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‘(1) The Secretary of State must publish—

(a) the decision under section [Decision on short-list](3) and the reasons for it, and

(b) with the decision, a statement of the action the Secretary of State proposes to take with a view to the implementation of any proposal.

(2) A statement published under subsection (1)(b) is referred to in this section as an action plan.

(3) The Secretary of State must publish and lay before Parliament a report, describing the progress which has been made in relation to any action plan, within the period of one year following the publication of the action plan and at intervals of not more than one year thereafter.

(4) Subsection (3) does not apply in relation to an action plan if the action plan has been implemented.’.— [Mr. Woolas.]

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 4

Proposals: regulations

‘(1) The Secretary of State must make regulations about the procedure to be followed in relation to proposals under section [Proposals by local authorities].

(2) Before making regulations the Secretary of State must consult—

(a) the selector, and

(b) such other persons who represent the interests of local authorities as the Secretary of State thinks fit.

(3) Regulations may, in particular—

(a) specify, or authorise the selector to specify, steps to be taken by a local authority before making proposals;

(b) specify steps to be taken by the selector in considering the proposals and drawing up a short-list;

(c) require the selector to prepare, and give to the Secretary of State, a report on the proposals.

(4) Regulations must—

(a) require a local authority, before making any proposal under section [Proposals by local authorities], either—

(i) to establish a panel of representatives of local persons and consult it about the proposal, or

(ii) to consult representatives of local persons in accordance with another enactment mentioned in the regulations (and an enactment that has not yet come into force for other purposes is deemed to have come into force for the purposes of the regulations),

(b) require a local authority to try to reach agreement about proposals with the panel or other persons consulted under paragraph (a), and

(c) require a local authority to have regard to any guidance issued under subsection (5).

(5) The Secretary of State must issue guidance to local authorities about making proposals, which—

(a) must include guidance about the inclusion among representatives of local persons (for the purposes of subsection (4)(a)(i) or (ii)) of persons from under-represented groups,

(b) may include other guidance about establishing and consulting a panel of representatives of local persons, and

(6) Before issuing or revising guidance under subsection (5) the Secretary of State must consult—

(a) local authorities, or

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(b) persons who represent the interests of local authorities.

(7) For the purposes of subsection (2) or (6) any consultation undertaken before the day on which this Act is passed is as effective as it would have been if undertaken after that day.

(8) In this section—

“local person” means, in relation to a proposal by a local authority under section [Proposals by local authorities], a person who is likely to be affected by, or interested in, the proposal;

“panel” means a panel constituted in accordance with regulations;

“representative” means, in relation to local persons, a person who appears to the local authority to be representative of the local persons;

“under-represented groups” has the meaning given by regulations.

(9) Regulations under this section—

(a) must be made by statutory instrument, and

(b) are subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.’.— [Mr. Woolas.]

Brought up, and read the First and Second time.

Amendment s made: (a), in subsection (4)(a)(i) after ‘establish’, insert ‘or recognise’.

(c), in subsection (4)(a), leave out sub-paragraph (ii).— [Mr. Hurd.]

Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.

New Clause 5

Sustainable community strategies

‘(1) In each of the enactments mentioned in subsection (2) for “community strategy” substitute “sustainable community strategy”.

(2) Those enactments are—

(a) section 4(1), (2) and (3) of the Local Government Act 2000 (c. 22), and

(b) section 19(2)(f), (2)(g) and (7) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (c. 5) (local development documents).

(3) In section 4(5) of the Local Government Act 2000 (c. 22) (Wales) at end insert “, and as if for “sustainable community strategy” there were substituted “community strategy”.”

(4) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend any other enactment, whenever passed or made, to convert a reference to a “community strategy” to a reference to a “sustainable community strategy”.

(5) Regulations under subsection (3)—

(a) may amend an enactment only in so far as the enactment applies in relation to England,

(b) must be made by statutory instrument, and

(c) are subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.’.— [Mr. Woolas.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Woolas: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following Government amendments: No. 1, page 1, line 4, clause 1, leave out from ‘Act’ to end and insert

‘references to promoting the sustainability of local communities, in relation to a local authority, are references to’.

No. 2, page 1, line 6, clause 1, leave out ‘an area’ and insert

‘the authority’s area, or part of its area’.

15 Jun 2007 : Column 1025

No. 13, page 3, line 12, clause 3, leave out ‘or community’.

No. 19, page 3, line 42, clause 3, leave out ‘or community’.

No. 38, page 6, line 1, clause 8, leave out subsection (3).

Mr. Woolas: I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as ever, for your chairmanship. This is an important private Member’s Bill, and we have made good progress. I am also grateful to Members for their assistance in that regard.

New clause 5 and the amendments tabled in my name combine to ensure that the Bill refers consistently to “local authorities” rather than to “principal councils”. The motive for that is to replace the present interpretation of “local authority” with a new interpretation which reads:

That might seem dry and technical to hon. Members, and I shall move quickly on, but it is important that we get the definitions right. I do not think that I need to put any other definitions into Hansard for the record.

Mr. Greg Knight: Before the Minister sits down, will he touch on his reasons for Government amendment No. 38? He said earlier that he wished to phase in the Bill alongside other legislation. Will he confirm that that is the only purpose of that amendment—that it is for administrative reasons and not because he is proposing any delay in implementing the Bill, should it be passed by the other place?

Mr. Woolas: I can confirm that. Ministers in this situation normally read out their speaking notes, not the explanatory notes in their brief. I can confirm that both meet his objective. The notes state:

So the right hon. Gentleman’s objective is therefore met.

Question put and agreed to.

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I must advise the House that, as the House has agreed to new clauses 1 to 4, the following remaining amendments fall: amendments Nos. 5 to 9, 11 to 20, 26 to 34 and 39. With the leave of the House, I will therefore put all the remaining amendments as a single question.

Remaining amendments agreed to.

Order for Third Reading read.

1.13 pm

Mr. Hurd: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Third time.

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I would like to place on the record my thanks to a few people. Taking a private Member’s Bill through this place is an enormous privilege but, as the Minister has said, it is also a daunting task for a new Member, and I simply would not have been able to do it without the help of a number of people, starting with the Clerks in the Public Bill Office, who have shown extraordinary patience with me. I should also like to thank those hon. Members who served on the Committee, many of whom are here today, not least my sponsors, the hon. Members for Falmouth and Camborne (Julia Goldsworthy) and for Stroud (Mr. Drew), who have given me great support throughout the process.

I should particularly like to place on the record my respect for and gratitude to the hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown), who has educated me as to what a Parliamentary Private Secretary can achieve—I had always wondered—and set a benchmark for loyalty, tenacity and the power to persuade when one has no power to do so. I know that she has enjoyed the process. We would not be where we are without her support, and our friends at Local Works would also like to place on record their thanks to her.

I certainly thank the Minister. He had to juggle a number of balls throughout this complicated process, but he always argued his case clearly and was open and extremely constructive. He was kind about my political prospects and I have no doubt that his star will continue to rise and that he will grace shadow Cabinets for many years to come.

Last but not least, I am sure that my sponsors would want to join me in expressing thanks to Local Works, for which the Bill is the culmination of a four-year campaign. Without the group’s tenacity and its success in building coalitions, which spanned organisations from the women’s institute to the Campaign for Real Ale, to put pressure on the Government, I doubt that we should have reached this stage today.

The Bill is an honest attempt to help communities address the social problems that arise from community decline and the loss of local services. To some degree, the debate today has been technical and wrapped in an envelope of questions about localism, governance and the devolution of power, but the Bill’s starting point was the need to respond to the clear social problems of community decline, which is, as we realise, market-driven. However, we should not forget that loss of local services inspired the coalition, rather than questions about localism or how we govern ourselves. The starting point for the Bill was a desire for a policy response to the problems—that is the passion outside this place.

One could say that if people want to support the high street they should just get their wallets out and walk down it, but we need a policy response from this place. That is the driver of the Bill. Part of that response must be central Government’s responsibility to pull strategy together in a coherent framework—what we call a national action plan. The point of the Bill was not to be prescriptive but to create the mechanics to do something important—to make sure that the strategy was driven from the bottom up with the full engagement of the communities we represent. We have made considerable progress in achieving that aim.

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The main point of the Bill is to give communities real influence in shaping their future. The Bill gives greater transparency to the spending of public money in local areas, which is important, but we intend to pursue the real prize—to give people the opportunity to influence how that money is spent. We had a useful debate about new clause 6 and the Minister has given us assurances from which we can take comfort, so we will consider them.

We have made real progress today. The Bill is more workable than the version we debated on 19 January, although we still need some clarification about money issues and new clause 6. The Bill is not an end; it is only the start—the first ratchet in a process that will empower people to be more engaged in building and sustaining their communities. We have started an irreversible process and I commend the Bill to the House.

1.18 pm

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): It was a pleasure to serve on the Committee and I congratulate the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Hurd) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew), who have been pursuing the Bill for some time, supported by the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Julia Goldsworthy). They all deserve much congratulation.

I join in the congratulation of my hon. Friend the Minister. Although the Bill was supported on both sides of the House, there were difficulties for him at times, especially when he looked behind him at some of the more independent-minded—and hirsute—Labour Members who had miraculously been selected to serve on the Committee, but he dealt with those situations with consummate skill. He was supported ably by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown), his Parliamentary Private Secretary, who helped to overcome some of the difficulties faced during the passage of the Bill.

The test of the Bill, as it will be for the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill, is whether it empowers those sections of the community that do not engage in our democratic processes and civic structures. We had long debates in Committee about the people who meet in front rooms in villages to try to influence what happens in their local community. The key is to ensure that all sections of the community are empowered and encouraged to engage. One of the ways to empower them is to provide information, which is key to their being able to make choices about how their local community should be improved. I am an inner-city Member of Parliament and the test will be whether we can engage with those sections of the community who do not have a great deal of influence over how decisions are made in their area. This Bill, and the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill, will be a step in the direction of empowering those people.

I congratulate all those who have been involved in achieving the consensus. I wish the Bill every success.

1.21 pm

Julia Goldsworthy: Many people need to be congratulated and commended on the work that they have done to make sure that the Bill has reached Third
15 Jun 2007 : Column 1028
Reading. Without the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Hurd), none of this would have been possible. Without his conduct of negotiations and perseverance, we would not have a Bill of such quality. He has navigated through a complicated and technical process with considerable skill, and I am not sure that I would have been able to do the same had it been my first private Member’s Bill. I have learned a lot from the process and from him.

All the Committee members are to be congratulated on their patience—if nothing else—given the number of abortive attempts to get the Bill through Committee. I hope that they feel, as I do, that it was worth it in the end. The Bill would not have reached this stage without the co-operation of the Minister and his Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown). Many thanks go to them.

Ron Bailey and Local Works have been the drivers behind the Bill for a number of years and they have ensured that we have stayed focused on the issues. As we have seen today, it is quite easy to disappear down rabbit-holes that relate to the Bill’s broader implications. Ron and his colleagues at Local Works have made sure that we have remained narrowly focused on the issues.

We must remember that the Bill’s gestation has not just been the past five months—for the Minister, that is a short space of time—but the past five years. Sue Doughty, the former Member for Guildford, was responsible for first drawing the Bill to the attention of the House of Commons and for pushing it forward. Without her work at an early stage, I am sure that we would not be here today.

If we sit back and reflect on what the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood said, it becomes clear that it is amazing that there is consensus for the Bill. It is radical and talks about turning the way in which government works upside down. Policy will be driven by local communities in a way that it never has been before and we will see accountability where there is currently none. The Bill will give power to the people to reverse the problems of ghost-town Britain. Every single Member will know of problems in their constituency that need to be resolved. Finally, there is a mechanism to meet the need for affordable housing and to help the towns in my constituency where there is an appetite, but not the mechanism, to deliver the solutions to the problems that have been identified.

We now have a definition of what a sustainable community is and should be. The Government have done a lot of work on sustainable communities but without having that definition. We now have it, so how we can pursue our aims should become much clearer not only in the context of the Bill, but of wider legislation, regulations and guidance.

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