I believe that we all sense that we are dabbling in deep waters with this new clause. We have all expressed a certain amount of caution. I fully vouchsafe my own caution in dealing with such issues.
Let me attempt to deal with the questions raised by the hon. Member for Cotswold about speculation and the anecdotal case of changes in the value of land. The Committee now has another expression: after ''whatifery'' we have ''anecdotalism''. It is difficult for me, in my quasi-judicial capacity, to comment on a particular case, but let me say on the question of how changes in circumstances affect the compensation offered that the compensation is assessed on open-market value, ignoring speculation that may have
resulted from the proposal. How does that prevent speculative gain? It appears that valuation techniques are capable of stripping back in such cases to the original value in what is described as a no-scheme world. I honestly do not know whether the technique would be applicable in the case of the farmer that was cited by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight, but I suggest that it may be a path worth pursuing. I certainly understand the difficulties of the individual concerned.
The hon. Member for Cotswold asked about the effects of a notice to treat under a general vesting declaration. The vesting declaration is a much quicker way of getting title to land that is in unknown ownership, as in the case that he cited. As I indicated earlier, the notice to treat method leaves an opportunity to identify ownership of a period of up to three years.
The hon. Member for Ludlow asked about the situation that would arise with the part and whole, a concept that is a very reasonable proposition. He asked what would happen to the compensation payable if a local planning authority decided to extend the area of compulsory purchase. The answer is as I had expected: entry on to a part of land applies only if a notice of entry has been served on the whole of the land, but it only takes a part. It does not apply to later notices of entry. Therefore, the compensation applies to the order that has been served and not to any later order. That seems entirely reasonable, and we seem to have agreement on it across the Floor.
The hon. Member for Chipping Barnet rightly alluded to the complexities of the provisions. He said that he would feel more confident in embracing them if he were satisfied that a proper process of consultation had been associated with them. I hope that I can carry him with me on the proposals when I tell him that there certainly has been a very thorough process of consultation. The compulsory purchase policy review advisory group, which comprises external experts on the matters, recommended exactly the proposals in a report published in 2000. The Government took account of its comments in the Green Paper of December 2001 and the comments received on that in our policy statement of 18 July 2002. I should enter a slight qualification to what I said. I said that the report recommended ''exactly the proposals'', but it is the gravity of the proposals that were put forward by the external group of experts. They have been further consulted on during the development of the Green Paper and the consultation following the July 2002 policy statement.
The proposals have been subject to a pretty thorough consultation process. External experts are with us on this and, on that basis, I am more than content to commend these fair proposals to the Committee.