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Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I am grateful. At the last stage the Minister pointed out that the amendment which I moved did not limit the regional planning guidance to that issued by the Secretary of State. I have rectified that with this amendment.

The Minister was sympathetic to the point. He said that the relationship between regional bodies and their documents was "of the highest importance" and that regional development agencies would need to have regard to regional planning guidance. He accepted also--I could not have come up with so appropriate a term--that the draft guidance on RDAs strategies,

I return to the point and seek to extend the debate. I invite the Minister to give, if he can, a clearer statement, either now or through the Secretary of State in the final version of the guidance, on regional development agencies' contributions to the spatial and land-use planning objectives and regional planning guidance supporting objectives for economic development. That is perhaps a small extension of the relationship between the two strategies, the two planning documents.

It is imperative that regional development agencies contribute to rather than undermine government's wider spatial strategy--regeneration, the integration of transport and land-use planning, and so on. That is the strategy both of central and of local government. I suspect that the two cultures of land-use planning and economic development think in rather different terms. The introduction of regional development agencies will be an opportunity to set them on tracks to come together rather than further to diverge.

I move this amendment--and am prompted to do so--in the context of an announcement made in the Chancellor's pre-Budget Statement last week. He said that the Government,

    "are also re-examining planning regulations and building control to identify barriers to productivity and job creation, and how the planning system in Britain can be speeded up to help us to emulate the success of high-tech clusters and corridors".--[Official Report, Commons, 3/11/98; col. 683.]
He mentioned America's Silicon Valley. I appreciate that our discussions about the planning context for RDAs are about far more than development control and that the comment made by the Chancellor may have been more about particular applications of development control than strategic planning. However, when I heard

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that comment and read some observations about it, I thought that even the last government, in their deregulatory heyday, did not think about deregulating planning in the way that some commentators suggest may be a part of that thinking. We would all agree that efficiency in dealing with planning applications is extremely important, but so is getting the decisions right.

The main point remains the mutual effectiveness of regional planning guidance and the strategy of RDAs. It may also be worth finishing with the secondary point that regional planning guidance provides the scope for dealing with environmental and social matters. We have discussed those and their relationship with economic decisions throughout the passage of the Bill. I am still concerned, as I know are others, that the draft guidance does not refer to environmental decisions and indicators. I look forward to development of the guidance and any further comfort in that area the Minister can give today. I beg to move.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My Lords, the noble Baroness has, as she said, raised this issue at previous stages of the Bill and we have discussed it at some length. I believe, as the noble Baroness does, that there is no difference of objective between us. I accept also that she has taken my point about drafting and that the amendment is now more felicitous. Nevertheless, we do not believe that it is necessary; indeed, in certain circumstances, we feel it may be counter-productive.

First, we do not believe it appropriate to state on the face of the Bill something to which an RDA, like any other organisation, must have regard; that is, regional planning guidance. The Secretary of State issues regional planning guidance following the submission of a draft to which the RDAs will have contributed and on which all regional interests will have been consulted. It is also the Secretary of State to whom the RDAs will be responsible. No doubt, when they are operating, they will be aware of the Secretary of State's role in that respect. The relationship therefore between regional guidance and the regional development agency is not hierarchical; the two must be compatible.

As I have said previously, the key issue is that these new regional instruments, including regional planning guidance, are developing organically. It would cut across that organic development if we were to be too prescriptive on the face of the Bill. In their day-to-day work and when planning their own development, regional development agencies will have to have regard to the planning framework in the same way as everyone else. They will contribute to the drawing up of that framework. It would be self-defeating for the RDAs to disregard it and they will have no incentive to do so.

Because the RDAs will be important consultees, the relationship between that process and their own process will form a vital part of the public examination of the regional planning guidance. It is intended--this may help the noble Baroness--to make clear in the department's revised guidance to the regional planning

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body (PPG.11) that the RDAs will be contributors to that process. The revised guidance should be issued later this year.

In the development of their strategies the RDAs will also have to have regard to the land use planning dimension of the RPGs; their contribution to that will be important. There is no contradiction here. The noble Baroness was perhaps raising unnecessary anxieties in relation to the Chancellor's Statement and the review of planning controls which the Minister for the Regions--Dick Caborn--is carrying out. It is not intended to deregulate and remove the planning process; it is intended to update and modernise it, bringing in wider considerations. In any case, it will not undermine the importance of the planning system and the land use planning arrangements that we have in our regions.

The fact that the RPG has greater legitimacy than the RDA's strategy, local authorities being so involved in it, may lie behind the noble Baroness's insistence on the point today. Clearly for the moment both the RPG process and the RDA process are subject to the Secretary of State. If and when we move to elected regional assemblies a different situation will arise. For the moment they are both responsible to the Secretary of State and that is where the accountability lies. That is why there must be compatibility between the two approaches.

The noble Baroness asked whether we would be developing appropriate indicators for RDAs that would include sustainable development and so forth. We shall certainly deal with that issue in the final guidance to assist RDAs in drawing up their strategies, taking into account consultation on the initial draft guidance.

The development of regional strategic frameworks by all the relevant bodies working together and in parallel is an important step towards the creation of a much more effective and, ultimately, a much more democratic regional planning process. There is no implication here that the RDAs would undermine the RPGs process. Indeed, the opposite will be the case. They will be complementing and feeding into it. As the noble Baroness said, the draft guidance to RDAs on their strategy could be improved to reflect that better. I am happy to confirm that point.

I hope that I have said enough to indicate that this developing process is best served by relationships being established in the regions between the various processes and various institutions rather than laying down a quasi-hierarchical structure, as would follow from the incorporation of this clause in the Bill. With those assurances, I hope that the noble Baroness will not feel it necessary to press her amendment. I give a commitment to the whole House that her objectives and mine will be met in this process.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I thank the Minister for those generous words. I agree that it is a question of ensuring that the guidance is right at this stage. My only comment is that, recognising that it is the same Secretary of State who will deal with both issues, I hope that he and his successors will see themselves as

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wearing one hat rather than having a wardrobe of hats which are changed according to the matter under review. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 3, line 27, at end insert--
("(1A) In formulating a strategy in accordance with this section, a regional development agency shall carry out consultation with government departments, statutory bodies, organisations representative of business and such other bodies with an interest in its work as it considers appropriate.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I said on Report that I was unhappy with the Minister's reply to a similar amendment. Having studied Hansard, I am even more so. I therefore propose this amendment in the hope that the Government will be prepared to think again. I shall not repeat the detailed reasons I gave on Report for the amendment. In short, the Bill places a duty on RDAs to consult when preparing their strategies and Clause 8 states that they should, in particular, consult with local authorities. Amendment No. 2 would ensure that the RDAs also consult with other agencies and businesses, as spelt out in the amendment.

The Minister's reply on Report was helpful and certainly showed that she had understood my concern. If I may say so, the noble Baroness has done so on other matters before and I am grateful to her for that. On 4th November the Minister said that RDAs, having read and, it was hoped, understood the Government's guidelines, would probably do as my amendment demanded. She also accepted in col. 320 that my amendment,

    "hit on the heart of the matter".
If so, why is it not on the face of the Bill?

I must accept that although my amendment is all-embracing, and I want it to be so--a point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester at Report stage--the noble Baroness spotted my specific anxiety when she said, at col. 321,

    "We envisage it [the RDA] will include the Government Offices in the regions, which will be the normal liaison point between RDAs and government. Government Offices will have close contact with all government departments, including MAFF".

I believe the Minister spotted my concern at the time; that is, that agriculture and rural matters should be prominent in the RDAs' strategy. At col. 298 the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said,

    "As agriculture is so important to the regional strategies ... the Minister of Agriculture will be an important component of the decision making process".
Again, at col. 340 on the same day, he said,

    "The agricultural interests will be represented here".
If so, why is it not on the face of the Bill? The only reason I can discern is from the remarks of the noble Baroness at col. 323 when she reminded us of the Pepper v. Hart case. I fear that I cannot accept her argument in this instance. Having specifically mentioned local authorities in Clause 8, lawyers may

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well conclude that the organisations mentioned in my amendment, but which are not mentioned specifically in the Bill, may be excluded.

I can see the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, scowling. I hope that he agrees with me, although I suspect that he will not. What is sauce for the goose is surely sauce for the gander. I expect the Minister will repeat all the assurances that she gave me and then say that my amendment is unnecessary. However, it is not. Over the past 18 months, as a farmer and rural dweller I have been given assurances and promises ad infinitum, but so far they have all turned out to be jam tomorrow. I am afraid that I find the Minister's assurances on this Bill fall into the same category. Indeed, my suspicions were confirmed when I looked at the list of those recently appointed as chairmen of RDAs.

Without reflecting upon their ability--which I certainly do not--none of them, in my opinion, has a true rural or agricultural background. I very much doubt whether many of them could tell the difference between a turnip or a swede, although I have to admit that occasionally nowadays I find difficulty in so doing. I have in mind in particular the one for the south-west region. My noble friend Lord Arran is not here today, but he pointed out that the south-west region was predominantly agricultural. I do not think that the chairman was an agriculturalist there.

I suggest that the Minister should take out her red pencil. If she does not have one, I can lend her mine. She should then cross out the word "Resist" which is printed on her brief and accept my amendment. I believe that it would seriously clarify and improve the Bill which, it is to be hoped, is still the main purpose of your Lordships' House, frustrating though it is. I beg to move.

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