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Angela Eagle: I think that, 99.99 per cent. of the time, they will agree; that is certainly what we hope. The power is one of last resort. As I said, it has not been used by English Partnerships, even though it was given it by the hon. Member for South Suffolk when he was in government, in precisely the way that the Bill provides. We hope that the power will not be needed. Although, as the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar rightly pointed out, compulsory purchase powers are a last resort, we believe that they must be provided in order to deal with awkward situations that occasionally crop up.

I know that people are generally critical of the compulsory purchase system. We all want a fair and efficient system. We have already conducted research into and reviews of the system. It is certainly cumbersome and slow, and the legislation is very old, but it is unlikely that all those matters will be resolved in time to be reflected in the Bill. The Bill can deal only with compulsory purchase by RDAs, not the exercise of such powers more generally.

1 Apr 1998 : Column 1345

Conservative Members, especially the hon. Member for South Suffolk, have been concerned about the use of compulsory purchase powers in rural areas, especially national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, about which the hon. Gentleman rightly became quite lyrical. We have already debated at length why RDAs need to exercise their functions throughout their regions, and why rural areas should not be treated as if they existed in isolation. Physical regeneration can be just as important in a rural area as in urban areas. The coalfields initiative is one example where regeneration in a rural area is desperately needed.

We cannot rule out the possibility that there may be areas in national parks that need regenerating. Even so, clause 20 would not give RDAs additional powers to develop such areas. RDAs will have to apply for planning permission in the normal way, and it will have to be granted in the normal way.

As Conservative Members know, planning and countryside legislation contains special provisions which give added protection for national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, and which are unaffected by the Bill. When they were in government, Conservative Members gave English Partnerships a power of compulsory purchase, although it has not had to be used. I hope that RDAs would not need to use it, but would instead reach agreements with landowners.

We debated national parks in Committee and used an example, I seem to recall, of old, disused quarries that may need to be put right before they can be used. The hon. Member for South Suffolk doubted that there was any such area in a national park, so since then, of course, I have done a little research. He is quite right to say that all recent planning permissions for mineral extraction have planning conditions that provide for the restoration of the site, but reviews of old planning permissions are being undertaken to ensure that they come up to modern standards. There is provision for further reviews of conditions.

Research has come up with examples of quarries and mines in national parks that ceased operation and were either not restored or not treated to modern standards. The most recent survey identified 143 hectares of such land in national parks in England that had been affected by past mineral working and fell within the definition of derelict land. In the interests of protecting the countryside, the hon. Member for South Suffolk would take powers from regional development agencies to restore land in national parks. He is arguing to reduce RDAs' ability to regenerate and bring back into sensible use land that happens to be in such areas.

Mr. Yeo: I am perfectly happy to defend our position, because no one in the Opposition has argued for any removal of RDAs' powers to do such restoration work. After all those weeks of research, during which the Minister has discovered 143 hectares, how many examples has she found of quarries for which it was necessary to exercise compulsory purchase powers to achieve the restoration? I should think that the answer is none.

Angela Eagle: The powers must exist for cases in which ownership has disappeared, or companies have

1 Apr 1998 : Column 1346

gone into liquidation and there is no owner in existence--for cases in which companies take no responsibility and have in a sense evaded their responsibility for cleaning up after themselves.

The hon. Gentleman's amendments would make it harder in some circumstances for proper and appropriate regeneration work and site assembly to be done in such areas. In view of his lyrical description of the area of outstanding natural beauty close to his house, I do not think that that was his intention. None the less, that is what the amendments would do.

Given those explanations, I hope that the House will see that, although RDAs will not need to use the power all the time, and in the vast majority of cases agreement will be reached with owners of land, we cannot run the risk of omitting the compulsory purchase order powers from the Bill and then finding that particular projects or desperately needed regeneration measures are stopped in their tracks because of one especially difficult landowner, or because the authorities cannot discover who the owner is.

In view of the safeguards that I have outlined, which are already in the law, and the Government's commitment to protection of the countryside as well as to appropriate regeneration, we shall oppose the amendments.

Mr. Yeo: The House has had a valuable short debate on the amendments. My hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) rightly stressed the importance of the need for regional development agencies to work in partnership with local authorities--something that we all strongly support. He shrewdly suggested that, where necessary, a regional development agency working in partnership with a local authority could use the compulsory purchase powers already possessed by the local authority. He also spoke with great feeling about the green belt in his constituency, which I recently had the pleasure of visiting.

My hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) rightly described the dangers of all the centralising powers that the Bill contains. Among those many powers is the power effectively to blight areas of the countryside. She is especially familiar with the situation in the west midlands--an example that I cited when I opened the debate.

The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, Central (Mr. Cousins) attempted to play down the threat constituted by the compulsory purchase powers, and suggested that they would not be used, in the green belt or anywhere else, unless planning permission were available. Obviously the hon. Gentleman was not listening to the debate, because the point was that, since the Government came to power, we have had a Secretary of State who is willing to overrule independent planning inspectors and, against the wishes of local communities, councils and residents, to grant planning permission even for industrial development in the middle of the green belt.

That is what happened in the example I cited from the west midlands, close to the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden. It provides a recent example in which the special protection allegedly attached to the green belt has been tossed aside by the Secretary of State.

Mr. Cousins: Does the shadow Minister perhaps know rather too much about the ways of property companies

1 Apr 1998 : Column 1347

and not enough about the ways of local government? A property company might well go in for a speculative acquisition in green belt, but a public authority of any kind could not.

Mr. Yeo: I am not talking about going in for speculative acquisitions. As the hon. Gentleman knows, an application for planning consent can be made before the land is purchased. We have a pliant Secretary of State who is willing to overrule local opinion and grant permission for industrial development in the middle of the green belt, so goodness knows how easy it would be for a regional development agency that planned to acquire land for which its compulsory powers might be necessary, to clear the matter--on appeal to the Secretary of State, if necessary--and obtain all the consents that would be required.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) drew attention to the unique nature of regional development agencies, and the differences between them and the other bodies that currently exercise compulsory purchase powers.

The Minister seemed to be joining the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, Central in advancing rather similar arguments about the need for planning consent. We have already dealt with that point. She then referred to the importance of partnerships with local authorities. I give her 10 out of 10 for sheer cheek. She and her ministerial colleague spent 13 sittings in Committee rejecting amendment after amendment tabled by the Opposition to promote such partnerships and to ensure that RDAs consulted and were more accountable to local authorities.

The Minister revived the question of quarries in national parks. I am touched that, after six weeks' research, she has uncovered 143 hectares of such quarries, but she has failed to identify an example in which the process of restoration would have to involve compulsory purchase powers. Against that background, the Opposition must press the amendment to a Division.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 114, Noes 289.

Division No. 242
[9 pm


AYES


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
(Rushcliffe)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Colvin, Michael
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cran, James
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, Iain
Evans, Nigel
Fallon, Michael
Flight, Howard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Gale, Roger
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gray, James
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Horam, John
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Maples, John
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Moss, Malcolm
Norman, Archie
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Pickles, Eric
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robathan, Andrew
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Ruffley, David
St Aubyn, Nick
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Steen, Anthony
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Townend, John
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyrie, Andrew
Walter, Robert
Wardle, Charles
Waterson, Nigel
Wells, Bowen
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Willetts, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Woodward, Shaun
Yeo, Tim

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mr. Stephen Day and
Mr. Oliver Heald.


NOES


Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Ballard, Mrs Jackie
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, Andrew F
Bermingham, Gerald
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Boateng, Paul
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradshaw, Ben
Breed, Colin
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burnett, John
Byers, Stephen
Caborn, Richard
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Canavan, Dennis
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chisholm, Malcolm
Church, Ms Judith
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Fatchett, Derek
Fearn, Ronnie
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Fyfe, Maria
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Gorrie, Donald
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Harvey, Nick
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Home Robertson, John
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Ingram, Adam
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Love, Andrew
McAllion, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McDonagh, Siobhain
McIsaac, Shona
McNulty, Tony
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Alan
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moore, Michael
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Mudie, George
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Neill, Martin
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Rendel, David
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Ms Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stott, Roger
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Tyler, Paul
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr Rudi
Wallace, James
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Watts, David
Webb, Steve
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Woolas, Phil
Wray, James
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. David Clelland and
Mr. Graham Allen.

Question accordingly negatived.

1 Apr 1998 : Column 1350

Clause 24

Power to make designation orders

Mr. Caborn: I beg to move amendment No. 4, in page 11, leave out from beginning of line 32 to end of line 19 on page 14.


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