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Amendments Of Part Viii Of The Local Government, Planning And Land Act 1980

Volume 116: debated on Tuesday 12 May 1987

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I beg to move Government amendment No. 7, in page 9, leave out lines 21 to 26.

It gives me considerable pleasure to move this amendment because when the Bill was in Committee, there was good feeling, as there was on Second Reading. I said then that we would look most carefully at the two amendments that had been tabled by the Opposition to see whether we could absorb the intention behind them so that they could become part of the Bill and, indeed, strengthen it.

In Committee, the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) proposed an amendment to section 80A(1), which was offered as a direct and honest attempt to improve the drafting of the Bill. I appreciated the fact that those amendments were either probing or improving amendments throughout. I have examined their proposals carefully—and they were genuine proposals in which there was no Trojan horse. They were simply attempts to improve the Bill. Therefore, I am happy to bring that amendment forward myself and to commend it to the House. Indeed, so good is the amendment that I should like the House to accept a similar change in the wording of section 80(1) to ensure that the two provisions remain on all fours with one another.

Indeed, there is no Trojan horse in this amendment, which started life as amendment No. 3 in Committee on 12 March. This part of the Bill is so technical and obtuse that if there had been a Trojan horse, none of us would have spotted it.

We are grateful to the Minister for taking account of the points that we made and are glad that he has brought forward the amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move Government amendment No. 8, in page 12, line 15, leave out 'In section 78(1)(a)' and insert

'(1) In subsection (1)(a) of section 78'.

If one can go forward in the same spirit of co-operation, I should like to move this amendment. In Committee, the Opposition put forward a two-part amendment and I should like to commend both elements of it to the House, although I promised previously to consider only one. Therefore, I am happy to spell out that directions may be amended or revoked, and that a direction-making power carries with it a power to amend or revoke. It will do no harm to spell that out as was requested by the Opposition.

On reflection, I have concluded that Opposition Members were right to suggest also that in an area as technical as valuation, prior consultation would be desirable. Therefore, I invite the House to accept an amendment to that effect.

7 pm

As the Minister has made clear, this matter was raised in Committee on what was amendment No. 34, and debated on 17 March. Again, we are grateful to the Minister for looking carefully at what we sought to say and for introducing the amendments in this way.

Obviously, consultation is of great importance to local authorities and their representative associations. The powers contained in clause I are potentially wide-ranging in effect. They deal with deferred and advance purchase schemes, of which much has been written in the press. We acknowledge that within the scheme in the Bill the regulation is bound to be technical and complex, but precisely because of that it is important that, wherever possible, local authorities should have the opportunity to he consulted about regulations before they are introduced.

Last July the Secretary of State announced his intention to take powers to regulate advance and deferred purchase schemes by legislation on or after midnight, 22 July 1986. Local authorities have been acting as if that was law, prudently taking account of the prospect of legislation. Although we had serious reservations about the operation of clause 1, given that authorities have already acted as if it were law, we believe it would add to uncertainty if we sought at this stage to block clause 1 and its attendant effects.

We are glad that, as a consequence of discussions yesterday, we have been able to improve the way in which the Bill will operate for local authorities.

With the leave of the House I shall reply. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) referred to clause 1, which is linked with schedule 1 on which we had conversation yesterday. As this afternoon we have had poetry by Thomas Brown from the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Harrison), in reply I must quote my doggerel, particularly as today is Edward Lear's birthday and I have the "Oxford Book of Light Verse" with me:

There once was a doctor of Brent,
Who said: "Some Councils have spent
Far too much. If alas
This amendment should pass,
We should all have great cause to lament."
I offer that to the House in the spirit in which we conducted our proceedings in Committee.

With the leave of the House I shall reply. I should make it clear that that piece of doggerel was prepared for an amendment which, in the event, we did not move. I think that the Minister would be upset if the House took its advice on the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 9, in page 12, line 20, at end insert—

'(2) Subsection (2) of that section (power to vary or revoke directions) shall be omitted.'.

No. 10, in page 12, leave out lines 39 to 43.

No. 11, in page 13, line 50, at end insert—

'6. In section 85 of that Act (supplementary provisions for Part VIII), after subsection (1) there shall be inserted the following subsections—
"(1A) Before giving any direction under section 80(6A) or 80A(5) above the Secretary of State shall consult such associations of authorities as appear to him to be concerned and any authority with whom consultation appears to him to be desirable.
(1B) Any power of the Secretary of State to give directions under this Part of this Act shall include power to vary or revoke a direction given in exercise of that power.".'.—[Dr. Boyson.]