Select Committee on Procedure Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 79-99)




  Chairman: Welcome, Sir Iain and Mr Vandermeer, thank you very much for coming. We are delighted that you have been able to come and give evidence before the Procedure Committee as part of our inquiry into the Government's proposals relating to major infrastructure projects which, of course, involve Parliament, and that is why the Procedure Committee is dealing with this matter. This, you will see, is a splendid environment for discussing what is clearly a very important current issue. For the record, Sir Iain Glidewell is a constituent of mine. I know him well, and I very much respect his knowledge, as I do Mr Vandermeer, in these matters relating to major infrastructure projects.

  Mr Burnett: I should get on the record that I have had the privilege of working with Mr Vandermeer, who is a leading and distinguished planning lawyer.


  79. Does anyone else wish to get anything on the record before we begin the questioning?
  (Sir Iain Glidewell) Chairman, we do not need to note the fact that you and I planted trees together recently.

  80. We are both prime environmentalists, Sir Iain. If I may, to an extent, involve Sir Iain right at the beginning, because he has commented in his paper to us that "it is by no means clear that the public inquiry is the most effective mechanism for advising the Minister about and setting out the arguments on the first part of the decision making process, ie is the project necessary in the public interest, and does that necessity outweigh the disadvantages to those affected by it? This first question often then leads to a second, namely, if the project is necessary, is there no preferable, less damaging site or line on which it could take place?" I put to our two witnesses: Government is clearly dissatisfied with the present system of decision making where major infrastructure projects are concerned; in the light, gentlemen, of your considerable experience of the planning inquiry system, do you think that the Government is correct to be dissatisfied with the present system, particularly as it applies to major infrastructure projects—that is question one—and realistically, what scope is there for improving (a) the speed, and (b) the quality of the present process? Will the Government's recently announced changes to the conduct of public inquiries improve matters? Sir Iain.
  (Sir Iain Glidewell) Thank you Chairman. May I thank you and your Committee very much for giving me the opportunity to address you briefly. I believe that, in part, the Government is right to be dissatisfied with the present system as a mechanism for dealing with the question which you have just read out, which I proposed in the second paragraph of my short paper. That is to say, the first question of principle that has to be decided when deciding on a major infrastructure project is, "Is it necessary in the public interest, and does that necessity outweigh the inevitable disadvantages to some people?" Indeed, part of the problem, in my view—and I am pretty confident that this is our joint view, Roy Vandermeer will speak for himself in a moment—is that Government has not been very clever at saying clearly what its policy is in relation to some forms of major infrastructure in the past. Airports are a very good example of this. Both of us have the experience, in our respective terminal inquiries in relation to Heathrow, at having canvassed before us the question, "Is this necessary in the public interest?", and we had to make up our minds as best we could in answer to that question. If Government announces that as a matter of policy, perhaps with the approval of Parliament, or perhaps, since it is largely a matter for Government policy, without taking that question to Parliament, then clearly it will produce a more coherent decision making process, and anything that followed would have a basis on which to work, and, of course, could be much quicker. Your second question was, as I understood you, "How could things be improved while retaining the present system?"

  81. Yes, ie is there any scope for improving the speed and quality of the present process?
  (Sir Iain Glidewell) The answer to that, I believe, must be yes. It depends very much, first of all, on how far the particular project has been properly defined and all its ramifications and complications considered before ever the application is made. I rather think Roy Vandermeer had better talk about this rather than me because he had quite a lot of experience of changes being made at a very early stage with Terminal 5 which I did not have at Terminal 4. But also, it depends upon the extent to which, under the present system, the inspector at a public inquiry can control what is going on and cut out what he may consider to be unnecessary lengthy representations or cross examination. The new rules, of which, incidentally, I have not so far got a copy, though I believe your Clerk may have sent me a copy which had not arrived in this morning's post when I left home.

  82. It will be rectified, Sir Iain.
  (Sir Iain Glidewell) Thank you very much. But I have seen the draft because I commented on the draft and that should help in this respect. I believe that the answer is yes, if Government had, in the first place, made clear its policy with regard to the issues of principle, then the vital question of whether this particular project should take place here at the site which is the subject of the application could be decided under the present system—not quickly, bound to take quite a lot of time, but need not take as long as at present, in my view.

  83. Thank you. Roy Vandermeer QC.
  (Mr Vandermeer) May I thank you for inviting me and giving me the opportunity to express my views on this matter. I think the Government is quite right to think that the present system can be or should be improved, whether it is by dramatic change or by tinkering with what exists. I am glad to say that I am on record in supporting that because I have said just that in paragraph 1.2.15 of my report.[1] I do believe, and I think this is what Sir Iain was alluding to, that some of the lessons of Terminal 5 are valuable, the problems, in other words, understanding the problems and what could be done about them and seeing how far one can improve the system without introducing new processes. That is not to say that I am against new processes. I see difficulties from the members in the introduction, and I am sure we will probably come to that, and some of the points that I will touch upon might highlight those difficulties. But I think the first thing I would endorse is the question of Government policy being clear. I have had very careful discussions with my deputy inspector, both when we heard of ideas for altering the system, and particularly since you invited me to come here, to see if we could analyse how much time could have been saved at Terminal 5 by fairly modest things happening. I do not pretend that this is exhaustive, nor do I suggest that perhaps somebody might say, "If you had behaved better, you might have got it done quicker", I cannot comment on that, or, even if I could, I do not think I would want to, but, for the moment, we started with terms of reference which, in some senses, I found vague. I was not able to influence those terms of reference for reasons that I cannot comment upon on legal advice, I think. I was not able to discuss the terms of reference with anybody in any position of control. Notwithstanding, that is, that I was advised by three Privy Counsellors, one of whom was Sir Iain, that I ought to make the attempt. That possibly cost us a little. It is a modest point, but could cause improvement at some stage if the person holding the inquiry were able to have the opportunity to discuss whether the issues being canvassed are the ones that are important.


Mr Burnett

  84. Could I ask you separately, who set the terms of reference?
  (Mr Vandermeer) The Government Office for London, drafted in the first instance by a fairly junior member of staff who came onto my Secretariat, but who I am sure was approved at a very high level. I give you just one example, although I do not want to take time because I know your time is short. One of the issues was air safety: no indication of what exactly was meant by it, how constrained it was and so forth. A working party at the inquiry—because we set up such things, not able to include every party, obviously, but the major parties agreed what the definition should be. Hardly had the topic started than the Department of Transport said that they had changed their mind and that the definition was not quite exhaustive enough, and other parties queried it. That is a minor point: we would have saved some time. The primary problem was policy, both national and local. I am sure the Government is well aware of the second point, both in terms of Terminal 5 and generally, as their Green Paper proposals demonstrate. We had a policy document that was published in 1985—that is some ten years before the inquiry—and within a matter of months, I think, before the inquiry, a junior minister described the airport policy as "yellow around the edges". It was very difficult after that to stop people considering aspects of policy when you have an out of date document or an old document and some doubt cast upon it by a member of the then Government. My deputy and myself rather came to the view, after considering this, that had we had a statement of policy that at least made wholly clear that it was up to date, and current policy to meet the needs of air demand. For instance: meet the need for traffic; possibly to give some indications of their views about the amount of demand; possible to give some broad guidance of where they would, in preference, like to see the provision made, albeit I would think that they would have to indicate that that would need to be subject to consideration and examination. We think we might have saved some 6 to 9 months for that alone. The local policy problem was that notwithstanding the introduction in 1991 of the system of local plans and UDPs, the local Borough Council, by 1995, had not got an approved plan. Their plan was approved, I think, in the last week of the inquiry after we had been sitting for three years and ten months. The implication of that was that at the outset, we had to discuss, in the absence of a local plan, what were the relevant local policies and take account of the Surrey Structure Plan, the IDP—that is the old London Development Plan of 1960-something—because it covered some of the areas, and local plans from four different boroughs. I can hardly say that if you had one policy document in place as Government had intended it to be, we will have spent perhaps a few days instead of a few weeks on that. Then, of course, and this is a great problem, as I see it, for the procedure—that is not to say that you cannot do it, but it has to be taken into account in the report, and you will forgive me mentioning this, but if I mention the paragraph, members can look at it in their own time. In paragraph 1.1.7 I draw attention to the fact that although the inquiry started in May 1995, at that time I only had 18 of the ultimate 37 applications before me, though I am not sure how you would deal with this in Parliament if things were being drip-fed in after you had been considering it, but that is how many we had. Notwithstanding, as I understand it, BAA had been preparing for this inquiry for some 7 or 8 years before they put in an application for planning permission. On the first day of the inquiry, the Highways Agency told me that the draft Orders that we had all been preparing were to be withdrawn and they were going to put in new Orders. That, of course, entailed an enormous amount of work, doing modelling, people considering traffic figures, the need for some adjournments, because although we took three years and ten months, we were not, of course, sitting all that time. If you take that into account, I think it is fairly clear that we could probably have saved the best part of one year of that three years and ten months if we had up to date policies and an in place, up to date, local plan. The policy problem was slightly greater than that because—and I do not make any criticism of this, I think if you have an inquiry running for a long time, and this just stops operating, it is bound to happen, it will happen in all processes as well—but during the course of the inquiry, we had new policy documents, for instance, on pollution, so we suddenly had to start debating what were the policies. Some were new policies; some were consultation documents. So there were a lot of emerging policies, but we had a great deal of problems understanding what the policy on noise was, including, might I say, the civil servant giving evidence, and having to come back later saying that she was wrong in what she had said, having consulted. Again, it is not a criticism; I am merely pointing out the kind of problems. If all that had been smoothed out of the way, I think we would have been talking of something possibly in excess of one year. If the Highways proposal had not been pulled out and had to start again with new proposals and adjournment, I think we might have saved 18 months of the three years and ten months, and quite a few days of the sitting time. This is speculation, obviously, but let me put it this way: if the Government's approach, that is now suggested, producing an policy statement, is followed in a way that is acceptable in terms of the law and in terms of your own proceedings, then with other policies properly in place, there could be very considerable savings. Beyond that, if you are going to have a hearing where people are able to express views, then it is going to take some considerable time. If you will forgive me, Chairman, I think I have answered your question, but I would like to add one caveat: both in terms of what you may want to ask in the future about procedures and in terms of our own inquiry, there was, when we started, a tremendous distrust for the process. Many members of the public took the view that it was all really rigged and that had decided, and "Why are we wasting this time?" That was in part, and I explain this in the second chapter of the report, because of a few volte-faces. Sir Iain did have a policy statement just before his inquiry which said, amongst other things, that there would not be a Terminal 5. Sir Iain recommended that there should be a cap on movement, and the public, after Terminal 4, felt a certain measure of comfort. That comfort fast disappeared when the Government changed its mind and said after the Eyre inquiry that there was not going to be a cap, and then indicated that there might be a fifth terminal. I personally believe it was very important that the public concern and suspicion had to be allayed. You cannot do that, in my view, whether it is in Parliament or an inquiry, without making it plain that people have an opportunity to put their case, and that takes time.


  85. I think that is extremely helpful. I would like now, to pass the questioning to Eric Joyce, but can I say: with your experience, Sir Iain, of Terminal 4, and Mr Vandermeer, yours with Terminal 5, between you, you have immense experience in dealing with inquiries relating to these major projects. That is what we are trying to get at.
  (Mr Vandermeer) If I may say so, I have a slight advantage on Sir Iain, because I actually appeared in front of him on Terminal 4.

  86. I am not sure I would like to do that myself.
  (Mr Vandermeer) I both saw him at work, and then had to do it on my own.

Eric Joyce

  87. Could I start with Mr Vandermeer, and perhaps Sir Iain might want to follow on, because I particularly want to refer to Terminal 5. Terminal 5 is taken, really, as the classic example of problems in present procedures, with, as we understand, nearly 40 separate planning applications, orders and appeals and so forth. The two questions I would like to ask you regarding the Government's new proposed procedures are: how successfully would they have dealt with the Terminal 5 problems? Secondly, to follow on, conversely, if those proposals are not adopted, do you think that the problems that came up with Terminal 5 in terms of lines and so forth will be repeated in the future?
  (Mr Vandermeer) When you say "those proposals", you mean the Government's proposals?

  88. Yes.
  (Mr Vandermeer) It is one of the reasons I did invite the Committee to have this first and second chapter. I think some of the problems we encountered there highlight the problems that your Committee and Parliament itself will have to consider in looking at procedures because—let me take an example, and I hope this is not offensive, but I find some difficulty with the Red Book (ie the Green Paper). There is a measure of vagueness in certain places, and I confess, for instance, that I am not quite sure what the Secretary of State's role is in saying yea or nay after the inquiry into details when Lord Falconer says, and I understand the document to say that Parliament has already decided, that there will be this proposal put in place. With that in mind, and looking to answer your point, the situation in Terminal 5: if, as I understand it, an applicant has to make an application for planning permission which is then declared a major project and then becomes subject to the procedures, what Parliament considers at the first stage is the proposal as submitted. I am not aware of any measures that permit that to be amended. So looking at the problems we have had at Terminal 5, let us assume that we face Terminal 5—and leave aside the point about only 18 and that was procedural because things were running behind—let us assume that the whole thing had started a month later when everything was in place so that I had something like 30 applications in front of me. Assuming that package was in front of Parliament, and Parliament said, "Yes, this should go ahead. Now go away, you can have some kind of inquiry where people can discuss the details", what they would be determining to go ahead is that that was before them. Why did the proposals of Terminal 5 change? Firstly, because the Highways Agency decided that the M25 widening that they were talking about was not something that they wanted to do. If they decided after Parliament had approved the project in principle that they intended to change the road proposals, would Parliament have had to say, "That killed that one, you would have to bring a new scheme back".


  89. Is that, Mr Vandermeer, principle as against detail, or detail as against principle?
  (Mr Vandermeer) Sir Nicholas, that is at the very heart of the problem. I personally feel very strongly that you cannot decide that something is right in principle without first understanding and accepting the environmental and other implications.

David Hamilton

  90. That is exactly what local government does at the present time. Whenever a planning application comes in of a major nature to that local authority, the agreed outline planning permission, that is principle. They do that every single day of every week up and down this country. So why is that different from this situation?
  (Mr Vandermeer) I am not sure that I agree with that, with deference. First of all, if the local planning authority do not take into account all material considerations, they can be challenged in the Courts. It is not as simple as that. If an applicant puts in on a major project, he has to put in an environmental statement. The local authority have to consider that environmental statement, and objectors are entitled to put in their views about that environmental statement. They may do it a different way, but, in fact, my understanding is that when a local authority gets an application, they may not decide the detail, but they do decide—when you look at an outline application, the number of matters that can be reserved are very limited. There are five, and Sir Iain will correct me if I get them wrong: design; layout; means of access; landscaping; and there is one other which I have forgotten, but they are very limited matters.
  (Sir Iain Glidewell) Means of access means immediate means of access. It means the highway just outside your front door, but it does not mean the highways two miles away.

  (Mr Vandermeer) They are the only matters that a local authority can set aside and say, "They are for later". They need to be satisfied, if we are talking of a noisy factory, let us say, as near an airport complex for a local authority, they have to consider the noise implications before they can grant the outline planning consent, because if they do not, they are stuck with it. If they grant outline consent without considering whether there is an environmental pollution problem or a broader highway problem than immediate access, then they have to give consent for the details, even if it is horrendous. I myself, and my experience in the Courts is much more limited than Sir Iain's, but I certainly have tried a case where an authority did not perhaps properly consider the access arrangements, granted a consent, and then tried to go back on it by refusing detailed approval, and, of course, they had lost their chance, the pass had gone. I do take your point, Mr Hamilton, they do not perhaps consider it in the level of a public inquiry, but they do have a duty to consider those material issues, and the only matters that can be reserved are the matters that are under the GDO, as used to be, that are of a very limited nature. I do not know if that deals with your point. May I return to Mr Joyce's point. I would like to take another example, if you like: during the course of the inquiry, BAA decided—and they may, if they read this, think that I am putting the point a bit unkindly to them—that their scheme was defective in that the baggage handling system they were promoting was not very satisfactory. Baggage handling does not sound very important at first flush, but to provide the system they wanted, there was going to be something like 800,000 cubic metres of spoil, so they had to produce two new applications to put spoil in the Green Belt. If they could not find a site that was acceptable for that, the scheme is dead. If I can put it this way: when you consider Terminal 5, its acceptability depended, in my view, upon getting a proper road solution, getting a balancing of the environmental, pollution, intrusion in the Green Belt, and all those kinds of problems against the need and the policy considerations. If you look at the very end of my report—sorry to do this to you, but I think it rounds the point off. In paragraph 34.5.28 I said, "In essence, the decision comes down to a balance between its benefits to the national local economy and its problems." I then go on in 34.5.29 to say something that I think is very relevant to your question: "In the absence of effective controls, the picture would be different, and the balance in respect of Terminal 5 would become much more difficult." So what I was saying, and genuinely believed, was that when I was deciding whether you should have Terminal 5, it was not a principle, "Should they have Terminal 5?", it was a question of , "Should I have Terminal 5? Is there a good case for it, and is the case against it strong enough to outweigh that view?" When you then moved back to your point about the procedures, if you decide that it is going to happen in principle, "decide"—and I stress that word—without having fully considered the detail, and I am not saying you will not do that, you may find that if—and I hope I do not abuse Lord Falconer, but in front of your Committee, I believe he said that the position was that Parliament would "decide whether"—I think that was his word—and the inquiry would simply "decide how". If you decided yes before you know the problems, what do you do if the problem is irretractable?


  91. It is a nonsense, is it not?
  (Mr Vandermeer) I would hesitate to say that, but somebody would have to start thinking again, and it probably means—I do not know why the Secretary of State has kept this reserve power, it may be that he has in the back of his mind that this kind of thing could blow up in his face and he may suddenly have to say no, but it certainly seems to me that under the present proposals, if what Parliament has approved is a package that does not include all the things that are needed, some of them can be dealt with by conditions later, possibly, although the document is not clear on that, but some of them may be impossible. Let me give you an example: if BAA had not included a proposal for widening the M4 and Parliament had said, "That is very good, we are quite happy with that", and then at the inquiry somebody had said, "You have to have a condition about a widened M4", and the Inspectorate said, "It is very important to have a widened M4", how does he go about getting it? Would you really contemplate that you could have a condition that 8 miles of motorway should be widened without the public having been forewarned, and what if he finds that you cannot physically do it?

  92. You pose an interesting question. Sir Iain, do you wish to comment on what Mr Joyce has asked, perhaps not repeating what Mr Vandermeer has said?
  (Sir Iain Glidewell) I certainly shall not repeat what Mr Vandermeer has said, with practically all of which I agree. Going back to Mr Joyce's question, if we are going back to consider again how far the present system could be made to work, if, first of all, there were a clear statement of policy, and, therefore, the first issue of principle were decided, I believe it could be made to work, provided that, as was the case with Terminal 4, you do not get chopping and changing in the applications. I did not have to deal with the sort of problems that Roy Vandermeer had. I had—I have forgotten how many applications it was, it was 23 years ago now, and I have not looked back at my old report, but I did not have changes in them. I had to deal with what was put in front of me initially, and without arrogating any great credit to myself, we got through that in 14 months from my appointment to my reporting to the Secretaries of State. So the procedure can be made to work, and with the new Order, it could be made to work somewhat more expeditiously, I believe. But that is not to say that I necessarily think that we ought to say, "Therefore, there is no need for a change in procedure". As you know from the Paper I have written, I do see an argument for it. Does that answer your question?

  Eric Joyce: Yes, I think it does. That is very helpful.

  Chairman: Could I pass the questioning now to John Burnett.

Mr Burnett

  93. Thank you. I am delighted to hear what both our witnesses have said, because, in many respects, they indicate the line of questioning that a number of us made when Lord Falconer was before us. For Mr Vandermeer, you have listed a number of reasons for the changes in the application during the course of the inquiry; it would help the Committee to know whether there were any other reasons for changes? You have listed highways; the lack of local and national planning policy; problems with baggage handling; what other problems, if any, were there, that precipitated fundamental changes in the application, and how many of such fundamental changes in the applications did you have during the inquiry, and at what stages? That is point number one, but I would like to come on with a supplementary afterwards.
  (Mr Vandermeer) I do not know, with respect, that I can answer all of that without doing a bit of research, but before I answer it, can I just make one observation, not by way of correction, but I do not want to be misunderstood. I also believe that procedures could possibly help, but I am concerned about some of the—what I think Lord Falconer described as "the devil being the detail". I think the trouble is that that may come a little earlier than you may expect. The effect is that there is room for improvement and there is room for things to be done. I also think, if I may add to my last answer on one point, I do believe that there may be some issues at a public inquiry, provided the powers existed, where the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Inspectorate, would say, "We do not think we need this bit to be heard orally. We can have topic X and topic Y dealt with by written representations", and the inspector, having read all the written representations, feels he needs a bit of help, he can then say, "No, I want a bit of public involvement". Some of the matters could be cut out for him to read privately. I have answered a number of them, but one other obvious example was the Twin Rivers, which, of course, is still an outstanding problem that holds up the start of Terminal 5, unless something has happened that I am not aware of.

  94. The inquiry lasted three years and ten months: when was the last fundamental change in the application that you had to address?
  (Mr Vandermeer) Pretty late in the day. I would need to consult a document that I do not have here. There is a schedule of the date of amendments in the last volume of the Terminal 5 report, but my memory is that the last version of the Twin Rivers that we considered, and there was, of course, a further version post-inquiry, which is subject to a condition that construction cannot start until that has been determined. But that, I think, came in within about a year off the end of inquiry, three-quarters of the way through.

  95. I strongly endorse, personally, every comment you have made about the detail, and that you need to get to considerable detail. Parliament would need to do that, before it could give the "in principle" decision. You have indicated what sort of details of evidence we would have to hear. Do you envisage some sort of cross-examination, examination in public, or what sort of procedure do you think? Could I just ask one other point: what was the level of yours and Sir Iain's commitment as inspectors during your respective inquiries? It would be interesting for colleagues to know whether you were full-time involved in them and what sort of level of work it involved for you personally.
  (Mr Vandermeer) I hope this does not sound as if I am making a very sorry spectacle of myself, but I had to retire from the Bar because I was not able to do any practice at all. I was totally unable to do any practice, and I found I was paying Chambers' expenses with no ability to earn any money at all. I have done fairly well in the past and I do not complain about that, but that is the level of commitment.


  96. Thank you. What about you, Sir Iain?
  (Sir Iain Glidewell) Mine was the same until I was greedy, and after I had finished the inquiry, I was offered a fairly lucrative brief for the City of Westminster which started before I had completed writing my report, so, for six weeks I worked in the day for Westminster, and at night I completed writing my report. That apart, I was devoted full-time to Terminal 4.
  (Mr Vandermeer) I will come back, if I may, to the basis of your question of the level of detail. I think that we have both said our piece that it was hard going and very much full-time. Let me say that I wholly endorse the proposal to have up-to-date policies, and I think that will be an important step before the matter came before Parliament, and, indeed, to help people formulate applications. One has to query exactly what that policy statement should say. Because we both are familiar with airports, I would believe that it would be extremely helpful, whether it was a procedure or otherwise, if Parliament were to say, for instance, "We have made up our minds", and I do not, at this stage, see the necessity for Parliament as opposed to the Government, I think it is a policy if this Government also Lord Falconer's thinking, that the formulation of the initial policy—I would find it extremely helpful, and I see no intrinsic problems if were to say, "It is the policy of this Government that the need for airports should be met in the South East". I see no difficulty in them saying, "We assess that the likely demand over the next 20 years is going to be between X and Y", although that clearly is subject to speculation to a degree because if you look forward too far, even a year or two, things change. After all, who would have forecast that we would have September 11 and the great decline in air traffic. I think, with the first, I would see no need, even if the document were published first as a Green Paper, to worry about—Government might let the public make comment, but I would not think there is any need to do more than consider their views and then finalise Government's view on that. I think perhaps if they were saying, "The level we believe we should work to is between X and Y growth", they might invite comments, but again, if they invite comments and comments are put forward, I think they could reach a view, for policy purposes, in the White Paper. That is where the difficulties start, because once you start moving far beyond that— it would have saved us a lot of time if you had gone that far—problems start to emerge as to when you are making the decision before knowing what the downside is, but I certainly believe that there would be great benefit in going on and saying, "We believe that this demand is best taken up by a new airport or by a second runway at Gatwick or Stansted", or whatever. I certainly do not think they should say another runway at Heathrow, as I have said very strongly in my report that I think that would be a disaster, but that is not what we are discussing. I do not see any problem as long as they say, "That is our preferred approach, but we have to consider whether the problems associated with that view are unacceptable". So I see that as being very useful background. Now we bring it to Parliament. I see that Parliament has two possible approaches, the one that, as I understand it, they have in mind, is to first decide the principle and then throw the detail out for consideration on the "whether" and "how" division. I see great problems in that. I see likely challenges. How can you decide to do something without knowing what the implications are for people's lives? There are an enormous number of people affected.

  97. Are you saying that Parliament, as you read the Green Paper, really does not have the competence or the technical ability to make that decision in principle because they are not going to be in possession of all the facts?
  (Mr Vandermeer) No, Sir Nicholas, I do not quite say that. I say if they do it the way they are thinking. I do not doubt the Members of Parliament's competence in making this decision, given the time and the information to make it.

David Wright

  98. One of the concerns I have on this, potentially, is that we are almost into a situation where we have a double inquiry process: we have a process where Members of Parliament need to make themselves fully aware of the situation and the problems in relation to a project in principle, and there is going to be an enormous amount of consultation and lobbying in relation to that in principle decision, and then we may well go into a further round of local consultation. So we have a crazy situation at the moment where these types of inquiries and applications are taking three, four years, causing immense harm to local economies, and causing immense concern to local people, and we may well even be elongating that process further; do you agree with that?
  (Mr Vandermeer) I think it is not out of the question: it depends how you do it. If I can turn to the next point Mr Burnett made, and I think Mr Wright hopefully touches upon your point, but I would like to say something else as well: my own view is that if you adopt a procedure, unless Parliament decides that it has the time to properly consider the details—let us just take one example. The Heathrow Environmental Statement from BAA was something like 800 pages of typed pages which obviously people have to have an opportunity to consider, to object to, and if they say, "We do not agree", what do they then do? Does Parliament simply say, "We will appoint our own officials and decide?" Does it say, "Okay, you had better make your case", and do you then let people challenge? My own view is that if you go down the route, what you need to do is something like I suggested in the White Paper: the matter comes before Parliament, they say, "We think it is a good idea, and we now wish to be informed about the problems in detail". Whether you set up a commission or whether you set up some form of inquiry, you can tell the people running that what it is that Parliament wants to have a report upon. You have taken need out of the equation; you have hopefully taken projections of traffic out of the equation, so you now have two possibilities: one, you say to an inspector or whatever, "We want a report covering these issues and we want you to strike a balance". If you are doing that, you probably do not need the procedures because he is doing the same job as he is doing now.


  99. Is that not what Mr Wright said?
  (Mr Vandermeer) You could foreshorten it, and that is why I say I think I might touch upon your point a bit. You could foreshorten it by saying to the inspector, "We do not want you to strike a balance, therefore, you do not need to worry about the need", because need is very much a political issue, what is right for the country, very much for you rather than people like myself, although we are necessary to do it. You may well say to the inspector, "We are not asking you to strike a balance, so you do not have to get involved in weighing what the strength of need is, what the merit of meeting demand is and so forth, we want you simply to tell us what the downside is; what the problems are". Parliament can then consider that report and say themselves, "We have seen this report, the problems have been highlighted, we are now the judges of whether the needs overcome that balance".


1   The Heathrow Terminal Five and Associated Public Inquiries, Report to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions by Roy Vandermeer QC, November 2000. Back

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