Duties of the Authority with Respect to Property

Clause 3 – in the House of Commons at 11:30 pm on 22nd March 1994.

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Photo of Mr Richard Alexander Mr Richard Alexander , Newark 11:30 pm, 22nd March 1994

I beg to move amendment No. 9, in page 3, line 35, after 'disposal', insert ', except where the land or property is capable of beneficial use in accordance with the local development plan in which cases the land or property shall be transferred to governmental development agencies.'. This point is important but simple, so I can be brief. Until British Coal is dissolved and the Coal Authority comes into being, it is required to dispose of surplus land on "the best terms". That phrase is not defined in the Bill, but it would be reasonable to assume that it means on the best financial return.

Such a criterion is reasonable in many instances, but gives rise to concern when it is applied to the sale of land and sites that have clear potential for development and job creation for the benefit of local communities. That would be the case when their location is favourable for development. It is therefore important that the establishment of alternative uses is carried out as quickly as possible in areas where coal mining activity has been run down.

Economic revival must be the principal aim of Government development agencies—the Welsh Development Agency is a perfect example—but it is not within the remit of British Coal or the new Coal Authority as presently constituted. Transfer of developable sites to those bodies would ensure their most efficient and effective return to beneficial use and avoid perpetuating the failures of the current disposal mechanisms. To leave the Bill referring simply to "the best terms" would, I believe, perpetuate that unfortunate situation. Sites can lie derelict for many years while British Coal wrangles and argues with developers and planners in its attempt to maximise financial return. We have an example of this in my county of Nottinghamshire. I refer to the Babbington colliery—a prime site which is next to a motorway junction and has been a derelict eyesore for the past eight years.

My amendment would avoid such a situation, and I commend it to the House and to the Minister.

Photo of Paddy Tipping Paddy Tipping , Sherwood

We should always remember that, after the Church of England, British Coal is the biggest property owner in this country. We must ensure that the property is put to good use. Coalfield communities want new investment, new jobs and a new future. The way to provide those things is to concentrate on infrastructure, infrastructure and infrastructure. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that British Coal's property can be developed for the creation of new jobs. And new jobs are badly needed if coalfield communities in Nottinghamshire and elsewhere are to be given a fair chance and a fair start.

The hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Alexander) talked, quite rightly, about the Babbington colliery, which is a prime site close to a motorway. It could be used for the creation of many hundreds of jobs, yet it has stood empty for eight years because British Coal and its partners wish to take whatever profit they can out of it.

The amendment is about cutting the red tape and ensuring that the large property owner, British Coal, gives back to coalfield communities some of the many benefits that it derived from them over many years. We want new investment, new jobs and a new future for coalfield communities—things which can be secured through the amendment.

Photo of Mrs Elizabeth Peacock Mrs Elizabeth Peacock , Batley and Spen

I reiterate what my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Mr. Alexander) has said. Of course we recognise that British Coal is required to dispose of land on the best possible terms, but that may not always mean the best possible money in the short term. I emphasise that it should mean what is best in the longer term for communities that will rely, for jobs, on the land when it has been disposed of. Short-term cash is not always best. I hope that the Minister will bear that in mind as the Bill proceeds.

Mr. O'Neill:

This debate comes hard on the heels of the debate on British Coal Enterprise. We know the nature of the problems with which we are confronted. We realise that one of the major obstacles to industrial development, apart from the absence of financial assistance, is the non-availability of property and sites when and where they are needed. As has been said already, British Coal is one of the biggest landowners in the United Kingdom. The disposal of its assets is one of the prizes that those who seek to take it over will wish to seize. We believe that these assets should be made available to public agencies so that they may be put to use as quickly as possible.

Yesterday's men at Hobart house have failed in their property dealings. If structural improvements of the kind that we want are to be secured, an amendment of this nature must provide a means of creating jobs on new sites as quickly as possible. As the amendment enjoys all-party support and has local government backing, it is one of the best ways of achieving what is needed. I therefore urge Conservative Members to join my hon. Friends in the Lobby at the earliest opportunity.

Photo of Mr Joe Ashton Mr Joe Ashton , Bassetlaw

Subsidence has not yet been mentioned. The land around a mine may look perfect for development, but the first thing any developer will want to know will always be: has there been any subsidence in the area, no matter how long ago? If there has been any, that is often enough to put an interested developer off for good. Subsidence—not planning—blight ensues.

11.45 pm

If land has to stand empty for years because developers fear subsidence, it is crazy to leave it alone. It is much better if the council can turn it into a playing field or park, perhaps landscaping a canal or a disused railway line for leisure pursuits. A local need can thus be met even if the Coal Authority cannot sell the land.

Photo of Mr Timothy Eggar Mr Timothy Eggar , Enfield North

The amendment would require the Coal Authority to transfer land and property to general governmental development agencies when the land and property in question are capable of beneficial use in accordance with the local development plan.

The amendment would have some curious effects, however. For instance, if the land has been farmed for several years but is owned by British Coal, it would make no sense to force its disposal to governmental agencies. The amendment is thus seriously flawed.

The Bill is structured to ensure that there is a duty on the Coal Authority to dispose of such of its land and property as is not required, broadly speaking, for coal mining. That new duty will make it much more difficult, if not impossible, to hoard land—a tendency of the past, including in the north-east, which has come in for criticism. Under the Bill, there can be no question of hoarding land. The clear intention is that land and property should be released for beneficial use.

The authority has the power to develop land. It can do so together with the local authority, or with English Estates, or with a private sector operator. There is a great deal of flexibility, and the authority has the power to enter into any form of partnership that seems right. Planning permission—I hope that this will reassure my hon. Friend —would be needed. Such permission is not readily granted if it does not fit in with the local authority's local development plan. The local authority would therefore have an influence on the use of the land, through the planning process.

In view of these assurances, I trust that my hon. Friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Mr Richard Alexander Mr Richard Alexander , Newark

My hon. Friend has given me four separate assurances to meet the concerns that my amendment raised. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

Is it your pleasure that the amendment be withdrawn?

Hon. Members:


Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 266, Noes 300.

Division No. 177][11.49 pm
Abbott, Ms DianeCryer, Bob
Adams, Mrs IreneCunliffe, Lawrence
Ainger, NickCunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Dalyell, Tam
Allen, GrahamDarling, Alistair
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Davidson, Ian
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Armstrong, HilaryDavies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Ashton, JoeDavies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Austin-Walker, JohnDavis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Dewar, Donald
Barnes, HarryDixon, Don
Barron, KevinDobson, Frank
Battle, JohnDonohoe, Brian H.
Bayley, HughDowd, Jim
Beckett, Rt Hon MargaretDunnachie, Jimmy
Beith, Rt Hon A. J.Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Bell, StuartEagle, Ms Angela
Benn, Rt Hon TonyEastham, Ken
Bennett, Andrew F,Enright, Derek
Benton, JoeEtherington, Bill
Berry, Dr. RogerEvans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Betts, CliveEvans, John (St Helens N)
Blair, TonyFatchett, Derek
Blunkett, DavidFaulds, Andrew
Boateng, PaulField, Frank (Birkenhead)
Boyes, RolandFlynn, Paul
Bradley, KeithFoster, Rt Hon Derek
Bray, Dr JeremyFoulkes, George
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)Fraser, John
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)Fyfe, Maria
Burden, RichardGalbraith, Sam
Byers, StephenGalloway, George
Caborn, RichardGapes, Mike
Callaghan, JimGarrett, John
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)George, Bruce
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Gerrard, Neil
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Godman, Dr Norman A.
Canavan, DennisGodsiff, Roger
Cann, JamieGolding, Mrs Llin
Chisholm, MalcolmGordon, Mildred
Clapham, MichaelGraham, Thomas
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Clelland, DavidGriffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clwyd, Mrs AnnGrocott, Bruce
Coffey, AnnGunnell, John
Cohen, HarryHain, Peter
Connarty, MichaelHall, Mike
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Hanson, David
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Hardy, Peter
Corbett, RobinHarman, Ms Harriet
Corbyn, JeremyHarvey, Nick
Corston, Ms JeanHattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Cousins, JimHenderson, Doug
Heppell, JohnMurphy, Paul
Hill, Keith (Streatham)O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Hinchliffe, DavidO'Brien, William (Normanton)
Hoey, KateOlner, William
Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)O'Neill, Martin
Home Robertson, JohnOrme, Rt Hon Stanley
Hood, JimmyParry, Robert
Hoon, GeoffreyPatchett, Terry
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)Pendry, Tom
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)Pickthall, Colin
Hoyle, DougPike, Peter L.
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)Pope, Greg
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Hughes, Roy (Newport E)Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Hutton, JohnPrescott, John
Illsley, EricPrimarolo, Dawn
Ingram, AdamPurchase, Ken
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)Quin, Ms Joyce
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)Radice, Giles
Jamieson, DavidRandall, Stuart
Janner, GrevilleRaynsford, Nick
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)Redmond, Martin
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)Reid, Dr John
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)Rendel, David
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Jowell, TessaRogers, Allan
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldRooker, Jeff
Keen, AlanRooney, Terry
Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C&S)Rowlands, Ted
Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)Ruddock, Joan
Khabra, Piara S.Salmond, Alex
Kilfoyle, PeterSedgemore, Brian
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn)Sheerman, Barry
Kirkwood, ArchySheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Lewis, TerryShort, Clare
Litherland, RobertSimpson, Alan
Livingstone, KenSkinner, Dennis
Lloyd, Tony (Stratford)Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Llwyd, ElfynSmith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Loyden, EddieSmith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Lynne, Ms LizSnape, Peter
McAllion, JohnSoley, Clive
McAvoy, ThomasSpearing, Nigel
McCartney, IanSpellar, John
McCrea, Rev WilliamSquire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Macdonald, CalumSteinberg, Gerry
McFall, JohnStevenson, George
McKelvey, WilliamStott, Roger
Mackinlay, AndrewStrang, Dr. Gavin
McLeish, HenryStraw, Jack
McMaster, GordonTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
McNamara, KevinThompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
McWilliam, JohnTurner, Dennis
Madden, MaxVaz, Keith
Maddock, Mrs DianaWalker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Mahon, AliceWallace, James
Mandelson, PeterWalley, Joan
Marek, Dr JohnWardell, Gareth (Gower)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)Wareing, Robert N
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)Watson, Mike
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)Welsh, Andrew
Martlew, EricWicks, Malcolm
Maxton, JohnWigley, Dafydd
Meacher, MichaelWilliams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Michael, AlunWilliams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)Wilson, Brian
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)Winnick, David
Milburn, AlanWise, Audrey
Miller, AndrewWorthington, Tony
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)Wray, Jimmy
Moonie, Dr LewisWright, Dr Tony
Morgan, RhodriYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)Tellers for the Ayes:
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)Mr. Alan Meale and Mr. John Cummings.
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)Dunn, Bob
Aitken, JonathanDurant, Sir Anthony
Alexander, RichardDykes, Hugh
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)Eggar, Tim
Allason, Rupert (Torbay)Elletson, Harold
Amess, DavidEmery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Arbuthnot, JamesEvans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Ashby, DavidEvans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Aspinwall, JackEvans, Roger (Monmouth)
Atkins, RobertEvennett, David
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)Fabricant, Michael
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Fairbaim, Sir Nicholas
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Fenner, Dame Peggy
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Baldry, TonyFishburn, Dudley
Banks, Matthew (Southport)Forman, Nigel
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bates, MichaelForth, Eric
Batiste, SpencerFowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Bellingham, HenryFox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Bendall, VivianFox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Beresford, Sir PaulFreeman, Rt Hon Roger
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnFrench, Douglas
Body, Sir RichardFry, Sir Peter
Bonsor, Sir NicholasGale, Roger
Booth, HartleyGallie, Phil
Boswell, TimGardiner, Sir George
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)Garnier, Edward
Bottomley, Rt Hon VirginiaGill, Christopher
Bowden, AndrewGillan, Cheryl
Bowis, JohnGoodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir RhodesGoodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Brandreth, GylesGorman, Mrs Teresa
Brazier, JulianGorst, John
Bright, GrahamGrant, Sir A. (Cambs SW)
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterGreenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Browning, Mrs. AngelaGriffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)Grylls, Sir Michael
Budgen, NicholasHague, William
Burns, SimonHamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Butler, PeterHamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Butterfill, JohnHampson, Dr Keith
Carlisle, John (Luton North)Hanley, Jeremy
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hannam, Sir John
Carrington, MatthewHargreaves, Andrew
Carttiss, MichaelHarris, David
Cash, WilliamHaselhurst, Alan
Chapman, SydneyHawkins, Nick
Churchill, MrHawksley, Warren
Clappison, JamesHayes, Jerry
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Heald, Oliver
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)Hendry, Charles
Clifton-Brown, GeoffreyHicks, Robert
Coe, SebastianHiggins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Colvin, MichaelHogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Congdon, DavidHoram, John
Conway, DerekHordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir JohnHowell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Cormack, PatrickHunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Couchman, JamesHunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Cran, JamesHunter, Andrew
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)Jack, Michael
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford)Jenkin, Bernard
Davis, David (Boothferry)Jessel, Toby
Day, StephenJohnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Deva, Nirj JosephJones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Devlin, TimJones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Dickens, GeoffreyJopling, Rt Hon Michael
Dorrell, StephenKellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesKey, Robert
Dover, DenKilfedder, Sir James
Duncan, AlanKing, Rt Hon Tom
Duncan-Smith, IainKirkhope, Timothy
Knapman, RogerRowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Knight, Greg (Derby N)Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)Sackville, Tom
Knox, Sir DavidSainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Kynoch, George (Kincardine)Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Lait, Mrs JacquiShaw, David (Dover)
Lang, Rt Hon IanShaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lawrence, Sir IvanShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Legg, BarryShepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Leigh, EdwardShersby, Michael
Lennox-Boyd, MarkSims, Roger
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lidington, DavidSmith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lightbown, DavidSpeed, Sir Keith
Lilley, Rt Hon PeterSpencer, Sir Derek
Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham)Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Lord, MichaelSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Luff, PeterSpink, Dr Robert
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir NicholasSpring, Richard
MacGregor, Rt Hon JohnSproat, Iain
MacKay, AndrewSquire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Maclean, DavidStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
McLoughlin, PatrickSteen, Anthony
McNair-Wilson, Sir PatrickStephen, Michael
Madel, Sir DavidStern, Michael
Maitland, Lady OlgaStewart, Allan
Malone, GeraldStreeter, Gary
Mans, KeithSumberg, David
Marland, PaulSweeney, Walter
Marlow, TonySykes, John
Marshall, John (Hendon S)Tapsell, Sir Peter
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Mates, MichaelTaylor, John M. (Solihull)
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr BrianTaylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Merchant, PiersTemple-Morris, Peter
Mills, IainThomason, Roy
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Moate, Sir RogerThomton, Sir Malcolm
Monro, Sir HectorThurnham, Peter
Montgomery, Sir FergusTownend, John (Bridlington)
Moss, MalcolmTownsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Needham, RichardTracey, Richard
Nelson, AnthonyTredinnick, David
Neubert, Sir MichaelTrend, Michael
Newton, Rt Hon TonyTwinn, Dr Ian
Nicholls, PatrickVaughan, Sir Gerard
Nicholson, David (Taunton)Viggers, Peter
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)Walden, George
Norn's, SteveWalker, Bill (N Tayside)
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir CranleyWaller, Gary
Oppenheim, PhillipWard, John
Ottaway, RichardWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Page, RichardWaterson, Nigel
Paice, JamesWatts, John
Patten, Rt Hon JohnWells, Bowen
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyWheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Pawsey, JamesWhitney, Ray
Peacock, Mrs ElizabethWhittingdale, John
Pickles, EricWiddecombe, Ann
Porter, Barry (Wirral S)Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Porter, David (Waveney)Wilkinson, John
Portillo, Rt Hon MichaelWilletts, David
Rathbone, TimWilshire, David
Redwood, Rt Hon JohnWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Renton, Rt Hon TimWinterton, Nicholas (Macc'fld)
Richards, RodWolfson, Mark
Riddick, GrahamYeo, Tim
Robathan, AndrewYoung, Rt Hon Sir George
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)Tellers for the Noes:
Robinson, Mark (Somerton)Mr. Irvine Patrick and
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)Mr. Timothy Wood.

Question accordingly negatived

Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. Andrew Mitchell]

Bill to be further considered this day