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To provide the stronger role for Parliament, we encourage the House to establish a new Select Committee with the main purpose of holding inquiries into draft national policy statements in parallel with public consultation. We suggest that this Committee should be composed of members from existing Select Committees on Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, on Transport and on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

We will consider the Committee’s reports together with responses to public consultation and revise draft national policy statements where appropriate, before designating them. In addition, if the Committee has recommended that a national policy statement raises issues which should be debated by Parliament as a whole, we will make available time in each House for a debate before we designate it.

This model—in which decisions are taken independently, on an objective basis, by a body with no role in promoting particular policy outcomes—offers clear benefits in terms of increased transparency and certainty to both applicants and the public.

We have noted concerns that the White Paper may have defined too narrowly the matters the IPC may take into account in reaching decisions. We are clear that the national policy statement should be the primary policy consideration for the Commission. However we agree that the Commission must be able in taking decisions to have discretion to take account of all information specific to the case before it which it considers relevant and important to its decision, including all such local impacts. The Bill will make it clear that this is the case.

We have also concluded that there may be some very exceptional circumstances in which it would not be appropriate to leave final decisions to the Commission. These circumstances would arise where new issues or evidence are raised relevant to an application before the Commission which are so significant that the Government consider they may justify a change of national policy. Where this was the case, the relevant Secretary of State could direct the Commission to suspend consideration of the application until he or she had reviewed the national policy statement. However where there is an application before the IPC which needs to be determined urgently in the national interest, the Bill will enable the Secretary of State to direct the IPC to produce a recommendation with the final decision to be taken by the Minister. We would expect such cases to be very rare so the Bill will therefore set out clearly the conditions that will apply to the exercise of this power.

Overall we believe that our proposals for major infrastructure will reduce the average time taken for large applications by a half. By doing so, they will save between £3.8 billion and £4.8 billion in costs up to 2030. And they will do this while extending our commitment to ensure sustainable development is at
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the heart of planning; strengthening opportunities for public consultation and engagement; and improving accountability.

In addition to our proposals for reform of major infrastructure, the Bill will include a number of significant measures aimed at ensuring that the town and country planning better supports housing growth and climate change, and is more streamlined and efficient.

The Bill will implement our proposals to introduce a new charge, entitled the Community Infrastructure Levy, to enable local authorities to secure a bigger contribution from developers towards the costs of infrastructure. We are pleased that our proposals have been widely welcomed by developers and local government. We will publish further details of the proposals on my Department’s website.

Local plans have a key part to play in enabling local authorities to set a clear strategic vision for their communities. The Bill will therefore include a number of provisions to make plan-making simpler and more flexible, which will be supported by a revised planning policy statement. It will also include a new duty on local authorities to take action on climate change through local plans. This duty will be underpinned by a new planning policy statement on climate change which we will publish before the end of the year.

Finally, the Bill will include provisions to reduce the number of planning applications, speed up appeals and simplify the tree preservation order system. It will include provisions which would enable local member review bodies to determine appeals.

These provisions in the Bill will be supported by a range of measures to make it easier for homeowners to extend their homes and to install microgeneration technology, to introduce new planning performance agreements which will ensure large applications are dealt with effectively, and to allow an increase in fees for planning applications in order to enable local authorities to improve the quality of service they provide. We also intend to consult on a new planning policy statement on economic development before the end of the year.

Further details of these and other reforms are set out in the Government’s summary of responses to the White Paper consultation, published today and which has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, and to the related consultations which will be published shortly.

The Planning Bill will play a key part in delivering on this Government’s long-term vision for Britain. Alongside legislation on Housing and Regeneration, Climate Change, Energy and Local Transport this Bill will help to deliver our objectives in relation to housing, climate change, energy security, transport provision, and prosperity and quality of life for all. The Planning Bill will do this by ensuring that we have an efficient planning system which produces fair and transparent outcomes on decisions which are vital both to the local communities they most affect, and to the long term challenges facing us as a nation.

Annex on National Policy Statements


The Government will publish an overarching national policy statement covering key elements of energy policy relevant to infrastructure provision, such as climate
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change, security of supply and the energy market, and including information relevant to likely future demand and measures to secure energy efficiency.

Energy national policy statements will also be expected to encompass different forms of energy generation such as fossil fuels, renewable energy, electricity networks and gas infrastructure


The Government’s aim is to establish a suite of national policy statements that will comprise:

These statements will over time be aligned with the overarching transport strategy now under development, reflecting the cross-modal approach recommended by Rod Eddington, in order to ensure a consistent analytical and policy framework. The recent discussion document Towards a Sustainable Transport System sets out how the Department proposes to develop this strategy, working with transport users and other stakeholders over the period to 2012.

Water infrastructure

The Government will set out updated policies for water supply and water quality in a new Water Strategy, Future Water, which is due to be published early in 2008. This will inform development of a new national policy statement on infrastructure development for water supply and waste water treatment for the period from 2010 to 2035. The national policy statement will also be informed by parallel to planning and price review processes such as the Water Resource Management Plans which water companies will produce and the quinquennial reviews of water company sewerage charges.

Waste disposal

A national policy statement on waste will set out the Government’s objectives for the development of waste infrastructure for the period to 2020 and will be based substantially on the Waste Strategy for England which was published in May 2007 after extensive consultation and engagement. We expect to prepare a waste national policy statement which will draw out and, if necessary, strengthen material in the Waste Strategy to enable the IPC to make decisions on projects coming forward.

Offshore renewables

The EPC and the Marine Management Organisation proposed under the Marine Bill White Paper will have responsibilities for consents to offshore renewables projects of specific generating capacities. Both will operate in accordance with consistent Government policy in this area whether set out in the relevant NFS or in the marine policy statement.

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

General Affairs and External Relations Council

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Jim Murphy): I represented the UK at the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) in Brussels. My right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Defence and the Secretary of State for International Development attended discussions of Defence and Development Ministers on 19 and 20 November.

The agenda items covered were as follows:

Foreign Ministers

General Affairs

Preparation of the European Council on 13 and 14 December

The presidency presented the draft agenda for the European Council. The draft agenda calls for discussion of a range of issues, including migration, police and judicial cooperation, the fight against terrorism, the Lisbon strategy for jobs and growth, climate change, sustainable development, maritime policy and external issues. There will be a fuller discussion at the 10 December GAERC.

Maritime Policy

The Commission presented a proposed action plan on Maritime Policy. France said maritime governance would be on its presidency agenda. A number of member states intervened to welcome the strategy and to flag up the importance of subsidiarity, the competitiveness of the EU fleet and environmental sustainability.

Commission Legislative Programme 2008

The Commission presented the legislative programme for 2008. The programme’s priorities include growth and jobs, sustainable prosperity in Europe, an integrated approach to migration and Europe as a world partner.

External Relations

Information on the EU-China and EU-India Summits

The presidency updated member states on preparations for the EU-China and EU-India summits, underlining that these would be an important opportunity to discuss the current situation in Burma.

Preparation of the EU-Africa Summit

The presidency updated member states on its plans for the EU-Africa summit. Member states noted the draft strategy and action plan, to be finalised at Sharm el-Sheikh on 5 December. I intervened to emphasise UK support for the summit’s objectives, but also concern that these should not be undermined by the attendance of President Mugabe. If he did attend, it was important there was substantive discussion of human rights and governance in Zimbabwe, in plenary with President Mugabe present.


I briefed partners on recent developments, highlighting the potential impact on EU objectives for the region. It was important to maintain pressure on President Musharraf to end the state of emergency and ensure free and fair elections, as set out in the presidency statement of 6 November. The presidency reiterated these points in its statement to the press following the Council.

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The Council discussed the recent decision by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) not to monitor the Duma elections in Russia, in response to restrictions imposed by the Russian authorities. I intervened to underline UK support for ODIHR’s election monitoring activities. The UK was deeply concerned and disappointed by the unprecedented restrictions and bureaucratic obstacles Russia had imposed, preventing ODIHR from observing the Duma elections.

Middle East

The high representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, briefed member states on his recent visit to the region and on preparations for the US-led conference in Annapolis. The Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner briefed partners on plans being drawn up by the Commission and Council Secretariat for EU practical support to any process to emerge from the conference in Annapolis.

Conclusions were agreed setting out the EU’s strong support for Annapolis and the efforts of Abbas and Olmert; its commitment to support negotiations between the parties through the EU Action plan; the need for the parties to take additional steps to meet previous commitments; and support for the goals of the Paris donors’ conference.

Conclusions were also adopted on Lebanon, expressing concern at the continuing impasse in electing a president, but welcoming continuing dialogue and calling for free and fair elections.


The high representative briefed partners on his latest contact with Iran. At my request, the presidency confirmed that a fuller discussion would take place at the December GAERC.


Member states welcomed Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari to the GAERC. He briefed the Council on the current situation in Iraq and welcomed the recent visits of the French and Swedish Foreign Ministers. I intervened to emphasise the importance of the EU stepping up its engagement with Iraq, which was reflected in Council conclusions. These commit the EU to further support to Iraq through the UN, through humanitarian assistance and through support to the Government of Iraq in its work on the international compact and human rights. They also encourage engagement by Iraq’s neighbours and call on the Governments of Iraq and Turkey to cooperate to ensure the integrity of the border and that Iraqi territory is not used for attacks on its neighbours.

Western Balkans

EU Troika representative Ambassador Ischinger briefed the Council on the negotiation process. I underlined that the EU had to be ready to set out its position in December and act resolutely thereafter if negotiations failed to produce agreement between the parties.

Conclusions were agreed reaffirming EU support for Ambassador Ischinger, welcoming the conduct of elections in Kosovo, but regretting the poor turnout from the Kosovo Serb community and Belgrade's call for a boycott. Conclusions also expressed grave concern at the deteriorating political situation in Bosnia Herzegovina, reiterating the Council’s full support for high representative and EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak.

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The Council discussed recent developments in Georgia. Member states noted that, although the state of emergency had been lifted, media freedom remained of concern. It was important that the government of Georgia ensured that the right conditions were in place for free and fair presidential elections.

Joint session of Foreign and Defence Ministers

Chad, Central African Republic and Sudan

Foreign and Defence Ministers met in joint session to discuss the proposed ESDP mission to Chad. The Secretary of State for Defence underlined UK political support for the proposed mission as a key element in a comprehensive regional approach.

Conclusions were agreed on current operations and missions under the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), capability development including the European Defence Agency, Human Rights Issues and cooperation between the EU and the African Union in Strengthening African Capabilities.

Defence Ministers

European Defence Agency

The head of the European Defence Agency, Alexander Weis, briefed Defence Ministers. Ministers also agreed the 2008 budget for the Agency, on the basis that earmarked funds would be drawn down on the basis of a fully worked up business case and in consultation with member states.

Operation EUFOR ALTHEA (Bosnia-Herzegovina)

The Operation Commander of EUFOR ALTHEA, General John McColl, briefed Ministers. There was a discussion of the current situation and agreement on the need to maintain pressure on the parties in Bosnia-Herzegovina, to maintain a credible EU force and to make progress on police reform.

Military Capabilities

The high representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, presented his report on the EU military staffs’ strategic planning capacity. Ministers discussed the shortfalls highlighted in the Progress Catalogue. The Secretary of State for Defence highlighted the particular shortage of helicopters for EU operations and outlined options for improving deployability of existing, but currently unsuitable, aircraft.

Slovenian presidency Priorities

The Slovenian Defence Minister outlined the priorities for the Slovenian presidency, including further work on military capabilities and support for work on African peace and stability.

Joint session of Development and Defence Ministers

Security and Development

Defence and Development Ministers met in joint session to discuss security and development. A number of partners intervened to emphasise the importance of security sector reform and of incorporating development issues into training for ESDP missions. Partners also stressed the importance of early progress on an action plan to take forward this agenda.

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