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Local Government, Planning And Land (No 2) Bill

Volume 413: debated on Tuesday 14 October 1980

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House again in Committee on Clause 122.

Page 102, line 23, at end insert—

("(1A) An area of land in England may only be so designated if—
  • (a) it is in a metropolitan district; or
  • (b) it is in an inner London borough or partly in an inner London borough and partly in an outer London borough which has a boundary in common with that inner London borough.
  • (1B) Separate parcels of land may be designated as one urban development area.").

    The noble Lord said: I spoke to this amendment before. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    [ Amendment No. 257 not moved.]

    On Question, Whether Clause 122, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

    In considering whether we should now give approval to this crucial part of Part XVI of the Bill, namely, that we should approve of the proposition that

    "If the Secretary of State is of opinion that it is expedient in the national interest to do so, he may by order made by statutory instrument designate any area of land as an urban development area",
    we should consider the implications of what is proposed for what we now understand to be the two areas principally affected. I say this of course without prejudice to my earlier argument about hybridity. I am happy to think that the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton, has expert knowledge to bring to bear on Liverpool. I hope he will forgive me if therefore I concentrate on London dockland.

    It may be desirable for us to consider what area we are talking about and what its composition is. We are talking about 5,500 acres of land in the centre of one of the largest cities in the world. Over 1 million people live in the affected area. It is not a separate entity. It is made up of sections of five London boroughs, Greenwich, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark and Tower Hamlets, divided by the River Thames. Each section of the land with which we are concerned is linked with the borough in which it is situated. Surrey Docks with Southwark, the Isle of Dogs and Wapping with Tower Hamlets, Canning Town and Beckton with Newham.

    Then the docklands is of great significance because it lies next to the City of London with reasonable communications with the West End so that national, regional, and local interests are all interested and concerned in the land about which we are speaking. It was awareness of these broad facts and that a new town corporation would not suit the circumstances that I have summarised, which prompted the setting up of the Docklands Joint Committee in 1974. Incidentally, I do not take pride in this fact, but it is worth mentioning that it was I think a Conservative Minister who conceived or fathered the idea—perhaps it is the same thing.

    That Docklands Joint Committee brings together what I submit to be is an effective and balanced representation of the five boroughs and of the Greater London Council with independent members, including Government nominees. In 1976 that body produced the Docklands Strategic Plan and approved of it after elaborate, wide-ranging but fairly rapid consultations throughout the docklands area with all the interests concerned. The first phase of the plan, upon which a great deal of work has been done, as I shall indicate in a moment, is to be concluded in 1982, and that will involve a quarter of the proposed housing in the dockland and one third of the provision of industrial premises for jobs. It has been a time-consuming and of course expensive undertaking.

    After a recent visit to it with several of my noble friends we were greatly impressed with the progress we saw. We toured the whole area and were impressed with the progress that had been made, and to learn that work is well ahead of the targets in the strategic plan. I do not want to go into detail of what has been done, but perhaps I may illustrate the matter, because of my own early interest and honour in representing the area, by what has been achieved in the Newham area where about half of the land with which we are concerned lies.

    Twenty seven million pounds has been spent on projects since 1975 and a great deal of that has been spent on infrastructure. For example, £10 million has been spent on surface water drainage, link roads, and matters of that kind. It is interesting that urban aid approval has fairly recently been given for two major spine roads to open up the Beckton Marshes area. Now the scheme is in hand and we saw the progress that has been made and is well ahead in Silvertown and North Woolwich, where there are over 500 houses and a large area of open space. Then in Beckton there are 3,800 dwellings, and industrial floor space which should provide space for the provision of industry, and 4,600 jobs may be gained, and then 48 hectares of open space.

    What was interesting to note was that there was a readiness to make developments attractive for private developers in East Beckton the super store development, and then in other parts of the area a vast printing works establishment. There are considerable further projects which are in hand and a great deal of it has, I emphasise, been spent on infrastructure. Therefore, cursory visit to the site suggests the slight sense of wilderness that one sees in an area of development in its early stages. It may well be that in so far as the Secretary of State ever visited the separate areas he may have been misled by that fact. These are the circumstances in which these proposals have been made, are being carried out, and are achieving impressive results already with the arrangement which already exists.

    In another place the Member for Newham, Mr. Spearing, quoted a letter that the Newham Chamber of Commerce—not a notoriously socialistic body in its outlook—had sent to the Secretary of State on 9th November 1979. They said:
    "We suggest to you that here in Newham the trends you want to change—reclaiming land, encouraging private development, improving the environment, creating a demand for housing, encouraging the voluntary sector—are the very things already in active progress through the local council. So why change? As a Chamber of Commerce, without political affiliations and concerned only with the collective welfare and development of the business community, we would ask you to reconsider your decision or at least modify it so that the local Authority can continue to operate and direct to a successful conclusion the developments which it has started, has already put in the pipeline, or are planned for the future."
    That is an appeal which I venture to make, but I suspect that that appeal, at this stage of the consideration of the matter, would from the other side receive a somewhat dusty answer.

    What puzzles me is how the existence of a development corporation could have solved problems more easily or quickly than the Dockland Joint Committee has succeeded in doing. It will not, as I understand it, be able to call on any professional skills or expertise which is not already available to that body and the authorities with which it co-operates, and it will not have the advantage, certainly for a long time, of the local knowledge of the areas which the Dockland Joint Committee obviously has, and we on this side of the Committee fail to see how it will be better equipped to deal with the undoubtedly difficult problems of dockland.

    One of the crucial questions there, of course, is the existence of large areas of land in the ownership of statutory undertakers, a problem which I apprehend that at the end of the day the Government will have to deal with. The other crucial question is that of financial backing for what is proposed. Those are two of the three nightmares that are presently faced; the persistence up to now of the statutory undertakers, the threat involved in this new proposal casting a spanner into the works, and the risk of cuts in financial backing for the projects. Those are the problems that lie ahead.

    I am bound to say that the concern which has been expressed to me by the people in the locality, quite apart from the interruption and disturbance this will cause in development already being undertaken to achieve the very objects with which the Government say they are concerned, is that proposals will be prepared by this new body quite divorced from the needs and aspirations of the local communities who have lived in and developed this area and have suffered in the area in the past over decades and more. We on this side of the Committee believe that the real way ahead now for this area, which suffered so much from dereliction, slummery and squalor in the old days of private development, coupled with the havoc caused by Hitler's bombs, lies in the Secretary of State's joining with the constitutnent authorities and the DJC in a genuine partnership.

    8.24 p.m.

    The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, said I would have more knowledge than he about the problems of Merseyside. He certainly has a great deal more knowledge than I about the problems of London's dockland. It is perhaps ironic that both of us should be speaking, one for London and the other for Liverpool, and both be Welshmen, but perhaps that says something about the way the Welsh race has of wandering around meddling in other people's business.

    I would remind the noble Lord that we were here on the islands before the others came.

    The noble and learned Lord is of course right; his memory is better than mine. The problem on Merseyside is similar to, but by no means the same as, the problem in the London dockland area. We have the south docks area, South of Pier Head, and the north dock area with the West Float on the other side in the Wirral. Taking the south docks first, the area where the use of the docks as docks has long since ceased, noble Lords who have watched the television programme "The Onedin Line" will know that it is the south docks that were used in that period. In the recent past the south docks have ceased to be used for any maritime purpose and have become silted up.

    Having said that, I hasten to add that there is still a vibrant life in those areas; the former warehouses are now used for businesses and, so that noble Lords do not think the area is one great wasteland, there is a large number of successful small businesses operating in the old warehouses, many of which are protected buildings. The north docks, getting out towards the estuary, are still in use but are likely to go out of use in the fairly near future and are prospective areas for inclusion in the urban development area, although they are not yet included. The area on the Wirral side, the West Float, is still in use, but again is suffering from dereliction and is also prospectively included in the urban development area.

    Before the reorganisation of local government, the Liverpool side of the docks, the south and north docks, were being considered for redevelopment or reappraisal by the city council. Since reorganisation, both the city council and the new Merseyside County Council have had considerable involvement in the attempt to regenerate the areas, and one of the things the county has done is set up a maritime museum adjacent to the Albert Dock, which is a highly thought of building in conservation terms, and has made many preliminary arrangements about taking leases of the south docks area from the Mersey Dock and Harbour Company, the owners of the land. It is our view that we were progressing quite well on our own, that if we had had a little help by way of slight changes in legislation to assist us in loans and land acquisition, it is the view of the Merseyside County Council that they could have done all that was necessary to regenerate the area without the setting up of an urban development corporation.

    Indeed, in March 1979 the Secretary of State, who was then in Opposition, poured scorn at a meeting in Liverpool on what he described at the time as the Labour Government's scheme to establish yet another body to tackle the problems of Merseyside's docklands. Lo and behold! after the general election, and almost as soon as he was appointed Secretary of State by the incoming Conservative Administration, the Secretary of State announced his intention of setting up just such a body as he had criticised and poured scorn on, for the London and Merseyside docklands. In fact, at the time when he was causing the mass execution of Quangos, here he was setting up two large and potentially very important Quangos instead.

    In the Merseyside area there are now—I suspect this may be the excuse or reason the Government will give for setting up an urban development corporation in this area—about a dozen different bodies tackling the problems of Merseyside's dockland; the county council; Liverpool City Council; Wirral Borough Council; Mersey Dock and Harbour Company, the owner of most of the land involved; the new Urban Development Corporation designate; the Enterprise Zones designate; the Inner City Partnership and a large array of voluntary and quasi voluntary agencies. All seem to the people on Merseyside to be competing and meddling in the same problem. This problem started largely on reorganisation and I can well understand, without agreeing with the Minister and his right honourable friend, the reason why they decided they must have an urban development corporation in spite of the fact that they castigated it as socialist-type thinking.

    One must admit that the local authorities were seen to be arguing and quarrelling among themselves about who should be responsible for what, in particular, in the south docks area. Though I am not a supporter of the concept of county councils, if there was ever a point in reorganisation, it was that an organisation such as the county council, with Merseyside-wide responsibilities, or metropolitan area-wide responsibilities, is obviously the kind of organisation that should have the overall responsibility for an area such as this which straddles the boundaries of the metropolitan district councils.

    At the end of the day, even if, as a Liberal, one does not support the particular system of election, the councillors on the Merseyside County Council, on the City Council and on the Wirral Borough Council are democratically elected councillors who as such are answerable to the communities they represent. The municipalisation, or the nationalisation, if one likes—I do not wish to use emotive terms, but it is a form of nationalisation or municipilisation—of a whole area, putting it into the control of people who are not accountable or are not democratically elected, seems to me to be an evasion of the democratic principle. If you answer that by saying, "Well, you are not doing the job properly. We need to collect all the resources together", my reply is that if we had the additional powers, which I mentioned earlier in my speech, of land assembly, as well as powers of borrowing, then the work could be done by the democratically-elected county council. That really is the gravamen of my argument.

    It is understandable to any of us who have been engaged in local government and who care about local democracy that we should be resisting the proposals to set up a non-elected body. If I may quote from Dr. John Riane of the Joint Centre for Regional, Urban and Local Government Studies at the University of Birmingham, I think that your Lordships will see that he puts the matter very well. He says that
    "local government is, not unjustifiably, showing considerable concern at a number of issues over which the establishment of urban development corporations impinges upon their own role. First, because the new corporations will be accountable through the Secretary of State to Parliament, they are unable to fulfil properly the need for locally accountable local government. Moreover, although proponents of the idea emphasise the importance of consultation with local authorities, and in accommodating as best as possible the policies of existing local plans, there is scepticism that the proposals can imply anything else than the replacement of established local government organisation by new and unproven organisations".
    I think that that puts very succinctly the argument of those of us who believe that democratically accountable local government should do this kind of job.

    In an earlier debate I mentioned concern about defining the areas to be included in the urban development corporation. I also wish to mention—and I think that this is very important, and no doubt it will be raised later in the discussion on this part of the Bill—the relationship of the urban development corporation with the adjacent and contiguous local authorities. Some of my amendments to be reached later seek to deal with this question, though I see that the Government have put down an amendment, Amendment No. 279, which I spent a large part of the day trying to fathom, which I think goes some of the way to meeting the objections that I have made. Another objection that amendments that I have put down try to deal with is connected with trying to ensure that local authorities are recompensed for work done prior to the setting up of urban development corporations, if the corporations come into existence.

    There are a number of other questions that I think need to be considered during the debate on this clause and further clauses. Given that we are in a position—as we are frequently told, and as I think we all well know—in which resources in the public sector are scarce, should those scarce resources be concentrated in small areas? If those resources are scarce, should they be concentrated in the small area of urban district councils? Should they not be spread more evenly over whole areas of urban problems?

    So far as Merseyside is concerned—and I am sure that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, would agree with me so far as London is concerned—docklands represents only part of urban decay. It is not only the docklands on Merseyside that are suffering from urban decay. I feel that I must ask what is the relationship, or the prospective relationship, between the urban development corporations and the adjacent enterprise zones when they are set up? Might not both these kind of organisations—the enterprise zones and the urban development cor- porations—indeed succeed, as we all hope that they will, in regenerating the dock-lands areas and the enterprise zone areas, but only at the expense of other areas?

    To me, this is an absolutely key question because we in Merseyside—and I am sure that this applies in other areas where there are to be enterprise zones, and in other dockland areas, too—have terrible problems in the dockland areas and in the inner urban areas, as well as in the outer urban areas. We have appalling difficulties in Kirkby, where there are massive problems regarding housing and the general quality of life in what is a comparatively new area.

    So in my worst dreams I cannot help imagining a thriving dockland area in the future, following a successful urban development corporation enterprise, surrounded by inner and outer city areas, such as Kirkby, Liverpool 8, and parts of the Wirral, with empty council flats, grotesquely high unemployment, in particular among young people, an unskilled workforce, closed libraries, inadequate recreation, poor schools and deteriorating social services.

    We in Merseyside are all delighted that the Secretary of State comes to chair the Inner City Partnership, but I believe that that Partnership itself could be severely affected if money in very large amounts was to be thrown to the urban development corporations, at the cost of failing to tackle other very desirable projects to alleviate problems of urban regeneration.

    Finally, I should like to quote very briefly from the same Dr. Raine. He says that, whatever our view of the vision of the urban development corporation,
    "three questions had yet to be asked and answered. First, how will we measure the effectiveness of the corporations"—
    in relation to other urban problems—
    "second, how long are we prepared to wait for the corporations to prove themselves; third, might not the local authorities themselves give similar commitment to the problems, were they given the appropriate powers and resources?"
    That seems to me to sum up the problems. Urban development corporations might solve some problems and create other problems. Unless we give the opportunity to democratically-elected local bodies, we have no means of knowing whether those bodies, working together, cannot solve the problem without the creation of a vast, new, unelected bureaucratic Quango-type organisation. As a person with a great belief in local democracy, it seems to me that those questions have not been answered satisfactorily, and that there is no likelihood of their being answered satisfactorily. Therefore, I feel that if we believe in democratically elected local authorities, we should be making a great mistake in proceeding with the urban development corporations.

    8.39 p.m.

    May I first say that of course I am well aware that the Government's UDC proposals have generated controversy and that leaders of some local authorities have expressed particular anxieties. Equally I think it is fair to point out that the Government proposals have also attracted considerable support. I am the first to recognise the point that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, made, when speaking of London, about the existing organisation under the Docklands Joint Committee, which he said had made much progress. I entirely accept that. I would pay tribute to it. Indeed, I know something of it. I have made it my business to find out, and not for a moment do I wish in any way to detract from that. But, as I shall point out in a few moments, what the Government are concerned with is the scale and the rate at which progress is being made. It is because we feel as we do about this that, in a Session which really is so crowded with other important business, we have nevertheless thought it right to bring forward legislative provisions to enable these urban development corporations to be established.

    I was interested to note, after these matters had been discussed in another place, that the noble Lord, Lord Evans, quoted a Dr. Raine. I wonder whether I may be permitted to quote a verdict (if you like) offered by a conference under the auspices of the Royal Institute of British Architects in July of this year. The Building magazine commented:
    "The Government is to set up an urban development corporation for Docklands with extensive powers modelled on those of existing new towns. Given the success of the new towns movement, the strength of the opposition in some quarters is hard to understand. A UDC which retains a practical perspective on what is possible steers the path between the municipal empires of the boroughs and County Hall, but which seeks good working relationships with both, should certainly make progress. Certainly the UDC must be Docklands' last chance to achieve the 1970 vision".
    The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, said that there may be certain problems in connection with hybridity, but I think we will let that alone for now and wait for others to make their comments on that. I have spoken earlier on the matter of designation, so I will not go over that one again, except to repeat that the Government's intention is that there be the two that are specified. I hope that that, at least, is accepted.

    As with the new towns, once the task of achieving effective development in the areas has been concluded, the UDCs will be wound up, their assets disposed of and the powers restored to the local authorities. I see the UDCs as bringing very positive benefits to their areas. They will have access to a mixture of grant and loan financed from the Government, and they will be able to concentrate in a single-minded fashion on the development of the area. As dereliction is removed and the environment improved, new developments and activities are started up and employment is created. Real benefits, then, will flow to the whole community in the area, and this can surely be only in the best interests, in the medium-term, of the local authorities also.

    It is the Government's intention to lay the orders setting up the individual UDCs as soon after Royal Assent as is possible, but perhaps I should mention now that we are anxious that, in advance of laying the orders, your Lordships' House and, indeed, other interested bodies should have available detailed information on the nature of the Government's intentions, which we have made clear are restricted, as I have said. We hope to publish shortly a document, copies of which will be made available to noble Lords, setting out our proposals both for the boundaries of the proposed UDC areas—and this was touched upon earlier—and the powers which it is proposed the individual urban development corporations should have.

    At the end of the day, UDCs can be judged only by their achievements. We have yet to receive from the shadow UDCs comprehensive proposals for their schemes in 1981–82, but our intention would be, bearing in mind the need for significant restraint in public expenditure, nevertheless to make sums available which are adequate to the task that they face. But—and I must stress this—public money will not do the trick on its own. The UDCs will need to be skilful and active in involving the private sector, levering investments wherever possible, facilitating planning permission, discussing with the institutions and engaging in some pump-priming developments of their own, but wherever possible passing this on to the private sector.

    The idea of UDCs is not entirely a novel one. As I have indicated, there are healthy precedents in the new towns in the United Kingdom, particularly in the later ones, where partnerships have existed between the development corporations and the existing local authorities. It is true that new towns pose different problems from the urban areas we are considering in London and Merseyside docklands. There are few green field sites in the dockland areas; but the problems which face the Merseyside and London dockland areas have a national dimension, and a similar magnitude to that which the early new towns faced. That is why we think it is so important that a national view is taken of the need to set up these UDCs.

    The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elywn-Jones, said, "Why can UDCs achieve more than the existing committees?". He quoted the gentleman from the Newham Chamber of Commerce who said, "Why change?". I say, for a number of reasons. First of all, they can bring to these problems a single-minded and purposive approach. It is something which does not face the varied and disparate tasks of existing local authorities, but has the capacity to operate direct on the problem of land which is sterilised by the statutory undertakers under the vesting procedure. There will be some extra resources from Government, and Government can use their professional expertise in levering finance from the private sector.

    Before I conclude perhaps I could touch on one or two points made by the noble Lord, Lord Evans. He said that these are only part of urban decay. Of course they are only part of urban decay, but they are parts that stand out. In London, as the noble and learned Lord himself said: Here we are talking of 5,500 to 6,000 acres located so centrally as to be almost beyond belief in what many would say was the greatest city in the world; and here, at the one time, is a problem and a fantastic opportunity. The bottle is half full; it is not half empty. It is how you look at it. Yes, for years there have been attempts—courageous and well-meant attempts—to do better, and they have made it better, but if we go on at the rate we are, with this 5,500 to 6,000 acres, how long will it take at the present rate, with the present resources and with the present input of effort that is being made? It cannot in any way compare with what we are talking of doing; and the very fact that we are talking of really scarce resources—and, my goodness! how scarce they are today—alone shows the importance that we attach to it.

    Of course, it must have an impact. The noble Lord, Lord Evans, said, "All right; you may indeed make these areas good, but what about the other areas?". It will not do. The last Government, of all Governments, centred their urban programme upon concentrated areas of deprivation and dereliction because they felt that in that way it would be seen that there could be uplift—and there is much evidence to show that when one area is uplifted it uplifts those around it—and it would have a considerable impact. I think that the debate here today is not so much about whether it is desirable but, first, whether it would succeed and, secondly, whether it is better than what we have at the moment. That is really what it is about. It truly is not a political matter, as I see it. It is really a matter of achievement, because everybody wants to see these areas upgraded. It would be a delight to everybody in your Lordships' House if we were able to say, "What a success they are."

    If I sound enthusiastic about it, then it is because I believe in it. It would be so easy, at this time, to do nothing; to say, "They are getting on with it, they are trying." That would be the easiest thing to do, but it would not be the responsible thing to do and I do not really believe it is what your Lordships would want us to do. Because of this, I commend to your Lordships the whole of the endeavour upon which we are now embarked, and I ask your Lordships, please, to support this because it is truly worthy of support. As to the amendments, I would ask your Lordships not to make minor alterations to whittle down the powers that we seek and that we need to do it. This is a bold and courageous attempt to do something. I commend it to your Lordships, and I ask for the support of the Committee.

    8.49 p.m.

    I appreciate, and I am certain all members of the Committee will admire, the enthusiasm with which the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, has presented his case. But equally, I am convinced that if we had the leaders of the Joint Dockland Committee here they would speak with the same enthusiasm and with more knowledge of the area, and would convince your Lordships of the work which has to be done and how they are getting on with it. I should like to know precisely the information on which the Secretary of State was able to base his decisions before the proposal to have the UDC. I am talking now about London's dockland; the noble Lord, Lord Evans, can deal with Liverpool. What information did he have? How many visits were made before the proposal was originally made? What consultations were there with the DJC and the authorities before the decision was taken? What detailed study was there of all the problems? Or was it a question of saying, "This is the answer; and, as we go along, we will find justification for it"? It is that which appears to have been done.

    Reference has been made to the fact that this is a better instrument. I was brought up in the borough next door to Newham. I never had the honour of representing it. I live now not too far away in north-east London. There are five London boroughs; and the Greater London Council, as the authority, is involved in the Docklands Joint Committee. It has been suggested that this is unwieldy. But these are the same bodies that dealt with all the problems arising from the bombing and the blitz in east London; and they got over those problems. I agree that there are differences before they get ahead wth the actual proposals.

    I hope that in a few words I shall be able to convince your Lordships that a lot of work is being done, a lot of planning is already under way, and that a dislocation now, far from improving the situation might hold up all the plans which are under way. It has been said that an exceptional cost is involved, and the noble Lord has told us of the money that would be available. I must ask a simple question. If the money could be available to the UDC why can it not be available to the DJC and also to Merseyside? That is a simple question which requires a simple answer.

    We have been told time and time again by the noble Lord—and I know that he means it, as do his noble friends who supported him—that we should have confidence in local government. That has been said in every debate on this bill. Yet we will not have confidence in local government on this particular issue. And why not? I hope to convince some of your Lordships that leaving this matter to the elected people would be better than implanting people who are not yet fully aware of all the problems and have yet to be made cognisant of the problems which exist in the area.

    Reference has been made to the new towns, but I believe that the noble Lord and the Notes on Clauses confirm that argument. As the noble Lord has said, these are not green field areas as were most of the new towns. Also the new towns had to go through a detailed public inquiry procedure before the areas were designated. Here we have five well-established boroughs which, in many spheres, have been outstanding in their local authority work. One must say that the local representatives are responsible—and I believe these are Lord Bellwin's own words—to their electors, to their communities and to their ratepayers. So are those who make up the Docklands Joint Committee; and they are being pushed on one side as if they had no responsibility and no accountability to their electors.

    So far as I am aware, London's dockland boroughs and the DJC have been taking every possible step—and this has caused some delay—to consult the people living in the area. There is the big plan for the Surrey Docks. I understand that there was a consultation document and that they insisted on consulting the community on what was to be done. It was not "Big Brother" saying, "This is what will be done in your particular area". As my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones said, a few of us spent a few hours—and it would be foolish to say that we saw everything that was being done—on a tour through these areas. With my own eyes I saw something of what was being done.

    When reference is made to collaboration with the property developers, I ask: who is putting up the News International Building in London's docks, a £7 million scheme?—the developers. Who is putting up the big industrial estate at Beckton?— the property developers with the full support, encouragement and assistance of the Docklands Joint Committee. Time does not allow me to do it but I should like to tell your Lordships of these things and to run through all the schemes that we have seen, schemes which have been started or are under way or for which contracts have been decided; time will not allow this.

    I should like to ask a few questions. Will the strategic plan be scrapped by the UDC? Years of work have gone into this, work by planning experts. We met some of them from the five dockland boroughs. All their experts have put effort into this. Is it to be scrapped? If not, then that is one point against the UDC taking over. If the strategic plan is to be scrapped and if they are to start all over again, that will be an enormous waste of time—and yet we are told that there is urgency in this situation. I am sure the noble Lord the Minister has seen the same plans as I have seen—very bold, very ambitious. They fit in with the needs of the community. They are not just bricks-and-mortar plans but are bringing in green fields and planting trees in areas that have never seen trees before. There are community centres, town centres. All these are planned and developed and are coming forward in development plans.

    The local councillors know their people; they know their areas; they know what the community wants and with all the assistance that the Government can give them, I am convinced that these bodies could more satisfactorily do the job, because of their accountability to their people, of building up not merely a bricks-and-mortar area but one that also will bring a good environment to the people of this area who have never had it before, due really to the ravages of past private enterprise which left them with a mess.


    Avon, E.Gowrie, E.Mountevans, L.
    Bellwin, L.Grafton, D.Mowbray and Stourton, L.
    Belstead, L.Halifax, E.Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
    Boardman, L.Hanworth, V.Netherthorpe, L.
    Boyd-Carpenter, L.Harvey of Tasburgh, L.Northchurch, B.
    Brabazon of Tara, L.Harvington, L.Nugent of Guildford, L.
    Brougham and Vaux, L.Hatherton, L.Orkney, E.
    Caithness, E.Holderness, L.Orr-Ewing, L.
    Carr of Hadley, L.Hornsby-Smith, B.Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
    Carthcart, E.Hylton-Foster, B.Redesdale, L.
    Cockfield, L.Inglewood, L.Reigate, L.
    Colvilleof Culross, V.Ironside, L.Rochdale, V.
    Cork and Orrery, E.Kemsley, V.Rodney, L.
    Craigavon, V.Keyes, L.St. Aldwyn, E.
    Craigmyle, L.Killearn, L.Sandford, L.
    Croft, L.Kilmarnock, L.Sandys, L. [Teller.]
    Cullen of Ashbourne, L.Kinnaird, L.Selkirk, E.
    De Freyne, L.Long, V.Sempill, Ly.
    De La Warr, E.Lyell, L.Strathclyde, L.
    Denham, L. [Teller.]Mackay of Clashfern, L.Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
    Digby, L.Macleod of Borve, B.Swansea, L.
    Drumalbyn, L.Margadale, L.Trefgarne, L.
    Elliot of Harwood, B.Marley, L.Trumpington, B.
    Ferrers, E.Marshall of Leeds, L.Vaux of Harrowden, L.
    Gainford, L.Middleton, L.Vernon, L.
    Gibson-Watt, L.Minto, E.Vickers, B.
    Gisborough, L.Monk Bretton, L.Young, B.
    Glenarthur, L.Morris, L.


    Avebury, L.Hatch of Lusby, L.Sainsbury, L.
    Balogh, L.Houghton of Sowerby, L.Simon, V.
    Brooks of Tremorfa, L.Jeger, B.Stedman, B. [Teller.]
    Bruce of Donington, L.Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.]Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
    Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.Stewart of Fulham, L.
    Collison, L.McCluskey, L.Stone, L.
    David, B.Maelor, L.Taylor of Gryfe, L.
    Davies of Leek, L.Milner of Leeds, L.Underhill, L.
    Ellenborough, L.Mishcon, L.Wallace of Coslany, L.
    Elwyn-Jones, L.Peart, L.Walston, L.
    Evans of Claughton, L.Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.Whaddon, L.
    Galpern, L.Rochester, L.Winstanley, L.
    Hale, L.Ross of Marnock, L.Young of Dartington, L.
    Hampton, L.

    Resolved in the affirmative, and Clause 122, as amended, agreed to.

    9.4 p.m.

    Clause 123 agreed to.

    Schedule 23 [ Urban Development Corporations]:

    8.57 p.m.

    On Question, Whether Clause 122, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

    Their Lordships divided: Contents, 83; Not-Contents, 39.

    Page 202, line 24, leave out ("made by statutory instrument") and insert ("under section 123 above").

    The noble Lord said: This is a technical amendment. It makes it clear that the Secretary of State may prescribe the number of members of a UDC in the main constitution order made under Clause 123. The Bill as drafted does not contain any provision for the procedure for orders to be made under paragraph 1 of the schedule. Clearly it is important to define the particular instrument and this will most appropriately be the order under Clause 123 establishing the UDC. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Page 202, line 32, leave out sub-paragraph (3) and insert—

    ("(3) The Secretary of State shall appoint not less than four members of the Corporation from members of the local authority or authorities in whose areas the urban development corporation is or will be situated, two of those members being appointed from the minority groups on those local authorities.").

    The noble Lord said: This is an attempt to persuade the Government, not to democratise (a terrible word, for which I apologise) the composition of the corporation, but to try to make it a little more sensitive to local opinion. To take the Merseyside UDC-designate the chairman is a very distinguished and respected industrialist who has a very large number of other responsibilities. The deputy chairman is the chairman of the Merseyside County Council, and we do not know yet who the other members will be. It seems to me from my inquiries that there will be one member from the County Council, Sir Kenneth Thompson, who is the leader of the Council and chairman of the County Council, which is obviously fair enough. I will be one member of the Wirral Borough Council because it is the district authority on the Wirral side which is within the UDC area which is Conservative controlled. So that will be two Conservatives. Then there will be one representative from the city council which has no control, but since the Liberals are running it, presumably a Liberal from the city council.

    So there is an area which, much to my dismay, has a very large element of Labour support without a single member of the UDC representing local government Labour attitudes in the Merseyside area. That is why I thought, as a device for trying to ensure a little more representative taste to the corporation, that this amendment by requiring the four members of the corporation to be members of the local authority, and that opposition groups shall be represented, might do something to make the corporation more acceptable, responsive and generally more understanding of the problems of the locality. That is the reason, since we are going to have urban development corporations whether we want them or not, to try to make them a little more acceptable to those who do not believe in the concept anyway. I beg to move.

    The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton, has been tailored to meet the particular situation in Merseyside, and while the principle of the amendment is something which we wholeheartedly support—that there should be members of the local authorities appointed to the urban development corporation—the particular figures included in the amendment, while they might be applicable to an area such as Liverpool, would find great difficulty in being accepted in areas such as the dockland boroughs.

    The proposal is that the four members should be appointed from the local authorities concerned, of whom two should be members from minority groups on those authorities. I think that most of your Lordships know that the political complexion of the local authorities in the docklands areas tends to be overwhelmingly Labour and indeed on occasion some local authorities concerned have 100 per cent. Labour representation. In those circumstances it would be difficult in any way to justify a 50–50 representation between minority and majority groups on those councils. Therefore, I am afraid I cannot support the noble Lord in the terms in which he has tabled his amendment; but the general principle of his amendment, that local authorities should have direct representation on urban development corporations, is one to have support.

    Both the principles and the mechanics involved in the amendment present serious problems. There is every intention on the part of the Government to ensure that people with local knowledge and experience serve on the boards of the UDCs, and indeed witness the appointments that we have been talking about earlier, such as those of Bob Mellish, Sir Kenneth Thompson, as deputy chairmen of the two shadow UDCs. There can be no question of tying the membership irrevocably to a particular mix of local party politics in an area, as the amendment seeks to do.

    Our principle is to ensure that the local authorities are consulted about people with local knowledge. That is not necessarily the same as appointing a statutory minimum of existing local authority members. In the event, however, the kind of membership envisaged in the amendment actually may well arise, but that must be based on the people they are and not necessarily on their party affiliations. On the mechanics, the amendment presents a relatively rigid formula of the kind that may be suitable for one UDC, but not for another. We must remember that this is general legislation and the cardinal principle, therefore, must be to allow sufficient flexibility for the most appropriate board membership to be selected for each UDC. The requirement that the Secretary of State consults each local authority as appears to him to be concerned in the area ensures adequate safeguard for the interests of local authorities. Just on the instance given by the noble Lord, Lord Evans, the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, is a Labour Member, and I understand he is very much involved. I do not know if he is, or is to be, a member of the Merseyside one: I should have thought it was a possibility. He may indeed be one. I know that he is enthusiastic about the idea.

    I do not think there is very much that I can add. This is not an amendment that we can accept. We are concerned here that, of course, there must be close consultation with the local authorities, as the people on the spot because without that life would be very hard and nobody who was worth his salt in chairing a UDC would want not to work as closely as he could with the local authority associations. However, at the end of the day the board must be made up, by all means, of local authority members but also of the people who are most suitable to do this job. That is what we want to see and that is why we cannot accept the amendment.

    I did not really expect the amendment to be accepted in the precise words in which I had put it down and indeed your Lordships may even say that the words were not very precise. It is a point that I really wanted to bring out, and I thought there was a splendid irony that in the London dockland area where, as the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, said, nearly every member of the local authority is Labour, in the Merseyside area, on the basis of local authorities on Merseyside appointing representatives, there would not be a single Labour Member appointed at all. I suppose it is probably quite good medicine for the Labour Party to realise that this is what was happening to the Liberals for far too long and we are trying to change it. I should have hoped that Tower Hamlets, where we have strong Liberal representation, would be an area where we were able to offer something towards the London dockland urban development corporation.

    What really concerns me is that I should not want any urban development corporation to be dominated by one political party as opposed to another, when there were two or three other parties with strong local support. The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, understands that point and I think that the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, does. In such a situation, an atmosphere of even greater resentment would be created against the new corporation if it were weighted towards one political party. Having made that point, I shall try as graciously as possible to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    9.15 p.m.

    Page 204, line 28, at end insert—

    (". An urban development corporation shall be subject to the provisions of the Public Bodies (Admissions to Meetings) Act 1960.").

    The noble Lord said: This amendment seeks to have meetings of urban development corporations open to the public and press, in accordance with the provisions of the 1960 Act. It must be kept in mind that the urban development corporations will take over considerable functions from local authorities in particular areas and, were it not for the establishment of the UDC, meetings of the local authority to deal with just those functions would come within the provisions of the 1960 Act. Why, therefore, should the powers not continue with regard to meetings of the UDCs? The UDCs will be public bodies and the 1960 Act covers public bodies, in addition to local authorities, so there is every reason why UDCs should be treated similarly.

    It is not only the provisions concerning attendance of the public at meetings with which we are concerned, but also the necessity to give public notices of meetings and to supply on request to any newspaper copies of the agenda, together with relevant documents; also, that members of the public who may attend the meetings shall be supplied with the agenda and relevant material. I understand—and I hope that this is correct—that the present dockland joint committee holds meetings in public and that those meetings are reported.

    Mr. King, the Minister for Local Government, said at column 869 of the Official Report for the Standing Committee of 7th May:

    "The matter is at present covered in paragraph 13 of Schedule 23, which leaves it to a corporation to determine the arrangements relating to a meeting".

    Paragraph 13 of the schedule reads:

    "The quorum of the corporation and the arrangements relating to its meetings shall, subject to any direction given by the Secretary of State be such as the corporation may determine".

    I am certain that many noble Lords will agree that this is not good enough. The Government of the day thought that it was not good enough for the public bodies; otherwise, we should not have had the 1960 Act. Therefore, why should the urban development corporations not come within it? The 1960 Act provides that a public body may, by resolution, exclude the public from a public meeting whenever publicity would be prejudicial to the public interest. So there is a safeguard, if that is something with which the corporations or the Government may be concerned.

    I hope it will be agreed that it is not sufficient to leave this great principle merely to the urban development corporations to decide. As we believe in our democratic institutions, in accountability and in open government, I hope that the Government will accept this harmless but important amendment. I beg to move.

    There is no requirement upon new town development corporations to admit the public to their meetings, and we see no reason why there should therefore be any special requirement upon the UDCs so to do. That does not mean to say that UDCs would operate in isolation from the public or from the elected authorities. In this context, it is the Government's intention to table a new clause to the Bill which would require a UDC to prepare a code of practice as to consulting with the relevant local authorities about the exercise of its powers.

    The Government are also making provision, under a new clause tabled after Clause 2 to the Bill, for UDCs to be required to publish such information as may be required by the Secretary of State. One could talk a lot about this subject and it is easy to make it sound emotive. As I said earlier, one could nit-pick away at the basis of the proposals in all kinds of ways. But, at the end of the day, the fact is that the whole idea will be judged on what it achieves.

    I hope noble Lords will accept this. On this side I think we very much like it. I suspect that on the opposite side there are more who like it than may have voted against it. But at least let us all say that the end objectives are what we all want to see. At least let us give it a try; do not let us try to inhibit its workings in any way. I hope that the noble Lord, who is always so reasonable in these matters, will feel able not to press the amendment at this time.

    When the Minister and the Secretary of State are considering the code of practice, I wonder whether they would consider the possibility of enabling the authority, if it thinks fit, to sit in public; in other words, giving it discretion to allow the admission either of members of the public or of those concerned. So far the Minister has spoken merely of the intention to consult, but perhaps he will consider that point when the code of practice is being drafted.

    I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for what he has said. Yes, we will consider that point of discretion.

    9.22 p.m.

    I wonder whether the Minister appreciates that we are dealing now with something very different from new towns. Most of the new towns, except one that I know of in Scotland, are on green field sites. There will be virtually a new authority overlapping and taking powers from existing authorities. I am sorry that there is no Scottish Minister on the Front Bench. The new town that I am thinking of is that which virtually took over two royal burghs and also part of a county council; namely, the new town of Irvine. Irvine was one of the oldest local authorities in Scotland. Kilwinning, too, had a very considerable record of service. The new town embraces the whole area. The town councils existed alongside them. I can assure the noble Lord the Minister that it was not all that easy to get a measure of co-operation. Eventually it came, but sporadically differences arose in respect of these matters.

    It would be much more helpful if meetings were held in public, bearing in mind that many of the functions which were taken over were discussed in public by the existing authorities. The Minister should not brush this away quite so readily and quite so easily. I have had plenty of experience of appointments to new towns. A great deal has been said about Quangos; the Minister himself has had a few remarks to make about them. I do not know whether there will be any in Scotland—so far as I know this is purely academic—but this part, with certain exceptions, applies to Scotland. Therefore, I ask him to think again about it.

    I know that the Minister has probably been hauled over the coals for promising to think again, and so on. His eyes are going to be worn out before we finish the Report stage of the Bill. I know the pressure that he is under, but I think that the Minister could have accepted this amendment without any loss of face. I know that he is worried about accepting any amendment because of what will happen elsewhere, but we are not responsible for the Government's timetable and the difficulties in which they have placed themselves. Our task is to try to make more sense of this Bill. I shall say a word or two later about how I, as a Scotsman, feel about the Bill. I believe that it would be sensible to accept the amendment.

    The noble Lord the Minister said that there was no requirement for a new town to carry out the terms of the 1960 Act; therefore why should an urban development corporation? I could reply that other public bodies which are listed in the 1960 Act do; therefore why should not the urban development corporation? His answer was not sufficient. I am sorry that the Minister thought that I was nit-picking. My point was that which my noble friend Lord Ross of Marnock has just made: that there are powerful existing local authorities in the area. If we want it, as I hope we all do, to work closely with the new corporation when it is set up, we need to build up the utmost amount of confidence, and public meetings of this body would help to do that. I am certain that everyone in the Committee will wish the urban development corporation well when it is set up. Our view is that it is unnecessary, but when it is set up of course we are not going to sabotage its work because that would be interfering with the lives of the people in whom all of us have a keen interest.

    As my noble friend Lord Ross says, there will be considerable functions which, but for the urban development corporation, would be discussed in public, because the corporation will be taking over vast functions which the local authority would normally have and would discuss in public. It is obvious that the Minister feels he cannot move on this. I am very sorry because I think it is a simple matter which could be accepted. Everybody would applaud acceptance because it would be a further step towards building up this confidence and open government. I can only hope that the code of conduct will be sufficiently wide to assist in these directions. In the circumstances, I very much regret that I have no alternative but to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Schedule 23, as amended, agreed to.

    Clause 124 [ Objects and general powers]:

    9.26 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 260:

    Page 103, line 20, at end insert ("other than that owned by a local authority unless by agreement of that authority").

    The noble Lord said: We are now turning to Clause 124, which deals with the question of powers. The noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, in a very impassioned speech a few minutes ago on Clause 122, urged the Committee that whatever else it did on this section of the Bill it should support Clause 122, which the Committee did. However, in making those remarks, he indicated that the Government might be taking a much more flexible view as to the powers of an urban development corporation. Indeed, he seemed to indicate that he would not be unduly perturbed if the Committee decided to whittle down some of the power. When the Minister made those remarks on Clause 122 I hoped he was going to adopt a flexible attitude towards the series of amendments which follow, all of which deal with the question of powers of the urban development corporation.

    Amendment No. 260 deals with the power of the urban development corporation to acquire land. It stipulates that the corporation shall get the agreement of a local authority to any land which it wishes to acquire from a local authority. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, referred very eloquently to our trips around the dockland area and our views on what was happening. One can imagine the situation of a local authority having within the UDC area sites earmarked for future development as schools, to give an example. The local authority would be most unwilling to surrender those sites for the purposes of the urban development corporation, and, indeed, would feel that it needed to have the right to retain a particular site if it wished to do so. Therefore, this amendment is stipulating that the urban development corporation must get the agreement of the local authority before acquiring a particular site. I beg to move.

    Just to set the record straight, I do not recall saying that I did not mind if powers were to be whittled away. I think I should have said exactly the opposite. In fact, I made an impassioned appeal to noble Lords opposite, please not to try to whittle away the powers but to give it a chance to show what it can do. That is why I hoped that noble Lords opposite would not press any of these amendments.

    I find that intervention very disappointing. I think following my speech the noble Lord said, on some question of powers, there might be a willingness to meet some of our suggestions where it was thought that the powers had gone too far. Now he says that he said nothing of the kind; on the contrary, perhaps the powers were not strong enough. Will he look at Hansard and perhaps come back chastened to discover that even he for once has made a grave error?

    My noble friend is a very flexibly minded man but he is also clear that he has got to have the powers that the UDCs require and I have to say that this amendment is seen by the Government as being effectively a wrecking amendment. This would subtract from the UDCs certain powers which they must have. It would mean that the local authority would have the ability totally to frustrate the UDCs should they so wish. It has been said time and time again, and I fear it will be said many more times this evening, that it is hoped that the UDCs will co-operate with the local authorities, but one cannot hand over to the local authorities the power to wreck the purpose of the UDCs, and this amendment would do that. I hope the Committee will not accept it.

    I have noted the remarks of the noble Lord. It is not my intention to press this particular amendment to a Division. I understand the point which he makes, that this could cause grave problems to a particular plan of the UDC, but, on the other hand, I feel also that it is necessary to protect the aspirations of the local authorities in particular areas and I will look at his remarks and see whether there might be some more appropriate amendment which could be submitted at report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [ Amendment No. 261 not moved.]

    9.34 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 262:

    Page 103, line 21, leave out ("and other operations").

    The noble Lord said: With this amendment I should like to speak to Amendments 263 and 264. These amendments also deal with the powers of an urban development corporation and I hope the noble Lord who is to reply will not see any of this series of amendments as being wrecking amendments. The proposal in these particular amendments is to restrict the powers of an urban development corporation to the particular powers which it requires. This amendment seeks to delete the words "and other operations", and Amendments Nos. 263 and 264 seek to delete subsections ( d) and ( e) which will restrict it from

    "carrying on any business or undertaking for the purposes of the object; and
    "generally [to] do anything necessary or expedient for the purposes of the object or for purposes incidental to those purposes".

    These are powers on top of the powers which are given to the urban development corporation in the clause.

    Indeed, as the clause is framed at the present time, an urban development corporation has, in our view, very arbitrary unfettered powers and it is of course entirely unaccountable to the local community. It would even allow an urban development corporation to demolish, without having any control at all, buildings which were likely to be listed as being of historic interest. It seems that these powers are too extreme. I beg to move the amendment to restrict them in the ways indicated.

    With the agreement of the Committee, I too will speak to the three amendments. I totally understand the attitude that the noble Lord is taking. I have served in Opposition and I am sure I would be taking a very similar line. I agree with him that in principle Governments should not be given more powers than are absolutely necessary to do the things which one conceives they should do. I believe, however, that these powers are necessary. I do not believe that they are dangerous. We have a precedent for demonstrating that, because all these powers are lifted from the New Towns Act. He will find that through many of these amendments this is something which we will mention time and time again.

    The question of listed buildings is something that comes up under a later amendment. I do not think that he needs to address that particular problem at the present time. If I may give an example on this amendment—if one omitted the words, "other operations", as he would have one do, it means, for example, that the UDC's could not carry out operations other than building operations. It would mean that they could not even dredge a dock. It might even be that they could not fill in a dock. In the areas that we are talking about, these are things which they manifestly will have to do.

    Regarding the third amendment, one understands the noble Lord's reservations. I say, in the presence of the noble and learned Lord an ex-Lord Chancellor, that we are concerned that it should not be possible that the vires of these corporations can be challenged. This is why the third amendment also has to be resisted. The safeguard that the noble Lord should bear in mind, however, is that the Bill says, "for the purposes of the Act", which is important. It means that these things can be done only for the purposes for which the Bill is being passed. I am sorry to tell the noble Lord that I have to advise the House to resist the first of these three amendments.

    My Lords, I would not press this amendment to a Division. I feel that the powers are stronger than are necessary. I also feel that the analogy drawn by the Minister, which he rightly says goes throughout these various powers from the New Towns Act, is not a true analogy. A new town is an entity established very largely on a green field site. It is not an entity in a decaying urban area, as is the intention here. A great many principles and ideas do not apply. This particular clause is a good example of that. Although I do not agree, I do not intend to press this amendment.

    Amendment by leave withdrawn.

    [ Amendment No. 263 not moved.]

    [ Amendment No. 264 not moved.]

    9.39 p.m.

    Page 103, line 28, at end insert—

    "( ) Without prejudice to the generality of paragraphs (a) to (e) above an urban development corporation may enter into agency arrangements with any local authority for the purpose of achieving the object.".

    The noble Lord said: I need not detain the Committee long on this amendment. The noble Lord the Minister was kind enough to draw my attention to an amendment that the Government have put down, numbered 279. My concern here was that, despite the fact that the urban development corporations had not yet the legitamacy of legislation, discussions have been taking place between the local authorities, the chief executive designate of the urban development corporations, and the Department of the Environment on the subject of local authority services to the urban development corporation. It is the argument of the Merseyside County Council that if the urban development corporation utilises, as we believe it will, the local authority's professional and other services it is only equitable that the local authority should be reimbursed accordingly. I think the noble Lord the Minister may be able to reassure me that his Amendment No. 279 does that, in which case I will be able to withdraw, I am sure much to your Lordships' relief, Amendments Nos. 264A and 265C, D and E. I beg to move.

    I am grateful to the noble Lord. We were slightly doubtful as to what the exact intention of the noble Lord's amendment was, and I do believe that No. 279 covers most of the points he has raised. I suggest that I check the specific question he has asked me and perhaps we can come back to it when we get to No. 279. If I am going to give him a categorical assurance, I want to make certain that I get it right. As far as the other part of the amendment is concerned, we do not believe that any additional provision is needed to enable the UDC to enter into arrangements in connection with the provision of goods and services. We think the UDCs have the necessary powers. Rather what is needed is a provision to enable local authorities to enter into agency arrangements with the UDCs, which I believe is the noble Lord's point. I think he will find that it is satisfactorily covered when we get to the later amendment.

    The point the noble Lord the Minister makes is absolutely right. It does not apply, as I thought originally—and I spent hours contemplating this—to my Amendments Nos. 265A and B, but I think it does apply to Nos. 264A and 265C, D and E. In any event if he cannot give me the assurance and the people at the local authorities are not satisfied, I can always bring it up, reluctantly, on Report. On these kind of terms, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    9.43 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 265:

    Page 103, line 29, leave out subsection (4).

    The noble and learned Lord said: This is a probing amendment in which we seek to know what is the purpose of this subsection. In considering subsection (3) we have seen the enormous width of the powers given to the UDC to "acquire, hold", et cetera "land and other properties"—no limit there—"carry out building and other operations"—no limit there—"seek to ensure the provision of water …and other services"—God knows what they might be !—"carry on any business or undertaking for the purposes of the object"—and the object, heaven knows! is wide enough—to secure the regeneration of the area. The subsection we are now looking at is:

    "No provision of this Part of this Act by virtue of which any power is exerciseable by an urban development corporation shall be construed as limiting the effect of subsection (3) above".

    This is painting the lily of powers with a vengeance. What is it for?

    I do not take a great deal of comfort from the fact that in subsection (6) there is a provision in the second part that

    "nothing in this section authorises such a corporation to disregard any enactment or rule of law …".

    What a marvellous concession!

    Indeed, apparently unless it is in this Part. Perhaps the Minister can enlighen us as to what provisions in this Part of the Act which would be capable of being construed as limiting the effect of the subsection shall nevertheless be disregarded.

    Then one looks at subsection (7), which is slightly alarming also:
    "A transaction between a person and an urban development corporation shall not be invalidated by reason of any failure by the corporation to observe the object in subsection (1) …"—
    namely, regeneration of the area, which is the object of the exercise. Supposing it goes off on a frolic of its own, to coin a legal phrase? Is that also going to be protected by the general words of these subsections? I think we need some reassurance about this, because it really is painting the lily. I beg to move.

    In one sense I am glad that a lawyer moved this amendment, but in another I have to express some surprise. My understanding is that this is essentially a lawyer's point, and I have two courses: I can either read from what Lord Diamond used to call extensive notes or I can try to give a layman's summary of what I understand to be the situation. I propose to do the latter because I think it will take a little less time, but it may not convince the noble and learned Lord, who is an eminent lawyer.

    We believe this amendment would be technically damaging to other parts on this Part of the Bill. Subsection (4) was added to the Bill by a Government amendment in another place because there was a need to clarify the effect of the specific powers contained in Part XVI on the general powers of UDCs under Clause 124, and we believe that this amendment would reintroduce the uncertainty which that amendment was introduced to eliminate.

    My understanding of the situation—and this is where it becomes a lawyer's point—is that if you enumerate specific powers, and the list is not exhaustive, it can be used by the lawyers as a means of saying that because you have enumerated specific powers therefore the general powers do not exist. It is for this reason that we feel this amendment should be resisted, but I can give a longer explanation if the noble and learned Lord feels that he requires it.

    I do not want to subject your Lordships to a moot on this matter, especially a read-out moot, if I might say so without impertinence, but bearing in mind the considerable generality of the powers already in subsection (3) I frankly do not see the need for the width of the extension of it. One of the great dangers of executive power is to give an executive authority more power than it needs, because it has a terrible way, if I may dare to say so after 10 years of executive experience, of using powers. But would the Minister perhaps look at it again? It seems to me to be carrying the provision of powers really to excess.

    Before the Minister replies, I am not a lawyer, I am just a simple-minded Scot, and I read this subsection (4):

    "No provision of this Part of this Act by virtue of which any power is exercisable by an urban development corporation shall be construed as limiting the effect of [these powers in] subsection (3) …".
    Then I look at Clause 126, which is a provision within this Part of the Bill:
    "Without prejudice to any provision of this Act requiring the consent of the Secretary of State to be obtained for anything to be done by an urban development corporation, he may give directions to such a corporation for restricting the exercise by it of any of its powers …".
    Does subsection (4) permit the urban development corporation to, or does that power, invalidate Clause 126? It is said that nothing shall be construed as limiting their powers, and then we have Clause 126 deliberately calculated to restrict the exercise of their powers. It is all very strange, and I think if he was wise the noble Lord would take out subsection (4) and then there would be no conflict, even to my simple mind.

    The noble Lord is very persuasive, but I have just explained that subsection (4) was specifically put in by the draftsmen because they deemed it to be necessary; and who am I to quarrel with the draftsmen? But, like noble Lords opposite, many is the time that I have read out incredible gobbledegook, as I see it, and it became the law of the land. I think the best thing for me to do in the circumstances, if noble Lords would agree, is to agree to write to them to try to convince them that the Government's case is a sound one, otherwise I think we would be detaining the Committee for some time while a layman tried to convince a lawyer, which I doubt would work.

    Perhaps we can return to this fascinating contest again. But, in the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    9.50 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 265A:

    Page 103, line 37, after ("expenditure") insert ("already").

    The noble Lord said: For the convenience of your Lordships I ask that, in addition to this amendment, we should also consider Amendment No. 265B. This is not a lawyer's point, otherwise I suspect that I would not be here moving it. It is a very important financial point for the authorities that have previously held responsibility for what will be urban development corporation areas. The Merseyside County Council, and for all I wot the authorities in the London Dockland area, has done quite a lot of preparatory work towards the kind of needs that the urban development corporation will itself undertake. For instance, the Merseyside County Council authority approached the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company with a view to acquiring an interest in the Liverpool South Docks consisting of approximately 400 acres, for the purpose of regenerating this vast area of derelict and redundant docks which is an integral, and possibly the main, part of the proposed urban development corporation's area.

    I need hardly tell your Lordships that a very considerable amount of preparatory work has been done in terms of drafting leases; negotiations; the work of very senior local authority officers; and considerable expenditure as regards the time and labour of officers and certain small expenditure as regards expenses and so on. It would seem to me, as it seems to those in the Merseyside County Council area—and I would say also in the London Dockland area—that it would be quite wrong that that kind of work, which will save the urban development corporation a very great deal of work itself, should not go unrewarded and that the work that was done before the setting up of the urban development corporation should be paid for by the urban development corporation once it is set up. That is the purpose of both amendments. I beg to move.

    I hope that I can reassure the noble Lord. Here again the wording is very wide and has been based largely on the equivalent provision in the New Towns Act. However, I am advised that the present wording would enable the urban development corporation to contribute to expenditure incurred in the past and to expenditure incurred in negotiations for land. Therefore, I must resist these amendments simply on the grounds that they are not necessary. However, perhaps I should add one further comment. The power to contribute on the part of the urban development corporations is permissive. They would have the powers to contribute to expenditure and the merits of the individual cases would clearly weigh heavily with them when considering each case.

    I understand, therefore, that, under the legislation, the urban development corporations will have not the mandatory, but the permissive, right to pay for work that has earlier been done. I would hope that that would satisfy even the most predatory of existing local authorities. On that basis, and in the hope that I guess the intentions of the local authorities correctly, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [ Amendments Nos. 265B, 265C, 265D and 265E not moved.]

    Clause 124 agreed to.

    Clause 125 agreed to.

    [ Amendment No. 266 not moved.]

    Clause 126 agreed to.

    Clause 127 [ Allocation or transfer of functions]:

    9.57 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 267:

    Page 105, line 25, at end insert ("and all local authorities with an interest in such a transfer of functions").

    The noble Lord said: This is quite a simple matter. Subsection (4) of this clause provides that before making an order to provide for the transfer of functions from or to an urban development corporation or for the exercise of any functions by a corporation, the Secretary of State shall consult that corporation. That is obviously common sense. But that is all that the subsection states. There is no reference at all in this subsection to consulting local authorities. I would ask, why should they be ignored? The amendment simply seeks to provide that the Secretary of State shall also consult those local authorities which will have:

    "an interest in such a transfer of functions";

    and those last words:

    "an interest in such a transfer of functions"

    are quite important. This would seem to me to be fair and common sense, and I hope that the Government will see fit to accept this amendment.

    The Government's objection to similar amendments which were put down to Clauses 122 and 123 was that a legal requirement to consult might lead to delay in making designation orders. It was thought that such a provision could constitute an unreasonable power to delay the establishment of the UDCs and, therefore, could be potentially frustrating.

    However, the force of this argument is not so powerful in respect of the powers contained in this clause, and certainly the Government are willing to consider the noble Lord's amendment. But in undertaking to do that, I hope that the noble Lord will agree that, in spite of the reservations about the concept of UDCs, if we are to have them we want to make them work and we want to build in safeguards but we do not want to build in possibilities of frustration. Therefore, I would certainly agree to look at the noble Lord's amendment.

    I thank the noble Lord for that generous offer to look at this and I give him the assurances that he wants. We also want these to succeed, but we want them to succeed on proper lines. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 127 agreed to.

    Clause 128 [ Vesting by order in corporation]:

    moved Amendment No. 268:

    Page 105, line 37, at end insert (", statutory undertakers").

    The noble Lord said: As presently worded I understand that there is some doubt as to whether all statutory undertakers are included in the term "public body" in line 38. It has always been the Government's intention that the non-operational land of all public bodies, including statutory undertakers, such as port authorities, should be capable of being vested in an order under Clause 128. This is a technical amendment to put the matter beyond doubt. I beg to move.

    I am in some difficulty in that my noble friend Lord Simon is not able to make the remarks that he would have liked to make resulting from the amendment that he moved some aeons ago, Amendment No. 215 in Schedule 13. It would be appropriate, in my submission, that the same arguments as my noble friend put forward at that point about:

    "bodies corporate having capital which is divided into shares or stock"
    should also be included in the terms of the amendment.

    We are getting into deep technical waters. Is the noble Lord saying that he feels our amendment should go wider than it already does? If he is, certainly I shall look at that and see whether that is necessary.

    It would save me a great deal of embarrassment if the noble Lord were to look at it again and then my noble friend could explain the point at some further stage.

    May I suggest that we agree the amendment in the meantime and that we undertake to come back if it needs further adjustment.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    10.1 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 269:

    Page 105, line 45, at end insert ("or land which is vested in a local authority and held by them for a purpose for which planning consent has been given").

    The noble Lord said: The noble Lord the Minister has just explained the purpose of Amendment No. 268, to include statutory undertakers in the provision that all public land within the area of a UDC shall be vested in the urban development corporation. We are now seeking this amendment because subsection (2) provides that the provisions to which I have referred shall exclude any land which is held by a statutory undertaker for the purpose of carrying on the work of the undertaker. We are seeking to add a further provision that

    "… land which is vested in a local authority and held by them for a purpose for which planning consent has been given"

    should also be excluded. It seems a fair exclusion, as is the one for the statutory undertakers.

    I am sorry to have to tell the noble Lord that I have to resist the siren song of his logic. Again this is a slightly technical matter. I do not think that the situation of statutory undertakers is quite the same as that of local authorities. Certainly the effect of this amendment takes us back again to the situation whereby the local authorities would be in a position, if they so wished, to frustrate the operations of the UDC. The simple answer is that we do not suggest that they would necessarily wish to frustrate, but it would clearly be an unwise hostage to fortune to put them in a position where they could. That would be the effect of the noble Lord's amendment, and I have to resist it for this reason.

    I can assure the noble Lord that the purpose of this amendment is not in any way to frustrate the work of the development corporation. What we wish to do is to safeguard the future when the work of the urban development corporation is finished, because there will still be local authority work to carry through. Any land which is held and for which there has been planning consent may be vital to the work of that local authority after the work of the corporation is finished. In view of what the noble Lord the Minister has said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 128, as amended, agreed to.

    Clauses 129 and 130 agreed to.

    Clause 131 [ Vesting and acquisition: supplementary]:

    On Question, Whether Clause 131 shall stand part of the Bill?

    I had a point on Clause 129, but I shall let it go just now if the draftsman will have a look at subsections (5), (6) and (7). They are pretty haywire and could be amalgamated much more satisfactorily. I come to Clause 131. I have been trying hard to take an interest in this Bill from a Scottish point of view. Every time I see the word "Scotland" my heart leaps up and I go searching out.

    Clause 131 deals with Schedule 24. Part I of the schedule applies to Scotland by implication anyway, so does Part II, and then we jump to Part IV. Not all of that applies to Scotland. Then it says, "Part V (which does not apply to Scotland)". So I raced to this schedule to find out about Part V. I do not know how many noble Lords have looked at it, but there is no Part V in the schedule. The Committee can imagine how much work this involved. If draftsmen and printers make mistakes, should not somebody spot them and arrange for an erratum slip to be inserted? The explanation may lie in the fact that in Clause 131 there is reference to Parts I and II and then we jump to Parts IV and V. Probably Part IV should be Part III and Part V should be Part IV. That is the only reasonable explanation I can think of. I see the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, immediately opposite me. He attacks Bills in more or less the same way as I do and will appreciate my concern. I am sure he has no interest in this business of Scotland—

    and therefore this would not have attracted his notice. But I spent many hours on this. I looked at other copies of the Bill to see if I had a wrong copy. If it is a misprint and if a mistake has been made, why was it not spotted by somebody in the department? Perhaps this explains why the Scottish Ministers are not here; perhaps they are reading the Bill for the first time trying to spot a few more errors.

    I do not know if there has been a misprint. As always, I listen with interest and facination to what the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, says and if the position is as he suggests, we welcome his drawing it to our attention and will be glad to make the necessary alteration. If it is not a misprint but is correct, I am sure he will know what to say at the next stage of the Bill.

    I rise with great hesitation, but we cannot take clauses in Committee in this half-hearted way. A Part V is mentioned here which is said not to apply to Scotland. How can a responsible Committee pass the clause when we do not even know whether there is a Part V which somehow or other has not been printed or whether Part V when printed is a mistake for Part IV? I could understand the Committee being asked to wait a few moments while somebody finds out whether the explanation given by my noble friend Lord Ross is right—I suspect it is—but surely we cannot pass a clause without knowing what are the parts to a schedule to which we are supposed to be referring.

    I did not want to say this, but the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, claimed that he had spent many hours trying to find out what this was about. May I suggest to him that he could have saved himself and the Committee a lot of time if he had got in touch with us if he felt there was this error? If he spent many hours on it, he could have given us many hours' notice, so we could have dealt with this whole issue in a few seconds. I am not trying to defend having errors. This is a revising Chamber and the noble Lord is doing a jolly good job. He could have done even better had he given us a chance to put it right.

    I understand that indeed it is a misprint; it should be Parts I, II, III and IV, and I am grateful to the noble Lord for drawing it to our attention. I have sympathy with the point that my noble friend raised, but it does not detract from the fact that the noble Lord is correct and that we should gratefully accept that fact.

    Clause 131 agreed to.

    10.9 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 270:

    After Clause 131, insert the following new clause:

    Disregard of actual or prospective development in urban development area

    (".—(1) In the first and second columns respectively of Part 1 of the First Schedule to the Land Compensation Act 1961, after paragraph 4 there shall be inserted the following paragraph—

    "5. Where any of the relevant land forms part of an area designated as an urban development area under Part XVI of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980.Development of any land in that area, other than the relevant land in the course of the regeneration, development or redevelopment of that area."

    (2) In paragraph ( b) of subsection (1) of section 6 of the said Act of 1961 for the words "paragraphs 2 to 4" there shall be substituted the words "paragraphs 2 to 5".

    (3) Section 51 (compensation where land is in area designated as site of new town for purpose of public development) of the Land Compensation Act 1973 shall apply to and have effect for the purposes of this Part of this Act as if—

  • (a) in subsection (1) of that section for the words from "proposes" to "new town" in the second place where those words occur, there were substituted the words "has made an order under section 122 (urban development areas) of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 designating any area of land as an urban development area", and as if the words "proposed to be" and", before making the order, "were omitted;
  • (b) in subsection (2) thereof for the words "paragraph 3 or 3A" there were substituted the words "paragraph 5" and as if the words "(cases where land acquired forms part of site of new town or extension of site of new town)" were omitted;
  • (c) subsection (3) thereof were omitted;
  • (d) the definition of "public development" in subsection (6) included a reference to development in the exercise of statutory powers by an urban development corporation or by a principal council for or in connection with the purposes of Part XVI. (urban development) of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980.").
  • The noble Lord said: The Bill as drafted would not confer on local authorities or urban development corporations the ability to purchase land within the docklands or other urban development area at a price which discounts expected future gain or loss in value arising from the development action of the public authorities concerned. This power is available in the designated area of new towns and is important in two ways. First, it reduces the incentive to landowners, including public bodies, to hold on to land and sterilise it in the hope of later gain yet compensates them fairly. Secondly, it provides a means by which the public sector can obtain land at a reasonable price for both its own schemes and for joint schemes with private developers.

    Subsections (1) and (2) of the proposed new clause would accordingly have the effect of extending the Land Compensation Act 1961 so that, in assessing compensation for the acquisition of land in an urban development area, there would be disregarded any increase, or decrease for that matter, in the value of the land resulting from the carrying out of development or the prospect of development being carried out.

    In the Land Compensation Act 1961, Parliament has acknowledged that where an area is designated for some statutory purpose, the acquiring authority does not have to compensate the owner for that part of the value that arises from the status of the area. This principle has been extended by Section 51 of the Land Compensation Act 1973, which enables the Secretary of State to direct that any alteration in the value of land due to specified public development in the vicinity of a new town is generally to be discounted. Subsection (3) of the proposed new clause would have the effect of extending the provisions of the said Section 51 to an urban development area.

    So far as London is concerned, it is considered that docklands should be regarded as a special case justifying the application of the provision that I have mentioned, because for the past decade it has been recognised by successive Governments as an area of special significance. The massive investment contemplated by the local authorities in connection with the area, as well as that of the proposed urban development corporation, could well have an effect on land values comparable to the designation of a new town, and compensation should be assessed accordingly. I beg to move.

    I am grateful to the noble Lord for this amendment, which is a useful contribution to the problem of ensuring a fair valuation of land to be acquired by the UDCs. However, in fact it does not go quite far enough in dealing with the special situation of the urban development areas where development which could properly be regarded as part of the scheme underlying the compulsory acquisition has been, or is to be, carried out by other public authorities.

    So in line with the promises made in another place, the Government have consulted with the organisation whose land might be vested in, or acquired by, the UDC, and we shall be tabling our own new clause which takes on board this amendment, but which goes somewhat further in dealing with the special urban development area situation. I hope that with that assurance the noble Lord will feel that he can trust us and so will withdraw his amendment.

    All I wish to say is that I support what the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, has said. I was glad to hear the reply from the Government, and I am sure that we shall look forward to the amended clause to be tabled on Report.

    I am most grateful to my noble friend the Minister, and on the basis of his assurances I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Schedule 24 [ Urban Development Corporations: Land]:

    10.14 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 270A:

    Page 210, line 42, leave out paragraph 10.

    The noble Lord said: This amendment concerns the matter that I mentioned in the earlier debate initiated by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, about hybridity. Here is a clear example, so far as I can see, of instances where, as a result of this legislation, persons will be placed in a considerably less advantageous position than they were previously. It seems to me—and I hope that the noble Lord the Minister will correct this—that any person who is living as a tenant of a landlord in an area of an urban development corporation where the landlord sells that property to the urban development corporation, loses the protection of the Rent Acts and becomes a totally unprotected tenant; that is, as I say, if he or she has the misfortune to be a tenant of a landlord who has sold out to an urban development corporation. So far as I can see such a person is therefore left with much less protection than any other class of tenant in England and Wales. It seems to me that this is a very harsh and regressive measure, and that the Government, in order to justify this, will have to say to me a very great deal more than this part of the schedule indicates at the moment. I beg to move.

    I must say frankly to the noble Lord that we have to resist this amendment. We believe it would seriously erode the effectiveness of the compulsory purchase powers of the UDCs, and their ability to assemble land and buildings for redevelopment—a point which we have touched on a number of times this evening. I hope the noble Lord will find it reassuring when I tell him that paragraph 10 is a standard power which applies to authorities with powers of compulsory purchase, and has done so for some time. There are equivalent provisions both in the New Towns Act 1965 (that is Section 22) and in the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 (that is Section 130). But even then there is a safeguard against vacant possession being obtained unnecessarily. The safeguard, as in other cases where powers like these are available, is that the Secretary of State must issue a certificate before vacant possession must be granted. There are no new provisions for UDCs implied in the present clause. To change it would therefore seem unwise and unnecessary.

    I understand that it is contained in other provisions. It seems a somewhat draconian measure in isolation. I would hope that the noble Lord the Minister could reassure me that if at any time a certificate was obtained and consequent upon that vacant possession was obtained against a tenant who was perfectly innocent—who was not in arrears with his rent and not in breach of his covenants—he would not be left with no alternative accommodation at all but would be rehoused, either by the urban development corporation or by one of the agencies used by the urban development corporation—the local authority, or whatever.

    I am not sufficiently familiar with the experience of these Acts to be able to give the noble Lord an unequivocal assurance of that kind. I would say only two things. First, I deduce from the fact that these powers have existed for quite a long time without there having been an explosion that they must have proved reasonably satisfactory; and, secondly, what I will happily do for the noble Lord is discover exactly the detail of how this operates, what the experience has been, and let him know, in the hope that it will be satisfactory to him.

    I am grateful for that assurance, and on that basis I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Schedule 24 agreed to.

    Clause 132 agreed to.

    10.18 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 271:

    After Clause 132, insert the following new clause:

    (" Planning blight

    .—(1) Section 192(1) of the 1971 Act (scope of provisions about blight) and section 181(1) of the 1972 Act (which makes similar provisions for Scotland) shall have effect as if the land specified in them included land which—

  • (a) is land within an area intended to be designated as an urban development area by an order which has been made under section 122 above but which has not come into effect; or
  • (b) is land within an area which has been so designated by an order under that section which has come into effect.
  • (2) No blight notice shall be served by virtue of subsection (1)( a) above at any time after the order has come into effect.

    (3) Until such time as an urban development corporation is established for the urban development area, sections 192 to 207 of the 1971 Act and sections 181 to 196 of the 1972 Act shall have effect in relation to land within subsection (1) above as if "the appropriate authority" and "the appropriate enactment" were the Secretary of State and subsection (4) below respectively.

    (4) Until such time as aforesaid the Secretary of State shall have power to acquire compulsorily any interest in land in pursuance of a blight notice served by virtue of subsection (1) above; and where he acquires an interest as aforesaid, then—

  • (a) if the land is or becomes land within subsection (1)(b) above, the interest shall he transferred by him to the urban development corporation established for the urban development area; and
  • (b) in any other case, the interest may be disposed of by him in such manner as he thinks fit.
  • (5) The Land Compensation Act 1961 and, in relation to Scotland, the Land Compensation (Scotland) Act 1963 shall have effect in relation to the compensation payable in respect of the acquisition of an interest by the Secretary of State under subsection (4) above as if the acquisition were by an urban development corporation under this Part of this Act and as if, in the case of land within subsection (1)( a) above, the land formed part of the area designated as an urban development area by an order under section 122 above which has come into effect.").

    The noble Lord said: This, I think, is the amendment we were referring to earlier when we were talking about protected buildings. I believe it was the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, who mentioned this. I hope that this new clause, which has been some time in gestation, will be welcomed. The purpose is to protect land and building owners who are affected by blight. I am sorry; I believe I am referring to the wrong thing in referring to protected buildings. This is the issue of blight, and it is an attempt to protect owners who are affected by blight as a result of the prospect of the designation of an urban development area or the proposals made by an urban development corporation once the UDA has been designated. This is a point which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, alluded to in connection with highway planning early this morning, or it may have been late last night.

    To achieve this, the clause applies the normal blight provisions in Sections 192 to 207 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 and the compensation provisions of the Land Compensation Act 1961. Until such time as the urban development corporation is established, the clause provides that the Secretary of State is to be the appropriate authority on whom blight notices would be served requiring him to purchase the blighted property. The Government consider that this provision is necessary in order to safeguard the interests of land owners in the areas of the proposed UDCs prior to the establishment of the UDC. Once the UDC is established, it is possible that the UDC, acting as the local planning authority, would need to acquire blighted land. Without this amendment, owners of blighted land would be unable to require any authority to purchase it. With that explanation I beg to move.

    This amendment, No. 271, as the noble Lord has said—and I am not sure whether he was speaking to this amendment or to another amendment—had been for a long period in gestation. This amendment was tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, on 26th September. It first saw the light of day, as far as other noble Lords were concerned, on 29th September. This was one week before the Committee stage of the Bill started. That was a comparatively early tabling of amendments compared with some of the other amendments which we are being asked to consider this evening. Many of the amendments before us this evening were tabled by the Government after the Committee stage of the Bill had started. Looking through today's Marshalled List, which is the fifth Marshalled List we have had, I notice that four of the amendments before us, No. 272A, No. 272B, No. 272C and No. 278C, have had their wording changed since the Marshalled List was published yesterday.

    This places noble Lords in a very difficult position. With the time scale that we have been following on this Bill, it is quite impossible when amendments are tabled at this late stage to give proper consideration to them. I am referring particularly to the series of amendments (of which this is the first) which we are now considering and which are very detailed amendments. Quite frankly, I must say that my advisers have been putting in very long hours to advise us about the implications of various amendments on a day-to-day basis. I would remind noble Lords of what I think is only too well known. This is the sixth day of the Committee stage and we have been at it almost non-stop for those six days. In this situation it is really quite impossible at this point in time to give proper consideration to these amendments.

    The noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, has been incredibly co-operative with noble Lords on this side of the Committee in supplying us with volumes of Notes on Clauses which we have found very useful indeed. But no notes have been supplied as yet—maybe they do not exist—on the full implications of the particular series of amendments which we are now about to consider. Therefore I do not intend to oppose any of the amendments at this stage but give notice that I may come back to each or all of these amendments at Report stage. These are technical amendments, and I hope that if there are Notes on Clauses the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, can make them available two or three days before we are actually due to consider these amended clauses at Report stage.

    To the best of my knowledge it is not normal to supply notes on amendments. We have tried to do so in this Bill because we have recognised its great complexity. Where we have had them we have gladly provided them. I will try to do what the noble Lord requests, if I have them. If I have not, I know that he will understand.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Clause 133 [ Planning control]:

    10.26 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 271A:

    Page 110, line 12, leave out ("so far as practicable").

    The noble Lord said: For the convenience of the Committee I will take Amendment No. 271A in conjunction with Amendments Nos. 271B, C, D, E, F, G, H, and Amendment No. 272ZA. They are all to do with the responsibility for listed buildings being taken out of the control of the local authority, which have to give listed building consent for alterations, purchase, demolition and a host of other things. I say almost with trepidation that it extends to Scotland, as the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, will have noticed. It seems to me that the UDCs are being given powers in the various sections and schedules to which I will refer to take out of the control of local government the control of listed buildings and their protection from various problems that over the years in their wisdom the central Government have decided need protection.

    The part of the world I conic from, Merseyside, is a prospective UDC area. There are a large number of listed buildings, first class buildings, buildings of exceptional architectural, historic and industrial archaeological interest. It disturbs me very much that the control of those buildings and the future of those buildings will be taken out of the planning control of the local authorities and transferred to the UDCs. Very often the immediate, short-term interests might be to demolish or in some way to change those buildings, whereas the long-term interest of the society in which those buildings are situated is that they should be preserved. Therefore, the reason why I have moved this series of amendments is to try to ensure that local government control over listed buildings, with all the various problems from which they suffer, should remain in local government hands. I beg to move.

    I am sorry to tell the noble Lord that I have to resist all these amendments. So far as the first amendment is concerned, this is a straightforward, reasonably commonsense point as it exists in the Bill at the present time. It does not make sense to try to preserve something that it is not practicable to preserve. So far as the other group of amendments are concerned, we are back in the area that we have been in quite a number of times. All through this Bill we seek to give the UDCs adequate planning powers to pursue their objective of regenerating the area. We believe that Clause 133 provides the means by which the Secretary of State can grant planning permission to a UDC following consultation with the local authorities over proposals received from the UDC.

    Clause 134 grants by order the necessary functions to a local planning authority to enable a UDC to grant planning permission in respect of applications received from others. So these are all powers which we consider to be essential for a UDC to have, bearing in mind the nature of the buildings and the land in the dockland areas. If a UDC is to be an effective agency it will need all the powers in the present Bill, and I therefore have to resist these amendments.

    I think it is worth mentioning one further point. It is important to reiterate that we are not proposing to make the UDCs into plan-making authorities. We shall expect them to co-operate and consult with local planning authorities on strategic and other planning matters. What the Bill at present allows is merely to give the UDC an effective armoury of administrative development controls in order to aid in the process through which regeneration is to be achieved. I therefore urge the noble Lord to withdraw these amendments.

    It is a matter of profound sadness to me and if in fact the urban development corporation did set out on a course of major vandalism of the nature that I fear—for instance, the Albert Docks in Liverpool are a unique example, I understand, of 18th/19th century dockland architecture, and I am sure there are many examples of a similar kind in the London dockland area—I can only hope and believe that good sense and public opinion would prevent the urban development corporations from behaving in an irresponsible and regrettable way. I am sure that local authorities, even though they did not have the power to prevent them, would make life extremely difficult and uncomfortable for them, and that they would be very unco-operative if they did proceed along the lines—perhaps noble Lords may think extreme lines—that I think this gives them power to do. In the hope that the mere discussion of the matter might prevent people from going down that particular road, I will, with great reluctance, withdraw the amendment we are now considering and the other amendments which I moved with it, by leave.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 133 agreed to.

    Clause 134 [ Corporation as planning authority]:

    10.34 p.m.

    On Question, Whether Clause 134 shall stand part of the Bill?

    This clause makes the urban development corporation the local planning authority. As we have indicated earlier this evening, we object to the principle of an urban development corporation in the way it is proposed to establish it. This particular clause transfers the planning powers of the local authorities concerned to the urban development corporation. If the proposal had been that a UDC should be set up by agreement with the local authorities concerned, then our attitude to this clause would be very different. We believe that the establishment of the urban development corporation should be a partnership between the Government and the local authorities.

    I am particularly mindful of the fact that I was, at one time, what one might call chairman of a mini-urban development corporation—the Covent Garden joint development committee. That was a local authority joint development committee and it was operated jointly by the Greater London Council, the London Borough of Camden and the City of Westminster. The planning powers of each of the authorities concerned were ceded to the Covent Garden joint development committee, and that committee operated as the planning authority for that part of central London. It set in train the developments which have taken place there and the restoration of a very derelict area, which has been achieved over the past few years. That was a situation in which there was co-operation between the authorities.

    I mention it only to show how there can be that kind of co-operation. These things can be achieved without having to establish the draconian powers which this Bill lays down. I have a very great belief and—I did not speak at length on Clause 122 stand part—in the validity of local enterprise. I believe that local authorities, being democratic bodies, often know what is best for an area, and that they are much more likely to know that than a central Government body. That is one of the reasons why this clause is a mistake. It is a mistake that these planning powers should be transferred from the local authorities to the urban development corporations. That is why I am moving that this clause does not stand part of the Bill.

    I do not think I can add much to what I said earlier. This is a fundamental part of the proposals. We debated them fully and divided on them. They were accepted by the Committee and this part is equally fundamental. I have to ask that the clause does stand part.

    It goes almost without saying, in view of what I said on the whole list of amendments in my name, that I agree very much with the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby.

    Clause 134 agreed to.

    [ Amendments Nos. 271B to 271F not moved.]

    Schedule 25 agreed to.

    Schedule 26 [ Planning functions of Urban Development Corporations: Scotland]:

    [ Amendments Nos. 271G and 271H not moved.]

    10.39 p.m.

    Page 229, line 4, at end insert—

    ("Section 104 (compulsory acquisition of listed buildings in need of repair).
    Section 105 (repairs notice as preliminary to compulsory acquisition under s. 104).
    Section 107 (minimum compensation in case of listed building deliberately left derelict).
    Section 116 (management etc. of listed buildings acquired by local authority or Secretary of State).
    Section 257 (application to local planning authorities of provisions as to listed buildings).
    Section 262 (designation of conservation area).
    Section 262A (control of demolition in conservation area).
    Section 262B (formulation and publication of proposals for preservation and enhancement of conservation area).
    Schedule 10 (control of works for demolition, alteration or extension of listed buildings).").

    The noble Lord said: This is a case which will please the heart of the noble Lord, Lord Ross, in that here are some errors that we did spot, but I am sorry to see that he has left the Chamber. The references in this amendment were omitted from this schedule, and their insertion will bring the provision for Scotland into line with that for England and Wales as set out in Schedule 25. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    [ Amendment No. 272ZA not moved.]

    Schedule 26 agreed to.

    Clause 135 [ Building control]:

    10.40 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 272A:

    Page 112, line 36, leave out ("functions exercisable in a case where subsection (4) below applies,") and insert ("other than inner London, functions").

    The noble Lord said: With this amendment may I also deal with Amendments Nos. 272B and 272C. These amendments do two things. First, they enable an order transferring building control functions to a UDC to provide that the London building legislation shall not have effect in the area to which the order relates. Under the present version of the clause, the London building legislation would be disapplied, whereas the amendments would enable the order to disapply the London legislation or not, depending on the terms of the order. Secondly, the amendment removes references to planning permission from the clause. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Page 112, line 40, at end insert—

    (" ( ) as regards inner London, functions exercisable under the London building legislation or, as the case may be, under or in connection with building regulations and any enactment relating to such regulations;").

    Page 113, line 1, leave out from beginning to second ("building") in line 28 and insert—

    (" ( ) An order under this section may provide that the London building legislation shall not have effect in the area to which the order relates but that").

    On Question, amendments agreed to.

    Amendment No. 272C having been agreed to, this obliterates many of the subsections I was going to speak on regarding this amendment. Therefore it seems that I am unable to move it.

    That was not very clever of me! I was not told about that, but there it is.

    [ Amendment No. 273 not moved.]

    The noble Lord said: This amendment, which was to have been combined with Amendment No. 273, is almost a plea for the continuation of the operation of the London building Acts. Under the clause as it stands, the Secretary of State would be able to make an order removing building control functions from the relevant local authorities and conferring them on an urban development corporation. Building control in inner London is exercised under the London building Acts, 1930 to 1978 and the by-laws made thereunder. This is to a large extent enforced by semi-independent district surveyors, while in outer London, as in the rest of the country, the national building regulations apply.

    The words of the amendment mean that if the Secretary of State made such an order it would automatically confer on the London urban development corporation the function of enforcing the national building regulations for the whole of its area in relation to new developments, including that part of its area which is in inner London. It is most undesirable that the present territorial division between these two systems of building control should be confused in this way. The effect would be that different standards of construction and a different system of enforcement would apply to new buildings in one small part of inner London from that applying to other buildings in that part and to buildings in the rest of the area. This difference would be particularly significant in respect of the different codes relating to high, large and public buildings. Furthermore, there would be an administratively complex hotch-potch of the premises provided in accordance with the London building Acts and others provided in accordance with the national building regulations.

    The amendment accordingly seeks to ensure that the London building Acts and by-laws will continue to operate in the areas in which they are at present in force, thus avoiding the unnecessary complexities which could arise under the clause as at present drawn. It may be argued that it would be administratively difficult for the UDC to enforce two different codes of building control in its area. While that is a strong argument for not transferring the functions, it cannot be a justification for the hotch-potch to be left to be coped with by local authorities after the dissolution of the UDC. It may be that the most satisfactory solution will be for Her Majesty's Government to abandon the unnecessary proposal to transfer building regulation powers and to leave these matters in the hands of the local authorities. I beg to move.

    10.45 p.m.

    This amendment seeks to restrict the UDCs to operating the London building legislation, inner London, rather than the national building regulations. We accept that there may be a good case for allowing this to happen but we consider it important to provide the flexibility for the UDC to operate either the London or the national regulations. It is not yet clear whether building control functions need to be transferred to the UDCs. There may be circumstances in which it is necessary to do so, for instance to speed up approvals in all or part of one of the urban development areas.

    The Government have therefore tabled an amendment which will allow an order made under Clause 135 to transfer either the inner London system to the UDC or the national system, depending on the circumstances. I am sure it is wise to leave the options open in the main legislation so that the most appropriate decision can be made at the order-making stage. This is general legislation and we see no reason to make it inflexible in the way that the amendment would do, but in the light of that explanation I wonder whether my noble friend may feel able to withdraw his amendment?

    Before the noble Lord decides whether he is going to withdraw, there is still the possibility—and the Minister can see the point—that after the UDC has been abandoned you will have this hotch-potch if in fact the UDC decides to use the national form rather than the London regulations. Therefore, I would have thought you needed this situation to be tightened. I think this is one occasion when you really cannot have the flexibility which the Minister is suggesting. I wonder whether he will look at it again?

    I was going to make exactly the same point as my noble friend Lord Pitt, that it is the situation, as has been stated from the Government Front Bench on more than one occasion this evening, that eventually the UDCs will be run down, their powers will be transferred back to the local authorities concerned, and it will be only sensible if in fact the London regulations applied here.

    If you have the alternative and that situation happily comes about one day, they can indeed apply the London regulations; they have the option.

    But in view of the way in which the Minister is explaining it, if in fact the UDC decides to use the national rather than the London regulations, at the end of the day you can have a hotch-potch. That is why flexibility is really not as useful as the Minister is suggesting.

    I think my noble friend the Minister has given fairly reasonable assurances, and on those grounds I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 135, as amended, agreed to.

    moved Amendment No. 274A:

    After Clause 135, insert the following new clause:

    (" Fire precautions and homes insulation

    .—(1) The Secretary of State may make an order under this section directing that, subject to the provisions of the order, an urban development corporation shall have in its area (or in such part of its area as may be specified in the order)—

  • (a) the functions of a fire authority under the Fire Precautions Act 1971;
  • (b) the power of a local authority under section 36 of that Act (power to make loans to meet expenditure on certain alterations to buildings occasioned by the Act); and
  • (c) the functions of a local authority under any scheme made by virtue of section I of the Homes Insulation Act 1978 (schemes for the making of grants towards the cost of works undertaken to improve the thermal insulation of dwellings).
  • (2) On the order coming into force, the corporation shall have the functions conferred in relation to the area (or part) instead of or concurrently with any such authority, depending on the terms of the order.

    (3) The order may provide that any enactment under which the corporation is to exercise functions by virtue of the order shall have effect in relation to the corporation and, where the corporation is to have any function concurrently with another authority, in relation to that authority, as modified by the order.

    (4) The order shall have effect subject to such savings and transitional and supplementary provisions as may be specified in the order.

    (5) The power to make an order under this section shall be exercisable by statutory instrument.

    (6) No order under this section shall have effect until approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.").

    The noble Lord said: This clause is technically necessary in respect of the transfer of the housing functions and would give UDCs access to certain powers and functions under the Fire Precautions Act 1971 and the Homes Insulation Act 1978. Briefly, these functions are related to issuing fire certificates, powers to make loans to meet expenditure on alterations to buildings required under the 1971 Act, and powers to make grants towards the cost of thermal insulation of buildings. I beg to move.

    Just one question before the noble Lord puts the Question. It is said that the UDCs shall take over the functions of the fire authority. How are they going to do that? Are they going to work in conjunction with the London Fire Brigade? Where are they going to get the personnel and the machines to do it?

    That, with respect, is not the point. The UDC might need these powers if it were to take on a housing improvement role, say, within the urban development area. As with an order made under Clause 136, the order transferring any powers under this clause would be subject to Affirmative Resolution and the powers would be exercised by the UDC instead of the local authority or even concurrently with the local authority, depending on the terms of the order. Powers would of course not be needed unless it were decided that an order giving, say, local authority housing functions to a UDC were necessary. It is really a kind of reserve power in case it proved to be necessary.

    It may be a reserve power, but I think we have the right to know which personnel they are going to use. Are they going to come to an arrangement with the local authorities to use their fire prevention officers, their fire precaution officers, or are they going to set up their own empire within the UDC?

    In fact, I should be rather surprised if they were to set up separate operations of the type referred to. Clearly this is where the whole area of working in conjunction with the local authorities applies. I do not see that there is any conflict in what we are seeking to do here by giving powers, should it be necessary. It is technically necessary, and I do not think it is at all sinister, as the noble Baroness may fear.

    I do not think it is sinister, but I just think that there are the services of the London Fire Brigade there, with all their fire prevention and their fire precautions department. Why can they not do it, even if they do it on behalf of the UDC? Why is it necessary for the UDC to have these powers?

    There is a distinct likelihood—indeed I should have thought almost a certainty—that they would do just as the noble Baroness suggests. With things such as issuing certificates and powers to make loans to meet expenditure, alterations to buildings and powers to make grants towards the cost of thermal insulation of buildings, I should not have thought that there was anything there to give cause for concern.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Clause 136 [ Corporation as housing authority]:

    10.52 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 274B:

    Page 114, line 15, leave out from first ("the") to second ("or") in line 17 and insert ("order)—
  • (a) the functions conferred on a local authority by the Housing Acts 1957 to 1975 and the Housing Act 1980 or by the Housing (Scotland) Acts 1966 to 1978 and the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980; and
  • (b) the functions conferred on the authority who are the relevant authority for the purposes of sections 39 to 41 of the Land Compensation Act 1973 or sections 36 to 38 of the Land Compensation (Scotland) Act 1973 (which relate to the rehousing of displaced residential occupiers);").
  • The noble Lord said: Since this clause was originally drafted, the former Housing Bill has become the Housing Act 1980. This amendment brings that Act and the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980 within the scope of the clause. This means that functions which local authorities have under those Acts could be transferred to a UDC by an order made under Clause 136. This would only be necessary of course were there to be an order transferring local authority housing functions to a UDC. This amendment therefore does no more than make the housing order-making provision technically correct and in line with current policies. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    moved Amendment No. 274C:

    Page 114, line 25, leave out ("apply, in relation to the corporation,") and insert ("have effect in relation to the corporation and, where the corporation is to have any function concurrently with any other authority, in relation to that authority,").

    The noble Lord said: This, too, is a technical amendment. It is needed to deal with the situation which might arise if a UDC were given a housing function under this clause which was to be exercised concurrently with the local authority. This amendment would enable the order to modify the way the appropriate provision in the Housing Acts applied to both the local authority and to the UDC. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    On Question, Whether Clause 136, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

    We have been discussing a number of clauses in the last half hour or so, dealing with different powers which are to be given to the urban development corporations. I rose on a previous clause which was giving planning powers to an urban development corporation and questioned the wisdom of that particular clause. I must confess that I can see the logic in giving the planning control powers to an urban development corporation to enable it effectively to carry out its operations, and indeed I said that if these powers had been given by agreement we would not be objecting. But I think that an entirely different case applies to the question of housing powers. Housing is something which tends to be of far greater local concern. It is a matter about which people are particularly concerned; that in fact adequate housing policies are carried out in the area in which they live. There seems to be very little logic in the proposal that these powers should be allocated to an urban development corporation. I do not see that this can be regarded as a wrecking amendment. It would be quite possible for the existing local authorities, in agreement with the urban development corporation, to carry out such housing schemes as may be necessary within a particular area.

    My view, therefore, is that we should seek the deletion of this clause, to enable the housing powers to be retained by the local authorities concerned. Noble Lords will accept, I think, that the question of housing powers is extremely dear to the hearts of local authorities. Their ability to solve the problems of their own housing waiting lists lies in their creation of new units of housing.

    One can think of the problems which will arise if these powers are left in the Bill. The urban development corporation will have to create its own housing lists. It will have to establish its own housing departments. It may be that it will have only a very few houses which may need replacing within the area of the urban development corporation. It would seem to be rather bureaucratic. One is multiplying the number of housing authorities in an area. It would be very much better if these powers were left with the local authorities concerned and were not transferred to the urban development corporations.

    I would like to support my noble friend in the proposal he has just put forward. Looking at the Notes on Clauses, it is stated that normally a local authority will be expected to continue to exercise its housing functions in the UDC area, but that it may be necessary to the UDC to exercise some housing powers. It then goes on to say that this clause has been drafted in very general terms. It is in such general terms that it is one of the reasons why we should not agree to incorporate this provision in the Bill.

    The noble Lord will no doubt say that this is a reserve power. By the time we have finished, we could have reserve powers for every single one of the functions of the local authorities. I am sure the noble Lord the Minister would agree that this would be a terrible slap in the face for those local authorities which cover large boroughs in the dockland area. It would mean that the housing powers would have to fit in with the rest of the housing work of those boroughs. I am talking about dockland now. I know that they have very proud records in housing. It seems totally unnecessary that this aspect, in a very limited part of their boroughs, should be taken over by the corporation. It would be far more sensible to make other arrangements whereby the corporation would use the work of the housing departments of the boroughs.

    As your Lordships will see, my name is on the list of those objecting to the inclusion of this clause. It seems to me to be pushing things too far that the housing power should be a power of the urban development corporation—for the reasons already given by the noble Lords. One cannot help feeling that it is preparing the ground for a total takeover in certain circumstances of the responsibilities of local government.

    Noble Lords who are councillors and who have been councillors will know (and I am sure the noble Lord the Minister would concede this) that 90 per cent. of the complaints and of the cases that they have to take up, follow up and ask questions about in the local council are housing cases. It is an extraordinary situation, because presumably in urban development corporation areas there are still to be councillors representing the ground. The councillor will be able to make scenes and ask questions in his council about that part of the locally-owned stock which is owned by the local authority, but will not be able to ask questions, make trouble or initiate debates, other than to write letters to the urban development corporation. I am sure the Minister is going to say that these are reserve powers, but in my view they are reserve powers the Minister and the Government do not need.

    This is what worries me. I came into the Chamber because I knew we were getting to this Part and, having followed this throughout the week, I am worried about the dictatorial power that is put in the hands of these authorities. To those of us who have been experienced in the other place, indeed in both Houses, this whole thing is demonstrative of a rush job. We may not have won many Divisions, but people on both sides of the Chamber with years of experience in all parts of local government can see some of the folly and some of the errors in this Bill. We shall suffer for this later on. We cannot defeat the Government.

    Yes, but in the last resort they can bring up their forces and they know that they can rush things through. That is not supposed to be the way the party opposite acts, but it is undoubtedly doing it with this Bill, keeping us here till late hours, night and day.

    I am doing it to show your Lordships how foolish some of this drafting is—no, not foolish, because it is the apotheosis of obscurity; it is exactly that. The urban development councils are to be set up to regenerate their designated area and they must therefore—now look at this next expression, look at the etymology of it—

    "be unequivocally in command of planning decisions in their area and ensure"—
    and here it is in the imperative mood—
    "they cannot be impeded by the action"—
    and here is a slap in the teeth for the local authorities—
    "or inaction of local authorities".
    This is pomposity gone mad. There are two main considerations that have guided the framing of the legislation and they are not worth the paper they were printed on. They are not giving the chance for democracy to really grow as we are proud of the way it has grown historically in this country. I am ashamed that Members opposite have been coerced into rushing into the Lobbies without demanding longer time to discuss this Bill, not just for the sake of the party but for the sake of Britain.

    Now I understand what an illustrious predecessor meant when he used the phrase "intoxicated by the exuberance of his own verbosity".

    The fact is that when all the rhetoric has died down and all the drama is finished, what we are talking about here is giving to the UDCs, who may well need to exercise housing improvement functions and the like, certain powers which would not go to the UDCs in any event other than by specific affirmative orders which, at the end of the day, rest with Parliament. Either one accepts that UDCs are going to have a chance to do the job or one does not. As I said at the beginning, one can try to whittle away here and whittle away there the powers we seek to give them.

    When we talk in this way we overlook the basic fundamental point which I touched on at the beginning; namely, what are these areas that we are talking about? Are they so developed, so advanced? Do they have such housing that one is seeking to take over? One has to go and see what it is that has to be done, and who is going to put up the housing. What housing is being put up now? The local authorities have their problems in having to do this. What we are seeking is to give encouragement to people, to bring in others to bring to it a dimension that does not exist now. If it had existed before we should not have had the problems we are talking about.

    I do not believe we should accept that this is something that is wicked or naughty or trying to take over. I regret the language, because the UDC will succeed by working with the local authorities. They can work together with people who are trying to bring in more resources. At the end of the day that is the key to whether or not it will succeed. Will they be able to encourage more resources to come in from the private sector? There is no amount of money that could go into 6,000 acres of land from the public source and make happen what we want to see happen.

    The Minister ought to have tried to convince us that the UDC needs to have housing powers; that is the thing about Clause 136. I know something about docklands. There was in existence—and still is—a joint committee of the GLC and the boroughs working to develop the area. At this stage I am not arguing whether or not they should be replaced by a UDC. All right; we have decided they should be replaced by a UDC. The argument now, however, is whether the UDC needs to have housing powers in order to do the job. I do not know about other Members of the Committee, but certainly the Minister has not convinced me that it needs to have housing powers in order to do the job. In the area we are talking about there are already nine housing authorities. The Minister is indicating that he is going to add a tenth housing authority.

    We need to address ourselves to the question whether or not that is necessary. I cannot see that it is necessary, because the housing development work can be done by the local authorities. If there is to be private development, that can also go on. The UDC does not need to have housing powers in order to have private housing development. If the Minister is saying that what is required is a new injection of private housing, that can happen without the UDC having housing powers. I hope the Minister will try again to convince the Committee that the UDC that is to be created needs the housing powers he is giving it.

    I should like to ask the noble Lord the Minister a question. It may be that I do not understand correctly the full purport of the clause, but, as I understand it, it transfers to the UDC certain powers under the Housing Acts that are exercised by local authorities. The point occurs to me that the Housing Acts themselves confer these powers on a body that is democratically elected, whereas the UDC, under the provisions of Schedule 23, is an appointed body. This would seem to me to be a significant breach in the exercise of democratic administration within the entire neighbourhood of which the portion occupied by the UDC forms only a part. I should like to have the noble Lord's observations on that. It may be, it not being my specialist subject, that I have not got it right. If I have got it wrong I should be obliged if he would correct me. If I am right, then I should be glad to have his explanation as to why this has taken place at all.

    I do not want to drag this matter out. The noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, said that I should keep on trying to convince him—well, I do keep on trying, but it seems that I very rarely succeed. But I shall keep on trying. The fact is that as regards housing, and indeed the other powers that we seek to give to the UDCs, there will be certain functions which will continue to stay with the local authorities entirely, and they have been specified. I do not want to go into all that again. But the fact is that, hopefully, there will be co-operation—indeed, if there is not co-operation then, as I have said two or three times today, I think that the UDC will have a very difficult job indeed. I am quite sure—indeed, I know—that the chairman of both of them are more than anxious to work together with the local authority. Certainly, if I were doing the job it would be the first thing that I would embark upon.

    But to cover the specific point that the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, raised with me, I must say, Yes, the clause transfers the powers of the local housing authority, but there is no intention of making the UDC a major housing authority as such. Such powers as may be granted under Clause 136 will merely be to help the overall housing strategy for the area, particularly as regards improvements. I should have thought that that, together with new private build or build for sale were the main requirements of the area. Indeed, if I were charged with the job I would sit down with the local authorities and say, "Come on, you tell us your strategies. What can we do to help? We have some ideas. We want to try to encourage people to come together and to work together." That is how I see it. I hope that that is how it will be.


    Avon, E.Gibson-Watt, L.Monk Bretton, L.
    Bellwin, L.Gisborough, L.Morris, L.
    Belstead, L.Gowrie, E.Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
    Boardman, L.Grafton, D.Newall, L.
    Bolton, L.Halifax, E.Orr-Ewing, L.
    Brabazon of Tara, L.Hanworth, V.Renton, L.
    Carr of Hadley, L.Harvey of Tasburgh, L.Rochdale, V.
    Cathcart, E.Harvington, L.Rodney, L.
    Cork and Orrery, E.Hatherton, L.Salisbury, M.
    Craigmyle, L.Holderness, L.Sandford, L.
    Croft, L.Hornsby-Smith, B.Sandys, L. [Teller.]
    Cullen of Ashbourne, L.Ironside, L.Selkirk, E.
    de Clifford, L.Kemsley, V.Sempill, Ly.
    De Freyne, L.Killearn, L.Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
    De La Warr, E.Linlithgow, M.Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.
    Denham, L. [Teller.]Long, V.Trefgarne, L.
    Digby, L.Lyell, L.Vaux of Harrowden, L.
    Drumalbyn, L.Mackay of Clashfern, L.Vickers, B.
    Elliot of Harwood, B.Margadale, L.Westbury, L.
    Ferrers, E.Marley, L.Young, B.
    Gainford, L.Middleton, L.


    Avebury, L.Houghton of Sowerby, L.Sainsbury, L.
    Bruce of Donington, L.Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.Simon, V.
    David, B. [Teller.]Peart, L.Stedman, B. [Teller.]
    Davies of Leek, L.Pitt of Hampstead, L.Stone, L.
    Elwyn-Jones, L.Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.Underhill, L.
    Evans of Claughton, L.Rochester, L.

    This is a new Quango, is it not? That word was used in a derogative sense when the other Government were in power, and someone ran around discovering them. In appointing these members, what kind of salary will they receive? There is an absurd statement. It says that any member of the corporation may, by notice in writing, addressed to the Secretary of State, resign his membership. It goes on to say that the chairman and deputy chairman may, by like notice, resign. What does that mean? Does that mean that if one does not write one would have to stay in perpetuity as the chairman? Could one never escape without writing a letter? This is the absurdity of the drafting of the stuff. It has not been thought through. Of course, there is no answer—we shall not get an answer. What kind of salary will they receive? How many of them will there be in Britain? Can we have a complete list of them before the Act is working?

    11.12 p.m.

    On Question, Whether Clause 136, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

    Their Lordships divided: Contents, 62; Not-Contents, 17.

    Resolved in the affirmative, and Clause 136, as amended, agreed to accordingly.

    Clause 137 [ Rent rebates]:

    11.21 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 275:

    Page 114, line 34, leave out from beginning ("dwellings") in line 36 and insert ("It shall be the duty of every urban development corporation to bring into operation and to maintain a scheme for granting, to persons who occupy as their homes").

    The noble Lord said: Perhaps I could also speak to Amendments Nos. 276 and 277. These three amendments are needed in order to bring this clause into line with the amendments made to the Housing Finance Act 1972 by the Housing Act 1980. The amendment removes the old restriction on the UDC's duty, which was to provide rent rebates only to persons who occupied housing revenue account dwellings. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Page 115, leave out lines 1 to 3 and insert—

    ("(2) No rebate from the rent for any dwelling shall be granted by virtue of this section to any person—
  • (a) if he occupies the dwelling in England and Wales under a licence which was granted as a temporary expedient to a person who entered it, or any other land, as a trespasser (whether or not before the grant another licence of that or any other dwelling has been granted to him); or
  • (b) if he occupies the dwelling in pursuance of a contract of service with the corporation the terms of which require that he shall be provided with a dwelling at a rent specified in the contract; or
  • (c) if Part II of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 (security of business tenants) applies to his tenancy.").
  • On Question, amendment agreed to.

    moved Amendment No. 277:

    Page 115, line 4, leave out ("exercise the duty in") and insert ("perform the duty to bring a scheme into force which is imposed on them by").

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Clause 137, as amended, agreed to.

    Clause 138 agreed to.

    moved Amendment No. 278ZA:

    After Clause 138, insert the following new clause:

    Other provisions relating to corporations as landlords.

    (".—(1) Chapter I of Part I of the Housing Act 1980 (in this section referred to as "the 1980 Act") shall apply to an urban development corporation as if it were a landlord specified in paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 to that Act (landlords against whom the right to buy cannot be exercised in certain circumstances).

    (2) Chapter II of that Part of the Act of 1980 shall have effect—

  • (a) as if the landlord condition were satisfied where the interest of the landlord belongs to an urban development corporation; and
  • (b) as if a reference to such a corporation were included in any reference to a development corporation in the following provisions:—
  • (i) section 42(1) (meaning of "landlord authority");
  • (ii) section 45(1) (exemption certificates); and
  • (iii) paragraph 2(1) of Schedule 3 (bodies whose employees' tenancies are not secure if their contract of employment requires them to occupy a dwelling-house for the better performance of their duties).
  • (3) Section 140 of the Act of 1980 (exclusion of shared ownership tenancies from the Leasehold Reform Act 1967) shall have effect in relation to a lease granted by an urban development corporation which complies with the conditions set out in subsection (3) of that section.

    (4) Parts I, II and III of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980 shall have effect as if a reference to an urban development corporation were included in any reference in those provisions to a development corporation established by an order made, or having effect as if made, under the New Towns (Scotland) Act 1968.").

    The noble Lord said: This is another of the new clauses which are necessary to bring the tenants of the UDCs within the scope of the Housing Act 1980 in line with local authority and new town tenants. The clause would give tenants of UDCs the right to buy their houses, security of tenure and other rights afforded by the 1980 Act. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Clause 139 [ Highways]:

    11.24 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 278A:

    Page 115, line 26, after ("may") insert ("provided it has consulted with the street works authority prior to the execution of such street works)").

    The noble Lord said: This clause as it stands makes no provision for prior consultation with the street works authority by the urban development corporation. In my opinion it is desirable that an obligation is placed upon the urban development corporation to consult the street works authority since the latter is not the local planning authority and may not be aware of the works until after they have been completed. Prior consultation will prevent later argument, which the Minister has told us so frequently he is anxious to avoid, as to the proper standard required by the street works authority. It is also necessary for the street works authority to know in advance what its likely maintenance liability will be when the streets are ultimately declared highways maintainable at the public expense. I beg to move.

    We agree with the noble Lord that it is very important for consultations to take place between the UDC and the street works authority about standards of construction, alignment and so on before the execution of street works. It is our belief that this can be achieved administratively and that the way the amendment is drafted might require the UDC to consult the street works authority before the execution of works on each and every street that is proposed for adoption, which could be onerous and would be unnecessary provided there was the degree of understanding between the two authorities about the lay-out and standards of roads in the urban development area. I therefore hope we may persuade the noble Lord that the amendment is unnecessary.

    So as not to detain the Committee at this late hour, if those with whom I have been consulting still feel strongly about the matter I can raise it again at a later date. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    11.26 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 278B:

    Page 115, line 36, leave out ("in the urban development area") and insert ("within the area of the street works authority").

    The noble Lord said: This is another highways amendment. It is aimed at achieving a uniform standard of street works throughout the area of the street works authority. As the clause stands, a situation could occur where there might be one standard for works within the urban development area and a different standard for the rest of the street works authority's area. I understand that within the proposed area of at least the Mersey-side UDC there is a considerable number of streets which are unadopted and their standard of construction is lower than that required by the street works authority for developers elsewhere in the area of the street works authority.

    As noble Lords may be aware, much of the area of the proposed UDC is in the area of docklands and often the standard of streets there is cobbled streets with disused railway lines criss-crossing them. Indeed, one of the best ways of testing the durability of the new Mini-Metro would be to drive it across the Liverpool docks. One hopes and wishes—and I hope it would be the Government's wish—that the urban development corporation's streets should reach the same standard as the streets in the rest of the local authority area, and that is the purpose of the amendment.

    The noble Lord is right in what he says, but I have to disagree with him. We believe that, if the amendment were accepted, the highway authority would insist on standards which, while they might be appropriate to the area of street works as a whole, might be unreasonable within the special circumstances of an urban development area. Essentially, therefore, we believe the amendment could be detrimental.

    I would only comment that when the UDC has come into existence the Minister may care to come in his Ministerial car and drive across these areas, and then he may regret what he has just said. But, again, in view of the lateness of the hour and the noble Lord's explanation, I will seek leave to withdraw the amendment at this stage and, if necessary, bring the matter forward again at a later stage.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 139 agreed to.

    Clause 140 agreed to.

    11.29 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 278C:

    After Clause 140, insert the following new clause:

    (" Public health etc.

    .—(1) The Secretary of State may by order provide that an urban development corporation shall have in its area (or in such part of its area as may be specified in the order) the functions conferred on a local authority—

  • (a) by sections 83 and 84 of the Public Health Act 1936 and sections 35 to 37 of the Public Health Act 1961 (all of which relate to filthy or verminous premises or articles) or in relation to Scotland by section 40 of the Public Health (Scotland) Act 1897 (which makes similar provision for Scotland);
  • (b) by any enactment contained in Part III (nuisances and offensive trades) or IX (common lodging-houses of the Public Health Act 1936 or in relation to Scotland by Parts II or V or the Public Health (Scotland) Act 1897 (which respectively makes similar provision for Scotland);
  • (c) by so much of Part XII of the Public Health Act 1936 as relates to any of the enactments mentioned in paragraphs (a) and (b) above; and
  • (d) by Part I of the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 (rats and mice).
  • (2) On the order coming into force, the corporation shall have the functions conferred in relation to the area (or part) instead of or concurrently with any such authority, depending on the terms of the order.

    (3) The order may provide that any enactment under which the corporation is to exercise functions by virtue of the order shall have effect in relation to the corporation and, where the corporation is to have any function concurrently with another authority, in relation to that authority, as modified by the order.

    (4) The order shall have effect subject to such savings and transitional and supplementary provisions as may be specified in the order.

    (5) The power to make an order under this section shall be exercisable by statutory instrument.

    (6) No order under this section shall have effect until approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.").

    The noble Lord said: This new clause enables the Secretary of State to transfer certain functions under the Public Health Acts and the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 to the UDC to be exercised by the UDC instead of, or concurrently with, the local authority. It is essentially a technical transfer operation on which I do not think I need elaborate. I beg to move.

    The noble Lord said that this is a technical amendment. It is the kind of amendment on which we would appreciate a note, bearing in mind that in its present form it has appeared on the Marshalled List for the first time only today.

    I understand the noble Lord's feeling, particularly in view of the fact that he chose to divide against Clause 136. I cannot pretend to understand every word of the amendment, but I am informed that it is essentially a technical amendment. I hope that the noble Lord can accept that it is that and nothing else.

    Is it really a technical amendment? I cannot fully grasp these points, but when one quickly looks at them one wonders whether it is entirely necessary for the corporation to have these particular powers. Surely they can be exercised by simple agreement with the local authority.

    Since previously the Government, very helpfully, have been able to provide us with Notes on Clauses, so that we have the same briefs as are available to the Government, surely they could do the same in respect of new clauses that they have tabled more recently. If the noble Lord the Minister has in front of him a note analogous to those Notes on Clauses—of which we have a vast pile available to us—could he not on future occasions when such amendments are tabled ensure that we have those notes as well?

    The noble Lord was not present when I touched on that point a little while ago, when I said that we have tried to give everything that we have got on this Bill, including both Notes on Clauses and Notes on Amendments. To the extent that we have them, we shall see that any noble Lord who wishes can have them as well. We would keep on doing that right through to the end of the Bill. So, if we have anything, it is available to noble Lords as well.

    We appreciate the help that we have received from the noble Lord. He has been very good; he has provided us up until today with Notes on Clauses and Notes on Amendments. I appreciate that these amendments went in late, and we have not had the notes. We would appreciate them. But I should like to express our appreciation for notes that we have had.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Clauses 141 to 143 agreed to.

    11.33 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 279:

    After Clause 143, insert the following new clause:

    (" Supply of goods etc. by local authorities

    .—(1) Subject to subsection (2) below, in the Local Authorities (Goods and Services) Act 1970 (supply of goods and services by local authorities to public bodies) "public body" shall include any urban development corporation.

    (2) The provisions of subsection (1) above shall have effect as if made by an order under section 1(5) of the Local Authorities (Goods and Services) Act 1970 (power to provide that a person or description of persons shall be a public body for the purposes of that Act).

    (3) An order under the said section 1(5) may accordingly vary or revoke the provisions of subsection (1) above as they apply to an urban development corporation specified in the order.").

    The noble Lord said: This amendment honours an assurance given in another place at the Committee stage, and it also refers to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton—I think it was Amendment No. 264A. This amendment is intended to include urban development corporations within the meaning of "public body" for the purposes of the Local Authorities (Goods and Services) Act 1970. Essentially the point is that it would enable local authorities to provide goods and services for UDCs on an agency basis. We believe that this demonstrates the Government's concern with the need to ensure effective co-operation between UDCs and local authorities. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Clause 144 agreed to.

    moved Amendment No. 280:

    After Clause 144, insert the following new clause:

    (" Compensation for loss of office, etc.

    . The following paragraph shall be inserted after paragraph ( d) in subsection (3) of section 259 of the Local Government Act 1972 (compensation for loss of office)—

    "(e) the provisions of Part XVI (urban development) of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 or of any order made or direction given there-under;

    and, accordingly, in relation to any regulations required to be made in pursuance of such paragraph ( e) of subsection (3) of the said section 259—

  • (i) in subsection (1) of that section for the words "such body or such Minister" there shall be deemed to be substituted the words "such urban development corporation";
  • (ii) the reference in the said subsection (1) to any provision of that Act or of any instrument made thereunder shall be deemed to be a reference to any provision of Part XVI (urban development) of this Act or of any order made or direction given thereunder; and
  • (iii) subsection (4) of that section shall not have effect.")
  • The noble Lord said: This amendment attempts to deal with the substantial staffing implications for local government or UDC employees. The problem is particularly acute in London where the Dockland Development Organisation has operated with a staff whose jobs and prospects will be affected by the establishment of a UDC for the area. Uncertainties have also been created for staff employed by the GLC and London boroughs affected. Any staff cutbacks may inhibit their absorption into other areas of work. The same problems will ultimately arise for the staffs of the UDCs themselves when in due course those bodies are dissolved. I beg to move.

    I found a slight difficulty in hearing the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, in moving this amendment, and I fear that a number of noble Lords on this side of the Committee did, too, but I should like to support the noble Lord in this particular amendment which he has moved after Clause 144. There is a real problem here. There is the Joint Docklands Development Committee, and all the jobs on that committee will become redundant; a chief executive has been appointed for the new urban development corporation from outside the DDO; and senior members of the staff of the Joint Docklands Development Committee will become redundant in spite of the fact that a number of them have contracts in force. The proposal made by the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, is one which has my wholehearted support.

    I am sorry to say that this amendment is unacceptable to the Government since the powers contained in Part XVI of this Bill do not in themselves wind up any local government organisations in a manner comparable with the 1972 reorganisation of local government and the 1963 reorganisation of London local government. So we do not believe that there is any need for the complex legislative provisions that would be provided by this amendment.

    Is the Minister saying that there does not appear to the Government to be any need to be doing anything about the people who will in fact be thrown out of work—say, in the docklands area—as a result of the setting up of the new urban development corporation? I would have thought that at least some provision would be made for taking care of these matters.

    I am not saying anything of the kind. What I am saying is that this part of the Bill does not wind up any organisation, so you do not need to set up a complicated organisation to deal with the fact of what would happen if it did.

    I am sorry, but you do wind up. There is a Joint Dockland Development Organisation at this moment. As a consequence of the setting up of the urban development corporation, it has to be wound up.

    I think that what the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, is saying is that this clause as it stands creates the power and the ability in the Government to create an urban development corporation but does not, in the Bill, set up an urban development corporation for docklands, and therefore there is no need to set up the machinery to meet the particular need set out in this amendment. But, of course, as my noble friend Lord Pitt says, we all know—and the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, has repeated this this evening—the intention is that as soon as this Bill receives the Royal Assent orders will be laid before Parliament setting up the urban development corporations in docklands and in Merseyside; and, of course, as soon as they are set up it will have the effect that the Joint Docklands Development Committee is dissolved, and it will have the adverse effect which has been spoken of by the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, and by my noble friend Lord Pitt, that people will be out of their jobs in a period of time. It is only right that the necessary safeguards for staff should be created to meet the difficulties brought about as a consequence of this Government legislation.

    What I am saying, very simply, is that this is not the place to tackle that particular problem, if indeed the problem exists—and I do not know that it necessarily will.

    I am very grateful to those noble Lords who have come in, as it were, on this amendment, for their support, and for the advice of my noble friend. As it is, I wish to withdraw the amendment. I may consult my noble friend about any action in the future. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    11.40 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 281:

    After Clause 144, insert the following new clause:

    (" Transitional agreements as to property, finance, etc.

    . Section 68 of the Local Government Act 1972 (transitional agreements as to property and finance) shall apply for the purposes of Part XVI (urban development) of this Act as it applies for the purposes of Part IV of that Act subject, for the purposes of such application, to the following modifications—

  • (a) the references in the said section 68 to a public body or public bodies shall be deemed to include references to an urban development corporation;
  • (b) in subsection (1) of the said section 68 for the words "the alteration, abolition or constitution of any area by an order under this Part of this Act" there shall be deemed to be substituted the words "any order made or direction given under Part XVI (urban development) of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980", and for the words "the alteration, abolition or constitution" there shall be deemed to be substituted "such order or direction";
  • (c) subsections (6) to (9) of the said section 68 shall not apply.").
  • The noble Lord said: The Bill does not provide for the necessary and proper vesting of local authorities' property rights and liabilities consequent on the conferring of certain of their functions on the UDC. The properties might include district offices or, in the case of London, accommodation leased by the present Dockland Development Organisation which will become surplus to requirements but for which the GLC would have continuing liabilities. The additional clause proposed would provide general powers to cover the wide range of circumstances which might arise but which cannot yet be identified in detail as much will depend upon the content of the various ministerial orders and directions under Part XXVI of the Bill. I beg to move.

    Here, again, much the same arguments apply. We cannot accept this amendment. We do not consider that the creation of urban development corporations will lead to a situation comparable to the reorganisation of local government. If the London local authorities decide, in view of the UDC, to wind up the DDO, there will on the whole be savings in administrative costs which the UDC will carry instead of the local authorities. It would be doubly unfair if the UDC also had to bear the transitional costs. There is no provision of this type in the New Towns Act and we do not consider it necessary or appropriate in the case of urban development areas.

    I think the analogy with the New Towns Act is not appropriate. When a new town is set up it does not take over something already being done. I hope the Minister might be able to say that when the order comes forward for the setting up of the UDC, that order will contain the necessary provisions to protect the interests of people losing their jobs thereby. That would be the place to bring it in; in the order introducing the UDC.

    I do not believe that that is going to be necessary, as I understand the way in which the Government envisage the Act working. We do not believe that it would be right or proper to accept this amendment as it stands. I should like to read what the noble Viscount has said, to see whether there is anything in the point he makes.

    If a number of people suffer loss of employment as a result of these developments, to whom will they have to look for compensation, redundancy payments and the rest? Will it be the local authorities who presently employ them; or will there be some new arrangements following the order? The point just made gives rise to consideration as to what should be included in the order.

    This is a fair point. In practice, I think one would envisage that the organisations, we hope, would be more active and will require a larger number of people to get on with the job than at the moment. One does not envisage the kind of disruption to which the noble and learned Lord refers.

    Already there are people who are thrown out of work. The chief officer of the DDO will be out of a job because, in effect, the designated UDC has appointed a chief officer; so that you already have an example of what will happen.

    Following what has been said on this amendment, I shall beg leave to withdraw it and to consider any possible future action.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Schedule 27 [ Urban Development Corporations: Finance, etc.]:

    11.44 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 282:

    Page 236, line 26, leave out paragraph 13 and insert—

    (" Annual Report

    13.—(1) An urban development corporation shall make to the Secretary of State, as soon as possible after the end of each finanical year, a report on the exercise and performance by them of their operations and functions during that year and their policies and programme and the Secretary of State shall lay a copy of every such report before each House of Parliament.

    (2) The reports made by each urban development corporation shall include—

  • (i) the titles, together with their respective requirements or effects of any orders made by the Secretary of State in respect of the corporation within the period of the year concerned together with a description of any directions or authorisations given by him to or to be effected by the corporation arising from this Act;
  • (ii) a statement of remuneration, fees, allowances, or other payments made to the Chairman, Vice-Chairman and other named members of the Corporation;
  • (iii) a statement concerning the numbers, organisation, operation and cost of the staff, servants and administrative arrangements of the corporation;
  • (iv) an account of any standing arrangements made by the corporation with any local authority, other statutory bodies, or any other body or group of bodies, which has been made in pursuit of the objectives of the corporation;
  • (v) a schedule of land vested in, acquired by, or disposed of by the corporation whether or not such land has been acquired by compulsory purchase, together with any changes in planning consents made by any statutory authority in respect of that land whilst in ownership of the corporation; together with a similar schedule of any leases or similar agreements made in respect of land owned by the corporation, which have been made for a period of five or more years;
  • (vi) any financial determination made by the Secretary of State, together with statements describing the nature and amount of: all grants; borrowing (including that in foreign currencies); loans (together with respective rates of interest); guarantees and related repayments; assumed debt and associated rates of interest; payment of surplus funds and associated information as set out in Schedule 24 to this Act;
  • (vii) a copy of the audited statement of accounts, which shall show separately the financial transactions of the corporation, in respect of each of its principal categories of activity".).
  • The noble Lord said: There is nothing exceptional in this amendment because paragraph 13 of the schedule makes provision that a report generally shall be presented which shall include accounts and that it shall be presented to Parliament. All that the amendment is doing is listing seven points which ought to be in the report. It says "shall include" these items. I am sure that if noble Lords look at the seven points, there is not one to which exception could be taken. It is the sort of information that Parliament ought to have in a report presented to it by one of these bodies. I beg to move.

    There is nothing wrong in principle with what the noble Lord has suggested. The question is whether it is the right way of doing it and whether it goes far enough. There are quite a number of ways in which there might be other information that might be required and sometimes on a different time scale from the annual report. What I suggest to the noble Lord is that he bears in mind the point made by my noble friend Lord Bellwin when he was dealing with Amendment No. 259. He referred to the new clause which is going to be introduced after Clause 2 in connection with the code of practice for the publication of information. We shall be able to do a very much better job under the provisions of that section than we would by this amendment.

    I thank the noble Lord for that offer. We shall obviously wish to see the code to see whether what he says is justified. I am glad that the general principle is accepted and also that he agrees that it does not go far enough. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    On Question, Whether Schedule 27 shall be the twenty-seventh schedule to the Bill?

    Before we part with Schedule 27, I should like some clarification from the noble Lord. Part III of Schedule 27 lays down the requirements in regard to accounts. I have been through this part of the schedule very carefully and I must remark to the noble Lord that the requirements set out in the schedule as to the form that the accounts should take are very much less stringent than the provisions of Part III of the Bill which dealt with the accounts to be kept in respect of direct labour organisations. In the case of direct labour organisations the noble Lord will recall that the Bill provided in the text of the Bill itself, as distinct from the schedule, very stringent requirements indeed as to what accounts should be kept. That is a branch under the control of the democratically elected local authority. The point was made from these Benches that there ought to be a certain amount of trust in local authorities whose accounts were, after all, under the supervision of district auditors and were subject to the supervision of the council itself.

    In Part III of this schedule we have none of these specific requirements. The UDC is a non-elected body, an appointed body. All that apparently it is required to do is simply to keep proper accounts. We have none of the detailed specifications laid down by the Government in respect of direct labour organisations. The provisions of Part III of Schedule 27 are so vague that the UDC has no effective guidance at all as to what kind of accounts it should keep.

    I observe the sense of urgency in the mind of the Government Chief Whip, and I have no desire to prolong the sitting; but the Government must give a reply to matters of this kind. The explanation that I have asked for is a legitimate one for those of us on this side of the Committee to request. I want some explanation as to why, in the case of a UDC consisting of appointed bodies, the Government have not laid down rules as to the keeping of accounts, when they deem them to be necessary in the case of direct labour organisations.

    When the noble Lord replies I am hopeful that he will be able to give some indication that at Report stage he will introduce a series of amendments to Part III of Schedule 27 with a view to bringing it up to at least modern accounting standards, to which he paid very substantial tribute when we discussed the DLOs. I hope he will bring forward amendments at Report stage and I give the noble Lord notice that if he fails to do so I shall introduce suitable amendments at Report stage.

    I do not want to prolong the discussion on this particular schedule, but I want to take up one of the points just made by the noble Lord from the Opposition Front Bench regarding the form of accounts which is laid down in Part III of this schedule. I should like to ask the Minister, when he replies to the very reasonable questions that have already been put to him, to look at paragraph (3), which provides that the Secretary of State may notify the corporation of information which is to be contained in the statement, the manner in which the information is to be presented and the method and principles according to which the statement is to be prepared. That rather underlines the point made by the noble Lord to the Government Front Bench. What I wish to add is that if the Secretary of State is going to notify the corporation in writing of the requirements under the three headings specified, then Parliament is entitled to know what he has told them to do; but I see no provision in the schedule which requires the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament a statement of these requirements or for them to be incorporated in the annual report.

    I should have thought that even if one does not put as much detail into the Bill as the noble Lord on the Front Bench has requested, the very least that Parliament can require of the Government is that there should be retrospectively printed any notices given to the corporation under this section in the annual report following the serving of that notice.

    I must say that at this hour, after all the hours in six days and six nights, the hectoring tone of the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, is not really conducive to making me want to make any kind of response to him. Yes, I am getting on with it! But the fact is that I really do not take kindly to that kind of hectoring at this time of night and I have not the slightest intention of bringing forward the kind of amendments to which the noble Lord referred. I will simply say that Part III allows the Secretary of State to direct the necessary detail. The accounts will be audited by external auditors and will also be subject to the Comptroller and Auditor General. The intention is to have very full accounts.

    Schedule 27 agreed to.

    Clauses 145 and 146 agreed to.

    Clause 147 [ Power to survey land etc.]:

    moved Amendment No. 283:

    Page 124, line 32, leave out ("(6)") and insert ("(7)").

    The noble Lord said: This is a technical amendment which is required to correct an error, because the Lands Tribunal is referred to in subsection (7) and not (6). I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Clause 147, as amended, agreed to.

    Clause 148 agreed to.

    Clause 149 [ Ecclesiastical property]:

    11.55 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 284:

    Page 126, line 15, at end insert—
    ("(3) This section does not extend to Scotland.").

    The noble Lord said: This amendment disapplies Clause 149 to Scotland. The Church Commissioners have no locus in Scotland, but "ecclesiastical property" as defined in Clause 150 might comprehend some church property in Scotland. We need to make it clear that this clause is concerned with ecclesiastical property in England and Wales only. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Clause 149, as amended, agreed to.

    moved Amendment No. 284A:

    After Clause 149, insert the following new clause:

    (" Local Government Staff Commission

    .—(1) The Secretary of State, after consulting with such bodies representative of local authorities or new town development corporations or of staff employed by such authorities or corporations as appear to him to be concerned, shall, not later than one month after the passing of this Act, establish a staff commission for the purpose of—

  • (a) considering and keeping under review the arrangements for the recruitment of staff by urban development corporations and for the transfer in consequence of the provisions of this Part of this Act or any instrument made under it of staff employed by a relevant government body;
  • (b) considering such staffing problems arising in consequence of, and such other matters relating to staff employed by a relevant government body as may be referred to the commission by the Secretary of State; and
  • (c) advising the Secretary of State on the steps necessary to safeguard the interests of such staff.
  • (2) The Secretary of State may give directions to the staff commission as to their procedure and to any relevant government body or urban development corporation with respect to the furnishing of any information requested and the implementation of any advice given by the commission and with respect to the payment by a relevant government body or an urban development corporation of any expenses incurred by the commission in doing anything requested by that relevant government body or urban development corporation.

    (3) Any expenses incurred by the staff commission under this section and not recovered from a relevant government body or urban development corporation shall be paid by the Secretary of State.

    (4) In this section "relevant government body" means a local authority or new town development corporation any of whose functions are transferred to, or become exercisable by, an urban development corporation.").

    The noble Lord said: I am told to be quick on this amendment at five minutes to midnight. This is another amendment concerning the effects which the Bill will have on employees. We have had a number of amendments on different aspects of this subject. The last was the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, concerning the problems which would arise for employees of the Joint Docklands Committee, as a result of the passage of the Bill. This amendment is more general and seeks the establishment of a staff commission.

    The Bill transfers functions from local authorities and new town development corporations, and this transfer could adversely affect the jobs and career prospects of a number of local government employees. In order to protect the interests of such employees, this staff commission is proposed. This has a precedent in Section 257 of the Local Government Act 1972, which established a staff commission for England, consequent upon local government reorganisation.

    I am surprised at the insensitivity of the Government to the effects of legislation on employees of local authorities. We have noticed little criticism in the press recently of the very sizeable golden hand-shakes which are being paid to captains of industry on their becoming redundant. One would have thought that a caring Government would be just as much concerned about the effects their legislation would have on employees of local authorities. I hope that, even if the Government are unable to accept this amendment, they will express their concern and show their desire to do something to protect the interests of local government employees. I beg to move.

    I cannot let the noble Lord get away with the suggestion that we are not taking cognisance of the problem. My noble friend's department is engaged in discussions with the GLC over the implications of the Docklands UDC for the staff who are now employed in the DDO. But it would be quite inappropriate to establish a staff commission to deal with the relatively small number of staff involved. It is something of the order of 30, whereas in the case of the local authority analogy which the noble Lord talked about it was 1½ million. It really would be a sledgehammer to crack a nut; nevertheless, an awkward and not very agreeable nut.

    I do not intend to press this amendment to a Division at this time of night. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clauses 150 to 152 agreed to.

    I have given an undertaking to the Committee—and I want to keep within the letter of it—that we should finish by 12 o'clock. If I may I will make an apology to the noble Lord Lord Avebury, who has shown a great deal of patience, because his is the next subject. But I think he will agree that it would be better to start on that tomorrow so that we can give it the consideration that it needs. Therefore, I beg to move that the House do now resume.

    Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

    House resumed.