Motion to Consider
That the Grand Committee do consider the Housing and Planning Act 2016 (Compulsory Purchase) (Corresponding Amendments) Regulations 2016.
My Lords, these regulations may look rather complex but I hope that the Committee will agree that the principle behind them is straightforward.
Before I launch into the detail, it may help noble Lords if I briefly describe the scenario that has led to these draft regulations being brought forward. Most compulsory purchase orders are made under the procedures in the Acquisition of Land Act 1981. Amendments were made to that Act in the Housing and Planning Act 2016. Corresponding amendments therefore need to be made to Acts which contain compulsory purchase powers that do not rely on the Acquisition of Land Act. That is the purpose of these regulations.
Now for the detail. Schedule 15 to the Housing and Planning Act 2016 amends the Acquisition of Land Act 1981 to require an acquiring authority to include additional information within the notice of confirmation of a compulsory purchase order. This notice is issued under that Act to those with an interest in the relevant land. The acquiring authority must provide information about the effects of the Compulsory Purchase (Vesting Declarations) Act 1981. They must also invite any person who would be entitled to claim compensation, if a general vesting declaration were executed, to give the authority information about the person’s name, address and interest in land.
These amendments were required because the preliminary notice to a general vesting declaration, which previously contained this information, will be abolished by the repeal of Section 3 of the vesting declarations Act by paragraph 5 of Schedule 15 to the 2016 Act. The reason for abolishing the preliminary notice is that it did not commit the acquiring authority to execute a general vesting declaration, so it was of little use as a warning. The notice period for entry has been increased to three months, as has the notice of entry, which follows a notice to treat—the other means of entry and taking possession.
The changes introduced by Schedule 15 will apply to the vast majority of compulsory purchase orders, as they are made using the procedure in the Acquisition of Land Act 1981. There are, however, a number of enabling Acts—the ones listed in the schedule to the draft regulations—where the procedure for obtaining compulsory purchase powers is not governed by the Acquisition of Land Act. This means that we must amend those Acts accordingly; otherwise owners and occupiers of land in orders made under those Acts will be denied the information about the Compulsory Purchase (Vesting Declarations) Act that others would receive. This is what these draft regulations do.
If any Member of the Committee is concerned that corresponding amendments regulations are a rather unusual way of proceeding, I hope that they will be reassured that this procedure is precedented. The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 also amended the Acquisition of Land Act 1981, so corresponding amendments were then made in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (Corresponding Amendments) Order 2007.
Members of the Committee may ask themselves why these amendments were not included in the Bill. These types of amendments take some time to research and prepare. They also could not be finalised until the lead changes in Schedule 15 had been definitely settled. Instead of rushing technical drafting late in the Bill’s stages, we decided that it would be better to draft the amendments separately with a view to bringing the regulations into force at the same time as the substantive provisions. I commend these regulations to the Committee.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, for outlining the regulations before us. At the outset, I should say that we are supportive of the changes to the compulsory purchase brought in by the Housing and Planning Act 2016. We welcome the consolidation of notice periods for general vesting declarations. This is a complicated area of law and the simplification of regulations is very much welcomed. It would be helpful if the Minister explained carefully to the Grand Committee why these changes are being introduced through secondary legislation procedures rather than through primary legislation, when we considered the Housing and Planning Bill earlier this year. It appears to me that the department was very unprepared when we considered that legislation and that is the real reason for the changes being made in regulations rather than in primary legislation, where they should have been.
It would be helpful if the Minister could confirm whether I am correct that the regulations are concerned with the general vesting declaration procedure and, specifically, the preliminary notice period before making a general vesting declaration. They seek to ensure that Acts of Parliament that contain compulsory purchase powers are not subject to the Compulsory Purchase (Vesting Declarations) Act, but are still made subject to that Act. My understanding is that the regulations make provision for the amendments made by Schedule 15 to the 2016 Act as well, so that they also apply to the earlier Act.
Further, I welcome the standardising of the minimum notice period for entry to three months, rather than the confusing 14 or 28 days that existed before, and that the regulations state that clear information must be set out in the confirmation notice for a CPO issued under Section 15 of the Compulsory Purchase (Vesting Declarations) Act. These are fairly technical amendments and these changes will bring greater clarity, which is to be welcomed.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for his general support for the regulations. I can confirm that they indeed consolidate notice periods and standardise entry periods. As he correctly said, they also relate to the general vesting declaration procedure.
I repeat that we have brought these technical amendments forward in secondary legislation at this stage because, first, although it is a technical issue, it is non-controversial, as the noble Lord has just indicated, and, secondly, we did not have the certainty of knowing what the provision would be in general terms in relation to the Acquisition of Land Act until the Housing and Planning Act had passed. They relate to things such as the Pipe-lines Act 1962, the Harbours Act 1964 and the Forestry Act 1967. It is not that they are not important but they are, as it were, minority provisions in relation to the great bulk of compulsory purchase legislation. That is why it has been done in this way and, as I said, there was a precedent for this under the previous Government in 2007. With that, I commend the regulations to the Committee.
Committee adjourned at 6.26 pm.