|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
I was grateful to the noble Baroness for saying that she was not against CIL in principle, and I understand why she has raised the issues as she has. However, if she divides the House, she must also think about her colleague in the other place, Mr Dan Rogerson, who said that the Liberal Democrats support anything that hands more powers to the local community, enabling their local authorities to achieve their vision for their areas. This gives local authorities greater power and scope, and I do not know how she would square her decision with the fact that Liberal Democrat councils, and all other councils that are desperate to build more housing, would look to CIL to raise essential additional funding for the schools, hospitals, roads and power stations that the communities want.
The party of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, recognises that. Jacqui Lait, the Member for Beckenham in the other place, said that it was prepared to see this levy introduced, and I have listened to what noble Lords on those Benches have said. I therefore hope that, even if the noble Lord is remotely tempted by the siren on the Liberal Democrat Benches, he will not walk away from that commitment.
I say to the noble Baroness, who I consider a friend, to think seriously about the prospect of putting in peril the hard work that has been done. That would
12 Nov 2008 : Column 739
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for their contributions. On all sides, this has been a very thoughtful debate. I know that all noble Lords from different perspectives take the issues very seriously. I do not believe that our approach would put in peril the hard work that has been done. Our intention is not to dispose of it, but to give the opportunity to build on it. I have no problem in squaring this with my honourable friend Dan Rogerson, the Member for North Cornwall. I discussed it with him and he is quite right about enabling local communities to achieve what they want, but unless the mechanisms work, that ambition will not be fulfilled through this route, so we are entirely at one.
As for not introducing the regulations before October 2009, this rather proves my point, or goes towards proving it. That point is not about seeking further primary legislation, but about the workability of what will both underpin and follow the primary legislation.
The noble Baroness, Lady Ford, described these amendments as being to halt and think again. They are not: they are to pause and think more. That is an important distinction. I accept what she says about how keen many local authorities are to achieve infrastructure through this route. However, what is most important is to get it right, even if that is achieved at the price of, in the scheme of things, a relatively short delay.
The noble Baroness had no need to apologise for missing the start of what I said: neither she nor her distinguished visitors missed anything technical. The question was, What do we want? CIL. When do we want it? When we are completely satisfied that it will work.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, regarding Amendments Nos. 132A, 141A and 142A and 142BA, I declare my interest as president of the London Government Association, which has helped with these amendments. The LGA is troubled, as it often is, to
12 Nov 2008 : Column 741
Amendment No. 132A would impose a duty to co-operate with the charging authority upon the partner authorities with which local authorities work. This is about requiring those partner authorities to be helpful to the local authorities, in their role as charging CIL to others.
The local authority needs to work out what infrastructure will be needed, calculate what it will cost and then determine the levels of community infrastructure levy that it must charge. In doing that, it needs to know about all the development that is going on, not just that in the public domain. For example, it needs to know from health trusts what plans they have to produce new medical facilities. If a new medical facility of any sort is built, there are issues around roads and transport, not just moving the patients or service users, but the staff as well. Therefore, Amendment No. 132A puts a duty upon the partner authorities to co-operatethat is already defined in the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007with local authorities and help them in their task of calculating and levying CIL.
The latter two amendments relate to the local authoritys role in spending CIL funds. This is about the definition of infrastructure on which CIL funds can be spent. It is a plea for more flexibility and less central government rigidity in how CIL funds should be spent. Ministers have already said that the list of items for which CIL could be used is illustrative only. However, this list can be changed only by regulations in Parliament. That sounds like a slow and cumbersome process. It might well mean that some piece of infrastructure was delayed, awaiting those regulations in Parliament.
The list in the Bill is relatively comprehensive, covering transport, flood defences, education, medical, sporting and recreational facilities and affordable housing. However, it cannot be completely comprehensive because each local authority has its own issues and local circumstances differ from place to place. The LGA has identified another list of items on which it might be entirely sensible to spend community infrastructure levy funds. For example, if you build a lot of houses, sooner or later you may need crematoria and burial grounds. Cultural and religious facilities are excluded from the list we are discussing, as are the provision of, and connections to, utilities and telecommunications. The emergency services, which are the subject of a separate amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, are excluded. Those could include coastguards in relevant areas, although I do not think that the noble Lord thought of including that. The list in the Bill can never cover all eventualities. Therefore,
12 Nov 2008 : Column 742
At a time when we are trying to reduce the burdens on local authorities and business, we are trying to avoid imposing such a wide-ranging obligation on partner authorities.[Official Report, 23/10/08; col. 1290.]
I am not sure to what extent that sentence stands up to analysis because the point of the information amendment is to assist local authorities, which will have a greater burden if they are not able easily to get information. In any event, I do not think that, in the balance of things, putting an obligation on partner authorities comprises such a burden as was suggested.
It will come as no great surprise to noble Lords that we should table such an amendment. We could go on debating for a very long time what should be in a list, and we have done so on many occasions. However, it seems to me that if roads are included, railways should also be included. If the list does not include roads or railways, it could refer simply to transport facilities, which would be just as good. I am not sure why the Government think it is worth specifically including roads but not railways, especially as they clearly have a policy of encouraging rail traffic and constraining road traffic. It seems rather an odd omission and I shall be pleased to hear what my noble friend has to say about that.
Lord Patel of Bradford: My Lords, I will first consider Amendment No. 142, in the name of my noble friend Lord Berkeley. While we fully recognise the role of new rail infrastructure in supporting development and agree that CIL should support railways where required, we do not think that the amendment is necessary because Clause 208(2) already provides coverage for rail infrastructure.
Railways are already covered at two levels in Clause 208. First, railways are, on any ordinary view, infrastructure and, secondly, they are transport facilities, which subsection (2)(a) explicitly covers. I hope that that explanation addresses the issue sufficiently.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, my noble friend has not explained why he has roads in there as a specific type. I would accept this if just transport facilities were involved, but why are roads specified and railways not specified?
Lord Patel of Bradford: My Lords, it is covered by all forms of infrastructure. Roads covers a whole gamut of transport. If we specifically started specifying railways people would ask about waterways and other infrastructure.
Amendment No. 141A, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Best, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, seeks to insert words into Clause 208(2) to ensure that the list of items of infrastructure is not exhaustive. I assure the noble Lord that that is already the case. Subsection (2) already states, infrastructure includes, so his amendment is unnecessary since the effect he seeks to achieve is already provided for. I would ask him therefore to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment No. 142BA seeks to delete Clause 208(3). That would prevent us from putting in practice our stated policy, which the noble Lord, Lord Best, supports, of ensuring that affordable housing remains supported by developer contributions through the current system of planning obligations, rather than CIL. If Clause 208(3) is deleted, the CIL regulations would have to provide that CIL can be applied to affordable housing in the first instance. I do not believe that the noble Lord wants that. Subsection (3) is not just about excluding affordable housing; it is also about providing clarity. We can add items of infrastructure into regulations to provide certainty to local authorities. Many of the items listed by the noble Lord, Lord Best, would already be within the meaning of Clause 202(2). I hope that that answers the question. I urge him to withdraw his amendment.
I turn to Amendment No. 132A. It is very similar to an amendment tabled by the Baroness, Lady Hamwee, in Committee, but rather than focus on the preparation of the levy, this focuses on the application of the levy. However, my concerns remain the same. It would not be right to place a wide-ranging obligation on partner authorities to co-operate with charging authorities. A
12 Nov 2008 : Column 744
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, Amendment No. 132A may not be perfect but the items listed in Clause 202 presumably are not exhaustive. Can the Government give local authorities assurances that their spirit will be in the Governments mind in framing regulations and that they can extend to partner authorities? That is in a more constructive mode than my previous group of amendments in trying to get the measure to work.
( ) The regulations must ensure that CIL is not payable in respect of land which the owner or developer is using for the purposes of providing social housing as defined by section 68 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 (c. 17) (basic principle).
The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 134 is grouped with Amendment No. 151, both of which address affordable housing. Their purpose is to ensure that there is not an unintended consequence of reducing the amount of affordable, or social housing as now defined by the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008, as a result of the introduction of CIL. I am grateful to the National Housing Federation, Shelter and the Chartered Institute of Housing for working on these amendments, and I declare my interest as chair of the Hanover Housing Association.
The housing associations are currently struggling to produce any affordable housing. The house-building industry is in dire straits, so fewer affordable homes are emerging from housing associations obtaining a percentage of the homes under Section 106 agreements. Where housing associations are going it alone, they are having big problems in getting the mortgages they need in the current financial banking crisis. When they do get mortgages, interest rates are much higher and they are trying to produce more family homes instead of the many one and two-bedroom flats. They are trying to achieve new environmentally sustainable standards. All those things add to costs, and the very last thing they need is a new community infrastructure levy that will impose additional costs on them.
In the Milton Keynes pilot, the levy was £18,000 for each house. Even if the average in other places was lowersay £10,000 a houseit is a considerable burden for the social housing providers to take on at a time when they are struggling to produce any affordable housing at all. I know that the Government agree with the sentiment behind the amendment and they have already said that the aim is to ensure that there is no reduction in the output of affordable housing. We are as one in our hopes that CIL will not lead to any reduction in the amount of affordable housing.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|