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Clause 20 - Modifications of special parliamentary procedure in certain cases

Growth and Infrastructure Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 4th December 2012.

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Photo of Nicholas Boles Nicholas Boles The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 10:45 am, 4th December 2012

I beg to move amendment 84, in clause 20, page 22, line 3, at end insert—

‘(c) paragraph 22 of Schedule 3 to the Harbours Act 1964 (harbour revision or empowerment order authorising compulsory purchase of, or of rights over, inalienable National Trust land or land forming part of a common, open space or fuel or field garden allotment),

(d) paragraph 12 or 13 of Schedule 4 to the New Towns Act 1981 (order authorising compulsory purchase of local authority land, inalienable National Trust land or land forming part of a common, open space or fuel or field garden allotment), or

(e) section 12 of the Transport and Works Act 1992 (order authorising compulsory purchase of, or of rights over, inalienable National Trust land or land forming part of a common, open space or fuel or field garden allotment).

(4) A reference in this Act to land to which a special-acquisition provision applies is to be read as follows—

(a) “land” has the same meaning as it has for the purposes of the special-acquisition provision, and

(b) in the case of a special-acquisition provision mentioned in subsection (3)(c) or (e), the reference is to—

(i) land (as so defined) belonging to the National Trust which is held by the Trust inalienably, or

(ii) land (as so defined) forming part of a common, open space or fuel or field garden allotment.

(5) The definition of “the National Trust” given by section 7(1) of the Acquisition of Land Act 1981, and section 18(3) of that Act (meaning of “held inalienably”), apply for the purposes of subsection (4)(b)(i).

(6) In subsection (4)(b)(ii) “common”, “fuel or field garden allotment” and “open space” have the same meaning as in section 19 of that Act.”’.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments 85 and 86.

Photo of Nicholas Boles Nicholas Boles The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

These minor amendments ensure that we catch relevant Acts of Parliament under which the special parliamentary procedure can apply. That is  particularly in response to some of the poor drafting my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State mentioned on Second Reading.

Clause 20 ensures that where special parliamentary procedure is triggered for certain types of land under the Planning Act 2008 or the Acquisition of Land Act 1981, consideration under special parliamentary procedure will be limited to the compulsory acquisition of special land.

The three minor amendments in the group extend that principle to other Acts where it is clear that the original intention was to limit the scope of special parliamentary procedure in that way. I therefore hope that the Committee will support the inclusion of the amendments in the Bill.

Amendment 84 agreed to.

Amendments made: 85, in clause 20, page 22, line 26, at end insert—

‘(5A) In section 3(4A)—

(a) the reference in the opening words to the order to which a petition relates is to be read as a reference to the order containing the special authorisation to which a petition relates, and

(b) in paragraph (a) the reference to the order being one that relates to proposals of the kind mentioned is to be read as a reference to the Chairmen being of the opinion that removal of the special authorisation from the order would be inconsistent with proposals of that kind.’.

Amendment 86, in clause 20, page 25, line 13, leave out from ‘in’ to end of line 15 and insert

‘paragraphs 4(2) and 5(2) of Schedule 3 (certain compulsory purchase orders subject to special parliamentary procedure so far as authorising acquisition of rights over special land if owner objects to the order) for “the order” substitute “the compulsory purchase of the rights”.

(7A) In paragraph 12 of Schedule 4 to the New Towns Act 1981 (certain compulsory purchase orders subject to special parliamentary procedure so far as authorising acquisition of special land if owner objects to the order) for “to the order” substitute “to the acquisition of the land”.

(7B) In each of the following provisions (which refer to orders confirmed by Act under section 6 of the 1945 Act) before “6” insert “4 or”—

section 44(1) of the Harbours Act 1964,

section 27 of the Acquisition of Land Act 1981,

paragraph 16(a) of Schedule 4 to the New Towns Act 1981,

paragraph 6(6)(a) of Schedule 11 to the Water Industry Act 1991,

paragraph 6(6)(a) of Schedule 19 to the Water Resources Act 1991, and

section 12(3)(b) of the Transport and Works Act 1992.’.—(Nick Boles.)

Question proposed,That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Roberta Blackman-Woods Roberta Blackman-Woods Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government)

I do not want to detain the Committee long on the clause, although, at four pages, it is rather long. As we know, it is about limiting the provisions that will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny and in what circumstances, and I have quite a straightforward question for the Minister. The clause is very dense, and the Government have paid a lot of attention to reducing the number of cases in which special parliamentary procedure will apply. However,  they have not paid attention to shortening the process, and in reducing the number of cases that can be dealt with under it, they have done nothing to guarantee that it is speeded up a bit. That is a bit extraordinary, because in the one case we all know of, it has taken an incredibly long time to get the Committee up and running and doing its job properly.

Given that the Bill is supposed to be a growth Bill, and is being presented as the Government’s flagship growth Bill, it is a little odd to give four pages of the Bill to a set of circumstances that do not apply to many cases, and not to consider speed as important. The Government are saying that we need growth now and that we need quickly to remove some of the impediments to it, so why not address the issue of speed in the clause?

Photo of Nicholas Boles Nicholas Boles The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 11:00 am, 4th December 2012

Yet again, if you will allow me, Mr Howarth, I will speak at a little length, because the clause is complicated. Towards the end of my remarks I will answer the hon. Lady’s reasonable question.

Clause 20 amends the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act 1945, which prescribes the operation of special parliamentary procedure. It ensures that where a development consent order under the Planning Act 2008 triggers special parliamentary procedure, the consideration of the order will be limited to the order only in so far as it authorises compulsory acquisition of special land.

It also applies similar changes for other orders involving the compulsory acquisition of specially protected land made under sections 17, 18 and 19 of the Acquisition of Land Act 1981. That will ensure consistency in the operation of the special parliamentary procedure.

The need for clause 20 reflects an inconsistency between the 2008 Act and the 1945 Act and, similarly, between the 1981 Act and the 1945 Act. That was drawn to the Government’s attention by the Chairmen in their initial report on the Rookery South (Resource Recovery Facility) Order 2011, which is currently subject to special parliamentary procedure.

The intention of Parliament in the 2008 Act was that the special parliamentary procedure should be restricted to just the element of the consent order authorising the compulsory acquisition of special land. However, the 1945 Act does not currently make provision for Parliament to consider just part of an order. That undermines the intention of the 2008 Act and means that decisions on matters such as planning permission that have properly been decided by a Minister in accordance with that Act are open for reconsideration by Parliament.

Clause 20 seeks to resolve the inconsistency and the problem that it causes. It amends the 1945 Act so that it also makes provision for circumstances where special parliamentary procedure should apply only to a limited extent; for example, as was intended in the Planning Act 2008.

It may be helpful if I give a brief summary of how the limitation would work in practice. The limitation is achieved by identifying provisions in the Planning Act 2008 and the Acquisition of Land Act 1981 that trigger special parliamentary procedure as special acquisition provisions. A new section 1A in the 1945 Act then provides that, where an order is subject to special parliamentary procedure under a special acquisition  provision, the part of the order that authorises the compulsory acquisition of special land is known as a special authorisation.

Subsections 3 to 18 of the new section 1A set out modifications to the 1945 Act making the relevant changes. Many of them provide that references in the 1945 Act to the order are read as references to the special authorisation. The overall effect is that the consideration under special parliamentary procedure is limited to the compulsory acquisition of special land; for example, under the new section 1A, section 3 of the 1945 Act, which makes provision for the examination of petitions against an order, must be read so that petitions against an order are to be construed as petitions against a special authorisation. The effect of that is that petitions can be certified as proper to be received only if they are petitions against the elements of an order authorising the compulsory acquisition of special land. Under the modified provisions the Chairmen may certify either that a petition is one of amendment to a special authorisation or, if it is against the special authorisation generally, that it is a petition of general objection.

Once the Chairmen have reported on petitions against a special authorisation, there remains a 21-day period during which either House can resolve to annul a special authorisation. If that happens, the whole development consent order or compulsory purchase order to which the special authorisation relates will have to be withdrawn or submitted to Parliament as a Bill for confirmation of the order. If neither House resolves to annul the special authorisation, any petitions against it that have been certified as proper to be received will be referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses. If there are no such petitions then special authorisation will come into operation.

Where petitions have been certified as proper to be received and are considered by the Joint Committee, it may report the special authorisation with or without amendment; or, if a petition of general objection is received, it may report that the special authorisation should not be approved.

Where a special authorisation is reported by the Joint Committee without amendments, the relevant order will come into operation. Where, on the other hand, a special authorisation is reported by the Joint Committee with amendments, the Minister may elect to bring the order into force as amended or, if that is inexpedient, he or she may either withdraw the order or submit it to Parliament for further consideration by means of a Bill.

Finally, if the Joint Committee reports that a special authorisation should not be approved, the order to which that special authorisation relates will not take effect unless confirmed by an Act of Parliament. The clause is necessarily complicated, but it achieves the desired aim and will ensure that special parliamentary procedure in any future cases is limited to the consideration of the compulsory acquisition of special land.

The hon. Member for City of Durham asked about the speed of the procedure. Although I accept that the clause is immensely complicated—indeed, I am slightly surprised that the hon. Lady did not accuse us of trying to create employment in the parliamentary drafting office—it will help to speed up the special parliamentary procedure because it reduces the number of circumstances in which it can apply, and it will ensure that in future the  procedure will be able to consider the compulsory acquisition of only special land and not other parts of the project, thereby limiting the range of issues that can be opened up.

The hon. Lady specifically asked why it took four pages to introduce the provision. Unfortunately, because of having to clean up so many other Acts, that was the only way we could make the SPP fit for future operation. One of the few things I have learnt in this process is that once we start having to change things in preceding Acts, the drafting becomes a lot more complicated.

Photo of Roberta Blackman-Woods Roberta Blackman-Woods Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government)

I am not sure that I was querying the fact that the provision took four pages. Clearly, it is taking four pages to put right whatever it is that the Government think needs to be put right. I was querying the priority given to the measure, in relation to promoting economic growth.

Photo of Nicholas Boles Nicholas Boles The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

The hon. Lady makes a reasonable point. I do not think that anyone on the Government Benches would pretend that this was the clause that was most likely to have a transformative impact on the country’s economic prospects. We are absolutely certain that that is the case with other clauses. However, in relation to the people who have a particular interest in the infrastructure projects and the economic regions around them, the clause will have a crucially important effect in ensuring that such projects can go ahead. It is worth, therefore, the time that has been taken to draft and consider it.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 20 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.