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Clause 37—(Protection For Prospective Purchasers)

Volume 530: debated on Tuesday 13 July 1954

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

I beg to move, in page 42, line 21, to leave out from "applicant," to the second "whether," in line 22, and to insert:

"within twenty-eight days of the receipt of the application, stating whether or not the Council propose to acquire within the next five years."
This is the Clause which tries to get the scheme to work effectively by devising a procedure to find out whether a local authority is likely to serve a compulsory notice before a developer decides to purchase a piece of land. It was rather a weakness—I am sure it would not happen, but still there was the danger—that a local authority would simply not answer the letter. Consequently, it was necessary to insert a time within which the reply must be made. The first thing, therefore, that the Amendment does is to impose upon local authorities the duty to answer applications within 28 days.

The insertion of the words "within the next five years" deals with another point which we discussed in Committee. I was frank in saying that I thought there were arguments in favour both of five years and of three years. Obviously, if the period was made too long, the temptation on the local authority would be to say, "We are bound to want a compulsory purchase order on that bit of land some day," so the authority would tend to claw in more than was either in its interest or in the interest of the community generally.

On the other hand, if the period was made too short, it was not of much value to the prospective purchaser and developer. What weighed with us finally in deciding on five years—although it is almost a matter of tossing a coin which period we choose—was that five years is the period we have taken in the plan system, and, therefore, it seemed reasonable that the same system should operate in Clause 37.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill" put, and negatived.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

The two Amendments to the Minister's Amendment, in the name of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington), are not being called, but can be discussed with this Amendment. If a Division is required, it can be taken on the second of the two Amendments.

I should like to say a few words about the period that the Minister is now writing into the Bill as the time within which a local authority must notify whether it proposes to acquire land. I gather that my Amendment, which was designed to increase the period from 28 to 56 days, is not to be called.

Twenty-eight days is rather a short time. It might not be an inconvenient period for a large authority, with staff continuously on duty and frequent—say fortnightly—council and committee meetings; but some of the smaller planning authorities might have only one meeting of the appropriate committee each month, and if an important application is received the authority may be put to considerable difficulty in having to give a decision within 28 days. I hope that in another place it may still be possible, if 56 days is regarded as too long, to insert a period of, say, six weeks. This would help authorities to have applications dealt with by their planning committees normally without the necessity and expense of special meetings.

The period of five years specified at the end of the Minister's Amendment is a more significant matter. The Clause protects a prospective purchaser of land by assuring that if the land is to be compulsorily acquired from him by a local authority within a certain period, the compensation that is payable will include the value of any planning permission which attaches to the land when the purchaser buys it. When the Bill was introduced the period specified was three years. It was only after an Amendment had been moved by the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Horobin)—who has been, quite properly, in my view, referred to as the Minister's conscience in many of these matters—that the Minister said that he could not be certain where the balance of justice lay. I notice, however, that he has now come down, as usual, in favour of his hon. Friend and for five years.

I understand that in the memorandum from the Ministry to local authorities, dated 15th August, a period of five years was suggested. Subsequently, at a meeting last October with the Minister, local authorities urged upon him that three years would be a suitable period. The local authorities understood that that suggestion would be favourably considered by the Minister. Certainly, when the Bill was introduced the period was fixed at three years. Now, as a result of the comments by his hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East, the Minister has, if not exactly gone back upon his words, at any rate disregarded the representations made to him by the representative body of local authorities all over the country.

There are, perhaps, two reasons why five years is considered too long a period. Although many local authorities will consider periods of five years, it is, nevertheless, impossible to foresee all the developments that will take place during that time. There will be educational developments, provision for open spaces, and a hundred and one other things which come properly within the province of a local authority, but cannot be fully planned in all details—for so long a period as five years.

What may be the result if the Clause remains as it is is that authorities will be so cautious that they will acquire more land than they need or they will give undertakings about a greater amount of land than they require. They will not want to be caught on the wrong foot if the longer period is put in. This is an age of rapid developments. I should have thought that three years was adequate, especially in connection with my second point. It is that in most cases a private developer will have time within three years to have carried out full development so that he can claim full compensation should the land be compulsorily acquired. There are not many schemes in which the period of three years is likely to impose special hardship on the private developer.

I understand that there was a further meeting between representatives of the Ministry and the local authorities on 21st October. It was emphasised by the Ministry officers that the onus would be on all public authorities to notify their future plans to the appropriate authority and if they failed to do this they would suffer by having to pay a price based on the market value of the land if they wanted to acquire it for a limited period. It was eventually agreed by both sides that this scheme might work adequately if the period during which the higher price was to be payable was to be reduced to three years. That, of course, was the period which originally appeared in Clause 37.

It is most unfortunate, having had these two discussions with the local authorities, first, when the period of three years was seriously considered and, second, when in the consideration of the detailed working out of the scheme it was agreed by both sides that three years would be a reasonable period, that the Minister should come down against what I think is the public interest in this matter by inserting the longer period. I hope that the Minister will assure us that the matter will be reconsidered in another place. If not, I hope that we show our disagreement with the course he has taken.

I did not intend to intervene, but I have been referred to and it is important that this matter should be worked fairly between both sides. I assure the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) that there is nothing sinister in the use of the five-year period. The point is simply that we want to get development done. With a big development where the work would take more than three years the effect of a C.P.O. would be disastrous. It is most necessary to protect the intending purchaser who proposes to undertake big industrial development for the benefit of the workers of the country, and the Bill gives the protection of a longer period. We think that three years would not give sufficient protection.

There is nothing sinister about this provision. People just will not undertake enormously expensive developments if there is a danger that before they get the benefit of the established new existing use there might be interference. There is nothing sinister about this. If the provision is acted upon fairly from both sides—if the local authorities do not pretend that they want a lot of land which they do not really want, and intending developers do not abuse the provision—it will work; but if the period is too short it will not work.

8.15 p.m.

I hope that the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) did not think me discourteous when, on the last occasion that he spoke, I did not ask the leave of the House to reply. I think that asking leave of the House can be overdone. I took note of the point he made, so I will note what he said in his last speech. I have already spoken on the Amendment, but I should like to answer him briefly. He probably does not feel very strongly on the matter of the 28 days or six weeks. It is just a matter of what seems reasonable.

I should like to remind the House of what the authority has to do. It has not to hawk the inquiry around all sorts of likely purchasers, but it has to examine the records to see whether it has received the requirements of some other body—a Service Department or something of that kind—which has notified it. That either has or has not been done. One can tell in five minutes. Then it has to have regard to its own requirements. We think that, if it can answer at all, it can answer as well in 28 days as it can in 56. I do not think that that is a great issue.

On the other question, I can only repeat that I do not feel that I have been guilty of any sinister design or plot. During the debate I have made a number of concessions to the Opposition. Sometimes I have even been able to wring from the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) not a smile but friendly wink. Sometimes I have had the pleasure of meeting some of the views of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, if they struck me as right.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Horobin) said, what

Division No. 200.]

AYES

[8.18 p.m.

Aitken, W. T.Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)Glover, D.
Allen, R. A. (Paddington, S.)Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)Godber, J. B.
Alport, C. J. MClyde, Rt. Hon. J. L.Gomme-Duncan, Col. A
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)Cole, NormanGough, C. F. H.
Amory, Rt. Hon Heathcoat (Tiverton)Colegate, W. A.Gower, H. R.
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.Conant, Maj. Sir RogerGraham, Sir Fergus
Arbuthnot. JohnCooper-Key, E. M.Grimond, J.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)
Astor, Hon. J. J.Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.Hare, Hon. J. H.
Baldwin, A. E.Crouch, R. F.Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)
Barlow, Sir JohnCrowder, Sir John (Finchley)Harris, Reader (Heston)
Baxter, Sir BeverleyCrowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)
Beach, Maj. HicksDarling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)Davidson, ViscountessHarvie-Watt, Sir George
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)Deedes, W. F.Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.
Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)Digby, S. WingfieldHeald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)Dodds-Parker, A. D.Heath, Edward
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.Henderson, John (Cathcart)
Birch, NigelDonner, Sir P. W.Higgs, J. M. C
Bishop, F. P.Doughty, C. J. A.Hinchingbrooks, Viscount
Black, C. W.Drewe, Sir C.Hirst, Geoffrey
Boothby, Sir R. J. G.Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)Holland-Martin, C. J.
Bowen, E. R.Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.Hollis, M. C.
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.Duthie, W. S.Holt, A. F.
Boyle, Sir EdwardEccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M.Hope, Lord John
Brains, B. R.Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)Hopkinson, Rt. Hon Henry
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)Erroll, F. J.Horobin, I. M.
Braithwaite, Sir GurneyFell, A.Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.Finlay, GraemeHudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)Fisher, NigelHulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J
Brooman-White, R. C.Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. FHurd, A. R.
Browne, Jack (Govan)Fletcher-Cooke, C.Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)
Buchan Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.Ford, Mrs. PatriciaHyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.
Bullard, D. G.Fort, R.Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.Foster, JohnIremonger, T. L.
Burden, F. F. A.Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
Butcher, Sir HerbertFyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David MaxwellJennings, Sir Roland
Campbell, Sir DavidGalbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Carr, RobertGammans, L. D.Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)
Cary, Sir RobertGarner-Evans, E. H.Kaberry, D.
Channon, H.George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. LloydKerby, Capt. H. B.

we want is that development should be done. The last people who want to prevent private development are the local authorities, for they depend greatly for their wealth and prosperity upon the work of private developers. We are not thinking now of houses; these are industrial and commercial developments, and sometimes a long period of preparation is necessary. Though I think it is a matter of opinion, I do not think that it is a matter of principle. Frankly, I would not go to the stake either for three or five years, but I hope that the House will agree with my proposal.

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to leave out "five," and to insert "three."

Question put, "That 'five' stand part of the proposed Amendment."

The House divided: Ayes, 261; Noes, 220.

Kerr, H. W.Nutting, AnthonySpearman, A. C. M
Lambert, Hon. G.Oakshott, H. D.Spens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)
Lambton, ViscountOdey, G. W. Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Lancaster, Col. C. GO'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Leather, E. H. C.Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.Stevens, Geoffrey
Legge-Bourke, Maj E. A. HOrr, Capt. L. P. S.Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)
Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. TOsborne, C.Storey, S.
Linstead, Sir H. N.Page, R. G.Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
Llewellyn, D. T.Peake, Rt. Hon. O.Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)Perkins, Sir RobertStudholme, H. G
Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)Peto, Brig. C. H. M.Summers, G. S.
Longden, GilbertPeyton, J. W. W.Sutcliffe, Sir Harold
Low, A. R. W.Pickthorn, K. W. M.Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)Pilkington, Capt. R. ATaylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)Pitman, I. J.Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)
Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughPitt, Miss E. M.Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Macdonald, Sir PeterPowell, J. EnochThompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)
Mackeson, Brig. Sir HarryPrice, Henry (Lewisham, W.)Thorneyoroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)
Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N
Maclay, Rt. Hon. JohnProfumo, J, D.Touche, Sir Gordon
Maclean, FitzroyRaikes, Sir VictorTurner, H. F. L.
Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)Ramsdon, J. E.Turton, R. H.
MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)Redmayne, M.Tweedsmuir, Lady
Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)Rees-Davies, W. RVane, W. M. F.
Macpherson, Naill (Dumfries)Remnant, Hon. P.Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)Renton, O. L. M.Vosper, D. F.
Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn Sir ReginaldRidsdale, J. E.Wade, D. W.
Marlowe, A. A. H.Roberts, Peter (Heeley)Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Marples, A. E.Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)
Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)Robson-Brown, W.Walker-Smith, D. C.
Maude, AngusRodgers, John (Sevenoaks)Wall, Major Patrick
Maudling, R.Roper, Sir HaroldWard, Hon. George (Worcester)
Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. CRussell, R. S.Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Medlicott, Brig. F.Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Mellor, Sir JohnSavory, Prof. Sir DouglasWatkinson, H. A.
Molson, A. H. E.Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.Wellwood, W.
Moore, Sir ThomasScott, R. DonaldWilliams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)
Morrison, John (Salisbury)Scott-Miller, Cmdr.R.Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.Shepherd, WilliamWilliams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Nabarro, G. D. N.Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Neave, AireySmithers, Peter (Winchester)Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Wood, Hon. R.
Nicholls, HarmarSmithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)
Nield, Basil (Chester)Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.Snadden, W. McN.Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith and
Nugent, G. R. H.Soames, Capt. C.Mr. Wills.

NOES

Acland, Sir RichardChapman, W. D.Griffiths, William (Exchange)
Adams, RichardChetwynd, G. R.Hale, Leslie
Albu, A. H.Clunie, J.Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)Coldrick, W.Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)Collick, J. H.Hamilton, W. W.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.Cove, W. G.Hannan, W.
Awbery, S. S.Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Hardy, E. A.
Bacon, Miss AliceCrossman, R. H. S.Hargreaves, A.
Baird, J.Daines, P.Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)
Balfour, A.Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.Hastings, S.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)Hayman, F. H.
Bartley, P.Deer, G.Herbison, Miss M.
Bence, C. R.Delargy, H. J.Hewitson, Capt. M.
Benn, Hon. WedgwoodDodds, N. N.Hobson, C. R.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)Donnelly, D. L.Holman, P.
Bing, G. H. C.Driberg, T. E. N.Hoy, J. H.
Blackburn, F.Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)Hubbard, T. F.
Blenkinsop, A.Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)
Blyton, W. R.Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Boardman, H.Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Bowden, H. W.Fernyhough, E.Hynd, H. (Accrington)
Bowles, F. G.Fienburgh, W.Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)
Braddock, Mrs. ElizabethFinch, H. J.Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)
Brockway, A. F.Follick, M.Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.
Brook, Dryden (Halifax)Foot, M. M.Jeger, Mrs. Lena
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)Forman, J. C.Johnson, James (Rugby)
Brown, Thomas (Ince)Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)
Burke, W. A.Gibson, C. W.Jones, David (Hartlepool)
Burton, Miss F. E.Glanville, JamesJones, Jack (Rotherham)
Gooch, E. G.Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.Keenan, W.
Callaghan, L. J.Grey, C. F.Kenyon, C.
Castle, Mrs. B. A.Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.
Champion, A. J.Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)King, Dr. H. M.

Lawson, G. M.Palmer, A. M. F.Sparks, J. A.
Lee, Frederick (Newton)Pannell, CharlesSteele, T.
Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)Pargiter, G. A.Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R
Lever, Harold (Cheetham)Parker, J.Stross, Dr. Barnett
Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)Paton, J.Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Lewis, ArthurPearson, A.Sylvester, G. O.
Lindgren, G. S.Peart, T. F.Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Logan, D. G.Plummer, Sir LeslieTaylor, John (West Lothian)
MacColl, J. E.Popplewell, E.Thomas, George (Cardiff)
McInnes, J.Porter, G.Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
McKay, John (Wallsend)Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)
McLeavy, F.Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)Thornton, E.
MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)Proctor, W. T.Timmons, J.
Mainwaring, W. H.Pryde, D. J.Tomney, F.
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Pursey, Cmdr. HUsborne, H. C.
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)Rankin, JohnWarbey, W. N.
Mann, Mrs. JeanReeves, J.Watkins, T. E.
Manuel, A. C.Reid, Thomas (Swindon)Weitzman, D.
Mason, RoyReid, William (Camlachie) Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Mayhew, C. P.Rhodes, H.West, O. G.
Mellish, R. J.Richards, R.Wheeldon, W. E.
Mikardo, IanRobens, Rt. Hon. A.White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Mitchiton, G. R.Roberts, Albert (Normanton)Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Moody, A. S.Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B
Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.Ross, WilliamWilkins, W. A.
Morley, R.Royle, C.Willey, F. T.
Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)Shackleton, E. A. A.Williams, David (Neath)
Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Mort, D. L.Shurmer, P. L. E.Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)
Moyle, A.Silverman, Julius (Erdington)Williams, W. R. (Droylsdon)
Mulley, F. W.Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)Willis, E. G.
Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.Skeffington, A. M.Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Oldfield, W. H.Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)
Oliver, G. H.Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Oswald, T.Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Padley, W. E.Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)Yates, V. F.
Paget, R. T.Snow, J. WYounger, Rt. Hon. K.
Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)Sorensen, R. W.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir FrankMr. Holmes and Mr. Wallace.

Proposed words there inserted in the Bill.

Further Amendment made: In page 42, line 31, after "acquire," insert:

"within the next five years."—[Mr. H. Macmillan.]