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With new Clause 2 it will be convenient to discuss the following new clause and amendments:
New Clause No. 9—Exception of minerals and buildings, plant and machinery for their treatment and disposal and the deposit of waste materials—
'Relevant development shall not include—
Government Amendment No. 261.
Amendment No. 9, in Clause 3, page 3, line 35, leave out "all development except".
Amendment No. 10, in page 3, line 37, leave out "and".
Government Amendment No. 262.
Amendment No. 364, in Clause 4, page 4, line 2, leave out from second "of" to end of line 42 and insert
dwellinghouses on land shown in a development plan as land for residential use".
Government Amendment No. 263.
Amendment No. 28, in Clause 6, page 6, line 19, at end insert—
'"agriculture" includes horticulture, fruit growing, seed growing, dairy farming, the breeding and keeping of livestock (including any creature kept for the production of food, wool, skins, or fur, or for the purpose of its use in the farming land), the use of land as grazing land, meadow land, osier land, market gardens and nursery grounds, and the use of land for woodlands where that use is ancillary to the farming of land for other agricultural purposes, and "agricultural" shall be construed accordingly;'.
Government Amendment No. 266.
Amendment No. 365, in page 7, line 1, leave out from "land" to "suitable" in line 2.
Amendment No. 29, in page 7, line 1, leave out from second "land" to "relevant" in line 35 and insert
in respect of which planning permission is in force for any".
Amendment No. 366, in page 7, line 3, at end insert
and on which the authority concerned intend themselves to carry out or to promote the carrying out by others of relevant development".
Government Amendment No. 284.
Amendment No. 75, in Clause 17, page 15, line 40, after "section", insert
and in Schedule 3 to this Act".
Government Amendments Nos. 76, 286, 293 and 294.
Amendment No. 372, in Clause 18, page 16, line 10, at end insert
for the purpose of carrying out themselves or making available for the carrying out by others of relevant development of a kind specified by the authority".
Government Amendments Nos. 319, 320 and 338—new Schedule "Exempt Development".
The purpose of new Clause 2 which concerns "relevant development" is that it should not include development connected with agriculture or forestry. In regard to new Clause 9 we want that phrase to exclude various developments to do with the winning and working of minerals. Amendment No. 28 is concerned with the definition of agriculture. There are many other amendments in this group. I shall leave it to my hon. Friends to deal with both agriculture and minerals, as well as with the others in the list. I wish to talk about the important question of the position concerning "relevant development" in relation to the Government amendments.
There is no doubt that the Government have made substantial changes in the Bill. The early arrogance of the opening speech by the Minister in the Second Reading debate has given way to emollience in an attempt to buy support for the Bill. We have a series of concessions on planning framework, compulsory purchase and "relevant development", with which we are now dealing. The concessions are partly a matter of widening the excluded developments and of creating categories of exempt and excepted development, and partly a matter of incorporating some of the exclusions more clearly within the Bill. This is an improvement, but it does not affect our deep-seated objection to the Bill. The bureaucratic tangle remains, as does the need for extra staff, the immediate burden on public expenditure, and the scope for corruption. Furthermore, the split between planning and development rôles of local authorities still persists. The fundamental objection in principle to compulsory powers and the duty to acquire development land without the case having to be made also remains.
What I most deplore about the passage of the present Bill is the fact that the Government have failed to argue in detail its fundamental essence. We wish to make absolutely clear that we cannot accept the Bill. I wish to look at the package which has been grouped together in a series of amendments and also in a schedule. Essentially we are discussing the three new categories of exempt development, excepted development and the building of a single dwelling-house.
I begin by dealing with exempt development. The principle of this matter is set out in Government Amendment No. 261, which replaces the earlier proposal to define exemptions in regulations and spells them out in the new schedule, which is embodied in Amendment No. 338. Anything that takes matters out regulations and places them in a schedule is from our point of view an improvement.
It does at least give the House some chance to discuss very important matters which have direct concern for the happiness of individuals. It is an improvement in principle.
The exempted categories are, I understand, outside the duty to acquire, and, indeed, allegedly—this is where we want clarification—for normal purposes are outside the power to acquire. As I understand it, there are still circumstances in which exempted development land may be compulsorily acquired, and I hope that the Minister will deal with this point in detail.
I want to quote from a letter in The Times today from Sir Frederick Corfield, who is known to most of us as a great expert in these matters. He has summed up a very important point very clearly. He states:
For example, certain classes of development are to be wholly exempted from the scheme ("exempted development") by exclusion from the definition of "relevant development". But the power to acquire is not to be amended accordingly. It remains a power to acquire any land which in the opinion of the authority concerned is "suitable for development", i.e. any development and not merely "development land" which is now defined as land which in their "opinion is needed for relevant development within 10 years" and which would, therefore exclude land for exempt development.
That sounds a bit of a rigmarole. No doubt the Minister has had the letter drawn to his attention. He and his officials should certainly read such expert letters in The Times. I hope that he will meet the point.
Uncertainty also applies to the second of the new categories—development land designed to produce a single dwelling-house. I am not clear whether this category is essentially to be classified with the exempted or excepted categories or is unique. We want it made clear. We want to know the circumstances in which this sort of land—land for the building of a single dwelling-house—can still be compulsorily acquired and what is the statutory basis by which it can still be compulsorily acquired.
Thirdly, there is the new category of excepted development. The concessions do not go nearly far enough. Again, they represent some improvement—I do not deny that—but the Government are proposing that they should be set out in regulations rather than in a schedule. As we all know, regulations may be debated in the House but cannot be changed in that debate. One of the basic principles by which the House should operate is that when it is talking about matters which so directly affect individuals those matters should be capable not only of debate but of amendment.
There is here an issue of principle. It was raised at the beginning of the Report stage today by, among others, my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton). He was right to make the point that what we are discussing is of fundamental importance to Parliament, rather than a purely technical detail. The Minister tried to make out that this is quite a small matter which can be looked at adequately in this debate on new Clause 2. We shall certainly look at it, but it is a fundamental issue and we should be told why these matters cannot be included in a schedule rather than put in regulations.
Again, why do we have to rely on Press notices for information about what the Government expect to put in the regulations? It is unsatisfactory that hon. Members should have to read in a Press notice about something which is to appear in regulations some time in the future.
Is it not extraordinary that the Government can put down a specific schedule of exempted developments, which lists specific forms of things to be exempted, but leave excepted development to regulations?
"Extraordinary" is a charitable way of putting it. The latest statement by Justice makes the same point. It is an insult to the House that something should appear in a Press notice in some detail and then for us to be told, "These cannot go into a schedule but will go into regulations".
According to the Press notice, "excepted development" will include all development of less than 10,000 sq.ft., industrial buildings of less than 15,000 sq.ft., certain changes of use—for instance, from housing to offices, or from farmland to playing fields—up to a 10 per cent. increase in floor space through rebuilding and enlargement, and industrial development on land owned by industry on White Paper day. Why cannot all these have been put before the House in a schedule in the proper manner? They have all been major issues in discussion of the Bill. They are all essential matters.
I understand that the Government have given ground on these things and I am delighted and grateful, but I still cannot see why these things cannot be spelled out and discussed by the House in a proper manner. We must also have a clear statement of what the concessions really mean. In particular, we need to know clearly the extent to which both exempted and excepted development land may still be compulsorily acquired. That is the crucial issue.
Sir Frederick Corfield's letter also summed up another aspect which should be made clear. He said:
There is also to be defined by regulations a new category of 'excepted development' for which authorities will have the power but not the duty to acquire land. If they propose to exercise such power the Secretary of State, we are told, will neither have the power to ignore objections on the ground that the acquisition is 'unnecessary or inexpedient' nor the power to dispense with a public inquiry, as he has in all other cases. The proposed amendment, however, leaves the decision whether these powers are to apply wholly in the hands of the acquiring authority; for provided they include in the compulsory purchase order a certificate (which is to be conclusive evidence of the facts therein stated and cannot therefore be challenged) to the effect that the land is development land, the Secretary of State's powers to ignore such objections and to dispense with a public inquiry remain.
In any event, of course, the fact that land is acknowledged as suitable for exempted or excepted development does not prevent an authority from forming the opinion that it is also suitable for some form of relevant development, thereby bringing it within the definition of 'development land'. That is clearly intentional but if these other results are intended the public is being misled.
That is a very important point. We must have a clear picture of where compulsory acquisition will still apply in the categories of exempted and excepted development and in the case of the single dwelling-house.
The effect of Government Amendment No. 284 is that development land
…means land which, in the opinion of the local authority concerned, is needed for relevant development within ten years….
In Committee, my right hon. and hon. Friends argued at some length about periods of time set out in the Bill, and the Minister must now justify the period of 10 years mentioned in Amendment No. 284.
Government Amendment No. 293 gives the local authority power to acquire any
land which, in their opinion, is suitable for development.
That phrase is used in place of the simple term "development land". Why have the Government now inserted the words
…which, in their opinion, is suitable for development"?
Is it designed to prevent the matter under consideration being referred to the courts, and to make the local authority the sole judge of what is suitable for development and what is not? In a matter involving individual rights, that seems, in principle, to be an unsatisfactory approach.
By and large, the concessions are improvements, but they do not satisfy the fundamental doubts and worries that exist. I quote one short passage from a letter from Mr. George Dobry and Mr. Michael Barnes which appeared in The Times on Saturday last. Mr. Dobry is one of our leading experts on this subject. The letter reads:
Secondly, the 'concessions' are modest to the point of being non-existent when closely examined. There is in fact an element of humbug because even land required for excepted development can still be acquired, i.e. 'for purposes of positive planning' or 'to prevent evasion of the land scheme'. When the Bill was presented many of us hoped that there would at least be an effective exception of land of less than five acres, which is what builders have asked for. The concessions are miserly and do nothing to relieve the fear that development other than infilling will grind to a halt before very much longer.
In spite of the concessions, there are still grounds for grave suspicion about these measures. The Minister will have to be at his most persuasive and explicit if he is to begin to satisfy us on this score. I believe that it will be impossible for him to do so. The Government will have to take these matters away, think about them and come up with something sensible if the Bill is to go to another place and receive a Third Reading.
I deal with the amendments referring to agriculture and forestry. I declare my interest accordingly.
Those of us who were involved in the proceedings in Standing Committee are grateful to the Government for honouring their promise by introducing Amendment No. 85, which specifically mentions the needs of agriculture and forestry. However, we need a far more substantial reminder for local authorities by way of a main clause. It is for that reason that new Clause 2 has been brought forward. There is a precedent in the Countryside Act 1968. It is also relevant to refer to Amendment No. 338—the new schedule. The Minister will have noted that I have tabled an amendment to the Government's amendment. My only quarrel with the new schedule concerns the exclusions that it makes. For example, it excludes
operations for the erection of dwelling-houses or operations…for the erection, improvement or alteration of buildings used for the purpose of market gardens, nursery grounds or timber yards or for other purposes not connected with general farming operations",
My amendment would remove the uncertainty to the farming community that is presented in the new schedule and would honour the proposals originally made in the Government's White Paper.
I appreciate that the wording in the new schedule has been taken verbatim from Schedule 3 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and from Schedule 8 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971. There is rather a misconception, in that in those two measures the wording was used for the basis of compensation. In other relevant legislation a far more precise definition was provided to deal with intensive forms of agriculture. The origin of this wording appears to be the Scott Report of 1942, which advocated the greater control of intensive development in agriculture.
I put it to the Minister that under existing planning law there is adequate control. There is no fear of anyone getting away with anything. There is no fear of a free-for-all in agricultural development in respect of dwelling-houses or intensive forms of agriculture.
I suggest that the new schedule contained in Amendment No. 338 has two real inconsistencies. First, Clause 3 has already been amended, so that a single dwelling-house is exempted, but a dwelling-house used for agricultural purposes is not exempt as a result of the wording contained in the schedule. Secondly, Amendment No. 264 defines agriculture by use of the same wording as that contained in the 1971 Act. Amongst other things, market gardens and nursery grounds are mentioned specifically in that Act as being part of agriculture. It is difficult to imagine a market garden without the necessary buildings.
I cannot believe that the Minister envisages that local authorities want to enter such a relatively unremunerative form of business, yet it is that part of agriculture which is most likely to be affected by the Act because it is on the urban fringes of development. Therefore, unless the local authorities go into business there will be a certain amount of difficulty. If the Minister agrees to the leaving out of the relevant words I suggest that the local authorities will not be accused of wanting to meddle in agricultural affairs. Of course, they will retain the power to acquire if they so wish.
I hope that the Minister will give consideration to these matters either now or before the Bill goes to another place. There is a great deal of uncertainty and the agricultural community needs to be certain how it stands on these various provisions.
I address my remarks particularly to new Clause 9, the clause being included amongst the many new clauses and amendments which have been scheduled for debate. New Clause 9 deals with relevant development. It is clear that there should not be included a number of the items that are specified, including the
winning and working of minerals".
As is tradition in this House, I have on many occasions declared my interest in this sphere.
The Government's handling of minerals reveals, by successive changes in the Bill, that they have a limited understanding of this specialist branch of the economy and the coverage of existing law. Developments since the White Paper, Cmd. 5730 of 12th September 1974, are worth noting. In the memorandum mineral extraction was listed among the permanent exemp- tions. There then followed the Minister's observations in Standing Committee on 10th June 1975, when he accepted the special case for minerals but felt that there could be occasions on which the acquisition by local authorities could be desirable.
In the May 1975 consultation document, issued by the Department, non-relevant development was to be defined by regulations. This was later replaced in the September 1975 memorandum, by the Department of the Environment, by the new classification of exempt development, which is now defined in the third paragraph of Amendment No. 338. The schedule would cover development outside the acquiring powers of local authorities, and it should be extensive enough to cover the quarry curtilage and rights under the GDO. Further, the right to build up to 15,000 square feet after September 1974 would probably cover a ready-mixed concrete plant and a tar coating installation, but—and I emphasise this—pipelines remain to be dealt with. Perhaps the Minister will be good enough to deal with that specific during his concluding remarks.
The former permanent non-designated relevant development has now been replaced by excepted development to be defined by regulations. I make the plea that this matter should be included in the schedule and should not be left to regulations about which this House has no particular knowledge. This, I understand, includes minerals.
The position is now as follows. Minerals will not be subject to the duty by a local authority to acquire—that is in Clauses 17 to 20—but power will be retained to acquire at any time, the authority only to be used in exceptional circumstances. A guidance note is to be issued by the Department to cover this point. I hope that the Minister will be more specific in his authorisation or in his note of guidance to local authorities about when this power can be utilised by local authorities. The power to acquire by compulsory purchase order will be subject to the objection that the acquisition by the authorities is either unnecessary or inexpedient. That is under Schedule 4(3) and (5)(b). Mineral operators will have a right to demand a public inquiry fully to develop their arguments as to why the proposed action by the local authority should not take place.
Minerals are also exempt from Clauses 21 to 24 and Schedule 6 to the Bill relating inter alia to the suspension of planning permissions and the handling of planning applications.
What surprises me is that the Minister should wish to retain for the local authority powers to acquire the mineral lands. After all, minerals are not enhanced by the grant of planning permission. They must be worked where they lie. Their wealth is intrinsic and is in no way created by the community. The fundamental purpose of the Bill, as I understand it, is to grant to the community what derives from an act by a public authority which enhances the value of property. In this case I would have thought that the Minister would have gone further and completely exempted mineral development. At present local authorities have the right to acquire land for their purposes under Section 112 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971. This should suffice, and no powers should be asked for in this Bill.
The Minister must be mindful of the fact that the reserve powers of acquisition under this Bill will eliminate the value of mineral lands or mineral reserves for security purposes in any scheme of financial arrangements, namely a debenture issue secured on the assets of the company by way of a floating charge. We have learned this in another Bill, the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-lines Bill, which has been debated in this House. We have seen that as the ownership of the oil vests in the State it is not possible for companies to raise money on that asset. The same mistake is being made here. Because the Minister has the right to use a compulsory purchase order at any particular date it will be impractical for capital-intensive industry to raise in the open market the money it will require.
The Minister justifies the retention of these powers on the following grounds. First, it is to facilitate development where this could not be achieved by agreement among private individuals. But this is surely unnecessary as the provisions of the Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Acts of 1966 and 1974 provide for such an eventuality. Second, it is said that lease-back arrangements with local authorities will facilitate environmental control. But, under current law, if the terms or conditions of a mining lease offered by a local authority are unacceptable the mineral undertaker can seek relief by application to the High Court. The introduction of the landlord system of control through local authorities would add nothing to the position. Moreover, if special conditions were required in addition to normal planning conditions Section 52 agreements are available under the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 to enable the special terms to be implemented.
Third, it is said that local authorities may be in a position to prove the planning advantages of their proposals for development. This could cover the so-called mixed development—for example, mineral development followed by housing development. But this could be covered by conditions in the original grant of planning permission. Further, under existing powers local authorities could acquire the land under Section 112 of the 1971 Act.
The next argument put forward by the Minister is that this system will obviate delays. This must be sheer nonsense. Is there anybody in the community or in this House who would believe, after the Land Commission Act, that this would result? According to Mr. George Dobry, Q. C., in The Times of 11th October:
The Community Land Bill, with its division of development into excepted, exempted and other development, takes and distorts this concept of different classes. Without a corresponding reform of planning procedures the result can only be administrative chaos while officers struggle with extra routine tasks. In short, instead of a much needed simplification there will be further needless and bureaucratic complication.
It will be interesting to hear the Minister's observations on the devastating criticism put forward by Mr. Dobry.
Finally, it is said that this system is to prevent evasion of the land scheme. This is unlikely to arise through the winning and extraction of minerals. The Government should await concrete evidence of it rather than base their case on pure conjecture. After all, amending legislation could quickly eliminate any abuse in the unlikely event of that occurring. We have heard that the Government are to give their ideas and publish the Stevens Committee report. When is this likely to come before the House?
I ask the Minister once again if he will completely exempt mineral developments—the winning and extraction of minerals which are necessary for building schools, houses and roads. The right hon. Gentleman has conceded a lot through some of the amendments that have been tabled but he has not gone quite far enough. I hope he will consider what I have said.
I want to make some general observations about the wide exceptions and exemptions which the Minister has allowed by his recent conversion to some of the arguments put forward in Committee. Before doing so perhaps I may declare an interest, in that I own two houses, each of which has the benefit of planning permission for two plots.
Those of my right hon. and hon. Friends who say that the concessions made are not enough are right, but they are substantial concessions and we ought perhaps to look at the concession relating to exempt development. It is very much wider than anyone believed to be possible. The previous exemption related only to one plot where that plot was owned on White Paper day—12th September 1974—and where the plot was to be used either by the landowner or his immediate family. The extension now allows any one plot owner to develop his plot free of the interference of this Bill, and it also avoids all the criminal sanctions which might have been brought against the plot owner under the old Clause 5.
Excepted development, too, brings wide relief from the effects of this Bill, because excepted development will not normally be acquired by the procedure in the Bill. More important, the owner of land covered under the exemption of excepted development will be free of the tyrannical expedited compulsory purchase procedure set out in Schedule 4 (2) to (4). He will be able to raise the objection that the acquisition is unnecessary or inexpedient and will have the power to demand a public inquiry.
There are two classes of relief which we should welcome, albeit grudgingly. I
believe that they are substantial when taken with the concessions made in respect of churches and charities. But let there be no doubt that this is a substantial derogation from the two principles upon which the Minister has most relied in presenting his earlier arguments. The first principle he has relied on is that of flexibility. As long ago as 12th September 1974 he was explaining in the White Paper how his third attempt at land nationalisation would succeed where the other two had failed. He said then, on page 3:
Moreover, the operation of both schemes provides valuable experience from which the following lessons may be drawn".
The third of those lessons was that
an inflexible scheme can only be self-defeating.
I suggest that that was the argument on which the right hon. Gentleman relied time and time again during our discussions in Committee. But the second and perhaps most important argument which I am sure that he had at the back of his mind was to attempt to destroy the land market and not merely to distort it. For that reason, on Second Reading he said:
But, so long as there remain private transactions in land—and these are provided for in the transitional provisions of this Bill—we must see that there is no advantage in private sales as against sales to local authorities."—[Official Report, 29th April 1975; Vol. 891, c. 239.]
I suggest that by these exemptions and exceptions the Minister has created a two-tier system of land acquisition and land development. The exempt and the excepted development will become immensely more valuable than the land which has to be sold to local authorities. The right hon. Gentleman will create a totally distorted market in land. The person who enjoys the advantage of being able to develop his own land, whether it be excepted or exempted, will find that he is in a much better position when applying for planning permission. He will find that he can avoid many of the bureaucratic delays which are inevitable under the Community Land Bill. Most important of all, he will have the freedom to sell his land on his own terms. In respect of industrial development—because some of the excepted development may be industrial development—he will have the freedom to retain a freehold.
There will be none of the arguments about whether it is to be a 60-year leasehold interest or a 99-year leasehold interest.
The person who can develop his land will have a freehold interest against which he can raise money. In addition—and this is very important—he will not be in the position of a person from whom land is acquired by the local authority and who has to sell to the local authority net of development land tax. He will be in a very fortunate position. He will pay his development land tax only when the Inland Revenue gets round to demanding it of him.
Anyone who has had any dealing in land knows, for example, of the difficulties of the capital gains tax. It takes at least two years for the Inland Revenue to collect tax on a land transaction. The Minister may not know that today we have a 26 per cent. rate of inflation. If a landowner retains 80 per cent. of the value of his land for two years, by the time he comes to pay his tax that money will have depreciated, in real terms by 50 per cent. So the landowner who has the good fortune to have excepted or exempted development will be in a uniquely privileged position.
The result is that land will greatly increase in value. This illustrates that there is a case for a total solution—for a Communist State. If the State has total power, it is a logical and hideous situation to have to foresee but none the less we can understand it. What is incompatible with a free society, however, is the attempt to try to combine individual rights and the distortions which the Minister has in mind.
My final comment is a very much narrower one, but it is one which may have far more effect upon some individuals. It is one to which I hope that the Under-Secretary will give a very careful answer.
For many people their single most important asset is their house. In a non-legal sense, most people do not even own their houses. The average person has the freehold, but it is subject to a very large mortgage and the interest payments on that mortgage are, for most people, the single most important payments that they make each month. What they demand from any Government is that they should know the value of their properties. They should not be messed about by inaccurate Government intentions about the value of their land. This is extremely important in the face of the modern iniquitous habit of announcing that legislation will be retrospective as from the date of a White Paper and not from the commencement date. I believe that it was vital for anyone who owned a plot or orchard to know exactly what the Government intended in respect of the exemptions under the old Clause 4. Surely the individual plot owner was entitled to know what the Government were doing about this in Standing Committee.
I hope that I shall be forgiven if I refer to what the Under-Secretary said after a long debate of four and a half hours on 12th June. I pause to note that it was 12th June, nearly four months ago, and that a great many land transactions affecting not very rich people will have taken place in those four months. The Minister noted that the debate had lasted for four and half hours, and he said:
But I can assure hon. Gentlemen that the basic principle behind the clause, that the provisions are limited to the classes of people to whom I referred, will not be extended or eroded.
It is essential in a clause such as this that the benefit which is conferred on a family or on an individual shall not be something that could be used as a complete evasion of the whole of the Community Land Bill scheme if attempts were to be made by individuals to get round the scheme by building individual houses on individual plots in this way. This is to benefit a closeknit family through the individual who has a single plot."—[Official Report, Standing Committee G, 12th June 1975, c. 697.]
Now we find the Government putting forward proposals which are directly contradictory to that very firm and clear statement of their intentions put forward by the responsible Minister on 12th June. It should be appreciated that many people will have sold houses and land in the belief that they would not come within the effects of Clause 4 and therefore that their land was substantially less valuable than it has turned out to be.
If the Minister had had the humility to say, "This is a matter about which we shall have second thoughts and, after the Labour Party Conference, we may find that we can come to a more sensible attitude about it," there would have been something in what he said. But he made the clearest possible expression of his view and of that of the Government about this. It is disgraceful that the owners of small plots and with small sums of money invested in their houses should have been so grievously misled. I hope that the Minister will either have the humility to apologise to this House and to those affected in this serious way, or resign.
I wish to speak to new Clause 2. I did not have the privilege of serving on the Committee on the Bill, but as a lawyer I believe I am entitled to say that the law of Scotland as well as the law of England bases itself on what is now an asinine presumption that the citizen is presumed to know the law. I therefore came afresh, as a lawyer to the Bill, which is incomprehensible to any citizen, whether he be a lawyer or not. In that way alone the Bill is a severe restriction on the liberties of any subject who owns property.
Although the Bill is unsatisfactory in total, and inevitably so because it starts backwards by having many definitions which do not apply to its principle, it is most unsatisfactory in its attack upon agriculture and forestry, as it extends the bureaucratic principle.
I have no comment to make on politicians in general, theologians in general, dwarfs in general, Africans in general or bureaucrats in general; nevertheless, I believe that if one examines the various States of the world and their communities one finds that those that are poorest, the most depressed and least successful are those that have handed all functions over to a bureaucracy.
Essentially, a bureaucracy means nothing more than that one hands or takes from those who know what they are doing and are affected by what they do and puts it into the hands of people who do not know what they are doing or, even if they do, are not affected by what they do. People who grow trees and have farms are affected by the way in which they grow those trees and run their farms. The growing of trees and food is normally regarded by the Labour Party, for a reason I have never under- stood, as something alien from industry. The food industry could prevent every-one's existence, because all of us eat, whatever we may think. It is the one industry which is regarded as not being an important political consideration.
We have had some experience of regionalisation. We have had some experience of what happens when we extend the fingers of those who do not understand and upon whom the effect of what they do has not the slightest importance to their jobs, themselves or their employment in regionalisation.
The antics of the Intervention Board may be, but the bureaucracy of the Common Market is smaller than the bureaucracy of the Scottish Office. The Bill merely extends the Scottish Office, apart from anything else, and all the offices in England as well. It increases the number of drones and reduces the number of workers. It reduces the number who are making honey and increases those who are benefiting from the honey.
I shall return to the matter which I was discussing, which had nothing to do with the intervention of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hands worth (Mr. Lee). It is important that we should remember that central to all requirements in this country is the agriculture industry. I have read with the greatest of interest the Minister's proposed Amendment No. 85 which is that
the needs of agriculture and forestry
should be taken into account by the authority. That is a fascinating piece of meaningless double-talk. What does it mean? "I sentence you to death, but you have to take into account the needs of agriculture and forestry". I have. It means nothing. It merely means that words are put into the Bill to give some spurious decency to Ministers who may say, in order to get out of any criticism, "Of course I took into account these needs. I am not telling you what I thought about it, why I thought it or what conclusion I came to".
The words are put into the Act in typical fashion. They pretend to be accounting for the requirements of agriculture and forestry, but in fact give a decent statutory reason for ignoring them. They are meaningless, spurious, cynical and scandalous. There is no requirement to take account of agriculture and forestry at all, because any Minister, on the word of those who are under him, can always say, "Of course we took them into account". That is why it is essential that the festering fingers of the bureaucratic State should not be allowed to interfere in agriculture and forestry.
I represent a large agricultural constituency. I declare my interest. I am one of those who makes a loss at agriculture and probably makes a mess of forestry. But that does not alter the fact that I do not believe that the position will be improved if the Tayside Authority helps me to make a bigger loss and a bigger mess. Now that my agricultural constituency has been tied by regionalisation to a conurbation-orientated authority which is presently advertising for a part-time chauffeur for its chief executive in order to increase the rates in the rural areas, it seems to me important that those people should not be given the power to say, "We shall do what we like with agricultural and forestry land. We shall always be able to say that under the schedule, although we do not need to give any reason or provide any proof, we took it into account."
With great respect, I think I know what the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford) wants to say, namely, that it was a Conservative Government who introduced regionalisation. He has said it so often. I am glad to say that I was not a member of the Government who brought it in, but I should like to be a member of a Government who took it out. It is essential that we should not have these spurious descriptions that politicians have got into trouble over for a long time. To say that one will take it into account is just a stupid falsehood. If one does not say, as new Clause 2 says, that it will be exempt, one is just using words to falsify what was previously in one's mind, namely, that one had no intention whatever of considering the interests of agriculture and forestry in the first place.
I wish to draw the attention of the House to Government Amendment No. 261. First, I wish to say something nice about it and then something rather less nice.
I wish to refer first to subparagraph (b), which gives the new exemption for
development consisting exclusively of the building of a single dwelling-house".
Thank God that at last some common sense has prevailed and we have got rid of Clauses 4 and 5 of the Bill, which, of all the bad drafting of the Bill, came fairly high up the list. There was a long list of uncles, cousins and aunts for whom one was allowed to build a house in one's garden, provided it was the right sort of uncle and cousin and not the wrong sort. We spent many happy hours in Committee mulling over this trouble. Thank God the Minister has taken the sensible attitude of cutting it out and giving us single dwelling-house exemption, but would that it were a larger exemption than that.
I turn to subparagraph (c) where, I am sorry to say, I must be less complimentary. This subsection deals with the new class of excepted development.
As I want to speak specifically about the small sites exception, I repeat my interest in rather more detail this time than I declared it on the last occasion by saying that I am a director of a house-building company. One concession which ought to be written into the Bill is that which the Minister announced by Press notice only a couple of days ago, in which he said:
Any development…where the total floor space created does not exceed 10, 000 sq.ft.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to that as meaning for housing development 10 to 12 houses or up to 20 flats.
This exemption should be written into the Bill because, as many hon. Members, including myself, made clear in Committee, those of us with practical experience of the industry know that it is not possible for a small builder to borrow money from a bank using his land as collateral to finance his activities unless an exemption of that kind is written into the statute. Bank managers, quite rightly, are notoriously conservative and circumspect when it comes to lending their customers money, as they should be. They will not be too impressed by exceptions in regulations which can be, and often are, changed.
If the Minister has at last come to the conclusion that there should be an exception for small sites, as it appears from the Press notice, though not from the Bill, that he has, I would plead with him to put it in the Bill. It will be hard enough for small builders to raise money anyway under the provisions of the Bill to finance their ongoing activities, and it will be extremely difficult unless that is specifically written into the legislation. It would make no difference to the principle of the right hon. Gentleman's concession, but it would make a great deal of difference to the building industry.
I am absolutely astonished to see that we have a quantified exemption of 10,000 sq.ft. When I moved an amendment in Committee on 22nd May which sought to exempt sites up to 2 hectares, which was the figure for which the House Builders Federation had asked, the Under-Secretary of State, resisting the amendment, said:
The first difficulty, therefore, is the enormous difference in various parts of the country, given the value of land, the scarcity of land, the arrangement of land and so on, to name any area of land…as to what should be excluded from the Bill…. With any limitation of size of a plot, one runs into this further difficulty."—[Official Report, Standing Committee G, 22nd May 1975; c. 237.]
It appears that between 22nd May and today, 13th October, the difficulty has vanished. Whereas my exemption for 2 hectares was apparently resisted on the ground of difficulty, we now have a concession announced by the Minister in a Press notice—not in the Bill—that it is to be 10,000 sq.ft. If that concession can be given now, it could have been given then, and it could have been given a great deal more speedily, thereby allowing the industry to get on with its job.
I turn now to the question of land held by a builder as his stock in trade on 12th September 1974. Again, I am afraid that a most unsatisfactory word occurs in the guidance which the right hon. Gentleman has given. We have lost count of the number of consultation papers that
we have had, but this one, dated September 1975, states:
As explained above 'excepted development' will be within the scope of the acquisition power under the Bill. However, the presumption will be that the power will not normally be used to acquire land for such development save in exceptional circumstances.
I draw attention to the expression "not normally". When this word "normally" was first conjured up by the Secretary of State in a Written Answer on 27th January, he explained what he meant. He said that the whole point of letting builders off the hook, so far as their stock in trade went, was that there should be no hold-up in the development process under the Bill. He went on:
Exclusion from acquisition will, therefore, operate only where it is clear that development is likely to be achieved reasonably swiftly without public intervention.
He then went on to issue a very direct threat:
Where a local authority consider that acquisition is necessary to achieve early development I shall be prepared to consider compulsory purchase orders on their merits."—[Official Report, 27th January 1975; Vol. 885, c. 47.]
I want the right hon. Gentleman to make that clear when he replies to the debate. Does the Secretary of State's guidance still hold good? Is that still to be the policy? Is the definition of "normally" to be that a builder is not getting on with the development at a speed which the local authority considers satisfactory?
The right hon. Gentleman nods assent. If so, first, why is there nothing about it in the consultation paper? Secondly, why is there nothing about it in the Bill? Thirdly, what criteria are local authorities to use in determining whether a builder is building at a speed which they consider suitable? What experience have they to make a decision of that kind? How much of their own money are they putting at risk? These are questions to which the House is entitled to answers.
There was only one fair decision which should have been taken about a builder's stock in trade land. That was the decision which, for example, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) took when he announced the infrastructure contributions at the end of 1973; namely, that if one held the land or had planning permission on a certain date, that was it, and one was exempt. There was no question about "normally" or conditions of speed of development and so on.
The stock in trade land of a builder is essential to his activities. The right hon. Gentleman said that he wanted the housing programme to go ahead. If that is what he means, let him put it in the Bill. Let him say what he means and stick to it.
My hon. Friends the Members for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) and Melton (Mr. Latham) have already pointed out the remarkable way in which Government spokesmen seem to have changed their minds since the Bill was debated in Committee. That does not give any great encouragement to people who want to rely on regulations or Government statements.
My hon. Friends have referred eloquently to the inadequate nature of these concessions for agriculture and house building. They are just as inadequate for industry and commerce. One of the testaments to the lack of understanding, or perhaps concern, for industry and commerce shown by the right hon. Gentleman is the manner in which excepted development is treated in the provisions of Amendment No. 261.
As has been pointed out, we now have a presumption that the power will not normally be used. The right hon. Gentleman may not be aware that a great deal of industrial and commercial development is carried out by owner-occupation. An owner is able to carry out development with speed and efficiency because he owns the land, and particularly in industry he can get straight on with planning his plant acquisition programmes and run them in parallel with the town planning procedures. However, under this form of regulation—not in the Bill—instead of certainty, he must rely on presumption. The inevitable consequence will be delay, and delay, as I am sure all hon. Members will agree, means money. Uncertainty and delay will increase costs for industry, commerce and house building. There is the difficulty of borrowing on the security of land when at best people can refer to regulations which are hedged about with presumption and the use of words like "normally". This is profoundly unsatisfactory.
I suggest that there is no reason why we should not have written into the Bill complete exemption for any development carried out by industrialists or users of commercial land on property that they own. The situation proposed by the Government will inevitably lead to delay and increased costs. The right hon. Gentleman should face this situation.
I have great sympathy with the Minister, who started with this Bill on the basis that it was a takeover of development land. That was the whole basis of the Bill—development land. Unfortunately, he put into the Bill that development land was what the deputy planning officer of a district council thought it might be. I do not know what would have happened if the assistant planning officer of the county council thought it was something else. Undoubtedly, this was a nice easy definition of "development land".
We pressed the right hon. Gentleman in Committee to be a little more definitive and he has embarked upon it under these amendments today, but he has run into deep water in doing so. Amendment No. 261 says what relevant development means, and it sets out "any development" except the three items set out there. The first item which is excepted is the classes of development set out in a new schedule and the three classes there set out are those included in the general development order. For heaven's sake, did anybody ever think that the minor things set out in the general development order were developments which could make it development land which could be taken over? This ought to have been exempted right away, and I am glad to see the right hon. Gentleman nodding in agreement.
With respect to the right hon. Gentleman, there is a certain professor with Conservative inclinations who, on radio, would have disputed what he has just said, because he said that every minor thing forces the local authority to make acquisitions.
I think the right hon. Gentleman knows that I am a little independent of professors and like to put my own case. No one would object to calling anything included in the general development order development.
The next excepted point is one that has been mentioned several times during the debate, excepting the single dwelling-house. There is here a practical point. Is that single geographically, or single personally? If I have several plots around the country and I build a single dwelling-house on each plot, is that a single dwelling or is it to myself that it must be single? It seems to me that if this is geographical and not personal it is a very wide exemption. I think that we must clear up what is meant by a single dwelling-house.
The third point that is excepted is classes as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State by regulations. The Secretary of State has told us what he intends to put in those regulations. As my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Mr. Latham) asked, why cannot he put them into the Bill itself? The note which the right hon. Gentleman said he intends to put in the regulations—the document annex A to the document on the scope of the community land scheme—has some frightening paragraphs. It says:
What is excepted from the scheme is development and not land"—
I shall come in a moment to what we mean by development—
The development as set out in the regulations will be able to take place without the land needing to come into public ownership for that purpose. The regulations will not affect the duties of authorities to buy land which is needed for relevant development.
This means that if one has a plot on which one intends to build a single house a local authority can step in before one has exercised that right and acquire the land because it is development, and it is not the single plot land on which one intends to develop that is to be excepted.
The document goes on to say:
The making of excepted development regulations will not remove the need for administrative guidance on the sorts of development which, although they are not strictly excepted development, should be allowed to go ahead without public ownership.
These regulations are not going to be comprehensive in any way. We are still to have "Big Brother"—whether it is the Secretary of State or the assistant deputy town planning officer of the dis-
trict council, I do not know, but there will have to be administrative guidance.
That paragraph looks all right because it looks as though it will extend exceptions, but there is this frightening finishing sentence:
This applies especially to the phasing in of the scheme but there may also be types of development which, because of definitional problems, cannot be dealt with in the regulations and will remain to be excepted by administrative action.
We have not a clue what those are, so we are still left in doubt, and I should congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on retaining that to which he held doggedly during the Committee proceedings—namely flexibility. But it leaves great uncertainty amongst the public.
Having said that what is excepted from the scheme is development, let us look at what development means in the Bill according to these amendments that are grouped with new Clause 2. We started in the Bill with a definition of development by reference to our old friend the 1971 Act. It is all right. I accept that willingly, but then, coming to the top of page 7, we see that "development land" means
land which in the opinion of the authority concerned "—
which, of course, is the officials of the authority—
is land suitable for relevant development.
But now all that is removed and we are told in Amendment No. 261 that it is any development except those three that I have mentioned.
Then we come to the definitions of development land. The first amendment on that is No 266, on page 2548, which starts by referring us to Clause 17 and says that development land is the land as defined in Clause 17. Turning to Clause 17, we get to Amendment No. 284. Clause 17 is the clause which brings development land into public ownership, and here there is a significant new definition of development land. Amendment No. 284 says:
In this Act"—
and I stress those words to start with because later we find that they do not mean what they say—
'development land' means land which, in the opinion of the authority concerned"—
one needs the deputy planning officer, or the assistant, deputy, deputy, deputy planning officer—
is needed for relevant development within ten years from the time at which they are acting.
The significant words there are "is needed" because earlier in the Bill one found the words "the land is suitable". Now we have "is needed". I welcome those words but I do not welcome the phrase
in the opinion of the authority concerned".
But we have made some progress in saying that the land must be needed for relevant development.
Then we come to Amendment No. 293, on page 2566. This is an amendment to Clause 18, which, as the House knows, is the clause which gives power to the local authorities to acquire land, but in this case it is land "suitable for development". We have the definition in the Bill. We are told about all development land as being land needed for development, but when we come to the acquisition powers of the local authorities under Clause 18 it is "land suitable for development".
Then we have the final conclusion making everything worse confounded. On page 2596 we have Amendments Nos. 319 and 320. These amendments are to Clause 27, which deals with compensation and the planning assumptions when compensation is being calculated; that is to say, one calculates the compensation on the assumption that the planning permission will be refused for certain things. According to the amendments, in paying compensation one must assume that planning permission will be refused for all development, because the word "relevant" is cut out. One must assume that planning permission will be refused for all development. That is absolute current use value, of course, but it says "all development", and the next amendment, No. 320, says "except those which are excepted by the exemption schedule."—Therefore, it does not except planning permission for single dwelling-houses or planning permission for any of what I call the regulation classes.
So here is another definition for the purpose of compensation. We must assume that, although the Bill gives one the right to erect single dwelling-houses curiously enough, is part of our con-when it comes to compensation one cannot get planning permission for building that single dwelling-house.
This is a cheat. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not mean it. I am sure that he has been misled by these six definitions of development and development land which I have read out. I hope that he will look at them carefully. I hope that I have explained it clearly enough, when he reads the record, for him to realise that he cannot leave at least the compensation one as it is. I do not think either that he should leave the false distinction between Clause 17, where development land is land "needed" for development, and Clause 18, where it is land "suitable" for development. This will cause tremendous confusion to those who have to administer the Bill.
Having listened to the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) I am now more confused than ever and I do not think that I am alone in that. One would like to support new Clause 2, which obviously makes sense, but it appears that the Minister has gone part way to that end with the new schedule.
I want to ask a question about horticulture. In Amendment No. 28 the Opposition define agriculture as including horticulture. In my constituency there is a new and expanding—at least, expanding until the oil crisis—horticultural development, and some of those buildings are certainly in excess of 10, 000 sq.ft. As I understand it, they will not now come even within the regulations as excepted development. One has exempted development and excepted development and one begins to wonder where one will finish up.
This must be made abundantly clear. I do not believe that my constituents will understand where they are. Are they to be excepted as part of the agricultural or horticultural business or, because their properties are above a certain size, are they to be exempted, or will they come under relevant development?
This has been a long and, I think, interesting and important debate. What we have been discussing, rightly—not always directly but always with it in the background—is the heart matter of the Bill, the question of relevant development and development land.
I am sorry that I was considered arrogant in my Second Reading speech when I stated a matter of principle and philosophy when telling the House why I thought that the Bill was necessary. I had hoped that the various consultations that we had with all the parties—this Bill has been the subject of more consultations with associated bodies than any Bill there has ever been—would be generally recognised and greatly appreciated.
The points made by the hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Latham) rang a bell, and I said to myself "Meeting with the National House Builders Federation in January." Most of the points raised are old friends. When the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) spoke about agriculture I could hear the views of the NFU. And so on. This is very good, the kind of basis which was needed. So I make no apology for having spent a long period on consultations—and continuing, as I am with the charities—and also for occasionally listening to what is said to me. That is not a bad thing. Anything which could help within the main principles of the Bill to make it more sensible and clear would obviously be acceptable to any sensible Minister and, I hope, to any sensible Committee.
Surely the right hon. Gentleman would agree that there must in a Bill be some issues on which a Minister would not give way and others on which he would wish to have further consultations. The only way in which the public can know where they stand is, during proceedings on the legislation, for Ministers to indicate where there is a possibility of their changing their views. On the other hand, if Ministers give the impression that that which will be changed is unchangeable, then they totally mislead the public about their important property rights.
I do not understand that intervention. Surely the whole basis of Committee and Report stages and proceedings in another place is to consider what amendments and changes may be made to a Bill and what the Minister will and will not be able to accept. That, curiously enough, is part of our constitution and has been going on for a long time; but in addition, when a particular Bill affects outside interests—local authority associations, for example—it is right to consult them and to come to conclusions as a result.
What has happened in this case is that it has been accepted by the Government that what was required was as much identification of what was intended to be done as was compatible with what the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) called our flexible approach. Indeed, much of the Committee stage concerned that flexible approach. I think that we have been able to do a great deal along these lines with the new basis of relevant development, the level of relevant development, then above it, as it were, excepted development, and above that exempt development and the ability to put exempt development in a schedule, moving most excepted development into regulations, which, one hopes, will flow fairly soon from the Bill and which we have done our best to indicate as a basis for consultation. All this certainly clears matters much more than they were when one considered doing them administratively.
Hon. Members opposite have always said that we can change our minds very quickly, and so on. It is more difficult to change one's mind when it is a matter of regulations, for example, because then one has to come back to the House. I noticed to my surprise—this is a very small point—that when discussing regulations the right hon. Member for Crosby seemed a little cross that one could actually add to these regulations administratively—in other words, make the excepted development wider. I should have thought that it was much more to his philosophy that the more which could be excepted the better. Perhaps he will allow an old friend to tease him since he is good at teasing others.
I will take the teasing, but there are signs that the regulations will not be final, that there will still be a discretion outside those regulations which will leave the developers, the land owners and the local authorities themselves in doubt.
The point about the whole basis is that I started by saying that it needed to be as flexible as possible but that within that flexibility one needed to be as definite as one could. Therefore, this basis does not, as far as excepted development and administrative action are concerned, freeze the situation for all time. It would be wrong and against the whole principle of the Bill if that were to be so.
The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison), quite rightly, is trying to draw me further on this than any Minister could be drawn. It is not the intention to reduce the category at all. Any politician who uses the word "never", just as any politician who uses the word "always", does not deserve to be a politician. But if we are talking about what is in view at present, the hon. Gentleman is quite right,
I understand what the hon. Gentleman says. We did not arrive at a figure of 10,000 sq.ft. for non-industrial buildings and 15,000 sq.ft. for industrial buildings lightly. It was carefully worked out.
I considered sympathetically the exception of two hectares or five acres. My mathematics on hectare-acre translation is not good, but I think I have it about right The hon. Gentleman knows that I considered this carefully. I made it fairly clear in Committee and in discussions with the house builders that I was in some difficulty because acreage can mean many things. An acre can produce 14 or 16 houses or two houses. It can also produce an enormous number of flats. It depends where the acreage happens to be. The problem was to arrive at some quantifiable basis for exception from the duty. It was then that we decided that it would be better to do it by measurement. There is no confusion between us on this matter. If we had been able to find a better definition I would willingly have announced it much earlier.
I should like to deal with the various points arising out of the amendments which were proposed under the new clauses. The hon. Member for Buckingham and the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) have agreed that the Government have gone a good way towards giving the protection to the special position of agriculture which they wanted. There is no question about that. In the exemption the Government have gone further still. There are reasons why we cannot go as far as Conservative Members would like. I should like to do so but, frankly, it cannot be done. There must be an acceptance that agricultural dwellings should be within the power. The hon. Member for Buckingham seemed to accept that agricultural dwellings should be within the power. That is right. It would mean that an authority could buy land for the erection of such buildings but if amendment (a) to Amendment No. 338 were accepted there would not even be a power. By exempting it would prevent the land from being bought.
That is not strictly true. My information is that this would not be possible on this basis. The schedule headed "Exempt Development" is important when it comes to value as well as to acquisition. It is related to Clause No. 27 by Amendment No. 320. There cannot be any disadvantage that can be suffered by a farmer on the normal basis of valuation under the Bill. To exempt agriculture in the way that the hon. Gentleman has suggested would be impossible within the scope of the Bill as it stands.
I should like to remind the Minister of the time in Committee when I questioned the Under-Secretary closely on farm cottages. His answer then was that these would normally be exempted from relevant development. I am becoming confused, because it would appear that in this schedule, in which the erection of dwelling houses is specifically excluded from the exemptions, a farmer who wishes to erect two cottages—this is relevant to the tied cottage legislation, which will shortly be placed before the House—may find himself in an odd position. Will the Minister confirm that in normal circumstances a farmer making planning application for agricultural cottages will not find himself involved in having to sell the land to the local authority?
Yes, I can confirm that. That would come under the normal excepted development situation. I was dealing with the exempted. In his letter Sir Frederick Corfield seems to muddle exempted and excepted development. If the hon. Gentleman reads it he will appreciate that that is so. I mention that in passing.
I am saying that because this is an exemption this is the exempted category. In answer to the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) I have said that the illustration he gave would come within excepted development. In the normal course of events this would be so if one were dealing with a small number of dwellings of the sort to which he referred. The hon. Member for Buckingham will be aware that since Committee the exempt schedule has been amended to take into account the problems of agriculture. I hope that that will be sufficient.
I am impressed by the right hon. Gentleman's assertion that to exempt agriculture would be impossible. I was not a member of the Committee, but I understand that to have an area of 10,000 sq ft was also described by the Minister as impossible. Is the right hon. Gentleman suddenly converted to possibilities? Why cannot he exempt agriculture?
For reasons with which we are all familiar the Hansards were not generally available. This is perfectly understandable. We were searching for a particular formula rather than the acreage or hectarage formula which the hon. Member for Melton would have liked. Therefore, we came up with this. I have said that it would be impossible to bring this into exemption in the way that the hon. Member for Buckingham seeks to do in his amendment. We listened to a great deal of what was said in Committee. The hon. Gentleman will give us the credit for this, and we have moved a good way towards it.
Much the same point is at issue with minerals—whether one should exempt or whether it is sufficient to keep them within the excepted area. The hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) asked me when the Stevens Committee Report was likely to be ready. The answer is that it will be ready probably by the end of the year.
One must look at the question of minerals within the general scope of the need to acquire—the difference between excepted and exempt. Minerals may not be enhanced by planning permission to get them, but the land in which they are will be vastly increased in value. Minerals are left in the power because there may be cases where the additional compulsory purchase order power could be advantageous both to the mineral operator and to the local authority, for example, in the restoration or subsequent use of the site, even though the Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Act is available. That is basically the reason. The hon. Gentleman will find that there is no predisposition on the part of the mineral interests to object to that. On the contrary, it has been reasonably welcomed.
Is the Minister prepared to accede to the proposition that under the ordinary planning control conditions can be laid down in mineral licences to cover development? As excepted development is covered by regulations, is he pre pared to set out in answer to a Parliamentary Question the general content of the regulations he is proposing to make?
I have deliberately avoided the exact content of the regulations because I think it right to have the fullest possible consultations upon them with the interests concerned. When I feel that the interests have been properly consulted I may be willing to do so, but at the moment I need to hear them as well.
I understand that, but if the consultation document is more closely studied it will be seen that we need to consult the various interests on the regulations and on the form. I could not here and now give what I believe to be the form because, having listened to the representations, I might find the regulations differing slightly from what had originally been intended. We are trying to get regulations which give effect to the basis we are looking at. I can be accused of changing my mind. That is no great sin and no great worry. Many people do, only fools do not; but this is a case of getting it absolutely right, clear and working in the interests concerned.
The hon. Member for Melton always makes a reasoned and practical intervention in our affairs. I have to be wary of what I say to him. One of the issues he raised concerned the wicked bank manager. I suppose that the bank manager is to the house builder what the developer is to some of my hon. Friends. A certain amount of demonology comes into it. What the bank manager will want to see before lending money is planning permission, not something written either into a Bill or into regulations. Provided that a builder has planning permission—and he will be able to get planning permission for small developments which cannot be suspended—that should be good enough. He will own the land, he will get planning permission and it will be unsuspended. Even the demon bank manager should be perfectly happy with that.
The right hon. Member for Crosby asked about a single house. He asked whether it was personal to the right hon. Member for Crosby or whether it was geographical. The answer is that it is geographical.
We are not talking about building but about excepted development and exempt development. Excepted development is a single plot for a single house. That could be anywhere throughout the country, as the right hon. Gentleman says.
I do not think that we shall be caught by that one. The right hon. Gentleman should be reasonably pleased. He should not chance his arm too much. I think that what the right hon. Gentleman meant was whether it was possible to get hold of a plot of land and subdivide it into several single plots. The answer to that is "No".
Provided that they are scattered around the country non-contiguously, theoretically there is no limit to the number of individual plots that qualify for the concession.
I had thought that this was governed in part by the exemption in Clause 4(1), that is to say, an exemption would be given in respect of a dwelling which was built on land in the curtilage of a dwelling-house owned and occupied by an individual on 12th September 1974. That, I gather, has gone, but surely a person can have a plot contiguous to his land even if he cannot have one elsewhere, not contiguous?
We should have to draw diagrams to see whether it could. I understand what the hon. and learned Gentleman is getting it and I can envisage circumstances in which it might, perfectly properly, but I think those will be very exceptional occasions.
In reply to the issue raised by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight our definition of "agriculture" is exactly the same as that of the Opposition and, therefore, includes horticulture. The exempt development schedule does not take horticulture generally out of exempt development.
I do not wish to press the Minister too hard on this matter. However, it raises complications, because some of us represent areas where very extensive glasshouses have been erected in recent years. It was the intention of people I had in mind to erect two or three more. These glasshouses are over 10,000 sq.ft. Will the Minister be so good as to write to me on this subject?
The hon. Gentleman is very kind to me, because I have to admit that there seems to be a slight difficulty here. It is only fair to accept that that is so. I will write to the hon. Gentleman. As the hon. Member for Melton has probably for the first or second time caught me out during the long stages of the Bill, I will write to him also. Perhaps just to be fair I will write to the hon. Member for Buckingham on this point and then we shall have it clear. I do not think that all of them are entitled to a letter after what happened earlier today.
There are three points in particular raised by the hon. Member for Aylesbury which need to be dealt with. First, Amendment No. 284 defines "development land" as
…land needed for relevant development within ten years".
It is the 10-year period that the hon. Gentleman is talking about. The justification for this is paragraph 25 of the White Paper. It is the maximum period over which it is sensible to plan ahead in land matters. This was what we stated in the White Paper.
The hon. Member drew attention to the words
in their opinion…suitable for development
in Amendment No. 293. These words are to ensure that decisions about development are in the hands of the planning authorities and the planning Ministers through confirmation of CPOs. After all, those are the people who will decide the matters on planning grounds. Other-
wise those who would decide them would be the courts. The courts are many things, but they are not qualified to decide planning matters, as has been accepted for about 60 years. It is precisely the same as planning permissions or enforcement notices.
The hon. Gentleman asked, finally, what would be the position about the acquisition of land for the building of a single dwelling-house. He knows that it can be acquired now under powers that existed before ever this Bill was thought of—for example, the Housing Act 1957 or the various Planning Acts. In future it could be included under the Clause 18 power in which land might be needed in the same way for, let us say, access to a development. We have made it clear that we would confirm compulsory purchase orders for development outside the duty, which is what single houses would be, only if the special circumstances are proved.
This has been a long debate and, as I said earlier, an interesting one. I hope that it has helped to clear the minds not only of hon. Members opposite but of my hon. Friends also. We have tried to get a sensible framework after listening to what others have had to say—some in the House, some in Committee, others who are interested outside the House. I hope that we have arrived at the right balance. On that basis I ask my hon. Friends not to accept new Clause 2 with which we started the debate.
With the leave of the House I should like to say that I believe that the Minister has failed entirely to meet us on our point about regulations or excepted development. His arguments were flimsy in the extreme, and I have no doubt that the House of Lords will seek to return to the matter.
Secondly, with regard to the letter from Sir Frederick Corfield the Minister said briefly that Sir Frederick had muddled the matter up, but he did not say how. I hope that he will add to his promises of correspondence one to send a letter to me with a copy to Sir Frederick, or perhaps the other way round, saying in what way Sir Frederick has muddled the matter up.
|Division No. 331.]||AYES||[7.56 p.m.|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Fry, Peter||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Alison, Michael||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Mayhew, Patrick|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)||Mills, Peter|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Glyn, Dr Alan||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Baker, Kenneth||Goodhew, Victor||Moate, Roger|
|Banks, Robert||Goodlad, Alastair||Molyneaux, James|
|Beith, A. J.||Gorst, John||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Bell, Ronald||Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)||Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Morgan, Geraint|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Gray, Hamish||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral|
|Benyon, W.||Grieve, Percy||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Grist, Ian||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Biffen, John||Grylls, Michael||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hall, Sir John||Mudd, David|
|Body, Richard||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Neave, Airey|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Nelson, Anthony|
|Bottomley, Peter||Hannam, John||Neubert, Michael|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)||Newton, Tony|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Nott, John|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Hastings, Stephen||Onslow, Cranley|
|Brittan, Leon||Hawkins, Paul||Oppenheim, Mrs Sally|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hayhoe, Barney||Page, John (Harrow West)|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Henderson, Douglas||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Heseltine, Michael||Pardoe, John|
|Buck, Antony||Higgins, Terence L.||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Budgen, Nick||Hooson, Emlyn||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Penhaligon, David|
|Burden, F. A.||Howell, David (Guildford)||Percival, Ian|
|Carlisle, Mark||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Carr, Rt Hon Robert||Hunt, John||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Hurd, Douglas||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Churchill, W. S.||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Raison, Timothy|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||James, David||Rathbone, Tim|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & w'df' d)||Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Jessel, Toby||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Clegg, Walter||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Cockcroft, John||Jopling, Michael||Reid, George|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)|
|Cope, John||Kimball, Marcus||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Cordle, John H.||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)|
|Costain, A. P.||Knox, David||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Crawford, Douglas||Lamont, Norman||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Critchley, Julian||Lane, David||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Crouch, David||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Latham, Michael (Melton)||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)|
|Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||Lawrence, Ivan||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Lawson, Nigel||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Drayson, Burnaby||Loyd, Ian||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Loveridge, John||Shepherd, Colin|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Shersby, Michael|
|Emery, Peter||MacCormick, Iain||Sims, Roger|
|Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||McCrindle, Robert||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Eyre, Reginald||Macfarlane, Neil||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||MacGregor, John||Speed, Keith|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)|
|Farr, John||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Sproat, Iain|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Stainton, Keith|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Madel, David||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Marten, Neil||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Mates, Michael||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Fox Marcus||Maude, Angus||Stokes, John|
|Freud, Clement||Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Tapsell, Peter||van Straubenzee, W. R||Welsh, Andrew|
|Taylor, B. (Croydon NW)||Vaughan, Dr Gerard||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)||Viggers, Peter||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Tebbit, Norman||Wakeham, John||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Walder, David (Clitheroe)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)||Wood, Rt Hon Richard|
|Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)||Wall, Patrick||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)||Walters, Dennis|
|Thompson, George||Warren, Kenneth||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Townsend, Cyril D.||Weatherill, Bernard||Mr. Richard Luce and|
|Trotter, Neville||Wells, John||Mr. Fred Silvester.|
|Abse, Leo||Ennals, David||Luard, Evan|
|Allaun, Frank||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Lyon, Alexander (York)|
|Anderson, Donald||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Mabon, Dr J. Dickson|
|Ashley, Jack||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||McCartney, Hugh|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Flannery, Martin||McElhone, Frank|
|Atkinson, Norman||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||MacFarquhar, Roderick|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlingon)||McGuire, Michael (Ince)|
|Bates, Alf||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Mackenzie, Gregor|
|Bean, R. E.||Ford, Ben||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Forrester, John||Maclennan, Robert|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||McNamara, Kevin|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Freeson, Reginald||Madden, Max|
|Boardman, H.||George, Bruce||Magee, Bryan|
|Booth, Albert||Ginsburg, David||Mahon, Simon|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Gould, Bryan||Mallalieu, J. P. W|
|Bradley, Tom||Gourlay, Harry||Marks, Kenneth|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Graham, Ted||Marquand, David|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Grant, John (Islington C)||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Buchan, Norman||Grocott, Bruce||Meacher, Michael|
|Buchanan, Richard||Hardy, Peter||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Millan, Bruce|
|Campbell, Ian||Hatton, Frank||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)|
|Cant, R. B.||Heffer, Eric S.||Molloy, William|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hooley, Frank||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Carter, Ray||Horam, John||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Cartwright, John||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Moyle, Roland|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Newens, Stanley|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Noble, Mike|
|Cohen, Stanley||Hunter, Adam||Oakes, Gordon|
|Coleman, Donald||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||Ogden, Eric|
|Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Concannon, J. D.||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian|
|Conlan, Bernard||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Orbach, Maurice|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Janner, Greville||Ovenden, John|
|Corbett, Robin||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Owen, Dr David|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Jeger, Mrs Lena||Padley, Walter|
|Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)||Park, George|
|Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony||John, Brynmor||Parker, John|
|Cryer, Bob||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Pendry, Tom|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Perry, Ernest|
|Davidson, Arthur||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Phipps, Dr Colin|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Judd, Frank||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Kaufman, Gerald||Radice, Giles|
|Deakins, Eric||Kelley, Richard||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Delargy, Hugh||Kinnock, Neil||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Lambie, David||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Dempsey, James||Lamborn, Harry||Rodgers, George (Chorley)|
|Doig, Peter||Lamond, James||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Rooker, J. W.|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Leadbitter, Ted||Roper, John|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Lee, John||Rose, Paul B.|
|Dunn, James A.||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lewis, Arthur (Newham N)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Eadie, Alex||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Sandelson, Neville|
|Edelman, Maurice||Lipton, Marcus||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Edge, Geoff||Litterick, Tom||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)|
|Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Lomas, Kenneth||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Loyden, Eddie||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)||Weitzman, David|
|Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Sillars, James||Tierney, Sydney||White, James (Pollok)|
|Silverman, Julius||Tinn, James||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Skinner, Dennis||Tomlinson, John||Whitlock, William|
|Small, William||Torney, Tom||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)||Tuck, Raphael||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Snape, Peter||Urwin, T. W.||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Spearing, Nigel||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Spriggs, Leslie||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)||Woof, Robert|
|Stallard, A. W.||Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Stoddart, David||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Stott, Roger||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Strang, Gavin||Ward, Michael||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.||Watkins, David||Mr. James Hamilton and|
|Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley||Watkinson, John||Mr. Joseph Harper.|
|Swain, Thomas||Weetch, Ken|