PLANNING AND COMPULSORY PURCHASE BILL
44. This Bill carries a statement of compatibility
made by the Rt. Hon. John Prescott MP under section 19(1)(a) of
the Human Rights Act 1998. The Bill is published with Explanatory
Notes. Although the Bill engages the right to peaceful enjoyment
of possessions under P1/1 and the right to a fair hearing by an
independent and impartial tribunal in the determination of civil
rights and obligations under ECHR Article 6.1, the Explanatory
Notes do not usefully explain its human rights implications.
Once again, we draw to the attention of each House the fact, as
noted in paragraph 3 above in relation to the Crime (International
Co-operation) Bill, we consider that the Lord Chancellor's Department's
guidance on the human rights information to be included in Explanatory
Notes to Bills represents good practice.
45. The Bill is intended to speed up the planning
system. Its provisions
seem to us to engage Convention rights in two respects.
46. First, the power proposed in clause 43
for the Secretary of State to call in 'major infrastructure projects',
i.e. applications for planning permission in relation to developments
which the Secretary of State thinks are of national or regional
importance, would affect the right of those whose property is
affected to assert their interests in relation to the application.
It is now well established that determining planning applications
involves the determination of a civil right for the purpose of
ECHR Article 6.1, and that accordingly a determination is required
after a fair hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal
established by law. In R. (Alconbury Developments and others)
v. Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions,
the House of Lords decided that a decision by a Secretary of State
after an inquiry by a planning inspector did not satisfy that
requirement. However, their Lordships went on to hold that the
inquiry, followed by a decision-making procedure in the Department
which was as fair as it could be made, and then the availability
of judicial review of the legality (although not the planning
merits) of the decision, together constituted a fair hearing in
which the final stage (judicial review) cured the absence of an
independent and impartial tribunal at the earlier stages. In the
light of that decision, which seems to be in accordance with the
bulk of the decisions on these matters by the European Court of
Human Rights, we take the view that the regime contemplated
by clause 43 of the Bill, if properly and fairly operated, would
not be likely to present a substantial risk of incompatibility
with rights under ECHR Article 6.1.
47. Secondly, clauses 74 to 77 of the Bill
would amend the provisions of the Land Compensation Act 1973 for
compensating people whose land is compulsorily acquired. Compensation
for compulsory acquisition is required by P1/1. As the Explanatory
Notes explain, the effect of the provisions would be to enhance
the level of compensation in order to provide an incentive for
people with interests in land to co-operate with the planning
and acquisition process, thus speeding up decision-making.
That being so, the provisions do not seem to us to be objectionable
in terms of P1/1.
48. We therefore take the view that the provisions
of the Bill itself (as distinct from the Explanatory Notes) do
not give rise to a significant risk of violating Convention rights.
37 See Bill 12-EN, para. 115 Back
ibid., para. 4 Back
 UKHL 23,  2 WLR 1389, HL Back
Bill 12-EN, para. 90 Back