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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): My Lords, the RPA undertakes a number of important regulatory functions, including livestock tracing and inspections, as well as making payments totalling £2.2 billion each year to farmers and traders, supporting sustainable agriculture and the countryside. Over the past year, important steps have been taken towards turning the RPA into the customer-focused agency we all wish to see. Costs have been reduced while customer satisfaction scores have increased, and good progress has been made in tackling some of the legacy issues.
Lord Renton of Mount Harry: I thank my noble friend the Minister for that. I agree with him that the Rural Payments Agency, which used to be chaotic, is a good deal better and more sensible now than it was then. One could go further. Perhaps I could suggest to him that the big question now for the RPA and for Defra should be: how will British farmers be affected in the common agricultural policy reform that will happen in two years' time, when the new EU budget comes into force? Doubtless, there will be a lot of struggling at that moment as to who gets what. France is likely to end up with much more than England. Is this not an area where first-class thinking and planning should start now if our farmers are to be paid anything like the Rural Payments Agency money that they get at the moment?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I would like to think that I can reassure my noble friend that of course we shall bring first-class thinking to the challenge of this issue. This is not the listed topical Question, but it has certainly turned out to be topical because the Commission published its proposals for the reform of the CAP this morning. We are certainly going to be very much engaged in the negotiations and discussions that will take place around these proposals. Our priority will be to ensure that reform encourages competitive and sustainable EU agriculture through a system that is simple and transparent for both farmers and the RPA to operate.
Lord Knight of Weymouth: My Lords, I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, to his much deserved ministerial appointment. In this House, we knew him to be a flexible listening Whip, and we look forward to more of the same in his ministerial guise. I also want to record our thanks and congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, as he moves on to the Home Office.
The Rural Payments Agency has had its ups and downs over the past few years, but it performs a crucial role in getting payments from the common agricultural policy to farmers. Your Lordships have just heard that the EU Commission announced reform to the CAP this morning. Like the NFU and the CLA, we on this side are disappointed that these proposals from the Commission are a missed opportunity. The rhetoric of radical reform has turned into a tired
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Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I thank the noble Lord for his kind words. I am afraid that, as a departmental Minister, the room for flexibility is perhaps not as great as it was, but I shall do my best. We have been building alliances within the European community on CAP reform. I think many other countries will be just as disappointed as we are with what appears to be a very retrograde and regressive proposal from the Commission at this stage. Our job is to negotiate, as the noble Lord rightly said, to try to build alliances and to place not just the farmer or the countryside but even the consumer interest at the fore. That is certainly our position. That is what we intend to do, and I hope we have the support of the whole House in achieving that.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lord Taylor on his accession to the portfolio which he dealt with in opposition with such competence and in his usual friendly manner. I look forward to him holding this job for quite a long time because he will do a very good one.
Because of other things going on this morning, I have not had a chance to look in detail at the proposals from the Commission, but does the Minister agree that it is very important to prevent the opinions and forces in this country that would like to abolish the common agricultural policy and the payments altogether? They are not the way forward. Without a reasonable level of support to British farmers, combined with the cross-compliance conditions on the environment and animal welfare and the Pillar 2 schemes, such as the environmental stewardship schemes, the British countryside would be a much worse place.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Undoubtedly my noble friend is absolutely right. That is the purpose of our discussions, that is what our focus will be in negotiations, and that is why we are going into the negotiations in a positive frame of mind: to try to achieve the changes to the CAP which we think are in the interests of the people of this country.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, I add my congratulations to the Minister on his appointment. We on these Benches have found that he has always been very helpful and flexible. I was encouraged by his initial Answer to the Question but, as he will know, difficulties with the Rural Payments Agency have led to significant levels of stress. I gather that the Farm Crisis Network estimates that 55 per cent of its cases of problems and issues have come from the single farm payment. What lessons have been learnt from these experiences to ensure that these problems are not repeated?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: We have treated this from the beginning as a very serious focus of interest. My right honourable friend Jim Paice has headed up the
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Lord Taylor of Holbeach: From Workington? I am sorry; I should have realised the noble Lord's connection, and I apologise for not picking that up. I am sure there has been a contribution from Workington, but there has also been a contribution from many other people involved in making this body a more responsive, speedier and easier-to-use organisation for farmers.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): My Lords, National Grid published its Winter Outlook 2011/12 report on 11 October. Its assessment of UK gas security of supply for the coming winter is broadly benign, with lower domestic production being offset by the expectation of more imports, especially of liquid natural gas. The Government will work closely with National Grid and the energy industry to monitor the ongoing energy supply situation during the winter months ahead. We will also be publishing the statutory security of supply report together with an assessment of the security of supply risk in the gas market later this autumn.
Lord Ezra: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reassuring reply. Nevertheless, things can go wrong, so what is the Government's policy on gas storage capacity? Our current capacity is now well below that of continental countries, has fallen back in the past year and is the one big reassurance we could have if supplies should be interrupted during critical winter periods? In the longer term, when will our demand for gas, 60 per cent of which now has to be imported, be reduced so that we are less reliant on the vagaries of the import market?
Lord Marland: I obviously recognise his strong track record of expertise. It is normally about this time of year that the House has a searching Question from the noble Lord and I am grateful for it. I can also assure him that this Government are deeply committed to storage. We inherited seven storage units for 16 days'
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As for the other question about European gas storage compared with ours, we have to remember that 40-50 per cent of our gas supply comes from our own resources, 20 per cent comes from a dedicated pipeline from Norway and we have a good relationship with Qatar, with a guaranteed 10 per cent from there. So we are not in the same position as, perhaps, Germany, which is dependant upon the Eastern bloc for its supply. We get less than a half of one per cent from that source.
Baroness Worthington: Does the Minister agree that one way of reducing our dependence on imported gas is to invest in renewable forms of heating fuels? When will the long-awaited renewable heat incentive be open for business? At this rate, it will not be ready for people to invest by next winter, let alone this winter.
Lord Marland: I think the noble Baroness touches on the problem of Europe agreeing our tariffs for the renewable heat incentive where we propose aggressive and supportive tariffs for people in biomass and creating biomass boilers. They were rejected by the European Union, which said that they were unfair. We have looked at them again in earnest and certainly by the end of November we shall have responded to the EU with a negotiated position. We are deeply committed to it. As the noble Baroness rightly pointed out, it is fundamental to our energy security supply that we wean ourselves off oil in particular and coal, which are no longer supplied by ourselves.
Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes: My Lords, to depart briefly from the bonhomie, will my noble friend tell his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy from me that it took me three months on two separate occasions to change from British Gas to another supplier? To say that people are lazy not to change means that what happens in the real world is completely beyond his comprehension.
Lord Marland: The noble Baroness is of course known for her energy and it is not surprising that she is playing the markets. We completely agree with that. It is amazing what happens on the internet these days. This is obviously a matter for Ofgem, we are concerned that it frees up the markets so that the noble Baroness and all of us can take full advantage of competitive terms out there. Rest assured, we march shoulder to shoulder in a bonhomous way, even if she does not think so.
Baroness Smith of Basildon: The Minister referred to the National Grid's winter outlook report and called its assessment benign. What it actually said was that the total energy supply this winter should be manageable under normal conditions. Given the complete inability to provide accurate long-range weather forecasts and the wild fluctuations in weather we have seen, what discussions has he had and what arrangements are in place with the National Grid and energy supply companies to ensure supplies should weather conditions not be normal?
Lord Marland: The noble Baroness is right. We had a very abnormal winter last year. As she has clearly read the National Grid report, which I am delighted to see, I direct her to page 33, which clearly sets out the various pressure points in terms of a cold winter, a variable cold winter and so forth and how we have coped with it. I am glad to say that, broadly speaking, we came through with flying colours from a gas point of view. That is not to say that we can be complacent: we must not. We have a serious task to make sure that everyone in this country is supplied with gas and oil in an awkward winter and I assure noble Lords is that this Government will not be complacent.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, in his Answer to the Question from the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, the Minister referred to gas supplies from Norway. Does he envisage that the proportion of gas imported from Norway will increase and how does he see the future of LNG from Norway in the future?
Lord Marland: I do not think that it will increase from the dedicated pipeline. But we have spent a lot of time-and the previous Government should be credited for this-upgrading our LNG ports so that they can attract LNG from every source. We are reliant on 10 per cent of our supplies from the world market, and Norway almost certainly can be part of that.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My Lords, health charities make a significant contribution to the NHS and are valuable partners. We are keen to support initiatives that will help them make cost savings and to support them through this challenging financial period. It is for local NHS organisations to decide to whom, and in what circumstances, they can offer NHS premises at concessionary rates.
Lord James of Blackheath: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer, which is encouraging in the context of local interests. But does he agree that some charities carry a case for a nationwide intervention due to the huge savings that they can produce, such as the Connect aphasia/stroke charity of which I am myself a rescued case? I was rescued so well that I married my therapist; I understand that that is an option, not an obligation. In this case, will my noble friend consider whether the huge savings that can come by removing aphasia cases from a dependence on welfare handouts and enormously expensive treatment could be alleviated by support being provided from
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Earl Howe: My Lords, we greatly value the work that Connect and other charities carry out, working alongside people with aphasia and their families to develop communication and rebuild confidence. I can tell my noble friend that we understand that the current fiscal position is presenting voluntary organisations and charities such as Connect with challenging funding issues. But, in the end, we are looking at local services. Where local services are concerned, it is the responsibility of commissioners-currently primary care trusts and local authorities-to commission services based on their local population needs. They must ensure that the services that they secure for local people provide the best value for money and quality for patients. I am afraid that we cannot get away from the value-for-money question. It is important to emphasise that we are sending the message to local authorities and PCTs that the voluntary sector should not shoulder a disproportionate share of funding cuts.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: Will the Minister ensure that healthcare charities that provide clinical services have the same VAT exemption as NHS providers, to establish the level playing field at this time of financial stringency that the Minister spoke about in the preceding debate?
Earl Howe: The noble Baroness makes a good point and I shall ensure that it is passed on to my right honourable friend at the Treasury. She will understand of course that I cannot give her a categorical answer at this point.
Baroness Thornton: Will the Minister confirm that the Department of Health has a strategy for encouraging and supporting charities, social enterprises and mutuals, both as patient and carer advocates and as providers of healthcare? In addition, would the Minister care to say how that policy might be enacted by the proposed commissioning structures in light of, for example, the failure of Surrey Community Health-a local and qualified social enterprise-to win a very large contract, losing it to Richard Branson's Virgin Healthcare?
Earl Howe: I agree with the noble Baroness that it is important we do not lose vital local services that achieve high-quality outcomes. We shall be working with PCTs, therefore, in the transition to the new arrangements between the NHS Commissioning Board and clinical commissioning groups as they develop, to ensure that the sector's contribution to improved public health and social care is fully recognised. In the end, however, she will appreciate from our preceding debate that these matters will continue to be determined at a local rather than a national level-and it is quite right that they should be-because centrally we are not aware of local circumstances in the detail that we should be.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My noble friend the Minister will be well aware that there is a chapter in the health Bill on public involvement. Will he accept that there is a general perception that at present there is extraordinarily little attempt made by the health bureaucracies to engage particularly small local charities, which often have more to give in terms of public involvement than the very large ones?
Earl Howe: It varies. I am well aware of some PCTs that are engaging very creditably with voluntary organisations, but I am sure my noble friend can give examples of where that is not happening. I can only say to him that the policy of any qualified provider should mean that local voluntary organisations that can provide services to the quality and terms that the NHS requires should be in with an equal chance of providing services. We will ensure that proper guidance is issued to make sure that happens.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): Yes, my Lords. However, as the noble Lord will be aware, the Government established an independent commission to investigate the creation of a UK Bill of Rights in March 2011, thus fulfilling a commitment made in the coalition's programme for government.
Lord Bach: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer. The manner in which this important issue was not so much debated as debased last week by senior Cabinet Ministers was frankly infantile and not worthy of the serious matters involved. For a more serious consideration of the debate, may I urge the Minister and perhaps all Members of the House to read the article by my noble and learned friend Lord Irvine of Lairg, published in today's Guardian? The Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have both said, and I quote the latter's words, that,
Lord McNally: One of the problems about party conferences is that the newspapers like to heighten and find clashes between Ministers. I am old enough to remember it said that every time Harold Macmillan returned from a journey abroad Rab Butler was at the bottom of the steps to grip him warmly by the throat. The Government's policy is very clear, and the Home Secretary and Justice Secretary are on exactly the same page on this. The commission will investigate the creation of a UK Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. It will provide interim advice to the Government on the ongoing Interlaken
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The Archbishop of York: Does the Minister agree that much of the criticism of the Act is based on ill-judged statements and decisions by public authorities, rather than what the European Convention on Human Rights actually says and what the courts in this country have decided in applying the Act? Does he endorse the plea of Sir Walter Scott in The Fair Maid of Perth, "Touch not the cat"?
Lord McNally: I am not sure that I would call in evidence Sir Walter Scott on this, but the Government have very clearly in the programme for government, set the commission the task of looking at the Act and how it is operating. We have given it a parallel but equally urgent task; we are using our UK chairmanship of the Council of Europe to push forward an agenda of reform of the working of the court. Both are extremely useful exercises and, when both are completed, we will be able to make a proper assessment of where we go next.
Lord Brittan of Spennithorne: My Lords, does my noble friend recall that the European Convention on Human Rights derives largely from the work and suggestions of Conservative Ministers in the late 1940s and that, although individual decisions may be uncomfortable, the general thrust of giving effect to human rights through legislation of this kind is one that reflects well on this country and provides a good example for others?
Baroness Greengross: My Lords, in declaring an interest as the second lead commissioner on human rights in the Equality and Human Rights Commission, I ask the Minister for reassurance that the Government will, in any look at a Bill of Rights, not go back on the basis of the Human Rights Act but build on it-that they will look at some of the controversial workings of the Act, which need looking at, but not take us backwards. It is very important that we are all committed, as I think we all are, to the basic human rights principles.
"The Commission will investigate the creation of a UK Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, ensures that these rights continue to be enshrined in UK law, and protects and extend our liberties".
Lord Irvine of Lairg: While acknowledging the Minister's own commitment to the Human Rights Act, are there not at least double standards at work, or worse hypocrisy, when the Prime Minister and other members of the Cabinet preach the virtues of human rights and respect for the rule of law abroad while trashing these self-same virtues at home?
Lord McNally: I think that those are rather strong words. I have said before that in a democracy where there is a separation of powers there can be a healthy relationship between parliamentarians and the judiciary, whereby parliamentarians can sometimes express concerns about how the judiciary has interpreted some of Parliament's Acts and, likewise, the judiciary may occasionally pass an unkindly word about the behaviour of parliamentarians. As long as that is kept on a basis of mutual respect and due courtesy, it is a healthy way for a democracy to go.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: With that advice, I am not sure whether I ought to ask this question, because I am a member of the Commission on a Bill of Rights for the United Kingdom, so I must choose my words with great care. Is the Minister aware that the Council of Europe has commended the Joint Committee on Human Rights, on which I serve, as a model for Europe; and is he aware also that, across the common law world, we alone have reconciled effective remedies with respect for parliamentary supremacy?
Lord McNally: It does not surprise me that that is the reaction. When we set up this commission, indeed when we announced that we intended to take a vigorous attitude to reform of the court, we were told, "Oh, it'll never work-you will get nowhere with this". The fact is that we have found an increasing number of countries around Europe which have appreciated that we are taking a proper, sensible, calm look-through the commission on which my noble friend sits-at how the act is working in practice, and we are taking to Europe some very practical proposals for how to get the court working more efficiently and thus more respected. If we get away from all the showbiz of this, and get down to what the Government are actually doing, you will find that it is something that should have the approval of colleagues on all sides of this House.
"Following my Statement to the House last November, in relation to the murder of Mr Patrick Finucane, I have considered this case very carefully. I want to set out today how the Government intend to proceed.
The murder of Mr Finucane, a Belfast solicitor, in front of his family on the 12 February 1989, was a terrible crime. There have been long-standing allegations of security force collusion in his murder.
The former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Lord Stevens, was asked to investigate the murder in 1999. He published his overview report in 2003, concluding that there was 'collusion', that the murder 'could have been prevented' and that the original investigation of the murder,
My right honourable friend the Prime Minister invited the family to Downing Street yesterday so he could apologise to them in person and on behalf of the Government for state collusion in the murder of Patrick Finucane. The Government accept the clear conclusions of Lord Stevens and Judge Cory that there was collusion. I want to reiterate the Government's apology in the House today. The Government are deeply sorry for what happened.
Despite the clear conclusions of previous investigations and reports, there is still only limited information in the public domain. That is why my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and I have committed to establishing a further process to ensure that the truth is revealed. Accepting collusion is not sufficient in itself. The public now need to know the extent and nature of that collusion.
I have, therefore, asked the distinguished former United Nations war crimes prosecutor, Sir Desmond de Silva QC, to conduct an independent review to produce a full public account of any state involvement in the murder. Sir Desmond is an internationally respected QC who will carry out his work completely independently of government. Sir Desmond has worked for the United Nations on major international issues in Serbia and Sierra Leone. In 2005, Kofi Annan appointed Sir Desmond to be chief prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone. In 2010, he was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to the independent fact-finding mission to investigate the Israeli interception of a Gaza aid flotilla. His track record in carrying out this work speaks for itself.
I have agreed the terms of reference with Sir Desmond. I would stress that Sir Desmond is being given unrestricted access to these documents. He will be free to meet any individuals who can assist him in his task. It is, of course, open to Sir Desmond to invite or consider submissions as he sees fit. The review will have the full support and co-operation of all government departments and agencies in carrying out its work. I have spoken to the chief constable who has given his assurance that Sir Desmond will have the full co-operation of the PSNI.
This Government have demonstrated in the Bloody Sunday, Billy Wright and Rosemary Nelson cases that we will publish independent reports without delay. The same checking and publication arrangements will be put in place. This has been an exceptionally long-running issue. The previous Government sought to resolve this issue after the 2004 commitment to hold an inquiry but was unable to reach an agreed way forward with the family. I am disappointed that the family did not feel able to support the process that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and I outlined to them yesterday. I fully recognise that the family have pursued their long campaign to find out the truth with great determination.
We do not need a statutory inquiry to tell us that there was collusion. We accept that and my apology in the House today reflects this. The task now is to uncover the details of this murder. The public should not be kept waiting for many more years for the truth to be revealed. The Government have taken a bold step by asking an internationally respected figure to produce a full public account. Details in papers and statements that have been kept secret for decades will finally be exposed. The House will be aware of the extensive investigations that have already taken place in this case. I am clear that we do not need to repeat all the work that the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, has already carried out for the truth to be revealed.
The investigations into the murder of Patrick Finucane have produced a huge amount of material. One man, Kenneth Barrett, was prosecuted and convicted of the murder in 2004. Taken together, the Stevens investigations took 9,256 witness statements. The Stevens documentary archive extends to more than 1 million pages, and 16,194 exhibits were seized. This was one of the largest police investigations in UK history.
The noble Lord, Lord Stevens, carried out a police investigation to bring forward evidence for prosecutions. A 19-page summary was produced in 2003 but the Stevens investigation was not designed to provide a public account of what happened. That is why Sir Desmond de Silva will now have full access to the Stevens files and all government papers to ensure that the full facts are finally set out. The House will not want to pre-empt the details of Sir Desmond's report. When the report is published the Government will not hide from the truth, however difficult. I strongly believe that this will be the quickest and most effective way of
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I am acutely conscious that the conflict in Northern Ireland saw more than 3,500 people from all parts of the community killed and tens of thousands more injured. We should never forget the many terrible atrocities that took place. More than 1,000 of those killed were members of the security forces. I want to be clear that the overwhelming majority of those who served in the security forces in Northern Ireland did so with outstanding courage, professionalism and even-handedness in upholding democracy and the rule of law. The whole House will agree that we owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.
The murder of Pat Finucane has been one of the longest running and most contentious issues in Northern Ireland's recent history. The appointment of an internationally respected and wholly independent figure to produce a full public account demonstrates the Government's determination that the truth about this murder should be finally revealed. The House will recognise the spirit of openness and frankness with which we are dealing with this difficult issue. I would encourage everyone to judge the process that we have established by its results. I commend this Statement to the House".
Baroness Smith of Basildon: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for repeating the Statement in your Lordships' House. Every community in Northern Ireland has suffered outrages, atrocities and murders but today we reflect on the murder of Pat Finucane. His wife was wounded in the attack, and his three children witnessed what no child ever should-the murder of their father.
Thirteen months ago the former Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward, asked the Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, to honour the commitments of a previous Prime Minister and previous Secretaries of State to hold an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. This commitment was made as a result of an agreement between the British and Irish Governments at Weston Park in 2001. If peace and reconciliation are to be taken forward we need to respect such agreements. Progress made in Northern Ireland is built on trust. As we have heard, since Justice Cory's report public inquiries have been held into the cases of Robert Hamill, Rosemary Nelson and Billy Wright but not Pat Finucane.
It was a source of great regret to us, as the previous Government, that we were not able, as the noble Lord indicated, to agree terms of reference with the Finucane family for an inquiry to take place under the Inquiries Act 2005. However, today the Minister has told us of the Government's decision that there will be no inquiry at all. Instead, the Government have announced an inadequate review, although we welcome the apology. We are disappointed by that decision and consider
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Appreciating those sensitivities and difficulties, I have given the Government advance notice of the questions that I shall ask the noble Lord today. Will he tell your Lordships' House why, having made the decision not to hold an inquiry, the Government allowed the Finucane family to believe for so long that there would be one? What discussions were held with the family prior to informing them of the Secretary of State's decision? What advice was give to the Prime Minister by the Secretary of State that led him to invite the Finucane family to Downing Street, they clearly believing that they were to be offered something that would be acceptable to them-otherwise why raise false hopes?
Can the Minister tell us what discussions the Government had with the Irish Government before making the decision, given that the original decision to have an inquiry was made as a result of an agreement between the British and Irish Governments? Why, on the day that the Irish Government extended by six months the Smithwick inquiry into the murders of Chief Superintendent Breen and Superintendent Buchanan regarding alleged Garda collusion, did the Government choose to deny an inquiry to the Finucane family? Do the Government accept that any form of inquiry takes time and carries a financial cost but that it is possible for both of those to be reasonable and that in themselves they should not be a barrier to the pursuit of justice?
Specifically on the review of the papers, can the Minister outline how representations, including any from the family, can be made? What is the expected cost and timescale of the Government's proposed review, and where will the hearings be held? Will any be in secret, and will witnesses be called?
Everything that has been achieved in Northern Ireland since the mid-1990s has been achieved with consensus. The Belfast, St Andrews and Hillsborough Castle agreements were all achieved by consensus. Indeed, the Northern Ireland Executive operates by consensus.
As a former Minister with responsibility for victims in Northern Ireland, I am aware, as are many of your Lordships, that there are many horrors from the past, many atrocities and many outrages by both loyalist and republican terrorists. However, there is an opportunity for Northern Ireland to escape the grip of the past by confronting the truth about past events. Therefore, can the Minister tell us anything about the Government's policy for dealing with the past? Having denied a public inquiry into the death of Pat Finucane, what additional resources will be provided to the Historical Enquiries Team?
The people of Northern Ireland have made real progress but we must never take that progress for granted. It has taken real effort and commitment and a great deal of trust. We are asking the Government to reconsider their decision with respect to an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane because it is the right
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Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her contribution. She began by referring to the murder, and we start from the basis of, quite frankly, how appalling and dreadful it was. She then referred to what her right honourable friend in the other place, Shaun Woodward, had attempted to do, but the fact is that an inquiry on that occasion was not pulled off. That is the position-there was no inquiry. Indeed, as I understand it, my noble friend in the other place, almost immediately on taking office, wrote to the family and met them shortly after that-something that did not happen in the preceding period.
Discussions have taken place but in the end one looks at what has happened with previous inquiries. Cost is one thing, but let us put that on one side for the moment. I ask noble Lords to cast their minds back. What is their abiding memory of the Bloody Sunday inquiry? I think they will find that, ultimately, it is the apology. I went through page after page of that inquiry document because I would have to speak here on the matter at a later point, but I believe that it was the apology that really caught people's attention. I think that the prime purpose of bringing the Finucane family to Downing Street yesterday was to make the apology-something that had not happened until yesterday. I believe it is very important to think of the apology, and that was the reason for bringing the family here.
Many discussions took place. We have to recall that one reason why the previous Government were not able to proceed in line with the wishes of the family was that at the time the family did not want an inquiry, which had been offered under the Inquiries Act. That is why we had the impasse. We are trying to break into that impasse by first making an apology and then saying, "There are a million pages of printed matter on this event. It is all there written down. We shall get a very distinguished person to look through them and set out what has happened because it is all there". One of the problems of going down the inquiry route, irrespective of the money side of all this, is that, sadly, 22 and a half years after the event, a number of people who were involved in it are no longer alive. I recall from reading the Bloody Sunday report that a number of people who were involved in that incident were either no longer alive or had forgotten the detail of the incident, and how difficult that made it to consider the matter.
Discussions have taken place with the Irish Government so that they know what is going on. I am not privy to those discussions. The reference to the Irish case where an inquiry has been extended brings us back to the question of time. Does time matter? You might think that 22 and a half years is a considerable length of time, but more time will elapse before this matter is resolved. The review is expected to cost in the region of £1.5 million.
The Historical Enquiries Team is well thought of and does splendid work, but this is a devolved matter. This Government have added £250 million to the
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Earl Attlee: My Lords, may I remind the House of the benefits of short questions in order that my noble friend the Minister can take as many questions as possible? Perhaps we should start with a former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and then go on to the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis.
Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, is the Minister aware that this appalling murder took place during my time as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, 22 years ago? What made it even more atrocious as a crime were the allegations, subsequently confirmed in the Stevens report, that there may have been-there was, as the Prime Minister has accepted today-collusion by members of the security forces in that murder. Against that background, I welcome the Statement. I say to the noble Baroness-the same point was made by the Front Bench in the other place-that I think it was entirely right for the Prime Minister to see Mrs Finucane and her family. If he had not seen them and this announcement had been made, people would have criticised him for a lack of courage and not being prepared to face the situation. He invited them to come to enable him to make a formal apology to them for what has happened. That was precisely the right thing to do.
We have the appalling situation whereby the murder was committed 22 years ago and allegations of collusion emerged soon after. It is 12 years since the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, produced his report, 10 years since the Weston Park agreement was signed and six years since the previous Government approached this matter. They pledged to hold an inquiry but did nothing about it except to argue with the Finucane family about the form of the inquiry, which could not be resolved because they were not prepared to agree to the form proposed under the Act. That has left this Government with a logjam that has now to be resolved. No one can seriously suggest that it is a good idea to embark on a major public inquiry that could last another five years, during which time more people who were involved in the murder will die, as will people who may be responsible for the collusion and who ought to be liable to prosecution and brought to justice. These matters are still outstanding. I feel passionately about this.
We owe it to the Finucane family to resolve this matter, to publish a document referring to the people who may have been responsible for the murder and to make the truth known. We also owe it to all those people in the security forces, brave people who, day in, day out, 24/7, have defended the people of Northern Ireland with integrity and courage but whose conduct has been besmirched by the action of a few. We owe it
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Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord King, for his contribution and pay tribute to his time in service in Northern Ireland. He rightly points out the 22 years and the fact that he was in post at that time. I am grateful for his supportive comments and make the point that time and delay are features that we have to think very seriously about. Twenty-two and a half years have gone and yet the report that we are suggesting and which Sir Desmond has been appointed to produce will be achieved within 15 months. Fifteen months is a small period when we think of the 22 and a half years that have gone before.
Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: My Lords, I want to make it very clear first that I condemn every killing that occurred in Northern Ireland and I spent 12 years of my life ensuring that both loyalist and republican killers were brought to justice. That is my justification for saying that, while I thank the Minister for bringing the Statement here, I totally disagree with and resent the term "collusion". Can you imagine what it is like to live 24/7 in a situation where people are being murdered, and people are talking about this in cars, in homes, in pubs, in clubs and in the workplace because they are struggling to survive the violence that we had to endure. If that is collusion, then collusion took place, but my experience over all those years, working with police and the regular Army and in command of members of the Ulster Defence Regiment, was that there was no organised collusion, and I resent that term deeply.
Let me further say that there are so many victims, and victims who are close to me: Harold Sinnamon, the brother of my assistant teacher in the school where I was principal; the Dobson brothers, whom I went to school with, two people who were not involved with anything, shot in their business office; George Shaw, who contributed to his community, who took me to my first scout camp; Eric Shields, whom I worked and played rugby with and who was not a member of my party but of the Alliance Party; all these people. Was there collusion there? Are they even considered?
In finality, I was sued by the Finucane family for saying that they were an IRA family. That is what they were, an IRA family. They sued me. When they were forced by the courts to put up or shut up, they withdrew their case against me and paid my costs. Why did that happen? Let us look at the whole picture with 40, 30 or 20 years of hindsight, at what those of us who lived through the Troubles had to endure, and see whether it is prejudiced.
Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, for his contribution. This Statement today is about Pat Finucane. It is not about anything else. The apology has been given because of collusion. The noble Lord, Lord Stevens, made that clear in 1999; Judge Cory made it clear in 2004. Yet we were at the point where this was not a resolved issue and there was a question about an inquiry and so forth. The noble Lord has heard the reasoning-
Lord Shutt of Greetland: -as to the way forward. Sir Desmond de Silva will have the opportunity to go through paper after paper and to produce a report. That may well be the time for the noble Lord to express a view. But Sir Desmond will be reporting on what the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, and Judge Cory have already indicated about collusion.
Lord Mawhinney: My Lords, I was a Minister serving with my noble friend Lord King at the time of this murder and I agree with everything that he said, so I will not repeat it. Can the Minister assure this House that when this review is complete there will be no statute of limitations issues if-and I say if-the review specifies individuals who should be prosecuted as a consequence of the murder?
Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, I will have to write to the noble Lord on that precise point about limitations. All I would say is that we should not forget that when the report by the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, was produced, in the end it was not possible for prosecutions to take place. Other matters may come up and people may contact Sir Desmond, but we cannot say what will happen. The idea is to get the truth about what happened with a murder. That is the position, and what happens subsequently is something for another day. However, on that specific point, I will have to write to the noble Lord.
Baroness O'Loan: My Lords, I wish to address two points raised by the Minister. First, the significance of the apology in the Bloody Sunday inquiry was that it followed an acknowledgement of the facts that had been revealed by that inquiry. The apology alone without the inquiry would not have addressed the issue. Secondly, I would like the noble Lord to confirm that this is a review, not a criminal investigation, and that therefore there will be no prosecutions following this review by Sir Desmond de Silva.
I am one of the few people in this House who has actually read all three Stevens reports, and I am aware of the extent of obstruction by the state in the course of those inquiries. I am also sighted of much further information in relation to the activities of loyalists over the years, and I am very clear that had the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, been allowed to do the inquiry that he wished to do and had that inquiry led to prosecutions, we would have been spared a very significant number of murders, intimidation, shootings and bombings.
My question to the Minister reflects the fact that the Finucane family has always been concerned that the full story of what happened should be told. The terms of reference of the inquiry appear to be limited to the incident of the murder. The Finucane family has been concerned about what happened prior the murder and the collusion that did exist, as identified by the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, between loyalists and representatives of the state. There will be no arrangements that will enable any challenge to any decision that will be made by Sir Desmond-and I am in no way impugning Sir Desmond when I say this-but there is no accountability in this process until it is finished.
Therefore, my question for the Minister is: can he give us an absolute, categorical, unqualified assurance that access will be given to all Special Branch and MI5 intelligence in relation to anybody who may have had any association of any kind with the murder of Patrick Finucane, or with those connected with the murder of Patrick Finucane? As a former Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, I am acutely aware of the games that can be played in releasing intelligence. You have to get the question absolutely right or you do not get the intelligence. I therefore ask the Minister for the assurance that there will in reality be no empty promises of full co-operation but that full access to all the intelligence will be given to this inquiry.
Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness and pay tribute to her work in Northern Ireland over many years. She is concerned about whether Sir Desmond has the opportunity to look at the papers. The review will have the full support and co-operation of all government departments and agencies in carrying out its work. There is no intention whatever to restrict Sir Desmond in looking at these papers. That has been clearly said and I repeat that in saying that he has free access to look at these things.
Lord Deben: Will my noble friend accept that all sides of this House should be extremely supportive of the Prime Minister in his unqualified apology? Much of what has happened in the north of Ireland has happened in terrible circumstances on both sides. There is a history which goes back way beyond the present troubles and many apologies which could be made by all of us, not least the Conservative Party over its actions in Northern Ireland. This apology is crucial because it shows that we have admitted that what happened should not have happened and I hope that arguments about the form of the solution will not overcome the reality of the Government's clear commitment to the human rights involved.
Lord Shutt of Greetland: I thank the noble Lord for his comments. I believe that the word "apology" and what has been done is the most important thing to have happened. The further inquiry by Sir Desmond is on top of that and we have got to find out what happened. The apology is one thing and it is very important. I am glad that the noble Lord has mentioned that. But we have then got to move on because the whole thing is about moving on. Until we can satisfy
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The Minister asked what would be remembered about inquiries. What is more important is not what the nation might remember but what is remembered locally. We had a public inquiry in which a family and all the people involved were able to express their own feelings about the murder. It released a whole lot of information but also a lot of emotion. That cannot be quantified or have a financial value. A private apology, even when it is made public, cannot take the place of allowing a family to express publicly, in a way which can be heard by everybody else, the pain and horror they have been through.
Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, I understand this and I would not want to say that an inquiry would be no use in any circumstances. We are talking about an event, however, that took place 22 and a half years ago. We know from reading about those inquiries about the people who were dead or forgotten or who could not be found. There are seven key witnesses here. There is Brian Nelson, an FRU agent who died in 2003. RUC agent William Stobie was murdered in 2001. Sir John Hermon, the ex-Chief Constable of the RUC, is dead. Brian Fitzsimons, the ex-deputy head, was killed in the Chinook crash, as was John Deverell, the most senior security service rep in Northern Ireland. Wilfred Monahan died of natural causes. These people are all dead, and this is one problem with the inquiry: one is not able to call them because they are not able to turn up. Therefore, one needs to strike a balance. When one adds three, four, six or 10 years from today, if one is going down that route, one must then consider whether, sadly, others will be added to the list. One must take that balance into account. Asking noble Lords and everyone else to wait 15 months for this review is one way in which we can then move forward.
Lord Alderdice: My Lords, I will take further the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady O'Loan. I do not entirely agree with her that the events are not known and that the apology has come before they are known. It is known that there was a murder and that there was collusion: that is clear. However, the details have not yet been published and it is very important that they are.
The noble Baroness said something else that will be very disturbing to the House. She suggested that because of the form of the inquiry, no criminal prosecutions could come from it. Other noble Lords have expressed the concern in various ways that, should material come forward into the public domain, prosecutions should proceed. I seek assurance from my noble friend that that is the case and that the concerns of the noble Baroness are not necessary because prosecutions can proceed from the publication of the report.
Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, I believe that that could happen: there could be prosecutions. I have some doubts, bearing in mind that Sir Desmond will be culling the million pages of evidence that have already been seen. That evidence did bring forward prosecutions. I suspect that because Sir Desmond's work is taking place, people may contact him, or he may contact people, and it is possible that something new may come into the domain and, because of that, prosecutions might happen.
(a) a local planning authority,
(b) a county council in England that is not a local planning authority,
(c) the Secretary of State when carrying out functions relating to applications for development consent,
(d) a qualifying body for the purposes of Schedule 9 (neighbourhood planning),
(e) a body, or other person, that is prescribed or of a prescribed description,
must carry out their functions with the objective of promoting sustainable development.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1) "sustainable development" means development that meets the social, economic and environmental needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, based on the following guiding principles-
(a) living within environmental limits, namely respecting the limits of the planet's environment, resources and biodiversity, to improve our environment and ensure that the natural resources needed for life are unimpaired and remain so for future generations,
(b) ensuring a strong, healthy and just society, namely meeting the diverse needs of all people in existing and future communities, promoting personal wellbeing, social cohesion and inclusion, and creating equal opportunity for all,
(c) achieving a sustainable economy, namely building a strong, stable and sustainable economy which provides prosperity and opportunities to all, and in which environmental and social costs fall on those who impose them and efficient resource use is incentivised,
(d) promoting good governance, namely actively promoting effective, participative systems of governance in all levels of society and engaging people's creativity, energy and diversity,
(e) using sound science responsibly, namely ensuring policy is developed on the basis of strong scientific evidence, whilst taking into account scientific uncertainty (through the precautionary principle) as well as public attitudes and values.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, we return to the Localism Bill and have reached Part 5, which is about the substantial changes the Bill makes to the planning system. Amendment 203K, which is grouped with one other amendment, is about sustainable development. This is the third time during proceedings on the Bill that I have had the privilege of opening a debate on sustainable development. We had a comprehensive debate at the beginning of our consideration of the Bill, and a further, pretty comprehensive debate at the beginning of the planning section. Both debates took place in Committee. We are now on Report and come to sustainable development again. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie of Luton, for adding his name to the three Liberal Democrat names on the amendment.
The amendment seeks to place in the Bill a definition of sustainable development. This debate reappears every time a planning Bill comes before the House, or a Bill related to planning or similar things. So far, although Governments have increasingly included the words "sustainable development" in legislation, they have always resisted including a clear definition of it in legislation. This amendment also sets out a duty of each person who carries out functions within the planning system, from the Secretary of State down to local planning authorities, to promote sustainable development. It also applies to the neighbourhood forums or parish councils which will be carrying out neighbourhood planning functions under the new provisions within this part of the Bill.
There are therefore two issues. The first is whether a definition should appear in the Bill. It has always been the view of the Liberal Democrat Benches in this House that it should, and we have not really changed in that view. The second is what that definition should be.
Sustainable development is a phrase which has been in current use for about 20 years. However, it has really come to the fore in the past 10 years. In 2005, the then Government issued a report called Securing the Future-Delivering UK Sustainable Development Strategy-I am not quite sure why the title does not have an "a" or a "the" in it. Page 16 lists a set of guiding principles, and it is those guiding principles which this amendment sets out, exactly as they appeared in the 2005 strategy. These are: living within environmental limits, ensuring a strong, healthy and just society, achieving a sustainable economy, promoting good governance, and using sound science responsibly-all with the detail set out. Although this strategy was issued by Defra, it was to apply across government, throughout all departments and all government activities. One assumes that that definition applied to the planning system, since the planning system is part of what the Government do, although parts of the strategy might be more relevant to planning, just as other parts might be more relevant to other aspects of government activity.
In 2010, we had the exciting development of the formation of the new coalition Government, who clearly had to review their policies and strategies, and in particular those which had been passed on to it by the previous Labour Government. In February of this year, the Government issued Mainstreaming Sustainable Development-the Government's vision and what this
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"The Coalition Government has reaffirmed its commitment to sustainable development and set out its vision of achieving economic growth, improved wellbeing and a protected environment now and for future generations".
The word "wellbeing" has come into prominence recently since it appears in the health Bill as well, but I take it that in this context it encompasses the social side of the three prongs of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental.
"The Government is determined that as we reduce the deficit, we also rebalance the economy and put it on a greener, more sustainable footing. In order to achieve this, we must lead by example. I am pleased to see this document"-
"The Coalition Government is committed to sustainable development. This means making the necessary decisions now to realise our vision of stimulating economic growth and tackling the deficit, maximising wellbeing and protecting our environment, without negatively impacting on the ability of future generations to do the same. These are difficult times and tough decisions need to be made".
"Sustainable development recognises that the three 'pillars' of the economy, society and the environment are interconnected. The Government has initiated a series of growth reviews to put the UK on a path to strong, sustainable and balanced growth. Our long term economic growth relies on protecting and enhancing the environmental resources that underpin it, and paying due regard to social needs. As part of our commitment to enhance wellbeing, we will start measuring our progress as a country, not just by how our economy is growing"-
"While the Government is committed to tackling the deficit and rebuilding Britain's economy as we recover from recession, not least through the development of a sustainable green economy, we recognise that our success and progress as a country is about more than economic growth".
"Prosperity alone cannot deliver a better life ... The Government must be focused on quality of life as well as economic growth ... Improved wellbeing is important to our goal of creating a more family-friendly country ... Sustainable development is also about ensuring a high quality of life for our children and future generations".
The purpose of the amendment is to suggest to the Minister that now is the time to put all this on the face of the Bill so that we are absolutely clear about what it is. If she cannot agree to do that on the wording in my amendment today, perhaps we might consider this again at Third Reading with wording suggested by the Government themselves. In any case, it asks her to give a firm assurance-in view of the controversy around the country, not least over the national planning policy framework-that the firm commitments made back in February this year by the high-ups in the Government to sustainable development are still the view of the Government. I beg to move.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, I agree with almost everything that my noble friend has said about the desirability of promoting the concept of sustainable development. I rise to speak only for one reason-namely, the news of the death of Sir Arthur Norman, who was a very distinguished president of the FBI, as it was before the CBI. He and the noble Lord, Lord Barber of Tewkesbury, came to see me when I was Environment Secretary. They were very concerned about what appeared to be a growing conflict between those who championed the environment and those who were concerned with the well-being of industry. Their view was that, in fact, they are mutually dependent on each other-you cannot improve the environment unless there are the resources there to do it; and business cannot hope to succeed if it flouts all the canons of good environmental behaviour. They came and asked me to help them set up an organisation that could reflect this-and, if I may say so to my noble friend Lord Greaves, this was well in advance of the Brundtland definition, which he has just quoted. I had no hesitation in offering them a launching grant to set up what became the United Kingdom Centre for Economic and Environmental Development-UK CEED. It is going strong today.
I believe that this has now become-as my noble friend has rightly said-absolutely embedded in the policies of, I suspect, every party in this country and, indeed, across the world. My only concern with my noble friend's amendment is whether it is actually going to achieve anything. "Sustainable development" is one of these expressions that tends to mean, rather like "humpty-dumpty", what I want it to mean when I use it. I am not sure how far it helps to seek to have a definition, because circumstances and conditions change and one is going to find oneself having to amend it as
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The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, I, too, rise to speak in favour of the amendment put down by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. I would like to begin by following up directly the final comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, about whether it is helpful to have this actually set out as a definition. Those in part of the diocese for which I am at present responsible-I am thinking particularly of the south-eastern part of the diocese-live with some of the most serious deprivation indicators anywhere in England, largely because of the very rapid death of the coal industry over the last 30 years. This has led to the death of community in many places. Many of you will have seen the film "Brassed Off", which focuses on Grimethorpe, which is in my area.
Alongside the death of community runs worklessness. There are sometimes two or even three generations of people who have never worked. Often, when talking with these communities, I use the term "loss of community" or "loss of corporate self-esteem". All of us who have families will know that when any of our young offspring, for one reason or another, is stricken by difficulties and they lose self-esteem, then we become most seriously concerned for them. It is something that might lead people into thinking about taking their own lives. There is a similar phenomenon which eventuates from the lack of a community feeling or no clear sense of purpose. Therefore, the headings in this proposed amendment are helpful in terms of economic, social and environmental issues.
However, perhaps there is more to be said than that. When I was in Norwich, I was in a city that had enjoyed prosperity for 800 years, but not for the past 20. Great efforts were made to try to reverse the trend in the economy and eventually they were effective to a very good degree, but, once again, social and environmental concerns are key to building up a clear sense of healthy community. That seems to be the basis of sustainable development.
Another word that is often seen as controversial is "spiritual". It seems to me that spiritual development is also a key element in this. I do not necessarily mean Christian spirituality, or even religious spirituality; we all know that there is something about the human spirit. When the human spirit is lost in people, or when it is dampened, the community and the effectiveness of individuals within that community are affected.
Therefore, I ask the Government to consider looking at a definition like that and adding to it the spiritual element. Of course, the danger is that, if we do not do that, we all subscribe to saying how important sustainable development is but, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin,
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Many years ago, I remember a former Prime Minister of this country-this shows my age-when asked to respond to a particular issue saying, "I'm not going down that road; that's just theology". As someone who has taught theology for many years, I am quite keen that there should be some clarity in what we are saying. I remember one of my teachers telling me that God was the incomparable who lets be, which I thought did not get me very far down the line at all. I do not want sustainable development which is incomparable but undefined. I say that, not simply because I am keen on a series of philosophical statements or philosophical definitions, but because I think that if we do that, it may mean that sustainable development does something for our communities.
I take noble Lords back to the place where I started, to the south-east of the area that I represent, to places like South Kirkby and South Elmsall, which are in desperate need of regeneration. If we have a clear notion of what we are going for in terms of economic, social, environmental and spiritual issues, perhaps we can begin to rebuild that community self-esteem of which, at the moment, there is a desperate lack.
Lord Deben: I do not think that anyone would accuse me of not being committed to sustainable development. Indeed, I declare my interest in helping others throughout the world to promote this issue. However, I have a warning about this amendment. We are trying to change the planning system in order to achieve a number of ends including ensuring that Britain is able to grow in a sustainable way and that the time taken by the process should not be such that we avoid all those good ends. I started being concerned about a detailed definition of this sort when I realised how many people will use it to take the courts into consideration. I hope that the Government will recognise that there are two elements to this: there is the natural desire of those of us who are concerned with sustainable development to ensure that no future Government with less concern should be able to use this Act to avoid some of the necessary decisions which we are making while on the other hand not wanting a definition that brings sustainable development into disrepute because it is used as the mechanism for yet again holding up decisions. I hope that the Government, in considering this amendment whose spirit I wholly support, will think hard about how we do this in a way that does not open this whole thing up to a kind of justiciable approach where every person desiring development will be able to find something here which they can use to try to overturn what a local authority has done.
Secondly, I am concerned about the definition. I know it draws from all sorts of learned and worthy bodies, but the truth is that sustainable development is two words: "sustainable", and "development". An awful lot of green people talk about sustainability as if development is not in it, and a lot of people who are
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The third thing we have to take into account is something very fundamental. It is that we ought to move to a stage in which you do not need both words. We ought to move to a stage in which the very word "development" inevitably means that you are going to develop in a sustainable way. Here I have to say something a bit hard about the Government. It does not help when the Government say things for convenience which suggest that they do not have their heart where it ought to be. It does not help when the Chancellor of the Exchequer suggests that we are going to move at a slower speed in dealing with our emissions than the law says we have to and proposes something illegal. It does not help us when those things happen because then others can doubt our fundamental support for these beliefs.
I say to the Minister that it is crucial that we go further than we have gone so far in making sure that people understand that we mean business. The first Prime Minister to use the words "sustainable development" was John Major. I know that because I wrote that bit of the speech but, in the end, people do not give speeches unless they are happy about them-at least, if they have anything about them. He used those words because he believed fundamentally-this has to be said-that it is in the nature of conservatism that we develop sustainability. That is what the country party, on which we are based, had as its heart. We conserved; we believed in handing on to the next generation something better than we received from the previous one. There is much in this Bill which will help us to do that. We need the speed to do it, but we also need the clarity to ensure that people do not fail to recognise the two elements of sustainability and development until it becomes so much second nature that we need only one word because it means both because we have redefined it properly.
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, there is much that the noble Lord has said with which I agree. I must put on my English Heritage hat and declare an interest. One of the disappointments that we have tried to address in this Bill is the need to get greater clarity about the nature of sustainability. While I see the point that the noble Lord is making, that sustainability and development are two words, it is sustainability that raises greater confusion and there has been a marked lack of clarity about the whole notion. The debate that we have seen in recent weeks about the nature of sustainability in relation to development has exemplified the search for general agreement about the content of sustainability.
It is difficult because there are competing definitions, but I support the noble Lord's amendment. I spoke at some length in Committee about this and will not
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I also have a great deal of sympathy with what the right reverend Prelate has said about what else might go into a definition of sustainability. I may be drifting into the danger of a list, but I feel strongly that one of the elements that is not in this amendment-and the Minister might take this away and consider it-is including something about our vital cultural and heritage needs, including those of future generations. That is an important guiding principle for what we mean by sustainability in many different ways. It would also fit alongside this expression of a strong, healthy and just society.
I do not want to draft an amendment on my feet, but one might add, for example, "meeting the diverse social, cultural, heritage needs of all people in existing and future communities and promoting well-being and social cohesion and inclusion". This is important, because if we are to take this definition of sustainability seriously, this is a moment when we might be able to agree and implement something. It has been debated for goodness knows how long in this Chamber and I believe that our culture and heritage fit this Bill. They feed our sense of belonging, of pride, identity and resilience and they feed into our roots of personal and community life. They express, as the right reverend Prelate said, our sense of community. They help us to know who we are and what we are capable of. All that is about sustainability for future generations, for the future shape and feel of our country.
I hope that, if we are to debate the amendment-and maybe I should bring it back at a further stage-the Minister will consider whether she can be flexible in her approach to it and maybe include the new elements of the definition.
Lord Cormack: My Lords, the noble Baroness raises some extremely important points, wearing as she does proudly and properly her hat as chairman of English Heritage. I want to say one thing: sustainable development, as my noble friend Lord Deben has talked about eloquently, is not something of itself. We are talking about the context in which that development takes place. It is crucially important-if we are concerned about our heritage, the beauty of our landscape and the balance of it in this country-that what is added to our environment does not detract from it. For instance, if we are to have development in or near a historic town, village or particularly important building, that development should enhance the environment into which it is going and not spoil it.
That is my underlying concern about the Bill and some of the interpretations that have misguidedly been placed on it. I was greatly reassured after one conversation with my noble friend the Minister last week. I am utterly convinced that her heart is in the right place and that she does not wish to despoil any
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Baroness Parminter: My Lords, as someone who passionately believes in the potential of planning to deliver sustainable development, I was very happy to add my name to the amendment. It is particularly helpful that the amendment spells out the depth of field covered by those who will have responsibility for planning to promote sustainable development. Those individuals, bodies and authorities need guidance on what the Government mean by sustainable development. Yes, a belief in localism means giving local councils the power to articulate their visions of sustainable development for their areas through their local plans, but in the absence of a clear vision from the Government, it is imperative that they define clearly and upfront what sustainable development means in order to determine the expected route of travel.
I support my noble friend in arguing that it is right to give a legal underpinning to the definition of sustainable development that is found in the UK Sustainable Development Strategy. Its five widely accepted principles provide a common framework for sustainable development and establish the twin goals of living within environmental limits and providing a just society by means of good governance, sound science and a sustainable economy.
The crucial thing is that the definition has widespread understanding and support. Only last year, 97 per cent of respondents to a Defra consultation exercise supported or did not object to the particular definition of sustainable development used in the 2005 Sustainable Development Strategy. Restating the principles of sustainable development as outlined in that strategy would make it clear that there is no hidden agenda by the Government to redefine sustainable development. I echo the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Deben, but some of the comments by Ministers have been less than helpful in determining exactly what the Government mean by sustainable development. Therefore, reiterating a position that is commonly understood and has been widely supported in recent consultations would suggest that the Government are serious about sustainable development and are not seeking to redefine the terms of the argument.
The Prime Minister himself recently gave an assurance that the purpose of planning is to balance the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainable development. Accepting the amendment would allow that assurance to be delivered.
Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords, not having participated in proceedings on this Bill hitherto, I hope that the House will none the less tolerate me in making a very few remarks in response to what I have listened to this afternoon. It is desirable that the definition of sustainable development should be filled out, not least because of the suspicions that many people currently entertain in this country that sustainable development is no more than a euphemism for development at all costs.
I know that that is not the Government's intention but that is unfortunately the impression that has gained some currency. It would be desirable to fill out the definition in order to reassure people and in order to provide better clarification and guidance for planners and would-be developers as well as for the communities that would be affected by the development.
We should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for having tabulated so many of the components of sustainable development in an appropriate sense. I agree also with the right reverend Prelate that, however we formulate this, it ought to be clear that the spiritual dimension of our human existence is something that is to be supported and sustained in this process of sustainable development. I am also attracted to what my noble friend Lady Andrews had to say about incorporating references in appropriate wording on cultural and heritage matters. One might also add that it would be desirable for a definition of sustainable development to incorporate language relative to design, and that it should stress the importance of good design processes in achieving sustainable development.
I think that what I am saying illustrates that we are not yet in a position to agree on a definition of sustainable development, other than in the succinct-perhaps too succinct-Brundtland definition, which the Government use in the draft national planning policy framework. I am also wary about incorporating rhetoric and aspiration in legislation. It seems to me that our legislative tradition in this country is to be as specific as we can about legislation, to enable the courts to interpret it in a practical and expeditious fashion.
I agree also with the warning uttered by the noble Lord, Lord Deben, that if an elaborate definition is placed upon the Bill, there is a danger that it will be almost an invitation, if not a challenge, to litigants to try to exploit it, whether their intention is to prevent or promote development-although the former is more likely. If the practical upshot is that development would be quite seriously inhibited by placing a more complex definition of sustainable development on the Bill, then perhaps we should be very careful indeed about doing that.
It seems to me, therefore, that if we are to fill out the definition, the right place to do this would be in the national planning policy framework itself, which is the gloss upon the Bill. This is the document that explains and interprets to the lay person, and all sorts of practitioners, the policy of the Government and what they seek to achieve through this legislation. Again there are difficulties, partly because there is not yet a sufficient consensus about how to define sustainable development. At least if you have a national planning policy framework, it is possible to update it from time to time without having to resort to all the processes of primary legislation.
Even if we put a complex definition into the national planning policy framework, that may still make the process more susceptible-too susceptible-to litigation. It depends upon the legal standing of the national planning policy framework, but I think that it does have some sort of legal status. So, I just counsel caution about this. I really do counsel caution about
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Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, perhaps it is a little impertinent of me to deny a compliment that has just been given by the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, to my noble friend Lord Greaves, but he congratulated my noble friend on tabulating the items, when I think my noble friend would say that he copied it out. The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, referred to familiarity and we will all have recognised the words.
I would like to use this opportunity to ask the Minister a question. I have heard her say on a different occasion that two of the five principles are not as appropriate to planning as they are to other parts of government. These two principles are the use of sound science and the promotion of good governance. For my part, I must say that they both seem entirely appropriate. On the subject of science, let me just mention climate change and flooding. Governance, after all, is used both in the creation of local plans and in dealing with planning applications, as well as more widely. So they both seem to me to be appropriate. If that is to be a part of the Minister's response, I hope that my noble friend can spell out why that is so. I am open-minded to hearing it, but I will be interested to hear the detail.
Lord Berkeley: I have some worries about the whole concept. Many noble Lords have talked about what should and should not be on this list. It is a very good list, and the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, certainly deserves a lot of credit for putting it together, if that is the right word. But there is not so much in it about development. There is lots about sustainability, which of course I love, but my slight worry is that-notwithstanding the debate going on at the moment about the presumption in favour of development, which I am sure we will talk about later-if there is to be development, it has to be done in an environmentally friendly way but must also be reasonably cost effective.
A Treasury report was produced by Infrastructure UK last year. It said that the civil engineering developments in this country are probably 60 per cent higher than they are in Germany, and goes on to say that the labour costs are much the same. The conclusion that one should probably draw from that is that the difference is to a large extent taken into account with the complexity of planning. Of course we need to have planning but, as my noble friend said just now, if we go too far down that road it will be a lawyers' bonanza and take a very long time and nothing will get built. In the end, we are in the end going to be competing with other European and world countries about what we produce.
It is useful to have a definition. I think that we need more in it about the development side, so that is sustainable. But we must also recognise that one of the benefits of having something like this in the Bill, and possibly the national planning policy framework, is that it enables us and other people to help to hold the
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Yesterday the Department for Transport announced a trial of longer lorries. That is great for the environment, is it not, and great for road accidents and the quality of life? There is need for much more joined-up government right across these things, and some clauses like this would help us to hold the Government to account. I believe that we can get growth and development in a sustainable way, and this is a good contribution towards it-but possibly putting it in the national planning policy framework would be easier, and we could have a much better debate about what should be in it.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I find myself very much siding with the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, on this. Sustainable development is rather like well-being; it is a concept that we think we know when we see it, and occasionally we will try to pin down what it means in definitions like the one we see before us. But actually it means different things in different times and different places, and should do so.
The development of a nuclear power station, looked at on a very local scale, is completely unsustainable, but on a national scale it may be sustainable. So scale is very important. Likewise, something which on a national scale may be an undesirable policy may be just what a village needs in order to flourish.
Again, when you set out a definition like this, even without including design or spirituality, you find that in every individual instance bits of the definition do not apply, or apply in very perverse ways. How does one apply great chunks of this definition to, say, the siting of a sewage farm? There are bits of it that do not seem to hang in there at all under those circumstances-
Lord Lucas: That is a nice illustration. There are bits of wording; as my noble friend Lord Deben said, if we are going to put something in legislation, then we must produce something that works in the courts. An authority must know that it is complying with the law and other people must be able to judge whether it has complied with the law. There are bits in here which are frankly impossible from that point of view. The words "of all" appear several times, and completely remove the definition from reality when it comes to deciding the matter in a court. There are things about future generations, where we cannot know or even begin to
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There is a lack, as several noble Lords have said, of development, or the understanding of development. If you are going to assess a sustainable development you have to look at it as a whole, as a picture of everything that is happening, and not its individual bits; as a picture of what will happen over time, and not at any particular instant. There is no recognition of that at all in this definition. You could trip up a development just because it is doing a bit of harm to something, even though looked at as a whole it was doing good.
Indeed, many developments harm things but do good in other ways, and some developments compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Every time you take a bit of coal, gravel or gas out of the ground, that is not available to future generations. It is inevitable that we are living with compromise and fuzziness in this area. It is up to us to do our best by some well designed guiding lights, but we should not try to pin down a legal definition to something which is not suitable for it.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for moving this amendment. We have added our names to it and give it our full support. On a point of detail, I wonder if the reference to the Planning Act in subsection (3) of the amendment should be 2008 rather than 2004. I particularly commend the spelling out of the guiding principles rather than the adoption of the usual shorthand of the 2005 principles.
The amendment adopts the formulation of promoting sustainable development rather than contributing to it or furthering it, which we discussed in Committee. As the noble Lord said, this amendment would enshrine in primary legislation the duty to promote sustainable development at every tier of the process, including the Secretary of State, although the duty imposed on the Secretary of State relates only to the functions concerning applications for development consent, and this would not appear to cover, for example, the Secretary of State's engagement with promulgating a national planning policy framework. We might just reflect on that.
There has been a divide in part of our debate today between those who say that these definitions should not be in primary legislation, those who say that it should be in the national planning policy framework and those who say that we should not necessarily seek to spell these out at all. We believe that it is right for it to be in primary legislation. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, on that. A number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Deben, and my noble friend Lord Howarth, queried whether doing so in a sense gives litigants a chance to challenge every decision whichever way it goes. I would argue a corollary: that not having a reasonably sophisticated framework in which these things can be judged equally, if not creating a greater opportunity for litigation, which is one of the key issues with the national planning policy framework as it stands, is a lawyer's charter.
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said that we cannot possibly live every part of our life by this wording. He is right. There will always be a balance, a judgment, to be made about future generations and the current, and about local and national. To do that within the context that this wording creates gives us a real opportunity of achieving what we would broadly all sign up to.
When we discussed this matter in Committee, I understood that the Minister had indicated no change to the Labour Government's position on the meaning of sustainable development. I think that we had one exchange and I thought that that was confirmed. If this is correct, it is very hard to see how this is reflected in the draft NPPF, which might be interpreted as giving primacy to economic development and be a view that the noble Lord, Lord Deben, may support.
A number of inclusions or omissions suggest a move away from the definition reflected in the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. The abandonment of brownfield first, the lack of content around social justice or equality and weaknesses around affordable housing proposals do not seem consistent with no change to the definition of sustainable development. If this debate does nothing else, it gives us the opportunity to hear directly from the Front Bench whether that definition is something to which it adheres, however it may be expressed in legislation or be the framework itself.
The right reverend Prelate raised spirituality and the extent to which that is included. One might argue that it is encompassed within ensuring a strong, healthy and just society, which may be the root to addressing the issues identified by the right reverend Prelate. The noble Lord, Lord Deben, referred to sustainability as being what conservatism was all about. I read these principles and say that it is a fairly good description of what socialism is all about. I am not quite sure what conclusion we might reach from that. It will never be an all-encompassing definition. Certainly, it seems to me to be not inappropriate, if we can get this in the Bill, to spell it out, to expand it and to meet the aspirations of my noble friend about including cultural in the definition. It seems to me that a strong strand from this debate is that there does not have to be a conflict between growth and the environment. The two can be encompassed. There will always be a balance in that judgment.
I was as interested as ever to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, about his earlier experience and his historical references. He was there right at the start, although perhaps there is a competing claim that it was the noble Lord, Lord Deben, who produced, via John Major, the term "sustainability" first. I do not mind who produced it first but we should seek to make sure that we encompass it in these important planning changes before us in the most appropriate way.
We would sign up to the definition and to it being in the Bill. Given where we are in this process, it is very important that we have a clear position from the Government certainly no later than Third Reading. Whether we get partial satisfaction today on this remains to be seen but we certainly cannot let it drift beyond Third Reading. If the Government are not able to
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): My Lords, in the daily horoscopes sometimes I am a Virgo and sometimes a Librarian. Today I shall be a Librarian because they are hugely well balanced and see both sides of any discussion. That is precisely the position that I am in today. It has been a very helpful discussion with, as so often, real feelings behind it. From the outset, I shall say that I hear what everybody has to say about this. I may not be able to provide a definitive answer by the end but we are getting nearer to one.
The balancing act here is to do with the question of a definition. The noble Lord, Lord Howarth, put his finger on it: the more you define it, the more trouble you get into legally. This is something that we have to take into account. Indeed, what we have also learnt from the debate is that there are potentially still extras that people would like to put into the definition. I fully see why and accept the wish of the right reverend Prelate to see spirituality included, and what the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, said about culture and heritage. I hear what my noble friend Lord Cormack says about the importance of development enhancing. However, with this we begin to string out a lot of things that sustainable development is meant to cover. This is a difficulty that perhaps both Governments have had over the period. We all believe in sustainability. We can all define it to our own satisfaction, but the question is whether through that definition you end up in a legal minefield. The comments and speeches today have been very helpful in that regard and will certainly take us forward.
The first thing that I want to say is that we support the principle that planning should promote sustainable development. Indeed, it is central to the approach that we have taken in the draft national planning policy framework. The framework, as presently structured, makes it clear that planning has three pillars: the environmental, the economic and the social. Those are the three pillars that contribute most to a planning decision. We fully recognise that we have to balance those three elements.
Secondly, we also believe that the objective of sustainable development is appropriate for statute. There is already a duty on those preparing local plans to do so with the objective of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development. That is already the situation. The Bill will introduce a new duty to co-operate in relation to planning for sustainable development, which will ensure that councils and other public bodies co-operate effectively on strategic planning matters, including sustainable development. Our Amendment 210D, which I will move formally at the end, would extend this principle to neighbourhood planning by placing on all neighbourhood planning proposals an explicit condition relating to sustainable development. This ensures that the principle of sustainable development runs through all levels of plan-making-strategic, local and neighbourhood.
Thirdly, I understand the desire to ensure that there is clarity and consistency in the meaning of sustainable development. We have heard this afternoon how difficult that is to achieve. Everybody sees just another little gate that they might open to put forward something that they feel strongly about. I recognise that there are strong views and, as I said at the beginning, I have heard clearly what has been said. I shall ask that we reflect on that when I come to the end.
We made it clear in the February statement on mainstreaming sustainable development-a document that has already been referred to-that we recognise that sustainable development must embrace the needs of the economy, society and the natural environment, alongside the use of good governance and sound science. All those have already been identified by noble Lords. As the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, pointed out, these are the 2005 sustainable development strategy statements, which continue to provide the starting point for how we think about these issues. They are important and widely agreed principles, and, as I said, we need to reflect on them.
I say again that I have considerable sympathy with the intentions of noble Lords in tabling Amendment 203K and with those who have spoken. At the same time, I am concerned that putting this amendment on the face of the Bill could give rise to the sort of significant, although perhaps unintended, consequences that the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, and others have already mentioned. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Jenkin, in wise words, said how difficult it is to provide a long-term definition and one which will be, if we put it no lower, sustainable. I think that, whatever we do and however we approach this, it has to be recognised that the definition will be high level, otherwise we will spend more time in the courts that anyone would care to think about.
The amendment would introduce an extremely broad new duty applying to any function under any Act relating to planning. This would mean that individual planning applications would be caught. Therefore, every decision-maker, on every decision, however small, would need to show how they had sought to promote sustainable development. Not only could that result in a disproportionate amount of box-ticking to avoid the risk of challenge to decisions but it would tie up planning committees for hours while they tried to sort out whether the plan achieved sustainable development.
As we see the situation at the moment, we believe that the right place to enshrine the objective of sustainable development is in plans-that is, not individual plans but local development plans, national framework plans and so on. It is the plan-led system that we all value. It is the one that people all agree on, it is the one that goes out to consultation and it is the one that is used to weigh up applications and integrate different goals. It is also the local plan which sets the framework within which individual planning applications are assessed. That is why we think that our Amendment 210D is important.
In defining sustainable development-we have had a lot of discussion about this-we must be careful that, in seeking to capture the key elements, we do not
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My noble friend Lord Deben also raised a concern about definitions. I like the fact that he and, a little earlier, Prime Minister Major did "sustainable" and "development". That is a good matter to have had clarified today.
I worry somewhat about the amount of detail with which the amendment defines sustainable development and whether all the tests would have to be met in each and every application. How, for example, would someone assessing an application for a small extension to a house-a loft extension, for example-make sure that it was sustainable in terms of any definition? We have to look at those aspects.
I believe that the essential point in applying sustainable development to planning is to meet the social, economic and environmental needs of the present, in a balanced way. I say "of the present" because I agree that trying to plan for the future is pretty difficult. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, suggested that we have trouble getting from one day to the next without worrying about what will happen in 10 years' time. We do not want to compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, which may be entirely different from our own.
While I have real concerns that this amendment could have significant unintended consequences, I am not unsympathetic to its intent. We want to make sure that our commitment to securing sustainable development through planning is absolutely clear. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, not to press the amendment today, even if he intended to do so. I undertake to take the matter away and come back with the Government's view on whether there is any way we can put sustainable development on the face of the Bill or whether, taking account of what the consultation on the draft national framework may say, it is more appropriate to include it in there. I am not promising that the Government will do either but I assure the House that I will take the matter away and come back with a response before Third Reading so that if more discussion is needed at Third Reading it can take place, as the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, pointed out. I hope noble Lords will accept that as a genuine offer in view of the points that have been made. We will try to put flesh on the bones with regard to this matter.
As everybody knows, the consultation on the national planning policy framework has not yet closed and I cannot therefore prejudice what will be in it. I believe that 10,000 responses to it have been received so far, which will have to be gone through. We are also going to have two further debates on the national planning policy framework. I was surprised to discover that one will be held tomorrow, particularly as we may well have finished this part of the Bill by then. However, I
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Lord Greaves: My Lords, I am grateful for that extremely helpful reply from my noble friend the Minister. I am particularly grateful to her for reiterating that the Government believe that sustainable development is built on three pillars-economic, social and environmental -and that balance is required to resolve this matter. That is crucial. I included the statement of existing government policy in the amendment but I certainly accept that it may not be appropriate to include this detail in primary legislation. Nevertheless, I commend the principle of the three pillars and balance to the Government. I hope that they will build that into whatever solution they come up with. As the Minister and other noble Lords have said, the problem we have when moving amendments and deciding what form this Bill should be in when it leaves this House is that it is running in parallel with the national planning policy framework. The question of sustainable development is one of the key areas-probably the key area-which links the planning aspects of the Bill with the NPPF. We are shortly going on to discuss a further amendment which would do it more overtly, but regardless of whether that is to be done, the link exists and is fundamental and a lot of the concern about sustainable development has arisen, as many noble Lords have said, from the wording in parts of the NPPF.
I am extremely grateful for the astonishing amount of experience, knowledge and common sense which noble Lords have contributed to this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, said that the problem with sustainable development is that, "It means what I want it to mean". That is indeed the problem, but, despite that, the words "sustainable development" now litter legislation, particularly planning legislation. They also litter the Bill: the Minister's little amendment tagged on to this group adds a requirement of neighbourhood development orders to promote sustainable development. It is normal practice in all legislation that when a Government use a term such as this it is defined in that legislation. It is normal practice precisely because the people taking action under the legislation know what it means and the courts can look at it, define it and interpret it. All Governments since, we now discover, my noble friend Lord Deben invented the term "sustainable development" for John Major-
Lord Greaves: Well, ever since my noble friend conducted it, if that is the verb that comes from conduit, I am not sure-I have forgotten the point that I was making in relation to that, so there we go.
That is right, it is a policy statement. It can be put as a policy statement and it is existing government policy-it is still there on the website and it is confirmed. However, it was effectively confirmed by the statements in February of this year. But there is, of course, a difference-a huge difference-between government policy, on the one hand, and the words that appear in legislation on the other, and certainly a great difference as far as the courts are concerned. I understand all that. Nevertheless, the Government are on something of a hook over this matter because of the controversy about the national planning policy framework. If we can help the Government to get themselves off the hook, we will be performing a service not only to the Government but to the country.
I was grateful for the contribution by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield. I am not sure that I understood all the theological allusions. I spent my teenage years living on the Yorkshire coalfield near Wakefield and I admire his skill in combining a speech about deep theological matters with what in those days we called the new pit villages but are now the former pit villages. I am not sure that I understood all the theological stuff, but I agree with his basic points.
The Minister has offered to take this matter to Third Reading-we have another fortnight. I am extremely grateful for all the debate and discussion that has been taking place with her Bill team and with her and other Ministers on this matter. They are, in her words, "getting nearer". I am aware that they are not yet there-they are having terrible trouble with their lawyers, who keep finding reasons why they cannot do things-but those discussions are going on. I will bring it back on Third Reading on the grounds that that will, at the very least, give the Government the opportunity to say how much further they have got by then, if the Minister does not bring something back to Third Reading herself. On that basis, I hope the House will give me leave to withdraw the amendment.
(1) The Secretary of State must issue, designate and update a National Planning Policy Framework, which will establish policies to achieve sustainable development in the development and other use of land.
(3) Before designating a document as the National Planning Policy Framework for the purposes of this Act or before amending any such document, the Secretary of State must carry out an appraisal of the sustainability of the policy set out in the document or any amendments to it.
(4) A document may be designated as a National Planning Policy Framework for the purposes of this Act only if any consultation, publicity or parliamentary requirements set out by the Secretary of State have been complied with in relation to it.
I am aware that some would argue against this proposition and that it opens the door to giving parliamentary sanction to a framework that they may consider to be flawed. However, given the potentially profound effect an NPPF can have, we consider that the better argument is for Parliament to be able to have its say. Obviously we welcome the opportunity for upcoming debates in your Lordships' House-even two of them-but this is not a substitute for a proper parliamentary process.
"We will publish and present to Parliament a simple and consolidated national planning framework covering all forms of development and setting out national economic, environmental and social priorities".
As I said in Committee, if that commitment can be enshrined in the coalition agreement, why not in the Bill? To be clear, the amendment does not seek to put the NPPF in the Bill; it simply seeks the obligation for one to be produced and updated and to be subject to a consultation and parliamentary process, which can be determined by the Secretary of State.
When we debated this issue in Committee, we did so in the absence of an official draft of the NPPF. This of course we now have, although it did not see the light of day until we were embarking on the Summer Recess. Indeed, the announcement of the planning framework while Parliament was not sitting increased fears that Ministers were trying to steamroller through important changes without proper scrutiny or debate. An assurance of a proper consultation and parliamentary process could have lessened these fears and potentially obviated some of the more unpleasant exchanges that ensued via the national press.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: The noble Lord has accused the Government of trying to sneak through the framework document because it was published during the recess. I am quite sure that he will have had, as I have, a letter from my noble friend that says:
"We are keen to take every opportunity to consult on and improve the text of the draft framework. We are inviting the Communities and Local Government Select Committee to comment ... and are seeking to secure time for both Houses to consider the draft framework in the autumn".
Lord McKenzie of Luton: Yes, I did. The point I was making was that the document came at the start of the recess and not everyone out there got that letter-and there are plenty of people out there with a very keen interest in the NPPF. We as parliamentarians may have done; others did not. If in fact the Government are happy and prepared to have these processes then let us get it enshrined in the legislation so that it can operate in the future as well. As I said, an assurance of a proper consultation and parliamentary process could have lessened those fears and potentially obviated some of those very unpleasant exchanges that took place.
The presumption in favour of sustainable development, the definitions of sustainability, the implications for the green belt and green space, the impact on housing, particularly affordable housing, and town centre policies are all matters that go to the heart of our national life. Planning is an important democratic means of mediating between different interests, in the public interest. There must surely be due process and a role for Parliament. Despite some misgivings, I understood that it worked for the national policy statements. I took it from our exchanges in Committee that the Government were not averse to this approach-indeed, if they are going to facilitate a process before Parliament, that would seem to support that conclusion. In the light of experience of the NPPF to date, I invite the Government to accept this amendment. I beg to move.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I would like to ask the Minister a simple question. Under the Planning Act 2008, the national policy statements-which I think everyone welcomed at the time-require parliamentary approval and debate. I do not think that there has been any problem with that. They require consultation and they have had it, although some of them are receiving it rather later than some of us would like to see, though I am sure that they will come eventually. It seems to me that the national planning policy framework is a sort of parallel document to the national policy statements for planning and in respect of other smaller developments which do not come within the scope of the NPSs. As the NPSs have a link to the planning legislation, it seems logical that the national planning policy framework also should have one. I welcome the consultation and the debates that we are going to have. It would, however, seem to make it a simpler and clearer structure if there was a reference in the Localism Bill to the NPPF-not what it should say or anything like that, but just a reference.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, there could have been no doubt that the draft of the NPPF was coming out: we have had several discussions in this House and I made it quite clear that it was coming. It has been on the website since the day that it was published and some of the detailed comments on it bounced out almost the following day. So there has been a good opportunity for people to form their views. That is what the consultation is all about, and having got the 10,000 or so responses-indeed it may have gone up by another 2,000-by today, there will be ample opportunity to hear people's views. I hope that this will happen in a balanced way, because some of the
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We are going to have two opportunities to discuss this further. In reply to the question from the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, the national planning policy framework is not an adjunct to the policy guidance statements; it is in replacement of. Somebody told me how many thousand pages the policy guidance statements run to and it was something like 1,500. They are becoming very big, very wide, and very difficult to work through to discover the actual policy. The framework is an attempt to cut those down without losing the emphasis and the position that they took.
That is the reason why the Government will be listening very carefully to what is said and what the consultation brings forward so that we do get this right. It is extremely important as it is the background to all planning decisions in the future and for the understanding of the things that we all hold precious-the heritage, the green belt and everything that makes up planning. So the consultation is real and will bring results. My honourable friend Greg Clark, who is in charge of this Bill, has already made it clear that he is very open to discussions on this.
I do not propose to worry the House much more about this. I hope that I have answered the relevant questions. If I am not careful, I will get myself in trouble-and having said that I was a nice, balanced Librarian, I do not want to do that. Having made my point about policy statements, I had better read out what this says because otherwise I will get the wrong thing in Hansard. The national planning policy framework is a very different document from national policy statements. National policy statements are the key documents for deciding on major infrastructure proposals. The national planning policy framework is used to inform the preparation of local plans. Local authorities must only "have regard to" the national planning policy framework rather than follow it specifically. I am sure that noble Lords understood that clearly, and I apologise if I misled the House on the way.
I am looking forward to the debates that we will have, particularly the one tomorrow. Perhaps I may comment briefly on the substance of Amendment 203L, to which the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, spoke. The amendment would put in the Bill provisions about the form and content of the NPPF-I ask noble Lords to forgive me if I stop talking about "the national planning policy framework" because I am tripping over the words all the time. I have heard the arguments about the need for the NPPF to have legislative force to reflect its importance. However, there is no doubt that everybody-the public, councils and the development industry-understands the importance of the NPPF. It is unnecessary to legislate further to give it status. Existing planning Acts already require a local planning authority, when making plans, to have regard to the policies and guidance issued by the Secretary of State. That is why the NPPF is government policy. Government planning policy and guidance is also capable of being a material consideration in the decision-making.
It is clear that the NPPF will bite in the same way as the previous policy guidelines on local decisions, and in a way that is understood. Putting it into legislation would risk changing the legal status of the framework in relation to local plans. It would cut across the primacy of locally prepared development plans. That is not what any of us want. The amendment would also mean that the policies of the NPPF would have to relate to addressing climate change. We all agree that that is crucial, but it is entirely unnecessary to legislate in this manner. There already exists a climate change duty on local plan-making. Local communities preparing plans can be in no doubt about planning's important role in climate change, and about the Government's commitment to this issue. The draft NPPF makes it crystal clear that this is the situation as regards primary legislation. We propose that planning should fully support the transition to a low-carbon economy in a changing climate, taking full account of flood risk and coastal change. There is no need to go any further than this.
The noble Lord's amendment also requires the planning framework to be subject to a formal appraisal of sustainability-here is that word again. The argument has been made by a number of organisations and we take it seriously. However, we are clear that the framework does not trigger the requirement for a strategic environmental assessment or a sustainability appraisal. It is not a plan or programme required by legislative, regulatory or administrative provisions, as set out in the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004. However, alongside the draft NPPF, the Government have undertaken to publish a draft impact assessment. We have invited comments on this, and will update and publish a final impact assessment.
In conclusion, the Government are entirely willing to enter discussions with all interested parties on the content of the framework to ensure that we get it right. We do not want to deliver a document which raises doubts about what we are trying to do, or one which leaves any doubts in the minds of those who have to work with it. Its status is clear so it does not require statutory provision. I therefore hope that the noble Lord will feel willing to withdraw his amendment.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Parts of it, I am bound to say, I thought were a little strange. In terms of the comparison with the national policy statements, she suggested that the NPPF had a lesser impact because local plans only had to have regard to it. Given where the Government are on the presumption in favour of sustainable development and where they are so far on transitional provisions, is it not the fact, or the likelihood, that unless something else changes before we conclude with this legislation, the NPPF will be the key document for determining a whole range of development applications? This is because local plans may not be up to date or complete for all the reasons that we are going to discuss shortly. To make that distinction therefore seemed to me somewhat strange.
The noble Baroness also said that there was no statutory requirement to have a sustainability appraisal of the NPPF. But is there a statutory requirement-again
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We are partly looking back, and partly shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted on the first NPPF, but this is looking forward as well. It deals not only with the existing NPPF, but requires there to be some parliamentary process attached to it. Of course I accept that we have two debates, by one route or another, coming up in your Lordships' House. I am not sure what the arrangements are at the other end; the Select Committee always has the opportunity to review a policy and hold the Government to account. However, that is not the same as having a formal process by which Parliament can have its say and express its opinion on this hugely important document before it is finalised. If the NPPF were so insignificant and something that people only had to have regard to, then why on earth has there been this great furore both inside and outside Parliament? It is partly because of trying to understand the Government's intent, and I can see that that can be resolved in due course. I also accept that the Government are as a matter of fact involved in a lot of consultation and discussion, and that is to be welcomed. But what is so wrong in having that as an obligation written on the-
Lord Greaves: My Lords, I cannot avoid teasing the noble Lord, and I hope he will answer this question. The national planning policy framework will replace planning policy statements and such of the old planning policy guidance documents as still exist. Why was it not necessary to have a requirement for planning policy statements on the face of primary legislation if it is now necessary to have it for the NPPF?
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, an argument could be mounted to that effect. I prayed in aid my absence from those debates before, so I shall excuse myself. The question is a fair one, but that does not necessarily mean that the balance should come down in favour of not having this process for the NPPF. It is such a hugely important document. One has just to look at the impact assessment of some of the changes being proposed covering town centre and parking policies. These things are very important and really go to the heart of our national life in so many respects. It is about communities, how we conduct our lives and how we plan for the future. To take that formally outwith Parliament does not seem to be right. In the circumstances, I am inclined to test the view of the House on this matter.
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