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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: We have little doubt that there will be a dialogue between the mayor and assembly at various stages in the production of the SDS, and for all the strategies. However, for the most part we have not sought to prescribe on the face of the Bill precisely how the working relationship between the mayor and assembly will operate. On the contrary, we are sure that it is right that some discretion should be left with them to decide how they will work together and at what points discussion will take place on emerging strategies.

The amendment would require the mayor to discuss with the assembly each and every representation he receives, which, I am sure that the noble Baroness would agree, would indeed be an heroic task. We therefore cannot accept the amendment. I hope that the noble Baroness feels able to withdraw it.

Baroness Hamwee: I thank the Minister for that reply. I shall consider what she has had to say as part of our general review of the whole issue of the role of the assembly when we have come to the end of this stage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 393C:


Page 143, line 19, at end insert--
("( ) The provision that may be made by regulations under section 274 below includes provision prohibiting publication of the spatial development strategy until such further procedures as may be prescribed have been complied with.")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 393D not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 393E:


Page 143, leave out lines 20 to 24 and insert--
("(5) If at any time it appears to the Secretary of State that it is expedient to do so for the purpose of avoiding--
(a) any inconsistency with current national policies or relevant planning guidance, or
(b) any")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 394 to 399 not moved.]

Clause 267, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 268 [Examination in public]:

[Amendment No. 400 not moved.]

7.45 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 401:


Page 144, line 2, leave out from ("shall") to ("cause")

The noble Lord said: The amendment deals with a small matter in Clause 268 which I must admit I find rather difficult to understand as drafted. Therefore I am again on a fishing trip, and I look forward to what the Minister will tell me.

27 Jul 1999 : Column 1465

Clause 268(1) states:


    "Before publishing the spatial development strategy, the Mayor shall, unless the Secretary of State otherwise directs, cause an examination in public to be held".

I find the words, "unless the Secretary of State otherwise directs", odd. It seems to me that if there is to be a spatial development strategy, and if it is to go through anything like the normal planning procedures, there must be an examination in public. I find it rather strange that the Secretary of State seems to find it necessary to add this holding arrangement or insurance policy into this subsection. I cannot think of anything that the Secretary of State might otherwise direct, because the only thing that he could otherwise direct was that there should not be an examination in public. It seems to me that that simply would not be proper. I have tabled the amendment to find the answer to that particular conundrum. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Amendment 401 would remove the Secretary of State's power to waive the duty on the mayor to hold an examination in public on any proposals to make or amend an SDS.

The examination in public is an important part--as the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, recognised--of the procedure for developing the SDS. It ensures that the issues raised are properly debated and that those most affected have an opportunity to air their views before an independent panel. That is why we have now introduced it into the new procedures for producing regional planning guidance and why we have incorporated it here too.

But it is a resource-intensive process. We therefore think it sensible to allow for the possibility of a relatively minor or uncontentious amendment or amendments to the SDS where a full-scale EiP could not be justified.

On the other hand--I hope that the noble Lord will appreciate that we considered this point--it would be wrong to give the mayor an unfettered right unilaterally to waive the EIP requirement. In order to satisfy the public's expectation of an open and fair process, we need to ensure that the discretion rests elsewhere. That is the purpose of giving the Secretary of State that power. The mayor would need to convince the Secretary of State that in any particular case the amendment proposed did not merit holding an EIP. We do not believe that any Secretary of State would grant such a waiver lightly and anticipate that we shall say so in any accompanying guidance that we issue.

Having heard that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to accept this common sense provision and withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: Before my noble friend replies, I think that that was a very interesting exchange. Obviously this is an important matter, but I believe that the wording as it stands might well be misunderstood in the way that my noble friend misunderstood it, and I am bound to say I also did.

27 Jul 1999 : Column 1466

I thought that the noble Baroness was perhaps going to tell the Committee that the Secretary of State might want to stop the mayor doing something that he was planning to do because he did not like what the mayor was putting forward for public examination. Perhaps she will look at the wording to see whether it might be more clearly put so that one could understand that, before publishing the development strategy, the mayor shall cause an examination in public unless the Secretary of State agrees to the mayor's request that it need not be held, because that is what she is in fact saying. It is not quite the same as what is stated in the Bill. It is only a small point but it might be misunderstood by the public. I certainly wondered what it meant, for what that is worth.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Perhaps it would help the noble Baroness if I gave her an assurance that any point raised relating to clarity is of course given consideration.

Lord Dixon-Smith: Once again I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour. I am bound to say that I have some doubts about the adequacy of the response from the noble Baroness. Clause 268(1) does not discuss minor amendments to the spatial development strategy. What it says is, "Before publishing the spatial development strategy". It is quite specific. Therefore my concern is still there. I accept the case in logic which was made; that if the mayor simply proposes a small amendment which does not affect the strategy in a major way, it would of course be unreasonable to commit the mayor to having an examination in public. However, the way in which the Bill is drafted implies that it could produce something else.

I hope that the Government may feel that they could consider that with some care and perhaps come up with some words that are, shall we say, superior to what is already there. If they fail to do so, I fear that I shall be put to the necessity of attempting to do it myself.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I hope that it will reassure the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, if I explain to him that the proposal here is neither new nor outside the planning procedure. Section 35 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 has a similar provision which enables the Secretary of State to waive the requirement for an examination in public into structure plans.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am once again grateful to the noble Baroness. I shall study her response with interest. However, at the moment, I must tell the Committee that I am not satisfied. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 402 to 403 not moved.]

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 403A:


Page 144, line 18, at end insert ("(including any London borough which wishes to make representations with regard to its adopted unitary development plan)")

27 Jul 1999 : Column 1467

The noble Baroness said: Clause 268 refers to examinations in public. The amendment seeks to allow a London borough which wants to make representations with regard to its adopted unitary development plan the opportunity to take part in the examination.

The boroughs have no right to be heard, but they clearly will have an interest. The amendment seeks in part to clarify the borough's formal position in this process. I hope that the Minister will be able say a few words on that. The boroughs may have points to make about their adopted unitary development plans. Those documents have statutory and practical force. I appreciate that boroughs may be invited to the EIP. However, I should like them to have a formal position in order to be involved in the resolution of any conflict which might arise between documents. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: The main purpose of the examination in public of the draft strategy is to provide an informal opportunity for discussion and testing, in public and before a panel appointed by the Secretary of State, of selected matters. It is not an examination of the whole of the submitted proposals; nor is it a hearing of the totality of objections. This will ensure a streamlined and focused debate of the key issues.

It is clear to us that the views of London boroughs on the SDS should be regarded as very important. Any London borough can submit representations on any element of the SDS and the mayor must take these representations into account. But we contend that it would be entirely wrong to fetter the discretion of the panel on the selection of those parties invited to attend the EIP. If all 33 boroughs were entitled to attend all the discussion sessions, it would be more difficult to ensure a representative cross-section of parties and still keep the number of participants to a sensible number.

Moreover, the amendment makes specific reference to boroughs raising concerns about the SDS having regard to adopted unitary development plans. This has the flavour of looking in the wrong direction. The SDS sets the overall framework for London. The UDPs--which are far more detailed and specific documents--must be in general conformity with the SDS. That is the relationship between them. It is the proper and logical relationship between them. The way in which the amendment is drafted suggests almost the opposite. I hope that the noble Baroness will allow some flexibility. She has on record the importance of taking into account the views of the London boroughs in relation to the SDS, but prescribing the actions of the panel in this way would not be appropriate. I hope that the noble Baroness will not press the amendment.


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