HOUSE OF COMMONS
Third Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING (COMPENSATION FOR RESTRICTIONS ON MINERAL WORKING) (AMENDMENT) REGULATIONS 1988
Wednesday 30 March 1988
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The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chairman: Sir Anthony Meyer
Arnold, Mr. Jacques (Gravesham)
Bowis, Mr. John (Battersea)
Boyes, Mr. Roland (Houghton and Washington)
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie (Blyth Valley)
Clelland, Mr. David (Tyne Bridge)
Coombs, Mr. Anthony (Wyre Forest)
Cryer, Mr. Bob (Bradford, South)
Griffiths, Mr. Peter (Portsmouth, North)
Hoyle, Mr. Doug (Warrington, North)
Knowles, Mr. Michael (Nottingham, East)
Lloyd, Mr. Peter (Fareham)
McCrindle, Mr. Robert (Brentwood and Ongar)
Madel, Mr. David (Bedfordshire, South-West)
Maples, Mr. John (Lewisham, West)
Michie, Mrs. Ray (Argyll and Bute)
Morley, Mr. Elliot (Glanford and Scunthorpe)
Temple-Morris, Mr. Peter (Leominster)
Waldegrave, Mr. William (Minister for Housing and Planning)
Miss P. A. Helme, Committee Clerk.2 3 Third Standing Committee on Statutory Instilments, &c. Wednesday 30 March 1988
[Sir ANTHONY MEYER in the Chair]
The Minister for Housing and Planning (Mr. William Waldegrave): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the Town and Country Planning (Compensation for Restrictions on Mineral Working) (Amendment) Regulations 1988. The purpose of the regulations is simple. It is to make a technical amendment to the 1985 Mineral Compensation Regulations to take account of a recent change in the method of calculating the retail prices index. Unless members of the Committee wish me to pursue it in greater detail, I commend the regulations to them.
Mr Bob Cryer: (Bradford, South): I do not think that we should allow the instrument to go by on the nod—that is not the purpose of the Committee in any event—and I wish to ask the Minister some questions. First, the introduction to the instrument says that the Secretaries of State have consulted. "persons and bodies appearing to them to be representative of persons carrying out mining operations, of owners of interests in land containing minerals and of mineral planning authorities". The Committee should be told what bodies and persons have been consulted, because, as I understand it, the regulations alter the formula on which compensation is calculated where planning consent restricts the right to excavate minerals. I suppose that British Coal, Rio Tinto-Zac and other large bodies will have been consulted, but I should like to know. What organisations representing owners of interest in land were consulted? They would certainly be interested, and would presumably stand to gain from this formula. The Committee should place on record, through the Minister's comments, who was consulted and whether the number of consultations was sufficient to satisfy the statutory obligation on the Minister to undertake them. I have no doubt that it will have been, but until we know we cannot make a judgment. Secondly, this is apparently a technical amendment because of a change in the RPI, but I understand from the figures given in the regulations that the basis of the calculations will be increased fourfold. Therefore, it would be of benefit to the Committee if the Minister gave some elucidation. I dare say that he was only waiting eagerly for my question before leaping to his feet to regale the Committee with the information. 4 These merit committees are on the record and are a useful point of reference for many people who have to deal with and apply these regulations. If there is a record of the proceedings of these Committees, Ministers' speeches can be referred to for guidance and greater understanding. I realise that this is a short instrument, but it is a piece of our legislation and I should be grateful if the Minister could expand on the two issues that I have raised.
Mr. Waldegrave: I shall try to meet the entirely legitimate concerns of the honourable Member for Bradford, South (Mr Cryer). The 1985 regulations were thoroughly debated in the House before they were passed, so although this updating is part of the regular, subsequent proceedings, these are not trivial regulations. The honourable Gentleman makes a perfectly fair point about those who read these proceedings, so perhaps I can give him some further background. The honourable Gentleman asked, first, about consultation. There is a long list of consultees, which I shall send to him, but I shall read out a few of those on it to assure him that consultation was reasonably wide. As he rightly predicts, a number of industrial firms and representative organisations were consulted, such as the CBI minerals committee, the British Aggregates Construction Material Industries, the Sand and Gravel Association, the Brick Development Association, the China Clay Council, and indeed British Coal, although this compensation relates to mineral workings other than coal. A number of other firms were also consulted. There were than discussions with representatives of a number of owners with interests in land, including the Country Landowners Association, the National Farmers Union, the National Farmers Union of Wales and the Farmers Union of Wales, and with bodies representing the mineral planning authorities, which are closely involved—the Association of County Councils, the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, the London Boroughs Association, the Association of London Authorities and the Welsh Counties Committee—and then with a number of others which we thought would be interested, such as the Law Society, Friends of the Earth, the Nature Conservancy Council, the Countryside Commission, the Council on Tribunals and a number of others which are interested in the disputes that emerge from time to time. I shall give the hon. Gentleman some further background to the regulations, which go back to the Stevens committee on the control of mineral working, a committee appointed in the early 1970s to consider the operation of planning in relation to the special problems of mineral extraction. Mineral extraction is subject to the same general planning law as other forms of development, but the committee recognised that, unlike some forms of development, it can continue for decades, during which time the conditions attached to the original planning permission may have been overtaken by changing economic or industrial circumstances and by increased public awareness of environmental acceptability, which I think the hon. Gentleman will agree has grown in recent years. The committee's report, published in 1975, recommended a number of important new measures to enable old mineral permissions to be brought into line with modern standards. But it argued that it would not be 5 reasonable to expect local authorities or their ratepayers to bear the full financial burden of bringing old mineral permissions up to date in the way usually required when established rights are altered. It recommended that, in view of the special characteristics of mineral extraction, the minerals industry should accept "reasonable" additional costs arising from the modernisation of planning conditions. The recommendation was accepted and, following extensive consultation and debate in the years after 1975, the Minerals Act 1981 gave the Secretary of State the power to make regulations reducing the amount of compensation payable by introducing a threshold which would require the operator to bear part of his loss, so reducing the burden on the rate payers. The 1985 Minerals Compensation Regulations contain the detailed provisions for the calculation of the threshold. It is a complicated calculation, but if the hon. Gentleman is interested, I could send him the details of it, although it was set out reasonably fully at the time. In the case of orders revoking, modifying or discontinuing mineral planning permissions, the regulations provide for the compensation threshold to be based on the value of the right to win and work minerals—therefore it is related to the money that has been made out of the development—which is calculated according to the formula specified in Regulation 6 and schedule 1. An important factor in this calculation is the annual value of the site in question, and that is derived from the entries in the rating valuation list. The rating valuation list is based on 1973 values, so the regulations also provide for an indexation factor tied to the all items retail prices index to be applied so that the figure used for the assessment of the compensation threshold is automatically brought into line with current values. 6 Secondly, the honourable Gentleman wants to know why the calculation has been updated in the way that is set out in the regulations. When the regulations were made, the base rate for the RPI was 1 January 1974, and a further compensating factor was introduced to revalue the RPI to the date of the rating valuation list and so bring the April 1973 values up to date. This is the "appropriate factor" referred to in paragraph 7 of Schedule 1 to the 1985 regulations. However, the base date of the RPI has recently been changed and is now set at 1 January 1987. I believe that it is changed every 10 years or so by the independent committee which oversees the RPI. The appropriate factor therefore needs to be amended to ensure that the threshold is updated as was intended when the 1985 regulations were made. The new factor is obtained by dividing the RPI for January 1987 by that for April 1973, in both cases using the previous series, and then dividing by 100. It is a statutory requirement of the main legislation that interested parties should be consulted before these regulations are made. I have already tried to deal with that. A formal consultation exercise was carried out at the end of last year and there were no objections to the proposed amendment. I hope that what I have said meets the honourable Gentleman's legitimate concerns.
Question put and agreed to.
Resolved, That the Committee has considered the Town and Country Planning (Compensation for Restrictions on Mineral Working) (Amendment) Regulations 1988.
Committee rose at nineteen minutes to Eleven o'clock.
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:
Meyer, Sir Anthony (Chairman)
Arnold, Mr. Jacques
Coombs, Mr. Anthony
Griffiths, Mr. Peter
Lloyd, Mr. Peter