Committee (4th Day)
Relevant document: 15th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee
My Lords, if there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting, the Committee will adjourn as soon as the Division Bells are rung, and resume after 10 minutes.
60: After Clause 13, insert the following new Clause—
“Change of use of drinking establishments
(1) In regulation 3 of the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987, after paragraph (6)(o) insert—“(p) as a drinking establishment”.(2) Before exercising his or her powers under section 41(1) of this Act, the Secretary of State must exercise the powers conferred by sections 59, 60, 61, 74 and 333(7) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to remove permitted development rights relating to the change of use or demolition of “drinking establishments”.”
My Lords, as this is the first time I have spoken today, I refer the Committee to my entry in the register of interests. I am an elected councillor in the London Borough of Lewisham and one of many vice-presidents of the Local Government Association. I should probably also mention that I am a member of CAMRA and a supporter of pubs and the important role they have at the heart of local communities, be they in cities, towns, villages or more rural areas.
I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, and my noble friend Lord Berkeley for putting their names to my amendment, which seeks to amend the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to provide further protection for pubs. I am looking for something from the Minister in response to the amendment, and I am very hopeful. We have to take further action to protect our pubs, and there are a number of problems that have to be addressed.
I pay tribute to CAMRA which has, since its formation in 1971, stood up for the enjoyment of beer, responsible drinking, the pint, and pubs at the heart of our community. It is without doubt one of the most successful consumer organisations ever in this country.
Permitted development rights, as noble Lords will be aware, remove the requirements for a building owner to seek planning permission before making changes to a property. That includes change of use and even, in some cases, demolition. The permitted development rights we are talking about here allow pubs to be changed to retail or temporary office use without securing planning permission. The effect is that local people are prevented from having a say over the future of their local pub. We should be clear that these are small businesses, not failing businesses, but decisions are often taken elsewhere and the community loses its pub without any say whatever. That cannot be right.
Pubs are a much-loved part of British life, and if noble Lords have not worked it out already, I like pubs. They bring people together to meet, socialise, watch the football or other sports, listen to live music, enjoy a conversation with family and friends. After our council meetings in Lewisham, we often end up in the Catford Conservative Club. Actually, it is no longer a Conservative club—it went bust, was taken over by another developer and is now called the Catford Constitutional Club. It is used by many people from the town hall after council meetings, although it was not used much before.
Pubs are also much loved by tourists. Both my brothers and my father are or have been London black taxi drivers, and they can tell you of the number of tourists who, arriving in London, want to get in a black cab and visit a traditional pub, as well as seeing some of our amazing sights. It is not uncommon for a Prime Minister to take a visiting head of state to the Plough at Cadsden for a pint and indeed, after the former Prime Minister took the President of China there, the Chinese bought the pub.
Permitted development rights, as they are presently in force, are estimated to contribute to the closure of up to 21 pubs a week. Of course there is the assets of community value scheme, which was introduced by the coalition Government. It has been a success, and we are pleased about that, but although it is a popular initiative, it has led to other unintended consequences. When a pub applies to be covered by this scheme, that can be a costly and time-consuming burden on local authorities, community groups and pub landlords and owners. For whatever reason, one or two local authorities do not like pubs and will not register them as a community value. They will seek to frustrate the process, giving all sorts of reasons why they cannot do it, often citing the fear of costly appeals. That cannot be right.
There is also the problem, which, again, is definitely an unintended consequence, that when a pub is listed as an asset of community value and its landlord seeks to raise capital he will have problems because the listing will be a charge against the pub and the financiers will have a problem with it. That cannot be right and, although it is unintended, we must deal with it.
The amendment would probably lead to fewer pubs needing to be registered under this scheme. It would put them on a level footing with other businesses so that a developer looking to convert a pub, for whatever reason, would need to go through the proper planning application process. It is, of course, possible that at the end of that process they will get planning permission, but the amendment would allow communities and local people to have a proper say in what happens to their local asset before it is lost. I beg to move.
My Lords, I come at this from a rural angle. In most cases a village or market town pub is an essential part of its community. We do not have many social venues or centres for leisure activities in the countryside; there are very few cinemas or discos, and in most places even restaurants and the like are quite rare. So, all too often the pub is the only hub where all those over 18—and even those who are younger, if they come with their families—can mix and socialise, and generally create the social cohesion that is the vital glue for any community. It is often in the pub that friendships and relationships are formed between young and old, rich and poor, that have such beneficial effects outside of it. People get together after a discussion in the pub to improve their community by, for example, painting the village hall or mowing the village green. And when old Mr Jones is sick or needs a lift to town, he can call on friends of all ages, who he has probably only met in the pub, to help him. As I say, the pub is all too often the only hub.
As I am sure your Lordships know, Pub is the Hub was a movement started at around the turn of the century to encourage publicans and their pubs to branch out and become more than just an outlet for beer, alcohol and food. As a result of this initiative, many entrepreneurial pub landlords started to provide other services to their communities, including morning coffees, internet cafes, office services such as photocopying, et cetera, and their pubs even became part-time village shops and post offices. These added services helped many pubs to survive where otherwise they might not have done so. The point is that when a pub is becoming run down and underused, it is often not because it is inherently a dying asset. All too often, it just needs a new, vibrant, energetic, imaginative, entrepreneurial and, probably, charming landlord, under whom it would suddenly flourish Sometimes planners, and others, cannot see that but it really can happen in the most unlikely venues. Pubs can flourish in the most unprepossessing buildings in the remotest of spots just because they provide a unique service that attracts customers from a variety of backgrounds and distances. I could probably take noble Lords to a few—provided they buy the first round, of course.
I know that the Minister will say that villagers can always apply to have their pub registered as an asset of community value. But—apart from all the expense and complications that the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, highlighted—what average rural villager thinks in advance like that? For them, the pub is there; it has always been there, and, of course, it always will be. But then suddenly, a brewery or an ageing landlord decides to cash in on the high price of houses—as opposed to their currently non-profitable pub—and, often, it is too late for villagers to do anything: a vital asset is gone, and almost certainly for ever. This is because, in the same way that nowadays you can never get permission to open a village blacksmith, it is quite unlikely that you could overcome the unnecessary fears of neighbours if you proposed to have a new pub in your village. Only the existing ones will be able to offer this vital service.
It seems strange to me that a pub does not need planning permission to convert to a house when other less important changes in use clearly do require it. It seems that the most vital asset of all for a community—the pub—can be thrown on to the scrap heap without so much as a murmur from the planning department. This will not do.
My Lords, I support the amendment and every word uttered by the noble Lords, Lord Kennedy and Lord Cameron. I am not exactly a drinker, let alone of real ale, even when it is warm, but living where I do I have sadly seen the onward march of more and more soulless developments. Much-needed housing—of course, there is a housing crisis—is often built contrary to the wishes of the locality and the people living there. With the march of housing, the hubs that have made living in certain parts of the country so agreeable have been lost. It is all the more important to keep the local pub, whether in a suburb or village, as more housing is added. Those pubs add to integration and help to cement a community.
I find it particularly upsetting, having participated in neighbourhood planning, that the wishes of the residents of a locality are so often ignored. It is very important, before any pub is removed or changed, that the local residents be consulted and that we all do our best to promote more integration and mixing as more housing is built, as it will continue to be in the years to come. I hope the Government will accept the amendment.
My Lords, I support Amendment 60 but speak to Amendment 61 in my name, which broadly reflects the amendment moved by Greg Mulholland MP in the other place a few weeks ago.
I too am grateful for the advice given by CAMRA. It has summed up the case in three lines:
“The removal of Permitted Development Rights relating to the demolition and change of use of pubs will substantially reduce the need for Asset of Community Value nominations and reduce the associated burdens on communities and business”.
There are other considerations about the rights of neighbourhoods and communities and so on, which I fully support.
The previous Government introduced the asset of community value register. It is particularly impressive that it has been reported that 2,000 pubs are now registered as assets of community value. It raises two questions: first, it could be argued that because 2,000 have been registered, the system therefore works. The other way of looking at it, which I prefer, is to say that if 2,000 pubs have been felt by their communities and neighbourhoods to need registration, that is a problem because the volume is so great. A simpler method of dealing with the problem is required.
I understand that the London Borough of Wandsworth has applied Article 4 direction in the borough. I am particularly interested in that as a solution. As I well know from having to introduce Article 4 directions in my own council in Newcastle years ago, it is a very complex procedure. Anyway, it is quite difficult to introduce Article 4 in a rural area; it suits an urban area better.
I hope the Minister will take this seriously, because we will be back to this on Report. There is a simple remedy. The amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, and my amendment provide that simple remedy, which is to remove permitted development rights. If the Government did that, someone wishing to change the purpose of a pub to something else would have to apply for planning permission, which seems to me entirely reasonable. I hope that when we get to Report, the Minister will see the justification for this case.
My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Shipley’s amendment, which I think has the same purpose as that of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. I declare my registered interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I am not sure whether a liking for real ale is a declarable interest, but I am happy to declare it.
I support the amendment because of a particular local interest. When I looked at the website for a Member of Parliament in a neighbouring constituency, I found his campaign to save one of his local pubs. It included the statement:
“I would be interested to hear your views. I do have real concerns about the loss of pubs, which are an important focal point for local communities”.
The constituency is Croydon Central; the Member of Parliament is one Gavin Barwell. To be fair, it was a year or two ago, but the quote is still there on the internet—it is there for ever. I wonder how much he still has that concern, because the situation for pubs has certainly not improved in the year or two since he put that statement on his website.
I am particularly motivated to speak because of an issue causing considerable community interest in the ward that I represented until three years ago. A pub in that ward for most of the time I was a councillor was known as The Cricketers but more recently it became known as The Prince Regent, because allegedly the Prince Regent used to pass it on his way to Brighton and there was a vogue for changing pub names. We are talking about an outer London suburb and a time before the railways had brought the population to outer London. This pub had its origin in cottages built in the 1790s. That may not be very old in many parts of rural England, but in suburban London, the 1790s is quite old—it is one of the oldest buildings in London. In the 1850s, the Sutton Cricket Club was formed as the suburb started to grow. It used to play on the green opposite the pub, hence the pub becoming known as The Cricketers for more than a hundred years. So it has considerable historic interest. Whether it has architectural or historical merit is for others to determine, but it certainly has considerable historic relevance for the people who live there.
There is now a proposal to demolish the pub and build instead a nine-storey block of flats, considerably larger than the 18th or 19th-century building. The local community is campaigning hard to prevent the demolition of this historic monument, one of the very few in the area. It has applied to register it as an asset of community value, which has been exempt from permitted development rights only since 2015, so not too long ago. That process is under way and will, I hope, be successful, because the pub is considerably valued by the local community not so much as a drinking establishment but more because it represents something historic in a London suburb before the railways came, and is therefore of considerable historic significance. I hope that it will achieve registration as an asset community value, but I understand that even the status of assets of community value have their drawbacks.
I have spoken to our planners about this issue. They are very much in favour of this amendment and point out that if permitted development rights were withdrawn for all pubs, it certainly would not mean that they would all be preserved for ever regardless of the circumstances. Of course that would not happen; it would be absurd. If a public house is not viable and has no other beneficial use, it does not deserve to be preserved. However, simply to knock down a pub because it might make more money if it was turned into nine-storey flats is not in itself a justification for doing so. The removal of permitted development rights would mean that any proposal for demolition or development would be subject to the normal planning regime and to consideration by the planning authority. A decision would be made on whether the pub was viable and should be retained as a pub, with marketing conditions and a planning policy if necessary, or whether it was not viable but the building should be retained as part of a street scene, which may well be appropriate in the circumstances I am describing, or whether a complete redevelopment of the site should take place.
Another drawback to assets of community value, which I think was one of the most valuable measures introduced by the coalition Government under the Localism Act, is that the registration is valid for only five years. After five years you can apply to have the asset registered again, provided somebody remembers to do that, but there is no guarantee that it will be registered again. Therefore, while the provision is extremely valuable, it is not necessarily long term and is not without risk. Given the value that is attributed to pubs in particular circumstances, we are losing them speedily. I am told that 16 of the 69 pubs that existed 10 years ago in my London borough have gone. That is two a year disappearing from a London suburb with a growing population. Therefore, I strongly support both these amendments. I hope that our Minister will share the views expressed by the Housing Minister before he was the Housing Minister. I hope he will recognise that this is an important issue, that there is a way properly to resolve the situation, and that these amendments provide that solution.
My Lords, if my noble friend has ever studied the history of the most successful political party in Britain, as I am sure he has—I refer, of course, to the Conservative Party—he will know very well that for many periods in its long history it was supported financially by the brewers. The brewing industry played a very large part in supporting the Conservative Party in times gone by. They obtained some recompense for that support. My noble friend will recall that there was a period in history when the peerage was known as the “Beerage” because of the amount of compensation received by individuals who had supported the Conservative Party. Those people would turn in their grave if they thought that the Conservative Party of modern times was in any way against public houses which, as has been said eloquently by many noble Lords and noble Baronesses, perform an important role in not only our urban but our rural life.
I am familiar with a pub in the West End of London off the Edgware Road which dedicated itself to members of the Royal Air Force during the war and had pictures of all the great names from The Few, and so forth. The chap who ran the pub had a handlebar moustache; the pub was an object of great interest to tourists and others and was a great business. However, that pub has gone because the value of the property as a residential building was much greater than it was as a pub. Frankly, that is a tragedy for the tourist industry and for London. The closure of pubs affects the personality of our country not only in London but also in rural areas. I plead with my noble friend as a Conservative Peer to look at this issue most sympathetically. I hope that he will do so when it comes back on Report.
My Lords, I have not participated in proceedings on the Bill before, so I apologise to the Committee for coming late in the day. In the light of what I am going to say, I also owe an apology to the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, and other noble Lords who have put their names to the amendments in this group as I am going to urge my noble friend to resist them. They are perfectly well meaning, but they are the statutory equivalent of trying to make water flow uphill. They can only inhibit, or slow, pub closures. The brutal truth is that there are too many pubs for modern Britain, too often they are in the wrong place and the whole sector is insufficiently profitable. In cases on the margin, where they could, perhaps, be profitable under other ownership, the opportunity to list as an ACV exists, as several noble Lords have said. Pubs are perfectly adequately protected.
This is an issue which arouses strong emotions. Until February 2014—more than three years ago, and therefore outside the time during which I have to declare a past interest—I was a non-executive director of a major integrated brewery and pub operator. It had five breweries from Cockermouth in Cumbria down to Ringwood in Hampshire and operated more than 2,000 pubs. Some were managed—there was an employee running the pub—and some had tenants and were tied, as was the case in those days. It is often overlooked, but that is a very easy way for people to set up their own business because you have a business offered to you, which you can operate, and you can begin straightaway without having to put up much, if any, capital. While under the old system, you had to buy your beer and soft drinks from the owner, food was down to you. I declare that interest because it is important as this is an issue which arouses strong emotions. The last time we got into this discussion, which was last summer, I managed to obtain a starring role in Private Eye as a result of CAMRA’s intervention. My speech was described as “the high point in an otherwise undistinguished political career”, which I thought was fair dues. So are you listening, Private Eye, as I want to get that on the record?
Why does this issue arouse such strong emotions? The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, touched on it. It is because of how people view a community. A community has three aspects that people think are important. They think there should be a shop or post office, some place of worship—a church—and a pub. They do not necessarily want to use them a lot. They will go to the shop or the post office when they have forgotten to buy bread and milk at Tesco. They will not go to church very often. They will go at Christmas and Easter, if they are Christians. They may want to get married there, they may want to have their children christened there and to be buried there—hatches, matches and dispatches—but they will not go much apart from that. They will go to the pub occasionally, but not regularly. The reality is that if you do not use it, you lose it. Most of the pubs that are under pressure are not attracting sufficient custom to be a profitable operation, but because of what is in people’s view of a community, if any of those three pillars is going to close down, people will get exceptionally excited about it and believe that somehow, something must be done—hence the emergence of the ACV procedures.
The second reason people feel so strongly about it is the belief which CAMRA has assiduously fostered—I pay tribute to its campaigning capability because it has been the most enormously successful pressure group—that somewhere in this operation there is a pot of money, that someone is making a lot of money somewhere, and if only it got down to the pub and the pub owner all would be right and the pubs would be happy and we would be in the sunlit uplands once again. The reality is that the sector is under enormous economic and societal pressures. There is not a lot of money in the sector and the idea that somehow pub owners or brewers are making huge profits at the expense of landlords does not tie in with reality. The reality is very different. It is a sector under stupendous strain—and I shall give the Committee three or four quick reasons for that. First, there is exceptionally cheap supermarket alcohol. If noble Lords go to a supermarket on the weekend before a bank holiday weekend, when things are on offer, they can probably buy lager for 60p or 70p a pint. If they go to a pub, they will pay £3 for it. So a lot of people are increasingly buying alcohol in the supermarket and drinking it at home.
The lifestyle arrangements for Britain have changed. The evenings when people used to go to the pub and sit and chat have changed—people have alternative leisure pursuits. As for the food offering, which is an important part of the pub chain world, other restaurants have grown, and the idea of restaurants and different types of eating have become very prevalent. They have had tremendous cost pressures, with council tax and beer duties; this is the third most highly taxed country in terms of beer duty in the EU. Then of course there has been the living wage, which is important when you are using casual labour. There have been legislative changes, with the smoking ban and the drink-driving ban, and new impositions from licensing laws.
Last but not least, population movement has had a dramatic effect on how people use pubs. The company with which I was involved was based in the West Midlands. Members of the Committee will know that the centre of the carpet trade was Kidderminster, and the company with which I was involved used to operate 13 pubs in Kidderminster. Around the turn of the century, the carpet trade collapsed, and now there are three pubs in Kidderminster. The brewer did not close 10 pubs, but people did not use them, which is a pattern that has been repeated across the country in a lot of places. Nothing that the amendments proposed by the noble Lords, Lord Kennedy and Lord Shipley, would do attacks or deals with those really important issues about societal change and cheap alternatives and the way in which our population is moving.
There is another reason why it becomes incredibly personal: many people choose to run a pub as a career change. At the age of 40, 45 or 50, they decide that the rat race is not for them, and they think that this is a way for them to get into a different lifestyle. They see themselves leaning over the bar on a sunny summer’s evening, dispensing pints and homespun philosophy and having a delightful lifestyle. The fact is that it is not like that. Most nights are like tonight, when Leicester City is playing Derby County on the telly and people will stay home to watch it. The pubs will sell a few pints and have to clean up, having made virtually no money at all. So after working these grindingly long hours for a relatively low reward, the husband and wife who have taken it on as an alternative lifestyle will say, “What are we doing this for?”. None of us likes to think that we have made the wrong decision—so instead of saying that they have got it wrong and that it does not work for them, they say that the system does not work for us, and someone let them down. In circumstances where there is a big brewer or pubco as the landlord, they are the easy people to blame. What is exceptionally attractive about the British character is that when David fights Goliath, the British will instinctively back David—and in this case David is the individual pubs.
A thought was expressed in one or two remarks that somehow there was no interest in companies of which I was a director in maintaining pubs—that we sought to close them—but 40% of the beer that we brewed went through our own pub chains. So the idea that we would try to close pubs is to suggest that we would cut off our nose to spite our face, because we would be destroying 40% of half our business. So we were anxious and keen, wherever possible, to ensure that pubs survived and prospered.
This is part of a long-running attempt to believe that there is somehow a magic key for this door. It began with the establishment of CAMRA in the 1970s and 1980s; the idea was that the pubs were closing because there were no new beers—the big brewers dominated the market, and new beers could not get in because the brewers owned the pubs. So we had the beer orders, the idea of which was to split pubs from brewers and thereby open up the market. Did it have the effect we wanted? It led to the emergence of the pubcos, which are really property companies which sell beer and other alcohol that they buy in as part of their raison d’être.
That could not be accepted, so the idea then was that we must find ways to get more new beers into the market, so that people will go into the pubs to try them. We introduced a break in beer duty for those producing 50,000 hectolitres a year or less, so you can sell your beer more cheaply. A lot of craft beers have emerged, which people are drinking, but still the mass of the population goes on drinking the major lagers that noble Lords see advertised on their televisions every evening.
Then, because of that, we decided it must be a problem with the pub operators, so we introduced the breaking of the tie in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act. There was going to be a pubco and pub regulator, which would rebalance the situation, and everything was going to be all right. But we saw in the FT in December that that is not working well enough, and pubs are still closing.
People are chasing a will-o’-the-wisp, thinking that somehow these pubs can be preserved. Of course there are bad occasions and places where people do not behave as they should on either side of the argument, but the truth is that the pub industry is in decline, has been in decline and will continue to be in decline as a sector until we have far fewer pubs than we do currently.
Lastly, many noble Lords who have spoken talked as if people are being bullied by the major brewers, which are seeking to take advantage of the situation. If, as I do, you ever speak on this matter, you receive correspondence from individuals whose sole asset is a pub and who have found they are locked into a situation where they can move neither forward nor back. The pub is no longer viable—the kitchen space is not big enough, the demographics are not right or the car park is not large enough—and they are locked into an asset which is probably both their house and their business, and in which their whole life savings are invested, unable to move.
I urge the Committee and the Minister not to think in terms of David and Goliath. I share the wish to keep pubs open, but to do that, they have to thrive, and for that to happen, people have to use them. Nothing in these amendments is going to make anybody use a pub. An ACV is a perfectly good and satisfactory means for communities to look after themselves, but all another link in the chain and another restriction will do will be to scare off capital and people wishing to invest in the sector. I hope my noble friend will resist these amendments.
My Lords, I declare my local government interests and should also, having regard to what the noble Lord has just said, express an interest in Leicester City, which is my second team after Newcastle United, although it is not doing too well at the moment.
Noble Lords might be surprised to learn that I cannot pretend to be a great frequenter of pubs, but the noble Lord, in his remarks, overlooked one important aspect, which is that increasingly public houses are not just places to drink. For example, I suspect a lot of people in Leicester, Derby and elsewhere tonight will be watching the football match to which he referred on the television in the pub, in company. More particularly, pubs are now very much part of the hospitality industry. Gastropubs are common, and I can cite many examples in the north-east of where all the pubs, both in rural villages and in towns, provide very good eating. It is a relatively new thing, but very much part of the social life of the area and of the appeal to visitors in so many places, and I do not think the noble Lord has really taken that into account. I certainly support the amendment moved by my noble friend.
My Lords, I also support the amendments in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, and my noble friend Lord Shipley. I declare my interest in the register as a member of Sheffield City Council.
I listened particularly to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts. I think he needs to understand that nobody is talking about trying to make it more difficult or easier for pubs to stay open. This is about a sense of fairness in the planning process. A pub, like any other commercial organisation, before it decides to change use for whatever reason, whether it is failing, or as my noble friend Lord Tope said, to make a profit from land, has to go through the planning process and the community has a say. The decision will be made on planning criteria about whether it is right to convert and change the use of a pub.
As the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, said at the start, most businesses do not have this automatic permitted right. There is something particular about a pub, especially with regard to its community value. As a leader of a council, I can tell noble Lords that communities do not usually come out to fight if there is a change in a supermarket or garage. There are two commercial organisations that people fight to protect because of their uniqueness in binding the community together: one is the post office and the other is the pub. Because of a pub’s social asset—not just its commercial asset, to which the noble Lord referred—and the way in which it binds people together and has a significance beyond the commercial element, it is really important that this is looked at by the planning process. It is fair for the community and the planning process to decide whether it is right to change the use of a particular pub.
In my city of Sheffield—noble Lords are welcome to come and have a tipple because the New York Times recently defined it as the “beer capital of Britain”—we have lost 68 pubs since 2011. There is one, the Plough in Crookes, which I think typifies why we need to have a change and why these amendments are important. The pub is at the heart of the community. Sheffield is not just an urban mass; it is made up of communities within an urban setting. That is what most cities and towns are like. The pub in Crookes is the glue that binds and yet, without any reference to the community or any understanding of whether it was viable or not, the pub chain decided to change its use and turn it into a supermarket. The community had no voice; it had no say and had to go through the asset of community value process.
It is interesting that the asset of community value was accepted by the council and now the pub is going through the planning process. However, the issue is that the community should not have to fight to be able to have a say about whether a pub changes; it should be automatically within the planning process. That is all the amendments seek to achieve. They ask for a sense of fairness and for the community to have a voice. Then the normal and natural planning process will take place and a decision will be made on planning grounds about whether it is right or wrong to change the use of that pub.
These amendments are about fairness and communities having a voice, and making sure that good decisions are made on planning grounds. Planning is not just about the commercial use; it is about what binds and makes good communities. Commercial organisations should not have an automatic right to change a community asset when they consider it viable and profitable because changing it into flats or a supermarket would make them more money.
My Lords, briefly, I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. A local village pub gives the opportunity for people to go out for a drink, and possibly a meal, and to walk home rather than having to drive. If you go out for a meal and cannot or should not drink because you have to drive home, it can wreck the evening for at least one member of the party. If you walk home then even if someone has had a little too much, they can be helped quite easily. The local pub is a very useful institution. In the 40 years that I have been in my village, three pubs have closed down and we are now left with two. One provides some form of entertainment at least once if not twice a week throughout the year and the other, as well as being a pub, has a very good restaurant and rooms for people to stay in—so they serve different communities. The village had five pubs in the past because it is on the main route for pilgrims coming from the continent to Canterbury Cathedral. Nowadays, they come in on coaches from Dover and do not use their legs, which perhaps might atrophy in due course. For these reasons, I support this amendment.
My Lords, I had not intended to speak in this debate but I do so in support of the amendment, mainly because I am very fond of pubs. I am a great pub user and always have been—paying great tribute to Adnams bitter in Suffolk is, I think, in order.
Perhaps it is necessary for us to appreciate just how important the pub is in village life. The local post office is too, but we are talking about pubs. In modern terms, you either get that or you do not, but it is absolutely crucial. In my village of Mellis in Suffolk, we have a pub called the Railway Tavern. Many years ago it broke away from the brewery. That was a problem because it had to buy all its alcohol from it, which affected its profitability. That did not work and it was boarded up for a while. It was then bought, but that landlord did not make it work and it was boarded up again. Then the village got together and, with the present landlord, ran it for two to four weeks to get it going—such was the village feeling about the pub. It is now going well and Frank, the present landlord, does an extremely good job. The pub does everything: it has wi-fi, fish and chips regularly on a Friday night and quizzes. It really is the heart of the village.
Noble Lords have referred to the number of village pubs there used to be. We could all talk about our towns and villages that used to have 20 pubs and now have only one. We have reached the stage where this is very serious. Those who feel strongly about the role of the pub in towns and villages—about how crucial they are to village life—must stand up for them. If this amendment will do anything to make it a little more difficult to transform a pub quickly and commercially into something else, I am all for it. I therefore very much support the amendment.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have participated in the debate on Amendments 60 and 61. I also thank those noble Lords who attended the briefing session this morning on the White Paper and I urge others to pick up a copy from the Printed Paper Office. We will put on further sessions on it but as I had undertaken to hold a session before Report, I thought it was important that we did so. I am very grateful to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and the Minister of State, Gavin Barwell, both of whom were there. As I said, we will have more sessions; in the meantime the consultation on those items we are consulting on is open until 2 May.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, and the noble Lords, Lord Cameron and Lord Shipley, for speaking so eloquently on Amendments 60 and 61. I will concentrate first on what we have done and are doing, then look at the substance of the debate and pick up the points made by noble Lords. I do not think we have had this much interest on anything in the Bill, and certainly not since we debated ancient woodlands. These things are clearly central to our well-being and life in our country.
Noble Lords have raised a number of concerns about the loss of valued community pubs. I would therefore first reassure the Committee that we recognise the role that pubs can, and do, play in local communities. They provide valuable local hubs that strengthen community relationships and encourage wider social interaction, as well as contributing to our wider economy. The nature of the pub has changed massively in our lifetime; they are very different now from 20 or 30 years ago, when I think many were still primarily drinking establishments. Those are very much the exception now. It is now not at all unusual for people to go to a pub for a meal, and come out not having had an alcoholic drink. For a party of four or five, one person will perhaps be nominated as driver and others may just have a glass of wine with a meal. We can all see that it is very different from the way it used to be.
The importance of the pub is recognised in paragraph 70 of the National Planning Policy Framework, which requires local planning authorities:
“To deliver the social, recreational and cultural facilities and services the community needs”.
In doing so, it says that those authorities should,
“plan positively for the provision and use of … community facilities (such as … meeting places, sports venues”,
and “public houses”. Before turning to the detail of the amendments, I take this opportunity to set out the important steps we have already taken to support valued community pubs.
First, alongside Power to Change, an independent charitable trust that supports community businesses across England, we are co-funding the “More than a pub” community pub business support programme. This will provide £3.62 million of grants and loans to enable up to 80 communities to buy their pubs between 2016 and 2018. We also recently announced funding of £50,000 to support the organisation Pub is the Hub’s work on community-focused pub-based services. This will help more pubs diversify to provide essential community services, which would otherwise have been lost. As an example, the Codrington Arms in Gloucestershire recently reinstated the local post office and village shop by utilising an outhouse on the premises of the pub, which is to be applauded.
Communities can also use the powers given to them through the community right to bid to list their local pub as an asset of community value. To date—I think the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, has already given this figure—local communities all over England have listed nearly 4,000 assets, of which 2,000 are pubs, so I would say that this has been successful. Views have differed; I think the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, indicated that he was not as impressed by that as others have been. We will continue to listen to evidence on the operation of this legislation and examples of good practice. It would be helpful if those noble Lords who said that the process is complicated or costly, which I do not accept although I do not have evidence to counter it, were able to come up with some evidence that it is costly or difficult—or even that communities are unaware of it. I would be interested in that. Separately, we scrapped the beer and alcohol duty escalators and froze beer duty in Budget 2016, having reduced it in each of the three preceding Budgets.
I would like to respond in more detail to the noble Lords’ amendments. Both Amendment 60 and Amendment 61 seek to remove the permitted development rights allowing a pub to change to a restaurant, financial or professional service or shop, or to be demolished. This would be for all pubs and mean that a planning application would be needed in all cases. Noble Lords will, I am sure, be familiar with the important changes that we made on 6 April 2015. These were precisely to remove permitted development rights from pubs which are valued community assets, so that a decision in those cases would be made at local level. From this date, permitted development rights allowing the change of use or demolition of pubs are removed in respect of pubs and other drinking establishments which the community has demonstrated it values by nominating them as an asset of community value.
Permitted development rights therefore do not apply for as long as the pub is nominated or listed as an asset of community value. This means that a planning application is then required, allowing for local consideration and providing an opportunity for the local community to put forward its views to the planning authority. To guide decisions in these cases, it is important that local planning authorities have relevant policies in place in line with the National Planning Policy Framework.
I therefore urge local communities to come forward and nominate their valued community pubs. The community in Charing did this fairly recently and successfully prevented a change of use of its pub. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, referred to an example in his community, too. I say in passing that there is separate protection for historic buildings. If a pub qualifies on that basis, that is in addition to the normal planning requirements. That would apply to quite a lot of village pubs, although I accept that not all pubs would qualify in that way.
If there are local concerns about the prospect of a pub that is not nominated or listed changing use under permitted development rights, the local planning authority can make an Article 4 direction—the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, mentioned the Wandsworth example. A direction can be made in respect of an individual pub or pubs in an area. We consider that this approach provides valuable protection while avoiding blanket regulation, which would add bureaucracy and costs to all pubs.
Although it is not a declarable interest, I should say that in another life, when I was in the National Assembly for Wales, I was the co-chair of the Cross-Party Group on Beer and the Pub. Before someone trails my biography, finds that and says, “You didn’t mention that”, I mention it now. So I speak with a bit of experience of visiting pubs—mostly in Wales, but not exclusively. There are many thriving pubs that are worthy of protection. When you have to queue at the bar to get a drink or order a meal, that cannot be because they are doing badly. There are, on the other hand, pubs—I can think of many, although of course I will not name them—where you walk in and you know straightaway that it is in trouble. The person behind the bar looks indifferent. The pub does not do food; it may do a bag of crisps, but that is about it. I cannot see why we should seek to protect such pubs. They are often in dreary buildings—it is just the feel of the place.
That said, there are many pubs of which you think, “This is an important, integral part of the community”. I have been in community pubs that do a range of things; there may be a citizens advice bureau, a visiting library or the village shop. When you speak to the people who go there in the evening, you find that some did not go until it started to do all these things. Some people past the retirement age who would not have set foot in a pub when they were younger go there and help with the meals, for example. They just generally like the life that is there. That applies to young people, too. I have seen this. The nature of the pub is changing. Some pubs are, as I said, an integral part of the village. I associate myself with what was said about the closure of a village shop, post office or pub. That often excites interest from the community, because these things are community assets. I understand the point that is being made.
Let me turn to some of the comments that have been made. The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, talked about the vital glue that holds a community together— entrepreneurial flair is needed and engendered in some communities, while there are other communities where that is just not happening. The noble Baroness, Lady Deech, talked about the cement for communities; again, I understand the point that is being made. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, correctly said that the protection as a community asset is only for five years. I find it hard to believe that successful community pubs will not know that they have to reapply. They will be aware of that. After you have made the initial application, it will not be difficult to make the reapplication five years on, if that is still appropriate. My noble friend Lord Horam talked about the historic connection of the Conservative Party with the brewing industry. My noble friend Lord Young has asked me to make it absolutely clear, as I do, that he has no connection with the brewing industry—nor do I, in a financial sense. We now have that on the record.
My noble friend Lord Hodgson spoke with great authority, as he always does, and his comments were thought provoking. I know that he speaks with direct knowledge of this issue. He made some valid points about the economics of this industry. Some pubs will close because they are in the wrong place, are not run effectively or because people do not go to them. The noble Lord, Lord Scriven, echoed those remarks. However, many others which we should value can be protected as community assets. That is absolutely correct. My noble friend Lord Framlingham spoke of his experience in Suffolk. My noble friend Lord Swinfen talked about the importance of being able to walk to a local pub and said that these things were part of the national fabric. I accept that and value the comments that were made.
I am due to meet CAMRA, which I think we universally respect as a great organisation that has made terrific headway and done some very good things, not least in promoting niche beers and ciders, which many of these pubs sell. I would like to speak to its representatives to see whether we can do anything in this area. As I say, I am conscious of the fact that some pubs will close and we cannot do much about that. I get the feeling that noble Lords accept that situation. Some pubs are getting the protection they need but we need to consider whether some others could not be helped, perhaps through publicity or through someone saying, “There is a perfectly valid way to protect this pub. Why don’t you do it?”.
I cannot understand why some councils would not want to make use of this power—perhaps I will discuss that further with the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. If councils are aware of that power and there are pubs worthy of protection, as we all believe, why would they not want to use it? If they have good reasons for not doing so, perhaps we should not interfere. But if there are no good reasons, the actions of a council could well be reflected at election time. As I say, I would like to look at this issue further ahead of Report. Some very good points have been made but in the meantime, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, we have discussed this group of amendments for over an hour, so I feel that we are getting close to “closing time” on it. However, I wish to make a few brief comments. I join the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, in paying tribute to Pub is the Hub. It is a great organisation for the very reason it has kept village pubs going and offering all sorts of other services. That is an excellent initiative. I first saw a pub being used as a corner shop, post office and other things in the Republic of Ireland. Many pubs in Ireland—or bars, as they are called there—do that very successfully.
CAMRA is a great organisation. I am sorry that it appears to have irritated the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, perhaps in a previous life. CAMRA’s website used to boast that its membership was bigger than that of any political party in Britain. It now says that its membership is bigger than all but one, that being the Labour Party. That has involved us in all sorts of other issues that I shall not enter into today. However, I noted that interesting change on CAMRA’s website.
I very much agreed with most of the comments made by many noble Lords on this issue. However, the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, may have misunderstood our amendment. Nothing in it seeks to keep open a failing pub, and noble Lords seemed to support that. A failing pub will close. I accept the point he made about how things have changed. I grew up in south London and when I was a young boy there was a pub on every corner of almost every street in my area. Most have gone. One or two are now hotels and some have been converted into houses or shops. The noble Lord is absolutely right that life has changed in that regard. He was also right about supermarkets. Certainly, on a bank holiday weekend, you cannot get past the beer mountain as you walk in the door. Equally, people have other leisure activities, so certainly pubs have changed. However, I still think that a successful community pub, whether in a city, town or village, which works well deserves our support. There is nothing in the amendment about pubs that are not successful.
A Leicester City v Derby match has been mentioned. I am interested in the result of that match as the winner will get the pleasure of playing Millwall at The Den in the next round of the FA Cup. I know that people will watch that match with interest tonight in pubs all over Lewisham. They will perhaps do so in a traditional pub such as The Rising Sun. However, further down the road from that pub is The Talbot which serves excellent food, so different pubs cater for different uses. It is important to come back to this issue.
As regards the ACV issue, I am sure that when the Minister talks to representatives of CAMRA they will be able to give him examples of councils which, for whatever reason, do not want to use this power or have frustrated local publicity campaigns. I can give him the relevant names. I hope that the Government will consider how they can deal with that as it is an issue.
The other point is about being able to raise finance. If a pub is listed as an asset of community value, and the landlord or the owner wants to raise some finance but finds problems as a result of being listed, that is an unintended consequence. I hope that CAMRA can give examples of that and we can look at how to change it. It cannot be right that listing your local pub could cause the business problems. We need to deal with that as well.
I thank other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, for his response. I look forward to meeting CAMRA and hopefully I can talk to the noble Lord between now and Report. As I said at Second Reading, I fully intend to bring this or a similar amendment back on Report and will be very likely to push it to a vote unless we get some movement from the Government. We have raised some important issues, and as the noble Lord will have seen in today’s Grand Committee, we have support all around the House on this. Given that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
If the noble Lord has information independently of CAMRA ahead of the meeting, that would be useful, to avoid delaying things, as CAMRA might not come with that information. I should also have noted a rare moment of accord—actually not that rare—with the noble Lord, Lord Beecham. Leicester City is my first team, and has been since childhood. I look forward to the occasion, after we beat Derby, when we come to Millwall. Perhaps we might share the experience over a pint of beer on that occasion.
Amendment 60 withdrawn
Amendments 61 to 64 not moved.
64A: After Clause 13, insert the following new Clause—
“Connection between national infrastructure and neighbourhood planning
(1) The National Infrastructure Commission, where appropriate, shall provide advice on national infrastructure projects to local planning authorities, including advice about—(a) how national projects will link with local projects, and(b) how national projects may affect specific neighbourhoods during their construction phase and operation.(2) Local planning authorities must provide any necessary advice on national and local infrastructure projects as requested by neighbourhood plan makers.”
My Lords, I hope that we will be a bit quicker on the next few groups. Amendment 64A, which is in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Beecham, seeks to put into the Bill a clause that sets out clearly a role for the National Infrastructure Commission in providing advice to local planning authorities in respect of how national projects will link with local projects and how the national projects may affect specific neighbourhoods through their construction phase and operation. The National Infrastructure Commission did not of course make this Bill in the end, for whatever reasons, but it is important that we get this clause into the Bill.
The Bill, as we know, gives significant powers to the Secretary of State in respect of planning, and some of us think one or two of these clauses go too far. There can often be a conflict between the local and the national in terms of construction infrastructure. I want to make it clear at this stage that I am not a nimby—I certainly support the construction of projects that are needed to drive the economy forward and are in the national interest—but where national considerations come into play, we need to look at local concerns, local plans and local policies. We need dialogue, advice and support, and my amendment seeks to allow for all those factors.
The amendment also seeks to provide local authorities with a similar obligation to deal with the neighbourhood plan makers. This is a probing amendment which seeks to draw a response from the noble Lord. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have a little concern with the amendment—not with the thrust of where it is trying to go, but the way it is worded and the implications of proposed new subsection (2), which says:
“Local planning authorities must provide any necessary advice on national and local infrastructure projects as requested by neighbourhood plan makers”.
That seems to me to be a little top-down. If they have information, it should be automatically given to those making the neighbourhood plan. To paraphrase the words of a former American Defense Minister, sometimes there are the known knowns, and sometimes unknown knowns. I am sure this is not the intention of the amendment, but it needs to be a bit stronger in terms of automatically giving the right to the neighbourhood plan makers rather than them having to ask for it. I hope that those who tabled the amendment will reflect on that.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, for raising this matter, and the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, for his intervention on Amendment 64A. Noble Lords have raised a valid issue. Large-scale national infrastructure projects are, of course, crucial to the economic health of the nation. We must always recognise that national infrastructure will have impacts, positive and sometimes negative, on local areas. Our existing legislation provides planning policy and guidance together with any endorsed recommendations made by the National Infrastructure Commission and provides the means for ensuring that local planning authorities and neighbourhood planning groups are aware of national infrastructure projects in their area.
The importance of national infrastructure is already recognised at the local level. The National Planning Policy Framework in paragraph 21 and planning guidance provide that the local planning authorities should identify the need for strategic infrastructure in the policies in their local plans. Once adopted, local plans form part of the statutory development plan for the area, which is the starting point for planning decisions. Further to this, paragraph 162 of the framework makes it clear that local planning authorities consider and take account of the need for strategic infrastructure, including nationally significant infrastructure within their areas.
On 24 January, the Government published the National Infrastructure Commission framework document that sets out how the commission will operate, making it clear that the commission has operational independence to make recommendations as it sees fit, and on the basis of robust evidence will advise government on all sectors of economic infrastructure, operating independently and at arm’s length from government. This includes discretion to engage with stakeholders as it sees fit, and to address commission recommendations to the most appropriate bodies, including local planning authorities.
I value, as do the Government, the support of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, as chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, and of my noble friend Lord Heseltine as a commissioner in helping to set out national infrastructure policies. Many of the infrastructure projects that may be proposed by the National Infrastructure Commission will in due course need to seek development consent as nationally significant infrastructure projects under the Planning Act 2008. This planning regime already requires significant local engagement and consultation; applicants are required to engage and consult local communities and local authorities from the outset, with local authorities having a role in assessing the adequacy of that consultation. Once an application for consent has been accepted, it will proceed to an examination. Anyone can make representations to the examining authority on any aspect of the project; local authorities are also able to submit local impact reports that set out the impact of the proposed infrastructure in their local area.
I hope that this reassures noble Lords that sufficient mechanisms are in place so that local authorities and local communities will be able to engage with national infrastructure projects, both when they are being considered by the National Infrastructure Commission and when they come forward through the planning process. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and my noble friend Lord Heseltine are very happy with how things are operating. As I say, they are at arm’s length; they are not an arm of the Government.
I turn to the specific part of the amendment on advice to those preparing a neighbourhood plan. As I explained during our debates last week, local planning authorities have an existing duty to advise or assist neighbourhood planning groups. Clause 5 will ensure that authorities must set out the support that they can provide in a more transparent way. When a national infrastructure project is relevant to a neighbourhood planning group, we would expect the local planning authority to advise the group accordingly.
I appreciate that this is a probing amendment, but I say to noble Lords who have participated in the debate and more widely that we do not think that this is the way forward, and I urge the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, to withdraw his amendment.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, for his contribution to the debate. I fully accept the points that he makes; he said what I want to do here but more succinctly and clearly. I also thank the Minister for his response to the amendment. I shall reflect on what he says and may or may not bring the amendment back on Report. I see the point that he makes. We are raising the issue of how the National Infrastructure Commission deals with local areas and planning authorities. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 64A withdrawn.
Clause 14: Power to take temporary possession of land
65: Clause 14, page 13, line 13, leave out subsection (1) and insert—
“(1) Subsection (2) applies where a person (an “acquiring authority”) could be authorised to acquire land compulsorily under another enactment or under subordinate legislation.”
I shall speak also to Amendments 68, 72 and 73. This group is the first of several about the procedures to be followed by an authority taking temporary possession of land. Current legislation permits only permanent compulsory purchase. As an example of what I think the Government are intending, we could take the building of a bridge. There may be a permanent compulsory purchase order for the bridge itself with a temporary compulsory purchase order for the building compound to store equipment and materials for the period of the building works.
This group of amendments relates to Clause 14. Other groups will follow which address further issues around temporary possession. For the avoidance of doubt, I state that all the amendments in my name are probing amendments to help to improve and clarify the meaning of the Bill. I thank the Compulsory Purchase Association for its advice on what I shall say on this group and on later groups.
Clause 14 sets out the power for acquiring authorities to take temporary possession of land if they could otherwise be authorised to acquire interest in that land permanently, but it could also be an opportunity to codify various statutory instruments authorising temporary possession, and it may prove beneficial for powers of temporary possession—for example, for post-construction inspection and correction of minor defects—to be incorporated. Can the Minister confirm whether codification that would provide a single process for temporary possession might be introduced? Amendment 65 substitutes a new subsection which makes it clear that a single code is envisaged.
There are several government amendments in this group, but at present I think that the wording of the four amendments in my name in this group is more suited to the ambition of the proposed change. Amendment 68 contains words which may not be needed, and I would appreciate the Minister’s guidance on that. Amendment 72 clarifies and emphasises that temporary possession of land need not be taken compulsorily but can be by agreement. Perhaps that needs to be emphasised. Amendment 73 explains the rights and responsibilities of an acquiring authority and proposed paragraph (c) protects the rights of tenants, particularly where a tenant maintains an intention to resume occupation when the acquiring authority ceases temporary possession. I am very happy to listen to the Minister’s response and to look at this again when the government amendments have been incorporated in the Bill, and so I am happy to wait for Report before speaking further on this group. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 69 and 75. They are pretty much self-explanatory. The former simply requires that guidance should be provided when there are temporary rights that can be granted at the same time over the same piece of land. Amendment 75 is rather more important because it provides that the section should not come into force until guidance has been published in relation to it. I assume that is the Government’s intention, and I hope they will accept that amendment.
My Lords, the co-pilot is back in charge. I thank the noble Lords, Lord Shipley and Lord Beecham, for tabling their amendments to Clause 14. The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, made it clear that his amendment was probing. Before I move on to discuss these and the government amendments to this clause, it may be helpful if I begin with a brief description of Clauses 14 to 26, which introduce the new temporary possession power.
All acquiring authorities may need to enter and use land for a temporary period. For example, they may require land to store materials for a scheme or to provide access to a construction site, as the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, explained. The problem is that, currently, only certain acquiring authorities have temporary possession powers—for example, under special Acts which are needed for very large schemes such as the Crossrail Act 2008. Crucially, compulsory purchase orders cannot authorise temporary possession. There is no good reason for this difference, and it is unfair to those who do not have the powers. Clauses 14 to 26 seek to create a level playing field by giving all acquiring authorities the same power to take temporary possession of land. It may also be in the interests of those on the receiving end of a CPO to have the possibility of being deprived of their land temporarily rather than permanently.
In giving acquiring authorities this power, we shall ensure that those whose land is taken are fairly compensated and that there are appropriate safeguards in place to protect their interests. That is set out in Clause 19. For example, temporary possession will have to be authorised in the same way as compulsory acquisition. Also, in certain circumstances, owners and occupiers will be able to require the acquiring authority to acquire the land permanently instead of occupying it on a temporary basis, if that is what they want.
Government Amendments 66, 67, 70, 71, 74 with Amendments 105 and 106 and amendments to other clauses, which I shall deal with later, remove the requirement for the temporary possession to be linked directly to a scheme for the acquisition of other land either by compulsion or agreement. Decoupling is the word that the professionals have been using. The reason for this change is that there may be situations where an acquiring authority needs to take only temporary possession of land. For example, an acquiring authority may need temporary possession of land for a contractor’s compound when they have been able to buy all the land needed for their scheme by agreement, or they may need access to land temporarily to maintain a highway. That is the impact of some of our amendments.
Government Amendments 105 and 106 are consequential on Amendment 66; they simply remove definitions of terms that are no longer required. Non-government Amendments 65, 68 and 72, which were tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, also seek to remove the requirement for the temporary possession to be directly linked to a compulsory acquisition scheme. I hope, therefore, that he will agree they are unnecessary in the light of the Government’s amendments.
On Amendment 69, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Beecham and Lord Kennedy, I agree with the noble Lord that we need to ensure that the interests of leaseholders are adequately protected in introducing this new power. However, I believe that that amendment is not needed, because we have already built in a safeguard which would deliver the same outcome that is requested, but in a more flexible way.
Amendment 69 would restrict the temporary possession power so that it could never be used when a leasehold interest would have less than a year to run after the land was handed back, even if that was the preference of the leaseholder, the freeholder and the acquiring authority. It sounds counterintuitive to prohibit that. The effect of this amendment would be that, if the land was essential to the delivery of the scheme, the acquiring authority would instead be driven to exercising the more draconian power of compulsory acquisition of the land permanently. However, as I have said, we have already built in a safeguard for leaseholders, which I believe will achieve the outcome that noble Lords are seeking. The safeguard is in Clause 17(3), which allows leaseholders to serve a counternotice preventing the acquiring authority taking temporary possession of the land. On receipt of the counternotice, if the land is essential to the delivery of the scheme, the acquiring authority can proceed as if the land were subject to compulsory acquisition and take the land permanently. In these circumstances, the leaseholder would, of course, be compensated for both the value of his lease and losses caused by reason of being disturbed from possession of the land taken. I believe this is a neater solution, which gives leaseholders the flexibility to decide what is right for them.
Amendment 73, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, seeks to clarify what will happen when a tenant’s land is subject to compulsory purchase. As government Amendment 103 seeks to do the same thing—although our approach is different—I will speak to both amendments together. Government Amendment 103 provides that the terms and obligations under the tenancy, with the exception of the payment of rent and the length of the tenancy, will be disapplied to the extent that the temporary possession prevents reasonable compliance with them. Any expenditure which a leaseholder incurs as a result of the temporary possession would be claimed back from the acquiring authority. The noble Lord’s amendment, in contrast, provides that all the terms and obligations are unenforceable for the period of temporary possession.
The reason we have disapplied the terms and obligations only to the extent that the temporary possession prevents reasonable compliance with them is that there may be circumstances in which only a small part of land subject to a lease is also subject to temporary possession. In these situations, there may be no easy way in which to separate out the terms that relate to the land subject to temporary possession from terms that relate to the remainder of the land.
The second point of difference is the exclusion of the payment of rent and the length of the tenancy. We have done this because, again, where only a small part of a tenant’s land is required, making these terms unenforceable could result in a tenant having to pay an uncertain portion of the rent for the land not subject to temporary possession. The loss that would be compensated is not the rent payable for the existing lease, but any rent payable for alternative premises, as that is the loss that has been caused. Under the Government’s amendment, responsibility for paying the rent for the land under temporary possession remains with the tenant. However, the tenant will be entitled to claim compensation from the acquiring authority in relation to any expenditure which a leaseholder reasonably incurs as a result of the temporary possession.
The other point of difference with the noble Lord’s amendment is to do with proposed subsections (4) to (6), which make provision with regards to those who have protected tenancies under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954. Occupiers with such a protected tenancy have a right to apply for the grant of a new tenancy, provided they remain in occupation. However, if their land is subject to temporary possession they will no longer be in occupation and will lose this right. Government Amendment 103 and non-government Amendment 73 both seek to preserve this right to renew the tenancy. However, in doing so, the government amendment imposes a requirement for the tenant to confirm in writing to both the landlord and the acquiring authority that they intend to resume occupation after temporary possession. I think it is clear that both amendments are after the same thing: greater clarity for tenants and landlords as to what happens during the temporary possession period, including the treatment of rent.
Finally, in this group, I will respond to Amendment 75, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham. The noble Lord made a very valid point, which I entirely agree with, that where the Government intend to provide guidance on the use of a new power, that guidance should be available by the time the provisions come into force. That is, of course, the Government’s intention. The particular element of the temporary possession provisions that the noble Lord has identified is in Clause 15(3)(a), which will allow both temporary possession and compulsory acquisition powers to be obtained concurrently for the same piece of land.
Although this so-called doubling-up of temporary and permanent powers can be authorised, it will not give acquiring authorities carte blanche to double up in all cases. It would not be fair to claimants if there was not a very good reason for an acquiring authority to make an order which included this doubling-up. It would not be wise to anticipate precisely what might be in the guidance at this point, but as I have just said, there would be a high bar to justify doubling-up. The most likely circumstances would be linear transport projects where the final design is not complete by the time compulsory powers are obtained. We know of a handful of orders in the last dozen years where this has been authorised, such as the Docklands Light Railway and the Nottingham tramway.
As for compulsory acquisitions, each case would be considered on its individual merits at a public inquiry before an inspector, and considered by the relevant Secretary of State, before a decision was made whether doubling-up was justified in the public interest.
I hope that I have been able to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, with a firm undertaking that the Government will be seeking views on the draft guidance and will publish it before these provisions come into force. I apologise to the Committee for a somewhat lengthy oration on these amendments, but there are quite a few of them. When the time comes, I will move government Amendments 66, 67, 70, 71, 74, 103, 105 and 106. In the meantime, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw Amendment 65 and for noble Lords not to press Amendments 68, 69, 72, 73 and 75.
I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. I draw his attention to two facts. First, the Government have brought 34 amendments for consideration this afternoon, this Bill having passed in the other place. Secondly, some of them were tabled quite late, and after I tabled my amendment. I understand the need for all this to be brought together for Report, so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 65 withdrawn.
Amendments 66 and 67
66: Clause 14, page 13, line 14, leave out paragraphs (a) and (b) and insert “a person (an “acquiring authority”)—
(a) has a power conferred by an Act to acquire land compulsorily (with or without authorisation from another person), or(b) is or has been, at any time, otherwise authorised to acquire land compulsorily.”
67: Clause 14, page 13, line 18, leave out from “may” to end of line 20 and insert “, for purposes connected with the purposes for which it could acquire land compulsorily, take temporary possession of land—
(a) by agreement, or(b) compulsorily, if authorised to do so in accordance with section 15 .”
I must advise the Grand Committee that if Amendment 67 is agreed to, I will not be able to call Amendment 68 due to pre-emption.
Amendments 66 and 67 agreed.
Amendments 68 and 69 not moved.
Amendments 70 and 71
70: Clause 14, page 13, line 21, leave out “enactment” and insert “Act”
71: Clause 14, page 13, line 24, leave out subsection (4)
Amendments 70 and 71 agreed.
Amendments 72 and 73 not moved.
74: Clause 14, page 13, line 31, leave out subsection (6)
Amendment 74 agreed.
75: Clause 14, page 13, line 31, at end insert—
“( ) This section may not come into force until the Secretary of State has consulted on and published guidance in relation to section 15(3)(a).”
Amendment 75 not moved.
Clause 14, as amended, agreed.
Clause 15: Procedure for authorising temporary possession etc
76: Clause 15, page 13, line 35, leave out “same”
My Lords, we now move to the second group of amendments on temporary possession. Clause 15 deals with the procedure for authorising temporary possession of land, requiring it to be authorised by the type of authorising instrument that would be required for the permanent acquisition of land—for example, a compulsory purchase order.
Government Amendments 76 to 79 remove redundant wording in Clause 15(2) as a consequence of government Amendment 66 to Clause 14(1). Government Amendments 80 to 82 amend Clause 15(3) to clarify that the same land may be subject to both temporary possession and compulsory acquisition powers concurrently. We debated the need for guidance relating to the clause a moment ago on Amendment 75, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, so I shall not repeat what I said about that. Government Amendments 83 to 85 and 87—the last also, happily, endorsed by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley—all remove redundant provisions in the context of the previous amendments. For example, Amendment 87 refers to “relevant land”: this is no longer needed because the concept of relevant land is removed by Amendment 66. I beg to move.
My Lords, Amendment 86 is in my name, and I want to ask the Minister a question. Clause 15 sets out the procedures for authorising temporary possession. It is not clear from the clause whether it is intended that there be a time limit for the life of a temporary power—for instance, three years for service of a notice post the confirmation of a compulsory purchase order. Do the three-year and five-year standards for compulsory purchase orders in statutory instruments apply, and does the power apply to post-construction maintenance during a defect period?
The Government’s amendments to remove superfluous words are helpful. I am not sure whether Amendment 87, which deletes subsection (7), is right—I am having second thoughts about it. I think it is right, but as the relevant land is the land required for the scheme, it seems appropriate to make it clear that temporary possession can be taken after action to secure the land required permanently. I would be grateful for the Minister’s comment.
I may need to write to the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, about the specific issue he has raised on Amendment 87 and subsection (7) relating to relevant land. As I said, this is no longer needed, because the concept of relevant land has been removed by Amendment 66, with which we have just dealt. However, I will make some inquiries following his representations.
The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, has proposed in Amendment 86 that Clause 15(6) should be omitted. This is intended to be helpful clarification. It confirms that the authorising instrument—for example, a CPO—does not need to include the dates for any particular period of temporary possession. It would be difficult for an acquiring authority to do that, because it would not know the date of the confirmation at that stage. The cross-reference to Clause 16 points users to the provisions which specify the dates of temporary possession. The Government believe that there is no need for users of this legislation to be deprived of this clarification. He also asked a question about whether CPO powers would expire after a certain period. Again, I will write to him about this when I have made some inquiries. In the meantime, I hope that he will not move his Amendment 86.
Amendment 76 agreed.
Amendments 77 to 85
77: Clause 15, page 13, line 36, leave out “as is or would be”
78: Clause 15, page 13, line 37, leave out “for the purposes of the scheme”
79: Clause 15, page 13, line 37, leave out “that section” and insert “section 14(1)”
80: Clause 15, page 14, line 1, after “possession” insert “of land”
81: Clause 15, page 14, line 2, after “acquisition” insert—
“( ) if it authorises the compulsory acquisition of land, may authorise temporary possession of the same or other land,”
82: Clause 15, page 14, line 3, leave out “does so” and insert “makes provision relating to temporary possession”
83: Clause 15, page 14, line 6, leave out subsection (4)
84: Clause 15, page 14, line 11, leave out paragraph (c)
85: Clause 15, page 14, line 13, leave out paragraph (d)
Amendments 77 to 85 agreed.
Amendment 86 not moved.
87: Clause 15, page 14, line 18, leave out subsection (7)
Amendment 87 agreed.
Clause 15, as amended, agreed.
Clause 16: Notice requirements
88: Clause 16, page 14, line 36, after “authority” insert “may serve one or more notices under this section and”
My Lords, I am aware that I have tabled a number of amendments to this section of the Bill. I am also aware that some detailed discussion has taken place outside the Chamber. I am generally content that we are moving in the right direction and do not intend to delay the Committee for long.
We welcome the statutory framework for dealing with temporary possession. Amendment 88 seeks to make it clear that an acquiring authority may serve one or more notices under the clause. I was concerned that that was not very clear from where we stand at the moment. I would like to hear a response from the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, in respect of this amendment. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 89, 91, 92, 93 and 94 in my name. These five amendments relate to Clause 17, which makes provision for a person affected by temporary possession to serve a counternotice to limit the total period which the temporary possession can last to 12 months in the case of a dwelling and six years in any other case. Leaseholders can also serve a counternotice providing that the acquiring authority may not take temporary possession. Having received the counternotice the acquiring authority must decide whether to accept it, withdraw the notice or proceed to take the land permanently.
As drafted, Clause 17 seems unnecessarily complex. The hope is that the Government might be able to simplify it without losing any of its statutory force. Regarding Amendment 89, Clause 17 applies wherever an acquiring authority gives notice of intended entry on to land for a temporary period to a person who is either the freeholder of the land affected or a leasehold owner. The clauses that follow seem to have a different counternotice procedure, depending on whether it is a freeholder or a leaseholder. So in connection with Amendment 89, is there a need to distinguish between leaseholders and freeholders? This amendment and the consequential amendments seek to avoid that and therefore to simplify the clause.
Amendment 91 refers to Clause 17(3), which allows a leaseholder to give the acquiring authority a counternotice to prevent it taking temporary possession of the land. It appears that this right is not available to freeholders, who can serve only a counternotice limiting the period of temporary possession. Surely, this right should be available to freeholders. This amendment therefore seeks to clarify the matter by stating:
“The owner may give the acquiring authority a counter-notice which provides that the authority may not take temporary possession of the owner’s interest”.
We then have consequential Amendments 92, 93 and 94. Clause 17(10) states that nothing in that clause,
“prevents an acquiring authority acquiring land compulsorily after accepting a counter-notice or withdrawing a notice of intended entry”.
My question is: should a permanent acquisition be available for temporary land unless a counternotice has been served requiring a permanent rather than temporary acquisition? Clause 17(8) is relevant in this respect. Amendment 94 would therefore leave out lines 38 to 40 on page 15. The concern is that landowners could potentially face a period of six years of temporary possession with the acquiring authority then deciding to acquire the land permanently. In the interests of fairness, the land should surely have been acquired permanently in the beginning. Scheme promoters should know how they wish to use the land and whether it needs to be permanently acquired from the outset.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, for tabling his Amendment 88. I appreciate that his aim in doing so was to make things clearer, an ambition which I fully support. However, on this occasion I do not think that an amendment is necessary because subsection (7) provides that Clause 16 must be complied with,
“in relation to each subsequent period of temporary possession”.
That makes it clear that acquiring authorities can serve more than one notice. Having said that, this is the sort of thing that could usefully be covered in guidance. We will update our compulsory purchase guidance in light of the reforms in the Bill, and in the light of what the noble Lord has said, I will ask for this matter to be looked at again.
Amendments 89 and 91 to 93 deal with the counternotice provisions in Clause 17. These provisions are an improvement on the current temporary possession regimes, which have no counternotice procedure in them. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, for tabling his amendments. No one would be keener than I to simplify all this, if it were possible so to do. I doubt whether it would be realistic wholly to redraft this clause between now and Report but I endorse his sense of direction. He is quite right to say that there is a difference between the treatment of leaseholders and that of freeholders. This is because the Government believe that there could be a greater impact on leaseholders than freeholders when their land is subject to temporary possession, as the leaseholder may be left with a useless lease at the end of the temporary possession period—for example, when there is only a short period left to run on the lease. We considered this in debate on Amendment 69.
Clause 17(3) affords leaseholders additional protections in these circumstances by giving them the option to serve a counternotice, as the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, said, providing that an acquiring authority cannot take temporary possession of their land at all. However, no such issues arise for freeholders. The justification for the temporary possession of the land will have been carefully considered on its individual merits at a public local inquiry before an independent inspector and confirmed only where it is in the public interest.
The Government do not therefore consider it right for a freeholder to attempt subsequently to overturn the confirming authority’s decision by being able to serve a counternotice providing that the acquiring authority may not take temporary possession of the land, which would be the impact of the noble Lord’s amendment. Allowing freeholders to do so could force acquiring authorities down the more draconian route of permanent acquisition, resulting in more land than is necessary or desirable being acquired by compulsion. If that happened, the land would be surplus to requirements after the completion of the scheme and the acquiring authority might be obliged to offer it back to the original owner.
I appreciate why the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, tabled Amendment 94 and I agree that in the vast majority of cases, the acquiring authority should know exactly for how long it will need temporary possession of the land and work within those constraints. However, there will always be exceptions and the Government consider that there is a need for flexibility. For example, an acquiring authority may have a scheme to deliver a new road and temporarily need some land for storing the construction materials. The authority may accept a counternotice on the basis that, allowing for foreseeable delays, this should be sufficient time to deliver the purpose for which temporary possession is required.
However, perhaps something unforeseen happens towards the end of that period—flooding, for example—which delays the scheme. The acquiring authority could then be left with a half-finished road if it is at the limit of the temporary possession which has been authorised. In those circumstances, the Government believe that there should be flexibility to acquire the land by compulsion. To answer the noble Lord’s question, in such circumstances the acquiring authority would need to proceed by making a new authorising instrument, such as a compulsory purchase order. This would have to be authorised separately; the acquiring authority could not just change its mind and opt to proceed as if the land were subject to compulsory acquisition under Clause 17(5). I hope that gives the noble Lord the assurance he is looking for.
Finally, I do not think that Amendment 90, regarding a limit of three years rather than six, was spoken to. I assume that the matter does not unduly disturb noble Lords, so I will not read out my copious briefing on it.
I am sorry for doing a disservice to the noble Lord.
Amendment 90, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Beecham and Lord Kennedy, seeks to limit the period of temporary possession of land not occupied by dwellings to three years rather than the six years proposed in Clause 17(2). It is a matter of judgment whether one draws the line at three, six or nine years. The limit of six years is designed to give those affected greater certainty on the total period that non-dwelling land can be subject to temporary possession. Restricting the period to three years, as suggested, would limit the usefulness of this new power, as the lower the upper limit, the more likely it is that an acquiring authority would, on a cautionary basis, decide to take the more draconian and unnecessary route of compulsory, permanent land acquisition instead.
As I said, there needs to be a balance between giving acquiring authorities the power they need to deliver their schemes and ensuring that the interests of those whose land is taken are protected. We consider that an upper limit of six years strikes the right balance. It is an upper limit and, of course, in many cases temporary possession will be for far less time and the issue will not arise. Where possession will need to be for infinitely longer, acquiring authorities might go for compulsory acquisition in the first instance. I assure noble Lords that we can and will keep this under review as the new power begins to take effect. The regulation-making power in Clause 24 will allow the Government to make changes if required. With those assurances and explanations—and with apologies for trying to take a short cut—I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his response in respect of Amendment 88. He is entirely correct that the intent of our amendment is just to get clarity as we debate the legislation. With compulsory purchase, I am conscious that there is the risk of lawyers getting involved at a later date and arguing about what something does or does not mean—although I know my noble friend is of course a lawyer, and I would not wish to deprive him of any work. I may be reading it incorrectly but Clause 16(7) appears to refer just to the one, single case. All my amendment sought was to add that you can have more than one. I may well be wrong about this, and the Bill may be perfectly correct, but I would not mind if the noble Lord and his officials looked at it once more before we get to Report. It may well be that guidance is all we need, but we are trying to get absolute clarity so that we do not get any problems in the future on this. Other than that, we are in complete agreement on this clause as it stands.
Amendment 88 withdrawn.
Clause 16 agreed.
Clause 17: Counter-notice
Amendments 89 to 94 not moved.
Clause 17 agreed.
Clause 18 agreed.
Clause 19: Compensation
95: Clause 19, page 16, line 8, leave out “injury the claimant sustains as a result” and insert “damage the claimant sustains as a result of the temporary possession of the land”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 95, I will also speak to Amendments 96, 97 and 102. Clause 19 makes provision in respect of the payment of compensation to those who suffer loss or injury as a result of the exercise of powers of temporary possession, but there are concerns about a number of subsections in the clause. Amendment 95 addresses Clause 19(2), which provides a person—the “claimant”—with an entitlement to compensation in respect of,
“any loss or injury the claimant sustains as a result”.
I have two points here. First, would it not be better to replace “injury” with “damage”? Is there a legal reason why the word injury is used? Damage is of course more wide-ranging. Secondly, should the subsection be redrafted to make it clear that the loss or damage—or perhaps injury—must have been sustained as a result of the temporary possession of the land? The amendment would bring the drafting into line with the usual form adopted in clauses relating to compensation for the temporary possession of land, which typically state that the loss, injury or damage must have resulted from the exercise of the powers—I refer in particular to the Crossrail Act 2008. In addition, are those subsections still needed, given that other amendments are being proposed?
Amendment 97 refers to Clause 19(7), which is intended to clarify that, for the purposes of the statutory limitation period, time will not begin to run until the expiry of the last day of the temporary possession period. I understand that the Bill originally sought to achieve this objective by stating that a “claim for compensation” would “accrue on the last day of the temporary possession period”. The Compulsory Purchase Association’s view is that the original drafting would have caused problems, but that the revised drafting is not complete. The original drafting would have left claimants exposed to a potential argument that, because the claim was stated not to accrue until that time for the purposes of Section 9 of the Limitation Act 1980, they also had no cause of action enabling them to claim for compensation or refer the matter to a tribunal at any earlier time. Thus, in cases where temporary possession is to last a number of years, it could result in claimants having to bear losses without compensation for a number of years, which seems unfair.
The government amendment is intended to address that problem, but it may still permit an argument that, if the cause of action is to be treated as accruing on the last day of the temporary possession period for the purposes of the Limitation Act, notwithstanding that it would otherwise be regarded as accruing before or during the temporary possession period, the cause of action should also be regarded as accruing at that later time for other purposes, including the making of a claim or reference.
The advice that I have received is that an addition should be made to the subsection to confirm that the deemed accrual applies for the purpose of the Limitation Act alone. As such, I am advised that my drafting for Clause 19(7) helps to avoid doubt. The amendment states:
“for all other purposes a claim will accrue as the possible damages suffered as a claimant is not precluded from making a claim pursuant to subsection (2) prior to the last day of that period”.
I understand the complexity of this, and that the Minister may want to respond in writing; the 34 government amendments this afternoon reveal that this is a complex matter. I am not necessarily looking to the Minister to reply to this now. I just hope that before we get to Report, the matter can be clarified so that we have a Bill that is clear in its meaning and will not end up being challenged in the courts. I beg to move.
My Lords, speaking as a lawyer, although happily not practising, I see no need to amend the term “injury” to “damage”. Legally, injury embraces damage of all kinds. I would not go to extremes to defend the Government on this or any other occasion, but if the Minister felt disinclined to accept the amendment, I would not dissent from his judgment.
I am grateful for this growing cross-party alliance on how to deal with one of the amendments. I shall deal with as much as I can in writing, but some government amendments are tucked into this group which I need to address.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, for tabling his amendments, which, as he said, deal with compensation for temporary possession. Clause 19 provides that claimants will be entitled to compensation for any loss or injury which they sustain as a result of the temporary possession. Where the claimant is operating a trade or business on the land, they will be entitled to compensation for disturbance of that trade or business.
I turn to Amendment 95, for which the noble Lord has explained his reasons. I think this comes down to a difference in approach to drafting. The Government have used the term “loss or injury” instead of “loss or damage”, as the noble Lord has suggested. Both terms have been used previously. In this instance, the Government have opted to follow the precedent of Section 20 of the Compulsory Purchase Act 1965.
The important point is that both formulations have the same meaning. I am reinforced in my view by the recent intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham.
On the second part of this amendment, adding,
“as a result of the temporary possession of the land”,
is unnecessary because subsection (1) makes the same point.
The noble Lord proposes deleting subsections (3) to (6) of Clause 19. I listened to what he said and will certainly write to him. I will ask my officials to discuss this matter further with the Compulsory Purchase Association, as the Government’s aim is to ensure fair compensation for those whose land is taken.
Amendment 97 deals with subsection (7), as do government Amendments 98, 99 and 100, so I can deal with them briefly at the same time. Clause 19(7) is a safeguard to ensure that claimants do not run out of time for submitting a claim for compensation if the temporary possession is for a lengthy period. It provides that the start of the statutory six-year time limit under the Limitation Act 1980 for submitting a claim runs from the end of the temporary possession period rather than the start. That is in the interest of the claimant. The Government’s amendments do not alter this. They are simply intended to make the position clearer. The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, asked about the position of somebody who was out of pocket for a prolonged period. The answer to that issue is the advance payment mechanism under Clause 20. This will ensure that claimants are not out of pocket for an unacceptable length of time.
Amendments 101 and 102 deal with the same subject. Government Amendment 101 makes clear that interest will accrue for each separate head of claim from the day after the last day on which that particular loss or injury occurs. This is fairer to claimants than treating all loss and injury as a whole. Amendment 102, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, would mean that claimants could be entitled to interest on outstanding payments of compensation for losses that had not yet been incurred. In our view, that would be unfair to acquiring authorities, but I accept with alacrity his suggestion that I should pursue this matter further with him in correspondence.
Amendment 95 withdrawn.
Amendments 96 and 97 not moved.
Amendments 98 to 100
98: Clause 19, page 16, line 29, leave out “claim” and insert “cause of action”
99: Clause 19, page 16, line 30, leave out “in relation to” and insert “which, apart from this subsection, would accrue before or during”
100: Clause 19, page 16, line 31, leave out “accrues” and insert “is to be treated as accruing”
Amendments 98 to 100 agreed.
I must advise the Grand Committee that if Amendment 101 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment 102 due to pre-emption.
101: Clause 19, page 16, line 33, leave out from “section” to end of line 35 and insert “in relation to a particular head of loss or injury carries interest from the day after the last day on which that loss or injury occurs.”
Amendment 101 agreed.
Amendment 102 not moved.
Clause 19, as amended, agreed.
Clauses 20 to 23 agreed.
103: After Clause 23, insert the following new Clause—
“Impact of temporary possession on tenancies etc
(1) Subsection (2) applies where an acquiring authority takes temporary possession under section 14(2) of land subject to a tenancy.(2) A person is not to be treated as being in breach of—(a) any term of the tenancy, or(b) any other obligation associated with the tenancy or the land subject to temporary possession,to the extent that the person cannot reasonably comply with the term or other obligation as a result of the temporary possession.(3) Subsection (2) does not affect terms or obligations about—(a) the length of the tenancy, or(b) the payment of rent.(4) Subsection (5) applies where—(a) an acquiring authority takes temporary possession of land subject to a tenancy to which Part 2 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 (security of tenure for business tenants) applies immediately before the period of temporary possession,(b) the tenancy expires during the period of temporary possession, and(c) prior to the period of temporary possession the tenant notifies in writing both the acquiring authority and the landlord that the tenant intends to resume occupation of the land after the period of temporary possession.(5) For the purposes of Part 2 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 the tenant is to be deemed to continue to occupy the land in accordance with the tenancy mentioned in subsection (4)(b), and any tenancy which succeeds that tenancy, despite the period of temporary possession.(6) But if the tenant notifies in writing both the acquiring authority and the landlord that the tenant no longer intends to resume occupation of the land after the period of temporary possession subsection (5) ceases to apply.(7) In this section, “tenancy” includes a sub-tenancy.”
Amendment 103 agreed.
Clause 24: Supplementary provisions
104: Clause 24, page 20, line 29, at end insert—
“(2A) No regulations may be made under subsection (1) which have the effect of modifying any procedures that apply specifically to the acquisition of land belonging to the National Trust and held by the Trust inalienably.(2B) In subsection (2A), “held inalienably”, in relation to land belonging to the National Trust, means that the land is inalienable under section 21 of the National Trust Act 1907 or section 8 of the National Trust Act 1939.”
My Lords, Amendment 104 stands in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, who is no longer able to be in her place. It aims to preserve Parliament’s current role as the ultimate decision-maker on whether it is appropriate for National Trust inalienable land to be compulsorily purchased for a temporary period against the judgment of the trust.
As currently drafted, Clause 24 is sufficiently broad to allow, in the case of temporary compulsory possession, for the modification of current procedures regarding National Trust inalienable land.
The Government have shown already that they recognise the need for special provisions to retain protection for National Trust land. Following the Bill’s publication, the Government’s policy paper issued in December proposed that such land could be temporarily possessed under the new power only if the confirming authority considered that there would not be serious detriment to the inalienable land in question. However, the Government’s proposals would not provide an equivalent level of protection for National Trust inalienable land as is currently the case and subsequent regulations may further reduce the protection of inalienable land held for the benefit of the nation.
Because National Trust land has been declared inalienable, it is very likely to have heritage interest or natural beauty in its own right. As noble Lords might be interested to note given earlier discussion, it might also be ancient woodland or a significant habitat. The land might contribute to or enhance neighbouring land of historic interest or natural beauty—for example, preserving the setting of a historic property and its parkland.
The trust does not obstruct development by unreasonably opposing appropriate acquisition, but clearly seems to be looking to work proactively in partnership with scheme promoters to find solutions which enable schemes to go ahead as sympathetically as possible. I am well aware of that because I live very close to the Hindhead tunnel scheme, where just that process of consultation and working constructively with developers worked incredibly well. Indeed, there has only been one occasion when the National Trust has referred compulsory purchase matters to special parliamentary procedures in the past.
Undoubtedly, there should be continuing recognition of the special nature of National Trust inalienable land held for the benefit of the nation in the Bill. I accept that there is a clear case for improving procedures for the temporary compulsory possession of land, but I believe that the National Trust is not the problem that the Government are trying to address with this legislation, but has been swept up in the wider issue. At least, I hope that may be the case and look forward to the Minister’s response. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, and speak to Amendment 104A which requires the Secretary of State and Welsh Ministers to make provision for the reinstatement of land at the end of a period of temporary possession. This is not drafted particularly for the benefit of the residents of Aberystwyth or places in the vicinity; it stems from the report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee which draws attention to a number of issues, only some of which are embodied in this amendment.
In dealing with the issue mentioned in Amendment 104A, the committee regarded it as inappropriate to leave the discussion of whether or not to include provisions about reinstatement in the regulations to the Secretary of State and Welsh Ministers. Hence, it recommended that the clause should be amended to impose the duty referred to in the amendment. However, that was not the end of the committee’s concerns. In particular, it also took issue with Clause 24(2)(a), which it regarded as,
“inappropriately wide and should be redrafted to reflect the narrow policy intention referred to in the DCLG document which explained the power to modify provisions”.
In particular, the committee felt that the power goes much further than the declared objective in the policy document and,
“it would enable the regulations to make substantial changes to Clauses 14 to 26 in a wide range of cases, for example, by excluding the provisions about compensation”.
I confess that the document, only having reached us at the end of January, shortly before the amendments were drafted, ought to have been subject to an amendment specifically dealing with that issue. I do not expect the Minister to respond immediately, but I hope that, before Report, he will indicate whether the Government would be minded to accept the redrafting recommendation referred to by the Delegated Powers Committee. If not, I give notice that we will remedy the omission this evening and table an appropriate amendment.
The committee was clear about the issue that I have raised, but it also makes a more general point about the Secretary of State and Welsh Ministers exercising this novel power, which could potentially have far-reaching consequences without first being required to consult interested parties. It therefore considered a consultation duty even more important, in view of the provision dispensing with the House’s hybrid instruments procedure. That raises issues about secondary legislation that have so often been raised. As I say, I would not expect the Minister to respond to something of which he did not have notice by way of an amendment tonight. I hope that the matter can be resolved en route to Report, but reserve the right to table amendments if it cannot be.
My Lords, I shall deal first with the point that the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, has just made. Of course, I have read the report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, and there are three relevant recommendations relating to this Bill, two of which he mentioned. We take this very seriously; we are considering all three recommendations very carefully, and intend to respond before Report, so I hope that the nuclear option mentioned by the noble Lord may not be necessary.
I turn to Amendments 104, 104A and 129B. Clauses 14 to 26 of the Bill set out the broad framework for how the temporary possession power will work, establishing protections and providing for the payment of compensation. Further technical provisions will be necessary for the implementation of the temporary possession power. Clause 24 gives the Secretary of State the power by regulations to make further provision in relation to the authorisation and exercise of temporary possession powers where necessary. We will respond on that—and in the meantime we set out in the policy document what we propose to do. There is something there about reinstatement.
On Amendment 104, certain special kinds of land, including land held inalienably by the National Trust, are afforded additional protection under the compulsory acquisition process. This additional protection provides that a compulsory purchase order may be subject to special parliamentary procedure when an objection is sustained to the relevant order by, for example, the National Trust, or when exchange land for that to be acquired cannot be given, perhaps because no suitable land is available. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, that National Trust land should benefit from additional protection under the temporary possession regime; this is also true of those other special kinds of land. The Government have set out their intention to do precisely that in a policy document; we propose to do that through regulations made under Clause 24. Paragraphs 48 to 51 of that document set out more details.
The Government’s proposed approach under temporary possession differs from that under compulsory acquisition. Where the temporary possession of special kinds of land is happening without any associated compulsory acquisition, the special parliamentary procedure would not apply. Instead, the temporary possession will be allowed only when the confirming authority is satisfied that it would not cause serious detriment to the owners and users. Such serious detriment could include, for example, irreparable damage to the land concerned, or blocking access to other land or assets. When both temporary possession and compulsory acquisition of a special kind of land is included in the same order, and the compulsory acquisition is subject to special parliamentary procedure, the temporary possession land would also be subject to the special parliamentary procedure. However, I have listened with great interest to the case made by the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, who raises an important issue, and the Government will, therefore, give further careful consideration to it before confirming our approach, to which I have just referred.
Amendments 104A and 129B tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, seek to amend Clause 24 concerning the reinstatement of land at the end of the temporary possession period. As he said and as I referred to a moment ago, this has been raised by the DPRRC, which has recommended that Clause 24 should be amended to impose a duty on the Secretary of State and Welsh Ministers to make regulations about the reinstatement of land. We are committed to ensuring that those affected by temporary possession are properly protected and compensated. The reinstatement of land at the end of the temporary possession period is a crucial part of that protection. As I said a moment ago, we take this very seriously. I can reassure the noble Lord that we will give very careful consideration to the recommendations in the DPRRC report on this point.
Finally, I turn to Amendment 129B. This is consequential on Amendment 104A. It seeks to amend Clause 39 to ensure that any regulations made under Clause 24(1) which make provision for reinstatement under the new subsection 2A proposed by Amendment 104A would be subject to the affirmative procedure. I assure the noble Lord that I recognise that the exercise of such a power merits a higher level of parliamentary scrutiny both for its interference with property rights and the public interest in compulsory powers over land. That is why Clause 39(2)(a) already makes provision for any regulations made under the power in Clause 24(1) to be subject to the affirmative procedure.
I hope that with the reassurances I have given and the commitment to consider these matters further, the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, will agree to withdraw the amendment.
I thank the Minister very much for his consideration of my comments and his commitment to engage in careful consideration of those points between now and Report. I think that was the phrase he used. I hope that that will result in the Government tabling an amendment on Report as I strongly believe that Parliament should remain the final arbiter on issues around temporary compulsory purchase orders concerning the National Trust’s inalienable land. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 104 withdrawn.
Amendment 104A not moved.
Clause 24 agreed.
Clause 25: Interpretation
Amendments 105 and 106
105: Clause 25, page 20, leave out line 43
106: Clause 25, page 20, leave out lines 44 and 45
Amendments 105 and 106 agreed.
Clause 25, as amended, agreed.
Clause 26 agreed.
Clause 27: No-scheme principle
107: Clause 27, page 21, line 24, after “scheme” insert “(or the prospect of the scheme)”
Clause 27 relates to the no-scheme principle. In moving Amendment 107, I wish to speak also to Amendments 109 and 111.
Clause 27 seeks to put the no-scheme principle in the compensation code on to a statutory footing. The Bill defines the no-scheme principle as,
“any increase in the value of land caused by the scheme for which the authority acquires the land is to be disregarded”.
Amendment 107 seeks to take this further to make the Bill state that,
“any increase in the value of land caused by the scheme or the prospect of the scheme”,
should also be disregarded. The Government have tabled a very similar amendment. I welcome that amendment and do not plan to say any more about it.
I turn to Amendment 109. New Section 6A(3) on page 21 of the Bill states:
“In applying the no-scheme principle the following rules in particular … are to be observed”.
This amendment seeks to delete the words “in particular” given that new Section 6A contains five rules which are clearly defined. I will come on to Rule 4 in a moment. If one has rules defining what the position is, why do we need the words “in particular”? That implies that there are other rules that might be considered and there is no indication as to what those might be. The current position is that only the statutory disregards can be taken into account in disregarding the scheme. This provides clarity over the valuation exercise to be undertaken. I hope the Minister will agree that “in particular” on page 21, line 28 should be taken out.
Finally, Amendment 111 relates to Rule 4. The purpose of scheme cancellation being on the valuation date is to avoid the need to speculate on what may have happened between the date of cancelation and valuation because they are the same. It is not clear what the purpose of Rule 4 is. It seems to be unnecessary and likely to create confusion, particularly in the context of the other four rules. I hope the Minister will be able to explain why it forms part of the Bill and why the words “in particular” need to appear in new Section 6A in Clause 27. I beg to move.
My Lords, I will be brief. In this group, I have Amendments 116, 117, 118 and 119. The first three seek to leave out “highway” on page 24, lines 14, 16 and 17, and insert “transport project”. We thought that would make the issue clearer. New Sections 6D(3), 6D(4)(a) and 6D(4)(b) in Clause 27 use “transport project” and I therefore did not understand why later in the same clause it was referred to as a highway scheme. Can the Minister explain why that is the case and if my amendments are not necessary? If they are, I hope he will accept them as it is odd to move from the wider and encompassing definition of transport project to the narrower definition of “highway”.
Amendment 119 seeks to provide further clarity by removing “announced”. In these sorts of schemes you get into arguments about when things were announced so we thought it would be much clearer to put,
“first proposed in consultation with the public”.
There will be an actual date on which a consultation is started and when papers and a clear plan are sent out. We thought this would be much better as we do not want disputes later because everyone is arguing about when the scheme was formally announced. That is the purpose behind the amendment and I look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, we have moved on to the no-scheme principle. The problem with this principle is that since it was first established it has been interpreted in a number of complex and often contradictory ways. Clause 27 is intended to clarify the position. It creates a statutory no-scheme principle and sets out a series of clear rules to establish the methodology of valuation in the no-scheme world. It also extends the definition of the scheme to include a relevant transport project in circumstances where land acquired in the vicinity for a regeneration or redevelopment scheme is facilitated or made possible by that project. We are extending the scheme because we want to ensure that an acquiring authority should not pay more for the land it is acquiring by reason of its own or someone else’s public investment.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, for explaining the need for Amendment 107. The Committee will have observed that it is similar to government Amendment 108, so I am pleased to say that I am in complete agreement with the noble Lord. It is entirely correct that increases, as well as decreases, in the value of the land caused by the prospect of the scheme should be disregarded.
Amendment 109 was also proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley. He argues that the words “in particular” should be omitted from the introduction to the rules defining the no-scheme world as they imply that some other rules might also be in play. He argues that the rules set out in new Section 6A should be an exclusive list. The Government’s expectation is that in the vast majority of cases the application of the rules as set out will be sufficient to establish the no-scheme world. There may, however, be rare cases in unforeseen circumstances where the Upper Tribunal considers that the application of the rules alone would not give a fair result. Retaining the phrase “in particular” gives the tribunal sufficient flexibility in these rare cases to fall back on the underlying no-scheme principle set out in new Section 6A(2) and its own common sense to arrive at a fair outcome. While I appreciate the noble Lord’s point about the need for clarity, the Government’s view is that the Upper Tribunal should retain this flexibility in order to reach a fair outcome in such unforeseen circumstances.
With Amendment 111, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, and government Amendment 112 we now move to consideration of the rules themselves. The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, argues that Rule 4 is unnecessary and should be omitted. The Government’s view is that it remains necessary in order to complement Rule 3. Rule 3 assumes that there is no prospect of the same scheme or any other project to meet the same or substantially the same need as the scheme underlying the compulsory purchase. Rule 4 assumes that there is no prospect of any other scheme taking place on the land concerned. As currently drafted, this is too wide, so Amendment 112 restricts Rule 4 to disregarding only those schemes that could be undertaken only by the exercise of statutory functions or compulsory purchase powers. This means that the prospect of schemes brought forward by the private sector would still be considered as part of the no-scheme world. This is a fine point of valuation practice. In the light of what the noble Lord said, I think that the Government should further consider this issue very carefully with the expert practitioners who may conceivably have been briefing the noble Lord to find a solution.
Amendments 116, 117 and 118 were tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. New Section 6D(6) specifies that when the scheme to be disregarded under Rule 3 is a highway scheme, the reference to “any other project” includes another highway scheme to meet the same need as the actual scheme. This provision reflects the planning assumption in Section 14(5)(d) of the Land Compensation Act 1961. It is important that the assumptions for the no-scheme world and the planning assumptions that should be applied in that no-scheme world should be consistent. The current Section 14 was substituted by the Localism Act 2011. A similar provision was added to the original version of Section 14 by the Planning and Compensation Act 1991. The noble Lord put forward a powerful case that this clarification could apply equally to other transport projects. If it did, Section 14 would also need to be amended to keep the two sets of assumptions in step. I think that this is another issue which the Government should reflect on with expert practitioners.
Turning to the definition of the scheme that must be disregarded before compensation may be assessed, government Amendments 113, 114 and 115 make some small adjustments in the context of the extension of the scheme to relevant transport projects. These have arisen from discussions between the Government and the Greater London Authority and Transport for London, which have only recently been concluded. I am very happy to give details if noble Lords would like them, but as they are relatively small adjustments, I propose to skip that part of the text.
I now return to the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. Amendment 119 seeks to clarify new Section 6E(3) which disapplies Section 6E for land bought after a relevant transport project was announced but before this Bill was published. If such land were to be included in a redevelopment or regeneration project in the vicinity of that relevant transport project, it would be valued as if the relevant transport project was not part of the scheme to be disregarded.
The noble Lord’s amendment is much more specific than the Bill as currently drafted. The Government’s view is that such precision may not be necessary. The provision refers to an event that has already happened, and it is quite possible that a project may have been announced in some other way than that specified by the announcement. If so, it would be unfair to restrict this provision because the announcement did not fit within the somewhat narrow definition proposed.
However, having said that, it might be possible to clarify, perhaps in guidance, exactly what is meant by an announcement. That is certainly something that I would like to reflect on. I invite the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, to withdraw Amendment 107.
Amendment 107 withdrawn.
108: Clause 27, page 21, line 25, after “land” insert “, or by the prospect of that scheme,”
Amendment 108 agreed.
Amendment 109 not moved.
Amendment 110 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
Amendment 111 not moved.
Amendments 112 to 115
112: Clause 27, page 21, line 40, leave out “if the scheme had not been commenced or” and insert “in the exercise of a statutory function or by the exercise of compulsory purchase powers”
113: Clause 27, page 23, line 34, at end insert “facilitated or”
114: Clause 27, page 23, line 38, leave out “which was”
115: Clause 27, page 23, line 40, after “powers” insert “(regardless of whether it is carried out before, after or at the same time as the regeneration or redevelopment)”
Amendments 112 to 115 agreed.
Amendments 116 to 119 not moved.
Clause 27, as amended, agreed.
Clauses 28 to 30 agreed.
Clause 31: GLA and TfL: joint acquisition of land
120: Clause 31, page 27, line 27, leave out “section 333ZA and paragraph 19(1) of Schedule 11” and insert—
“(a) section 333ZA of this Act, and(b) paragraph 19(1) of Schedule 11 to this Act or Part 12 of the Highways Act 1980,”
My Lords, we now move on to Clause 31, which deals with the joint acquisition of land by the Greater London Authority and Transport for London, and whose purpose I will briefly explain.
At the moment, for the GLA to bring forward a comprehensive redevelopment scheme in London involving both transport and other development, two compulsory purchase orders are needed: one promoted by the Greater London Authority for the regeneration or housing elements of the scheme, and the other promoted by Transport for London for the transport or highways elements of the scheme. This division makes no sense. It adds complexity and delay to the process and causes confusion among those most affected. Clause 31 removes this unnecessary division and allows the Greater London Authority to promote joint compulsory purchase orders with Transport for London and vice versa. It inserts new Section 403A into the Greater London Authority Act 1999, which enables either the Greater London Authority or Transport for London, or both, to acquire all the land needed for a joint transport and regeneration or housing scheme on behalf of the other.
The government amendments make two changes to the provisions as currently drafted. Amendments 120, 121 and 123 enable the Greater London Authority to promote a joint compulsory purchase order with Transport for London using Transport for London’s compulsory purchase powers as a highway authority under the Highways Act 1980 in addition to its general compulsory purchase powers under the Greater London Authority Act 1999.
Government Amendment 124 delivers the second change. New Section 403B of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 will enable a mayoral development corporation to promote a joint compulsory purchase order with Transport for London for a joint transport, including a highway, and regeneration project as an alternative to the Greater London Authority itself. Having set up a mayoral development corporation to regenerate an area, such as at Old Oak Common, the GLA would not normally seek to use its own powers in that area. I hope the Committee will agree with me that these are sensible provisions. With that explanation, I beg to move government Amendment 120.
My Lords, I have Amendments 122, 125 and 126 in this group. I will speak to them very briefly and look forward to the noble Lord’s response to the points I raise. Amendments 122 and 125 seek to make the situation clearer and to avoid the suggestion that a beneficial interest may exist, by removing the words,
“on behalf of the other”.
We do not think those words are necessary, and I propose to remove them in Amendments 122 and 125.
Amendment 126 would insert a new subsection into Clause 32, which would ensure that the GLA, TfL or a mayoral development corporation has the power to acquire land compulsorily for purposes under the Housing and Planning Act if it was previously able to do that under Sections 403A and 403B of the Greater London Authority Act 1999. I hope that we again get a positive response from the Minister accepting that I have highlighted an important issue to which, if nothing else, the Government will respond on Report.
I see the wisdom of what is proposed in these amendments, reinforced by government Amendment 124, where an MDC is involved. I take it that it means only one compulsory order so that TfL is able to acquire land to advance housing projects, et cetera.
This may be my ignorance or otiose, but it appears that the way that this is drafted, based on the Greater London Act, TfL could exercise this new authority only in concert with the GLA or an MDC. However, there are other development authorities and planning authorities in Greater London: the London boroughs. I can envisage circumstances where there is neglected land alongside on a red route where TfL is the highways authority and a borough has an interest, but it may be too small to attract the interest of the Mayor of London. I simply raise the question to seek elucidation. It may not be necessary. Will it be possible when this is liberalised for TfL to use this power in concert with a borough without needing to go via the GLA or to set up a mayoral development corporation?
TfL gets cross when I say this in your Lordships’ House, but it is not always the most nimble authority when it comes to development. Some boroughs might be able to encourage it a little. I do not expect an answer now, but perhaps my noble friend will consider the need for such flexibility if TfL is to be given this new partnership power to acquire.
It is indeed a valid point, but it goes wider than the narrow issue before us. As a former member of a London borough, albeit in 1968, I have an interest in enabling the boroughs to fulfil their full potential. I shall make some inquiries and write to my noble friend.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, for tabling Amendments 122, 125 and 126. They deal with two different clauses—Clauses 31 and 32—but as Amendment 126 is consequential on Amendments 122 and 125, I shall deal with them together.
I shall briefly explain what Clause 31 does. The Housing and Planning Act 2016, which will be fresh in the memory of many Members of the Committee, extended the statutory power to override easements and restrictive covenants when undertaking development to all bodies having compulsory purchase powers. Clause 32 amends this power to ensure that it operates as intended for the GLA and Transport for London and brings land acquired by their landholding subsidiary companies within the scope of the powers so that development on that land is not hindered.
I turn to the noble Lord’s Amendments 122 and 125. The Government’s intention in bringing forward the measure in Clause 31 is to allow the Greater London Authority or a mayoral development corporation and Transport for London to use their powers more effectively by allowing them to promote joint orders, as I explained. The amendments the noble Lord is proposing go beyond that and are not quite as innocuous as the noble Lord implied. They would effectively allow both organisations to acquire land for purposes for which they have no statutory power. For example, they would allow Transport for London to acquire land compulsorily for housing or regeneration purposes. This raises broader issues about competence. For those reasons, the Government do not think they are appropriate. It is a key principle of a compulsory purchase system that acquiring authorities should be allowed to acquire land by compulsion only for purposes associated with their statutory functions. Housing is not a statutory function of Transport for London.
The noble Lord’s Amendment 126 relates to the power to override easements in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 and appears to be consequential on Amendments 122 and 125 being acceptable, which, for the reason I have outlined, I am afraid they are not. I know it will come as a disappointment, but I invite the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, not to press Amendments 122, 125 and 126, for the reasons that I have given.
Amendment 120 agreed.
121: Clause 31, page 27, line 33, after “Schedule 11” insert “to this Act or Part 12 of the Highways Act 1980”
Amendment 121 agreed.
Amendment 122 not moved.
123: Clause 31, page 27, line 42, after “Schedule 11” insert “to this Act or Part 12 of the Highways Act 1980”
Amendment 123 agreed.
124: Clause 31, page 28, line 13, at end insert—
“403B Acquisition of land by MDC and TfL for shared purposes(1) This section applies where a Mayoral development corporation and Transport for London agree that the purposes for which they may acquire land compulsorily under—(a) section 207 of the Localism Act 2011, and(b) paragraph 19(1) of Schedule 11 to this Act or Part 12 of the Highways Act 1980,would be advanced by one or both of them acquiring land for a joint project.(2) The purposes for which the Mayoral development corporation may acquire land compulsorily under section 207 of the Localism Act 2011 are to be read as if they included the purposes for which Transport for London may acquire land compulsorily.(3) The purposes for which Transport for London may acquire land compulsorily under paragraph 19(1) of Schedule 11 to this Act or Part 12 of the Highways Act 1980 are to be read as if they included the purposes for which the Mayoral development corporation may acquire land compulsorily. (4) The Mayoral development corporation and Transport for London may agree that one of them is to acquire land on behalf of the other.(5) Where subsection (4) applies, a compulsory acquisition is to proceed under—(a) section 207 of the Localism Act 2011 if it is agreed that the Mayoral development corporation will acquire the land, or(b) paragraph 19(1) of Schedule 11 to this Act or Part 12 of the Highways Act 1980 if it is agreed that Transport for London will acquire the land.(6) Subsection (7) applies where—(a) the Mayoral development corporation and Transport for London both propose to acquire land compulsorily for a joint project, and(b) the proposed compulsory acquisitions require authorisation by different confirming authorities.(7) The proposed compulsory acquisitions are to be treated as requiring the joint authorisation of the confirming authorities.(8) The Mayoral development corporation or Transport for London may acquire land by agreement for the same purposes as those for which that body may acquire land compulsorily by virtue of subsection (2) or (3).(9) The joint project mentioned in subsection (1) is to be treated as the scheme for the purposes of the no-scheme principle in section 6A of the Land Compensation Act 1961 (impact of scheme to be disregarded when assessing value of land for compulsory purchase).””
Amendment 125 (to Amendment 124) not moved.
Amendment 124 agreed.
Amendment 126 not moved.
Clause 31, as amended, agreed.
Clause 32: Overriding easements: land held on behalf of GLA or TfL
Amendment 126 not moved.
Clause 32 agreed.
Clauses 33 to 36 agreed.
127: After Clause 36, insert the following new Clause—
“Review of compulsory purchase process
The Secretary of State must, by the end of 2018, have completed a review of the entire compulsory purchase process and brought forward proposals to ensure compulsory purchase legislation is both fit for purpose and included within a single Act of Parliament.”
My Lords, compulsory purchase powers are a necessary tool for any market-based but property-respecting society that wishes to progress. Progress cannot be achieved without change and very often that change involves compulsorily acquiring rights in land. I believe that in our post-Brexit world we need to focus hard on how we change and develop, and also improve our living spaces, in a way that is fair and equitable and that can be achieved without unnecessary delays and expense. Speed will more and more be of the essence.
The principle underlying compulsory purchase is that the scheme should be for the benefit of society and that the powers used are only a last resort. In the old days, the powers were almost always only used by Government or local authorities. Rather like paying one’s taxes, that was hard to challenge and it seemed fair and reasonable. But of course nowadays it is frequently one privatised company—water, gas, electric, rail or even now telecommunications—imposing a scheme on other private businesses or owners for the benefit of their profit and loss account or balance sheet. Sometimes other private companies, such as supermarkets, are able to harness local authority compulsory purchase powers to achieve their ends for such things as car parks.
One might question whether a supermarket car park is a necessary public benefit. Indeed what a necessary public benefit is could form the basis of one question for the proposed review. In this context, as an interesting aside, in my researches I came across a case in the USA where an old lady defeated and stopped the unstoppable one, Donald Trump, because she proved that a car park for one of his proposed casinos was definitely not of public benefit—not a case relevant to us, but I thought it might amuse your Lordships.
To return to the UK, my point is that compulsory purchase powers and their ramifications change slightly when it is one private business vying to use land owned by another. The key point here is that the no-scheme clauses need to come under much closer scrutiny when two businesses are involved. It is also why the overage amendments which were spoken to in the Commons become much more important. The moment any acquiring authority, especially if its primary purpose is to make profits for its shareholders, starts to achieve income or capital gains from land-based developments that are only tangential to the scheme, or even nothing to do with it at all, such an authority is abusing its position. Again, bottoming out the frequency and reality of these accusations would be part of the proposed review.
On another point, it is interesting to note that when a building or plot of land is threatened with a compulsory purchase order by a local authority to bring it into line with its neighbourhood, for instance, owners are often spurred on to develop, improve or restore their property themselves. That is good, but it appears that the main reason for this is that the compensation under compulsory purchase powers is thought by them to be barely minimal and acceptable only as a last resort. Does this signify a fair approach in terms of valuation? I do not know the answer. I am only asking questions and, in doing so, highlighting the need for a general review.
Are acquiring authorities overusing their compulsory purchase powers? In the case of housing development, probably not. However, a council can sometimes convince itself that its public good overrides someone else’s, such as in the case involving Lewisham Council which, with an overseas developer, is apparently using compulsory purchase powers for a housing scheme which could threaten the existence of the Millwall Football Club. I note that the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, has woken up at that point. I do not know the rights or wrongs of that case at all, but I believe from newspaper reports that it has caused a bit of a stink. If the use of compulsory powers to achieve increased housing is a fair use, it appears from some of the cases over the years that the same cannot always be said about their use for open spaces. One has to ask whether in these instances the acquiring authority might be better to achieve its ends by not buying such land with compulsory purchase powers, but rather trying to do a deal to acquire access to it. That would be another question for our review.
Are local authorities always proving a compelling case for public interest? Having made arguments in court, are these objectives fulfilled at the conclusion of the scheme? It seems from various cases I have looked at that the answer is not always yes. Who, for instance, checks afterwards that the scheme has progressed as originally proposed and that the land taken really was necessary for the scheme? Again, I am just asking the questions.
I am told that acquirers often take the maximum amount of land they require, not the minimum, and that they are slow to hand back any surplus. It appears that this occurred with some compulsorily purchased land on HS1. With so many schemes now getting approval when they are only part designed, I suspect this is going to be an on-going problem. Efficient use of land is important whether for the construction of infrastructure or environmental mitigation—or, on the other side of the fence, for people trying to run a business from that land.
There have been accusations that in certain instances the acquiring authority has conspired to make a compulsory purchase inevitable by not granting planning permission or a listed building consent, or by not resolving highway issues. Are these accusations well founded? Has the acquiring authority sought first to acquire by agreement, by engaging with all parties, owners and objectors? Is it the competent authority to carry out the proposed scheme or in other cases is it favouring one private sector body, say a supermarket, versus another, say a farmer—or, as in the case at Lewisham, a housing developer versus a football club? Are leasehold interests and their possible long-term marriage values being properly assessed? The answers to all these questions may be yes but they are worth asking.
What of the legislation covering compulsory purchase powers? Is that so simple? To me, as a non-lawyer, the list seems endless. There is the Compulsory Purchase Act 1965, which I gather has large chunks of the 1845 Act within its text. There is also the Land Compensation Act 1973, the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, the Acquisition of Land Act 1981, the compulsory purchase Act of 1981, the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, the Transport and Works Act 1992, the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, the Housing and Planning Act 2016 and, shortly, the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017. They all seem to have something to say but without employing a lawyer, I cannot tell which of their sections are still relevant.
Then there are individual Acts, such as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996, and there is the HS2 Bill. Is it surprising that professional institutions, which must do very well out of all this legislative chaos, are not asking for a review? They have to be called in and, more importantly, paid to advise the poor layman, householder or farmer who is vainly trying to cut his way through this impenetrable jungle. It is, to say the least, all a bit complicated and needs consolidating.
In my Second Reading speech, I indicated that we need to examine other countries’ compulsory purchase systems. How does the USA, for instance, get 81% of its land value compensation assessments agreed immediately? Or is France a good example, where an enhanced compensation scheme enables transport projects to be brought to fruition swiftly? Do the delays in our compulsory purchase system end up costing our Treasury more than if it was prepared to make concessions or give higher rewards to people who are having their property confiscated? If the Treasury would not directly benefit from swifter resolution, I am sure our economy would. Should overage clauses be included on land where development values are not part of the original scheme? My view, for what it is worth, is that if they were the whole process would be quicker and fairer. Again, questions, questions and more questions, all of which I believe a much-needed review would have to answer.
Part 2 of the Bill is a good start towards simplification and reform, but I am certain that we need a more in-depth review and a complete overhaul of our compulsory purchase regime if we are to achieve the speed of progress and development that we need in a post-Brexit UK. I beg to move.
My noble friend Lord Beecham and I fully support the amendment proposed by the noble Lord and look forward to a positive response from the Government on it.
The noble Lord mentioned Millwall Football Club. A couple of weeks ago, when the noble Lord, Lord Young, was speaking to an order on overview and scrutiny committees in combined authorities, I put it on record that I did not think the council got it quite right, to say the least. Thankfully the CPO has now been withdrawn and the council has made it clear that whatever goes ahead in future will do so only with the involvement and agreement of the club, local businesses and the local community. I was very pleased with that, and pay tribute to my overview and scrutiny colleagues for their work to prise information out of the council to enable them to convince the mayor and the cabinet that that was the way to proceed. I also pay tribute to the campaigners, fans, supporters and the club. We certainly had a lot of unhelpful publicity in recent weeks, but overview and scrutiny, in particular, did a very good job.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, argued eloquently for a comprehensive review of the compulsory purchase system, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. I listened to the very pertinent questions that the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, said needed to be addressed, including international comparisons, looking at marriage values of freehold and leasehold and all the other issues, and I read the first line of his amendment, which states that by the end of next year we have to complete a review and bring forward proposals. It seems to me a mammoth task to embrace all the questions that he has raised—of course there may be others—within a very challenging timescale.
The advice that I have is that, were we to undertake this review, it would take three years and we would end up with 250-plus clauses. I do not know about other members of the Committee, but 24 CPO clauses seems to me quite a lot. Then there would be a number of schedules. There is no realistic prospect of doing that within the timescale that the noble Lord suggests. However, I recognise that there is a strong desire among many for the compulsory purchase system to be simplified. We have heard speeches to that effect during our proceedings. As my honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Planning said in the other place, he has some sympathy with that, but, as I said a moment ago, a comprehensive review would be a huge undertaking. While the Government do not rule it out completely, we would need very careful consideration before we took it forward, and there would need to be clear consensus on its terms of reference and objectives.
I appreciate that this does not go nearly as far as the noble Lord has suggested, but the Government have been tackling specific issues within the CPO regime which practitioners have identified as causing problems, and we have tried to do this in the Bill by introducing the temporary CPO processes and rationalising the Greater London Authority and TfL powers, as well as by clarifying the no-schemes valuation process. We hope that that will make a real, practical difference on the ground and allow the compulsory purchase system to operate more effectively.
It is relevant to mention briefly the White Paper published yesterday, Fixing Our Broken Housing Market, because it flags up two further areas, which I am sure that the noble Lord would want to add to his list. First, there is the role that the CPO could play in helping to kickstart development on stalled housing sites. The White Paper sets out our intention to consult on new guidance encouraging local authorities to use their existing compulsory purchase powers to support the build-out of stalled sites. Secondly, the White Paper sets out the Government’s intention to investigate whether auctions, following the taking of possession of the land, are sufficient to establish an unambiguous value for the purposes of assessing compensation payable to the claimant when the local authority has used its compulsory purchase powers to acquire the land. Furthermore, the White Paper also makes it clear that we will continue to keep compulsory purchase under review and notes the Government’s willingness to consider representations on how the process might be reformed further to support development.
As I said, we have an open mind on the need for further reform—but I hope that, in the meantime, noble Lords will agree that we should not delay progress on delivering the reforms that we already have in hand, including those in the Bill. So although I have enormous sympathy with the noble Lord’s amendment, it would be unrealistic to expect the Government to support it.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response and the noble Lords, Lord Kennedy and Lord Beecham, for their support. The Minister seemed to hint that he is willing to accept the principle of the amendment; that is how he started off. I accept that it might take longer than we had anticipated. To be honest, until I came to write my few words, I did not know how many questions I was going to find in the maelstrom of information that there is out there. I believe that it really would be worth doing, if only to consolidate the legislation list that I read out. As the Minister rightly said, there are probably even more questions than those that I discovered. I look forward to further conversations on this point and hope that, sooner rather than later, the Government will address this area with seriousness. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 127 withdrawn.
128: After Clause 36, insert the following new Clause—
“Amendment to TfL powers
In Schedule 11 to the Greater London Authority Act 1999 (miscellaneous powers of Transport for London) after paragraph 12 insert—“12A(1) Transport for London or any subsidiary of Transport for London may sell, exchange or lease its land for the purpose of providing housing of any description at such price, or for such consideration, or for such rent, as having regard to all the circumstances of the case is the best that can reasonably be obtained, notwithstanding that a higher price, consideration or rent might have been obtained if the land were sold, exchanged or leased for the purpose of providing housing of another description or for a purpose other than the provision of housing.(2) Transport for London or any subsidiary of Transport for London shall not be required to act as if it were a company engaged in a commercial enterprise for the purposes of paragraph 29 below if undertaking any activities at paragraphs 15(2) or (3) below with a view to selling, exchanging or leasing its land under this paragraph.””
My Lords, Amendment 128 is grouped with 129, both of which stand in my name.
Amendment 128 seeks to clarify the application of Section 31 of the Housing Act 1985 to TfL or its subsidiaries to dispose of their surplus land for housing development where that is considered appropriate as long as the price obtained is,
“having regard to all the circumstances of the case … the best that can reasonably be obtained”.
The amendment uses the wording of Section 31 of the Housing Act 1985 and contains a restriction in paragraph 29 to Schedule 11 of the GLA Act 1999 to ensure that the powers to sell and develop land for housing are consistent in this context. Amendment 129 is similarly worded and seeks to ensure that there is consistency between the TfL and the GLA in this regard. I look forward to the Minister’s response. I beg to move.
My Lords, this will be my last contribution to this exchange. I am happy to end on a more consensual note than was the case on some of the earlier contributions.
Amendments 128 and 129 in the name of the noble Lord seek to make new provision in the Greater London Authority Act 1999, which would amend the powers of Transport for London and the GLA to dispose of land.
Amendment 128 seeks to give Transport for London the flexibility to dispose of land for housing, even if a higher value use was available, provided the best consideration reasonably obtainable for housing use had been achieved. To support this aim, Amendment 128 would also remove the requirement for TfL to,
“act as if it were a company engaged in a commercial enterprise”,
when disposing of land for housing.
Amendment 129 would make related provision in respect of the GLA. It would enable the GLA to dispose of land for housing without obtaining the Secretary of State’s consent, even if a higher value use was available, provided that the best consideration reasonably obtainable for housing use had been achieved.
I am very sympathetic to the intention of these amendments of providing flexibility to ensure that we can prioritise land for housing development. However, the legal issues involved are not entirely straightforward, and I think the public interest would be best served if a meeting was held between the Government, the GLA and TfL before Report to consider this further. With the reassurance that I will facilitate such a meeting, I hope that the noble Lord might be prepared to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 128 withdrawn.
Amendment 129 not moved.
Clause 37 agreed.
Clause 38: Consequential provision
129A: Clause 38, page 31, line 13, at end insert—
“( ) Before making regulations under this section, the Secretary of State must consult the Welsh Ministers.”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 129A which stands in my name, I wish to speak also to the proposition that Clause 38 should stand part of the Bill. Both these provisions stem again from the report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. My amendment refers specifically to a requirement for the Secretary of State to consult Welsh Assembly Ministers—the noble Lord might be included for this purpose—before making regulations under Clause 38, or Section 38 as it will be when the Bill is enacted. The committee refers to the wording of Clause 38, which confers power on the Secretary of State to make such provision as he,
“considers appropriate in consequence of any provision”,
in the Bill. That is a very wide-ranging power. It includes, as the committee points out, Acts of Parliament of course, but also measures or Acts of the National Assembly of Wales. A justification of a kind is provided in the accompanying memorandum, which the committee quotes as concluding that,
“it is considered prudent for the Bill to contain a power to deal with these in secondary legislation”.
But as the committee points out,
“the Bill makes no provision for any procedure in the Assembly when the power is used to amend primary or secondary legislation enacted by the Assembly or Welsh Ministers … there is not even a duty to consult Welsh Ministers when amending Welsh legislation”.
That is an extraordinary position to have got into. The committee goes on to point out:
“Clause 2 of the Wales Bill provides that the UK Parliament will not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters without the consent of the Assembly”.
However, that appears to be feasible under this Bill as it presently stands. As the committee notes:
“The Constitution Committee have raised similar concerns”,
and it therefore considers that the power should be amended to impose,
“an obligation to consult Welsh Ministers”.
That is what my Amendment 129A does.
There is a proposal to remove the whole of Clause 38—
My Lords, I speak in support of the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, on Amendment 129A. I also speak, as a member of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, to express our surprise that there was no provision even for consultation, with the Welsh Assembly, when proposed changes to an Act or secondary legislation are made. As I understand it, if it is an Act, there would normally be a legislative consent Motion; if it is secondary legislation, a consent Motion. That was the original provision, and I assume it is still the same. The noble Lord, Lord Bourne, fortunately, is an expert in this field.
I can only assume that this is an accidental omission, as I cannot see any policy in it. It seems to me ludicrous that a Secretary of State could, with a stroke of the pen, without any consent in Wales and without any consultation, simply amend the Act. I shall speak further on the clause stand part debate in a moment.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, for moving this amendment and the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, for speaking in relation to this issue as well. To deal with the situation in its entirety, I will need to look back to the provisions in the Wales Act 2017. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, may recall that we had a similar issue there—I think he was in his place when we discussed it. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, will certainly recall it
To put this in context, first, I make the point that any amendments here—this anticipates what we will be discussing in the next debate—have to be consequential, which limits it to matters that arise in the legislation and are consequential. Secondly, in these cases there are always minor issues. I think this has universally been the case—I have yet to be shown an example otherwise, and I have checked quite a few. In the context of the Wales legislation, it was anticipated that occasionally the wrong terminology would be used. For example, parish councils exist in England, but they are community councils in Wales, and this is about things of that nature, which one would not wish to have to bring back for primary legislation. That is not the sort of issue that should be in primary legislation.
In the context of the Welsh position, it is also worth noting that not only is there power in the Wales Act to amend legislation in the National Assembly for Wales, but it also operates in the other direction, giving the National Assembly—effectively, Labour Welsh Ministers —the opportunity to amend our legislation. I appreciate that not all noble Lords were steeped in the process of the Wales Bill. In practice, as is confirmed by an exchange of letters between the Secretary of State for Wales and the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, on which I hope to expand in a letter to noble Lords summing up what has happened in today’s Committee, where we identify an issue that needs a minor amendment, we notify both the First Minister and the Presiding Officer, the Speaker in the National Assembly, who, if she wishes —it is a she at present—can draw it to the Assembly’s attention. Of course, under devolved arrangements, it is a matter for her and the National Assembly as to what they do. So it is a reciprocal arrangement.
I anticipate that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, will say that, from a legal purist’s point of view, that is not ideal, but from a pragmatic point of view of dealing with minor amendments—if noble Lords can find anything major that is dealt with in legislation of this nature, I should be very interested to see it, because that would be an outrage. It is a tidying-up exercise. I hope that we can translate this to the Bill. I am happy to look at this point and deal with it in correspondence, but it is a common-sense approach to what is a relatively minor issue. With that, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment. I am happy to discuss it with him and other noble Lords afterwards, but I put the substance of how this operates in the context of Wales, because I think there is a read across, and we would do something identical, mutatis mutandis, under the Bill.
My Lords, if that is the case and it is the practice to write to the First Minister and Presiding Officer of the Assembly, why not have that in the Bill so that there can be no slipup, if that will inevitably happen and is required to happen? It seems common sense that it should be in the Bill. An exchange of letters outlining a practice is in no way a safeguard against the arbitrary use of the power by the Secretary of State, widely drawn as it is.
My Lords, the noble Lord knows as well as I do the difference between convention and provision in statute. If everything that had been discussed in Committee on the Bill will put in statute, it would be a much longer and more complex piece of legislation. This is about finding the appropriate place to deal with it. As I said, I am happy to share the correspondence and discuss it further, but I do not think it should appear in the Bill.
I obviously cannot proceed to a vote on the amendment, but the Minister seems to ignore the explicit statement of the Delegated Powers Committee that,
“the power conferred by clause 38 of this Bill is inappropriate to the extent that it allows the Secretary of State to amend Assembly legislation without at least an obligation to consult Welsh Ministers”.
If that is the practice, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, that it should be codified and expressed in the Bill. What is the problem?
My Lords, with respect, it is asking not for that but for an obligation to consult, and I have said that that is a reasonable request. It is effectively what is happening under the Wales legislation. I have said that we anticipate doing exactly the same, mutatis mutandis, under the Bill, so that, via the Presiding Officer, we are consulting.
I am sorry, I have made the position clear. I am not sure what point the noble Lord is seeking to make. I am happy to discuss this further. I invite the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, to withdraw the amendment on that basis, but I do not think I can go further than that at the moment.
Amendment 129A withdrawn.
Debate on whether Clause 38 should stand part of the Bill.
My Lords, as this is the first time I have spoken in this session of the Committee, I declare an interest in that I have a legal case pending concerning a planning application. I have taken advice from the Clerk of the Parliaments and have been told that the sub judice rule does not apply here. I also have some interests in the register which I declare.
I will talk to the short version of the amendment, bearing in mind that we are coming to the end of this Committee stage. I was interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, said about the report of the Delegated Powers Committee. I have also read it and understand what it says. I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, is on that committee and will know the detail. I have also looked at the House of Lords Constitution Committee, which makes it very clear that Henry VIII clauses are a departure from constitutional principle and should be contemplated only when a full and clear explanation and justification is provided.
Throughout this Committee, there has been quite a divergence of views on the purpose of the Bill. The Government see it as a way of building the maximum number of houses in the minimum of time. Local people see it as an opportunity to make the best decisions for their towns and villages, and that should be sovereign—I use that word advisedly.
The Henry VIII clause is not justified in the Bill. The Bill is an attempt to overtake the Localism Act by giving more power to the Secretary of State. I have found this tendency threaded throughout the Bill. On another clause, when I voiced my concerns, the Minister told me that the Secretary of State would use his powers sparingly. In a previous debate, my noble friend talked about consequential and minor amendments and the rest of it. That might be true of this Secretary of State, but I do not derive any comfort from that because, as we all know, attitudes change and the situation could be very different with a future Secretary of State.
I urge my noble friend to reflect on what the Bill is all about. I think he will agree that it is part of a raft of planning Acts. It is not dealing with the security of the state in a time of war, or to tie the hands of the Government in foreign negotiations. It is about ordinary people having some say in their communities and in planning the future of their neighbourhoods. Yet the Secretary of State wants to introduce an autocratic power to rule over good people in case they do not conform to his aspirations. I find that outrageous. I seek to defend the aspirations of good people who have their communities at heart. I strongly resist the incorporation of the clause, as I feel it has no part in the Bill.
Sadly, the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, cannot be here this evening. He has a family engagement that he tells me is a three-line Whip and he sends his apologies to the Committee. However, I am truly delighted that I have the support of the noble and learned, Lord, Lord Judge. He is a wise and wonderful person who is internationally admired for his in-depth knowledge of the British constitution, which is what we are talking about. I also welcome the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, who has proved to be a doughty fighter throughout the Bill. I think of him not as a Rottweiler, but more as a terrier.
It is the lion that represents Millwall, is it not? I shall be brief, but not as brief as perhaps I should be because, with respect, this clause is totally flawed. I shall not go over the debate I had with the Minister over what is now the Wales Act, but we still have to face the fact that under the clause as it now stands following the debate on Amendment 129, the Secretary of State in London will be empowered to overrule the legislation of the elected Assembly. There is no arguing; that is what it says, and that is what it means. I understand that the Minister would have no intention of telling us anything other than how he envisages this power being used, and of course I accept it from him, but the power is being given to wipe out the enactments of the National Assembly for Wales without so much as a reference to it.
In my respectful submission, it is subsection (2) of this clause that is so unacceptable: the Henry VIII clause, the legislation that will set aside the legislation. It will give power to the Secretary of State to say, “I don’t like this legislation any more” or “I don’t like this part of this legislation any more, I’m going to get rid of it”. That is what we are empowering if we allow this to go through.
With Henry VIII clauses, you have to ask whether they are justified. Here, you ask the question: how is it justified? The answer to that question is that it is not justified. I looked through the Explanatory Notes. They state:
“Part 3 Final Provisions … Clauses 37-40”—
that covers Clause 38—
“and 42 are self-explanatory”.
That is it. No doubt the clause is self-explanatory, but, with great respect, so what? Self-explanatory is no sort of justification. It is not even an attempt to justify.
Assiduously, I hunted further and found what the department’s memorandum tells us the clause is for:
“There are a number of consequential changes being made by the Bill, particularly those flowing from the addition of a new procedure for modifying neighbourhood plans, restricting the imposition of planning conditions, and amendments to compulsory purchase legislation”.
That is a very neat summary of a very complex piece of legislation, but this is the justification that the department advances:
“It is possible that not all such consequential changes have been identified in the Bill. As such it is considered prudent for the Bill to contain a power to deal with these in secondary legislation”.
Is that any sort of justification?
Going back to the wording, if,
“the Secretary of State considers appropriate”,
is an entirely subjective discretion, entirely uncontrolled in any way by the legislation. Is that really what the department wants? Well, the department may want it, but we are being invited to give powers to a Secretary of State years down the line to repeal an Act of Parliament, the whole Act, the Act that noble Lords have spent four days working on in this Committee. By this provision, if it comes into force, it can all be wiped out. That is what Henry VIII means.
I repeat that I totally accept the good faith of the Minister, I accept it completely and utterly, but he will not be the Minister 10 or 20 years from now, and the list of legislation that the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, gave us reminds us of how long this legislation could last. So because the department thinks there is a vague, undefined possibility that may arise in the future, I respectfully suggest that we are being landed with a hugely dangerous piece of legislation because it is totally unjustified. Of course the future is unsure. We all know that; Shakespeare told us that. It is the most important line he wrote. We know that the future is unsure, but it is not a justification for giving literally sweeping—sweeping away—powers to the Executive. That is not how we should operate.
I wholly support everything that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, just said, and what the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, said in introducing this debate. The matter that concerns the Delegated and Regulatory Reform Committee is on page 9 of its report, at paragraph 54. Not only is the power “very wide” in scope, but it,
“is to make whatever provisions—including ones amending and repealing Acts of Parliament … We note that it has become standard practice for provisions of this type to be included near the end of a Bill”.
This is appearing all the time. It is really an insurance policy: “We might make a mistake, and if we make a mistake we do not want to have the trouble of admitting it; we will just get some secondary instrument through Parliament, and that will be all that we have to do”. That is not a sufficient justification for such a wide power.
The committee suggested that at the very least, the power could be restricted by some type of objective test of necessity: to where it is necessary—to “where we have made a mistake” if you like—or to where something important has been omitted. We need something that gives substantive limitation to such a widely expressed power.
My Lords, I will speak briefly, although I feel rather rash in doing so after the compelling interventions we have heard. As I understand it, this power applies to any enactment, not just, as the noble and learned Lord said—I am sure misspeaking—to what is in this enactment. My position is as a lay person, but also someone who was for a long time in the usual channels, interested in the drafting of legislation and how that was done by a Government whom I opposed for 13 years. I have to say that we would have looked a little askance at this sort of thing in those years in opposition. I understand the innocent intent and perfect integrity of the present Ministers involved, but the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, rather anticipated my thought: if clear drafting instructions are given on what is required to be enacted and a Bill is properly drafted by expert draftsmen, there should be no need for the sweeping brush to be around afterwards. That is really how legislation should be presented to Parliament.
This is the second piece of planning legislation we have had in a year. I submit that there has been time to think through these things, but it is the wider point that concerns me. This is not an ad hominem, or a criticism of Ministers here, but this will become a practice—I was struck by that paragraph in the Delegated Powers Committee report. It will become part of the constitution if Parliament continues to accept, in Act after Act, that Ministers of the day can be given power to change any other enactment as a result of something that arises out of their further ruminations or representations on it. I hope that my noble friend will consider this carefully.
The other thing I would say, in the broader context of planning and the challenge of getting more housing and more things done, is that there is immense distrust out there—anyone who lives with the planning system knows the distrust and fear that people have that the system is loaded against them. The system is actually fair, and bends over backwards to try to be fair, but if government arms itself with powers to change the rules if something does not quite work out as might have been intended in the first place—instead of building that consent for new planning and new development that I want, and which I know the Government want—it may add to the sense, so eloquently expressed by my noble friend Lady Cumberlege, that the system is loaded. That must be something to avoid. Although my main objection is on the wider constitutional principle, as a practitioner—a local authority leader who has to stand between the forces of government and popular feeling—and as a layman, I argue that we should be particularly cautious in the context of this legislation.
I want to add my amateur voice to that of the professionals who have commented so far. At our previous sitting, we had an extended discussion about the sweeping provisions of Clause 12, making it a Henry VIII clause. The Minister went out of his way to reassure us about the very limited intent of Ministers in relation to that clause. One of the issues, which was perhaps not made very explicit in that debate, is exactly the point that the noble Lord, Lord True, made about the lack of public trust in the system, which the Neighbourhood Planning Bill and the Localism Act were specifically introduced to reverse. The Act seems to be doing so in places where it is taking root, which is absolutely excellent, and anything which would tend to undermine that trust and lead to uncertainty about the effectiveness of the new system is certainly to be avoided if possible.
I look at this from a pragmatic point of view, though I absolutely accept and endorse the constitutional point of view that has been put forward. With Clause 12 and Clause 38 we basically have a Henry VIII clause followed by a William I Clause. William I galloped through England laying waste to everything he saw, and that does not leave a very favourable impression of the direction of travel of the Bill. I hope that on top of any constitutional considerations, issues of news management, at least, might penetrate and make a difference to the Government’s approach.
My noble friend Lord Thomas said that there is surely some wording that could be used to make this a clause about owning up to mistakes. A phrase limiting its application only to cases where there was manifest error or omission would at least put on record and in the Bill its intended limitations.
I tried to add my name to this clause stand part Motion but unfortunately the queue was too long and I was not able to. I understand that mistakes can be made and need to be rectified. I again draw the Committee’s attention to the fact that we have, on day one of Committee, had 34 government amendments to a Bill which has passed to us from the other place. That shows that Bills have to be drafted better so that we do not end up with people wanting to change them because the right level of thought was not put in to them in the first place. In her emphasis on neighbourhood planning, the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, had it absolutely right—a clause of this kind in a Bill to do with neighbourhood planning, which can, in effect, put a coach and horses through any aspect of it, is unacceptable. I hope that the Minister understands that, and I very much hope that this clause will not survive beyond Committee.
My Lords, there is a certain irony in a Henry VIII clause applying to Wales, given that the Tudor monarchy was based on Welsh lineage. I am also reminded of the lines of TS Eliot in The Hollow Men:
“This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper”.
The Bill is ending in the reverse order. We have had a generally mild and constructive discussion for the past four days in Committee, but we end with something of a bang, because if the Government stick to their position, what is being perpetrated in the clause will lead to significant disagreement.
It is particularly important that the Government should listen to advice from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge. Others of us have our own views—we perhaps have a political approach, even those of us who are lawyers of a senior vintage, if I may put it that way. To hear the noble and learned Lord’s critique must surely give the Government pause for thought. It is simply unacceptable to insist on a procedure that leaves so much power in the hands of the Government effectively to ignore the obligations which ought to apply in relation to the Welsh Assembly, in this case, but in general to the operation of secondary legislation. In the few years that I have been here, that has time and again been shown to be defective as a mechanism for sustaining proper parliamentary consideration at the appropriate time of important measures with significant implications for various aspects of public policy.
I hope that the Minister will take this back and respond constructively, or secure permission to do so, to the views of this Committee and those of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and, it appears—for I had not noticed its report—to take the views of the Constitution Committee into account. Obviously, he cannot give us any firm commitments tonight but I hope that, after consulting his colleagues, he will be able to satisfy the House by indicating that. Otherwise, it will undoubtedly have to go to Report and, if necessary, a vote at Report. I hope that we can avoid that because, on the whole, the Bill has proceeded in a fairly consensual way. Most of us have endeavoured to work with the grain of the Government’s policy. It would be a shame if that were in contrast with a rigid decision to stick with very unsatisfactory drafting right at the end of the Bill.
My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, very much for his constructive approach and say that it is certainly not my intention not to engage on this between Committee and Report. I think that I indicated that on the previous amendment, which he so eloquently moved. I am very happy to engage with noble Lords.
I would like to say one or two things in response to the debate, and I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, who has been totally consistent on this issue and obviously speaks from great experience. Contrary to what my noble friend Lord True thought there is a history to this, not just from going back as far as Henry VIII. Successive Governments have indulged in this. I appreciate that that does not make it right, but I have done a little research with my team. The Housing and Regeneration Act 2008, the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 and the Greater London Authority Act 1999, just in this area, have powers wider than those in the Bill. My noble friend Lady Cumberlege referred to how important the Localism Act is; I quite agree but there are wider powers in that Act, which was passed under the coalition Government. I appreciate that that does not make it right, but I want to establish the point that a certain degree of consistency would be welcome on these issues.
That said, I am very happy to engage positively in looking at how we move forward on this matter. I very much echo what the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, said about the way that the Committee has proceeded in a consensual way for the most part. We have not always agreed on issues but we have certainly disagreed agreeably as we have gone through the Bill. I am certainly happy to engage with noble Lords between now and Report in looking at this matter.
We have to keep this in perspective. However, if noble Lords can provide examples of where this provision has been misused in relation to any of that legislation, which, as I say, goes back a considerable way, or examples of where any Government have used it improperly, that would strengthen the case for looking at it further. This measure also does not give the Secretary of State the power that has been suggested; it is subject to an affirmative resolution, which means that it has to be presented to both Houses with a full explanation and carried by both Houses. That said, I understand the points that have been made during the debate. I thank those who have participated: the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, my noble friend Lord True and the noble Lords, Lord Stunell and Lord Shipley, as well as my noble friend Lady Cumberlege and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, who put their names to this measure. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Beecham. Given the assurance I have just provided, I ask noble Lords not to press this measure.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his response and the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, for his comments. We are trying to get a consensus. During our first debate in Committee, I was described as the hard cop. I really am hard as regards this issue. We have to think very carefully about including a clause such as this. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, said that it was simply not justified, that there had been no attempt to justify it and that there was no control over it. He suggested that this clause could enable a future Secretary of State to repeal a whole Act of Parliament in the future. However, I totally endorse what the noble Lord, Lord True, and other noble Lords have said about the integrity of my noble friend the Minister in the Lords.
My noble friend has said that we ought to look at past experience. I am not interested in past experience. I am interested in the future. I am interested in this Bill and what could be done by a Secretary of State who does not have much integrity. Such a Secretary of State could wipe out the whole of this Bill. That is not respectful to Parliament. We are parliamentarians. We shape, discuss and put forward amendments. We agree and we disagree. In the end, we hope that we produce legislation that is good for this country. My noble friend and I had a very brief conversation outside the Grand Committee in which he talked about successive Governments. I say gently that just because a person has a bad habit does not mean that that habit should be condoned. It should be checked and better behaviour should be encouraged. I encourage the Government to mend their errant ways and follow the path of the righteous. To be righteous is to respect Parliament and not introduce these sorts of dangerous clauses. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, used the words “dangerous” and “unjustified”. Nobody has spoken in favour of this clause. When I read in Hansard the words used by judges and learned people who know the whole system and have worked in Parliament with the Constitution Committee and so on, it sends shivers down my back.
I also thank the noble Lords, Lord Thomas of Gresford and Lord Stunell, and my noble friend Lord True, and totally agree with them about the distrust of the planning system. I am involved in the National Health Service and in health generally, where there is a lot of science. A huge amount of research goes on and there are a lot of data, so that when we discuss things, we have a whole body of knowledge. I am not saying that planners do not have a body of knowledge, but there is not a lot of science in planning. There is a lot of opinion and a lot of views, so when we are doing something like this, we have to be even more careful if we are going to maintain the trust of the people of this country.
To use again the words used by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, this is a flawed part of the Bill—a flawed clause. It has no business being in the Bill. I have to say that unless my noble friend comes up with something really good, I will bring this back on Report, because we should not allow this sort of clause to be in this Bill or future Bills.
Clause 38 agreed.
Clause 39: Regulations
Amendment 129B not moved.
Clause 39 agreed.
Clause 40 agreed.
Clause 41: Commencement
Amendments 130 and 131
130: Clause 41, page 32, line 19, leave out “and 10” and insert “, 10 and 11 ”
131: Clause 41, page 32, line 20, at end insert—
“( ) section (Notification of applications to neighbourhood planning bodies), for the purposes only of enabling the Secretary of State to make provision by development order under paragraph 8(6) of Schedule 1 to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990;”
Amendments 130 and 131 agreed.
Clause 41, as amended, agreed.
Clause 42 agreed.
Bill reported with amendments.
Committee adjourned at 7.32 pm.