Baroness Northover: The Government welcome the World Development Report 2012 on gender equality and development. The report identifies areas for international action that closely reflect the UK's development priorities to reduce female mortality, close education gaps, improve women's economic opportunities, increase women's voice in society and limit the transmission of poverty across the generations. The Secretary of State for International Development is speaking at the UK launch of the report on 23 November.
Baroness Prosser: I thank the Minister for that helpful reply. Does she agree that while the report's concentration on gender is very welcome, its implementation plan is weak and insufficient? Does she further agree that the plan should include concrete objectives on gender equality, particularly in areas such as political participation and access to justice?
Baroness Northover: The noble Baroness is absolutely right that this report is extremely welcome, and it is groundbreaking that it has been produced at all. It is notable that the World Bank does not necessarily match rhetoric with reality, and we hope that this will be a step on the way to making those two things dovetail. The noble Baroness is right that we have to make sure that we support the World Bank in making sure that this is carried through much more effectively than may have been the case in the past.
Lord Avebury: The report highlights the problem of domestic violence in one short paragraph, but fails to mention the United Nations Secretary-General's campaign "UNiTE to End Violence against Women". What are we doing through our embassies and otherwise to promote the goals of that campaign? Will the UK Border Agency review its country of origin information service to ensure that, in considering women's asylum claims, officials have full and up-to-date information about this appallingly common phenomenon?
Baroness Northover: I thank the noble Lord for flagging this question up to me. In fact, domestic violence runs as something of a theme throughout the main report. It is clearly an issue that needs to be taken extremely seriously. When you look at some of the evidence it contains-for example, that in Cusco there are reports that 50 per cent of women suffer domestic violence-it is an astonishing situation. The UK Border Agency publishes country of origin information reports on the 20 countries that generate the most asylum claims, and all those reports have a section dedicated to covering matters relating to women, including violence against women. The independent advisory group on country information last month commissioned a review focusing on women and girls. I hope that the noble Lord will find that encouraging.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I declare an interest as the founding patron of the Global Foundation for the Elimination of Domestic Violence. The noble Baroness knows that six out of 10 women in the world are subjected to domestic violence. Will the noble Baroness tell us what, if anything, the Government intend to do on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to celebrate the things that have been done and, more importantly, to make sure that more is done to reduce domestic violence worldwide?
Baroness Northover: I commend the noble and learned Baroness on what she has done in this regard. Clearly an awful lot more needs to be done. I am speaking at a meeting on that day and I will get the details of that to her. Of course, we have appointed my honourable friend Lynne Featherstone as the UK's international violence against women and girls champion. She has been trying to ensure that when Ministers go overseas, they routinely raise this in their bilateral meetings. DfID is working on domestic violence in 15 of the countries that it focuses on, and I hope that will extend further as well. The World Bank report mentions ensuring that domestic laws are put in place. One of the things that DfID is working on is trying to make sure that, in the countries in which it is working, the judicial systems and the police take this seriously and act upon information that comes to them.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, what are the Government doing to ensure that the World Bank will work with UN Women as it translates the 2012 development report into meaningful action for women and girls? Can the noble Baroness assure me that in our emphasis on schooling for girls in developing countries we do not place emphasis only on the provision of schools but on qualified teachers? In many countries that is where the problem is: we help provide the buildings but do not ensure that the qualified teachers are there.
Baroness Northover: This report is extremely interesting in that it makes the economic case for gender equality, which is extremely important. It is therefore a very useful tool for UN Women in its overarching approach to what the UN is doing worldwide. I would expect that UN Women would find this to be a useful tool. It is not just a matter of justice, but of the economic significance of gender inequality in terms of development. The noble Baroness also asked about education. It is absolutely vital not just to get girls into school but to get them through school, and she is certainly right that ensuring the teaching is there is absolutely vital.
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: I am sorry, it is Andrew Mitchell-who I know well, of course! He will never forgive me for that-who is doing an excellent job as Secretary of State for International Development, particularly in following on the Labour Government's initiative to increase expenditure year on year and rejecting the pleas from the right wing of the Conservative Party to reduce expenditure. Will the Minister give an absolute assurance that that policy will continue?
Baroness Northover: I will certainly pass on that message to David-or Andrew-Mitchell and say how much you congratulate him on his personal efforts. Indeed, I pay due credit to the previous Government. We remain extremely committed to international development and will be implementing the 0.7 per cent of GDP target by 2013. That is an absolute commitment.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): My Lords, local authorities are facing challenging financial circumstances, but we believe that they understand the crucial importance of children's centres for early intervention. Good authorities are restructuring with care, and many are keeping all their children's centres open. The Government have retained statutory duties requiring local authorities to provide sufficient children's centres, and my department is monitoring the situation with local authorities.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, does the Minister agree that Sure Start centres have been an effective way of tackling child poverty and improving social mobility? Will the Minister agree that the Government have made repeated promises that Sure Start centres will not be cut, and that it is not acceptable to give such undertakings and then blame local authorities when those projects could easily have been ring-fenced by the Government? Was it not an act of dishonesty by the Government to cut Sure Start centres?
Lord Hill of Oareford: First, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, about the important role that children's centres can play in helping to tackle disadvantage and helping young children to get off to the best possible start. On his second point, we have put money into the early intervention grant to pay for a network of Sure Start children's centres, but we have a difference of opinion with the party opposite about whether those services are best delivered by local authorities with flexibility about how to spend the money-which is what I think local authorities are keen to have-or whether it is delivered through a ring fence. We took the view that we put the money in and then give local authorities the discretion to make the decisions themselves.
Lord Laming: With that in mind, what steps can the Government take to make sure that the benefits of the remaining Sure Start schemes are directed toward the children and families who are most in need of that kind of help?
Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, one of the initiatives that my honourable friend Sarah Teather is taking forward, which addresses the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Laming, is a series of trials, with payments based more on results, that will look specifically at the kinds of points that the noble Lord raises, particularly at how services are delivered to help families suffering from the greatest disadvantage. We will, however, try to get the focus to shift to the outcomes and the results from those services rather than simply the buildings themselves.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, is my noble friend the Minister aware that last week, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sure Start had a seminar on Sure Start at which we heard from four different local authorities? We found that Haringey made very severe cuts and closures, whereas Cambridgeshire, Nottinghamshire and Manchester did not make any. Why does he think different local authorities are taking such different approaches, when they are all affected by the same economic constraints?
Lord Hill of Oareford: My noble friend makes an extremely good point. Local authorities are taking different priorities in different parts of the country, and that reflects, in some local authority areas of the sort to which I know my noble friend refers, the weight and significance that they put on the provision of Sure Start children's centres. All local authorities-and I accept that this applies to everyone-are having to face difficult financial decisions caused by the need for the Government to make savings, caused by the financial situation that we inherited.
Lord Hill of Oareford: Noble Lords opposite can groan, but I fear that it is a consequence. I have been asked questions about the funding of Sure Start children's centres. We have put the money into the EIG, and we have managed to find more resources to extend the offer to disadvantaged two year-olds and to increase the offer we have made for three and four year-olds. There is also the pupil premium. Those are priorities that the Government are putting money into, but we cannot wish away the economic situation that we inherited.
Lord Hill of Oareford: I do not have that specific answer to hand. Perhaps the noble Baroness will be able to help me, because I know the party opposite has done some work on that. I think the number amounts to 1.5 per cent of all Sure Start children's centres.
Baroness Hughes of Stretford: My Lords, dozens of Sure Start children's centres have already closed and many more will do so. Equally importantly, services are really being cut back in the remaining centres. The noble Lord neglected to say that the early intervention grant has been reduced by 22 per cent in real terms. Yet, for a tiny fraction of the cost of the health reorganisation, the Government could have protected children's centres. Does this not reflect the fact that the Government are out of touch, particularly with women's concerns, and why so many women now think that the Government are going in the wrong direction?
Lord Hill of Oareford: I do not accept in any respect the point that the noble Baroness makes. From our debates during the passage of the Education Bill-I will not bore the House by repeating them-she will know about the money and funding that the Government have put into a whole range of priorities, including addressing the children in greatest disadvantage and
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The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, in the light of the recent riots and mounting evidence that the first three years are crucial to personal development, do the Government have any concerns about any possible correlation between social unrest and the closures that we have been discussing?
Lord Hill of Oareford: I hope I have made clear in all my answers, particularly to the question asked by the right reverend Prelate, that the Government accept entirely the importance of the services delivered through Sure Start children's centres. One whole focus of the Government's work is to seek to increase funding into greater concentration on the early years. That is continuing despite the difficult financial situation that we face. I agree that the more one can do with young children to help them become ready for school and to achieve and to learn, the better they are likely to do later and the less chance there is of them going off the rails when they are older.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, there is a huge cost to society from failing to intervene early, particularly a huge public health cost, given that mental disorders mostly begin in childhood. For example, if smokers had had an intervention in childhood and their relationship with their parents had been strengthened, perhaps 40 per cent of them would not be smoking now. It would probably be the same for alcohol and drugs. Failing to intervene is hugely costly. Will the Minister ensure that the Department of Health carries a proper rate in support of this early intervention and will provide funding to Sure Start children's centres? Further, will it provide adult mental health services to parents in Sure Start children's centres and that there is full recognition of this? Will the Minister also discuss with his colleagues how children and families can be prioritised in the Health and Social Care Bill so that these often overlooked groups get the early support that they need?
Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, I agree very much with the noble Earl about the importance of early intervention, which is the theme of a whole range of measures that the Government are taking across departments. We work closely with the Department of Health. We worked with it on the statement on foundation years, which was published in July, and will continue to do that, bearing the noble Earl's points in mind.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My Lords, we welcome the new regulation. The UK has led the way in Europe in improving nutritional information for consumers. Access to nutritional information supports consumers in choosing a balanced diet and can help in controlling calorie intake. The regulation meets our main negotiating objectives and will give the UK freedom to maintain and build on existing practice.
Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes: My Lords, I am a little astonished by that response. Is my noble friend aware that I have campaigned for many years in your Lordships' House for clear, uniform food labelling on pre-packaged goods for easy comparison? The FSA produced such labelling, which I understand was approved by all five Select Committees but was rejected by the EU, which has now produced something futile, pathetic and unenforceable, to put it mildly. Does my noble friend agree that it is time for the proverbial worm to turn and to tell the EU that we do not want its version-we prefer our own?
Earl Howe: My Lords, I am not sure that I would accept the epithets that my noble friend has applied to this regulation. We have led the way in these negotiations. It is true that it has taken some time but we have come away with most, if not all, of our key objectives met. Nutritional information will now be displayed in a consistent manner on the back of all pre-packed foods, which is a major plus. A voluntary approach has been secured for front-of-pack nutrition labelling and for non-pre-packed foods, including those sold by caterers. It will also be made easier for alcohol companies to include energy information on their products on a voluntary basis. This will give people the information they need to make informed choices about what they eat and drink, which is the whole idea.
Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, is that truly the view of the Foods Standards Agency? I understand that we have different policies being developed in England, Scotland and Wales, but without differences being truly ironed out. I also understand that we have three departments-Defra, the Foods Standards Agency and the Department of Health-working at this in England alone. Does the noble Earl not think that there is room for confusion and a lack of cohesion when we do not have better co-operation?
Earl Howe: I take the noble Baroness's point. Obviously, the Government would like to see greater consistency in front-of-pack labelling. We know that, if we can achieve it, that is likely to increase consumer understanding and indeed the way that consumers use the information. Now that the regulation is finalised, we have the opportunity to discuss with all stakeholders the way to achieve that. It is advantageous that there is the flexibility available for us to do that.
Baroness Parminter: My Lords, this country has one of the highest rates of obesity in Europe. France is taxing sugary carbonated drinks and Denmark is taxing fatty foods. Regulation is one thing, but can the Minister
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Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Oppenheim-Barnes, on her Question but I have to say that I think her target should not be the EU but actually her own Government. If you put "food labelling" into a search engine, you will get hundreds of different versions of how food can be labelled. It feels like we are going backwards because of the flexibility that the Government have sought through the EU regulations. What part have the Government's relationships with the corporate sector played in this matter, and, indeed, if food labelling is going to become more confusing, will that not count against the drive to have good and well balanced diets?
Earl Howe: My Lords, as the noble Baroness will know, there are various points of view from various sectors of industry about what constitutes the best and most helpful form of food labelling. As a matter of fact, that has lain at the heart of the difficulty in reaching agreement in Europe, because there are so many divergent views around this. It is quite true that we do have very strongly held views-not least by the Food Standards Agency-about the value of traffic lights. We have equally strong views, held by certain sectors of industry, on the GDA model. As I said earlier in answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, it would be desirable to have consistency, but we are not there yet. We will continue to work at that objective.
Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, first, has any research been done on the proportion of the population that actually reads these labels; secondly, are people able to read them; thirdly, do they understand them if they do read them; and, fourthly, what about magnifying glasses?
Earl Howe: One advantageous feature of the regulation, my noble friend will be pleased to hear, is provision on the legibility and font size of labels, which I am sure we all welcome. In 2009, the Food Standards Agency commissioned some research to examine which front-of-pack labelling system performed best, and the main finding was that the strongest performing front-of-pack label is one which combines the use of the words "high", "medium" and "low", traffic light colours and the percentage of guideline daily amount, in addition to levels of nutrients. That was the same across all socioeconomic groups.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My Lords, we believe that the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth, Australia, could and should be a significant moment for the future of the Commonwealth. The modernisation of the Commonwealth, based on Heads of Government agreeing the Eminent Persons Group core recommendations, is our priority. A reinvigorated Commonwealth with increased trade and investment flows is good for all its members and can help uplift prosperity levels for all its 2 billion citizens.
Baroness Jenkin of Kennington: I thank my noble friend for that positive response and I am sure we all wish the Commonwealth Heads of Government a successful conference at the end of the month. My noble friend will be aware that the UK Government have led the way in the polio eradication programme and that earlier this year the Prime Minister announced a doubling of the funding for it, which will lead to an additional 45 million children being vaccinated over the next two years. Can my noble friend confirm that, while he is in Australia, polio eradication will be on the agenda and that he and his colleagues will encourage other Governments, notably the Australians, to be similarly generous in their approach?
Lord Howell of Guildford: I can confirm that that will be on the agenda and that the Australian Government, the hosts for this Heads of Government meeting, have taken a lead in proposing it. It will certainly gain discussion and, I hope, intensive development and improvement at the CHOGM.
Lord Triesman: My Lords, with 100 days to go, the noble Lord said that he thought it would be a vital meeting for the relaunch of the Commonwealth, and with 50 days to go, on 9 September, he said that it would be a "defining moment" for the Commonwealth with "bold and vital decisions". Can the noble Lord be somewhat more specific today? What are the two most important decisions that could be taken and how confident is he that the preparatory work means that they will see the light of day?
Lord Howell of Guildford: I certainly could be a lot more specific if I had more time because an enormous number of important objectives will be pursued. Among them, as I have already indicated, we are keen that the upholding of the Commonwealth core values of human rights, good governance, the rule of law, democracy and parliamentary development should be pushed very hard indeed, and that new machinery may be needed in the Commonwealth to do that. I do not guarantee that all these things will be accepted exactly as they are proposed by the Eminent Persons Group or the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, which is proposing similar ideas, but these matters will be pushed extremely hard and are a very high priority for Her Majesty's Government.
Lord Chidgey: Does my noble friend agree with the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group, which I understand shares the view that the current failings of the Commonwealth Secretariat are the result of long-term
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Lord Howell of Guildford: My noble friend is right. There are 106 recommendations in the EPG report and many more in the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group report. There are funding implications for the Secretariat and for the machinery of the Commonwealth, and we are looking at those very carefully. We will have to evaluate them and decide what we can do, given the inevitable limits of resources. One also has to remember that a large part of the Commonwealth is both bilateral between Commonwealth countries and, even more important, separate from government. The unique nature of the Commonwealth is its huge latticework of professional, business, scientific, medical and judicial relationships that exist in no other multinational organisation. Those, too, will need to be developed and encouraged.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that bilateral relations between India and Pakistan have been frozen into almost Cold War attitudes ever since those nations came into being? Would the Perth meeting not be a very good opportunity for getting them to thaw out a little?
Lord Howell of Guildford: One naturally hopes and, indeed, urges that the Commonwealth can provide an envelope in which to resolve tensions of that kind between countries which, although fellow members of the Commonwealth, may have very different agendas-indeed, even hostility to each other-but that issue is obviously between the two countries concerned. Their highest representatives will be at Perth; I hope that they can get together at that and other opportunities to resolve the problems that face those two great nations.
Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, the Perth CHOGM may be make or break for the Commonwealth, which is currently marking time. Two key tests are the strengthening of the Secretariat-are the Government prepared to fund the Secretariat more generously?-and human rights. Will the proposed commissioner be independent of the Commonwealth Governments and not beholden to them as the European High Commissioner for Human Rights is to European Governments?
Lord Howell of Guildford: Yes; these matters are yet to be decided, but the recommendation is that he or she should be independent. I do not agree with the noble Lord that this is make or break; there are huge forces at work which are creating demand for the kind of network which the Commonwealth produces today, both at governmental and non-governmental level, and that will go ahead regardless of what final decisions are taken between Governments. When we are dealing
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Baroness Gardner of Parkes: Will the Minister accept from me first-hand, as I have just come back from Australia, that it is very much looking forward to the meeting, largely because its people all love the Queen very much, and her role as Head of the Commonwealth is particularly important? I did not meet anyone who was so excited about the Minister's own visit.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My noble friend is absolutely right that the position of Her Majesty at the Head of the Commonwealth is an immensely valuable binding force and, in the dark days of the past when the Commonwealth was grossly undervalued and its potential ignored, it was Her Majesty who kept the lights burning for the Commonwealth. Of course, Australia sees this as a huge opportunity to assert its rising role in the world and its key position in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, which are becoming the centres of great consumer markets of the future and the centres of our future prosperity.
Clauses 1 to 6, Schedule 1, Clauses 7 to 22, Schedule 2, Clauses 23 to 48, Schedule 3, Clauses 49 to 52, Schedules 4 to 6, Clause 53, Schedule 7, Clauses 54 to 58, Schedule 8, Clauses 59 to 73, Schedule 9, Clauses 74 to 99, Schedule 10 , Clauses 100 to 105, Schedule 11, Clauses 106 to 118, Schedule 12, Clauses 119 to 147, Schedule 13, Clauses 148 to 176, Schedule 14, Clauses 177 to 179, Schedule 15, Clauses 180 to 228, Schedule 16, Clause 229,
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Clauses 1 to 4, Schedule 1, Clauses 5 to 11, Schedule 2, Clause 12, Schedule 3, Clause 13, Schedule 4, Clauses 14 to 16, Schedule 5, Clause 17, Schedule 6, Clauses 18 to 21, Schedule 7, Clauses 22 to 24, Schedule 8, Clause 25, Schedule 9, Clauses 26 to 34, Schedule 10, Clauses 35 and 36, Schedule 11, Clauses 37 to 48, Schedule 12, Clauses 49 to 53, Schedule 13, Clauses 54 to 61, Schedule 14, Clauses 62 and 63, Schedule 15, Clauses 64 and 65, Schedule 16, Clause 66, Schedule 17, Clause 67, Schedule 18, Clauses 68 to 79.
In section 26 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (revision of local development documents), after subsection (7) insert-
(a) issuing any consolidated guidance to which a local planning authority must have regard under section 19(2);
(b) the coming into effect of the abolition of regional strategies under section 97 of the Localism Act 2011.
(11) During this interim period, local development documents adopted under section 23 shall be regarded by the Secretary of State as being in general conformity with consolidated guidance as referred to in section 26(10)(a).
(a) requirements for giving appropriate notice and publicity to any document made under this section;
(b) requirements for the appropriate inspection by the public of any document made under this section;
(c) the nature and extent of appropriate consultation with and participation by the public in any document made under this section;
(d) the making of appropriate representations about any document made under this section;
(e) the appropriate procedures to be adopted for the consideration of any such representations.
(a) the determination of when the interim period in this section may cease, at least three years after the coming into force of this section;
(b) the completion of any local development plan documents not adopted under section 23 within the interim period.""
Lord Best: My Lords, we are on the planning parts of the Localism Bill and my amendment addresses the transitional period between the old system and the new. The old planning system had regions, regional spatial strategies and many planning policy statements; the new arrangements have no regions, no regional spatial strategies and, instead of planning policy statements, one national planning policy framework, with its special ingredient of a presumption in favour of development. We have discussed this a great deal over recent days. There was a wonderful speech from the noble Lord, Lord Deben, in the previous session on the Localism Bill, in the debate led by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, who also made a wonderful speech. My position on that issue is on the side of the Government and not on the side of the National Trust and the CPRE. However, we are not going into that today but will look at the transitional period between the old planning system and the new.
In Committee, I brought forward an amendment to deal with those aspects of the local development frameworks used by local authorities that made reference to regional spatial strategies that are no more. The problem I was addressing with that amendment was that, without the regional spatial strategy to which the local development frameworks referred, the validity of the whole local development framework was called into question. My amendment sought to allow local authorities, even though there was no continuing regional spatial strategy, to continue to operate as if there had been in respect of those pieces of the regional spatial strategy that they had transmitted into their own local development framework.
For example, Woking Council had important policy decisions in its framework that related to sustainability in Woking. However, it did not put them into its own local development framework but referred to the south-east of England plan which covered those points for it. Under the new regime there is no longer a south-east plan, and Woking Council's own local plan becomes invalid. At that stage in Committee we found ourselves with a need for my amendment because of the gap between the old system and the new, which it was suggested we could remedy by allowing a continuation
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However, I have now brought forward Amendment 204EA, which looks at the question of the interregnum between the old system and the new system which includes the presumption of development provided projects accord with the necessary sustainability requirements. It has been said that all the existing local development framework plans and all the existing plans in the pipeline will become invalid and have to go back to square one-that they will all require evidence to be heard in public, extensive consultation, the use of an inspector and about a year's delay before anything can happen, unless we can have in that interregnum a fast-track, speeded-up process to expedite the approval of local development frameworks and local plans.
There is widespread anxiety that if we do not fill this gap there will be a free-for-all, with planners able to lean on the fact that there is a presumption in favour of development and to come out with all kinds of unsuitable developments. I am not saying whether or not I believe that to be true, but there is a widely held view that there will be great difficulty if councils do not have time to settle into the new system and there are not arrangements in place. The procedures for that are set out in my amendment to carry us forward from the old to the new.
When we did this last time, with the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, there were three years in which local authorities were enabled to catch up and move to a new system. I have heard, for example, from the 74 councils in the south-east of England, which come together in the South East England Councils group. It states:
"It will take time for all local authorities, even those with Core Strategies in place, to get Local Plans updated/adopted in light of the new [national planning policy framework]-allowance for this should be included in the NPPF and the Localism Bill to avoid opportunistic and unplanned development coming forward during the transition period against local wishes, and to ensure development reflects locally-determined priorities rather than national ones".
The Royal Town Planning Institute, which has prepared this amendment, wants to make clear that these amendments are not designed in any way to reinstate the contents of a regional spatial strategy; they are designed to strengthen the operation of the planning system during an inevitable period of uncertainty following the major reforms that there are. I know that the Local Government Association-I have declared my interest as its president-is very keen to work with government on this. The LGA makes the point that there has clearly been severe disquiet expressed by environmental lobbies, and the media, that the Government's reforms could lead to unfettered "sustainable" development in places where local plans are not in place. To assuage these fears, government must listen to local authorities and local
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Lord Greaves: I have the other amendment in this group, Amendment 204F, which has a very similar purpose. I very much support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Best, and what he said in his speech. In our view this is one of the important remaining issues in the planning parts of the Bill. The two amendments are about the pragmatic position of the local planning authorities. Some are faced with old plans under the pre-2004 legislation; some with emerging new plans-local development frameworks-under the 2004 Act; and some with adopted core strategies-new plans-under that Act. All of those are now up in the air as a result of the Government's wish to do away with a great deal of the previous planning guidance and instructions which local authorities had in regional strategies and in the planning policy statements. Instead those will be replaced by a much shorter document, the national planning policy framework, but that is going to take some time to approve.
The Government originally said that local authorities would have six months in which to adapt their local plans, whatever state they were in, to the new guidance. Frankly, they have not thought through the practical problems that this would have caused. They are now doing so, and that is extremely welcome. I am taking a lot of advice from planning authorities, from the planning world and, indeed, from Members of this House. We understand that it is now their intention to include clear guidance on how to adapt their local plans, and pursue their new local plans, in line with the NPPF. My first question is to ask the Minister if she will confirm that that is the route they are taking. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Best, would put a great deal of the detail of how this is to happen on the face of the Bill, and this would be our first choice. Transitional provisions have appeared in quite some detail in previous planning legislation. In our view this would be the best place for it, but for various practical and other reasons, the Government do not want to do that.
"The Secretary of State may by regulations specify transitional arrangements concerning the timetable and procedures involved in the introduction of changes to local development schemes and the preparation and adoption of local development documents".
Regulations are stronger than guidance so we would prefer to have it in regulations rather than simply in guidance. Wherever it is, it needs to be clear and well understood. It needs to give local planning authorities the necessary flexibility and time to get it right.
There have been fears that local planning authorities will be left with no defences against any kind of inappropriate development as a result of some of the wording in the draft national planning policy framework, particularly the suggestion that in the absence of a
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The timetable from transition is crucial. Six months is clearly ludicrous. We have heard rumours of 18 months but in practice it needs to be a lot more than that. The noble Lord suggested three years. We would perhaps go along with that. We clearly do not want it to be seven years or more, which is the position now following the 2004 Act, where half or more of the authorities have still not got their new local plans in place. My second question is about the timescale.
Thirdly, do the Government believe that the inspectorate will be able to deal in a practical way with the huge congestion that there will be in all this work of getting the local plans in line with the new planning guidance? How much work will be needed locally and at the inspectorate simply to get a certificate of conformity for approved core strategies? In determining planning applications during the transitional period, what reliance will local planning authorities be able to put in the mean time on approved core strategies under the 2004 Act which have not yet been certificated as compliant with the new NPPF? What reliance can they put on old, pre-2004 local plans which are still being used by many authorities as the basis for planning? As material considerations in planning application decisions, what reliance can be put on emerging core strategies which are perhaps near inspection but not there yet? What will be the relationship between these existing local plans and the emerging NPPF? Finally, what will be the relationship between the adopted NPPF and all these various kinds of uncertificated local plans?
This is absolutely crucial if there is not to be a free-for-all but a smooth transition from the existing, old system to the new one. This is not in any way trying to undermine the new system but rather to make sense of converting from one system to another, which will take a number of years.
Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, I would like to add my support to Amendment 204EA-supported also by the RTPI, which I think is very significant-and particularly subsection (14) of the new clause, which specifies the three-year minimum for transition. I completely understand why the Government have eliminated the regional tier but there remain instances where regional decisions are particularly valuable-I would say irreplaceable-such as matters to do with housing shortages, the issue of Gypsy and Traveller sites, which we discussed at the last Committee meeting, and the lack of planning expertise at a local level which could result in really unattractive developments. If we are not to go backward in all of these areas we need a transitional period as the amendment specifies for local authorities to work out how to co-operate where it is really essential.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, I would like to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, in what she said, and to point out that in the case of Gypsies and Travellers we have an additional difficulty in that the NPPF and the equivalent document on planning for Gypsy and
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The result of this new-found freedom, according to research by the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain, is that roughly 50 per cent of the needs which emerged from the regional spatial strategies, the Gypsy and Traveller accommodation needs assessments, the public inquiries following those GTANAs and the redistribution between local authorities in the region-to accommodate the fact that some councils had done nothing whatever to meet the needs-have not been met. Perhaps I may just interpolate an aside here. In the new process the local authorities will only have to consider their local needs and will not have to co-operate with neighbouring authorities; and if authorities have steadfastly avoided making provision for Gypsies and Travellers in the past they will be able to demonstrate zero need because there are no Gypsies and Travellers in their particular area.
I see no way in which under the proposed system-and subject to what we do not know yet about the guidance that will be issued by the CLG-there will be any mechanism for adjusting that. I would like to know from my noble friend where we have got to in this process. Are we still in the position where every local authority will make up its mind irrespective of what any of the neighbours are doing? Will there be no contribution to the provision of sites for Gypsies and Travellers where a local authority can demonstrate that it has not had a need in the past because it has been successful in excluding Gypsies and Travellers from its area?
We in the Liberal Democratic Party made a reservation to the abolition of regionalism in our manifesto. We said that the numbers emerging from the regional spatial strategies with regard to Gypsies and Travellers should be preserved and should be the basis on which planning for Gypsies and Travellers would be effected under the new system. If we had done that we would have avoided the process that is currently being undergone all over the country as local authorities start again from scratch to consider their local needs and come up with figures which, as I say, are only 50 per cent of what had been provided where the regional process had been completed, as for example in the east of England. This will result in a severe shortage of sites in the whole country and there will be a proliferation of unauthorised sites, which is the chief source of friction between Gypsies and Travellers and the settled population. I do not know whether that is intentional but it will be the result of following the Government's present policies.
Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords, I support the thrust of the amendments tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Best and Lord Greaves. It is not just helpful but necessary to have a transition period in recognition of
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We need a transition period probably of three years, certainly not less than two, to provide time for proper consultation to take place. That is extremely important to win back the confidence of the public because it has been shaken on the basis of considerable amounts of misinformation having been provided. If the public had the opportunity to read the draft national planning policy framework, they would gain a lot of reassurance. The fact of the matter is that many people are disturbed and worried about what the new planning regime portends, so consultation will be particularly important. I would not want to see a truncated process of consultation in the interests of hurrying the process along unduly.
Time will also be needed to assist the process of co-operation between local planning authorities that will no longer be brought together under the umbrella of a regional development agency to facilitate that co-operation. We know that there are tensions-indeed, conflicts of interest-and interests that are very difficult to reconcile between different local planning authorities, so time must be allowed for that process to run its course. The inspectorate will need time, which is why I think three years rather than two years would probably be appropriate, as the noble Lord, Lord Tope, suggested in the debate last Thursday.
Will the Minister take this opportunity not only to say what the Government's view is about a transition period but what supplementary guidance they may be minded to offer? While the Government are entirely entitled to revisit the planning policy statements, those statements are of pretty recent origin and represent a huge amount of work that has been put in by all the relevant expert interests. It would be a shame to discard them altogether. I wonder whether the Government are minded to look at a way in which planning policy statements, appropriately modified and updated to reflect the Government's current policies, could none the less be made part of the system again so that we do not waste all that good will, expertise and very useful practical guidance that went into the development of those statements.
If the Government allow a three-year transition period, they will not abort the development that is so badly needed if we are again to have growth in this country because, unfortunately, the lack of confidence and available finance mean that there is not a lot of development in the pipeline. Even where the necessary confidence and funding exist, there are large numbers of extant planning permissions, so I do not think that a transition period would in any way obstruct the sustainable development that we all want to see in the interests of creating more jobs and homes and ensuring that our economy is modernised and made more powerful and effective. If the noble Baroness is able to indicate the Government's thinking in this regard, more particularly whether their thinking is positive, it would be hugely welcome.
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I spoke briefly on the topic in Committee and I was very glad that it reappeared on the Marshalled List, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Best, as I thought that pre-emption might possibly mean that we would not have the opportunity to discuss what is a really important element of the Bill. I commend both the amendments. The questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, were absolutely pertinent, and I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to answer them in some detail. They go to the heart of what local authorities are trying to do at the moment.
The only thing that I want to say is that we should reflect on what is happening on the ground. These may sound like extremely technical issues, but in fact local authorities, a few of which I have seen in the past week, are wrestling with all manner of different states of maturity in relation to their planning policies: some have completed LDFs, but they do not know what will constitute an up-to-date LDF because of the need to accommodate with the national planning policy framework; some have not completed their LDFs but are quite close to doing so, but they are finding, for example, that their original planning assumptions on housing are being challenged by local people and local developers. Developers are challenging some of the decisions based on the premises that preceded this situation. There is genuine confusion on the ground and a real problem with uncertainty. We all know that the most crucial elements in delivering a proper planning system are certainty and clarity.
The noble Lord was right to raise the issue of planning guidance. When we reflect back on PPS5, one of the reasons why it was such a successful planning statement was that it had a great deal of clear and useful planning guidance, so there is a precedent.
On the transitional period, I know that the Government must have at the back of their minds the fact that almost half of local authorities have not yet completed their LDF in the time available. It was a very difficult challenge that the previous Government imposed on local authorities to take on board for the first time the notion of spatial planning. Too many demands were made on the nature of the conceptualisation and on the nature of the documents, so we cannot easily extrapolate from the time that that took to the time it will take to accommodate the transitional changes. I would ask for a transitional period, but possibly not for as long as two years. I know that clarity and speed are really important and that people need to get on with it and remove the uncertainties.
Finally, we need to bear in mind the fact that all this is happening at a time when local authorities are losing planning staff, conservation staff and some of their most important expertise while being faced with a bank of rolling fog around how to go forward. Anything that the noble Baroness can say to reassure local authorities, and not least noble Lords, will be extremely welcome if it deals with some of these difficult issues on the absence of transitional arrangements.
Lord Cormack: My Lords, I associate myself with the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, who talked about clarity and speed. I think that both the noble Lords, Lord Best and Lord Greaves, have
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The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, was right to indicate that this is not the easiest of times for local authorities. Many have laid off staff and have not replaced conservation officers and people who did a vital job. In my local authority of South Staffordshire, which had an admirable record on these matters, the absolutely first-class conservation officer took early retirement in the early part of last year and has not been replaced. The local authority is trying to replace the work that he did, but without him it is not easy. For every possible reason, therefore, I ask the Minister to let us have a period of orderly transition and progress, so that if we are trying to create a better situation, we do not confound our own efforts by over-haste. Once again, there is good sense in the motto that I have quoted in this House before: festina lente.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, in former times it was the custom of some generals after a victory to allow a limited period for rape and pillage before good order was restored. The thought has been raised in this House and outside that this is what the Government intend with this Bill. Along with my noble friend Lord Cormack, I find myself worried. I do not understand how this transition is to be managed: how we are to get from a position where there are not valid local plans in a large number of local authorities to the position where there are, without there being a succession of undesirable planning permissions given. The core of this Bill is to allow localities to determine what happens in their areas. It would be most unfortunate if we had a period where an awful lot of bad will was created by the exact opposite happening, just because some superior authority had failed to get the ducks in a row.
There seems to me to be three particular issues here. One of them, as has already been touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, is the corpus of knowledge that is currently involved in the planning system. If we uproot that, we will cause delay, doubt, risk and uncertainty. There are economic implications, so we must try to avoid that. We have seen some of the public pronouncements that are based on questions of doubt about what is intended here. A great deal of clarification is needed.
Secondly, the noble Lord, Lord Howarth of Newport, referred to the effect on economic growth. Yes, planning is a huge driver of economic growth in so many ways.
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My last point is to do with neighbourhood plans. I must declare another interest here as the president of the National Association of Local Councils, whose member parish and town councils may be those very bodies that are having to draw up a neighbourhood plan. A neighbourhood plan has to be in conformity with the principal authority's local plan, and if the principal authority's local plan is not in place, or is in disarray or is out of date, then we have a problem. This has a knock-on effect. I ask the Minister to give the House some reassurance that there is going to be some sort of seamless transition that will take place. I do not wish to add to what has already been said about the timescale over which that is to be done; and there may be different timescales for different bits for all I know, but the transition does have to be, to some degree, seamless. With regard to my first point about the economics of doubt, it is very important that we get this right.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, like all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate today, we support the need for transitional provisions that have clarity as to their meaning as well as a reasonable timescale that reflects the capacity both of local planning authorities and of the inspectorate. Like the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, I believe that this is probably the most serious issue left unresolved from Part 5 of the Bill. We hope that we will get a clear message from the Minister today. We added our name to the original amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Best, which bit the dust by being pre-empted, and we support the thrust of the amendments of the noble Lords, Lord Best and Lord Greaves.
It is imperative that we avoid a lacuna, with the prospect of all or most local plans being absent, silent or indeterminate or having policies that are out of date under the current NPPF formulation. Under the presumption in favour of development, this would lead to an emphasis on approving development proposals unless the adverse impacts of development would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits when assessed against the framework policies. I assert that 50-odd pages of framework cannot be an effective substitute for all the local plans and the thousands of pages of guidance that currently exist.
"I'm worried about this. I can see a very silly situation emerging, with the Planning Inspectorate massively overloaded as several hundred LAs seek to get their new plans approved in a short space of time, and the rest of us seek confirmation that our existing Core Strategies conform. Also, the Inspectorate will have to look at everyone's CIL frameworks ... the Inspectorate will be under operational pressure ... and developers will be seeking to use the vacuum in policy (combined with the presumption in favour of sustainable development) to get consents which they
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This is a very serious issue, so the Bill cannot be left as it is. The minimum that we want to hear from the Government is that they will support effective transitional provisions and, after discussion in which I hope we can all be involved, bring forward amendments at Third Reading. I say to noble Lords who tabled the amendments in this group that they should bring them back at Third Reading if the Government do not.
The Government's amendments to Clause 97 that were moved last week hold out the prospect that existing regional spatial strategies and saved structure plan policies will not be revoked until an environmental assessment of the revocation has been undertaken. Perhaps the Minister will explain the position in the interim. Regional spatial strategies and saved structure plan policies could mean that some local authorities will have a core strategy that is effectively complete in the light of those strategies, or intact subject only to the NPPF. Of course, we do not know when the NPPF will be finalised. Will the presumption operate only when that happens? If the presumption is to predate the demise of some or all of the regional spatial strategies, will the NPPF prevail nevertheless? If not, there will be parts of the country where regional spatial strategies will prevail and parts where they will not because they were never completed or because they have been separately revoked. Clearly, there must be a robust transition in place to cover this and myriad other points that noble Lords have raised in the debate. We support the amendments in this group.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): My Lords, I am very grateful that this matter has been raised again and that the noble Lord, Lord Best, has not been done out of his speaking part. It seems that the central issue is the maintenance of up-to-date local plans. They are absolutely essential to set out communities' aspirations for the development of their areas. We are clear that the early review of plans will be the way forward to help manage transitions and deal with local issues arising from, ultimately, the revocation of regional strategies and the introduction of the national planning policy framework.
All of this has been about transitional arrangements. First, these need to be thought through very carefully. Secondly, my honourable friend at the other end has committed us to having transitional arrangements in policy and, where necessary, in guidance. Therefore, consideration to this is already being given. However, I am bound to say that this point has also been raised in the consultation on the NPPF, so the request of the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, that we should come back at Third Reading may not be one on which I can deliver, because consideration may not have been given to what the full-blown transitional arrangements are going to be.
It has been said that not all local authorities have local development plans. In fact 46 per cent do not and they have had more than eight years to produce them. The worry is that if you time limit a transitional
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It may be helpful if I take this opportunity to clarify that the status of local plans will not change when the final national planning policy framework comes into force. Local plans will always be part of the statutory development plan and that is the first port of call for all decisions. As now, decision-makers are able to give weight to emerging plans in planning decisions and that weight will depend on how far these plans have progressed. Therefore, they are capable of being used to help planning decisions wherever they stand at the moment. Nor do our proposals change the situation for authorities who do not have a plan. Such authorities, because they do not have a plan, already have to have regard to all material considerations in their decisions. That will often include national policy. Areas without a local plan are lacking strategic community oversight, and the introduction of the national planning policy framework does not change this position.
As I have said, it is of course open to local councils to decide when they should update their local plans. It is in fact entirely a matter for them, but they are going to be under some pressure if they want to ensure that they have conformity with the national planning policy framework and that they are able to progress their plans in the most up-to-date way.
Transition is going to be helped by councils drawing on evidence that informed the preparation of regional strategies. We understand that that will need to go across. They will need to do that to support their local planning policies, supplemented as needed by up-to-date local evidence. If there are issues that councils regard as being an essential part of the development plan for the purpose of determining planning applications they must undertake an early review and work with local communities as they would be expected to do anyway.
With regard to the national planning policy framework, consultation ended yesterday and, as we said in our debate last week, this has now got to come under consideration. We have listened to the views of local government and we have said that we will put in place transitional arrangements that advantage plan making to reflect the fact that the national planning policy framework is all about putting local communities in control of planning. But the framework is policy, not legislation, as I discussed at some length on Thursday. Any transitional measures will be more appropriately delivered through policy or guidance rather than legislation. I suggested that we may not be able to come back with this at Third Reading, though it is a matter that I will take away. It looks very much as if we will be able to issue guidance within a timescale which we may be able to save.
The draft national planning policy framework offers councils the opportunity to seek a certificate of conformity with national policy, which will help them identify
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I was asked a number of questions and I think that I have answered some of them on the way. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, asked whether there will be regulations and guidance. There will be guidance through the NPPF, but we will need to find out when that will happen.
Lord Howarth of Newport: Will the Minister say a word or two more specifically about the status of the planning policy statements during this transition period and perhaps beyond? She will recall that in the debate last Thursday, the noble Lord, Lord Hart of Chilton, an experienced member of the planning bar, made the point, as did other noble Lords, including me, that the higher the level of generalisation in the national planning policy framework short document, the greater the risk of litigation. He thought that where there was litigation, the courts would take into account the planning policy statements, even if the Government have removed their formal status as policy documents, in default of other clear guidance. Therefore, de facto, the planning policy statements are going to have a status. They are still going to be a force on this scene. Would it not therefore be preferable for the Government to recognise that and embrace them in some appropriate form, given that the high level and major planning policy document will be the national planning policy framework?
Baroness Hanham: They are already going to be able to take into account the emerging NPPF as a policy statement. I should like to go back to the question of whether the PPS and PPG are going form part of it. I suspect that this is all part of the consultation about how much background is going to be needed and how those planning policy statements are going to be included. I will come back to that by Third Reading because I do not have the direct answer at present.
The noble Lords, Lord Greaves and Lord Best, asked about the timescale. I have already said that I do not think we will be putting in a firm timescale. We expect the changes to take place as soon as possible, and we hope that local councils will get a move on with them. I think I said that the transition is going to be helped by drawing on evidence that informed the preparation of the regional strategy, and part of that will be the PPS and PPG. The NPPF will supersede the PPS and PPG, but they stay in place unless and until the Government revoke them.
The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked me about Gypsies. As both of them will know, the draft PPS on that has just been issued for consultation, but local authorities are already required to provide Gypsy sites and, under the duty to co-operate, they are required to work across boundaries to ensure that they have sufficient provision for them.
Lord Avebury: Is the noble Baroness aware that, according to the research conducted by the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain, the revised plans of local authorities following their liberation from the previous regional
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Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I will have to write to the noble Lord on that. I do not know whether these are going to be consolidated. I do know, and have said before, that there is a requirement on local authorities to provide sites and for them to work co-operatively with other local authorities to see that they have sufficient sites for their needs. The noble Lord says there will be 50 per cent less. I will need to come back on that.
I hope that I have more or less dealt with all the questions I have been asked. I sense that I will not totally satisfy noble Lords on the transitional period. I hope there will be an acceptance that a laid-down transitional period has not proved very helpful in the past, and it may not be helpful in the future, but that we are committed to guidance of some sort.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: Before the noble Baroness sits down, I may have missed it and she may have covered it, but we could now have a situation where a local planning authority has a core strategy in place consistent with the existing regional spatial strategy, and that regional spatial strategy, for a period, is not going to be revoked because of the environmental assessment. If in the interim the NPPF is introduced with its presumption in favour of sustainable development, those two will not be identical. Which is going to prevail in the interim in those circumstances?
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, while the regional strategies are there and before they have been revoked, the plan will have to have regard to them. They will also have to have regard to the emerging NPPF in determining a planning application. Unless they conflict wildly, that should work very well. There is going to be a short period only before the regional strategies are revoked. I do not think there will be any inconsistency. Local authorities are going to want to keep only part of the regional strategies in their local development plan and they ought to be able to work in conjunction with the NPPF for the short space of time, if that is necessary.
With the explanations I have given, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Best, will feel able to withdraw his amendment. I am afraid I said that the NPPF consultation ended yesterday; in the interests of accuracy, it ends today.
Lord Greaves: Before my noble friend the Minister sits down, would she consider the possibility that not giving any indication at all to local planning authorities
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Baroness Hanham: Discussions are going on with the Planning Inspectorate at the moment to see what is required to make the examination process quicker. Under the new way of working, local authorities will be able to have single areas examined one at a time instead of the whole policy having to be dealt with. It is well understood that the Planning Inspectorate will be put under pressure and we hope and expect that that will be able to be worked around.
I have said all that I can say about a transitional period. The transitional arrangements will come about as a result of the consultation on the NPPF. The noble Lord thinks that a set period might be a good idea. However, as I said, with the experience of the previous set period, which does not seem to have put any pressure on local authorities, we would need to consider very carefully whether there is any value in having that.
Lord Best: My Lords, we have clearly come a long way since the Committee stage of the Bill and I am very grateful to Members of the House from all sides, who were extremely supportive of these measures to cover this transitional period.
The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, was right in expecting that the best we could hope for was not something in the Bill, but some firm guidance. I fully appreciate that the consultation period finishes only today. Therefore mulling over what others have said and taking it into account may take a little time. However, it would be very helpful before we get to Third Reading if the Minister were able to share her thoughts and put a bit more flesh on the bones of how these transitional arrangements may work. In particular, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has said, perhaps she could give us a little more specificity-if I have got that right-and be a little more definite on the timescales that local authorities will be expected to adopt-indeed, timescales that are reasonable in the circumstances and allow sensible things to happen.
I must acknowledge a very helpful meeting with Greg Clark down the other end. I am expecting the outcome of this to be positive and helpful, even if it comes in the form of guidance and is not in the Bill. Perhaps I may reserve the right to bring this back at Third Reading if by that stage we find that very little progress-I do not think that that will happen-has been made. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
204GA: Clause 103, page 82, line 33, leave out from "section" to end of line 38 and insert "205(2) (requirement to aim to ensure that overall purpose of the levy is to ensure that costs of providing infrastructure to support development of an area can be funded by owners or developers of land)-
(a) for "providing infrastructure to support" substitute "supporting", and
(b) after "land" insert "in a way that does not make development of the area economically unviable".
(2B) In section 211(4) (particular provision that may be included in regulations about setting rates, or other criteria, by reference to which the amount of levy chargeable is to be determined) after paragraph (a) insert-
"(aa) to have regard, to the extent and in the manner specified by the regulations, to actual and expected costs of anything other than infrastructure that is concerned with addressing demands that development places on an area (whether by reference to lists prepared by virtue of section 216(5)(a) or otherwise);
(ab) to have regard, to the extent and in the manner specified by the regulations, to other actual and expected sources of funding for anything other than infrastructure that is concerned with addressing demands that development places on an area;"."
We set out our commitment to consider whether the existing restrictions on the use of the CIL-community infrastructure levy-receipts are drawn in precisely the right way to best support and enable new development and growth. We have considered this alongside our changes at Clause 103, through which we will place control over a meaningful proportion of levy receipts with the neighbourhoods and communities that accept new development and growth. We are consulting on our proposals to use the powers to require local authorities to pass on a proportion of levy receipts raised from development in an area where there is a parish or community council for that area.
Where no parish or community council exists, we will use existing guidance to require local authorities to apply an equivalent amount to addressing the demands of hosting new development in the area and to engage with the community in determining how that proportion of the funds will be spent.
Amendments 204HB and 204JC extend the permitted uses of this proportion of the funds to allow it to be used to support development by providing infrastructure or addressing any other demands that development places on the area. First, any body to which funds are passed under new Section 216A will benefit from these wider spending powers. Secondly, where a charging authority does not have to pass funds under Section 216A, we will have the power to specify that they can use a proportion of the CIL funds in this way. It is our
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Our amendments will allow receipts raised from new development to be applied to the range of costs that it creates. They strike the right balance between enabling funds to be directed to the localised demands that development places on the areas that host it and the cumulative burdens that development creates across the local authority and wider area. The levy is to support new development. While the provision of infrastructure is essential to physically unlock new development, it is not the only matter that needs to be addressed to make development acceptable and sustainable to the communities that are asked to host it.
At the neighbourhood level, the impacts of development are more localised, direct and diverse. The impacts will, for the most part, be concerned with local infrastructure, but communities often identify other unfunded pressures on local services as the reason why new development is not acceptable. If communities are to accept and welcome growth, they must be satisfied that they will not suffer as a result of doing so. By placing a meaningful proportion of the contribution that new development makes under the control of the community that hosts it, and by giving that community the flexibility to spend those funds on the matters that it identifies need to be addressed, we will ensure that communities share in the benefits of growth rather than suffer as a result of it. When residents see and understand that development is making a fair contribution towards meeting the demands that it places on their communities, they will be more likely to accept and, indeed, welcome it.
Our amendments will enable the levy to support new development more effectively. The levy will mean that more development can go ahead by providing a valuable contribution towards delivering the infrastructure needed to unlock and enable it, and by ensuring that communities have reasons to say yes to growth. In making our changes we have taken the opportunity to make economic viability an explicit component of the purpose of the instrument. This will mean that local authorities must ensure that charges are reasonable and do not prejudice the delivery of their local plans, including matters such as affordable housing.
My noble friend Lord Jenkin has tabled Amendments 204H and 204J, which are concerned with restricting spending of the levy to matters publicly identified by the local authority that charges it. It may be helpful to the House if I use his amendments as a peg to provide further reassurance. I fully understand my noble friend's concern to ensure that use of the levy should be transparent; indeed, it must be if developers and communities are to see and understand how the contributions are being used to support development and manage its impacts. That is why we are strengthening, through the levy and the town and country planning regulations, the requirement for local authorities to report openly and regularly on levy income and expenditure.
Our experience from the front runners scheme, which is supporting more than 33 local authorities to implement the levy, is that local authorities are in any case choosing to publish a list of their spending intentions. This demonstrates that a flexible approach to infrastructure lists is working and that a more prescriptive approach is not needed at this time. The legislation already allows for regulations to require them to do so, should we wish to in the future.
I appreciate my noble friend's concerns, but I hope that he will be reassured by the steps that we are taking to improve transparency and accountability of levy income and expenditure, agrees that our changes are the right means to achieve that, and will be willing not to pursue his amendments. I beg to move.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for the care with which he has set out these quite significant changes to the whole process of charging and applying the community infrastructure levy-or CIL, as he called it. We have moved a long way from the original intention of the CIL. In the Planning Act 2008, Section 205 states:
"In making the regulations the Secretary of State shall aim to ensure that the overall purpose of CIL is to ensure that costs incurred in providing infrastructure to support the development of an area can be funded ... by owners or developers of land".
It was perfectly clear to those of us who debated those provisions during the passage of the Planning Act 2008 what the previous Government were looking at. For instance, if you build a large housing estate, that is going to involve the building of roads. It may well involve the provision of a new school, and a number of other capital infrastructure measures that are necessary to support the community that will be enlarged by the main application when it is allowed and when it takes place.
It is quite clear from what my noble friend has said that we are moving a long way from that. It has caused a good deal of concern among those who are anxious to champion the promotion of more infrastructure. The British Property Federation, referring to what he called a "raft of new amendments", has said:
"The upgrading of the country's infrastructure is vital for our future economic success and the contribution from CIL will be a critical part of that at a time when public funding is heavily constrained".
The letter that I had from my noble friend Lady Hanham, dated 7 October-just a few days ago-makes it perfectly clear that, under the new arrangements proposed, the CIL is not limited to providing infrastructure. Having set out the proposals, she writes:
It may be that, in the new planning regime, it will be desirable to provide means whereby local communities can feel that they are getting some benefit. This may not take the form of schools or roads but may be some other form of benefit that will compensate them for the impact of the development to which they might otherwise have been opposed. I have always quoted the example of the French electricity system; if you want to build a new power station, in order to reconcile the local population to having to put up with that-after all it involves substantial interference in their normal lives, not only during the building but during the operation-they get electricity at a cheaper rate. That seems to me to be a very sensible thing to do. I am therefore not opposed to the idea that we need to provide something that will secure the consent, as my noble friend was saying, of the local community to the development that is being imposed upon them and to which they might have been quite vigorously opposed.
However, one point that I want to emphasise is still unclear, and I would welcome it if my noble friend could clarify this when he winds up. If councils in spending the CIL are confined to providing infrastructure, which is what I understood him to say and what my noble friend Lady Hanham said in her letter, spending at the local authority level must continue to be directed to the provision of infrastructure. That is fine, but then we are faced with the proposition that a "meaningful proportion" of the proceeds of the CIL, which is charged on the developer, can be devolved to the local parish or community, which, as I understand it, is free to spend it on anything it thinks would improve the condition of the community. What is a "meaningful proportion"? As I understand it, a local authority will be perfectly free to say, "We don't think any more roads are necessary or that we need to build a new school, or anything like that, and therefore 100 per cent of the CIL for this particular development is going to be devolved to the local parish or community to spend as it wishes".
I made the point previously in Committee that the CIL must not simply be used as a way of filling the gaps in local authority spending. It is not intended for that. It is intended to balance the provision of a planning application for a new structure of some sort with the infrastructure that is necessary for it. I have of course accepted that that must include the operation, maintenance and upkeep of the infrastructure, a matter that we discussed at length in Committee, but is there no limit to what the devolved body, parish, community or whatever it is can spend of the "meaningful proportion" that is delegated to it?
There is a good deal of concern about this among various bodies. The County Surveyors' Society, which I understand is now called ADEPT, the British Chambers of Commerce, the British Property Federation, the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation and the local government tactical advisers group have all expressed the concern that this seems to be slipping away to the point at which it is simply providing inducements-I will not use the word "bribes"-to
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I come to my two amendments, on which my noble friend has given his views. Amendment 204H would make a minor change to replace "may" with "must", and would compel planning authorities to outline the infrastructure that they actually intend to support through CIL. If local authorities are going to have to confine their spending of CIL to infrastructure, I see no reason why they should not be instructed by the Act to outline the infrastructure they intend to support. Amendment 204J is also intended to link the evidence base used to justify an area's CIL charging schedule to the levy's actual expenditure. As I think my noble friend recognised, these are both intended to add to the transparency of the application of what CIL is: a tax on development. So far as local authorities are concerned, I see no reason why both these amendments should not be applied to them.
That leaves the "meaningful proportion" that is to be spent by other people. At the moment I feel that it is wide open for them to decide more or less what they would like to spend it on. I cannot believe that that is a wise way to spend the proceeds of what is in fact a tax. I hope that my noble friend can reassure me on this, but I have to tell him that there is a good deal of apprehension out there. He has told me that he has come under a lot of pressure from local authority and other community interests, which are saying that this sort of thing is necessary in order to reconcile people to new development in their area. But there must be some sort of limit on it, and I am not sure that the government amendments moved by my noble friend and the explanation set out in my noble friend's letter of 7 October give that reassurance. I hope that my noble friend will be able to allay my anxieties.
Lord Shipley: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend Lord Jenkin on the need to be clearer on the gain to neighbourhoods and parishes from the community infrastructure levy. Whether that is done in the Bill, through guidance or by other means, it will be extremely important that local people in neighbourhood areas where development is taking place understand what the community gain might be as a consequence of that development.
My point is a parallel issue which relates to the duty to co-operate. It is implicit in the Bill that there is a duty to co-operate between councils on the community infrastructure levy. However, I am not certain that it is sufficiently explicit and in urban areas where there are boundaries between different local authorities, a development that could take place wholly in one council area might well impact upon the infrastructure and the well-being of one or more neighbouring council areas. To what extent should we make it explicit that there should be a duty to co-operate between local authorities on the community infrastructure levy where a development is taking place very close to a boundary? That will need to be clear, certainly by Third Reading, otherwise there could be a great deal of strain between
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Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, we share some of the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, and have some sympathy with his amendments. When we discussed this issue at Committee I thought we had established that, as previously structured, CIL gave quite a lot of scope for supporting local communities beyond what one might think of as the very strict interpretation of infrastructure, but this seems to be taking us a step further. The letter that I had from the noble Baroness was, I think, generally circulated and says:
"We are proposing amendments that would allow local authorities and parish and community councils to use this proportion of the funds to support development by providing infrastructure or addressing any other matter necessary to address the demands that new development places on the local area".
The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, raises a different point about what happens with adjoining authorities and how that fits together with the duty to co-operate. We also need to consider how this sort of formulation fits together with Clause 130, which we are going to discuss in due course. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, said that he would not go so far as to call this a bribe, but it is potentially a substantial inducement to an area to accept development and we need to reflect on that as well. Having expressed concerns about the possible dilution of funding for infrastructure, which is needed up and down our country, I pose the question that we raised when we covered it in Committee-my apologies to the Minister if he covered it-about the prospect of CIL being used for affordable housing. I am not sure where that discussion has gone, but there have been some real questions asked about the extension of CIL which takes it beyond its original intent. The new intent is not necessarily bad, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, said, but we need to reflect on what it means for the funding that is available for infrastructure in an area.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this short debate. Responding first to my noble friend Lord Jenkin, yes, we have moved a long way with the community infrastructure levy. My noble friend talked about Section 205 and the restrictions on the application of CIL. He is accurate in terms of history but he will recognise the need to develop good policies as time goes on. He kindly organised a meeting between me, him and the Institution of Civil Engineers, which I found useful.
My noble friend referred to local needs and to changing attitudes. We need to change attitudes because, quite often, the knee-jerk reaction can often be "no", and that is not helpful for development. Local authorities are best placed to determine the infrastructure need in terms of logistics and so on, but local communities are best placed to determine their much more local needs.
My noble friend asked what a meaningful proportion of CIL is. We are consulting on the matter and have invited views on the question. We have not taken a
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My noble friend also asked whether there was any limit on how a meaningful proportion must be used. Our changes allow for a proportion of CIL receipts to support development of parish and neighbourhood areas by providing either infrastructure or anything else that is concerned with meeting the demands that the development places on the area. However, the spending must support development of the area. It may not be used to fill gaps in local authority resources. I am happy to give that reassurance.
We are making this change because new development creates local demands that are concerned with matters other than infrastructure. For instance, the provision of new dwellings will increase the population of an area and new or extended office premises will increase the number of people working in an area. Increased numbers of residents or people coming into an area to work will create demands on services in the area, including transport, training, education, health, social and other services, community assets and utilities.
The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, asked about affordable housing. When setting a CIL charge a local authority must have regard to the viability of development in its area. In considering this viability, the local authority must take into account requirements normally provided for through Section 106-for instance, affordable housing-that will arise from the development. My noble friend will recall that we have tightened up on the use of Section 106.
The statutory framework for CIL provides for protection for affordable housing. This was, no doubt, in the minds of the previous Administration when they implemented the levy. However, we acknowledge that the guidance does not set this out as clearly and robustly as it could. We will revisit the guidance to make it clear that the imposition of a levy must not harm the delivery of affordable housing or other local policies set out in the local plan. I have asked my officials to work with the National Housing Federation to develop appropriate changes and we will reflect on the outcome in updated guidance from the Secretary of State. We are consulting on whether to allow CIL receipts to be used to fund affordable housing. We have asked for views on whether this approach could support local delivery of affordable housing by improving outcomes and offering better value for money. We will determine whether to make the change once we have received and considered the responses.
Inspiration has arrived to answer the question of my noble friend Lord Shipley, who asked to what extent authorities should be required to co-operate in using CIL receipts. This legislation allows authorities
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Lord McKenzie of Luton: I do not believe I said that. I was referring to how it was not described by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, to touch upon the fact that if these are inducements for communities to accept development, we need to reflect on the issues we are going to discuss in relation to Clause 130. I was not arguing in favour of bribing communities.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: Is my noble friend prepared to consider further any limitations in the amendments that he has put down, which say in several places, for instance, "for 'projects' substitute 'anything'"? The concern is that it is "anything", not just "projects". Would he consider further representations on that subject?
"(za) in subsection (1) (levy to be used to fund infrastructure, or pay compensation under section 219)-
(i) for "section" substitute "sections 216A(1), 216B(2) and", and
(ii) for "funding infrastructure" substitute "supporting development by funding the provision, improvement, replacement, operation or maintenance of infrastructure",
(zb) in subsection (2) (meaning of "infrastructure" in subsection (1)) for "subsection (1)" substitute "this section (except subsection (3)) and sections 216A(2) and 216B(2)",
(zc) in subsection (4)(a) (power to specify facilities that are to be, or not to be, funded) for "that are to be, or not to" substitute "whose provision, improvement or replacement may or is to be, or may not","
204GC: Clause 103, page 82, line 42, leave out ", operational and promotional activities" and insert "activities and operational activities (including operational activities of a promotional kind) in connection with infrastructure"
"(ab) things within section 216A(2)(b) that may or are to be, or may not be, funded by CIL passed to a person in discharge of a duty under section 216A(1),
(ac) things within section 216B(2)(b) that may or are to be, or may not be, funded by CIL to which provision under section 216B(2) relates,",
(aa) in subsection (4)(b) (power to specify criteria for determining areas in relation to which infrastructure may be funded) for "in relation to which infrastructure may be funded" substitute "that may benefit from funding",
(ab) in subsection (5)(a) (power to require authorities to list projects that are to be, or may be, funded) for "projects that are" substitute "what is",
(ac) in subsection (5)(c) (power to make provision about funding projects not on list) for "projects" substitute "anything","
(c) in subsection (6)(c) (regulations may permit funding of administrative expenses in connection with infrastructure) after "infrastructure" insert "or anything within section 216A(2)(b) or 216B(2)(b)", and
(d) in subsection (6)(e) (regulations may make provision for the use of funding where the projects to be funded no longer require funding)-
(i) for "the projects" substitute "anything", and
(ii) for "require" substitute "requires"."
(a) the provision, improvement, replacement, operation or maintenance of infrastructure, or
(b) anything else that is concerned with addressing demands that development places on an area."
(a) there is an area to which a particular duty under section 216A(1) relates, and
(b) there is also an area to which that duty does not relate ("the uncovered area").
(a) support development by funding the provision, improvement, replacement, operation or maintenance of infrastructure, or
(b) support development of the uncovered area, or of any part of that area, by funding anything else that is concerned with addressing demands that development places on an area.
(a) to all CIL (if any) received in respect of the area to which the provision relates, or
(b) such part of that CIL as is specified in, or determined under or in accordance with, CIL regulations.""
"( ) Where a local authority has a scheme or process of neighbourhood engagement and localised planning that promotes and enables the involvement of the residents and businesses of its area, within their local neighbourhoods, and that process has been agreed by the Secretary of State to-
(a) meet the objectives set out in section 61F, 5(a)(i) and (ii) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as amended by Schedule 9 to this Act, and
(b) constitute a sufficient process of local engagement to enable the making of neighbourhood development orders and neighbourhood plans on the basis of informed involvement and consent,
Lord True: My Lords, in moving this amendment I should remind the House that I lead a London borough council, and one that under successive administrations has been and is a localist council. We are actually slightly unusual in having a regional plan that is going to stay in place, and also an adopted core strategy. We are now very actively involved with local communities in trying to create what we call "village plans", but for the sake of this argument I will call "neighbourhood plans". I do not think we need to be told by a government Bill how to go about this. I hope that does not sound too vainglorious.
I am a strong supporter of giving people the opportunity, and where opportunity is not given the right and the power, to directly influence decisions affecting their lives. Nothing in the amendment before the House detracts from that. My noble friend has been an absolutely admirable listener on this Bill. The Government have made major changes, on shadow mayors, EU fines, referendums, the right to challenge and on assets of community value. I do not ask for sweeping change on neighbourhood planning. I support the Government's wish to have local involvement in
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I also recognise the Government's wish to have back-stop-as I think it should be-regulation to enable local public engagement with planning where that is not happening. That may be necessary where communities are systematically excluded from having a voice in planning. Of course they should have a voice, and that inspiration behind the Bill is right. My amendment does nothing to stop that. The amendment proposes a system that allows the Secretary of State to permit local variety and discretion-that is, more localism and, I would argue, more trust in the best-performing local authorities.
On neighbourhood planning so far in the Bill, the Government have set down one model in the rather compendious schedules. Surely councils that are engaged in local neighbourhood planning can be approved, indeed encouraged, to go on doing so in their own way. My amendment also seeks to allow that, if other local authorities have a scheme for neighbourhood planning to do the job in ways that do not coincide in every dot and comma with what is in these labyrinthine schedules, they can be given the go-ahead and frankly be spared the constant potential challenge to react to a parallel national regulatory model at the same time. We have to go on from where we are now and from where we started. With a more permissive approach, we might even learn something from the differing approaches of differing councils and communities, with different sizes and places, run by people often with different views. A more permissive approach goes with the spirit of the Bill and in no way against it.
If there is in place a solid, reputable process in which hundreds, perhaps thousands, of local people have become engaged, why in principle should that local authority and those local communities be caught up with having to consider or fend off demands to set up a neighbourhood forum from what may be groups of as few as 21 people? As we argued in Committee, these may sometimes even be malcontents who have lost out in community debates, perhaps people who even court rejection by the council as a device to gain publicity. That is not necessary in the ideal world. I fear we may confuse the means of how to do this with the ends, on which I sense there is wide agreement in the House.
I set out in Committee a number of detailed aspects in the Bill's area planning procedures that I do not understand. In particular, I do not understand why, under new Section 61G(2) that Schedule 9 to the Bill will insert into the 1990 Act, a local authority can designate neighbourhood areas only where a would-be forum asks for one. Why on earth can a council, informed by its knowledge of local events and the surveys it has done with local people, not go ahead and designate its own neighbourhood areas? I do not see why urban neighbourhood planning has to be done through forums that, by definition, are made up of the few rather than the many in any given area. I have argued in various places that the default position
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I have not tabled again the amendments that I tabled in Committee that dealt with a number of those issues. I hope that my noble friend the Minister may even now be able to reflect on them and clarify some of those detailed points as we move towards Third Reading. They are embraced within the case for allowing different approaches made in the amendment.
In concluding, I must emphasise that my proposal is not made from the standpoint of one who opposes the Bill. It is made on the basis of active commitment and experience, as with many other noble Lords who spoke, in seeking to put the principles of this Bill into practice. From that standpoint I must say-and I have had this from a number of other council leader colleagues-that the creation or imposition of a parallel system of challenge by would-be forums will in some cases not be a help but potentially a hindrance.
When the principle of allowing the best performing authorities freedom to do local planning in their own way was debated in Committee, I felt I had wide support from various parts of the House. I have been very grateful for discussions and conversations with Mr Greg Clark and with my noble friend and I am perfectly ready to accept that my amendment may not be the perfect route. It may indeed be that devising an exemption system run by the Secretary of State would create its own complexities. It may be that the operation of the system in this Bill, given the undesirability of seeking to run two parallel systems together, can be clarified in the guidance we hear about. I apologise that I have not had an opportunity to study in detail the draft guidance I hear has been published.
One way or another my fundamental plea, in which I am grateful for the backing of London Councils, is that local authorities engaged in robust neighbourhood planning should not also have to grapple with the parallel legislative and regulatory framework currently enshrined in the Bill. I believe, I hope not naively, that freedom would encourage and stimulate the best councils to be leaders in neighbourhood planning. I believe, and I know from our conversations, that my noble friend and her right honourable and honourable friends share that commitment to localism and neighbourhood planning, and so I hope even now that the Government may be able to offer some more flexible way forward on this very difficult, but I believe important, matter. I beg to move.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, I enthusiastically support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord True. I do not want to repeat everything he said about the common sense of building on existing successful systems and structures rather than trying either to set up a separate parallel structure, as the noble Lord suggested may well happen, or alternatively closing down something that exists or trying to transform it into a template imposed from on high.
I have been involved in the idea of getting people in communities to take a much greater involvement in local affairs generally, and in planning specifically, for about 40 years now. Forty years ago, when some of us started to talk like this, we met total opposition, and indeed hostility, from almost everybody else in British politics outside the Liberal Party at that time. Opinion has so changed that we have won the argument over those years. The last Labour Government talked about double devolution-central government devolving powers, and perhaps even resources, to local authorities and the local authorities devolving them to "communities". It never actually happened very much but there was a lot of talk about it.
In the present Government we have had the idea of the big society coming from the Conservatives and, separately really but perhaps as part of that-I have never really been quite sure-the idea of neighbourhood planning, which is a very strong part of this Bill. Always, mechanisms are difficult because there are always the questions: "What is a community?" and "Who are the big society?". Many of us have argued for a long time that, on a democratic basis, the default position is: "The many, not the few", as the noble Lord, Lord True, said. A neighbourhood is a clearly definable entity, unlike a community which is much more difficult to define as you may have several communities in a neighbourhood. In a neighbourhood you start off from the basis that everybody who lives there is a member of that neighbourhood and you build it from the bottom upwards. Of course, some do not want to take part in it but that is up to them.
As regards who in the neighbourhood area takes part, lots of councils of pretty well all dispositions have been working hard on this idea in their patches. In a truly localist way, they are approaching the matter in different ways that are appropriate to their area, the ideas of the people who live in that area and, indeed, the people on the local authority, so the systems that exist in many parts of the country are different. There are obviously similarities but, basically, each area has built its own system according to its own circumstances: the noble Lord waxes lyrical about Richmond; my noble friend Lord Tope could wax equally lyrical about Sutton; and I could go on for ever about attempts to do all this in Pendle, some of which have been very successful. Many others could make similar remarks, but the systems are all different.
However, the real problem arises when central government comes along and, in order to do something which is very worth while, imposes a national template on very different systems. Where there is nothing at all, that is a good way to tackle this matter as at least you get people going. However, where measures exist on the ground, it is counterproductive and, indeed, ridiculous to force people to spend a lot of time either closing something down in order to start something else up or, indeed, trying to adjust and adapt to the new rules and regulations coming from on high. Therefore, I very much support this amendment. If nothing else, I hope that the Government will be rather more flexible in carrying out this measure than seems to be the case at the moment.
Lord Newton of Braintree: My Lords, I had hoped to be here the other night when I thought that we would reach my noble friend's amendment. I was sorry that I was not able to be present, but then the amendment was not reached. We have now reached it and I am per contra glad to be here to add my support for what my noble friend has proposed. However, I am very conscious that the word on the street is that everybody wants to see the back of this wretched Bill today, even though it is less wretched than it was before my noble friend started amending it, and I do not want to delay the House. Indeed, I may shortly put myself beyond temptation in order to avoid doing so later.
Meanwhile, the House is already aware that I think this Bill is misnamed. Certainly, as it started, it was not a Localism Bill but a centralism Bill because "localism" meant what the Secretary of State said that it meant, not what local authorities decided that it meant. This debate is essentially on that very point.
I do not pretend to wish to defend the detail of the amendment, any more than my noble friend did. However, its fundamental thrust is that, where satisfactory local arrangements to achieve the Government's objective exist, the Government should not stamp on them and insist that they are replaced with a template-I repeat the word used by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves-imposed from the centre. I cannot see any sense in that. It is the opposite of localism and common sense, and the Government need to look at it again.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I entirely support my noble friend's amendment for two principal reasons. One is that local authorities can game the system anyway-all they do is get their councillors to get a group of 20 members round locally and kick off the process that is in the Bill. That will be an expensive and tiresome way of doing it and will result in councils being divided up on ward boundaries, which is not perhaps the right way of doing it because wards have been created for equality of size and electoral convenience rather than to encompass natural communities.
My other reason for supporting the amendment is that it is the best hope-despite all the other hopes that I shall express later in respect of my amendments-of getting the Bill to work in cities. As it stands, the Bill has very little to offer a city community. What a city wants, by and large, is the local application of the policies of its council rather than a hand in planning, where in a built-out environment there is very little to offer. Co-operation and working with the council to establish the area that is a neighbourhood will be a great deal easier if that comes from the council rather than a community that does not exist and has no momentum or reason to create itself. The whole process of creating neighbourhoods will happen much better in cities when guided by councils. If we consider not just relatively easy parts, such as Lavender Hill, but areas where communities are at loggerheads, how the system set out in the Bill will work when it will merely become a vehicle for neighbourhood power struggles rather than anything really creative, is beyond me. The department needs to get a grip on the question of cities, particularly inner-cities, and how we are to bring the benefits of the Bill to them.
My noble friend's amendment seems to address this most constructively, and I hope that the department, even at this stage, will start to pay some attention to that. We all had a wake-up in our holidays and reappeared here when we suddenly discovered that communities in cities were not as strong as we might have liked to hope. This is the "Department for Communities" and it ought to be doing something, but it is not, I am sad to say.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I got more supportive of the amendment the longer the debate went on. I was almost there when the noble Lord, Lord True, had finished his introduction. Let me say, first, that a world in which the noble Lord, Lord Newton, is beyond temptation is not something that I wish to contemplate.
We accept entirely the thrust of the proposition of the noble Lord, Lord True. If you have robust engagement with communities that works and delivers, why tear that up and replace it with something else? However, there is a conundrum. What will the process be by which we say that not only is the existing process sufficient but we have to withdraw from parish councils the other opportunities that are provided in the Bill in respect of the creation of neighbourhood forums? One might read the proposition in the noble Lord's amendment to say that that has to be decided between local authorities and the Secretary of State. Of course, that would leave out the voices of the community.
I agree with what the amendment is trying to achieve, but-perhaps the noble Lord has simply truncated his presentation and has thought this through-how you decide whether what is working locally is sufficient such that you will not apply those other provisions in the Bill is a question that needs to be answered. One could not disagree with the proposition that, if you have good engagement at the moment in a variety of different circumstances across the country-particularly important is the issue of urban communities, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said-that should be preserved. How you do it and how you switch off the other mechanisms is key.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, once again we have had an interesting debate on this part of the Bill and I am grateful to those who have taken part. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, for putting his finger on one of the conundrums. One would have to decide how you work out how a local authority is doing it better than anyone else. That is perhaps something that will have to be decided anyway in the course of the process that has been laid out.
This amendment would allow a local authority to make a neighbourhood plan or order without a referendum being held or a neighbourhood forum being established. The basis on which this decision would be made is whether the local authority has an adequate process of neighbourhood engagement-I am not quite sure that that is how my noble friend put it, but I think that that is what it means-to enable the formation of neighbourhood plans. It is, as he suggested, a permissive approach. Whether this process is adequate will be determined, as the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, has said, by the Secretary of State-which is not a terribly localist aspiration.
The effect of the amendment would be to give a very significant degree of power to the Secretary of State. I wonder whether that is entirely what is wanted. The Secretary of State would be allowed to control the neighbourhood planning process and bypass the referendum stage, because he would have to agree whether a local council is well advanced in what it was doing. I fully appreciate, however, the noble Lord's concerns about the delay in holding a referendum on a neighbourhood plan or the way that it can be demonstrably shown that the local planning authority and the community at large are content for the neighbourhood plan or order to come into force.
I have previously said that, under the current proposals, if the local authority and the neighbourhood forum, or parish council, are in agreement over proposals, they have the option of using development plan documents, supplementary planning documents and local development orders to take forward the policies, or give permission to developers, without the need for a referendum. Where this is not the case, it is essential that the neighbourhood plan has the support of those who have a real interest in the planning of the neighbourhood area and the proposals that are developed. There is a project here for local people to get involved in what their own areas are going to look like. This support needs to be clearly demonstrated. A referendum will give everyone in the community the opportunity to have their say and demonstrate evidence of community support in a manner which cannot be demonstrated through a petition or consultation.
The referendum in that situation-where you have the neighbourhood forum-is important in retaining the credibility of the principle that this is a community-led system, with the local planning authority's role being one of facilitating and enabling the community to draw up plans at the neighbourhood level.
We have previously discussed the fact that no neighbourhood has to have a forum. It is not a requirement. If a neighbourhood does not want to have a forum and it is happy to rely on the local development plan or local development orders, that is perfectly permissible. There is nothing to stop that at all. But this moves me on to my noble friend's concerns-which he has raised on several occasions-about the situation where there are established groups in the local authority and where the authority already has well advanced plans.
I hope my noble friend will accept if I say that I will undertake to look again- without making any commitment at this stage-at the position which he has described, with a view to possibly returning to the matter at Third Reading. This is not an easy matter, but we ought to allow the opportunity to have a last look at it, before this Bill passes from this House.
Lord True:My Lords, of course I am extremely grateful for what my noble friend has said. As I have said in my opening remarks, she has been an outstanding
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I do not wish to trouble the scorers any longer: On this Bill I have troubled them almost as much as my noble friend Lord Newton of Braintree. I am grateful for the support of all noble Lords who spoke. There is a principle of concern here. The answer in brief to the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, who asked how we would get out of this problem, is "What a pity we got into it". Localism was going along very happily in many parts of the country until the Government came along, plonked down a Bill and said: "This is how you do localism, boys and girls". I drafted my amendment to try to give content and relief to the Secretary of State, who seemed to want to designate a system to allow him at least to take a view on whether what was going on was satisfactory.
I would rather have an alternative to a back-stop power. I have always thought that a problem in many sections of the Bill is that a back-stop piece of legislation that should have guaranteed certain rights has become potentially all-embracing. I am not trying to push the Secretary of State into anything: it is a way of trying to find a solution. The Secretary of State has already come into the question.
Without further ado, I again thank my noble friend for what she said, thank other noble Lords who spoke and express the hope that we can find a solution to what other noble Lords have agreed is a real conundrum. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
In the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007, after section 80 insert-
(a) the area of the neighbourhood area, or
(b) the area of the neighbourhood area together with the area of an adjacent parish council.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, it has been drawn to my attention that there is a typo in my proposed new Section 80A(3). It refers to subsection (2)(a) instead of (2)(b). The misprint will be obvious to anybody reading it. I am sure that it was my fingers that got it wrong and not the Public Bill Office.
The amendment tackles the problem of the democratic deficit and creates the opportunity for more democratic legitimacy in unparished areas where neighbourhood areas and neighbourhood forums may be set up. It does this by amending the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, covered by Schedule 9 to this Bill, which then affects the sections of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 that cover community governance reviews. It is slightly complicated, but I think that what is set out is clear.
I remind noble Lords that in parished areas, the body that will be responsible for neighbourhood planning-for the creation of a neighbourhood plan or of neighbourhood development orders-is the parish council. In unparished areas, the local planning authority can, on request, designate a neighbourhood area; and no fewer than 21 people in that area can be designated as a neighbourhood forum. Clearly in that situation there is a democratic deficit in the formation and accountability of the neighbourhood forum compared with parished areas where there is an elected local authority-the parish council-responsible for carrying out the work.
This is a modest proposal. It does not force anything on anybody. It seeks to give a neighbourhood forum-where it exists and is recognised by the local planning authority for the purposes of neighbourhood planning, and where it believes that it would be advantageous to convert into an elected parish council-an easier and quicker means of doing that than exists at the moment. The Government recognise the problem. After the summer the Minister wrote a number of letters to various Members of the House setting out the views of the Government on this. I want to quote from the letter to my noble friend Lord Shipley, because when I was digging this out I could not find the letter to me, which I think includes the same stuff. My noble friend Lord Shipley apologises for not being present at this debate on a topic which he has raised repeatedly. He has had to go to another gathering in order to make a speech.
"In these neighbourhood areas, we have sought to recognise the democratic legitimacy of parish councils by ensuring that, within an area that includes any part of a parished area, only the parish council has a mandate to undertake a neighbourhood plan. We would therefore encourage communities to use the opportunity of preparing a neighbourhood plan to consider whether they wanted to apply to become a parish, town or community council-with the extra powers and responsibilities that brings".
The problem with the way that the Government want to go ahead on this is that where a neighbourhood forum and a neighbourhood wish to consider setting up a parish council, the process under a community
17 Oct 2011 : Column 45
This amendment puts forward a means by which a neighbourhood forum can require a community governance review covering just its area, which has to take place fairly quickly. It also provides for a presumption that, unless there are some very good reasons, it will be approved. That is the purpose of this amendment. What I would really like to come out of this debate today is for the Government to tell us how they intend to tackle this problem, which they have recognised, and how they will make sure that there are more community governance reviews for more parish and town councils, particularly in urban areas where they do not exist at the moment, and where local people, through the neighbourhood forum, actually want them. They should not be compulsory by any means, but there should be a means by which a lot more could be created. I beg to move.
The Earl of Lytton: My Lords, I support the principle behind the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. I cannot speak to the wording, even less to the typos I am afraid, but noble Lords will of course know of my interest in parish and town councils. At present a parish council is the only community-based organisation that combines a democratic base, truly local roots and a statutory status. So it has a special cachet from that point of view, and indeed many communities aspire to that status. Crucially it is independent of other local government bodies in having its own power to precept, and that of course gives it a financial independence as well.
The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has touched on this, and it is certainly no reflection on the borough-which I think has an exemplary record towards communities in its area-of the noble Lord, Lord True, who I see is no longer in his place, but some local authorities have been obstructive to the formation of new parish and town councils, and I do not think that there is any point in overlooking that. That has happened on occasions despite an authentic and well-argued local desire having been put forward.
I would put one caveat in here and that is that the geographical template for new parishes in unparished areas needs to be a reasonably good fit. I am concerned not so much about the precise geography as about the cohesion and the identity which is to some extent reflected, as it must be, in geography. Size is clearly not the main issue because, up and down the country, we have very large and very small parish and town councils. One feature that they benefit from is that they serve the needs of the community and have grown up to reflect that community, whether large or small, over very many years.
I welcome the sentiment behind this amendment, which I see as a way of effectively creating, to some extent, the possibility of a fast-track route to parish and town council creation. It enables neighbourhood forums that wish to to migrate to the statutory basis where they can join and become one of the family of democratic structures that form the first tier of local government. I welcome the principle behind this amendment and I hope that the Minister will be able to give a positive response.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I have an amendment which covers very much this area-Amendment 210AC-which I do not now have to speak to, I am delighted to say. I agree with everything that has been said. I will add just one rider to it. It seems to me that where a community has got itself together and has gone to the lengths of putting together a neighbourhood plan, dealing with the criticisms of it and then winning a referendum, that should count for something in the arguments with its local authority about whether it should be a parish. At the moment it does not, and I think that it should.
Lord Newton of Braintree: My Lords, I cannot resist the temptation, so clearly I am going to have to go shortly. Meanwhile, I have been tempted. Perhaps I may ask a possibly elementary and perhaps even naïve question. How does all this relate to the fact that, in my understanding, and certainly in my neck of the woods, the concept of parish is basically an ecclesiastical one? Indeed I am slightly surprised to find that the Bishops' Bench is empty during this debate. Is the parish essentially an ecclesiastical concept? Whether it is or is not, this clearly raises the possibility of parishes being extended in a rather curious way, by a proposition coming from an adjacent district-albeit requiring the consent of the parish council-which creates a parish council that then, by definition, extends into more than one parish. I find this very curious. If we are going down this path, which I do not object to in principle, at the very least we need some different terminology, because it would not be a parish council as normally understood in my kind of area.
My second point-noble Lords will be glad to hear that it is my last one-is that subsection (4) states that there must be a community governance review if there is a request for one, and that if there is a review, there must be a presumption that a new parish will be created. Why? Why cannot a review come to the conclusion that the world is all right as it is and that no change is needed? Whatever the merits of the intended fundamental thrust of this amendment, the amendment needs a lot of looking at.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, I add the briefest of footnotes to the remarks of my noble friend Lord Newton of Braintree, if only to make the point that Essex and Wiltshire can be different. In fact I am not sure whether or not I am going to illuminate the matter that he has just raised. I live in the ecclesiastical parish of Tisbury and, simultaneously, in the local government parish of Sutton Mandeville, and on the principle of "render unto Caesar", I took my title from the latter rather than the former. It is possible to live in several parishes at the same time.
Lord Beecham: My Lords, I am pleased to see that the noble Lord, Lord Newton, takes the same attitude to temptation as St Augustine did to chastity. There is another line about temptation that we might want to consider:"The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason".
I noticed the typing error that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, referred to in subsection (2)(a), but I think there may be another typographical error, or perhaps an error in drafting. Subsection (5) says:
However, I agree very strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Newton, that there is no case for there to be a presumption that a new parish should be created on the simple fact that a request has been made by a neighbourhood forum that might constitute 21 people, of whom a majority of 11 against 10 would therefore trigger not only the whole process but a presumption as to its outcome. It seems a ridiculous proposition given that we are presumably talking about areas of several hundred people, if not thousands of people, possibly, in an area the size of an urban ward or a significant rural community.
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