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Clause 5

Volume 927: debated on Tuesday 8 March 1977

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

Miscellaneous Amendments Of The 1972 And 1973 Acts

I beg to move Amendment No. 4, in page 5, line 32, at end add—

'(b) in subsection (3), for "operations" in both places where that word occurs substitute the word "activity",
(c) in subsection (5) leave out from "or of" to end'.
These are minor consequential amendments to Section 166 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I did not hear you say whether we were taking two amendments together. Are we now discussing only one amendment?

If I did so, that was incorrect. The amendment to subsection (3) deletes the reference to "operations" in Section 166 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972 and inserts the word "activity", thus bringing Section 166 into line with the new version of Section 87.

The amendment to subsection (5) is consequential on the amendment made in Committee to delete subsection (8) of Section 87 of the 1972 Act, which was originally retained in Clause 4. It removes a reference in Section 166 to Section 87(8), which will no longer exist.

It will be remembered that in Committee I conceded an amendment to deal with contracts placed before the end of 1969, and this was the reason for these consequential changes. It was as a result of the good piece of advocacy advanced by the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) that we decided to accept the proposal.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move Amendment No. 5, in page 6, leave out lines 30 to 32.

This amendment is consequential on Amendment No. 3, which removed the 12-month limitation on the service of a stop notice to prohibit an activity in breach of planning control. While that limitation was in the Bill, it was necessary for planning authorities to know when an activity had commenced so that they could decide whether a valid stop notice could be served. Clause 5(4) gave them and the Secretary of State power to require this information from the occupier of the land. Now that the information is no longer necessary in connection with stop notices, this power can be dispensed with.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move Amendment No. 6, in page 6, line 44, leave out from the beginning to end of line 3 on page 7./

We discussed this matter in Committee and put a great deal of advocacy behind it. The Minister has kindly said how much he admires our advocacy—

I was referring to the advocacy of the hon. Gentleman. I was not seeking to be general in my praise.

I am overwhelmed by the Minister's generosity. I am encouraged by what he said to hope that my advocacy will again be successful. He will recall the long discussions on this subject in Committee, and hon. Members on both sides thought that our suggestion was desirable.

The point is that the Bill as drafted provides that, when a local plan is drawn up for approval by the Secretary of State, it shall automatically cancel any previous arrangements under the old development plan, unless the Secretary of State directs that it shall be otherwise. I wish to delete that qualification. It is unnecessary to lay down any procedure for the Secretary of State to direct provisions under an old development plan to continue in force when a new local plan has been drawn up.

In order to understand the reasons for this, we need look only at what a local new local plan is intended to do. A local plan is expected to cover either a complete area of a local planning authority or a clearly-defined part of that area. It is expected to be a comprehensive and fully-worked-out plan for the particular area to which it refers. Of course, there may be parts of the area that have been covered by an old development plan, and that old plan, or parts of it, should be continued as part of the new local plan. That is not in dispute. But surely it is extraordinary to expect a new district planning authority to come forward with a new local plan and to submit it to the Secretary of State for approval without incorporating in it any part of the old developument plan that seems to be necessary.

Even if the local planning authority were so ill advised as to draw up a new local plan and to ignore some important part of the old development plan that should be continued, when the authority submitted the new local plan to the Secretary of State his action in looking at the submission and in deciding whether to approve it would surely be exactly what was needed to ensure that the provisions of the old development plan, if relevant, should be continued. It is perfectly open—without any such provisions being included in the Bill—for the Secretary of State to reply to a local planning authority that he had examined the new local plan and had observed that it did not include such and such provisions of the old development plan. He could propose not to approve the new plan until that part of the old development plan was included.

Therefore, to include in the Bill the words that I wish to remove would be to cast doubt on the whole process of the drawing up of the new local plan and examination and approval of it by the Secretary of State. I never have believed that it is desirable to write requirements into legislation that are not strictly necessary. This is not strictly necessary if the new procedures are properly carried out by the Secretary of State and the local planning authority. Therefore, these words should be removed from the Bill.

The Minister made quite a point in our previous discussions of the idea that there might be drawn up not a new local plan but a new plan regarding a particular feature of an area. As an example, reference was made to planning in the area of Loch Lomond.

Since our previous debates, I have looked at this matter carefully and I am sure that the Minister has done so too. I have consulted one or two people who have been involved in planning and they entirely agree with the view I took in Committee. It is, of course, desirable that in many cases, particularly, for example, concerning the sensitive area of Loch Lomond, there should be a special study of particular activities in relation to that area. In the case of Loch Lomond the activities would be tourism, forestry and, to some extent agriculture. But that in itself has no real direct relevance to whether some parts of the old development plan should be continued in a new development plan. If it should be included, there is a perfectly good procedure whereby any such new plan is submitted to the Secretary of State, who is entitled to refuse approval if he does not like the way it is done. Surely that is the correct way that the matter should be approached.

I have not moved at all from the position I held in Committee. It is unnecessary to have these words in the Bill, and I hope that the Minister will take this as a fairly constructive suggestion. He will lose nothing if he agrees to the amendment and leaves out the words, because every future local plan will be drawn up in good faith by the local planning authority and approved or otherwise by the Secretary of State and—in due course—by the regional authority as well. Therefore, there is no requirement for the extra words. They are unnecessary and should be removed.

8.45 p.m.

I hope that the House will bear with me if I give a rather long explanation of this contentious point that was argued strongly in Committee. I accepted the concern and doubts expressed by the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) and shall try to give as full an answer as possible to the points that he has made. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) is paying a great deal of interest, as always, to this matter, but is making suggestions from a sedentary position which have nothing to do with the Bill. I always try to be fair to the Opposition and to give a full and constructive answer so that the care and attention that they have taken in Committee are at least recognised by the Government. No doubt the hon. Member will accept the validity of my arguments when I have completed my submission.

I hope that it will not be a 28-minute filibuster from the Minister in which he says nothing. The amendment so ably moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) covers a very narrow point.

The hon. Gentleman should not do an injustice to his hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger). The hon. Member for Cathcart has a great deal of difficulty keeping a dangerous and mixed crew in order. He has adopted a Captain Bligh stance, but I do not see the hon. Member for Ayr as a Mr. Christian. He takes an independent stand on these matters. Last night, the hon. Member for Cathcart said that I was in a constructive mood. It is silly that he should counter that fair comment before he has heard my speech on this amendment.

We are not all simple. This is a simple point. Will the Minister just give us a simple answer?

I accept that we are not all simple and I am sorry that the hon. and learned Gentleman should make these references to his hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart. Their difference should be settled quietly in a corner.

I wish to get back to the Bill. We are trying to get it through in a fair and constructive way and I undertook in Committee to give a full answer to the hon. Member for Ayr because of the strength of feeling that he expressed on this point.

I undertook to take another look at the wording of Clause 5(5). Since then, I have had the opportunity to study the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Ayr and others. It is only fair that I should say immediately that I remain convinced, after this reflection, that this amendment should not be made. The present draft of the proposed new paragraph 5A is a compromise between two principles. The first principle is that of central Government disengagement from local planning matters. The Secretary of State should really not be involved in what is primarily or entirely local business, and the paragraph marks a major step in this direction when compared with the existing Schedule 5 to the 1972 Act. The second principle is that there is nevertheless a need for care during the transition from the old to the new system of development planning. The Secretary of State, as the Minister responsible for planning in Scotland, has a responsibility here and in the last resort must be enabled to use his influence as necessary.

I do not wish to chide the hon. Member for Ayr, but I hope that he does not come back later in the debate and complain that I have not given him an answer. I am giving him full information, but no doubt he has missed about 75 per cent. of it so far. I know that the Opposition are in some difficulty about finding alternative uses for the remainder of the evening, but I am concerned about the points raised by the hon. Gentleman and I wish to give a full and reasonable answer to the concerns that he has expressed.

The point around which the paragraph has to balance is how the Secretary of State's interest can be preserved and brought to bear if this is necessary. We think (hat the clause gives the best balance between the two principles I have mentioned. I am sure the House will bear with me if I rehearse as briefly as possible the main reasons for retaining this provision of the Bill.

The hon. Member for Ayr asked in Committee "Why bring in the Secretary of State?" I hope I can satisfy him on this point. First, the Secretary of State is planning Minister for Scotland. Second, the Secretary of State, as the Bill is drafted, will step in to save planning authorities from the unnecessary and laborious task of transcribing sections of an old development plan which they want to preserve temporarily. This provision will save money, time and effort, and should therefore commend itself to both sides of the House.

I should have thought that that would satisfy Tory Members who say so often that the Government should save time, money and effort. This exercise will do just that. That is the opinion of everyone involved, and therefore I would have thought that these laudable principles, espoused so often by the hon. Member for Ayr and others, would have been instantly commended by them.

Of course, we do not expect the Secretary of State to use this power frequently. It is a reserve power, to be used in consultation with, and normally at the request or instance of, the planning authority.

Even at the request of the planning authority why does the Secretary of State need to make a direction at all? Why cannot the planning authority quite simply incorporate it in its new local plan? I do not see any difficulty in that.

I do not wish to be difficult, but, in planning the next possible business of the House, the hon. Gentleman must have missed a major part of my argument so far. It would be unfair to the House to restate it, but I am prepared to do so. However, I know that the hon. Member for Cathcart, for obvious reasons, would not like to hear me restate the argument. Therefore, we should look at the amendment in a slightly different way. I am trying to cope in a broad way with all the points and concerns expressed by the hon. Member for Ayr. If the amendment were to be carried, what would it do? First and most obviously, it would prevent the Secretary of State from using flexible and apt powers in suitable cases. The Secretary of State is the planning Minister for Scotland, and the hon. Member wishes to remove him entirely from this aspect of the local plan process. The only alternative left to the Secretary of State would be his general power to call in and approve, with modifications, a local plan. That would be much more cumbersome, lengthy and generally bureaucratic than the method envisaged in paragraph 5A.

Secondly, the amendment means that, when any new local plan comes into effect, the old development plan is automatically cancelled. If we were dealing with a comprehensive new local plan which was designed from the outset to replace the existing development plan, no harm would be done. But as the amendment stands, the adoption of a subject plan, which may cover only one aspect of local planning interest would automatically cancel the existing development plan. But the development plan may be relatively up to date, and still with considerable relevance for local development. It can surely not be right that a subject plan covering say tourism or recreation should be allowed to wipe out automatically, without any saving power whatsoever, the provisions of a recent development plan which deal with, for example, housing, industry and transport within the same area as that covered by the subject plan.

This is a rather complicated part of the Bill and I hope that it is now clearly understood.

I remember that we made heavy weather of this matter in Committee. Is my hon. Friend saying that the purpose of this clause is to serve as a memory tickler to the planners at district level? The hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) regards the clause as superfluous, but my hon. Friend says that it is important. Is my hon. Friend therefore saying that the retention of the clause will minimise delays between the district planning department and the Scottish Office? If there is one thing that bedevils planning, it is the extent of buck-passing between the districts and the Scottish Office.

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. What he says is always considered and responsible, and always carries a great deal of logic.

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen), a prominent councillor in Glasgow Corporation for a number of years, contributed a great deal to the planning processes in that local authority. I am most grateful for the way he has described the situation.

In trying to help the hon. Member for Ayr and other hon. Gentlemen who are deeply interested in the Bill, and who perhaps wish to go home when our consideration is completed, 1 was trying to put it another way by saying that if the amendment was carried a local authority would have two choices. It could cancel the old development plan, however useful some parts of it might be, if a new subject plan was made. Alternatively, it could spend considerable time and effort transferring parts of the old plan into the new plan, where it could be subject to public objections and inquiries all over again.

One thing that we want to correct in local authority planning—this bears out the cogent point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Maryhill—is to save time and unnecessary bureaucracy. All hon. Members who have been involved in the difficulties that Glasgow had in planning new comprehensive development areas, such as the hon. Member for Cathcart, will know that there is a great need to simplify planning procedures. Strangely enough, I have always accepted that there is a degree of common sense and logic in most of the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Ayr, although his effort last night was unworthy of his high standards—but we all have our weaknesses. He would be the first to accept that if the Secretary of State has flexibility of control, and if we can in some way help the local authorities and prevent them from incurring more expenditure and using a great deal of time and precious labour, we should do so.

I am very surprised at the attitude adopted by the hon. Member for Ayr, which appears to be contrary to what we heard from him when he was piloting through the House the Bill to reorganise local government in Scotland.

Either of the courses that I have outlined would be undesirable. Therefore a means of saving parts of the existing development plan is needed. Part of subsection (5) of the new clause which the hon. Member for Ayr has moved will be a positive help to authorities. Where the district council comes up with a local plan ready for adoption, it will think twice before adopting it if the result is an automatic and irrevocable loss of the entire old development plan as it relates to the original area.

The hon. Member for Ayr perhaps did not have the experience that we had in Glasgow when we faced tremendous planning problems. When we consider the amount of time and money spent in preparing the many plans for Glasgow's comprehensive development areas—speaking from memory I think that there were 26 comprehensive development area plans—we see that these plans involve the transfer of large numbers of people to outlying municipal housing estates and transferring a great deal of industry.

On the question of Loch Lomond, I accept that the hon. Member for Ayr may well have consulted local authorities which have a different point of view from that of the Government, but I hope that he would accept that at the end of the day two things should happen in planning: it should be flexible, and it should save as much time and as much money as possible because of the tremendous cost to the rates and taxes and all the work that planning involves, especially when dealing with an area such as Loch Lomond or a comprehensive development area in Glasgow.

I thank the Minister for the excellence of his reply and for giving way. I feel so satisfied with his reply that I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

9.1 p.m.

I should like to raise a point which I hope the Minister will deal with. It covers a point that the Bill will apply to once it becomes law. My question is related to Clause 3 on the subject of appeals. I did not have the benefit of serving in Committee on the Bill. One point is causing widespread concern to my part of Scotland, particularly to the town of Banchory in the north end of Kincardineshire. I have written to the Scottish Office about this problem, but perhaps the Minister can deal with it and explain how he sees these matters in relation to the Bill.

I refer to the proposals announced by the South of Scotland Electricity Board to carry out exploratory drilling for uranium in various parts of Scotland. One of the areas specified in the announcement is Banchory. The question of the disposal of nuclear waste was raised in Committee, but I want to deal with the question of drilling for uranium.

I want the Minister to consider the point from several aspects. I understand from what was said in Committee and from answers to Questions in the House that the drilling, whether for exploratory purposes or for the disposal of waste, will be subject to normal planning procedures. That will apply whether it is a local authority seeking to bury waste or the electricity board seeking to drill for uranium.

Under the appeal procedures there will be an opportunity for the electricity board on the one hand or the person on whose land the drilling is taking place to appeal to the Secretary of State about the original planning authority decision, and that is right. My point, however, does not relate to the individual owner or to the authority. I refer to the general public interest.

A number of representations have been made to me by individuals in the area who have very deep feelings about drilling in furtherance of the use of nuclear products. There are those who have a deep concern about the environment of the area and the effect of such drilling upon it, and I stress that those people may not have direct interests as proprietors or parties involved.

What are the rights of the individuals whose interests I have described and which are of a general nature under the Planning Acts? Will they be entitled to object to the proposals that have been put forward by the South of Scotland Electricity Board? In the event of their objections being overruled, what opportunity will such individuals have to put their case or to appeal against the regional authority to the Secretary of State for Scotland?

I have raised a sensitive issue about which the Scottish Office and the Minister are aware. I raise the matter to obtain information from the Minister. I hope he will recognise that this is an issue about which many individuals feel deeply and about which they are very sensitive. I hope he will describe what rights my constituents have. My constituents and I will be grateful for any assurance that they will have rights under the Planning Acts, and particularly the right to appeal to the Secretary of State. I shall appreciate any help that the Minister can give and that I can pass on to my constituents.

9.7 p.m.

We have come to a sensitive area, and it is unrealistic to bring up matters of this kind in the House without notice. The Minister has described the incunabula of the Bill which recognises the plesiomorphic in its content. To that degree the Minister should have had legal advice from the Opposition about the legal connotations. The nature of the discussion has turned to the disposal of or the probing for uranium. That is a separate subject and I do not think that the Minister should reply at all.

9.8 p.m.

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Small) is always helpful to Ministers, and tonight he has made a valid point.

Are we working our way backwards through the Bill or are we still going forwards?

Some parts of the hon. Member's comments are best left unanswered. He is welcome to take part in the debates.

The hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) raised an issue that is causing a great deal of concern, not only in his own area but in other parts of South Ayrshire and in Scotland as a whole—perhaps even in the area that the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacCormick) is representing for a short time.

Is the Minister saying that Argyll is being considered as an area to be used for the dumping of nuclear waste?

I am saying nothing of the kind. I have enough problems with the colleges of education and other related problems.

As the Minister responsible for education, perhaps the hon. Gentleman can assist us. Will he tell the House what plesiomorphic means?

Not without notice. I shall not even attempt to do that. We all accept that my hon. Friend the Member for Garscadden adds light to the House. Even when there is levity in his remarks, if one studies them in Hansard one can understand his logic. Anyone who studies the comments of my hon. Friend will appreciate that there is a great deal of logic in what he says. He may not say it in English, but that does not detract from his logic. After all, I heard on the radio today about the great dearth of interest in the classics in secondary schools in England and Wales. As a number of Opposition Members were educated in England, perhaps they could help my hon. Friend the Member for Garscadden—but not tonight, because I wish to move on and to make progress.

I am glad to hear that the Minister is anxious to make progress. If he makes very quick progress, it may be possible for us to discuss tonight the vital subject of unemployment in Scotland, about which we know that he and many other hon. Members are greatly concerned.

I am sorry, but I do not wish to be diverted on to the problems of unemployment in Scotland during the debate on this Bill. I accept that it is a very serious matter for the people of Scotland, and it is something about which we should all be concerned. The hon. Gentleman has intervened in the debate on this Bill in a totally unnecessary way. He is wasting time and has continued to waste time this evening with remarks from a sedentary position, when all of us know that I have been attempting for some considerable time to bring an end to the debate on this very important Bill.

I have already said that planning should be dealt with expeditiously and with as little bureaucracy as possible. This attempt by the hon. Member continually to intervene and to continue with this time-wasting exercise is disrupting the progress of our legislation. He has been doing it in a very unconstructive way, as is so typical of him.

I had a great deal of difficulty in trying to calm down the aggression coming from the hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) and going towards the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor), who then got into another battle with the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger). The private battles that continually take place within the Conservative Party should be left outside the House.

I am attempting to give a constructive and helpful reply to the points made by the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns. I am sorry that he was not a member of the Committee on the Bill. He tends always to serve on Committees on Bills that have a Scottish character. I am sorry that the overthrow of the dynasty of North Angus and Mearns has meant that he is now resigned to reclining on the Back Benches and doing his best to put on the best face possible. I am pleased to see that after returning from the Bahamas, he has taken a close interest in a constituency matter.

I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I understand that it was Bermuda. I am glad that it was some distance from North Angus and Mearns and from the problems of nuclear waste.

As the Minister seems to know nothing about geography, English and the classics, should he not resign from being in charge of education?

A great deal of the nonsense that comes from the hon. and learned Gentleman has meant that a number of my constituents are now languishing a little longer in the care of Her Majesty. Whatever damage I am inflict- ing, I am certainly not ensuring that taxpayers' money is wasted in Her Majesty's prisons.

Is it the case that the colour of the Minister's tie reflects the demand of another organisation for his resignation?

It would be out of order for me to drift into the debates of the Orange Lodge as to my position. I am prepared to debate the position of the Orange Lodge. However, the hon. Gentleman makes a pertinent point—however irrelevant it is. He should be careful to note that the statements that are aggravating that particular organisation have the full support—

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am the only other Member who has spoken in the debate so far, and I raised a specific point affecting my constituents as to the working of the Bill. Is it in order for the Minister to go off on this tour of the world and of different organisations, which he seems to think he has a vicarious responsibility for and interest in but which, by his own conduct, he has demonstrated that he does not have? Is it in order for him to do that and to seek not to answer the fair points put by hon. Members?

Order. It would be dangerous for me to say what is fair in a Minister's answer. As long as it relates to Third Reading, I shall be satisfied, even if I am the only one.

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker. I was attempting, with the great help of your predecessor in the Chair, to reach a conclusion on Third Reading of the Bill. It is unfortunate that hon. Members have chosen to make spurious points of order. Whatever attempts the hon. Members for Cathcart and North Angus and Mearns are making, if they share the same concern I leave to them.

I want to answer the point made by the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns regarding nuclear waste.

The point I made did not concern nuclear waste. Did not the Minister listen to my speech? I was concerned particularly about the question of drilling for uranium by the South of Scotland Electricity Board, which is a quite different issue.

If the hon. Gentleman will be patient, I shall come to that point. I want to be fair and to keep within the scope of the Bill. It is important to keep within the scope of the Bill. I see no reason for extraneous points of order which are totally unrelated to progress in this House on more serious subjects. If the Opposition want to filibuster, so be it.

In Committee on the Bill—not on any other Bill to do with education or any thing else—this point was made by the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro). The hon. Gentleman, as I originally stated some time ago in trying to give an answer, referred to the concern which has been expressed about nuclear waste and drilling in parts of his constituency or areas adjoining it. The hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns referred to the South of Scotland Electricity Board carrying out drilling, the possibility of appeals and the rights generally of his constituents. I was trying to be helpful to the hon. Member in repeating the main points of the argument in Committee. I have attempted to reply this evening in similar vein to my reply in Committee. It is worth noting that I sent a letter to the hon. Member for Dumfries on almost the same subject and that in Committee the hon. Gentleman paid tribute to the Government.

The planning authority will decide whether planning permission should be given or is needed. If there is a dispute, the matter can be referred to the Secretary of State. I can only restate the point made by the hon. Member for Dumfries. I hope that I quote him correctly as I do not have a copy of the Committee proceedings. The hon. Gentleman and other Opposition Members accepted that, as power rested with locally-elected representatives, that was a great comfort. The same applies to North Angus and Mearns, and no doubt the hon. Gentleman will take great comfort from that.

The hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns rightly pressed me about the general rights of individuals. Both he and I know that the question of drilling, either by the South of Scotland Electricity Board or by others who wish to bury nuclear waste, has been highlighted by a great deal of newspaper comment and by demonstrations throughout the country. Individuals may make representations to the district and regional planning authorities, but there are no rights of appeal unless—this is very important —they have been refused planning permission. Ultimately, however, the Secretary of State could call in the application.

I am grateful for that helpful and constructive reply. To put it beyond peradventure, would the Secretary of State be prepared to listen to any representations from local individuals not directly affected at the time of hearing of the appeal? This is the kind of reassurance which I think would be useful. Although I appreciate that those of whom I am thinking may not have legal status as applicants, would they be able to make representations and would the Secretary of State listen to them?

It would be only right and proper on a matter of such deep concern that people's rights should be safeguarded as fully as possible if their concerns were not met at the local planning level. I feel some difficulty in committing my right hon. Friend, but I think it is fair to say that he would do so. That is going a tremendous way—

Surely, whatever interests the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) has in mind could equally make an approach to the local planning authority to be heard so that they could state their case. It seems to me that the hon. Member has raised an important point. I know that he is mainly concerned about uranium exploration, but we will be faced more and more with disputes over test boring for the disposal of radioactive waste. No matter how reassuring it is to the local people that they will have the first say, but maybe not the final say, it seems to me that the Secretary of State will be faced with an inordinate number of appeals, because there cannot be two winners in this business.

Just by a short head.

My hon. Friend was simply saying that there could not be two winners, but he raised an extremely important point, and we should treat it as such. I am sorry that we have had these unfortunate interventions, which took away from the seriousness of the position. I hope that no hon. Member, particularly the hon. Member for Cathcart, will accuse me of not attending to this serious point and somehow or other of wasting the time of the House, precluding the hon. Gentleman from having a debate on some other matter on which he seems to be an expert.

This is an important matter of principle. It does not matter whether it involves boring for uranium in North Angus and Mearns, or a planning matter, but is the Minister committing the Secretary of State to allowing any person who has not a planning interest within the Act to make representations in a planning matter and planning appeal? That is the issue: is he or is he not?

I accept that the hon. Member for Cathcart will accuse me of exactly that. I am depending upon the good common sense of the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns, who had some doubts about the rights of his constituents with regard to possible work by the South of Scotland Electricity Board or other borings, perhaps for nuclear waste. I said that, in a matter of deep concern such as this, the rights of the hon. Gentleman's individual constituents would be safeguarded.

I hope that I do not sound arrogant, and I am not putting myself above any other Minister, when I say that I have bent over backwards to accommodate all hon. Members. I think that Opposition Members will agree that I have failed to meet no hon. Member, from whichever party, who asked for access to me as a Minister. Many hon. Members could testify to that.

At the end of the day, the Secretary of State for Scotland is the planning Minister for Scotland. Anyone who is refused permission can appeal to him, but we hope that everything will be done in a commonsense way, so that a great deal of the time of the Secretary of State or any other Minister or official is not unnecessarily consumed.

This has been a fairly long debate and a useful one. I have been replying to the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns, but the debate has been prolonged by the unfortunate interruptions, albeit well-intentioned, of many Opposition Members. They were performing a useful rôle in trying to extract helpful information from the Government. I have provided a great deal of information to their benefit. I do not wish to detain hon. Members any longer than necessary, but, because some hon. Members lost sight of the important parts of the Bill during the môlée on the Opposition Benches, I think that it will be helpful if I briefly restate what the Bill is all about.

First, the Bill removes doubts which have arisen about the law relating to the preparation and adoption of local plans. Secondly, it clarifies the right of appeal against decisions of a regional planning authority when it has called in planning applications. Thirdly, it strengthens enforcement powers under the 1972 Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act These changes are necessary to make the planning machinery work more smoothly and effectively, a laudable objective supported by all hon. Members.

This is a useful and proper Bill to improve planning procedures in Scotland, and I hope that it will be given a general welcome.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with amendments.