CLA angered at plans to regulate charge of telecoms giants for access

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The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is calling on MPs to vote down proposals that would give the Government power to set the price landowners can charge telecommunication companies for access to their land.

CLA President Henry Robinson described the proposals as: “an assault on the free market”.

The issue is scheduled to be debated in Parliament this week.

He says they will diminish landowners’ rights to negotiate a fair price with global communications companies for the location of telecommunication masts and underground cables.

In effect, the change of law would allow the Secretary of State to intervene in negotiations and regulate the price landowners can charge for access if it is was deemed a sticking point in advancing rights of access.

However, little detail is available about how this will work in practice, say the CLA.

The changes have been introduced at pace in an attempt to speed the delivery of adequate mobile coverage in rural communities.

They were presented to the House of Commons on Friday, January 9 and will be debated by MPs at Committee Stage until Thursday January 15.

They will then be voted on at Report Stage in a few weeks, meaning MPs and Lords will not have had four of the six main opportunities to scrutinise the legislation.

Mr Robinson said: “It is wholly unjustified for Ministers to impose radical changes to the law because of unfounded claims from telecoms companies that landowners are charging ransom rents. The proposals will allow future governments to conspire with multi-national communications giants to ride roughshod over the property rights of thousands of landowners throughout rural Britain.

“This has been introduced at the 11th hour without discussion and will cause concern and confusion. It cannot be right that the Government introduces 63 pages of new legislation less than a week before it is to be debated in Parliament. It is scandalous that MPs will have only two limited chances to debate the implications of this before it is to become law.

He continued: “We urge MPs to vote down these proposals that will give Ministers sweeping powers that are an assault on the free market. These have been given up to multi-national communications corporations in return for a wholly inadequate target for delivering affordable mobile coverage in rural communities.”