|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The Minister suggested that my amendment imposed a level of detail on local authorities. That was certainly not the intention and I do not believe that that is the effect of the amendment. The level of detail is contained in Clause 4(2). That is the "how". My amendment does not seek to alter that in any way. We shall reflect on this matter and we may want to return to it. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: This amendment seeks in particular to understand and perhaps to develop what is meant by the well-being strategy but also to put on the agenda the issue of sustainable development.
It seems to me that the sum total of these aspects of well-being and, indeed, the process of achieving them amount to sustainable development. Perhaps I may put the matter in another way and ask how those three aspects of well-being differ from sustainable development in Clause 2(3). Perhaps I may add to that mix and ask what is the relationship between the provisions of this Bill and the Government of Wales Act which, under Section 121, requires the Assembly to make a scheme setting out how it proposes to promote sustainable development. Incidentally, that is not sustainable development in Wales, or of Wales, or in the UK; it is sustainable development period.
The question of sustainable development has exercised Parliament and many others for some time. It was suggested earlier today that we do not know what is meant by sustainable development. I believe that the debate has moved on and that there is quite a consensus around what it means. If the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, were here, she would describe to the Committee the importance of the various aspects of it far more eloquently than I can do.
If this strategy is not the sustainable development strategy, then where do we have sustainable development in relation to those powers of well-being? It is important in many areas, not least that of planning.
I said earlier that I am beginning to move to a view where I believe that the principal purpose of local government is to achieve sustainable development. Perhaps I may take planning as an example. If one were to write this onto the face of the Bill as the strategy, it would be much easier for planning decisions to take account of social and environmental impacts along with economic impacts. It would be easier to judge them as a package, which is the direction in which planning should be going. It is not just a matter of the environment; it relates to all aspects of society.
I hope that the Government will at least explain the distinction between this piece of legislation and the Government of Wales Act. If my amendment achieves no more than that, it will have been worth floating. I beg to move.
Lord Whitty: Whether we can describe such strategies as being for the purposes of well-being or for sustainable development is, to some extent, a matter of judgment. I have some sympathy with the noble Baroness and those who are attempting to establish the term "sustainable development" in its widest sense.
However, in the context of this Bill and, indeed, probably in relation to the Government of Wales Act, there is no distinction. They amount to much the same thing. The guidance on community strategies will emphasise that point. But there are strong reasons for retaining the clause as currently drafted. By using the words "economic, social and environmental", it is immediately clear that the strategy is to encompass all of those three dimensions in all an authority's functions, whether in relation to the local economy, social welfare or the environment.
Regrettably, the connection is less clear if one refers only to sustainable development. That is the case, as I am sure those in local government who are trying to set up and develop Local Agenda 21 will bear witness. It is true also that in the drafting structure of the Bill, the wording here reflects the wording of Clause 2(1), which is the key clause, whereas the noble Baroness referred to Clause 2(3) which comes later. Therefore, it is important that in the earlier clause we reflect the objectives in this part of the Bill as well. The point is reinforced that the new well-being will be an important tool in ensuring that local authorities can deliver sustainable growth.
Although I am slightly torn--I understand why the amendment was moved--for the sake of consistency throughout the Bill, we are not in favour of this. Therefore, I ask the noble Baroness not to press her amendment.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: Before my noble friend replies, will the Minister define for me a matter that is not apparent? On Amendment No. 11 we proposed specifying the health of people as well as sustainable development. The Minister reassured us--tomorrow I shall check his exact words in Hansard--that the reference to sustainable development
If that applied on Amendment No. 11, I do not understand why it is now better to specify all three different areas of work and not subsume them in that all-encompassing phrase which allows for the three to be balanced. As drafted, I am not sure how the Government can prevent an authority from pursuing one of those areas through its community plan, should it choose to, at the expense of the other two.
Lord Whitty: The subsuming of social inclusion and health applies equally to both social well-being and sustainable development. Clearly, therefore, those dimensions to community planning apply whichever phraseology is used. Sustainable development is, as yet, not as widely understood as the noble Baroness and I would like. The three-pronged strategy is one that is reflected in other legislation and in the key subsection of this legislation. We want consistency through the Bill. I should have hoped that sustainable development would be understood more clearly and more comprehensively than, regrettably, it is. For the purposes of this legislation I believe that some clarity is achieved by making reference to all three. Of course, there is no differentiation in terms of priority between the three. There has to be a balance, as there will have to be a balance within a single sustainable development framework.
Baroness Hamwee: I am sorry that the Government do not feel confident enough to lead the way by including that terminology. This is an interesting and important area. In my mind I do not separate the issue of sustainable development strategy from what I would prefer to see as a mandatory requirement. I shall not pursue the matter now, although I shall reflect on it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: On Amendment No. 37 I shall not detain the House for long. It covers ground that we debated on Amendments Nos. 3, 6 and 7 standing in my name. I see no point in reiterating those arguments to the extreme boredom of the Committee. Therefore, I beg to move.
The amendment seeks to remove from local authorities the ability to plan for actions that merely maintain the existing levels of well-being within their areas. If a local authority identified actions that prevented a deterioration in the current state of its
By removing the word "promote" local authorities would be prevented from taking any action which maintained current levels of well-being, or prevent a slide in the current levels of well-being. Clearly, we would not want to exclude such actions. Therefore, the amendment of the noble Lord would have a perverse effect. I hope that he will not press it.