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Public Bill Committee Debates

Draft Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (Corresponding Amendments) Order 2007



The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Hugh Bayley
Brake, Tom (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD)
Buck, Ms Karen (Regent's Park and Kensington, North) (Lab)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) (Lab)
Davidson, Mr. Ian (Glasgow, South-West) (Lab/Co-op)
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine (Mid-Bedfordshire) (Con)
Dunne, Mr. Philip (Ludlow) (Con)
Fabricant, Michael (Lichfield) (Con)
Fraser, Mr. Christopher (South-West Norfolk) (Con)
Gove, Michael (Surrey Heath) (Con)
Lepper, David (Brighton, Pavilion) (Lab/Co-op)
Munn, Meg (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government)
Purchase, Mr. Ken (Wolverhampton, North-East) (Lab/Co-op)
Rogerson, Mr. Dan (North Cornwall) (LD)
Shaw, Jonathan (Chatham and Aylesford) (Lab)
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough) (Lab)
Truswell, Mr. Paul (Pudsey) (Lab)
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton, Kemptown) (Lab)
Mark Oxborough, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee

Second Delegated Legislation Committee

Wednesday 9 May 2007

[Hugh Bayley in the Chair]

Draft Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (Corresponding Amendments) Order 2007

2.30 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Meg Munn): I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (Corresponding Amendments) Order 2007.
I am sure that this will be a most illuminating and interesting Committee, Mr. Bayley. The draft order makes a series of technical amendments to certain compulsory purchase powers and brings them into line with mainstream compulsory purchase legislation. The drafting of the order may appear complex, but the effect of the amendments is quite straightforward.
It may be helpful if I provide some background information to the order. The schedule to the order deals with compulsory purchase powers used by certain Departments and statutory undertakers that do not depend on the Acquisition of Land Act 1981 for the procedure to make compulsory purchase orders and certain other orders. That means that the amendments made in 2004 to the 1981 Act do not apply to those powers. Before the 2004 amendments came into force, the 1981 Act provided for those who own or occupy land that is to be acquired to be notified of the proposed compulsory acquisition, and for their right to object and appear at an inquiry. The right of notification was limited to the owner, lessee or occupier and excepted those people whose tenancy period was for a month or less. That meant that monthly or weekly tenants were not included even though they may have had security of tenure and had lived in the property on that basis for a number of years.
Changes made to the compulsory purchase procedures set out in the 1981 Act by the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 mean that any person who is a tenant, whatever the tenancy period, is entitled to receive notification of a compulsory purchase order affecting the property or land that they occupy. They also have the right to object to the order and appear at a public inquiry into the order. In addition, changes were made to the 1981 Act so that notice must be given to all those with a sufficient interest in the land being acquired for the acquiring authority to serve on them a notice to treat—notice to open compensation negotiations—if it is acquiring the land under section 5(1) of the Compulsory Purchase Act 1965, or persons who are likely to be entitled to make a claim for compensation under section 10 of the 1965 Act.
It is worth noting that when this amendment to the 1981 Act was being considered in Committee the Opposition spokesperson made it clear that the Opposition welcomed the clarification of the categories of people to be notified, which included tenants, whatever their tenancy period. There was a consensus that it would be unfair if monthly or weekly tenants occupying land affected by a compulsory purchase order were not entitled to receive notification just because the compulsory purchase powers being exercised were not governed by the 1981 Act.
Section 110 of the 2004 Act gave the Secretary of State powers to amend corresponding enactments in connection with the compulsory acquisition of an interest in land. That provision was introduced as an amendment when the 2004 Act was in Committee in the Lords. The amendment was accepted and was not subject to any discussion. This is the first time that these powers have been exercised and, if we have got it right, it will be the last.
The order will bring compulsory purchase order powers into line with the mainstream compulsory purchase provisions set out in the 1981 Act, so that any person who is a tenant, whatever the tenancy period, will be entitled to receive notice of a compulsory purchase order relating to the land that they occupy. They will also have a right to appear at a public inquiry to consider the justification for the compulsory purchase order.
The draft order also amends the enactments, where relevant, to require that notification of a CPO be given also to persons to whom the acquiring authority would be required to serve a notice to treat or to those who would be entitled to claim compensation. The effect of the order on the enactments that it covers varies slightly to take account of differences in the relevant primary legislation.
It will perhaps be helpful if I draw hon. Members’ attention to paragraph 4(4) of the schedule to the draft order, which provides a reasonably clear example of its effect. It makes an amendment to schedule 2 to the Pipe-lines Act 1962, which deals with applications for compulsory purchase orders and refers to the serving of a notice about a proposed compulsory purchase order on
“every owner, lessee and occupier (except tenants for a month or any period less than a month) of any land proposed to be comprised in the order”.
Paragraph 4(4)(a)(i) of the schedule to the draft order replaces that with a reference to every person
“who is an owner, lessee, tenant (whatever the tenancy period) or occupier of any land proposed to be comprised in the order”.
The draft order will update the existing compulsory purchase legislation and ensure that it operates in a fair and consistent manner. It therefore tidies up a loose end from 2004 and ensures that all people affected by compulsory purchase orders are treated the same way, irrespective of the powers under which the orders are made. I hope that I have explained adequately to the Committee why the order is needed and the context in which it is being made. I commend it to the Committee.
2.37 pm
Michael Gove (Surrey Heath) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Bayley. I congratulate the Minister on the exemplary clarity with which she set out the issues for the Committee and the authority that she brought to analysing each issue of principle and practice.
I also congratulate the usual channels on assembling in the Committee such a weight of expertise. I see the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East; the hon. Member for Pudsey, who has taken a close interest in planning; the hon. Member for Gillingham, who served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister; and the hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North, who has a close interest in housing and social justice—not to mention the hon. Member for Glasgow, South-West, whose interest in constitutional procedures is second to none. I am forced to conclude that we have the equivalent of the justices of the US Supreme Court trying a traffic offence, because the order makes purely technical amendments. It seems curious to have such a preponderance of expertise considering the order, considering that it is primarily a matter of technical tidying up.
It is nevertheless appropriate that we have that expertise here because, as we are all aware, compulsory purchase strikes at the very heart of property rights and the balance between the individual’s right to maintain the free and unmolested use of his property and the state’s right in certain exceptional circumstances to take control of it for the greater good and the common weal. Those issues of principle have preoccupied the House for centuries, but through the debates on the 2004 Act they were crystallised into legislation that, as the Minister pointed out, passed in many cases, although not all, without undue contention. She is right to point out that when we discussed the provisions that the order will amend, there was broad consensus. Consensus is a word dear to my heart, and I assure the Minister and the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford that we do not intend to divide the Committee this afternoon.
Technical though the order is, we should like the Minister to address a specific matter. She pointed out that, understandably, there is no regulatory impact assessment attendant on the order; nevertheless, it will have cost implications for the planning process. One point that the Opposition have sought to make in the past 18 months has been that, as matters stand, the planning process adds both cost and complexity to development decisions. It would be instructive if the Minister stated in Committee or subsequently in correspondence the Government estimate of the additional cost to the public purse of implementing the order.
As the Minister said, it is the purpose of the order to extend to tenants a right that they have not hitherto enjoyed and to regularise legislation to ensure that that right is made universal. She rightly said that there are those who exercise a weekly tenancy who nevertheless have a right in custom and in law to consultation in other respects because they have occupied the property for a considerable time. The complicated system of tenure that prevails governs a number of different tenancies and perhaps needs to be looked at in the future. When will the Government be moved to introduce legislation to regularise the position in respect of tenancy and leaseholders?
With those two questions hanging in the air, I congratulate the Minister on tidying up a loose end that was left over from 2004. As we are just hours away from the Prime Minister announcing his resignation as leader of the Labour party, it is perhaps appropriate to tie up this piece of unfinished business. Tomorrow, when the Prime Minister announces his resignation and an imminent general election, we can acknowledge that this loose end will not need to be tied up by the incoming Conservative Government.
2.41 pm
Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Mr. Bayley.
I thank the Minister for her detailed explanation and for giving us the opportunity to agree to this small but important measure. I should, however, advise her that it would be useful to breathe occasionally during her speeches. I worried at one point that she might expire from lack of oxygen. The urgency with which she delivered her speech gave me the impression that she might have another, more pressing appointment to go on to.
I welcome the presence of the hon. Member for Surrey Heath as spokesman for the official Opposition, although I confess that it rather surprised me, as I thought I had read that he was due for promotion. He must be feeling somewhat offended at having to share with us the trying of this traffic offence this afternoon.
It is entirely appropriate to rectify the omission of monthly or weekly tenants from existing provisions. The Minister answered my question about the frequency with which these provisions are exercised—on average, it is once a year. I hoped that she might give the Committee some idea of how many weekly or monthly tenants are affected now and will no longer be affected when the draft order is made.
I will not seek to divide the Committee, so we should be able to bring our proceedings to a fairly prompt conclusion to enable the Minister to move on to other matters.
2.43 pm
I shall respond to the questions asked about cost and how often these provisions will be used. We decided that it was inappropriate to produce a regulatory impact assessment because some of the Acts covered by the draft order are rarely used. Few tenants are likely to be affected and the cost of collecting that information would be disproportionate. Our expectation is that the costs will be negligible and will fall in different parts of the country at different times. The measure is important to ensure that all tenants can be consulted, even if there are only a few to which it applies and it will result in only a few extra letters being sent.
The hon. Member for Surrey Heath asked whether we are considering tenancy and related matters. That goes a bit beyond the scope of the draft order, but I will say that the Government are always open to looking at such matters, and planning issues and a White Paper on the subject will be considered in time. Hon. Members will have the opportunity to make suggestions to the Government in future. On that basis, I commend the order to the Committee.
Question put and agreed to.
Resolved,
That the Committee has considered the draft Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (Corresponding Amendments) Order 2007.
Committee rose at fourteen minutes to Three o clock.
 
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