HL Deb 22 October 1975 vol 364 cc1511-97

House again in Committee.

Schedule 2 [Commencement dates, etc.]:

Baroness YOUNG moved Amendment No. 33A:

Page 52, line 6, at end insert— ("(2) Orders shall not be effective until they are so registered, in the relevant register of local land charges.").

The noble Baroness said: This is a slightly different point from the one we were discussing just before the break. The purpose of this Amendment is to ensure that there is adequate advance publicity of the intentions of local authorities in respect of land. The Amendment would prevent local authorities from thwarting the present owners' intention to develop by declaring land owned by landowners to be development land and thus triggering off the procedures leading to acquisition. It could therefore prevent the arbitrary exercise of power, but at the same time it would not in any way conflict with the purposes of the Bill. As I understand it, it is not the intention under this Bill that local authorities should acquire land which is being developed expeditiously. In this sense this Amendment is different in purpose from either Amendment No. 33 or Amendment No. 34. I beg to move.


May I speak briefly in support of my noble friend Lady Young who has moved this Amendment. One matter which I consider is of importance is this. The intention of local authorities regarding land is, as she has stressed, of the utmost importance to those people in the building industry, and if the Government would give sympathetic consideration to the points she has raised they would be extremely grateful.


Before replying to the noble Baroness's Amendment, I hope I shall be in order, as this Amendment affects Schedule 2 on much the same point as the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, raised on his Amendment, to say two things to him. First, having had dinner and generally being in a much better mood than beforehand, I would say that if he saw fit to bring forward his Amendment No. 33 at the next stage we would certainly be disposed to accept it, after having had a chance of looking at it and considering what he has said about it. The second thing I would say to the noble Earl concerns a point about Sasines. I have to tell him that it is not possible to provide for registration of these notices in the Register of Sasines, since this register is concerned with registration of documents which create either proprietorial or possessory rights. The notices in question do not create such rights in the authority. However, by ensuring that in Scotland notices are registered in the planning register they become freely avail able for inspection by the public, and of course search of the planning registers is a normal part of the customary legal searches prior to a disposition. I hope that with those two remarks directed to the noble Earl he will be satisfied.

To turn to Amendment No. 33A, a relevant date order under Clause 18 brings in the duty for the authorities concerned in the area designated by the order to arrange between them for the supply of all land for such relevant development as is designated in the order. It also brings into operation in that area the provisions of Clause 21, under which all planning permissions for such designated relevant development granted on or after the relevant date are suspended until the land is in or has passed through public ownership. Such orders will not be brought in out of the blue without adequate notice. In practice orders will not and cannot be brought in until the ability of a local authority to intervene in the land market is such as to enable it effectively to carry out the duty under Clause 18. Thus, for example, the in creasing level of local authority activity in an area will in effect already give landowners some notice of the likely introduction of relevant date orders.

Before I emphasise that point, may I say that the orders bring in the duty on the local authorities to acquire whatever development land is designated in the order. This does not stop local authorities from either acquiring such land before the order is brought in or indeed acquiring land beyond the order after it is brought in; it merely brings in the duty that all such land will go into public ownership. So in a sense this matter is very important but, in another sense, just because an order is not in operation for a particular size of development that does not provide any guarantee that the authority will not be interested in purchasing land for development of that kind. It will of course depend on the planning considerations of the authority, and that will in the normal way be discernible from the local authority's development plan or other planning documents which will be available for public inspection in the usual way. I was going to say that this will also be clear from the rolling programmes of land acquisition and disposal which authorities will be required to prepare for investment purposes and which will certainly be open to public inspection. These will show the scale on which an authority expects to intervene in the land market in the coming five years.

The Amendment of the noble Baroness specifically refers to the register of local land charges. The local land charges register was established to provide a register of financial burdens affecting pieces of land so that purchasers of the land would know what liabilities they were incurring by their purchase. It has subsequently been extended to cover other restrictions on the use of land where it is necessary that a future purchaser of a piece of land shall know whether there are any special restrictions relating to it. This is especially so where the prohibition or restriction on the user of a piece of land is imposed by a local authority itself. However, there is a specific provision in the Land Charges Act 1925 which prevents such prohibition from being registered if they operate over the whole of the district of the authority.

As I understand it, the essence of the register is to provide information to potential purchasers of land about restrictions applying to areas of land, especially in cases where they have no other means of finding out whether or not the restriction applies. Relevant development orders are primarily of interest to people who want to develop land. In most cases the orders will apply to the whole of the area of a district. In any event, as I have already said, they are part of the general law of the land, being Statutory Instruments which are published and generally available from the Stationery Office. In other words, they are already public documents. May I suggest to the noble Baroness that they are not of the type of restriction on a piece of land which is normally included in the local land charges register.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I am grateful for the noble Lord's reply to my noble friend. Equally, I am grateful for his other remarks, which I will note.

Baroness YOUNG

I am sure that we are all very grateful that the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has said that he will be moving an Amendment in the terms of Amendment No. 33 at a later stage. So far as my Amendment is concerned, I see entirely his point that relevant development orders will be available for public inspection through the Stationery Office and that therefore it can be said that my Amendment is unnecessary because the public could be aware of them in this way. However, the difference is that it is often very difficult to get hold of any thing from the Stationery Office. That applies to quite important matters, let alone something like this.

I do not believe this is the way that local people will feel that they ought to go about finding out whether or not an order for relevant development has been made. If the register of local land charges is not the right place in which to keep this information, I consider that there ought to be some local means whereby it could be kept. It seems to me that it is very important that people at local level should know in advance what the intentions of local authorities are to be with regard to land acquisition. I am not really satisfied that it is a satisfactory answer to say that this will appear in an order.

7.55 p.m.


I take the point which the noble Baroness has made about Statutory Instruments. My point was that this is a public document. It is available publicly and therefore is not of the type of limitation on land which is normally included in the local land charges register. I said earlier that what is important is the local authority's intentions from a planning point of view. As noble Lords on this side of the House have tried to emphasise to noble Lords opposite, land acquisition under this scheme is linked to planning. Our intention is not that local authorities should go round wildly buying land anywhere that they feel like doing so just because they have that power. The scheme is linked directly to planning. Therefore, what is important from the point of view of people buying land in an area is to know the local authority's plans. These will be available for inspection in the offices of local authorities, as will their rolling programmes of land acquisition which again, I would suggest to the noble Baroness, are the most important things.

At the same time I accept that there may be a need for local publicity when an order is made. May I emphasise that I do not believe that an order is the be-all-and-end-all of the matter. As I have said, local authorities can still acquire land even if they are not under a duty to do so. In much the same way as a development plan, a local plan or, indeed, a structure plan is advertised locally when it is made, it may well be that there is a case for orders under this Bill being advertised in the same way. If the noble Baroness feels that it would be useful, I should certainly be prepared to consider that point.

Baroness YOUNG

I am grateful for that offer and would certainly be grateful if the Government could look at this point. There is this difference, that at the moment local authorities do not go round looking for land just for the sake of it in order to buy it and eventually develop it. However, when this Bill becomes law there will be a general presumption that local authorities will be doing just that. They will have the power to acquire land much more easily than they have it now. Therefore, I think that it is important to enable the public to know what are the intentions. I am disappointed that the Government cannot accept my Amendment. However, I am grateful for that assurance and I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 34: Page 52, line 10, at end insert ("and regional summaries shall be kept at the Regional Offices of the Secretary of State or other appropriate office in Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Birmingham.")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 34. I am glad to be doing so after supper because my hopes have been raised after what the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has said. I will not speak extensively because at his invitation I have already explained the Amendment. I am glad to hear from him that his right honourable friend will do something more and that it will be quite different from what is prescribed in the Bill. It would be better to pro vide the regional registers in all of the major cities which are at the centre of the Metropolitan counties of England, and in Glasgow as well, rather than just where there are Regional Offices because they cater only for four out of the seven great cities. Glasgow, Liverpool and Sheffield are all places of sufficient size, significance and complexity to have the registers available at their city centres.

I am glad to have the noble Lord's assurance that Amendment No. 33 is acceptable because that is another way of expressing in general terms what I should prefer to see expressed precisely. I am glad to have the statement made by the noble Lord on the record in Hansard, although that is not as good as having the Bill reflect what will be the reality on the ground, rather than just describe the conventions. I hope the noble Lord will say that if he cannot accept this Amendment he will consider putting something like it into the body of the Bill, so that everybody knows where he stands. I beg to move.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I rise to support this Amendment. Scotland has very extensive areas and, as your Lord ships know, we do not have counties any longer—we have regions—and if records which affect Scotland could be kept at the Scottish Regional Head-quarters, wherever they happen to be, it would be a great help. I have spoken about Wales so often, and if the Land Authority are to be set up I feel that the full records should also be available at their headquarters or at any sub-office which they possess.


In a way, I think the noble Earl has underlined the difficulty of writing certain cities or towns into the Bill. As somebody who lives in East Anglia, it always infuriates me that nowhere remotely near where I live is ever included in such a list of cities.


Now is your chance!


A manuscript Amendment.


I have already told the noble Earl that we will accept an Amendment on the lines of his at the next stage of the Bill. I have told the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that we will look at the question of giving local publicity when orders are made. I told the noble Lord when replying to this Amendment earlier that provision would be made for Regional Offices to have the relevant orders. There is a limit to how much we can write into the Bill, but on the other hand we on this side of the Committee are extremely concerned that everybody should know what is happening so far as the scheme is concerned, and that as much information as possible should be given to the general public.

I should like to suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, having told his noble friend that I would consider the possibility of each order being publicised locally when it is made, that it might not be sensible to go on from that and make a provision in the Bill that each local authority should keep the relevant date orders relating to their area at their own offices. This would avoid our having to make any arbitrary decisions about which cities should have registers, and which should not. After all, the scheme will operate locally and at different speeds at different local authority areas. This might be the most sensible way of doing it. As I have said, having taken on board what noble Lords opposite have said, I should like to take this away and look at it on the basis of something along those lines, rather than along the lines of the noble Lord's Amendment.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.5 p.m.

The Earl of BALFOUR

Briefly, would the noble Lord consider that not necessarily every authority but every county in England, or every region in Scotland, should keep extracts of the register? I do not want to delay the Committee at all, but I think the point is worth considering. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 52, line 12, at end insert— ("(3) Every authority shall keep extracts of the register affecting their area at their offices.")—(The Earl of Balfour.)


I have already undertaken to consider this point.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I thank the noble Lord and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Clause 8 [The Authority]:

The Earl of BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 32: Page 9, line 36, leave out ("THE LAND AUTHORITY FOR WALES").

The noble Earl said: For the benefit of your Lordships, I should point out that this Amendment was put in the wrong place. We are back again on the Land Authority for Wales. I shall not say any more on that point, because I have aired my opinion all the way through. I will say only that I urge the Government to consider again whether they will accept the proposals which I am putting forward in Amendments Nos. 43, 44 and 45.

When I was studying the Local Government (Scotland) Bill, I had the opportunity of meeting the top officials of St. Andrew's House on three or four occasions during September 1973, between the Committee and Report stages, and one of the points that those officials put to me was the importance of an authority, particularly in the field of planning, being wealthy enough from its in come in rates to be able to afford to employ officials who were skilled in the job of planning, which is so important. For that reason it was decided to make these special planning arrangements in Scotland. As I have said earlier, these arrangements appear in Part IX of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973.

I felt that I should like to explain briefly to your Lordships the reason behind these Amendments. They would leave both the county and district planning functions under the English Act for that populated part of South Wales, being Mid, East and South Glamorgan and the County of Gwent. But if your Lordships will look at page 10 of the Marshalled List, you will see a reference to a general planning authority for the counties of Clwyd, Dyfed, Gwynedd and Powys. There is no major town there and I thought that Wales might take advantage of the same provisions as were provided for in the case of Scotland—and there would need to be additional Amendments if this were accepted—and make the county responsible for planning functions and for land acquisitions under the provisions of this Bill, which would keep it at local authority level. At the moment, I am extremely concerned that the local authorities are not to have any thing to do with land acquisition under this Bill.

This has given me an opportunity of explaining the Amendment and I am fairly satisfied that its drafting is reason ably correct. I do not want to take up a lot of your Lordships' time but I should be pleased to have some idea from the Government of their views. I beg to move.


In dealing with this Amendment the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, has also dealt with a number of Amendments which have been tabled in his name in relation to Wales. As a Welshman I am greatly flattered by his immense interest and concern in government in Wales. May we take it that in discussing this matter generally we may be deemed to have discussed Amendments Nos. 2, 5, 39, 43, 44, 45, 85, 88, 94 and 108? I note the affirmative nod from the direction of the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, and that may clear the path for the many hours of labour that lie ahead of us.

The general effect of the Amendments of the noble Earl would be to apply to Wales the planning system adopted in Scotland which is based on regional, general and district planning authorities who would be entrusted with both planning responsibilities and responsibilities under the Bill. These Amendments are intended, to change the planning system of Wales, as the noble Earl has indicated, and they would give Wales a system of planning authorities similar to that in Scotland, that is to say, with regional, general and district planning authorities.

The basic objection to the proposals of the noble Earl is that it would involve a major upheaval in the structure of local government in Wales. The present structure came into existence only on 1st April 1974—I trust there is nothing significant in the choice of that date!—so it has not had more than 18 months in which to settle down to these new responsibilities. The general wish now—and it certainly is the view of the Government—is that the new authorities should be given time to adjust to their new responsibilities rather than to have more major changes. With proposals for devolution in the offing, this would be a particularly in appropriate time to introduce the major changes that the noble Earl has mentioned. The planning system itself has only recently undergone important changes.

Then, when one comes to consider the scene in Scotland, the Scottish system it self only came into force in May of this year, so we have had only five months' experience of how it is working in Scot land. We on this side of the Committee do not think that Scottish experience can yet be said to provide at any rate over whelming evidence that a system right for Scotland can be translated and trans planted, lock, stock and barrel, to Wales.

Another factor highly relevant at this time is that of cost. Changes of the scale proposed by the noble Earl will be expensive, and those costs would fall on the ratepayers. Certainly Wales has rural areas like Scotland, but the countries are far from identical. In size, Scotland has 30,000 square miles; Wales has about 8,000 square miles. Scotland has 5,226,000 inhabitants; Wales 2,760.000. But the difference which is particularly significant is that of size. We believe that these proposals for setting up the Land Authority for Wales is the best means of dealing with the matters towards the achievement of which this Bill is directed. However, I am grateful for the interesting proposition put forward by the noble Earl. At any rate for the time being, we would prefer to proceed as we are, and I say that in no sense of mere pride in the fact that I happen to be a Welshman.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I am most grateful for that reply, particularly as it comes from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. If the noble and learned Lord is satisfied that the proposals for the Land Authority for Wales are all right, that is good enough for me. Let us face it, the noble and learned Lord has had many years of experience in politics and obviously knows that part of the world very well.

I should like to add one further comment. I checked up very carefully in Scotland with the local authorities, particularly those which are run by the counties, or regions as we have them in Scotland. They are of the opinion that this provision—although many others in the Local Government Acts they have not liked—has on the whole worked well and very successfully. But I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, and ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. I will not raise the subject again.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 [The Authority]:

8.15 p.m.

Lord ABERDARE moved Amendment No. 36:

Page 10, line 3, at end insert— ( ) When the Secretary of State gives a direction under this section, he shall either—

  1. (a) lay a copy of the direction before each House of Parliament within 28 days of giving it; or
  2. (b) lay a copy later, but lay with it a statement of the reason why a copy was not laid within 28 days.
( ) The Authority's report for any accounting year shall set out any direction given under this section during that year.

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 36. One of the criticisms of this Bill is the amount of power that is given to the Secretary of State. This has been a feature of a large number of Bills which have been brought to this House over the last few months, and we have tried to modify this power in every case in Bills with which I have been concerned—the Industry Bill, the Welsh Development Agency Bill, the Policyholders Protection Bill, where we had great success in modifying the powers of the Secretary of State—and also in other Bills. Although there are criticisms of the powers of the Secretary of State in the case of England and Scotland, it is particularly true of Wales under this Bill. In England and Scotland, the functions are carried out by democratically elected local authorities, but in Wales it is the Land Authority which is an independent body and responsible only to the Secretary of State. Moreover, under Clause 8(3): The Authority, … shall comply with such directions as may be given to them by the Secretary of State". This is a very wide power to give a Secretary of State, and we believe it should be subject to some form of Parliamentary scrutiny. We are not suggesting even going as far as Parliamentary control. We are not asking that it should be subject to any Resolution, be it Negative or Affirmative. All we are saying is that when the Secretary of States gives such directions to the Land Authority, he shall either lay a copy of that direction before each House of Parliament within 28 days, or lay a copy later on with a statement of the reason why he was unable to lay it within 28 days; and secondly, that the Authority's report for any year should set out the directions given by the Secretary of State in that year. That seems to us an entirely reasonable thing to ask. More over, we have every precedent for asking for this very minimal safeguard, in that similar provisions have appeared in other Bills—first of all in the Industry Bill.

Clause 7, subsections (3) and (4), of the Industry Bill are in almost exactly the same terms as this Amendment. I will not read them out, but I am sure the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is aware of them. Secondly, and even more apposite to the case in Wales, Clause 1 subsections (10) and (11) of the Welsh Development Agency Bill are again in exactly the same terms as we are proposing to this Bill. So it seems to me that in the interests of the kind of principles that the noble and learned Lord certainly supports, of open Government and democratic control, and following on what we have been so often told about the democratic way in which the Secretary of State is accountable to Parliament, this is an entirely reasonable thing to ask: that when he gives directions to that body, just as when he gives directions to the Welsh Development Agency, these directions should be divulged to Parliament. I beg to move.


There is, of course, nothing sinister about the concept of a Secretary of State giving directions to an authority like the Land Authority. Indeed, it is common for the Government to be able to give directions to public bodies, and I do not think it is the general practice for Parliament immediately to receive copies. But I have noted the references that have been made by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, to the Scottish and Welsh Development Agencies. I think the matter arose also in relation to the National Enterprise Board. Precedents for what is proposed in the Bill are to be found under the legislation of the previous Administration—in the Maplin Development Act 1973, Section 4(1), and the Water Act 1973,Section 5(2). A close parallel is the power of the Secretary of State to give instructions under the New Towns Act 1965, since New Town Development Corporations have functions in many ways similar to those proposed for the Land Authority. The Development Corporations are to be authorities under the Community Land Bill. In none of these cases do copies have to be laid before Parliament.

It is also common for the Secretary of State to be able to notify statutory bodies that directions involving considerations of national security or national interest should not be reported in their annual reports, and I imagine that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, will be sympathetic to the necessity of that in the interests of protecting national security. There are provisions on those lines in the Maplin Development Act and in the Civil Aviation Act, and we similarly propose such precautions under Clause 13(2) of the Bill. The Land Authority will in due course be obliged to provide land for all major industrial developments, which will involve, inter alia, developments for defence purposes, and we feel that it is important that, when the Secretary of State has to give directions in relation to land for defence projects, there should be power to exclude them from the annual report.

Provision is also made in the Bill for directions given under all provisions in the Bill to be made known to Parliament when the Land Authority's Annual Report is presented to Parliament. Clearly, I willingly accept that Parliament will have a legitimate interest in directions given by the Secretary of State, but I submit that that does not make it reasonable that a copy of every direction should be laid before both Houses within 28 days. I do not think it can be contended, either, that the laying of directions before Parliament by the Secretary of State is essential to enable Parliament to know quickly what is happening. Meetings of the Land Authority and of their committees will be open to the Press and to the public authorities, and there will be safeguards in the same way as meetings of local authorities and there will be safeguards for confidential matters. I should have thought there would be rapid publicity for directions from the Secretary of State, and anyone who 'has been aggrieved by a direction will, of course, have the normal right to raise it with his M.P. who can take it up with the Secretary of State. Accordingly, I feel that what is proposed in the Bill is reasonable for the circumstances of the case, and perhaps having heard what I have submitted the noble Lord may be disposed to form the same view.

8.23 p.m.


May I support the Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Aberdare. Of course, on security we are not asking for anything at all. What we are asking is that Parliament should be informed. I think it is slightly ridiculous, when Parliament takes new decisions, as under this Community Land Bill, that we should not try to see that conditions affecting the new Bill should be included in the Bill. I do not mind what the House of Lords did 50 years ago, so long as we keep the things that were good. When we have so much information being required by Government, I think it is absolutely urgent that Members of both Houses of Parliament should know what directions are given. If I may say so with great respect, it is no good saying that somebody can write to their M.P. There are many people who have no idea that if you write to your M.P. it gets a higher priority than if you write direct. One of the questions that I raised the other day in the House of Lords expressed concern that a lot of ordinary people have not the slightest idea who to write to, nor do they know that, if they write to their M.P., at least it gets a higher priority. I am rather surprised that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, whom I have always under stood to be a rather progressive man, should not be delighted to accept this Amendment. I do not want to be connected with a body of people who cannot keep up to date.

I hope that my Party will divide on this issue, because it is very important that directions given, sometimes by Ministers with whom I certainly would not be in agreement, should be registered with Members of both Houses of Parliament. I never regarded the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, whom I know reasonably well, as an old-fashioned man. I now regard him as an old-fashioned man. I do not think I want a Lord Chancellor who is old-fashioned; I want a progressive Lord Chancellor. The directions given may be in the Press, but surely the noble and learned Lord knows perfectly well that provincial newspapers do not always know of their importance. There may be a direction given which might not be of the slightest interest to my old ex-constituency of Tynemouth, which is a fishing and industrial area. I have known the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor well, and I am speaking my mind. I think it is ridiculous to have an answer such as he has given, though given in the most delightful terms with his very attractive voice and very pleasant way. It makes him an old-fashioned Lord Chancellor, and I hope he will not remain so. I hope my Party will have the courage to stand up and say it is a very bad answer and we do not like it.


If I may intervene for a moment, there was one matter which did surprise me a little in the noble Baroness's characteristic intervention; that is, that she thought that her constituents had difficulty in knowing how to write to their M.P. From 25 years experience of the noble Baroness in the other place, I should have thought all of her constituents knew all the time how easy it was to get in touch with her.


If I may say so, I am, of course, delighted with that. Of course, I saw to it that they did know. But there are quite a lot of people in other parts of the world. I have always had to fight like mad in my part of the world. I fought like mad and, of course, my constituents knew; but that is not to say that there are not a lot of people who would like to write to their M.P. but who would not know how. You cannot get the Press to keep on printing, "Write to your M.P. "That again, if I may say so, is rather an odd answer. I will not say more than that. How do you think I would have held my seat if I had not done that. I think it was very nice of the noble Lord to say so, and I accept that it was meant to be nice, but it is not realistic, and it does not make me alter my view that this Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Aberdare should be accepted.


Could the noble and learned Lord enlighten my ignorance and tell me what extra administrative burden is placed on a Department by laying a copy of the directions before Parliament? I cannot imagine that this involves any great work. If it does not, surely the sensible thing is to do so, because it is terribly difficult in this modern world to establish communication and not everybody can spare the time to do everything. Maybe there are reasons. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord can tell me whether there are.


The difficulty is that the Amendment proposes that they should be laid within 28 days, and there will be a multiplicity of directions to different authorities to be given. I should have thought that that imposes an excessive and intolerable bur den, bearing in mind the fact of annual reports, and the other opportunities for ventilating the content of the directions which I mentioned in my reply to the speech of the noble Lord.


I do not want to be facetious, but what more is involved in this process other than making a duplicate copy of whatever you have sent out? There must be something else, otherwise surely 28 days to make a duplicate copy and send it to Parliament is not a great burden.


It would be better if we did hurry up.


It would be an administrative burden to add to the Department and, with the very great respect which I have for Parliament, whether anyone in either House would examine the directions as they flow in is a different matter.


I am a little surprised at what the noble and learned Lord said on two counts. First, I am surprised that he prefers to follow the precedent of our two Acts rather than his two Bills. I should have thought that he would much prefer to follow the precedent that he has given us on the Industry Bill and the Welsh Development Agency Bill, in which this provision appears. Secondly, I am astonished when he talks about a multiplicity of directions to authorities. I thought we were talking about very rare occasions on which the Secretary of State would feel it incumbent on him to give a direction to the Land Authority—just the one Authority.

We must probe a little further as to what this vast multiplicity of directions might be. I take the point where it comes to national security, and I am quite sure that something ought to be written into the Amendment to ensure that where the matter of national security arises there is some way out, but otherwise I am not satisfied about this multiplicity of directions that is to flow out from the Secretary of State.


I do not want to prolong this matter because I am willing to look at it again. In regard to the analogy with the Welsh Development Agency, there similar provisions in relation to the Welsh Development Agency do not apply to all directions given by the Secretary of State to the Agency. They apply only to directions in respect of those functions of the Agency which are analogous to those of the National Enterprise Board. A similar obligation to lay directions will exist in England in relation to the National Enterprise Board. The obligation will not apply to other functions of the Development Agency—for instance, its functions in relation to derelict land, or provision of industrial estates. The reason is that the Government decided that special considerations applied to NEB-type activities, since they may involve finding finance for industrial undertakings, or might involve the Agency itself in establishing and carrying on undertakings. It was felt in those circumstances, with that type of activity, there were special reasons for informing Parliament. Of course, the Land Authority will not be carrying out NEB-type activities.

The other factor which was relevant in our dealing with it in that way in the Welsh Development Agency was that their meetings, unlike those of the Land Authority, are not required to be open to the Press and the public, so the public would not get to know directions as they will with the Land Authority. As the noble Lord and his colleagues feel strongly about this matter, I am certainly willing to have a look at it again. It was not merely because I was following the precedent set by the noble Lord's Administration that I thought that what was proposed in the Bill was a good idea, but I shall look at it again.


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

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.36 p.m.

Lord ABERDARE moved Amendment No. 37: Page 10, line 4, leave out subsection (4).

The noble Lord said: This is a probing Amendment. I hope that the noble and learned Lord received a note from me to explain what I was at. It is simply to ask whether the Land Authority for Wales will be subject, in respect of their administration, to one or other of the Ombudsmen. Will they be subject to the scrutiny of the Parliamentary Commissioner, or the local Government Commissioner? In England and Scotland the local authorities who have the responsibility for functions under this Bill will be subject to the Local Authority Commissioner, and I wonder what the situation is in regard to the Land Authority. I beg to move.


The Bill expressly provides in Schedule 10, paragraph 9—and I do not criticise the noble Lord for having missed it—that complaints of maladministration against the Land Authority may be investigated by the Local Commissioner for Administration in Wales, in the same way as a local authority. If the noble Lord looks at the Schedule, he will see that it is dealt with with particularity. Page 92, Schedule 10, paragraph 9 says: In section 25(1) of the Local Government Act 1974 (authorities subject to investigation) after paragraph (a) there shall be inserted the following paragraph: — '(aa) the Land Authority for Wales and any body corporate established by an order made by the Secretary of State under section 49 of the Community Land Act 1975.' There is a similar reference in relation to Section 30 of the Local Government Act in regard to reports on investigations: … after subsection (2) there shall be inserted the following subsection— '(2A) Where the complaint related to the Land Authority for Wales, the Local Commissioner shall also send the report or statement to the Secretary of State.' The point that was very properly concerning the noble Lord seems to be well covered.


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

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Schedule 3 [The Land Authority for Wales]:

8.39 p.m.

Lord ABERDARE moved Amendment No. 38: Page 53, line 16, leave out ("with the approval of the Secretary of State").

The noble Lord said: This Amendment refers to the appointment of a secretary of the Authority. Paragraph 5 of the Schedule reads: The Authority, with the approval of the Secretary of State, may appoint a secretary of the Authority …". I was wondering why it was necessary for the Authority to have the approval of the Secretary of State. First, does it mean that the Authority have to have the approval to appoint a secretary, or does it mean that the person appointed must be approved by the Secretary of State? If it means that the person appointed must be approved, I wonder whether this is necessary. Presumably the members of the Authority are going to be people of high standing and repute, and I should have thought that they were perfectly capable of chosing their own secretary without the need for the approval of the Secretary of State. I beg to move.


The noble Lord is right. It is the person appointed who will be approved by the Secretary of State and perhaps I can explain why we felt that this was necessary. First of all, it is normal for the Government to control the establishment of statutory bodies. In the case of the Land Authority, this will be particularly necessary to check that they do not seek to attract local authority staff or to inflate their requirements in staff with scarce professional skills. It is also considered prudent to provide in the Bill for the Secretary of State to approve the appointment of the Land Authority's chief executive. This provision was taken from the Land Commission Act 1967. This is not because of any serious doubt about the ability of the Land Authority to appoint a competent chief executive; the Land Authority should, however, have a chief officer who is acceptable to the Secretary of State. The chief officer will be in immediate control of the day-to-day running of the Authority, but it is the Secretary of State who will be responsible to Parliament, who will initially be making loans to the Authority and who in the last resort will determine the policy which the Authority must execute.


I am obliged to the noble Lord for that explanation and we are glad to welcome him to our Welsh debates. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 3 agreed to.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 [Borrowing powers]:

8.42 p.m.

Lord ABERDARE moved Amendment No. 40: Page 11, line 10, leave out ("£40 million") and insert ("£20 million").

The noble Lord said: I will, with per mission, discuss at the same time Amendment No. 41. The Bill allows the Land Authority to borrow some very consider able sums of money— The aggregate amount outstanding … shall not exceed £40 million or such greater amount not exceeding £60 million as the Secretary of State may specify by order". The object of my Amendment is to reduce those amounts to £20 million and £30 million to help the Government cut down on their public expenditure.


Hear, hear!


The calculation of these totals must necessarily be mostly guess work and must depend on the price that the Land Authority have to pay for the land they acquire and the price at which they can eventually sell it. I see from the proceedings in another place that the Government estimates are based on purchasing land at between £10,000 and £15,000 an acre and selling it at £20,000; but I should have thought that once this Bill becomes law, together with the Development Land Tax Bill, there will be a very different kind of market in land and that these figures are likely to be far in excess of what is really necessary. They seem to be based on years when property was fetching very high prices. The future is surely much more likely to see a great reluctance on the part of people to sell land and indeed to buy it for development, and I believe there would be great merit in reducing these huge figures to more realistic sums.

I have other reasons for suggesting this reduction. First, since the Bill was introduced in another place we have had new categories of exempt and excepted development. If certain forms of development are either exempt or excepted, that surely must result in a reduction in the scope of the Land Authority's powers, and one would have expected to see a reduction in the amount of money the Authority needed to borrow to carry them out. That is one reason why I suggest that things have altered since these figures were put in the Bill and why they could happily be reduced to lower figures.

The second reason I put forward is that the county manpower estimates—I mentioned this in the course of our debate yesterday—put forward by the counties on a county basis, taking into account the requirements of the districts within the area of that county, show that the estimated manpower requirements are considerably less than those foreseen by the Welsh Office. If that is so, then it goes to show that the local authorities could carry out the functions that are to be put on them by this Bill much more economically than could one single Land Authority. But it also means, I should have thought, that the Land Authority, by working through the agency of the local authorities, could reduce manpower costs considerably; and here again is an argument why the total amount of borrowing could be reduced.

The last argument I advance is that the Government themselves admitted an error in their estimates when they reduced the figure for the Land Authority's initial debt. The initial debt in the original Bill was £750,000 and the Government have now reduced this to £100,000. It would seem that if they are capable of making such a vast miscalculation in the initial debt, they are liable to make a vast miscalculation in the full amount required to be borrowed. These, therefore, are the reasons why I think that since the Bill has come to your Lordships' House there are certain quite solid reasons for thinking that the amounts put in for the limit of borrowing are too large, and at a time when the need is to control and reduce Government expenditure it would be advisable to reduce these two figures.


The size of the maximum indebtedness is crucial to the speed with which the Land Authority can get the Land Scheme operating in Wales. When the scheme is fully operational and profits are being made, there will, of course, be no debt. It is during the first few years of the scheme that a debt will be incurred—when the Authority are borrowing to acquire land—when the rate of disposal inevitably lags behind and when receipts from disposals do not match the cost of borrowing. The amount which needs to be borrowed could be reduced by various means; for example, the time lag between borrowing and disposing could be reduced. The Authority will be advised to concentrate, as far as possible in the early years, on land which can be turned over quickly; but this cannot be the sole criterion for buying land if account is also to be taken of the needs of planning.

Our assumptions—that is, the acquisition of 5,000 acres and disposals of 1,500 acres—already allow for land to be turned over as quickly as possible and as quickly as we believe is going to be reason able. It would be possible for the Land Authority to buy more green field sites, but I am sure that noble Lords opposite will agree that this would not be consistent with good planning. The Land Authority could lease less land at annual rentals, but our assumptions on which the calculations are based already suppose that virtually all land is disposed of free hold or for a single major premium. The Land Authority could of course buy less land. This would produce unacceptable delays in getting the scheme off the ground.

On the same assumptions as used in the estimates given in Committee in the other place by my honourable friend, if the debt had to be kept to £20 million or £30 million, the amount of land purchases which could be financed by disposals and borrowing would be not 5,000 acres but only 3,000 acres, and the time required to complete these trans actions would be longer because it is clearly easier to dispose of 1,500 acres out of 5,000 acres than out of only 3,000 acres. It is true that, since these sums of £40 million and £60 million were first included in the Bill, the scheme has been amended, in particular by the proposal to include small housing plots in the category of excepted development. These are plots of up to 10,000 square feet of floor space which authorities under the Bill will be under no duty to acquire.

The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, suggested that this will reduce the amount of land which the Land Authority will acquire and hence the maximum indebtedness. This is not the case. The concept of maximum indebtedness applies only to the early years of the scheme when more land is being acquired than is being disposed of and indebtedness is growing. The exclusion of the need to acquire land for excepted development will enable the Land Authority, during their early years, to concentrate on acquiring other land, but will not of itself reduce the amount of land to be bought. The ratio of land acquired to land disposed of used in our initial calculations will still apply and the maximum indebtedness should not change for that reason. I would add that of course the categories of excepted and exempted developments are, in our view, not out side our intentions as outlined by my honourable friend on Second Reading in the other place. They have merely made clearer and simpler to understand the intentions of the Bill as first introduced, but we have made it perfectly clear all along that it would not be our intention that the Land Authority or local authorities should involve themselves in buying very small plots or in taking into public ownership small areas of development land. So this change in the categories in the Bill has not affected the need for this borrowing.

The noble Lord mentioned the claim by Welsh local authorities that they could do the work of the Land Authority with fewer staff. What I believe has happened is that the Welsh local authorities which have seen the staff estimates of the Land Authority in relation to the tasks to be done think we may have over-estimated the Authority's manpower needs. If so, we shall be delighted because, if the Land Authority can do the job with fewer staff than we have estimated, the comparison of cost effectiveness will swing in favour of Wales. But of course a small reduction in staff will not make any substantial difference in the need for borrowing by the Land Authority.

The noble Lord also mentioned the question of land values. We have, in making these calculations, based them on Welsh professional advice, assuming that development land tax will enable land to be bought more cheaply than the price at which it is sold or disposed of. That has already been considered in our calculations. The initial debt figure to which the noble Lord also referred is not directly on the point of the Amendment because it covers only the costs incurred by the Secretary of State before Royal Assent.

I hope I have outlined the reasons why we do not think that it would be right to reduce the figure which appears in the Bill. I apologise for having done so at some length.


I must say that I am very grateful to the noble Lord for going into this at some length because it will all be on the record and I appreciate it. He said that, if we were to reduce the figure to the proposal which I had put into the Amendment, this would reduce the amount of land that could be acquired by the Welsh Land Authority. That would suit us very well indeed, and I am sorry to think that this will not be done because, at least for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


The noble Earl, Lord Balfour, has intimated that he does not propose to speak on Clauses 10, 11, 12 and 13, so I shall straight away put the Question, That the clause stand part?

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 [Accounts and audit]:

8.57 p.m.

Viscount COLVILLE of CULROSS moved Amendment No. 41A:

Page 12, leave out from end of line 20 to end of lane 42 and insert— ("(2) Sections 154 to 166 of the Local Government Act 1972 shall apply to the Authority as if it was a local authority within the meaning of that Act.")

The noble Viscount said: I should be grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, would explain how the public account ability of the Authority in Wales is to work. We shall have a fairly complicated system, because the Land Authority will be doing some of the work and the county councils and district councils will be doing, as agents, other of the work. The local public will be able, in the ordinary way under the Local Government Act, to examine, as will the district auditor, that part of the operation of this Bill which is done by the local authorities in Wales in the same way as any other exercise of power by a local authority. However, as I understand Clause 12, they will not have any local power to scrutinise or ask for further details of what is done by the Land Authority themselves.

I do not necessarily suggest that the Amendment is the right answer. It is, of course, a complete attraction of all the powers and duties of district audit, the possibility of surcharge and all the rest of it, which appear in the Local Government Act and which will apply to all the local authorities which are acting as agents. However, it seems to me—and the Committee may agree—that, where as the local people will be able to ex amine what is done by the local authorities, nobody in Wales will be able to do anything about examining what is done by the Land Authority.

Would the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, tell us what recourse there is if the Comptroller and Auditor General examine the accounts and find—and I am not suggesting for a moment that this would happen, but these things always have to be dealt with in legislation—that the members of the Land Authority have done something which is illegal or which requires explanation? What can anybody do about it? Is it only a Select Committee of the other place which is able to inquire into it, or is there any power whereby people in Wales itself will be able to carry out some local exercise in questioning what has been done and put ting forward their points of view?

It is, incidentally, becoming quite a popular exercise for ratepayers in a local authority area to use, or at any rate to consider using, the opportunity of the District Audit to vent some of their dissatisfactions, complaints and helpful suggestions about local authorities, but I do not believe that anybody will be able to do this in Wales with the Land Authority. Nor do I believe that there will be any local sanction on members of the Authority who should chance to misbehave themselves. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, could explain a little more fully what are the remedies and recourses whereby the public can look into this. I think we should be greatly assisted—at any rate, I certainly should and I shall then be able to see what to do about the Amendment. I beg to move.


It was decided when drafting the Bill that the Land Authority should not be given the same freedom as local authorities to have their accounts audited by private auditors. This is the effect of this provision in the Bill. The two main reasons for this are, first, that the Land Authority will be a freshly created body operating in a new field. They will be borrowing comparatively large sums of money for their initial operations. The Government, therefore, wish to keep a close watch on their financial activities. The Land Authority will take time to build up the long financial traditions which exist among local authorities and the Government considered that this factor had to be recognised in the auditing arrangements. In other words, it was for the Government to keep a close eye on the financial operations of the Land Authority.

Secondly, the relationship between the Land Authority and the Government will not be exactly the same as that between local authorities and the Government. Local authorities are elected bodies, whereas the Land Authority are to be appointed, although their membership will include four representatives of local authorities. This special relationship is recognised in the general power of the Secretary of State under Clause 8(3) to give directions to the Land Authority. The Secretary of State for Wales will be more closely answerable to Parliament for the operation of the scheme in Wales than will his colleagues in England and Scotland. This is also recognised in the fact that accounts of the Land Authority are to be laid before Parliament but not accounts of local authorities operating the community land scheme.

The Secretary of State will therefore be concerned in the case of the Land Authority with matters going beyond mere financial propriety, and it was thought right to insist that the Land Authority's operations should be open to full scrutiny by the Government's own auditors. That is the purpose of the provision, but I emphasise that it is for the purpose of wider scrutiny rather than for less scrutiny. It will be the case that the accounts will be placed before Parliament; thus anyone with an interest in the matter will be able to raise anything he is worried about when the accounts are laid before Parliament.


How are they to do that? What member of the public in Wales will be able to raise these matters, and in what form? I am sure that the noble Lord will not mean to be misleading, but he started his speech by saying that the Land Authority were not to be audited by a private auditor. The District Auditor is not a private auditor. He is appointed by the Secretary of State and is a public official. There is no question of some private, surreptitious audit in the case of the District Auditor. This is the ordinary process.

The noble Lord has not made any attempt whatsoever to answer the questions I asked. I think that I asked him quite nicely, and I hope that they were sensible questions. How are members of the public in Wales to raise questions and complaints on what has been done—I suppose on their behalf, because they are the community—by the Authority in Wales? They will have this right in England and in Scotland. They can do it locally through the District Auditor. But the noble Lord has not explained how this works for the purposes of the private individual. Is this simply another case where they will have to write to their Member of Parliament and hope that something will happen?


First, they certainly will be able to write to their Member of Parliament, and ask him to raise a matter, and, as I said, there will be Parliamentary scrutiny of the accounts in that they will be laid before Parliament. We have been asked by noble Lords opposite, at several stages in our consideration of the Bill, that more documents should be presented to Parliament, presumably because this would be of some use to someone. The noble Viscount now appears to be presenting this as a totally useless exercise, which is of no use to anybody. If I may say so, this is not particularly consistent of him in the light of what his noble friends have said. There will, of course, be nothing in the Bill which will prevent criminal proceedings from being taken against any member or staff of the Welsh Land Authority, and the local commissioner would be able to investigate any complaints raised by individual members of the public. Thus there are two ways in which individual members of the public could raise matters.

Of course, it is still an open question what relationship there will be between the Land Authority—and this matter has been touched on before—and any authority set up under the devolution proposals; and it may well be that there will be additional scrutiny of the Land Authority when those proposals take effect. It is not very charitable of the noble Viscount to say that, because the accounts will be laid before Parliament, this is merely another matter where people will write to their Member of Parliament.


I do not think that there is anything inconsistent in this. I entirely support the idea that material should be laid before Parliament. But I was giving the noble Lord an opportunity to explain how people who live in Wales could have a local channel of complaint to deal with this matter, the same as all their fellow citizens in England and Scotland. As I understand it they have two—and two only. They can write to their Member of Parliament, which I am sure is a most admirable thing to do; but it is not the same as being able to go along and argue the matter oneself at a district audit, which is what everyone else can do in England and Scotland. Secondly, they can go to the local commissioner and then, I suppose, they would have to com plain about maladministration or some thing of that kind. That sort of requirement is not present when one wishes to complain at a district audit; it is not necessary to go so far as to allege maladministration. One can go into some of the details of what has been happening in the activities of the local authority, without necessarily at that stage alleging that there has been maladministration or anything evil done.

I am merely hoping that the noble Lord will be able to reassure me that the people in Wales are not being deprived of these rights which are available to everyone everywhere else. But if it is the case that they are to be deprived, I shall have to think very seriously about it.


So far as local authorities in Wales are concerned, the local electors in the areas of those authorities will have exactly the same rights as they have at the moment, and exactly the same rights as people in England. It is true that when the Land Authority are set up they are answerable to the Secretary of State, who in turn is answerable to Parliament; but that is quite a different situation from local authorities in England.

I gather that the noble Viscount thinks that that is the trouble. But it is no good, on the one hand, having a separate system and then trying to say that it must have all the features of the system in England. That is simply not possible. I think it should be accepted that the Secretary of State will be answerable to Parliament, and that the Secretary of State will have ultimate control of the behaviour of the members of the Land Authority; and it is through that channel that the control will be exercised. I have tried to demonstrate as fully as I possibly can to the noble Viscount how members of the public will be able to take action if they feel aggrieved.

Viscount RIDLEY

I should like to know, for information, whether members of the public who feel aggrieved can go to a district councillor or a county councillor in Wales? Can he play any part at all in this process?


Yes, certainly. As I said earlier, there will be four local authority representatives on the Land Authority. I should have thought that it would be through that channel that a member of the public in Wales could also pursue a matter.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Clause 12 agreed to.

Clause 13 [Reports]:

9.7 p.m.

Viscount COLVILLE of CULROSS moved Amendment No. 41B: Page 13, line 6, leave out from ("Act") to ("and") in line 8.

The noble Viscount said: We heard from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor a moment ago that the Land Authority for Wales would, among other things, be in receipt of directions, I sup pose from the Secretary of State for Defence, to buy or to do something regarding land required for that Department; and I suppose it is for those purposes that under Clause 13(2)(a) there will be certain directions omitted from any report made by the Authority for their accounting year.

Now this occurred to me when I read this clause, and I wanted first of all to ask whether this was likely to be a common event; but what the noble and learned Lord said earlier on this evening led to a rather wider point upon which I should be very grateful for enlightenment. If the Land Authority are going to act on behalf of the Ministry of Defence in acquiring or managing land which is of such a secret nature that no direction given can possibly be published, what else are they going to do? Are they going to take over all the acquisition of land for the Ministry of Defence which at the moment the Secretary of State for Defence can carry out under his own special defence legislation? Is the whole of the acquisition of land and management of land for defence purposes going to be taken out of the hands of the Secretary of State for Defence and out of the powers of the legislation which at the present moment govern it, and be handed over to the Land Authority for Wales? If so, so far as I know we have not previously been told this; and if that is going to happen in the case of the Secretary of State for Defence, shall we also find that the powers under the Education Acts, for instance, and under many other pieces of legislation whereby land can be acquired and managed for various statutory purposes, are going to be abandoned? Are we going to find the Authority being given directions to deal with all the matters under the procedure in this Bill, which we shall come to discuss a little later on, instead of having it done under the legislation which at the present moment governs it and which hitherto, so far as I know, has been tolerably satisfactory for that purpose?

I should be very grateful to know how far this is going, and what help noble Lords opposite can give us about the extent of these sort of directions, particularly in the case of defence but also in respect of the other activities that I have mentioned. I beg to move.


In reply to the questions of the noble Viscount, I would say that the Land Authority will not act on behalf of the Ministry of Defence. They will deal only with land for private development; but this could include military contractors, and if that were the situation and it was felt that directions to the Land Authority were relevant to that matter and might touch upon a matter of national security, there should be power to allow the Secretary of State to notify the Land Authority not to include directions in regard to matters of that kind in the Authority's annual report. There is no more to it than that, and I would imagine that that situation would not arise very frequently.


Will the noble and learned Lord also confirm that in, for instance, the field of education, they will not be acting under the powers of this Bill in lieu of the various powers which already exist under the Education Acts; that all these powers will still continue to be used as hereto fore and that we are grafting this on simply as an additional power?


That is the position as I understand it, yes.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. Clause 13 agreed to.

Clause 13 agreed to.

9.13 p.m.

Lord SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 42: After Clause 13 insert the following new clause:

Agency arrangements

"( ) The authority shall furnish to each council of a county in Wales details of what ever agency arrangements it has made with local authorities in that county and such de tails of such arrangements shall be published in the head offices of each such county."

The noble Lord said: I beg to move this Amendment to introduce a new clause relating to agency arrangements in Wales. The Committee will have seen and heard, both from yesterday's debate and from the debate we have just had on Amendment No. 41A, that the pro vision of a single Land Authority for Wales disenfranchises all the local people and all the local communities in Wales in the exercise of their democratic control over those functions that every person and every community in England and Scotland will be able to control; and, as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said frankly yesterday, the people of Wales and the community of Wales will have to rely solely upon their Secretary of State.

In those circumstances I think that we in this Committee have the task of making the best of a bad job and of seeing that the people and communities of Wales, even if stripped of the democratic rights which arc enjoyed in England and Scotland, at least are not deprived of information available to the people and communities in England and Scotland. The particular information to which I refer as being available to the peoples and communities of England and Scotland is the information shown and indicated in Schedule 5, paragraph 5.

Even this information was not going to be available anyway in Wales, Eng land or Scotland when the Bill was first drafted; and after a struggle in Committee an undertaking was given that it would be provided. At Report stage it was provided and/or that we are grateful to the Government. But having got it provided for the community and people of England and Scotland, my noble friends and I see no reason why it should not be made available in Wales. In fact, because there has been this disenfranchisement in Wales in relation to other parts of the Kingdom, it is even more important that this information be furnished. Without it, the people and communities of Wales will know only that there is a Land Authority and that they have made some agency arrangements—because from the notes to the clause we know that that is going to happen—but exactly what agency arrangements there are and how they are operating in their own county they will not know. For all these reasons this Amendment, or something like it, is a necessary addition to the Bill. I beg to move.


The Government accept the spirit behind this Amendment: that there should be open ness about agency arrangements. The manpower studies which the Welsh local authorities have been carrying out to establish the capacity of each to under take agency functions has been organised on a county basis. The Government believe that the fact that the Land Authority have made an agency arrangement with a local authority for a particular function will become public knowledge in the normal course of events; so that local authorities themselves and the people dealing with them in their capacity as agents for the Land Authority will know what is going on.

The Government nevertheless have considered whether more needs he done. There is a provision in Section 34 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 for local planning authorities to keep and to make available to the public during reasonable hours a register of planning applications and decisions. The Act prescribes a complicated procedure, involving the making of a development order, for the way in which the register should be kept. This is right for that particular type of register which contains information which might affect development in a whole neighbourhood; but the Amendment does not propose and the Government do not think it necessary to have such complicated arrangements for agency agreements.

The Government intend therefore to use the provisions of Clause 42 of the Bill dealing with accounts and records to require the Land Authority to keep a central record of the agency arrangements which they enter into with local authorities and to make this available for inspection by the public at their head office and at such regional offices as they may establish in Wales and to do so at all reasonable hours. The Land Authority would also supply information about the list to persons inquiring by letter or by telephone. In this way all local authorities both at county and district level would be able to ascertain what agency arrangements have been made, as would any interested member of the public. An arrangement of that kind should not be less convenient than having the information at county council offices and it would avoid the awkward problems of meeting the costs incurred by county councils if they had to publish and make available information about agency arrangements. We believe that these suggestions are reasonable to deal with the point which has been very properly made and I hope that in view of what is proposed and of those assurances the Amendment will be withdrawn.

The Earl of BALFOUR

One of the problems in planning could be that you do not know necessarily whether it is a county or a district function. Perhaps my noble friend's Amendment may not fully bring this out. I feel that it is a help if the general public know where to look. I think that this is another point which needs to be considered.


I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his reply, but I think that, once again, Wales is getting a very poor deal. It is true to some extent that these arrangements will become public knowledge, but I do not think that the average citizen is quite as alert as this. This is the kind of information in which you do not take any interest at all until you need to engage in some land transaction, and then you need to take an interest.

It is perfectly true that all the local authorities will get to know because to some extent they will be involved in an approach from the Land Authority as to whether or not they are going to act as an agent, and they are all right. I am thinking about the individual citizen. It does not seem at all reasonable for the Government to have agreed—I admit under pressure—that it is necessary in respect of England and Scotland to make provisions in the Bill which are set out in paragraphs 5 and 6 of Schedule 5 in relation to the nearest equivalent, the Land and Acquisition Management Schemes, and to provide, as they have, that these should be made available by all the authorities in the area of each county.

I was not asking for quite as much as that; I was asking that as a minimum provision details should be published and available for the public to look at in the county council offices throughout Wales. If, on further reflection, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor feels able to provide for the relevant agency arrangements to be available in the district council offices as well, so much the better. I cannot see that he and his right honourable friends are being the least consistent in relation to Wales in denying them, of all people, information which the Government now feel—when pressed in another place—is justified in England and Scotland. This is especially so as the Welsh communities and people are being dealt with by one single, remote authority. I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord would care to add anything to what he said.


I do not admit that the Land Authority will be a remote Authority. I would be most anxious that the people of Wales should of course know what is going on. This is an essential element in, I hope, the approach of all Parties now to democratic Government. It is because the people feel that they are not having sufficient voice in determining their own fate that we are now engaged in what looks like being a major change in our Constitution. At the moment, the Constitution and our law are like a gently bubbling vat with all sorts of yeasts being poured into it. I can only hope that what will emerge as "VAT 75" will be as drinkable as another vintage! I expect that is very doubtful. However, I hope it may prove satisfactory.

Coming back to what we have been discussing, if there is a great feeling that not sufficient is being made available in the way of information about these arrangements, I cannot see the people of Wales flocking to the offices of the county council to see what arrangements have been made as between the Land Authority and the local authorities as agents. But if it is felt strongly, and we think it is practicable that that should be done, we will certainly have a look at it.

The ambitions of the noble Lord extend to requiring the information to be nailed to the doors of the district council. We shall have to look at that. There are limits to what burdens we must place upon the district county authorities, but I am willing to have a look at that point.


I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord. From my much more limited knowledge of Wales, I should have thought that the Welsh are as vigilant democrats as anybody in England and Scotland—


More so!


Therefore they need at least as good a provision as we have provided for England and Scotland. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14 [Management, etc. of land held by the Authority]:

9.25 p.m.

Lord SANDYS moved Amendment No. 42A:

Page 13, line 32, at end insert— ( ) The authority shall make arrangements for the management of land held by the authority pending development, with particular regard to the need to encourage the full and proper agricultural use of any farm land acquired by the authority in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture.

The noble Lord said: This Amendment concerns another important matter relating to Wales, and perhaps I might intro duce it by reminding the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, who has presented us with this very interesting vat full of yeasts, of the position overall which the Government have stated in regard to Wales. If we turn to the White Paper Land, we read in paragraph 24: In Wales, however, the acquisition and disposal of land for private development will be the responsibility of an all-Wales body, which will also be able to provide local authorities with an advisory service. In paragraph 25 of the same White Paper we read: The land to be acquired will be land which the community accepts as requiring development or re-development generally not more than ten years ahead. Here is the use of the word "community" to which my noble friend Lady Young referred in such an important and interesting discussion earlier today, when it refers to, which the community accepts as requiring development …". I do not think we need embark on a further discussion of the community in Wales, but the important point here is that generally the land will not be required more than ten years ahead. I should like an assurance from the noble and learned Lord, or one of his noble colleagues, as to whether or not this is a maximum.

Turning to Clause 14 and the Amendment itself, your Lordships will appreciate that we have to look further in the Bill, to Clause 16, because in subsection (12) we see that it relieves the Land Authority for Wales from preparing and submitting land acquisition and management schemes. This is a very important and unusual feature. Amendment No. 42A seeks to lay a duty on the Land Authority for Wales to make arrangements for the management of land held by the Authority pending development, and particular stress is laid on the need for encouragement of continued use of green fields. These were referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, and we appreciate that there must be more than one green field in Wales which may have to be acquired if this Bill becomes law. So we wish to provide for the possibility of green field sites remaining in agriculture for as long as possible. To quote the words of the Amendment: … with particular regard to the need to encourage the full and proper agricultural use of any farm land acquired by the authority in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture. We feel that this Amendment should be considered at the same time as a later Amendment (No. 92A), which does not specifically relate to Wales. With your Lordships' permission I should like to speak to that Amendment now. I do not, of course, intend to move it until the appropriate moment arrives. It relates to Schedule 5 which, in turn, relates to the whole question of land acquisition and management schemes. It has been said, as I mentioned earlier, that there are to be no land acquisition or management schemes in Wales—the shorthand version would be "no lams in Wales". There fore, we wish to reinforce these arrangements by making sure that under paragraph 2 of Schedule 5, which relates to contentious schemes under Amendment 92A, we add: arrangements for the management of land held by any authority pending development with particular regard to the need to encourage the full and proper agricultural use of any farm land acquired by any authority party to the scheme in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture. This reflects very much the wording of the previous Amendment. I do not feel that your Lordships would wish to hear a further enlargement from me at this stage, although I am very happy to provide it. I beg to move.


If local authorities are to be encouraged to purchase land well in advance of the time when it will be developed, then clearly without proper arrangements for management there is bound to be a fall in production. So it is essential that the Welsh Authority and the local authorities should be required to take land management into consideration when preparing a land acquisition scheme. It is perfectly true that under paragraph 1(a) of Schedule 5 the authorities are to consider the resources available and the services of persons qualified in, among other things, management. But the danger is that they may well consider the matter and find themselves short of qualified estate management staff but go ahead nevertheless and acquire the land, with out being able to look after it properly when they have got it.

If the acquiring authority becomes the occupier as well as the owner then the land must be properly stocked, equipped, cropped and managed. If the original owner or occupier is allowed to continue in occupation, one must ask what the legal relationship is to be between him and the acquiring authority. If the existing occupier becomes the tenant of the acquiring authority, then there must be a proper tenancy agreement containing the normal statutory landlord's obligations with regard to repair, capital expenditure, tenant right, security of tenure and so on. There is another point. It is very important that there should be no cut back in Government grants towards land which is designated for development.

9.32 p.m.


I hesitate to embark on something to do with Wales. One noble Lord who comes under the auspices of being "a noble friend" asked me a short while ago: "What on earth are you doing putting down an Amendment for Wales?" I said that I was trying to help. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will realise that this is a helpful and important Amendment. The problem here is quite simple, but important. As I understand it, local authorities—and for the purposes of this debate one would be talking to Amendments Nos. 42A and 92A—and in this case the Authority for Wales, can buy up land they want to develop. They may have a stock of land for the next five or 10 years I do not say that this likely to happen all over the country, but they are empowered to buy up land, which they think will be required for development up to 10 years ahead. Inevitably, this will be good agricultural land. Whenever there is a development scheme, the agricultural case is always put—that good agricultural land should not be used—but when the "crunch" comes it always goes. Therefore, inevitably this will be good agricultural land. Under the Bill, not only can land which is needed for development be taken, but other land which is not intended for development for up to five to 10 years can be acquired.

What will happen to this land? It may be that the farmers will be dispossessed and possibly there will be large tracts of land which will grow wild and no production will be forthcoming. At the worst, that would be unsightly. But it could also be, and almost certainly would be, contrary to the Government's White Paper, Food from our own Resources. We shall not get the production out of it, and we cannot afford to lose land of this kind.

The purpose of this Amendment is to lay an obligation on local authorities to ensure that land so acquired will be properly managed and looked after until such time as it is required for development. If the farmers are not dispossessed, it may be that the local authority will say, "We want to buy up this land but you, who have been farming here for some while, can go on farming until we require it for development purposes". What kind of a state will that person be in? He will not be able to have the security of borrowing from a bank, be cause his security will be a rapidly dwindling asset. He will not be able to avail himself of capital grants, because no Government Ministry in its right senses would give them to something which it knew could well come to an end within five or 10 years. Therefore, if left on its own that enterprise will dwindle and gradually become bad. We want to avoid that happening. I would suggest, with the greatest respect, that the best way to avoid that happening is by the Government accepting this Amendment which quite clearly lays upon the Authority the duty to see that that land is properly managed for agricultural purposes, if it has been so used, pending its development.

9.37 p.m.


I understand that my noble and learned friend is well apprised of the fact that noble Lords opposite are always trying to be helpful in the Amendments that they move, and I agree with him in that view. May I add that I accept the principle underlying the Amendment. Indeed, it would be very inconsistent if I did not, because I said earlier today when we were dealing with statutory undertakers that if they took agricultural land for future use it was right that in the meantime it should continue to be used for agricultural purposes, and that as much food as possible should be produced from it. However, I have doubts about both the advisability of and the necessity for the Amendment which has been moved by noble Lords opposite.

For a start, under Clause 14(1) the authority will already be under a general duty to manage and turn to account land that is acquired by them under the Bill. In the case of farmland this will include continuing to operate the land for farming. Development of the land, involving its being taken out of farming use, would require planning permission. The granting of such permission will be under the control of the local planning authority and subject to a right of appeal to the Secretary of State.

This might be a good moment once again to try to lay to rest a myth which I think the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, perpetuated in his speech when he said—I think I am correctly paraphrasing what he said—that when the Bill is passed there will be more green field sites brought into development. We have attempted, and obviously failed, to make it clear—myself and noble Lords on this side of the Committee, and my honourable friends in another place—that there is no question of this Bill altering planning procedures, planning priorities. There is no question of more agricultural land—green field sites—being developed because this Bill is passed. This Bill will not have that effect.

While I accept, as I have said, the principle underlying the Amendment I do not accept that the problem, if there is one, will be exacerbated by the passing of the Bill. Normal planning constraints will apply. Indeed, in Wales, with which we are dealing in this Amendment, it will be the local planning authorities, not the Land Authority, which will decide planning functions. The one argument of noble Lords opposite against the points that I have put forward, which is that local authorities will be planning and buying land—which is something that we see as desirable—and will therefore tend to give planning permission to green field sites, does not apply in this case to Wales. Therefore, I cannot accept that there is any question of more green field sites being developed than would happen in any event. I accept that green field sites will be developed in Wales, regardless of what happens to this Bill.

Secondly, in exercising their functions, and in particular in deciding whether development land, including farmland which they have acquired, should be made available for development, the Land Authority will also be required under Schedule 1 to have regard to the needs of agriculture and forestry. These provisions will be supported by the general oversight powers of the Secretary of State, who may give the Land Authority directions on any aspect of their operations. This Amendment specifically calls for consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. If I may say so, the drafting of this part of the Amendment is rather imprecise, but it is argued that such a requirement is unnecessary. In most cases agricultural land will not be acquired until development is imminent. In other cases, it should be possible to arrange for the existing farmer to continue to farm the land.

I think the noble Lord, Lord Middle ton, asked me under what sort of arrangements that would be done, and of course he would be a tenant farmer, tenant of the Land Authority. As the noble Earl said, it may well be that a tenant in that position would not want to undertake capital projects, just as any farmer farming on land which he knew was likely to be acquired by some authority for some other purpose would not want to under take capital projects, and therefore grants for those projects might be affected. But I do not think any other grants given to farmers in Wales would be affected by the fact that the farmer was a tenant of the Land Authority. Hill farming subsidies, and soon, would continue in the usual way. The Land Authority themselves would have available farming expertise which, in our view, would generally suffice to ensure that the land is kept in productive use, and would have a financial incentive to derive rent from the land for as long as possible. So there should be no question of the land merely being left to grow weeds while the Land Authority decided what to do with it.

They will also have available the full range of advisory facilities of the Ministry of Agriculture. A failure to keep the land in farming use would therefore reflect a serious failure of management by the Authority, and in that case it is our view that a directive from the Secretary of State would probably be needed, rather than mere consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture. This would be a more serious matter than one which merely called for consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture, and if the Land Authority fell down on their clearly de fined duties in this respect the Secretary of State would be bound to step in. The noble Lord, Lord Sandys, asked me a question about the 10-year provision and I can tell him that that is a maximum.


I long to get into the mind of the Government; I have tried, and still try, but I am still not correctly understanding the noble Lord. I am sure it is my dumb-wittedness that is the cause, but as I understand the position the Authority have the powor to acquire land under Clause 15, and the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, hung a certain amount of his case on the fact that under Clause 14(1) this Amendment is unnecessary because, The Authority shall have the general function of managing and turning to account land acquired by them". I do not think that to have the requirement upon the Authority to turn to account land which they have necessarily means that they have to see that that is farmed and looked after properly.

The noble Lord said that there would be an incentive, because the Authority would have to derive a rent from these farms. One thing that has come out of this debate is that when that land is taken over and until it is to be developed farmers will continue to farm that land. My real worry is that there could well be an occasion when a farmer says, "If this is to be developed in, say, three years' time"—it may be that, in fact, it is not developed for five or six years—"I will get out of it", and if he does so who will take over the tenancy? No other farmer will take over that tenancy if he thinks it has two years to run, and it may well be that that land becomes derelict. When the noble Lord says he is in sympathy with the meaning of the Amendment, I would ask: would it be wrong to include this Amendment? If he is in sympathy with it, if all it does is underline the practicality and need for this land to be properly looked after, there is nothing wrong in putting it in the Bill. But I do not think it is enough to say that Clause 14 says that the Authority shall have to turn to account the land they have under their ownership. I hope the noble Lord will be a little more helpful towards this Amendment. He says he is in sympathy with its spirit. If he could be a little more sympathetic and say, "Yes, we will accept the Amendment, because it puts into the Bill the requirement which both of us wish to see", that would be very helpful.


While I am glad to acknowledge the answer which the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, gave me about the 10 years, I would like to make a number of remarks about this matter. It is the intention of the Government, should this Bill become law, to impose a duty on local authorities to make plans 10 years ahead. Many of your noble Lordships present are very well experienced in the role of local government in making plans and contingencies for this period. Nevertheless, I am sure all noble Lords will agree that when this new burden, which is a scheme of a certain novelty, is laid on local authorities, surely a number of them will either cater excessively, or change their minds. That is our anxiety. Not all local authorities are equally proficient; not all national priorities come into effect.

Supposing there were intentions for large housing schemes, or industrial development, or something of that nature, and suppose that priorities changed. This is by no means an impossibility. I would draw the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, to the fact that important schemes which were devised over the period of the early, middle and late 'sixties, such as the Severnside scheme, reached the waste paper basket approximately in the early part of 1973. There are very good reasons why important and far-reaching schemes are scrapped. One is undoubtedly the difficulty which the Registrar-General has in his population statistics. I am not anxious to criticise the Registrar-General in the planning field, but notoriously his figures are known to be at least between 80 per cent. and 100 per cent. wrong.

This is a most difficult area, but I think noble Lords will agree that from time to time, when important schemes are scrapped, local authorities must be relieved of much of their responsibility in making over-bids for land planning. It is the intention of my noble friends and I that farmland, should it remain in the hands of the Authority during the period of 6, 7 or 8 years, should be expertly farmed and managed for the benefit of all.


May I give an illustration of the dangers of including this clause without this proviso? Some 20 years ago, an area in my old constituency was bought by Hull Corporation for purposes of development. The farms were all let to the former farmers on a 364-day tenancy. As a result, for 20 years no improvements were carried out on those farms, and the whole of that area relapsed. I should have thought some form of words, either from this Amendment or some other, should be inserted on Report stage to encourage local authorities to see that the farms were properly prepared for the extension in agricultural production of which this Government are in favour. Without it, I am afraid what Hull Corporation did will he copied in many other places, not only in Wales but in this country. I hope, therefore, that further consideration w ill be given to this before the Report stage.

9.50 p.m.


Far be it from me to suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, was prolonging debate on what I have acknowledged is a very important subject, but I really do not think, with great respect, that the Registrar-General's figures have very great relevance to the Amendment we are discussing. The noble Lord who has just spoken has said that this has happened in other situations, and of course the acquisition of land in advance of development schemes which change is not going to be a new feature or one associated solely with the land scheme. The responsibility on the Land Authority will be to avoid this situation, but, if I may say so, the present Amendment will not help, and I will in a moment say yet again why I do not think it will help.

The noble Lord, Lord Sandys, reverted to this question of the ten-year period, and it might be helpful if I spell it out in a little more detail. The ten-year period in Clause 18 is a maximum and a limitation. It is not saying that authorities must buy all land needed for the next ten years—in other words have a ten year land bank. Indeed it would not be the Government's wish that they should buy too far ahead because of the financing costs, but we have recognised that in some cases—for example, where they are concerned with the amalgamation of several small sites into one large one—the land will have to be bought ahead of need. Apart from this we shall ensure, through the rolling programmes which will be submitted annually to the Department, that their land is not bought too far ahead of need.

I said that I did not think this Amendment would help with the problem which noble Lords opposite see. To start with, I cannot for the life of me see how consultations with the Ministry of Agriculture will help to find a new tenant when the existing tenant walks out. I have, as any farmer has, an enormous respect for the advisory role the Ministry of Agriculture play for working farmers, but I really do not see that the Amendment is going to help in that situation. I said earlier—and perhaps I did not say it forcefully enough—that the Land Authority will themselves have available farming expertise, and it is our view that this expertise will generally suffice to make sure that land is kept in productive use. In fact I should have thought that the Land Authority may well be in a comparatively strong position when they buy land and find that they have no sitting tenant; because if they are buying land over a wide area, and if noble Lords are right—I do not know whether or not they are—that tenants will simply give up farming when the Land Authority appear on the horizon, they are going to be in quite a good position to build up an expert management team which can manage the land in accordance with the strict obligations the Authority are under before development takes place.

I think the Amendment not only would not help the situation, but it would be wrong. It would be unreasonable, in our view, to place on the Land Authority a statutory obligation to consult the Ministry of Agriculture every time they buy a piece of farming land. The Amendment would place no corresponding duty on the Ministry of Agriculture as to the value of the advice they must give, and would place no duty on the Land Authority to comply with such advice. In practice, there is absolutely no doubt that the Land Authority will keep agricultural land in production for as long as possible. I have spelled out the reasons for that in considerable detail, and I hope noble Lords opposite can accept that position.


The noble Lord has said that he does not think the local authorities would buy up land very far ahead, have vast land banks ten years ahead, because of the financial implications involved. I entirely accept that. The fact is that the Bill allows them to do so. Our Amendment is put down with that in mind. Of course, if local authorities are only going to buy up the land they require in the next year, then this Amendment would not be required. The fact is that the Bill allows them to buy up land some way ahead, and that is why we feel this is desirable.

Much of the noble Lord's argument was based on why an authority should consult with the Ministry of Agriculture, and that this was unnecessary. I want to be helpful. Do I understand from that that he would be prepared to accept this Amendment if the last few words were cut out, namely, "in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture"? That would leave: The authority shall make arrangements for the management of land held by the authority pending development, with particular regard to the need to encourage the full and proper agricultural use of any farm land acquired by the authority". If he were to think that that would be acceptable, then we could come to some agreement.


It may interest the noble Earl to know that I took advice on this specific point because it had occurred to me. If I were to accept that Amendment, we, on this side of the Committee, would be in the position of having to accept any Amendment which repeated things which were already in the Bill. I have spelt out in some considerable detail and at great length why this is unnecessary, because the Land Authority are already obliged to act in this way. I do not think that merely to repeat it yet again would be useful either from the point of view of making the Bill simple and straightforward so that people could understand it, or that it is necessary.

9.57 p.m.


The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, opened his remarks by saying that Amendments from this side of the Committee were usually helpful. This was indeed intended to be a helpful and indeed valuable asset in promoting the scheme in Wales. The point where I depart from the noble Lord is where he hangs much of his argument, is my noble friend Lord Ferrers said, on Clause 14(1), which says: The Authority shall have the general function of managing and turning to account"— because "managing and turning to account" could easily be over quite a large area of agricultural land forming perhaps the opportunity for caravan sites et cetera, which would in no way be an agricultural use for this land. Should this continue for a long period—and I am glad that my noble friend Lord Tranmire mentioned a case in his knowledge—this could have a disastrous effect.

I should also like to return to the point I made about the change of plans over a period. I am quite sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, will remember the problems faced by her county in 1965, and how different the world looks in 1975. An enormous change has taken place in the planning field. In a humble capacity in a voluntary organisation, the CPRE, for over a period of more than ten years I have been in close touch with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and its successor the Department of the Environment, and there is no question or doubt that radical changes have taken place in as short a period as nine or ten years.

Surely in this time scale, if we are to look forward to, say, 1985, as pro posed by the Government, it is likely that the demands of Government and local government are liable to change. In the 1960s, we had the planned corridors of growth; and I mentioned the total stranding of the Severnside scheme. We had linear towns. Perhaps that was before the time of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett—I do not know. But the linear town built-up area between Bristol and Exeter was on the drawing board as a contingency plan at one time and has been thrown overboard. It must be that plans are formed on data provided by other Government Departments.

The noble Lord suggested that the Registrar-General's figures were irrelevant in this context. One must make one's own judgment. I feel that the

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

Registrar-General has a very important part to play in the planning role, and that his figures of the birth rate and so on have a tremendous effect not only on the staffing of local government but on the management of schools and the whole remit of Government and local government throughout the country. We are not satisfied with the noble Lord's replies. We had intended this Amendment to be helpful and we still believe it to be helpful; but one must make a judgment, and in our judgment it is better that the Bill should contain this Amendment. I therefore regret that I shall have to press it to a Division.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 42A) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 50; Not-Contents, 24.

Aberdare, L. Ferrers, E. Northchurch, B.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Gage, V. O'Hagan, L.
Balfour, E. Gainford, L. Rankeillour, L.
Belstead, L. Gridley, L. Ridley, V.
Brecon, L. Hastings, L. Robertson of Oakridge, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Hornsby-Smith, B. Salisbury, M.
Chelwood, L. Hylton, L. Sandford, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Kemsley, V. Sandys, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Kinnoull, E. Savile, L.
Cowley, E. [Teller.] Long, V. Sherfield, L.
Craigavon, V. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Lyell, L. Strathclyde, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Mancroft, L. Stuart of Findhorn, V.
Dundee, E. Mansfield, E. Tranmire, L.
Elles, B. Middleton, L. Vickers, B.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.] Vivian, L.
Falkland, V. Young, B.
Beswick, L. Jacques, L. Morris of Kenwood, L.
Birk, B. Janner, L. Phillips, B.
Brockway, L. Kirkhill, L. Raglan, L.
Champion, L. Lee of Newton, L. Stedman, B.
Crook, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Strabolgi, L.
Crowther-Hunt, L. Lovell-Davis, L. [Teller.] Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chancellor.) Maelor, L. Wells-Pestell, L. [Teller.]
Melchett, L. Winterbottom, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L.

Clause 14, as amended, agreed to.

10.9 p.m.

Clause 15 [Powers of acquisition and appropriation]:

Earl FERRERS moved Amendment No. 45A: Page 14, line 20, leave out ("land which, in their opinion is suitable for development") and insert ("development land").

The noble Earl said: With this Amendment, I shall speak to Amendment No. 46B and to manuscript Amendment No. 46E. The Amendment leaves out the words, land which in their opinion is suitable for development and inserts the words, "development land". This is slightly complicated and I ask your Lordships to attune your minds as we retrace the complexities of the definitions. Clause 15 gives the powers of acquisition for land which, in the opinion of the local authorities, is suitable for development. In order to find out what "development land" is—and we suggest that "development land" should be inserted instead of the words "suitable for development"—it is necessary to turn to Clause 4. This clause defines development land as having the meaning given to it by Clause 17. One then turns to Clause 17, subsection (4) of which states, In this Act 'development land' means land which, in the opinion of the authority concerned, is needed for relevant development …". Not "suitable for …", but "needed for …". One then looks to find out what is "relevant development". To find that out one turns to Clause 3, in which one finds that "relevant development" means any development except exempt development, or dwelling-houses, or excepted development.

Therefore if the Government, and in deed your Lordships, were to accept this Amendment local authorities would be given power to acquire only land which is needed for relevant development; not which is suitable for any development, but which is needed for relevant development within the next 10 years. I should have thought that that would be a sufficiently wide power to give any local authority, because, after all, as it is at the moment, it is power to take land suitable for any development which, in the opinion of the local authority, is suitable. The land does not have to be needed for relevant development. The local authority has to say merely that it thinks the land is suitable. We believe that it would be better to restrict the power to that which is needed for relevant development; and indeed one begins to wonder for what other reason a local authority would wish to buy such land, when already there are a myriad of other laws and powers under which local authorities can buy land.

Under this Amendment, local authorities could not acquire land which was exempted land; nor could they acquire dwelling-houses or excepted development land, but they could acquire any land needed for relevant development. There fore, it would protect smaller properties, and I suggest that the need which is described in Clause 17(4) is far more specific than the word "suitable" which appears in the Bill, and which this Amendment seeks to clarify.

Therefore, I hope that the Government will agree that this would be an appropriate alteration to the Bill. The manuscript Amendment, to which I have referred, is only a small and consequential Amendment which would leave out sub section (2), which in itself refers to development land, which, if this Amendment is accepted, would not have to be referred to. I beg to move.


These Amendments and others which are linked with them—Amendments Nos. 45B, 46, 46C, 49 and 49A—are designed to limit the power of authorities to acquire land under Clause 15 of the Bill, and it may be convenient for me to begin my reply to the submissions of the noble Earl by endeavouring to clear up what seem to me to be some basic misconceptions in regard to the land scheme. The scheme is about buying land for development: that is the heart and soul of it. It has no effect on land which is not coming into development, it is not land nationalisation; and what is to come into development will be controlled by the planning system, as now. Those are basic propositions which I think should be emphasised.

The compulsory purchasing power which we are discussing is no different from existing powers. The changes made by Part I of Schedule 4, which we shall be discussing in detail, are all changes, I submit, in procedure, and two of these—the power to dispense with an inquiry and the power to disregard certain objections—are precedented in the New Towns Act. We have not invented some new, expedited process of compulsory acquisition. Neither the procedure on planning applications in Clause 20 nor the disposal notification area provisions provide any new powers of acquisition; they are simply ways in which authorities identify land. When they want to buy they have to go through the compulsory purchase procedure set out in the Bill. There is, therefore, no reason why any types of land should be taken outside the compulsory purchase power.

Local authorities already have wide powers to buy any land they need for their own statutory purposes, or to bring it into private development. For example, the acquisition power in the Housing Act 1957 extends to land for any housing, and not simply local authority housing. Similarly, authorities have power to buy compulsorily now any land which the Secretary of State is satisfied they need to acquire immediately, for a purpose which it is necessary to achieve in the interests of the proper planning of an area in which the land is situated". That language is not the language of a Socialist Act of Parliament: it is in the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, Section 112(1)(d).


Will the noble and learned Lord forgive my interrupting on that point? It is a point which has been made throughout the Bill, and it is a bad point. The 1971 Act was a consolidation Act, and I think that the noble and learned Lord will find that the power that he is referring to derives from other legislation. The 1971 Act was not a piece of Conservative legislation. I happened to be the Chairman of the Consolidation Bills Committee at the time, and it was a consolidation Act.


If it gives the noble Viscount comfort to say that it was consolidated only in the period of the Conservative Administration, he can derive what comfort he can from that qualification of what I have said, but I really must not submit to the temptation to approach this is in any Party political sense. But, having been to that extent chastened by the intervention of the noble Viscount, and after that exordium on the general principles which I thought it was important to make in order to remove some of the anxiety about these acquisition powers generally—at least, I hope it will—I proceed to say that these Amendments are not acceptable for reasons which I hope to indicate.

First, I stress that the Bill is concerned with the development of land—I repeat, with the development of land—not with land for its own sake. Land can be suitable for many types of development. Even if it has planning permission for one type of development, it may be equally suitable for one or more other types of development; so that any Amendment that takes land either on its own or with a certain type of planning permission outside the acquisition power is wrong in principle. For instance, you cannot have a situation where would-be development cannot take place because there is a bit of land in the middle which could be totally exempt from acquisition because it has a certain type of building upon it which could conflict with all the proposed development around it.

Secondly, the Bill is concerned with three categories of development. First, exempt development in Schedule 1: very minor development for which land will never need to he acquired under the land scheme. This is specifically excluded from the acquisition power by Clause 15(2). Secondly, there is excepted development. This will normally proceed with out public intervention; but acquisition for such development may, very exceptionally, still be justified. Thirdly, there is "relevant development" with which the land scheme is concerned. But the acquisition power—and I emphasise "power" and not duty—must extend not only to land for relevant development; it must cover and embrace land for excepted development as well, even though the Secretary of State would not normally allow the power to be used compulsorily.

Not only is this to guard against evasion of the land scheme by breaking a single development down into smaller but artificial units, but there are some cases—for instance, industrial and recreational development—where the only way to bring the land into that development may be for an authority to acquire it and where it is right that they should be able to do so. Finally, it must be borne in mind that the local authorities already have compulsory acquisition powers which go far wider than "relevant development". To restrict the power in the Bill to "relevant development" only and to exclude everything else could produce an intolerable situation of fragmented compulsory purchase orders with different bits of land needed for one scheme having to be acquired under different powers if the Clause 15 power got out of line.

The general case that I have adumbrated covers these and, I submit, most of the other Amendments which will follow. Having given that general indication of the grounds on which we have gone in this field beyond the limited range of development land, I hope that I may have persuaded—although I doubt it—noble Lords on all sides of the Committee that what is proposed is necessary, reasonable and precedented.


For which purposes does the noble and learned Lord suggest that we shall need to have compulsory powers? He has said that we have already got them under various legislation in the Housing Act and under paragraph (d) of Section 112(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 which I would just remind the noble and learned Lord is derived from the Socialist Act of 1968 before it was consolidated. As he rightly said, there are various powers which already exist.

All that this Amendment does, as I understand it, is to confine the power—and I appreciate that it is a power under Clause 15—to those cases where the land is development land within the meaning of Clause 17(4). What other developments are going to require the use of compulsory powers which are not already dealt with, either under the legislation which concerns relevant development under this Bill, or the role of Statutes giving compulsory powers of which the noble and learned Lord gave a list? There are others as well. If it is only evasion he is after, let us know that is the point. That may be one thing, but are there other situations not covered by existing powers of compulsory acquisition, not relevant development, which are going to need compulsory powers under this Bill? I do not know what they arc. It would be helpful if I knew.


I should like to support my noble friends. While I am loath to challenge the views that we have had from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor I am a little foxed by what is really intended by these two very different words, "needed development". We all know that the powers exist at this moment, should a local authority require land for development for roads, schools, hospitals or council housing, for it to pursue compulsory purchase orders to acquire that land for a necessary public service. But the term "suitable land for development" in my lay, unlegal mind, means any land that could be developed for any purpose, whether or not it had anything to do with a local authority or public service.

I think this term opens an enormously wide field. I am not in any way opposing the grounds on which the noble and learned Lord outlined the powers that a local authority requires for land needed for development. It is a very different matter if a local authority is going to have powers to take over land which it does not want for any public purpose but which, under the classification, as I have read this Bill, would be suitable for development, possibly by someone seeking to build houses for private purchase and occupancy, or for a light industry area, or even for some shopping complex. All those interests would have to obtain planning permission. It seems wrong that we should lay wide open any piece of land suitable for development. That, to my lay mind, means that anything can be taken over which anybody might for any purpose seek to develop. I person ally would be very happy indeed to support the Amendment moved by my noble friend.


While this Bill is to be passed into law, I do not think I would go so far as my noble friend Lady Hornsby-Smith, I would strongly support my noble friend who moved the Amendment. I hope he will stick to his guns because it is most desirable that we take out of the Bill questions of opinion. Questions of opinion are endlessly debatable. What we ought to be doing is to try to restrict the acquisition, and sometimes compulsory acquisiton, of land to real needs which can be proved and shown to exist. That is why I very much hope my noble friend will, if necessary, press his Amendment.

10.30 p.m.

The Earl of KINNOULL

I should like to refer to several points, but I should first like to say that I find it disagreeable that at 10.30 p.m. we should be dealing with such an important subject as compulsory purchase. It is a very thin Committee. I know that your Lordships regard compulsory purchase and the acquisition of new powers as being of great importance, and I very much regret that the Government feel they have to plough on against the wish of many of your Lordships until the magic hour of midnight. I regret this very much, because there has been so much criticism of these powers in the Bill. Many of us have received briefs from dozens of organisations who are worried about these powers. Listening to the soothing words of the noble and learned Lord, I feel that perhaps we are wrong, perhaps there is nothing to be worried about in these new powers. But, with the greatest respect, I think that the noble and learned Lord, with his great ability for persuading us of what is sensible, has erred on this occasion.

If I may refer to one brief which I have received, concerned with compulsory purchase, it rather strays into Schedule 4, but perhaps that is necessary when we are talking about new powers of acquisition under Clause 15. This very responsible body said this about the new procedures which the noble and learned Lord has mentioned as being so acceptable. They said, first, that they abolish the obligation of an acquiring authority to state the purpose for which the land is required. That, in itself, is one of the greatest safeguards which an individual has. Secondly, the Secretary of State is enabled entirely to ignore objections questioning the expediency or necessity of the acquisition. Thirdly, the Secretary of State is empowered to consent to the acquisition of land for purposes which still need not be publicised, which would otherwise be ultra vires. I think these are pretty damning comments from a very responsible body.

I should also like to ask how many Members of this Committee have been involved in compulsory purchase; I suspect that there are very few. I know some of the procedures involved, and the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, knows them well. They are long and tortuous and, at the end of the day, the individual may receive his compensation perhaps three years after the acquisition. It is a long and cumbersome procedure, and this is a power which Parliament should look at most carefully. I believe that Parliament, and in particular your Lordships, should look at this clause most carefully.

Turning to the rights of the individual, I direct your attention to paragraph 35 of the White Paper, which reads: Other permanent exemptions from acquisition under the scheme will be set out in due course, but they will include alterations and extensions to dwelling houses; the building, within the curtilage of a dwelling occupied by the owner at the date of this White Paper, of a single house for occupation by the owner or a member of his family; buildings used in agriculture and forestry; and development related to the extraction of minerals. Consideration will be given to the extent to which extensions to buildings and changes between use classes can be exempted, and the exemptions will also take account of the need not to con strain important industrial development and expansion. Those words are worth repeating, because the advice I have received on the rights of the individual and his house is something which I find disturbing. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will address his reply to this. I have been told that under Clause 3 the private individual may build a house, and that comes within "relevant development".



The Earl of KINNOULL

I mean within "development". I am afraid that at this time of night arguments can get mixed up. It is not "relevant." What I am saying is that there are two classes of private individual; those who will be exempt and those who relate to excepted development. As the noble and learned Lord said, there will be a great deal of difference between excepted development and exempt development. Exempt development was a specific point made in the White Paper. The private individual would not suffer; he would be exempted for all time by this Bill. What I am saying is that, on certain occasions, the private individual is not fully exempt, because he comes within the sphere of excepted development. I hope that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will reply to that point tonight. It is a vital issue.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I am a little concerned with some of my noble friends. Once again, perhaps I may take advantage of the perch I sit on right at the back of the Chamber. My noble friend who moved this Amendment would be putting the Bill back to exactly how it was written when it came from the Committee stage in another place. Then the words which he seeks to leave out were inserted at the Report stage in another place. I should like to place a little emphasis on the word "suitable". My reason is that I think that far too often and on far too many occasions a local authority acquire land without having really surveyed it to see whether they can properly use it. This is a constant fight of mine all over the place. I re member having a real battle over this one when, although the land had been surveyed, we could not drain for certain houses and the landscape architect cheer fully said: "Oh well, we can plant trees on it." I said: "Good heavens! You are taking away some of the very best agricultural land and spending the council's good money on it and then planting trees. "I ask my noble friends—and I am sorry to be the odd man out—to think again a little on this Amendment.

10.38 p.m.


I endeavoured to indicate in my opening observations the types of land and the categories of development with which the Bill is concerned. There was exempt development, which I indicated as minor development for which land will never need to be acquired under the land scheme and that is specifically excluded from acquisition power. Then there is excepted development. As I said, that will normally proceed without public intervention. Nevertheless, I have indicated the reasons why, exceptionally, even excepted development might for the purposes of good planning need to be acquired. Thirdly, there is the "relevant development" with which the land scheme is concerned.

The acquisition power must, I submit, cover land for excepted development as well, even though, as I indicated, normally the Secretary of State would not allow that power to be used in respect of excepted development. But one can conceive of a situation where, if there was no power at all, if it was totally excluded to acquire houses, it could happen that a large industrial development planned for an area with, say, a farmhouse in the centre of it could be frustrated by making it impossible to acquire the house by means of a compulsory purchase order.

The Earl of KINNOULL

I apologise for interrupting, but already there are compulsory purchase powers in the case of the very example which the noble and learned Lord has given. I feel strongly about this issue, because of the new powers. The example of the farmhouse which the noble and learned Lord has cited would come within this new procedure and many of the individual rights would disappear. Why not leave cases of that kind to be dealt with under the old powers?


The out come of that situation would be that the authority would have to make a separate compulsory purchase order for the farm house, and another for the acquisition of the land round about for industrial development. One can think of a similar kind of situation arising if the authority wanted to buy land for 100 houses and to provide an open space in the middle. If the open space were excepted development, that land would not be needed for relevant development. Again, the authority would have to make separate compulsory purchase orders for the housing and for the open space if they wanted to use the new power for the housing. It is a situation where this additional power is needed. The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, thinks that all of these powers already exist. If so, the Bill as drafted is mere duplication. If, however, the power does not deal with some excepted development of the kind I have indicated—and I do not believe that there are adequate powers to deal with it—the Bill's power is required to fill the gap.

The point I wish to emphasise in the consideration of this matter is that the compulsory purchase order for excepted development has to go through the normal compulsory purchase order procedures. At the end of the day, there is the ultimate decision of the Secretary of State. He has said that he will expect special justification for the acquisition of land in the category of excepted land—the consideration of fragmentation or evasion, or the needs of positive planning. If those factors are present and if, in the public interest, positive planning of that kind for the sensible and effective development of an area exists, and if the compulsory purchase order procedures are adequate, then I submit that this is an acceptable situation. In the course of the detailed consideration of these powers we shall go into the matters which the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, has raised. I do not propose to traverse them at this point. I submit, however, that these Amendments, designed to restrict the area in which these powers are to be exercised, would damage the conception and basically undermine the purposes of the Bill.


With the greatest respect to the noble and learned Lord, a good deal of what he has said is based upon a collection of false premises. Let me take first his complaint that there might have to be a number of different compulsory purchase orders. There are frequently a number of such orders now, and so far as I know it causes no difficulty. I promoted one the other day whereby rather more than half the land was being bought by the district council under the High ways Act for car parking and another portion was being bought by the county council for a fire station. The whole matter was dealt with at the same public inquiry; the same people were there; the same Inspector presided and the procedure works perfectly satisfactorily. I do not think there is anything to worry about just because one has to act under more than one set of powers.

Before now I have promoted compulsory purchase orders to buy land for open space. There is nothing difficult about that. It is done under one of the oldest Acts which give compulsory purchase powers. The procedure is a little strange but it is not all that difficult and one can get through it perfectly satisfactorily. I am pleased to say that on this occasion it was eventually confirmed and to the best of my knowledge it is now enjoyed by the public. So there is no great difficulty about that.

The noble Lord asked—and I think we are getting into a difficulty here—what would happen if there was a farmhouse on the plot. He has fallen into the same trap that the noble Baroness was telling us about yesterday. The point about the farmhouse does not arise under this Bill. It would apply only if it was a plot upon which somebody was proposing to build a farmhouse. If the farmhouse is already there, there is no bar upon the use of the powers under this Bill because that is not a development which is covered by Clause 3(1)(b).

We were told yesterday, very properly and rightly, that this Bill is concerned with proposed development—not with land and existing buildings upon land. If there was a farmhouse in the middle of it that would not be development consisting exclusively of the building of a single dwellinghouse, because that dwellinghouse would already be there and the proposition woud not be to develop land by the building of another one. What I think has happened is that because of a number of processes in Parliament we have gone a long way from the pattern of the Bill as it was originally introduced. I do not know that we ought necessarily to come to any complete conclusion on this Amendment but I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord could help us on this.

We had to rely on the White Paper for our actions for a long time before the Bill was eventually produced, and many people framed their activities and took personal and commercial decesions based upon it. As my noble friend has said, we were told that within the curtilage of a dwellinghouse occupied by the owner at the date of this White Paper—the famous White Paper Day—the building of a single house for occupation by the owner or a member of his family, would be permanently exempted from acquisition under this Bill. That of course was dealt with in what used to be Clauses 4 and 5. Those have gone and have been replaced by at any rate part of what is now Clause 3(1)(b). Clause 3(1)(b) goes a good deal wider, because it deals not only with single dwellinghouses on plots intended to be built at White Paper Day, but single dwellinghouses on plots intended to be built at any time.

But what is happening is that under this provision in Clause 15, as it now has been worked out, if we define "development" without any reference to the private dwelling-house on White Paper day, or any other day, we are reducing the areas of exemptions which were promised in the White Paper. The noble and learned Lord must realise that this worries me. It is quite true that even those plots of land may have to be bought for some other scheme. They may have to be bought for part of an industrial estate. There are powers which the noble and learned Lord himself mentioned in the Town and Country Planning Act, under which a great many pieces of land could be assembled together and purchased for precisely that purpose; and the more we get down to structure plans, the more the other pro visions in Section 112(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act will be apposite. So it will still be possible to do it.

All I am suggesting to the noble and learned Lord is that if we are not very careful, and if he does not say that he will look at this again, he will end up in a position where he is actively detracting from the exemptions that were promised in the White Paper, relating to single plots on which people propose to build houses for members of their families. There are a number of people who were in that category on White Paper day, and I seriously suggest that the noble and learned Lord ought not just to brush that aside. He certainly ought not to base his whole argument on the proposition that it is an existing farmhouse, whereas what we are talking about is a proposed single dwellinghouse, not yet built on a plot owned on White Paper day.

10.50 p.m.


I will certainly see whether there is anything in the Bill, save in the utterly exceptional circumstances which I indicated, which amounts to a derogation from what is provided for and contemplated in the White Paper. I will give serious thought to that. I am not satisfied that it is so, and indeed, the power to build on small plots for the owner-occupier is something that is preserved. But I will see whether there is some development, save in the exceptional circumstances where the need for development may require acquisition even of a single plot. If that should occur in given circumstances, then the aggrieved owner would have his power of objection and his remedy in respect of loss. I will certainly look at that.

One has got to come back to a view about the basic principle of this scheme, namely, the principle that all development should be through publicly-owned land, that that development should be governed by planning principles which will be applied and governed by the local authorities, the responsible persons in this field, who are the experts on these matters. Half development land is owned by local authorities. We take the view that the principle that development land should be owned by the public is crucial, not only from the point of view of enabling the community to reap the reward of the increment in land values, which is the result of the effort of the community at large, but, also as we believe—and we shall be considering this in detail—that in terms of planning itself and the proper use of this most precious commodity in the community, namely, land, it is desirable that it should be publicly owned. It is upon this principle that I can see there can be no agreement between both sides of the Committee, at least between the Conservative noble Lords and our selves. I am afraid we shall not be able to come together on that. I will certainly look at any of these detailed matters on the kind of point that the noble Viscount has raised, in case I may have misled myself. But I do not think so.

10.53 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

I am very glad to hear that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is to look at this matter. I do not speak in any sense as a planning expert, but on several occasions in the course of debates on this side of the Committee we have been criticised for misleading the public. If we look at what is an absolutely crucial clause in this Bill, Clause 15, and see how very complicated the language there is, and the amount of misunderstanding that there can be among those who have tried to study it, it is easy to see how the public can misunderstand.

I think my noble friends have raised an exceedingly important point about the fact that we are not talking about relevant development, as we were in Clause 3. We are talking about land suitable for development, which is quite different. It means that all the assurances given about the single plots do not apply under Clause 15; and assurances, as I understand it, that were given yesterday are now being taken away today, because we are told, as the noble and learned Lord has told us, that in exceptional circumstances the exceptions themselves can be overridden.

I am not suggesting that the Government are deliberately misleading the public, but they are certainly confusing everyone. It is no use anybody leaving the Committee and saying, "You may be quite sure that the single plot is safe", because clearly it is not safe, at least, not in my understanding of what the noble and learned Lord has said. I think that this kind of language simply con fuses people. I will not repeat my arguments about the community, as we had a long talk about what we meant by that. But one group I think we meant was the thousands of people who owned single plots of land on White Paper day or had bought them since. They have a right to know where they stand, and I do not think they know now.

The Earl of KINNOULL

Before my noble friend decides what to do with this Amendment, may I put one short point to the noble and learned Lord? My noble friend Lord Ferrers raised the interesting point that under Clause 17 you have the definition of "development". Would the noble and learned Lord consider whether this definition could be put into Clause 4, which is where all the others are? It seems quite stupid that in Clause 17, which gives the general duties of the authorities, we have this specific point on "development". I hope that the noble and learned Lord has taken my point and will consider it.


I will look at that. I think the draftsmen, in dealing with the varied subject matters that arise in this admittedly complex Bill, thought it might be convenient to put in the definitions as the Bill went along. This point arose in earlier discussion on the Bill. It is quite right that the definition clauses appear in several places, and if this is unnecessarily adding to the confusion and can easily and conveniently be remedied we will look at it.

I deny that there has been any significant change in the scope of the acquisition powers since the Bill was introduced, but I will certainly look at the technical point which has arisen about single plots and we will have an opportunity to revert to it again. My under standing is that there was never any promise in the White Paper or in the original Bill that these plots would be exempt. It was simply certain development on such plots that was to be specially treated. It is true that multi-compulsory purchase orders have very occasionally been made, though I have never been professionally involved in them myself.


I do it quite frequently.


It is obvious that I left the Bar too soon. Though they are made on occasions, my understanding is that they are exceptional. But if they are not, they cause needless work by duplication. However, we will have a look at these highly technical matters and will no doubt revert to them in the course of the next few days.


I hope that your Lordships are now perfectly clear as to what the situation is, because, speaking for myself, I am in a complete and utter muddle. We have heard all the arguments put forward by lawyers on both sides of the House, indeed none less than the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. If I may say so, his original reply was in the nature—and I do not mean this in the slightest bit offensively—of a departmental answer which referred to exempted development, excepted development, relevant development and so forth, all of which are highly relevant. But the danger is that you put into the Bill things that are totally incomprehensible to the average person, in which modest category I put myself. The purpose of Parliament is surely to try to put forward legislation which is comprehensible. That means that it ought to be able to be considered and understood by people who are not right at the top of the legal profession.

I am bound to say that I come down to two simple premises on this Amendment. First, the Bill says in Clause 15(1): An Authority—(a) shall have power to acquire by agreement … and land which, in their opinion, is suitable …". That gives the impression that a local authority can buy any land, however good or bad, whatever the justification may be, provided that it is in their opinion all right. It does not matter about anybody else's opinion, even the owner's opinion, provided that in their opinion it is suit able. That is far too wide a power to give without redress to any local authority.

What is it that they are going to purchase or acquire which, in their opinion, is suitable? Not relevant land, but any land for any development. As the noble and learned Lord himself said, local authorities have at the moment vast powers compulsorily to purchase land. That we all agree, but then we come along with this Bill and say, "Now we will give them power to acquire land for any development irrespective of the needs, requirements, or the interests of others" is far too great a power.

I have no hesitation in saying that it is my impression and consideration that I think that this Amendment should be pressed, but I have a hesitation in that in so far as there are other Amendments which may be better and which may possibly be required to be included in the Bill, and which maybe this Amendment would exclude. If I do not press this Amendment on this occasion, I say to the noble and learned Lord, with the greatest of humility, that I hope he will consider what has been said this evening by everyone; not just the technical point, though it is very important, which my noble friend Lord Colville put forward, but all the other points which have been mentioned by noble Lords. I was going to say by noble Lords from all sides of the House, but in fact they are only behind me because no one on the other side has taken part. I hope he will consider them, be cause we do not intend to let the matter rest here. If some kind of consideration is not forthcoming, I give notice that we shall return to this.


Of course I will give consideration to these matters, and what has been raised in this debate. That is the whole purpose of a Committee stage in the House. I thought I had given that indication earlier. I am not, by that token, indicating that I enter into any commitments to alter that which exists, but I will certainly give consideration to this Committee stage, and to whether something has taken place which is contrary to what was intended or what was undertaken. I do not believe that that has come to pass, but I will certainly give it the most serious consideration.


I beg leave to with draw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11.5 p.m.

The Earl of BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 46: Page 14, line 20, at end insert ("within two kilometres of any land owned by the authority").

The noble Earl said: This is one of the few occasions when I feel I must declare an interest, which is that I live three miles from the nearest bus stop. The purpose of this Amendment is to prevent authorities from extending matters to too wide an area. For the benefit of noble Lords who are not familiar with kilometres, two kilometres equal about one and one-quarter miles. From time to time, a local authority will be developing areas and carrying out various functions, perhaps an industrial estate or a housing estate, and I feel that in the interests of good agriculture and to enable farmers to plan ahead—and farmers need to plan at least 10 years ahead—the safeguard that the Amendment would give should be in the Bill. It would also be in the interests of food production in this country.


I confess to a certain lack of understanding of what the noble Earl has in mind. He proposes, as I understand it, to deprive an authority of any power to acquire any land within two kilometres of any land owned by the authority. I find myself totally bewildered by the terms of the Amendment.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I apologise. I wanted to prevent an authority from buying land more than two kilometres away. I suppose that this is the sort of thing that happens to the best of us and my drafting is clearly defective. Accordingly. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount COLVILLE of CULROSS moved Amendment No. 46C: Page 14, line 22, after ("in") insert ("section 3(1)(b) of or").

The noble Viscount said: I hope that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will forgive me if I try to spell out my argument in moving this Amendment because that might assist him in the consideration he has already promised. However, I can be brief in doing so because I am now going back essentially to the single plot on which somebody had the intention of building on White Paper day. Building a house on a plot is development, and therefore under Clause 15(1) an authority has power, as the Bill is drafted, to acquire that land by agreement or compulsorily if it considers that that plot is suitable for development consisting of one dwellinghouse. There are, of course, for these purposes certain exceptions to what is development—they appear in subsection (2)—because if what the local authority considers the place to be suitable for is one of the matters that appears in Schedule 1, then that is the only sort of development for which it cannot buy land under Clause 15(1); but it can buy land for the development of a single dwellinghouse on a single plot, and it does not matter who owned the plot and when, according to the way the Bill is now drafted. The White Paper said: Part 7—Permanent exemptions from acquisition. I think that that meant—and that the Government intended it to mean—that anything which …


I am listening to the noble Viscount.


. I believe that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is to reply, but I entirely understand how it is that messages have to be conveyed and I would far rather wait until that had been done so that I may have his undivided attention until I have finished. I was reminding him that Part 7 of the White Paper referred to permanent exemptions from acquisition. I believe that everybody who read that White Paper thought that anything that came immediately after that, as being something that was to be exempt from acquisition, was not under this legislation going to be able to be acquired by compulsion at all. What the very next paragraph says is this: The Government propose to exclude from the scheme— and the scheme is what the White Paper is about and the scheme is the Bill— the building— that is, the development— of a house for owner occupation on a single plot which was owned by the prospective owner occupier on the date of the White Paper. Everybody whom I have met has always understood that to mean that the local authority, even if it did think, as did the owner, that that plot was going to be suitable for the development of one dwellinghouse, would not be able compulsorily to acquire it under the Bill. I think I am right in saying that that was provided for in the way the Bill used to be drafted because we had Clauses 4 and 5. Those have gone; the Bill has been simplified and there have been certain extensions. What we now have is not land owned with the intention of building a single dwellinghouse on White Paper day, but Clause 3(1)(b), which is another thing which is not relevant development. It provides for the building of a single house on a plot whenever it was owned by the person who wishes to build.

I simply say to the noble and learned Lord that I believe that the Government have, probably without realising it, changed the Bill so that the plot owned for development of the single dwelling-house on White Paper day is no longer exempt from compulsory acquisition under Clause 15(1). I know that my Amendment does not confine itself to a White Paper day plot, but that is because nothing else in the Bill does so either. That will come into the regulations made under Clause 3(1)(c). We have not seen them yet, so it is difficult for me or anybody else to draft an Amendment on that basis; but I have raised the point in this way not in order that the noble and learned Lord should answer me tonight because I know he wants to look at the point, but because I thought that it would be helpful for him if I spelt out the argument now. I believe that there is something in it. The provision is probably there by mistake and I very much hope that it will be corrected by the Government at the next stage of the Bill.


I am grateful for the careful way in which the noble Viscount has set out the problem, which I shall certainly look at. Clauses 4 and 5 of the original Bill did not, as I understand it, exempt single plots from acquisition under all circumstances. They were concerned with building on plots and not with the plots themselves. I am not aware that, in the 100-plus hours spent on this in the other place, the interpretation of the noble Viscount was elaborated or accepted, but I may be wrong about that.


The noble and learned Lord is perfectly right. It is the development consisting of the building of the dwellinghouse that is the point. It is when the local authority considers that the plot is. in its opinion, suitable for that sort of development—that is, the building of the dwellinghouse—that it gets its powers under Clause 15(1). Those were precisely the circum stances under which it did not get its powers under the old Clauses 4 and 5.


We will look at it. It is a point of technicality, which is important, and we can return to it again. At the moment I am not wholly satisfied that the noble Viscount is right and that I am wrong, but I certainly have an open mind on the matter.


That is good enough for me. I feel sure that the noble and learned Lord will be persuaded, and I shall try to do so privately behind the scenes, if given an opportunity. Meanwhile, I beg leave to with draw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11.15 p.m.

Viscount COLVILLE of CULROSS moved Amendment No. 46D: Page 14, line 25, leave out from ("agreement") to end of line 26.

The noble Viscount said: We are also concerned here with a very broad power. I cast my mind back to the compulsory acquisition powers under the Housing Act, where there is very commonly—particularly in the case of slum clearance—a compulsory purchase order which deals with two different types of land. It deals with land upon which there are standing houses which have been certified by the medical officer of health as being unfit; and that area is usually coloured pink on the plan. There is also included in the compulsory purchase order other houses which are not unfit, but which stand upon land which is necessary to be incorporated in the scheme of the redevelopment which will take place; and that land is coloured grey on the plan. It is always known as "grey land", and it is available and can be compulsorily acquired only if the acquiring authorities show that they really need it—or that they are most likely to need it—in order to build the scheme they have in mind.

So far as I know, that is the only example in the whole realm of compulsory purchase where it is possible to buy land adjoining the land which is the subject of a compulsory purchase order; but not so in this Bill. Where it is decided that land A is suitable for development it is also possible to buy compulsorily land B adjoining it, simply by stating that it is required for the purposes of executing works, or for facilitating its development or use. There is no firm criterion. Land can be bought without any particular reason being given. Land of any size can be bought simply on the grounds that it adjoins and is required for executing works. What works? How big an area?

Can the noble Lord give some examples or instances where this would be necessary? Can he tell us why it is necessary to have this adjoining land purchased under subsection (3), because I suppose it would not be available to be purchased under subsection (1)? It apepars to me very strange that if works are to be executed for facilitating the development of the main piece of land, it is not also possible to buy that extra piece of land under subsection (1) itself. Of course works may be of a temporary or permanent nature, or may involve easements, for instance. There are all sorts of implications here, and a great deal more explanation is needed before we can be satisfied that it does not go much wider than most of the powers which previously existed. I should very much welcome some explanation of this and of why it has been necessary to put this provision in the Bill at all. I beg to move.


The effect of the noble Viscount's Amendment would be that where land was needed, for example, for access purposes, or as exchange land, which was something which the noble Viscount did not mention in his introduction of the Amendment—I under stood that it was affected by Amendment 46D—to enable a primary site to be brought into development, the whole development would be prevented if the additional land could not be obtained by agreement. Given the acceptance of the need for compulsory purchase powers to be available for the acquisition of the primary land, it is in our view simply illogical for them not to be available for the secondary land as well.

The normal, existing CPO procedures will apply to acquisition under Clause 15(3). The need to buy small areas of land to unlock larger development sites is the sort of circumstance in which local authorities are sometimes prepared to use their existing compulsory purchase powers to facilitate private development. It would be anomalous if the new power given by the Bill was made less apt for this purpose. The modifications to compulsory purchase procedure in paragraphs 2 to 4 of Schedule 4 would not generally apply to acquisitions under Clause 15(3) because the land will probably not be development land; in other words, it will not be needed for relevant development.

The noble Viscount asked me to give him some examples of the sort of case, other than access, where land might be needed. I think that this is a point which applies equally to Amendment 47, so perhaps the noble Earl. Lord Balfour, will take particular note of what I say in response to this. Land might be needed for such works as visibility splays at the entrance to the main site, which arguably might not constitute access. Another example would be where the land would be used to plant a screen of trees in order to comply with a condition imposed on the grant of planning permission for the development site. It would, therefore, in our view, be inappropriate to restrict this supplementary acquisition power to specified works. I hope that helps the noble Viscount as an explanation of why the power is needed.

The Earl of KINNOULL

Before my noble friend comes to reply perhaps I may say that I think the noble Lord, when he replied on behalf of the Government, said that local authorities already had powers to do this, and that in certain circumstances they had used these powers to assist private development. I think that is exactly what he said. If they have these powers, why on earth do we have to extend them in this clause? The case my noble friend is making, as I understand it, is that these areas of grey land are areas which are very sensitive because one is going outside the general scope of the purpose of the development and wandering into this delicate area where owners are very sensitive. That is a matter about which I understand my noble friend to be trying to ask the noble Lord, who, frankly, did not give the reasons for which he was asked. What are the specific reasons? The only example he gave was of access to a large development. They already have the powers for that, so there is no purpose there. Would the noble Lord spell out this evening the specific reasons for which they would require these powers? If he cannot spell them out, would he write to us about this matter?


I think it is perfectly true that there may be cases where exchange common land may have to be acquired compulsorily, and the noble Lord is perfectly right in suggesting that my Amendment—and I did not mean it to do so—would take away the compulsory powers for that purpose; so to that extent it is defective. But the first part—and it was intended to refer to the first part in paragraph (a)—is really the piece upon which I am concentrating. The noble Lord speaks of access, and he is quite right in saying that of course there are existing powers under the Highways Act whereby access to a development could be obtained, but in order to build a road you have to have planning permission, and it is development. Is the noble Lord telling me that it is not relevant development or it is not development? I think, and I would suggest to him, that building that access road is development. It is not development which appears in Schedule 1, and there fore the acquiring authority has powers to buy that land for the road under Clause 15(1) anyway. Now, what are the circumstances where it does not have the power under Clause 15(1)? That is what I want to know. The access road does not work in those circumstances because they have other powers, and at the moment I do not think the noble Lord has given me an example of something which is not in itself development.


I thought I had given two examples. One was the example of planting a screen of trees, which might be part of the planning permission for the main site. It might be said that if a site is to be developed a screen of trees is to be planted on adjoining land. That presumably is not development, but it may be necessary to enable development on the main site to go ahead. I also gave the example of work such as visibility splays at the entrance to a main site. Again—and I confess that I am using a term whose meaning I am not sure about—I am advised by legal advisers that this arguably might not constitute access but might be necessary to unlock the main site.


All of us who deal with these matters know about "visibility splays" and "sight lines" and so on, but they are usually part of the highway development which forms the actual access. They may anyway be covered by Clause 15(1). The other example—that of forestry—given by the noble Lord is probably not development; but if we are to have powers sweepingly stated as in Paragraph 1(a) in order to provide a piece of land for landscaping to be purchased compulsorily, the Government have really gone rather far. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to think of other examples beyond that which are not development and which are more important even than some trees and bushes for landscaping; otherwise I shall have to return to this at Report stage.

The Earl of KINNOULL

Before my noble friend withdraws this Amendment—if he is going to withdraw it—I do not think that the Government have yet given us a satisfactory answer. What my noble friend said is that the local authorities already have powers to do all that the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has suggested. Why on earth are we passing this power? What is the purpose of it? I feel that in the Committee stage of a Bill the Government should reply to these questions. We should not leave it to the Report stage all the time. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to reply further on this now.


I think it would be better to await a further explanation. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, with his advisers will be able to find other examples. I shall try to draft a better Amendment to consider just for the purposes of paragraph (a) next time. Mean while, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11.29 p.m.

The Earl of BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 47: Page 14, line 28, leave out from ("for") to end of line 29 and insert ("the necessary operational land access, services or way-leaves to that development land").

The noble Earl said: I shall spend only a few minutes on this, but it gives me the opportunity to ask a question at the same time. I am concerned with the Secretary of State's powers. The local authority can acquire any land adjoining that land without a satisfactory explanation as to how much or what quantity or the reasons for acquiring it. But I should like to take this opportunity of asking the Government if they will draft an Amendment. At line 33, page 14 there is again the word "exchange". A little further on come the words: … in application of this subsection to Scotland … certain words are going to be omitted.

Could we have the Scottish word "excambion" put in as well. It is just about beyond my drafting ability to make certain it is right; but I am sure it is necessary to comply with Scottish law. I beg to move.


I assume from what the noble Earl has said that he has taken the point that my argument on the previous Amendment also applies to his Amendment. So far as the Scottish law is concerned, I will take advice and if "excambion" is needed in the Bill no doubt we can return to it at Report stage.

The Earl of BALFOUR

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

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 47A: Page 14, leave out lines 30 to 33.

The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend I beg to move Amendment No. 47A which relates to commons. I was not intending a few moments ago to stop the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, in his tracks, but just to indicate that there was going to be another opportunity to talk about commons on this Amendment.

We all recognise that even valuable open space and commons which are much treasured by local communities have from time to time to be developed and to be acquired for public development. But the rules that then apply are particularly stringent unless suitable land is given in exchange. What I want to be sure about is that the terms of Clause 15(3)(a) which read: any land adjoining that land … and do not read: Any land not being part of a common or open space … do not take away anything of the full procedure which has to be pursued if commons are to be acquired compulsorily for development without exchange land being offered.

The noble Lord will know that the procedure is such that it can only be done by order, the order has to be advertised and 28 days have to be allowed for objections. If there are any objections, there has to be a public inquiry. The Secretary of State, after confirming it, has to lay it before Parliament. There are 21 more days for an opportunity to petition Parliament, and it goes before a Joint Committee of both Houses. Common land is so important that we want to be certain that there is nothing in this part of the Bill which short-circuits those pro visions in cases where any land adjoining that land includes part of a common, and other land is not given in exchange. I hope the noble Lord can reassure us on this point. We shall need a very clear reassurance. I beg to move.

Viscount RIDLEY

May I add one or two questions to my noble friend's remarks. He really said what I wanted to ask. Is this a new power which does not exist already? I think that was worrying the noble Lord, Lord Digby, yesterday. Secondly, is there anything in this which would indicate land taken from a common has to be replaced with land which is at least roughly adjacent to the land which is lost? Is it not possible under this subsection to take a piece of land in London and replace it with another piece of land the other side of London? I see nothing to stop that being done. I may be wrong; I am not a lawyer.


I can give both noble Lords the assurances they seek. Clause 40 does not abolish the special Parliamentary procedure in these cases. Regarding land next door to the common, as I understand it, there is a special Parliamentary procedure unless the Secretary of State certifies under paragraph 11 of Schedule 1 to the Acquisition of Lands Act that other land not less in area and equally advantageous to the public is being given in exchange. That is unaltered by the Bill.


I beg leave to with draw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11.34 p.m.

The Earl of BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 48: Page 15, line 12, at end insert ("only where the proposed development is shown on an approved development plan or amendment to such plan which has been the subject of public participation and inquiry in accordance with the provisions of Part II of the Act of 1971 or of the Scottish Act of 1972.").

The noble Earl said: The wide powers in Schedule 4 is one matter that concerns me very much. I should like to make certain that the local authority comply within their own development plans that they have drawn up. I worded this rather wide because I feel it is import ant. I should like to stress the importance of trying to preserve things like green belts around towns, and I feel strongly that we must follow known plans. The local authority obviously must have powers to vary plans occasion ally, but to a great extent they must stick to their own plans. I beg to move.

Baroness BIRK

I shall suggest some thing to the noble Earl, because this Amendment would mean that the whole of Schedule 4 would have effect only where the proposed development was shown on an approved development plan or amendment which had been subject to public participation in an inquiry. The way in which it is at present drafted makes it really inappropriate, since it is tied to the whole of the Schedule. I imagine the noble Earl is really concerned with the first part of Schedule 4, where it is possible to make a case for some limitation of the proposed changes in the compulsory purchase procedure, although the Government would not accept that any limitations beyond those already existing are justified. But there is really no justification whatever for such limitation on the remainder of Schedule 4, which applies to acquisitions by agreement as well as to those made compulsorily. Here we have almost an exact repetition of the provisions in the Town and Country Planning Act of 1970–1971.

I would suggest to the noble Earl that there is room for debate and discussion on the relationship between changes in the compulsory purchase order procedure and the development plan, but there are Amendments down on these points—Nos. 55 and 56A, which are still to come. So it seems rather a pity to have a truncated debate now and then to discuss this again later when there are other Amendments which touch more closely on the point with which the noble Earl is particularly concerned. Therefore, I would ask him to consider withdrawing this Amendment and then making his points later. I believe I have got them quite clearly.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I am most grateful for that explanation, and I am happy to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11.37 p.m.

The Earl of BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 49:

Page 15, line 12, at end insert— ("5A. Nothing in this section shall authorise an authority to acquire compulsorily any land—

  1. (a) in respect of which planning permission is in force for the carrying out of development not constituting relevant development;
  2. (b) in the curtilage of a dwelling-house which is occupied by its owner as his residence;
  3. (c) in the curtilage of any building owned by a charity which is receiving a reduction or relief from rates because of its use;
  4. (d) in respect of which planning per mission is in force for the erection of any building which when completed would be eligible for reduction or relief from rates; or
  5. (e) which is operational land.").

The noble Earl said: Once again, if I may say this very briefly, it was the last clause in the Bill which so concerned me, when it cheerfully said: No compulsory purchase order shall be made under this section before the first appointed day, and no land shall be appropriated for the purposes of this Part of this Act before that day. I am concerned about what happens after the second appointed day. I wanted to make certain that, certainly in the case of a dwelling-house or where planning permission is really in force for a development not constituting relevant development, certain developments could be put in so as to make the meaning of this clause clear beyond doubt. That was the main object of my moving this Amendment; and I beg to move.


I think we had a general discussion earlier embracing the issues involved in this Amendment, and I then endeavoured to explain and to justify the need for the powers which are sought in the Bill. I do not know that I have anything to add to the generality of what I said earlier.

The Earl of BALFOUR

I will accept that for the moment, but should like to reserve the right to return to the matter on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness YOUNG moved Amendment No. 49A:

Page 15, line 16, at end insert— ("(7) In order to comply with articles 8 and 13 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of the 4th November 1950 the Secretary of State shall not authorise any authority to acquire an occupied dwelling-house under this section so as to interfere with the exercise of the right of any person to respect for his home unless he is satisfied that to do so is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.")

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 49A. When this particular Amendment was first drawn to my attention. I am bound to say I was in two minds about putting it down. I am not usually one for dealing with Amendments which refer to international law or to European law, because I have always taken the view—perhaps wrongly—that our own law safeguarded the rights of individuals, and that this was something which was so fundamental to our thinking that it was unnecessary to look beyond our own country for other laws to maintain these basic freedoms.

I am bound to say, having sat through the Committee this evening, that I now think I was quite right to put it down. The discussion we have had on Clause 15 has been so entirely unsatisfactory, and for my own part I do not think I am using too strong words when I say very frightening to the individual householder; and it is as well that at least the debate on this Amendment should be on the record for people who will be concerned with the implementation of the Bill to read.

In order that everybody may know what Articles VIII and XIII of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights says, I would point out that Article VIII provides that everyone has the right to, respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence", and secondly that, there should be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. Article XIII provides that, everyone whose rights and freedoms as set out in the Convention are violated shall have an effective remedy before a national authority notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity. I think this has a relevance to this Bill and a very real relevance to Schedule 4 which we shall be coming to. I hope therefore that the Government will bear in mind what this Convention says.

We have already had two long debates on the important Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Ferrers on the first subsection of Clause 15. I am very grateful that the Government have agreed to reconsider this, because the wording is very confusing, and certainly if one compares what the Government are saying this evening with what they were saying yesterday about the point of the single plot it will be readily apparent that the two are not exactly the same. Certainly the undertakings given in the White Paper have not been honoured in the Bill. This is undoubtedly true for any ordinary reading. An ordinary member of the public would not read it as it has appeared. We have also had the long debate on the Amendment by my noble friend Lord Colville about the single plot, and again I am very glad that the Government have agreed to look at this matter. But the fact remains that there is a fundamental uncertainty for all people owning single plots and certainly for owner-occupiers about the sanctity of the home. As to Schedule 4, although it is perfectly possible now for a house to be compulsorily purchased of course everybody has the right to object at a public inquiry, and in a great many cases the rights to object will be extinguished by Schedule 4.

It therefore becomes very important to realise that the European Convention makes it perfectly clear that under this Convention, to which we are a party, those people whose rights have been violated ought to have an effective remedy even against a public authority. That clearly applies to the rights of an individual owner-occupier at a public inquiry when his house is likely to be compulsorily purchased against his wishes—this is the point. Therefore, although at first I felt that this kind of Amendment was unnecessary I have now come to believe that the situation under this Bill is so serious that we ought to consider those international Conventions to which we are a party. I beg to move.

11.45 p.m.


My submission is that the first reaction of the noble Baroness as to the usefulness and relevance of a reference to the Inter national Convention was a sound one, but her second thoughts were not, because in my submission the Convention has nothing whatsoever to do with the lawful acquisition by a public authority through Parliamentarily approved compulsory purchase procedures of private property, be it a house or anything else. The Article is concerned essentially with the right of privacy. Everybody has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence. The whole context of the Article is in an entirely different domain from the domain which we are talking about. The second part of Article VIII reads: There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary to democratic society … When Parliament has approved methods of enabling the citizen to state his grievances and have them redressed, as our laws do in this domain as in everything else, there is no infringement.

Article XIII deals generally with remedies and states: Everyone whose rights and freedoms as set forth in this Convention are violated shall have an effective remedy before a national authority". It is because this has got absolutely nothing whatever to do with what we are debating tonight that the point has never been raised when in certain circumstances any other Government have sought powers of compulsory acquisition of land or owner-occupied dwellings. Of course there are plenty of precedents for this power being taken and exercised, but previously there has never been any reference to these Conventions in relation to all of the other compulsory purchase powers that are available. This is not because Members of Parliament were sleeping, but because they were aware that it had no relation to the right of a public authority lawfully to acquire someone else's house or property with the approval of Parliament for a public purpose.

As we shall see when we examine the detail of the procedures that flow from a compulsory purchase order—the right to a hearing, the power of the Secretary of State finally to determine the matter, his answerability to Parliament for what he decides—there will be an impressive mechanism to enable the aggrieved citizen to have his grievance ventilated and, if necessary, redressed. With great respect, this attempt to bring into issue the Human Rights Convention is indeed scraping the barrel.


Could the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor say what rights have been given back to the aggrieved owner-occupier to replace those which my noble friend Lady Young pointed out he used to have in calling for a public inquiry? It seems that this has been whittled away by Schedule 4. What has been put in its place?


I fear that we shall examine at considerable length Schedule 4, although it may not be possible to go very far with it tonight. We shall examine in great detail the provisions in the Bill. In my submission, nothing of substance has been taken away. Conceivably a few things have been added, but we shall do the arithmetic at the end of our examination of Schedule 4.

The Earl of KINNOULL

Do I under stand from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor that he intends to begin tonight consideration of Schedule 4? May I suggest than we should leave Schedule 4 until we are all fresh on Friday?

Baroness YOUNG

I was very surprised at the reply of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor to my Amendment. Clearly he thinks that the European Convention is a joke.


No; on the contrary, I said nothing of the kind. It is an important statement about the right of privacy. When in due course this Government bring forward legislation to give effect to the right of privacy, or any equivalent approach to it, I hope that we shall have the support of the Conservative Party.

Baroness YOUNG

The Government have the support of the Conservative Party on this issue and therefore I object very much to it being suggested that when I am using the Convention I am scraping the barrel. I should have thought that as Her Majesty's Government were a signatory to it we should take it seriously. As it obviously applies to the home I should have thought—


To privacy in this context.

Baroness YOUNG

Of course it applies to privacy. I quite agree with that. But as we are not discussing privacy, but rather the home, it is perfectly possible to use it in this context. I found the argument that because a law says it is possible for a local authority to acquire somebody's property therefore it is perfectly all right, a singularly unconvincing argument. All that argument amounts to is that anything that Parliament decides is all right. What is not actually said is what the law says about the rights of the individual, and I thought my noble friend Lord Hylton made a very important point in that regard.

It is very late tonight and I do not intend to press this Amendment to a Division, but we shall return to the important matters of individual rights in Schedule 4 and we shall not expect what we regard as important principles to be brushed aside as being of no account. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 15 shall stand part of the Bill?

11.52 p.m.

The Earl of KINNOULL

I should like to raise two points this evening with the noble and learned Lord. We have had a long, interesting and I hope instructive debate on Clause 15, although I must confess that I am more befogged now than I was at the start. The first of my two points concerns the timing of compulsory purchase procedures. Where in the past those who have been concerned with compulsory purchase have been satisfied with the procedures of the rights of appeal, I think quite frankly that the noble and learned Lord has not satisfied this side of the Committee to night that the new procedures are so protected. But, in the old procedures, people were undoubtedly unhappy with the time-scale, whereby from the moment a draft order was served to the moment when the recipient received the money could be anything up to three years?

I would suggest to the noble and learned Lord that if he is to streamline the procedure of the compulsory purchase orders, as he is doing, it is only right that we should streamline the payment of the compensation. I hope the noble and learned Lord will look at that. The second point I should like to raise with him tonight concerns the question of compensation. I know this does not specifically come within this clause, but it does in one sense.


Hear, hear!

The Earl of KINNOULL

I am glad the noble Lord agrees with me. Under the old rules—and indeed under the present rules—of compensation from the first appointed day, the recipient will receive market value. When he instructs a valuer, the valuer looks at the compulsory purchase order and on it there will be a purpose for which that land has been purchased, and that purpose will define the market value. We now see in this clause that there will not be a purpose; there will be a reason. I have not consulted other valuers, but I can see that there will be a tremendous difficulty in deciding what is to be the market value. It is a matter that will go to the Lands Tribunal time and time again. I hope the noble and learned Lord will look at this as well, because it is a very important point, particularly as in the White Paper—and we have to stress this again—it is firmly stated that the compensation would be the market value.


I think we shall have to examine both the question of streamlining payment and the bases of compensation when we come to consider Schedule 4 in detail, as we may do before very long.

Clause 15 agreed to.


While I know the noble Baroness, Lady Young, is eager to continue the fray into the small hours, and I am in very good heart and would be happy to continue this exchange with her, it will be for the convenience of us all—I see the noble Lord shakes his head. If he is serious and receives the general support of the Committee we, of course, are willing to proceed; but I think the general opinion of this noble community, if that has not now become a dirty word, is that this might be a convenient hour to call it, if not a night, a day.

Baroness YOUNG

I am sure we should all like to thank the noble and learned Lord for those remarks. But, rather like Cinderella, I had better escape now.


I hope the noble Baroness will not leave her slipper behind her! I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.