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Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, the Minister has, as usual, provided an interesting response to the points that were raised. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for her support. The noble Lord said that we should not be prescriptive on the face of the Bill. Nothing in the amendment is prescriptive as to what is involved in a sustainability assessment. It simply requires that a sustainability assessment should be a part of the spatial development strategy. From what the Minister implied--he did not say it--regulations setting out what should or should not be included in a sustainability assessment will be vastly more prescriptive than the amendment. So that seems to be a slightly peculiar reason for not accepting an amendment that requires something sensible as an addition to what is already going to happen.

I note what the Minister had to say about a revision of planning guidance. I note also that he accepts that a sustainability assessment is an evolving concept. If it is an evolving concept, presumably at some point we shall have to face evolving planning guidance and evolving regulations in order to keep up. If we to have all of that, I cannot see why we should not have this amendment on the face of the Bill. I am tempted to take the view of the House on the matter but I am in a pacific mood. We may need to return to this matter. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 293 [Public participation]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 539AA:

Page 164, line 28, at end insert ("; and
(e) any other body to which, or person to whom, the Mayor considers it appropriate to send a copy.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 539AA arises from a commitment which we gave at the Committee stage to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that we would ensure that, in deciding to whom consultation copies of the spatial development strategy should be sent, the mayor is to consider not only those bodies set out in this part of the Bill but also the relevant bodies under the description

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specified in Clause 27(3)--the four groups set out there. These amendments achieve that. I thank the noble Baroness for highlighting that issue. I beg to move.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, perhaps I may, in turn, thank the Minister for recognising the point and for acting on it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 539AB:

Page 164, line 28, at end insert--
("(3A) In determining the bodies to which or persons to whom it is appropriate to send a copy of the strategy under subsection (3)(e) above (if any), the bodies to which and the persons to whom the Mayor considers sending a copy must include bodies of each of the descriptions specified in section 27(3) above.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 295 [Publication]:

[Amendment No. 539B not moved.]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 539BA:

Page 165, line 24, leave out ("findings reported") and insert ("report made").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 539BA, perhaps I may speak also to Amendments Nos. 539BB, 539BC, 539BD and 539C. Amendments Nos. 539BA, 539BB, 539BC and 539BD arise from government commitments in Committee to consider the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, concerning the report of the chair or panel of the examination in public into the SDS. I note that he has retabled Amendment No. 539C. Our intention is that the report of an EIP panel should include not just findings of fact but also recommendations. I know that the noble Lord was concerned that the current term "findings" may be too narrow to encompass recommendations.

We indicated in Committee that in planning Acts and secondary legislation, the term "report" is more often used. We believe that that would be more appropriate as it requires the mayor to take account of the entirety of the panel's report including recommendations and--I am sure that the noble Lord will welcome this--any supporting argumentation and evidence. The amendments change relevant references in the Bill from "findings" to "report". I thank the noble Lord for raising the issue and trust that the amendments satisfy his concerns. I beg to move.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am pleased to acknowledge the Government's response to what was in effect my amendment No. 539C. When I tabled it again, I believe that I am right in saying that the Government had not yet got in their amendment. Otherwise, I might have been spared the necessity. This is a fortunate outcome and I am grateful to Ministers for their invention.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 539BB:

Page 165, line 36, leave out ("findings") and insert ("report").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 539BC:

Page 165, line 37, leave out ("have been reported") and insert ("has been made").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 296 [Examination in public]:

The Deputy Speaker (Viscount Allenby of Megiddo): My Lords, I have to inform the House that if Amendment No. 539BD is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 539C.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 539BD:

Page 166, line 36, leave out ("report his or their findings") and insert ("make a report").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 297 [Duty to notify London borough councils of publication]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 540:

Leave out Clause 297.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 299 [Reviews of the strategy]:

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 541:

Page 167, line 22, at end insert--
("( ) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) above, the Mayor shall commence a review of the spatial development strategy not more than five years after the date on which it first becomes operative pursuant to the provisions of this Part.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am aware of intervening for the first time at this stage of the Bill and I shall be brief. The Bill acknowledges that there will need to be a review of the spatial development strategy. My amendment seeks to place a time on the commencement of the first review. I have been in correspondence with the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and he stated--and I agree--that it is in general wise to,

    "avoid including firm timetables in the Bill for the production or review of any of the Mayoral strategies. This was for practical reasons and to avoid fettering the Mayor's discretion unduly".

However, the SPS will make a substantial impact and will break new ground for an authority of this kind. It is highly unlikely, given the amount of detail--not least that added to the Bill at a very late stage--that we have got it right, which merely heightens the importance of taking corrective action. By providing for a review within five years of the SDS becoming operational--which means, when it is first published--the amendment would ensure that the process of evaluation actually happens and is not squeezed out.

The House recognises that the huge, detailed and prescriptive powers heaped on the mayor by the Bill mean that he will have an enormous range of responsibilities. It will be extremely difficult for him to decide priorities when he comes to review the activities

25 Oct 1999 : Column 66

for which he is accountable. The amendment is important from the point of view of the City of London, which has the enormously important role of attracting foreign finance houses to contribute to the work of the City. It is important that the House lays down a timetable for the commencement of the review. Then it is up to the mayor to decide on the pace of the review.

The amendment allows commencement to be delayed, if necessary, until the second mayoral term. But that such a review should happen and happen within a reasonable time is paramount. I hope that even at this late stage the Government will feel able to accept that as a reasonable requirement for something as novel and all-pervasive as the spatial development strategy. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, before speaking to Amendment No. 541ZA in this group, I shall comment on the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding. I am a little anxious about artificial time limits. In the world of development plans--I appreciate that the spatial development strategy is not the same but there are some connections--there is a problem with the length of the process which tends to mean that plans are out of date by the time they come into effect. Concentration is needed in keeping up to date both the strategy and the development plans that boroughs will be publishing. It may be that five years is too long but it may be that it is too short a period. Matters may have settled down, so it is not necessary to commence a review within five years. Responsiveness to what is going on is important. If the mayor tends to sideline a review, I hope that assembly members will make sure that the mayor is not allowed to forget it. As I say, I am a little unhappy with the prospect of an artificial time limit.

Amendment No. 541ZA to Clause 300, which deals with alterations to the spatial development strategy or its replacement, proposes to remove one of the Secretary of State's powers of direction. Clause 300(2) allows the Secretary of State to direct the mayor to publish not only a new SDS but--this is the provision we seek to delete--to publish,

    "such alterations of the spatial development strategy as the Secretary of State directs."

We find the words

    "as the Secretary of State directs"

particularly offensive.

In Committee, I moved an amendment to delete the whole of Clause 300(2) but now I am limiting the amendment to Clause 300(2)(a). In Committee, the Minister said that reserve powers for the Secretary of State were needed and that they reflect powers in other parts of the country. We have protested throughout the passage of the Bill at the Secretary of State's powers not just to require the mayor or the authority to reconsider certain matters but to take steps that the Secretary of State directs. Will the Minister confirm specifically that the power to direct particular alterations reflects powers that are in effect elsewhere?

25 Oct 1999 : Column 67

In Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, pointed out that the Secretary of State might make such a direction if the mayor and central government were in a state of political confrontation. I agreed with the noble Baroness at that time. On further reflection, I still agree. She made an important point. While I can see that a power to ask the mayor to reconsider is one thing, to, "reconsider and do what I say", is entirely another. It is symptomatic of the centralising nature of the Bill to which we have objected throughout.

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