Clause 10 - Termination of power to acquire land

High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 1 March 2016.

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

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Having discussed the powers to acquire land, we now move to the termination of power to acquire land. Clause 10 sets out an expiry period for compulsory purchase powers of five years from the date of Royal Assent. The clause allows the Secretary of State to extend that period by another five years by order. Any order extending the time limit for the exercise of these powers is subject to special parliamentary procedure. For clarification, special parliamentary procedure is set out in the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act 1945 and allows parliamentary scrutiny of that proposal. The period can be exceeded only once in relation to any particular land.

Subsection (4) introduces schedule 13, which enables land owners, in the event of an extension to the time limit, to require the Secretary of State to acquire their property interest and, if he decides not to, the  compulsory purchase powers over the property interest will cease. Similar provisions were included in the Crossrail Act 2008.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns Conservative, Chelmsford

I will be very brief, Mr Hanson. I want to ask the Minister about a point of fact. I am confident that the programme for building the first phase of HS2 will be completed within the timescale by 2016. However, under clause 10, the power to acquire land comes into force when the Act is passed, which I assume will be some time during the course of 2016. Under subsection (1), both powers remain in force for five years, so up until some point in 2021. However, there is a catch-out in subsection (2), which gives the Secretary of State the power to extend for another five years if needed, which would take us to some time in 2026. What happens if by some ill fate the delivery of phase 1 is delayed beyond 2026 and the Secretary of State needs to purchase some land 10 years after the Bill becomes an Act? The straightforward answer is that there will be no delay, and I am confident of that, but let us consider the worst-case scenario: what would happen if the project went beyond 2026, say by six months or a year, and it was discovered that land needed to be purchased?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I hope that I can allay my right hon. Friend’s fears about those matters. First, the period can be extended only once in relation to any particular land. For projects with long construction periods, such flexibility enables staged purchase where appropriate, so that landowners can keep their property interests for as long as possible and Government ownership of private property is reduced until required. Indeed, some landowners—farmers or people using land for other reasons—might want to hold on to their land for as long as possible. However, it is right that such powers are time-limited; it would not be appropriate for the Government to have a permanent right to take property, as that would cause landowners great uncertainty. As I have already said, subsection (4) introduces schedule 13, which enables landowners in the event of an extension of the time limit to require the Secretary of State to acquire their property interests. If such acquisition is decided against, the compulsory purchase powers over the property will cease.

We are determined to build the project on time and on budget, so in many ways it is a case of braces and belt, to ensure that we have those powers if needed. However, if delivery was delayed and new land was needed, we could seek further powers using the Transport and Works Act 1992 or a development consent order. We will acquire land well in advance of its use. Indeed, landowners are empowered, in that they are not kept waiting for ever and a day for compulsory purchase powers to be brought into force. Rather, they can force the Government to purchase their land, to enable them to move on—they may well have other plans within their business that they want to take forward.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 10 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 13 agreed to.