I beg to move,
That the Town and Country Planning (Minerals) Regulations, 1948, dated 13th May, 1948, a copy of which was presented on 13th May, be approved.
Section 81 (1) of the Town and Country Planning Act laid down that, in relation to development consisting of the winning and working of minerals, the provisions of the Act should have effect subject to regulations. These are the regulations which, with the consent of the Treasury, we now introduce. Under Section 12 (2) of the Act, any kind of mining operation constitutes a development. The Act deals with development of all kinds. What we seek to do by these regulations is to apply the general principles of the Act to the special case of minerals. Before I turn to the regulations themselves perhaps I might say one word on the subject of existing undertakers and about the general development order which was laid before Parliament on 6th May last.
Under the definition of development in the Act, continuance of a mining operation of any kind is made impossible after 1st July unless it has planning permis- sion. The only existing permissions which are preserved are those which were granted after 22nd July, 1943. No one wanted a general hiatus in mining operations throughout the country. Therefore, to cover that situation, we issued this general development order last month. Briefly, it allows all existing undertakers, unless they are contravening a previous planning control, to continue as permitted developers for a period, and we have put this period thus: four months for the undertaker to put in his application and a further 18 months for the local authority to give their decision.
Perhaps I may now turn to the regulations themselves? Regulation 3 (1) is a drafting regulation indicating where "use "does, and where "use" does not include mining operations. Its principal effect—there are minor effects—is that it makes Section 72 (2) of the Act, which enables the Central Land Board to determine development charge for a period only, applicable to minerals. I turn to the five main matters specified in Section 81 as those which may be the subject of regulations. Our minds go first to the promise that was given during the Debate, and which is in the Act itself, that there should be some dead ripe concession in the case of minerals similar to that which exists in the case of building land.
Regulation 4 (1) exempts from development charge for a period of three years mining undertakers who have an interest—"interest" includes option or contract—on the appointed day. That benefit accrues only if the minerals are actually worked. That is the most important of the regulations we put forward. Indeed, it justifies their being put forward, even though there may be some other matters, to which I should like to refer later, which are still under discussion. Regulation 4 (2) provides a corresponding adjustment in the claims upon the £300 million for loss of development value.
That brings me to the subject of the method of collecting the development charge itself and to the range of it. In this matter the Central Land Board must have substantial discretion. That is provided for in the Act. For example, they must take into account representations made by applicants. Regulation 8 (1) provides that these development charges can be assessed either in proportion to the volume of extraction—that is, on a royalty basis—or by any other method which is commonly used, and that the payments may be collected annually, periodically or on a capital basis. Regulation 8 (2), which is in common form, provides for the Board to have access to books and documents and provides that any information they obtain must be treated as confidential.
Regulation 9 (1) provides for the variation of a royalty payment under an existing lease. A contract already entered into can be revised in the light of a development charge. Arising out of that, a special tribunal is set up—it is described in the Schedule; its members are appointed by the Lord Chancellor—to decide what is fair in that matter. I would add that, whilst the lessee pays the development charge, the landlord is obviously concerned with the amount of the development charge—
May I ask the hon. Gentleman one question in view of the very important statement which he has made? Will he say whether that power for the landlord to make representations is contained in the Act or in these regulations?
Is the hon. Gentleman in a position to dominate the Central Land Board? Is the Central Land Board merely the creature of the Minister of Town and Country Planning? If so, of course the hon. Gentleman can give an undertaking here which binds the Central Land Board, but if, as I suspect, the Central Land Board is entitled to have some independence of its own, then how can the hon. Gentleman here bind the Central Land Board, and what redress have we if the Central Land Board do not do as he says they are going to do?
In answer to the first question put by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, the relations in general between the Ministry and the Central Land Board are perfectly clearly laid down in the Act and can be found out by anybody. In answer to his second question, the Central Land Board are perfectly entitled to authorise my right hon. Friend or myself to make such a statement on their behalf, and they have so authorised us.
May I take it that, contrary to the principle which has now been established about nationalised industries and Questions in this House, the Minister of Town and Country Planning will answer Questions directed to him about the doings of the Central Land Board? If some hon. Member puts down a Question asking the Minister of Town and Country Planning why the Central Land Board have not received or properly attended to the representations of a certain person, do I understand that the Minister will answer that Question? Otherwise the undertaking which the hon. Gentleman has now given seems to be completely useless.
—as to what the Minister will or will not do on a general subject. I made a perfectly clear and definite statement of what the Central Land Board are willing to do in this matter. They have authorised us to make this statement. As far as I am concerned and as far as these regulations are concerned, that is the end of that matter.
I will now turn more generally to the subject of compensation. Claims on the £300 million under Part VI of the Act can be made by anyone who has a financial interest in mineral deposits in the same way as a person can claim on account of any other form of development rights. Normally it is the landlord who will claim because it is on him, though not exclusively on him, that the development charge will fall. Many leaseholders will not need to claim because their remedy lies in another direction. Whereas the landlord will have been compensated on account of the reduced royalty which he will receive, the leaseholder now splits the royalty into two payments, the first going to the landlord and the second to the Central Land Board which, under the new dispensation, is the owner of a development right. The leaseholder should pay no more than he pays now. The two payments should add up to the whole existing payment. The proportion which one bears to the other should be decided by the tribunal which is described in the Schedule—
Perhaps I may finish. I may answer the hon. Gentleman's point. I said "normally." That is what will frequently happen but there may be one class—perhaps the hon. Member has it in mind—to which I will draw special attention. I am perfectly conscious that it may be a very large class. It is the leaseholder who enjoys what is called a profit royalty, that is, a lease which is so advantageous that the value of the payments which he is at present making to his existing landlord may be less than the value of the payment now due to the Central Land Board. The leaseholder then suffers loss, and he then, too, will claim on the £300 million. The near ripe scheme takes account of his case as it takes account also of the freeholder who owns a freehold on the appointed day. I am not going to develop that theme at length. My right hon. Friend dealt with this in his statement reported in HANSARD on 1st August, 1947, and details are still being worked out.
A special committee of the Minerals Committee of F.B.I. are now negotiating with the Central Land Board, and my right hon. Friend has asked the Board to widen the discussions to consider how far they should go and even consider whether further regulations should be necessary. When those negotiations have gone a little further my right hon. Friend will almost certainly see the Central Land Board and the other interests, and arrive at a final conclusion which will then be made known. Regulation 7 provides that the value of buildings and equipment shall be excluded from calculation of development value. Thus, claims on the £300 million will not be enlarged by the value of building, plant or materials.
A word now about claims under the heading of "abortive expenditure." They are confined first to existing undertakers—to existing undertakers who have been refused permission to continue their operations—and they are limited by Regulation 10 to those who are operating either on the basis of an existing planning permission or who were operating before planning control was in existence—and in that latter case, were still working before 1st January, 1946. Further, if benefit is there sought, they must apply within four months after the appointed day under the provisions of the General Development Order. We bring in here two other classes. The whole House would like us to bring in the first one—those who before January, 1946, stopped work owing to some concentration order which took place during the war, and a similar concession comes to those who stopped within 10 years before 7th January, 1947, in the normal course of their operations, which I believe happens in some industries.
Now a word in regard to revocation or modification of permission. Regulation 3 (2, a) provides that compensation shall not include the value of unworked minerals unless the development charge has been paid, and Regulation 3 (2, b) provides that compensation for buildings or equipment shall only be provided if those buildings and equipment are redundant or can only be used at a loss.
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman to go back to an earlier point which was puzzling me? I thought he was referring to those who discontinued their operations after the Bill had been published. What is the significance of the date, 7th January, 1937?
The date is January, 1947, and 10 years before that is January, 1937. The only point is that some form of mineral undertakings have, in the normal course, certain breaks. Compensation in the case of compulsory purchase is dealt with in Regulation 5. Again we do not include the value of unworked minerals unless the development charge has already been paid, and in assessing the value of buildings and equipment we have regard to planning permission, which is another way of saying that existing use value is guaranteed. Regulation 4 (3) provides that no claim for compensation shall be increased on account of the three year run which all mineral undertakers have.
I think I have now dealt with the more important provisions of the regulations, which have been framed after exhaustive consultations with literally dozens of the trade organisations involved. Most of them—I will not say all, because perfection in these matters is not easily attainable—have agreed and we have reached satisfaction. Where there has been criticism, and there has been some, it has usually been far more on the ground of what is not in the regulations. I would add that, in the light of discussions now taking place, and of what is said in this House today, it is by no means certain but it is probable that we have not yet finished with this subject, and that further regulations may yet be introduced. Therefore the criticism of what is not in them had better await a later date when the matter is nearer completion.
I therefore commend the regulations to the House as consistent with the intentions of the Act from which they derive, and appropriate to the industries which they so closely concern.
Arising out of the hon. Gentleman's previous sentence, I ought to remind the House that a criticism of what is not in the regulations would certainly be out of Order.
We are discussing the first set of regulations. If there are some Scottish points which can be discussed with them, that is a matter for the House to decide. I would not lay down that we should take them all together. We are now on a general discussion of the first set of regulations.
While I welcome the fact that this order which is intended to apply to England is moved by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, and not by the Secretary of State for Scotland, I must say I do not think
that the hon. Gentleman's exposition of the effect of these regulations is entirely satisfactory. The House may remember that when the Minister of Town and Country Planning moved the Second Reading of this Bill, in his two hours' speech he devoted just two passages to the question of mineral rights. I should like to remind the House of what he said then:
First, mineral workings. The application of the compensation-betterment provisions to existing mineral undertakings raises special and exceedingly difficult problems which do not lend themselves to a solution capable of satisfactory embodiment in a Statute and appropriate to all cases indiscriminately.
And then, a few minutes later my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) intervened to ask:
Is that all that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to say about betterment?
The Minister replied:
That is all I propose to say. Is there anything the right hon. Gentleman would like to know.
Then my right hon Friend said;
There is the whole problem of how existing minerals are to be dealt with.
And the Minister said:
I explained that existing mineral workings will be dealt with by Regulations, because there is such a variety of different circumstances and conditions, and it might be unfair to one type of undertaking or another, if we attempted to deal with that matter by Statute. Future workings will come under the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman will see the Regulations, of course, before they come into operation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th January, 1947; Vol. 432, cc 970 and 971.]
Now we see the regulations, and the first thing that occurs to me is that I cannot see any possible reason why these regulations could not have been included in the Bill. Quite obviously they could have been and, if they had, each provision in these regulations would have been subject to detailed consideration, so far as the operation of the Guillotine permitted, and possibly in some respects amended. Now this House has either to take these regulations or reject them, with the faint hope held out that our words may possibly result in some further regulations altering these regulations being made in the future. This is another instance of the new technique, of avoiding discussion in this House by introducing an important Amendment on the Report stage. Of course discussion is avoided even more if an important part
is left out of the Bill, to be dealt with by regulation, for it may even be found much easier to get regulations through this House than a Bill subject to the guillotine.
In considering these regulations, however, surely we have to determine to what extent the wide variety of different circumstances and conditions, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, to what extent the special and exceedingly difficult problems which do not lend themselves to a solution capable of satisfactory embodiment in a statute, are met by these regulations. There is no attempt at all to deal with a particular mineral industry in a particular way. The provisions in these regulations deal generally with all the mining extraction industries. A short time ago we had a Debate on the Development Charges regulations which laid down the governing principle for the determination and assessment of the development charge. Under those regulations the Central Land Board have power to modify the governing principles where they think that their application to mining would be inappropriate. But there has been no indication given to this House at any time of what sort of consideration the Central Land Board would take into account in waiving or modifying those governing principles, and when we debated those regulations I had some hope that that kind of matter would fall to be dealt with in these mineral regulations which, it was indicated, would be following shortly thereafter. Those regulations throw little light on the special and exceedingly difficult problem. Similarly, the regulations today give no light on them.
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman to reply to certain questions upon the application of these regulations. It will probably be more convenient if I put my questions upon each paragraph in chronological order rather than follow the course taken by the Parliamentary Secretary. My first question concerns Regulation 3 (2), which amends Section 22 of the Act. That Section deals with the payment of compensation where permission has been revoked or modified; it provides that a person interested in the land can recover compensation if he
has incurred expenditure in carrying out work which is rendered abortive by the revocation or modification, or has otherwise sustained loss or damage which is directly attributable to the revocation or modification.
I should like to ask whether that fully applies—I think it does—to mineral undertakers, subject to the express exclusion in Regulation 3 (2, a) in respect of unworked minerals. Paragraph (b) appears to deal with buildings only. Can the mineral undertaker who suffers loss or damage
… directly attributable to the revocation or modification
recover compensation for that loss in cases where it is not confined to buildings, plant or machinery? Paragraph (b) deals only with buildings, plant or machinery. If, for instance, labour charges have been incurred in moving plant or machinery, can they be taken into account? I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman will answer this particular point.
Regulation 3 (3) provides that
an enforcement notice … may be served"—
by the local planning authority—
within four years after the breach has come to the knowledge of the local planning authority.
Why should there be this departure from the general provision of Section 23 of the Act, which provides that an enforcement notice can only be served by a local planning authority within four years of such development? We did not have an opportunity of discussing Clause 23 of the Act in Committee because it was one of those operated upon by the Guillotine. Why has the right hon. Gentleman imported this difference in the case of minerals? There is a great deal to be said for keeping local planning authorities on their toes, for keeping them alert and on their guard to stop wrong development. Is not the Minister encouraging lethargy if he says they can take action at any time so long as it is within four years of their noticing the incorrect—the not permitted—development?
I would ask him to try to bring this matter into line with the Act if he brings in any further regulations because there does not seem the slightest reason for the departure from the principle laid down in that Measure. If the local planning authority have to watch buildings and act within four years of the development, there is no reason in this case why they should not act within four years of the mineral development or, if they do not act within that period, be debarred from doing so. The threat of an enforcement of planning control should not be allowed to hang over people's heads when the duration of the threat depends upon the time when the matter was discovered by the local authority.
I hoped that I had done so. The right hon. Gentleman will see, in Regulation 3 (3), that
Where minerals have been won and worked after the appointed day in breach of any condition subject to which the permission to develop was granted, an enforcement notice in respect of that breach may be served under Section 23 of the Act at any time within four years after the breach has come to the knowledge of the local planning authority.
If the right hon. Gentleman will contrast this with Section 23 (1) of the Act he will see there the words,
… the local planning authority may within four years of such development being carried out … serve … a notice.
That is the difference and that is why I am asking him to explain it. I hope I have made the point clear.
My next comment relates to Regulation 4 (3), which provides that,
No claim for compensation on compulsory acquisition of land or on the revocation or modification of any permission to develop land shall be increased by reason of the provisions of this Regulation.
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman this question. Let us imagine some land which comes within Subsection 4 (1) is compulsorily acquired within the next three years—that is, three years from the "appointed day"; does it mean—as I think it does—that the only compensation for the owner of the minerals in that land—minerals for which he has probably paid or, at any rate, is liable to pay; does it mean that the only compensation he will get on the compulsory acquisition will be the existing use value, ignoring his right to take those minerals for the next three years without payment of a development charge and without a right to compensation? If that is so—as seems to me to be the effect of Subsection (3)—certain
mineral undertakers who lose their land by compulsory acquisition may be most unfairly penalised. They are entitled to work, without payment of a development charge, minerals in the land for a period of three years. They will get no compensation from the £300 million fund in respect of those minerals, but, if any part of that land which they were going to work in those three years is compulsorily acquired, these minerals would be entirely ignored from the assessment of compensation. That is how I understand the provisions.
I should express it differently. What will they be paid? If, in assessing compensation, Regulation 4 (1) is ignored, they will be paid on their existing use value in respect of unworked minerals. Let me take as an example a field near Corby, in Northamptonshire, now used for grazing cows, from which within the next three years minerals—iron ore—will be extracted. Let us assume that one of the companies there has the right of extracting those minerals within the next three years and has paid for that right. If that field is compulsorily acquired within the next three years, what will the owner of those mineral rights be paid? As I understand it, all he will be paid is for existing use of that field as agricultural land, and he will have no right of claiming under the £300 million fund and no right of claiming anything in respect of minerals he is debarred from using. Have I made the point clear to the right hon. Gentleman now?
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell me if that is a correct interpretation. I pass to paragraph 8 of the Regulation which reveals clearly the true nature of a development charge on mineral undertakings. It really means the levying of a State royalty first upon the mineral undertaker and, unless he can pass it on, a royalty that is bound to be reflected in the cost of production and the prices of goods, except in the case of coal, as coal is excepted from the operation of these regulations. In the first place it is a charge on the mineral undertaker. He is the only person, as distinct from the owner, who has the right to apply for assessment of the development charge under Section 70 of the Act.
In moving this Regulation the hon. Gentleman said, what I think everyone was glad to hear, that the Central Land Board would be willing to receive representations from the owners of the land. I hope they will not change their minds. But, bearing in mind that they are not in any way bound not to change their minds, I suggest it is most unsatisfactory, unless the rights of people to apply to the Central Land Board are clearly defined. It would appear that under the Act as it stands there is no power for the owner of the land to apply to the Central Land Board for the assessment of a development charge, unless he also is the person who is going to work the minerals. In the case of minerals, in my opinion there is a very strong argument for saying at the earliest stage, both in respect of existing leases, which may be varied, and in respect of future leases, that the owner of the land should have the right of appearing before, or making representation to, the Central Land Board when the development charge is assessed. In dealing with this matter on the Committee stage of the Bill the right hon. Gentleman said:
powers are contained in the Clause to enable an adjustment of the lease to take place with the object of ultimately placing the burden of the development charge on the owner."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 26th March, 1947, C. 851.]
Under these regulations it is quite clear that the owner has no right to be heard when the development charge is assessed, even though, if the right hon. Gentleman is right in what he says, the object is that the owner shall ultimately have to bear the burden of the development charge. It is not clear from these regulations whether or not the owner of the land has any right to appear before the Tribunal which considers whether or not there should be variation of the lease. I should like to hear the right hon. Gentleman's answer to that question. There is no provision in the regulations giving the owner that right.
Those are my criticisms of the details of these regulations. I have a much more far-reaching and, I think, more important criticism to make. We know that the
development charge on mineral extraction in the form of a State royalty will go to the Central Land Board. I have taken the view, and have stressed it not infrequently in this House, that the first charge on any development charge of this character should be for the restoration of the surface and of the amenities on all mined-out land. This matter has particular significance in relation to my own county of Northampton. A White paper was published by the right hon. Gentleman in September, 1946 (Command 6906), Report on the Restoration Problem of the Ironstone Industry in the Midlands. The foreword, no doubt with the right hon. Gentleman's approval, contained the sentence:
The Government desire to record their appreciation of the action of the industry in voluntarily putting forward recommendations as a positive contribution towards a solution of the problem. These recommendations and the Report as a whole are at present under consideration and it is intended as soon as possible to issue a statement as to future policy.
We have not as yet, so far as I am aware, had any statement as to future policy. The cost of restoration of surface varies considerably, and is often high. Here we are being asked to consent to these minerals regulations, which entirely ignore in their content the problem of restoration of surface where iron ore has been extracted and, indeed, restoration of surface where other minerals have been taken. In Northamptonshire at present 3,600 acres are completely derelict—
Mr. Speaker said one could not criticise something which was not in the regulations. I am criticising the regulations because they do not deal with a particular subject which affects the whole assessment. To put it in another way here we have regulations seeking to impose and provide machinery for the collection of development charges on extraction of minerals. The right hon. Gentleman has said time and time again that the cost of restoration—
I am afraid I was not following the hon. and learned Member very closely, but it seemed that in a somewhat technical argument he was going into details. It may be possible to say that one does not agree with this regulation because of some omission, but it would not be in Order to go into the details of that omission.
May I further submit to you, Sir, that these are very detailed regulations. Surely I am entitled to go into detail in putting forward objections to them? In that connection, may I draw your attention to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman in dealing with the development charge on minerals has said:
In finally assessing the development charge, account will be taken of the obligation to carry out restoration."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D. 26th March; 1947, c. 851.]
My comment, which I submit I am entitled to make and the question I am entitled to ask is, to what extent is that undertaking carried out by these regulations? I was going on to point out the extraordinary importance in relation to the development charge dealt with by these regulations of the question on whom the burden of restoration should fall. If the burden of restoring the surface falls upon the owner then that is an additional argument which I pray in aid for the owner in all cases having the right of appearing before this tribunal.
I am not aware of the terms of Mr. Speaker's Ruling but the hon. and learned Member is entitled to give as a reason for not approving the regulations the fact that there is an omission from them. He is not entitled to go into detail about that omission. These are matters of degree and there are limits to them.
I agree that there are limits, but I am trying, so long as I am in Order, to deal with this technical subject as briefly as I can. I would not try to evade any Ruling which has been given. This is an extremely technical point. I agree that the right hon. Gentleman has not heard my argument and I understand that this is an embarrassment to him. May I put the point in another way? In the case of a mineral lessor and a lessee, by these regulations the development charge is laid first upon the shoulders of the lessee. We know that the lease may be varied. Provision is made for that under the regulations, but there is nothing in them to show what considerations are to be borne in mind in determining whether or not the lease should be varied.
Presumably, and this is the point which I would like the right hon. Gentleman to answer, one of the factors that may be borne in mind is the question of the cost of restoration. That may be borne in mind in varying the lease or in assessing the development charge. I find it hard, as I dare say you do, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to follow the intricacies of these regulations. I am seeking to ascertain to what extent that is provided for by these regulations, bearing in mind particularly the right hon. Gentleman's statement on the Committee stage of the Town and Country Planning Bill when he said:
If the owners are going to carry out the restoration, as is the case in a good many leases, as the hon. and learned Member knows, obviously that is a matter which can be taken into account in fixing the development charge. However, the intention is quite definitely to make allowances for the cost of restoration in considering the amount of the development charge."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 26th March, 1947; c. 851.]
Now one arrives at this position: A mineral undertaker having a lease applies for the development charge to be assessed. The lessor, the landlord, has no right at present of being heard before the Commission. The landlord may under the lease have upon his shoulders the full burden of restoring the land. Is the development charge to be fixed by the Central Land Board on the application of the lessee without that factor being taken into account? If it is to be taken into account can the right hon. Gentleman point out to me where it is provided in this or in other regulations which have come before the House?
I suggest that so far as mineral extraction is concerned this House ought to be told, before it can say whether or not that part of these regulations is satisfactory, what provision is being made for implementing the undertakings given by the right hon. Gentleman on the Committee stage of the Act. Although we were promised this statement on future policy as to restoration in 1946 we have not yet had it, and its absence makes it difficult to determine whether or not these regulations, so far as Regulation 8 applies, are fair or not.
I have only one other question to ask. Under these regulations the value of plant and buildings is ignored, I think I am right in saying, when assessing claims against the £300 million fund. Is it also ignored when assessing the extent of the development charge? It should be. Or is the right hon. Gentleman saying that where someone has installed, for instance, a cement works and wants to get the raw materials for those works from somewhere nearby the amount of the development charge is to be increased because those cement works happen to be where they are? That would be the effect, would it not, of taking plant and buildings into account in assessing the amount of the development charge? Surely, if plant and buildings are to be ignored in connection with claims against the £300 million fund it would be right that they should also be ignored when assessing the amount of the development charge.
I wish to add one or two words because I am certain that no one can sit for a Northamptonshire Division without being very much concerned with the question of how development charges are to be calculated so as to ensure that the restoration of the land there takes first place. I, too, have in mind the promises that were made in the proceedings of the Standing Committee, and I am comparatively little concerned at the moment with the question of who is to pay for the restoration, but I am exceedingly concerned with securing that the restoration is done and that a decision in the matter is reached very soon.
These workings are proceeding at a pace which makes the figure given by the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) already out of date. While I appreciate that time may be needed for a decision in the matter, I hope that something will be done soon, for I fail to see how the development charges can be fairly assessed unless there is some policy about restoration. On the technical points that were raised there seems to me to be much that can be said and, indeed, in regard to one or two of them I thought that the hon. and learned Gentleman had perhaps not sufficiently read the regulations before criticising them.
I noticed, for instance, that in commenting on Regulation 9 (1), he said that there was no indication as to the line on which royalties, or other payments to be made under the lease, were to be varied by the tribunal. I should have thought that if he had read through that which he was criticising, he would have seen that the test was precisely the amount of the development charge. If indeed that is so, as I believe it to be so, it becomes even more important to know what is the relation between the amount of the development charge and the obligation—
The hon. and learned Member has misread Subsection (1):
… the lease may be varied by the tribunal prescribed … so far as may be just having regard to the development charge.
That is exactly the passage to which I was referring. I understood the hon. and learned Gentleman to say that there was no indication as to what the tribunal should have regard to. What it is to have regard to is the amount of the development charge. That seems to me to be abundantly clear, although we may perhaps be allowed to differ on it. But this is also clear: if that is so, and if the tribunal is to be guided by the amount of the development charge, then it becomes additionally necessary that there should be some indication as to the relation between the amount of the development charge on the one hand and the obligation to restore on the other.
I did not intend to make a speech on these regulations, and the House, I am sure, will be relieved to hear that my intention, in the main, holds good. I wish only to put a question. I did wonder whether to put it to the Parliamentary Secretary, by way of interjection, or to reserve it for the Minister. Having regard to the rather unhelpful response to his question which the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) received from the Parliamentary Secretary, I decided to reserve it for the Minister.
What I would like the Minister to do, and what many people who interest themselves in these matters would like him to do, in the course of his reply is to make some more detailed reference than has yet been made to the working of the near ripe scheme in regard to minerals. We are now on the eve of the appointed day and not only the public generally but, in the main, people who concern themselves in one way or another with these matters, are still very much in the dark in regard to the near ripe scheme, both as regards land and as regards minerals. There was a very brief reference made to it by the Chairman of the Central Land Board—
You, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, had not the advantage of being present—or perhaps I should put it the other way round and say that the House had not the advantage of your presence—when the Parliamentary Secretary introduced these regulations to the House. In so doing he did refer quite specifically to the near ripe scheme. If it is referred to by the Minister, presumably it can be commented on from the other side of the House. May I go on to say that it is one of the disadvantages of the way in which the Minister has chosen to deal with this particular fact that it is not specifically in the Act and the regulations. Nevertheless, there are these preferential claims upon the £300 million fund relating to what is called the near ripe scheme.
I think it is time that the public had some idea of how much of that global sum for compensation will be represented by these preferential claims, both in respect of minerals, with which we are dealing more specifically this evening, and in respect of the near ripe scheme for land. I hope that the Minister will take this occasion to make this matter more clear. He must realise that it is of immense importance to every person with a claim on the fund, and he must appreciate how much they will welcome some more precise information on this matter.
It seems to me that the further we proceed with this Act, and the regulations dealing with the manner in which the Act will operate, the clearer it becomes that minerals, in the main, are not conformable to the general principles of the Act. That is borne out by the fact that in this particular set of regulations we have had to adopt a new principle in the calculation of the development charge, the principle being the one commonly applicable to a mineral owner in fixing a royalty charge. It seems to me that within the paragraph which permits this, a very wide discretion is given to the Central Land Board.
I trust it is the intention of the Minister to leave the Central Land Board with fairly wide powers concerning the fixing of this charge. I ask this for a number of reasons, chief of which is the possible effect on the development of minerals in this country. I can understand how these principles can be applied fairly easily in the case of minerals being worked. I have rather more difficulty in understanding how exactly they will be applied in the case of a new mineral being discovered and an undertaker wishing to work it. Will the Land Board fix a charge at the commencement of the operations before any mineral has been won? Having fixed that development charge, will the Central Land Board be in a position to vary it? We ought to have some indication of what is intended here, because in the case of a number of minerals the fluctuations in prices are very considerable. If we wish to encourage the development of certain minerals, there must be power given to the Central Land Board to vary the charge accordingly.
It seems to me that the success of these regulations will depend upon the way in which the Central Land Board administers them. If the Central Land Board approaches the question of developing minerals purely from the point of view of gathering in a development charge, the effect of these regulations will be bad. If, on the other hand, it approaches them with the intention, which I am sorry to see the Minister has gradually withdrawn from during the course of this Bill—namely, of encouraging the development of minerals, then probably they will work quite well. We ought to be given some indication about this, because the Minister seems to have changed his attitude towards this problem during the course of this Act.
When we commenced discussions on the Act—I remember the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) raising this point and I had some controversy with him at the time—it was thought and felt that here was machinery that could be used either to encourage or to stifle industry. That criticism, I think, is correct, and particularly true in connection with minerals, because now the mineral undertaker has not only to go to the land owner for his lease, and to the mineral owner, but also to the planning authority and to the Central Land Board. Unless the Central Land Board uses these charges and uses the machinery supplied here for the purpose of encouraging industry, it will tend to stifle enterprise in mineral development. I hope the Minister can reassure us on this point.
We have had a useful discussion, in so far as it has been in Order. I think that there is very little left for me to say except to answer some of the questions put by the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller). First, let me explain what is the purpose of these regulations. Perhaps I might put it in this way. They are interim regulations which are necessary to be made in order to carry out the terms of Section 81 of the Act to give the industry a three-year moratorium and to carry out the other matters referred to in that Section. This does not purport to be a final settlement of the very complicated and intricate question of the development charge or of compensation as related to mineral workings. The question is complicated enough as applied to normal development, but it is much more intricate than in regard to ordinary development when it is applied to mineral workings.
The answer to a good many of the points made on the question of near ripe land, on the question whether it is proposed to extract as much revenue as possible, or to assist the industry to develop—the answer to that kind of question is that discussions are about to proceed over a very wide field between representatives of the industry and the Central Land Board. It is hoped that, subject to the terms of the Act, it will be possible to carry the industry with the Central Land Board and to get regulations which are appropriate to mineral workings. It must be obvious to anyone who has studied the Act—
The answer is, "No." The local authorities are not directly concerned with problems of development charge or of compensation. It would be quite inappropriate to discuss those questions with them. On the general question whether the owners would be consulted—I take it that it was not particularly in regard to restoration—my hon. Friend replied. I know that there is nothing in the regulations requiring the Central Land Board to consult with any particular persons and it is not proposed to put that in the regulations. My hon. Friend has given an assurance based upon an authority from the Central Land Board that in the case of leases the terms of which are subject to variation and which will come before the tribunal, the owner who is vitally affected will be consulted.
Not only will he be consulted and have a right of hearing before the tribunal—I recognise that that would be rather late in the day—but he will also be consulted, in that type of case, on the basis of the development charge that will be levied. That is an assurance which I hope the House will regard as satisfactory. It is an assurance that will be honoured by the Central Land Board. It is given not as a result of any direction by the Minister. It is an assurance that the Central Land Board regard as reasonable in the circumstances, and I am sure that they can be relied upon always to act reasonably in any matter which comes within their province.
I will now deal with the specific questions put to me. I was asked whether the Act applies as regards Regulation 3 (2), (a) and what was the position under Regulation 3 (2) (b). I was asked whether labour costs, for instance, will be included. My answer is that Section 22 of the Act applies to both regulations. Whatever Section 22 allows by way of compensation will be applicable to both parts of Regulation 3, subject to the exceptions referred to in the regulation. In other words, the interpretation which I think the hon. and learned Gentleman put on the two regulations, is, on the whole, correct.
Then I was asked why there was a difference between the wording of Section 23, which provides for a period of four years after development has taken place, and the regulation which provides for four years after the discovery of a contravention. The answer is that there is no date at which one can say, as regards mineral workings, that development has taken place, except the date when the whole of the land has been finally worked. Nobody knows better than the hon. and learned Gentleman that workings may take place over a period of 100 years or more. It would be inappropriate to use the same language as regards mineral workings four years after development has taken place as is used in the case of normal development which takes plate and is finished. Therefore, in effect, although not in actual words, there is no conflict between the regulation and Section 23 of the Act.
Even allowing that there is a good deal in what the Minister has said, the phraseology of this paragraph is rather unsatisfactory. The phrase
… after the breach has come to the knowledge of the local planning authority
is one which will have to be interpreted in the courts. It is a little imprecise and will give rise to a good deal of argument. I should have thought that the Minister could have found a more precise phrase to express what he has in mind.
It is the best phrase that we could find. What we clearly had in mind was that we had four years from the time when we discovered that a breach of conditions or a contravention of the Act has taken place. I should have thought that even the ingenuity of the hon. Gentleman would find some difficulty in discovering any ambiguity about the language. It is simply a matter of establishing that the contravention came to the knowledge of the local authority. The time they have is four years from that date. I was asked, on Regulation 4, what would be the basis of compensation if the land was acquired within three years, and, in effect, whether the benefit of the moratorium would be excluded. I think that is what the hon. and learned Member for Daventry had in mind. The answer is "yes." In the vast majority of cases, this is a moratorium which applies, not to a specific piece of land, but to the total area that can be worked within three years, and, if a portion of that land is acquired, the owner can still go on working the rest of his land for three years and will not suffer.
Yes, it does, and I concede that there may be cases where the whole of the land would be required and where there would be nothing left for the mineral worker to exercise his activities at all. In these cases, the owner would have his claim for compensation on the whole of it. Therefore, it was thought correct that, if the land had to be acquired, the owner should not get the benefit of the moratorium.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman does not mind my interrupting again in order to clarify this. Does that mean that, in such a case, the mineral undertaker would be able to claim against the £300 million fund, if his land were compulsorily acquired within three years' time?
Yes, within the three years. At the end of the three years, he would be in exactly the same position as anyone else; if his land is acquired, he has his rights under the Act. Within the three years, either he goes on working the rest of his land and does not suffer, or, if the whole of his land, or a sufficiently large part of it, is acquired so as to interfere with his working, he has his claim on the £300 million fund. Then, I was asked why the existing use value of the buildings, plant and machinery at existing workings is excluded, and, if so, why should not the same criterion be applied in the case of the development charge.
No, the point was that the same criterion or basis should be applied both for the purpose of the development charge and for the purpose of fixing the existing use value in order to assess the claim for compensation. That is a point which is noted as being one of the points that will be discussed between the Central Land Board and representatives of the industry. In advance of those discussions, I am not going to say whether there is justice or not in the point made. I recognise that there is a superficial justice, but it is a point which requires much more consideration than it is possible to give in a Debate of this kind. I will only say that the Central Land Board have a perfectly open mind on this question, and it is hoped there will be a satisfactory conclusion of these discussions.
The only other point with which I have to deal is the question of restoration. This is a matter which interests and concerns me as Minister very greatly. I do not live in Northamptonshire, and do not suffer the daily discomfort of seeing the results of the operations of the iron ore workers, but I have had the opportunity of seeing them, and I do recognise that there is a problem here which must be dealt with. As the hon. and learned Gentleman said, the cost of restoration is a factor which might be taken into account in fixing development charge, and possibly also in making the claim to compensation, but the hon. and learned Gentleman would have wished that something had been put in the regulations. I know he was out of Order, but, if I may be equally out of Order, I will explain why it is not possible to deal with this matter by way of regulations. The simple point is that under Section 81 (3) it would be ultra vires, so I am advised, to refer specifically to the question of restoration as a factor in fixing development charge. That is the advice which I have been given, and I must accept it. The Central Land Board will do their best with the Act as it is and with these regulations, to take into account the question of the cost of restoration. There is a three-year moratorium, and by and large the question will not arise for some time, but it may well be that they might have to take this matter into account, and in that case we shall have to look at the question again.
Does the right hon. Gentleman ask us to pass these regulations without having firm legal advice about the meaning of these provisions? I should have expected a Law Officer to be here to tell us. I see there are two Scottish Law Officers here, and we shall, therefore, receive authoritative advice on this part of the Scottish Order. Surely the right hon. Gentleman is not asking us to part with these regulations without telling us whether or not it is intra vires for the Central Land Board to take into account this question of restoration? If it is ultra vires to mention it in the regulations, surely it is also ultra vires for the Central Land Board to take it into account. Has the right hon. Gentleman been firmly ad vised that that is the case? If that is the case, how can he say that the Central Land Board are going to pay any attention to it at all?
With great respect, the right hon. Gentleman has no right to say that Mr. Deputy-Speaker has allowed discussion on either side of the House to proceed out of Order. It is perfectly plain to my mind that everything that has taken place in this discussion up to date has been in Order, and is not in the least in conflict with any pronouncement which was made by Mr. Speaker. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman ought to charge Mr. Deputy-Speaker with having permitted a discussion which is out of Order.
Nobody knows better than the right hon. and learned Gentleman that I did no such thing. I said we were skating on thin ice. In saying that, I was paying due regard to the warning of Mr. Speaker that while we may refer to certain matters, we must not go into them at length. That is exactly the Ruling that I was trying to obey. The answer is that there is an element of doubt as to whether the regulation would be ultra vires or not. I said there was an element of doubt as to whether or not it would be ultra vires to state in the regulations that account should be taken of the cost of restoration in fixing development charge. I repeat, and I agree with the right hon. and learned Member, that if there is an element of doubt in stating this in the regulations, clearly it would be doubtful to take account of it in fixing the charge.
May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman—it is extremely important and I am not quite clear about it. This point was raised on the Committee stage of the Bill, and the assurances always were that it would be dealt with later on. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is now departing from what he said before? I quote:
The intention is quite definitely to make allowance for the cost of restoration in considering the amount of the development charge."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 26th March, 1947; c. 851.]
Is he departing from that, or is it merely a matter of doubt?
I hope I have not departed from the intention. All I say is that doubts have been raised as to whether it is possible in the Act as it stands. If it should turn out that difficulties have arisen, one would have to come to the House and make the necessary Amendments. I simply explain to the House why in these particular regulations the question is ultra vires.
I understood discussions were to proceed between the Central Land Board on the one hand and the landowners on the other about development charges, and that it remains the intention, in one way or another, to take account of the question of restoration in these development charges. Surely in those circumstances it would be reasonable to allow the local authorities to take part in these discussions, because it is they who are concerned to represent the inhabitants at large on the question of restoration and they are further concerned in many cases as housing authorities who want to use the land for housing if it is available for that purpose.
I have already given the answer. These discussions are purely financial discussions and, as such, do not directly affect the local authorities. They are applicable to all mineral workings throughout the country—in many cases where questions of restoration do not apply in an acute form. It would be unduly cumbersome to invite local authorities, as bodies who are only indirectly concerned, to come into discussions which, as I say, are almost entirely financial.
When the right hon. Gentleman said there was some doubt as to whether it would be intra vires for the question of the restoration of land to be dealt with under these regulations, he was referring to cases where there is no provision under the existing lease. Suppose that under an existing lease, a royalty owner is either under an obligation for some reason to restore the land, or his land is going to be left in such a state that it cannot be used for another purpose, am I right in understanding these regulations to mean that that would be taken into account in determining how much rent—if I may use the word—is to be left to him after the Central Land Board has taken its share? One further point in connection with that. The cost of administering estates where minerals, are being worked is very much greater than where it is an agricultural estate, and presumably the Board will take into account the additional cost of the administration of the minerals. Is that right?
On the first point, I would say, almost without hesitation, that if the question of restoration is dealt with in the lease, under the terms of the lease, it is a factor which the tribunal could, and would properly, take into account in reassessing the new rent. That would be obvious. As to the question of whether costs of administration would be taken into account, that really is a matter which must be left to the Central Land Board. It is not provided for in the regulations as such. Whether it is ultra vires or not, I do not know at the moment, but it is a matter which, I hope, may be safely left to them to deal with. I think I have covered such points as have been raised—
The right hon. Gentleman expressed doubt, not only whether the cost of restoration could have been dealt with in the regulations, but also whether it could be dealt with by the Board under the Act at all. Will he give the House an assurance, for this is a very important and rather urgent matter, that if it is found that the cost cannot be included in the development charge, he will come back to the House for further powers without any delay—at latest, in the next Session of Parliament?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, of course I cannot commit myself or anybody else as to what is to happen in the next Session of Parliament. All I do say is that of necessity there will be matters under this very long and complex Act which will have to be looked at again, which may be the subject of amendment. Certainly, if it is found that it is not possible to take the cost of restoration into account in fixing development charge, it would be a matter upon which it would be necessary to come back to the House, and so far as I am concerned I would give an undertaking that that would be done. I cannot say when.
Let me say on the question of restoration that it is, of course now possible, particularly since the Act of 1947, to make conditions as regards mineral workings which will provide for restoration. The real trouble was with those mineral operators who began their operations before the days of planning control, and in respect of whom it was not possible to impose conditions as regards their workings unless they desired to extend their working and acquire new consent. We are dealing in fact, with a limited class of case. I think such powers as the Act, provides are sufficient to enable us to control the question of restoration in the future. However, I do give the assurance, so far as I have given it to the hon. Gentleman, as regards the possibility of having to come back to the House to make an amending order.
That means to say that the Central Land Board, knowing the development charge can be varied only downwards, is likely to start by fixing a high development charge, which will be a discouragement to those wishing to undertake operations.
I hope that they will exercise their functions in a responsible and public-spirited manner. The object of the Act is not to discourage development but to encourage it. Indeed, if we were merely looking at it from the point of view of revenue, it would be advisable in the long run to encourage development rather than discourage it, because there is such a thing as killing the goose that lays the eggs.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether he is able now or expects at any time to be able to inform the House whether the amounts represented by preferential claims have any ceiling within the £300 million or not, because obviously that affects the whole matter?
We cannot leave the matter where it is. We have got into an astonishing tangle. In March, 1947, the Minister gave an undertaking that allowance would be made for the cost of restoration in considering the amount of the development charge. Presumably, before he gave that undertaking he was advised by the Law Officers and did not give it without some assurance that he could give it. Now what happens? He tells us that the matter is so doubtful that he will not put in the regulations anything to give effect to his undertaking. If it is too doubtful for him to put anything into the regulations to give effect to his undertaking, equally it must be too doubtful for the Central Land Board to give effect to the undertaking, unless the right hon. Gentleman tells us that the Central Land Board are going deliberately to adopt a course which they are advised is of such doubtful legality that the Minister himself will not adopt it. I cannot believe that the Central Land Board, which consists of distinguished lawyers, can possibly adopt that line. Therefore, the Minister is now telling us, not only that he is not going to give effect to his undertaking, but the Central Land Board will feel themselves prevented by legal difficulties from giving effect to the undertaking. I do not blame him too much for discovering something at the last moment.
Perhaps, the Lord Advocate will explain the difficulty. I cannot see what it is. Section 81 of the Act appears to be so general in its terms as to allow of regulations to deal with it. It would be helpful if the Lord Advocate would tell us the nature of this last minute legal difficulty which prevents the regulations from containing provisions to give effect to this Parliamentary undertaking. The fact remains that it has been made clear to the House tonight that the Minister's undertaking will not receive effect until a new Bill becomes law in this House. That has been made as clear as anything can be, and yet the Minister will not tell us when this new Bill is to be introduced.
That matter of legislation is outside the purview of this discussion. I have perhaps allowed more latitude than I ought to have done, but the question of new legislation certainly cannot arise on the question whether these regulations shall be approved or not.
I do not want to pursue the matter beyond the bounds of Order, but may I explain why I went so far? I do not like to trespass in these matters. We are now being asked to approve of certain methods, or a lack of method, of fixing a development charge. When we were told at an earlier stage that the development charge would be fixed on a certain level, that was an undertaking given to us by the Minister. We are now told that under these regulations development charge must be fixed at quite a different level from that which would have been necessary if the Minister's undertaking had received effect.
I am saying therefore that it is hard upon this House to be asked to pass these regulations at all in the circumstances. If we are asked to pass regulations which are in conflict with a Parliamentary undertaking given by the Minister, at least the Minister's request for these regulations ought to be coupled with an undertaking to introduce remedial legislation at the earliest possible moment. That is the point I wish to make, and I hope that it is within the bounds of Order. I am a little surprised that the Minister has not obtained from the Lord President of the Council and his colleagues permission to introduce such a Bill before now. I hope that the Minister can add a little to what he has just said. It is most unsatisfactory that an undertaking of this kind should have to await the passing of legislation which may or may not be introduced within the present Parliament.
I beg to move,
That the Town and Country Planning (Modification of Mines Act) Regulations, 1948, dated 13th May, 1948, a copy of which was presented on 13th May, be approved.
I hardly think that it is necessary to say more than a few sentences on this Motion. Parliament found it necessary to pass the Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Act in 1923, in the hope that certain mineral reserves available to strengthen our economy should not be neglected. That Act applied only to a very limited class. We are now extending it, as Section 81 (4) of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, indicated we should. Regulation 4 of these regulations enables any person desirous of developing minerals to apply to the Railway and Canal Commission for working rights, provided that the land has been allocated in a development plan for that purpose. These regulations have been circulated to any organisation that might have been interested in them. No-one has represented that the regulations should be
changed. I hope that this absence of disagreement will be represented in this House tonight.
I want to ask only one question about these regulations. No-one has any major objection to them, except that it ought not to have been necessary to make them at all. It seems to me, as in the case of the last regulations only with very much more force, that the regulations add nothing to the provisions of Section 81 (4) of the Town and Country Planning Act. I think the making of regulations could have been avoided altogether if the statute had contained all that was necessary for its own application. I therefore hope that we shall be told why it is necessary to make the regulations at all and why these provisions could not have been put into the Act.
Section 81, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, gives power to make regulations on specific points and subject to such adaptations and modifications as may be prescribed by the regulations. Therefore, it did not at all follow that the particular matters set out in the Section in the form in which they are set out would be covered in the regulations. We found that the Section is adequate. It gives power to make regulations, and we have made them in the terms of the Section. I should have thought that there could have been no possible complaint about that.
I beg to move,
That the Town and Country Planning (Enforcement of Restriction of Ribbon Development Acts) Regulations, 1948, dated 25th May, 1948, a copy of which was presented on 25th May, be approved.
Here we attempt only to consolidate the law. The House will be aware that the 1947 Act repeals certain other Acts in whole or in part and notably Sections 1–3 of the Restriction of Ribbon Development Act, 1935 and Section 4 (2) of the
Building Restrictions (Wartime Contraventions) Act. What had to be taken care of was to provide means of dealing with breaches of the previous law occurring before the repeal of the legislation, for which no remedy would be available unless there was specific provision. The effect of the regulations, taken together, is only to bring into line with the procedure envisaged in the Town and Country Planning Act so much as is relevant or necessary of the Ribbon Development Acts and the Building Restrictions (Wartime Contraventions) Act.
Does anyone in the House quite understand what the Minister has been talking about? I certainly do not. I wonder whether he himself does. Would it not be possible, instead of repeating over and over again these numerous Acts which mean nothing to the average Member in this House, just briefly to explain what exactly he is proposing to do in simple English, basic English—any English which would be understood—but not to repeat countless numbers of Acts of Parliament and regulations which have been laid on the Table, passed or circulated? We are here to find out what it all means; that is what we are here to judge. Please can the hon. Gentleman give us any knowledge of anything he has been saying?
It is possible that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) finds it difficult to understand because for most of tonight's Debate he has not been in the House. That always makes it very much more difficult, and I sympathise with him in his predicament. I have explained as simply as I can the effect of these regulations, that the 1947 Act repeals certain other Acts, both of which I named—I will not name them again because the hon. and gallant Member does not like to have them named—and the penalties available under the repealed Acts had to be brought under the umbrella of the 1947 Act.
I gave it in greater detail the first time and rather roughly the second time because the hon. and gallant Gentleman did not quite understand. The actual situation is that Sections 1–3 of the Restriction of Ribbon Development Act, 1935, Section 4 (2) of the Building Restrictions (Wartime Contraventions) Act, 1946, and the whole of the 1932 and 1943 Town and Country Planning Acts, together with many other Measures, all of which are mentioned in the Schedule, are repealed.
I am obliged to the Minister, but I am sure he will appreciate that it would be a little unfortunate if it had gone forth from the House in his name that the 1946 Act and the Ribbon Development Act had been repealed, when, as he knows, they largely remain on the Statute Book.
I beg to move,
That the Town and Country Planning (Minerals) (Scotland) Regulations, 1948, dated 13th May, 1948, a copy of which was presented on 14th May, be approved.
These Regulations are the counterpart Regulations for Scotland to the previous Regulations which were passed for England.
Those of us who come from Scotland and who have listened patiently to the Debate all this evening will want to hear a little more as to how these Regulations will affect Scotland. Since you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, have ruled that we may refer briefly to omissions from the regulations, I must say from the Scottish point of view how much I regret that these regulations do not deal with minerals vested in the National Coal Board. It seems to me that to talk about minerals in the British Isles without talking about coal is like talking about Christmas without Santa Claus, this House without Mr. Speaker or the Ministry of Town and Country Planning without the Minister.
In Scotland we have the frightful problem of the restoration of the ground after opencast workings, and I should have thought that in regulations concerning the working of minerals we ought to have some provision made for the restoration of the ground, not only after coal workings. In England there is the problem, to a greater degree than in Scotland, of iron ore, of gravel and of brick earth, china clay and slate—all these minerals are taken out of mother earth and the surface left disturbed. There is nothing in these regulations to provide for the restoration of that surface. With that exception I think it is true to say that none of us have any major objection to these regulations, though there are still some points upon which we should like further elucidation from the Lord Advocate or whoever replies to this Debate.
As I see it, the procedure after 1st July, 1951, in respect of land used for the mining of any type of minerals within the ambit of the Act and these regulations, will be that the Central Land Board will assess the development charge and that, in accordance with Regulation 8 (1) it will probably be an annual payment based upon the value of the minerals extracted; in other words, it will be upon a royalty basis. Then the Railway and Canal Commission will deduct the amount of that charge from the payments due to the royalty owner from the mineral worker under the existing lease. It becomes clear that the amount of the development charge is of material concern to the royalty owner and the mineral worker.
I was glad to hear that the royalty owner is to be given the opportunity of making representations to the Central Land Board at the time the development charge is assessed. What I was not clear about, and what I hope the Lord Advocate will make clear, is whether the Central Land Board will inform the royalty owner of the development charge that is proposed in order to enable him to make representations about the amount of the charge if he desires to do so. In theory, the process will result in the royalty owner receiving a bare agricultural rental for his land. It looks to me as if he is going to be deprived of the whole of the value of the minerals. I have arrived at that conclusion because it seems that the development charge will be assessed purely in relation to the rental value of the existing use of land before extraction and the value of the mineral extracted.
If that is so, it seems that he will be dealt with very inequitably for two reasons. The first reason is that a royalty owner is obliged to employ agents and a staff to supervise his mineral interests upon a scale appreciably higher than an owner of ordinary agricultural land. Secondly, it is because mineral leases include an element in respect of deterioration in the value of land after the extraction of minerals. How can these factors be allowed for if the development charge is assessed, as I think it will be, purely in relation to the bare rental value of the land for its existing use and the value of the minerals extracted based upon the royalties?
I do not know, but I hope it is possible that the whole thing can be adjusted under Regulation 9 (1) and I ask the Lord Advocate if that is so. Is it true that as a royalty owner has a larger staff of advisers than the owner of ordinary agricultural land and has to make some allowance for the restoration of the ground that that will be taken into consideration by the Tribunal, who are given the task under Regulation 9 (1) of varying the rental as far as may be just having regard to the amount of the development charge? Is that the kind of consideration which the Government have in mind in asking the House to agree to Regulation 9 (1) in the way in which it is worded?
The hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) first sought an explanation as to why the minerals worked by the National Coal Board had not been brought within the ambit of these regulations. These regulations are made under Section 78 of the Scottish Act, and Section 78 (6) expressly excludes minerals which are vested in the National Coal Board. Since the Act itself expressly excludes the minerals so vested by virtue of the Section under which these regulations are made it would be manifestly impossible to incorporate them into the regulations.
If I may say so, the hon. Member is a little late in expressing that regret. It should have been expressed when the Act was before us, not when we are considering the regulations.
The other points which were raised by the hon. Member come back to the restoration of the land and the interpretation of Regulation 9 (1). I will not, brevitatis causa, repeat what was said by my right hon. Friend in relation to the restoration of the land because I do not wish to detain the House, but when we come to Regulation 9 (1) I think it is conceived that so far as existing leases are concerned a royalty might be paid which would in fact be directed in two directions, one to meet the overheads which the royalty owner might himself have to meet, the other going in profits to the royalty owner. In respect of the royalty owner's claim on the £300 million part of that must manifestly disappear but he may still be entitled, under his contractual rights under the lease, to that proportion of the royalty which was earmarked to meet overhead charges. The power which is given to the tribunal under Regulation 9 (1) is to vary the terms of the existing lease in order to modify the right to royalty payable. That cannot affect a future lease; it only affects an existing lease.
What the Central Land Board will or will not do is essentially a question for that Board and directions cannot be given from this House as to how they will compute any particular claim. As hon. Members will recollect, it is laid down in the Act that only general principles can be applied and that the Central Land Board will work within those general principles. When the regulations expanding that aspect were recently before the House they were again confined more or less to general principles to be followed in determining the existing use value, the development value and the development charge.
Accordingly I do not think that I could express any view as to what the Central Land Board will do in any particular case except to have regard either to the directions in the Act under Section 67 (3) or to the directions in the regulations in paragraph 9 (1) to the effect, for instance, that
they may vary the royalty payable under the lease
so far as may be just having regard to the amount of the development charge.
These regulations are made under Section 78 of the Scottish Act which provides that:
the provisions of this Act shall have effect subject to such adaptations and modifications as may be prescribed by regulations …
so that in dealing with minerals we can only adapt and modify the powers already created in the Act. The powers already created in the Act in reference to the computation of the development charge are conveyed in Section 67, Subsection (3) which says that in determining the development charge the regulations may prescribe general principles. If I may answer a point raised previously as to the question of vires, the question is answered by reference to the two Sections. If we are confined to general principles in determining the development charge, and the regulations may, under Section 78, have to be made subject to any modifications of the existing general principles, it would not be competent to go beyond the general principles which are being provided for and to give particular grounds for the charging of the restoration cost under the regulations.
I think the right hon. Gentleman is answering a point which I raised, among others. Why should not there be a statement of a general principle that the Central Land Board has to pay attention in a certain way to the questions of amenities including the question of restoration? That seems to me perfectly general.
It is so general that it is not necessary to incorporate it in the regulations, because the Central Land Board must have regard to these factors, and particularly to the various factors which have to go to constitute the basis of the development charge. In view of the general powers which have been granted to them under the statute I think that to try and go from general principles in reference to this particular item might very well lead one into a provision of doubtful competency, and if one is in the region of a provision of doubtful competency, discretion indicates that one should not provide for it but should rely on the general principles already set out in the Act, the general principles to which reference has to be made and the general principles to which the Central Land Board must have regard. With that explanation I trust that the difficulties of the hon. Member for West Aberdeen have been resolved.