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The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): My Lords, Planning Policy Guidance Note 17 requires local authorities to make provision for all types of open space that may be of public value. The Government expect that by implementing this guidance, local authorities should make adequate provision for allotments.
Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Is he aware that the bodies representing allotment holders were led to believe that there would be a specific mention in the document of allotments as such, and that they are very disappointed that there is not? Do the Government accept that there is enormous value in the provision of allotments? They contribute to the health and welfare of communities.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I agree with all that, except for the first part; nobody was led to believe that there would be anything in PPG17. The draft of Planning Policy Guidance Note 17 restated the Government's criteria for the disposal of allotments; it did not relate to the provision of allotments. It was not repeated in the final issue in February this year. It stated existing policy. We were trying to shorten the document; my department is trying to shorten all of the planning guidance documents. There has been no policy change in respect of allotments. They are a joy of life for hundreds of thousands of plot holders in this country of all ages and both sexes.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there is enormous pressure on local authorities to grant permission for the development of allotment sites, to such an extent that some local authorities are refusing to allow new plot holders on to sites on which planning permission is being sought or is impending? Will he give an assurance that when the Secretary of State exercises his powers under Section 8 of the Allotments Act 1925that involves the power to grant or withhold permission for alternative development of allotmentshe will take into account the fact that local authorities have jumped the gun in that way?
Lord Rea: My Lords, do the Government now recognise that fruit and vegetables are an important health benefit and that exercise is protective against coronary heart disease? Will that strengthen their resolve to do what they can to assist local authorities in resisting developers and promoting the wider use and provision of allotments?
Lord Rooker: Most certainly, my Lords. As I said earlier, we are about to conduct a survey to establish exactly the current number of plots and allotments following the publication at the urban summit recently of the document, Living Places: Cleaner, Safer, Greener. We will report in due course on those numbers. The last time that the numbers were surveyedin 1996there were 296,000 plots, which is a very large number, although it is nothing like the number of plots in the 1950s and 1960s. It is worth adding that some 35 per cent of plot holders are under the age of 50. I came across a couple of acquaintances of mine in their late 20s, who last week applied for a plot in the Borough of Croydon. The purpose of allotment gardensthis also involves their definitionis to be mainly cultivated by the occupier for the production of vegetable and fruit crops. Other activities can also be permitted. That is all good, healthy exercise, which is carried out in open space.
Lord Grocott: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m., which almost certainly means after the Motion to be moved by my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House on September sittings, my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is being presented as a Private Notice Question in the other place on the fire dispute. Following that, my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is being made in another place on the NATO Summit in Prague. So far as I know, that concludes the number of Motions and Statements being made by my noble and learned friend for one day.
L. Cope of Berkeley, L. Craig of Radley, B. Darcy de Knayth, L. Evans of Parkside, L. Grocott, Bp. Guildford, L. Kirkham, B. McFarlane of Llandaff, B. Massey of Darwen, L. Phillips of Sudbury, L. Roper;
Moved, That a Select Committee be appointed to consider information and communications services, including the Library and the Parliamentary Archives, within financial limits approved by the House Committee;
Moved, That a Select Committee be appointed to administer the House of Lords Works of Art Collection Fund; and to consider matters relating to works of art in the House of Lords, within financial limits approved by the House Committee;
Lord Williams of Mostyn rose to move to resolve, That it is the opinion of this House that, subject to the requirements of business, in 2003 the Summer Recess should begin not later than the middle of July and the House should sit for two weeks in September.
The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, the Group on Working Practices was eager to achieve a more balanced parliamentary year. We had a substantial and significantand lengthydebate on those proposals. The report included the following statement:
On 31st October, it was announced that the Commons will indeed sit in September. This Motion therefore proposesI hope that your Lordships will agreethat the House should trade, as it were, the latter part of July for two sitting weeks in September. That is a straight exchange; it would not in itself make the total number of sitting days in the year either greater or smaller than we have been used to.
I should like to make a few final comments. I am sorry to say that it was not known to me that Royal Assent is not capable of being given unless both Houses are sitting. Therefore, if we did not generally coincide our Sittings with the House of Commons, there would be that difficulty. Your Lordships would lose the ineffable joy of the possibility of ping-pong.
More significantly, I make the following suggestion quite seriously. If we were to decline to sit in September to coincide generallyI put it no higherwith the House of Commons, I believe that the representation of this House and its reputation outside would bring about the suggestion that we were not willing to do our full work. That suggestion would be wrong, because we work harder than the House of Commons; and, indeed, harder than any other Chamber in the discovered universe. However, the representation outside Parliament would suggest that we were not willing to work. That would be very wrong; it would be very unfair; and it would be damaging to our reputation. I commend the Motion to the House.
Moved to resolve, That it is the opinion of this House that, subject to the requirements of business, in 2003 the Summer Recess should begin not later than the middle of July and the House should sit for two weeks in September.(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)
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