§ Mr. Ross
I beg to move, in page 20, line 10, at the end, to add:(5) Expenditure incurred by a district council in Scotland under this Act shall not be taken into account in any calculation as to the limit of one shilling per pound imposed on the district council by section two hundred and twenty-six of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947.During the Committee stage, the Government amended the Bill in respect of Clause 27 with a wisdom and an alacrity from which I do not at all dissociate myself. The Amendment extended to district councils, which represent the lower tier of Scottish local authorities, power to provide caravan sites, and with it the power to acquire land, either voluntarily or by compulsory purchase and to do upon that land what work is required to make adequate the provision of a caravan site.
What is omitted is the fact that the district councils, which are the ones with which we are concerned at the moment, are by Statute restricted both as to the purposes for which they may levy rates to raise money and also as to the amount of money they may raise. At that time, I drew the attention of the Joint Under-Secretary of State to this omission, and asked that something should be done. I may say that I had considerable help in drawing up the Amendment. Indeed, I have had so much official help that I begin to wonder whether there may not be a flaw in it. What it does is ensure that the district councils in the scattered country areas of Scotland would be able to act outside the limitation of a shilling in the £ in respect of the provision of caravan sites.
§ Mr. Leburn
I hope to show the Committee that with the same wisdom and alacrity I can deal with this proposal of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross). The Bill already accepts the principle of local authorities generally, and district councils in particular, providing sites, and, as the hon. Member has said, it would be unrealistic to give 1737> power to act if, at the same time we were to deprive these district councils of the wherewithal to get going.
I should like to say that, by and large, we hope that any local authority which sets up a site, equips and runs it will be able to do so without any loss to the ratepayers. Certainly, in view of the need to encourage tourism, we would not wish district councils to be inhibited by any fear of running into temporary financial difficulties arising out of any statutory rating limitations. Accordingly, the Government are glad to accept this Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Bill reported, with an Amendment; as amended (on recommittal) considered.
§ Order for Third Reading read.—[Queen's Consent on behalf of the Crown, the Duchy of Lancaster, and the Duchy of Cornwall, signified.]
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Sir k. Joseph
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
The Bill, as the whole House will agree, has been improved in Committee. This is thanks to the devotion, enthusiasm, experience and skill of hon. Members on both sides. My right hon. Friend is grateful to all hon. Members who have contributed so much both in discussion and in amendment to the Bill.
The House might like to know the main changes that have occurred since Second Reading. Perhaps the largest is the extension in the list of exemptions from licensing in Part I. This now covers further cases where land is occasionally used for the stationing of caravans. More particularly, there has been an extension to afford a reasonable measure of freedom for the person who is touring with his caravan while on holiday. The Government believe that the exemptions now provided, although the list in the Schedule is lengthy, touch only what might be described as the margin of the real caravan problem and that they will in no way prejudice effective control over the residential and holiday caravan sites, with which the Bill is primarily concerned. 1738 A further provision has been introduced in Clause 19 to ensure proper collaboration between local planning authorities and the licensing authorities on the issue of planning permission and licences for caravan sites. We have also added a provision, which will be found in Clause 17, to clarify the circumstances in which an existing caravan site may be run down by means of licence conditions, thus safeguarding the position of sites already operating with planning permission or established use rights.
There are a number of smaller amendments with which I need not trouble the House, but there are still one or two outstanding matters in connection with the Bill which we have not yet resolved to our satisfaction and which may require further attention when the Bill goes to another place. The first relates to the problem of caravans on common land. Then, there is the question, in which my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) was especially interested, of the application of the new enforcement procedure in Part II of the Bill to notices under Sections 30 and 33 of the 1947 Act. My hon. Friend was anxious that instead of regulations, as envisaged by Clause 39 of the Bill, we should do our best to put the changes in the Bill itself. This we are still trying to do and we hope that it may be possible to do it before the Bill becomes an Act. There are also a number of complexities in the operation of Clauses 9 and 35 which we have not yet finally resolved, so that we may want to look at the drafting of these two Clauses again.
In commending the Bill to the House with these changes, perhaps I may repeat once more our aims and our hopes. We want to make sure that there are enough caravan sites to meet the public demand in the right places and not merely to stop caravans becoming established in the wrong places, important though that purpose is. The licensing system is the Bill is designed to bring about positive improvements in living conditions on caravan sites. For the site operators who observe proper planning requirements and who are able and willing to maintain and equip their sites to a good standard, as is true in the great majority of cases, the Bill offers a new deal and long-term security. 1739 Local planning authorities and local authorities will have effective powers under Parts I and II of the Bill to control both the location of caravan sites and conditions on the sites. There will be less need for authorities in the future to adopt a defensive attitude to caravans, as they 'lave sometimes done in the past. The Government are confident that they will exercise their new powers wisely, recognising the important part that the caravan now plays in the life of the community and the legitimate needs of the many thousands of people who today make their homes and take their holidays in caravans.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Short
On Second Reading of this Bill my hon. and right hon. Friends and I myself said that we thought that it was a mistake to base a Bill dealing with caravans, both residential caravans and holiday caravans, on the Arton Wilson Report which dealt purely with residential caravans. We feel the Minister should have had further inquiry—or extended the terms of the Arton Wilson inquiry—into the problem of the touring caravan as well. If he had done that, I think this would have been a better Bill to start with.
It was because of this, and because, I am quite sure, the Minister was in much too big a hurry to get the Bill on the Statute Book, that the original draft had so very many flaws; but the Minister has had the good sense to realise that there were many flaws and many anomalies and to accept a great many Amendments. I can only wish that during the passage of the Rent Bill, as it then was, he had listened to the many excellent suggestions which came from this side of the House, in the way he has done on this Bill.
In spite of the fact that the Bill is now a great deal better than it was in the original draft, there are still some fears which, I hope, the Minister will bear in mind during the rest of the Bill's passage through Parliament. The first is the point which was raised earlier tonight that the words "or any other feature" still remain in the conditions which the local authority can impose in giving a site licence. I am quite certain that local authorities throughout the country, unless the Minister watches 1740 them very carefully, will impose a diversity of conditions which will make it extremely difficult for the caravan manufacturer, on the one hand, and the person who wants to tour from one local authority area to another, on the other hand. So I hope that the Minister, if he cannot alter this, will watch how it works out throughout the country very carefully. I do not remember how far he can go in the model conditions, but I seem to remember that in his model conditions he cannot specify constructional standards. That is one point which wants watching.
Secondly, I am quite sure that the pre-1948 site operator is not adequately safeguarded. I am not concerned with the man who started a site in recent years. I am concerned with the operator who started a site in the pre-1948 period. It may have been started twenty or thirty years ago when the operator was doing something which was perfectly lawful then. Their rights are permanent and unconditional. They may have been a little vague as to conditions but they were specifically confirmed in the 1947 Act and on these permanent and unconditional rights many operators have incurred considerable capital expenditure which they may not be able to recoup or the present operators may be people who bought sites because of those permanent rights.
I myself visited what is quite the best site I have ever visited—on Lake Windermere—a fortnight ago. I am sorry that the Minister did not visit the same site. I hope he will. I understand that something like £20,000 has been sunk in that site. This is a very important and substantial point.
I feel that those operators are certainly entitled to two things. They are entitled first of all to a much more insistent statement by the Minister that it is his policy that the operator on an existing site who is given planning permission less favourable than the rights he has enjoyed under the 1947 Act shall receive compensation. I think that the Minister must be quite specific and clear about that.
Secondly, I think we are entitled to a clear, definite assurance from the Minister that he has power to overrule planning authorities which do not follow this policy—I think he has go to do so 1741 on grounds of sheer commercial injustice—and that he will not have to decide an appeal on planning considerations which 'would undoubtedly be valid if the appeal were over a new site. So I think that the Minister must think about the position of the pre-1948 site operators.
I regret that there is no security in the Bill for the caravan tenant. I regret also that it does not deal with tents. I think that in many respects they are a much greater danger. I would again refer to paragraph 13 of the new Schedule, that is, the bit of the Schedule which gives the Minister power to withdraw certain exemptions as set out in paragraphs 2 to 10. I hope that the Minister will use his power cautiously and discreetly. I should have thought that a local authority applying for the withdrawal of any exemption should do so only if it is flagrantly abused by the exempt body. I take it that that will be the criterion which the Minister will apply in deciding whether or not to withdraw any of these exemptions.
I have said from the beginning of our discussions on the Bill that I did not think that local authorities should be exempt from the need to obtain licences for their own sites. I still think that. They should set the standards and should not only comply with the law but be seen to comply with it the same as everybody else. One point which may have escaped the notice of the House is that a local authority is obliged to have regard to the Minister's model standards only on new sites established under the Bill when it becomes law.
Clause 20 (2) says:…in exercising their powers under this section the local authority shall have regard to any standards which may have been specified by the Minister…That is in exercising their powers under the Clause. There are some local authority sites which fall far below the standards required, and I should have thought that local authorities would have been obliged to pay regard to the Minister's standards on all their sites, the existing ones and the ones established under the Bill.
On behalf of my hon. and right hon. Friends and myself, I must say that we wish the Bill well in the rest of its passage through Parliament. On the 1742 whole, we think it a good Bill now. Part II is very good and Part I is considerably improved. We express the hope that all the interests concerned, local authorities, caravanning interests, manufacturers and site operators and the Minister will do all in their power to make it succeed. We look forward to seeing the model standards which I understand will be available as soon as the Bill has received the Royal Assent. We shall scrutinise them very carefully.
I regard caravanning as one of the best of the newer recreations that have sprung up since the war. It fulfils one of the greatest needs of this age, to bring people more into contact with the simple age-old life of the countryside and out of the cities and the hurried life for which I am sure the human frame and the human spirit were not intended. The best antidote to that is to get people into contact with the countryside. This is what modern man wants more than anything else to restore his spiritual perspective. I hope that the Bill will reconcile the need to do this with the need to preserve the countryside.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Sir Lionel Heald (Chertsey)
I ought to ask the indulgence of the House for intervening very briefly at this stage because unfortunately I have not been able to be present at any time during the progress of the Bill so far. That has not been through any fault of mine. I have been in Africa on public duties.
I intervene because this is a subject with which I have been closely concerned ever since I first entered the House ten years ago. It was one of the first subjects that I ever raised in debate. At that time the Chertsey division was the one division where the problem had become more serious perhaps than it was anywhere else. It had not reached generally anything like the condition that it has been in during recent years and especially in the last year or two.
As an outsider, as it were, I am delighted to say a word of sincere thanks to my right hon. Friend for having undertaken the great burden of dealing with this problem. It is a problem with which many people have felt it almost impossible to deal over the years, and I am sure it required great courage and determination on the part of my right hon. Friend to grasp the nettle. I am 1743 sure that everyone will be grateful to him, and to those who have helped him in getting the Bill through the House.
The Bill will make many people in my constituency—which is still probably the worst affected in the country in relation to the caravan problem—feel that they can act within the law. During the last few years there has been a terrible feeling amongst almost everyone concerned that they were acting in a mean way if they attempted to carry on at all with caravanners, either from the point of view of the local authorities and caravan operators, or the people who lived in the caravans. There is no doubt also that many people have been put into difficulties, and sometimes exploited, by the legal problems and difficulties which this House has been considering during the last three months. From today at any rate they should be able to make a fresh start.
While I believe that we all ought to feel tremendous satisfaction at what has been achieved in the Bill, I do not think that we should adopt an attitude of complacency, because the machinery that has been provided here is very largely of a negative character. The machinery is not capable of producing results of itself in relation to the provision to ensure, as my hon. Friend so rightly described it, that the right kinds of caravans are in the right places. More than mere operation of the machinery will be needed. One of the things that will be needed most will be good will on the part of all concerned, and a real desire to make the Bill work.
We have discussed this afternoon the provision for the review of all sites and, as the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) pointed out, there will be a reconsideration of the position of people who for years have been acting in what they believed to be a perfectly legal way. That should cause no difficulty to anyone who has played the game, but if local authorities try to adopt a rather narrow attitude and to take technical points on these various provisions—for example, the word "feature" might provide them with an opportunity for doing so—it will be very unfortunate. Equally, if the site operators try to find loopholes and means of causing complications, both administra- 1744 tively and otherwise, we shall not achieve the results we want to attain.
We hope that it will not be long before the Bill becomes law, because it is urgently needed, but I believe that it should be accompanied by a general recommendation from this House to all those concerned that they should try to co-operate and make a success of it. I do not believe it will be easy. I know of places where the problem is by no means settled, but if everyone sits round the table and realises the objects that we are trying to attain, that will be a good start.
My right hon. Friend, the representative of the Opposition, and other hon Members have shown a good example by treating this matter as a purely nonpartisan Measure and something which is designed to benefit all sections of those engaged in the industry and all those who live in caravans.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine
Hon. Members on both sides will be aware of the part played by the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) in this matter, and will be very glad that he has intervened in this Third Reading debate. Much good work has gone into the Bill, and the Minister has proved receptive to points put forward by hon. Members on both sides.
The character of the caravan makes it easy to escape from planning control: indeed, the caravan has made the General Development Order relatively its playground. If the caravan could have been made answerable to planning enforcement provisions there would have been no need to impose anything in the nature of the licensing system which the Bill provides.
In appropriate contexts I favour the extension of public control for the public good. Basically, I suppose that is one of the main reasons why I find myself on this side of the House and not the other. But I feel very strongly that those of us who have this basic political sympathy and disposition have a very special interest in being continuously vigilant that Government Departments and local authorities are encouraged to operate fairly towards citizens. To the extent that we are able to satisfy the British people that Government Departments and local authorities behave fairly 1745 and squarely in their conduct of affairs we will gain support.
I wish to give two instances where what I call the extension of planning control under cover of a licensing system may operate unfairly. The first concerns the pre-1948 user. I was especially glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) thought it right to emphasise this point. It is the case of an existing use originating either before 1948 or, because planning permission was not required under the 1947 Act, after 1948. Under the mechanism of the Bill that land user has to have permission or he cannot get a licence. If he is refused permission he will have to discontinue his use of the land. He will receive no compensation unless the refusal of the permission by a local planning authority takes the form of a discontinuance order under Sections 26 and 27 of the 1947 Act. Without that statutory provision, dealing with and requiring the refusal of permission to take that form, it is very unlikely that it will take that form. If this use is discontinued by any other mechanism than by a discontinuance order under the 1947 Act, no compensation will be payable, as I understand the law.
It is also only right to remember the admittedly less strong case of the person who has taken advantage of the four years' lapse of time since he commenced a contravening use of the land. That case will arouse relatively less sympathy among Members on both sides. But we must be fair here, also. We must recognise that in particular cases an injustice may be perpetrated. Someone may operate a caravan site in contravention of planning law for four years or more. During that period enforcement proceedings may not have been initiated, either because of the indolence of the local authority or because it was in doubt whether the kind of development that was going on was of a kind which required permission under the 1947 Act. Whatever the reason may be, the land user may have gone on for four years without enforcement proceedings being initiated.
At the end of that period the person concerned is outside the mischief of enforcement. I have heard of cases where such persons have then expended large sums of money upon the improve- 1746 ment of the site. That expenditure may be useful and welcome, in the public interest. It may have the effect of improving the land or the sanitary provisions, and so forth.
Although such a person may have expended money in the public interest he will now be caught under the provisions of the Bill. If he wishes to go on with that use of the land and get a site licence he will have to get planning permission. If he is refused permission the refusal will certainly not take the form of a discontinuance order, because a discontinuance order under the 1947 Act is applicable only in the case of an authorised user. Such a person, therefore, would get no compensation. Those are the circumstances in which it is possible for injustice to be done.
I wish to repeat the initial point I made, to which I attach importance. If it appears odd to anybody that from this side of the House I should be appearing to put forward points favourable to the site operator—and even to the site operator who has been acting in contravention of planning law for some time—I venture to insist that, none the less, I do so because I take the basic view that, although we want to extend public control in these matters, it is of vital importance to ensure that both Government Departments and local authorities are given every encouragement to behave fairly and squarely towards citizens. Those are flaws, if there is substance in my criticism, arising from the circumstance that an extension of planning control is effected by the superimposition of a licensing system, but they are flaws which there is still time to correct during the passage of this l3ill through Parliament.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Temple
I add my congratulations to the Minister and to the Parliamentary Secretary upon their very flexible approach to the Bill, and I add my appreciation of the work of the officers of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government whom I have seen on many occasions and who have rendered me immense services in considering the substance of the Bill.
My right hon. Friend was perfectly right to press on with this legislation. 1747 There was undoubtedly a great need for it and had he waited for a committee to report on the problems of the travelling caravanner, we would have had to wait until another Session for the Bill. It was much more reasonable that he should have pressed on as he did and accepted many Amendments during the passage of the Bill.
There is no doubt that the Bill gives local authorities very great power and control over caravans. That must never be forgotten, but along with that control the Bill gives them very great responsibilities as well. However, I am very sensible of the fact that the problems of the travelling caravanner have been considerably eased during the Bill's passage.
There is one aspect of the Bill upon which there has been very little comment. It is that the Minister has power to specify model standards. No Amendments to that provision were suggested and so it was practically never discussed. It is immensely important, as these model standards will apply to the layout, services, facilities and equipment of caravan sites. In its third leader on 26th May, The Times said:The Bill does not lay down national minimum standards for sites, so the conditions they attach to licences could (despite the MINISTER'S model) mean much or nothing.It is important that those model standards should mean a great deal. I hope that the Minister will make it clear that he has every intention that his model standards will command the greatest respect among authorities with the power to administer this legislation.
At one and the same time, the model standards must be extremely flexible and elastic. They will have to apply equally to the single caravan site and to sites for 100 or 500 caravans. They will have to apply to areas of great scenic charm and to areas of lesser scenic importance.
An article in the June issue of The Mobile Home said:what will be the position of the individual caravan resident who has had the wit to find himself a quiet spot in the corner of an orchard?I was thinking about that quotation when the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) was speaking about crofts, because an individual caravan may be 1748 sited adjacent to a croft. The model standards must be flexible, because the croft may have no sanitation whatsoever while the model standards for caravan sites may say that all kinds of special sanitation should be provided where a residential caravan is sited. One may have a situation where there is a very much higher standard of sanitation for a caravan which is sited alongside a croft with virtually no facilities whatever. That is why I say that these model standards should be very flexible.
Clause 4 refers to amenities and the planting of trees and shrubs. Anyone with experience of the countryside can appreciate that the planting of trees and shrubs to effect a screening of a caravan site is a comparatively long-term project. We are encouraging site operators to screen sites properly, but it is unrealistic to think that a site operator will plant trees, say, ten years before the caravans arrive. In drawing up the model standards, my right hon. Friend will have to have regard to the fact that if a site operator shows every Intention of undertaking a screening project, the site must be permitted to be established while the necessary screening is growing up. That is why I hope that a very elastic attitude will be adopted when my right hon. Friend specifies his model standards. I would have preferred the standards to be in the form of regulations, but so long as they are definite and so long as my right hon. Friend is sure that local authorities will have to have regard to them, I am satisfied.
I said that local authorities would have great responsibilities as well as powers. There is no doubt that everyone in the House hopes that the standard of living of the people of this country will improve. As the standard of living improves, more and more of our people will get longer holidays with pay. As the public demand for caravans increases, so, in turn, will the demand for land increase. It would be disastrous if by reason of the tight control exerted through this Bill we were to drive caravan owners across the English Channel to seek their holidays abroad. I hope that as a result of the Bill more caravanners will take their holidays in the British Isles. That would be a great saving to the Chancellor. 1749 I should like to put in a word about agriculture. In my opinion, agriculture has nothing to fear by reason of a land grab by caravanners, because necessarily there are large areas of sub-marginal land, by which I mean farm land below the marginal farming standard, which could easily be developed by caravan site operators into excellent caravan sites. If that land were so developed, it would bring a great deal of employment and prosperity to those areas of the British Isles which are being depopulated at present. I believe that there will be site operators ready and willing to develop these areas of sub-marginal land.
This Bill, for the first time, gives these developers two things. It gives them the prospect of long-term planning provisions and, further than that, it gives them the prospect of long-term site licences. With these two provisions in their hands, the developers can go forward to developing the sites in these remote areas. The key is the planning permissions. The local authorities and, in the last resort, my right hon. Friend hold the key to the possibility of opening up these sites. If there is a reluctance on the part of the local authorities to grant the necessary planning permissions, my right hon. Friend has the power in his own hands to set the pattern when hearing cases which will come to him regarding planning permission refusals.
The Parliamentary Secretary said that he wanted to make enough sites available. I have fairly and squarely put the responsibility on by right hon. Friend and on the local authorities. Theirs is the responsibility and if they do not accept that responsibility they themselves will be continuing the monopoly value of sites which exists at the present time. They will be responsible for the key money which will be extorted from people by reason of the fact that there are not sufficient caravan sites. I hope that a liberal attitude will be adopted by the local authorities and by my right hon. Friend with regard to the granting of planning permissions. I feel confident that this Bill, having bad such an excellent start in this House and having had the good will of both sides and the blessing of the local authorities and of the caravan industry, will bring further health and happiness to the people of Britain.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Ross
The hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) hoped that caravanners would not have to go abroad in order to enjoy the benefits of their caravan holidays. There is no need for them to go abroad. All they have to do is to go to Scotland. Having been introduced to the glories and beauties of that country, they would never dream of going anywhere else. We are ready to welcome them. One is astounded when one sees what is already available in the way of caravan sites and how small towns and burghs throughout Scotland, many of which are not Socialist in any way, already have local authority sites for caravans and welcome the arrival of caravanners in their areas.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House have been right to praise the Ministers in charge of the Bill, not only for their foresight in introducing it, but also for the way in which they have handled it. Special compliments arc due to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. He has done very well. He has completely dominated the Minister, and long may he continue to do so. It was a refreshing surprise to hear the enlightened defence of public-spirited action by local authorities advanced from that quarter of the House. All joking apart, he has done a good job on the Bill.
In the Bill we are catching up with a problem and appreciating the dangers involved in allowing it to get any further out of hand. Hon. Members will not be surprised if I explain that during Committee and today I have listened to the proceedings with a certain measure of frustrated energy. I welcome Part I of the Bill, as it applies to Scotland—and practically all its provisions do apply to Scotland. We are giving Scottish local authorities new duties and responsibilities, not only to make provision for the well-being of the caravan community and the touring caravanners whom we hope will come to the Highlands and even to the crofts, but also to look after the interests of the general public in respect of dangers to health. For example, in one small burgh it might be possible to have a caravan site containing 250 caravans, which might contain about a thousand people. If the local authority does not exercise in 1751 respect of that site all its responsibilities in relation to public health laid upon it by Parliament for the rest of the community, it will be failing in its duty.
I think that the Government are right to insist that the local authority should be the site licensing authority, with powers to impose conditions and powers of enforcement. I know that the powers of enforcement and the changes made in Part II involved a certain measure of disunity in the party opposite, and during the Committee the Minister showed his wisdom and courage in standing up to that opposition. But where was the Secretary of State for Scotland? I recall how the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary fought in defence of the new enforcement provisions which they regarded as essential for the well-being of the public—not only of the caravanners but of everyone else. But where was the Secretary of State for Scotland? Because Part II, this important part of the Bill, is not applicable to Scotland. This is dreadful.
I know that you may say, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that because it is not applicable to Scotland, therefore it is not included in the Bill and cannot be discussed on Third Reading, but, with all respect, it is included in the Bill; the vital words in Clause 41 (3) are,This part of this Act shall not extend to Scotland".Before I give my blessing, or my partial blessing to the Bill, I must draw attention to this weakness and this failing in it. I had hoped that we might be able to discuss this question on Report, but it was not possible.
The Scottish Office has considerable responsibility to the people of Scotland. So far as I can understand it, the same things which impelled the Minister to introduce this streamlining in relation to enforcement for England apply equally to Scotland. The matter was discussed with the Scottish Office and the Scottish local authorities. Far from the story we heard from the Joint Under-Secretary of State being true, the Scottish local authorities left the Scottish Office in no doubt about where they stood before the publication of the Bill. It may be that consultation was invited too late, but the local authority representatives were unanimous that the existing procedure regarding enforcement was quite 1752 inadequate and lent itself to abuse. They also pointed out that existing procedure for appeal to the sheriff was inadequate in that the sheriff was entitled under existing law to decide the case on planning considerations. It was felt undesirable that in such appeals the sheriff should have power to deal with the planning aspects of the case.
The need for legislation was put to the Department and brushed aside. I ask the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he has had anything to do with this. I do not doubt that he has. The right hon. Gentleman will have a good memory of what happened last time, when he tried to put Scotland in the same kind of planning legislation as England.
What about the Scottish position? We need this legislation, but we are not getting it. I put the problem to one of the most knowledgeable men on Scottish local authority work, a newcomer to the House, my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey), who has had considerable responsibility in respect of this aspect of planning in Lanarkshire. He told me that during last year the number of applications for permissions regarding caravans increased nearly ten times. We are catching up with the problem in England and Wales, but in Scotland it is growing by leaps and bounds, and we are being denied the enforcement provisions properly to deal with it. I do not think this is good enough.
I have been supplied by my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie with a list of examples which prove the case in relation to enforcement. People are using all the loopholes available to them and staving off the enforcement order. In the meantime they are carrying on profitable businesses. In one case in Lanarkshire it took nearly five years to get a conviction, and the offender was fined £7. Another case took a few years to settle and the decision of the sheriff was to ask the offender to make his peace with the county council, and then the whole thing started all over again. Offenders take advantage of the leniency accorded them, and when the sheriffs make a decision all that happens is that offenders move from one site to another and the whole procedure starts again. 1753 This is a matter which is adequately dealt with in one of the Clauses in Part II of the Bill in relation to England, but there is no solution for Scotland. I think that here we have a justified grievance. I wish to know whether it will be met by the Scottish Office. When are we to get legislation? Are we to get legislation? This complete failure properly to appreciate the situation relating to Scotland is something which causes us much concern. We want the touring caravans and other caravans which are used for holiday purposes, but we do not want this to degenerate into another social problem. For whatever reason, the Scottish Office just burkes the issue, although here was an opportunity for us to cope with the problem.
I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State or the Minister can tell us how they justify the provisions in Clause 34 relating to penalties. We now have a penalty of £100 for offences committed in England and Wales but in Scotland, for the same offence, the fine is £50. This was one of the things discussed with the Scottish local authorities. They were asked by the Department whether they thought it time to review the penalties. They agreed that the penalties should be reviewed. They have been reviewed for England and Wales and a change has been made, but nothing has been done in relation to Scotland. The thing just does not make sense. It is not fair.
I know that perhaps I have trespassed a little in relation to what I may discuss on Third Reading, but the words are in the Bill, that it shall not apply to Scotland. That gives me ample scope to roam over the Part which does not apply to Scotland in order to decide whether I am able to vote for the Bill at all. I sincerely hope that I have made clear that I regard this Bill with a pleasant eye from the point of view of Part I and with an envious and jaundiced eye regarding Part II. I hope that in future the Secretary of State for Scotland will assert himself.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
My hon. Friend mentioned the £100 fine in England and Wales as compared with the £50 fine in Scotland. The Secretary of State may have reviewed it but realised that we were much poorer brethren and that the Tory Government 1754 could not make us any better off than we are.
§ Mr. Ross
That may well be, but I have my doubts about it. I am convinced that the people who are the private developers of caravans down here will be the people who will eventually do it in Scotland.
This is what concerns me. The problem is the same. The solution is the same. However, the law of Scotland is different from the law of England, and these things can be properly dealt with only by giving Scotland its own legislation. We should have had a Bill for Scotland. If we had had it from the start—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
Order. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) is going too far when he suggests a separate Bill. He was in order so long as he related his remarks purely to the one passage:This Part of this Act shall not extend to Scotland.He is not allowed to go into details of fresh legislation on Third Reading.
§ Mr. Willis
Further to that point of order. Is it not in order to suggest that we do not want Part I to apply to Scotland? That is what my hon. Friend is doing. He is suggesting that one Part should not apply and that another Part should apply, as a result of which he deduced that we should have had a separate Bill.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
So long as the hon. Member for Kilmarnock was dealing with the Bill applying to Scotland, he was in order, but when he went, as I heard him, order, but when he went, as I heard him, so far as to suggest that a separate Bill should be introduced to apply to Scotland he went beyond the scope of a Third Reading debate. That is what I understood the hon. Member for Kilmarnock to be saying. He will correct me if I am wrong.
§ Mr. Willis
Further to that point of order. An hon. Member is entitled to draw the logical conclusion from arguments which are in order. If the arguments relating to Parts I and II are in order, my hon. Friend is entitled to draw the logical deduction from them.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Yes. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) is correct, and for the last several minutes the hon. Member for Kilmarnock has been doing just that. But then the hon. Member went further and suggested, as I heard him, that fresh legislation should be introduced to deal with Scotland. That was outside the scope of a Third Reading debate.
§ Miss Herbison
Further to that point of order. My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock has been dealing with Part II, in particular Clause 41(3):This part of this Act shall not extend to Scotland.He has been trying to put questions to the Joint Under-Secretary of State to learn why it should be stated that it does not apply to Scotland. He has done this so that he will be able to decide whether to vote against the Bill. My hon. Friend has given his reasoning. If he has ultimately to decide to vote against the Bill he has, as my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) said, come to the logical conclusion, which he must state, that because Part H does not apply to Scotland we should have separate legislation. With due respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that is the only conclusion which my hon. Friend could reach and there would have been no sense in his argument had he not stated it.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I permitted the hon. Member for Kilmarnock to develop his argument in the sense that the hon. Lady has just explained. It was only when he advocated fresh legislation being introduced that I thought that he was going too far.
§ Mr. Ross
If you had not interrupted me, Sir, I should have been finished a long time ago. I was on the point of uttering my last five words. I ask you Sir, to reconsider the judgment you just gave, because I remind you and the House that the last time we had town and country planning legislation of this nature the one thing which was in order on Third Reading was to ask for fresh legislation for Scotland. Although it was in the last Session of Parliament, you, Sir, may remember that the Secretary of State for Scotland started the Third Reading debate by saying that the same Bill would be reprinted in Scottish legal terms and proper form and reintroduced. 1756 To suggest that we are not entitled to follow the logic of our conclusion and appeal to precedent in the form of past legislation carries it a little too far.
This sort of thing is always unsatisfactory. Part I applies to Scotland. When reading Part II, one has to move through Clause 28 without finding any mention of Scotland. Then one sees the rigmarole of paragraphs (a), (b), (c), (d), (e). (f) and (g). One has to go through all the previous Clauses, amending this, scoring out that, and adding something else. It is most unsatisfactory. When one comes to the Part which is the real meat, the enforcement Part, one sees the changes in planning legislation which have been forced upon the Government by their experience of what has happened in England and Wales. There is the same problem in Scotland. Can anyone have any cause to complain when we express our anger at discovering that this is not applicable to Scotland? I am sure that the reason is the technical difficulty of weaving Scottish planning legislation in with that of England. That is why I think that I am justified in saying on Third Reading that the only solution in Scotland to this problem, properly met in England and Wales by this Bill, would be to give us separate Scottish legislation, not fresh legislation but legislation of exactly the same character.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page
I wholeheartedly agree with the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) in his last remarks, just as I would agree with him if he said that England ought to have home rule. If his arguments were presented elsewhere, we should have a lot more time to ourselves in this Chamber.
I agree also with what the hon. Gentleman says about the enforcement notice procedure. It has been quite obvious that a reform in the procedure has been necessary for many years. I congratulate my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary on piloting the Bill thus far. I congratulate them on the Part I which deals with caravans. I cannot, however, congratulate them on the methods they have found in Part II for the reform of the enforcement procedure. There is very much of good in Part I of the Bill relating to caravans, but the price we have to pay 1757 in Part II for that good is, in my view, far too high.
The enforcement procedure under the present law is not a duplicate procedure but a triplicate procedure. A site operator who wishes to avoid enforcement has the right to go before the magistrate, the Minister and the local authority in several forms of procedure and to delay the ultimate penalty upon himself. That needed reform, but, in my view, my right hon. Friend has adopted the wrong way of reforming it in Clause 28. He has thrown all planning appeals and all appeals from enforcement notices before one tribunal, that tribunal being the inspector appointed by himself.
Obviously, the inspector is an extremely correct person to deal with matters of administrative discretion. When it is really a planning decision which has to be made, the inspector of the Ministry is the right person to hear the appeal from the enforcement notice, hut appeals in at least four of the cases detailed in Clause 28 have nothing whatever to do with planning. They are appeals purely on fact, and very large sums may be involved. The hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) in his Third Reading speech referred to established rights and rights which had been acquired over four years. Large sums may have been spent on the development of sites.
Here we are dealing not only with caravans, as in Part I of the Bill, but with any type of development of properties, and very expensive development may have taken place. Perhaps buildings have been erected on the basis that a right was acquired there before 1948, and, under Clause 28, whether or not there was a right established before 1948 is to be settled by a person appointed by the Minister, from whom there is no appeal except on a point of law.
I want to stress to the House what may happen in practice before a person so appointed. He is normally not a lawyer, so that if a point of law is raised before him he takes a note of it and informs the parties that he will take legal advice on it. In short, it will be decided by my right hon. Friend on the advice of the legal department of the Ministry, which will not have heard the legal arguments, but will merely have before it a note taken by the inspector. 1758 A point of law, of course, depends upon the facts, and should the inspector, who is not a legal man, not appreciate the point of law, he will not search out the facts for and against that point of law. I should have thought that it was essential in cases where it is not a planning decision, but a decision on facts and law, that there should be something more than a tribunal appointed under Clause 28, even if it were only that my right hon. Friend should appoint a legal assessor to sit with his inspector, because, under the Clause as it stands at the moment, the inspector's decision is final, except on points of law.
I feel so strongly that this course is wrong that I cannot give a blessing to the rest of a Bill which contains a Clause like this. I hope that this point will be looked at in the later stages to see whether something cannot be done to provide a better tribunal than that suggested in Clause 28 for those cases which are not based entirely upon planning permission. Part I of the Bill has so much good in it that it is unfortunate that Part II, which is of general application, should have this fault.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Willis
I agree with the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) on one thing that he said, and that is about the admirable purport of Part I of the Bill, which applies to Scotland. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), however, I am bound to say that I do not like this method of legislating for Scotland. I should have thought that the Scottish Office had learned its lesson on the occasion of the last Town and Country Planning Bill.
It is quite true, of course, that, technically, it is not so much town and country planning legislation in Part I, but it is true to say that it is an extension of planning legislation. It may not be dealing with the original Act so much, but it is an extension of the principle. I do not know whether the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will reply to this debate or not, but surely the hon. Gentleman remembers the last great volume of protest against incorporating Scotland into Bills dealing with planning. In fact, even the Faculty of Advocates protested to the 1759 Secretary of State against this procedure, and, as the hon. Gentleman will remember, as a result of the very great many protests about this procedure, the Scottish Office ultimately had to introduce a separate Bill altogether, incorporating the provisions which had originally been passed in a Bill for England and Wales and Scotland.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member will appreciate that this creates great difficulty for the Chair. I am not without sympathy for the point he desires to make, but I do not see how he can manage to make it within the rules of order on Third Reading. With respect to him, in the case of the kind of legislation and trouble that he is recalling, the objection and protest is made at a much earlier stage in the Bill, and that is a different matter. I have listened to him, but I desire him to remain in order.
§ Mr. Willis
I am grateful for your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. I will try to remain in order and will accordingly address myself to the Clauses of the Bill.
We have a Clause of two and a half pages applying Part I to Scotland, and it is exceedingly difficult to follow. This Clause means that anybody dealing with the Bill in Scotland has not only to read through Clauses 1 to 24 but to read Clause 26. He then has to read Clause 25 to get the interpretation of the Part of the Bill which deals with Scotland.
To understand this part of the Bill, the lawyer in Scotland—the town clerk —has to read Clause 25, entitled "Interpretation of Part I". Therein he reads:'the Minister' means the Minister of Housing and Local Government".However, he then has to readApplication of Part Ito Scotlandand he reads in Clause 27 thatthe definition of 'the Minister' shall be omitted".He then turns back to the beginning of Clause 27 and finds that any reference to the Minister means the Secretary of State. I suggest to the Joint Under-Secretary that that is not fair to the officials in Scotland, many of them part-time officials in the small burghs, who will have to handle the Bill. 1760 Perhaps I may follow that up by asking a question about the model standards. I see from Clause 4 (6):The Minister may from time to time specify for the purposes of this section model standards with respect to the layout…of sites. I take it that the Secretary of State will do this in Scotland. Do I take it that the Secretary of State can specify model standards that are quite different from those specified for England? The Joint Under-Secretary may appear to be amused, but it is an important point because a great many of the conditions in Scotland are quite different from what they are in England. I want, therefore, to ask whether that is so and whether it is the Secretary of State's intention simply to issue the same model standards as the Minister of Housing and Local Government will issue in England or whether he intends to do something different. It may be that we could have an answer to this question too.
Part II of the Bill does not apply to Scotland. That is a pity. The reasons have already been dealt with and I do not want to get out of order any more than I might have been, but I ask the Joint Under-Secretary whether it is the intention of the Government at some time to introduce an equivalent to Part II for Scotland. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has said, the provisions contained within Part II are required by Scotland. Unfortunately our Amendment was not called, otherwise we could have debated this.
§ Mr. Speaker
I sympathise with the hon. Member, but this seems to be a matter in which he is disappointing himself in his desire not to go out of order.
§ Mr. Willis
I submit, Mr. Speaker, that in expressing my feelings about the Bill it is in order to say that I am disappointed that Part II does not apply to Scotland.
What I am trying to say, briefly, is that whilst I want the provisions of the Bill, it is a bad Bill because, first, it mixes up Scotland with England in Part I and, secondly, it does not include Scotland in Part II. That is why the Bill does not appeal to me as a good Bill, although the objects which it sets out to achieve are admirable. 1761 Having said those things, I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will take some of them rather seriously. While I deal with these matters in a friendly spirit, nevertheless there is very great feeling about some of the things that we have mentioned.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Corfield
I very much welcome the general objects of both Parts of the Bill, though I want to make one or two points on how I think it might have been better than it is. In the first place, although I am naturally not quite so attracted to public ownership as the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine), I agree with him that the good name of local authorities should be absolutely unimpeachable in the way they deal with the rights of private individuals, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider very carefully the doubts raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman.
I can see that there is considerable cause for saying, in the case of the pre-1948 developer, that it may be that any loss of planning permission would have to come through the discontinuance order under Section 26 of the 1947 Act, but the very fact that somebody like the hon. and learned Gentleman can have the doubts which he has expressed is a reflection on the drafting of the Bill. The whole object of legislation, when all is said and done, is to be certain.
As far as the four-year man is concerned, of course the hon. and learned Gentleman was right in saying that we all have comparatively less sympathy with him, but let us remember that those four-year rights may equally have been acquired, and the property sold to somebody else, in all good faith, in the belief that there was no possibility of planning permission being withdrawn. I would agree entirely with the hon. and learned Member that in that case there would be no question of a discontinuance order under Section 26, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will look at this and bear in mind that the very fact that the hon. and learned Gentleman has these doubts is a reflection on the drafting which should be settled. Though we all have great respect for the legal advice which my right hon. Friend receives in his Department, it is not necessarily better than legal advice from the Temple. 1762 There are one or two points I would make on the enforcement side. I personally regret that this Part of the Bill did not appear under the title of "Town and Country Planning." It seems to be that if we build a whole new structure on what really is the basis of two Sections of the Town and Country Planning Act. 1947, it is a pity to call it "Caravan Sites: General Control of Development." However that may be, there are one or two points about which I, for one, certainly have doubt and on which I hope my right hon. Friend will comment.
The first one arises on Clause 33, which we discussed earlier tonight. I would remind my night hon. Friend that it is not always easy to say to the owner that he must protect himself in his lease. There are a great many leases which have already been entered into and which have a considerable number of years to run. It is not easy suddenly to put in a lease a clause which is necessitated only by this Bill, to safeguard oneself against infringement of planning control. The difficulty is particularly marked where the land is agricultural land. There are leases which go on from year to year with virtually complete security of tenure, and I think that the Bill may be putting a very considerable burden on the owner, and I think the Parliamentary Secretary is showing a good deal of optimism if he thinks it is easy for the owner to pass this on to the tenant.
The next point that worries me a little arises out of Clause 33, when I recall that the repeals Clause at the end of the Bill repeals the provision in Section 23 of the 1947 Act by which, pending appeal under Section 18 of the 1947 Act for planning permission, the enforcement notice, so to speak, was suspended. In this case, that having been repealed, it appears that if planning permission is subsequently obtained, it is obtained with effect from a date later than the enforcement notice. Subsection (2) would operate to enable the recipient of the notice to be prosecuted in spite of the fact that at the time the prosecution took place planning permission had been given and the enforcement notice had ceased to have effect.
There is on Clause 35 another small matter, but again one of clarification. I read with interest the proceedings in Standing Committee on the Clause. My 1763 hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government agreed entirely with the Committee's views that the development referred to in the second line of subsection (2) was development taking place after the commencement of the Act. I cannot for the life of me see why that should not say so. It is well enough to say that we have used the present tense, but that is used in a great many enactments in which it is followed by the words "before" or "after" the commencement of the Act.
I hope that this will be made clear, because I think that I am right in saying that subsection (5) of the Clause makes it clear that, as far as enforcement goes, it applies whether it was before or after the Act, but development is to come in only if the development is carried out after the commencement of the Act. I hope that this matter will be made clear in the drafting.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Collard (Norfolk, Central)
I listened diligently to the proceedings in Standing Committee on the Bill, and, except briefly on one occasion, I resisted the temptation to take part, not having any previous precise knowledge of the matters at issue. But I wish now on Third Reading to make three comments on the Bill which perhaps will be regarded as general and non-legal but, I hope, as none the worse for that. Two of the comments are on Part I and one on the Bill in general.
My first comment on Part I can be dealt with very shortly, because my anxiety on the point has been allayed to a considerable extent by the new Schedule which my right hon. Friend has introduced. Part I gives considerable powers to the local authorities and it gives, quite properly, a degree of protection to site owners and site operators. It shows, again quite properly, some tenderness to the showman and recognises organisations such as the Caravan Club of Great Britain. But I wonder about the private individual, the member of no organisation, the man who simply has a caravan and wishes to tour with it. He simply wants to go on holiday and he goes on holiday in a caravan in order to seek freedom and not to seek regulations. 1764 It is to be hoped that Part I will not face him with regulations which otherwise he would be able to avoid. I wonder, even now with the new Schedule, whether he will find that his favourite spots are no longer available or that the owner of a site which he had previously visited cannot accept him because the owner is up to the statutory prescribed number of caravans and will have regretfully to tell him to go away.
Secondly, the Bill gives to local authorities not only powers of licensing but also of compulsory purchase of land for the purpose of having their own caravan sites.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
§ Mr. Collard
My hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) fluently but unsuccessfully opposed that provision during the Committee stage. I am concerned about the granting of licences and the compulsory purchase of land. Will local authorities have a proper regard for preserving the amenities of picturesque places?
I mentioned in Committee that I am fortunate enough to represent part of the County of Norfolk, a county which is rich in beautiful villages, and a county which in the summertime is visited by many holidaymakers. We welcome those visitors, but picturesque places like those about which I am thinking are liable to be selected as caravan sites, and there is no doubt that a caravan site must inevitably be unsightly. Much of the Bill will improve the unsightliness of caravan sites but, generally speaking, a caravan site cannot improve a picturesque spot.
Compulsory purchase in the last resort will prevent local people from resisting the destruction of those amenities which are for the benefit of all, and which, once spoilt, cannot be replaced. It is, therefore, to be hoped that local authorities will be particularly vigilant lest the new powers are used to desecrate even more of the countryside. 1765 Finally, it is to be noted that the Bill as a whole strengthens the position of local authorities, and therefore I hope that one is justified in considering for a moment how local authorities exercise their responsibilities at the present time. Criticism of local authorities is not to be taken as condemnation. I hasten to say that they do fine work. Members of local authorities render services which are unpaid and unpublicised but very valuable; but without doubt the great blemish on local government is delay.
The reasons are, of course, many and understandable. Councillors are part-time workers. Much of the work is done in committee, and it is not always possible to get committees to meet as often as one would like. The regulations with which they have to deal are complex. There a re heavy burdens on local authorities, and these must impose some delay on their deliberations. Councils must have a proper regard for ratepayers' money and the spending of it, and that, too, must impose delay, but it is undeniable that there is widespread, what I would call, oppression by delay.
I think that it will be within the general experience of hon. Members that most complaints of local difficulty which concern local authorities do not so much concern decisions which are unjust or inequitable, but concern delays in getting any decision at all. It is true that Part I of the Bill lays down certain time-limits for the approving of existing sites, but the provisions in the Bill in general, and in particular the new rules for the licensing of caravan sites, seem to provide endless possibilities for delay if one wishes to use them.
I can only suggest that a spirit of urgency would help in local authorities. They should not shelve matters, or put them off to their next meeting, simply because this or that detail does not happen to be available, or because the matter seems to be too difficult. In particular, councillors of local authorities should question their officials very closely when those officials counsel delay, and they should demand very good reasons if they counsel delay in matters affecting individuals who are seeking authority or permission from the council.
With those reservations, and in the hope that in these matters local authorities will set their faces against oppression by delay, I welcome the Bill.
§ 10.6 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Brooke
I do not often agree with the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), but I am delighted to seize the opportunity of welcoming what he said about the part which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has played in the proceedings on the Bill. No Minister could have had a better assistant; indeed, no Minister could have been more generously treated by the Standing Committee and the House. In many respects this has been a model of the way in which we ought to handle a Bill which arouses no party feelings.
I express my thanks to hon. Members on both sides who served on the Standing Committee and who have taken part in the debates on the Floor of the House. The Government, in respect of their English and Scottish representatives, have done their best to be receptive of ideas from both sides, and have tried to join with everybody in shaping this into a still better Bill.
I took it a little amiss when the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) criticised the Government for having been over-hurried in seeking to get the Bill on to the Statute Book. My view is that we need it on the Statute Book as soon as possible. To go back into history—the sole reason why I asked Sir Arton Wilson to confine his invaluable investigations to residential sites was that if I doubled his work by asking him to study problems of the holiday caravanner and the mobile caravan it was clear that he would not be in a position to present a comprehensive report in time for the Government to bring forward legislation this Session.
From all I knew about this matter two years ago it seemed as clear as possible that we ought to try to get new legislation on to the Statute Book not later than the summer of 1960, and I now thank the House for the help it has given me in achieving that object. I shall be very glad to convey the appreciation expressed by a number of hon. Members to those people who, in the Departments—not only in my own but behind the scenes—have devoted so much work to helping Ministers and Parliament in the shaping of the Bill.
An unusually large number of detailed questions have been asked in the course 1767 of this Third Reading debate, and I will try to answer those which seem to be most substantial. My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) is very worried about Clause 28. I would point out that the kind of question which has to be dealt with under subsections (1, c) and (1, d) is exactly the sort of question which already comes before the Minister of appeal against determinations by the local planning authority under Section 17 of the 1947 Act. They are now, and have been for years past, determined by the ordinary appeal procedure, so we are not introducing something which is entirely novel; we are carrying on with something which has been accepted, which was not criticised by the Franks Committee, and which I believe we can make work in the future in relation to Clause 28 as acceptably as it has been made to work hitherto in those analogous cases which I have mentioned.
I realise that my hon. Friend is concerned lest there should be some slip-up in appearing before an inspector. In Committee he said that if these cases were taken in a court of law, as he wished, evidence would be heard on oath, and so forth. I would remind him that the 1933 Local Government Act already empowers inspectors, whom the Minister appoints to hold inquiries, to take evidence on oath. It empowers them to summon witnesses and to require the production of documents. An inspector would always be prepared to consider an application by either party to an appeal that his power in this respect should be exercised in a particular case, and I am prepared to bring that to the notice of the inspectors in my Department.
In Clause 28 and Part II it may be that we cannot overcome all the difficulties. As so often happens, one is faced with a choice, and one has to settle for the least imperfect course. I do not believe that my hon. Friend has fully realised that if we tried to get away from Clause 28 as drafted we should get back to the duplicate procedure, which was described by one hon. Member as triplicate procedure but which was really quadruplicate procedure, because in each case there was a right of appeal to another authority. Whatever one does to try to meet my hon. Friend's point—and I have been considering whether it could be met 1768 without restoring the duplication—one realises the difficulties into which one would run.
In his Third Reading speech, my hon. Friend was arguing that there should be a more legal form of procedure where the only question which had to be settled under Clause 28 was one of fact, but he had not sufficiently allowed for the truth that under Clause 28 there will never be a situation where that is the only point at issue. I invite his attention to subsection (2) of that Clause, which puts upon the Minister who has to decide the appeal the responsibility of considering the planning aspect of the whole question, in addition to any specific questions which may arise under the various headings of subsection (1).
Once one accepts that there are planning questions to be settled by an appeal of this kind, the only way one can do it is to stick to the well-tried system of a hearing before an inspector and a final decision by the Minister. Otherwise, one simply gets back to the situation, which we all want to avoid, where there is duplication, if not quadruplication, of procedures.
The other major topic was compensation. The hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) referred to this, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) and other hon. Members. Once again I will try to make the position as clear as I possibly can. If the planning authority accepts that the site has existing use rights but nevertheless wants to close it down, the course the planning authority must take is to serve a Section 26 order and pay compensation. There is a perfectly clear pointer to that in Clause 15 (3, b).
On the other hand, a planning authority may wish to question the existence of rights and want to close down the site. In that case, if the planning authority doubts whether there is a planning permission, or whether there are valid existing use rights, its proper course is to serve an enforcement notice and the pointer to that, too, is in Clause 15 (3, b). An enforcement notice is subject to appeal to the Minister under Clause 28 and the Minister can be relied on to quash an enforcement notice if, as a result of inquiry, he finds that in fact the site has 1769 existing use rights. If that is found as a result of the inquiry, then the Minister will give permanent planning permission, which will enable the site to be licensed under Clause 3.
If a planning authority were ever to give a limited planning permission for a site with existing use rights, which might be the sort of case the hon. and learned Member for Edge Hill had in mind, then there would be the ordinary right of appeal to the Minister against the time limit condition. Here, again, it is not intended that local authorities should give limited term planning permission, except in some cases where it is perfectly clear that the land will not be available after a certain term.
I assure the House that when I have to deal with these matters on appeal, I shall not allow a local authority to whittle away the value of existing use rights by giving a short-term planning permission. The appeal procedure to the Minister will be the safeguard against that.
To be perfectly clear and frank, I must say that there may be occasions when a site operator who has existing use rights may nevertheless find certain restrictions put upon him by the site licence, not by the planning permission, because in future if he is to be running a caravan site, he must have regard to the site licence, and the site licence in its turn must have regard to the model conditions. If someone with existing use rights has been crowding twice as many caravans on the land as should be there, there is no question of paying him compensation for reducing the figure to what is in accordance with the model standards, but in the other case I give the House a complete assurance that compensation will be payable and there will be no means open to a local authority to escape from its obligation to pay compensation.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine
Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that in the case of a land user who has had a contravening use, but where four years have expired so that he has escaped the mischief of the enforcement provision, and who later expends money an developing the site, and who is required under the new procedure to discontinue, the direction could hardly take the form of a Section 26 discontinuance order, since that would not have 1770 been an authorised use and such a user would be deprived of any prospect of compensation?
§ Mr. Brooke
I will examine the point which the hon. and learned Gentleman has made. This Bill will have to come back to this House, because undoubtedly certain Amendments need to be made in another place. I have given the House as clear a statement as I can, and, these being complicated matters, I would not like to answer any further and more detailed questions "off the cuff".
I agree very much with what was said by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald), and supported by several hon. Members, about the necessity of a real desire to make the Bill work. In the circular which I shall send out when the Bill reaches the Statute Book, I shall certainly be prepared to include a recommendation of that character, because there must be no complacency. All that we are doing in this Bill is to create the machinery and the machinery has had a general welcome from the House, but it will require good will on the part of both local authorities and the caravan site operators and caravanners if the Bill is to be a success.
My hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple), who has been so helpful throughout the passage of the Bill, said that the local authorities must see that there are enough caravan sites. Clearly, we must see that there are enough caravan sites, and there is the power of appeal. I should be misleading the House if I were to suggest that anyone with some caravans could necessarily, after the passing of this Bill, put the caravans on any particular sites that he wants. If caravanners' rights alone were being considered, we might very well have caravan sites right round the coast of this island. There are other people who want to enjoy the coast as well. While I accept that sites must he found for caravans, they may not always be what would be regarded by the caravanners themselves as ideal sites, because one has also to take into account the wishes and desires of the rest of the population. One has to seek a balance.
As regards the model standards, while I cannot, so far as England and Wales is concerned, guarantee that they will be published before the Bill reaches the 1771 Statute Book, they will certainly be available before the Bill comes into operation, which is a month later. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) asked what would happen in Scotland. I have consulted my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary who tells me that the model standards for Scotland will not necessarily be the same as those for England. Where the circumstances are different the standards for Scotland may also be different.
My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Collard) spoke of the touring caravanners. I think that we have gone a very long way to meet the case of the touring caravanners in the Schedule. Admittedly, there may sometimes be a man who wants to put up somewhere and who falls foul of the twenty-eight days rule or some other provision, but compared with the Bill as it was when first introduced, I believe that we have made it into a charter for the travelling caravanner.
As to compulsory purchase, I hope that there will be very little compulsory purchase of caravan sites under the Bill, and quite certainly, when any compulsory purchase orders come to me for confirmation, I would be wishful of considering the amenities of the area as well as everything else, certainly if objection were taken to the form of the compulsory purchase order. If objection is taken a public inquiry must be held, and those most concerned by it will have an opportunity of ventilating their views in public.
I quite frankly accept that, apart from the case of compulsory purchase, there is a certain inherent clash between the interests of amenity and the interests of those who have caravans, and it will 1772 be the business of the planning authorities and the Minister on appeal to seek to resolve those difficulties as best may be.
I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central hit the nail on the head when he spoke of oppression by delay. One of my hopes is that the Bill will diminish delay. A great deal of the delay has occurred through uncertainty. We are trying to get rid of ambiguities and weaknesses here and to create certainty where it has not existed before. Although I appreciate that for the first few months, under the procedure laid down in relation to existing sites, there may be uncertainty, and local authorities will have much to do in that period, nevertheless after that I hope that everything will move more swiftly than it has hitherto.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South asked me one or two technical questions. I can but repeat the assurances which were given in Committee, for instance on Clause 35, that although subsection (5) speaks ofan enforcement notice served before the commencement of this Act".the development with which that Clause is concerned is development after the commencement of the Act and not before it.
I hope that I have covered the majority of the points raised in this short but interesting Third Reading debate and, with a final expression of my gratitude to the House, I should like to say that in my belief we all desire this Bill not only to reach the Statute Book as soon as possible but also to be worked with good will and understanding by all the interests concerned.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.