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Column 968Tredinnick, David
Waddington, Rt Hon David
Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Tellers for the Ayes :
Mr. David Maclean and
Mr. John M. Taylor.
Buckley, George J.
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cunningham, Dr John
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Home Robertson, John
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Pike, Peter L.
Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Wise, Mrs Audrey
Tellers for the Noes :
Mr. Bob Cryer and
Mr. Alan Meale.
Question accordingly agreed to.
That, at this day's sitting, the City of London (Spitalfields Market) Bill and the Avon Light Rail Transit Bill [ Lords ] may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.
Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second Time.
Mr. Welsh : I shall now carry on to talk about the extinction of certain rights of way. I am not against changing rights of way. If this were a planning application, there would be discussion at planning level and, if the planners wanted to do away with one right of way, they would provide another one. That would be done, however, before the plans were accepted, which is reasonable. That is the correct planning approach. However, it is written in this Bill and, if it is passed, it will become an Act of Parliament and planning will not be involved. That is why I strongly object to Bills of this description, because they give planning permission in disguise. That is wrong. It is against good planning and local government.
Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Bristol, East) : Has the hon. Gentleman read the Greater Manchester (Light Rapid Transit System) (No. 3) Bill which has exactly the same powers--the powers to acquire land, to disregard recent improvements and interests, and to cause the extinction of private rights of way. Will the hon. Gentleman therefore vote against the Greater Manchester Bill?
Column 969Such matters should not be in any Bill. Plans should go to the planning authority and not to this House. It is laid down by this House that they should go through the planning authority. They should be considered in the correct way. After negotiations at planning level with planning officers--not elected members--the council should make a decision. I hope that, after such detailed discussion the scheme will go ahead. That is the correct way to proceed under the planning laws decided by this House.
These are not partisan issues involving the Government and the Opposition, but important issues that affect all of us. Clause 20 of the Bill relates to the acquisition of part of certain properties and subsection (2) says :
"Where the land subject to the notice is part only of a house, building or factory, or part only of land consisting of a house, together with any park or garden belonging thereto"
the person on whom that notice is served has only 21 days in which to object. Conservative Members could come back from the Caribbean, and we could come back from beautiful Scarborough, to find that we no longer had a garden because we were away for more than 21 days and were therefore unable to appeal against the notice. That cannot be right, but that is what the Bill says.
If the Bill is unamended in Committee, many Conservative Members will come back from holiday to find that their swimming pool has gone. Imagine going to dive into one's pool only to find it has changed into a railway track. The same could happen to the tennis courts. I am a keen vegetable man and I would not want anyone to interfere with them, but that could easily happen.
Some people go away for winter holidays. Many of our elderly citizens go away to Spain for two or three months in the winter. They enjoy the sunshine and they live a lot longer because of such holidays--all credit is due to them. I go to Spain for about eight days at Christmas and it is lovely to see the elderly citizens who stay there for two or three months. What would happen to them if the Bill went through? They would have no garden left.
Column 970I cannot accept the present wording in the Bill. It should be thrown out and a new Bill should be introduced. The present Bill is unacceptable to the people to whom we are accountable.
Similar Bills may have been put through years ago, but since the 1960s our society has changed. People go on longer holidays, so it is not right for the 21-day notice to be included in the present Bill. Clause 23(1) states :
"If the deposited plans or the deposited book of reference are inaccurate in their description of any land"
the company may apply for a correction after giving not less than 10 days' notice. Such action would not be possible under normal local planning procedures. For a number of years I was chairman of planning, and if my officers brought plans to me before I went into a committee I always insisted that we had long discussions with those who had submitted them so that the best result was achieved, for the environment, the developer and the community.
If any of the information is wrong, a person has 10 days in which to alter it, but after that they can do nothing about it. What happens if people are on holiday? What happens to those people who are ill in the infirmary, who cannot comprehend any letters, let alone answer them? They may come back to find the description of the land that they occupy has been altered after 10 days. That cannot be right.
We have to examine the Bill a little more rationally and ask the sponsors to take back the Bill and rewrite it to give the kiddies and the lads and lasses time to look at it, consider it in more detail and appeal before any decisions are taken. For that and for other reasons, but mainly because of the reasons that I have described, I cannot accept the Bill. It is an affront to democracy and I do not think that hon. Members from either side of the House should accept a Bill written in such a way. I ask hon. Members to vote against it later this evening.
Column 97110.19 pm
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : I speak objectively as a shareholder in a private railway. I have five £10 shares in the Keighley and Worth Valley light railway. I was chairman of the Keighley and Worth Valley Light Railway Preservation Society for 10 years and undertook negotiations with British Railways that led to the agreement to purchase the line over 25 years, and I was instrumental in ensuring that that railway was operated on the basis of democratic Socialism.
I cannot be accused of not supporting railways, but it is fair to raise a number of queries about the proposals. I am an enthusiastic advocate of railways, but I have to make sure that the proposals are soundly based so that, if the scheme gets into difficulties, it does not cast a reflection on other railway projects, which could happen. The hon. Member for Weston- super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) suggested that the Bill was the precursor of several, that it is a building-brick process and that the railway will be developed in steps towards an integral system with the extensions being authorised by future Acts of Parliament. However, I pointed out to him--he answered me in a most unsatisfactory way--that the financial memorandum contains no details about any financial projections that would help to justify the Bill as the pier on which the spreading bridge might be built. It states :
"Expenditure which may be incurred in the future development of the light rail transit system cannot now be quantified."
That underlines the case of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo) that there is a lack of detail. Basic details are required in such proposals.
The Minister said that we should hurry this part of the procedures out of the way and get the Bill into Committee. Committees considering private Bills are notorious earning areas for lawyers who do not go into detail as much as they go into length of time. I have never had the misfortune of being on a private Bill Committee, and I hope never to do so, but my hon. Friends who have been on such Committees tell me that it is not the best way of pursuing what is in effect a public policy Bill. It is interesting that, in the Division on the business motion, the Government turned out a fair chunk of the payroll vote. Not for the first time, the Government are pursuing public policy by means of a private Bill. They have done that on several previous occasions. They are getting the payroll vote whipped in to support a private Bill and that really goes against the grain. Paragraph (4) of the preamble states :
"It is accordingly expedient that the Company should be empowered to construct the works authorised by this Act, and to acquire or use the lands referred to in this Act, for the development of the first stage of such a system".
Therefore, the Bill is providing compulsory purchase powers. If the Bill were being promoted by a public body, those powers would undergo much greater scrutiny, because a public body is more accountable than the company appears to be under the Bill. It appears that an office and a secretary are running the company and a board of directors meets separately because the premises are not large enough. That is my impression.
Secondly, it is unsatisfactory to give compulsory purchase powers to a private body that will use them to sell