Clause 20 - Modifications of special parliamentary procedure in certain cases

Part of Growth and Infrastructure Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 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 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.