Amendment Of Transport (London) Act 1969
10. The following subsections shall be inserted after section 11(2) of the Transport (London) Act 1969 (which among other things requires the London Transport Executive to submit to the Greater London Council and obtain the Council's approval of any proposal for expenditure by the Executive or any subsidiary of theirs which involves a substantial outlay on capital account):—
"(2A) Any proposal by the Executive or any subsidiary of theirs to acquire—
(a) an interest in or right over land, other than a freehold interest, where the interest or right confers a right to occupy the land; or (b) an interest in or right over goods other than the property in them,
shall be treated for the purposes of subsection (2)( c) above as being a proposal involving an outlay on capital account.
(2B) In subsection (2A) above "freehold interest" means the fee simple absolute in possession (subject to any existing rights other than rights under a mortgage or charge to secure the payment of money) and "property" (in relation to goods) means the general property in them and not merely a special property.".").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, may I draw attention to some printing errors in connection with this amendment, and in doing so may I thank my noble friend Lord Morris for alerting me to them? In paragraph 1 it should read:
"The provisions of Schedule 2 to the London Government Act 1963 …";
in paragraph 5(1C) it should read:
"The appropriate deduction is a deduction of the lesser of the following amounts …";
and paragraph 6 should read:
"The following paragraph shall be substituted for sub-paragraph (5)(a) of that paragraph".
My Lords, the purpose of these amendments is to ensure that the capital expenditure of the GLC is properly integrated within the controls of Part VIII of the Bill over prescribed expenditure, and also to secure that capital expenditure by the London Transport Executive will be treated as if it had been carried out by the GLC, and controlled accordingly. These new amendments introduce a new schedule to replace the present Schedule 12. The new version incorporates several technical amendments to its predecessor. These are intended to clarify the drafting of the schedule in so far as it relates to the way in which prescribed expenditure and lending by the GLC are to be controlled under the annual Money Bill procedure in future.
Apart from these drafting changes, the new schedule makes provision for capital expenditure by the London Transport Executive to be controlled in much the same way as expenditure by ally of the passenger transport executives will be controlled in future. The principle that we have followed in preparing these amendments is that arrangements for the control of expenditure by the GLC and the London Transport Executive should reflect as closely as possible the arrangements which will apply to expenditure by comparable authorities outside London by virtue of Part VIII and Schedule 11 to the Bill. I beg to move the amendment as printed with the minor amendments that I have mentioned.
My Lords, may I make a small comment? First, I must inform my noble friend the Minister that, in the event of this amendment being accepted, I shall not be moving Amendment No. 117B. Secondly, could he say a little more to the encouragement of the officers of the GLC, who, acknowledging the fact that everything had to be done rather hurriedly, have been rather alarmed about the lack of consultation and certain inadequacies and drafting inconsistencies which have been found, and whether they are being corrected?
My Lords, I thought I had spelt out that these were printing errors, and hence my having taken the first opportunity, and indeed the appropriate opportunity, to put them right. I do not know that I can add more for my noble friend's benefit on this point.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 68 [ Expenditure which authorities may make]:
moved Amendment No. 99:
Page 60, line 31, leave out ("for each year") and insert ("for a period of 3 years. The Minister may subsequently vary the allocations made for the second and third years by an amount but may not reduce the provisional allocations made for the second and third years by more than 20 per cent.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, Members of this House may remember—those of them who were present at the Committee stage—that a plea was made by those very familiar with local government, and those not so familiar who could well understand the point, that now that the Government were fixing capital expenditure for local authorities it was completely inappropriate in regard to their programming that this should be done on the basis, as the Bill now says, of each year. The point was well made on all sides at the Committee stage that local authorities, especially in regard to substantial projects, have of necessity to plan at the very minimum over a period of three years, and that it is completely hopeless in regard to their provisions for manpower and for finance that there should be this lack of flexibility and lack of knowledge of what their capital resources will he. Therefore, we moved an amendment which was somewhat similar in terms to this one, but was more ambitious in the sense that a figure of 20 per cent. was mentioned instead of the 10 per cent.
At this Report stage I ask that this matter be carefully looked at; and I would hope that the noble Lord the Minister would find it appropriate, on the further consideration which I am sure he has given to this matter, to allow local authorities, in view of the provisions in regard to capital, to have this amount of certainty spread, as I have said it must be, over a minimum period of three years in regard to their capital projects.
I would add only this point. I remember that the noble Lord the Minister indicated last time that Cabinets are in the habit of fixing capital provision year by year, and that the Chancellor has this weighty task upon his shoulders. It may very well be that that is so, but your Lordships may feel that some exception must be made in regard to local authorities now that these new provisions are coming in and they are, as I say, being allocated these annual sums—not by way of a firmly fixed amount being put in the Chancellor's Budget, as it were, and being approved by the Cabinet on a fixed and certain basis; but at least so that an indication can be given to the local authorities that they will, within certain limits dependent upon national conditions, be able to make their arrangements based on capital provision over a minimum period of three years, as is suggested in this amendment. I beg to move.
My Lords, very briefly, may I support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon? I understand that the department have indicated to local authorities that they are sympathetic to this concept that, while only one year can be guaranteed, there would be indications to the local authorities of minimum figures allocated to them in subsequent years. I hope that this general sympathy which I understand exists in the Government will not just be left hanging in the air as a general sympathy but might be translated into something along the lines of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, because I think it goes without saying, almost, that the planning of manpower and the financing of local government would thus be greatly improved and therefore a better use could be made of resources, which I would have thought would have been a desirable end that the Government would wish to see.
My Lords, as I said when we were discussing this in Committee—indeed, I believe it was almost an identical amendment that we had then, and that we decided the issue on a Division —I as well as anyone, I think, understand why it is important for local authorities to have some reassurance about the availability of expenditure. And, as I have said previously, we will go on giving as the noble Lords, Lord Mishcon and Lord Evans, have said—as much information and practical assistance as possible in that direction. But, as I also said in Committee, we cannot tie the Government to a statutorily fixed level of allocations. Any Government must be in a position to decide each year what the country can afford to spend. This would have to be reflected in allocations—which is not to say that we are not cognisant of the problem. I think both noble Lords who have spoken would accept that. We will do everything we can to be helpful in that direction because we recognise how important it is, but that does not mean that I can accept the amendment.
My Lords, I do not want to discourage noble Lords from putting down amendments at any stage on any Bill, but when, on Committee, we have gone through the voting procedure and given a decision by vote, is it not rather unwise, when we have such an extensive Marshalled List, to repeat an amendment in this way? When it has been withdrawn or not put to a vote, so that a final formal decision has not been given, it is sensible to pursue it, but is it not a little time wasting to expect something that has been voted upon to be examined again in detail in the way this amendment would suggest?
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord who made that interjection and I noted with some amount of concentration the approval that was given on the Government Benches to his comments. I shall venture to remind the House, if none of my colleagues do so, that there are certain amendments on which a Division took place at Committee stage and which were approved. I have noticed on the Marshalled List that the Government have thought at Report stage to try to reinstate the position as though no such Division had taken place. I shall therefore remind them of and quote the noble Lord's comments when we reach that stage. At least, I had the tact to alter the terms of the amendment that I put before the House on this occasion by mentioning a different percentage from that which occurred on the last occasion.I say no more on that than this. The noble Lord the Minister, with his great knowledge of local government, has appreciated the position that I tried to underline in this amendment, and the noble Lord, Lord Evans, was good enough to support that view. Because of his very firm indication that every assistance will be given to local authorities—and I know that he will not mind if I say that his remarks may be quoted hereafter—I think it would be sensible to ask the House for leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 100:
Page 61, line 10, at end insert ("total").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is the first of a series of amendments designed to preserve the right of authorities to use capital receipts without fear of curtailment. It may be for the convenience of the House that I should speak to all the amendments in my name. They fall into three groups: first, Amendment No. 101, which is a simple amendment designed to remove the power of the Secretary of State to prescribe the proportion of capital receipts that councils may use. This amendment is concise, clear and achieves the objective of the Association of County Councils. However, the Government did not accept the point at Committee stage so I have also tabled Amendments Nos. 100, 102. 104, 108, 109, 110, 111, 114 and 115, which differentiate between capital receipts received before the commencement date (which might be subject to some control) and capital received afterwards, where we seek freedom of use. The third set of amendments, Amendments Nos. 112, 116 and 117, are consequential on the acceptance of either of my main series of amendments. I am sorry to speak to so many amendments at one time but I hope that as my argument develops your Lordships will understand my objectives.
I will start with Amendment No. 101 which is similar to one moved by my noble friend Lord Ridley at Committee. It is a simple one designed to remove the power of the Secretary of State to prescribe the proportion of capital receipts that councils may use freely. Clause 68(3)( d) allows an authority to use its net capital receipts but adds the rider
"or to such proportion of those receipts as may be prescribed".
It is this rider that I wish to remove in order to ensure that the whole of an authority's capital receipts can be used without restriction to finance capital expenditure, in addition to the main central Government allocation. The unrestricted use of capital receipts in this way has been one of our objectives ever since the new capital control proposals were published. We believe that the Government accept the basis for this argument. Indeed, it is one of the main changes that the Government made in the original consultation document.
Yet the Bill as drafted would enable the Secretary of State to restrict severely the extent to which authorities may use capital receipts and even prevent them from making effective use of such receipts altogether. Freedom of use of receipts is essential if authorities are to have the maximum incentive to employ capital assets efficiently and to realise their value when surplus to requirements. The right parallel is the parable of the talents, which propounds that assets should be neither frozen nor dispersed but invested. If you believe, as I do, that the councils have a considerable amount of land and buildings surplus to requirements and not earning a good return, surely it is right to encourage them to sell these and to utilise the proceeds productively.
I appreciate that this amendment may not be acceptable to the Government. so I have tabled my second series of amendments starting with Amendment No. 100 and followed by Amendments Nos. 102, 104, 108, 109, 110, 111, 114 and 115, which differentiate between capital receipts received before the commencement date (and which might be subject to some control) and afterwards, where we seek freedom of use. During the Committee stage the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, was that he must retain the power of restriction in order to safeguard against the possibility of the annual cash limit being broken. I cannot help feeling that this stems from a fear that the use made by authorities in any one year of capital receipts accumulated from previous years could far exceed the estimates made when the cash limit was fixed. I do not believe this to be very likely. These amendments would provide the Government with a safeguard by allowing the Secretary of State to restrict the use of capital receipts accumulated before the introduction of the new system but providing full freedom to employ capital receipts which accrue after that date.
I have studied the debate in Committee very carefully, and some of the points that we made have been accepted by the Government, for which we are grateful. But I felt that neither the House nor the noble Lord the Minister would want me to reiterate all the arguments which were covered on Committee. Therefore I have put down this series of amendments only because we judge this to be the most important freedom taken away from county councils by this Bill. In concentrating on this point, I hope that I can persuade the Government that these amendments are supporting their policies by providing not a stick to restrain the councils but a carrot to ensure that they use their assets to the best purposes. I beg to move.
My Lords, before my noble friend the Minister replies, may I add a word of support in favour of Lord Digby's remarks? As I expected, he moved the amendment far better than I did at Committee stage and explained the effect much better than I was able to do. I confirm that in the view of the ACC this is the most important part of the Bill. I have repeatedly bored your Lordships in the past in saying that we regard this as extremely important. It is the only amendment that we are seeking at this moment at Report stage. The real crunch of the matter is this: if a local authority has a great deal of unused land and there is a lot of land lying idle, then we should all wish to see it brought back into productive use. We all wish to see these assets better deployed for the benefit of the community. The Secretary of State has repeatedly urged local authorities to sell and dispose of their unwanted holdings of land. This amendment would seek to give them the incentive to do so. I cannot stress too strongly that this would be in line with Government policy and helpful to all local authorities.
My Lords, we are not very far apart in this matter. I have for long been one of the staunchest advocates of the very policy of an authority using its resources to best advantage If it had some lying idle and doing nothing for years, then what better way to get funds than by accumulating capital receipts, selling those resources off and re-applying those receipts in the way that the authority felt it wanted, without the need to borrow or go to ratepayers for money. Clearly, as a philosophy it is something of which we approve wholeheartedly. That is why the Bill allows the authority to do that. If we are to talk about what is permitted in so far as presently accumulated receipts from the past are concerned, we should get into deeper water; but even there the Government take a very flexible approach to the matter.The problem we have with this series of amendments is a very important one: the ability of Government to ensure that they can contain total capital expenditure by local authorities within a national cash limit. As my noble friend Lord Digby said, it is most unlikely that such a limit would be breached, because for every authority that wants to pursue such a policy there are others that do not. When one also takes into account the new alternatives that are going to be available to local authorities—the 10 per cent. carry over and the option to exchange allocations with any authority in the country, which is very far reaching—I should not have thought that what is in effect a prudent reserve power should inhibit authorities in any way from pursuing a vigorous policy of acquiring and accumulating capital receipts and putting them to whatever use they decide for them. It is only because we feel that there must at the end of the day be a point beyond which Government cannot go—and that is something that can only be decided as they watch the progress of what happens in practice—that we cannot accept the amendments. It is for that very important reason. I repeat that we are close to my noble friends Lord Digby and Lord Ridley in what we are seeking to do. I acknowledge that it certainly is not a matter of semantics. Without my referring to the copious notes that I have in front of me—and I appreciated my noble friend's not going over again all the points that we made in Committee; nor will I—I can say that the fears about what will happen in practice are not well founded. The very fact that since the Bill started on its route we have accepted that capital receipts should be added in this way indicates our great enthusiasm for the whole principle of using capital receipts to supplement allocations. I hope that my noble friends will be, if not completely satisfied, at least willing to accept what I say in the knowledge that we shall all watch this point very carefully. I know that through their association and as individual authorities they will do so. I assure them that so far as the Government are concerned we shall watch it carefully. I do not think that it is going to become a problem, but I hope that they will accept why I feel it is necessary at least to retain a reserve power within the Bill.
My Lords, I am not entirely happy, but I thank the Minister for some of his words. I believe that there still is a danger. I will certainly keep a copy of his speech in Hansard available to quote at Ministers in future. In the present circumstances, I do not wish to divide the House. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[ Amendment Nos. 101–105 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 106:
Page 61, line 12, at end insert—
(e) any amount applied from funds established under s. 28 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976; and (f) any amount received by way of grant or loan from the EIB, ERDF; and (g) any amount applied to capital purposes from the proceeds of local lotteries.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not want to take up the time of the House in repeating what many members of this House will remember was the interesting discussion that took place on the amounts that should not be set against the capital receipts of a local authority. We went through it on the last occasion. Your Lordships will see examples of the matters that are set out here. They include grants that are made through EEC organisations for specifically approved projects of the local authority. As this is not going to cost the Government of this country anything, it is quite wrong to regard that as a capital receipt. Indeed, it does not act as very much of an encouragement to take the trouble to obtain these grants if it is counted as a capital receipt against the allocation for local authorities.
Then there is the obvious example of the receipts from the lottery which comes out of funds quite apart from anything normally collected by a local authority. They arise obviously out of money that is paid by ordinary citizens who are perfectly prepared to go in for those lotteries. If I remember correctly, the Minister listened with great patience to the discussion and indicated that he would give the matter further thought. I was asked why it was I had mentioned so many examples of exemptions from capital receipts. I said then—and I repeat it now, hoping that the Minister will hear me—that the main reason for putting clown these various classes was that my friends and I felt that if we failed completely it would be a dreadful matter; but if we succeeded at least in part it would have been worthwhile putting the amendment down. I gathered from the Minister's reply that he regarded lotteries as possibly being an exception. I hope he will feel the same in regard to other items, specifically those that derive from our membership of the EEC. I beg to move.
My Lords, in so far as lotteries are concerned, we have agreed with the local authority associations that such proceeds can be treated as capital receipts for the purpose of permitting increased capital expenditure. The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has been successful in that part as indeed he has in some other parts of the Bill, reluctant though lie may be to acknowledge it—well, perhaps not reluctant. I should not say "reluctant", my Lords. Beyond that, I fear the amendment is unacceptable, in that it does not seek to permit allocations to be supplemented. It does refer correctly to Section 28 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, but basically the rest of it is still unacceptable, simply because it would weaken substantially the effect of the proposed controls. For that reason I fear we cannot accept it. Having made some progress, I hope the noble Lord will feel that he does not want to press the rest of it.
My Lords, what the noble Lord the Minister is saying is, "Don't press your luck too hard". I appreciate the sense of what he is saying. I appreciate, as do my noble friends, the way in which at least one of these points has been conceded, and in those circumstances I ask the leave of the House to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 107:
Page 61, line 12, at end insert—
(e) an amount for the year equal to the Authority's entitlement of profits of a trading undertaking owned by that Authority individually or as a member of a Joint Committee of Local Authorities. (f) in sub-paragraph (3)(e) above trading undertakings include— (i) any railway, light railway, tramway, road transport, water transport, canal, inland navigation, ferry, dock, harbour or pier undertaking; (ii) any telephone undertaking; (iii) any aerodrome; (iv) any market undertaking; (v) any undertaking for the provision of entertainments under section 145 of the Local Government Act 1972 or any local enactment; (vi) any undertaking for the supply of district heating; or (vii) any civic catering undertaking,")
The noble Lord said: My Lords, at the Committee stage I moved a similar amendment to this one. In doing so argued the basic point of principle that where a local authority undertaking makes a profit the local authority should be permitted to deal with that profit as it thinks best in relation to the needs of its community. In moving the amendment now, I base it on that same principal. It is the principle that is applied by Government in their pressure on nationalised industries: that from their profits they should find the capital for their development. It is the same principle as is employed in the attitude to the British Airports Authority: that the capital development should be found from profits; and it is the same principle as inspires the successful private company: that it should find the cash for its developments from its profits. Why should not a local authority undertaking be in the same position? Why should it not be free to utilise those profits without the consent of Whitehall?
I illustrated this principle—it was only an illustration—by reference to a local authority airport, Luton. Some 2 million passengers pass through it a year. Last year it made over £2 million profit. It is in need of rebuilding the terminal building; it is in need of other developments; and it wants to devote the profits that it is making on the airport to a reserve fund from which to pay for that enlargement, that development. I urged that it should be free to do so without supervision or control from Marsham Street. The noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, with that customary courtesy that he has shown throughout, said that careful consideration would be given to what I had said and—this was in a brighter mood of optimism—that he was sure I would be satisfied with the outcome. But I know a little more now, because the Department of Trade, no doubt awaiting the passage of this Bill, has already communicated with airport authorities as to the attitude it is likely to take on capital development.
It has made it clear in a circular that if a capital allocation is made to an airport for this purpose it must not be used for the enlargement of a car park; it must not be used for the reduction of noise, something that Luton needs: steps on noise insulation. In fact, it is perfectly clear that the department's consent will be needed before we spend money on a new fire tender; they cost up to £100,000. Luton will need larger hangars to accommodate the newer and quieter planes; all that will be subject to consent. But the capital allocation, to use the jargon, is not capital; it is our capital, Luton Airport's capital that is to be used. Through this system of allocation there are to be substantial controls as to what shall be done at the airport. I am bound to say to the noble Lord that I am not as satisfied as he assumed that I would be when I heard the outcome.
I come back to the general principle of this thing, of which Luton was an illustration. Why should not a local authority deal with the profit on its undertakings in any way it may desire without central supervision or control? There are no party politics in this; there is no increase in local authority borrowing; there is no increase in local authority expenditure. I suppose it would be all right if the profit went into the rate fund to reduce the rates and then a little later Luton sought consent to borrow money for that development. There seems to be no anti-inflationary policy. There is no local government expenditure involved in this. It seems to me to be an unnecessary limitation on local authority freedom, something which is undesirable in terms of local authority freedom and which will discourage local authority undertakings from making a profit. One is bound to ask whether the Government believe in the principle of making profits and ploughing them back. I must go very gently here; it is some 17 years since I was a Minister in a Conservative Government and maybe I have forgotten the policy developments in the meantime. But it surprises me that this Government, of all Governments, should discourage the practice in local authority undertakings of making profits and ploughing them back.
To return to the illustration of Luton, when one comes to the detailed matter of the development it is absurd to suggest that civil servants at the centre know better than those who are running the airport what form of improvement should take place. I am not one of those who criticise civil servants. One cannot work as a Minister for 10 years, as I did, without having a very high opinion of the standing of civil servants. Why impose on them at the centre a task which is based essentially on local knowledge? I would say to your Lordships that this is a point that the Government, who have got away with so much in the course of the debates on this Bill, should yield. Again and again the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, has spoken of his belief in the strength and autonomy and, where possible, the freedom of local authorities. I suggest this is an illustration of the point and I hope that noble Lords on all sides of the House will attach themselves to this principle of local authority freedom in this respect and support this amendment in the Lobbies. My Lords, I beg to move.
moved, as amendments to Amendment No. 107, Amendments Nos. 107A and 107B:
In paragraph (f)(vi), in line 2, leave out ("or") Paragraph (f)(vii) at end insert—
(viii) any exhibition hall or complex").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, my memory got carried back, and I believe that many Members of this House will share the same recollection, when I heard once again the voice of the noble Lord, Lord Hill. My memory was carried back to those war years when that voice came over the radio in such an attractive form, doing so much for the morale of the country at that time. I should like to say that I think that voice has come over again to deal with a certain sense of morale in local authorities and in the various undertakings mentioned in this resolution.
During the Committee stage, on behalf of my noble friends and myself, I ventured to move an amendment in terms as moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hill, but with the addition of a reference to an exhibition centre, and I do not suppose that the noble Lord will have any objection to that amendment and the addition of that item.
After I had moved the amendment, the noble Lord the Minister said this, at col. 766 of the Official Report during the Committee stage on 10th October—and I am so anxious that he should remember his words because it may perhaps determine his reply on this occasion. I quote:
"Trying to be helpful, may I say that the whole principle of using profits, as my noble friend has just said, is an absolutely acceptable one on its own, and, although I cannot accept the amendment and can give no commitment, I think this is another of these areas where I should like to talk about it further with colleague. Therefore, I would give that assurance but without any commitment, as I know would be understood. If that is of any help at all, that really covers the point of the amendment set down in the name of my noble friend Lord Ridley, too".
Indeed, the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, had put down an amendment with the same principle, but had used a greater economy of language than I had employed in my amendment, and I was grateful to him for it.
The noble Lord, Lord Hill, was so right, in my view, when he said there was not a scrap of party politics in this. There is not, and I am appealing to all sections of the House, as I know he did, not only to adopt the principle as he has put it but I wonder whether your Lordships would permit me to remind you of the consistent discussion we had in regard to direct labour organisations. The discussion from the Government Benches—and one understands the logic of it, even if one does not always agree with the principle, as some of my noble friends and I do not agree—really seemed to be intended to discourage local authorities who were making losses at the expense of the ratepayer and the taxpayer. That was the whole reasoning behind many of the provisions of this Bill which deal with direct labour organisations.
Is not the other side of the coin to be looked at? Is there to be no encouragement for those local authorities who, by their initiative, enterprise and care, do manage to make profits in regard to some of their undertakings? Is it not sensible that if they do, instead of saying to them—and it seems to be such an unworthy reply to those efforts— "You have made those profits and now they are going to be counted against your allocation", would it not be appropriate that within the year in which they are made there should be an ability to plough back those profits into the enterprise itself and not take them into account in regard to the allocation which is made?
It always seems to me that if you have a good case it is sensible not to overplay it, and not to talk too much. Therefore, I shall cease my address to your Lordships, if I may, with this statement: that the noble Lord the Minister on the last occasion said that he would confer with his colleagues and that he had some sympathy with the spirit of this amendment, but gave no undertaking as to what the outcome of those discussions would be. I only hope that his colleagues, with whom he discussed this, are as sensible as we know the Minister himself to be. I beg to move.
My Lords, I assume from the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, moved the amendment to Amendment No. 107 that we are in fact taking Amendments Nos. 107, 107A and 107B together. On that assumption, I should like to say from these Benches that I very warmly support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hill, with his habitual eloquence. The problem is that the Government insist on treating investments in local authority trading undertakings as being included as prescribed expenditure. It seems to me that it is an artificial distinction that the Government choose to treat surpluses on municipal trading as revenue receipts which cannot then be used to supplement capital expenditure allocation.The Government have recently conceded in negotiations with airport authorities that the allocation they have in mind for the next three years is, on their own admission, totally inadequate for airport expansion and improvement, and airports have been told that a rationing of resources will take place. Nevertheless, if the Government do not accept this amendment, or some similar form of it, it appears that they are taking from airport authorities which make a profit the freedom to use such profits, surpluses or reserve funds. It seems odd that, although Speke Airport at Liverpool makes substantial losses and therefore would not be a beneficiary if this amendment were passed, the chairman of the Airports Committee on the Merseyside County Council, in trying to squeeze some money out of a reluctant Government, was told by the noble Lord the Minister's honourable friend Mr. Norman Tebitt that the only way they could hope to make any money to carry out the substantial improvements to Liverpool airport that were needed would be to go into partnership with private enterprise, and thereby turn the deficit into profit which could then be used to expand the airport. That seems, on the face of it, to contradict the Government's present policy. The situation in Greater Manchester regarding Ringway Airport is entirely different. They are in a very similar position to that of Luton, where they have very heavy traffic and want to carry out very important improvements to the airport. As a Merseysider, it hurts me to say this, but Manchester is the principal airport in the North-West and one of the few enterprises that is expanding and succeeding, making profits and employing a large number of people in that part of the world. They are very concerned, as some of your Lordships may have heard on the wireless recently, in Manchester that this Bill, if not amended in the way suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Hill, will do them a very grave disservice in trying to expand what is a very important service in reviving industry in the North-West. At the end of the day, all that is sought by this amendment is parity with the nationalised industries, including, in particular, the British Airports Authority, who have been told to use what revenue profits they have to finance capital expenditure and to avoid borrowing. It seems to me that, if they are being encouraged by the Government to do that, then surely municipal enterprises that make profits of the kind referred to in the amendment, and in the amendment to the amendment, should be treated in the same way and encouraged to this end. Therefore, I very much support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hill, and the amendment to that amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon.
My Lords, I think we should first get clear the difference. If we are talking about airports, and indeed we are very much doing so in the sense that they touched off this debate, I should make it clear that the Government have said—and I have tried to indicate this to the noble Lord, Lord Hill—that we take a very positive view of the expansion of airports. We consider that to be a matter of regional and, to some extent, national importance, and any projects that are subjects of regional and national importance are eligible for specific grants on top of allocations. Therefore, we have looked closely at Luton Airport and, while I cannot give any undertakings here, nor would noble Lords expect me to do so, I have indicated to the noble Lord, Lord Hill, that, hopefully, there will be a very favourable look—and very shortly, too, I hope—at specific allocations for them on top of the other allocations.The noble Lord said that they wanted to spend the money on car parks, sound proofing and so on. One of the beauties of the new form of capital expenditure controls is that once an allocation is made, it can be used for whatever purpose the authority itself decides is its priority. If Luton should decide that the priority for them would be to use some resources for this type of project. then there is no reason why they should not do it—
My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to intervene? The circular of the Department of Trade, which was issued to airport authorities between two and three weeks ago, expressly stated that none of the allocation could be used for increased car parking or for sound insulation.
My Lords, the point I was making was not that the allocation that comes from the Department of Trade, but the capital allocation that goes to the authority as part of its general capital allocation can be used for whatever it decides regardless of how it may be made up in the various blocks. That is one of the features of the whole new system that will be coming out. The allocation is made up of various blocks that we would expect the authority might spend. But, at the end of the day, they are all channelled into one and it will be for the authority to decide whether or not it wishes to use the allocation in the way we have suggested—we being Government. I have said it so many times before. This is, at last, a great new freedom for an authority to decide where its priorities lie. So, to that extent, the noble Lord is right and I am right, too—
All is right as right can be.
Whatever is allocated to Luton by the Department of Trade, as a specific allocation on top, will be used for the purposes that the department specify. But, additionally, Luton will have the other allocation for which they can decide the priority. That can be used for some of the other purposes that are not specifically set out in the allocation from the Department of Trade.If I may come to the thrust of the debate, may I say this? The Government consider it absolutely vital that the totality of local authorities' capital expenditure must be contained within an overall cash limit. I shall come to the other points in a moment. But somewhere down the line there has to come a moment in time when we accept that there is only so much money to be spent. It is not the same as the money which the noble Lord, Lord Evans, indicated the private sector might put in. That is not public expenditure money. In terms of public money, there is only so much and it is essential that we do not exceed that, because, if we go on doing so, then we cannot get anywhere in the direction that the Government and everybody in the country want. So we will be able to allocate in the form of expenditure approval only such sums as we think will enable the cash limit to be spent, but not to be overspent. But this amendment proposes that an authority shall be able to use profits from trading undertakings and it gives a very formidable list. I am sure that the noble Lord, if pushed to it, could even have added some more to it. But I want to use this list in the amendment, and I hope that noble Lords will look at it, because it gives an intimation of where it could go in terms of the totality of spending, if, hopefully, profits are made. I was chairman of an airport that made profits, and there is a certain monopoly connotation in an authority having an airport. It is clearly an achievement for Liverpool to lose money. One has to wonder how they did it, unless, in fairness to them—and I had better qualify that statement immediately—there are special circumstances about which I do not know. But most airports make profits, because they have a special situation. It is a service that is not likely to lead to competition. There are not likely to be other airports opening up. Therefore, that is special. But leaving them, and possibly market undertakings, aside, local authority trading enterprises tend, in the main, not to make profits and they are a cause of concern. However, we are talking about the principles, so may I come back to them? The great point here is that on top of the capital receipts issue, which we talked about earlier and which is a tremendous opportunity for authorities—and one which I practised extensively in my former incarnation—there is that opportunity to top up their allocations. There is the opportunity of the 10 per cent. in and out in a year. There is the opportunity of going to other authorities who will not spend all their allocations. There is a whole area of opportunity here for authorities to increase their total capital opportunities to spend, within the totality of what the Government believe we can afford. I am aware, also, of the argument that this will reduce the incentive to authorities to run profitable undertakings. Heaven forbid that we should want to do that. Of course, we want to encourage them to run profitable undertakings. But this debate is not about that. This debate is about what to do with the money if you make it. I should have thought that one of the very best ways of using such money —and no Government can tell you that you should or should not—was stated by the noble Lord, Lord Hill, to which I would attach greater importance than he did; that is, by taking the opportunity to use it in aid of the rates. My goodness me, where does the money for the airports come from in the first place? It comes from ratepayers. Initially, it often comes from taxpayers. Is it wrong that some of that money should be returned when a profit is made to aid what are, in many cases, very hard-pressed ratepayers? We are talking all the time about helping them. What a noble and worthwhile undertaking it is if something can be given back to them. They keep on putting up the money every year. The other day I called it risk capital, not given freely. Therefore, I hope that profits of that kind could go towards helping the rate fund. As I said, it needs it. I recognise the great power of the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Hill, and the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, quite rightly and properly quoted me as saying—I wrote it down as he said it—that the use of profits is acceptable on its own. Those are the words that I used and I stick by them all the way down the line. The use of profits is acceptable on its own. But you cannot divorce this from the total context of the whole subject that we are talking about. There are two main features in the capital expenditure control proposals. One is that you give the kind of freedom to decide its own priorities that we maintain local government has wanted for all these years. The second is that there is a total overall amount which the country can afford. Only the Government can decide what that is. So we say to local government: Stay within the totality of that but within it do as you wish. I have to come back to this and to say, with this list, with the open-ended nature of the proposal, which by itself is right yet within the context of the national scene is not right, that even if at this moment the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, feels there is at least merit in my argument I hope he will feel able not to press his amendment.
My Lords, I apologise for coming in late. We are slipping through vital parts of the Bill so rapidly, because of the time factor, that we are not studying in depth some of the problems. I arrived a little late because I was trying to check a point, but I cannot let this go without saying a word. There is no doubt that we have introduced into our system something which is completely new. This part of the Bill and its framework, as local councils and others have said, has introduced a new system of central control without flexibility. I will not expand upon that point because other speakers have done so, but I want to make an appeal. We are always talking about profit. We have been given a threnody. That is what it is: the death dirge of the old system of financing local government. We have been told that the rates should be helped by effort. But this idea is 50, 60, 70 or 80 years old. Many local authorities have run different types of schemes to subsidise the rates. There is nothing new about that. They do not want a lesson about that from the ideocracy in Whitehall.I am interested in the development of local culture and I was delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, put in paragraph (v):
I note that the development of local cultural life could be dominated by the Government with their excessive veneration of the saints of monetarism. This is practically destroying social life. Fanatically, we are following this path and it is damaging Britain's existence, its work, its wealth and its happiness. I guarantee that it will take a dozen years, whatever Government come to power, to get anywhere near to stability. Amendment No. 107 standing in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, and the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, is of particular importance—remarkably so if the Government accept some part of the list of trading undertakings which include the sentence following paragraph (v) which I have just mentioned:"any undertaking for the provision of entertainments under section 145 of the Local Government Act 1972 or any local enactment".
I note that the word "entertainment" is intended to include musical, theatrical and other performances and amusements, but I am pleading that this country, which is noted for its theatre and which has one of the greatest of all dramatists in Shakespeare, should help to keep alive, as we have through' the centuries, the theatre. I am pleading that the theatrical side should be left in. Britain's theatre is the best in the world. For centuries British local authorities have had theatre of all types. From the morality plays of medieval times up to today they have given a fillip to keeping alive our cultural activities. We are damping this down. Particularly is this true of the county which at the moment I reside in and part of which I had the honour to represent; namely, Staffordshire and the City of Stoke-on-Trent which subsidises its quite famous Victoria Theatre. Part VII of the Bill sets out the framework for a system of local authorities which replaces the old flexible system. I believe that the Government will have too much direct control. They are not encouraging men and women who over the years have given a lifetime, in many cases, to local government. They may not be flippant of the tongue. They may not have the literacy of noble Lords opposite. They may not have had their educational opportunities. And they may come from many different parties. However, a bonhomie exists among all sides of local government and a pride in their area. I warn the Government opposite that it is taking the initiative away from its own people, its own political party. There is an upsurge of feeling about trespassing upon an area which is at the heart of British democracy. Consequently, I hope that greater priority will be given to allowing freedom to local authorities which know the idiosyncracies of their areas better than the ideocracy of Whitehall. They live in the regions, with their intonation, their accents and their special interests, and they should be allowed to manage the money which they themselves raise without direction. It is a shame that this is being pressed upon this noble House in such a flippant manner."Any undertaking for the provision of entertainment under Section 145 of the Local Government Act 1972 or any local enactment".
My Lords, I should like to add a word in support of the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, whose amendment we are debating. Like other noble Lords, I have always enjoyed enormously listening to the noble Lord and, like the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, I remember his days as the Radio Doctor. I remember him making his broadcast about that black coated worker, the prune, which had a great effect on me then, even if it does not have the same effect now. The noble Lord is on to a point which he must press and I hope that he will lead us into the Lobbies.The local authorities have made great efforts not only over airports but in other directions to try to make profits. Where they do so they must be allowed to use those profits for the benefit of their inhabitants and ratepayers. I will not weary noble Lords with details of what my own authority is trying to do, but I have experience of Newcastle Airport which after many years has succeeded, I think, in making a profit and which has made a tremendous contribution to the life of North-East England. As an act of faith many years ago when the airport was started, local authorities joined together to finance and to run it and they deserve the proceeds of their endeavours in order to expand the airport for the benefit of their region. All the arguments have been trotted out and I shall not waste time upon them. The only thing which surprised me was that my noble friend the Minister, a Conservative Minister, so lightly dismissed in one sense the profit motive. He said that incentive was all right but that it did not go so far. I think that from this Government we should expect greater faith in the incentive and the profit motive generally, which I personally support. The incentive for local authorities is very real and I trust that this will allow your Lordships to support the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, in his amendment.
My Lords, I rise to support the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, as I did when he moved his earlier amendment in Committee. The whole House will be full of admiration for my noble friend on the Front Bench in the way that he has handled the Bill, but every now and again he gets it wrong. I have to say that he has here got it more wrong than anywhere else in the Bill. Of course it is important that the expenditure of local authorities has to be kept within the totality of the agreed demand on the Exchequer, but here we are talking about the use which authorities make of the wealth which they themselves have created without making any demand on the Exchequer. If I may say so, that is a totally different point.When my noble friend says that it would be quite wrong to isolate the use of this money from the control system which is being created in the Bill I would reply that it is not wrong but that it is necessary and right that it should be so isolated. This is money which has been created by profitable undertakings, albeit run by public bodies, and I should not have thought that we had all that many public bodies which do make profits. They should be left free to use them as they see fit. They have been democratically elected to take those sort of decisions and they are quite capable of taking them, so they should be left to get on with it. The debate has concentrated upon airports, and quite a few of them are profitable. The Association of District Councils, over which I have the honour to preside, has a number of them in its membership. But they are not the only profitable public local undertakings. The City of Nottingham runs an industrial estate and in the last financial year that made a surplus of £1,100,000. I submit to the House that the City of Nottingham are the people to decide how to use that money: whether to apply it for the relief of the rates, whether to invest it then and there in sonic extension of their undertaking or whether to plough it back into capital reserves. Other authorities certainly require to go cap in hand to Whitehall for capital allocations and specific grants and so forth. If they do, they have to argue their case with the regional office of the DoE and the regional office of the Department of Industry, the Department of Trade or the Ministry of Transport—and very tedious and time-consuming and expensive in manpower it all is. Surely to goodness if a city can make a surplus of £1,100,000 on its own trading estate it should be allowed to get on and use that money at its own discretion without having to involve the decisions of any other civil servants anywhere. If they can make a profit they ought to be left completely free to apply that profit as they see fit. Take the Borough of Southend. That is one of the relatively rare boroughs which runs three profitable undertakings: it runs an airport which makes a profit, it runs a transport undertaking which makes a profit and it runs a trading estate which makes a profit. Why in heaven's name should they have to come to any department in Whitehall to help them decide what to do with that money? In point of fact they will have an expensive business of clearing away obstructions so that they can carry different types of aircraft on their airport runway. That will cost about £600,000. There is little prospect of their being able to get that money out of any allocation that they might get from central Government. They would be subjected to all sorts of considerations about priorities between Castle Donington, Luton and this, that and the other airport. If they have £500,000 which they have made by their own prudence and good management, for heaven's sake why should they not use it?—and the same goes for other undertakings. Only a few days ago I was visiting another of our member authorities in Boston, Lincs. They run a small east coast port. It is another profitable undertaking. Their operating surplus over the past four years has been £350,000. They have applied £190,000 of that to their capital reserves, they have invested some in structural repairs and in buying cranes. They have been buying second-hand cranes from Grimsby and Tilbury (and I should think there is a fairly wide choice). Can one see that kind of trading activity being conducted by a department in Whitehall, with its civil servants going round picking up second-hand cranes? That is the way profits are made and if they can make a profit surely they need encouragement to go on making a profit and to apply it in whatever way they see fit, to improving the profitability of their enterprise, to relieving their rates, to building up reserves or to doing any of that in combination. I am sorry to say that the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has pinched most of the rest of my argument here, but he had a good point and I will repeat it. Yesterday, as he said, we were very properly talking about direct labour organisations, which probably have more friends on that side of the House than on this side, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, was saying, there are cases of incompetent, uneconomic organisations, wasteful organisations, extravagant organisations or even, as my noble friend mentioned, corrupt organisations. When public money is being misspent in such ways, of course it is appropriate for the Secretary of State to take powers by which he can control them, curb them, penalise them or even, if necessary, chop their heads oil. But if there are organisations which can and do make a profit, do achieve financial success, have created some wealth and, above all, have created and are creating jobs, for heaven's sake let us let them get on with it.
My Lords, I hope the House will not think me impertinent but we have heard the arguments very fully on both sides and should we not now like to hear the position taken by the noble Lord, Lord Hill, and then come to a decision?
My Lords, perhaps with leave I may make three points—
No, on the amendments.
My Lords, am I not allowed to make three quick points?
My Lords, may I make it absolutely clear that if the noble Lord, Lord Hill, is speaking instead of me it will be for the pleasure of the House that he does so?
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Hill, makes his points, I think it only right and proper for me to say that I am extremely sad that I find myself in total disagreement with noble friends who have spoken for the amendment on my side of the House. However, I do draw immense comfort from the knowledge that I shall be supporting my noble friend Lord Bellwin. What my noble friends who have supported the amendment have not understood and thought about is the basic role and the function of government. The only function of government, be it central government or local government, is to govern, not to be in business. It is for that very reason that the people of this country are fed up with too much government. They want less government and it was for that reason that they put this party into power at the last election.
My Lords, perhaps I should remind the House that the Question before the House is that Amendment No. 107A be agreed to and that we have to dispose of Amendments Nos. 107A and 106B before we come to the main Question on Amendment No. 107.
My Lords, it may facilitate the business of the House if I now formally support Amendments Nos. 107A and 107B, with which I believe the noble Lord, Lord Hill, indicated his agreement.
My Lords, perhaps I may now make those three points. The noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, was at his best today, arguing an impossible case. It was one that he knew was impossible and which drew out of him all his persuasive powers. But noble Lords will recall that he said that when profits were made the proper place for those was the rates. Luton is well aware of that. In the current year Luton is making £2·2 million; it is giving £1 million to the rates—and that involves a 3p reduction—and £1·2 million to the reserve fund for the building of the airport. So in that respect we have done even better than the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, expected.Then of course he referred to the list, as though there were a momentous, theoretical possible addition to national capital expenditure. As he knows perfectly well, very few of those public undertakings are making a profit and the plea here is for those which are making a profit. So I would say to him that allocations and special allocations, promises, hopes are irrelevant to the basic issue that local authorities making profits in their undertakings should be free to deal with those profits as they may decide, without intervention from Whitehall. I think it right that we should in fact vote on that central issue, as one of freedom for local authorities in an important respect.
My Lords, by leave of the House, for the sake of procedure can we be quite clear that the noble Lord, Lord Hill's amendment is Amendment No. 107? On that he has spoken and it is on that, presumably, that we shall divide in a moment. That is not the same as Amendments Nos. 107A and 107B. Can we be quite clear on that?
My Lords, surely Amendments Nos. 107A and 107B have been moved by my noble friend Lord Mishcon and maybe we could vote formally on those first, if that is
|Adeane, L.||Evans of Hungershall, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Foot, L.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Gainford, L.||Oram, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Gainsborough, E.||Peart, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Gaitskell, B.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Gladwyn, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]|
|Ardwick, L.||Glenamara, L.|
|Atholl, D.||Gordon-Walker, L.||Porrit, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Gosford, E.||Reilly, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Granville of Eye, L.||Rhodes, L.|
|Bacon, B.||Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Richardson, L.|
|Baker, L.||Hale, L.||Ridley, V.|
|Balogh, L.||Hampton, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Banks, L.||Hatch of Lusby, L.||Ross of Marnock, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Henderson, L.||Saint Brides, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Heycock, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Hill of Luton, L. [Teller.]||Scanlon, L.|
|Birdwood, L.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Seebohm, L.|
|Birk, B.||Hylton-Foster, B.||Segal, L.|
|Blease, L.||Irving of Dartford, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Jacques, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Jeger, B.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Bowden, L.||Kaldor, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Brentford, V.||Kilbracken, L.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Kilmarnock, L.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Kinloss, Ly.||Stone, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Kintore, E.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Byers, L.||Leatherland, L.||Strauss, L.|
|Caccia, L.||Lee of Newton, L.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|Chitnis, L.||Lindsey and Abingdon, E.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Clancarty, E.||Listowel, E.||Underhill, L.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Collison, L.||Longford, E.||Vernon, L.|
|Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.||Loudoun, C.||Wade, L.|
|Dacre of Glanton, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.||Walston, L.|
|David, B.||McCarthy, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||McNair, L.||Whaddon, L.|
|Davies of Penrhys, L.||Maelor, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Masham of Ilton, B.||Wilson of Radcliffe, L.|
|Digby, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Winstanley, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Milverton, L.||Wise, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Minto, E.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||Mishcon, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Evans of Claughton, L.||Monckton of Brenchley, V.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Abercorn, D.||Berkeley, B.||Chelwood, L.|
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Bessborough, E.||Clwyd, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Braye, L.||Cockfield, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Caithness, E.||Cork and Orrery, E.|
|Avon, E.||Camoys, L.||Cottesloe, L.|
|Bellwin, L.||Campbell of Croy, L.||Crathorne, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Cathcart, E.||Cullen of Ashbourne, L.|
accepted by the noble Lord, Lord Hill. Once they have been accepted, we can then have the Division on Amendment No. 107.
On Question, Amendments Nos. 107A and 107B agreed to en bloc.
On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 107) as amended, shall be agreed to?
Their Lordships divided: Contents, 131; Not-Contents, 92.
|Davidson, V.||Hatherton, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|de Clifford, L.||Henley, L.||Onslow, E.|
|De Freyne, L.||Hillingdon, L.||Orkney, E.|
|De La Warr, E.||Hornsby-Smith, B.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Inglewood, L.||Redmayne, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Ironside, L.||Renton, L.|
|Duncan-Sandys, L.||Jeffreys, L.||Romney, E.|
|Ebbisham, L.||Kemsley, V.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Eccles, V.||Kimberley, E.||St. Davids, V.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Kinnaird, L.||Sandys, L. [Teller.]|
|Elton, L.||Kinross, L.||Savile, L.|
|Exeter, M.||Long, V.||Soames, L. (L. President.)|
|Ferrers, E.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Spens, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Lyell, L.||Strathspey, L.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||McFadzean, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Gisborough, L.||Mackay of Clashfern, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Glenkinglas, L.||Mansfield, E.||Torphichen, L.|
|Gormanston, V.||Margadale, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Haig, E.||Marley, L.||Trenchard, V.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Monk Bretton, L.||Ullswater, V.|
|Morris, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Hanworth, V.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.||Willoughby de Broke, L.|
|Harvington, L.||Northchurch, B.|
Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment as amended, agreed to accordingly.
[ Amendments Nos. 108 to 110 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 110A:
Page 61, line 44, at end insert—
("(9) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (3) above, if an authority acquires an interest in land, with the intention of disposing of an interest in the same land to another person for industrial use, to the extent that the authority have not so disposed of the interest by the end of the financial year in which the original interest was acquired, the amount that would otherwise have been counted as a payment in respect of prescribed expenditure in that financial year shall not so count until the following financial year.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move amendment No. 110A. This amendment takes us back to a debate which we had at Committee stage, initiated, I recall, by the noble Lord, Lord Northfield. It deals with the difficulty that arises in the case of local authorities—and I hope that there will be an increasing number of them—who are seeking to develop land for the use of new businesses and industry. Local authorities will develop land in year one and not be able to let, for instance, factory units, completed upon it, until year two. That is particularly the case when one recognises that as regards land that is purchased for that purpose the first thing that has to be done is to have it serviced with sewerage, telephones, water supplies, roads, et cetera. That puts pressure on the year—one allocation. If that were all there was to it, it could lead to a reduction in industrial development. I submit that this is the last thing that we want at this stage. We want industrial development, new small businesses, new wealth creation and new job creation.
In order to get round the problem, as the Bill stands at present authorities may rush into disposing of some units, if they can, at lower rentals than they would be able to get if they had time to consider all the options that would be open to them. I put it to the House that that again is not, I hope, the Government's intention. My noble friend Lord Bellwin would not accept the amendment on the grounds that it would seriously weaken the Government's ability to ensure that authorities' total capital expenditure, capital spending, in a particular year remained within the overall limits for that year—the argument which he is using most of the time, quite properly, throughout the course of the Bill, although not in the case which we have just dealt with and not, I think, in this case.
It seems to me that total local capital expenditure on industrial estates in 1978–79—the last year for which figures are available—was about £20 million. That is a very small fraction of total local authority capital spending. If this amendment were accepted and this flexibility made available to local authorities, I do not think that we could say that the overall control of public expenditure by local authorities would be in any serious jeopardy. The Association of District Councils, whose President I am, believe that this type of industrial development is one of the most important things they are doing at present. It is their highest priority and it would greatly assist the work in which they are all engaged in this field if the amendment were accepted. I beg to move.
My Lords, this amendment is similar to one moved in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek. I was not able to accept that amendment, but I was aware of the valuable work that many local authorities did and do in assisting local industry. I therefore offered, without any commitment to have a look at the matter again. I have looked further into it, but I am still not able to accept the proposal, either in the previous form moved by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, or in the form of the present amendment. The immediate reason is quite simple. In either case it could involve the acquisition of assets by an authority in one year being recorded as having been acquired in the next. That sort of manipulation of accounts would be unacceptable in any sphere of activity. It is certainly unacceptable where public bodies such as local authorities are concerned.However, I do recognise the concern behind this amendment. That was why I offered to look at it again. But I think that in any case the problem is exaggerated. We have gone a long way towards helping authorities which acquire industrial premises or let them, by providing that the lettings by the authority should be treated as generating capital receipts which would cancel out the effect of the original acquisition. The problem now is said to be that an authority may acquire an industrial estate in one year and not be able to let it in that year. Consequently any capital receipts would not be available to cancel out the cost of the acquisition in the year it occurred. In their own interest an authority should try to arrange and time their dealings prudently, and authorities should be very careful before acquiring industrial estates for which there may be insufficient effective demand. But what if an authority are unable to let industrial premises? It is important here not to look too narrowly at this matter. This sort of activity is usually a small part of an authority's annual capital expenditure and there is no need for each individual transaction—acquisition and on-letting—to balance out each year. Authorities will be able to switch allocations between blocks; to use capital receipts; to switch allocations between years; and even to seek switches of allocation from authorities anywhere else in the county. All these ways are open to an authority to cover the acquisitions until capital receipts are available on the disposal of interests in the land. Thereafter, of course, the capital receipts on the disposal would be available to repay any switches of allocation into this activity or to cover further acquisitions. Local authorities must learn to use the wide freedoms which are available under the new system to meet this sort of problem. I, for one, have no doubts at all that they will do exactly that. They certainly do not lack ingenuity or resource, in my experience, and I am quite sure that they will find the best way to use the new system. I am wholeheartedly in favour of that. So far as this amendment goes, I fear that we cannot go beyond that and I wonder whether, in view of my explanation, my noble friend will feel able not to press this amendment.
My Lords. I am grateful to my noble friend. I shall read his further response to this matter with great care. I read very thoroughly the exchange which he had with the noble Lord, Lord Northfield—whose experience in this field is so extensive—and I must confess that I was not entirely satisfied with it and therefore felt disposed to move this amendment again. I hope that my noble friend is right, because the creation of new estates and the starting up of all the help that we can give to new businesses is an important area and it would be maddening if the work which so many authorities want to do in this field was frustrated by our not having got this right. But, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[ Amendments Nos. 111 to 117 not moved.]
Clause 72 [ Specification of expenditure—supplementary]:
moved Amendment No. 117A:
Page 63, line 41, at end insert—
("(3A) Once notification of the particulars of a specification under subsection (1) above in respect of any year has been given to an authority by the appropriate Minister, the amount of prescribed expenditure so specified shall not subsequently be reduced.").
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 117A. Local authorities need to have the assurance that, having been notified of their capital spending allocation, it will not be subsequently cut. Any such reduction places authorities in a very difficult position vis-à-vis existing contractual commitments and it completely wrecks the authorities' ability to plan their capital programme even one year in advance, which is why we feel that an instant moratorium, such as the one we had last week, should not be possible.
On capital expenditure, it is the DoE and the Treasury who fire the shots; on current expenditure perhaps they have a rather more remote and unpredictable impact through the RSG. Yet it is current expenditure, broadly speaking, that represents the local authorities' own manpower costs, whereas capital expenditure represents other people's manpower and their jobs. So when a moratorium like last week's is declared, it is private enterprise in the construction industry that is the worst hit. For some reason, thankfully, new towns and housing associations are not yet affected. But if this freeze is to remain, the construction industry will bear the brunt of the battle against inflation and those desperately needing houses will suffer even more.
There is no record of overspending on capital expenditure by local authorities on housing on its total in past years. We believe thst there is no suggestion strong enough to justify such an assumption for this year. Housing expenditure by local government has been reduced dramatically. The level for this year has been reduced by nearly half since 1974–75, from £7,154 million down to £4,700 million. The housing investment programme has been slashed over the last 12 months. In 1979–80, that allocation was £3,291 million, repriced, allowing for a 15 per cent. inflation. This was cut further still in August 1979 to £2,926 million and again in February 1980 to £2,199 million, a total cut of £1,092 million.
Large capital schemes cannot just be switched on and off like a tap. The authorities ate doing their very best to reduce their capital expenditure, but it is just not possible to stop a scheme when the authority has contractual commitments. By April something like 17 out of the 28 metropolitan authorities had already frozen capital schemes, and there had been a similar reaction by the London boroughs. When such tremendous cuts are made as late in the day as this year, it is not surprising that the authorities will incur a substantial proportion of their expenditure in the early months of the year.
If there is an overspend of £180 million this year, as the Secretary of State alleges there may be, this would not be due to over-programming by local authorities, but to the effects of the Government's economic and monetary policies on the building industry. These are the higher levels of inflation on building costs, an acceleration of building contracts due to desperate shortage of work and an increasing pressure on local authorities for prompt payment by contractors who are running very short of finance.
The disruption caused by the moratorium will be enormous. Over 75 per cent. of the Government's total cuts in public expenditure are falling on housing. The Government's actions are quite inconsistent with their promise to local government. They have said that local authorities would have freedom within the announced expenditure programme, and yet the moment one quarter's figures for merely one block of expenditure within the total are produced the Government have gone back on their promise. In the late Tony Crosland's time at the Department of the Environment we, in local government, were told "The party's over". Today, to quote the Daily Telegraph of last Friday, "The party may be over, but the waiters linger on", and there must be a better way out than that. I beg to move.
My Lords, at first I had some difficulty in recognising the amendment at all, but I understand that the noble Baroness—I think very fairly—took the opportunity to raise this particular point. I have no complaint as to that, except that in return I am sure she will not have any complaint if I make a few observations on her remarks. The noble Baroness referred to the housing investment programme being slashed. I would simply tell her that we still have a long way to go before, if ever, we reach the point of slashing it—if that is the right word—as much as the Labour Government slashed it during their term of office; but perhaps the less said about that the better.I should say that, in fact, we have cut nothing at all; we have simply said that there is an indication of a likely substantial overspend—and I consider £180 million to be substantial—and that until we have been able to verify that one way or another, we have imposed a moratorium on the situation. When all the figures are in, if it proves not to be so then we shall, of course, resume as we were. But there is no intention at all to cut back from the £2·2 billion that was allocated in the first place. Finally, on this point, may I remind the noble Baroness—slightly painful though it may be—that in 1976 local government was charged by the then Labour Government with making an immediate cut of 5 per cent. in its capital programmes, which was an enormous amount. As one who was charged in my then own authority with carrying it out, I know exactly what it entailed, and it was no mean task. However, I accept that the point has been made. I sympathise with the thinking behind this amendment because local authorities must know what is the minimum that they will be able to spend in any year if they are to carry out their capital programme for that year with any confidence. I am not sure if it is realised that the amendment is incompatible with Clause 70 of the Bill as it now stands. This clause empowers the Minister to withdraw an allocation to the extent that it relates to payments which the authority has not already made and is not under a binding contract to make. We recognise that reductions in capital spending in the course of a year may be difficult to achieve without disruption of capital programmes. But on the point that the noble Baroness made I must repeat that we are not talking about cuts in a programme; we are only talking about ensuring that the authority does not overspend—there is no question of a cutback at all. We also appreciate that an authority must not be put in the position of being unable to make payments which it is contractually bound to make. Therefore, Clause 70 contains safeguards for authorities in this respect. The power to withdraw expenditure allocations once they have been announced is obviously one which the Government would be most reluctant to exercise. But it is essential—no less than the Government in 1976 apparently felt it was essential—that there should be a power to put the brakes on swiftly and effectively if the national interest requires. As I said in the last debate, so far as I am concerned at the end of the day the national interest must be overriding. I bow to no one in my wish that local government should have its right to operate and function as it seeks to do. But at the end of the day the national interest must be overriding. For that reason, I fear that I cannot accept the amendment.
My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord has taken that attitude. I, too, have the national interest at heart. I am concerned about the hundreds of thousands of people who are unemployed at the moment. I am concerned about the construction firms and those associated with them who are going bankrupt and having to get out of business. Although it may not be a cutback with the moratorium we have had, industry and local government cannot proceed with these series of stops and goes. They must have a programme which they can carry out and know that they will be able to carry out.When the Government intervene with a moratorium, for however short or long a time it may last, there is disruption within the local authority services. There is heartbreak for people who thought they would get accommodation and now have all their fears roused that they will not. If it can happen with housing, it can happen in all the other areas of local government. By this amendment we wanted to highlight the dangers of a Secretary of State being able to insist on moratoriums and perhaps even cutbacks at any stage in the year he wanted, with the ultimate bad feeling between local authorities and the Government and the tremendous distress that it causes, not only to people who cannot get jobs but also to people who are waiting for houses. I am sorry that the noble Lord does not feel able to accept the amendment. I shall not press it, but I hope that we have made our point, that we do not like this way of the Government interfering in the spending policies of local authorities. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Schedule 12 [ Expenditure of Greater London Council]:
[ Amendment No. 117B not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 117C:
Leave out Schedule 12.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment when I dealt with Amendment No. 98B. I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 82 [ Distribution of planning functions between planning authorities]:
moved Amendment No. 118:
Page 72, line 28, at end insert—
(". If, following the consultation provided for in subparagraph (1) above, the district planning authority proposes to grant planning permission contrary to the views expressed by the county planning authority, they shall notify the Secretary of State of their intention and shall not determine the application until, either—
(a) the Secretary of State has notified them that he does not intend to use his powers of direction under section 35 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971; or (b) 21 days have elapsed;whichever is the earlier.").
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we return to a point on which we had considerable discusion at Committee stage where we had some support for the amendment as we then framed it from the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, and the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and others who felt that we were perhaps strengthening the amendment before us by the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, but they were not prepared at that time to come into the Lobbies with us. We have put forward another amendment, not quite so tough but we still think strengthening the one that the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, had put forward, and would perhaps meet the wishes of him and his noble friends and perhaps even get some support from the Minister.
What we are trying to do is to ensure that the strategic planning policies are adequately protected during the day-to-day exercise of the districts' development control functions. Most of the counties think that this would be best done by them having reserve powers to determine applications where districts intend to breach the strategic planning policies. However, an amendment designed to give the counties the power to call in was tabled and it was defeated at Committee stage. This, while it is a second best, goes a little further than what we have in the Bill at the moment.
We think it is building on the amendment which the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, successfully moved in Committee setting out the types of planning applications on which districts would have to consult counties. It provides that, where following this consultation the county advise the district that planning permission should not be granted and the district take the contrary view, there is a period of enforced delay of not more than 21 days to give the Secretary of State time to consider whether he should call in the case for his own determination. This would ensure that, in all the cases where there was a clash between county and district views, the district could not determine the application until the Secretary of State could have an opportunity to consider both sides of the case.
Perhaps the existing procedures under which the Secretary of State is notified of any substantial departures from the development plans are expected to continue, and perhaps the Government think that might be sufficient to meet the point. But we think that the cases that are covered by these procedures are only a small proportion of those which in the counties have a legitimate interest and will be consulted under the provision of Lord Ridley's amendment. There may be objections to the delay in the new procedure of the 21 days, but disagreements between counties and districts should be comparatively rare, and when they occur some delay is surely a reasonable price to pay for the safeguard which the Secretary of State's involvement would provide.
It does not necessarily mean any additional work for the Civil Service, although some may be unavoidable if the Secretary of State holds to his view that only central Government should be given the power to intervene in district decisions that appear to be going wrong when seen in a wider context. If this is not acceptable, and if the noble Lord perhaps thinks that the principle behind it might be, and if we have not drafted it right, then perhaps we might consider at the next stage of the Bill, if necessary, perhaps amending it yet further. I will not say watering it down yet further, but certainly amending it yet further to give the Secretary of State power to make regulations to give effect to the substance of this amendment. If that would be more acceptable to the noble Lord opposite, then we will be happy to withdraw this one and come forward with that one at Third Reading. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have heard of a step-by-step rearguard action, but this is ridiculous!
We do not give up.
Before I indicate our view of this amendment may I clarify the existing arrangements for notifying the Secretary of State, and also what we are proposing to do under the arrangements to be introduced by Clause 82. Under the existing definition of county matters, counties deal with all applications which would conflict with or prejudice the implementation of fundamental provisions of the structure plan. In other words, counties deal with cases which are major departures from the plan leaving districts to deal with minor ones. The Town and Country Planning Development Plans Direction Act 1975 requires planning authorities to go through certain safeguarding procedures when they intend to allow a departure. Very briefly, districts are required to advertise those cases with which they are dealing, and that is the application for minor departures, while counties are required to notify the Secretary of State of this—that is, the major departure applications—and he has 21 days in which to decide whether to call in a case for his own decision.But under the provisions of Clause 82 the fact that a development would depart from a fundamental provision of the structure plan will no longer be a reason for it to be a county matter. However, we intend to preserve the substance of the departure procedure and we shall be revising the development plans directions accordingly. We shall provide that any application for which a district or county wants to grant permission, and which departs from a structure plan in any significant way, must be notified to the Secretary of State who will have 21 days within which to call the case in. We shall also be providing that, if there is a case which the district is deciding, the district must enclose with its notification any observations it has received from the county as a result of the consultations which Clause 82 requires. Given that undertaking, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, will agree that a provision in the Bill would add nothing to the safeguards. The development plans directions made under the GDO and the Town and Country Planning Act have precisely the same binding force as the Act itself. The only further effect of this amendment seems to be an unfortunate one. It would extend the number of applications to be notified to the Secretary of State to include even those which conform to the structure plan. If a county had objected, the Secretary of State would then need to be notified, for example, of any development that might be effected by a mineral working; or of a development on land which the county wished to develop themselves; or any development on land proposed for a waste disposal site. I cannot accept that such disputes as these cannot be settled at local level. They do not affect the structure plan, and they are certainly not the sort of cases which civil servants should be checking through, nor should central Government be taking decisions on them. This is one of a number of such matters in general where noble Lords opposite and indeed my noble friends are naturally anxious to ensure that there be no departures from what the Act lays down, and that we make things work as smoothly and effectively as possible. I recognise that. The last thing this is: Is that political in any way? It is an attempt to make it work better. I accept and recognise that. I hope in return that the noble Baroness will feel in this case that what I have said also has some merit. While I cannot go along with the amendment, may I say again that I very much respect what she and others are trying to do in dealing with this part of the Bill in this way.
My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, referred to me in moving this amendment might I say that I would in principle support what she is trying to do. I think we are all trying to do the same thing. It is for her to say whether or not she wishes to pursue this matter, but we would feel that she is very much to be supported in this. Perhaps the Minister has answered it adequately. My only worry is whether any Ministry can ever answer anything in 21 days. I have never known that happen yet. Maybe there is a new wind blowing through Whitehall.
My Lords, I should like to support this amendment not because I have any particular desire to cause any more trouble between the district and county councils but because so far, despite the words that my noble friend has said, he has put nothing into the Bill to protect the structure plans and prevent the needless waste of agricultural land. All we have had so far, I am sorry to say, are comforting words, and to me and I think a large number of people those words are not good enough. Something at some stage must be written into this Bill to protect the structure plan and agricultural land from being needlessly lost.I hope, therefore, that my noble friend Lord Bellwin when he decides what to do will be able to give me some concrete evidence of the Government's wish to prevent needless land take. If he does not, I am afraid that I too will have to feel obliged to follow the noble Baronesses into their Lobby.
My Lords, I hope that the noble Baroness will accept the advice of my noble friend and now be content to leave well alone. It has taken a long time to get the division of planning functions properly balanced and established, and I think the amendments moved by my noble friend Lord Ridley at the Committee stage, and accepted by the Government, did achieve this. I am sure there are contained now within the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 coupled with this Bill sufficient provisions to safeguard the position about which the noble Baroness is worried. I do not think anything that could be put into any legislation will ever entirely satisfy farmers about the take of agricultural land, but so long as my noble friend goes on making the point, the district councils will bear it in mind and do their best.
My Lords, I am grateful for the support I have received from the Benches opposite. I have conflicting advice, whether to take noble Lords into the Division Lobby or accept what the Minister said, but I think I owe it to the counties, which are still concerned about the matter, to test the feeling of the House. I assure the Minister that, if I do so, I shall not return with regulations on Third Reading. Some of the counties and their planning departments are still extremely worried that while the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, made things better than they were, it did not do all the things that some of the counties wanted, and I therefore believe I should be letting down my colleagues in local government if I did not ask the House to divide on this issue.
My Lords, with the leave of the House I will make a few more comments, not least in view of what my noble friend said about going into the Lobby against us, and a few additional observations may influence the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, even at this last gasp stage. I should point out that the inescapable consequence of the amendment, all else apart, would be a greater flow of paper; applications that would not otherwise need to be notified would have to be notified, meaning more man hours, more paper passing, more delay and more involvement by central Government in local government affairs—in short, more bureaucracy—and I wonder whether that cost is justified.The question I ask your Lordships to consider is who would benefit from the amendment. The district councils would certainly not benefit; they would have to copy more papers to the DoE. I do not see how the county councils would benefit; if they believe the Secretary of State should call in an application they can make representations themselves. The DoE would not benefit; it would have a greater burden of cases to look at. The applicant would suffer because an additional delay would have been introduced in some cases. In that this seems to be a marginal matter so far as the noble Baroness is concerned, these last remarks may have swung the
|Airedale, L.||Gordon-Walker, L.||Peart, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Gosford, E.||Phillips, B.|
|Ardwick, L.||Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Hale, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]|
|Aylestone, L.||Hampton, L.|
|Bacon, B.||Hanworth, V.||Rhodes, L.|
|Balogh, L.||Hatch of Lusby, L.||Ridley, V.|
|Banks, L.||Henderson, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Ross of Marnock, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Hughes, L.||Salisbury, M.|
|Birk, B.||Hutchinson of Lullington, L.||Scanlon, L.|
|Blease, L.||Jacques, L.||Segal, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Jeger, B.||Shinwell, L.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Kaldor, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Bowden, L.||Kilbracken, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Kinloss, Ly.||Stedman, B.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Leatherland, L.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Byers, L.||Lee of Newton, L.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Listowel, E.||Stone, L.|
|Chelwood, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.]||Strabolgi, L.|
|Chitnis, L.||Strathspey, L.|
|Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.||Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.||Strauss, L.|
|David, B.||Longford, E.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Loudoun, C.||Underhill, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.||Wade, L.|
|Davies of Penrhys, L.||McNair, L.||Walston, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Maelor, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||Masham of Ilton, B.||Whaddon, L.|
|Evans of Claughton, L.||Meston, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Foot, L.||Milverton, L.||Wilson of Radcliffe, L.|
|Gage, V.||Mishcon, L.||Winstanley, L.|
|Gainford, L.||Monckton of Brenchley, V.||Wise, L.|
|Gaitskell, B.||Morris, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Gisborough, L.||Nunburnholme, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Glenamara, L.||Oram, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Allerton, L.||Avon, E.|
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Ampthill, L.||Bathurst, E.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Atholl, D.||Bellwin, L.|
balance and she may now not find it necessary to divide the House; otherwise your Lordships will have to come to a decision on it.
With the leave of the House, my Lords, the noble Lord is trying his blandishments on me, but I shall remain firm. This is a long-stop position, not something that will happen every day. A little more paper in and out of Marsham Street will not make all that much difference so far as I can see and therefore, while the Minister has made a valiant attempt, I must ask the House to divide on this issue.
On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 118) shall be agreed to?
Their Lordships divided: Contents, 103; Not-Contents, 108.
|Belslead, L.||Glenkinglas, L.||Minto, E.|
|Berkeley, B.||Gormanston, V.||Mottistone, L.|
|Bessborouth, E.||Haig, E.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Braye, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Newall, L.|
|Buxton of Alsa, L.||Halsbury, E.||Northchurch, B.|
|Caccia, L.||Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Nigent of Guildford, L.|
|Camoys, L.||Harvington, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Hatherton, L.||Orkney, E.|
|Cathcart, E.||Henley, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Cockfield, L.||Hillingdon, L.||Rawlinson of Ewell L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Holderness, L.||Redmayne, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Hornsby-Smith, B.||Renton, L.|
|Crathorne, L.||Inglewood, L.||Romney, E.|
|Croft, L.||Ironside, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Jeffreys, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Dacre of Glanton, L.||Kemsley, V.||Sandford, L.|
|de Clifford, L.||Kilmarnock, L.||Sandys, L. [Teller.]|
|De Freyne, L.||Kimberley, E.||Savile, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Kinnaird, L.||Sempill, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Kintore, E.||Spens, L.|
|Digby, L.||Knutsford, V.||Sudeley, L.|
|Duncan-Sandys, L.||Lindsey and Abingdon, E.||Swansea, L.|
|Ebbisham, L.||Long, V.||Swinfen, L.|
|Eccles, V.||Lyell, L.||Torphichen, L.|
|Ellenborough, L.||McFadzean, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Mackay of Clashfern, L.||Trenchard, V.|
|Elton, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.||Ullswater, V.|
|Evans of Hungershall, L.||Mancroft, L.||Vaizey, L.|
|Exter, M.||Mansfield, E.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Margadale, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Fortescue, E.||Marley, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Willoughby de Broke. L.|
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
moved Amendment No. 118A:
Page 74, line 3, at end insert—
"(ce) the erection of any building, plant or machinery which it is proposed to use for the manufacture of bricks or clay roofing or floor tiles.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, at the Committee stage there was a series of amendments under the broad heading of clarifying those planning matters which come under the county and those which come under the district in the general area with which Amendment No. 118A is concerned. The Government very generously accepted the majority of those amendments, but an amendment similar to, though not exactly the same as, the one that I am now asking your Lordships to consider, relating to brickworks, was turned down by the Government. At column 911 my noble friend Lord Sandys, speaking for the Government, said, among other things, that steelworks and chemical works would be a good example of plants that could be compared with brickworks, where minerals might be mined separately from the works.
To take that matter first, I suggest to your Lordships that there is not a great similarity among steelworks, chemical works and brickworks. First, the chemicals are rarely, if ever, mined on site, whereas brickworks usually are sited by their clay pits. Steel is made of many minerals the mining of which is inevitably spread over many areas, and bricks and clay tiles, to which this amendment refers, are almost always made from only one mineral, clay. Steel production is also different in that it is much more labour-intensive than brick and clay tile making, and a steelworks is therefore much more akin to a factory, which indeed is another point that my noble friend Lord Sandys made when giving an example of why brickworks should not receive similar treatment to other matters with which the Government agree.
Having said that in answer to the Government's points made in Committee, I would go further and say that, thanks to the acceptance by the Government of an amendment which has led to what is now Clause 82(4)( a) in this Bill, the vast majority of brick and clay tile works will
be county planning matters anyhow. What we have to consider are the few exceptions to this rule, and I suggest to your Lordships that these few exceptions need to be treated similarly for consistency. I should like to make one other point and then give your Lordships a couple of examples in support of my suggestion that the amendment is a sensible one. The first point that I should like to make and to bring to the Government's attention is that the amendment does not relate to refractory products, other than bricks. May I say by way of example, that to avoid dealing with two planning authorities a person building a new brickworks might put it close to its clay pit rather than on a site which might otherwise be generally acknowledged as being more practical and more environmentally suitable. For example, such action might be taken to avoid crossing a public highway, or even a green lane, or public footpath, so as not to risk an unnecessary complication of change of planning authority.
Another example which might arise concerns the point that a brickworks sited near its clay pit will already be a county matter for planning purposes. As its first pit becomes worked out, a new pit that is outside the specifications covered by Clause 82(4)( a) may be discovered. So long as the old pit can continue to be worked, the brickworks remains a county planning matter, even though the bulk of its clay may be coming from the new pit. As the Government will know, it is always hard to tell when a pit is fully worked out. Thus the moment at which a brickworks would have to be transferred to being a district planning matter will be uncertain, and the effect of this, if my proposed amendment is not accepted, will be that questions of economic and environmental importance such as whether to build a new brickworks adjacent to the new pit will be strongly affected by the administrative uncertainty created by the Bill as it stands at the moment. In conclusion, I understand that the Association of District Councils has no specific objection to this amendment, and I hope very much that the Government will accept it. I beg to move.
My Lords, I do not wish to enter into an argument as to whether a brickworks is more like a cement works or a chemical works. Clearly, there are many manufacturing processes which operate using one or more minerals as their main raw material. Just as clearly, we do not want to make elaborate divisions into categories of manufacturing in order to decide whether something is a county matter or a district matter.Clause 82 has already been amended to give counties responsibility for manufacturing which takes place on a mineral extraction site or somewhere that has a pipeline or similar transport link to the mineral extraction site. That is clearly desirable if the whole complex process on one site is to be dealt with by one authority. Many brickworks will be covered by these provisions, but, where a brickworks is completely divorced from its source of raw material, I do not see in planning terms why the county's special planning expertise in mineral matters needs to be brought to hear. If the district decides the case, it can, and no doubt will, call on the county's expertise for advice when it needs it. This is yet another instance where finely balanced judgments are required. There is certainly a case for saying that one should accept the amendment, but on the other hand I think that the weight of judgment just comes down against doing so. In saying that, I hope my noble friend will appreciate the sympathy I have for what is a fairly finely drawn matter; but I feel that, on balance, we are not able to accept it, and I wonder whether he may feel equally able, therefore, not to press it.
I slightly feel that my noble friend might think differently when he reads in the Official Report what I had to say, because I rather think that what I said in fact answered what he said to me before he said it. I think that the balance of the argument—of course, perhaps I have a special interest in this—leans towards me rather than towards him. This is not of vital importance in one sense only, and that is that the number of brickworks affected is relatively few; but I think that in not accepting it my noble friend will have created the very disadvantageous situations which I quoted to him. However, having said all that I do not think it is worth pressing it at this stage, and I therefore beg leave to withdraw this amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 83 [ Fees for planning applications etc.]:
My Lords, I have to point out to your Lordships that if Amendment No. 120 is agreed to I shall not be able to call any of the succeeding amendments down to and including Amendment No. 120H.
moved Amendment No. 120:
Page 76, line 10, leave out subsection (1).
The noble Lord said: My Lords, as your Lordships are no doubt all aware, this amendment is fundamentally a wrecking amendment, and it is in effect to emasculate the pernicious Clause 83. That is precisely the same intention, of course, as that of Amendment No. 127, down in the name of the noble Lords. Lord Evans of Claughton and Lord Mishcon, which reads:
"Leave out Clause 83".
In moving this amendment I believe it would be wrong to go through the many arguments that were gone through at Committee stage. However, as we are talking of a matter of fundamental principle I believe it is important to refresh one's mind that what this is all about cannot be seen or understood unless one concedes the purpose of planning, which, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, is—
"to reconcile, ideally if possible and by compromise if not, conflicting demands on and policies affecting land use in a small crowded island which needs to protect its countryside and wild life, promote its agriculture, improve its housing and social and leisure facilities and regenerate its industrial base".
In so saying, it is apparent to all that those who benefit from planning make up the country as a whole. Yet this Government have tried to establish the fact that they are not charging a fee, or making a charge, to the developer. But in the same breath they say that they are charging a fee to offset part of the cost of processing a planning application. This must be wrong in principle, despite the
very neat analogy drawn by my noble friend Lord Bellwin in Committee (which I must say was a lovely one and which floored me at the time) of the driving test. He stated:
"… a driving test is a public service. The applicant does not sit it to assure himself of his own ability. It is not optional".—[Official Report, 13/10/80; col. 936.]
All analogies are dangerous, but I think this one is particularly specious because the driving test is concerned with two fundamental things, one of which is safety and the other of which is health. I would definitely accept that analogy as far as the building regulations are concerned, under which certain applications are of course chargeable; but planning has nothing whatever to do with the health or safety of the individual, except very indirectly.
There is another point which came up and which I believe is of fundamental importance. It was raised by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, who unfortunately could not be here today. That was when he asked the most trenchant question of my noble friend Lord Bellwin. It went like this:
that is, Lord Bellwin—
"has given the Committee the figures of charges now contemplated, should the clause become law the Secretary of State could by regulation increase it almost indefinitely".
Lord Bellwin answered:
"That is absolutely right. I was going to say that the final charge will be fixed by regulation. Yes, of course it can. Conversely, it could also be reduced if it was felt that was the thing to do". [col. 938.]
I ask your Lordships to consider that very carefully indeed, and to think: When was the last time any fee was charged for any application; or, for that matter, when was the last time that any direct taxation or impost (call it what you will) was imposed?
As I have said, this matter was argued at very great length in Committee and I do not want to say more as I happen to know that there are many noble Lords who wish to contribute to this particular debate. I beg to move.
My Lords, I should like to support this amendment briefly. Planning already is a great cost to developers. It involves considerable delay—very often, most protracted delay—and this often involves the very high cost of servicing what may be an outlay on buildings or whatever. A big risk is involved, which is of not getting permission for something which a developer may wish to do; and there is exposure to political whim, which whether one likes it or not is there regardless. Then, one is in fact buying something which one does not even want. With a driving licence, one wishes to drive so one is prepared to pay for driving instruction, and so on. But nobody wants to have planning permission; it is a statutory necessity. Apart from having to have it, you do not want to buy; that is the last thing you want to do. I think it is a most iniquitous concept, that you have to buy something which you do not even want in the end.
My Lords, I must apologise to the House in the first instance if, on this amendment, I speak for rather longer than I would normally, but it is a most important subject and I was thwarted by prior commitment from speaking on Second Reading and on the appropriate day of the Committee stage. On the question of principle, other noble Lords have argued this case in Committee far better than I could. Of course it is wrong, and I believe it is the thin end of the wedge for further charges to be made. Many noble Lords will be aware that the farming and land-occupying community is gravely concerned at the moment about present and proposed legislation, and in particular whether there appears to be an increasing role for the Department of the Environment at the expense of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. We are told not to worry, and that it is the Government and not the individual departments that matter, as there are regular inter-departmental meetings and liaison.Accordingly, I would refer my noble friend Lord Bellwin to col. 1444 of Hansard of Wednesday the 15th of this month, and to the words spoken by his ministerial colleague, Lord Belstead. I quote:
Will my noble friend give me a simple "Yes" or "No" as to whether he supports that statement? If he does, his conscience is clear to agree this amendment, as those primarily involved at local level—among others, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the CBI, the Housebuilders' Federation, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Royal Town Planning Institute, together with many small businesses who have no united representative—are against this clause. If he does not support and agree the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, then Government's co-responsibility could be seriously questioned. I turn to the effect of this clause and I must declare an interest as a chartered surveyor. Most of my work concerns developments and I act, among others, for developers in pension funds concerned with this matter. I have some experience and this leads me to the conclusion that the Government do not understand development except in local authority terms. Under the proposed charges, commercial properties will all be charged on the same scale per square foot; yet there is a vast difference in the cost of building a 20,000 sq. ft. factory, a 20,000 sq. ft. shop or a 20,000 sq. ft. office block. The office block could cost five times as much to build as the factory. This is totally inequitable and prejudicial against the factory development which this country badly needs. Although my noble friend will say that this is a detailed matter, it does show the absurdity of having charges at all. The Government argue that in relation to the overall costs of development the proposed charges are small. I would contest that. But obviously it has not occurred to the Government that some developments do not make the profits that they suppose. I know of many that have made losses owing to a variety of factors, and of instances where development companies have gone into liquidation. This tax on planning applications is indiscriminate and bears no relation to the profitability, or otherwise, of any scheme. In these circumstances to say that the fees will not add to the cost of the development is wrong. It will make development more difficult in the marginal and assisted areas of the country which are usually those which are most in need of new development. The next point is the claim that in view of the time spent by local authorities on planning applications, some of the cost must be recouped. Who obtains the benefit of any development? A developer may or may not make a surplus on cost. He employs builders, solicitors, architects, quantity surveyors and engineers; and some of these jobs now will be put in jeopardy. The local authority gain from levying rates on development and furthermore it could solve local employment and social difficulties. I know of a number of developments that did just that. Is it fair to have charges for planning applications as well when the local authority and the community already benefit and when the statutory undertakers receive benefit from the increased use of their services? My last point concerns the small, new, one-off developer. I have already raised this point with the Minister and I hope that he appreciates the gravity of the problem. When one starts a new business one often works for some months or even years without remuneration until the business can afford to reward one for one's efforts. In development, it can take many months or years to put a site together and to work up a viable scheme; and often one does not receive any payment until the particular development is completed. I ask your Lordships to take this true case where the developer was a small and new business with no cash flow. A proposition was put forward and it was agreed that the development would be viable. The directors of the firm accordingly gave their time free of charge in trying to take the matter further. Quantity surveyors, architects, engineers and even a solicitor speculated their time, on the understanding that they would receive payment only if the scheme went ahead. The first payment they received was 3½ years after the proposition was first put to them. If there had been a charge for the planning application the scheme could not have been considered. The hank had lent money to the company to start, but they confirmed to me subsequently that they would not have funded a planning application because there was no guarantee that it would be approved. That is not an isolated case. I know of many similar cases. One reads in the Press only of the large public-company developers but seldom, if ever, of the small man who is essential in carrying out the small schemes that the large companies will not undertake. These are the very people who supported this Government; these are the people that this Government wish to encourage; yet these are the people to whom this particular clause will ring like a death knell. This Government cannot treat small businesses and individuals so shabbily. I hope that noble Lords who have listened to this argument and the other arguments put forward will support my noble friend and rid the country of the effect of this pestilent clause."I think it will be found there is probably not agreement, and if th re is not agreement at local level I suspect that the Department of the Environment would not wish to carry the matter any further".
My Lords, may f speak in support of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Morris. I agree with his amendment which was supported by other noble Lords and I agree with a lot that the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, said, except that I did not like the dismissive way—and I should declare an interest here since I am a solicitor—in which he said, "even a solicitor" was willing to speculate. That went to the heart! But, in addition to some of the eminent bodies mentioned by the noble Earl, the Law Society itself is opposed to the imposition of planning charges. This may seem to some a good reason to vote against the amendment. Nevertheless there is a formidable array of people who are deeply involved in the planning process who are universally condemnatory of the proposals included in the Bill.At this stage I deal with the principle; because if this amendment is not carried there is a large number of other amendments dealing with the detail, including one in my name dealing with the small developer. To me and, I think, to most of your Lordships, the point is one of principle: that, basically, people who own land or have an interest in land should be allowed to use it in the way they want. The planning laws in a complex, civilised society are a limitation, but we accept them as necessary. To take this further and to say: "You are entitled to use your land as you want provided you will accept the planning laws so as to protect other people; but for the privilege of doing something to limit your own right to use your own land in the way you want, you have to pay" seems outrageously contrary to the whole practice and use of the management of land in this country over very many years. Lord Bellwin said in his speech in Committee that this is a small imposition on the average developer, considering that it is only a small part of the whole of his development, but I would mention that, in addition, the developer will have to pay for by-law consent. As a matter of principle, this is quite proper, because by-law consent protects the individual who occupies the dwelling from bad workmanship and personal danger; it is not to protect society. But the developer has to pay for that, for supervision of Highways Act legislation, for connecting charges, for gas and electricity and so on; and it seems to me that if the argument is put forward, as was put forward previously by Lord Bellwin, that this is a small thing, to many people it would be the straw that would break the camel's back, there being one imposition after another and this being the latest. As the noble Lord, Lord Morris, has said, there is no protection and no indication (as was mentioned also by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter) that this charge would be kept within a reasonable limit. There would be opportunities for the price to go up and up. The basic point of this amendment, as opposed to the points of detail which may be discussed later, is that if one limits people's rights to use their land in order to protect society as a whole, it is very wicked that society as a whole should then impose a charge on those people for limiting their rights. On that ground, I support the amendment.
My Lords, may I first congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Morris, on putting down the amendment again at Report stage. I have been happy to associate myself with him. I have found this a most unsatisfactory clause all along, partially because it is not stated, and never has been fully stated, on what basis it is proposed to charge the fees. One should remember that local authorities often welcome increased development in their areas because of the advantages which development will bring them, whether it is the advantage of an increased rate poundage which many areas feel they profit from or whether it is some specific civic advantage which can be obtained from the development.I am particularly reminded that in London the development of the river walkway on the southern bank of the Thames has very largely come about because the developers have been prepared to seed and build sections of the walkway as they have developed particular sections of the South Bank. Again, one thinks of developers agreeing, without cost to the local authority, to set back their developments for the purpose of road improvements. Those are all benefits which could be given a cash equivalent if anybody cared to work it out. Here we are proposing to charge developers considerable sums of money for making the development in the first place. Therefore it may well be that these particular civic advantages which accrue in one form or another, as I have outlined, would not accrue in the future if these charges were forced on them. Another aspect is that planning authorities very much welcome the situation where a developer will submit a dozen or so outline applications for a particular site. He can then discuss with the planning authority the most suitable treatment of the site to meet the needs of the area. This sometimes gets developers into trouble. We had a discussion earlier in the session on the "Green Giant" development near Vauxhall Bridge. Those of us who looked into this development knew that this was a non-starter. That was one of 11 or 12 applications which were submitted for that site. The number of applications a developer puts in will be restricted by this clause. The planning authority will be restricted in choice and a decrease in civic advantages will follow. The clause is most unsatisfactory as it now stands. I have pleasure in supporting the noble Lord, Lord Morris.
My Lords, may I say a word in support of the noble Lord? I spoke in his support in Committee stage and nothing has happened to change my mind. May I say as briefly as possible that the user of a service should pay some small percentage of the costs that he incurs. I raised a point which has not yet been answered: the proposals are that private applications for planning permission should carry a charge but the Government should exempt themselves and the nationalised industries from such a charge. My noble friend has been kind enough to write to me on this subject but he has not convinced me. My support is wavering because we are in danger of "clobbering" the private sector in favour of the public sector. If this clause is to be accepted by the other House, then we should make it clear—and I have not an amendment down, but I may put one down for Third Reading—that everybody should bear the burden alike, whether nationalised industry, the National Coal Board or the Minister himself. It is not fair that the costs should fall just on the private sector.
My Lords, I assume that it is for the convenience of the House that I should speak also to Amendments Nos. 120A to 120G and 127. In Committee we debated at considerable length the general principle of charging for planning applications. I set out extensively the Government's reasoning on it. I do not think that your Lordships will expect me to repeat at length all that I said then. I have gone into the matter very closely since that time in correspondence with my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter and in discussions with my noble friend Lord Caithness and others, and have thought and discussed this matter extensively.Let me say at once—and it ought to be made clear—that public services are never free. Somebody always pays. When we pay our rates and taxes it is not easy to see exactly what we are buying. We are nevertheless paying for public services. Those of us who are involved with property, development and planning must not forget the wider public paying its rates and taxes who are already footing the whole bill for the planning system. The effect of much of the argument that we have heard is for higher public expenditure. I accept that these charges are unwelcome to many, and I understand that. Nevertheless, in these times we cannot afford to ignore an opportunity to offset public expenditure by £30 million. How lightly we dismiss the £30 million that we are talking about! I hope that noble Lords will not ignore the wider economic issues that lie behind this discussion. Sometimes I am rather surprised at even some of my noble friends who apparently find it so easy to disregard this basic, fundamental point. I accept wholeheartedly that we need to be satisfied that the effect in practice does not transfer an unreasonable burden on to the individual. Noble Lords will be familiar with the proposals on which we have consulted. Other amendments take up the question of the owner-occupier and the disabled. As to the burden of the charges on the development industry, they are, in any way we look at it—and as I gave instances in the Committee stage I will not give many today—at the worst very modest. I said then—and perhaps I may give just one or two examples—that for an application for detailed permission for a housing estate of 20 houses worth £500,000 or more, the charge we have proposed will be £800. For a house extension the charge will be £30. May I remind your Lordships that that is extending the house from 10 per cent. to 15 per cent., which is a very significant increase. After that, an extension which still requires planning permission will almost always then be a substantial one with a value of some thousands of pounds. About £8 billion worth of development passes through the development control system each year and we are talking of recovering about £30 million a year from charges—that is, about three-eighths of 1 per cent. of the value of the development. Let us keep the whole issue in perspective. Is the kind of imposition about which we have been hearing so unreasonable? It has been suggested that our proposals would be more acceptable if we were to charge only for permissions and not for applications which result in a refusal. On the face of it that seems a fair argument in itself; but it is not consistent with the aim of charging. What we are seeking is not another tax on development. I almost always agree and only occasionally disagree with my noble friend Lord Morris. Knowing that he is sitting behind me is always a great source of comfort to me. However, on this particular issue we seem not to agree; but he may yet have second thoughts. What we are seeking is not another tax on development but a fee to offset part of the cost of processing the application. Costs are incurred in processing a planning application. Whether it is granted or refused it still costs money. May I refer to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby? He said that sometimes developers put in 12 applications and the authority welcomes them. They may well welcome them. The fact is that it costs good money to sift through and look closely at 12 applications. Who is paying for it? Somebody is paying for it. Is it unreasonable to expect the developer in those circumstances to go along beforehand and try to ascertain what the position will be? Then at the end of the day there need not be 12 applications but one that has a certain measure of agreement; or the developer will know that the application will not be agreed. I should have thought that was not an unreasonable point to make. If a developer wishes to make 12 applications, then he may do so; but he should at least make some contribution towards the cost of their consideration. I do not think that that is unreasonable. Certainly we want to avoid asking people to pay large sums of money for something that is uncertain in its result; that is why the scale of charges we have proposed is a modest one. Within this scale we have a much lower level of charges for outline applications—broadly speaking, about £160 an acre—where there is a higher risk of refusal. But a much greater proportion of the yield comes from detailed applications where the principle of development has already been settled. Set against the low risks of a refusal, the risks of charging only for approval seem to me to be greater. There is the risk that these will come to be seen as a tax and, indeed, as I have said, it has been suggested that that is what it is. But I do not see it that way at all. I believe there could be much more serious implications for developers within a scale of fees. There is another point. If we were to charge only for permissions there would be a risk of inducement and bias. To offer the local authority a financial incentive to grant permission would be sowing in the minds of those who might be affected by the development a doubt about the impartiality of the local planning authority taking the decision. I am not going to speak about this at great length because I did so before. But I think I ought to remind your Lordships that we have put down seven amendments—120A to 12OG—which seek to exempt from charges one category or another of application. In particular, these are—I should mention them—applications under Section 53 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 for determinations of whether planning permission is required; applications required because a building is listed; applications required as a result of a Tree Preservation Order: applications required only because the land or buildings are in a conservation area; applications for approval of the design and external appearance of agricultural buildings in national parks under the Landscape Areas Special Development Order 1950; applications required by an Article 4 direction removing permitted developments rights; and applications to adapt or extend houses for disabled persons. It may help your Lordships who are in doubt about Clause 83 if I indicate that the Government concede the principle of every one of these amendments which will not seek to impose charges for any of these types of applications. When the time comes, I hope that my noble friend Lord Morris will bear this in mind when making his decision as to whether or not to press the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Evans, said that people want to be able to use as they wish land that they own. The very fact that we are increasing by 50 per cent. the GDO permission to allow people to do what they want with their houses surely indicates that we fully accept this. I wish that my noble friend Lord Caithness had not put his case in quite such an emotive way. He spoke about ringing a death knell, about treating small businesses shabbily, about this pestilent clause. The fact is that, whether we like it or not, almost invariably there are two sides to every argument. I am trying to present the modesty of the proposals that are here and the really minor impact they will have on individuals, while yet covering a total of £30 million, which I just do not feel in conscience we can so lightly turn away at this moment in time. I hope my noble friend will feel that perhaps he has pushed the boat out a little bit, not in what he said but maybe in the way he said it. Sometimes I am guilty of that myself, as I readily acknowledge. I should like to comment on the point my noble friend Lord Ridley made, because most certainly I should not want to lose his support in this. The charges will apply to all planning applications made by the public sector bodies, and that covers many developments by nationalised industries. As to whether this principle of charges should be extended to other public sector developments which do not require planning permissions, I have indicated that we would not rule this out for all time, but I should not want to accept that we should do so now before we have established even the mechanism of charging for applications. There it is. I really do have great sympathy and I hope that showed through in what I said in Committee and again today. I know the real concern that has been expressed, but I beg my noble friends who have spoken on this matter to say, "All right. Look at the total context of what we are talking about. We cannot lightly ignore the total position of what things cost". That is what we are talking about. It costs somebody, and to try to recoup some £30 million at such a modest impost on individuals is not unreasonable. I hope my noble friend will say, "On balance, I won't press the amendment".
My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, will he please reply to my point about whether he supports what his noble friend Lord Belstead said?
My Lords, by leave of the House, I should like to say that I did not particularly pick up this point. I will do so at my noble friend's special request. His point concerned Lord Belstead's statement about responsibility for magistrates' courts. My noble friend Lord Belstead, in responding to the arguments in favour of restoring responsibility for magistrates' courts to large non-metropolitan districts, was not enunciating a general principle. He was surmising what might happen if discussions between the local authority associations broke down. Of course, we should consider what to do if that were to happen and I should not by any means rule out further discussions if that should be the case.
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, can he say a little more on two matters which he mentioned? One was the principle for paying for services. Can he explain why this does not apply to the fire service, education, health, and so on? Secondly, he mentioned the cost—I think he said it was £106 per acre—for development. Can he say whether this would apply to an area development such as a playing field, a motor-cycle track or something which was not going to be a profitable development but simply a change of use and where the acreage might be quite large?
My Lords, I should want some notice of the second of the points made. I should think it may very well not apply, but I should not want to say that categorically without having it confirmed; that is my feeling about the point. I think the other point is not valid. One can take every service, and it has always been open to debate: when does one charge specifically and when does one not charge specifically? In that case I think I should have to say one should never charge for boating on lakes; one should never charge for the many things for which local authorities charge if one is against the principle of charging as such. The point I am trying to make here is that here is a service which costs some £50 million a year to run. It is for the benefit, not of all the people; surely this is the asnwer. The services to which my noble friend refers are available to everyone at any time whether or not they wish to use them. One decides on one's own whether or not to make an application for planning permission. I think there is a considerable difference. Just before I sit down, may I say that I have been handed a note which says that the point about the playing field is a fair one and there may well have to be concessions on that; so my first instincts on it were not too far away from fact.
My Lords, before the Minister sits down I should like to say that today I heard him answering a question about enterprise zones and saying how anxious he was for developers within enterprise zones to get ahead. Will these fees apply to proposed developments in enterprise zones and, if they do, will he give that aspect some further thought?
My Lords, by leave of the House; this is Report stage and I have stood up four or five times now, so I am very much out of order, but I will try to cover the point the noble Lord makes. To the best of my knowledge, the position in the enterprise zones is that the whole of the planning regimes, the planning structures, subject to health and safety factors, do not apply. Therefore, I assume that the same goes for planning applications. But I had better state straight away, because I am well aware of the fact that I speak for Government on this, that I will have to confirm it. I am virtually certain that is so and I will confirm it both for the noble Lord and any other of your Lordships who wish me so to do.
My Lords, I think I understand correctly the rules of this House and may I assure the Minister that in no way has he been breaching any rule on Report stage because we managed to catch him before he reached a sitting position. I believe I also have caught him, in spite of the way in which he appears to be seated at the moment, suspended in mid-air while I ask him this question. I ask it only because I think it might clarify the matter for the House as a whole and indeed may save the House and your Lordships from possibly listening to some six speeches from me and also perhaps one from the noble Baroness, Lady David. Did I understand him to say that the Government would concede all the amendments from 120A to 120G, on the basis that the charging of fees was permitted under this Bill? If he does say that, then it may very well be—I am saying no more than this—that Members of this House would want to know that before they voted on this occasion.
My Lords, yet again, by leave of the House, yes, I am happy to confirm that the Government have conceded all those cases. I was very careful to read them out slowly to make sure that they were on the record. We do accept that is so, and that they will not be subject to the charges.
My Lords, the noble Minister will be pleased to hear that I do not want to put a point to him but only to offer a little fortuitous advice, which he may not want. There is already a common idea abroad that people taking driving tests are turned down the first time because the authority will collect more money if several tests are taken. I am sure that is quite wrong, but it is a common idea. It just occurs to me that if the planning application has to carry a fee the idea will rapidly arise abroad that if it is turned down several times the fee will have to be paid each time. Of course, I am sure that is not in the mind of any local authority or of the Government, but you cannot stop people thinking such things. Also, the Minister said that one had an option. But surely you have no option: if you want to do a certain piece of work you have to apply to the planning authority. I do not quite see where the option comes in. The option is to break the law, put up the garage or whatever it is, and then watch while it is pulled down. You will not change what human nature will make of this, once it is on the statute book.
My Lords, again by leave of the House, and I hope for the last time, with regard to the point made by the noble Baroness I would say that there is still an option. First, please do not let us talk about the garage because if the garage does not come within the 15 per cent. I, for one, would be very surprised indeed; so no application will be required. But you will still have the option of considering what the total cost is likely to be and if it is thousands of pounds and we are talking about £30, you would have to decide whether or not it was worth it. That would be your decision.May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, on the point of the amendments, that in fact I may not have got it absolutely right but what I was saying was that in fact we accept entirely that these should not be included and that they should be exempt. The proposal is that we will incorporate the substance of them in regulations, and I give an absolute undertaking as to that.
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for the considerable attention he has given to answering this particular point yet again. I should like to make it absolutely clear that there is no noble Lord on this side of the House who does not entirely agree with the principle that public spending be brought down. The only argument, as my noble friend himself said on Committee stage, is: Who is to pay? The only analogy I can think of which is apt is for the Inland Revenue to charge people submitting their income tax returns for the cost of processing them. It is really precisely the same. I shall not change my view because I think this situation is extremely unjust.The other important point which he made is tied up closely with the important point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips; namely, frivolous applications. The noble Minister's own figures on this point are interesting. His own department said that the overall success rate of applications—I give an average throughout the country—goes up to 92 per cent. for one major part of the country down to 83 per cent. or round about 86 per cent., which is extremely high. It will be very interesting to see in the future whether that figure comes down. With planning application fees gained, it will be very apparent indeed and I suspect that it might well happen. Notwithstanding that, I think it would be quite wrong to divide the House on this issue, bearing in mind the very generous offer made by my noble friend in regard to the amendments following this one. However, if noble Lords feel these amendments do not go far enough they always have the option to divide on the amendment of the noble Lords, Lord Mishcon and Lord Evans of Claughton, No. 127, which asks to leave out this clause altogether. With that said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 120A:
Page 76, line 15, at end insert—
("Provided that no such fee shall be payable for application under section 53 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the noble Minister said quite clearly that Amendments Nos. 120A to 120G would be conceded in the sense that these exceptions would be in regulations. He gave an undertaking to that effect. I have only one brief comment to make and I am sure that the House will be pleased to have been spared a most learned brief that was prepared for me on each of those items. I want only to make the comment that it is such a pity that this House is continually hearing, as they are in another place, about legislation by regulation instead of by Act of Parliament. It is not just a question of a difference in very slight degree: it is a difference in effect. The citizen, especially on a matter of this kind, ought to be able to look at an Act of Parliament and see what his rights, his duties and his disabilities may be. It is not clear legislation and it is not straightforward legislation to put in provisions which enable a Government to make regulations and to leave the citizen to seek out those regulations if he can, hopefully thinking that he has seen the only regulations which are being made and which are pertinent to the matter about which he is seeking information.
I wonder whether the Minister would not concede that in a Bill which may now have a prescription for fees to be charged, the person looking at that Act in the future shall clearly see what the exceptions are. Therefore, I ask him to consider, if he would, the desirability of incorporating the amendments that it is my privilege to move in the Bill itself.
My Lords, I cannot give the undertaking that the noble Lord asks for. I can only tell him that I will talk to colleagues about this. I am not sure myself quite what the implications are. I am sure the noble Lord has much greater knowledge than I of that, but I have heard what he says and I assure him that we will think about it. Of course, he knows I can give no commitment but I will talk to colleagues about it. I can go no further than that.
My Lords, I wonder whether I may give my noble friend some moral support in this matter. I have sometimes made the plea that things should be written into a Bill rather than put into regulations, but, of course, one must face the fact that that means adding to the detail of the Bill, and sometimes to a Bill which is already too detailed in the minds of some people. It is a convention of draftsmanship that when you have detail which is likely to require alteration from time to time, that detail is better set out in regulations, because regulations are more easily altered than are Acts of Parliament. It seems to me that the matters covered by the amendments to which the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has referred—having tabled them along with some of his noble friends—are regulations some of which might be of permanent application, but others might very well have to be varied from time to time. Therefore, although one always welcomes the care with which my noble friend looks at things which he has offered to look at again, it would not surprise me personally if he found himself unable to concede to this request.
My Lords, I should also like to give my noble friend some comfort. It just so happens that in order to satisfy myself about regulations and, indeed, about Acts of Parliament, I asked the Library the other day to give me particulars of the numbers of Acts of Parliament and the numbers of regulations which were passed in 1938, being the last year before the war. I thought that I should be able to prove that we now have far more legislation than we had then; but, in point of fact, the numbers of Acts of Parliament are very consistent. One almost thinks that, rather as Parkinson said, the numbers of Acts of Parliament are built to fill the number of days in which Parliament is available to debate them.There were something over 1,100 regulations in 1938, and this year there were only about a quarter as many again. Of course, there may be some more as a result of this Bill, when it becomes an Act before the end of the year. But the point of what I am trying to say is that this business of having regulations to supplement Acts of Parliament in the way that my noble friend Lord Renton says, for very good practical reasons has been going on for a very long time. So it is pushing the point a lot to say that everything ought to go into the Bill, when, as I suggest and as my noble friend suggested, it is more suitable in this case for it to be in regulations.
My Lords, by leave of the House—although it is my amendment and I think that I am entitled to reply— may I say that I have heard two noble Lords giving comfort to the Minister. I wish I could hear one whisper to give some comfort to me. But it would be churlish of me to pursue this matter, in view of the Minister's very kind undertaking to take it away and think about it. I welcome what he has said and it may very well be that the result is, as the noble Lords, Lord Renton and Lord Mottistone, forecast. However, the noble Lord has been kind enough to say that he will at least consider my point. I am grateful to him. I do not move the amendments for which I am responsible—Nos. 120A to 120F. I think that my noble friend Lady David is responsible for Amendment No. 120G.
moved Amendment No. 120G:
Page 76, line 15, at end insert—
("Provided that no such fee shall be payable for an application made to adapt or extend a dwelling-house for a disabled person.").
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I, too, am pleased to hear that there has been some concession. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us something before Third Reading and that we shall know what is to happen, so that we can decide what to do at Third Reading. Will it be possible, for instance, to see the regulation which he is thinking of, if he decides not to put the exceptions into the Bill? My Lords, I beg to move.
My Lords, I doubt very much whether it will be possible to see the regulation beforehand. But I certainly undertake to tell both the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and the noble Baroness, Lady David, what we may or may not be able to do. I doubt very much whether the regulation—if that is what it proves to be—would be available in time.
My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 120H:
Page 76, line 15, at end insert—
"Provided that such authorities shall have power at their discretion to remit or refund a prescribed fee in whole or in part in cases where it appears to the authority that payment would constitute a hardship to the applicant or that it would for other reason be just and equitable to do so.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords if your Lordships will be good enough to look at page 76, in the condition in which the Bill now is as it left the Committee, you will see what appears to me—and your Lordships may agree with me—to be a mistake in subsection (3). I wanted to bring this to your Lordships' attention at once, because it affects slightly the wording of my amendment and another one which follows. Your Lordships will see that subsection (3) of Clause 83 reads as follows:
"Regulations under subsection (1) or (3) above may provide for the remission or refunding of a prescribed fee (in whole or in part) in prescribed circumstances"
I rather imagine that the "(3)" in that subsection, and indeed in the succeeding subsection, should be "(2)".
If I may now address myself to my own amendment, we have heard from time to time about the rights which should be given to local authorities and about the independence which they should have in regard to some of the judgments that they make. The clause that we are now looking at deals with the right to remit or refund—in Committee we were taught the subtle distinction between those two words—fees that otherwise will be chargeable on planning applications. It is suggested in the Bill that remission and refunding will be dealt with by regulations, so local authorities are specifically told where they may refund and where they may remit. This amendment is simply saying: "please, let the local authorities decide in each case where it is applicable, whether, on grounds of hardship or because it is just and equitable, there should be a remission made or a refund allowed". The point is as simple as that and I believe it to be a sensible one. I hope that it will so commend itself to your Lordships. My Lords, I beg to move.
My Lords, let me say at once that I am also speaking here to Amendment No. 121ZA. I am sympathetic to the argument that says that the scale of charges may throw up hardships or anomalies which would justify a refund. That is precisely why we have resisted amendments which would have removed from the Bill the power to provide for refunds. What motivated those earlier amendments was our proposal, in our consultation paper on charges for planning applications, that local planning authorities should have a discretion to refund a fee in much more limited circumstances than Amendment No. 120H proposes. The local authorities could see that with such a provision they would be subject to continuous pressure and argument to exempt this or that application, and every exercise of their discretion, being quite rightly under the scrutiny of the local ombudsman, would need to be taken with care and with proper knowledge of the facts.How much more would that be the case with the far wider discretion that is now proposed? It would be an invitation to every applicant to apply, also, for a remission of his fee. The cost to the local planning authority of considering applications would be very great and would certainly defeat our intention of having a simple scheme with a certain yield which would not cost a great deal to administer. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, will see why I must resist the amendment. Nevertheless, let me say to him at once that if he wishes to propose specific categories of cases which we should exempt in the regulations, I gladly undertake to consider them.
My Lords, I wonder whether I may refer to the rather strange little point of numeration to which the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, refers. Not only is the Bill wrong in referring, in line 29, to (3), but my noble friend's attempt to put it right is also wrong because, instead of reading (2A) it should read (2)(a).
My Lords, with the leave of the House, on this point of renumbering, is it not a fact that the point is met by Government Amendments Nos. 121, 121A, 125 and 126?
My Lords, yes.
My Lords, that may well be so. Whenever I see my noble friend Lord Renton nod his head I know that I must be right in agreeing with him. I am trying very hard, if I may say this with the utmost moderation, to keep a sense of perspective in regard to this Bill and to local authorities and how the ordinary citizen behaves. We have been hearing about developers. It is, in the main, the developers who will be paying these planning fees. So it is a little odd to think in terms of the applicant who is a developer claiming on grounds of hardship, or that it would be just and equitable for some part of the fee to be refunded or remitted in some way. Obviously, there is a limited number of cases in which any person could put forward such a plea if it were to be seriously taken and seriously meant. It seems to me, with respect, that instead of leaving to regulating local authorities the confines within which they would have the power to remit or to refund it would be so much more sensible and so much more respectful to local authorities to give this discretion to them.The only argument that I can see against myself is one that was not advanced by the noble Lord the Minister, but I think that in fairness and honesty I ought to advance it, if only to deal with it. There could in fact be a difference between local authorities in the discretion that they exercise. Therefore, in local authority "A" the ground of hardship might not be conceded, whereas on precisely the same facts it may be conceded in local authority "B". I take the point on to my back, as it were, in order to try to remove it immediately by saying that on this sort of point it is not necessary for any part of my argument to fall. Discretion is vested in local authorities to make grants to people. Some of them exercise it one way and others
|Airedale, L.||Elwyn-Jones, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Evans of Claughton, L.||Mishcon, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Foot, L.||Monson, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Gaitskell, B.||Ogmore, L.|
|Bacon, B.||Glenamara, L.||Oram, L.|
|Balogh, L.||Gosford, E.||Peart, L.|
|Banks, L.||Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Phillips, B.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Hale, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Halsbury, E.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Birk, B.||Hughes, L.||Rhodes, L.|
|Blease, L.||Jacques, L.||Roberthall, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Jeger, B.||Rochester, L.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Kaldor, L.||Ross of Marnock, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Kilmarnock, L.||Segal, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Lee of Newton, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.]||Spens, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Stedman, B.|
|David, B.[Teller.]||Loudoun, C.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Davies of Penrhys, L.||McCarthy, L.||Stone, L.|
|de Clifford, L.||Maelor, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
another way, whether in the realm of education or otherwise, and, where it is left with discretion, this is never thought to be a matter which entitles one to restrict, by sheer regulation, what a local authority should do.
I am sorry that the Minister has driven me to this position. I feel that upon this matter the House ought to express a view. I say it because again a principle is involved: are we by regulation to direct local authorities that this is the only way in which they can remit or refund, or are we to say, "If you think it just and equitable to do so, or if you think there is a ground of hardship you are entitled to remit or to refund"? In those circumstances, unless the Minister can concede this amendment—and I hope he will be able to do so as a last gesture—I feel that the opinion of the House ought to be tested.
My Lords, by leave of the House, I admire the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, sets up his own point and then so very well knocks it down again. I fear that I cannot help him, as I think he suspected. Therefore the decision must be his as to pressing the amendment.
On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 120H) shall be agreed to?
Their Lordships divided: Contents, 71; Not-Contents, 104.
|Taylor of Mansfield, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.||Winstanley, L.|
|Underhill, L.||Wigoder, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Wade, L.||Wilson of Radcliffe, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Glenkinglas, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Gowrie, E.||Orkney, E.|
|Allerton, L.||Greenway, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Pender, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Rawlinson of Ewell, L.|
|Avon, E.||Hampden, V.||Redesdale, L.|
|Baker, L.||Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Redmayne, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Hatherton, L.||Renton, L.|
|Bellwin, L.||Hemphill, L.||Ridley, V.|
|Belstead, L.||Hill of Luton, L.||Romney, E.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Hornsby-Smith, B.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Kemsley, V.||St. Davids, V.|
|Buxton of Alsa, L.||Killearn, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Kimberley, E.||Sandys, L. [Teller.]|
|Chelwood, L.||Kinnaird, L.||Savile, L.|
|Cockfield, L.||Kinnoull, E.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Knutsford, V.||Slim, V.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Lindsey and Abingdon, E.||Soames, L. (L. President.)|
|Crawshaw, L.||Long, V.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Croft, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Lyell, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Davidson, V.||McFadzean, L.||Swansea, L.|
|De Freyne, L.||Mackay of Clashfern, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Macleod of Borve, B.||Torphichen, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Mancroft, L.||Tranmire, L.|
|Duncan-Sandys, L.||Mansfield, E.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Ebbisham, L.||Margadale, L.||Trenchard, V.|
|Eccles, V.||Marley, L.||Ullswater, V.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Elton, L.||Mills, V.||Vickers, B.|
|Ferrers, E.||Monk Bretton, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Mottistone, L.||Westbury, L.|
|Gainford, L.||Northchurch, B.||Wise, L.|
|Gibson-Watt, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Gisborough, L.||Nunburnholme, L.||Young, B.|
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
moved Amendment No. 121:
Page 76, line 28, at end insert—
("(2A) The Secretary of State may by regulations make such provision as he thinks fit for the payment to him of a fee of the prescribed amount in respect of an application for planning permission which is deemed to be made to him under the planning enactments.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, with this amendment I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 121A, 125 and 126. I announced when we were considering Clause 76 (as it then was) of the Bill, in Committee, that the Government had decided not to proceed with the intention to charge for planning appeals. In consequence, subsection (3) of that clause was left out of the Bill. But there are two special circumstances in which a planning application is in effect made to
the Secretary of State in the context of an appeal. These two special circumstances are when there is an enforcement appeal, under Section 88 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1971, or an established use certificate appeal, under Section 95 of that Act. In each case the 1971 Act makes provision for a "deemed" application to the Secretary of State for planning permission, and for any planning permission granted by the Secretary of State to be treated as if it has been granted on the deemed application. There is thus a possibility that someone who carries out development without planning permission, in order to avoid having to pay the appropriate planning application fee, might succeed in obtaining the permission he needs by the alternative route of an appeal to the Secretary of State against an enforcement notice, or against the local planning authority's refusal to grant an established use certificate.
If this situation were not remedied, it would clearly be unfair to the great majority who, I am sure, will not carry out development unlawfully in order to avoid payment of the planning application fee. This Government amendment therefore deals with that situation by enabling the Secretary of State to charge a specified fee for any deemed application for planning permission which he has to consider on a planning appeal. In fact, this will in practice happen only in the two special circumstances I have described. The amendment also makes three minor consequential amendments by renumbering references to the former subsection (3) of Clause 76—which is now deleted—as references to this new subsection (2A) of Clause 83. I beg to move.
My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that this is a very desirable amendment. It is certainly logical to have it in if we are having planning fees for applications, and I am glad that the Government have moved it.
My Lords, this is a small technical point. As I understand it, an appeal can be made against this procedure under a planning enforcement notice where the applicant claims that the planning permission was not needed in the first instance. However, by the time that appeal has gone through he has paid to the Secretary of State the fee as prescribed by the Secretary of State. When the appeal is upheld will the Secretary of State refund the fee to the applicant, and, if so, will he refund it with interest at the appropriate rate?
My Lords, I should think the answer must be "No" and "No". I cannot think of any circumstances in which it might be any permutation of "Yes" and "No" or "No" and "Yes". I am sorry not to be more helpful to my noble friend but I feel that would be the answer—my Lords, you might not believe it but I have had a note handed to me which says "Yes and No". Therefore, the permutation in fact was one that could have come about. So I say formally now, to set the record straight, that the answer is "Yes" and "No".
On Question, amendment agreed to.
My Lords, if Amendment No. 121ZA is agreed to I shall not be able to call Amendments 121A, 122 or 124.
had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 121ZA:
Page 76, line 29, leave out subsection (3).
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment, which is a question of leaving out subsection (3) which enables regulations to be made for the remission and refunding of fees. I do not think I can usefully add to what I said then, and therefore I do not propose to move the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 121A:
Page 76, line 29, leave out ("(3)") and insert ("(2A)").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this with Amendment No. 121. I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 122:
Page 76, line 31, at end insert ("and shall provide for the remission of the prescribed fee in cases where the applicant not being a body corporate is the owner and occupier of the dwelling-house to which the application relates".)
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in the earlier debate on the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Morris, I said that I was against charges for planning consents in any form as a matter of principle. I also said then that in my opinion that debate was one for talking about the principle, and I still think the principle of charging is wrong. I shall always think so. But, our having accepted the enormity of the behaviour of Her Majesty's Government, we have somehow to try to mitigate that enormity by excluding some applications from the depredations of Her Majesty's Government, and that is the purpose of this amendment. It is not the same amendment as we moved in Committee, so I shall not be caught in any flak from the noble Lord. Lord Harmar-Nicholls; it is an improved and modernised version of that amendment which we moved in Committee and in respect of which we got certain—I would not say undertakings or assurances—but understandings from the noble Lord the Minister that he would have a careful look at this question of excluding smaller planning applications. Nevertheless, it is a similar kind of amendment to that one, since it seeks to exclude owner-occupiers from the necessity of having to pay for a planning application.
In spite of it applying to such a limited section of applicants this is in fact the area in which most planning applications are made to local authorities throughout the country. It is estimated that more than 50 per cent. of applications come in this particular field. Therefore, although the amendment may apparently deal with small exceptions it is the exceptions that apply to the average man in the street very much more than to the very big planning applications for 20 or 30 or 200 or 5,000 buildings. There is no question here of it being a licence to print money for the applicants, because it would be dealing with small applications for improvements, extensions and so on to houses. I think it is estimated that planning consents in this area will cost the applicant something between £30 and £40, though of course, no figure has been fixed and we have heard in discussions earlier in your Lordships' House that it is proposed that the figure can be changed at very regular—and, I suspect, frequent—intervals. As we know, for a person with a £25,000 house by-law consents already cost about £200.
What will happen, and it is already happening without having to pay for planning applications, is that people wanting to carry out what they, as opposed to society or the planning authorities, regard as a comparatively small, uncontroversial or unimportant alteration or improvement will not bother to apply for permission. As I think any of your Lordships who have been members of planning committees or engaged in planning will know, throughout the country enforcement procedure against people who make alterations or improvements or additions to buildings without planning consent is extremely slow. Most local authorities—quite rightly, I think we would probably agree—have a small enforcement staff in order to save salaries and wages. I suggest that, if there is this charge for planning consents within the area that my amendment deals with, the number of people who proceed to carry out the improvements without planning consent, will increase very considerably and either we shall have a situation where the law is not observed and is ignored, or a whole new staff of enforcement officers will have to be appointed by district councils.
It is not just the processing of applications that occupies the time and trouble of local authority officials; it is the time given by senior planning officials in pre-submission conferences, and, where people are paying for planning consent, there will be far more of these pre-submission conferences and far more inquiries made by people who want to get their £30 worth. It has been estimated by the Birmingham City Council that at least 25 per cent. of the fees that will be collected under the new Act will go into the employment of extra staff. It is estimated that throughout the country as a whole extra staff purely and simply for processing planning applications and charging for planning applications will mean an average of three new members of staff for every district council.
I know the noble Lord will say that many of the applications I am talking about and which account for 50 per cent. of applications will disappear under the extension of the GDO; I think, that is estimated at 10 to 15 per cent. How many applications that means will cease to have to be made I am not sure, but I do not think it will be very significant; it will be of some significance but not sufficient to take the whole area of applications referred to in my amendment out of the necessity to apply for planning consent.
It does seem to me, having said first that I am opposed on principle to charges for planning applications, and the noble Lord, Lord Morris, not having to the disappointment of many of us, tested the views of the House on this, I am now trying to mitigate what I regard as bad legislation by trying to except from it the smaller applicant, the person who does not have a whole army of architects, surveyors, solicitors, et cetera, to back him and support him; I am talking about the average small man and I am trying to except and exclude him from the area that will have to pay. Because the noble Lord has not been able to help me by putting down an amendment
or trying to reassure me by kind words or well-worded letters, I am forced to put this amendment forward, but I do put it forward with great seriousness because I think it is a matter of the greatest importance to the vast majority of ordinary planning applicants. I beg to move.
My Lords, I think this may be the right moment for me to intervene in view of the compromise Amendment No. 124 which I have tabled and which follows immediately upon the one that we are discussing now. As I have made clear at earlier stages, I take a midway position on this whole issue between the view of the Government and the view of the noble Lord, Lord Evans, the noble Lord, Lord Morris, and other noble Lords in various quarters of the House. On the one hand, I do recognise the need to make economies in Government and local government expenditure, and furthermore, despite protestations from various quarters, I do agree with the Government that these charges are for the most part minuscule in comparison with the capital gains, or appreciation in capital values, than can result in consequence of the granting of planning permission.On the other hand, I do agree with the Government's critics to this extent. I think it is extremely unfair that individuals who are refused planning permission should have to pay, certainly on the scales envisaged. Hence my adaptation of Lord Evan's amendment which would provide for a refund of one-half of the charge to an owner-occupier where planning permission is refused. I have limited the refund to one-half because obviously some expenditure will have been incurred by the local authority in considering the application. I think my compromise amendment may be somewhat more acceptable to the Government, or if not to the Government then to the House, in the event of a close division of opinion on the matter. I hope the Government will see fit to accept this, but, if by some misfortune they cannot and should the noble Lord, Lord Evans, fail in his amendment, I hope he may be able to support me on the principle that a quarter of a loaf is better than none.
My Lords, I hope my noble friend will resist both these amendments. If we are to have planning fees—and I have no objection to their introduction—it surely makes nonsense of it to start by exempting half the planning applicants. If we are to have planning fees the whole business of paying them in and accounting for them and so on must be kept simple. We did consider the case of refunds or no refunds at the Committee stage, and I should have thought the opinion of the Committee was very clearly against their introduction.
My Lords, I did undertake on Committee to take this point away and think seriously about it. I am rather surprised to learn from the noble Lord, Lord Evans, that this is a subject on which I did not write to him or give him words of solace in one way or another. I can see very clearly the force of the argument that when it comes to meeting charges the owner-occupier is in a different position from the big organisation or company. Nevertheless, I finally cannot accept the argument that the owner-occupier, whatever his circumstances, should meet none of the cost of the development control system.Of course the planning system needs to be sympathetic to the circumstance of the individual. What we are trying to do—as the noble Lord quite rightly assumed I would say, and as I do say—is to remove the burden of the planning system altogether from the owner-occupier by extending the general permissions contained in the GDO, whenever we can. In our view, if an alteration to an owner-occupier's house or, indeed, to anyone else's house is not of a size or a type which would affect the public interest, he should not need to make a planning application, let alone pay for it. But, if what he proposes is significant for the planning system, it is difficult to accept that he should not meet any part of the cost of processing his application or to accept the inevitable consequence that the householder's share of the cost should be borne by industry and house-builders. Certainly, the charge to be imposed must be reasonable in comparison with the value of the development, and that is why we propose a flat rate of £30 for all householder developments. Bearing in mind the cost of a house extension—perhaps £5,000 just for a roof extension—I fail to see that what we propose would be excessive. Noble Lords contemplating a house extension might wish to visit their local builders' merchant to find out what £30 will buy. The answer will be so small a proportion of the materials that they need as to be negligible. Nevertheless, I recognise the argument that this is not the only charge that the owner-occupier will have to meet and undertake, and we shall do all we can to keep the charge for householders to a reasonable minimum. Amendment No. 124, in contrast to Amendment No. 122, seeks not a complete exemption but, as the noble Lord, Lord Monson, said, a partial refund if permission is refused. In many ways, I am sorry not to be able to accept this amendment because from the householder's point of view at least, it has obvious attractions. However, I do not think in practice that it would provide a very fair distribution of the impact of fees. Someone who persistently repeated his application to the annoyance and concern of his neighbours every time it was refused would pay a reduced charge. What is more, we have been wary of introducing the principle of charging for successful applications rather than for all applications, on the grounds that we should very understandably raise fears, among people who might be affected by a development that the local authority deciding the case would not be totally unbiased because it had a financial interest in the result. I am sorry that I cannot meet the noble Lord, Lord Mon-son's, point, but it may comfort him to know that 92 per cent. of all applications for house extensions and alterations are in fact granted. The noble Lord may also wish to consider the scale of charges that we have proposed, in that over 50 per cent. of all planning applications are householder developments, but we are proposing to raise only 20 per cent. of the income from charges from that source. I should like quickly to say a few comments in response to the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton, as regards Amendment No. 122. He made the point that there would be more evasion, and that enforcement would be needed as a result of the charges. In fact, I think that it is fair to say that the fees are so modest that we do not believe that they will tempt people to develop unlawfully. A greater enforcement effort will not arise nor will the scheme of charges result in the employment of more staff. It will be particularly economical to administer and, for myself, I cannot conceive that an authority would have to add three additional staff for every district council. So, though I particularly have sympathy for the point that the noble Lord, Lord Monson, makes, and I have interest, too, in the point—as I think I indicated by what I said in Committee—made by the noble Lord. Lord Evans, but I fear that I am not able to accept the amendments.
My Lords, at the risk of repeating myself, I must say that I am very much opposed in principle to the whole concept of charging for planning, and I was really quite shocked by the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley—who unfortunately is not in his place at the moment—when he said that there is nothing wrong with charging for a service. The precise point is that this is not a service: we are paying, for having our rights limited. It is wrong to pay to have one's rights limited in this way.I have much sympathy with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, to which he referred. One has the sort of image in one's mind of the solicitor or architect saying, "Mr. Jones, you are in luck, your planning application has been turned down, so you can get your thirty quid back." However, I see the point that where the application has been unsuccessful, it seems a little unfair that, in addition to that misfortune, the applicant should have to pay £30. Of course, if in fact my amendment is carried, he will not have to outlay the £30 in any event. It seems to me that the successful applicant, in addition to paying the fee of £30, or whatever it is, will have other charges to meet. Indeed, I repeat that the £30 can be changed from time to time, and frequently, by any Government which choose to change it, to a huge amount to make it a real tax. I shall not remind your Lordships of the discussion that took place in Committee when income tax was introduced by Pitt as a temporary tax— "temporary" is a very long time and the amount charged has increased greatly. It could be used, not by the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, but by some unscrupulous Government, as a form of taxation on the private individual. For the successful applicant there is already a tax that he must pay; namely, development land tax. Moreover, he will also have to pay increased rates on an increased rateable value. So, in addition, the poor chap will have to pay £30 for the privilege of limiting his own rights to enjoy the privilege of his own property. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said that there was no justification for this particular amendment and that if one believed in planning charges, then it was right that such a person should be charged. But there is a difference. I can see a case—although I do not support it—for a person who develops a large estate of houses, at considerable inconvenience to the local authority and its officers (taking up senior planning officials, time and so on, and selling the houses
|Airedale, L.||Ferrier, L.||Peart, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Gaitskell, B.||Phillips, B.|
|Auckland, L.||Gisborough, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Glenamara, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Bacon, B.||Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Ross of Marnock, L.|
|Balogh, L.||Hale, L.||Savile, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L. [Teller.]||Hatch of Lusby, L.||Segal, L.|
|Henley, L.||Spens, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Hughes, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Birk, B.||Jacques, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Blease, L.||Jeger, B.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Kaldor, L.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Kilmarnock, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Lee of Newton, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Chitnis, L.||Loudoun, C.||Underhill, L.|
|Collison, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Colwyn, L.||McCarthy, L.||Whaddon, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Maelor, L.||Wigoder, L. [Teller.]|
|David, B.||Milner of Leeds, L.||Winstanley, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Mishcon, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Monson, L.||Wise, L.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||Morris, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Evans of Claughton, L.||Oram, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Cockfield, L.||Eccles, V.|
|Ampthill, L.||Colville of Culross, V.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Avon, E.||Crawshaw, L.||Elton, L.|
|Baker, L.||Croft, L.||Fortescue, E.|
|Bathurst, E.||Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Gainford, L.|
|Bellwin, L.||de Clifford, L.||Gainsborough, E.|
|Belstead, L.||De Freyne, L.||Gibson-Watt, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Denham, L. [Teller.]||Gormanston, V.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Drumalbyn, L.||Gowrie, E.|
|Cathcart, E.||Duncan-Sandys, L.||Greenway, L.|
|Chelwood, L.||Ebbisham, L.|
and making a profit), paying the local authority. But I cannot see any case for charging a person who just wishes to improve and extend his house with no intention, in general, of making a profit—he only wishes to increase the enjoyment of his property from his own point of view.
I must say that I am not happy. In fact, I feel that this part of the Bill—after the block grants, which were discussed so late at night, and perhaps not as seriously as we should have discussed them—is, in many a sense, the most important part to the average man in the street. I feel strongly that, while planning applications should not be charged at all, if they are to be charged there should be an exemption in this case, and I shall test the feeling of the House.
On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 122) shall be agreed to?
Their Lordships divided: Contents, 70; Not-Con ents, 86.
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Mancroft, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Mansfield, E.||Sandys, L. [Teller.]|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Margadale, L.||Selsdon, L.|
|Hatherton, L.||Marley, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Hemphill, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Soames, L. (L. President.)|
|Hornsby-Smith, B.||Mottistone, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Kemsley, V.||Northchurch, B.||Sudeley, L.|
|Killearn, L.||Nigent of Guildford, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Nunburnholme, L.||Torphichen, L.|
|Kinnaird, L.||Onslow, E.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Kinnoull, E.||Orkney, E.||Trenchard, V.|
|Knutsford, V.||Pender, L.||Ullswater, V.|
|Lindsey and Abingdon, E.||Rawlinson of Ewell, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Long, V.||Redmayne, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Renton, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Lyell, L.||Rochdale, V.||Westbury, L.|
|McFadzean, L.||Romney, E.||Wynford, L.|
|Mackay of Clashfern, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.||Young, B.|
|Macleod of Borve, B.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
moved Amendment No. 124:
Page 76, line 31, at end insert ("and shall provide for the refund of 50 per cent. of the prescribed fee in cases where the application is refused and where the applicant not being a body corporate is the owner and occupier of the dwelling-house to which the application related.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 124.
My Lords, I do not know whether this amendment has already been spoken to, but if there is a point to be raised on it, perhaps we could adjourn first.
My Lords, I have spoken to it.
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord could help the House because the agreement was to adjourn fairly near to seven o'clock. If the noble Lord is going to be very short we can take the amendment now; if not, perhaps we can take it afterwards.
My Lords, I intend to be fairly short. The amendment has been spoken to, but I wish to speak briefly to it again.
My Lords, in that case I think it would be best if we adjourn further consideration on Report, the Report stage to be resumed at eight o'clock.
My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
Highways (Road Humps) Bill
Clause 3 [ Requirements as to the construction of road humps]:
moved the following amendment:
Clause 3, page 3, line 17, at end insert—
("(3) Regulations made under subsection (2) above shall preclude the construction of road humps on any road where no speed restriction is in force.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have tabled this amendment because when in Committee I asked the question which is embodied in this amendment and I did not receive a direct answer from either of the two noble Earls who seem to be co-piloting this Bill. However, the noble Earl the Minister handsomely made up for that by writing to me very fully indeed upon this point. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has a copy of the Minister's letter in which the Minister says, inter alia:
"So far as speed limits are concerned, we certainly do not see humps as an alternative to statutory speed limits, but simply as a self-enforcing means of controlling speed. Our present knowledge, based on practical experience, is related to humps in restricted areas …".
Lower down the Minister says:
"I can speak only hypothetically since, as I say, the department has never studied potential 'humping' locations outside towns …".
I think that that was known to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, when we were in Committee, because the noble Lord put down an amendment seeking to confine road humps to within residential areas.
That did not find favour with the Minister because the Minister said that "residential areas" was an expression which was not capable of precise definition. That led me to put down this amendment in this form because I think I can safely say to the House that "where no speed restriction is in force" is an expression which is capable of precise definition. I hope therefore that the amendment in this form overcomes the criticism that was levelled at the amendment in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. The Minister's answer is in his letter, from which I have read out extracts.
What I am seeking to establish is that no one should ever have to encounter a road hump without having passed two signs restricting his speed. Not only the road hump sign but also a speed limit restriction sign. The reason I am so keen on this is that, as we all know, it is so easy sometimes to fail to see a road sign. Take, for instance, the case of a road hump and its sign which has no protecting speed limit sign in front of it before you get to it. A motorist is driving along. About the place where the road hump and its sign are a child has kicked a ball out into the road. The motorist sees this from some distance away. He has no need to slacken speed at once but he is watching that child very carefully indeed to make sure that the child is not going to dash out into the road to retrieve its ball.
The child behaves itself. It sees the motorist. The motorist is able to pass quite safely without reducing speed, but he has not seen the road hump sign because he was watching the child on the other side of the road. He has not seen a speed restriction sign either because there was not one there. So at some considerable speed he encounters the road hump. What happens then? He probably hits his head on the roof of the car, he probably stuns himself, and he loses control of the vehicle and runs into somebody and kills him. What kind of road safety is that?
The noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, advocated road humps in country parks. I can think of no circumstances in which it would be appropriate to have a road hump in a country park without there being a speed restriction in that country park. Parliament is always anxious about giving powers to the executive to make orders. It is surely quite clear in this case that the Minister is entitled to come to Parliament and say, "We have experimented with road humps in residential areas. We know something about that. We have not experimented outside residential areas where speed limits do not apply. We do not pretend to know anything about that. We have no immediate plans for putting road humps outside residential areas". I should have thought that that was quite as far as the Minister could expect Parliament to go in granting enabling powers to make these regulations. I hope that this amendment will be accepted, and I beg to move.
My Lords, I should like to support the general principle behind the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Airedale. There is, however, one question that worries me, and I wonder whether the Minister could give the House an answer because possibly the amendment is a wrecking amendment, although unintentionally so. I have always been under the impression that there is a speed restriction in force on all roads in this country. Where no other limit is in force and specifically signposted, one of 50 miles an hour is in force. I wonder whether the Minister could answer that point.
My Lords, I should like to support what my noble friend has just said. It is rather an important point. We do not want, by amending this Bill, to spoil its chances of success in another place, and yet I have every sympathy with the spirit behind Lord Airedale's point. Anyone who has driven in the United States of America knows what it means to have these humps at the end of roads joining main roads, and appreciates their value. The Pedestrians' Association are enormously in favour of the Bill and anxious that we should not spoil any chance of it getting through the other place by amending it. I very much look forward to the Minister's reply to my noble friend's question.
My Lords, may I follow up the question that has been raised on speed restrictions. Looking at the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, I see "where no speed restriction is in force". There is a speed restriction of 70 miles an hour on motorways. Many roads have a 50 miles an hour speed limit; many roads 40 miles an hour; some 60 miles an hour, with signs up. Therefore, the amendment is almost inoperatve because it does not say a 30 miles an hour speed limit, which I think the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, has in mind, and there are speed restrictions on practically every road.
My Lords, perhaps I had better come in here and say that noble Lords have stolen a lot of my thunder. I was going to say to the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, that despite the care with which he has drafted it, in fact since the introduction of national speed limits no highway in this country is unrestricted. Therefore, in point of fact the amendment as it is drafted would not work.Having said that, I should like to say, as I think I said before, that the Government are fully sympathetic to the idea that only restricted roads of 30 miles an hour would be considered for road humps, but we do not want to be tied to that at this stage in case we find other places where road humps could be put in where there are unrestricted stretches. May I continue reading from the letter which I wrote to the noble Lord. I said:
It is hard to say these things until one has got further along the road to experimentation outside 30 mile an hour limits, but that is a point we should like to see left open. The noble Lord, Lord Airedale, mentioned the idea of having two signs. We are by no means unsympathetic to having two signs; that will be taken on board and when further experiments are done that idea will be put forward. Perhaps we could have two humps and two road signs, one at 50 metres and another at 100 metres or whatever. That underlines my whole attitude towards this little Bill. We are fully sympathetic to all the points that have been made. They will be taken back to be experimented with but, as my noble friend Lord Ferrier said, we want to get the Bill on the statute book because we believe it is another weapon in the armoury of road safety."there may be stretches of road where, for example, vehicle speeds are naturally low because of physical characteristics—bends, hills, narrowness, etc., and the imposition of a 30 mph speed limit is inappropriate, but a problem exists to which humping could be the answer".
My Lords, it is a pity the Minister has spoken, but I hope your Lordships will give him leave to speak again, because while the amendment has been proved to be defective by virtue of the national speed limit of 60 mph on roads other than dual carriageways, I wanted to raise a point which was mentioned in the letter and which the Minister mentioned in Committee when we discussed a very similar point. He then said:
That is what the Government said eight days ago, but today they are saying something rather different, and it is because of this, in my view, weakness in this enabling Bill that I pose to my noble friend the position of road humps on the A9 at Blair Atholl and on the same road at Kingussie. I confess that I have not actually been there to see them, because I found out about them only a short while ago, but I understand that on the stretch of road at Blair Atholl there are 15 humps and on the stretch at Kingussie there are 11 humps. This is on an A, principal, road which is unrestricted other than by the national speed limit and I believe it is a rather dangerous stretch of road. I also understand that the humps at Blair Atholl have been there for about four years, which seems to be slightly outside the experimental period, though I understand another body is looking into the legality of that. We have been assured by my noble friends Lord Avon and Lord Kinnoull that all will be well, that all the comments and suggestions that have been made will be taken on board and that, no doubt when consultations have taken place, the regula- tions will be drawn to everybody's satisfaction. It seems that since Second Reading and Committee we are having a number of different answers, all falling behind what has been described as "this little Bill" which my noble friend said would provide another weapon in the armoury of road safety, a measure which is being pushed through your Lordships' House so that it should arrive in the other place unamended; in other words, so it will not fail. My noble friend Lord Kinnoull says that when the regulations are laid they will be subject to the Negative Resolution procedure, which means that if one does not like them one will have to pray against them and there is no question of their being amended. I find this principle to be absolutely wrong, particularly in a matter which other noble Lords have said is of some importance, namely, that of road safety, and things tend to go by default. If the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, is defective in that he unwittingly overlooked the national speed limit, there is a way to remedy that: we shall have another chance on Friday on Third Reading. It is really a question whether the Government are basically in sympathy with what has been said, or will—the Government and my noble friend Lord Kinnoull—turn their face, as they have some 15 times already, and say, "No, in no circumstances will we allow any amendments, because the Bill may fail. We will rely on regulations and, in any event, you have our assurances". I suggest that the assurances that have been given are somewhat contradictory, and unless I am very much mistaken the assurances that were given in 1974 have not yet been kept. Lord Airedale may therefore like to reconsider the wording of the amendment, if it should find favour with your Lordships in principle, so that we may be given an opportunity really to sort the whole thing out and then this little Bill can come back at the beginning of next Session undoubtedly with the approbation, if not the total approval, of your Lordships."It is more than unlikely that Ministers would contemplate providing for the construction of humps on motorways, trunk or principal roads, and it is likely that they would at any rate consider confining hump installations to 30 miles per hour speed limit roads".—[Official Report, 20/10/80; col. 1692.]
My Lords, the Minister mentioned experiments. Precisely what experiments have been done in depressions, remembering that the Bill involves not only humps but depressions? I should like to know precisely how much experimentation has gone on into depressions, not only by the Government but by an authority which I understand does some work from a station in Berkshire. Although the Bill refers in its title only to humps it deals with both, and it is important that this little Bill, which I think will cause a great deal of trouble, should be absolutely accurate.
My Lords, with the leave of the House, perhaps I may at the outset deal with the remarks of my noble friend Lord Lucas, because he gave me notice that he would ask me about the Blair Atholl and M90 roads. As the information was given to us only recently we have not had much time to do our researches, but I have discovered something delightful called a rumble strip. These apparently illegal humps on the A9, these so-called road humps which are not road humps in the context in which we are speaking about them, are in fact rumble strips. We believe a rumble strip has been used at the junction of the M90 and the access road before the length covering Glenfarg, which was recently opened. We are not sure about the Kingussie situation, but I suggest that we should not think of these as road humps but as something which sounds to me to be illegal.To answer my noble friend Lady Macleod of Borve, as I said in Committee there has been no experiment whatever in depressions. It is even open to the Minister at present whether or not he would want any experiments in depressions, and there will be no question whatever of building a depression until such experiments have been tried out for a period of at least nine months.
My Lords, remembering the high accident rate among young people riding motor-cycles, may I ask my noble friend to ensure that when experiments of this kind are carried out—and I am surprised that they have not already been done—steps are taken to bear motor-cyclists in mind? Constructions of this kind would seem bound to increase the already high accident rate among motor-cyclists, especially if humps and depressions are built on main roads. I quite understand their usefulness in residential areas, but I should imagine that on the main roads they would be very dangerous, even if they are well lit, since, after all, lights do fail. If young people going along on motor bicycles at too fast a speed suddenly come upon these humps, it could be disastrous. I hope that experiments are carried out with regard to motor bicycles, where the accident rate is extremely high among young people. I especially have in mind a stormy night, perhaps in the autumn, with leaves and other things on the road; there could well be a serious accident.
My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl, Lord Avon, to think again about both the examples that he gave? First, there were the so-called "rumble strips" on the approach to the pass through Glenfarg, as one came off the M.90. It is now outdated because a new section of the M.90 has just been opened, so that stretch of road is no longer in use. To call them "rumble strips" is some civil servant's bit of double talk. They were certainly fairly small and fairly closely spaced, but they were humps.Secondly, I was appalled to hear the way in which the noble Earl cavalierly brought up the example of a supposed use for humps where there was no speed limit on the road, but where some feature of the road, such as a bend or a hill, made it necessary to slow the traffic. This is precisely the place where a hump must not be positioned, since it could throw a car out of control just as it goes into a bend. At the Glenfarg turn-off (now, fortunately deceased), the humps were small, but one could see them as one was approaching up a hill. There was good visibility, with lots of warning signs— "End of Motorway", "Danger", "Slow", and everything else—for half a mile ahead. There was no danger of anybody missing them. However, elsewhere, without all the paraphernalia of the warning signs for the temporary end of the motorway, there arises precisely the possibility to which the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, referred: that people will approach humps which would not neces- sarily be of the type that are positioned in quick succession and which make a noise rather than cause any reaction to a car's suspension. The Bill makes it wide open for the Government to experiment with any kind of hump. At speeds above 30 miles an hour there is no kind of hump that can be used safely, apart from the type which tends to be noisy rather than effective in any other way, and which the noble Earl was trying to pass off as a rumble strip. There is no shape of hump that can suit all forms of vehicle suspension. I think I can guarantee that whatever design of road hump is chosen, one will be able to find a car which is perfectly roadworthy but which, if it goes over the humps at more than 35 or 40 miles an hour, will be difficult to control. This is a very definite lessening of road safety, and there is no call for it.
My Lords, I am sure that the whole House is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, for raising this small amendment and once again attracting such am interesting debate on this small enabling Bill. I was going to congratulate the noble Lord upon his ingenuity in resurrecting what we discussed in Committee—that was, until my noble friend advised me that the amendment was defective. Nevertheless one recognises the concern felt by the noble Lord, and by my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, and all other noble Lords and the noble Baroness who have spoken. The concern was that what was intended to be a Bill concerned with safety might in fact prove to be an unsafe Bill. Those of us who went through the long Committee stage of this small Bill understood that it is an enabling Bill, and know that all the safety details regarding motorcyclists, speed limits, depressions, and all the other points that have been raised, will be dealt with in discussion and by consultation before any draft regulations can come forward. Those regulations cannot be implemented by the highway authorities until they have come before Parliament.I share the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, about allowing many of the regulations to deal with matters that should possibly be in the main Bill. I was concerned recently in regard to the Civil Aviation Bill that something similar was happening. But I am quite convinced that it would be wrong to fetter this Bill with the kind of amendment that the noble Lord wants—he did not actually say so, but it is for a 30 mile-an-hour limit—when consultations have not taken place and it is not yet known whether or not that is the right speed limit. I think that the right time for those discussions to take place is when the regulations are being drawn up. My noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth made a charge against my noble friend, who, if I may say so, is well able to look after himself. My noble friend is not technically a co-pilot, but really a very valued assistant on this matter. I should say that it is a case of dual control, so that he grabs the steering wheel when I go wrong. My noble friend Lord Lucas charged my noble friend with contradictory remarks and possibly inadvertently misleading the House. I can assure your Lordships that he has not done that. He has been steadfast in his arguments that we should leave this matter to the regulations. I am advised that this very issue that the noble Lord has now raised about the 30 mile an hour limit will be taken into account very firmly in the discussions on the regulations. I hope that the noble Lord will not feel the necessity to press the amendment.
My Lords, leaving aside the question of which noble Earl is the pilot and which the navigator, I really am too old a hand to be scared by being told that my amendment is defective in its drafting. I am sure that over the last 20 years the vast majority of the amendments that I have moved in your Lordships' House have been defective in their drafting. Of course that can be an advantage, because it is quite clear that all that needs to be done with this amendment in order to cure the defect is to insert the words "30 miles an hour". Therefore on Third Reading on Friday I shall be able to come back with the amended amendment, with the benefit of knowing what your Lordships think about the merits of this amendment. I shall hope to take advantage of that opportunity on Friday.The Minister gave me some assurances, and so did the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull. I am grateful for those assurances as far as they go. But the Minister went on to say that the department do not want to be tied down; of course they do not! No Government department ever wants to be tied down. They all want to come to Parliament and say, "Give us leave to do whatever is necesssry in the Minister's opinion. Let the Minister make such regulations as he thinks fit." That is splendid for Ministers. That is exactly what they want; and that is exactly what Parliament ought not to fall for—
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? Is he saying that in his view the 30 mile an hour limit is the right speed limit? How does the noble Lord know, before 75 bodies outside your Lordships' House have discussed this matter, that this is the right limit anyway?
My Lords, what I am saying is, how does the noble Earl know? The experiments have been conducted within 30 mile an hour limit areas, and nowhere else. The department does not know what would be the effect of road humps outside those areas. That is why I am saying that in this Bill the road humps should be confined within the 30 mile an hour speed limit areas. If the department decided eventually to try to move outside those speed limit areas, they could perfectly well come before Parliament with another quite short Bill to enable them to do this. It would be highly controversial, and the Government know that it would be highly controversial, and they probably would not get away with it. So they do not want to do that; they want to get it into this Bill. And I am suggesting as calmly as I can that this is really quite wrong.I am not going to continue for very much longer but the Minister mentioned something else, and the noble Baroness was quite right in saying that the Minister spoke about making experiments. He did; he twice said that those concerned wanted to be able to conduct experiments. When they wanted to conduct experiments in 1974, they had those experiments very tightly controlled by the 1974 Act. They had to publish locally what they were going to do; they had to take the opinion of the local residents; and they had to observe conditions. In this Bill there is nothing about conducting experiments. Does the Minister really say that it is right to introduce into this Bill a power not to observe 30 miles an hour speed limits because they want to conduct experiments outside those limits when they are not going to be bound by the conditions that Parliament saw fit to impose in 1974, when Parliament, no doubt with some reluctance, permitted experiments with road humps? I will not say any more because I have my opportunity next Friday, and in the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
My Lords, I think it will be for the convenience of the House if we now adjourn during pleasure until 8 o'clock for reconsideration of the Local Government Bill on Report.Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
[ The Sitting tins suspended from 7.42 to 8 p.m.]
Local Government, Planning And Land (No 2) Bill
Consideration on Report resumed, on Amendment No. 124:
Page 76, line 31, at end insert ("and shall provide for the refund of 50 per cent. of the prescribed fee in cases where the application is refused and where the applicant not being a body corporate is the owner and occupier of the dwelling-house to which the application related.").
My Lords, I do not propose to repeat all the arguments that I advanced in favour of this amendment just before the Report stage of this Bill was adjourned an hour or so ago. I listened carefully, as always, to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, on this amendment. I was very grateful that he expressed considerable sympathy for it, which made me all the more disappointed that he felt unable to accept it. I can understand the misgivings of those who felt that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Evans, went a little too far in view of the general economic urgency of reducing public expenditure.It was the noble Lord, Lord Sandford (and I regret that he is not in his place) who asked what was the point of imposing charges in the first place if owner-occupiers, who form a large proportion of all applicants, are to be excluded altogether from charges. That is a point of view with which one can sympathise. However, the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, has informed us that 92 per cent. of owner-occupiers who apply for planning permission have their applications granted. What is more, this amendment provides that only 50 per cent. of the fees be rebated to the remaining 8 per cent. of owner-occupier applicants whose applications are refused; and owner-occupiers themselves comprise only a proportion of the total. Therefore, the total revenue which the Government anticipate to be raised by charges being made for planning applications will be reduced by no more than 2 per cent. to 3 per cent. if this amendment is carried—which makes a considerable contrast to the effect of Amendment No. 122 on which the House divided before the adjournment. The noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, also suggested that this amendment, if carried, might lead to repeated frivolous applications. If 100 per cent. of the fees were to be rebated that would be a valid argument and that would be a strong possibility; but I suggest that, with 50 per cent. of the fees to be retained, in practice this would not occur. I feel that this is a very much more modest and widely acceptable amendment than that on which we divided an hour ago. Therefore, I hope that the House will accept it.
My Lords, I do not know that I can add anything to what I said when I spoke previously to this particular amendment. I fear that anything I say will be repetition. In the circumstances, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Monson, will excuse me from dilating further. He knows the reasons why I said we could not accept the amendment, while I personally expressed some sympathy for what it tries to achieve.
My Lords, I understand the problems of the noble Lord the Minister. While I should have preferred my own amendment to have been carried, it seems to me that the Government would probably find that the average applicant would feel a little less incensed or outraged, or perhaps just a little less dissatisfied, if he felt that if his application was unsuccessful he would have the opportunity to get some of his money back. I concede that it would involve an increase in bureaucratic work. That is the problem, but it is a problem which goes to the root of charging for planning application. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, has my support.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Evans, for his support. I think that I answered adequately on two counts the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin. I think that this will affect public expenditure to a minimal extent and that it will produce a much fairer result as far as the owner-
|Airedale, L.||Ellenborough, L.||Oram, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Elwyn-Jones, L.||Peart, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Evans of Claughton, L. [Teller.]||Phillips, B.|
|Bacon, B.||Gisborough, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Balogh, L.||Greenway, L.||Rhodes, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Birk, B.||Jacques, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Blease, L.||Jeger, B.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Kaldor, L.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Kilmarnock, L.||Stone, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Lee of Newton, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Swinfen, L.|
|Collison, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||McCarthy, L.||Underhill, L.|
|David, B.||Mishcon, L.||Wilson of Radcliffe, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Monson, L. [Teller.]||Wise, L.|
|Delacourt-Smith of Alteryn, B.|
|Auckland, L.||Harvington, L.||Northchurch, B.|
|Avon, E.||Hatherton, L.||Northesk, E.|
|Bellwin, L.||Hemphill, L.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Hornsby-Smith, B.||O'Neill of the Maine, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Inglewood, L.||Orkney, E.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Kemsley, V.||Rochdale, V.|
|Cathcart, E.||Killearn, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Chelwood, L.||Kinnaird, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Kinross, L.||Sandys, L. [Teller.]|
|Crawshaw, L.||Kintore, E.||Savile, L.|
|Croft, L.||Knutsford, V.||Selsdon, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Long, V.||Soames, L. (L. President.)|
|De Freyne, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Lyell, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||McFadzean, L.||Torphichen, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Mackay of Clashfern, L.||Tranmire, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Macleod of Borve, B.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Elton, L.||Mansfield, E.||Ullswater, V.|
|Fortescue, E.||Margadale, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Freyberg, L.||Marley, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Gainford, L.||Marshall of Leeds, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Gibson-Watt, L.||Minto, E.||Westbury, L.|
|Gormanton, V.||Morris, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Haig, E.||Young, B.|
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
occupier is concerned. Because of the discouraging effect of retaining 50 per cent. of the fee, I do not think that it will induce or in any way lead to repeated applications of a frivolous nature. I feel that this is a matter of considerable interest to owner-occupiers. I think it is fair, and therefore I am not proposing to withdraw the amendment.
On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 124) shall be agreed to?
Their Lordships divided: Contents, 49; Not-Contents, 71.
moved Amendment No. 125:
Page 76, line 32, leave out ("(3)") and insert ("(2A)").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment on Amendment No. 121. I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 126:
Page 77, line 4, leave out ("(3)") and insert ("(2A)").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment with Amendment No. 121. I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
[ Amendment No. 127 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 127WA:
After Clause 83, insert the following new clause:
(" Planning permission
. The grant or refusal of planning permission shall be in writing signed on behalf of the appropriate local planning officer and any document purporting to grant or refuse planning permission which is so signed shall be conclusive evidence that such permission has been lawfully granted or referred as the case may be by the appropriate local planning authority.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, so that there is no misunderstanding in any part of the House, may I say that this amendment is moved with the encouragement of the Law Society, of which I am privileged to be a member. There is some doubt in our law (which is not removed so far by any part of this Bill) as to the validity of a planning permission. The situation can be rather complicated by this Bill, because if for any reason a borough or district council has failed to consult, as might be required by a development order, the legal position of the applicant is unclear if in due course he receives what purports to be a valid planning permission duly signed by an officer authorised by the district or borough council.
The Bill so far, and without this amendment, is silent as to whether the document purporting to grant permission in these circumstances is a valid permission. That is so in spite of the provisions of Schedule 16, paragraph 51, of the Local Government Act of 1972. This amendment will make it quite clear that if planning permission is received properly signed by or on behalf of an authority which is entitled to give planning permission, that is as far as the applicant or any third party who may be interested in it has to look. This provision therefore makes it quite clear that such a permission is a valid permission. I beg to move.
My Lords, as a fellow solicitor, I feel that this is a very useful amendment and I hope that the Government accept it. We can see that it comes from the Law Society from the archaic legal word in the third line of the amendment as printed in the Marshalled List. It is a word not often seen outside legal documents: "feruse"! That is probably Norman French for "refuse". Apart from that, I support the amendment.
My Lords, with this amendment may I also speak to Amendment No. 127XA? The Government appreciate the desirability of clarifying exactly what constitutes a decision on a planning application. The existing legislation and decisions of the courts leave the position unclear. Our own proposals for clarifying the position had to be excluded from the Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Bill for lack of space. The noble Lord has put forward his own proposals, on lines different from the Government's, and I am grateful to him for his efforts in tackling this problem.I appreciate that there are genuine differences of opinion about the best way of proceeding and that there were those who expressed disquiet about our own approach. Nevertheless, I do not consider that the noble Lord's approach is preferable; and, indeed, I see considerable drawbacks in what he is proposing. The wording of the two amendments leaves considerable room for doubt as to what their combined effect would be were these provisions to be inserted into the legislation; but the intention appears to be to separate the decision itself. There is no justification for doing this and it would serve merely to confuse everybody. The Government's proposal would have made it clear that the decision had not been given until the applicant had received written notice. It would have followed that the Council's resolution did not itself constitute the decision and could be reconsidered up to the time the written decision was sent. The noble Lord's amendments would appear to be trying to secure the same effect so far as the method of deciding the application is concerned, but would make the effective date of the decision relate back to the date of the council's resolution. This provision serves no useful purpose. It is effectively "backdating" the local planning authority's decision and can only lead to confusion and uncertainty. In particular, it would be unfair to the applicant to make the earlier date the effective date for commencement of the period within which he must exercise his right of appeal, or the effective date in so far as the local authority's duty to determine applications within eight weeks is concerned. The only fair approach is for the effective date for these purposes to remain the date of the written notification. Having said that, I accept that there are differences of opinion as to how the existing legislation should be clarified. I wonder whether, in view of what I have said, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw these amendments so that all concerned can give more thought to the matter and bring forward some considered proposals on another occasion. I must tell him that I am not certain what I mean by "on another occasion", in the sense whether or not we are referring to the last stage of the Bill or if it will be later. I suspect that it will be later. I hope that I have said enough to indicate that this is very much a technical matter, as we see it.
My Lords, I really felt that I was putting a simple proposition before the House. I now find myself enmeshed, as most likely do other noble Lords, in some technical language which I should wish to spare the House at this hour. Once before I referred to a rather lovely speech that I heard the first Viscount Samuel make on a very happy occasion, which was the centenary of the modern Civil Service. After paying his tribute to those who had been responsible, as he said, for the advancement of his political career he smiled at his audience and said:
Listening to the noble Lord the Minister, who read so assiduously from his technical brief, I find that he has a problem for the solution that I tried to bring forward to the House and which obviously is needed. There are two quick points I should like to make. One is the question of the validity of a permission. I do not think the Minister has any doubts about the necessity for that, and that it should be brought forward. There is also the question of the date from which it should operate, whether it is the date of the meeting or whether it is the date when it is sent out from the authority. It would be reassuring if one knew that this would not delay the sending out of a permission by the authority, but some of us who have had experience of these matters know that very often there is an unreasonable delay. I should be the last person in the world to try to press these amendments on your Lordships if the Minister has said, as I understand he has said, that he realises the problem and that something has got to be done in the Bill itself to make these positions perfectly clear. In view of the elementary nature of the problem, if I may say so, I hope this can be done by Third Reading. It does not seem to me to present so many difficulties. I can merely ask the Minister to do his best to do it by Third Reading; in any event, I am sure he will do it before the Bill leaves this House. In those circumstances I ask leave to withdraw this amendment, and in due course, when the next amendment is called, I shall ask leave to withdraw it, too."They have one attribute I shall never forget. They have a problem for every solution".
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 127XA:
After Clause 83, insert the following new clause:
(" Date of planning permission.
. The effective date upon which a planning permission is granted or referred by local planning authorities shall be deemed to be the date upon which either (a) the appropriate resolution was passed either by the local planning authority or by a Committee or Sub-Committee of the local planning authority in either case exercising powers delegated to them pursuant to section 101(1) of the Local Government Act 1972, or (b) a document rescinding a decision to grant or withdraw planning permission was agreed by an officer in exercise of powers delegated to him pursuant to section 101(1) of the Local Government Act 1972.").
The noble Lord said: In the circumstances that I have already mentioned, I ask leave not to move this amendment.
[ Amendment No. 127XA not moved.]
Clause 84 [ Local plans—expedited procedure]:
moved Amendment No. 127YA:
Page 77, leave out lines 8 to 29 and insert—
(a) a local planning authority have prepared a local plan; and (b) the Secretary of State gives them a direction authorising them to take such steps preliminary to its adoption as are mentioned in section 12(2) of this Act; and (c) at the time when he gives them that direction he has not approved the structure plan so far as it relates to the area of the local plan,they may take those steps and adopt the local plan, whether or not the Secretary of State approved the structure plan first.
(a) a local planning authority have prepared proposals for the repeal of a local plan and its replacement with a new local plan; and (b) the Secretary of State gives them a direction authorising them to take such steps preliminary to its repeal and replacement as are mentioned in section 12(2) of this Act; and (c) at the time when he gives them that direction he has not approved the structure plan so far as it relates to the area of the new local plan,they may take those steps and repeal the existing plan and adopt the new one, whether or not the Secretary of State approves the structure plan first.
(a) a local planning authority have prepared proposals— (i) for the alteration of a local plan; or (ii) for the repeal of a local plan without its replacement with a new plan; and (b) the Secretary of State gives them a direction authorising them to take such steps pre- liminary to the alteration or, as the case may be, the repeal of the local plan as are mentioned in section 12(2) of this Act; and (c) at the time when he gives them that direction he has not approved the structure plan so far as it relates to the area of the local plan,they may take those steps and adopt the proposals, whether or not the Secretary of State approves the structure plan first.
(4) The powers conferred by subsections (1) to (3) of this section may be exercised by a district planning authority notwithstanding that they have not obtained a certificate under section 14(5) or (7) of this Act, but subject to the other provisions of that section and to the provisions of sections 12 and 13 of this Act.
(5) Before adopting—
(a) a local plan; or (b) proposals for the repeal or alteration of a local plan,in exercise of the powers conferred on them by this section, a local planning").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, despite the length of this amendment its sole purpose is to remove defects in the present drafting of the new Section 15A. I shall not go into detail unless your Lordships wish me to do so. I beg to move.
My Lords, if it removed all the defects from this Bill it would be a great deal longer.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 127ZA:
Page 77, line 31, leave out ("may be") and insert ("the county planning authority consider").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not think the amendment to Clause 84 which your Lordships have just approved makes any difference to the force of this amendment. It is a small amendment, but I should have thought that, in circumstances of this kind where we are looking for expedited procedure for adoption and alteration by local councils, a concept of which we all approve, if this procedure is going to be implemented then before adopting the plan or the alterations in the circumstances outlined in the amended clause it would be fairly obvious that the authority to decide whether modifications are necessary is the county planning authority, since the county planning authority is the authority which is responsible for the structure plan. This amendment has been suggested to me by some county authorities to make clear beyond peradventure what I think is intended in the legislation. It is on those grounds and not in any sense to create controversy that I move the amendment. I beg to move.
My Lords, the effect of the amendment would be to make the county planning authority instead of the designated planning authority—which may be the district—responsible for deciding what modifications are necessary to keep an expedited local plan in general conformity with a county structure plan as it stands for the time being. Clearly, therefore, the noble Lord's amendment is in conflict with the existing provisions of the 1971 Act and in particular with Section 10C. I respectfully suggest that the proposal advanced by the noble Lord is unnecessary because Regulation 34 of the Town and Country Planning (Structure and Local Plans) Regulations 1974 requires that when the authority which prepared a local plan proposes to modify it before adoption, it shall prepare a list of the proposed modifications, with reasons for proposing them, give notice by advertisement of the proposed modifications and give an opportunity for objections to be made to them. The authority has a duty to consider those objections and also a duty to ensure that on adoption the local plan is in general conformity with the structure plan.There is a further safeguard. At the stage when the authority has decided to proceed to adopt the local plan it is required to give by advertisement public notice of its intention, and, if the county council or anyone else are not content, they can make representations to the Secretary of State. He has power to direct the local authority not to proceed with adopting the plan until he has decided whether or not he should call it in for his decision. Finally, I must point out this amendment seeks to do the very opposite of what we regard as being one of the most vital aspects of the planning part of this Bill—namely, the removal of the overlap of planning functions between county and district, which I should have thought would have appealed very strongly to the noble Lord, Lord Evans, in particular. So far this has not been a problem in the preparation of plans where structure plans are a county responsibility and local plans are normally the responsibility of the districts. I wonder if the noble Lord may feel able to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I stand with my head bloodied but unbowed. If I were to say to your Lordships that I shall read the Hansard report with interest and concern it would not be entirely true. What I shall do is make sure that those people who put me up to moving this amendment read the Hansard report with concern and care. I shall make sure that they come and give me a full explanation as to why they proposed this. I thank the noble Lord for his explanation and I shall look forward to conversations in the near future with certain people in the North-West. I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
In calling Amendment No. 127ZAA, I have to point out a printers' error; this should be numbered as Amendment No. 127ZAAA. Amendment No. 127AA already appears as the penultimate amendment at the foot of page 15 of the Marshalled List. Therefore, I call Amendment No. 127ZAAA.
moved Amendments Nos. 127ZAAA to 127ZAD:
Page 77, line 37, after ("alteration,") insert ("repeal or replacement,").
Page 77,line 42, leave out from ("local") to end of line 44 and insert ("planning authority's exercise of their powers under this section as if the proposals for alteration, repeal or replacement of the structure plan had been approved by him.").
Page 78, line 8, leave out from ("modifications") to ("for") in line 10 and insert ("which the local planning authority are to make to a local plan or to proposals for the alteration, repeal or replacement of such a plan before adopting the plan or the proposals,").
Page 78,line 13, at end add ("or, if the structure plan is to be repealed and replaced, for the purpose of bringing the local plan into general conformity with the new structure plan as it stands for the time being").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in speaking to Amendment No. 127ZAAA, I should like also to speak to Amendments Nos. 127ZAB, 127ZAC and 127ZAD. I would simply say that these amendments make a number of minor drafting corrections to the provisions in the new Section 15A, set out in Clause 84. I beg to move.
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Schedule 13 [ Amendments relating to surveys and plans]:
moved Amendment No. 127ZB:
Page 184, line 31, leave out from ("State") to end of line 37 and insert ("shall cease to have effect.
(1A) In section 7 of that Act (preparation of structure plans)—
(a) the following subsections shall be substituted for subsections (1) to (3):—
"7.—(1) The local planning authority shall, within such period from the commencement of this section within their area as the Secretary of State may direct, prepare and submit to the Secretary of State for his approval a structure plan for their area complying with the provisions of subsection (1A) of this section.
(1A) The structure plan for any area shall be a written statement—
(a) formulating the local planning authority's policy and general proposals in respect of the development and other use of land in that area (including measures for the improvement of the physical environment and the management of traffic); and (b) containing such other matters as may be prescribed or as the Secretary of State may in any particular case direct.";").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the first part of this amendment stems from one which was moved by my noble friend Lord Ridley, which sought to remove the requirement for a planning authority to send to my right honourable friend a report of their view of matters under Section 6 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, when submitting proposals under Section 10 for the alteration or repeal and replacement of an approved structure plan. My noble friend's amendment gave us food for thought, and we concluded that not only should the requirement to submit a report of the Section 6 survey be removed from Section 10 but, by the same argument, it was no longer necessary to require submission of a report of the Section 6 survey in Section 7, which relates to the initial preparation of the structure plan.
The second part of this amendment reenacts the procedures of Section 7(3) as amended by the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, which I mentioned before, at least in connection with the proposals to which he referred when we were discussing this matter in Committee. This is necessary only for technical drafting reasons, to fit the present amendment properly into the existing provisions of Schedule 13. I beg to move.
I should like, my Lords, to ask for some information. I am certain that if I show my ignorance the noble Lord the Minister will put me right in his usual very charming way. Looking through the various sections of the Bill dealing with planning, I am always puzzled by the fact that on some occasions we refer to the district planning authority and to the county planning authority, and then suddenly we find a reference to the local planning authority. In this case, we refer to the local planning authority, which I presume, in view of the context, refers to the county planning authority—
Then it makes it all the more important to define it. I notice that in the amendment we have just carried on Clause 84 reference is made to the local planning authority, but in Section 4 it is said that these powers can be exercised only by the district planning authority. The fact that the phrase is used in some cases and not in others leads to some confusion.
My Lords, I think that is a very fair comment. The local planning authority is always the district planning authority. The county planning authority deals with the structure plans and matters pertaining to them. Local plans are dealt with by the local authority. Unless someone tells me otherwise, I have never known it to mean anything other than the district planning authority.
Or the London borough authority concerned.
Of course, my Lords, with many apologies.
I have to point out that if Amendment No. 127ZB is agreed to I cannot call Amendment No. 127A.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
My Lords, I am in some difficulty over amendment No. 127A and I do not quite know how to get in order again.
I understood that if Amendment No. 127ZB was called and agreed to I was not able to call Amendment No. 127A.
moved Amendment No. 127ZAA:
Page 185, line 20, leave out from ("matter") to ("and") in line 22.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, with this amendment I should like to speak to Amendment No. 132ZB. Both amendments relate to the availability and publicity of the results of the survey which structure plan authorities do as a part of the structure plans process. These are detailed requirements which cover matters which are better left to the discretion of local authorities. I am led to believe that they are likely to be acceptable to the noble Lord and therefore I move them fairly formally.
Yes, my Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, will be glad to know that we accept these two amendments. Just before I sit down, although I realise that my noble friend could not move his amendment, I hope it will not be out of order for me to say that we have some sympathy with all these purposes, as we have shown by what has been said to the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby. If we can look at Third Reading at the particular point that concerned my noble friend about this whole area, we shall endeavour to do so; if not, it could be done at some date in the near future.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 127AA:
Page 186, leave out lines 1 to 5 and insert—
("(4) Proposals under subsection (1) or (2) of this section shall be accompanied by an explanatory memorandum summarising—
(a) in the case of proposals under subsection (1) of this section, the reasons which in the opinion of the local planning authority justify the alterations which they are proposing; and (b) in the case of proposals under subsection (2) of this section, the reasons which in their opinion justify the repeal and replacement of the structure plan.
(4A) The explanatory memorandum shall also state the relationship of the proposals to general proposals for the development and other use of land in neighbouring areas which may be expected to affect the area to which the proposals relate.
(4B) The explanatory memorandum—
(a) shall also contain any information on which the proposals are based; and (b) may contain such illustrative material as the local planning authority think appropriate.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment achieves two things. First, in debating Amendment No. 203A of my noble friend Lord Ridley in Committee, I undertook to come forward with an amendment at Report stage to remove the requirement for a local planning authority to submit to my right honourable friend a report of their review of matters under Section 6 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, when submitting to him proposals for the alteration, or repeal and replacement of an approved structure plan. Secondly, in debating Amendment No. 203B of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, in Committee, I undertook to come forward with an amendment at Report stage to extend to proposals for the alteration, or repeal and replacement of an approved structure plan the principle of separating the policies and general proposals from the explanatory material. The amendment meets these undertakings and I beg to move.
My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for meeting the requirements of my earlier amendment.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 127B:
Page 186, line 27, after ("accompanied") insert—
("( ) section 11(6); and").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, despite what the noble Lord the Deputy Speaker has said, I should like, nevertheless, to speak to Amendments Nos. 127A, 127B, 128A and 185. I appreciate that I am not strictly in order in speaking to No. 127A—
My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me for intervening, and I know that he will not think me discourteous, it is not a question of his being strictly out of order; it is a question of his being completely out of order. In those circumstances I am sure the noble Lord will realise where he stands.
Completely out of order. Yes, my Lords, I agree. But for reasons which will become clear I, nevertheless, am going to persevere. At the Committee stage on 15th October I moved Amendment No. 316A which sought to repeal Section 7(5) of the 1971 Act—it was reported in Hansard of 16th October because it occurred late at night. That was the section which required structure plans to indicate any parts of the county planning authorities' area which they, the counties, had selected as action areas. My noble friend Lord Bellwin agreed with that amendment, but he pointed out that there were other consequential amendments that were needed in addition to the one which I had tabled. Under that criticism, I withdrew that single amendment and have now tabled four further amendments.If I may, as it were, depart from the conventions for just a moment, the four amendments which are in my name at this point of the Bill were carefully worked out with officials in the noble Lord's department, and are being moved by me with their help and support. These amendments do not extend to Greater London, which was one of the criticisms that my noble friend levelled against my earlier amendment, because in our attempt to make them apply to Greater London we found that the adjustments would be so complicated as to be almost impossible. Therefore we have to leave Greater London to the tender mercy of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, to return to on another occasion in order to get this matter right so far as they are concerned. Having got this all straight, I had a cryptic message from the department earlier this afternoon to the effect that even now these amendments are not quite perfect, but I have to say that the department have been able to find a form of words which will make them perfect. No doubt, the problem that we got into with No. 127A was due to one of these imperfections. I hope, nevertheless, that my noble friend will be able to accept the amendments that I am able to move and to put the matter into complete perfection at Third Reading. I despair of being able to achieve any more myself. My Lords, I beg to move.
My Lords, I accept entirely the purpose that my noble friend Lord Sandford is seeking to achieve by his group of Amendments Nos. 127A, 127B, 128A and 185, but I regret to have to confirm that the drafting of No. 128A, which is the main amendment of the group, is defective, in that the wording of the new subsection which he seeks to insert into Section 11 of the Act does not, at one point, make sense—I mean that with no disrespect. In view of all the complexities, I certainly should not attempt to criticise anyone, but it would appear that a rather more elaborate provision than that contained in the amendment is necessary for the proper achievement of my noble friend's purpose. But we will see whether anything can be done at Third Reading. My noble friend knows that we will try very hard to do that, although there is not much time. If not, he can rest assured that the point will be noted for legislation on the first suitable opportunity that may present itself. But let us not be pessimistic. We really will be trying to have this ready for Third Reading.
My Lords, I am not sure whether my noble friend is asking me to withdraw this amendment or offering to improve it at Third Reading.
My Lords, with the leave or the House, if my noble friend feels able to withdraw the amendment we will try to work together to achieve something.
My Lords, I much prefer a promise from the Government to move their own amendments. Nevertheless, I beg leave to withdraw this one.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 127C:
Page 186, line 29, after ("plans)") insert ("as requires a local planning authority who propose to prepare a local plan to take such steps as will in their opinion secure that adequate publicity is given in their area to any relevant matter arising out of a survey of the area carried out by them under section 6 or").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I understand that this amendment would be acceptable with some slight alteration of which I have advised the noble Lord the Deputy Speaker and the Table. Therefore, I seek to move this amendment with the alteration that, in the final line, it should read:
"out of a survey of the area carried out under sections 6 or 11 or"
as opposed to the printed wording.
This amended amendment relates to similar amendments which were tabled on the structure plan, and removes the requirement that local authorities must give adequate publicity to matters arising out of the survey of their area. Again, this is the kind of detail for which central Government control is inappropriate and, as I have already indicated, I understand that this amendment is acceptable in the revised terms. My Lords, I beg to move.
My Lords, as I said earlier, I confirm that this is acceptable.
On Question, amendment, as amended, agreed to.
[ Amendments Nos. 128 and 128A not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 128B, which had been printed as follows:
Page 186, line 36, at end insert—
(" . The following subsection shall be added after section 13(2)(b) of that Act (inquiries, etc. with respect to local plans)—
"(3) The requirement in subsections (1) and (2) above for a local inquiry or other hearing to be held shall not apply if all persons who have made an objection have indicated in writing that they do not wish to appear.".").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am sorry to say that, such is the pressure on my noble friend's department, to say nothing of that on myself and the House as well, this amendment needs a correction before we can deal with it. If members who are following this closely would care to keep their eyes on Amendment 128B, I will read the corrected version. It should be corrected to read as follows:
"The following subsection shall be added after section 13(2) of that Act (inquiries etc. with respect to local plans)—
"(3) The requirement for a local inquiry or other hearing"—
and so on, according to the words already printed on the Marshalled List. That is to say, the small ( b) after 13(2) is to be omitted and the words "in subsections (1) and (2) above" are also to be omitted.
This relates to an amendment successfully obtained by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, in Committee to enable authorities to dispense with hearings and inquiries into local plan alterations, providing that all objectors agree in writing. It is obviously logical to extend this to apply to local plans. My understanding is that, with the corrections to this amendment, it might be acceptable to my noble friend, and in that hope and expectation I beg to move it.
My Lords, Amendment proposed: 128B, page 186, line 36, at end insert the words as printed on the Marshalled List, subject to the correction already mentioned by the noble Lord. Lord Sandford. I will read out the corrected amendment in full:
"The following subsection shall be added after section 13(2) of that Act (inquiries, etc. with respect to local plans)—
"(3) The requirement for a local inquiry or other hearing to be held shall not apply if all persons who have made an objection have indicated in writing that they do not wish to appear".
My Lords, I am glad to accept the amendment, as amended.
On Question, amendment, as amended, agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 129:
Page 186, line 45, at end insert—
("( ) in subsection (3) after the word "State" where it first occurs there shall be inserted the words", together with copies of any objection that may have been made by the Minister of Agriculture and which has not been withdrawn,".").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope it will be for the convenience of the House if I speak in general terms to Amendments Nos. 129, 130 and 130ZA and then speak in particular to each amendment in detail as it is moved. All three amendments would achieve the same objective: the protecting of agricultural land against needless development. I should like to remind the House that, as was so well stated in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, these amendments in no way prevent land from being taken for useful development. They only make sure that the concern of farmers over land taken is registered to both the Secretary of State and, even more important, the local authority.
I gave a detailed description of the problem in Committee and I will not bore your Lordships by repeating it. However, I feel that I must remind the House that all three amendments will come into force only when, for example, a local plan has been objected to by the Ministry of Agriculture before an inspector who, having upheld the agricultural objection finds his—that means the inspector's—ruling overruled by the local council: a strange and rare thing and, dare I say, a naughty thing for a local council to do but, sadly, already we have had two examples of it. So I cannot accept the argument that isolated cases make bad law. It is at this stage—and we hope that it will seldom be reached and we are confident that it may never be reached should our amendments be accepted—that these Amendments, Nos. 129, 130 and 130ZA, come into play.
So far as Amendment No. 129 is concerned, the position would be that at that stage of proceedings when the plan is sent to the Secretary of State for approval, attached to that plan would be the inspector's report. This amendment guarantees—that is an important word—that the Ministry of Agriculture's and the council's reasons for overruling those agricultural objections are attached to the Secretary of State's inspection.
Before I finish, I must tell my noble friend Lord Bellwin that in accordance with his wish in col. 102 of the Official Report of 13th October, I have read every single word that he said, at least four times, and I will answer every single point made during those times if he wants me to do so, but in order to avoid confusion may I suggest that the Government should tackle these three similar in action amendments as a schoolboy would tackle an examination paper. The Government are obliged to answer all three amendments. If they concede all three, they will of course score top marks. It may be that my noble friend will say that accepting all three would make a rather clumsy clause in the Bill, in which case I can promise him that I shall hand back to him one or maybe two amendments at Third Reading.
I hope that after that little explanation my noble friend will not play off one amendment against another. Finally, I must remind your Lordships once again that these amendments would, first, draw the attention of local authorities and the Secretary of State to needless—I emphasise the word "needless""—loss of agricultural land and, secondly, would speed up the planning process. I beg to move.
My Lords, I rise to support all three amendments, but I understand that one can speak to them all at the same time. I was going to direct my remarks to Amendment No. 130. It also seems that nearly every time I get on my feet I drag in the Strutt Report. I am doing so again, because the Strutt Committee took a great deal of evidence both from individuals and organisations, and the view was repeatedly expressed to us that not enough was done to safeguard the agricultural interest. It was felt by many people that the urban interest was given priority in far too many cases.The whole committee studied what was said and came to the conclusion that these criticisms had considerable substance. The committee felt, and I obviously feel, that the planning pattern for the future should pay a much greater regard to agricultural interest and to the needs and interests of that great industry. We were told at that time that the statutory requirement was that all planning proposals affecting agricultural land of over 10 acres should be submitted to the Ministry and we were also told that this regulation was not being diligently observed. We went on to say, supporting what the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, has said, that the call-in procedure, when there is an unresolved agricultural objection to a planning structure, should not be a matter of discretion, and we strongly recommended that the call-in procedure should be strengthened to make it mandatory to call in such cases where the MAFF so requested. Speaking for all members of the committee, may I say that we believe that all structure plans should specify the priorities attached to agriculture and horticulture and that local plans should also specify these priorities. I understand that the National Farmers' Union complained that, although a large number of local plans are currently in the course of preparation, there have already been two cases where the plan-making authority has virtually ignored the agricultural objections, despite the fact that in one case—I am speaking of the Staffordshire district council—the agricultural case was upheld by the inquiry inspector, and that in the case of the Humberside county council the Secretary of State ruled that the subject matter of the plan was inappropriate. The noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, said at the Committee stage of the Bill that the call-in procedure for local plans should be used only when the plan raised issues of national importance. Surely, since the Ministry of Agriculture are responsible for the protection of the national farming resources they should be taken notice of when they register an objection to a planning proposal. Although I have spoken briefly, it must be clear that as one who has for a long time been concerned with the well-being of agriculture and the maintenance of farming as a considerable source of national wealth and income and of great importance to the people working in it, I believe it is essential that these amendments should be taken very seriously by the Government, and I am asking the Government so to treat them.
My Lords, let me say at once that we do take the amendments very seriously indeed. When we discussed the noble Lord's amendments in Committee I emphasised that the Government recognised the value of high quality agricultural land and I readily do so again today. What is not in question is the objective. Where we appear to differ is in the arrangements for achieving it. I, too, have carefully considered the points made in the discussion in Committee and I remain of the view that the existing provisions of the Act and the regulations are adequate to ensure that the views of the Minister of Agriculture are taken into account by the Secretary of State before the planning authority may adopt the local plan.The Secretary of State has complete discretion whether he should call in a local plan or not. In the normal way he will consider the question of call-in after the public inquiry to consider objections has been held and at the stage when the planning authority's views on the inspector's recommendations are known. The regulations then require that the planning authority shall advertise their intention to adopt a local plan, and they may not adopt the plan until 28 days have passed. During that period the Secretary of State, if he requires further time, may direct that the planning authority shall not adopt the local plan until he has decided whether to call it in or not. Accordingly, if the Minister of Agriculture, or anyone else, follows up an objection which has not been met by the planning authority, the local authority can be directed not to adopt the plan until the Secretary of State has decided whether he should call it in. I can give my noble friend the assurance that if, following the advertisement of the planning authority's intention to adopt a local plan, the Minister of Agriculture has maintained an objection, the necessary direction will be issued to stop the local authority from adopting the plan until ministerial consultations have taken place. In our earlier debate in Committee on this subject both the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and my noble friend Lord Sandford, indicated that they would expect me to be able to give this assurance and I am glad to have been able to meet their expectations. Under the Act and Regulations the Secretary of State has power to call in a local plan for his own decision. In deciding whether or not to do so the Secretary of State has the opportunity to consider any matter relevant to the local plan proposals. Nonetheless, the development plan system is designed to leave the detailed decisions to local planning authorities. It would be entirely contrary to the general intention to introduce an obligation to call in a local plan. It is not necessary because there is provision for the Secretary of State to consider the way the planning authority propose to resolve the outstanding issues before he decides whether call-in is necessary. Moreover, "call in" would cause delay because it would be only in exceptional circumstances that a decision could be reached without a further local inquiry. Difficulties have arisen in the past when attempts have been made to deal with a called-in planning application on the basis of written representations and we must expect the local planning authority to be the first to ask for an inquiry if there was a formal review of one of their decisions. I am giving the answer in some detail because I think it merits it and I believe the noble Lord and my noble friend would wish me to do so. In Committee I said that I did not think the amendment was necessary to further the Government's policy of ensuring that the use of high quality agricultural land for development is regulated carefully. It is the Government's policy to keep to a minimum the intervention of central Government in local government affairs. I am satisfied that the provisions of the Act and regulations are adequate to cover the points which so concern my noble friend and which he has raised. It is not the case that district planning authorities can ignore the structure plan when preparing a local plan. They cannot begin the statutory process leading to adoption unless they have a certificate from the county council that their proposals are in general conformity with the structure plan or they have a direction from the Secretary of State under the expedited procedure proposed in Clause 84. This direction can only be issued after consultation with the county council when the question of general conformity with the structure plan would be raised. I am sure that a district planning authority would regard an objection from any Government department or public authority as a serious problem which they would do their utmost to resolve. They know that the Secretary of State has power to call in a local plan for his own decision. Unresolved national policy issues are precisely the circumstances which are likely to call for ministerial consideration and where the exercise of call-in powers may be appropriate. Nothing in our experience so far suggests that any further provision is necessary to ensure that the fullest regard is given to the importance of the need to retain land for food production whenever possible. The noble Lord, Lord Collison, referred to the Strutt Report. There have been assertions that that report recommended that if there was an objection by MAFF the local plan should be called in. I believe that is a misunderstanding. The advisory council certainly recommended the call-in of planning applications for the development of good agricultural land which departs significantly from development plans. In the case of development plans themselves, however, the council stresses the valuable contribution that MAFF advice can make when planning authorities are drawing up local plans. While preparing development plans local planning authorities have been accustomed to consulting Government departments whose interests appear likely to be affected and, as your Lordships would expect, this would normally include the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. To conclude, my Lords, I think there was clearly a misunderstanding when my noble friend said in Committee that he did not think that the present arrangements allowed for ministerial consultations. As I have already indicated, not only is there provision for them but I can give him an assurance that they will take place whenever an objection by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is maintained. I have also discussed this matter outside this House with my noble friend in an endeavour, apparently not successfully, to convince him of this point and to satisfy him, and in view of my further observations now I hope that he may feel able to withdraw his amendments.
My Lords, if I may intervene very briefly, I know that the noble Lord meant everything that he said and he meant the reality of it. But we have typical examples. Many local plans are now being prepared, and I can think of one in the county of Stafford where the inspector himself approved of the safeguarding of the agricultural land and it was ignored. I think there must be more power in the hands of the Ministry of Agriculture. If anything is of national interest besides armaments it is certainly agriculture, and I believe that the party opposite has been dedicated to that for many years, although it was Tom Williams, the Minister of Agriculture in a Labour Government, who rescued the British farmers after years of Tory rule. I hope they will swing …
Knowing the thoughts of noble Lords on capital punishment, I hesitated and put in that lacuna purposely; I did not mean "swing" in the way sonic of my noble friends were thinking. What I do say is that the Minister of Agriculture himself should have the final word, with a committee of his selection, in this matter. That is enough. I am not quite sure that, despite the honesty of the Minister, people afterwards will have the same love of agriculture that he implies in his speech.
My Lords, may I, with the leave of the House, ask the Minister to clarify one point? We have heard of intentions and assurances. Can he tell me exactly where in the regulations he has mentioned there is a duty for the Secretary of State to consider the objections and a duty for the local authority to submit the objections to the Secretary of State?
My Lords, I really must smile. If I state, based upon considerable discussions and advice from officials, what the intentions are, I really am not going to say that unless I am satisfied that this is exactly what is proposed. It is not always possible for me at a moment's notice to trot out regulations, some of which are in any case not even completed in some cases, because it is quite normal for that to be so before a Bill is finalised. When I said what I did say about intentions and the position, based on advice given to me in some cases and upon my own experience in others. I would hope the noble Earl might be willing to accept that.I am told now that in this case I am able to do this, but it does not detract from what I have just said as a general principle. I would refer my noble friend to the Town and Country Planning Act 1974, Section 35(2). I am sure when he has read that he will agree that this is in order.