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Baroness Hamwee: The issue of whether the term has been used in legislation before is an important one. We have been referred to precedents in other debates on this Bill and I am not sure that I am entirely comfortable—I do not mean today—having to leave the matter hanging. It may perhaps be difficult to confirm a negative. I appreciate that. But it would be more comfortable if one were clear on this matter.

Lord Rooker: I am obviously uncomfortable: I have given an unsound answer. I will cause a search to be made for Parliamentary Counsel—that is the person who I need to ask about this matter regarding where this term has been used before. It is a fairly simple question to which there should be a straightforward answer.

Baroness Hamwee: The Minister is robust and has mechanisms for implementation! I thank him for his response and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. [Amendments Nos. 102C to 102G not moved.]

Baroness Hanham moved Amendment No. 102GA:


The noble Baroness said: I am two pages ahead of myself. In moving this amendment I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 103D, 108ZZB and 113C. All these amendments refer to the publishing of reasons.

Amendment No. 102GA requires the local authority to publish the reasons for the recommendation of an independent examiner; Amendment No. 103D requires a local planning authority to publish reasons for withdrawing a document; Amendment No. 108ZZB requires a planning authority to publish its reasons for making a request or a revocation; and Amendment No. 113C requires the Secretary of State to provide reasons.

As the Bill stands, the person appointed to carry out the examinations must make recommendations and give reasons for the recommendations, but the local authority need only publish the recommendations and not the reasons. It is consistently seen throughout much of the Bill that anything that is done in the form of recommendations should be published and the reasons given. Generally there is much to be gained from giving and publishing reasons: it makes the decision-making procedure much more open and predictable, and that logic certainly applies here. I beg to move.

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5.45 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: There are four amendments in this group. The short reply would be, in terms of the amendments: yes, no, no, yes. I had better explain why. We are happy to accept the spirit of Amendment No. 102G and give it reasonable consideration because it was our intention to do so. We do not think Amendment No. 103D is necessary. Regulations will require authorities to publish a statement whenever a local development document is withdrawn. We would expect authorities to explain their reasons for withdrawing the statement. We will emphasise that in the guidance.

We reject Amendment No. 108ZZB simply because we expect it will rarely be necessary for the Secretary of State to use the power of revocation. In those circumstances we do not consider it necessary to require local planning authorities to publish their reasons for requesting revocation. However, where the reason is not obvious it is a matter of good practice that we would expect the local planning authority to make clear why the local development document is to be revoked. That is something we can clarify when we revise draft planning policy statement 12.

Amendment No. 113C follows on from the first amendment and, as I have made clear, we are quite content to accept the spirit of that amendment and bring something back having given it more consideration.

The Bill, with its regulations and guidance taken together, will in our view provide transparent and robust arrangements for the regional local plan process. We want to ensure there is more of that transparency in the Bill, so I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for moving the amendments. We are working in comity on this one, with a measure of agreement. If the noble Baroness is happy to withdraw the amendments today, we will come back having considered how we can perfect Amendments Nos. 102GA and 113C, though we may find that we do not have to do very much more to them.

Baroness Hanham: I am always nervous when the Minister is at his most conciliatory, but I will quit while I am winning. His reply suggested that the Government will bring back amendments. If the Minister would be kind enough to let me know what decisions have been made about putting them into regulations or introducing amendments, I would be most grateful.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Just to help the noble Baroness, perhaps in bringing back our own amendments we should ensure that she has an early draft so that it is understood what we are trying to achieve and that we achieve the same objective as is sought in her amendments.

Baroness Hanham: I am definitely quitting while I am winning. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 19 agreed to.

Clause 20 [Intervention by Secretary of State]:

Baroness Hanham moved Amendment No. 102GB:


    Page 12, line 9, leave out subsection (1) and insert—


"(1) If 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 the RSS, or
(b) any detriment to the interests of an area outside the area of the local planning authority,
he may at any time before the document is adopted under section 22 direct the local planning authority to modify the document in accordance with the direction."

The noble Baroness said: In moving these amendments I would like to make it clear that I shall not move Amendment No. 103B but I will move Amendments Nos. 102GB and 103C. Amendment No. 102GB in this group is tabled to provide some clarity. We believe that the Secretary of State should be given some parameters when deciding whether to have a local authority modify its local development documents. Contained within this amendment are all the necessary reasons for the Secretary of State to give a direction.

Subsection (1) is too loosely phrased. Local authorities, when preparing their documents, need to know exactly what factors the Secretary of State would consider unsatisfactory. If the Minister is not content with this amendment, then maybe he can identify other circumstances in which the Secretary of State would wish to direct a local authority.

I have tabled Amendment No. 103C because it is not necessary to include subsections (7) and (8). The Minister will know that, in such circumstances, the Secretary of State is obliged, as a matter of public law, to consider relevant matters.

I would also like, if I may, to use the amendment to voice my concern at some of the woolly language in the Bill. We discussed that with regard to previous amendments. In subsection (7), I think, the word "thinks" slips in. I am sure that nobody should be allowed to think in legislation; they might be allowed to "believe", but I am sure that thinking is beyond them. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Turner of Camden): If the amendment is carried, I cannot call Amendment No. 102H, owing to pre-emption.

Lord Rooker: The noble Baroness might get an answer to the amendment that she did not move. The way that the notes are drafted means that they are inclusive. Sometimes, it is easier if the amendments are grouped.

I do not know why the word "thinks" is in subsection (7). I shall find out if there is a previous example of the word "think" being used in primary legislation. As the noble Baroness has raised the matter, she deserves an answer.

Amendment No. 102GB would enable the Secretary of State to direct a modification of a local development document only when that was needed to avoid any

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inconsistency with current national policies or the regional spatial strategy or any detriment to the interests of an area outside the local planning authority's area. He would not be able to direct changes, if he thought the document unsatisfactory. It is a well established principle, enshrined in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990—the principal Act—that the Secretary of State should have powers to intervene in local planning.

The powers in Clause 20 are modelled on the Secretary of State's current powers in Section 18 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The amendment would unacceptably constrain the Secretary of State. Along with Amendment No. 103C, which I shall address later, it would dilute the Secretary of State's intervention powers, and there is a risk that they might prove to be inadequate. The Secretary of State needs to be able to direct a change to a local development document, not just on the grounds of inconsistency with national policies or the regional spatial strategy. A spatial policy document may, for example, be worded opaquely, so that no one would be able to agree how to implement it. A development policy document might not be sound, or the local planning authority might not have met the statutory requirements in Clause 19(5)(a). The power is an important safeguard in a system with binding inspectors' reports.

Amendment No. 103B would mean that, if the Secretary of State had called in a development plan document for his approval, he may further direct that the document was to have no effect until he had approved it. A document may be called in because there were problems with it, and they need to be solved before it becomes part of the development plan. The Secretary of State needs to be able to call in all or part of a development plan document, if the local planning authority has not complied with a direction to modify. That is the main circumstance in which we see the power under Clause 20(4) being used.

If the decision has been taken that a document or part of a document must be called in for the Secretary of State to approve, the document should have no effect, until it is finally approved by the Secretary of State. That should be an automatic consequence of a call-in, rather than the onus being on the Secretary of State to direct that a document may continue to have an effect.

Amendment No. 103C will probably not be moved. The Secretary of State may need to call in a development plan document because the local planning authority has failed to take account of all relevant matters. It would be wrong to require the Secretary of State to make the same mistake, in fact. We need the safeguard that the Secretary of State can consider all matters, regardless of whether the local planning authority has done so.

I hope that that is a satisfactory explanation of why the powers are in the Bill. As I said, they are modelled on powers in the principal legislation.


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