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Column 1228made, Mr. Deputy Speaker--amendment No. 1, and amendments Nos. 3 to 7. If it would be convenient for the House, as they are grouped together, I think that I had better discuss all the matters as they arise. I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) will be able to reply to the group en bloc. Amendment No. 1 relates to clause 31. Clause 31 gives power for the Secretary of State, by an order which does not have to come before the House--in the jargon of our House, a negative order, which means that it does not have to come to approval but it can be disapproved of, if necessary, by motion--to change the areas for which byelaws can be made.
The first query that we had about that clause--rather late in the day, but that is what parliamentary scrutiny is about--is that it was entitled,
"Alteration of limits of jurisdiction".
That is ambiguous, because anyone reading it might think that it was the jurisdiction of the LDDC over its own statutory area. That was the first reading of many people, including some people well versed in reading law.
However, the area with which we are concerned in the power to make byelaws is not the area of jurisdiction. In practice, it is the area which in the definitions clause is called "the designated areas". I was shown those on a map, which is upstairs in the Private Bill Office, and no doubt also in one or two places in docklands. I thought that that was not very clear, and that it might be the subject of court action later. That is what we are here for. This is not a Government Bill : it was initially drawn up by people outside the Government.
I drew that matter to the attention of the LDDC and its advisers-- admittedly, late in the day--and they took the point at once. They said, "Yes, of course it does not mean the only jurisdiction ; it means the designated area, and we shall change it." At their suggestion--indeed, in their wording--amendments Nos. 1 and 3 were tabled, which make it absolutely clear. I am happy to start on that note of happy accord. Let us hope that it continues.
I have not read out the amendments, but no doubt Hansard has got it all down because I am speaking to those amendments.
Having got off to that good start--I know that the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey will probably agree because there has been some conversation about that matter--I shall discuss a rather more difficult matter, relating to amendment No. 4. It relates--I had better read it--to a rather controversial part of section 31, which defines the areas of land which, in the future, the Secretary of State can expand or expunge. The one to which I take special objection--I think that that is not too strong a word--reads as follows. I shall summarise section 31(2).
"The Secretary of State may by order made under this section alter the limits of jurisdiction so as to--"
and in (a) there is a description of any land in Newham, Southwark or Tower Hamlets, which is situated within or adjacent to the development area, and then :
"(2)(a)(ii) adjacent to any land which, not being situated within or adjacent to the . . . development area, is adjacent to any land for the time being comprised in the designated areas".
That is a lot of jargon, but constituency Members of Parliament will be affected. I confess that during the months that the legislation has been in both Houses I did not look at it sufficiently closely. It says, in ordinary east London English, that, on the designated map, or in schedule 1 to the Bill, which sets out the dock areas, which,
Column 1229in words, are the designated areas for which byelaws can be made, those areas do not have to be inside the area of the LDDC. The area of the LDDC is on the map. It was in the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980. It was the area in which the LDDC had tremendous powers over all the boroughs--planning powers, money powers, you name it. Some of the officials there and some of the chairmen and some of the board were quite nice. Anyway, they have been appointed by the Secretary of State.
I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Timms) in the Chamber. He has spent many hours as leader of Newham council in discussions with those powerful, albeit very polite, people. However, we are discussing an Act of Parliament which invites us tonight to authorise, not simply the LDDC, which is to some extent accountable to the Secretary of State, but any of its successors--heaven knows who they will be, to expand the area in which they can make byelaws to outside the existing LDDC.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East said when discussing it with me earlier this week, that area will include the whole of Newham. I have no doubt that the Secretary of State would say, as would Ministers in Committee, that the hon. Gentleman's imagination was running away with him, and that no Secretary of State would ever do such a thing. That does not matter--the law would permit him to do it.
Is it good law ? I am not sure whether it would be good law even if it were introduced by a Government, even one that I might support. It is certainly not a good law when it is introduced by an organisation that is to disappear in two years' time and is a creature of the Secretary of State. Moreover, if those powers are transferred to someone else, he or she will be able to take that action. It is ironic that that extension of authority was discovered only by chance. There is only one region in the so-called designated areas that is outside the LDDC. It is a bottle-shaped dock, which is not on the Thames and is not part of the Port of London authority group. It is on the River Lea in Bromley-by-Bow gasworks. It is perhaps a good thing that coal is not used for gas now, but when the gasworks operated barges used to come up and take away tar. It is sometimes known as the balancing lagoon--I do not know why--or Bromley dock, although it happens to be in Newham. It is a useful dock and would make a lovely little marina. Some people from the Mayflower centre, Canning Town, built a good boat there of concrete and metal--a useful thing for east Londoners to do. It is not used at present. On one side of the dock is the Cody road industrial area which the LDDC has developed. It has provided employment, which has helped to make up for the enormous job losses elsewhere. On the other side of the dock is the gas board--Bromley-by-Bow, huge gasometers, warehouses and maintenance areas.
Earlier this week I received a telephone call. The caller asked, "Mr. Spearing, do you realise that there will be 200 redundancies in your constituency from the Bromley-by-Bow works ?" I said that I did not understand. The caller said that the gas board was thinning out its staff and might go. I am not saying that it will be sold--it involves acres of land--but perhaps it will be. After the telephone call I
Column 1230thought to myself that the subject was covered in the Bill. I must confess that, but for that timely warning, I would not be making this speech.
Is it right that an area of land that is outside the LDDC area can not only be subjected to byelaws, albeit in the public interest, but can be enlarged ? Byelaws can be made by an unspecified person or organisation at an unspecified time in future, by a stroke of the Secretary of State's pen-- someone in whom I might otherwise have confidence. I do not think that that is right, which is why I have tabled amendment No. 4. I originally tabled the amendment as a probing amendment. Amendment No. 4 suggests that subsection (2)( a )(ii) of clause 31 should be deleted.
Subsection (2)( b ) gives the Secretary of State power to "remove from the designated areas any land for the time being comprised in those areas."
I do not like that because, although it is unlikely to happen, it can be done by the Secretary of State at the stroke of a pen. The royal docks contain much important land in the designated area. In amendment No. 6 I suggest that the matter should be subject to an affirmative resolution of the House.
The Committee required the LDDC and, in effect, the Government to ensure that, if the power were transferred to someone else, that would require an affirmative resolution. I am saying that the powers to change or extend the area of designation should also be subject to an affirmative resolution. In other parts of the country with byelaws relating to parks, commons and national parks, that might not be necessary, but we are talking about east London--an urban area--where water facilities are important. They are lungs ; they provide areas of potential recreation and commercial development may not be fully in the public interest.
The power to make byelaws works in two ways. It can promote the public interest in terms of access, recreation and use of the water for different activities or it can be collared for other purposes. That is why it is important to protect the land, which was originally in public ownership-- most of it under the Port of London Authority. It would be appropriate for the promoters of the Bill to agree that that measure should also be subject to an affirmative resolution. Future problems that may arise could be massive.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms Gordon) may wish to talk about the West India docks, which contain Canary wharf. The Royal docks contain 250 acres of water and 1,000 acres of land. The area is almost as big as the combined areas of Hyde park and Kensington gardens. There are two miles of clear water from the west end of the Victoria dock, through the Connaught cutting. The Royal Albert dock is about one mile long and is used for six-lane rowing. It would be possible to turn it into an olympic rowing course, although it would cost a bit of money.
The Victoria dock is one of the finest stretches of open water in London-- comparable to or even bigger than the Welsh Harp. It is an area where young people from Newham and Tower Hamlets sail, sailboard, row and learn. It was originally launched by the London borough of Newham and is now held in trust as the Victoria dock project. Next door to the Victoria dock, people surfboard, which is an important activity. I did not know until last
Column 1231week that the gentleman who runs the activity, Mr. Chilvers, was responsible for introducing surfboarding. He even holds some patents for it.
In east London we have a gentleman and his enterprise who were in at the beginning of an extremely important worldwide sport. Yet, horrible as it may seem--I do not want to introduce a negative tone, but I must put it on record--there is planning permission for the north side of Victoria dock which would extend the land 20 or 30 yd into the dock itself. The plans of the LDDC contain the possibility of a bridge. I have suggested that a chain ferry might be better because otherwise the magnificent marine resource might be jeopardised. I have no qualms about putting to Londoners and to the House the importance of the marine tradition of London--and I am talking about an area that represents just that. It is an area of heritage, with a dockland museum ; ships may sail into it from outside--all will be subject to the byelaws.
A so-called urban village is to be built on the side of the dock. I understand that next week the LDDC will decide on the contractors. I shall not go too deeply into the merits of that project as it would not be right, but the area lies on the border of the designated areas and the remit of the byelaws. Only a quarter of the village is designated for the construction of reasonably priced houses to rent. That replicates the mistakes that some of us believe were made previously along the river to the west. It has also been rightly said that the place is in any case more urban than village-like. The point is that, unless the amendment is agreed to, the Secretary of State in his Whitehall office will be able to alter byelaws in the area without getting them approved by an affirmative resolution of this House. That is why I think it necessary to secure the future of the area.
Last Friday some far-sighted local business men--this should appeal to the Minister, the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry)--headed by a Mr. Bulgin and his firm in Barking put some money into the kitty for a new sort of flexible rowing craft. It has many uses--camping, cruising, training, and so on--and it is to be known as the Buccaneer Cutter. There may be more to come. Given a fair wind in the media, people will cry, "Hurrah! Why wasn't this done before ?" The Victoria dock project, under way within the designated area, is living a hand-to-mouth existence at the moment-- containers, prefabricated buildings and all sorts of bits and pieces. No one knows what lies in store for the area.
That part of London and these powers are far too important to be left to Whitehall, even in the hands of good Secretaries of State, who usually find themselves harassed by all sorts of other matters. The powers should be subject to approval in this House ; if they are good powers, they will probably go through on the nod. I am asking for the sort of safeguards that citizens look to Parliament to provide them with. I hope that the promoters of the Bill will agree.
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey) : I am glad that I managed to anticipate most of the speech by the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). We have enjoyed a helpful dialogue on the amendments in question. As the hon. Gentleman pointed out, two of them were proposed to him, to meet his concerns, by the Bill's promoters. To be honest, they were negotiated between us. I had never promoted a private Bill before this one, and this has seen us engaged in a process of law making in the
Column 1232raw. This is not about making inflated speeches : it is all about looking at the dots and commas to find out what the Bill means. I hope that I shall be able to meet the concerns that the hon. Gentleman quite properly expressed.
Amendments Nos. 1 and 3 were, as I have just explained, actually drafted by the promoters. The hon. Member for Newham, South wants to be sure that anyone reading the Bill will be able to distinguish between the area of jurisdiction of the development corporation and any successor body and the area in which the corporation or its successor can make byelaws. In theory at least, and perhaps in practice, there is a difference. For instance, the development corporation's area may include parts of three boroughs--but it might want to make byelaws in only two of them.
The problem that the hon. Gentleman has spotted is that phrases like "limits of jurisdiction" are not abundantly clear. Do they refer to the limits of jurisdiction of the development corporation, with all its powers, including as the planning authority, or to the limits of jurisdiction for the purposes of this Bill, which is all about making byelaws ?
Amendments Nos. 1 and 3 clarify the position. Amendment No. 3 removes the phrase "limits of jurisdiction" and replaces it with "designated areas, as defined in section 2 (Interpretation) of this Act".
Clause 2 says that "the designated areas" mean
"the harbours or former harbours, docks or former docks, waterways and other lands described in Schedule 1 to this Act, together with the jetties, all of which are designated by and situated within the limits of jurisdiction, but does not include the waters lying beneath Rotherhithe Street bridge in the London borough of Southwark". On behalf of the promoters, I accept the amendment, and I hope that the House will do likewise. In effect, the hon. Member for Newham, South has made certain that when, in respect of clause 31, we talk about the alteration of limits of jurisdiction, we are clearly describing alterations in the limits of the designated areas. I agree with the view of the hon. Gentleman, which I strongly expressed to the parliamentary agents--that the sooner the world of parliamentary drafting can get away from all those cross-references and say what it means in plain language, instead of sending us around a Bill for definitions, the better. Certainly, I did not manage to achieve such a revolution in the course of negotiating those amendments. Amendment No. 1 would add the words
"subject to any order under section 31 (Alteration of limits of jurisdiction) of this Act"
after the word "areas". Anyone wanting to find out where the designated areas are should be aware that, once the Bill is enacted, they may have been altered because clause 31 provides the power to alter them.
I hope that I can now help the hon. Gentleman with his exploration of those extended powers. I can quite understand his anxiety on looking at the map in the course of his research and discovering that an area falling outside the confines of the development corporation was to be included in the remit of byelaw-making powers which the Bill will give the development corporation and its successors. Clause 2 lists the types of land covered by designated areas, and refers us to schedule 1 for a complete description of all the places to be included. There is a sting in the tail of this explanation, but first I refer the hon. Gentleman to page 14 of the Bill. Schedule 1 lists in full the extent of the
Column 1233areas covered by the phrase "designated areas". Some of them are in his constituency, others are in the constituency of the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms Gordon), I suppose that some of them are in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore), and some are in my constituency. There are 13 groups in all. For the record, I shall read them out so that people who read the debate will know exactly what we are talking about : Hermitage basin, Western dock canal system, Shadwell basin--including Brussels wharf--Surrey Water, Thames Link, Albion canal, Albion dry dock and Canada Water, Greenland dock, Steelyard cut and South dock--both south of the river ; the next ones are north of it--West India north branch dock, West India centre branch dock and West India south dock, Blackwall basin and Poplar dock, Millwall inner dock, Millwall outer dock and Millwall cutting, East India dock basin, Royal Victoria dock and Royal Victoria pontoon dock, Royal Albert dock, King George V dock and Albert basin.
The perceptive reader, including the hon. Member for Newham, South, will notice that the piece of water to which he referred does not appear in that list. That is a mistake, but happily not one that need thwart the hon. Gentleman's objective. I was relieved to learn that, because otherwise the Bill would have required redrafting, and that could not be done tonight. The list should have included the Cody road balancing lagoon--the area to which the hon. Gentleman referred--because uniquely in the territory in question, that land is owned by the LDDC but is outside its boundaries. That is the dichotomy. There is LDDC land within which there are byelaw- making powers, but there is extra-territorial LDDC land in the form of the lagoon that should be in the designated area and in the schedule. As it was not included in the schedule, I asked those who advise the promoter what should be done. They advised that if something is not in the schedule but is on the map Upstairs, that map takes precedence--and the lagoon is on the map. Therefore, even if in future days people do not find Cody road balancing lagoon in the schedule, they will find it on the map.
The authority for stating that it will be covered by the Bill is clause 3(1), which defines the extent of the measure :
"The limits within which the Corporation shall have and may exercise the functions conferred on it by this Act"
and we are only talking about byelaw-making functions
"and within which the powers of the manager may be exercised, shall comprise the designated areas."
That clause confronts the fact that a mistake may be made one day by stating in subsection (2) :
"If there be any discrepancy between the deposited map and the descriptions in Schedules 1 and 2 to this Act, the deposited map shall prevail but, for the avoidance of doubt, the designated areas do not extend to any part of the bed of the river Thames below the level of mean high water from time to time".
Where there is a conflict, the deposited map prevails.
It is not intended that a universal power for making byelaws should be given to the docklands corporation or to any successor authority. Having examined this as a lawyer, I accept that the powers are limited to the areas set out in the list in the schedule or shown on the map--and that, where there is a discrepancy, the map takes precedence. The powers cannot therefore be exercised in the constituencies of the hon. Members for Newham,
Column 1234North-East (Mr. Timms) and for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) because they are not in the schedule or on the designated map--with the exception of the balancing lagoon to which the hon. Gentleman referred.
Mr. Spearing : The gas board owns many acres of land north of Cody road basin, right up to the District and Tilbury line railways. By virtue of the pressures of statute, the gas board may wish to dispose of that large area of land in the not-too-distant future. Bearing in mind that the western side is on the banks of the River Lea, is it not likely that someone may apply to the Secretary of State in future to include large parts of that land, particularly that adjacent to the water, in the byelaw area ? That may be a good thing. Is that not possible ?
Mr. Hughes : That is possible, but I will deal first with the agreed amendments and then with the other amendments. We do not agree that those others are necessary, but they raise the issue of whether there ought to be the power change that relates to extending or reducing the Bill's jurisdiction.
I have not visited the Cody road area, but I understand that it is a short distance to the north of the urban development area but still within the hon. Gentleman's constituency. It is situated at the Cody road industrial estate and just off the banks of Bow creek, which is part of the River Lea. It is owned and operated by the British Waterways Board, and was built to serve the existing adjacent coal-fired gas power station. It is quite a large area of water--more than 500 ft long by 100 ft wide, and 20 ft deep. It is called a balancing lagoon because, like gasometers, its level goes up and down. Sometimes there is no water in it and sometimes there is. There is no public access on two sides of the lagoon because the land owned by the development corporation is fenced, and another side has a British Gas boundary fence. However, it can be reached from the creek. The logic of including it is that the Bill is about being able to regulate by byelaw, and particularly to make the dock safe for the public. I know that the hon. Gentleman accepts that the difference between now and when the byelaws were last altered is that they then served the purposes of the Port of London Authority, when the docks were used for commercial purposes. Today, sadly in many ways but realistically, they are used for different purposes and the public have extensive access. Among the purposes of the Bill is to prevent, for example, children falling into the water. One reason that the promoter is keen, and the House should be keen, to complete the Bill tonight is so that it can be on the statute book for the summer, when the prospective danger of docklands waters not being regulated is at its greatest.
The lagoon is included in the Bill because it is a large area of water which the public can access from the creek, and which could be dangerous-- particularly because there is operational equipment at the mouth of the lagoon. Also, given that the Bill intended to include all areas of water owned by the docklands corporation, it would have been illogical not to include it--even though, territorially, it was outside the LDDC's boundaries.
The corporation has no intention of using its powers to extend the designated areas in the vicinity of the lagoon. It is prepared to give undertakings--at this stage, that would best be done in writing--to that effect. In any event, such a proposal would also have to be justified and would be
Column 1235subject to resolutions in the House. As the hon. Member for Newham, South pointed out, where there is a designated area --the lagoon is one--the LDDC could come along and say, in relation to land next to it, "We want to take byelaw-making powers." As he also rightly pointed out, a successor could have the same motivation and intention. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that, at the moment, the LDDC specifically states that it has no intention of extending the areas--and it would have to return to the House if it wanted to do so.
Ms Mildred Gordon (Bow and Poplar) : I am particularly concerned to get an assurance about King Edward memorial park, which is adjacent to Shadwell basin. Various developers have had their greedy eyes on that park, which was given to the community in perpetuity. One company wanted to use the jetty for tying up craft. People wanting to use their boats would have arrived in cars, so most of the park would have become a car park. The next company wanted to set up a tennis centre. Developers keep making proposals involving large areas of that park or the whole park, which would deny to the community the use of a park that it has enjoyed for many years. I want an assurance that the powers will not be extended outside the designated area to Shadwell park, which is a desirable bit of waterfront and one of the few parts that are open to the public, who can sit and relax there. I want to know that that area will not be gobbled up.
Mr. Hughes : I hope to deal with that point, ideally in our debate on this group of amendments but, failing that, in that on the next group. I have been able to give the hon. Member for Newham, South a similar assurance in relation to the lagoon.
I do not honestly think that it is possible for the sponsor of a Bill promoted by a corporation such as this to give an assurance that will bind a successor authority. The hon. Lady has a safeguard in the Bill, however-- the only safeguard available to us. The next two amendments deal with this. As we see on page 11 of the Bill in its present form, any change--an extension of the kind referred to by the hon. Members for Newham, South and for Bow and Poplar--intended by a successor authority must be made first by order of the Secretary of State. That applies regardless of the identity of the successor authority. The power will not be transferred to, for example, Newham borough council, a trust or even a private company. It will remain with the Secretary of State. Secondly, the change must be made by order of the House. The question is, what kind of order will be involved ?
Mr. Nick Raynsford (Greenwich) : The hon. Gentleman said earlier that the promoters were keen for the byelaws to be effective by the summer because of the danger in the water areas. If that is to happen, the timetable seems extraordinarily tight. I have always assumed that byelaws must be published for consultation purposes before they are implemented.
Mr. Hughes : I understand that, even if the Bill completes its passage tonight, it will still have to go back to the other place because it has been amended in Committee. If it becomes law before the summer recess, it is intended that, during the summer--I do not say before the summer--at least some of the powers contained in it should be used to create byelaws, but of course consultation must take place.
Column 1236Some of the community groups in our three boroughs are exerting pressure for byelaws to be created. By definition, that will be the subject of discussion with the local authorities ; but the corporation tells me that it wants byelaws in place this summer to protect the public. It is not certain whether that will be achieved. If the Bill is not passed before the summer recess, it will not be on the statute book until the autumn at the earliest, and any opportunity of legislating in time for the summer will be lost.
Mr. Spearing : Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that he is resisting a move to the use of an affirmative order in relation to Cody road because he considers a so-called negative order--which is made notionally ; it is "laid upon the Table"--adequate for the purpose ? Although it is theoretically a parliamentary procedure, it is really more a stroke of the Secretary of State's pen.
Mr. Hughes : As I remember the quotation, I shall now say, "I was coming to that"--which is, I believe, a quotation from "Alice in Wonderland" ; or is it "King Lear" ? I am sorry, I do not mean "King Lear"- -I mean Edward Lear. There is a slight difference in tone. It must be the heat. I have not yet dealt with the relative benefits of negative and affirmative resolutions, but I want to do so. It is a perfectly proper subject for debate.
The hon. Member for Newham, South makes two more proposals in amendments Nos. 4 and 5. Amendment No. 4 proposes the removal of the power to include in the areas designated for byelaws land--this is in clause 31(2)(a)(ii)
"adjacent to any land which, not being situated within or adjacent to the urban development area, is adjacent to any land for the time being comprised in the designated areas".
At present, that could apply only to the balancing lagoon.
Ms Gordon : It could apply to Shadwell park.
Mr. Hughes : No, it could not. Amendment No. 4 would remove lines 27, 28 and 29 of clause 31. Let us take it from the top. Clause 31(2) states that the Secretary of State may, by order, alter the designated area to
"include within the designated areas for the purposes of this Act any area of land in the London borough of Newham, Southwark or Tower Hamlets which for the time being is . . . adjacent to any land which, not being situated within or adjacent to the urban development area",
and so forth. The land about which the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar is concerned would be covered by subsection (2)(a)(i), being "situated within, or adjacent to, the urban development area". Her park is within that area. I am sorry that all this is a bit technical, but that is not my fault.
As I have said, outside the LDDC area, the byelaws can apply only to the lagoon, and I have given an undertaking about that. I hope that I can satisfy the hon. Member for Newham, South in relation to amendment No. 4, which in its present form deals only with the land in question and land adjacent to it.
Amendment No. 5 would remove lines 30 and 31--subsection (2)(b), which allows the Secretary of State to
"remove from the designated areas any land for the time being comprised in those areas."
The promoters resist that for what they describe as pragmatic reasons : they say that the boundaries of the byelaws--not those of the development corporation, which is dealt with by a different procedure--may need to be
Column 1237changed. I am no more of an expert than any other hon. Member, but it is clear to me that over 10, 20, 30 or 40 years-- however long the Act will be on the statute book--the area where a particular set of byelaws may be wanted can alter.
The argument is both simple and general. For example, if a piece of water within a designated area were to be filled in so that it was not dock but housing land, planning permission would be needed, but there would be no need for byelaws governing what is needed in the area of a dock. The promoters want the power to reduce the area that may, at its greatest extent, be covered by byelaws.
Let us take a notional example from the borough and constituency of the hon. Member for Newham, South. Let us suppose that the outer limit of the areas covered by the byelaws, and listed in the schedule and on the map, included a particular piece of water and land, and the land around it, and it was decided to introduce a pontoon, or bring a piece of land forward by 100 m so that the dock became a smaller area of water. It might then be thought appropriate to bring the byelaw nearer to the water, as it were. Those are only pragmatic considerations. I am not saying that the hon. Gentleman will view them as overwhelming, but the Bill will give a pragmatic power. The issue is whether the hon. Gentleman can do anything about it if the Secretary of State suddenly says, "I want to change the limits of the byelaws." That leads to the argument whether we should have affirmative or negative resolutions. The Secretary of State cannot do anything unless he or she comes to the House, but is that procedure adequate as a control ?
That leads to amendments Nos. 6 and 7. Amendment No. 6 would leave out subsection (7), which states :
"An order under section 31 shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament." In shorthand, we call that the negative resolution procedure. Amendment No. 7 seeks to replace it with an affirmative order procedure by inserting section 31.
I have rehearsed the argument on this issue with the hon. Gentleman and it is up to him whether he accepts it. The hon. Member for Bow and Poplar is also concerned about the matter. I understand, and I can see, the logic of the promoter's argument ; it is a matter of judgment as to whether it is appropriate. With affirmative resolutions, the Government have to find time in their business for a debate.
Mr. Spearing : The hon. Gentleman knows that, time after time, affirmative resolutions appear on the Order Paper at 3.30 pm and that, sometimes, Madam Speaker takes orders together. If the House is satisfied with an order and 20 hon. Members do not rise, or if it is decided through the usual channels that it should not go into Committee, it does not take much time for the order to be passed--it requires only that the Clerks call its name and the occupant of the Chair puts the Question. It can take five seconds.
Mr. Hughes : The hon. Gentleman is right, but the order must come to this place and we have a chance to consider it. If we do not get our act together, such orders can go through quickly, as many do. Statutory instruments were in existence long before I was elected and probably before you, Madam Deputy Speaker, were elected--I do not mean that disrespectfully, but you have been here longer than me. Two sorts of protection on statutory instruments exist.
Column 1238One gives us better protection than the other--it is what the hon. Gentleman seeks. Protection through the other is more difficult to achieve.
For the pragmatic day-to-day byelaw changes, it is argued that it is unlikely that the Government would find time--given the pressures on their timetable--or have the political will, to place an order on the Order Paper that would introduce the pragmatic, day-to-day changes in byelaws that the docklands corporation seeks. If it asked the Government to change the byelaws, the Government might say, "We are sorry, but it is not worth it. We have far more pressing things to do."
The argument is whether to accept the procedure in the Bill or that proposed by the hon. Gentleman. Is it better to have a mechanism by which the Government do not have to introduce an order in this place to change byelaws, or should we have a more difficult mechanism by which the Government have to introduce an order, with the disincentive that follows ? The promoters say, "Please give us the flexibility because we are talking not about the constitution of Britain, but about the byelaws of an area of east London."
Mr. Raynsford : The hon. Gentleman has accepted the point that was effectively made by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham South (Mr. Spearing) that only a short time is required to pass an order. Clauses 31 and 33 allow for byelaw-making powers to be changed in respect of the area in which byelaws apply, and in respect of the body that has byelaw-making powers. If it is accepted that it is appropriate to have the affirmative resolution procedure for one of those, it is nonsense not to accept it in respect of the other.
Mr. Hughes : I respect the hon. Gentleman, but I thought that he was going to make a really good point, with which I would have difficulty dealing. In fact, his point was not as good as I thought that it would be. As a docklands Member of Parliament--and the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Raynsford) is nearly a docklands Member of Parliament--I say that changing the boundaries of the docklands corporation or any other development corporation is a substantial matter because they involve planning controls and other rules, but byelaw-making powers are not in the same league.
I should like to deal with the traditional way in which it is decided which procedure should be used. The hon. Member for Greenwich may or may not accept what "Erskine May" says on the matter. It states on page 546 that the affirmative resolution procedure is "used principally for substantial and important portions of delegated legislation, on which a high degree of scrutiny is sought."
It is a matter of judgment as to whether we think that the byelaw-making powers are in that category.
I can justify the difference. Changing the boundaries of the development corporation comes within the definition of substantial, important delegated legislation, whereas byelaw-making powers are not in the same league or of the same importance.
I want to give a pragmatic example. In some parts of the London Docklands development corporation area, development has not yet taken place, especially in the Royal docks, which are located in the constituency of the hon. Member for Newham, South. Therefore, the demarcation of designated areas for byelaws has been drawn in a manner that anticipates what the final built development
Column 1239will look like. We have to guess what planning permissions will be sought. The byelaws are meant to reflect the best guess of the people who have dealt with docklands planning since the corporation came into existence.
That guess may not correspond with the actual built development that either the LDDC or its successors may agree to. It may be necessary, because the physical layout of the docklands may change, to make alterations of the byelaws. The argument is that, when planning procedures and development of the royal docks and other parts of the docklands are complete, only technical alterations to the boundaries may be needed--literally a tight redrawing. A cumbersome procedure that required going to the Government, seeking an affirmative resolution and winning an argument to place it on the Order Paper could discourage the docklands corporation or its successors from proposing such orders and the byelaws could gradually less accurately represent the areas for which they are intended. There is other protection, even though the hon. Member for Newham, South would like a stronger form of protection to be in place. This perhaps is the best assurance that I can give to him--clause 34(6) requires the LDDC and any successor to consult local authorities before any order is made. Of course, having consulted, the corporation can ignore representations, but I hope that the LDDC will take on board the views of democratically elected local authorities. I add this to the promoters--there is no reason why, for the remaining life of the docklands corporation or during the lifetime of its successors, any change to the byelaw-making areas should be made without the agreement of local authorities. Their agreement is vital and local authorities must have confidence that they are in the right place. They may become in due time the planning development control authority.
I hope that that was the longest intervention that I shall have to make this evening. It dealt with the largest batch of amendments. They are technical, but substantive arguments have been advanced. I hope that the hon. Member for Newham, South is persuaded. I shall leave him to speak for himself. There is a justifiable distinction between byelaws and corporation boundaries. It is entirely credible to argue that requiring a complex, burdensome and formalised procedure will be a disincentive to appropriate change. Therefore, the easier procedure, the short route, is preferable.