New Clause. — (Purchase Notices.)

Ballot for Notices of Motions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th April 1965.

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(1) This section applies to any purchase notice served on or after 5th November 1964 (whether before or after the passing of this Act) in respect of land within the metropolitan region, or served after the passing of this Act in respect of land which, at the date of service of the notice, is within an area to which Part I of this Act applies outside the metropolitan region, where either—

  1. (a) planning permission for the carrying out on that land, or part of it, of development to which Part I of this Act applies was granted before the passing of this Act, but by virtue of section 3(5) of this Act that planning permission is for the time being deemed not to have effect, or
  2. (b) the purpose for which that land, or part of it, is or was used at the date of service of the notice, or was last used before that date, is or was that of a building containing office premises.

(2) In relation to a purchase notice to which this section applies, the provisions of the Act of 1962 shall have effect as if, after subsection (4) of section 132 of that Act (action by Minister in relation to purchase notice), there were inserted the following subsection:— (4A) Where the purchase notice is one to which section (Purchase notices) of the Control of Office and Industrial Development Act 1965 applies, the Minister may, if he thinks fit, determine not to confirm the notice without taking any such action as is mentioned in subsections (2) to (4) of this section", and as if, in subsection (5) of that section, after the words "not to confirm the purchase notice" there were inserted the words "either in pursuance of subsection (4A) of this section or".

(3) Where in pursuance of subsection (4A) of the said section 132 (as modified by the last preceding subsection) the Minister has determined not to confirm a purchase notice to which this section applies, arid on a subsequent date the land to which that notice related ceases to be within an area to which Part I of this Act applies,—

  1. (a) a further purchase notice may be served on or after that date in respect of the planning decision to which the previous notice related, and
  2. (b) for the purposes of any regulations made under the Act of 1962 as to the time within which a purchase notice may be served, the service of such a further purchase notice shall not be treated as out of time if it is served within the period which would be applicable in accordance with those regulations if the planning decision referred to in the preceding paragraph had been made on that subsequent date.

(4) In determining, for the purposes of subsection (1)(b) of this section, for what purpose any land is used, or was last used, as the case may be, no account shall be taken—

  1. (a) of any use in accordance with planning permission granted for a limited period, or
  2. (b) of any use in respect of which, before the date of service of the purchase notice, an enforcement notice had been served and had become effective, or
  3. (c) of any use of land at a time when it is or was not covered by a building.—[Mr. Jay.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

4.11 p.m.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Battersea North

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

I understand that it would also be for the convenience of the House if, with the new Clause, we discussed Amendment No. 56, in page 18, to leave out lines 8 to 13, and Amendment No. 52, in page 17, line 11, at the end to insert: (4) Notwithstanding anything in this section, subsection (3) of section (Purchase notices) of this Act shall not cease to have effect at the end of that period; and in relation to any land which, immediately before the end of that period, is land within an area to which this Part of this Act applies, any reference in that subsection to the date on which the land ceases to be within such an area shall be construed as a reference to the end of that period. and Amendment No. 53, in page 17, line 12, to leave out from "the" to second "of" and to insert "preceding provisions".

This is a Bill about which the House has not disagreed in principle, and during the course of Committee stage the Government undertook to make certain Amendments to meet the views of hon. Members. We are here proposing an alteration which will close a loophole in the Bill which has come to light during our discussions since Second Reading.

Photo of Sir Peter Emery Sir Peter Emery , Reading

May we have this absolutely clear? I gather that the right hon. Gentleman has suggested that we should take with the new Clause Amendments Nos. 52, 53 and 56. Did he not mean to say Amendments Nos. 46, 52 and 53?

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Battersea North

I intended to say, and I hope that I did, Amendments Nos. 46, in page 14, line 38, to leave out "section 7(2)" and to insert sections 7(2) and (Purchase notices)". and 52 and 53.

I was saying that in our discussions it has come to light that there is an unintended loophole in the Bill as drafted relating to the possibility of compensation for an applicant for an office development permit who is refused a permit. It is almost a general principle of the Bill—because, this, as I explained earlier, is temporary legislation—that compensation should not be available for those who are refused office development permits. That is an issue which we have already discussed and decided and it does not arise on the new Clause or on the Amendments.

The issue which arises here is whether, even though, in general, there is to be no provision for compensation, a loophole might, nevertheless, exist in certain rather complicated circumstances by which applicants might claim compensation. The House will agree that, whatever view we might take of compensation in general, we do not want a situation in which compensation is denied to the great majority of applicants but might nevertheless be available in certain rather complicated circumstances. It is to avoid that position that we have introduced these, as I fully admit, somewhat complex proposals.

I am not sure how far it would be wise for me to explain too clearly, before the House has decided whether to accept the Clause, how this loophole could be used, but perhaps it is my duty to indicate roughly how the difficulty arises. There is no general provision for compensation when an O.D.P. is withheld or granted conditionally. Nevertheless, under Section 129 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1962, an owner who is refused permission to develop his land and who claims that the land has become incapable of reasonably beneficial use, can serve a notice on the local authority requiring it to buy his interest.

It is here that this rather esoteric difficulty arises. If the local planning authority is willing to buy the land, it may accept the purchase notice. If not, it passes it to the Minister who then has to decide whether reasonably beneficial use has been lost. If he decides that it has not, he refuses to confirm the notice. If he decides that it has, he make take various courses which are open to him. In certain circumstances, if he does that, the owner may get compensation equal to the difference between the market value and the existing value of the land.

It was not the intention, of either side of the Committee, that this situation should arise and we have, therefore, provided that this unintended loophole should be closed. I should like to explain, however, that although the difficulty is met by the Amendments, we are not taking from the Minister in these circumstances the discretion conferred upon him to grant or remove the owner's right to have a purchase notice, based on the planning authority's decision, considered by the Minister in the usual way. That discretion remains with the Minister. The new Clause, therefore, confers only a discretionary right. It puts right a defect, which I frankly admit, in the original drafting of the Bill. Our town and country planning legislation is admittedly somewhat complicated and when it is altered some unintended effects may result.

We can all be glad that this difficulty has come to light. This seems to be the most satisfactory way in which to overcome it and to ensure that an effect is not produced which no part of the House wishes to be produced, while leaving reasonable discretion with the Minister. I hope that the new Clause and the Amendments will commend themselves to the House.

Photo of Mr Graham Page Mr Graham Page , Crosby

The right hon. Gentleman said that compensation had already been debated and that it was generally agreed that compensation should not be available. It has not been fully debated, for the very good reason that the Money Resolution prevented its debate. I therefore see no reason why we should not comment on it, while we are still in order, on the new Clause.

I am not so sure that the new Clause really deals with compensation. By "compensation", I understand, in this context, the payment to the owner of property for some rights of which he is deprived. For example, if he had an established right to use his premises for office purposes and, because of a refusal of an O.D.P., he could no longer use it for office purposes, there might be a question of compensation. The Bill precludes that. This is an entirely different position. This is a case in which, by the refusal of an O.D.P., the owner has been prevented from putting his property to any beneficial use.

If it were not for the Bill, Section 129 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1962, would give the owner the right to serve a purchase notice on the local authority, not merely to apply for compensation for some rights which he had lost, but to require the planning authority to purchase the property from him. An owner can serve that purchase notice only under very narrow conditions. He has to show that the land has become incapable of reasonably beneficial use in its existing state, or that, by reason of conditions imposed under planning permission, it has become incapable of reasonably beneficial use.

This is his right as the law stands. The new Clause is intended to deprive him of that right. Let us be clear that what the Bill is doing is depriving the owner of property of his normal right, under town planning law, to oblige a town planning authority to purchase his property from him if it has been made incapable of reasonably beneficial use, and it may he absolutely useless to him. It is not sufficient for him to say that he cannot use it as well as he could. He has to show that it is of no use at all and can be put to no beneficial use at all. If an owner is placed in that position by the refusal of an office development permit, I should have thought it reasonable to allow him the existing right of serving a purchase notice and requiring the authority to purchase the property from him. I appreciate that it is the fault not of the planning authority, but of the President of the Board of Trade, that permission to develop has been refused. Nevertheless, his right should still apply of forcing the planning authority to purchase from him and to let the authority obtain the compensation from the Board of Trade.

The President of the Board of Trade said, in introducing the proposed new Clause, that we should not, by discriminating between owners who have suffered lay reason of the refusal of an office development permit, allow some to get compensation by the back door and refuse it to others by the front door. That is fair enough. But I am not sure that the new Clause achieves that. As I read it, a favoured owner can still serve a purchase notice on the planning authority. The planning authority may be favourably disposed towards him and say, "We will buy", or it may say, "We will not buy".

There is, therefore, still the possibility of discrimination against certain owners. The owner can still appeal to the Minister of Housing and Local Government; he is not precluded from doing that. All that the new Clause says is that, if he appeals, the Minister need not go through the procedure which is normally required of carefully considering the appeal and holding certain inquiries.

But the new Clause only says that the Minister need not take those steps. As I read it, he may still reverse the local authority's decision. If it refuses the purchase notice and says that it will not buy, he can still say, "Nevertheless, I think that the local authority should have bought the property. I will confirm the order and force a purchase without taking any steps such as holding an inquiry".

I appreciate why the President of the Board of Trade has brought forward the new Clause. It seemed that if we left purchase notices exactly as they were it might be possible for a person who was stopped from developing by refusal of an office development permit to force the local authority to purchase the property. Frankly, I see no reason why that should not stand. Nor does the right hon. Gentleman, if I read the new Clause correctly, because he still leaves open the possibility of that happening. If he forbade it in every case, I could see the logic of his argument, but it could still happen. The new Clause merely says that the Minister can refuse without going through any formalities.

I cannot think that the new Clause is either fair or logical in its application. It may give rise to injustice between parties. It will certainly leave some owners with completely useless property and with no remedy against anyone for having made the property useless. But some owners, placed in exactly the same posi- tion, may still receive favoured treatment from the local authority or from the Minister of Housing and Local Government. The new Clause is unfair. It will be extremely difficult to administer. I should have thought that by far the best thing to do was to leave the Bill as it stands.

Photo of Sir Harwood Harrison Sir Harwood Harrison , Eye

It is on the Report stage of a Bill that those who were not members of the Standing Committee have an opportunity to speak. I was interested in the Committee stage, but, unfortunately, I was serving on another Standing Committee at the time and was not able to serve on the Committee which considered the Bill. When I look round the Chamber and see only three back-bench Members supporting the Government Front Bench, I am led to the conclusion that those on the back benches opposite are just about as tired as some of the leading members of the Government. The Liberals are also conspicuous by their absence.

Photo of Mr Maurice Orbach Mr Maurice Orbach , Stockport South

How many are there on the Opposition benches?

Photo of Sir Harwood Harrison Sir Harwood Harrison , Eye

Three times as many as there are on the Government back benches—and. after all, it is up to the Government to keep a quorum.

I have listened to the words of wisdom of my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), and I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will pay particular attention to what he said. Listening to the discussions on the Bill for the first time since the Second Reading, I am not satisfied by what the right hon. Gentleman has said.

Photo of Sir John Hall Sir John Hall , Wycombe

The proposed new Clause is extremely interesting. It raises again the question of compensation on which a great deal was said, certainly by my hon. Friends, during the Committee stage. My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) has drawn attention to what appear to be flaws in the new Clause. It does not appear to do even what the Minister set out to do. Not only does it seem to allow people still to take advantage of the loophole which the Minister has found in the Bill—and that is perhaps a tribute to the very thorough scrutiny of the Bill by my hon. Friends in Committee which enabled the right hon. Gentleman to discover this apparent flaw—but it seems to throw up certain other doubts.

One point which I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby intended to raise, but did not, in fact, raise stems from subsection 1(b) which refers to the purpose for which that land, or part of it, is or was used at the date of service of the notice, or was last used before that date, is or was that of a building containing office premises. This seems to apply to the question of rights to an existing use of office buildings, the continuing right to the use of a building as office premises. What happens to the right to a continuing use of office premises, which is denied by the new Clause, if the premises are destroyed by fire? Does the refusal to allow a continuing use right to those office premises still fall, or would the person concerned be allowed to rebuild those offices? That is one point on which I should like the Minister's guidance.

I come to the general principle. I have already mentioned that this flaw has been found in the Bill, the main purpose of which is to remove the Government's liability to pay compensation. I gather that it is the Government's intention to stop this on the basis that if not everyone can have compensation no one shall have compensation. This is perhaps an understandable doctrine, but it would be unfortunate if it were applied throughout all human activity.

Not everyone can become a Minister of Her Majesty's Government. Because not everybody can become a Minister of the Crown, it does not follow that some people should not serve the Crown. If this were not so, we would not have the occupants of the Government Front Bench facing us. That principle can be carried too far.

4.30 p.m.

On Second Reading, we tried to develop the question of compensation. In my opening speech, I said: What the Bill will certainly do is to remove the liability for compensation if planning permission is suspended or refused … I understand that the compensation could vary from about £1,000 to £3,500 per office place. I went on to say: Faced with figures of that size, I can understand the reason for the Bill. But that does not excuse the Government from the duty of limiting inevitable injustices and hardships to the minimum. It makes it all the more important for there to be the right of appeal—something that the Bill seeks to deny. Perhaps the President of the Board of Trade will consider allowing compensation for expenditure or liabilities incurred after planning permission had been granted—for example. the preparation of plans and expenditure on surveyors' fees and the like. I raise this question, because it seems to me that the new Clause throws open again for examination the whole question of compensation, because it endeavours to stop one perhaps small section of developers from obtaining compensation which they might otherwise have been able to obtain under the flaw which has been discovered in the Bill.

Later during Second Reading, when the Minister of State was replying, he made a point which we continued to pursue in Committee. He made the point in response to an interjection of mine. He said: … we will consider cases of hardship". I had intervened to say: I am not quite clear whether the Minister is saying that the Government will look sympathetically at claims made in respect of expenditure incurred in drafting plans, surveyors' fees, and so on, or whether he is merely referring to the matter. Is he saying that the Government would be prepared to consider claims of that kind? The Minister replied: I am not making any promises about this. The whole question of compensation must stand as it has been presented in the Bill. That, presumably, was before the Government thought about the new Clause. The hon. Gentleman continued: I have said that we will consider cases of hardship, but at the moment we have no evidence about this. We want to see what the situation is. The Bill stands as it is."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st February, 1965, Vol. 705, cc. 749–50, 815.] That seemed to be quite clear.

In Committee, however, my hon. Friends and I endeavoured to draft an Amendment which would cover the aspect of compensation to which I have referred—that is, the problem of reimbursing those who had suffered actual loss through expenses incurred in development which is rendered nugatory by the Bill—but we found ourselves up against the Money Resolution, as is so often the case. It was so tightly drawn, no doubt entirely by accident, that we were not able to table an acceptable Amendment.

Nevertheless, we had a good deal of discussion, as a result of which we tried again to introduce new Clause No. 6 on Report. So that the House may be fully aware of what we had in mind, I should like to read it. It states as follows—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. I hope that the hon. Member will help me. I have been trying to find out whether his remarks were in order. It will not be in order to discuss, by bringing them into this debate on new Clause No. 1, the Clauses which are not selected. The one that the hon. Member proposes to read is one which is not selected.

Photo of Sir John Hall Sir John Hall , Wycombe

Of course, I accept your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was simply hoping to be able to give the House the benefit of the wording so that hon. Members could follow the arguments which I deployed thereafter. However, hon. Members will be able to read the new Clause by referring to new Clause 6 on the Notice Paper, where they will see another attempt to introduce the whole question of compensation for the special types of expenses to which I have referred.

We on this side believe that the Bill as it stands creates injustice and hardship. It has been said that in many cases development which is likely to be brought to a stop by the operation of the Bill will affect, in the main, large developers, whether companies or individuals, who can well bear the cost of any expense to which they are put without their being caused hardship. As was pointed out in Committee, however, it is not a question of whether a developer can afford to bear the cost. It is a question of ordinary, simple justice and whether it is right that he should be asked to bear that cost. We on this side believe that it is not right.

In Committee, I drew attention to this point in the debate on Clause 8. I pointed out that Under existing town planning legislation anyone who is affected by planning considerations in certain circumstances has the right to ask for compensation under two main headings, one in respect of expenses and expenditure already incurred, and the other in respect of loss of value for the loss of development rights."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 18th March, 1965; c. 540.] As I pointed out at that time, although there is a case to be argued for granting compensation for the loss arising out of the denial of development rights, that is not the particular case that we were pressing. But we continue to press for the granting of compensation in respect of expenditure of the kind to which I have referred. The Minister said again, in Committee, that he would look at cases of hardship. We pressed the Minister of State on that matter and particularly to tell us how he would deal with cases of hardship. We had no reply.

Here we are being asked to accept a complicated provision which is not too easy to understand. It is one in which there appear to be flaws and, furthermore, one in which it would seem that despite the Government's attempts to block up what is described as a loophole, certain people may still be able to take advantage of it and, therefore, claim compensation. We are being asked to accept a proposal which draws attention to the fact that there may be intending developers who not only can claim compensation, presumably, for expenditure incurred in surveyors' and solicitors' fees, and so on, but may well be able to claim compensation for loss of development rights. And yet the Government intend to deny to a large number of proposing developers the simple and ordinary justice of allowing them to recover ordinary out-of-pocket expenditure.

It is asking rather much of the House to pass the new Clause without knowing far more than we know about the Government's intentions. Do the Government intend to do what they said they would do, both on Second Reading and in Committee, and look at cases of hardship? That might go part of the way towards meeting us. If the Government so intend, how do they propose to do it? It is rather late now to introduce a further Amendment into the Bill which would enable the Government to take action under legislation, but, presumably, they could do something administratively which might enable them to pay compensation in cases of hardship.

We ought to know whether, if we pass the Clause as it is and if no other action is taken on Report, it will be possible under the Bill in its present form for compensation to be paid in cases of hardship or other cases such as those which we have deployed. I suggest that that is not possible, but, at least, we ought to be told.

I must make it quite clear that we on this side of the House, although we would not necessarily oppose this new Clause, are very reluctant to accept it as it is without having some reassurances on these points I have been making. Permit me to stress again, so that there may be no doubt in anybody's mind what precisely it is we are trying to achieve, that it is this. We know that every time any person or company wishes to develop certain preliminary expenses have to be incurred. We know that the Bill can operate to stop that development, after planning permission has been given, and the developer has been authorised and permitted to go ahead with the development.

The Bill brings the development to a stop. Then the expenditure incurred up to that date is lost. It may be that upon refusal of permission to develop, part or whole of that expenditure might be reimbursed, but this depends, of course, on the length of time between the date on which the development was stopped, and the date on which permission to develop was given. We believe that some provision should be made to reimburse developers in the way I have described, with provision at the same time for part or whole of it to be repaid at such time as permission is given for the development to continue.

If the Government could reassure us on these points, that this is possible under the Bill as it stands, or will be so by the Bill as amended in another place, so that there will be provision for the kind of compensation we have in mind, and paid under the conditions I have described, I think that we could look on this new Clause with so Clause me sympathy, hut it may be difficult otherwise.

Photo of Mr Daniel Awdry Mr Daniel Awdry , Chippenham

I think that I am the first Member to speak on the Bill now who was not a member of the Committee on the Bill.—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am the second one, then. I put it to the Minister that it is extremely difficult to follow the intricacies of a difficult Clause like this with only such a very short explanation as the Minister gave in proposing it. Many of us who have not had the opportunity of studying all the arguments in Committee will hope that whoever replies to this debate will go more closely through the various subsections of the new Clause. Coming new to it myself I am very much impressed by the arguments put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). Indeed, unless we are given by the Government a very good explanation of this new Clause, I hope that we shall press it to a Division.

As I understand it, Section 132 of the Town and Country Planning Act was originally in the 1947 Act as Section 19. I hope that the Minister will correct me if I am wrong in any way. As I understand, it is that Section which gives the right to a person refused planning consent to go to the local authority to ask the local authority to purchase the land. I have always understood the law to be that, under the 1947 Act. Now we are told that people refused I.D.Ps have no such right as of right. They have the right only if the President of the Board of Trade, or the Minister, in his discretion gives the right, but I would have thought that people who are hurt, if I may use the expression, by this Bill, and refused I.D.Ps, have a far greater case to ask for compensation, for they are the people who, no doubt, incurred a great deal of expense. Expense is incurred, perhaps in professional fees, architects' expenses, and so on, and they are not cheap these days. Suddenly, as a result of this Bill, people are completely deprived of any compensation.

I hope that the Minister will take us rather more closely through the provisions of this new Clause, so that we who did not have the benefit of being able to sit in 15 meetings of the Standing Committee can follow the arguments in detail.

4.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Battersea North

I congratulate those who were not members of the Standing Committee on joining in this discussion today. I assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison) that I appreciate his difficulty in both standing and sitting in the same Committee at the same time. I can also assure him that the reason why my hon. Friends who were on the Standing Committee are not here in great force today is that they are fully satisfied with the explanations which the Government gave during the course of the Committee's proceedings.

All of us are anxious to be fair and to do justice to anybody who may be affected by the Bill. I would say this in answer to the points which have been raised this afternoon, that the difficulty, of course, arises from the fact that where an applicant who has been refused an O.D.P., who was the owner of the land in question, wished to attempt to get compensation he could, of course, as the law now stands, make an application for some other development which he was fairly certain would be refused; and this would not really be a bona fide application to go forward with some development, but an application for development which he believed would be refused and which was wholly intended to provide with him with compensation. That is the difficulty which we are seeking to meet.

What the new Clause does in an attempt to meet this is as follows. Subsection (2) provides that when a purchase notice is served in respect of a site of the kind described in subsection (1), and if the Minister is satisfied that the site is incapable of reasonably beneficial use he may well decide not to confirm the notice. That, however, is only if he is satisfied that the site, as I say, is incapable of reasonably beneficial use. It does not take away from him his power to take any of the other courses of action open to him under the existing law, which would enable him to confirm the notice, or grant the permission for either the development applied for or some other development which seemed to him to be appropriate. If he does allow the purchase notice to go forward, then, of course, the applicant does receive—probably "compensation" is not the right term—payment for the land which is being purchased.

This seems to us to be a fair solution. What these Amendments do is to confer discretion on the Minister to judge whether the application is a bona fide one to carry out some alternative beneficial use of the land which is appropriate in view of all the planning interests of the situation, or whether really it is merely an application for a use which the applicant knows is likely to be refused.

Photo of Mr Graham Page Mr Graham Page , Crosby

Before the President of the Board of Trade leaves that point, will he tell the House on what basis he proposes to exercise this discretion? He has told us that he may allow the purchase notice to stand and the owner thereby to sell his property to the local authority, that in other cases he will refuse to do that. Would he tell us how he will cast his favour?

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Battersea North

In the first place, it would not be I. It would be the Minister of Housing and Local Government, who decides on these cases; it would be his proper statutory responsibility to decide whether an alternative use of the land would be desirable on town planning grounds, which are, after all, his responsibility. It is up to him to judge that, just as it would be for the President of the Board of Trade to decide whether, in the interests, as the Bill says, of the proper distribution of employment, it would be desirable for an office block to be erected on a site.

What I was emphasising was that this is a discretionary power which the new Clause and the Amendments confer upon the Minister.

Photo of Mr Derek Walker-Smith Mr Derek Walker-Smith , Hertfordshire East

The right hon. Gentleman introduces the term bona fide—whether it is a bona fide application. This is, of course, a novel concept, so far as I am aware, in town planning law and procedure. The issue to he decided is a town planning issue, and that is a statutory requirement. No inquiry into the motive of the applicant is, so far as I know, relevant, permissible or customary. Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that by a side wind he is introducing into the law, and, in particular, into the law relating to purchase notices, this new concept, and if it be so, how is he or his right hon. Friend going to institute his inquiry into bona fides and motives?

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Battersea North

I should have thought that it would be for the Minister to reach a judgment on whether the purpose for which the application was made was in accordance with his planning decisions and with those of the relevant planning authority. After all, it is impossible to carry out this legislation unless the Minister of Housing and Local Government makes judgments about what is the proper use of individual sites, and also, indeed, what is the best location of office development in this country. We cannot get away from conferring that sort of discretion on Ministers.

If a purchase notice which the Minister judges to be a proper one in accordance with the reasonable planning considerations is caught by the provisions of the new Clause, and if the Minister of Housing and Local Government is convinced that an owner is suffering real hardship, he can deal with the purchase notice in the way he would at present, and either confirm it or grant planning permission. Therefore, it seems to me that by this solution we ensure that no real hardship is created. We merely ensure that the existing provisions of the law are not used in a way which Parliament never intended, to enable compensation to be given for the refusal of an office development permit.

Whether or not every Member of the House is agreed on this particular solution, it is, nevertheless, the general decision which Parliament has reached on the Bill. It has been decided that there should not be a general provision for compensation wherever an O.D.P. is refused. In view of the way in which town planning legislation has grown up, it is inevitably a fairly complicated matter to ensure that one arbitrary provision for compensation is not given as it were by accident in this case. I think that we have found the best solution, and I think that what have been called bona fide applications are fully provided for in the way that I have described.

Photo of Sir Peter Emery Sir Peter Emery , Reading

Having heard the right hon. Gentleman's reply, it is very important that we on this side of the House should make our position clear, especially as we have been urged by some hon. Members to divide on this matter.

The right hon. Gentleman's reply does not clear up the position with regard to hardship. What he is really saying is that the Board of Trade intends to make hardship universal, that there will be no compensation at any level. The Board of Trade intends to be equally hard and unpleasant to everybody. It is an unpleasant approach to the Bill, and the right hon. Gentleman will realise quite clearly that because of the "clever shenanigans" of the Financial Resolution, it has been impossible for Members on this side of the House to introduce any matter on compensation, or even on the reimbursement of ordinary individual expenses. My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) went into this in some detail.

We are opposed to the whole manner in which compensation is being dealt with in the Bill. We believe that the Government are taking a backward-looking approach to this matter. We do not believe that it would be very costly to accept our proposal. We want to recompense only legitimate expenses. We do not wish to recompense for loss of future profits, but only for what has been incurred as expenses.

We obviously cannot divide the House on the new Clause, because it would be inconsistent if there were a small favoured section of society which got compensation, and a large section which did not. It is important that people should understand the logic behind not dividing on the Clause. To put it bluntly, the Government have got us in a cleft stick. They have been able, by procedural means, to stop us doing what we want to do. They realise that as an Opposition we are reasonable enough to want to improve the Bill, and will not necessarily oppose something, even though it is logically right to do so because we object to the principle of the Government's approach to the matter.

Photo of Mr Roy Wise Mr Roy Wise , Rugby

I express my pleasure in seeing before us once again the dauntless three, Horatius, Herminius and Spurius Lartius, whom we faced so often in Committee upstairs. I wish that they had the same support behind them as their three predecessors had. Even upstairs they had that magnificent team whom we knew so affectionately as the "silent six", who sat behind them. They are today without any form of utterance of any kind whatever. We realise the appalling strain on any Member of the Labour Party who has to remain quiet and is debarred from making a speech. They must have suffered agony after agony during the 15 days of the Committee's work. After that brief tribute I come to the new Clause, as I am sure you would like me to do, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

I do not think that the President of the Board of Trade has answered the point made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), which was not that the Minister of Housing and Local Government could or could not refuse permission for any particular development, but that the question of bona fides did not enter into it at all, and so far in the law never has. This is introducing a new concept and, on the whole, an undesirable one. I think that the right hon. Gentleman ought to give this a little further thought to see whether an Amendment can be made at a later stage.

Fortunately, we still have another place in which these second thoughts can occur. We shall probably not have it if the Government remain in power much longer, but it is there now, and I urge the right hon. Gentleman to make what use he can of our old Parliamentary procedure while he is still able to do so.

We have a strong point on this new breach in the law or this new interpretation of the law, but, further than that, it seems that the new Clause imposes an extra impediment in the way of development, even worse than the original Bill. We already have the town and country planning hurdle, which has to be overcome by anybody who wishes to develop in any way. The next hurdle is the O.D.P., and now this new Clause seems to be a deterrent in the way of anybody proceeding with any idea of expansion because it means that if he surmounts the other two hurdles he can still be turned down.

Photo of Mr John Temple Mr John Temple , City of Chester

My hon. Friend had the honour of serving on the Standing Committee. I do not know whether he heard my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) explain that there were 16 hurdles which the potential developer had to surmount. This is, therefore, the seventeenth, and not the third.

5.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Roy Wise Mr Roy Wise , Rugby

I am obliged to my hon. Friend. I accept what he says, but I cannot recall them all and I wish to devote a little thought to these two "Beecher's Brooks". The fact that they have overcome two hurdles only to find themselves faced with no possibility of compensation afterwards is likely to act as a deterrent, and may even be a check on office development. I know that the Government want to put a check on office development—that is the purpose of the Bill—but they do not want to put a check on all office development, however necessary it may be.

I can visualise persons who are faced with this problem inside the metropolitan region feeling that it is not worth while to try. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will make use of the facilities which are still available to him to make adjustments in the Clause before it becomes part of an Act.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time and added to the Bill.