Lords amendment: No. 109, after clause 127, in page 105, line 32, at end insert—
M.—(1) An urban development corporation shall prepare a code of practice as to consultation with the relevant local authorities about the exercise of its powers.
(2) In this section "the relevant local authorities" means local authorities the whole or any part of whose area is included in the urban development area.
(3) Preparation of the code shall be completed not later than the expiration of the period of 12 months from the date of the establishment of the corporation.
(4) A corporation may from time to time revise the whole or any part of its code.
(5) A corporation shall prepare and revise its code in consultation with the relevant local authorities.".
§ Read a Second time.
§ Mr. Spearing
I beg to move, as an amendment to the Lords amendment, at end add—(6) Any such code of practice shall make specific provision for consultation relating to Orders vesting in an Urban Development Corporation land vested in a local authority.'.The Lords amendment is a new clause which purports to provide a statutory requirement for consultation by the urban development corporation with the local authorities in whose area it is placed.
My criticism of almost every subsection of the new clause is that there are virtually no teeth. Subsection (1) says merely that a UDC shall prepare a code of practice relating to consultation. There is no two-way conversation. It is entirely within the orbit and hands of the urban development corporation. Subsection (2) gives the definition of the local authorities, and subsection (3) gives a 12-month time limit in order to prepare the code of practice.
I find that surprising because one of the Government's justifications for setting up urban development corporations is that 388 they will speed up the process. If it takes 12 months to complete a code of practice and consultation, there will be a slowdown in procedure. But I take it that this is a long-stop provision, and that it may not take that long. Under subsection (4) the corporation may unilaterallyrevise the whole or any part of its code.One assumes that if any part of it was not to its liking it could suddenly change it. That again is a one-sided provision.
Paragraph (5) provides that the local authorities must be consulted if a change is made. But the local authorities do not have to consent. Labour Members believe that this is a weak provision. It does not give any real power to the local authorities other than statutory consultation. The rules are made entirely by one side. It is like one side going in to bat in cricket and changing the rules as the game progresses if they so wish. It is as strong or as weak as that.
However, if the Government are to have some sort of code of consultation, it is advisable for the House to ensure that there will be a provision in the code on at least one issue. This amendment seeks to ensure that where an order is placed before the House for a compulsory purchase vesting the code of practice will take account of it. We believe that there should be specific provision for that. The amendment states:Any such code of practice shall make specific provision for consultation relating to Orders vesting in an Urban Development Corporation land vested in a local authority.In other words, there should be specific provision in the code of practice for proper consultation when the urban development corporation wishes to take over land by compulsory purchase, in this case through the action of the Secretary of State. It is a modest amendment to a very weak provision, but we feel that it would justify a place in the code.
On the general question of consultation, I should like to put a point to the Minister that has arisen in the consultations relating to the Bill, and it is relevant to the code of practice that may arise as a result of this Lords amendment. It concerns an important matter relating to planning. When the Minister sent out his 389 original consultation document, he stated that planning powerswould be a reserve power to be activated as necessary under which the urban development corporation would have planning powers in respect of all the proposals in its area.But in the other place, on 14 October, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, in resisting an amendment moved by Lord Evans of Claughton, said that these werepowers which we consider to be essential for a UDC to have, bearing in mind the nature of the buildings and the land in the dockland areas. If a UDC is to be an effective agency it will need all the powers in the present Bill, and I therefore have to resist these amendments."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 14 October 1980; Vol. 413, c. 1255]In other words, even in the consultation processes in relation to the Bill there seems to be some change of mind on the part of the Government on the important matter of planning.
If the Government can make a change of such a nature in the consultative processes prior to legislation, I shudder to think what may happen in consultation, even with this rather weak code. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us some guidance on the matter, of which I have given him some prior notice, because it is relevant to consultation.
Lord Bellwin, throughout the proceedings in Committee in another place, constantly said that the success of the operation would depend on the co-operation of local authorities. There can, of course, be no co-operation if there is not proper and genuine consultation.
Here we have a position in which the Secretary of State—I am glad that he is in the Chamber for this part of the proceedings—is to take away from local authorities the proper powers that they have exercised in this area for over a century. They are unwilling to have the powers taken from them. They may even petition another place in order to stop him doing it. He is taking away very considerable powers, including those of planning, and then he says "We are going to ask you to do certain things and to co-operate with the urban development corporation, and we shall consult with you just before you do it."
I do not believe that that will result in the sort of accelerated pace of development 390 that the Minister says he wants to see and by which he is justifying the urban development corporation. I therefore feel that the code will be only a bit of a figleaf. Let us put another little bit on it in regard to compulsory purchase if the Minister has it in mind to accept the amendment.
§ Mr. King
Amendment No. 109 was tabled by the Government in response to representations from the Opposition about the need for proper consultation. I hope that if it is not entirely what the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) wanted he will be pleased that we have fulfilled an undertaking that we gave when we suggested originally that perhaps it was not necessary because we were insistent that there would be consultation. But the hon. Gentleman was anxious that it should be written into the Bill, and the Government have honoured the undertaking that they gave to the Committee at that time. So the new clause M should be seen in that light, as a response to representations from each side of the House.
We do not think that the hon. Gentleman's proposal to add a further specific provision about consultations is a wise one. We have made it clear that the vesting order will have to go through the same procedures in any case. There will have to be, quite clearly, the opportunity for discussions on it. But because of the need for the time scale in the Lords amendment that I recommend the House to accept, I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's amendment would be helpful.
I do not want to be unkind to the hon. Member, but I sense that he is still battling away in some old campaign. I am not sure that he is quite clear about what is happening in reality. He gives the impression that everybody is at loggerheads and that nobody can talk to anybody about this matter. I am pleased to say that, while we have in the legislation included the 12-months provision for the discussion on the code of practice for consultation, I understand that the Merseyside UDC has almost completed the draft in its discussions with the local authorities, and that the London Docklands UDC is also well advanced in its discussions. I think that people recognise as I made clear to the Committee, that 391 the UDC will not work if it is immediately to be at loggerheads with all the local authorities in its area. It has to co-operate. That is obviously and clearly understood by the chairmen and the deputy chairmen of the respective shadow organisations, who recognise the importance of working closely with the local authorities.
The hon. Member raised what he thought was an inconsistency in the Government's position from the original consultation paper in which we talked about reserve planning powers, and the statement by my noble Friend Lord Strathcona, who answered the debate, in which he made it clear that we now intended to activate these planning powers. It is true. It is not inconsistent. It is the point of consultation. We went out to consultation on the basis that we envisaged that these would be reserve powers. As a result of the consultation, discussions and consideration of the representations made, we took the view that it was right that these powers should be activated.
Therefore, this is not inconsistent. There are many occasions on which, after consultation, the Government take a specific view. We have not introduced a power that we did not mention. We thought that it would be a reserve power; we now propose to activate it.
§ Mr. Spearing
By leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to say that the procedure caught me on the hop, because I thought that the Lords amendment was to be moved first and then I would move the amendment to it. The Minister and I have both spoken to the Lords amendment and the amendment that I have moved.
I take the Minister's point about working together. I am sorry that that was not thought about when the borough council leaders first met the Secretary of State, when he told them what would happen.
On consultation, the Minister has just said that the Government originally, in their consultation paper, saw planning powers for the UDC as a reserve power, and that as a result of consultations the Government had had a change of mind, as they are entitled to do, subsequent to consultation, and Lord Strathcona made it clear in another place that that was so.
392 It may be that the Minister also made that clear in Committee or on Report. If he did, I confess that I have forgotten it. Perhaps he will let me know in correspondence or in another way whether it was intimated to the House. As he rightly said, throughout the Committee stage consultation was requested, and that it should be a statutory obligation was requested. But the Minister now says that the Government are firmly on the course of making it a parallel power. I think that that makes my amendment even more relevant, because not only will the UDC have the power of compulsory purchase, but apparently it will be able to give itself planning permission as well. That is doing exactly what we said in Committee the UDC has been set up to do. It is there to increase the value of the land subsequent to purchase. It will be a statutory machine set up for that very objective.
In those circumstances, I am surprised that the Minister has not been more sympathetic to my amendment. It is one thing for the UDC to acquire land compulsorily from a private person or a private body. There are, or there might be, protections against that, in the normal course of events, where a local authority purchases land compulsorily. But in an urban development corporation we have a centrally located, centrally established Whitehall body, accountable only to the Secretary of State, which is compulsorily to purchase land from the local authorities in my constituency, in that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) and, conceivably, in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish).
The local authority will not be able to do anything about such action. Subsequently, that land having been purchased, the urban development corporation can give itself planning permission to do what it likes. The combination of those powers gives it a considerable weapon. The Minister has said that there will be a code of conduct for consultation. I say "Right, include in that code consultation concerning compulsory purchase." If the Minister really wants to see things moving in dockland, would it not be much better for the local authority 393 to go ahead with some agreed development rather than for the urban development corporation to have to do it?
There are large areas of land in my constituency owned by the London borough of Newham. We have the Beck-ton district plan, which has not yet been changed, and I hope that it will not be changed. This Bill and this provision will enable the urban development corporation compulsorily to purchase any land it likes, particularly land which we have assigned to open spaces, now being set out for playing fields and public open space in a good, landscaped manner.
What the Minister is saying is "I will not make it statutorily necessary for the urban development corporation even to
§ Question accordingly negatived.394
§ consult the local authority before it slaps a CPO on the land." That is what the Minister is saying to me tonight, to the ratepayers in my constituency and in the other boroughs. The Minister shakes his head. I should be glad to give way and allow him to intervene. He does not do so. Therefore, I take it that he accepts what I say. That is why I am asking my hon. Friends who are in the Chamber, or perhaps elsewhere, to join me in pressing my amendment on consultation concerning land which is to be purchased compulsorily from a local authority.
§ Question put, That the amendment to the Lords amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 14, Noes 123.393
|Division No. 497]||AYES||[12.50 am|
|Beith, A. J.||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Penhaligon, David|
|Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S)||McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Spearing, Nigel|
|Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford)||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshaw)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Graham, Ted||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Mr. Bob Cryer and|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Parry, Robert||Mr. Andrew F. Bennett.|
|Ancram, Michael||Grist, Ian||Neubert, Michael|
|Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)||Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll)||Newton, Tony|
|Bendall, Vivian||Hampson, Dr Keith||Onslow, Cranley|
|Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon)||Hawkins, Paul||Page, Rt Hon Sir Graham (Crosby)|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Hawksley, Warren||Page, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)|
|Best, Keith||Heddle, John||Parris, Matthew|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Patten, Christopher (Bath)|
|Blackburn, John||Hicks, Robert||Pawsey, James|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Hooson, Tom||Raison, Timothy|
|Bright, Graham||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Rathbone, Tim|
|Brinton, Tim||Hurd, Hon Douglas||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Renton, Tim|
|Bruce-Gardyne, John||Kershaw, Anthony||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)|
|Bulmer, Esmond||King, Rt Hon Tom||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Butcher, John||Lamont, Norman||Rost, Peter|
|Cadbury, Jocelyn||Lang, Ian||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Carlisle, John (Luton West)||Latham, Michael||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Lawson, Nigel||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Le Marchant, Spencer||Shersby, Michael|
|Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Sims, Roger|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Squire, Robin|
|Colvin, Michael||Lyell, Nicholas||Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)|
|Cope, John||MacGregor, John||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)||Thompson, Donald|
|Crouch, David||Major, John||Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)|
|Darrell, Stephen||Marlow, Tony||Wakeham, John|
|Dover, Denshore||Mather, Carol||Waller, Gary|
|Dunn, Robert (Dartford)||Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Ward, John|
|Egger, Tim||Mellor, David||Warren, Kenneth|
|Emery, Peter||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Watson, John|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)||Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)|
|Faith, Mrs Sheila||Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Wheeler, John|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Moate, Roger||Whitney, Raymond|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth)||Wickendon, Keith|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes)||Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)|
|Forman, Nigel||Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Fox, Marcus||Murphy, Christopher||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Fraser, Peter (South Angus)||Myles, David|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Neale, Gerrard||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Needham, Richard||Mr. Peter Brooke and|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Nelson, Anthony||Mr. David Waddington.|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)|
§ Lords amendment agreed to.