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Clause 24—(No Compensation If Other Comparable Development Permitted)

Volume 530: debated on Tuesday 13 July 1954

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I beg to move, in page 28, line 20, to leave out from "land," to the end of line 10, on page 29, and to insert:

"if, notwithstanding that refusal, there is available with respect to that land planning permission for development to which this section applies:
Provided that where such permission is available with respect to part only of the land, this section shall have effect only in so far as the interest subsists in that part.
(2) Where a claim for compensation under this Part of this Act is made in respect of an interest in any land, planning permission for development to which this section applies, shall be taken for the purposes of this section to be available with respect to that land or a part thereof if, immediately before the Minister gives notice of his findings in respect of that claim, there is in force with respect to that land or part a grant of, or an undertaking by the Minister to grant, planning permission for some such development, subject to no conditions other than such as are mentioned in subsection (2) of the last preceding section.
(3) This section applies to any development of a residential, commercial or industrial character, being development which consists wholly or mainly of the construction of houses, flats, shop or office premises, or industrial buildings (including warehouses), or any combination thereof."
This Amendment is a redraft of Clause 24 in simpler form to meet the criticism which was originally made on both sides of the Standing Committee. In the first place it gets rid of the Sixth Schedule. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I thought everybody would be in favour of that.

We have cut it down. We have got rid of what was confusing and dangerous because it was liable to lead to an absurdity in other directions. The absurdity arose from the fact that a man could go through the Sixth Schedule, find something which was not in it, apply for permission to do it, and then ask for compensation. That has been got rid of, and it will help the position in some later Amendments, because of the absurdity which could arise of a vexatious local authority and a vicious, wicked Minister combining to make the ridiculous position exemplified by granting permission to build a bungalow in one of the finest and most expensive housing sites in London.

This gives a much simpler conception and is a better form. The principle remains, and that is what we are agreed about. I think the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas) and I were agreed on the principle, what we sought to discover were words which would meet the situation. He suggested some words which we have accepted.

7.30 p.m.

The principle remains that the system of exclusions is founded upon this basis. Compensation is not to be paid for preventing maximum exploitation, so long as development of a reasonably remunerative character is allowed. From this point of view the nature of the development for which permission was sought is not of prime importance. It is much more important to deal with the permission which is granted. Therefore we have turned it round and the proposal now is that, no matter what may have been refused, compensation is to be excluded if permission is given for development of certain specified kinds. We think that is the broad definition which the hon. and learned Gentleman gave me at the end of the Committee stage, and we have made only a slight modification of it.

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman intends to move his Amendment to line 15, to leave out from "construction" to "buildings," in line 16.

Perhaps it would be courteous of me to say that if we accepted that Amendment the meaning of this Clause, as well as of Clause 33 which depends on it, would become almost a matter of conjecture. And it would leave Clause 24 applying to any development of a residential, commercial, or industrial character which consisted wholly or mainly of the construction of buildings.

We accept the suggested Amendment and are grateful for it, because it is a genuine attempt to meet the points put by my hon. and learned Friend during the Committee stage. Indeed, it is a compliment to him that some of his suggestions have been incorporated in this Amendment. We felt, however, that even under Clause 33 it would he better to make this apply to buildings, and if the Minister will look at it again, we will accept the Amendment.

In this part of the House, too, we feel that on the whole this Amendment is an improvement, especially getting rid of the Sixth Schedule. There are certain observations on the result which will be better made on the Third Reading but, as a pure matter of machinery, this is a great improvement and I am glad that my right hon. Friend has been able to meet us in this regard.

The right hon. Gentleman has endeavoured to meet some of the criticisms levelled against this Clause and the Sixth Schedule, but he has not caused the Sixth Schedule to disappear entirely. He has incorporated it in paragraph (3), leaving out certain designations which appeared previously, for reasons which have not been explained.

The Minister includes houses, flats, shop or office premises but leaves out garages and petrol filling stations. He includes industrial buildings but leaves out cinemas, including television cinemas, and buildings designed for use wholly or mainly for the sale of intoxicating liquor, a description with which we are all familiar, especially my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson). The Minister did not give any explanation of why he left those out although, if they were included, confusion would be worse confounded than it is already. The main objection to the categories in the Sixth Schedule remain to some extent in the amended version. It will still be difficult to decide strictly what are houses, what are flats, what are shops and what are industrial buildings.

Then again the Minister said he accepted the definitions moved from this side when in Committee, namely, "residential, commercial, or industrial" but immediately proceeded to circum scribe them by tacking on a certain number of the uses which appeared originally in the Sixth Schedule. It would have been better if he had left the definition "residential, commercial and industrial character," without seeking to qualify it, because now it will be confusing to have to consider "residential, commercial or industrial" in relation to houses, shops, flats, office premises, industrial buildings and no others. So that although the Minister has moved somewhat in the right direction, and has endeavoured to simplify the problem of comparable development, I still think there is a substantial element of confusion in the wording which will lead to many of the difficulties we complained of in Committee.

We are not moving our Amendment, but I presume that on the next stage of the Bill elsewhere the Minister could, if he thought fit, have that done on our behalf?

And as at the Box the right hon. Gentleman made a speech copied largely from our criticism of the Bill in Standing Committee, it gives us some assurance that in another place the same thing will be done. There is some merit in deleting all these designations such as houses, flats, shops or office premises or industrial buildings, leaving the words:

"residential, commercial or industrial character, being development which consists wholly or mainly of…buildings."
That is much more easily dealt with by local authorities, planning authorities and others concerned with carrying out the administrative provisions of this part of the Bill. Therefore, in the hope that the right hon. Gentleman will see if he can further improve this Clause in another place, I and my hon. Friends welcome the step he has taken as far as it goes.

I find myself with my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) in a little band of die-hards who are not enthusiastic about this proposal. Any feeling I have about forcing my lukewarmness to the stage of active opposition has been destroyed by the benign and pacific ending of the speech of my hon. Friend, because he indicated that he would not follow me into the Division Lobby against this Amendment, and I could not possibly go into such a place alone.

The Minister has gone some distance to meet us, but my worry about this Amendment is that it is tautological, and that seems dangerous. When we put words into a Bill which have very little meaning, they usually cause a lot of trouble when the Bill comes up for judicial interpretation. Those who interpret the law of this country always assume—and it is an extraordinary assumption—that Parliament has some intention when it puts words in a Bill. Anyone who has taken part in the process of law-making knows that that is not always the case.

These words add nothing at all to the meaning or, if they do, they will be open to an interpretation which will defeat the Minister's intention. If the words "commercial or industrial" are not narrow enough to get rid of buildings like churches, why not use the blessed word "remunerative"? That would limit the development to that which would bring something back to the developer. The Amendment speaks of
"…any development of a residential, commercial or industrial character, being development which consists wholly or mainly of the construction of houses, flats, shop or office premises,…"
and so on. What a residential development which did not consist mainly or wholly of houses would be, I do not know. If application was made for development based on igloos, I suppose that that would rank for compensation, because that would not be a development consisting mainly of houses. If not, why has the Minister not taken the courage of his conviction and accepted very simple, easily understood words?

Why has it been necessary to tag on these half-hearted thoughts at the end of the subsection? They seem to me dangerous and therefore, like my hon. Friend the Member for Acton, I am reluctant and doubtful about the Amendment, but it is better than what we had previously. Perhaps one should be content with small mercies and expect, though perhaps not with much hope, that there will be some improvement in another place.

I should like to have one difficulty cleared up in connection with the proposed new subsection (2), which states:

"Provided that where such permission is available with respect to part only of the land, this section shall have effect only in so far as the interest subsists in that part."
How far does this fit in with Clause 23 (2), which says:
"Compensation under this Part of this Act shall not be payable in respect of the imposition, on the granting of permission to develop land, of any condition relating to—
(a) the number or disposition of buildings on any land;"
I fail to see how these two provisions fit, and I should be grateful if the difficulty were cleared up.

Amendment agreed to.