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Mr. Caborn: Before I move on the detail of the amendment, I want to note that the nations and regions sub-committee under the chairmanship of Charles Allen is performing an extremely worthwhile task of co-ordinating not only RDAs but regional sports boards. All the regions have been asked to prepare a strategy, as we want to maximise across the whole UK the benefits that will flow from 2012. We hope to put a full-time person in each nation and region in the early part of next year to ensure that that co-ordination brings a two-way stream of information. We heard earlier about the supply chains that will be necessary for building the infrastructure in London and we hope that such co-ordination will facilitate that development. There is no difference of opinion about the opportunities, the structure that we are setting up, or the leadership of the sub-committee by Charles Allen. I have ministerial responsibility for that, too.
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The amendment is similar to one proposed and withdrawn by the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) in Committee. I apologise if I did not make it clear at that point why we cannot accept the proposal, and I am sorry if I repeat some of what I said then. RDAs are already able to engage in valuable preparatory work for the London Olympics. Before the ODA exists, the London Development Agency, in particular, has put in much valuable work, to which I have already referred. The LDA is leading on the process of land acquisition in the Lea Valley, and the Government amendments in this group are designed to make sure that the process is successful.

The RDAs are able to undertake that sort of work under existing regeneration powers and the Bill does nothing to change that. So RDAs will still be able to buy land and built facilities with an Olympic purpose, without having to consult anybody, provided that they are also pursuing one of their existing statutory purposes.

The Bill provides RDAs with a new purpose—to prepare for the London Olympics—which means that if it proves necessary they will be able to buy land and build facilities that have only an Olympic purpose and provide no other lasting benefit. It is clear that that is an additional power; they can add it to their portfolio if they are asked to develop or deliver an Olympic-specific project. It is unlikely that such a power will ever be needed, but we have provided for it on the "just-in-case" principle. We do not want to be left in a situation where the ODA needs an RDA to buy some land in Weymouth, for example, by compulsory purchase, but the RDA is not able to do so.

Subsection (2) states that an RDA may use that new, Olympic-specific power only at the ODA's request. That is because we do not want RDAs all over the country to be carrying out work for the Olympics where that work is clearly not part of the RDAs' general mission to regenerate their local areas. The Olympics will provide many opportunities for regeneration and we welcome and encourage such activity, but we do not want the games to result in white elephants all over the country.

Mr. Don Foster: The Minister is repeating much of what he said in Committee, which, frankly, was unacceptable then and is unacceptable now. May I ask him a specific question? In the south-west, our RDA is in the process—properly—of establishing an Olympic delivery structure, which involves Sport England and the Government office for the south-west and will involve Dorset county council. The RDA is considering how to liaise with the seven sub-regions so that they can benefit from and participate in the Olympics in 2012. The Minister is talking about land acquisition, but I am much more interested in all the other activities, such as promoting tourism, attracting visitors and increasing participation in sport. Will he assure me that the 1998 legislation enables those organisations to do that, and that they will not be found to be in breach of the existing legislation?

8 pm

Mr. Caborn: Absolutely not. In 1998 I took that Bill through Parliament, setting up the RDAs, and they were founded on exactly those principles. In fact, tourism has
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in the recent past been added to their remit, and therefore they have every power. Nothing in the description that the hon. Gentleman has given would require a departure from the powers that were given to RDAs in the 1998 Act, because that will be about sustainable regeneration and development and wealth creation for that region. The power that is given in this Bill relates to projects that are Olympic-specific and do not have after that use a purpose for which the RDAs were set up—regeneration and wealth creation. If, for example, a stadium was built and then knocked down after the Olympics because there was no after-use, that would not be within the remit of the RDA, but it would be given the powers to do that, at the behest of the ODA, so it could build that facility and then knock it down, and that would be the power that was given by this Bill to the RDAs. I hope that that is clear, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Now I have lost my place, but I think that I have adequately explained to the hon. Member for Bath—well, I am not sure about adequately, but I hope that he will withdraw his amendment.

I shall now discuss amendments Nos. 17, 18 and 27. Amendments Nos. 17 and 27 are proof of the Government's commitment to ensuring that the RDAs have the powers that they need to help the process of Olympic development. It is vital that the land needed for the Olympics is acquired quickly and without legal doubt attached to its status. The timetable for acquisition, remediation and construction is so tight that even a delay of a couple of months could be disastrous. The amendments that we have tabled address all the problems that could possibly obstruct this process, wherever an RDA is acquiring land, at any site anywhere the United Kingdom. They ensure that the necessary land can be assembled on budget, without delay and that it can be used for Olympic development.

We are proposing these amendments at a relatively late stage because the need for them became clear only in the short period after 6 July when the project became a reality and the plans were worked through in detail. As a result of that work, we have tabled amendment No. 17, which would have four crucial effects wherever an RDA purchased land for the purpose of preparing for the Olympics.

First, paragraph (a) removes the need for a special parliamentary process to approve the compulsory purchase of "special land" where equivalent land is not being provided in exchange. Special land consists of allotments, open space and commons. The special parliamentary process would take up to six months and simply cannot be accommodated in the timetable for Olympic construction. I am satisfied that no one will suffer unduly as a result of this step. While the LDA is not able to provide "equally advantageous land" in sufficient amounts to replace all the special land that will be used during the games, those who make specific use of the land will, I believe, get a good deal.

The LDA is committed by conditions of its planning permission to provide replacement facilities to those affected by the purchase of special land. Footballers, allotment holders and cyclists will all be provided with replacement facilities for the duration of the period. After the games, they will get new facilities—East Marsh will be restored and allotments and a velo park will be provided within the Olympic park itself. And the park
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will provide more open space to the residents of the lower Lea valley than currently exists today, so no one, we believe, will lose out.

Paragraph (b) of amendment No. 17 has the effect of extinguishing all existing rights over land acquisition, while providing for compensation to those who have rights removed. It is essentially the same provision that exists in the Housing Act 1985 to allow local housing authorities to develop land after it has been cleared. The risk that we are addressing through this provision is that there are a large number of restrictive covenants that constitute potential obstacles to development of that park. There are approximately 500 covenants affecting land needed for the Olympics in east London. Most are deemed unenforceable, but there are a number of covenants that case law suggests might be enforced, preventing the development of the land. These include a covenant that prevents the land on which the Olympic stadium will be sited being used for sports halls, and a covenant preventing land needed for the main access ramp to the stadium from being used "for athletic or sporting purposes". Clearly, we cannot carry such a risk, and therefore this amendment is crucial.

Paragraph (c) of the amendment provides absolute clarity that "special land", once acquired, can be built on. There is some unhelpful case law at present that casts doubt on the meaning of the relevant provision in the 1998 Act, which allows RDAs to use "special land" in accordance with planning permission. We want to ensure that we run no risk of legal challenge or hold-up, and the amendment to achieve that is before the House.

Finally, paragraph (d) allows the compulsory purchase of Crown land and any interest in Crown land. At present there is some doubt about whether it is legally possible, and while we are not aware of a particular area of land where this is a problem, we would not want to be faced with that problem at a later stage. The one area of Crown land affected by the LDA's initial CPO, around Stratford City, has been the subject of successful negotiations between the LDA, the Government and London and Continental Railways. We do not expect that the new powers will be needed to acquire that land, but we want to provide a failsafe, to ensure that the RDAs have sufficient powers to take control of Crown land anywhere in London or in the UK if necessary. The provision may never need to be used, but we believe that it is an important safeguard.

Amendment No. 18 allows for the provisions relating to compulsory purchase to be commenced immediately on Royal Assent, to ensure that they apply to the LDA's existing CPO as it goes through.

Amendment No. 27 allows for the provisions in amendment No. 17 to be backdated where that is necessary. Provisions amending the law on special land and Crown land must apply to the two major CPOs that the LDA has already launched, on 10 October and 16 November. We have therefore provided that these provisions are, or can be, backdated to 1 October 2005, to ensure that there is no special parliamentary process needed for the "special land" currently being acquired; that such "special land" can be built on for Olympic purposes; and that any Crown land—or interests in Crown land—that falls in the area of the CPO could be compulsorily purchased if need be.
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The power to override restrictive covenants needs to be broader in its effect, since the LDA has been acquiring land in the Olympic park area for the past two years. It needs to be absolutely sure that it can overcome any problematic covenants that are attached to this land. We have therefore proposed a power to provide in the commencement order for the extinguishing of covenants on land that had been acquired before commencement. But rights will be extinguished only from the date of commencement.

These are complex amendments, but they are tightly focused to deal with specific problems that we could face, and they are tied to the specific circumstances where an RDA is acquiring land for Olympic purposes. They are essential to the success of the public sector construction project.

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