HL Deb 17 February 1976 vol 368 cc374-93

3.44 p.m.

The PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE, DEPARTMENT of the ENVIRONMENT (Baroness Birk) rose to move, That the draft Community Land (Excepted Development) Regulations 1976, laid before the House on 15th January, be approved. The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. The House will remember that, during the passage of the Community Land Bill, noble Lords were concerned about what types of development would be outside the normal scope of the land scheme. Various methods were suggested as a means of taking development outside the scope. Initially, administrative means were proposed, but there was also some preference for detailed provisions laying down the types of development in question in the Act itself. However, this left no scope for consultation on the types of development chosen. It was finally agreed that for most cases the best method of dealing with the problem was to specify classes of development in regulations. It is these regulations which, following extensive consultations, are now before the House. A draft of these was laid before this House on 15th January, and this Motion is to seek approval for them. The effect of these regulations, therefore, is to take certain classes of development outside the normal scope of the land scheme.

The Act requires authorities to have regard to the desirability of bringing development land into public ownership, and of developing it or making it avail able for development by others. "Development land" in this context means land which, in the opinion of the authority, is needed for relevant development. Section 3 of the Act provides that relevant development is any development except, first, development which is "exempt" under Schedule 1 to the Act; secondly, development consisting exclusively of the building of a single dwelling-house, which noble Lords will remember was incorporated in the Act itself; and, thirdly, development of such classes as are prescribed by regulations made under the section, and it is these regulations which I am moving this afternoon.

Land needed for development excepted by the regulations is outside the general duty of authorities to have regard to the desirability of bringing development land into public ownership. While, in due course, all authorities will be under a duty to acquire all land required for relevant development, this duty cannot apply to excepted development. Such development is also outside the scope of procedures in the Act for suspension of planning permission. The excepted development regulations therefore have an important part to play in defining the normal scope of authorities' activities under the land scheme.

Although authorities will never have the duty to acquire land for excepted development, they will still have the power to acquire it. It is in this respect that excepted development differs from "exempt" development under Schedule 1 to the Act. Since excepted development status attaches to the development, but not to the land, I should emphasise that authorities may seek to acquire land if it is suitable for relevant development, even though there may be proposals for excepted development to be carried out on it. However, where authorities are seeking to acquire land by compulsory purchase, whether for relevant or excepted development, the compulsory purchase order will require confirmation by the Secretary of State. I think noble Lords will remember the extended discussions which we had on this point during the passage of the Bill.

I think it may help the House if, at this point, I indicate the principles which the Secretary of State will apply in considering these orders. In relation to excepted development generally, he will not be prepared to confirm compulsory purchase orders unless there are substantial planning advantages and also that these cannot be secured unless public acquisition takes place. Against the background of that general principle, it will be helpful I feel to divide the classes covered by the regulations into four groups.

First, the group comprising Classes 4, 5, 7 and 11. It was never the Government's intention to include all types of development in the main scope of the land scheme. It would be unreasonable, as well as impracticable, to put authorities under a duty to acquire land for all types of development regardless of size or significance. This first group of classes provides clear evidence of this realistic policy. Class 4 covers small industrial buildings or extensions of up to 1,500 square metres in floor space, while Class 5 covers all other types of buildings or extensions of up to 1,000 square metres in floor space.

Class 5 would, for example, include small commercial buildings, housing development of about 10 to 12 houses or up to 20 flats; most recreational buildings and other small buildings such as churches or meeting halls. It would also cover mixed development, such as shops with flats above them. Class 7 covers the rebuilding or enlargement of an existing building within the limit of a 10 per cent. increase in floor space.

Class 11 is very wide in scope. It covers any development which does not include the erection of a building, unless the development is closely connected with the use of a proposed building whose erection would constitute relevant development. Subject to these qualifications. Clause 11 would cover, for example, the winning and working of minerals on any land or the laying out of a car park or a cricket ground—and, indeed, any change of use.

It will be clear from all the examples I have given that this group of classes covers a substantial range of development or redevelopment. I would remind the House of what I said a moment ago: that the Secretary of State will not normally be prepared to entertain compulsory purchase orders in any of these cases. Further, I can assure noble Lords that where local authorities consider that there is a special need for acquisition the Secretary of State will apply very stringent tests.

I will now turn to the second main group which comprises Classes 1 to 3 of the regulations. This group is concerned with Land White Paper Day planning permissions and land ownership. Thus, Class 1 covers development authorised by planning permissions in force on 12th September 1974 and Class 2 covers residential or industrial development on land owned by builders or developers on that date. Class 3 covers industrial development on land owned by industrial undertakers on White Paper Day. These classes have been included in the regulations to ensure that in the early stages of the scheme, while authorities are building up their resources, existing ongoing programmes of residential and industrial development are not subject to delay as a result of public acquisition. Here the criterion essentially will be whether good progress is being made with development. If so, the Secretary of State will not normally entertain compulsory purchase orders. Conversely, if the land is unlikely to be brought into development reasonably quickly, and is urgently needed for early development, then he will be prepared to entertain compulsory purchase orders. However, in applying these policies, the Secretary of State will take fully into account the understandable need for builders and developers to hold reasonable quantities of land over and above their immediate requirements until local authorities are able to meet all land needs. He will also take into account the assurance frequently needed by industrialists that land will be available for development in the relatively long term.

It is the Government's aim that acquisitions by local authorities should, as far as possible, complement the acquisition activities of builders through normal market processes in the transitional period of the scheme. Many builders continued to acquire land or obtain planning per missions while the Community Land Bill was under consideration by Parliament. They were encouraged to do so by the Statement of the Secretary of State in another place on 27th January 1975 relating to the circumstances in which he would not be prepared to entertain compulsory purchase orders for land. In recognition of this, therefore, where per missions were obtained or land was acquired in this way between White Paper Day and the date of Royal Assent, 12th November 1975, the Secretary of State will treat these as though they fell within the scope of Classes 1 to 3 and will apply the same policies if compulsory purchase orders are made.

So far I have dealt with Classes 1 to 5 and Classes 7 and 11. The third group comprises Classes 6, 8, 9 and 10 which deal with various specialised types of development for particular purposes or to be carried out by particular bodies. I will not take up the time of the House by explaining these in detail, but of course I will be ready, I hope, to deal with any questions raised by noble Lords. This leaves Classes 12 and 13 of the regulations. These classes bring development which is covered by most combinations of two or more classes in the Schedule within the scope of excepted development. Thus, for example, changing the use of a field to a football pitch would be covered by Class 11. Building changing rooms of less than 1,000 square metres floor space would be covered by Class 5. Development which combines these two operations would be covered by Class 13. Similarly, building a factory of 1,500 square metres gross floor space, coupled with laying out a car park on adjoining land, would be excepted development. The only qualification to this is that the 10 per cent. increase in floor space allowed by Class 7 cannot in any combination be aggregated with the 1,500 or 1,000 square metres floor space allowed under Class 4 or Class 5.

I said earlier that the Government never intended to include all types of development within the normal scope of the land scheme. And when one takes account of the extensive coverage of the various classes and the fact that these can be combined with one another, it will be clear that a very wide range of development is excepted by the regulations. Accordingly, I commend these draft regulations to the House and beg to move.

Moved, That the draft Community Land (Excepted Development) Regulations 1976, laid before the House on 15th January, be approved.—(Baroness Birk.)

3.57 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, for introducing these regulations to us this afternoon and for her explanation of them. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for sending me sometime ago a copy of the draft regulations. As will be readily apparent to the House, this is an exceedingly complicated matter and I am very glad to have had the opportunity of a little more time to study the regulations. We welcome any intention of the Government to bring more flexibility into the working of the Community Land Act, and we are very glad to have these regulations set out before us now.

If I have understood the position correctly, the effect of these regulations is to take the prescribed classes outside Sections 17 and 18 of the Community Land Act—that is, the duty of a local authority to acquire property; and Sections 19 and 22, the suspension of planning permission and disposal notification procedures. They are also outside Schedule 4, paragraphs 1 to 3, the modified compulsory purchase order procedures. That said, again if I have under stood the position correctly, the exception does not apply to land but only to development and, as the noble Baroness has said, is what is known as the normal scope of authorities to develop.

It is here that I should like to put in a plea for some much more readily understandable interpretation of "excepted development". It differs from "exempt development" in Schedule 1 which, as I understand it, is completely outside the Act, whereas "excepted development" is not. The lay person reading the regulations will automatically assume that if you fall into one of the excepted classes—the 12 written here—you will be outside the scope of the Act, whereas, put like that, this is not entirely true. If I further understood correctly the explanation of the noble Baroness, she said that Classes 4. 5, 7 and 11 are situations in which local authorities would not normally apply a compulsory purchase order. But it would, in fact, be possible for them to do so and, provided the circumstances warranted it, the Secretary of State would agree to such an order. So what, in effect, is being said is that whereas these particular situations are prescribed by the Act they are not completely outside the terms of the Act and, therefore, are distinct from exempt development. This I believe to be a very important matter to get straight because a great many people, besides lawyers, will want to read these regulations and the Act. They will want to know what they mean, and for the public at large may I suggest to the Government that this is very difficult.

If I may turn to the regulations themselves, there are a number of questions that I hope the noble Baroness will be able to answer. The first question is whether or not she can say anything about development land tax. We were not told earlier whether or not excepted development will be outside the scope of development land tax. If the answer to this question cannot yet be given, perhaps the noble Baroness can give some indication as to when we might expect to hear about development land tax. As I understood the position, it is related to the first appointed day and, although this date has been put back, it was my understanding that when local authorities started to acquire land, they would do so net of development land tax. I am not in any way trying to hasten the implementation of this Act, but of course the two parts—the Act and the development land tax—go together. A number of people will want to know what the position will be, particularly builders, who believe that the development land tax provisions will be linked to the excepted development and that, if this is the case, no one will sell land. Therefore much of the purpose behind the excepted developments will be gone. What many people, and builders in particular, want to know is that the exemption from development land tax will be linked to the exception in Class 5 of developments of 1,000 square metres or less.

I should like to ask a question about the dates in the Bill. Under the Class 2 developments, those wishing to develop under this classification must give notice of their intention to do so to the authority not later than 5th October 1976. This seems to be short notice to give, as we are now nearly into March and it is again a very inflexible date. It is rather like the development of planning permissions on or before 12th September 1974. I hope I have understood correctly that the Class 1 exemption has been extended to include planning permissions given between White Paper day and Royal Assent.

One of the facts that has most concerned builders is that planning applications which had been called in on 12th September 1974 would not otherwise be covered by Class 1 exceptions; therefore, it was very hard on those whose applications were called in rather than those who agreed to the arbitrary date.

The next question I should like to ask is about the position of forestry. This is no longer referred to under Class 6, and yet forestry and agriculture are linked together in Schedule 1 under the Exempt Developments. Does this mean that buildings connected with forestry are no longer to be regarded as excepted development, or is such development entirely covered by the provision in Schedule 1 on exempt development? If this is the case for forestry, I do not understand why it is necessary to draw any distinction for agriculture, because, as I understood it, the two went together in Schedule 1 and in the regulations to follow.

I should also like to know why, under Class 8, land owned by the Scottish Development Agency and the Welsh Development Agency is listed under Class 8 and cornea under excepted development. Why does it not come under Section 4 of the Act? Section 4 of the Act allows all local authorities, including parish and community councils, having an outstanding material interest in the Act, to have special treatment. For this purpose, I do not understand why the Scottish and the Welsh Development Agencies should not be included.

Finally, I should like to ask the noble Baroness to explain Class 12. No doubt she has studied the debate in another place, as I did. As my honourable friend Mr. Rossi did not get a reply to this question, I should like to ask it again. I should like to ask the noble Baroness what Class 12 means. It reads: Any development consisting of development in any two or more of classes 1—11 inclusive so low:, as it does not include any development solely in class 4 or class 5. If the development is solely in Class 4 or Class 5 it seems to me that it cannot be in more than two classes of Classes 1 to 11. Therefore, I do not really under stand what this means. I am not a lawyer. It may he crystal clear to everybody else; but, as I believe a great many people will read these regulations, I should like to have an explanation of it.

I should like to conclude on a very important matter for house builders. I am sure we are all agreed that land must be available for house building. This has been common ground throughout our innumerable discussions on this Act. But there seems to be a great concern among builders that there will not be enough land available for building if the area of excepted development is only 1,000 square metres. Under Class 5 where this exemption appears, as the noble Baroness said, this is enough land for approximately eight to 10 houses. Yet builders will need at least three times that amount of land in order to secure an adequate supply of land for their ongoing building arrangements and contracts. They have particularly asked whether the Government will consider amending this exception and making it 1,500 square metres—a somewhat larger plot—because I think the real danger is that the supply of land will begin to dry up. Indeed, there is already some evidence of this. At the end of the day the only people to suffer from all this will be those wanting to move into new houses.

I am afraid I have asked a number of long and complicated questions. I have done so for two reasons: one is that it is always helpful to have a full answer on the record for people to study. The second reason is that I believe these regulations will be studied by a great many people other than lawyers and, therefore, they must be intelligible to members of the public. I shall, of course, understand if the noble Baroness cannot give me all the answers today, but I should be grateful if she would write to me on any points that she cannot cover this afternoon.


My Lords, may I also presume to congratulate the noble Baroness on the clear way in which she has explained these very difficult regulations. May I also echo the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and say that we also welcome any provisions which provide greater flexibility to the provisions of the Community Land Act. I should also like to ask one question. It may be entirely my fault that I do not know the answer and if it is a complicated question, I apologise and I realise that perhaps I shall not get the answer today. Is the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, in a position to say how far these regulations will specifically affect land owned by charitable institutions?

4.8 p.m.


My Lords, may an ordinary Layman who is not really versed in politics and who is not always able to be present here, because he does other things in this world, ask a question? On the last Motion before the House we were discussing how we could cut down prices, defeat inflation and deal with the appalling money troubles with which we have to deal almost every day. Now we have come to this Motion, which in my own county will, I believe, cause the main local authority to ask for 200 more staff. They have no room for them, so they will have to take further premises. How can we go on having put before us one thing which stipulates that we must cut down this and cut down that and, then in the next matter, which is nothing more nor less than land utilisation through the back door, we are told to take on 200 more staff, to acquire more premises, and to do this, that and the other?

If you live out in the country now, you will know that everybody has stopped building even a cottage. Everybody has stopped trying to develop land because they know quite well that if they do it will be taken away from them. I ask the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, is this the best way of trying to beat inflation? Further than that, we hear about these difficult matters every single day. I am told that the gap between what can be provided by an already completely over-taxed country and what has been borrowed to meet the expenses at this moment has now widened to a figure of £9,000 million and, according to the papers this morning, that figure is likely to go higher. Yet here we are, pouring extra expenses on to local authorities, local organisations, and goodness knows what else, simply because of this Com munity Land Bill and what is going to happen under it.

My Lords, I think it is so sad that folk who have owned their land, whose fathers and grandfathers have been farmers on that land, and who have now arrived at the third and fourth generation—probably the best cultivators in the whole country—do not know what to do because they do not know whether they will ever inherit the land, or what will happen. That is a result of this Bill. I came to the House as often as I could while the Bill was being discussed, and for two days I sat here from 2.30 in the afternoon to 10.30 at night. For most of that time there were only four people on all the Government Benches opposite. Today, I noticed that the moment the subject of this Bill was called on again, there was an exodus from the Government Benches. They do not want to listen. They do not understand any thing about it, yet the moment the Division bell rings, 60 or 70 of them come back into the Chamber.

This is an undigested Bill. As my noble friend Lady Young has said, no one knows its implications. I cannot help thinking it will land us in trouble. I really should like to know how any local authority will be able to cut down expenses, as they are being asked to do, when they have to take on 200 more staff and a number of new offices.

4.11 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend Lady Young from the Front Bench asked a number of questions, and pointed out that the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, might not be able today to answer all the questions raised. My noble friend went on to ask whether she could have a letter from the noble Baroness explaining some of the points which might not be answered in public this afternoon. I should like to ask the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, whether, as well as writing privately, she could take all steps open to her to make as public as possible whatever information she may not be able to give today when answering the questions that have been asked. It really is very important indeed that the maximum amount of information should be made as public as possible, to as many people as possible and as soon as possible on this very difficult and complicated matter.

My Lords, I fully understand that the noble Baroness may not be able to give as full an answer as is desirable this afternoon, but I would ask her please to give the fullest possible publicity to the answers to questions raised on these various matters today.

4.13 p.m.

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, in answer first to the noble Lord, Lord Wakefield of Kendal, I do not know whether my answers will be desirable. I think it best to answer as many as I can this afternoon, but I do not know whether the noble Lord will find what I have to say as desirable as he would wish. I must say I feel rather like someone I once interviewed, who said to me, "But you are asking me all the wrong questions". My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for the meticulous way in which she dealt with these matters, and for the clear way, as is her habit, in which she set out her questions. I will do my best to reply to them. On her first general question, which I think is a very important one which goes to the heart of the matter, she made a number of points in dealing with exception from duty but not from power. The noble Baroness then referred to Classes 4, 5, 7 and 11. I think her words were that they are not outside the terms of the Act. If I understood her rightly, her complaint was that these were not exempt but excepted, and I think she felt the whole thing did not go as far along the line as she would wish.

May I make it quite clear that the intention of the Act was to meet both reasonable demands—on the one hand to make it possible for the individual not to be completely hamstrung when one is referring to small areas of land for development, whether for domestic, residential or industrial development, and, on the other hand, not to clutter up local authorities with small pieces of land all over the place, which would make it difficult for them. The idea of the excepted regulations is not to drive a horse and cart through the Act. While the noble Baroness and noble Lords on the other side feel that excepted developments should be enlarged, and should grow and and grow in order to defeat the object of the Act with which they do not agree, on this side of the House we believe that since the Act is for the benefit of the com munity, to extend the regulations beyond the point where they are absolutely necessary would be quite wrong. So there is a reason for this.

It is quite true that the excepted development is different from exemption, because while the word "excepted", as I explained when moving the regulations, means that there is no duty imposed on the local authority, there is still a power but this power is very severely hedged in, as I tried to explain as clearly as I could, by stringent restrictions. In other words, there would have to be a very heavy case made out before the Secretary of State sanctioned the compulsory purchase orders.

So far as the development land tax is concerned, this is a matter for my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There really is nothing further that I can say, nor, indeed, is there anything further that I know about this which I am concealing from the House. At the moment the two things work separately, with the first appointed day about to take place. The local authorities are going ahead with their preparations. No doubt we shall hear reasonably soon the details asked for by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, on the development land tax.

On the general point of publicity and clarity, raised by the noble Baroness and by the noble Lord, Lord Wakefield of Kendal, it is intended to publish a book let which will contain the explanation of regulations. Regulations of this sort are highly technical—it was agreed by both sides of the House, and in fact there was a great deal of pressure that there should be regulations rather than that this should be done by administration; although this is not a point of criticism from the other side of the House—and I admit quite readily that in many ways I personally find it more difficult to deal with this than with even the Act itself because they are so highly technical.

When the noble Baroness opposite was referring to Class 2 of the Regulations, the date period, she pointed out that it was a very short time, but representatives of the house builders did not object to this. This is the whole point of the time that it has taken to lay the regulations. There has been the maximum amount of consultation. If the builder failed to notify inadvertently, the Secretary of State can take this into account in deciding whether or not to confirm a compulsory purchase order, so we are trying to keep as much flexibility there as possible.

The noble Baroness also raised a point about forestry in the agricultural class. Schedule I exempts building carried out on land which is used for the purpose of agriculture or forestry, building or other operations required for that use. Incidentally, agriculture includes horticulture, and that is not by virtue of this Act but by virtue of Section 290 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, which is now subsumed in this. Forestry comes within agriculture for this purpose. But it was felt that the erection of buildings to be used for the intensive rearing of livestock might in some circumstances be held to fall outside the scope of the Schedule. The effect of Class 6 is to ensure that in such circumstances the development would be excepted. There is no similar problem in the case of forestry and there is thus no need to make a similar provision. In Class 6, if I might give an example, would be, for instance, a building for battery hens. I hope that clears up the question as far as forestry is concerned.

On the point about the Scottish and Welsh Development Agencies, they are not, as I understood the noble Baroness to imply, local authorities; therefore, they are not authorities for the purposes of this Act. They will, however, be treated as within the public sector, as specified bodies in the outstanding material interest order, for land they own and develop themselves, and in Class 8 of these regulations; so that land they lease to industrial developers may be disposed of with the right to develop without the local authority being under a duty to acquire; that is, where the Agency has retained the freehold of the land. So although it is easy to confuse it, particularly in Wales where there is a Land Authority, this is in fact quite separate.

Another point the noble Baroness made was on Class 12, buildings up to 1,000 square metres. A building of up to 1,000 square metres may be in Class 1, because it had planning permission on White Paper day, as well as being in Class 5, where it would be excepted because of its size. In this case it can be combined with Class 7, but it may not be combined with Class 7 if it gets its excepted status solely from Class 5. This is very complicated. I must say that yesterday afternoon I understood very clearly what "solely" meant here. Now I seem to have lost it. It is one of those things that, either you have it or you have it not; yesterday I had it but today it has gone. It may be that tomorrow it will have come back again. Perhaps I can write to the noble Baroness on this point. It is a simple point, but it is very complex to explain unless one starts from the beginning and works all the way through.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords may I say, if I may interrupt the noble Baroness, that I shall be delighted if she will write to me on this point; she has my deepest sympathy. Could I ask her to return to the point about agriculture. Schedule 1, paragraph 2, refers to: The carrying out, on land which is used for the purposes of agriculture or forestry, of any building or other operations required for the purposes of that use, other than operations for the erection of dwelling-houses ". I wondered whether there is a list of agricultural buildings which now fall outside the exempted class and come into the excepted class, which is a rather different question from the one I asked. Again, perhaps she would like to write to me on this point. I think it is of some concern to farmers.

Baroness BIRK

Yes, my Lords; I will certainly write to the noble Baroness. As I understand it, the difference is that where it is so closely connected as to be an integral part of the agriculture that is one thing, but where it may be some thing which is imposed on it—I gave the example of the battery hens—this could be treated separately. I think I had better write to the noble Baroness about this, because again it is one of those simple things which seem to be very complicated to explain.

I hope I have made clear the general purpose of the excepted regulations as a whole. I will certainly go through the Official Report to see whether there are any points which I have omitted to explain. So far as the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, is concerned, I think he was opening up the debate on the whole subject matter of the Act; he was really making a Second Reading or Third Reading speech, or both, on what he felt about the Act itself. There is only one point I would take up. He referred to our heritage. I feel as strongly and passionately about our heritage as I think he does, but I believe that this Act will benefit our heritage; it will conserve it and, in many aspects, preserve it far better than the free-for-all market we have had until now. He will be interested to know, and may be surprised or indeed even disappointed, that the response of a great many of the Conservative authorities in putting forward their plans under this Act has been extremely good; they have come forward with their plans very much on time. There are a great many people who felt very strongly against the Bill during its passage but who are now—not only because we are living in a democracy—trying to co-operate; they are quite genuinely looking at it in a quite different way, as are many property developers with whom I have discussed it. They feel that, with the partnership which is offered under this Act, there is a real possibility of a productive and constructive ordering of the development of land in this country.


My Lords, may I put this to the noble Baroness: is it really not possible for some explanation of the whole thing to be given to those who are affected? I may have talked rubbish this afternoon; I do not know. But no one understands what on earth will happen to them or their property, or anything of that kind. That is the trouble with the whole thing. I am perfectly certain the county councils and people like that do not really understand what their duties are, what their powers are, or where they are to get the money from. That is the great difficulty. If only some plain, lucid explanation could be given by the Government.


My Lords, could I ask the noble Baroness whether the question that I presumed to ask could also be dealt with in writing. She made no mention at all of my intervention. I did start off by congratulating her on the way in which she had presented this case, but my congratulations must cease there, because I have not had a reply to the point I raised.

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, I must ask the noble Lord to forgive me. I noted what he said on charitable institu tions and I had also made a note to reply to him about it. I also thank him for his very kind remarks. As I understand it, it does not have any particular effect, and it will be treated in exactly the same way as it comes under the Act. I remember that this was raised in the debate on the regulations in another place and, so far as I remember, I do not think that the Minister there went further, but if there is anything I can add I shall write to the noble Lord.

So far as the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, is concerned, I must say with respect that he is really over-estimating the ignorance of a great many of the county councils to whom he is evidently referring. Our information is not that there is this tremendous lack of under standing—in fact, quite the reverse. As I pointed out, we are publishing a booklet which will contain an explanation of the regulations. The consultations over this, and the discussions about it, have been going on not only through the passage of the Bill but even before. It was not when the Act was passed that everybody started from scratch wondering what it was about. I can assure the noble Lord that there is a far greater understanding and acknowledgement and appreciation of it than he evidently thinks.

So far as every piece of land is concerned, one of the positive aspects of these regulations is that now it is clear, it is written into regulations. What would be excepted in terms of industrial and residential undertakings was all explained and discussed at great length in this House as well as in another place during the passage of the Bill. This is why it is so important for developers and for individuals to let local authorities know what land they hold, and to inform industrialists and people who have planning permissions, because possibly (and I am grateful to the noble Lord for enabling me to make this point) people may be reticent about declaring the land they are holding because of the consequences. But in fact it is to their benefit as well as the benefit of the local authorities for them to make this information known, because it makes it far easier for everybody to know exactly where they are. I assure the noble Lord that the amount of consultation that is going on, the amount of explanation given, the number of questions answered, are in a constant flow all the time. Fortunately, there really is not this degree of ignorance.

Viscount GAGE

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, may I ask her whether, if she is going to write to the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, about charitable land, and if anything is going to be done (which I must confess I doubt) that reply could be made public and not merely confined to a letter to the noble Lord?


My Lords, I think that one must contest the final words of the noble Baroness when she suggests that the building industry and the local councils understand what this matter is all about, that they are reason ably pleased with it now and that some of the objections that they held in the beginning have faded away. That is not the experience of any noble Lord who takes an interest outside this House. The councils are puzzled to the point of being bewildered about what it is they are expected to administer. So far as the building industry is concerned, every time another explanation is put out they are put in a greater dilemma as to how they should run their businesses. I do not think that one could possibly have it on the record that the Department of the noble Baroness has cleared away all the points which were in conflict, and which are so damaging to the possible development of this country.

The noble Baroness explained her own problems, and I have a great deal of sympathy with her for having to deal with such a difficult matter. She would be the first to admit that she has answered almost none of the questions put to her by my noble friend or by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran. She has not answered them because I do not think that there is an answer. She said that she understood the Bill before it got to the—

The Lord PRIVY SEAL (Lord Shepherd)

My Lords, may I intervene? The procedure in your Lordships' House is that when we have a debate the Minister, by leave of the House, is allowed to speak twice. I think that the noble Viscount opposite, in saying, "before the noble Baroness sits down", and putting a question, was perfectly in order, but I feel that the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, is stretching our conventions a little further. He is now indulging in a speech and continuing the debate. I hope he will appreciate that while there is nothing in our Rules that prevents him from doing it, my noble friend is put in a difficult situation be cause, although she is allowed to speak twice, I do not think anything in the Rules of the House allows her to speak a third time.


My Lords, I understand the problem of the noble Lord the Leader of the House, who, I think, leads this House with great ability. However, this is a problem, as I had to say the other day, which goes much deeper than the normal courtesies that fall into the traditional pattern. Here we have something that is going to upset the whole basis of this country's land and its future development. I do not expect the noble Baroness to reply to some of my points. I was merely proceeding on the basis that she herself had adopted in the final words of her last reply. She said that she understood the Bill, or thought she did, when she was looking at it through what I would call Second Reading eyes. But now it has reached the stage of regulations she finds great difficulty in understanding how explanations can be given. I think that that difficulty is bound to be felt outside. She said also that the reason we have got regulations is because nothing—


My Lords, I would ask the noble Lord to accept the conventions of the House. I have no more power than any other noble Lord in this House to prevent the noble Lord continuing, but our conventions are such that I think we need to hold to them. If we do not, we should have to adopt the more rigorous procedures of another place, with a Speaker and very much tighter rules of procedure. My own view is that this would not benefit this House. I know that to do so places some limitations upon noble Lords, but I would ask the noble Lord to accept the convention. There are other ways in which he can express his views. He could use the method of an Unstarred Question if he wished to develop this point, but I hope he would feel that we ought to conduct our debates within our normal procedures, and so leave the matter there.


My Lords, I shall bow to the convention.

On Question, Motion agreed to.