LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES
1. Mr. William Hamilton
asked the Minister of Land and Natural Resources if he will give an assurance that educational trusts will not be excluded from his proposed legislation dealing with leasehold reform.
The Minister of Land and Natural Resources (Mr. Frederick Willey)
I must ask my hon. Friend to await announcement of the Government's proposals.
Can my right hon. Friend saw whether it is the Government's intention to issue a White Paper before the Bill is presented to Parliament and whether we might have an opportunity to debate that White Paper? Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that there will be very few exemptions, such as the one which I have indicated in the Question, since otherwise there might be trouble from this side of the House?
I am aware of my hon. Friend's views, but he must await an announcement by the Government. The question of a debate is not for me, but I can say that it is hoped to issue a White Paper early in the new year.
While dissenting from the desire of the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) to discriminate against education, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give serious consideration to the suggestion which the hon. Member has made that [column 1656]there should be a reasonable interval between any White Paper and legislation so that there may be an opportunity for debate?
That is certainly a matter which I will bear in mind. As I have said, the question of a debate is not for me.
11. Mrs. Thatcher
asked the Minister of Land and Natural Resources when he expects to publish the Bill dealing with leasehold enfranchisement.
It will be in this Session, but I cannot yet give a date.
If the Minister cannot give a date, will he consider making a statement shortly about who will be able to purchase the leasehold and at what price, because it is over a year since the original announcement was made?
Yes. As I have already assured the House, the Government will issue a White Paper early in the New Year.
2. Mr. Derek Page
asked the Minister of Land and Natural Resources what steps he is taking to expedite a decision regarding a feasibility study on the Wash barrage.
I hope to have the advice of the Water Resources Board on the consultant's report on the water resources of the Great Ouse Basin fairly early in the New Year. We shall then consider the next steps.
Can my right hon. Friend give any further indication of exactly when he will be in a position to make decision? Will he expedite this matter bearing in mind the terrific impact which any such scheme would have on the economy of the whole area?
I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that we ought to wait first for the advice of the Water Resources Board.
3. Mr. Derek Page
asked the Minister of Land and Natural Resources whether the will discuss with the East Anglian Regional Economic Planning Council the desirability of a feasibility study of the Wash barrage.[column 1657]
I would certainly consult the Council before putting a feasibility study in hand, but it would be premature to do so at this stage.
I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. Will he bear in mind the tremendous impact that any such scheme would have on the economy of the whole of Norfolk, which badly needs extra industry? Will he also bear in mind that this body is the only one that is capable of taking into account all the economic circumstances?
Our primary concern is with water, but, of course, we have to take into account the other factors.
4. Sir D. Renton
asked the Minister of Land and Natural Resources whether the preliminary report by consultants of the storage potentialities of the Wash has yet been received; and whether he will make a further statement about this scheme.
13. Sir G. de Freitas
asked the Minister of Land and Natural Resources what progress has been made in the studies of the possibility of damming the Wash to create a reservoir by holding back water from rivers such as the Witham, Welland, Nene and Ouse, in order to provide fresh water for use in the dry counties of the East Midlands and East Anglia.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government has received the report of the consulting engineers, Messrs. Binnie and Partners, on the water resources of the Great Ouse basin. The report recommends further study of a number of possible conservation schemes, including the use of the Wash as a reservoir. My right hon. Friend and I have asked the Water Resources Board to consider the report in the context of their studies of the South-East as a whole and to advise in due course what action should be taken on it.
Sir D. Renton
Is not it clear from the report which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned that the sooner the Wash is impounded the more farmland will be saved from flooding and the greater the scope for water storage? Therefore, in consultation with the Minister of Housing and Local Government, will the right hon. Gentleman press on with this matter as hard as he possibly can?[column 1658]
I appreciate what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said. This is not altogether clear. We have to consider the Wash in the context of the other proposals made and of proposals which might be made about a reservoir in the Wash, but first of all we should have the advice of the Water Resources Board.
Sir G. de Freitas
Can my right hon. Friend say when a feasibility study is likely to be started, in view of the enormous importance of this matter not only to Norfolk and East Anglia but to the East Midlands?
We are considering this as expeditiously as we can; but first we have to await the advice of the Water Resources Board, which I am sure will deal with the matter as quickly as it can.
6. Mr. Bessell
asked the Minister of Land and Natural Resources whether, when he is preparing legislation affecting access to, or control of, amenities in the countryside, he will ensure that those who farm the land are brought into full consultation and co-operation both in the framing of the legislation itself and in the creation or alteration of administrative machinery.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources (Mr. Arthur Skeffington)
My right hon. Friend will, of course, discuss his proposals with all those affected by them. He will certainly consult the National Farmers' Union among others, but cannot depart from normal practice in these consultations.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that reply. Is he aware that there is considerable unrest in view of the Minister's statement about proposed legislation on common land and rights of way? May we take it that this will not take place without prior consultation with the interests concerned?
My right hon. Friend has already had considerable correspondence and also consultation with the National Farmers' Union. I do not think that the Union is unduly alarmed by any of the proposals, but if the hon. Gentleman has any point in mind I shall be glad to consider it.[column 1659]
Land Commission Levy
8. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
asked the Minister of Land and Natural Resources whether, in calculating the yield of the levy foreshadowed in Command Paper No. 2771 at £80 million a year, he took into account reductions in the yield of other taxation; and whether he will give his estimate of such reductions, with separate figures in respect of each particular tax or duty.
I have nothing to add to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) on 29th November.
Surely the Minister knew when he gave that Answer whether the figure he gave was intended to be gross or net. If he knows that, perhaps he can tell us now.
As I have frequently explained, the figure is a gross figure.
9. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
asked the Minister of Land and Natural Resources what reduction he calculates would result in the yield of the levy forecast in Command Paper No. 2771 if the sale of owner-occupied houses were exempted from the imposition of the levy.
It is impossible to say because of the wide variety of circumstances in which an owner-occupier may realise development value. Paragraph 31 of the White Paper, in fact, makes appropriate provision for exemption. The sale of owner-occupied houses, of course, normally will be exempted from levy, which only arises where there is a prospect of development or redevelopment.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that paragraph 31 of the White Paper deals with a different situation, that of someone who seeks to build a house to be owner-occupied on land which he owns? If the right hon. Gentleman looks at the Order Paper, he will see that my Question relates to the sale of an owner-occupied house. Is he aware that his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made an exception in favour of owner-occupiers in respect of Capital Gains Tax? Cannot the Minister be at least as liberal as his right hon. Friend?[column 1660]
The right hon. Gentleman will, I think, appreciate that there is a difference between capital gains and development levy. As to the value of a house, it is immaterial for the purposes of development value how great is the appreciation in the value of the house. We are concerned here with development value on development or redevelopment.
Is not the Minister aware that one of the great incentives to a young couple to undertake heavy obligations to obtain a house is that they are getting a capital value which is of importance to them? Surely he can consider, when redevelopment takes place, making the same exception to encourage owner-occupation as his right hon. Friend the Chancellor has been sensible enough to make?
I can only point out again that there is a difference between the owner of a house being exempt from taxation on the value of his house. We have to consider, among other things, the possibility of his having to acquire another house. Development value is a matter which we can pursue when we discuss the Bill in Standing Committee. I find it difficult to envisage cases in which one could make an exception concerning development value.
14. Mr. Corfield
asked the Minister of Land and Natural Resources if he will take steps to ensure that where, at the date of publication of Command Paper No. 2771, land is subject to a compulsory purchase order which has not been confirmed, but to which the owner has agreed not to make objection, no levy will be payable as a result of the ultimate compulsory acquisition of the land.
I must ask the hon. Member to await the publication of the Bill.
Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that even where a landowner is perfectly willing to negotiate, a compulsory purchase order offers considerable advantages to a local authority and that it is surely wholly unjust that he should be penalised by delay caused by his co-operation with the local authority.
I have considerable sympathy with the case that the hon. Member has in mind. I hope that when [column 1661]he sees the Bill, we may be able to arrive at some conclusion.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware, incidentally, that this and many other points are preventing land from being brought forward for development and preventing progress in the building programme? Can he not answer questions of this sort at least in order to secure that the supply of land is maintained?
I am not at all aware of the point made by the right hon. Gentleman.
15. Mr. Corfield
asked the Minister of Land and Natural Resources if he will make special provision whereby the erection of agricultural buildings or dwelling-houses for farmers or farm workers shall not make the owner of the land liable to payment of the proposed levy envisaged in the White Paper, Command Paper No. 2771.
Paragraph 27 of the White Paper states that levy will be paid only on value attributable to the prospect of material development and the footnote on page 6 explains that material development will be defined by regulations. It will be possible, therefore, to deal with any special problems that arise in regard to agriculture by regulations.
May we take it from that reply that the hon. Gentleman intends to provide for this special problem bearing in mind the folly of taxing capital investment in farmland, which is obviously in the interest of the nation?
Forestry Commission Land
10. Mr. Lipton
asked the Minister of Land and Natural Resources why he encourages stag-hunting and fox-hunting on Forestry Commission land in the Quantocks rather than using other methods of control.
I neither encourage nor discourage stag-hunting and fox-hunting, which are traditional in this area. A ban on hunting on Commission land would have no material effect on hunting in the Quantocks.
Is it not deplorable, and, indeed, scandalous, that the Government [column 1662]should exploit the revolting pastime of stag-hunting for the purpose of animal control on this part of the Forestry Commission's estates? Will he not reconsider this decision in view of the fact that on other estates of the Forestry Commission, he introduces his own staff who follow much more civilised and humane methods of animal control?
Of course, I will certainly reconsider it, but we have to leave the Forestry Commission to follow rules of good estate management. The question of blood sports as a whole is, of course, a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.
12. Mr. Hazell
asked the Minister of Land and Natural Resources whether, in view of the demand throughout the area of the Norfolk Broads due to the present unsatisfactory position, he will take steps to set up a consortium of local bodies as suggested in the Report of the Nature Conservancy on Broadland.
I understand that the main local bodies concerned are already working on these general lines. I welcome this initiative. My right hon. Friend and I have instructed our regional staff to give assistance wherever it is required.
In thanking my right hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask him to contact the Norfolk County Council to see whether it will bring these bodies together at an early date to prevent further spoliation of the area of the Broads pending legislation which, I hope, he will introduce in due course to make the area an area of recreation?
I will have a word with my right hon. Friend. The county council has not yet expressed an opinion about this matter.
National Parks Act, 1949
16. Mr. Blenkinsop
asked the Minister of Land and Natural Resources if he will cause a review to be made of the need for additional access agreements under Part V of the National Parks Act, 1949.
I propose to ask local authorities to review the need for more [column 1663]access agreements and to encourage them to make more use of their powers where it is shown to be necessary.
While welcoming my right hon. Friend's reply, may I ask whether he agrees that big changes have taken place since the last review and that it is desirable that some kind of mandatory action should be taken so that the whole matter may be reconsidered?
There are, I think, two things in particular that we should do. One is to encourage the use of existing powers and the second, as I have already said, is to reconsider the provisions in the Act.
17. Mr. Blenkinsop
asked the Minister of Land and Natural Resources if he will revoke the directions for the appointment of advisory committees in Snowdonia, Exmoor, Yorkshire Dales and Brecon Beacon National Parks and appoint joint boards for their administration.
No, Sir. I am sure that the planning authorities concerned will seriously consider the advantages of joint boards, but my right hon. Friend and I would hesitate to override their considered opinion.
Does not my right hon. Friend understand that there has been great controversy on this matter, that if he were to take the advice of the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) he would act in the way suggested in the Question and that there is a wide measure of agreement that the present arrangement of advisory committees merely holds up action?
As my hon. Friend is aware, I have expressed my opinion strongly in favour of joint boards. We should, however, wait and see how far we get with persuasion. Certainly, we should not antagonise the authorities but should wait and see how they respond.
I beg to give notice that in view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I will raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.