§ 4.22 p.m.
§ Report received.
§ Clause 4 [Acquisition within limits shown on deposited plans]:
Lord Cornwallis moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 2, line 16, at beginning insert ("Subject to paragraph 12A of Schedule 4 to this Act").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 1 standing in my name and to speak to Amendments Nos. 2, 4 and 5. The objective of my amendments is to ensure that the Channel Tunnel Rail Link project does not result in the excessive taking of land which it transpires is required only temporarily, whilst at the same time presenting no obstruction or delay to the project's progress.
§ I remind your Lordships that we are dealing with the construction of a railway. Unlike other railway projects and, indeed, other projects that have gone before it, the land needed for the active completion of the enterprise far exceeds that which is required for its actual operation. Less than half of the land to be taken will be required permanently, and my amendments seek to ensure that approximately 1,200 acres—twice the area of the City of London—surplus to the promoters' needs are returned to the original owners. This is not covered by any provision on the face of the Bill nor by any undertaking. The Bill authorises the promoters to take over 2,100 acres of which they have said they require only 850 acres for permanent operation.
§ I moved amendments substantially to the same effect in Committee on 31st October and I was most grateful for the support that I received from noble Lords on all sides of the House. Although the Minister resisted the amendments on that occasion, I should like to place on record my thanks to him for meeting with me and my advisers and subsequently meeting with the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, during the course of last week to discuss the Government's concerns on what we are proposing. I believe it is fair to describe the Government's central concern as being the fear that our amendments would introduce an element of uncertainty, and this in turn would make it more difficult to obtain funding for the project in the City. Whilst my own view is that the Government's concerns on these points has been exaggerated, I have taken full account of them in bringing this revised set of amendments to the attention of your Lordships.1044
The principle which underlies the amendments is that espoused by the chairman of the Select Committee on the Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, who said in Committee,
In other words, ownership remains with the farmer. Only the bit of land that is really absolutely necessarily required for the running of the railway line is what has to be handed over at the end and not the beginning of the period concerned".—[Official Report, 31/10/96; col. 464.]
§ As the final detailed design of the scheme cannot be determined until it has been constructed, in many cases final decisions on which land can be returned to owners after temporary use have to await that stage.
§ The amendments do not disturb the existing provisions for the acquisition of land under the Bill, save for adding one safeguard: when an owner of agricultural land receives a notice to treat for the acquisition of his land and it is not clear how much of that land will be needed permanently, he would have the option—I repeat "option"—to serve a counter notice. This would have the effect of delaying the acquisition but, crucially, not the possession of the land, as the amendments provide for an irrevocable and incontestable licence for the promoters to take occupation of the land without delay in order to undertake all necessary works for the construction and operation of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.
§ Furthermore, where the Secretary of State is satisfied from the outset that the land will be required permanently, the amendments allow him to proceed straightaway to overrule the counternotice and to acquire the land in the normal way. In the case of land occupied under licence he can require the conveyance of any area where he is satisfied that it will be needed permanently.
§ There are four important changes to these amendments compared to those moved in Committee and which meet the Government's concerns. First, the provisions are confined exclusively to agricultural land, reflecting the fact that the limits of deviation have been drawn wider in the rural section of the route and also that this land is used by and needed for the farm businesses on the route.
§ Secondly, the amendments have been adjusted to permit the promoters to occupy the land under licence for up to five years after the completion of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link to allow sufficient time for the precise requirements to be identified. The Minister indicated to me that it might take some years after the opening of the line for the land requirements for maintenance and safety regimes to be determined. The five-year provision now covers this concern.
§ Thirdly, the power to serve a counternotice rests only with the owner of the freehold. Any other minor interests in the land would remain subject to the powers of acquisition with the right to compensation on the statutory basis.
§ Fourthly, and perhaps most importantly, these amendments differ from the Committee amendments in that the provision for arbitration on which land is required permanently has been removed. Under these amendments the exercise of the power to acquire the freehold of the land remains with the Secretary of State 1045 and is merely delayed until he is in a position to determine which areas of land are needed permanently. Thus there can be no uncertainty because the Secretary of State himself will be in the driving seat with absolute power to secure all of the land that he and London and Continental require for the operation and maintenance of its Channel Tunnel Rail Link, as well as for landscaping and other mitigation works. He has what I would suggest is a generous five years in which to make his decision after the line has been opened.
§ This is a unique project. In delivering the public benefits of the scheme with certainty, it must be fair to those owners of land who are unfortunate enough to find themselves in its path. My amendments achieve justice for them without in any way fettering the ability of the Secretary of State or the promoters to put the scheme into full operation as soon as possible. They achieve the balance of interests which the Select Committee supported and which the promoters themselves have accepted. I commend them to the House. I beg to move.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
My Lords, because discussions have taken place between the Minister and a number of your Lordships about this amendment, would it not be helpful for the Minister at this stage of the debate to intervene to indicate what the Government's reaction has been? Otherwise the debate is a little unrealistic. I would therefore invite the noble Viscount to say what his position is in the light of those discussions, because, for the most part, your Lordships have not been party to them. The Minister has the right to intervene in the course of a debate on Report without prejudice to his right to speak again and without curtailing the debate for the rest of your Lordships.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen)
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall intervene very briefly now just to say that I think it would be appropriate to listen carefully to all noble Lords who want to make representations on this amendment. I understand that it is very usual procedure for noble Lords to talk to each other outside the Chamber and to discuss various matters relating to various amendments. We have had meetings with the noble Lords, Lord Cornwallis and Lord Stanley, privately, and with their advisers. But I do not think that materially affects the normal procedures of your Lordships' House.
§ Lord Stanley of Alderley
My Lords, the House should know what has happened since your Lordships gave support to this amendment at the Committee stage. Like the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, I want to thank my noble friend Lord Goschen for all the time and trouble he has taken to meet us and to explain the Government's primary concern, which was that our original amendment might hinder the ability of the developers to make the railway. We did not accept that it did. However, to make absolutely certain, we have drafted the amendment now before your Lordships. Perhaps I should disclose that it was the weakest—by that I mean the most tolerant to the developers' 1046 imaginary fears—of a series of amendments which we had considered. The noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, has explained how our amendment deals with and clarifies the concerns which the Government quite rightly have regarding certainty for the promoters to develop the rail link. We have no wish to, and the amendment does not, hinder this major project.
The second and lesser concern expressed by my noble friend was that our amendment created a precedent in the existing compulsory purchase rules. So far as concerns certainty for the promoter to construct the line, our amendment clarifies the position by putting on the face of the Bill those assurances suggested by the Select Committee on 25th July and, as the House has just heard the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, say, supported by the Select Committee's chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, in Committee two weeks ago.
Our amendment also clarifies and puts on the face of the Bill the promoters' commentary on the Select Committee's suggestion that we discussed at very great length at the Committee stage. I suggested, and was supported by the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, that the language in that was gobbledegook. My heart went out to my noble friend Lord Goschen when he had to explain it to your Lordships two weeks ago. As my noble friend Lord Renton pointed out in Committee, assurances made by the Select Committee carry, sadly, little legal weight. Indeed, they merely create the very thing that the Government do not want—uncertainty. Assurances and such phrases as "negotiate in good faith" and "willing", frequently used in promoters' statements, carry very little weight. If they do carry weight, let us hear what weight they carry.
What certainty is there in assurances for either the promoter or the individual? If I were a developer I would dislike the uncertainty of having nothing on the face of the Bill bar assurances to guide me on what I had to do if I wanted land temporarily. I can see litigation resting on what weight the so-called assurances carry. I repeat: our amendment creates no such uncertainty. It puts on the face of the Bill those assurances that the Select Committee wanted. However, the Government objected to our original amendment because they appear to distrust decisions taken by an independent arbitrator. We have therefore allowed the Secretary of State to take this decision. He of all people will be most anxious to see the project completed quickly. I have to admit that it concerns me that the Government distrust independent arbitrators.
As regards the argument that we are altering the existing compulsory purchase rules, that is rubbish. Our amendment is exactly the same as that in the Coal Industry Bill, but that Bill went further as regards compensation. Our amendment does not do that. In our amendment the developer has an absolute right to take what land he wants. All our amendment does is to draw the Secretary of State's attention to certain matters as enumerated by the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, before he takes permanent ownership of land required only temporarily.
1047 As I said in Committee, our amendment does not affect or bypass the protocol known as the Crichel Down rules—where land is taken and put to permanent use but then becomes surplus, it should be offered back to the original owner. However, the rules were never intended to apply, and should not apply, to land which is taken permanently when it is needed only temporarily. That is the crux of our amendment and the problem that the Crichel Down rules do not address.
I trust my noble friend will not suggest that our amendment either restricts certainty for the promoter or makes a major change in the compulsory purchase power. It does neither. Moreover, I would not support an amendment to hinder this major project.
§ Lord Berkeley
My Lords, I have read carefully the amendment tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Cornwallis and Lord Stanley of Alderley, and I listened carefully to what was said at the Committee stage. I am not persuaded. I bring to the House some experience of the Channel Tunnel. I was involved in the exercise some years ago when the Channel Tunnel Bill, as it then was, became an Act. Exactly similar powers were then available for compulsory purchase.
Before I go into the detail of the amendment, I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to an article in today's Independent which appears to suggest that the Government have put undue pressure on the Select Committee in another place about how much compensation might be made available. I hope that I am incorrect in assuming that this is seen as improper advice from government Ministers. I hope that the Minister will be able to respond because it is obviously a rather serious allegation against the Select Committee, which is obviously acting in a quasi-judicial role.
I now turn to the amendment. I see the Channel Tunnel rail link as being no different from any other major road or rail project; the Birmingham North relief road, the Channel Tunnel or whatever. We must reflect on the state of the project now and where it is likely to be in about a year's time when, one hopes, the finance will have been raised and the construction work can start. As your Lordships know, it has been designed in outline and development is going on all the time. But because of the standard procedures with a hybrid Bill, the land purchase outlines have to be defined in extreme detail on the documentation to the widest possible areas, as we have just heard. That must include temporary work sites, future landscaping, which obviously will not have been designed yet, and things like river works, access roads and diversion roads while a bridge is built, for example. As in any other project the design development will go on for several years. But what the promoters cannot do is increase their land take from what they have put on the plans now. The procedures would be long and complicated.
The noble Lords, Lord Cornwallis and Lord Stanley of Alderley, say that they do not wish to affect the certainty of the project going ahead. Obviously, one accepts that. But the one thing that a major project needs to go ahead is certainty as regards the land required to 1048 undertake the work. When one is raising large sums of money in the City from people who are not engineers and not used to construction works, they do not understand the detail. But if they see anything which smacks of uncertainty I am sure it will have an effect. When they read something like Amendment No. 5 to Schedule 4 they find that the amendment is designed as regards the owners of the land. I expect that there are several hundred owners of agricultural land along the route. If it appears to the owner that the whole or any part of the land is not required permanently for the authorised purpose, then there will have to be several hundred amateur designers working out how big the embankment, the drainage ditches and the road are going to be. That is a nightmare. I know that there are additions to the Bill which allow the Secretary of State to take over the land, but I invite the House to consider the legal costs and the bureaucratic delay when several hundred owners are arguing as to whether a particular embankment or ditch is permanent or temporary. Is that really the way to get a project going? Obviously it cannot be said whether those things are temporary or permanent as yet.
I believe that it was the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, who referred to the number of acres. I made a quick calculation that there was an average of 50 metres of land required each side for 100 kilometres over the length of the route in the country. Fifty metres is 25 metres on either side of the permanent way, which is not very much. When I look at assurances from the Government—and I am sure that noble Lords will agree that occasionally I do question such assurances—I have to see what is in it for either side. What is in it for the promoter not to sell back the land? A strip of land 25 metres wide on either side of a railway is no good to anyone. One cannot build a motorway service station beside the railway because the trains cannot stop. Why should not the promoter sell the land back to the farmer?
In fact, I go much further and suggest proceeding as Eurotunnel did with the Channel Tunnel. A great many small parcels of land were bought and sold and shared out between different farmers in order to create a much better shape for an agriculture holding and so make it easier to work. I see no reason at all why a promoter should not want to sell back land that he did not want to whoever wanted it. The obvious person to ask first is the person from whom it was bought. That person may well not want it, but he may. That is the logical thing to do. I do not see any motive at all for the Government or the promoter not to sell back the land.
At the end of the day the promoter will need certainty and assurance. The day he raises the money and the Government say, "Yes, go ahead", he wants to know that within a month or two, or whatever the timescale is, he has that land. He has done his planning. That is critical because the shorter the time he needs to build a project the sooner the revenue will come in. We have seen that as regards the Channel Tunnel although that was not a very great success. However, it could have been a lot worse.
I remind the House that both this House and the other place have debated the principle of the Bill and have supported it. I believe that this amendment could 1049 frustrate the implementation of the project. In my view there is nothing particularly special about the rail link. As I said, it is just another big project. If the legislation on compulsory purchase is wrong, it is open to noble Lords to introduce another Bill, or to persuade the Government to do so rather than to attempt to frustrate the implementation of, and to change the legislation for, one particular project.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ The Earl of Kinnoull
My Lords, I have not taken part before in the proceedings on this Bill. I do so now because I believe that we have reached a very critical stage on a very important issue. I read the Select Committee's special report and I congratulate it on the care it took and the effort it made to try to provide the proper assurance that noble Lords seek.
The Select Committee quoted the case of the Holt family land in Folkestone. I looked up the plans. It was a clear case of a great deal of surplus land, or land which could be returned. I believe that the Select Committee drew attention to that very well indeed. I do not believe that my noble friend has been unsympathetic in all the discussions. In fact, he has sought to give assurances, but understandably perhaps they do not go far enough.
As I see it, the practical trouble, as the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said, is how one defines in the Bill land that is temporary. It is a difficult practical problem, which is not addressed in the Bill. It is addressed in the amendment. The answer is that the farmer himself can serve a counternotice to the notice to treat, not to delay the promoter but to remove the compulsory purchase order and for the promoter to continue on an irrevocable licence.
I believe that the practical answer to that suggestion is that farmers generally could misuse their power. I am not satisfied that that would be a good precedent. Equally, under the Bill there is no timetable or procedure for farmers to insist that the Secretary of State should look to see what has become temporary land. Clearly, from the amendment there could be a five-year rule that a farmer or owner can insist under the Bill that the Secretary of State should decide whether within five years land was no longer required and it was temporary land.
My noble friend's amendment includes the term "owner" rather than just "farmer". That is a fair comment. After all, today there are many owners of land who have been encouraged to offer farm business tenancies and quite rightly so. As I understand it, they would not qualify under the assurances that have been given.
As to the undertakings, I ask my noble friend the Minister to make certain that, if the Government are to rely on the assurances, when a notice to retreat is served on any farmer or owner he or she is made aware of the assurances. There needs to be clear evidence that farmers and owners are aware of the assurances that have been given because that would give a great deal of comfort to people, particularly to Members of your Lordships' House who worry, as I worry, that in the years to come those assurances could so easily be forgotten.
1050 My noble friend Lord Stanley referred to the Crichel Down rules. Noble Lords will remember that it all began with Commander Martin and the case that he started. As I recall, when the Government and local authorities acquire land by compulsory purchase, they have what is basically an unwritten duty to offer back that land first to the original owner. I think that I am right in saying that under the Bill the Secretary of State may acquire land by compulsory purchase within the limits of the Bill and the landowners have no right of appeal. There is no local inquiry. Under Clause 5, if the Secretary of State acquires land outside the limits of the Bill, that would be subject to a local inquiry.
A practical point arising from that is that the Government pass the land or the scheme to the promoter and the promoter passes it to the undertaker who builds the link. There may well be delays and one may forget about the value and the safeguard of the Crichel Down rules. Therefore, I ask my noble friend the Minister whether he can reinforce the principle of the Crichel Down rules and ensure that no land acquired by the Secretary of State under the Bill will ever be used or sold for other commercial purposes without first offering that land back to the original owner at a value equal to that pertaining on its acquisition.
Some years ago I was involved in quite a large statutory flood alleviation scheme. Large areas of land were acquired under compulsory purchase, of which something like 25 per cent. was required for temporary use only. It was a long and hard-fought case and in the end the largest owner achieved an agreement with the statutory body without the use of compulsory purchase despite the fact that that had been confirmed. It was a sensible and good result for all. I hope that we can achieve the same under this Bill.
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
My Lords, I am always full of admiration for my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley for the persistence with which he pursues land use issues. The agriculture lobby is extremely fortunate to have a champion of such vigour who pursues such issues so formidably. However, we must be careful not to succumb too easily to blandishments.
The noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, said that there would be no delay, but I question that. I listened carefully to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and, as he said, it is difficult to see how this amendment would not cause delays in the implementation of what is an enormously overdue project. Not only is it a project of major national interest, but it is also a vital link in the development of our trading interests in Europe. We need the link and we need it as fast as possible. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will resist the amendment so that we may proceed with all haste to the successful conclusion of this vital project.
§ Lord Northbourne
My Lords, since a certain amount of this argument seems to turn on the Crichel Down rules, which were raised by the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, may I ask the Minister to confirm that my understanding of those rules is correct? My understanding is that the Crichel Down protocol was 1051 generated in connection with the disposal of land which had been acquired for permanent use, was used for such purpose permanently for some time, but was then sold. That is a different proposition from that which we are discussing. We are discussing the question of land being acquired partly for permanent use and partly for temporary use.
My understanding is that under the Crichel Down rules fairly onerous conditions apply to the offer of the land back to the landowner. Am I correct in believing, first, that the statutory undertaker must resolve that the land has become surplus to his operations, which is not unreasonable? Secondly, is it correct that the land must be offered to any other statutory undertaker or authority which might have a use for it and that only after that is it to be offered back to the owner, and then only subject to stringent conditions which include a duty to get the best possible price, a duty to include within that price any development potential which may have arisen during the period that it was occupied by the statutory undertaker and, thirdly, that the price is to be decided unilaterally by a valuer appointed by the statutory undertaker? Bearing in mind that the land will probably have been acquired at agricultural value, does it not seem unjust that it may have to be acquired back with a significant element of hope value or even with planning permission?
Referring to the subject more generally, it seems to me that a number of the arguments that have been adduced this afternoon suggest that because this is a very important scheme a certain small number of farmers or landowners should suffer the risk of a financial disadvantage and that that would be a fair sacrifice. If the Government would say that frankly, I would vote for them. If not, I think that it is up to the Minister to satisfy the House that the landowners are not being disadvantaged.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, we are all obviously agreed that when land is needed only temporarily for the construction of this rail link, that part which is not needed after construction should be returned to the owner or farmer concerned. We are offered two ways of achieving that purpose. One is to have it written into the Bill with all the legal certainty that follows from that. The other method is to rely upon what is written in the report of the Select Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, quoted those words in Committee. In passing, perhaps I may say that the noble Lord did a formidable job in presiding over that Select Committee for so many sittings. The subject occupied his attention for a long time.
We are faced with a constitutional position. Instead of writing the matter into the Bill with the authority of both Houses of Parliament and with the legal certainty which we hope would follow, it is suggested that we should rely upon what the Select Committee of your Lordships' House said in its report that it requires. However, a Select Committee of one House does not make the law. We must get this right. It may be said that this has happened in the past and that one has to rely on the good will of contractors and their promoters, especially when the promoter is the Secretary of State. 1052 However, as several noble Lords have said, there may well be cases in which that good will does not prevail. There needs to be either a firm contractual undertaking by the undertakers (the owners) to the promoter (the Secretary of State), who will be answerable to Parliament, or certainty written into the Bill. The question arises whether the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, and supported by my noble friend Lord Stanley, provides that certainty. In view of the manner in which the remainder of the Bill is drafted, it has become a rather elaborate amendment. I believe that that was unavoidable. However, it seems to provide the certainty required. We might be making a great mistake and erring constitutionally if instead we relied merely on something which a Select Committee of your Lordships' House said it required.
§ Lord Ampthill
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down I should like to refer to a letter addressed to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, which deals with the specific points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Renton:Under the Development Agreement with London and Continental Railways (LCR), LCR are required to comply with all these undertakings and assurances. Compliance is a clear contractual obligation and one of the key minimum requirements of the project imposed on LCR by the Government".I say no more.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, if that is a contract that has been entered into it is a pity it was not drawn to the attention of the House long before. We might not have had to hold this discussion. I do not believe that merely to have read out to the House a statement virtually at the last minute, which we are told is evidence of a contract having been made, is the correct way to legislate in this important matter. Between whom exactly has it been made? Obviously, subcontractors will be involved in this matter. It would be far better and safer and, in the long run more likely to be just, to amend the Bill. If your Lordships pass the amendment, or better still my noble friend Lord Goschen, having taken advice, accepts the amendment and any adjustment is to be made purely from the drafting and technical point of view, let it be made. Meanwhile, your Lordships will have established an important constitutional principle.
§ Lord Jenkin of Roding
My Lords, with respect to my noble friend Lord Renton, I do not believe that he ought to try to persuade the House that this is the first time this matter has been raised. At Committee stage my noble friend Lord Goschen spelt out the position with great clarity. No doubt he would wish to say the same today in different words. It is right to put on record the clear procedure:It has been understood that it is not possible, nor practicable, to put every single minor or major detailed technical undertaking into legislation. Therefore the procedure is that the undertakers give assurances which are registered in a registry of undertakings. Those are contractually binding. If the promoters do not comply with them, they can be enforced by the Secretary of State through the development agreement in the usual way. However, there is an additional safeguard. Compulsory purchase powers are vested in the Secretary of State. In exercising those powers, he will wish to be 1053 satisfied that the LCR has done everything reasonable to negotiate licences where they are feasible".—[Official Report, 31/10/96; col.464.]Nothing could be clearer than that. It seems to me that to try to persuade the House that somehow all of it has to be written into the Bill in great detail when there is a well established procedure and a complete register of the undertakings—
§ Lord Jenkin of Roding
My Lords, if my noble friend allows me to finish my sentence, I shall be happy to give way. Where there is an established procedure with a Select Committee and a register of undertakings which become contractually binding, I cannot see that any purpose is served by writing into the Bill the complicated provisions proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, and his noble friend. The argument of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, is that every owner would have the opportunity to come along and suggest that something was temporary and not permanent. If ever there were uncertainty, it would be that.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, I ask my noble friend to bear in mind that there is no suggestion that all of the detail of the kind he suggests should be written into the Bill. What the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, seeks to write into the Bill is the principle at stake. That is expressed in a somewhat complicated piece of drafting merely because it must be dovetailed into a long and complicated Bill. With great respect to my noble friend, he has not got it right.
§ Lord Jenkin of Roding
My Lords, I believe that I have got it right. The statement made by my noble friend at Committee stage was perfectly clear. I hope that the House will reject this amendment.
§ Viscount Ullswater
My Lords, I do not often disagree with my noble friend Lord Renton, but on this occasion I am afraid that I must. He believes that a principle is at stake. I believe that another principle is at stake. I will go into that in a moment. I have no idea whether the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, will press this amendment to a Division. I rather hope that he does not. I hope that both he and the House will listen carefully to the further assurances that my noble friend the Minister gives to the House.
I have listened carefully to the points made in this debate. I am familiar with what was said at Committee stage. I understand that at Report stage a new approach is taken in this amendment. Everyone is familiar with the compulsory purchase powers under the Compulsory Purchase Act 1965. I believe that they are well understood by land practitioners, financiers and the legal profession. Where land falls outside the limits of the Bill the normal compulsory purchase procedures apply, in which case the landowner will be able to object and appear at a public local inquiry. But that is not the subject of this amendment, and it will not be touched by this amendment. Where the land falls within the limits 1054 of the Bill, he will have an opportunity to petition against the land being acquired. My noble friend Lord Kinnoull cited a case in which petitioners had made representations.
Equally, the landowner will also be able to make representations to the Secretary of State for Transport that the land is not needed permanently at the time either a notice to treat or other notice is given of the intention to make a vesting declaration. The Select Committee has studied this matter in great detail, as it has made clear in its report, and is satisfied with the current provisions. I also understand that this amendment is not aimed at amending planning law but will create a new planning regime for this project alone. I do not believe that it is proper to do so, especially as this is a hybrid Bill. I do not believe that if it is done in a hybrid Bill it will provide any precedent in law. I also understand that this is not an attempt to amend the Crichel Down rules. While these rules are non-statutory, Parliament has taken a close interest in them since the Crichel Down case led to the resignation of the Minister responsible. Since 1954 I believe successive governments have accepted the basic principle that such land should normally be offered back to the former owners at its current market value, which is the same basis as the payment on acquisition.
The amendment introduces a new right of appeal against a CPO, or, more to the point, under paragraph 12A, which is the subject of the amendment, the owner can give notice to the Secretary of State to substitute a licence for a CPO if he, the landowner, decides that the piece of land in question will be required only temporarily. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, that puts a heavy duty on the landowner to act responsibly. There is no doubt that it would lead to litigation and have to be tested in court, and there is no precedent for that.
I agree with other noble Lords who have said that that approach will lead to uncertainty. It will give uncertainty to the promoters and the financiers of this mega project which, as my noble friend Lord Montgomery said, is so important. I have no doubt that delay and uncertainty will increase costs.
Having been a Minister in the DoE, and responsible for the planning regime, I believe that it would be extremely ill-advised to make changes to the operation of a system of compulsory purchase and compensation, including the arrangements for the disposal of surplus land, in a piecemeal, one-off, basis in the Bill. It would create inconsistencies with the statutory and non-statutory arrangements that apply elsewhere. The proposed amendment alters the normal process by which land is acquired for public interest projects. Novel arrangements should not be introduced in the circumstances of one project which may have unforeseen consequences for others. Therefore I urge my noble friends and other noble Lords to listen carefully to what my noble friend the Minister has to say, and not to support the amendment.
§ Lord Ampthill
My Lords, I shall be extremely brief because most of what I intended to say has already been said, and I promise not to cover the same ground again. 1055 Perhaps I may say at once that the amendment is a considerable improvement on that moved by the noble Lords, Lord Cornwallis and Lord Stanley of Alderley, in Committee. The previous amendment caused great concern—it was dreadfully difficult to understand; it was probably flawed technically; and it would possibly have re-hybridised (a dreadful word for which I apologise) the Bill, although that last point depends upon which lawyers one has last spoken to.
So far, so good. Many of your Lordships will have received the literature distributed by the NFU and the CLA, and very seductive it is. It manages to make its proposals seem completely innocuous and to present no problem to the promoters. I regret that I must differ about that—other noble Lords have also done so—for I believe that it will introduce an unacceptable degree of uncertainty into the drafting of the prospectus needed to raise the £3 billion for the construction of the project. There are other curious features in what the NFU and CLA have put forward but they have been well dealt with by other noble Lords, in particular, by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. So I shall not dwell upon that.
If the amendment in its present form had been presented to the Select Committee there is no doubt that it would have been rejected by the Select Committee. I strongly recommend the House to do the same.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
My Lords, perhaps I may at the outset do what I intended to do when the Motion was put originally and when I misled myself about how and when to get up. I rose at that stage to offer an apology for an unforgivable mistake made in the course of col. 444 in the debate of 31st October when I said that the Committee owed a great debt, not to the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, but to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson. Having the Donaldson Report on my brain I made that error, and I hope that the noble Lord will accept my apologies.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
My Lords, I have great respect for the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, but in the right place.
The debate on this issue which took place in Committee reflected a great deal of anxiety on the part of a number of Members of this House about the situation; whether inequity was going to be the order of the day if the Government's proposals were to be accepted by Parliament. That unease has been reflected in today's debate, but the Committee gave us a useful opportunity to probe the Government's intentions. That was done at considerable length and has benefited today's debate.
The Minister courteously offered to write me a letter about the question of undertakings, for which I am most grateful. I am sorry, in a way, that the content of that letter was not put before your Lordships because it might have been able to suppress some of the anxieties that have been expressed.
1056 I am satisfied, in the circumstances described to me by the Minister, that it would have been inappropriate to have incorporated some 600 or so undertakings. It would not have been possible to make one exception here and one exception there, because then the Minister would have been faced with having to say, "Why did you make the exception here and not in other cases?" It was important to recognise that these matters could be dealt with by undertakings. Having probed the Minister quite extensively, I am satisfied that he has taken the right course.
So far as concerns the enforcement of breaches of undertakings, it is a matter for the Minister on behalf of the Government. The Government have entered into these undertakings. The Minister would in his proper judgment be able to determine whether an action might be taken in the particular circumstances which prevailed at the time on behalf of a particular owner or owners.
In winding up the debate on this side I should like to underline what my noble friend Lord Berkeley said in his excellent contribution towards the beginning of the debate. The Opposition's concerns can be encapsulated in two major themes. One is: could there be a real risk of uncertainty which would compound much further delay if the amendment were to be accepted by the House today? Would it also involve major difficulties in raising the funding necessary for the project, as the promoters suggest? There can be no doubt that with this being perhaps one of the greatest civil engineering projects that this country has ever undertaken—it involves massive national interest—that therefore becomes a critical issue.
I believe that if there is a risk of injustice to some people, which the whole House would regret deeply, perhaps one of the ways in which to deal with it would be to address the issue raised by the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull. The noble Earl made the extremely important suggestion that where undertakings are to be relied on, the Government should ensure that the people who are affected by those undertakings should have their attention drawn to them specifically, not by Act of Parliament but in a way which can be determined by guidelines or in some other way at the relevant time. That is an extremely useful suggestion and I hope that the Minister will reply positively to it.
The noble Lord, Lord Stanley, said that the Coal Industry Bill created a different situation and a different system. I do not believe that that is an appropriate simile. The Coal Industry Bill cannot, under any circumstances, be compared with the nature of this project.
As regards the Crichel Down rules, I did not raise that issue last time because I was satisfied by what the Minister said and I remain satisfied. Therefore, I cannot be charged with inconsistency.
I turn to another point which has been raised by the promoters of the Bill. It was a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, and other noble Lords on the other side of the House and it is extremely important. Is it right that we should establish a precedent in the course of the Committee or Report stages of the Bill which 1057 would materially affect planning law? I do not believe that that is appropriate and in my view the idea should be rejected.
I wish to conclude by dealing with the other point which was raised by my noble friend because I am not seeking to engage in a vast criticism of the Government as a result of the article which appeared in the Independent today. However, I should like to know how the situation arose. Is it true that a letter was written by the Secretary of State along the lines suggested in the article which was designed to cause the committee to take into account matters which had not been introduced in evidence? Was the letter written? Why was it written? Would it not have been more appropriate if the Government had sought to draw attention to the important issue of costs in another way?
The Government are duty bound to be concerned by major difficulties concerning the issue of costs, as we should be if we were in office, and as I hope we shall be. It may be that we shall be affected by those major issues in practical terms. But in the light of attempts which have been made in another context, which are being investigated in another place, it is appropriate that the whole situation should be clarified. I do not know how the Government should go about putting forward a wholly appropriate argument without giving evidence. Perhaps they could not do so. It may be that the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, will clarify that for me.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that. I doubt very much whether it could happen in another place. Therefore, the Government are faced with a dilemma. How do they draw to the attention of the committee something which is highly relevant and which is motivated by a number of the speeches which have been made in the House today? Therefore, I ask the noble Viscount to explain that situation and perhaps reflect upon it in future so that we can have some guidance on the matter. It may be that he would wish to do that at a later stage of the Bill.
§ Viscount Goschen
My Lords, it may be appropriate for me to intervene at this stage of the debate. Perhaps I may deal first with the issue which is not directly related to the amendment but as noble Lords opposite have raised it, it may be better to deal with the matter at this stage so that we can then concentrate on the argument at hand.
The noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Clinton-Davis, referred to an article in the Independent newspaper entitled:Ministers subvert Kent blight inquiry".Of course, that is not the case. That issue was resolved satisfactorily in another place last autumn. It was hardly exposed last night.
The fact is that no undue pressure was brought to bear on the Select Committee in question. Sir Tony Durant, chairman of the House of Commons Select Committee, spoke to my right honourable friend the Secretary of 1058 State for Transport on behalf of his all-party committee about the letter. He and his committee received an assurance that the Government have not in the past and will not in the future bring undue influence to bear on the Select Committee or its chairman. The assurance was read out in Public Session and the committee was satisfied. I hope that that answers completely the noble Lords' concerns.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
My Lords, I am in no way adopting the argument of that headline which I think is unacceptable. I have not sought to condemn the Government over what has happened. However, the Minister may find it useful to reflect on the points which I made and perhaps deal with them at another stage of the Bill. I think they are important issues which any government would have to address.
§ Viscount Goschen
My Lords, I am more than happy to discuss the Select Committee procedures of your Lordships' House with regard to a hybrid Bill, but it may be better to do that through correspondence.
I turn now to the amendments themselves. The issues of land acquisition and disposal are central to the workings of this Bill. At re-committal, we had a very detailed debate about the amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, and my noble friend Lord Stanley during which I voiced the Government's major concerns about the workability of the amendments. In particular they would not deliver certainty that land needed for the project can be acquired and then can be held permanently if needed for the operation of the railway. There would instead be a patchwork of licences. Since that time, I have had meetings with the noble Lords and their advisers, but I have to say that although the amendments before us today have been substantially changed, our concerns remain.
In considering the noble Lords' amendments, I believe we must keep at the forefront of our thinking that we are talking about probably the largest civil engineering project this country has seen since the last war, with a cost of about £3 billion. It is the flagship of the Government's Private Finance Initiative and a classic example of a partnership with the private sector.
The House and another place have given very strong support to the CTRL throughout the passage of this Bill. Although it may be tempting to think that Royal Assent virtually delivers the project, that is not the case. The Bill, when enacted, will create the conditions within which the project can be got off the ground. But the real construction will not start until project financing has been achieved. Raising the finance will be a major hurdle, and it is important during this debate this afternoon to bear in mind that the content of the Bill will be a major influence on LCR's ability to clear that hurdle.
We have heard a great deal about the question of uncertainty and new procedures. The noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Ampthill, among others, referred to that. That is one of the key points.
I think it can fairly be said that nobody enjoys having to acquire land by compulsion. But it is the only satisfactory way that successive governments have 1059 found of securing land acquisition and assembly for projects—and especially linear projects—which benefit the national interest. The Bill uses perfectly standard compulsory purchase procedures, which have stood the tests of time and general acceptability. Indeed the powers sought in the Bill are no different from those that would be used for building a new road. Compulsory purchase is, of course, never to be embarked upon lightly. There has to be a clear justification for public benefit and those affected must have a proper say. The CTRL is undoubtedly of national importance, which has been stressed in debates in both Houses. Also—and this is important—those whose land is affected by the CTRL project have had a full opportunity in each House to be heard by a Select Committee.
The Select Committee in another place sat for a full year; the Select Committee of your Lordships' House sat for three months, hearing nearly 300 petitions, many from those with land interests. These two committees heard vast quantities of evidence and probed every nook and cranny of the project. They considered their conclusions with evident diligence and authority. Yet at no stage did either Select Committee throw doubt on the compulsory purchase procedures, still less recommend that they be abandoned in favour of a scheme of certification of the need for land such as that set out in the amendments before us.
Perhaps I may describe to the House the standard regime. Under the standard procedures the promoters have the certainty that they can have all the land needed for the construction of the project and also that they can hold on to land that is needed permanently without risk of challenge. But under these amendments the land assembly process is turned on its head. The problem is not just with the initial assembly of land for the construction of the project. There is then another hurdle to be cleared—and one which has never been tested before—on what land can be held permanently. This hurdle involves the Secretary of State having to certify, using set criteria, whether every separate piece of land is needed permanently. As we have heard, that would be bureaucratic, but it would also open up the possibility of challenge in the courts.
There are also various technical defects in the amendments and areas which are unclear. However, I believe that it will be for the convenience of the House if I concentrate on the main principles. I certainly accept that, as far as possible, land that we are certain will only be needed temporarily should in fact be taken temporarily. That is why we have provided in Schedule 5 to the Bill special powers for the temporary possession and use of certain plots of land which we think will not be radically altered and we need to take only temporarily. We have made it clear all along that we do not wish to purchase land under compulsion where that is not necessary and we have given an undertaking to that effect, which was debated extensively in the Committee of the Whole House.
I feel that I ought to say a few words about the undertakings because that was a major item in the speech made by my noble friend Lord Renton—and, indeed, if I may say so, heavily disagreed to by my other 1060 noble friend Lord Jenkin. The point about the undertakings really has been made crystal clear at all stages of the proceedings in this House. The letter that has been referred to is one from myself to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, which I instructed should be copied to all noble Lords who spoke at the recommittal stage. I shall be most unhappy if it transpires that my noble friend did not receive a copy of that letter. However, a copy of it was also placed in the Library of the House.
There have been nearly 600 undertakings for this Bill. They are legally binding. Perhaps I may repeat: from the early days of the project, it was recognised that various undertakings and assurances would be needed to be given to Parliament, local authorities, affected landowners, and others, to ease the concerns of the various affected parties. Therefore, we have set up a special mechanism to ensure that all the undertakings and assurances given during the passage of the Bill are accurately and faithfully recorded on the Register of Undertakings and Assurances, so that the nominated undertaker who will design, construct and operate the CTRL will be in no doubt as to his obligations. I believe that to be a fairly categorical description of where we stand with undertakings. They are vital to the Bill. They are not merely casual assurances. As I said, they are legally binding undertakings which are recorded in detail and which can be acted upon if there are any breaches thereof.
The undertaking that I was describing which relates to temporary land is contractually binding on London and Continental Railways. It requires LCR to seek to negotiate a tenancy or licence where land is only needed temporarily, though that is dependent on there being no legal problems with dealing with any other interests and rights in the land in the licence.
My noble friend Lord Kinnoull made a powerful speech. He feels that there is a case for promulgating this information; and, indeed, that idea was supported by the noble Lord, Lord Stanley. During both Select Committees—that is, both in this House and in the other place—the promoters of the Bill produced a document called, The Guide to Farmers and Growers, which was sent to all the agricultural petitioners. That document set out the approach that will be taken to farmers and growers both during the design and the construction phases of the project. It contains some assurances and explains the procedure for maintaining communications with landowners and occupiers. It is via those communications that LCR intend to keep farmers and growers abreast of developments and inform them of undertakings and assurances that affect them. I see that the noble Lord wishes to intervene. I give way.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
My Lords, perhaps I may point out to the noble Viscount that it was not the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, who supported the idea; indeed, it was the noble Lord, Lord Stanley Clinton-Davis, who did so.
§ Lord Stanley of Alderley
My Lords, I should point out to the House that I wrote to my noble friend the Minister. No doubt he got muddled between us. However, I also supported the idea.
§ Viscount Goschen
My Lords, I must apologise for being over-familiar with the Opposition.
As my noble friend Lord Jenkin correctly said, there is the further protection that the Secretary of State, before exercising his compulsory purchase powers, will wish to be satisfied that LCR have acted reasonably. I quite accept that the undertaking does not go as far as guaranteeing that there will be licences in every case where land is not needed permanently, because this may be unworkable in some cases where there are other interests in the land. Also, LCR cannot be bound to accept any terms regardless of their reasonableness. However, the undertaking still provides a valuable and additional safeguard and support.
During the course of the debate we heard a great deal about the Crichel Down rules. A further protection is that where land that has been acquired by compulsory purchase becomes surplus, the normal Crichel Down rules will apply. That is a contractual requirement on LCR which has been specifically written into the development agreement between the Secretary of State and LCR.
The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, asked for more detail about the Crichel Down rules and their relevance to land disposed of after compulsory purchase. The standard arrangements are for land to be acquired before construction, and then any that becomes surplus after the works have been completed, is—with specific exceptions—offered back to the original owner under the rules. Those exceptions relate to situations where the land is still required in the public sector, or where the site has been materially changed by development on it as part of the project for which the land was acquired. The noble Lord also asked whether there was a problem about not knowing if land was required permanently or temporarily in relation to the application of the Crichel Down rules. I can assure the noble Lord that there is no problem about that specific issue.
Down the years, and for projects of all sorts, those standard arrangements have generally been accepted as providing the best and fairest balance between the interests of the original owner and the body that acquired the land. But for the CTRL project, the House is being asked to accept that the standard rules should no longer apply. Instead of those rules, some totally different arrangements should be substituted which are completely untried and have never been put to the acid test of operational practicability for a project of this sort. The project is much too important to the national interest to be used as a guinea pig.
I understand that some noble Lords have general objections to the Crichel Down rules, but they have stood us in good stead. Indeed, successive governments have believed that they give the fairest balance between the national interest and the rights of the landowner. I strongly believe that a hybrid Bill for one particular project is not the place to mount an argument for a change of potentially general application. There is no means by which the issues can be considered in the round by looking at a single project. I have sought to highlight the dangers of the uncertainty that the amendments would produce.
1062 Making changes to the normal arrangements just for one project would raise the question of whether this sets a precedent for others. I suggest to the House that it can never make good legislative sense to try to change long-standing national policy from the narrow base of a project-specific Bill—and a hybrid one at that. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, will not feel the necessity to press his amendments, but if he does I hope that noble Lords will follow me in voting against them.
§ Lord Cornwallis
My Lords, this has been an extensive and most interesting debate. I am most grateful to everyone who has taken part in it. The Crichel Down rules are continually referred to, but there are several gaps within them, in that land can be held for anything up to 50 years before it is returned to the original owners. One of the objectives of the amendment is to limit the time in which the promoters could decide whether or not they needed the land permanently. As regards land taken temporarily, I do not believe that there is any undertaking within the Bill, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, believes.
No matter what the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, says, individual landowners have to be dealt with individually. As far as I am aware, there is no method by which the Government or anyone else can make a blanket compulsory purchase over the 68 miles of the railway line without dealing with those who happen to be living along it. It is amusing to say that one cannot build a petrol station by the railway line because the train does not stop. However, if we do not build this line soon, it probably will. However, I anticipate that there are roads that cross the railway line at different places, and there could well be land adjacent to those roads which could be used for development sites of one sort or another and not be returned to the owner.
These amendments were not tabled simply because we thought it would be nice to get the land back. These amendments were tabled in the light of experience. The amendments were tabled because for years landowners have suffered from not getting their land back in spite of promises to the contrary. Therefore, as I believe I said in my closing remarks on 31st October, we are not overgiven to being trustful. I can tell the Minister that there are at this moment—and there may well be others—three instances that we are aware of in which the undertakings given to the Select Committee are not being dealt with as they were supposed to be according to the undertakings given by the promoters. If that is already happening in respect of the purchase of alternative sites, what faith can we have in the ability of the promoters to honour the other undertakings?
We are not against compulsory purchase. We believe that the compulsory purchase rules should be strengthened in favour of the landowners. I have made my next point before and I was told—as I have been told this afternoon—that this is not the right Bill to deal with the point. It never seems to be the right Bill. I hope someone will tell me when the right Bill comes along to deal with the point.
1063 In the meantime it is quite obvious that the Minister will not give way. In the light of what has been said I do not believe that the House is in favour of these amendments. I hope that we have made a strong point to the Minister with regard to the problems that arise. Perhaps the Government can be persuaded to look at the rules at some time or other to consider how they may be brought up to date. If my memory is right, the Crichel Down rules are now some 50 years old, and things have happened in the past 50 years. Having consulted with the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, with great regret I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 5 [Acquisition outside limits shown on deposited plans]:
§ [Amendment No. 2 not moved.]
Viscount Goschen moved Amendment No. 3:
After Clause 40, insert the following new clause—
VARIATION OF DEVELOPMENT AGREEMENT: DISAPPLICATION OF S.2 OF LAW OF PROPERTY (MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS) ACT 1989
(".—(1) Section 2(1) to (6) of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989 (under which a contract for the sale etc. of land can only be made by incorporating all the terms agreed in one document) shall not apply in relation to the variation of a development agreement.
(2) This section shall be deemed to have come into force on 31st May 1996.").
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this is a highly technical drafting amendment which is intended to deal with problems arising out of a recent Court of Appeal interpretation of Section 2 of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 44 [Acquisition of land]:
§ [Amendment No. 4 not moved.]
§ Schedule 4 [Acquisition of land within limits shown on deposited plans]:
§ [Amendment No. 5 not moved.]
§ Schedule 8 [Heritage: rights of entry]:
§ 5.45 p.m.
Viscount Goschen moved Amendment No. 6:
Page 174, line 32, after ("land") insert ("in Greater London").
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 6 I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 7, 8 and 9. This addition has been requested by English Heritage. The amendment extends the power of entry already given to it, by an amendment agreed by the Committee of the Whole House, to inspect and observe works to listed buildings authorised by Schedule 7 of the Bill. The amendments extend these rights to include non-listed buildings in conservation areas. To be consistent with English Heritage's rights under normal legislation, however, the rights of entry for both listed and non-listed buildings in conservation areas will apply only in Greater London. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.1064
Viscount Goschen moved Amendments Nos. 7, 8 and 9:
Page 174, line 39, at end insert—
("(5) In this paragraph, "decontrolled works" means works to which section 7 or 74 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 would apply, but for paragraph 1(1)(a), (3) or (4) or 2(1)(a) of Schedule 7 to this Act.").
Page 175, line 5, at end insert—
("(5) In this paragraph, "decontrolled works" means works to which section 7 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 would apply, but for paragraph 1(1)(a) or (3) of Schedule 7 to this Act.").
Page 175, leave out lines 24 to 26.
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendments Nos. 7 to 9 en bloc.
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
§ Schedule 10 [Disapplication and modification of miscellaneous controls]:
Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 10:
Page 180, leave out lines 22 and 23.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 10 it may be for the convenience of the House if I speak also to Amendments Nos. 11, 12, 13 and 14. I can assure noble Lords that this debate, unlike the previous one, will be brief. I begin by thanking my noble friend Lord Goschen for the immense amount of care that he and his officials have taken to determine whether we can reach an acceptable agreement. This measure is concerned with the London night time lorry ban. Originally it had been intended that the whole ban should be suspended for traffic involved with the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. That has been changed and at the recommittal stage there was a government amendment purporting to carry into effect an agreement with regard to the lorry ban scheme but, unfortunately, it did not appear to be acceptable, and perhaps did not altogether reflect the agreement that at least the lorry ban organisations thought they had reached.
§ We had a good meeting at which the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, was present. I think she would agree that it was a fair hearing. I know for a fact that discussions have been continuing in the hope that the Minister might have been able to table amendments on this matter at this stage of the Bill. However, as a result of his determination that the matter will be dealt with properly, and that the necessary safeguards both as regards the construction of the railway and the lorry ban will be included, he was not able to table the amendments today. I have been given to understand that it is his intention—no doubt my noble friend will wish to comment on this—that amendments will be tabled in time for Third Reading.
§ In those circumstances it would be a work of supererogation if I were to take the House through the amendments detail by detail. They were intended to raise issues which may well be dealt with in a different way. I beg to move.1065
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
My Lords, I support what has been said by the noble Lord. Although I was not able to be present at the discussions, the debate in Committee and the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, followed up the issues have undoubtedly enabled the Minister to consider them in a constructive, positive way. I join with the noble Lord in saying how pleased we are on this side of the House that the Minister has reflected further on the matter.
We shall await the amendments that he seeks to bring forward. I hope that he will bring those forward at the next stage of the Bill. But I think that the whole House should feel gratified that an important matter concerning London has been dealt with in such a constructive manner.
§ Baroness Hamwee
My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for the hearing that he has given this issue. The workings of the London lorry ban are perhaps a little complicated, and interesting for one who has not dealt with them in detail previously. They are important. It is important to ensure that the lorry ban scheme is protected. But London's environment should be protected as far as possible in a way that does not jeopardise the project by unnecessary bureaucracy. I believe that the lorry ban unit is working towards that aim.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, said that discussions have continued since Tuesday morning. I understand that they have continued almost without break since then. I hope that those who are to operate the ban, those concerned with the project, and parliamentary draftsmen can agree.
I apologise to the House for having intervened in the issue, having been unable to do so at Committee stage. At that time I was abroad. My office attempted without success to send me a fax. When I telephoned to inquire what it was about and was told that it involved the CTRL, I felt that there was little I could do from rural Italy. I am glad to have the chance to be involved now.
§ Viscount Goschen
My Lords, we have had a constructive debate both during the recommittal stage and in private meetings subsequently. It is clear that we all believe that protecting London's environment and the control of heavy lorries through London is an important issue.
My noble friend Lord Jenkin made clear his concerns during the course of recommittal. While we did not feel able to accept the precise amendments that he suggested at the time, we believed that we would be best placed to engage in negotiations with the noble Lord and his advisers in order to come forward with a satisfactory solution. Those discussions have already produced benefit. I hope that we shall be able to come to an agreed position by the next stage of the Bill. It is my firm intention to create and allow an agreed position. Although agreement has not been reached, the distance between us has been considerably narrowed; and I am pleased about that.
1066 I shall bring forward amendments at Third Reading of the Bill. I hope that they will prove satisfactory to the House. In the light of that assurance, I trust that my noble friend will wish to withdraw the amendments.
§ Lord Jenkin of Roding
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. The remaining outstanding issue is whether there needs to be an entirely separate regime regarding the London lorry ban for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link or whether, with the modifications in Schedule 10, the lorry ban can be run under the London borough traffic schemes standard, or normal procedures. That is what we should like to see in order to reduce bureaucracy.
If I remember aright, we considered the issue, in an earlier deregulation Bill. The Government brought forward proposals in order to reduce bureaucracy but they appeared to jeopardise the scheme and were withdrawn. We seek to reduce to the minimum the necessary bureaucracy. I know that my noble friend and his officials will do their very best to achieve that aim. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 11 to 14 not moved.]