Examination of Witnesses (Questions 980-988)
LORD FALCONER OF THOROTON QC, BRIAN HACKLAND, MIKE ASH AND JEFF CHANNING
WEDNESDAY 8 MAY 2002
980. So how could Business Planning Zones actually be used to positively promote brownfield development?
(Lord Falconer) Because, for example, you could identify a Business Planning Zone on a brownfield site, you could set the criteria, you could thereby reduce the amount of bureaucracy that had to be gone through, in order to develop on that site, as long as the criteria were satisfied. It could become a positive promoter of them.
981. But, you see, all the evidence is that in the last few years we have had an unprecedented growth in employment, so what evidence is there really that the planning system has actually failed because it has limited economic growth; how do you justify the radical change?
(Lord Falconer) There are significant numbers of bodies who have said, and the CBI is one, that the planning system has inhibited competitiveness and has inhibited economic growth over the years, because the system is more complicated, less speedy than it needs to be when taking quality decisions, less certain in its outcome; thereby making many businesses, who might, for example, have a choice to make about whether they site employment possibilities and development here or in other countries in the world, choose other countries in the world.
Sir Paul Beresford: Mandy Rice Davies had a statement
that covered that.
982. They appear to have chosen this country, over the last ten years, do they not, in spite of this oppressive planning regime that you are talking about?
(Lord Falconer) Obviously, lots and lots and lots of people have, yes, but that does not mean
983. Rather more have chosen here than they have in Germany, or in France, or some of the places where it is alleged it is much easier to get planning permission?
(Lord Falconer) You will know that there is a range of people who say that the planning system, habitual users of the system, house-builders, say that it inhibits development, the CBI have said it inhibits development; all of the people
984. But neither the CBI nor the Housebuilders Federation support the wholesale changes you are proposing, they have all got reservations about this?
(Lord Falconer) They have, yes, but this is not an agenda simply to deliver for business. It is a vast package.
985. I think I had better cut the Committee off, at that point. And can I ask you to just help us with a slight problem that the Committee have got. We have to produce a report, and it would be probably sensible to try to produce the report in time to fit in to the timetable that the Government is working to. Now you are having these nice, amicable discussions with the Chancellor; presumably, if we want to comment about the resource issue, which seems to me to be fairly fundamental, I do not know what the Committee will decide, we need to make those views known pretty sharply. If we want to make our views known to influence your statement in July, that also involves a fairly tight timetable, does it not; can you help us with that timetable?
(Lord Falconer) We would envisage, as I said, making the statement before the summer recess. I do not know what the precise timing of the actual decision-making would be in the Comprehensive Spending Review, so I cannot give you concrete timing. In relation to the resource issue, plainly, the earlier the better. In terms of our policy statement, a report by the last weeks of June would be impactable on the decisions made and announced by the summer recess.
986. That is helpful. Now you are also coming back to talk to us about public spaces on 21 May. I understand there has been this cost-cutting review, led by Ministers in the Treasury, and that you have had a couple of interim reports. Will it be possible for us to see those reports before the meeting on 21 May; it might inform our questions rather better?
(Lord Falconer) I thought I was the responsible Minister for the cost-cutting review, I could be wrong about that.
987. Right, yes, well that is alright then, so it is quite simple, you can assure us that these documents will be available to us?
(Lord Falconer) Yes; subject to there being some
988. To getting permission from the Treasury?
(Lord Falconer) No, no; subject to thinking, just addressing the question whether or not it would be inappropriate. I think that will be fine, yes.
Chairman: Right. Well, on that note, can I thank you very much.