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Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal): Does my hon. Friend agree that it is even worse in the counties, which feel that they may be abolished under the Government's plan for regional government—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. That is outside the scope of this motion.

Mr. Gummer: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The reason why I asked that question was that my hon. Friend had rightly said that people in planning offices might find other jobs. I merely wanted to point out that that would be exacerbated where there were other pressures, too. I think that that was at least ancillary to what was being said.

Madam Deputy Speaker: The right hon. Gentleman has made his point, but I remind Members of the narrowness of this debate.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: The principle of the Bill is laid out clearly by the Government, however, in the document that they have just produced, "Sustainable Communities: Delivering Through Planning—Progress Report". In a recent letter, which I quoted previously, the Minister said that one aspect of the Bill would be some amendments on sustainable communities. Unless those provisions are somehow buried within the four categories, it looks as though measures on sustainable communities have been dropped.

Mr. McNulty: That simply refers to the urban development corporation amendments that are required to secure much of what we need for growth areas under the sustainable communities plan. May I also point out that if the order lapses by 4 June, the matter is in the hands of the House? It could consider a motion to extend proceedings for another three or six months, but we shall not reach that stage.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: I like the Minister's predictions because he is giving himself more hostages to fortune. He said illuminatingly that he does not expect any Government amendments to be tabled on Report. I suspect that those words will come back to haunt him in no uncertain manner, but we shall see what happens whether we have an extra six months or not—that will depend on whether the motion is passed.

The Government intend the Bill to address four principles but it is likely to address only one, irrespective of whether we have extra time. They say:

but the Bill will not do that because they are introducing a new raft of provisions on regional planning. They say:

but that will be difficult to achieve. Given the complexity of a Bill containing provisions on local development frameworks, local development documents, local development plans and a raft of other documents, it is unlikely that such plans will be in place more quickly.

I agree with the following objective of the Bill:

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I have no doubt whatsoever that there will be teams of inspectors. There was criticism about the time that the Heathrow terminal 5 inquiry took, which I agreed with. From a national perspective, we need to speed up major infrastructure projects, which is a key aspect of the Bill.

The Government's fourth aim is to introduce

I am sure that that is their genuine aim, but the Bill will not achieve it. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) made a point that we shall have to address in Committee. The Chancellor is clearly interested in the amount of building that will occur in the south-east but the Bill does not address properly that subject, which is one of the most crucial planning issues that we currently face. Irrespective of whether we have extra time, how will the Bill deliver the size of development that will be needed in the south-east, where will such development take place, and will we have the proper infrastructure to achieve that?

There will be uncertainty and the Minister must do all that he can to end the uncertainty experienced by businesses and the planning community. I hope that he will reconsider the time allowed in Committee because if the usual channels agreed to allow more time, we might be able to facilitate the Committee more sensibly so that its parliamentary scrutiny could be much better organised. Given that there will be 70 major amendments and new clauses and that all Opposition parties will table amendments, as we should, I do not understand how we will have sufficient time in Committee.

Are the Government so keen to get the Bill on the statute book that will they give it top priority after the Queen's Speech? I join my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman) in hoping that they will drop it altogether and come back with something more sensible—pigs might fly. I suspect that the Government will proceed with the Bill, but will the Minister reassure me that if the motion is passed—I strongly urge my hon. Friends to oppose it—Report and Third Reading will quickly follow the Committee stage? The planning and business communities would like such an assurance.

That point brings us on to the next problem. There are no similar carry-over provisions in the other place. Given the technical nature of the Bill, I would not be surprised if the other place wanted to subject it to considerable scrutiny. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham said, I hope that it will receive considerable scrutiny in the other place because that will be needed if we are so constrained in Committee that we can do only a quarter of the job, as happened before. I assure the House that I shall give every possible assistance to Members of the other place by pointing out the Bill's omissions and lacunae.

Will the Minister consider invoking the Parliament Act? There is considerable doubt about how it would operate following carry-over. That point is probably outside the remit of the motion but it is important given the Bill's timetable and the time at which it might reach the statute book. Many people are scratching their heads about today's proceedings and wondering why we have reached this position. The Government were in a

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dreadful hurry for the Bill to be given its Second Reading and to be considered in Committee, so I cannot understand what has happened since the end of January.

The Standing Order, which must be renewed in the next Session, might need to be examined. Given that we are almost at the end of this Session, there is no way in which the Bill's stages could be completed under the 12-month procedure—by 4 December 2003. If we intend to carry over Bills, the Standing Order should allow for the whole of the next Session to be available for their consideration. Carry-over provisions would be complete nonsense if the motions that we are considering today were not accepted. If the House did not pass this motion—it has already passed the first motion—the Government would be in considerable difficulty because the Bill would not complete all its stages by 4 December 2003. We need a sensible examination of the drafting of the Standing Order to make it more practical.

The Government hope that no amendments will be tabled on Report, so they will no doubt produce a timetable to allow only an hour or two on Report and an hour on Third Reading. I signal in advance that if the Government severely constrain scrutiny in Committee, we shall need plenty of time on Report, so I hope that they will not constrain the time allowed for it.

I hope that the Government will make progress on the Bill. People outside who will have to operate under its provisions want progress because uncertainty is bad for everyone. The Government should give the Bill momentum, produce some certainty and publish the amendments as soon as possible. I hope that at least some amendments will be published before the recess. It is only reasonable that we have time to examine them because several of the provisions that we must consider, especially those on compulsory purchase, will be highly technical. I should have declared an interest as a charted surveyor who has practised in planning. I know that compulsory purchase is highly technical and I have no doubt that I shall want to take technical advice on the amendments relating to it.

Will the Minister give us a little clarification on compulsory purchase? There was a rumour that the Law Commission was working on the nuts and bolts of compulsory purchase whereas the Bill deals only with the mechanism of compensation. The rumour was that the Government were thinking of introducing a separate compulsory purchase Bill to deal with the Law Commission's recommendations. Does the Minister intend to incorporate those into the Bill, which would make a further Bill less imminent?

Mr. McNulty: As I suggested earlier, we will go further than we did in the existing Bill, but we cannot involve the Law Commission recommendations because the report will not be completed in time. We still anticipate the need for a fuller, more complex, compulsory purchase Bill to deal with the detail, as I think I said in Committee. The Bill under discussion will go further than the original Bill and tidy up aspects of

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planning and compulsory purchase before the report is published, but I anticipate that we will still need the second Bill.

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