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House of Lords

Wednesday, 27 February 2013.

3 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Liverpool.

Economy: Rating Agencies


3.06 pm

Asked By Lord Barnett

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the role of rating agencies and the impact of any downgrade of the United Kingdom’s rating.

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): My Lords, last Friday Moody’s downgraded the UK rating to AA1, with a stable outlook. It says that the UK’s credit-worthiness remains extremely high but warns that it could downgrade the UK rating further in the event of,

“reduced political commitment to fiscal consolidation”.

The credit rating is one of the important benchmarks for any country but near-historic low gilt yields continue to reflect the credibility earned by the Government’s economic strategy.

Lord Barnett: I think I thank the Minister for that Answer. If it is all so good now, why did he covet the AAA rating so strongly? Is it not true that the United States had a downgrading, and that it was not a problem and interest rates remain low? Another risk is that the pound will drop further. If it does, there is a real risk to lenders, who could lose a lot of money as it is repaid in downgraded pounds. In those circumstances, would the Chancellor be minded to do anything at all?

Lord Deighton: I thank the noble Lord for those observations, which contain several of different questions. If you review Moody’s analysis of the UK economy you could not see a stronger recommendation of the Government’s policy of fiscal consolidation. I commend it to everybody as background to policy and why it is the appropriate one in these circumstances.

On the specific question about the impact of currency movements on the exposure of various lenders, my experience in those markets tells me that lenders manage their currency exposures very effectively and that the currency devaluation should not increase those particular exposures.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: Will my noble friend confirm that it is the same rating agencies that are apparently of such concern to the Opposition which told us that the junk collections of mortgages, which in part caused the financial crisis, were AAA-rated? Should we not look at what is happening in the real economy rather than at what rating agencies are saying about it? Is it not true that my right honourable friend

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the Chancellor of the Exchequer is presiding over a remarkable situation, given the shambles that he inherited from the previous Government?

Lord Deighton: As always, I thank my noble friend for his important observations. There are, again, several issues in there. First, he is absolutely right—Moody’s refers to this—that two things have caused this downgrade. The first is the sluggish growth of the global economy, which has slowed down the British economy; and the second is the very high levels of public and domestic debt, and the difficulty in driving those down.

On the second point, with respect to the credibility of the rating agencies, there are some very important issues surrounding that, particularly when one discusses complex securities such as the ones that we had in the mortgage-backed market. Frankly, with respect to the sovereign market, all the information used to determine credit assessments is perfectly visible to everyone, which is why the markets’ reaction to the downgrade on Friday was so measured.

Lord Peston: My Lords, bearing in mind that these agencies give the same grade to an enormous and widely different range of borrowers, leading economists pointed out a long time ago that they cannot be, and should not be, taken seriously. Also, is the Minister aware that all the best economic research shows that one major force exacerbating the economic troubles of the past few years has been the rating agencies? Would he remind the House who is supposed to be regulating these agencies and why they have not intervened? If they have not intervened, is it not about time that someone did something about them? These agencies are a real danger to the survival of the world economy, and I am amazed that the Chancellor himself takes them seriously.

Lord Deighton: The noble Lord makes some very important observations. First, as I am sure he knows, one of the rating agencies is being sued by the US Government, reflecting the very concerns that he brings out. With respect to relatively simple credit considerations, and in terms of the UK economy the information is all out there, the Chancellor’s economic policy and the performance of the UK economy is evaluated every second of every day by the financial markets. The verdict of those markets is reflected in our historically low gilt yields. This morning we were trading in the 10-year gilt below 2%, which is the most profound commentary on the success of the UK Government’s current economic policy.

Baroness Kramer: My Lords, the underlying issue is surely growth. Yesterday, Paul Tucker, deputy governor of the Bank of England, floated the idea of levying a penalty on banks that park their money at the central bank rather than putting it into the real economy. What comment does the Minister have to make on that strategy?

Lord Deighton: My noble friend raises the question of monetary policy. We have had a number of debates on creativity to restore a focus on growth and not

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purely on short-term inflation targeting. All these ideas are welcome and demonstrate the importance of generating growth. We should have the debate but be very focused on sticking to a monetary policy that understands the importance of the medium-term inflation target, while accepting a degree of flexibility around output.

Some specific measures that the Government have taken, such as FLS, were recommended in the Moody’s review as a very positive sign, so other ideas should certainly be debated and considered.

Lord Eatwell: My Lords, could the Minister tell the House whether it is better to borrow to fund the fiscal costs of negligible growth or to fund the expansion in investment and growth?

Lord Deighton: My Lords, I am not sure that I accept the specific question of my noble friend. It is better to have an entirely consistent strategy of fiscal consolidation to ensure that we regain our credibility in the financial markets so that we can continue to borrow at these historic low rates. If we have a choice between funding capital spend—let us call it that—and current spend, all other things being equal, I would choose capital spend. We saw that in the Autumn Statement, when the Government switched £5.5 billion, if my memory is correct, into financing capital spending because that yields better to improve the growth process. However, it all needs to be done in the context of balancing other important consumer and political objectives.

Dr David Livingstone


3.15 pm

Asked By Lord Steel of Aikwood

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they propose to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Dr David Livingstone.

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness): My Lords, Scotland Office Ministers and officials are working closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development and the David Livingstone 200 partnership to assist with a programme of celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of Dr Livingstone’s birth. As part of the wider programme, the Scotland Office will host a commemorative reception at Dover House, which will follow on from a service that will be held in Westminster Abbey on 19 March, the actual 200th anniversary of Dr Livingstone’s birth.

Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, I thank my noble friend most warmly for that Answer. Is he aware that, in view of David Livingstone’s reputation as a missionary, an explorer and, above all, a campaigner against the slave trade, commemorations will take place next month in Zambia, Tanzania and especially in Malawi? Will

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he tell the House whether there are any activities planned in Scotland itself, apart from the excellent news that the museum at Blantyre will be revamped by the National Trust?

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right to pay tribute to Dr Livingstone. It is significant that in the post-colonial age some of the place names associated with David Livingstone, such as Blantyre and the name Livingstone itself, have remained. That speaks volumes about the contribution that he made and the standing in which he is still held. For example, in Zambia there is a programme called Livingstone 2013, in which the British High Commission has been very actively involved. My noble friend also asks about Scotland. The National Museum of Scotland has a special commemorative exhibition, which has run since November until April this year. There will be events on the day. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development is planning a flagship event at Abercrombie House in East Kilbride, the offices of the Department for International Development, on 18 March and, very interestingly, a time capsule is proposed, linking children from Malawi and Scotland, which will be Skype-linked on 19 March.

Lord Morgan: My Lords, the Prime Minister has spoken about a shameful episode in our imperial past, the Amritsar massacre, and quite rightly so. Would it not be very valuable if the Prime Minister could speak, perhaps not only in Scotland, about a pacific, idealist, Christian visionary, like David Livingstone, who presents a very contrary view of our imperial past and perhaps shows how this country should behave towards colonised people but seldom manages to do so?

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: The noble Lord makes a very important point about the contribution that David Livingstone made. There will be commemorations, not least in the service at Westminster Abbey. I am not aware that the Prime Minister will attend, but certainly representatives of the United Kingdom Government and I think of the Scottish Government will attend and we have sought to invite high commissioners and ambassadors in London of countries with which David Livingstone was associated.

Lord Selkirk of Douglas: Will the Minister accept that the National Trust has done an extremely good job in conserving David Livingstone’s house in Blantyre, where he was brought up with his family in one room in extreme poverty? One of the moving aspects of his life was that, when he set off, he had only his medical equipment, his Bible and the clothes in which he stood up.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I echo the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Selkirk, particularly in paying tribute to the National Trust for Scotland, which has been very much involved in the David Livingstone 200 partnership and has made an important contribution not only with regard to the house at Blantyre but also with regard to a number of the commemorative events in Scotland.

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Lord McAvoy: My Lords, Dr David Livingstone was born in the town of Blantyre, which I had the honour and privilege to represent in the House of Commons. I join in the congratulations and thanks for all the celebrations planned. However, just a few years ago, the David Livingstone Centre in Blantyre, to which the noble Lord, Lord Steel, referred, was in danger of closing, and it was South Lanarkshire Council which took the lead by involving the National Trust and other agencies so that the centre is now thriving again. Will the Minister join me in recognising the role of South Lanarkshire Council in this, particularly that of the leader, Councillor Edward McAvoy?

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, in this particular case, I believe that tributes to South Lanarkshire Council are deserved. I am aware that it took those steps. I think that I am right in saying that South Lanarkshire Council also plays an important role in the Scotland-Malawi Partnership. The University of Edinburgh calculated that up to £30 million in terms of expertise, time and money is contributed by those who are partners in the Scotland-Malawi Partnership.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale: My Lords, is the Minister aware of the current membership of the Scotland-Malawi Partnership, which is more than 600 individuals and organisations, embodying the mutual respect that was so much embodied by Dr Livingstone back in the 19th century? Given Dr Livingstone’s campaign against the slave trade, will the Government take the opportunity this year to redouble their efforts internationally regarding the 2.5 million individuals around the world who are reckoned to be in slavery or prostitution as a result of people trafficking?

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I take the opportunity to note the contribution that the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, has made to the Scotland-Malawi Partnership. I know his personal commitment to this. I take and endorse his point that a proper tribute to Dr Livingstone’s campaigns against slavery would be for us to continue and indeed increase our efforts to tackle human trafficking. I attended a very useful meeting with a number of representatives in Scotland representing the UK Government on the day last year when we marked our commitment internationally to tackle human trafficking. That would be a worthy memorial to Dr Livingstone’s efforts.

Freedom of Information Act 2000


3.21 pm

Asked By Lord Wills

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to amend the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My Lords, the Government intend to amend the Act to give the Information Commissioner more time to

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prosecute alleged offences under Section 77 of the Act and introduce a dedicated exemption for prepublication research. Other parts of our response to post-legislative scrutiny will be implemented through secondary legislation codes of practice and guidance.

Lord Wills: My Lords, I very much welcome what the Minister has just said about giving the Information Commissioner new powers but I hope he will recognise that suggestions have been made by other Ministers—not this Minister, whose commitment to freedom of information is exemplary—that they will tighten the Act. I hope this Minister will recognise that tightening the Act in the way that has been suggested will damage transparency. He will recall that the previous Government at one point proposed to increase fees for accessing freedom of information requests and then dropped the proposal when they realised the damage that that would do to transparency. Are the Government now downplaying that risk to transparency, and doing so at a time when the Francis report into Mid Staffordshire shows just how dangerous damaging transparency can be?

Lord McNally: My Lords, it is true that we are looking at other aspects of the post-legislative scrutiny through secondary legislation. However, I can assure the noble Lord that my commitment, and the Government’s commitment, to transparency and freedom of information, which I see as twin tracks of government policy, remains as steadfast as it has always been. Ideas and information about other aspects of the post-legislative scrutiny fully justified the exercise and I compliment my right honourable friend Sir Alan Beith and his committee for doing an excellent job. It has done much to embed freedom of information in our political culture.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I speak as a committed supporter of the Freedom of Information Act but there seems to be an anomaly. Would it be possible when there is a freedom of information request to know who has made that request?

Lord McNally: It is something that was considered by Sir Alan’s committee and recommended as a good idea. It has its attractions, but it also has its downsides. On balance, the Government decided to retain anonymity for freedom of information requests because they felt that not doing so would inhibit people coming forward with such requests.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord McNally: I hear what the House is saying. It was a very tight judgment and a lot of discussion went on in government about it. There certainly was not any sinister desire by the Government to protect information. It was more a decision resulting from a very tight discussion that the idea of anonymity for those making requests was still an important principle to preserve.

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Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames: My Lords, the Government have been successful in extending the Freedom of Information Act in line with the coalition agreement by adding to the bodies which are subject to the Act and by providing for electronic data sets to be made available. Can the Minister assure the House that there will be no reversal of this process, and in particular, that there will be no extension of the Government’s power of veto and no further fees, particularly for appeals to information tribunals?

Lord McNally: I do not think I can give an absolute assurance on that. We decided to retain the veto following discussions that had gone on since the start of the freedom of information debate about whether, at the very heart of government, a safe space was needed for genuine discussions. At the moment, I am having discussions with colleagues about these ideas and principles and in due course I will inform the House and give it an opportunity to comment on this. It is always an interesting balance. We have faced this problem for a decade or more since we debated these principles in this House. Indeed, we had a very interesting debate a few months ago where a whole clutch of former mandarins gave their opinions about what is called the “chilling effect” of freedom of information. I do not accept that there is such a chilling effect, but I do accept that it is right—as is the proper intention of the post-legislative review of the Act—that we look at how the Act is working and we will come back with recommendations in the areas raised by my noble friend.

Baroness Uddin: My Lords, further to the question of my noble friend Lord Dubs, does the Minister not accept that his response and the Government’s current position on freedom of information are flatly contrary to the position of openness and transparency in protecting those who ask the questions and not protecting at any level those who are being asked the questions? Does he not accept that this is totally contrary to the principles and ethos of the Freedom of Information Act?

Lord McNally: On the contrary, my Lords. If you are asking questions of power, there is some reassurance in the fact that the system giving you the right to ask those questions allows for anonymity. It certainly is not an abuse of power; it is rather, as the debates have shown over the years, that anonymity gives protection and encouragement to those who want information.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: When the Government receive, as they do from time to time, independent legal advice, is there any reason why that advice should not be made available under the Freedom of Information Act? Should there be an absolute rule against independent legal advice being made available?

Lord McNally: Whenever the noble and learned Lord rises to his feet, a certain tingle goes down my spine—doubly so when he is asking about a matter legal. I am not sighted on that entirely and I would feel far safer if I were to take advice and write to him.

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Overseas Aid


3.30 pm

Asked By The Lord Bishop of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what proportion of the overseas aid budget is being earmarked for peacekeeping in areas of conflict.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, the Government are committed to scaling up their work in fragile and conflict-affected states. We have committed to spending 30% of official development assistance—ODA—by 2014-15 to support these countries and to tackle the drivers of instability. In 2011, £58.7 million of ODA was spent on multilateral peacekeeping operations. This represented less than 1% of the UK ODA spend in 2011 and we anticipate that it will remain at a similar level.

The Lord Bishop of Liverpool: My Lords, I can see the virtue of closer co-operation between peacekeeping and development programmes, but what steps will be taken to reduce the risk of humanitarian workers and beneficiaries of such aid being seen as agents of a foreign power, especially in fragile and unstable countries?

Baroness Northover: The right reverend Prelate is right. Those working in these areas are at huge risk anyway. That comes home very strongly. I have just come back from Pakistan and the difficulties of working in such areas are very clear. It is very important to draw the distinction that the right reverend Prelate makes. However, given that we are acutely aware of that, as are the organisations, I can assure him that that will continue to be the case.

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: Does the Minister agree that it is absolutely clear that both the UK’s International Development Act and the OECD guidelines would be breached if the Prime Minister’s statement on using aid money for military purposes was to be implemented? Should the Prime Minister therefore be heeding the OECD and British law instead of trying to appease recalcitrant Tory Back-Benchers who oppose the ring-fencing of development aid?

Baroness Northover: I suggest that the noble Baroness reads what the Prime Minister said. She will find that it is perfectly consistent with the approach taken by her Government. We work across the MoD, the FCO and DfID to do what we can to tackle instability in some of the poorest countries. It is because they are fragile states that there are such levels of poverty and such a lack of development. That is why it is extremely important to work to support those countries. DfID’s conflict pool and the Building Stability Overseas strategy build on what the previous Government rightly did. This is controlled by the OECD definition of ODA, which does not allow spending for military uses. Therefore it could not come out of DfID’s budget. DfID needs

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to reach its 0.7% contribution to aid, and we are committed to that. If this came out of it, it would not reach that 0.7%.

Lord Alderdice: My Lords, it is clear that peace and stability are critical not just in fragile states but in the development of all states. It would be helpful if my noble friend could clarify how Her Majesty’s Government will decide how far political interventions and interventions involving the Ministry of Defence will receive support. How will the proportions and the kind of help that will be given be decided? It would be helpful to know that to understand this better.

Baroness Northover: My noble friend is right to ask for that. It is extremely clear that the OECD defines what does and does not count as overseas development assistance. Most of our peacekeeping, for example, goes through the UN. Some 6% of that budget counts as ODA, and the rest does not. With the EU civilian missions, 100% counts under the ODA rules. This is extremely clearly defined. Where the MoD supports humanitarian assistance—the Navy, for example, supplies tents, as it did in Jamaica after the hurricane—that is counted as assisting and not as providing military equipment. These things are clearly defined.

Lord Collins of Highbury: My Lords, as the right reverend Prelate said, Labour supports a co-ordinated approach to tackling conflict that brings together defence, diplomacy and development. The Prime Minister’s attempt to suggest that aid money may be used to off-set deep defence cuts is misleading and will not stand up to scrutiny. I ask the noble Baroness to reassure this House that the absolute purpose of the proportion of money that we continue to spend is to alleviate property, improve basic services and support job creation, all of which are central to ending conflicts everywhere.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, I have to say that the noble Lord is misleading. I suggest that he read the Prime Minister’s words. He says:

“Conflict states haven’t met a Millennium Development Goal between them”,

and that,

“it’s obviously true that if you can help deliver security and help provide stability … that is the base from which all development can proceed”.

We all agree about that. He does not say that he is filling in some MoD black hole; he is saying, as the noble Lord stated at the beginning of his question, that we need to work together to ensure that we establish security for people in these fragile states in order that development can build upon that.

The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, peacekeeping is obviously very important, but so is peacebuilding. Does the noble Baroness recognise that many of the areas that have traditionally been funded by overseas development aid, such as increasing the capacity of civil society, advancing women’s rights and strengthening and improving governance, are also a really important part of peacebuilding? Will she give an assurance that

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programmes that have traditionally been bent towards those ends will be protected, and that the money will not be diverted to these new peacekeeping elements of the programme?

Baroness Northover: That is where the focus is. That is ODA. In providing support in areas such as Libya, Somalia, South Sudan, Pakistan, de-mining in Nepal and humanitarian aid, DfID is following these principles and this Government will continue to follow them because of the importance that the right reverend Prelate rightly ascribes to them.

Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills

Motion to Agree

3.37 pm

Moved By The Chairman of Committees

That, in accordance with Private Business Standing Order 69 (Appointment of Examiners of Private Bills), Ms Christine Salmon Percival and Mr Peter Milledge be appointed Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills in place of Mrs Katherine Lawrence and Mr Allan Roberts.

Motion agreed.

Procedure Committee: Fourth Report

Motion to Agree

3.37 pm

Moved By The Chairman of Committees

That the 4th Report from the Select Committee (HL Paper 117) be agreed to.

Motion agreed.

Partnerships (Prosecution) (Scotland) Bill [HL]

Partnerships (Prosecution) (Scotland) Bill [HL]

Third Reading

3.38 pm

Bill passed and sent to the Commons.

Antarctic Bill

Antarctic Bill

Order of Commitment Discharged

3.39 pm

Moved By Viscount Montgomery of Alamein

That the order of commitment be discharged.

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Unless, therefore, any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Motion agreed.

Growth and Infrastructure Bill

Growth and Infrastructure Bill

Report (1st Day)

3.39 pm

Relevant documents: 11th and 15th Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee.

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Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, is very courteously giving noble Lords the opportunity to leave the Chamber, but it might be helpful if they did so quietly and as speedily as possible so that we can get on to Amendment 1.

Clause 1 : Option to make planning application directly to Secretary of State

Amendment 1

Moved by Lord McKenzie of Luton

1: Clause 1, page 1, line 9, after “designated” insert “in accordance with subsection (9)”

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 3 and 14, which we have in this group. I can be brief on Amendment 3, because, to all intents and purposes, it seems to cover the same ground as government Amendment 4. Essentially, they require it to be stated in the Bill that types of application which can be directed to the Secretary of State rather than the local planning authority must be for a major development of a kind prescribed in regulations. We are content to accept the Government’s formulation.

Amendments 1 and 14 relate to the designation of a local planning authority. They require that the criteria to be applied in designating and revoking designation of a local planning authority be the subject of a parliamentary process and in particular that both Houses of Parliament be asked to approve the regulations via the affirmative procedure. We debated this in Committee and noted that the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee had raised concerns over the lack of a parliamentary process. It is clear that the Government have responded, at least to an extent.

Designation is no trivial matter. It represents a considerable shift in process because it removes a democratically elected council’s role of having the first engagement with the planning process. We know that the Government consulted on the thresholds for poor performance and a failing authority; that is, 30% or fewer major applications determined within the statutory period or more than 20% of major decisions overturned on appeal. The consultation has now ended, although we do not yet have sight of the full government response. We have just—hot off the press, I think—received a summary of the consultation responses. These show that less than half of respondents supported the speed and quality approach; that less than half of respondents agreed with assessing major developments within statutory time limits over two years; that only about a quarter expressed support for quality being assessed as the proportion of major decisions being overturned on appeal; and that less than half agreed with the 30%/20% formulation. It seems that there is a long way to go for there to be good levels of buy-in to this approach. What are the Government going to do given this response to the consultation? It is slightly worrying that they are on record as saying that they will not deliver their response until after the Bill has received Royal Assent.

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It should be stressed that the amendment seeks a process for the criteria not only for designation but for revocation. The latter was a cause of a lot of concern given that the local planning authority may not handle major applications, other than fairly administrative tasks, once designation has taken place.

We remain concerned about the proposed mechanical process of designation, although it is accepted that agreements, formal and informal, would be taken into account in any process. We were comforted also by the Minister’s words in Committee, where she said that,

“I hope I made it clear that if a local authority is going to be designated, it will be able to put forward the sort of points that he and the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, have suggested as a reason for why their applications have been slower than others”.—[

Official Report

, 22/1/13; col. 1047.]

That is, there will be an opportunity to make representations. How does the Minister consider this approach might be built into the designation process?

I shall speak later to the government amendments once the Minister has introduced them and to the amendment of my noble friend Lady Whitaker. In the mean time, I beg to move.

3.45 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for introducing these amendments. I will move the government amendments, as he asked. I very much welcome the scrutiny that noble Lords have given this clause. We have looked very carefully at the issues raised, and I am very glad to be able to bring forward the amendments in this group that respond to them.

In Committee, concern was expressed about the need for greater reassurance and stronger safeguards in relation to the way that this clause could be used. This was also reflected in the reports of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and the Select Committee on the Constitution. The amendments we propose are designed to provide that reassurance by making very clear in the Bill the circumstances in which this clause may be used and by providing Parliament with an opportunity to consider the criteria by which planning authorities’ performance would be assessed.

Amendment 4 will ensure that applications for major development only can be submitted directly to the Secretary of State. The point was made quite forcefully in Committee that there should be a determination as to which applications were caught by these provisions. A number of noble Lords argued for this, and what we are doing now gives the Secretary of State the power to prescribe what “major development” means for this purpose. We intend to use the existing definition found in secondary legislation; for example, 10 houses or more or an equivalent amount of commercial space. This approach reflects the change that the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, proposed in Amendment 3, and I am grateful to him for saying that he thinks what we have done is sufficient for him perhaps not to take his amendment any further.

Amendment 7 makes two important changes. First, it puts beyond any doubt that an authority could be designated under the clause only if it is not performing

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adequately in handling planning applications. Again, in doing this we are responding positively to the arguments put forward in Committee. Secondly, it requires that the criteria for designating authorities—and, indeed, for lifting any designation—must be laid before both Houses for a period of 40 sitting days before they come into effect only if there has been no vote in either House to the effect that the document should not be approved. We will come to what we expect those criteria to be when we debate the next group.

I believe these changes provide a powerful safeguard against any perceived future misuse of the powers that Clause 1 confers on the Secretary of State. I do not think there is any need to go further and require an affirmative procedure for the criteria, as Amendments 1 and 14 would require, as that would take us well beyond the sort of safeguards that underpin other performance regimes. It is also worth noting that where similar powers were taken by the previous Government in the Local Government Act 1999, the Education Act 1996 and the National Health Service Act 2006 there is no parliamentary scrutiny on the criteria that the relevant Secretaries of State use before exercising their powers. To go further than we propose would mean an unnecessarily protracted process for any changes that do not need to be made.

Amendments 8, 11 and 12 make some minor consequential changes to the clause. A further consequence is Amendment 53, relating to Clause 31, which provides for early commencement of proposed new Section 62B. This is for one reason only, which is to allow Parliament sufficient time to consider the criteria we propose to use while still allowing any initial designations to be made in October this year, as we set out in our consultation paper. This change has no impact on when the remainder of Clause 1 would come into effect.

The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, has not spoken to Amendment 10. I am not sure whether I shall move my amendments and give her an opportunity to do that. We have not heard from her. I think this is a bit unusual but since she seems to have missed the cut, I will move my amendments and leave the noble Baroness to speak to hers.

Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend Lord McKenzie’s inference from the responses to the consultation and welcome the direction of travel of the Minister’s amendment, but I shall argue for more specificity in the Bill. I speak to Amendment 10 in my name and that of the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, who regrets that he cannot be here today. What I shall say has been drawn up with him, and I am grateful for his expert support and that of the Town and Country Planning Association. Perhaps I should also declare that I am an honorary fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Our amendment is tabled because of a gap in the concept of designation. Of all the evidence of poor performance by a planning authority, the one that has a particularly adverse effect on quality of life, as well as the local economy, is bad design, coupled with lack of sustainability, but that is not specified in the Bill. That power is open to wide discretion, whereas, at the other extreme, the consultation’s proposals for failing authorities are pretty mechanistic and relate to speed

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and appeal decisions—not tests of quality but, rather, tick-box exercises to check compliance. The impact of designation on local democracy is very powerful, and speed and compliance with the NPPF with regard to appeal decisions should not, I submit, be enough to prompt a designation decision. That should be taken in the round and take full account of the quality of outcomes. That is particularly important because the broad principles in the NPPF are themselves open to quite a degree of interpretation.

The two extremes of a vague, wide power in the Bill and narrow, mechanistic tests for failure omit the real point of good planning—to approve development that is durable and practical, acceptable to residents and capable of improving their total environment as well as, in the long term, saving public money. That cannot be done without an informed approach to design; but design capacity is still very patchy among planning authorities, and many succumb to the will or blandishments of developers who may well not have the long-term interest of the local community at heart.

Therefore, the amendment makes it necessary for the Secretary of State to consider what the authority has done by way of contributing to sustainable development and good design, which complements existing duties in planning legislation rather than enabling them to be overridden. He has also to consider, in addition, what the local views are so that, for instance, if a neighbourhood has developed design criteria but cannot get the planning authority either to accept them or to draw up its own, it is not short changed by the process. Finally, he must consider what any wider public interest might be. That latter obligation enables discretion to be used when necessary, so that it is not a matter of a fixed threshold being triggered. Finally, the Secretary of State must publish his or her reasons for designating according to the criteria in the amendment, which element of transparency I hope that the noble Baroness will also support.

In conclusion, the amendment would go a long way to protect residents from the kind of system failure in design and sustainability which poor planning authorities all too often let themselves in for. In that way, growth and infrastructure really could work properly. I commend the amendment.

Lord Best: My Lords, I speak in support of Amendment 10 in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, and the noble Earl, Lord Lytton. As this is my first intervention on Report, I note my relevant interests as president of the Local Government Association, chair of Hanover Housing Association and, in the context of the amendment, which concerns good design, vice-president of the Town and Country Planning Association and honorary fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

In support of the intention behind this amendment, I would like to quote from an excellent speech delivered by the Minister for Planning, Nick Boles, to the Town and Country Planning Association shortly before Christmas. He said:

“People look at the new housing estates that have been bolted on to their towns and villages in recent decades and observe that few of them are beautiful. Indeed, not to put too fine a point on it, many of them are pig ugly”.

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He went on:

“Since new housing estates are all too often soulless and formulaic ... existing residents oppose any proposal to build new houses on green field sites, even when the land is of low environment quality”.

He continued:

“In a nutshell, because we don't build beautifully, people don't let us build much. And because we don't built much we can't afford to build beautifully”.

He later said:

“It is now for the planners, architects and developers, large and small, to seize the opportunity we have created and start designing beautiful places, which local people will welcome”.

Poor design not only affects the lives of the people who occupy the new buildings, it also affects those who live in the same neighbourhood. Because so much new development has been, as Nick Boles says, “pig ugly”, the great British public regularly turn out to stymie and oppose the creation of the new homes that are so essential to ending acute housing shortages.

This amendment would strengthen the emphasis on good design, which should always be a hallmark of projects obtaining planning consent. It would, thereby, make it easier to gain the consent of local communities to the building of the new homes this country needs so badly. I strongly commend it.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, I intervene very briefly to say that I very much welcome the amendments that my noble friend Lady Hanham has tabled to this clause. I have recognised from the beginning that it has been very controversial, not least among local authorities. I, too, declare an interest here as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I have made it very clear to the association that I support the main thrust of Clause 1, but equally I recognise its desire to see the criteria dealt with more formally in the legislation. The indications that we have had from the Government in this context have been helpful, as has the Government’s amendment that it will be subject to regulations under the negative procedure, as my noble friend has indicated. These amendments are very welcome and take some of the sting, which local authorities have felt, out of the clause.

Local authorities need not be so worried about the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie of Luton, whose handling of this legislation I have always admired; he is extremely thorough. He quoted some of the figures from the summary of the consultation response, which I downloaded on my computer yesterday and read. The important thing to recognise is that, in the light of what I have just said about the general attitude of most local authorities towards this clause, it is hardly surprising that the response rate was not much more than 40 to 45%. One has to recognise that of the 227 replies received, 67% were from councils. A further 12% were from local government, professional or environmental organisations, and around 12% were from development interests or business groups. It was a pretty unbalanced response, but that is the nature of consultation; it is the people who feel strongly about such matters who respond. I am sure that those in the development industry look at the clause and say this is a step in the right direction. It is not surprising, given

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the figures quoted by the noble Lord, that there should have been what is, in a sense, a very heavily weighted response on the part of the local authority world. This does not in any way detract from the support I give to my noble friend for the amendments that she has tabled to this clause. I think that, with these amendments, the clause is a good deal more acceptable and I welcome it.

4 pm

Lord True: My Lords, I hesitate to take exception to any remark made by my noble friend, who I have admired and worked with for so many years, but local authorities are charged with the responsibility of administering the planning system and have knowledge of so doing. It is hardly surprising—in my view, they would be failing in their professional duty—if they did not respond to a consultation which affected the rights of planning authorities. In declaring my interest as leader of a local authority, I confess that my own authority was probably one among the number that raised a few question marks about the clause as originally drafted, so I hope that the Minister will not dismiss the representations made just because they are made by local authorities.

I strongly agree with my noble friend that the changes she has introduced are positive. I was one of those who expressed concerns at an earlier stage of the Bill about the breadth of Clause 1, as it was then drafted. My noble friend, in her typical way, has listened to those concerns, as the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, very generously acknowledged. We have come a very long way and I hope that we will be able to do that on later aspects of the Bill. Therefore, I, too, thank my noble friend.

I have some sympathy in spirit with Amendment 10. I am perhaps breaking a habit in this regard: I, too, agree with what Mr Boles said on the matter of design. There is a question of whether that is a matter for the Bill but I agree with the analysis that planning would be so much easier if design were better. I would remark only that, as I said at an earlier stage, we must avoid the risk of any kind of moral hazard in this legislation. In terms of openness and the way in which designation is made, it is still not clear to me—it is certainly not inherent in the Bill—that where a future Secretary of State makes a designation and takes the game away from a local authority with the view of making a judgment on a major planning application, it must be the case that any representations made to the Secretary of State before he makes that designation become matters of public knowledge, in the same way as representations in terms of planning are placed on a website.

I have not tabled anything in this respect, but I hope that in response my noble friend will make it clear that there will be absolute transparency in that respect. There can therefore never be any suspicion that any powerful interest has got at any Government behind the scenes, leading to the designation of a local authority which may have been a little bit awkward to somebody who wanted to get a major planning application through. That is not an obstacle to what my noble friend has put before us, which I welcome, but perhaps she might be able to respond—if not now, in correspondence—on that specific point of transparency.

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Lord Tope: My Lords, as this is the first time I have spoken at this stage I, too, must again declare my interest as a member of a local planning authority in London. Briefly, I echo the sentiments of both my noble friends who have just spoken; even though they started by disagreeing with each other, in effect they are saying the same thing. I recall recognising at Second Reading that the Minister is well known for listening, and saying that on this occasion I hoped that she would not only listen, characteristically, but hear and be able to act accordingly. I am grateful that she has indeed listened and heard and that we have these welcome amendments. I rather gather that the government amendments are being welcomed on all sides of the House. While not making this clause perfection, they have certainly improved it considerably.

In saying that, I have had the chance only to have a very quick look at the consultation results, which we received fairly late yesterday. I am a little surprised that there is so much support for the proposals in Clause 1, including from local authorities. I cannot help wondering whether, if we were to consult now—I am not suggesting that we should—on Clause 1 as it is likely to read after today, we might see even better results. With the reassurances that have been, and I think still will be, given on it, Clause 1 has been made far less onerous than when we first looked at it. I welcome the movement from the Government and their amendments before us today. They do not go as far as some of us would wish but they go considerably further than we might have hoped at an earlier stage and we on these Benches certainly welcome them.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, we are running slightly out of order so, with the leave of the House, I will speak now and the noble Lord can respond after me.

I am glad that most noble Lords have had an opportunity to see the consultation. I made it clear in Committee that I would try to ensure that the consultation responses, at least, were available to the House, and that is what we have done. It would be fair to say, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, has done, that with any consultation parts are agreed and parts disagreed. If I did not misunderstand my noble friend Lord True, he suggested that we might dismiss anything that had come in from a local authority. I can assure him categorically that that is not the situation.

Lord True: I thank my noble friend for giving way. I absolutely did not make that suggestion and certainly not of my noble friend. I was saying to my noble friend Lord Jenkin that I hoped he would not suggest that we should dismiss the comments of the local authorities.

Baroness Hanham: I apologise for missing the fact that this was an aside. I will not take it any further, other than to underline the point that we listen very carefully to what local authorities say about legislation and we always will.

I am also grateful for the general support we have had. I understand that there are still concerns about this designation but we are trying to keep it as simple as we possibly can. In that regard, I will briefly address the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, and the noble

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Lord, Lord Best. We will be discussing the criteria in Amendment 10. They may want to intervene again in the next group but I think and hope I can deal with it. It is important to remember the whole purpose of this clause, which is to encourage good and timely decisions from local authorities and to give applicants for major development the choice of a much better service. There is no question here that, where the authority is designated, an applicant cannot still go to them. They are given the choice of being able to go to a local authority or being able to go immediately to the planning inspector. At the moment, they can do that after 13 weeks if an application has not been dealt with, but now they can go right from the outset.

In the context of design, sustainability is hugely important. However, it is not relevant to what we are trying to do here, which is to get the number of appeals against a particular local authority down and the applications dealt with quickly. Local authorities have to take sustainability, design and good development into account. The noble Lord, Lord Best, pointed out very clearly what my honourable friend at the other end, Nick Boles, has said. We believe very strongly in that. The national policy framework deals with that as well and makes it very clear. However, these are not tests that we ought to apply as part of assessing the designation. They are not matters that can easily be assessed on the basis of our considerations and the very limited criteria which we are employing.

Were the amendment to be accepted, there would be a very real risk of having a process that is far from transparent. We do not want that: we want it to be as open as it can be and, perhaps, open to judicial review. We wish to avoid that by employing the criteria that will ensure that the assessment process is as fair and transparent as possible. As I say, we will have a chance to consider those further in the next group.

My noble friend Lord True—I actually understood him this time and did not get it wrong—asked whether there would be clarity where the applications were sent to the Secretary of State. Again, we will deal with this later in the Bill where there are relevant amendments, but I assure him that the intention is that it should be open and transparent, with local people having the right to make representations to planning officials. With that, I hope that the noble Lord will feel free to withdraw his amendment.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response to the amendments and for moving the Government’s amendments. We are happy to accept Amendment 4, with perhaps a more grudging acceptance of Amendments 7 and 19 because we think that a more robust process would be appropriate. At least now we have a parliamentary process, though, so the Government have moved on that and we should thank the Minister for it.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Tope, that Clause 1 is far from perfect; we would prefer it not be in the Bill and we will debate that later, but these amendments have edged it forward in a more acceptable direction.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord True, that it is entirely appropriate that local authorities should be engaged in this consultation; in a sense, it is their powers that are potentially restricted by this. Something

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is still unclear to me regarding representations. Again, I take the point of the noble Lord, Lord True, that we do not want representations by the back door from people to the Secretary of State, but the opportunity for local authorities to make representations to the Secretary of State before designation takes place is still a grey area, at least to us. In Committee, the noble Baroness seemed to open the door for some iterative approach which is encompassed in performance agreements, formal or informal. I hope that we can get greater clarity on that during our deliberations today.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, basically said in respect of the responses from local authorities, “Well, of course they would say that”, but the value of the consultation is not only the metrics—even though it was me who quoted them—but some of the issues that are raised, and they are very relevant to some of the debates that we are going to have.

We support the approach of my noble friend Lady Whitaker’s amendment, spoken to and supported by the noble Lord, Lord Best. It reminds us that one way to judge quality might be the level of unsuccessful appeals, but that does not really go to the heart of whether a planning authority’s decisions and engagement are focused on the quality of design and the achievement of sustainable development.

It is interesting to look at the consultation responses to Question 5,

“Do you agree that quality should be assessed on the proportion of major decisions that are overturned at appeal … ?”.

Is that the right metric for judging quality? Only 27% supported that while nearly half, 48%, were either opposed to it or had a qualified opposition to it. It is this lack of a qualitative assessment and reliance on the mechanistic approach to designation that is likely to drive down standards. Clearly, ignoring any view from parish or town councils, neighbourhood and business forums, or indeed any relevant representations, may make for clarity of criteria but, I suggest, does not assure us of the right sort of outcomes that we want from the planning process. Having said all that, though, and accepting the Government’s amendments, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.

4.15 pm

Amendment 2

Moved by Lord Tope

2: Clause 1, page 1, line 10, at end insert—

“(aa) the local planning authority has been given 12 months prior notice by the Secretary of State ahead of their designation for the purposes of this section.”

Lord Tope: Amendment 2 will have the effect of giving a 12-month period between a local planning authority being identified as performing poorly and the time when it may become designated. In Committee I suggested 18 months, my noble friend Lord Greaves suggested 12 months and we did not need to argue over that. I have settled on 12 months because part of the Government’s argument against the amendment at that time was that 18 months was too long.

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There is a slightly different approach towards Clause 1 and designation. The Government have said that they want Clause 1 as a deterrent to local authorities. I prefer to see Clause 1 as an incentive. There is an important difference in thinking: a deterrent is something negative which implies punishment at the end if you do not comply, whereas I see incentive as encouragement, something positive, to seek to improve. That is what the Government seek to achieve as well. They are not out to punish local planning authorities—that has become very clear during the course of the many debates on this clause. They are seeking improvement too.

I suggest that there should be a 12-month period from the time when a local planning authority becomes aware that its performance is poor enough to warrant possible designation. It should then have the time to take the necessary actions itself, if it can, to bring about the necessary improvements, to join with others in a peer-led improvement, on which the Local Government Association—of which I am not a vice-president—has a very good track record and which I know the Government have appreciated on many occasions. It also gives time for the Government and others to assess the direction of travel of that local planning authority. If it is improving at a significant rate, then to designate it at the end of that period would seem to be an unnecessary punishment. We should, rather, stimulate with greater encouragement.

This amendment is brought forward in good faith in the hopes of further helping the Government to achieve their objectives. The Planning Minister, Mr Boles, has said that he hopes that neither he nor any future Government will ever have need to use the provisions in Clause 1 because local planning authorities will have improved their performance and it will be unnecessary. The amendment allows a sufficient and reasonable time period to enable local authorities to bring that about themselves without suffering the punishment of designation.

I hope that when the Minister replies she will spell out how the Government see this as an incentive to improve, not a punishment to be inflicted for poor performance. When we look at the process in more detail we can see how that is being achieved. I beg to move.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Tope, in Committee on a similar amendment proposing a period of 18 months. The intention is to give early warning to local authorities, so that they have an opportunity to improve with the help of other local authorities, the LGA, and possibly even the Government.

The thrust of the amendment is entirely reasonable. We suspect that the Government’s response will be that authorities will know in good time. Designation will be based on two years’ data and authorities will know the results of the first of these years. If they are failing the criteria for year 1, the danger signals will be there for the end of year 2. Councils will be able to seek to improve. This does not address the position at the start of the scheme where, before the ink is dry on the legislation, the die will effectively be cast.

At a recent meeting, which was kindly organised with the Planning Minister, it was hinted that there might be some easement in the early period. Perhaps

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the Minister will tell us whether there are any such developments. In any event, on an ongoing basis, knowing in year 2 that year 1 criteria have not been met may not give the local planning authority sufficient time to improve. Improvement may in part depend on the nature of any new applications. Tardy dealing with the major development submitted in year 1 may affect the data for year 2. For a small local planning authority, staff sickness and the timescales to recruit new staff are factors which anyway could mean that a local authority has insufficient time to turn things around by the end of year 2.

If the objective is to encourage sustainable improvement in local planning authorities, the rigid application of the criteria could be counterproductive. The noble Lord’s amendment seems to give an opportunity of improving that situation under these arrangements. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Tope, that if we do not get a satisfactory answer from the Minister today, he should consider testing the opinion of the House on this proposition.

That leads to our Amendment 15, which requires the serving of a notice of intention to designate but then, crucially, a chance for a local planning authority to make representations as to why designation would be inappropriate—not for an extensive period but for just four weeks in this case. We know that the Government will argue for the importance of transparency and certainty in the process but they should also recognise that a range of factors could affect the timeliness of dealing with applications—difficult development, statutory consultees, extended and iterative community consultation, to name but a few. It might be argued that anyone served with a prospective designation notice is bound to make representations but of course not all will be justified.

In any event, at a recent meeting, we heard from the Planning Minister that although the number of likely local planning authorities to be designated has crept up—I think that he suggested 20—that surely is not too large a group for there to be the opportunity to make representations. We should think of the damage to and the demotivation of a planning team which gets designated through no genuine reasons that it could influence.

Perhaps I may again take the noble Baroness back to our deliberations in Committee when she said:

“There are usually reasons why planning applications are delayed, and one may be that an application will take longer than the normal consultation period. Before an authority is designated, it will be allowed to put that view forward and say that it has not been able to deal with certain applications because it has agreed that the process will take longer, or there may be some other reason. A portcullis will not just come down; discussions and explanations will be possible”.—[Official Report, 22/1/13; col. 1032.]

That seems to be pretty clear and suggests that there should be scope for precisely what the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and our Amendment 15 seek. Unfortunately, from all that we have heard so far, it seems as though the portcullis will just come down and that there will be no stay of execution on this.

Baroness Hanham: I thank both noble Lords for these amendments, which, as I have said, open up the discussions on the criteria and the means of designation.

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The noble Lord, Lord Tope, has said that with designation we should be incentivising and not punishing. From the outset, I want to make it clear that that is precisely what we are trying to do. While we designate because of a performance, we are trying to ensure that that performance improves. If this is an incentive to do that, that is precisely what we are trying to do.

How the designation process will work is very important. As a matter of course, we are consulting on it. I think that it would be helpful if I begin by giving noble Lords an indication of what people have said and how we intend to respond. The consultation closed on 17 January and, as noble Lords have said, there were 227 responses, many of them from planning authorities. There were inevitably some differences of view and, having looked carefully at the responses, we are in a position to confirm how we plan to move forward on some of the key elements of the proposals. We will of course publish a full response to the consultation in due course, once the primary powers to be implemented have been finalised.

In the light of the consultation we have concluded that the speed and quality of decisions on planning applications are the most appropriate basis for assessing the performance of local planning authorities for the purpose of implementing this clause. The basis refers to the specific thresholds where, as the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, rightly said, 20% were lost on appeal and 30% assessed on speed or lack of it—applying, in other words, to authorities that have had 20% or more of their major decisions overturned at appeal, or that have decided 30% or fewer of their major applications within the statutory period.

It bears repeating that these are very low thresholds. The intention behind them is to create a safeguard that encourages—or incentivises—good performance rather than to see a lot of designations. We remain of the view that designations should be a last resort and that these thresholds are in line with that objective. We will keep them under review—that is our starting point and firm intention. Through the amendments that we have made to Clause 1, Parliament will have the opportunity to consider the criteria before they are finalised.

There was considerable support for our proposal to allow extensions of time agreed between the local authority and the developer to be dealt with separately from the performance figures that we currently collect. This was one of the points addressed by the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie; where over time there are difficulties, as long as there is agreement with the developer for an extension of that time for whatever reason, that will not become part of the decision-making relating to the designation. These performance figures are part of promoting a simpler, more proportionate approach to planning performance agreements. We will reflect this as quickly as possible in the data that we collect. We also intend to proceed with our suggestion that any authorities that fall below the performance thresholds are considered for designation and dedesignation on an annual basis.

In line with this we have been giving particular thought to how we can put in place a cycle of support for authorities that are at risk of designation and have

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actually been designated. This is important for two reasons. First, by providing early support we very much hope that we can help any authorities that may be struggling to improve sufficiently and so avoid designation. Secondly, for authorities that have been designated we will want to make sure that they can get out of it as quickly as they can and that, if possible, designation can be lifted at the end of a first year.

In the light of the consultation responses, our position is that decisions about dedesignation should be guided primarily by an assessment of what the authority has done to address the reasons for underperformance, and its capacity and capability to deal effectively with major applications. This will mean reviewing at the time of designation what the authority needs to do to reach a satisfactory level of performance and to ensure that it can access whatever help may be required. To provide that support we have been having helpful discussions with the Local Government Association about the way that it can best be provided to those local authorities. We agree with the LGA that this is appropriately done by support from the sector, and that it has a vital role to play in driving improvement in planning services and addressing poor performances where they exist. Giving local government the responsibility to manage its performance is a principle we are committed to and have supported through our funding of the Planning Advisory Service.

4.30 pm

An effective package of sector-led support will be crucial to ensuring that councils avoid designation and move out of designation as quickly as possible. Close sector involvement in the development of that support is essential to ensure that it is intelligence-led and responsive to the needs of each individual council. We have therefore agreed with the Local Government Association that we will develop new arrangements for the governance of the Planning Advisory Service that will give local government a clearer leadership role in developing a vigorous and effective package of support. Through this, we will together ensure that this programme delivers the support necessary to avoid designations, and that it is responsive to authorities’ needs. I hope that noble Lords will understand that we really want to see local authorities improving and that the Local Government Association will provide help, direction and peer guidance to enable that to happen.

I turn to Amendments 2 and 15. We will make sure that an authority has sufficient advance notice of any designation, but that is not something that needs to be in the Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, rightly said, it will be very apparent to local authorities which authorities are liable for designation as soon as the relevant statistics become available. Of course, some of those statistics are already in place, because they are issued quarterly, and that has been going on for some time. So it is perfectly possible and transparent for local authorities to be looking at those now.

In practical terms, we are going to go much further. Each year, we will identify those authorities that are at risk of designation in the following year if their performance fails to recover. Tailored, sector-led support will then be offered to those authorities to give them

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maximum opportunity to improve. So they will not only have advance warning that they are at risk, but the opportunity to address that situation. That is a key part of the discussions that we have been having with the Local Government Association, and we are also exploring what we need to do to identify and provide support to authorities that are struggling now, before any initial designations are made.

It remains our intention to make any initial designations in October this year, once the necessary secondary legislation is in place. We are considering the most appropriate period over which to assess performance for those first designations. That is one of the points raised, and we need to come to a decision about it. We are considering the most appropriate period for that, so that the data which are taken into account are as up to date as possible and reflect efforts by authorities to improve their performance since this measure was announced in September last year. In line with that objective, we will bring forward the release of planning statistics for the period from April to June this year so that this information can be taken into account in assessing performance for those first designations. This will give authorities more opportunity to improve their average performance before any decisions are taken. We have also made it clear that we will give any authorities proposed for designation an opportunity to correct any errors. The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, asked me about what they will be able to do. They will be able to correct errors in the data or explain if they present a misleading picture, but there are limits; we cannot have a subjective process of special pleading which would be neither fair nor transparent. So authorities that may be designated will be given an opportunity to tell us if the data are, for some reason, not representative of their true performance, but we are not going to go any further than that.

While I cannot support the specific proposals in Amendments 2 and 15, I hope that from what I have said noble Lords will understand the extent to which we are putting in place a system that will result in designations only as a last resort and only after authorities have been given support to improve and, one hopes, to avoid a designation occurring. I hope, with that, that noble Lords will be satisfied with my replies and that the noble Lord, Lord Tope, will withdraw his amendment.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, will the noble Baroness clarify the position at the start of the process? The first round of designation will take place in October this year and as most of the data that will influence that is already in existence, there is little that a local authority can do now, given the time, even if it is extended to June, which might have been the suggested date, to have a sector-led approach to help them to improve. We are almost in March, and the legislation is not yet on the statute book. What the noble Baroness said was helpful going forward, but I do not see that it helps people and local authorities at the start of the process that much. Can she give us any further comfort on that?

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I have two bits of comfort, if I can voice it like that. First, I think that local authorities that are in the designated zone will be

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very aware that they are and the Local Government Association is well prepared now to help them. Secondly, the figures that they can see at present may make them feel at risk once they have done that, but they can then approach the Local Government Association for help to see whether they can improve their figures going up to October.

Lord Tope: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, for his support so far and I am grateful to the Minister. The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, said, in urging me to consider testing the opinion of the House, that we would have to listen very carefully to what the Minister had to say. I am grateful to the Minister for spelling out the whole process so fully and thoroughly. We will all want to look at it a little more carefully and read it in Hansard tomorrow, but it seems to me that she has gone a long way towards meeting the intentions of my amendment.

As I believed to be the case, she has confirmed that the intention is to seek improvement and not to punish. She has confirmed that it will be a sector-led approach, that discussions have taken place with the Local Government Association and that it will fully co-operate, help, support and lead that. She has rightly said that those authorities that are likely to be at risk under the criteria, which, as she rightly says, are set at a very low threshold, already know that they are at risk. I believe that, since the Bill was published last autumn, those authorities that feel themselves to be at risk are already showing some significant signs of improvement.

I feel that the Minister has accepted the intentions of my amendment; indeed, she has accepted almost everything but the words themselves. Having achieved that much, I feel that it is right and proper at this stage to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 2 withdrawn.

Amendment 3 not moved.

Amendment 4

Moved by Baroness Hanham

4: Clause 1, page 1, line 14, leave out from second “is” to ““relevant” in line 16 and insert “major development.

(2) In this section—

“major development” means development of a description prescribed by the Secretary of State;”

Amendment 4 agreed.

Amendment 5

Moved by Lord McKenzie of Luton

5: Clause 1, page 2, line 33, at end insert—

“( ) Before reaching a decision on an application made to him under this section, the Secretary of State must ensure that there has been adequate consultation with the local community.”

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, this amendment is entirely consistent with Amendment 13, which I trust I will be able to support after it has been spoken

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to by its mover. Amendment 5 seeks to ensure that, when an application is made to the Secretary of State under the provisions of the Bill, there must, nevertheless, be adequate consultation with the local community. One of the fears arising from Clause 1 is that it facilitates the bypassing of local planning authorities and, along the way, local communities. It is a rerun of a Committee amendment because we considered that the matter was not fully resolved at that stage.

The Minister at that time asserted the intention that all current statutory requirements on local authorities would be transferred to the Planning Inspectorate, including requirements around publicity and consultation. Perhaps the noble Baroness will remind us this afternoon of the process and timing for this. Notwithstanding that, the concern lingers about the presumption that applications dealt with by PINS will largely involve engagement by means of written representations, with possibly a short hearing to allow key parties to put their views, and that this would not necessarily be typical of major applications to a local planning authority. In moving the amendment, I seek reassurance from the Minister on that point.

Lord True: My Lords, I have an amendment in this group, which the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, has effectively summarised in the points made. I do not pretend that the specific wording or format is necessarily correct, but none the less the broad principle enshrined in it, and in what the noble Lord has just said, is important. As this process goes forward there will inevitably be fears that a Government—not this one necessarily—may in time use this process to ensure that it is made easier to secure agreement to major developments against the wishes of the local population. It might be feared that that could be done either by having a process that is conducted through written procedures or by a rather cursory appearance from an inspector for a hearing in the local area. In this process, a great deal also goes on in the pre-planning stage. Good developers are these days very active and are often encouraged by local authorities to meet local populations to discuss and undertake consultation, perhaps in relation to what might be the specific local community benefits that come from the development. All those things are best conducted locally, in the place and community where the development will take place and which will be affected by it.

As I said, I do not intend to try to write law that is prescriptive. My noble friend gave some general reassurances earlier, but in both the pre-planning stage and the period in which a planning application is under consideration, it is absolutely essential that the Government leave no suspicion in the minds of the public about their rights, about which they feel ever stronger. Those of us who have the honour to represent people in local authorities know that the people’s wish to have their voice heard is greater, not less, as time goes by. I hope that we can hear a very strong reaffirmation from my noble friend that if not the specifics of my amendment, certainly the spirit of it will be written into whatever provision the Government might follow up with as they refine secondary legislation, codes of practice and so on, once the legislation becomes law.

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The public must not believe, or have any justification to believe, that there is something herein that makes it easier for development to take place in the teeth of what local people believe to be in their interests. That is not nimbyism; there is a balance in these matters. Giving people a chance to have their day in court and to have their voice heard is extremely important in the principle of securing consent to planning developments, which all of us in this House know that this country will need in the decades ahead.

Lord Deben: My Lords, I remind the House that I have declared an interest as someone helping people through a company with sustainable development. It is on that point that I support what has been said. It is not just a question of community not feeling that it is being bypassed, although that is crucial and the gravamen of the whole discussion. We also want to support those developers who do the job properly, as against those who think that there is a short cut.

One of the encouraging things of recent years has been the increasing number of developers who have understood that proper community consultation early on makes their development not only more likely but probably better. Many of them are taking seriously the fact that input from the community can be not an incubus but a considerable advantage. Therefore, I, too, hope that my noble friend will be able to give us an assurance—which I am sure she would wish to give—that this is a mechanism to achieve things which cannot otherwise be achieved, rather than a mechanism to make easier to achieve things that should not be achieved and would otherwise be stopped. That is the distinction that we are trying to draw.

My concern in respect of developers, therefore, is that we do not want the less good to triumph over the good. Moreover, as my noble friend Lord True rightly pointed out, we do not want the public to feel that they are being railroaded about things in which they are increasingly interested. We in this House ought to remind people that this is not some evanescent view that will disappear. People will increasingly want to have control over what happens in their own area; that is why we had the Localism Bill. It is also true that, as the world outside becomes more and more complex and people feel it is more and more difficult to decide on how they will have some control over energy policy, the European Union, the work of the United Nations and all the rest of it, localism—the concept of at least having some real control over the area around you—becomes a greater demand rather than a lesser one. This is a crucial moment in this Bill, and the ability of my noble friend to reassure the House is of great importance.

4.45 pm

Lord Tope: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Shipley and I have added our names to Amendment 13, to which the noble Lord, Lord True, has spoken. I strongly echo all that he has said; indeed, I think we find ourselves so much in agreement that our respective council groups will be getting very alarmed by our togetherness. I will not repeat what he has said or what the noble Lord, Lord Deben, has said, with which I also strongly agree.

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I want to use this amendment and this opportunity to return to the position in Greater London, about which I spoke in Committee. At that time, I pointed out that the Mayor of London—the office, not the post-holder—is responsible for strategic planning in London; that the mayor is elected and democratically accountable both to the elected London Assembly and to the electorate of London; and that if any London planning authority was unfortunate enough to find itself designated, it would surely be far more appropriate and satisfactory for the Mayor of London to take the place of the Planning Inspectorate, with his far greater level of local London knowledge.

In reply, the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, said:

“We gave the reassurance that applications of potential strategic importance would be notified to the mayor very quickly once they had been received by the Planning Inspectorate, so that he will be able to act immediately should he wish to intervene”.—[Official Report, 22/1/13; col. 1101.]

He described that as a more practical approach than having the mayor, in effect, taking the place of the Planning Inspectorate in London. That sounded reasonable and reassuring in theory, but I want to use this amendment to understand better how it is intended that that would work in practice. Will it happen through regulation or through some form of gentlemen’s agreement —and who knows, one day the mayor might not be a gentleman? To what extent will the mayor be able to take responsibility for dealing with the appropriate applications in London when an authority has been designated and, if it is still PINS, what notice will PINS take of what the mayor, with that responsibility, has to say?

I think the Minister is aware that I was going to raise these points. I seek clarification for me, the mayor and the mayor’s office, who are similarly not sure whether or not to feel reassured.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I hope I can be reassuring on all the aspects that have been raised. We are fully aware of the necessity to ensure that residents and local communities are involved in any planning application. In any planning application process, effective community involvement is essential. It is a priority that we have been pursuing vigorously through the various planning reforms.

In Committee, I tried to be clear that we will ensure, through secondary legislation, that there is no reduction in the rights of communities to become involved where applications are made directly to the Secretary of State. Let me go into that a little further. There will be no dilution of the legislative safeguards to enable communities to become aware of applications made to the Secretary of State, to comment on them and to have their views taken into account; nor will any less weight be given to their views on the planning issues involved.

Indeed, the existing primary legislation will require a planning inspector, when making a decision on such an application, to take all material considerations into account, just as a local planning authority would. The decision would have to be made in accordance with the development plan unless there are any material considerations that indicate otherwise. Again, that is

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no different from the approach that a local planning authority would have to take. The local authority will, of course, be able to put its own representations to the Planning Inspectorate with regard to the application.

It was a major element of the Localism Bill that there should be pre-planning discussions, and we expect those to take place as well. This is not a fast process from that point of view. You would expect pre-planning discussions to take place before the application was lodged, because otherwise they are not worth having. That aspect will still continue. We are trying to ensure that the important protections in town and national planning policy are taken fully into account, whether the decision is made by a planning inspector on behalf of the Secretary of State or by the local planning authority.

Through secondary legislation, we will ensure that the relevant documents for applications made directly to the Secretary of State are made available at the offices of the local planning authority as well as on the planning inspector’s website. I can also confirm that our intention is that there should be short local hearings. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, asked whether hearings and discussions would be held to consider the views of key parties where a case has raised issues that should be considered in public. I hope noble Lords will understand that we are very anxious that local communities are not excluded from this process and that it is as transparent, as it would be were the local planning authority dealing with it.

My noble friend Lord Tope raised the question of the Mayor of London. Schedule 1 allows the Mayor of London to retain his ability to call in any applications of potential strategic importance for the capital where an application is made directly to the Secretary of State. To ensure that the mayor is made aware of any such application as swiftly as possible, the Planning Inspectorate will make an immediate assessment of whether any application it receives falls into this category. If it does, it will notify the mayor’s office without delay and he can then decide whether he needs or wants to call in the application for his own decision. I hope that addresses the point made by my noble friend.

The Town and Country Planning Act makes specific provision for parish councils to be notified of proposals in their area. It was a point made by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, neither of whom are in their places today. I reassure them that parish councils will have to be notified of proposals in their area where they have notified the planning authority that they wish to be kept informed. It is voluntary as far as they are concerned.

I have two amendments in this group. Amendment 17 responds to the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, which I have just discussed, and will make it a statutory requirement for the Secretary of State to inform parish councils of any applications that affect them, provided that they have asked to be notified of the applications, which seems reasonably fair. Amendment 19 makes a minor consequential change to Schedule 1.

In the light of what I have said, while I understand and sympathise with the intention behind the amendments put forward by the noble Lords, Lord True, Lord Tope, Lord Shipley and Lord McKenzie, and spoken

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to very supportively by my noble friend Lord Deben, I do not think that these additional changes are necessary to ensure that effective community involvement is seriously taken into account where applications are made to the Secretary of State. As I have said, we will ensure that secondary legislation requires the same degree of consultation with communities as primary legislation, which sets out the requirements that apply when applications are made to the local planning authority. We will of course ensure that the House has an opportunity to consider the secondary legislation that deals with these matters when the time for that is ripe.

With those assurances, I ask the noble Lords not to press their amendments.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response and for moving her own amendments. Clearly we support the government amendments and their provisions for the notification of parish councils. I have already indicated my support for the amendment tabled in the name of the noble Lords, Lord True and Lord Tope. I believe that the Minister has satisfied us about the legislative framework under which the Planning Inspectorate will be required to consult to make residents aware and to ensure that their views are taken into account, whether by primary legislation or by secondary legislation that is to come.

However, nervousness remains over whether the Planning Inspectorate’s approach will involve engaging with the intensity with which a local authority would, and whether its connection with the local community is as intense and engaged as that of a local planning authority. I suppose there is no way of getting greater assurance on this point until we see what happens in practice. The noble Lords, Lord Deben and Lord True, made a point about the era that we are in. Local people now have a much greater focus, and the entitlement to engage in these things is important. However, I do not think that we can second-guess what might happen; we will have to see in practice what the level of engagement is.

I hope the noble Lord, Lord Tope, has been satisfied on the mayor’s position. That said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 5 withdrawn.

Amendment 6 not moved.

Amendments 7 and 8

Moved by Baroness Hanham

7: Clause 1, page 2, line 44, at end insert—

“62B Designation for the purposes of section 62A

(1) An authority may be designated for the purposes of section 62A only if—

(a) the criteria that are to be applied in deciding whether to designate the authority are set out in a document to which subsection (2) applies,

(b) by reference to those criteria, the Secretary of State considers that there are respects in which the authority are not adequately performing their function of determining applications under this Part, and

(c) the criteria that are to be applied in deciding whether to revoke a designation are set out in a document to which subsection (2) applies.

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(2) This subsection applies to a document if—

(a) the document has been laid before Parliament by the Secretary of State,

(b) the 40-day period for the document has ended without either House of Parliament having during that period resolved not to approve the document, and

(c) the document has been published (whether before, during or after the 40-day period for it) by the Secretary of State in such manner as the Secretary of State thinks fit.

(3) In this section “the 40-day period” for a document is the period of 40 days beginning with the day on which the document is laid before Parliament (or, if it is not laid before each House of Parliament on the same day, the later of the two days on which it is laid).

(4) In calculating the 40-day period for a document, no account is to be taken of any period during which—

(a) Parliament is dissolved or prorogued, or

(b) both Houses of Parliament are adjourned for more than four days.”

8: Clause 1, page 2, line 45, leave out “this section” and insert “section 62A”

Amendments 7 and 8 agreed.

5 pm

Amendment 9

Moved by Lord Judd

9: Clause 1, page 3, line 1, at end insert—

“(e) the National Parks Authorities; and

(f) the Broads Authority.”

Lord Judd: My Lords, perhaps it is appropriate at this stage in our proceedings that I remind the House that I am a resident of a national park, a vice-president of the Campaign for National Parks and a patron of the Friends of the Lake District.

In Committee, my noble friend Lord Adonis very powerfully put on the record how well national parks had done in planning matters. Rereading what was said at that stage of our deliberations, it does not seem to me that the Government tried to refute the case that he put forward so convincingly. I am not altogether clear about what the rationale is for the specific exemptions listed in the Bill. Why these alone in the Bill? What is really the case for them? I hope that, in dealing with what I am about to say, the Minister may have an opportunity to leave the House wiser on this point.

If there are to be exemptions, I believe most strongly that the case of the national parks is outstanding. Why? Repeatedly since the parks were originally created in the post-war era, successive Governments of different persuasions have put on the record their determination that these parks are very special parts of the United Kingdom. To those who would say that this is an emotional argument and not a practical one, I would say—I made this point in Committee—that that is utter nonsense, because a healthy, effective nation needs space to regenerate physically and mentally and the parks make a direct contribution therefore to the well-being and operational efficiency of the nation.

We all want economic development—it would be hypocritical to pretend otherwise; I certainly want it—but these very special areas must be protected in the context of our commitment to still better economic

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performance, because they contribute to the well-being of society and help to underpin the whole nature of the society that we are trying to achieve our by our economic performance. Economic performance cannot become an end in itself; economic performance is so that we can have a decent United Kingdom, and these special areas are absolutely central to that.

It is important to recognise that we in both Houses of Parliament have had a very important role as guarantors of this reality. Since the national parks and the Broads were established, it has been recognised not only by government but by Parliament repeatedly that they are the most important areas for natural beauty and for the opportunities they provide for public understanding of their special qualities. The Government’s national parks circular of 2010 explains why it is important for national park authorities to retain a planning function in order to deliver these statutory functions. The Government’s National Planning Policy Framework restates that they are to be afforded the highest levels of protection and that major developments within or affecting a national park therefore need to be given very careful consideration.

Of course, a national park authority is highly likely to receive far fewer major applications for development than other planning authorities. A consequence of this is that the percentages for major applications determined within 26 weeks, and the percentage success rates on appeals—the criteria which are proposed by the Government for determining poorly performing authorities—can shift quite markedly from one year to another. The Government’s Planning Guarantee Monitoring Report, published in September last year, highlights that six national park authorities received three or fewer major applications in 2011-12 and that, of those, two received only one application. This surely demonstrates that the statistical problem of relying on percentages as far as they relate to national parks is a dangerous game. I recognise that the Government have issued a consultation paper that deliberates on the criteria they will use to determine poorly performing authorities. Although the period over which this is to be assessed seeks to address large variations from year to year, it is important to understand that this potentially raises very serious considerations for the parks.

Before I conclude I shall go over the basic statistical realities again. Leaving to one side the South Downs National Park, which was designated during the year in question, in the year ending 2012, the eight national park authorities and the Broads Authority received 5,000 planning applications. They granted approval for 89% of applications, which is higher than the English average of 87%. They received 53 applications for major development, of which 91% were granted approval. For major development, national park authorities compare favourably with other local planning authorities for speed of determination. They approved 60% of applications within 13 weeks, compared with the English average of 57%. It is absolutely clear to me—and I would have thought to everybody—that the national park authorities have a good track record in planning performance and a number are, for example, part of the Government’s front runner programme for promoting neighbourhood planning. If there are to be exemptions, I urge the Minister to look seriously at whether, even at the

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final stages of consideration of the Bill, she could include the national park authorities alongside the other designated authorities, although, as has been said, it would helpful if we could have a bit more information on the overall rationale for the authorities mentioned in the Bill.

This is an important issue. It is important to keep the factual side under consideration all the time. However, I am not ashamed to say that it would be very easy to introduce a new culture in which the parks have to justify their existence rather than anyone who wants to undermine their special character having to justify why they are doing that. When we introduce legislation of this kind, it is crucial to remember that we are dealing not only with the Ministers of the day. I am convinced that the Ministers of the day are quite civilised on these issues. They have a very enlightened approach. They want to help, I think, in many ways. That is encouraging, but they might not always be there. Another Minister coming along could very easily see this as the thin end of the wedge and that the door was being pushed open, opening up all sorts of new opportunities which could very easily lead to the complete destruction of the special nature of the parks. I beg to move.

Lord Deben: My Lords, I hope very much that my noble friend will resist this proposition. It seems to me to be really unacceptable. If it is necessary to have a fallback power for circumstances in which it is necessary to take to the centre decisions that would otherwise be done locally, I find it very difficult to understand why the national parks should be excluded.

There are two reasons for that. First, it says something about everybody else. It says that those people are perfectly safe, but the other people have to be subject to this rule. Speaking on behalf of everybody else, I do not think that that is a very good argument. Secondly, I was Secretary of State responsible for these matters, and I can think of one national park which ought to have been under this rule for quite some time, because its planning attitudes at the time were utterly indefensible. It is no good saying that they are always perfect. If what the noble Lord, Lord Judd, says, is true—I am sure that it is—and the national parks have a remarkable record over recent years because of the fantastic speed with which they deal with plans, nobody will do that to them. If the record is as good as that, they will be the last people to be subject to this.

I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that I find it difficult to believe in the infallibility of the national parks. Indeed, I have good reason to believe that we have made a huge mistake in making the South Downs a national park. I have opposed that all my life; I still think that it has been a disaster; it is not what should have been done and it has alienated local authorities in areas where it would be much better for them to have worked as they had worked before. I think that the same is true of the New Forest. That was an historic, political decision to do with the 1930s rather than anything to do with the 2000s, but there we are: we have done it. It has not been as damaging as it might have been, but it was not sensible.

National parks do a wonderful job. They are a fantastically important part of our structure. I think I have a long enough record of defending the countryside

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and working for country people and the nature of the British rural society not to be maligned by the suggestion that in some way I have a wicked desire to concrete over the countryside. Indeed, I have been pretty critical of the Government’s proposals on the basis that I do not think that it is necessary to build on greenfield sites. I happen to think that we can build all the housing we need on brownfield sites. It is an easy way out for developers to build on greenfield sites. They must be forced to build on brownfield sites because otherwise all they will do is build on greenfield sites and then wait until they have more greenfield sites. That was my experience from four years as Secretary of State. I hope that no one will criticise me for that.

If we are to have the clause—I have shown myself to be not altogether happy about the need for it—it must cover national parks and the Broads Authority like everybody else. It is hemmed around with all the Minister’s careful comments—she has been very clear that it would not be used except in certain extreme and specific circumstances. She has laid down some new mechanisms by which we can receive greater comfort about it. I still wonder in my heart whether it is utterly necessary, but, having done all that, it would be preposterous to leave the national parks out. It would be extremely rude to some other excellent local authorities, which will never be affected by the regulations because they, too, do the job as well as a national park.

I hope that my noble friend will resist this elegant, polite, romantic proposal, which the House should not support.

5.15 pm

Lord Liddle: I did not intend to intervene in this debate. I normally find myself in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Deben, on most issues and I greatly respect his record as a supporter of what one might call green policy. However, on this occasion, I speak declaring an interest as a Friend of the Lake District and believing that special circumstances relate to national parks which make them different from other local authorities. I saw this first-hand in my capacity as chairman of Cumbria Vision, the sub-regional body of the North West Development Agency, which was responsible for promoting economic development in Cumbria.

There are two fundamental differences. First, the people who work on national parks go into it with a very strong personal commitment to planning. I found the quality of staff working for the national park authority to be extremely high. That was not true of planning in all the other district councils in the county of Cumbria. I will not name names, but there were some problems there on the planning side. There were not, however, problems with economic development with the national park, which had a very constructive role in sustainable economic development.

The second difference, which is a fundamental difference from a local authority and the question of a Secretary of State’s potential call-in powers, is that with a national park the Secretary of State nominates quite a high proportion of the members of the authority. Therefore, if the Secretary of State believes that the national park is not getting the balance between

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development and the environment right, he or she can nominate members. That is my simple point. I shall give way.

Lord Deben: I thank the noble Lord for taking the opportunity to find a disagreement between us because we are both singularly embarrassed by the similarity of our views on a whole range of issues, from Europe to planning. However, if what he says is true, would it not be very surprising to get rid of people whose normal attitudes were extremely good but, because of something specific, things had gone wrong? Surely it would be much more sensible for the Secretary of State to be able to deal with this with a precise measure, rather than a sacking. As I understand it, these people are under a contract for a period of time and the Secretary of State would have to wait some time to remove them if they were so wrong. However, I understand from his noble friend that they very rarely get it wrong.

Lord Liddle: In my experience, they very rarely get it wrong. My point was simply that if the Secretary of State felt that the overall balance of the way a national park was operating was not right, there is a remedy available to him or her, which is not the case for a local authority. Anyway, I would urge a special provision for national parks because, on the whole, they are a very precious element of our polity, introduced by the post-war Labour Government, and I do not think we want to tamper with them and their independence.

Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, I remind noble Lords that we are on Report and, under the convention in the Companion, no Member may speak more than once to any amendment.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I speak in favour of Amendment 9 in support of my noble friend Lord Judd, who so effectively and passionately introduced it. He argues for the inclusion of the national parks authorities and the Broads Authority in those organisations that cannot be designated.

A major concern with this Bill is that it will drive down standards—that, because of the focus on timing in the criteria that are to be adopted, planning authorities will be pushed into making less considered decisions, eschewing quality for speed. That is something that runs through our concerns about this clause. As the CPRE states, exempting those particular planning authorities would be a clear recognition that landscape considerations are paramount and that they need not be distorted by the extra pressures that are coming through, as a result of this clause, on the speed of decision-making and, of course, to avoid contesting more difficult appeals.

My noble friend Lord Judd was fantastically supported by my noble friend Lord Liddle, with his direct experience of national parks. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Deben, that the fact that my noble friend’s proposal is romantic should not preclude it from being supported. It can be effective and practical, as my noble friend

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argued, as well as having romanticism. I would have thought that that is what we want from our national parks.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their interesting interventions on this interesting amendment, which we discussed in Committee. I am not going to endear myself to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, by saying that my answer now is the same as it was then. My noble friend Lord Deben said that he can see no reason for excluding national parks from designation just because they are national parks; nor can we. That also applies to the Broads Authority. The reason for keeping them included is that they are planning authorities. If they perform wonderfully and at a standard that I think the noble Lord said they would, this registration will not matter to them at all. It would completely leave them out to carry on doing what they are doing so beautifully. There might be authorities which fall into this category only if, as my noble friend Lord Deben suggested, they do not perform to the designated standard. They would then become involved.

It is important that national parks are served by an effective planning service. That applies just as much to them as to any other area. They are asked from time to time to put in major developments—we call them major if they are of 10 houses or more—and it is absolutely essential that there is within those areas a planning authority that understands what it is doing and makes those decisions carefully. There are some national parks that deal with a relatively small number of major applications, but some do not. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, cited figures, some of which would, I think, fall below the major applications category. I understand that the Lake District made decisions on 31 major applications in the past two financial years, while the New Forest dealt with 23 and the Broads Authority with 18. For those authorities, those are not inconsiderable numbers.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, asked why national parks and the Broads Authority should not be included among others which had not been designated, such as the Mayor of London and the development corporations. However, these are by and large not normal planning authorities. Certainly, the development corporations get involved to deal with only very big or complex proposals and do not deal on a day-to-day basis with some of the smaller ones.

It is true that other national parks deal with fewer major applications, but the two-year assessment period that we have proposed is designed to even out some of the fluctuations. It is also important to remember that these authorities will be able to enter into planning performance agreements or agree an extension of time where there are issues that will take additional time to resolve, which may be germane only to their particular type of application. There should be no worries that if a national park or the Broads Authority were to be designated, that would result in decisions that pay less regard to their special qualities. If, in these circumstances, an application for major development were to be made to the Secretary of State, the decision would have to be in accordance with the same statutory

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principles that apply to the designated authority. Indeed, I expect that they would also be able to access the help of the Local Government Association.

In other words, there would be the same legal obligation to make decisions in accordance with the development plan, unless there are material considerations that indicate otherwise. The Secretary of State will also be under a statutory duty to have regard to the purposes for which the national park has been designated in making such decisions. I listened carefully to the noble Lord, Lord Liddle. I am enchanted by the fact that the national parks have such good people, but that is not what this is about. If they have really good people they are making really good decisions, so they are not in any jeopardy of being designated.

I will resist the amendment and hope noble Lords will understand that, as recognised planning authorities, neither the national parks authorities nor the Broads Authority should be exempt. The communities and businesses in their areas deserve the same standards of service on planning as the rest of the country. I hope the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Judd: My Lords, I thank the Minister for the characteristically friendly candour with which she has replied. I am sorry that she has replied in the way that she has at this stage; it is rather disappointing. She referred to the complexity of the issues facing the bodies that appear in the Bill. However, I would argue that what faces a national park authority is every bit as complex, every bit as difficult and sensitive, as what faces these authorities. They are in a very special category in that context because of these wider issues of the inheritance, the special role of the parks and all the rest. Her argument about complexity strengthens the case for the park authorities being in the Bill.

I must say a word about the contribution by the noble Lord, Lord Deben. I take second place to no one in my admiration for the tremendous contribution he has made on a lot of green issues in this country. I really do regard him with some awe for the way he has stood up on a number of issues. This makes it doubly disappointing that he said what he said. Why? First, it is not the first time I have heard, almost word for word, that particular contribution by the noble Lord, Lord Deben, on national parks. I do not suppose it is the last time we will hear it, either. He clearly once had a very bad night with some of the national parks. I am not quite sure what this bad night was and I would value him putting the story straight with me in the bar one night.

I am sorry if he was left wounded for life, but if he is raising the issue that I am falling back on a generic argument when there are specific examples, why does his argument not apply to the Homes and Communities Agency? Why does it not apply to the Mayor of London or to a mayoral development corporation? Why does it not apply to an urban development corporation? Is he really saying there will not be variations there, or moments of good performance at some times and not such good performance at others? I do not understand the logic of his position. If you accept that there will always be variations but that, notwithstanding those, there are some that have such

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great responsibilities and complex—to use the Minister’s word again—issues to deal with that they have to be in the Bill, then these unique and special parts of our national parks’ life really should be there alongside the others. Not to include them is to demean them.

If it were not for people who refuse to take no for an answer—those right across the political divide in the 1930s and 1940s who kept going with their arguments, belief and purpose in establishing the parks—we would never have had them. I do not give up. I believe in the power of reason, the power of reflection, the power of decency and the civilised values that I know the Minister shares. If I am to withdraw the amendment at this stage, it is in the real hope—not just as a debating formality—that she will go away with her colleagues, look seriously at this issue again and see if there is some way she can bring meaningful reassurances to this House at Third Reading. In the mean time, on that basis, and in thanking those who have spoken to this amendment, not least my own Front Bench, I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment 9 withdrawn.

Amendment 10 not moved.

5.30 pm

Amendments 11 and 12

Moved by Baroness Hanham

11: Clause 1, page 3, leave out lines 4 to 7

12: Clause 1, page 3, line 8, leave out “this section” and insert “section 62A”

Amendments 11 and 12 agreed.

Amendments 13 to 15 not moved.

Amendment 16

Moved by Lord McKenzie of Luton

16: Clause 1, page 3, line 10, at end insert—

“( ) The Secretary of State shall arrange for an independent review into the impact of the operation of this section on local authorities to be undertaken at the end of a three year period from the date that this section comes into force, and shall lay a report before each House of Parliament.”

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I shall be brief. If Clause 1 stays in the Bill, and we hope that it does not, then there is a need for an independent review of its impact. I acknowledge at the start that the wording of this amendment could be improved, as it should focus not just on the impact on local authorities but on the effectiveness of the planning system as a whole, including from the perspective of developers. However, if necessary we can tidy this at Third Reading.

Clause 1 introduces a significant change into the planning system. Subject to later deliberations, we could be giving the Bill approval without the Government’s clear and definitive position on some key aspects—certainly, their response to the planning performance consultation, although the Minister gave us some glimpses

27 Feb 2013 : Column 1101

of where the Government are on that. We accept that there are obviously more general opportunities for parliamentary scrutiny, such as the Select Committee, but we assert that this requires an independent review. Will the Minister give us any assurance about what follow-up is planned to the Bill generally, but specifically to Clause 1 and its impact, and whether the Government would support such a review? I beg to move.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I have no difficulty with the suggestion that we should keep the implementation and impact of this measure under review, but that is not something for which we need legislation. We set out in the impact assessment that, as usual, we will undertake a post-legislative review of the provisions in the Bill three to five years after Royal Assent. This reflects the Cabinet Office guidance on post-legislative scrutiny, which requires that three to five years after Royal Assent the department must submit a memorandum to the relevant Commons departmental Select Committee, published as a Command Paper. This will include a preliminary assessment of the effects of the Bill. Furthermore, the data on local planning authority performance will be published on a quarterly basis and an annual basis, in line with our commitment to transparency. This will allow anyone with an interest to see how planning authorities are performing and, together with the decisions about dedesignation, it will form a view of the impact that the measure is having. The noble Lord’s amendment is not necessary, as this is certainly something that will be kept under close scrutiny. Under the circumstances, I hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I thank the Minister. I anticipated that that was what she might say in response to this amendment. The only thing that I would say about post-legislative scrutiny, which I certainly support as a concept, is that it does not necessarily introduce this independent aspect of the scrutiny. Still, I wanted to get on the record what the Government planned as a follow-up to the Bill, and the Minister has helped us with that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 16 withdrawn.

Amendment 17

Moved by Baroness Hanham

17: Clause 1, page 3, line 10, at end insert—

“62C Notifying parish councils of applications under section 62A(1)

(1) If an application is made to the Secretary of State under section 62A(1) and a parish council would be entitled under paragraph 8 of Schedule 1 to be notified of the application were it made to the local planning authority, the Secretary of State must notify the council of—

(a) the application, and

(b) any alteration to the application accepted by the Secretary of State.

(2) Paragraph 8(4) and (5) of Schedule 1 apply in relation to duties of the Secretary of State under subsection (1) as they apply to duties of a local planning authority under paragraph 8(1) of that Schedule.

27 Feb 2013 : Column 1102

(3) An authority designated for the purposes of section 62A must comply with requests from the Secretary of State for details of requests received by the authority under paragraph 8(1) of Schedule 1.””

Amendment 17 agreed.

Amendment 18

Moved by Lord McKenzie of Luton

18: Clause 1, leave out Clause 1

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, this amendment would remove Clause 1 from the Bill. I acknowledge that the Government have moved a little in agreeing to a parliamentary process of designation of a supposed failing authority, but that does not outweigh the overriding concerns that remain about the clause. The right for developers to bypass the local authority planning process when an authority is designated is a profound one. Not only is it a centralist approach, quite contrary to the espoused localism of the Government, but it breaks a major tenet of our planning system that democratically elected local politicians representing their communities are at the heart of the system.

We accept that not all local planning authorities deliver a top-quality service, no more than do central government. Developers who are frustrated by this have a remedy to go to the Secretary of State for non-determination within fixed deadlines. But we should be mindful of the burden placed on the Planning Inspectorate also by this clause, which already includes the work of the abolished Infrastructure Planning Commission, the examination of local plans and the examination of the draft Community Infrastructure Levy charging schedules.

I am mindful too of the awful budgetary position of many local councils facing major cuts in resources and increasing pressure on services. If local authorities need incentives to encourage development, is that not what the business rate retention scheme was meant to be about and the new homes bonus designed to ensure? Notwithstanding that, there is a proposed basis for having parliamentary oversight; the reality is that designation criteria will be rigid, relating to the number of major applications dealt with and the numbers of major decisions overturned on appeal.

The Government seem to intend that the bar will be raised in subsequent years— this was in the consultation document. This process of designation completely overlooks the fact that timeliness of dealing with applications is not just a matter for the local planning authority. It is influenced by a number of factors: the attitude of the developers, the response times of statutory consultees, the outcome of consultation, the bunching of applications. Although formal and informal agreements with developers to extend the timeframe will be reflected in the designation criteria, it seems there will be room for no other considerations to be taken into account. So it seems that there is no process for making meaningful representations.

The Government line is that designation will apply only to very few authorities, that they will know in good time and can do something about it. But from the Minister’s comments at a meeting the other day, it seems that the numbers are already creeping up and we do not know precisely what the starting or follow-on

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criteria will be. A parliamentary process helps, but we know full well that statutory instruments cannot be amended. Designation will be counterproductive for an authority which has been through a bad patch and has an improvement plan under way. What are the chances of recruiting experienced quality staff when major applications are likely to head off to the Secretary of State?

The Government should be troubled by what they have heard consistently throughout our deliberations. It is also very clear that there is not strong support from all responses to the consultation. The overriding concern is that, if Clause 1 survives, local planning authorities will be more likely to approve applications with which they would generally not be happy, just to meet a deadline. Quality will be sacrificed for speed and communities will have to live with the long-term consequences. This clause needs to go. I beg to move.

Lord Beecham: My Lords, I endorse my noble friend’s amendment and refer for the third or fourth time to what used to be available to local authorities in the form of planning development grant to improve and sustain the capacity of planning departments, which now, like every other local government department, have come under severe pressure due to increasing financial constraints. Will the Minister turn her mind to capacity and how the Government can assist, possibly by restoring some form of planning development grant? They need to ensure that the necessary staff are available with the necessary skills in order to facilitate the speedy, but thorough, examination of planning applications, which is what she, the Government and the Opposition very much wish to see.

Lord True: My Lords, I am certain that my noble friend will not succumb to the blandishments of the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie. In a way, reluctantly, I have to say that from my feelings at Second Reading, I think that she would be right to resist his temptations. This Bill as it started, as many of us said, was very broadly drafted, and in many areas it threatened to enable a degree of centralism that was unacceptable and went against what this House had recently argued for. I always accepted that there should be some kind of backstop provision on Clause 1. I was not one of those at Second Reading, as I have reminded the House, who opposed it in principle.

The powerful and eloquent arguments of the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, among many others made in this House, have contributed to changes in this clause, which he was generous enough to acknowledge earlier. After the way in which the Government have moved, it would be strange if we now seek to excise the clause. However, I say to my noble friend from these Benches that we will want to watch carefully, and with a mild degree of scepticism, the way in which this clause may or may not be used in the future. I certainly welcome what she had to say on the previous amendment about keeping the matter under review. I hope that the House will not follow the tempting voice of the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, into suggesting that this clause, as it has been amended, should go, although there is still much yet in this Bill that needs to be dealt with.

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Lord Judd: My Lords, I hope that my noble friend will stand firm. If legislation is important and necessary, it seems to me a first principle that it is important to get it as right, sound and well drafted as possible. I honestly believe that there is room for reflection on how this clause has been drafted. It is full of lurches in administration which are not logically followed through and which introduce contradictions between what is recognised and put on the face of the Bill, and what is not put on the face of the Bill. That is one area of concern.

A much deeper area of concern is the contradictions which this Bill epitomises between the legislation of the Government and their aspirations as put to the people in the general election and at other times. The whole thesis of the Conservative position was that power should be nearer people; that the bodies nearer people should have more authority than they had before; and that there should be distribution of power. Phrases such as “Trust the people” are ringing in my ears. This clause is very central to that.

However, we are moving into an age in which you do not say that ultimately the state has responsibility in a whole range of administration—of course it does —or that we therefore want to enhance and improve the local standards of democracy and the local and more regional ways in which planning and the rest are working. We are moving into an age where the state may say, “We concede that you may be able to get on with the job administratively here but please understand that the real power lies at the centre, and at any point we can intervene and call into the centre the responsibility for what is being done”. How does that add up in terms of the message that was being put to the British people about the belief in the people and the rejection of the concept of overcentralised government? There is a contradiction here. Therefore, I believe that my noble friend was absolutely right to propose the deletion of this clause. I warmly applaud and support him.

5.45 pm

Lord Deben: My Lords, I remain uncertain as to the value of this clause but I am clear that the Government, particularly my noble friend, have done a great deal to allay the real and immediate anxieties that we have had. I am sad that the Government put her in this position. The changes that she has made could perfectly well have been part of the Bill in the first place. There are other things in it on which I am not sure that we have yet reached the kind of accommodation that will be necessary if they are not to do serious harm. We shall come to those later.

This is now a better clause after the assurances and changes that have been made. The clause to which the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has jut referred is the clause with which we started. We are not discussing that but one that has been amended and clothed by the explanations and references that the Minister has put before us. I hope that others will recognise the sterling work that she has done to get us into this position and perhaps in future we can be a little more careful about how we produce the Bill in the first place. Many of our discussions could have been prevented, in the proper sense of that word, by more care in its drafting and with thought over how one proceeds in a House with sufficient numbers who do not speak from a party

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political point of view but who have some experience of how these things work out in practice. I hope that this may serve as a warning and a reminder that Bills carefully prepared at the outset are less likely to take time to pass through.

Lord Tope: My Lords, I am inclined to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Deben, but then to speculate that if that perfect world existed what function would we be left with?

Three months ago I would have had little, probably no, hesitation in joining the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie. When first published, this clause was really the antithesis of localism, which we spend so much time debating. It was clearly centralist and unsatisfactory. Even after some welcome reassurances on Report in the other place, at Second Reading, I still felt that it was unacceptable.

In moving his amendment, the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, acknowledged that the Minister had moved “a little”, I think his precise words were. That was uncharacteristically ungenerous of him. The Government have moved very substantially on this clause. I have not become an enthusiast for it but I acknowledge that pressure from all sides of this House, some excellent work by the Minister and her colleagues, and other Ministers who have been prepared to listen and hear—to echo my earlier words—have made this clause very much less harmful than it might have been. We have criteria, which will be subject to parliamentary approval, proposed at a very low threshold that, as set now, would catch, if that is the right word, few local planning authorities. We have a process whereby local planning authorities will have good warning of when they are at risk and ample opportunity to improve.

We have heard that that improvement will be sector-led and that the LGA has been in discussions and is prepared to work with local planning authorities at risk and to help them reach the necessary improvements so that they do not become designated. If after all that a local planning authority is performing so badly, it probably deserves to be designated. We are looking at an incentive to improve and not a deterrent to punish. I believe that after the criteria that we have put in place, and the provisos and reassurances that we have had, very few local planning authorities will actually get designated. I understand why the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, fears that, at least in part, that may in part be because the quality of decision-making is reduced particularly to meet timescales, or, to be less particular, on important issues such as design.

We will have to see, but given how few local planning authorities currently would meet the criteria for designation, I am not too worried about that. If it looks to be the case, we will have to tackle that, but I am not too worried. As I said previously, if at the end of this process the local planning authority is still so bad that it meets the criteria for designation, that may very well be the last resort that has to be taken, but even when we get to designation we should remember that major planning applications will not be required to go PINS; that will be the choice of the developer. The local situation may be so bad that the developer makes that choice, but my guess is that in most cases the developer would still prefer to stay local and stay

27 Feb 2013 : Column 1106

working with a local planning authority, where by that stage no doubt the relationship would be far from perfect, but there would still be a relationship.

I start to wonder whether this clause—not that it is undesirable—may not be necessary and whether the Planning Minister’s hope and aspiration that it will never be necessary to use it may well come about. Like my noble friends, I have been reassured during the process of the Bill and, perhaps unlike the noble Lord, Lord Deben, I am pleased that we have been able to go through the process, although I would rather not have been in that place in the first place. On that basis, I am prepared to accept the Government’s wish to have this clause as an incentive not a deterrent to encourage those local planning authorities whose performance is far from perfect—and we all acknowledge that they exist—to improve themselves.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I think my noble friends Lord True and Lord Tope for their encouraging words and for their recognition of the amount of work that has been done in this House—and we should acknowledge the fact that the House has played a very important part in the changes that we have been able to make in this Bill. I understand that there are still real concerns about it, and the noble Lord, Lord Judd, referred again to localism. This is not an issue of localism but of ensuring that local people get a proper planning service and that local developers get a proper result from the applications that they put forward.

This is not a measure that we take lightly. It is something that we are very serious about because we believe it to be both necessary and appropriate. We are very clear—and I want to emphasise this—that planning decisions should continue to be made locally wherever possible but, as I have emphasised throughout our discussions on this clause, we should be prepared to act where standards have fallen to a wholly unacceptable level. Noble Lords will agree that the criteria that they are working to at the moment would constitute being at a wholly unacceptable level. That is no different from the approach that previous Administrations have taken, and I have pointed out how the criteria were adopted by schools, hospitals and other services under previous Governments. We should be prepared to do the same for planning, not least because of the role that it plays in supporting growth as well as being an important community service in its own right.

We listened carefully to the arguments made in Committee, and the amendments that we have brought forward put beyond doubt that this measure can be used only where it is clear that performance is inadequate and that the ability to apply directly to the Secretary of State will be open only to those seeking approval for major development. We have defined that, too. As my noble friend Lord Deben said, the choice of where this application is heard will still be in the hands of the developers; it is their option to go to the Planning Inspectorate if they are not happy having the application heard by a designated council, but they do not have to. They can leave the application and have it heard in the normal way by the council, if that is their choice. I agree, too, that some developers work very closely in particular areas and therefore have a relationship that is wholly proper with their local authorities.

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I also indicated that Parliament will have the opportunity to consider again the criteria for designating authorities before they are finalised and before any changes are made to them in future, if they are to be made. By using transparent criteria, with data published on a regular basis, planning authorities will be clear about whether their performance needs to improve to avoid designation, and through the support package that we have been discussing with the LGA we hope and expect that the number of designations in future will be very limited indeed.

Of course, we also anticipate that the mere existence of this measure will encourage timely and well considered decisions by planning authorities and so avoid the need for designations. I do not accept the argument that local authorities will now rush around trying to get planning decisions through in 13 weeks to escape or grind up slightly from the percentage that might hit the criteria. We have made it clear that they do not need to rush; they need to make a very focused effort on plans. If there are reasons why the planning applications cannot go forward in the normal timescale, then the planning agreement signed and agreed between the local authority and the developer will be recognised as the reason why it has taken longer than normal.

For those authorities that are designated, we are clear that we are not removing any powers from them in any way. The Secretary of State is intervening in only a very marginal area.

The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, referred to the planning and development grant. I point out to him, as I am sure he knows, that planning fees have increased by 15%, and there has been an extra contribution to local authorities from that point of view.

I believe that this clause remains a necessary measure, albeit one of last resort. We have put beyond doubt how it may be used, and thought carefully about an approach to assessing performance that is fair, transparent and minimises any risk of perverse outcomes. My noble friends Lord True, Lord Tope, Lord Deben and Lord Judd—well, the noble Lord, Lord Judd, is a friend, but not in this instance—have underlined what I have been saying. There is a need for this, however limited the need may be. I ask the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, to withdraw his amendment; if he does not and he presses it to a Division, I ask the House to reject it.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have participated in the discussion and thank my noble friends Lord Judd and Lord Beecham for their strong support for the amendment.

What surprises me somewhat is the view that people have taken that the clause is now so dramatically different from what it was at Second Reading, when pretty much everyone who spoke in the debate would have preferred to see it out of the Bill. Along the way, I should say that at no stage would I have it said that I had not recognised the important work that the Minister has done on this Bill, and will continue to do.

Let us look at the position. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, said that he thought that the Planning Minister would believe or hope that this provision would not affect anyone at all. At a meeting just the other day

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that the Minister organised, he said that the number likely to be caught had gone up and that it could be as many as 20. The criteria that are promulgated—we do not yet know what the final criteria will be—have not changed since Second Reading. The 20% and 30% criteria have been consulted on.

The noble Lord, Lord Tope, said that if local authorities are so bad, they deserve what comes their way. It depends how you judge “so bad”. Part of the challenge that we have is that the criteria are not necessarily a fair determinant of poor performance because so many other factors influence the timing of approvals and the planning process. If you look at what has changed since Second Reading when people were so unhappy with this clause, you will see that we have the term “major development” in the clause but, at the start of our consideration of the Bill here, the position was always that major developments would be caught by this and that was very clear from debate in the other place. The criteria that were promulgated at that stage have not changed.

We have a parliamentary process but, frankly, the negative procedure is the weakest parliamentary process you can have. We know full well that it is not really possible to change those regulations once they come into force. We also know that the Government are seeking to tighten those criteria in the future. They have consulted on that, although we do not know the extent to which that tightening will take place. It seems to me that very little has moved on this clause that is positive. I accept that there have been assurances around sector support, but even that was promulgated around a concept at the time when we debated this at Second Reading. From my perspective, very little has changed in practice on this clause since the Bill arrived in your Lordships’ House. I hear what noble Lords on opposite Benches have said. I am sorry that I have not been able to persuade those who have spoken, but I wish to test the opinion of the House.

6.02 pm

Division on Amendment 18

Contents 176; Not-Contents 201.

Amendment 18 disagreed.

Division No.  1


Adams of Craigielea, B.

Adonis, L.

Afshar, B.

Alli, L.

Alton of Liverpool, L.

Anderson of Swansea, L.

Andrews, B.

Bach, L.

Bakewell, B.

Bassam of Brighton, L. [Teller]

Beecham, L.

Berkeley, L.

Bilston, L.

Borrie, L.

Bradley, L.

Bragg, L.

Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.

Brookman, L.

Brooks of Tremorfa, L.

Browne of Belmont, L.

Browne of Ladyton, L.

Campbell-Savours, L.

Carter of Coles, L.

Christopher, L.

Clancarty, E.

Clarke of Hampstead, L.

Clinton-Davis, L.

Collins of Highbury, L.

Colville of Culross, V.

Corston, B.

Crawley, B.

Davies of Coity, L.

Davies of Stamford, L.

Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.

27 Feb 2013 : Column 1109

Dear, L.

Donaghy, B.

Donoughue, L.

Dubs, L.

Elder, L.

Elystan-Morgan, L.

Erroll, E.

Evans of Parkside, L.

Evans of Temple Guiting, L.

Falkland, V.

Farrington of Ribbleton, B.

Foulkes of Cumnock, L.

Gale, B.

Gilbert, L.

Golding, B.

Gordon of Strathblane, L.

Goudie, B.

Gould of Potternewton, B.

Grenfell, L.

Grocott, L.

Hanworth, V.

Harris of Haringey, L.

Harrison, L.

Hart of Chilton, L.

Haworth, L.

Hayman, B.

Hayter of Kentish Town, B.

Healy of Primrose Hill, B.

Henig, B.

Hilton of Eggardon, B.

Hollis of Heigham, B.

Howarth of Breckland, B.

Howarth of Newport, L.

Howe of Idlicote, B.

Howells of St Davids, B.

Howie of Troon, L.

Hoyle, L.

Hughes of Stretford, B.

Hughes of Woodside, L.