Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)|
QC, MR MIKE
TUESDAY 18 DECEMBER 2001
40. Where is the accountability?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The accountability comes
ultimately from the Secretary of State producing the regional
spatial strategy. He is part of an elected government. That is
where the accountability comes from.
41. The accountability is not to be in the region;
it is to be with the Secretary of State.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) What the Secretary of
State is seeking to do is to ensure that the document which is
produced is one produced by a representative body within the region.
42. As decided by the Secretary of State?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Ultimately, yes.
43. Can the Secretary of State just add people
on or can he take people off?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It would be a consultative
process. It would not be a formal selection of people. What the
Secretary of State would do in effect would be to leave the regional
players to produce the steering group. Only in the very exceptional
case that it did not appear to be representative for a reason
would he wish to intervene.
Sir Paul Beresford
44. What sort of size will the steering group
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It would vary from region
to region. Let us hear views in relation to that during the course
of the consultation.
45. Every local authority or district authority
is going to want a representative on it so we already running
up to 60.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. It will be a quite
significance size in order for it to be adequately representative.
46. It is going to make a decision that is going
to be unanimous?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is going to produce
a regional spatial strategy. At the moment, the way that regional
planning guidance is produced is either by a regional chamber
or by a coming together of all the local authorities with planning
responsibility in the area.
47. There is a whittling down system that moves
in towards the centre to get that decision?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is a process by which
currently they can come together and produce regional planning
guidance. I have absolutely no doubt that it will be possible
to put together a group at regional level that would be able to
produce regional spatial strategies.
48. In this process, are you not removing the
elected decisions of elected county councils as part of this proposal
and not replacing them by an elected region?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is no different in
terms of democratic accountability to the present system. Everybody
agreed that when one spoke about how to reform the planning system
you do need a regional planning level.
49. I do not think they wanted a series of tzars
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Nobody is offering tzars
or tzarinas. That is not part of the proposal.
50. Acolytes? What word would you say should
be applied to a group of people chosen by the Secretary of State,
decided to be representative or unrepresentative by the Secretary
of State and ultimately handing to him the right to decide whether
they have come up with the right answers?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I have not said that they
would be chosen by the Secretary of State. What I have said is
it is for the region to come together and decide what is the most
representative body that can produce a regional spatial strategy.
As Sir Paul says, that will include representatives of all the
relevant local authorities but it will include other representatives
51. What would be the balance between the elected
representatives and the non-elected representatives?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) That is a matter for each
region to decide. Let us hear about it in the consultation. In
regional chambers, I think it is 70/30 at the moment. That seems
a perfectly reasonable breakdown but if people have different
views let us hear them in the consultation. You need a regional
level of planning. You need a process whereby you can get a representative
view from the region in order to produce that document because
the document has to have legitimacy within the region. What we
are proposing is we think the best way to get that legitimacy,
not by the Secretary of State appointing the body but the Secretary
of State simply having a fall back power if the body that emerges
from the region does not adequately represent the views of the
region. If there is an alternative, we would be willing to hear
it and take it into account in the consultation.
52. I think the issue is about accountability
at regional level, not whether there is a regional level. Can
I turn to the question of major infrastructure projects? It is
proposed that the decisions on the principle and location of major
infrastructure projects would be taken by Parliament. How tightly
would you define location in that context?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Pretty precisely. For
example, in relation to terminal five, what would be envisaged
is that the actual site would be designated on a plan which Parliament
would have before it, before it made the decision. It would not
be simply: should there be a fifth terminal at London Heathrow
Airport and let the local planning authority decide where that
might be. It would be identified on a plan where the particular
project was going to go. Plainly, if it was a big, complicated
project like a port, obviously there would be room for changes
to be made about the precise size and diameter of things but in
many cases the position of the project would be delineated by
map before Parliament.
53. If an issue of that detail went to Parliament,
do you feel it would get proper scrutiny or do you feel that the
whips by formal or informal means would impose the wishes of the
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The proposals made for
parliamentary scrutiny of the process involve a process quite
similar to that used in relation to orders under the regulatory
reform process. That involves a number of time limits, a process
by which written representations are put in and a process by which
parliamentary committees can scrutinise the detail of the particular
proposals that are made, making such decisions as they, the committee,
feel appropriate about hearing evidence. I do not think people
think that the regulatory reform order process is one where Parliament
does not adequately scrutinise the detail of those orders. I believe
that Parliament would be able to give proper scrutiny to the sorts
of proposals we have referred to but again the consultation document
allowed for everybody's views in relation to that and in particular
54. Would Parliament be permitted to amend the
proposal or would it be a matter of accept or reject?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Under the regulatory reform
proposals, what you have is a two stage process and after views
have been expressed the promoter of the order can come back with
an amended order. I am not sure that the same process could apply
in relation to these sorts of things because if there is a promoterfor
example, the BAApromoting terminal five at London Heathrow
it is really a question for the promoter of the proposals to decide
whether or not he would want to go ahead if Parliament said, "We
only want to do it if it is amended in a particular way."
You are dealing with a slightly different process.
55. You are making Parliament a planning body?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In relation to national
infrastructure projects, you are saying Parliament must decide
whether that project should be allowed in principle to go ahead.
56. No, you are not; you going much beyond that.
You are suggesting that Parliament has to agree on the specific
location which you suggest should be fairly tightly drawn.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It could be in relation
to things like terminal five. Yes, I am saying Parliament should
decide that. In very many cases, Parliament could not make the
decision without knowing with some degree of precision where the
particular project was going.
57. The answer to the question, "Are you
making it a planning authority?" is yes.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No, because Parliament
decides the principle; then there is the public inquiry on the
58. Does it decide in principle or does it decide
on the specific site, because you have now said within the space
of ten minutes both of those things are true. We are getting a
little bit into Alice in Wonderland territory here.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is my fault for not
being clear. It decides in principle whether or not T5 should
be built there.
59. On a specific site?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It will be on a specific