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Ninth Schedule—(Enactments Amended)

Volume 530: debated on Tuesday 13 July 1954

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9.15 p.m.

I beg to move, in page 96, line 14, at the end, to insert:

Provided that any building works or use in so far as the same might be subject to enforcement proceedings under the principal Act shall not hereby be brought within the said Schedule.
This Amendment raises a point which we think is of some importance. Under the Bill, when compensation is paid on compulsory acquisition, it is to include the element of existing use value. That value is ascertained by reference to the Third Schedule to the principal Act. Therefore any alteration of that definition or effect of the Third Schedule is of considerable importance. The effect of the amendment of the Third Schedule, unless the amending words of the Amendment which I am moving are included is that even a contravening use may be an existing use.

We believe that the effect of that can be very serious. It can be to put a premium on contravening uses and there might quite easily be the result that so soon as the owner of an interest in land suspects that a compulsory purchase order is approaching he will commence a contravening use and, if I may use a colloquialism, get away with it; and be paid, on the compulsory acquisition, on the basis of what he would have made sure was a relatively profitable use put into effect and initiated for his own nefarious purpose.

We regard that as undesirable and we expect the Government to agree as to its undesirability. The Attorney-General made the point in this connection, in our consideration of the Bill in Standing Committee, that after the appointed day there might be a contravening use which none the less subsequently received retrospective sanction and permission. He also made the point that after the four-year period had elapsed it would not be open to the local authority to commence any enforcement proceedings.

The Attorney-General brought forward those points as points in favour of the proposed alteration in the Schedule. We have gone out of our way to recognise the weight of so much of his case as can be presented against our original proposal, and we think that what is now proposed in this Amendment would meet the case satisfactorily. Although this Amendment comes late in our consideration of the Bill, we regard it as raising a very important point.

This Amendment has, as the hon. Gentleman said, the same purpose as the somewhat different Amendment moved in the Standing Committee, and on which we had some discussion towards the end of our debates. Its purpose is one with which we all sympathise, to ensure that a building erected or use begun in "flagrant contravention of planning control" should not acquire Third Schedule rights under the 1947 Act.

The hon. Gentleman has, in the new form of words in his Amendment, gone out of his way to meet one of the objections which we brought against the old one because it does not damage the position of development which was carried out without permission but is none the less secure against any enforcement action because the four-year period has expired. On the other hand, it does not meet the case—this was acknowledged by the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas) to be a fair point—of the development for which permission would have been given had it been asked.

Some people do not know all these regulations, perhaps, as well as they ought to do, and it might happen by omission that something which certainly would have been agreed to is done without formal permission. If the development conforms with the planning requirement, there is no reason why the acquiring authority should acquire the land any cheaper because the formality was not observed.

It is not easy to find exactly the right solution. The hon. Member has made a great step towards doing so in the form of his Amendment. It may be that the best course would be for the status of the development to be cleared up prior to the acquisition. If permission to retain the development is granted, it should have Third Schedule rights; if not, the Third Schedule should not apply.

I would ask the hon. Member to leave this matter and see whether, in another place, the right solution can be found. The hon. Member has met one of our difficulties, but we have not yet ourselves found a way of meeting the other, although it should not be beyond the wit of draftsman or man to do so. I hope that with this assurance the hon. Member would like to feel that we can end on a note of agreement.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his considerate attitude in dealing with this matter and for his helpful treatment of it. In the circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.