Previous SectionIndexHome Page



Mr. Secretary Prescott, supported by Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Blunkett, Secretary Margaret Beckett, Mr. Secretary Darling, Mr. Secretary Reid, Ms Secretary Hewitt, Mr. Secretary Clarke, Mr. Paul Boateng and Mr. Peter Hain, presented a Bill to make provision about housing conditions; to regulate houses in multiple occupation and certain other residential accommodation; to make provision for home information packs in connection with the sale of residential properties; to make provision about secure tenants and the right to buy; to make other provision about housing; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed. [Bill 11].

8 Dec 2003 : Column 781

8 Dec 2003 : Column 783

Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill (Programme)

3.43 pm

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Keith Hill): I beg to move, That the programme order of 17th December 2002 shall be varied as follows:

As the House will know, the Bill has received detailed scrutiny in Committee, both in its initial three-week consideration, and later, in the two weeks when it was recommitted so that the new provisions that we sought to introduce to cover the removal of the Crown's immunity from planning controls and some further provisions to improve the system of compulsory purchase could be considered. Recommital meant that, in total, the Bill was debated for some 55.5 hours in Standing Committee. I am grateful to all hon. Members who participated in consideration of the Bill for their constructive contributions.

Anxious as I am to make progress on the substantive rather than the procedural aspects of the debate, I should respond to the observations that the hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) made last week in his point of order, in which he complained about lack of notice on the amendments relating to planning contributions. The hon. Gentleman acts as though this is a dark plot to spring the amendments on him, but it is the end of a process that began back in December 2001, when we consulted on four options for reforming planning obligations. Our preferred option was the tariff. In July last year, having received and considered more than 500 responses to that consultation, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister announced that although the objectives of the tariff proposal were widely welcomed by a majority of respondents, many could be delivered without legislative change.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con): Will the Minister give way?

Keith Hill: Of course—how can I resist giving way to my former opposite number?

Mr. McLoughlin: Can the Minister tell us how much of the Bill is in the original form in which it received its Second Reading in this House?

Keith Hill: The greater part of the Bill remains in its original form—subject, of course, to sensible

8 Dec 2003 : Column 784

amendments, many of which were made in the light of sensible representations on the part of the loyal Opposition. Additions to the Bill were properly debated and scrutinised on its recommittal. We are now bringing forward new material that I will try to deal with in the course of this short debate.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): Who decides what is sensible?

Keith Hill: Members of the House of Commons when they vote on the provisions of the Bill: I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would entirely agree with that.

Work continued on the issues, especially in the light of the many representations that we continued to receive. We continued to explore how to offer developers and local authorities a straightforward way in which to shorten the time taken on negotiations. The proposals are a development of our earlier consultation about the tariff—they are nothing new; and they are optional, not mandatory.

I announced our proposals in a written statement to the House and published the consultation document on 6 November. In both I explained that we intended to take enabling powers in the Bill. I made a particular point of ensuring that the Opposition were in immediate receipt of the consultation document. If the hon. Member for Cotswold and his Liberal Democrat counterpart, the hon. Member for Ludlow (Matthew Green), happened to miss my statement and the consultation document, perhaps they had a chance to read about it in their daily newspapers. The Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Times covered my announcement extensively, explaining that we intended to legislate, what we intended to legislate for, and that the detail of the proposals would be subject to further discussion. I do not know what the weekend reading matter of the hon. Member for Cotswold might be, but I am sure that, as a chartered surveyor, he takes the opportunity to catch up with specialist publications such as Property Week, Estates Gazette, Regeneration and Renewal and Housing Today, all of which made it clear that we intended, as I said on 6 November, to take enabling powers in the Bill.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con): Of course, I read all those publications avidly, because I try to get into them as often as possible. However, what the Minister says is a travesty. Although we knew in principle that the new clauses were on the way, until we saw them in detail there was no possibility of our being able to table counter-amendments. The Minister sat on the matter for a month and tabled the amendments just two days—not even two full days—before all amendments had to be in or end up being starred and therefore unable to be debated. That is a manipulation of parliamentary procedure and a sloppy way of carrying on.

Keith Hill: Notwithstanding the hon. Gentleman's protestations, he succeeded in tabling no fewer than 20 amendments to two new clauses, so it appears that he

8 Dec 2003 : Column 785

did not find the process of responding to the possibly late tabling of the new clauses a particularly arduous process.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: Although I do not have an entire ministerial team behind me, I was up very late into the night drafting amendments to try to ensure that the Minister and Government did not get away with it.

Keith Hill: I do not want to take away from the assiduousness of the hon. Gentleman, but his amendments' redolence of the midnight oil means that, unfortunately, I shall have to reject quite a lot of them.

The consultation document invited views on the general principles of reform. It was clear that we intended to legislate by making provision for a new optional planning charge that will give developers a choice between the current negotiated approach and the alternative of paying a predetermined fixed amount. I want to make it clear that we will publish the results of the consultation and our response to the points raised, as well as more detail on the form that the regulations will take, in order to inform the debates in the other place during January.

Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley) (Con): The Minister will be aware that, in July last year, the Select Committee condemned most of the draft planning Bill, including the part dealing with tariffs. Considering that it did so on the basis of what had been said by the many people who came before it, and of the many memorandums that it received, would it not be more appropriate for such a delicate issue to be delayed—or at least for the relevant part of the Report stage of the Bill to be put off—until the results of the consultation are in and have been seriously considered by the Government?

Keith Hill: I do not think so. Our earlier consultation received precisely 505 representations on this subject. The broad outlines of the issue have been sufficiently adumbrated up and down the country, although of course we continue to discuss the matter with interested parties. In the circumstances, and in the light of the fact that these are enabling measures which will be subject to further detailed consideration in consultation, guidance and regulation, we feel that this is the right moment to introduce them.

We intend to issue a second, more detailed consultation document in spring 2004, which will be a draft circular setting out firmer and more detailed proposals. After that second consultation period, we will publish a new, revised circular to replace circular 1/97. I accept that we have shortened the consultation period to nine weeks from the 12 weeks that we usually allow. In this case, the period is shorter because we are looking for broad views on the general principles. As I have said, a further consultation document will set out our proposals in detail, and we expect to consult for longer at that time. In a nutshell, we have decided that we want to take advantage of this rare legislative opportunity to introduce the optional planning charge. Planning Bills are not introduced frequently, and the opportunity might not arise again for years.

8 Dec 2003 : Column 786

I hope that these explanations will satisfy the House, and the hon. Member for Cotswold in particular. As I have said, the Bill has already enjoyed a lengthy Committee stage, in which there has been ample opportunity for the Opposition to scrutinise all its aspects. Moreover, it is precisely because we recognise that we are bringing new material to it, in the form of three new clauses and four amendments, that we are proposing this motion to increase even further the time available for debate. The programme motion tabled in the name of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the House provides that we consider the new material first. It is therefore entirely in the hands of the Opposition to decide how long we need to consider this new material. There will be no knives.

The Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) and I eagerly anticipate an interesting day and a half of debate, and I hope that we can now move quickly to address the substance of the Bill without any excessive expenditure of energy on procedural wrangles.

Next Section

IndexHome Page