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Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his detailed reply, particularly for his reference to the fact that the special share, or golden share, is only one of the protection measures and that national security does not rely solely upon that. The noble Lord must admit, at least, that there is a danger that the Commission may adopt the same stance on this golden share as it has on the BAA articles of association. I know that the European Court will take some little while to make a decision on that issue, but I hope that the Government are right to be confident that they can withstand challenge on this matter. We have had many experiences where the Government--of whatever party--have thought that was going to be the case, but in the end it has turned out not to be.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I shall be very happy to write to the noble Lord on this point. A straight "yes" or "no" answer is not appropriate in these circumstances. It would be in part, but I shall lay out the answer in a letter, if I may.
When I think back to that rather distant past when I was young man, one of the problems I had when I was growing up was that my father and I almost always found it easy to agree as to ends but had huge difficulty in agreeing as to means. I sometimes feel that that situation fairly aptly delineates the differences between the two Front Benches in this House. Perhaps it is not surprising that now and again we box and cox with our ideas. I say that because the Minister will perhaps tweak me for seeking to insert these amendments into the Bill when he knows that, in principle, I am not in favour of laying down too much legislation, particularly in regard to local government.
This is the era--so the Government tell us--of joined-up thinking and joined-up government. While I understand that, and give them credit for trying, it does not appear that that joining-up gets as far as the field of legislation. My first amendment seeks to rectify what I see as that particular deficiency.
Part II of the Bill is about nothing if it is not about environmental improvement. Integrated transport systems are about nothing if they are not about environmental improvement. This part of the Bill makes it a requirement for local transport authorities to produce transport plans with the specific aim of trying to smooth transport flows, reduce environmental pollution, reduce noise, reduce congestion--all the little decisions that local authorities can take to improve matters and to make the environment better for their communities. If they succeed at this micro level they will also succeed at the macro level of atmospheric pollution.
But in this era of joined-up thinking and joined-up government, somehow the words "environmental improvement" are omitted from the face of the Bill. Of course, the Minister will say--and he will be correct in saying it--that other environmental legislation applies to local authorities and they have to take note of it. So they do. But it seems to me--and this is where we have
My second amendment concerns the need to co-ordinate transport plans with structural planning or unitary development planning where it is appropriate. The issue here is somewhat different but of equal importance and concerns the question of joining-up systems. Planning legislation is voluminous, complex and separate, but there should be some mention in the Bill of the need to pull the two together.
It is a serious issue. Is transport a constraint on development, or is it simply a technical problem which has to be resolved subsequently? We get no idea from this legislation, which deals with the transport side of the issue, of what is or might be the relationship between the two. My experience is that transport is not considered as a constraint on development but as a problem to be resolved subsequently. I should like to think that the two issues will be rather better co-ordinated than that. One only has to think of the huge amount of development--however real or ephemeral the figures may be--that it appears the Secretary of State in another place wishes to impose on the south-east of England to realise what are the transport implications. One can begin to see the absolute necessity for thinking very carefully about the transport issues involved in that kind of intensification of the development of the South East.
This is not the appropriate time to go into the validity of those figures but we all, as a society, have to face those issues. We should be looking at the face of the Bill--again simply as a matter of what I would call the unifying psychology of the Bill--to bring the mention of transport planning and the mention of development planning into the same phrase. The Bill would be the better for it.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I sympathise profoundly with the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith. How can he work the word "environment" into this issue? As he said, it is all implied, and what is implicit in the legislation is very clear. We could mention all kinds of things. I think that the noble Lord has worked incessantly, probably over midnight lamps with his Front Bench, asking, "How can we establish our environmental credentials?". There is no better way than mentioning the word "environment"--but the noble Lord has not used his best endeavours today.
As I was responsible for environmental affairs in Europe, no one can complain that I am not concerned about environmental matters. I am; but I do not see any sense in introducing the word "environmental" in this context. No one will look more carefully than I at the issue of environmental protection where necessary. But to include the reference at this point in the Bill is not necessary; it is implicit in the existing provision.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I have never seen the Bill as overriding authorities' responsibilities in regard to the environment, nor, indeed, the requirement for them to put matters with which this part of the Bill is concerned in the context of--and make them subject to--local structure plans.
I hope that the Minister will confirm that the present regime ensures that the issues raised by the noble Lord are at the top of the agenda. We recently passed the Local Government Act 2000, which places a duty on local authorities to prepare strategies for promoting and improving the economic, social and environmental well-being of their areas. The reason for imposing such a duty was to ensure that such considerations overarch and encompass the plans that each local authority is required to introduce.
Noble Lords may recall that some 40 duties were referred to. Admittedly, we did not have this Bill before us at the time, but it seems to me that in that sense it is no different. I hope that in the year 2000 the creation of local and structure plans is totally integrated with transport. The plans would fail if they did not have complete regard to transport.
It would worry me to insert a reference to the environment in such a way as to suggest that, where there is no reference to the environment, it is not an issue. I hope that we are moving towards the position where our legislation ensures that we have regard to environmental matters at all times.
Clause 108 requires local authorities to develop policies to promote efficient transport facilities and services. I hope that it is the case that the term "efficient" now encompasses "efficient environmentally". The current much discussed examples--and I admit that there are different views--relate to global warming; namely, emissions and the effect on climate (flooding, for example). If transport policy is such that its use of fuels allows emissions to increase, which is what I assume the noble Lord has in mind, that means that it is not efficient because of the other effects on the way in which we operate.
If the Minister can use this opportunity to confirm the definition of "efficient" these days, the noble Lord may have achieved something. Other than that, I do not think that the amendment before the House is necessary.
The noble Lord is right to some extent. We all have the same objectives. But there is a difference between what is provided in legislation and how that piece of legislation goes towards forming the bigger picture. We do not duplicate in legislation--legislation is long and complex enough for us not to rewrite in each piece of legislation parts of other legislation.
Clearly, we need to bring all these matters together. The guidance that we shall provide for this Bill, as we do for other Acts, will achieve that. The administrative procedure is such that it tries to pull those things together. Indeed, one could argue that the whole raison d'etre of my department is to bring together transport, environment and planning considerations. I am all in favour of consistency, but I am not in favour of the duplication of legislation.
Amendment No. 4 also relates to consistency--in this case between the local transport plan and the relevant development plan. Again, I am seized of the importance of consistency between the two planning regimes. Indeed, it was this Government who recognised the importance of the linkage between land use, planning and the provision of a truly integrated transport system. I take issue with the noble Lord in terms of what is now the regime. Everyone who is familiar with transport knows that previously these matters were followed up after all the planning decisions had been taken. Now, under planning policy guidance--in particular under Clause 112--that is all brought together in the way we expect planning authorities to operate.
Again, the guidance that we provide for those planning operations, and for local transport plans, very much emphasises this point. Simply to insert the word "environmental" at this point in the Bill is not an effective way of doing so. To go further would lead to duplication. Consistency is provided by fitting together the different pieces of legislation and following that through with appropriate guidance. We are clearly of one view as regards the ends; I hope that the noble Lord will take at least some of my points in relation to the means.
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