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Lord Rooker: My Lords, I have never been very good at spin. There really is not the content to spin this one anyway. Nevertheless, I have to do my duty.

Clause 46 amends the provisions relating to the creation of the simplified planning zones so that they cannot be made by a planning authority unless the need for one has been identified in the regional spatial strategy, or the spatial development strategy in the case of London.

The provision enables the lifespan of a simplified planning zone to be for a period of up to 10 years, rather than restricting it to 10 years. That provision facilitates the creation of areas of high-tech businesses that will be referred to as business planning zones, as first proposed in the planning Green Paper in December 2001. Those business planning zones will provide a flexible planning regime to facilitate the rapid development of high-quality, high-tech business clusters, and encourage investment for growth and regeneration. I do not have any facts and proof to back that up, but that is clearly the aspiration.

As I said originally, we anticipate only one or two business planning zones per region, which must be identified in the regional spatial strategy. It is planned for them to have a low environmental impact. Their locations will be chosen to meet identified strategic needs, and any business planning zone schemes brought forward will be required to undergo environmental impact assessment and public consultation.

The zones are, of course, strategic tools, addressed in the first instance at the regional level. The local development orders are the local instruments, to be promoted entirely at the discretion of local planning authorities to meet a wider range of local needs. That deals with the issue of the similarity to local development orders. Business planning zones will serve a valuable and positive purpose, and should be supported. I therefore ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I have heard more enthusiastic speeches from the Minister, and have had more convincing replies. I have never really known the Minister to spin, and he certainly was not spinning today. I think that we should put him out of his misery; we should test the opinion of the House to see if we can get rid of the zones for him.

16 Mar 2004 : Column 168

5.29 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 139) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 169; Not-Contents, 114.

Division No. 3

CONTENTS

Addington, L.
Alton of Liverpool, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B.
Arran, E.
Astor, V.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Avebury, L.
Barker, B.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Biffen, L.
Blackwell, L.
Blaker, L.
Bledisloe, V.
Bowness, L.
Bradshaw, L.
Bridgeman, V.
Bridges, L.
Brigstocke, B.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.
Brookeborough, V.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Buscombe, B.
Byford, B.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Chester, Bp.
Chorley, L.
Colwyn, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L. [Teller]
Courtown, E.
Cox, B.
Craig of Radley, L.
Craigavon, V.
Crathorne, L.
Crickhowell, L.
Cumberlege, B.
Deedes, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Dundee, E.
Eden of Winton, L.
Elton, L.
Falkland, V.
Fearn, L.
Ferrers, E.
Fookes, B.
Forsyth of Drumlean, L.
Fowler, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Freeman, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Geddes, L.
Glentoran, L.
Goodhart, L.
Goschen, V.
Gray of Contin, L.
Greaves, L.
Griffiths of Fforestfach, L.
Hamwee, B.
Hanham, B.
Hanningfield, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L.
Higgins, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Home, E.
Hooper, B.
Hooson, L.
Howe, E.
Howell of Guildford, L.
Hunt of Wirral, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Jopling, L.
Kimball, L.
King of Bridgwater, L.
Knight of Collingtree, B.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Lindsay, E.
Livsey of Talgarth, L.
Lucas, L.
Luke, L.
Lyell, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
Maclennan of Rogart, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mancroft, L.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Methuen, L.
Michie of Gallanach, B.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Monro of Langholm, L.
Moore of Lower Marsh, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Moynihan, L.
Naseby, L.
Newby, L.
Noakes, B.
Northbrook, L.
Northesk, E.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow, E.
Palmer, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Peel, E.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Platt of Writtle, B.
Plumb, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Prior, L.
Quinton, L.
Rawlings, B.
Reay, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rees, L.
Rees-Mogg, L.
Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Rennard, L.
Renton, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Roper, L.
Rotherwick, L.
Russell, E.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Sandberg, L.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Seccombe, B.
Selborne, E.
Selsdon, L.
Sharman, L.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Sharples, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Shutt of Greetland, L. [Teller]
Skelmersdale, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Stewartby, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Swinfen, L.
Taverne, L.
Tebbit, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Trumpington, B.
Ullswater, V.
Vinson, L.
Waddington, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Wakeham, L.
Walmsley, B.
Walpole, L.
Watson of Richmond, L.
Wilcox, B.
Windlesham, L.

NOT-CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alli, L.
Amos, B. (Lord President of the Council)
Andrews, B.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Bach, L.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Bhatia, L.
Billingham, B.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Bragg, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Burlison, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carter, L.
Christopher, L.
Clark of Windermere, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Crawley, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. [Teller]
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Dearing, L.
Dixon, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Gilbert, L.
Goldsmith, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Harrison, L.
Haskins, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howarth of Breckland, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Chesterton, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jones, L.
Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
Kirkhill, L.
Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
McCarthy, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Marsh, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Mitchell, L.
Morris of Aberavon, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Orme, L.
Parekh, L.
Patel, L.
Patel of Blackburn, L.
Pendry, L.
Peston, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rea, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Rooker, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Sheldon, L.
Simon, V.
Smith of Leigh, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Temple-Morris, L.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Triesman, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Warner, L.
Weatherill, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

16 Mar 2004 : Column 170

5.39 p.m.

Baroness Maddock moved Amendment No. 139A:


    Before Clause 47, insert the following new clause—


"APPLICATION OF SECTION 106 OF THE PRINCIPAL ACT
The Secretary of State shall, prior to the commencement of section 47, publish additional guidance on the application of section 106 (planning obligations) of the principal Act."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the purpose of the amendment is to ensure that Section 106 agreements operate better than at present to produce housing and infrastructure that is needed in so many areas. I shall not rehearse in detail the arguments and fears that I and others expressed in Committee. We on these Benches believe that there is much merit in the present Section 106 system, and much to be built on. I know from consultation on planning tariffs that other people agree with us. I am grateful to the Minister for writing to us since Committee to explain how he sees the Section 106 agreements working in the mean time, before they are abolished in favour of planning tariffs.

Grouped with the amendment is Amendment No. 140, which would delete the clause that deals with planning tariffs. There has been consultation on that. I read the summary of that consultation and was really rather shocked. In 23 pages, there is absolutely no quantitative analysis of the results whatever. There are phrases such as "some consultees", "many consultees", "consultees generally" and "a number of consultees". Dare I suggest that if one were doing a project for GCSE and summarised in that way, it would be considered totally inappropriate? We were told how many people actually responded to the consultation, but I am shocked that it is on the basis of such a report that we will decide what to do on the issue.

Since the last time we met and we discussed this issue, one of the big concerns around the House was how the planning system was going to help to deliver more affordable housing. Many of us had fears. The noble Lord, Lord Best, is unable to be with us today, but he put forward graphically the situation from the point of view of housing associations. I declare an interest as the vice president of the National Housing Federation, and I am grateful to it for my briefing. I understand that since that time, the Minister and others at ODPM have met with the noble Lord, Lord Best. I look forward to hearing what the Minister says about the result of that meeting. It may be more appropriate for me to make those comments when the Minister has spoken, because I have concerns about what I think may happen.

16 Mar 2004 : Column 171

I am concerned about this. The Bill has been through two Committee stages in the Commons, and we are now on the last day of Report; but we are still in a mess over this whole area. Kate Barker will probably announce her second report tomorrow. I wonder how we will deal with all of this. Today, I was even more horrified to read in a building magazine—though I do not believe everything that I read, and this gives the Minister an opportunity to say that it is perhaps not true—that Chancellor Gordon Brown is considering imposing a land tax on house builders in the Budget this week.

I hope that the Minister will be able to clarify exactly where we are going on the issue of affordable housing and the planning system. I think that the Minister agrees that there is much good in the Section 106 system, and I think that he will be telling us that they will be looking at how they can make it work better. I will not say any more at this point, because I hope that when he replies the Minister will clarify some of the points that I have raised. I beg to move.

5.45 p.m.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, we have several amendments in this group, which are designed to delete all the clauses relating to these planning contributions on the grounds that all of this is becoming completely incoherent.

Since Committee stage, we have received—I certainly have, and I hope that other noble Lords have—a letter from the noble Lord, Lord Best, who apologises for not being in his place today. He spoke persuasively last time about the difficulties that could be erased if the Government persisted with their current proposals at the expense of the advantages that can be achieved through Section 106 provisions, particularly in the area of affordable housing. As laid out in his letter, which would have formed the basis of his speech, the Government have—I will be grateful if the Minister could confirm this—set up a task force to consider the implications of making some changes to Section 106 provisions and to think through further the tariff systems and their implications.

I am sorry to be so conditional about this—the letter would have been more helpful if the noble Lord, Lord Best, had been able to speak to it. As I understand it, the Minister is thinking of setting up a task force of all the interested bodies to advise on these clauses. That is a strange situation. These clauses were put into the Bill at a late stage in the Commons. It was clear that they had no scrutiny there—at least no meaningful scrutiny—and they arrived here virtually untouched. As it stands, under paragraph 6 of Schedule 6, the Bill would take out the Section 106 provisions completely and just leave us with this rather odd system of tariffs.

In previous stages, the Minister has said that the Section 106 provisions would run alongside the tariff systems to start with. If the proposed omission is left in Schedule 6, we are concerned that, at some stage, it will be put into being and the Government will remove the Section 106 provisions. Our Amendment No. 148

16 Mar 2004 : Column 172

would delete the paragraph in Schedule 6 that refers to Section 106 not being part and parcel of the Bill, so that there is no doubt left in anyone's mind that the Section 106 provisions will remain.

We have Section 106, about which there have been some not very firm views as to why it is not working. There are clearly, as always with these things, ways in which this could be improved, but we are back to babies and bath water. It seems a great pity to ditch the Section 106 system when it is now widely perceived as being not only helpful to local authorities but also particularly to the affordable housing areas. The tariff system has been opposed all the way along the line. If this task force is to be set up, then its discussions will take place outside the time-scale of the Bill. This House would not have an opportunity to discuss anything that was decided by it.

I am being a bit hesitant, because I am waiting to see what the Minister has to say. However, that would be unacceptable, in the sense that we have been struggling for the last two stages of the progress of this Bill to sort out what these new provisions would be, how they would be implemented, how local authorities were to deal with them—which is a big area of concern—and how localised the elements in them of the cost of land would have to be.

I very much support what the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, said. I hope that the Minister may be able to amplify a bit what the noble Lord, Lord Best, would have said. I would certainly like to hear his views on the understanding of the noble Lord, Lord Best, that a task force is being set up. I would very much like to know how these matters will be dealt with when this Bill has left this House.


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