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Mr. Clifton-Brown: Will the Minister give way?

Keith Hill: This will be the fourth or fifth time that I have done so, and I did issue a health warning at the beginning of these exchanges.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: I appreciate the Minister's giving way. These are complex matters, and when he does not reply satisfactorily to one of my amendments, it is helpful of him to give way. He has completely misunderstood the import of my amendment (l), which simply says:

That has nothing to do with what the Minister was saying. I ask him again what would happen if a local authority were overwhelmed by implementing these burdens. He has suggested to me privately that he would be prepared for his Department to provide advice. Will he now say what advice and consultancy the Department will be prepared to advance? Will it merely involve manpower, or will there be a financial contribution to help local authorities?

Keith Hill: If I have misunderstood the import of the hon. Gentleman's amendment, of course I apologise, and I withdraw my strictures on the subject. In regard to any assistance that might be given to local authorities, the hon. Gentleman ought to recognise that we are engaged in a process of re-examining the whole ethos of support for the planning function in this country. As part and parcel of that, we now have in operation the so-called planning delivery grant, worth £350 million, to reward and incentivise local authorities in terms of their planning performance in the current three-year period, £50 million of which has already been allocated to local authorities. Although that investment is not ring-fenced, I am delighted to observe that, by and large, local planning authorities seem to be putting the grants into local planning resources. That has to be a good thing.

There also seems to be some misunderstanding of the way in which the provisions will operate. I have explained that planning authorities will have to set out their contribution policy in a document, probably the development plan document, and new clause 1(3)

8 Dec 2003 : Column 840

provides for this. The planning authority will set out the circumstances in which it will consider accepting a contribution, but there may be circumstances in which the criteria are met but the authority decides not to require any contribution. We have debated this issue at some length already. I would therefore submit that amendment (c) to new clause 1 is not appropriate.

Similarly, amendment (e) to new clause 1 would be inappropriate. The "necessity" requirement is not a statutory requirement and would therefore not make sense if referred to in legislation. The connection between the development and the contribution should be contained in the planning authority's planning contribution documents setting out the impacts likely to be caused by the development and how the contributions would be used to mitigate them.

The hon. Gentleman's amendment (j) to new clause 1 suggests that the Secretary of State should not be entitled to reject a local planning contributions policy except on grounds set out in regulations. This would be highly unusual and is not consistent with the Secretary of State's powers in relation to other planning documents or decisions. The Secretary of State is, I suggest, entitled to take exception to planning documents that are not consistent with his policy, even if they are consistent with regulations, especially as the Bill contains a provision that local authorities should have regard to that policy. The provision in the amendment, if inserted, would prevent the Secretary of State from calling in any contributions policy on the grounds that it was not consistent with his affordable housing objectives. I cannot believe that that is right.

Amendment (i) to new clause 2 also relates to development plan documents and the cost of preparing such a document. I believe this amendment is unnecessary, as administrative mechanisms are already in place, as I have described, to take into account new burdens on local authorities.

Amendments (c), (f) and (g) to new clause 2 deal with issues that are already provided for or are not needed. An adjustment of an amount may be up or down, and there is no need to state that explicitly. I have explained the intention that the planning contributions agreed should be contained in agreements setting out the amount and method of payment. That should satisfy the concerns about certainty raised in amendments (f) and (g).

Amendment (e) would remove the Secretary of State's ability to set out a procedure for the preparation and making of a planning contribution document if it was decided not to use a development plan document. Such a power is necessary, and to remove it would curtail the Secretary of State's ability to ensure that such a document is a clear and transparent statement of the planning authority's policy. Amendment (k) is not needed. The planning contribution document will set out the planning authority's policy, and will give reasons why contributions will be sought and why they will not be sought in some circumstances.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I am happy to consider the relationship between our proposals and those measures in the Bill for joint local development documents. He and other hon. Members referred to that issue and I assure them that it will be dealt with in the

8 Dec 2003 : Column 841

provisions relating to such plans. I am also happy to examine further the circumstances in which local land charges become satisfied, and the possibility that charge contributions could be paid at some point other than at the commencement of development. However, I do not think that the specific amendments proposed are necessarily the right way forward.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: The Minister did not respond to my amendment (h), which is an important amendment that tracks how this money is spent by each local authority. There is anecdotal evidence that, in some cases, 90 per cent. of this money goes into the general budget. Will the Minister please give us an assurance that the Audit Commission will have some role in tracking this money and ensuring that proper value for money is achieved from these contributions?

Keith Hill: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for drawing my attention to that oversight. I shall write to him in due course, although he stopped me in my tracks as I was precisely at the point of dealing with that amendment. I was about to say that this issue was raised by the hon. Members for Ludlow, for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes), and for Chipping Barnet, and by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew), although he is not in his place at the moment. I recognise the concern raised by amendment (h) to new clause 2 that there should be proper accountability in relation to the spending of income raised by both the charge and negotiated routes. The Government have already taken action on this point by requiring local authorities to add information about planning obligations to their planning registers. I believe our new proposals should be welcomed.

In our consultation document, we are proposing that the local authority should set out, in public and in advance, its policies on contributions in relation to the development for which it would seek a contribution and the matters it spends income on.

Secondly, I want to make it entirely clear that we propose to take a power to enable the Secretary of State to insist that receipts are spent in the way envisaged in the public planning contributions policy. I hope that that offers particular assurance to the hon. Member for Ludlow, who has rightly raised this issue persistently.

Thirdly, we propose a power to require local planning authorities to make an annual report on matters relating to planning contributions. Fourthly, we propose that the Secretary of State should be able to prescribe the procedure by which the charging policy is developed, and to take steps if he believes it is not being done appropriately or at all. Those are all sensible new steps, and they are on top of the existing requirements for probity and accountability in local government finance, for which the Audit Commission already has powers.

As we move forward with this policy, I undertake to keep Members of both Houses fully informed of developments. I emphasise that these enabling amendments pave the way to a new approach to planning obligations and are the right way forward. They are designed to tackle the problems that have bedevilled this aspect of the planning process for too long. As I said in my statement last month, they offer

8 Dec 2003 : Column 842

speed and certainty where possible, and flexibility where necessary. I invite the hon. Member for Cotswold not to press his amendments.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 307, Noes 113.

Division No. 5
[7:26 pm


Adams, Irene (Paisley N)
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Bailey, Adrian
Baker, Norman
Barnes, Harry
Barrett, John
Barron, rh Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe (Bootle)
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Borrow, David
Brake, Tom (Carshalton)
Brooke, Mrs Annette L.
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burnham, Andy
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, rh Menzies (NE Fife)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chidgey, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, rh Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cooper, Yvette
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Dalyell, Tam
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne
Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, rh John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Brian H.
Doran, Frank
Doughty, Sue
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drew, David (Stroud)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Farrelly, Paul
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Follett, Barbara
Foster, rh Derek
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foulkes, rh George
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew (St. Ives)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hain, rh Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hancock, Mike
Hanson, David
Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon)
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Harvey, Nick
Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Healey, John
Heath, David
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hermon, Lady
Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Hodge, Margaret
Holmes, Paul
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, rh Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
Kaufman, rh Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Keen, Ann (Brentford)
Keetch, Paul
Khabra, Piara S.
Kidney, David
King, Andy (Rugby)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Kirkwood, Sir Archy
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lamb, Norman
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCafferty, Chris
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McNulty, Tony
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahmood, Khalid
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, rh Peter
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Glasgow Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Merron, Gillian
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Morley, Elliot
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
Oaten, Mark (Winchester)
O'Hara, Edward
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Diana
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Perham, Linda
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prescott, rh John
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, rh Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Raynsford, rh Nick
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Rendel, David
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Sheerman, Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
Southworth, Helen
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Teather, Sarah
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Robert N.
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Williams, Betty (Conwy)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike (Batley)
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, David (Telford)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Ayes:

Vernon Coaker and
Mr. Nick Ainger


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Arbuthnot, rh James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bacon, Richard
Barker, Gregory
Baron, John (Billericay)
Bellingham, Henry
Beresford, Sir Paul
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, rh Virginia (SW Surrey)
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Burns, Simon
Burt, Alistair
Butterfill, John
Cameron, David
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Curry, rh David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)
Djanogly, Jonathan
Duncan, Alan (Rutland)
Evans, Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Flook, Adrian
Francois, Mark
Gale, Roger (N Thanet)
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Goodman, Paul
Gray, James (N Wilts)
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Gummer, rh John
Hague, rh William
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John (S Holland)
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, rh David
Hoban, Mark (Fareham)
Hogg, rh Douglas
Horam, John (Orpington)
Jack, rh Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson, Boris (Henley)
Key, Robert (Salisbury)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Letwin, rh Oliver
Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Lidington, David
Lilley, rh Peter
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Maclean, rh David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)
Moss, Malcolm
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Norman, Archie
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Prisk, Mark (Hertford)
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Robinson, Mrs Iris (Strangford)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Roe, Mrs Marion
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruffley, David
Selous, Andrew
Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Spring, Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Swire, Hugo (E Devon)
Syms, Robert
Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Tyrie, Andrew
Walter, Robert
Waterson, Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Whittingdale, John
Wiggin, Bill
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Wilshire, David
Yeo, Tim (S Suffolk)

Tellers for the Noes:

Hugh Robertson and
Mr. Mark Field

Question accordingly agreed to.

8 Dec 2003 : Column 845

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

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