I beg to move, in page 12, line 23, to insert:
and who is the owner of the land".
I hope that the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) will say precisely the same thing about this Amendment as he did about the last one. This is, in effect, consequential on the Government Amendment in Clause 13(1)—which was welcomed by hon. Members opposite in Committee—the definition of a building contract, leaving out the reference to the owner of the land as a party to the contract.
We recognised by that Amendment that developers may enter into a building contract before they have become the owners of the land. Having made this alteration in the definition of a building contract, however, the Board of Trade would not necessarily be able to find out who is the owner of the land just by calling for information and documents under Clause 10 about the existence of a building contract.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, in these circumstances, would think that the Board of Trade ought to find out who is the owner of the land even though we are carrying out the terms of the Amendment which we put down to Clause 13. Of course, we could have found out if the definition of the building contract had remained in the original form. It is, therefore, desirable specifically to empower the Board of Trade to call for information and documents to enable it to ascertain who is the owner of the land. I feel sure that in the interests of tidy administration the hon. Member for Crosby will accept this Amendment.
I am delighted that I at this time can be nearly as brief as my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). We welcome this Amendment. It is in fact only an extension of an Amendment which we had in Committee. It is a matter on which both the Government and the Opposition had tabled Amendments. We are pleased that it has been dealt with in this manner.
I beg to move, in page 12, line 23, at the end to insert:
(2) A notice under this section may require the information to which it relates to be furnished within such time as may be specified in the notice, and may require the documents to which it relates to be produced at such time and place as may be so specified.
Here again, this Amendment carries out an undertaking that was given in Committee. If hon. Members want to look up the reference, it is in cols. 571–2 of the OFFICIAL REPORT. The undertaking was to move an Amendment on Report to enable a time limit to be imposed for the production of documents and information in compliance with a notice served under this Clause. This is to enable the Board of Trade to ascertain whether a building contract was made before 5th November.
The Amendment goes further than the Amendment put down by the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple), in that it enables the Board to specify in the notice the time and place in which the documents shall be produced, as well as a time limit for producing the information. We have not adopted the suggestion of the hon. Member for the City of Chester that the time limit should be 28 days. We think it would be more effective to leave the length of the specified period for producing information and documents to the Board's discretion. This will give us a free hand to fix a time limit which appears to be reasonable in the circumstances of each case, and to help the applicants as best we can. I am sure that this Amendment, which carries out a promise we gave in Committee, will. be enthusiastically accepted by the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Peter Emery).
Again, we thank the Government for proposing an Amendment to fulfil an undertaking they gave in Committee.
I do not want to spoil it, but there is just one query I should like to make about this. We suggested in our own Amendment that the period should be 28 days. This was in order to comply with certain other legislation which we discussed at that time. But I understand the argument put forward by the Government that perhaps 28 days is a little short, and is unreasonable. I wonder whether the words "furnished within such time" in the Amendment could be interpreted as more limiting, and whether the words should not be "within such reasonable time."
It may be purely a drafting point, and that is why I ask the question, but if it is not perhaps the Minister of State would have a look at it and see whether at a later stage the words "reasonable time" would not better meet both our wishes.