave out paragraph (c) and should like to explain briefly why. The Bill states: In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, statutory undertakers'means— (c) any other authority, body or undertakers specified in an order made by the Secretary of State under this paragraph, …". I think this is extending the powers of the Secretary of State to far too great an extent. In other words, the Secretary of State could create any old body; he could create any sort of body, or any sort of person as a statutory undertaker. I feel that this is not in the interests of people, particularly private individuals, who may be involved under the provisions of the Bill.

The reason for my substitution is quite different. It is to make a very special plea that consideration should be given to such wonderful organisations as—if I may again refer to Scotland—the Scottish Special Housing Association. They are often invited to put up houses all over the country, very often in areas where the local authorities may be relatively poor. In January of this year I was in Orkney and Shetland where, because of the oil development, the Scottish Special Housing Association had been invited to build houses for the benefit of the influx of workers involved with that industry. Before the reform of local government, many a relatively small borough could not take on as extensive a housing programme as they would have liked, so they invited the Scottish Special Housing Association to do it for them.

I have worded this Amendment fairly broadly. I am sure that many other noble Lords have had experience and can quote excellent examples of housing authorities throughout England and Wales. Perhaps my drafting is not quite right to cover them, but I have tried to make it as broad as possible. After all, regardless of anything else, these bodies are providing people with homes, and I feel they need to be treated within the provisions of this Bill as a very special case. I beg to move.

Lord FOOT

May I partially support what the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, has just said. The words in paragraph (c) are really inappropriate, because the heading with which we are dealing here is, "Statutory undertakers". By definition, a statutory undertaker must be someone who is given some job to do or some work to carry out under a Statute. If one reads the words at the beginning of paragraph (a), one sees: persons authorised by any enactment to carry on any railway … and so on. That is what everybody has always understood by "statutory under taker". If you are going to allow the Secretary of State under paragraph (c) to appoint any body of any kind, and that body then assumes the privileges or advantages of a statutory undertaker, you are doing something extraordinary. In theory, at any rate, the Secretary of State, for example, appoints some sort of voluntary body and gives it the status of a statutory undertaker, whereas that body has never been set up by Statute, and is not authorised by Statute to carry out any functions at all. Therefore, I think this is wrong.

The other point I would make about the Amendment of the noble Earl is this. The words which the noble Earl has suggested should be substituted also seem to be defective, because they limit the bodies upon whom the Secretary of State can confer the status of statutory under taker; it is limited to bodies concerned with housing. I see no sort of sense or reason in that. There may be many other kind of works which might well be authorised by the Secretary of State under this paragraph, to carry out undertakings other than those to carry out housing. I do not think either the solution proposed by the Government or that proposed by the noble Earl is quite satisfactory.

Baroness BIRK

Of course, the noble Lord, Lord Foot, was quite right when he drew the attention of the Committee to the part of the subsection which deals with statutory undertakers. The power of the Secretary of State to confer statutory undertaker status on any other authority, body or undertaker, is an important feature in the exemptions from the Community Land Scheme, which derives from that status—broadly speaking, the ability to carry out development of operational land unaffected by the duty or the suspension of planning permission. This, of course, includes the undertakings spelt out in paragraphs (a) and (b) and will also include, as the Secretary of State has in mind, bodies like the Atomic Energy Authority.

It is also true that, in paragraph 53 of the White Paper, it is indicated that in addition to statutory undertakers some comparable bodies would be enabled to acquire and develop land needed for other statutory functions without the intervention of local authorities. But this is all within the area of statutory undertakers, or bodies carrying out statutory functions. It is very important that in the Bill this should be spelt out in a particular way, and not removed and changed in the way that the noble Earl has indicated in the first part of his Amendment, because in the way this is now written in, Parliament would have the opportunity to question the case for granting exemptions for the bodies named, and there is a statutory control.

So far as concerns the second point of the Amendment of the noble Earl, in which he wants to confer statutory under taker status on, any housing authority, body or undertaking involved in housing", this I must reject, and I do so for the following reasons. First, the term is too vague and far too wide. It could include a body involved in housing which could extend to any firm of contractors engaged in the business of house building, and for such contractors to enjoy the exemption deriving from statutory undertaker status would wreck the whole scheme and put an entirely wrong emphasis on the exemption provisions. Secondly, statutory undertaker status would be inappropriate, as the noble Lord, Lord Foot, pointed out, in relation to any body, authority or undertakers whose land would not fit in with the definition of "operational land" in subsection (2), or whose land could not sensibly be defined as operational land in an order under subsection (3).

So far as the intention of the Amendment is concerned, I have considerable sympathy with what the noble Earl is trying to get at, but, if I may suggest it, this is not the way to do it. He is intending in his Amendment to cater for the interests of the voluntary housing movement. It would have to be among other organisations, as the noble Lord, Lord Foot pointed out. The way to do this would be by conferring exemptions by an order under Clause 4(3). This would have the effect that material interests in land owned by the specified bodies were not to be treated as outstanding for the purpose of the Bill and therefore would not be subject to the duty or the suspension of planning permission. I hope that the noble Earl will be encouraged when I am able to say that an order will be made under Clause 4(3) to provide that other bodies with material interests in land shall not be treated as outstanding; the Minister is considering a number of bodies for prescription in this way, and housing associations are expected to be included. I hope the noble Earl will be able to withdraw his Amendment, and will be pleased with the reply.

Lord HYLTON

I think I should say that the Scottish Special Housing Association quoted by my noble friend is a governmental body and not a voluntary housing association, as one might expect. I agree that my noble friend's Amend ment is defective, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Foot, has pointed out, it seems that the text of the Bill as it stands is also defective. The noble Baroness told us that Clause (5)(1)(c) deals only with bodies coming within the area of statutory functions. I do not see anything in the text to make that clear. I hope that she will say that she will take away the Amendment and will come back at the next stage with her own Amendment making it clear that statutory undertaker status cannot be conferred at the whim of the Secretary of State on bodies other than those which Parliament wishes to have that status.

Lord FOOT

May I add to that and suggest that this should not be a very difficult matter. The sort of words that occur to my mind, off the cuff, are these: Any other authority, body or undertakers performing statutory duties.

Baroness YOUNG

I hope the noble Baroness will consider this point. We are all very grateful to my noble friend Lord Balfour for raising this issue, because I think it has drawn attention to an important subsection in Clause 5. I hope very much that the Government will feel able to take this back and look at the drafting of it. As one reads it carefully, it does seem to me to suffer from the defects to which my noble friend Lord Hylton has drawn attention, as has the noble Lord, Lord Foot. I do think we should have this put right. If I have correctly under stood the Government it would be possible for the Secretary of State to give the status of statutory authorities to other authorities not named in the Bill and therefore to allow those authorities to qualify for the exemptions under the Bill. This seems to be very important in relation to the debate we have just had about charities, where no such provision, so far as I can see, is to apply. I feel that this raises rather bigger issues than would at first appear. I hope the Government will consider taking this back and looking at it again.

5.55 p.m.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I am most grateful to have had some support over this Amendment, particularly from my noble friends. I would ask the Government to make quite certain that in paragraph (c) it is made perfectly clear that the Secretary of State may include only statutory undertakers who are of a statutory kind. if the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, can give me that assurance, then fair enough. I also realise that the Scottish Special Housing Association comes into a rather special field, but I took the trouble to contact them before I came South. Although I have absolutely no connection with them other than the fact that my father was their very first chairman, they are a body for which I have had a very great respect; I think they have done a marvellous job. Their legal advisers were not altogether happy with the provisions here. Again, we have the old complication—I sympathise with the noble Baroness about this, and I will not press it any further—of trying to provide for Scots law and English law in the same Bill. I will have more to say about that later on. I hope that the noble Baroness will see that suitable Amendments are put in, and I am very grateful to her for her assurance that something to this effect will go into Clause 4(3). I am afraid that for once it is stretching my drafting abilities to the absolute limit, and if I could leave it in her hands I would prefer to do that.

Baroness BIRK

I should make it clear that I said it would be done by order under Clause 4(3). 1 should not like to mislead the noble Earl by giving the impression that the words he is using would find their way into the Statute. That would be quite wrong. His intention is to deal with the housing associations, and we expect them to be included under the regulations.

I think there is still some misunderstanding about the statutory under takers. It is left in this way because, while it is unlikely that there would be more than a few existing bodies authorities or undertakers not already covered by this paragraph, it is felt that the Secretary of State must have power to add to the list. This is what noble Lords are often asking for; there must be flexibility in these matters. But it is not just a case of the Secretary of State thinking of a body and saying "We will put this one in"; it is subject to the Negative Resolution procedure, and therefore Parliament will have an opportunity to question the case for granting exemptions for the bodies named. I should have thought this was a complete safeguard. I think I did not explain that carefully enough when I spoke earlier. Once that is accepted and understood, there is really no need to tamper with this particular subsection, which both covers the existing undertakings and makes it possible, if necessary, to add to the list. But certainly it is not left to the initiative of the Secretary of State alone; it is subject to Parliamentary procedure.

Lord FOOT

May I say in reply to the noble Baroness that during the course of these debates she has said more than once that if you have the Negative Resolution, or indeed the Affirmative Resolution procedure in the background you have that safeguard against the Secretary of State or anybody else doing any thing stupid. I do not think that is a very satisfactory argument. It is no argument, to my mind, to say that it does not matter if you put something silly in the Statute, thereby enabling the Secretary of State to do something silly if he wants to, because Parliament can always exercise the Negative Resolution procedure and catch him up before the order becomes effective. That is not a very good argument at all. That is an argument for saying you can put anything you like, however foolish, into the statute because you have always got the safe guard that Parliament can stop the Secretary of State from acting on it. I think you want to get the words right in the Statute. I am still waiting to hear from the noble Baroness what is the objection to putting in words to this effect—I do not put any emphasis on the exact words; but why it should not read like this: any other authority, body or undertakers, performing statutory duties and specified in an order made by the Secretary of State under this paragraph. If you do that, it seems to me that it meets all the difficulties that have been raised.

Baroness BIRK

I can certainly give an assurance that the body under Clause 5 will be of a statutory undertaker kind. The difficulty in the Statute is to go any further than describing what statutory undertakers are. If the noble Lord would feel happier about it, I shall certainly take it back and let the Parliamentary drafts men have another look at it, but I cannot promise anything about it. We have noted what he has said, and I shall take it back. There is a serious drafting difficulty here, and I think that they will find holes even in what he himself said.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (Baroness Wootton of Abinger)

Amendment No. 26. I have to call the Committee's attention to the fact that if Amendment No. 26 is agreed to, I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 26A.

6.1 p.m.

The Earl of BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 26:

Page 7, line 35, leave out subsection (2) and insert— ("(2) In this Act "operational land" shall have the same meaning as in sections 222 and 223 of the Act of 1971 or sections 211 and 212 of the Scottish Act of 1972.").

The noble Earl said: Subsection (2) repeats in exactly the same words Section 222 and Section 211 of the English and Scottish Town and Country Planning Acts of 1971 and 1972 respectively. I feel that in this definition of "operational land" the Government have not gone far enough. In the Town and Country Planning Acts the following Sections, Section 223 of the English Act and Section 212 of the Scottish Act, then go on to deal with, cases in which land is to be treated as not being operational land. I feel that the Government have perhaps extended the definition of "operational land" in subsection (2) much wider than originally appeared in the 1971 Act, and I ask them to look again at either that Act or the 1972 Act and see whether the definition of "operational land" now has the same meaning, and has not been extended considerably further, as appears to have been done in the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord MELCHETT

Noble Lords who have been present throughout the Committee stage will know that it will be a change for me to justify an alteration of wording from the previous planning Acts, but in this case there are very good reasons for adopting a slightly different form of wording. The noble Earl said that this definition is included for the purposes of planning control, but if it were applied to this Bill it would fail to recognise that statutory undertakers may need to acquire land some years in advance, when the precise form of the development to be carried out is not known. Statutory undertakers need to ensure that land is available at the right time to meet their future commitments and responsibilities for providing the services which the community needs and expects from them.

If land acquired by statutory under takers satisfies the definition in subsection (2) as it stands, it is appropriate that future ability to carry out development (subject, of course, to the grant of planning permission at the appropriate time) should not be affected by the machinery of the land scheme. But it is important to bear in mind that statutory under takers' operational land, whether acquired before or after the dates mentioned, is not outside the authority's power of acquisition under the scheme. I hope that that explains why we have adopted that different definition at this stage in the Bill, and that the noble Earl will accept it.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I am afraid that I am a little alarmed at this. I am prepared to accept the Bill as it stands, subject to one important point, and I ask for support from all sections of your Lordships House in this respect. I should like to be certain that, under the provisions of this Bill, where a statutory undertaker acquires land well in advance, the existing use of that land may be borne in mind, particularly in the case of agriculture and forestry.

May I give a classic example of this? In order to improve the water supply for the towns of Dunbar, North Berwick and East Linton in East Lothian, the then North Berwick Water Board, and what later became the Lothian Water Board, acquired land on the estate from my father, in order to build a reservoir. They acquired this land in 1934 and started work on the reservoir last year, 1974. This is by no means unusual. The extension of Edinburgh Airport at Turnhouse was planned almost at the end of the war; they are now about halfway through building it. Therefore. I make a special plea—although, perhaps, an industrial or housing development should not be put on such land—that, even if it is sold to the statutory undertaker, the farmer or market gardener can continue to use that land until it is needed. Otherwise, it becomes a ghastly patch of weeds and rubbish, everything which people do not want is dumped on it; you get it piled up with old cars, broken bottles, chipped razor blades, and anything else you can think of. This is why I ask that this is borne in mind, in view of the alteration of the definition. May I have a reply on that point?

Lord HYLTON

Would not the Crichel Down principle apply in the kind of case quoted by my noble friend?

Lord MELCHETT

May I be allowed not to be drawn into a legal argument on the Crichel Down procedure? I do not know whether or not it would apply. It is possible that it would, as I see the noble Lord opposite nodding.

Lord SANDFORD

I was nodding to my neighbour.

Lord MELCHETT

Of course, I quite accept what the noble Earl says. I think that the point raised is outside the scope of this Amendment, because the definition we are dealing with is only for the purposes of the Bill, and does not affect in any way whether planning permission is required, and the factors which determine whether or not planning permission should be granted. The fact that special Parliamentary procedures have been removed should help in this kind of case.

As I understand it, nothing in the Bill affects farmers being able to use this kind of land. I agree with him that it is important that anyone who buys farming land and does not have an immediate use for it should ensure that the farming operations continue as efficiently as possible. I am certain that this will be borne in mind by statutory undertakers, and we shall come to an Amendment at a later stage dealing with this point so far as the Land Authority for Wales is concerned.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I am grateful for that assurance. I beg leave to with draw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.10 p.m.

Lord MELCHETT

Amendment No. 27 corrects a drafting error and has absolutely no other significance. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 8, line 23, leave out second ("the") and insert ("planning").—(Lord Melchett.)

Lord FOOT

May I draw the noble Lord's attention to what I think is another defect, grammatically or perhaps I should say idiomatically, in this subsection? The subsection says: if any question so arises. I will not delay the Committee by reading the remainder of the subsection, but I think that the insertion of the word "so" is inappropriate and that it should read "if any question arises." Will the noble Lord examine this when he comes to rewrite this provision?

Lord MELCHETT

I will, but at a first look at it, it makes sense to me; in the first part of the subsection the question arises as to which Minister is the appropriate Minister and it then goes on to say "if something so arises," referring back, I would have thought, to the first part of the subsection.

Lord FOOT

Two separate questions arise here. One is contained in the first part of the subsection: If in relation to anything required or authorised to be done under this Act, any question arises as to which Minister is the appropriate Minister in relation to any statutory undertakers, that question shall be determined by the Treasury … and it goes on: … and if any question so arises … That points back to the earlier question, as if one is talking about that question again when one is talking about another question, and therefore it should read: … and if any question … arises whether any land is operational land of statutory undertakers, or would be such land …"— which is a different question—then that is something to be decided by the Minister, which indicates that the word "so" is inappropriate.

Lord MELCHETT

I think I was right, but maybe I directed the noble Lord's attention slightly to the wrong bit of the subsection. I understand that the word "so" refers back to the words: … in relation to anything required or authorised to be done under this Act …

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 5, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord SANDFORD

I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, for raising this question on the clause stand part without having given him prior notice. I had framed an Amendment but it does not seem to have got tabled, which I expect is my fault. In any event, it may now be better to have a general discussion and I can probably frame a better Amendment, if I still want to do so, in the light of the reply the noble Lord gives me. Let me say at the outset that this is not an attack on statutory undertakers. They, and all the people listed in the clause, provide essential services and we depend on them for our life to go on, but what I am saying stems from the fact that we can all see—and the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, just quoted some examples—that statutory undertakers are not good husbandsmen of land and particularly are they not good husbandsmen of land which they have acquired but are not using, and they are particularly villains of the piece when it comes to land which they have had and have ceased to use.

This sort of land—land which has belonged to statutory undertakers and operations on which have ceased—represents some of the worst stumbling blocks when it comes to hampering and hindering positive planning and messing up the environment. Noble Lords who have to travel by train have only to look out of the window when approaching and leaving our cities to see what flagrant offences against positive planning and quality of the environment are committed all over the place by British Rail. But they are not the only ones; disused gas works, goods yards, sewage works, and so on, litter the place and we simply do not have enough land in this island for this wasteful use to go on.

There are examples all over of disused, derelict, ill-managed land in the hands of statutory undertakers. There are two reasons for this. One is the natural one—that having got something, even when one ceases to use it one puts it away in a cupboard thinking it may come in handy, and the statutory undertakers do this on an enormous scale. Sometimes they are justified in retaining land because they really have a future and alternative use for it, but for the great majority it has been lying idle for so long that one is forced to the conclusion that they are keeping it only because it might come in handy, if it were not that there are also signs that there is another reason; namely, that by hanging on to it they hope eventually to realise a very high value in the open market by selling off the land for some entirely different use from that for which it was originally obtained and acquired by them.

I say that by way of prelude. What I am saying is common knowledge and broadly understood, but surely we are losing an opportunity here to rectify this situation. This is a Land Bill and here we have innumerable examples all over the country of land which is being abominably wasted, which is frustrating positive planning and messing up the environment, yet we leave things more or less as they have been all along, with the only action in the Bill being the abandonment of the special Parliamentary procedure. That will certainly help. The prospects of having to take a case through the special Parliamentary procedure has daunted many local authorities in the past and the absence of it will help, but in my view the Government have not gone anything like as far as it would have been possible to go. All I am asking at this stage is this: could not we distinguish rather more carefully between three types of land help by statutory undertakers?

There is the first category of land about which there is no argument or question; namely, land held by them and in use for their operations. Nobody wants to take that away from them. They are all doing a useful job and we want them to have the land they need for their gas works, Post Offices, airports, and so on. The second category is land held by statutory undertakers in connection with current or future operations. Apart from the strictures we had from the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, about land acquired 40 years in advance of need and mismanaged while it is being held. I am not really talking about that category of land. If it can be better managed so much the better, but I see that statutory undertakers need to hold land in advance, and they must be taught and helped to manage it better.

But there is a third category, which is not in my view sufficiently accurately defined, but which could be more accurately defined; that is, land which has been held by statutory undertakers for operations which have now definitely ceased. I refer to land which a statutory undertaker has had in order to operate, say, a goods yard and the goods yard has closed, or a railway station which has closed or a gasworks which has been pulled down. In that case, surely the land in question does not deserve the same protection as in the previous two categories. Should not that latter category of land revert to the local authorities at current use value of net of development land tax, unless the statutory undertaker can establish by a special procedure or by public inquiry that he has a real claim to it for some future purpose?

To sum up, I ask the Government why they are content to abandon the special Parliamentary procedure and why they cannot go further along the broad lines I have indicated? I do not want to do more at the moment than listen to the noble Lord's reply, and I hope that he will say that he will consider what I have said and put down an Amendment of his own to meet the point, or that he will show that I have failed to find in the Bill that there is more change than the simple abandonment of the special Parliamentary procedure.

Viscount RIDLEY

I should like to support my noble friend in what he has just been saying. I did not know that he intended to raise this subject on the Question, That the Clause stand part, but I entirely support everything he said about the misuse of land by certain statutory undertakers. When my noble friend mentioned British Rail, I wondered whether he would enjoy the experience of looking out of the station at Hartlepool on a wet Sunday morning, because there is a prime example of what he was talking about. More seriously, it should be added that there is a great deal of land in my part of the world and in other coalmining areas which was bought by the National Coal Board or, indeed, was very often bought before the existence of the National Coal Board and came into the latter's owner ship on nationalisation. Such land was very often purchased in order to avoid paying compensation for surface damage. Not all that land is damaged and much of it is potentially usable for building and for industrial use. Though I did not have time to consider exactly what he was suggesting, I feel that what my noble friend Lord Sandford has said is extremely important, because there may be very large acreages in some areas which will receive special treatment and this seems slightly contrary to the attitude of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor in relation to the Churches and charities. I should have thought that the National Coal Board ought to come rather lower down the scale of exemptions than the Churches and charities, but perhaps that view is not shared by the Government.

Lord HYLTON

I am glad that my noble friends have raised this question of the serious problem of redundant operational land held by statutory under takers. I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, is no longer here, but I hope that our views will be made very clear to the Department of the Environment. I should like to mention the case of London, where it is well known that many hundreds of acres are held, for example, by the Port of London Authority, the Gas Boards and British Rail, to mention only a few of the statutory undertakers. This land holds the key to the solution of London's housing problems. It has been idle for far too long. The delays are intolerable and I sincerely hope that the present debate will lead to some progress on that front.

Lord MELCHETT

I accept that this is a subject about which there are very strong feelings and I also accept that, so far as I understood him, the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has excluded from the debate land held for operational purposes and also that he has accepted the need for the statutory undertakers to assemble land for future use. I have already said that I entirely agree with the noble Lord that it is important that that land should be used constructively until the undertakers come to use it for their own purposes. I am sure that every body accepts that.

The noble Lord referred to one major improvement which the Bill will make. That is that local authorities will in future be able to acquire land more easily because of the removal of the protection of the special Parliamentary procedure if they make a compulsory purchase order. However, the noble Lord passed over this fairly quickly, whereas it has, as I understand it, been a fairly major stumbling block to local authorities when they have looked at CPOs for this type of land. I believe that the removal of the special Parliamentary procedure could be welcomed by all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate on this clause.

The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, raised the possibility of the land reverting to local authorities. I feel that it comes strangely from noble Lords opposite to suggest that there should be a provision which will add to the burdens on local authorities when the Bill becomes an Act. I suggest that this would be so because I do not imagine that the statutory under takers will come forward voluntarily to the local authorities to say that land is no longer in operational use and should now revert to the local authorities. I imagine that it would he for the local authorities to seek it out. The local authorities are already in the position that they may seek out the land and buy it if they want to and, as I have said, that procedure will now he made easier than it was in the past.

I should like to make one other general comment. Of course there are very bad examples of land held by statutory under takers. I would not deny that, but there are also some very good examples. I have in mind particularly the National Coal Board's work at Stoke-on-Trent, where statutory undertakers have been in the forefront of land reclamation and of providing land for the general public. I am sure that it was an entirely inadvertent slip that it was not mentioned by any of the noble Lords who have spoken that there is a great deal of land in the hands of private industrial corporations which is in an appalling condition and about which very little is done. Very often it has been held on to for many years, so I do not see that the problem is entirely one-sided. However, I feel that the removal of this procedure will be of considerable benefit to local authorities in dealing with this problem.

The Earl of KINNOULL

Could the noble Lord say what information his Department has as regards the land banks of the statutory undertakers and. if the Department has no precise information, would it not be a good idea, in view of the control of land in the Bill, that the statutory authorities should have to produce that information, say, every three years and make it available to the public if necessary?

Lord MELCHETT

I am afraid that I do not know the answer to that question without notice.

The Earl of KINNOULL

Would the noble Lord be so kind as to write to me on that point?

Lord SANDFORD

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, for what he has said. I believe that we shall have to try an Amendment on this point. I should like to acknowledge the good work done by the National Coal Board at Stoke-on-Trent, but of course that was a special effort by the NCB on its working colliery sites and good landscaping on land that has passed through opencast mining, where the work is part of the fulfilment of conditions upon which planning permission is granted. They are two quite different cases.

The Earl of KINNOULL

I am sorry that I perhaps did not speak clearly enough for the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, to hear me. Would the noble Lord write to me on the point I have just raised?

Lord MELCHETT

I will.

Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 6 [Other interpretation]:

6.28 p.m.

Lord SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 27A: Page 8, line 31, after ("1970") insert ("and, without prejudice to the preceding provision, includes any ecclesiastical corporation, that is to say, any corporation in the Church of England whether sole or aggregate which is established for spiritual purposes").

The noble Lord said: I shall speak to the Amendment on behalf of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. The Amendment is designed to remove any doubt as to whether the definition of "charity" in the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1970 includes cathedral chapters and corporation sole in the Church of England—for example, the incumbent, so far as his glebe land is concerned. The Inland Revenue accepts that it does, but this view may not be shared by the many local authorities and others who will be concerned with the Community Land Bill. I beg to move.

The LORD CHANCELLOR

The Amendment is unnecessary, as the definition in the Bill already extends to a charitable corporation whether sole or aggregate. "Charity" is defined in the Bill as having the same meaning as in section 360 of the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1970. Section 360(3) of the Act reads: In this section, 'charity' means any body of persons or trust established for charitable purposes only. Because the definition in our Bill gives "charity" the same meaning as in Section 360, the words "in this section" do not prevent the definition from being incorporated into the Bill. To find out what "body of persons" means in Section 360, it is necessary to look at Section 526(5) of the 1970 Act, which reads as follows: 'body of persons' means any body politic, corporate or collegiate …". It has been argued by the Churches' representatives that this may not include a Church of England incumbent who is, as a legal entity, a corporation sole. But the expression "body corporate" means merely a corporation and corporations are of two types: they are either corporations sole or corporations aggregate. Corporations aggregate are corporations consisting of more than one member—that seems to be a glimpse of the obvious!

However, it may be thought that the words "body politic" and "body collegiate" used in the same context as "body corporate" imply that only a "body corporate" consisting of more than one member is meant, but that would be quite wrong. This is not the case as "body politic" and "body collegiate" are expressions which need not necessarily have a plural meaning. I call in aid the definition in Halsbury's Laws of England (Volume 9, paragraph 1206) of a corporation sole, which reads as follows: A corporation sole is a body politic having perpetual succession constituted in a single person". It is clear from this—so my note says—that the words "body politic, corporate or collegiate" are apt to include a corporation sole, and suitable to include a corporation sole. In view of this, the noble Lords opposite may wish to with draw their Amendment.

That exordium brings to my mind the totally irrelevant occasion when a certain counsel thought that he would make a big impression before a judge who was a High Churchman, when he introduced his submission by saying, "My Lord, in this case I appear for the plaintiffs, a God-fearing limited liability company."

Lord SANDFORD

I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord. The Churches wanted something with which to deal with the local authorities, and they have now certainly got it! I think that the local authorities will already be trembling. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.32 p.m.

The Earl of BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 28:

Page 9, leave out lines 8 and 9 and insert: ("(2) In any case where this Act gives the Secretary of State power to give directions or consent, that direction or consent may be—").

The noble Earl said: I should like very briefly to explain the purpose of this Amendment. As the Bill stands it refers to: Any direction or consent given by the Secretary of State under this Act may be … either general or…unconditional … I should like to turn that round and say that: In any case where this Act gives the Secretary of State power to give directions or consent, that direction or consent may be … either general or … unconditional … That would not change the context to any great extent, but it would prevent the Secretary of State from having quite such wide powers as appear under the Bill as drafted. I beg to move.

Lord MELCHETT

The noble Earl may know that similar Amendments were moved in another place, and at that time concern was expressed that the wording might give the Secretary of State powers to give directions or consents other than those provided in the Bill. In the intervening period we have looked closely at the wording and have taken advice, and I can assure the noble Earl that the Amendments are not necessary. Was the noble Earl taking Amendment No. 29 with this Amendment?

The Earl of BALFOUR

I should be very happy to deal with Amendment No. 29 at the same time, and I should like to say a few words about it. I have put forward Amendment No. 29 because I feel that directions or consent should be put with the rules and orders under Clause 52—and I am afraid that that is beyond my drafting ability. But I then felt that the whole of our interpretation could go under the one clause, Clause 4. The intention was to make it a little easier for people to understand the Bill. But I did not know how to move some thing backwards, although I knew how to move it forward—if I may put it that way.

Lord MELCHETT

We are at one with the noble Earl in wanting to make sure that everybody understands the implications of this wonderful Bill. The Amendment attempts to transpose the subsection and place it in Clause 52, as the noble Earl said, where there is a somewhat similar provision dealing with regulations and orders. However, I have to tell the noble Earl that we are advised that the transposition is not advisable, because, as he will see, the side note at Clause 52 makes clear that that clause is dealing entirely with regulations and orders made under the Bill, and they are distinct from directions.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I see that there is a difference, and so I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [The appointed days, etc.]:

Lord SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 31:

Page 9, line 23, at end insert— ("(1A) The first appointed day shall not be earlier than the date on which the regulations prescribed in accordance with section 3 above have been approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 31, and I invite the Committee to look back over the debates we had last night on the Amendments introduced into the Bill only last week at Clause 3, where we now see that relevant development is limited by, on the one hand, the class to be specified in Schedule 1—and there is still much debate and discussion about that—and, on the other hand, by a class to be defined under regulations under Clause 3(1)(c). Those regulations have to be laid in draft for the approval of each House of Parliament. In so far as that key item—namely, relevant development—is not known with accuracy until those regulations prescribed in Clause 3(3) have been approved by the Houses of Parliament, there is bound to be a considerable element of doubt in the minds of all those who have to operate this legislation. That will be the situation until that approval has been given.

Therefore, in our view, it is most important that the First Appointed Day should not be earlier than the date on which those regulations as prescribed in Clause 3(3) have been approved by a Resolution of each House of Parliament. That is the sole purpose of this Amendment. I beg to move.

Viscount RIDLEY

I wish to support the Amendment from the point of view of the local authorities which will have to operate this Bill when it becomes an Act. I hope that the Committee will give this matter serious consideration.

Baroness BIRK

The excepted development regulations are obviously an essential feature of the scheme, as they will define the categories of development which will be permanently outside the duties under Clauses 17 and 18. There fore it will be necessary for such regulations to be enforced by the First Appointed Day, and to this extent the Government accept the spirit of the Amendment. Indeed, the intention is to lay these regulations before Parliament well in advance of the First Appointed Day, so as to enable all those concerned to familiarise themselves with the provisions in good time.

The issue here is essentially a practical one. The scheme clearly cannot get under way until the excepted development regulations are in force, as there will be nothing for the Clause 17 duties and the procedures laid down in Clauses 19 to 21 to bite on. I can most certainly give a firm undertaking that the Secretary of State will not seek to bring in the first appointed day until the excepted development regulations have been laid. We are not convinced that it is necessary to put this in the Bill, but if noble Lords feel they would like me to take it back to consider it, I will undertake to do that without commitment. I should add that the Amendment as it is drafted is technically defective, so I could not accept it in any case.

Lord SANDFORD

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the acceptance of the spirit of the Amendment. I think it will be necessary to have an Amendment there, but in view of her assurance that she will take a look at it to see whether she can put right whatever defects it has, of course we will leave it for the time being. I am grateful that she agrees with us that it is essential that the first appointed day is deferred until the regulations have been approved. I do not think I can agree with her that we can just leave it there, but I will certainly accept what she says and leave it for the time being. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY)

Amendment No. 32 has been marshalled incorrectly, and will be called later, after Amendment No. 35.

On Question, Whether Clause 7 shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness YOUNG

Clause 7 is a most important clause, and before we leave it I wonder whether I can press the Government to give any indication as to when they expect the first appointed day to be. It has come to my notice that a number of organisations are certainly under the impression that it is to be5th April, and this kind of information really should not be bandied about. It is obviously far too important for that. So my first question is whether we can know now when the first appointed day is to be.

My next question concerns the second appointed day. This, of course, is constantly referred to in this Bill. For example the important duties in Clauses 17 and 18 come in on the second appointed day. I wonder whether we can press the Government to say what their intentions are about that, or whether this is a date so far into the future that they have no idea when it is going to come into being. Could they say whether we are talking about five years or 10 years, or what it is that they have in mind? We have talked a great deal about the flexibility of having a great deal in regulations, and yet this kind of uncertainty about the first appointed day, even at this late stage, is very unsettling for a lot of people—house-builders, industrialists and a great many other people who are to be affected by the Bill. As a long-term matter, the date of the second appointed day is of equal importance.

I have no doubt that the date of the second appointed day will depend very much on how rapidly the Government are able to implement those parts of the Bill which come into effect on the first appointed day, and this in turn will depend very much on the economic state of the country and how much money can be expended on all the officials necessary to make the Bill work. Nevertheless, I think that we ought to have some more information about this, and this seems to be an appropriate time to ask for it. I hope the Government will be able to give it to us.

The Earl of BALFOUR

May I add just a few words? I did not move my Amendment, because I felt it would be of far greater advantage to have the discussion which we had on Amendment No. 31, but I should like to say this. Particularly in these days of trying to be as economical as we can, I should not like the date to be before 1st April 1976, the reason being that in the case of England, in particular, that is the end of the local authority financial year. During my years of experience as a councillor, I have often found that we have had to put off this or that because we had not budgeted for it in that year's expenditure. With overdraft rates and borrowing rates being so high, it would be a mistake for local authorities to undertake something for which they have not budgeted in their year's term of working. That is the reason why I should strongly like to suggest that it should not be before 1st April 1976.

Baroness BIRK

So far as the first appointed day is concerned, all I can say is that there has not been a specific date announced but, as asked for in Amendment No. 30, it will not be before 1st April 1976. The noble Earl withdrew his Amendment, but I can now deal with it and tell him that I was going to accept it in principle, anyhow, although I would have had to say that its drafting was defective. So far as the second appointed day is concerned, as the noble Baroness has said this depends on the progress of the scheme, which will be uneven. The full duty can be brought in even before the second appointed day; and when we get to the full duty and the whole scheme is completely operating we shall then have reached the point when each authority has come fully into the complete scheme.

I think it would be quite wrong, and it would not be helpful to the working of the scheme, to try to put any precise or arbitrary date on this, because, as the noble Baroness herself said, there are outside economic factors and, as she must know very well herself, different authorities work at different speeds. Yester day, when the question of staffing arose, my noble friend Lady Stedman gave us examples of progress in her local authority area; and we also heard about staffing on Second Reading. This must vary considerably all over the country. However, during the Second Reading debate in another place, the Minister said that ample notice would be given. There is certainly no question of taking authorities or anybody else by surprise. So as far as the second appointed day is concerned, there will be ample time, full notice, and the opportunity for local authorities to find their position and set their pace in their own way. I do not imagine that that answer satisfies the noble Baroness, but I cannot produce dates out of the air when not only is it not reason able to fix on one, but the whole scheme is very carefully and not arbitrarily phased, so that it moves in different ways, varying from authority to authority.

The Earl of BALFOUR

Before the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, sits down, could she say just a word or two about "the relevant date" as well? That is something which we should also like to know about.

Baroness YOUNG

I understand the noble Baroness's difficulty about the second appointed day, which I now realise is a very long way off, but I feel we ought to have some further information about the first appointed day. Not only are there the very real changes which come in on the first appointed day, but we have not begun to discuss disposal notification areas which presumably come in on the first appointed day, and the suspension of planning permissions in some cases; and the Government do not know when this is to be. I find this all very strange, in view of the number of advertisements which have appeared in public newspapers advertising for staff to enable the Bill to work; that we can advertise for staff and yet not know, even at this late stage in the Parliamentary process, when the first appointed day is to be. I feel that before the Bill finishes its progress through this House we ought to have a date, so that some of the uncertainties can be settled.

Baroness BIRK

I can say that it will not be before 1st April 1976, and that if we have a date before the end of the proceedings in this House we shall certainly announce it. We have now established that it will be in the Spring and not before 1st April, and this seems to make it relevant for the authorities and the Land Authority in Wales to advertise for staff. We are getting very near to the end of 1975 and I can assure the Committee that it will be the Spring of 1976. Therefore, I thought it would be timely to advertise for staff. So far as the relevant dates are concerned, those are different in various areas. This is the phasing in of the full duty and, again, it is impossible to give dates for these will vary.

Chose 7 agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Commencement dates, etc.]:

6.51 p.m.

The Earl of BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 33: Page 52, line 2, after ("showing") insert ("in such a way as enables members of the public to inform themselves as to")

The noble Earl said: This Amendment is taken from the Town and Country Planning Act to which reference has been so often made. I hope it will be accepted, because it is important that the general public should be able to understand the directions and orders of the Secretary of State. The words appear in Section 21(7) of the Town and Country Planning Act. I beg to move.

Lord MELCHETT

I wonder whether it may be convenient to take together the next three Amendments to this Schedule. They all cover similar points.

Lord SANDFORD

I think that Amendment No. 34 speaks for itself, and I shall move it or withdraw depending upon what the noble Lord says. I should he happy for him to consider it in his reply to this Amendment.

Lord MELCHETT

It would save time to reply to this series of Amendments as they cover a similar point. Then the noble Lord can decide what to do with Amendment No. 34, which is the one which I should like to start with. The requirement to keep registers in London, Edinburgh and Cardiff is conventional drafting in provisions of this nature. It is the same as in Sections 21(7) and (8) of the 1971 Planning Act dealing with the commencement orders bringing into operation the structure for a local plan system. In practice, the central register would be supplemented by regional registers kept in the regional offices of the Department to which members of the public will have access. Local authorities would also be asked to keep a list of all such orders which concern them. Here, in particular, I am addressing myself to Amendment No. 35. The local authorities will, in any case, have copies of their orders and will be able to give advice to anyone who asks for it.

The purpose of the central register pro vision is to provide a central reference point which will give an overall view of the progress of the scheme over the country. This may be useful to, for example, large firms engaged in development on a national scale. But even for them the register will merely act as an index. What developers or their professional advisers will need to see all the actual orders. These will be published as Statutory Instruments so that people will be able to buy copies of those they need to see, or to inspect them at the offices of their local authority.

It would serve no useful purpose, in our view, to make statutory provision for the keeping of regional summaries. In the light of what I have said, the noble Earl's Amendment No. 33 would seem to add nothing useful to the existing drafting, as paragraph 1 of Part II of Schedule 2 already specifies sufficient information to enable the public to identify the areas and types of development in question.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Lord SANDFORD

Perhaps I may comment on that reply. I am grateful to hear that the noble Lord's right honourable friend has every intention of going beyond the normal conventions of providing registers in London, Edinburgh and Cardiff, as already specified in the Bill. But I wonder whether it is sensible to specify one thing in the Bill and to mention three places which we can identify as the national capitals, when we all know, from what was said, that something rather different and beyond that will be done. My Amendment, if the noble Lord will accept it—and he has not said whether or not he will—would be nearer to the realities of what is happening.

I make the further point that although it is an advance to provide registers where there happen to be regional offices of the Department, I wonder whether this is the best that can be done. In practice, all those who are concerned with the management and acquisition of land need to know what is going on, for it will get quite complicated between the first and second appointed days with different orders in force for all the various authorities. The provision of registers in the counties will meet the case fairly well, so far as that is concerned. There is nothing in the Bill to assure anybody that they arc to be provided there, although we have it now on record.

What is required in practice, in addition to having the regional registers now specified in the Bill, are regional registers in those parts of the country where the Bill will bite hardest; namely, in the metropolitan counties and the equivalent in Scotland. That is what my Amendment seeks to provide. To what is already there, it adds Glasgow—which I am sure the noble Lord will agree is the most densely populated and highly developed part of Scotland. Edinburgh should be there as a capital city; but for the purposes of the practical operation of the Bill it is more important to have one in Glasgow.

The noble Lord will notice that among the other cities mentioned there is at least one. Sheffield, where, to the best of my belief, there is no regional office of the Department of the Environment. It happens to be at Leeds. I should have thought that the need to have ready access to this kind of register is just as great in the metropolitan districts of South Yorkshire as in the metropolitan districts of West Yorkshire. What might be interpreted as favouritism towards Leeds rather than Sheffield would, I think, be a source of friction between two proud cities. Therefore, I commend my Amendment to the noble Lord and ask whether he would agree that it is more sensible that paragraph 2 of this Schedule should say what is to happen than to describe the existing convention.

Lord MELCHETT

I should apoligise for not mentioning to the noble Lord that I cannot accept his Amendment. I had some technical difficulty with it, particularly in deciding exactly which offices he was referring to—whether the other offices were other regional offices or other offices of a different kind from a regional office. I had visions of offices being specially set up in these places merely to keep the register in them which seemed not what the noble Lord was envisaging.

I did not make it clear whether I was dealing with Amendment No. 33A, but it may have been clear from what I said that I was not. The noble Lord may like to hear what happens on that Amendment before deciding what to do with his Amendment. It seems to me that there will be a need for central registers for developers who want to know what is happening, and there may be a need for more specific local information. I am not entirely sure whether there is a justification for a regional tier in between these two, apart from the one I have outlined and, as the noble Lord said, have put on the record, which will be provided.

The Earl of BALFOUR

Regarding Amendment No. 33A, I realise that under English law you have the local land charges register. May I make the appeal that we have something similar to that recorded in the register of sasines in Scotland?

Lord SANDFORD

I do not think the noble Lord has helped us much by suggesting that we discuss these three Amendments together. If we deal with No. 33 now, I will speak on Amendment No. 34 later.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 33.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord LOVELL-DAVIS

It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I move that the House do now resume. Perhaps it may be helpful if I say that the Committee on the Bill will resume at a quarter to eight.

Moved accordingly, and. on Question. Motion agreed to.

House resumed.