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House of Commons
Session 2007 - 08
Publications on the internet
General Committee Debates

Planning Bill

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairmen: Sir John Butterfill, Mr. Eric Illsley
Benyon, Mr. Richard (Newbury) (Con)
Betts, Mr. Clive (Sheffield, Attercliffe) (Lab)
Brake, Tom (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) (Lab)
Curry, Mr. David (Skipton and Ripon) (Con)
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government)
Duddridge, James (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con)
Ellman, Mrs. Louise (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op)
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley, East and Mexborough) (Lab)
Fitzpatrick, Jim (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport)
Healey, John (Minister for Local Government)
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui (Beckenham) (Con)
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC)
Main, Anne (St. Albans) (Con)
Michael, Alun (Cardiff, South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op)
Mole, Chris (Ipswich) (Lab)
Neill, Robert (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con)
Reed, Mr. Jamie (Copeland) (Lab)
Rogerson, Dan (North Cornwall) (LD)
Sheridan, Jim (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab)
Watts, Mr. Dave (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)
Chris Shaw, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee


John Cridland, Deputy Director-General, CBI
Karen Dee, Head of Infrastructure, CBI
David Green, Chief Executive, UK Business Council for Sustainable Energy
Nick Winser, Executive Director, National Grid
Richard Everitt, Chairman, United Kingdom Major Ports Group , and Chief Executive, Port of London Authority
Andrew Harston, Port Development Director, Hutchison Ports
Ken Bell, Business Development Manager, Associated British Ports

Public Bill Committee

Tuesday 8 January 2008


[Sir John Butterfill in the Chair]

Planning Bill

10.30 am
The Chairman: Before we begin, I will make some preliminary announcements. First, hon. and right hon. Members may remove their jackets during Committee sittings if they wish. Please ensure that all mobile phones, pagers and any other things that are likely to make a noise are switched to silent mode or switched off. There is a money resolution and a Ways and Means resolution and copies are available in the room. I assume that they are in the centre and at the side.
I remind hon. Members that, as a general rule, adequate notice must be given of amendments. My fellow Chairman and I do not intend to call starred amendments, including any that might be reached in an afternoon sitting. I also remind hon. Members that this is one of three Bills in this Session that has been selected for a further experiment with explanatory statements on amendments. All members of the Committee have been sent a leaflet giving further details of the experiment. Copies of the leaflet are available in the Committee Room and in the Public Bill Office. Hon. Members might also wish to seek advice from the Clerk of the Committee.
We are still in the early stages of taking oral evidence in Public Bill Committees. This is my first experience of it, so we are all on a learning curve. It might help if I explain briefly what is proposed, so that we are all clear. First, the Committee will be asked to consider the programme motion on the amendment paper, for which debate is limited to half an hour. We will then proceed to a motion to report written evidence and a motion to permit the Committee to deliberate in private in advance of the oral evidence sessions, which I hope that we can move formally. Assuming that that motion is agreed to, the Committee will move to a private sitting. Once the Committee has deliberated, the witnesses and members of the public will be invited back into the room and our oral evidence session will commence. If the Committee agrees to the programme motion, the Committee will hear oral evidence today and on Thursday before reverting next week to the more familiar proceedings of clause-by-clause scrutiny.
The Minister for Local Government (John Healey): Thank you, Sir John.
Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): On a point of order, Sir John. As I indicated before the sitting started, I am very concerned about some processes and the way in which papers are reaching members of the Committee. I understand the ambitions underlying the process that we are following. This is the second Committee that I have sat on that has followed the new process and it is the second that seems to me to be overwhelmed by large numbers of contributions and pieces of paper arriving at very short notice. It seems to me that the whole process will be hauled into disrepute before the experiment is properly under way if we do not get a grip on the process now.
This issue goes beyond the pressure that is being placed on members of the Committee to the wider issue of how the House handles the experiment and tries to make it a positive one. Last night, a couple of megabytes of contributions relevant to today’s proceedings were sent to us by e-mail, with a note saying that it was on the board. That is a fat lot of use if we do not see the information until after the 10 o’clock process. Most of us do not sit in our offices waiting for e-mails to pop up and indicate that this one element of our responsibilities in the House requires our undivided attention and that everything else should be abandoned. Normally, we ought to have papers by at least the Thursday before a sitting in order to have the opportunity to read them, as many of us do, over the weekend, rather than during the pressures of the working week.
Something therefore needs to be done now to ensure that the deadline for submissions is well in advance of Committee sittings, so that papers can come to hon. Members in a timely manner, and that the Committee is not pushed from pillar to post, which is certainly what happened with the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill Committee, for instance, for which additional evidence-hearing sessions had to be added at the last minute. It is also unfair to the staff of the House, who I appreciate are trying to get information to us, and to serve the public as they try to put evidence to us in a proper and timely manner. They cannot do that in the seemingly rather chaotic current situation.
The Chairman: The right hon. Gentleman makes a relevant and serious point. We are in the process of developing such procedures, so I apologise on behalf of the authorities that the papers have arrived somewhat later than we would ideally have liked. Two things arise from that. First, when sittings such as this take place immediately after a recess, we ought to consider the possibility of papers being sent to hon. Members’ homes during the recess. It would be helpful to everyone if right hon. and hon. Members could advise the Clerks where they are likely to be during recesses, because it will be no use sending papers to hon. Members’ homes if they are going to be somewhere else. If they will be somewhere where the papers could be sent, we should look at that seriously for the future.
We will have to consider further the question of a timetable. The whole idea is to invite public participation in our processes, so I would not want to set a time restriction which meant that some people were not able to make important contributions for our consideration. However, we will look at the possibility of a timetable for the future.
John Healey: I beg to move,
(1) the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 10.30 a.m. on Tuesday 8th January) meet—
(a) at 4.00 p.m. on Tuesday 8th January;
(b) at 9.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. on Thursday 10th January;
(c) at 10.30 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. on Tuesday 15th January;
(d) at 9.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. on Thursday 17th January;
(e) at 10.30 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. on Tuesday 22nd January;
(f) at 9.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. on Thursday 24th January;
(g) at 10.30 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. on Tuesday 29th January;
(h) at 9.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. on Thursday 31st January;
(i) at 10.30 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. on Tuesday 5th February;
(2) the Committee shall hear oral evidence in accordance with the following Table:
Tim e
Tuesday 8th January
Until no later than 11.40 a.m.
Confederation of British Industry
Tuesday 8th January
Until no later than 12.20 p.m.
UK Business Council for Sustainable Energy
Tuesday 8th January
Until no later than 1.00 p.m.
UK Major Ports Group
Tuesday 8th January
Until no later than 4.50 p.m.
Royal Town Planning Institute
Tuesday 8th January
Until no later than 5.30 p.m.
Local Government Association
Tuesday 8th January
Until no later than 6.15 p.m.
Planning Inspectorate
Tuesday 8th January
Until no later than 7.00 p.m.
Home Builders Federation and British Property Federation
Thursday 10th January
Until no later than 9.45 a.m.
Friends of the Earth
Thursday 10th January
Until no later than 10.25 a.m
Environment Agency
Thursday 10th January
Until no later than 1.40 p.m.
Energy Networks Association
Thursday 10th January
Until no later than 2.20 p.m.
Campaign to Protect Rural England
Thursday 10th January
Until no later than 4.00 p.m.
Department for Communities and Local Government
(3) proceedings on consideration of the Bill in Committee shall be taken in the following order: Clause 1; Schedule 1; Clauses 2 to 31; Schedule 2; Clauses 32 to 157; Schedule 3; Clauses 158 and 159; Schedule 4; Clause 160; Schedule 5; Clauses 161 to 185; Schedule 6; Clauses 186 to 189; new Clauses; new Schedules; remaining proceedings on the Bill;
(4) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 7.00 p.m. on Tuesday 5th February.
Sadly, Sir John, I was sitting at my computer watching e-mails pop up after 10 o’clock last night, and I saw the response of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth to the Committee Clerk’s paper when it came back. Partly to reflect your encouragement, Sir John, and partly in response to my right hon. Friend, I will do my best as the Minister responsible for the Bill to ensure that Government papers, Government amendments and anything else that will assist the Committee are tabled and available in the best possible time.
I welcome all members of the Committee. It is a Committee with a vast range of experience and a high level of interest on all sides. I welcome the hon. Member for Beckenham, who will lead for the official Opposition; and the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington, who will lead for the Liberal Democrats. I also welcome the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, who will lead from both the Front and Back Benches for Plaid Cymru. We look forward to seeing him on the Committee when he is able to join us.
The Programming Sub-Committee met on 13 December. It accepted without dissent the proposed programme set before us. It contains two main characteristics: it proposes that we consider the Bill in the order of the clauses in it, and that we consider, in our scrutiny sessions, the schedules alongside the clauses to which they are linked. In total, the programme motion proposes four separate evidence sessions and 14 scrutiny sittings. I am grateful to the usual channels for helping to get us to this position. It will give the Committee the scope to do its proper job of giving the Bill serious and important scrutiny over the 18 sittings. I hope that the Committee will support the programme motion and I look forward to the deliberations to come.
Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Beckenham) (Con): I add my welcome, Sir John, to that of the Minister. I have never had the privilege of sitting under your chairmanship, but am looking forward to it and to a robust debate on the Bill, which has, as the Minister said, generated a great deal of interest. With regard to this particular procedure, I am the third novice. I am looking forward to it very much and hope that it will be enlightening. I hope that, towards the end of our consideration in Committee, Sir John, you will invite us to reflect on our experience of this new procedure so that we can develop it in a way that helps the House, as taking evidence from interested bodies is a useful innovation and one that we wish to encourage to work well.
The official Opposition have no objection to the proposals before us. We are looking forward to some robust debates and exchanges of views and hope that the Government will take on board all of our points.
Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): I, too, echo the welcome made to you, Sir John, by the Minister and the hon. Member for Beckenham. I am sure that you will provide us with appropriate leadership during our deliberations. We are fully signed up to the programme motion and believe that it is adequate for addressing the concerns that we have about the Bill, providing of course that the Minister responds generously to the many requests for improvements to the Bill that will be made from all parts of the Committee during our deliberations.
Question put and agreed to.
That, subject to the discretion of the Chairman, any written evidence received by the Committee shall be reported to the House for publication.—[John Healey.]
The Chairman: Copies of any memorandums that the Committee receives will be made available in the Committee Room.
That, at this and any subsequent meeting at which oral evidence is to be heard, the Committee shall sit in private until the witnesses are admitted.—[John Healey.]
10.43 am
The Committee deliberated in private.
11 am
On resuming—

Written evidence to be reported to the House

PB 01 Campaign to Protect Rural England
PB 02 Northamptonshire county council
PB 03 Woodland Trust
PB 04 Jayanta Baksi
PB 05 Wyre borough council
PB 06 Kennet district council
PB 07 Better Planning Reform
PB 08 Arnold Whites Ltd.
PB 10 Friends of the Earth
PB 11 Environment Agency
PB 12 Guide Dogs for the Blind Association
PB 13 UK Business Council for Sustainable Energy
PB 15 Renewable Energy Association
PB 16 Tim Driver
PB 18 Energy Networks Association
PB 19 Network Rail
PB 21 Local Government Association
PB 22 British Property Federation and Home Builders Federation
PB 24 United Kingdom Major Ports Group
The Chairman: We will now proceed to hear oral evidence from a representative of the CBI. I am pleased to welcome Mr. John Cridland. Mr. Cridland, would you like to introduce your colleague?
John Cridland: Yes. I am joined by Karen Dee, who is the CBI’s head of infrastructure.
The Chairman: Thank you. Would you like to make a brief introductory statement or would you prefer to proceed directly to questions?
John Cridland: I am happy to proceed directly to questions.
The Chairman: I therefore call Mr. Neill.
Q 1 Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): As all barristers are, I am happy to dip my toe in the water, Sir John. Mr. Cridland, I was interested to hear that you are concerned about some failures in the present system in respect of the length of time that inquiries can take. Is that influenced by things such as the terminal 5 inquiry at Heathrow, and so on?
John Cridland: Yes, terminal 5 has become something of a bĂȘte noire, but there are very many examples from a wide range of sectors. We are very concerned about developments in relation to the ports industry. Felixstowe would be another example of very long delays. There are particular causes cĂ(c)lĂšbres, but this is a generic issue; a wide-ranging part of the business community has now reached a high level of concern about, first, the delays in the system, but also the end-loading of the system. We seem to have a situation in which planning inquiries are where we debate Government policy at the very end of the process. That is simply unacceptable to business.
Q 2 Robert Neill: So the key thrust of what you seem to want to achieve from this proposal is the separation of the debate about Government, or national, policy on one hand and what you might term the more location-specific issue, in which, having decided that we will have this type of infrastructure, we ask does it go here or there?
John Cridland: Indeed. We all lose from the current system. For example, I was very taken by recent developments in relation to Kingsnorth power station where the relevant local authority approves planning permission for an important national development and then those who disagree with it—they are perfectly entitled to do so—call for a planning inquiry to debate whether clean-coal technology is a relevant environmental solution. These are very pertinent issues, but issues, I would suggest, for this place rather than for a planning inquiry.
Q 3 Robert Neill: Is that why you say in your written submission that you think the proposals have the potential to simplify? Are you particularly wedded to this scheme? Do you think it is going in broadly the right direction? Are you content provided that there is the separation of national policy from the locational decision—for want of a better expression?
John Cridland: Business has waited a very long time for this style of reform. Indeed, the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 did not give us the major changes in relation to national planning that we were looking for. We believe that the principle of national policy statements and the principle of an independent commission dealing with that small number of very major infrastructure developments is the right way forward.
The Chairman: As a lot of Members want to ask questions, may I suggest a limit of one supplementary question?
Q 4 Tom Brake: I am looking at your submission; speed-reading the sections on the national policy statements and infrastructure planning commission, it appears that you have not made any references to sustainability. Do you consider that the Government’s proposals, in terms of the sustainability remit that the national policy statement and the infrastructure planning commission should consider, are ones that the business community can live with or do you think they are too tough or too weak? Where do you stand?
John Cridland: We believe they are appropriate. It is clearly absolutely vital that Ministers, in determining policy, and the commission in implementing decisions, should give full attention to sustainability, and we believe that what the Government have proposed will achieve that.
Q 5 Tom Brake: The Government have indicated that, on national policy statements, they will intervene only if there is a national security consideration or if the national policy statement is out of date. Various organisations are advocating that the Minister should perhaps also be able to intervene when there are significant issues around sustainability. Is that something that the business community would oppose?
John Cridland: We would oppose that, because we believe that if the duty on sustainability is properly applied, as we would expect it to be, then that situation is unlikely to arise. We have looked carefully at the provisions for ministerial intervention. We can support them as they stand. We think that the case has been made—for the two reasons that you outlined—but we in the business community would be very concerned if that scope was widened, because that would defeat the purpose of the Bill. The job of Ministers, if I might suggest it, is to set policy. Ministers should not then follow through into individual decisions, except on a de minimis basis, as the Bill now proposes.
Q 6 Alun Michael: Business can find itself on either side of major infrastructure projects, wanting to give evidence either for the importance of something being done quickly or for something not being done at all. So, I wonder if we can look at the practicalities of the Bill’s proposals. What effect do you expect the Bill to have on the time taken to decide on applications for major infrastructure projects? What do you expect to be the impact on the cost associated with such applications? On the other side of the equation, do you think that the Bill’s provisions for consultation with interested and affected parties and for taking responses into account are adequate? How do you think it will work?
John Cridland: May I answer those in reverse order? In many ways the most challenging of the timetables is the timetable on consultation of other interested parties. Particularly for the applicant, the developer, there is a big onus on statutory authorities being able to get back within the 28-day pre-application deadline. There is a level of concern from business there—not that we think that the time should be lengthened, but that it will be very important for the statutory authorities to keep to that.
Our experience—one of our frustrations—with the current system is that progress in an application is often held up by the variety of statutory authorities that have an interest. It is often not the individual planning authority, but some other national statutory body that holds up the process. One of the great advantages for us, which we believe will lead to a much more streamlined and less costly and time consuming process is the notion of the single consent. The fact that the infrastructure planning commission, having consulted all the relevant authorities, is then able to give the single consent is the great prize for the business community. There was deep frustration, as we saw with terminal 5, at having to put in 37 separate planning applications, if memory serves me right. The prize here is the single consent.
The six-month and nine-month timelines are appropriate—business can support those. It is very difficult—I would not make claims—for us to give you cost savings in advance of this process, but looking at the provisions in the Bill, the business community strongly believes that there will be significant savings, both of cost and of time.
Q 7 Alun Michael: Thinking back to major projects, I remember the frustrations of the eight years it took us to get the legislation through for the building of the Cardiff Bay barrage. It is difficult to think of or find any opponents now, but they were around at the time. Major issues do come up, which require investigation and research. So, are you satisfied that the process will allow for difficult issues to be dealt with, as well as—if you like—the ones that have already been explored long before the planning application comes to fruition?
John Cridland: There is clearly merit in a little bit of flexibility for the extreme cases. No one would want deadlines to result in a situation where poor judgments were made simply because of the lack of opportunity to explore. But I would stress that those are very exceptional situations. The problem that we face at the moment is that there are not effective deadlines within the system, at all levels. We must not allow a focus on the 1 per cent. of situations to spoil the process for the 99 per cent. of situations where the six and nine months are eminently achievable.
Q 8 Mrs. Lait: May I go on from there to ask why you think that, when there are already statutory deadlines, another set of statutory deadlines will be any more effective?
John Cridland: The key development is the proper cascade of decision making. At the moment we do not have a cascade. If we end up at local planning inquiries spending months if not years debating national need, we will not have accepted the principle that Parliament, with very full and wide-scale consultation and debate, builds a sense of ownership round principles that allow other bodies within their respective authorities on behalf of Parliament to act on specific questions. That is why the deadlines are not met.
The principle of the operation of the infrastructure planning commission in the context of the national policy statements will make the fundamental difference and will make the new deadlines far more achievable.
Q 9 Mrs. Lait: So, in effect, if you have national policy statements, you do not necessarily need an IPC because you would have a series of deadlines that could be met under the current situation and the Secretary of State could make the decision within the timeline. Under a single planning consent regime you would take out a lot of the delays that are currently created because there are no deadlines. Why create another bureaucracy?
John Cridland: I respect that line of argument. The business community is convinced that the IPC is just as vital as a national policy statement in order to bring together suitably qualified, experienced and respected individuals who can do an expert job on behalf of all of us who want to see the development properly debated. The fact that the IPC will bring that expertise to bear with a different style of operation is hugely important to business. It will have the flexibility to decide what form of approach is appropriate to a particular development and in principle it will operate on an inquisitorial basis rather than allowing an adversarial approach to develop. These are key new elements of the system which would not have been in place without an IPC.
Q 10 Mr. David Curry (Skipton and Ripon) (Con): Mr. Cridland, are you not living in a sort of winter wonderland with that last bit of poetry? Why does the CBI wish to see the creation of a huge new quango with almost twice as many members on the main board as are in the Cabinet and no doubt a supporting cast of thousands? If you have a national policy statement—as effectively we are going to have later this week on nuclear power—there are about 1,000 places where nuclear power stations will be built. We all know where they will be built. Why on earth, therefore, do we need a new quango to do it?
If you want speed and if there is something of national interest why do we not invite the Government to take responsibility and take the decision? Is that not the most sensible and efficient way of doing it?
John Cridland: The business community recognises and cannot avoid recognising the need to build consensus and the need for a wide variety of stakeholders to feel that the process has embraced and listened to their concerns. That is relevant at the policy statement level, at the national level. You then come down to a location-specific application. We have a number of precedents where, under a mandate set by Parliament, expert commissions or expert bodies have taken forward responsibilities for adjudicating on very complex and technical issues but carry conviction. Look at the success of the Low Pay Commission, of which I am a former member. Look at the success of the Monetary Policy Committee. These are all areas that at one time perhaps the whole of this House would have felt were matters for Parliament but where Parliament has set a policy framework and an infrastructure that is competent, credible and respected and left it to get on with the technical job.
Q 11 Mr. Curry: But, Mr. Cridland, those analogies simply do not hold water. The Low Pay Commission does not take a decision that puts a nuclear power station at the bottom of your garden. These are planning issues which people often feel very strongly about. Any MP will tell you that the issues which come into their surgeries more than any other are planning issues. Why on earth do you think that this commission, no doubt selected with all sorts of care, is going to deliver the sort of cheerful consensus you imagine in an area where we have not seen it in the past? If it is in the national interest, why not make the decision and then concentrate on helping people to live with it?
11.15 am
Q 12 Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): The Bill includes a provision that would enable the Government to designate existing policy statements as national policy statements. Do you think that that is reasonable?
John Cridland: If a major area of public policy has recently been deliberated and the criteria of that deliberation meet the criteria set out in this Bill for consultation, there may well be examples where it is timely and appropriate for that to happen. But the business community is serious in saying that NPSs will be successful only if all stakeholders feel, even if they have not won their argument, that they have been heard and heard properly. The business community would not want previous policies to be designated as NPSs if there was any concern that the debate had moved on or that the previous consultation had not been suitable. So yes, it is a relevant criterion, but it needs to be used with great care.
Q 13 Mrs. Ellman: Aviation is one of the areas that it has been suggested should be treated in this way. Would the CBI be supportive of that?
John Cridland: This would require close examination to see whether the aviation White Paper of some years ago was still appropriate. There have clearly been new developments, not least in the climate change debate, since that White Paper was published. But it is also true that a great deal of thought went into that White Paper. It was, in the view of the business community, a very well prepared and effective White Paper, so it meets some of the criteria, but it would have to meet all of them.
Q 14 Mrs. Ellman: Your written submission pays a lot of attention to the content of the IPC. Do you think that the procedures set out in the Bill for identifying the experts, who would in fact be the commissioners, are adequate?
Karen Dee: We are relatively relaxed. We have not taken firm views on who they should be. Our overall perspective of the IPC is that it needs sufficient experts in sufficient areas of expertise or subjects so that it commands the respect needed to take those sorts of very important decisions. We are comfortable with what the Government are proposing. We have not taken a firm view of all the areas that should be covered, but they need to be senior, well respected, well qualified people to make up the commission.
Q 15 Mrs. Ellman: What about the procedures for identifying those people?
The Chairman: Order. I did say one supplementary question.
Q 16 Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab): Mr. Cridland or Ms Dee, could you give us your opinion or experience of the ever increasing cost of energy, not just for consumers but for businesses, and the importance of security of supply? You will also be aware that energy provision, particularly nuclear energy provision, is a matter for the devolved Administrations, who may take a different view about it from the UK Government. What concerns do you have and what provision do you think could be in the Bill to overcome the difficulty of administration costs for businesses which may have to deal with different Governments on different energy policy statements?
John Cridland: If I had been appearing before you three or four years ago on a matter of this kind, I suspect that many of the examples of frustration in the business community over cost and delay that I would have brought to you would have related to transport infrastructure. Indeed, they still do. But the new factor here is security of energy supply. Although the entire business community—energy users, as well as energy providers—is conscious that more than a third of energy generating capacity has to be rebuilt by 2025, a task of that scale will not be achieved without major reforms to the planning system. Achievement of the very demanding targets on renewable energy are currently being held up by the considerable difficulty in getting, for example, onshore or offshore wind farms agreed. The Thames Array is a good example, where a major national project was held up for a while by decision of a local borough council in relation to a substation on land. These are particular concerns. We will not be able to achieve our climate change obligations or our energy security of supply obligations and necessities without the Bill.
There is, however, concern in the business community about the point you have raised—although it is outside our locus, in a sense—that we look at the different responsibilities of the different nations of the UK. We do see some challenges here, with planning responsibility being devolved but energy responsibility being a United Kingdom matter. These are not issues that the business community can solve, but it would certainly be a high priority for the business community that the various Governments of the United Kingdom work together successfully to ensure that it is possible for UK national policy to be implemented across the whole of the island.
Q 17 Jim Sheridan: Would the business community, therefore, be happy with a single planning authority on energy throughout the UK?
John Cridland: I do not think that we have taken a view on that.
Q 18 Mr. Jamie Reed (Copeland) (Lab): First, happy new year. I notice from your written evidence that the CBI is, I think it is right to say, extremely supportive of these proposals. Is it your view, and is it based on evidence, that the current system actually deters investment from companies in the UK and from companies outside of the UK into the UK, and therefore hampers the economic growth of the country?
John Cridland: It is always difficult to provide rigorous evidence to prove that, because clearly investment and disinvestment decisions are taken as a result of a basket of issues. They may be broader economic issues, they may be global decisions taken by a global board somewhere else in the world, it may be a labour market factor that is the predominant one; it is usually a cocktail of issues. What I can be very sure of is that after 25 years at the CBI, I cannot remember a time when the planning of national infrastructure was such a high level of concern for such a wide range of CBI members. The fact that, of all the Bills before Parliament in this Session, it is this Bill that CBI members in all sectors are saying we must proactively support, to help improve the situation for the benefit of all, speaks for itself.
Q 19 Mr. Reed: To ask a similar, if not the same, question from a different point of view, is it the view of the CBI that, should the Bill receive parliamentary consent—as I certainly hope that it will—it will significantly assist in the growth of the UK economy?
John Cridland: Yes, we mention in our evidence the increased demand for various forms of infrastructure, and the points I made on energy security and supply. As far as business is concerned, there is a clock ticking, and, particularly in relation to the overriding responsibility that we all have to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 60 per cent. by 2050, we do not have a planning system that can achieve our climate change, energy or infrastructure policy responsibilities in a timely fashion. This will make a major difference in our judgment, but it can only be a judgment.
Q 20 Paul Clark (Gillingham) (Lab): You will be well aware of the work that the Government and others have done in terms of looking for a way through with the community infrastructure levy, and I note in your written submission that you are pleased to see the community infrastructure levy rather than the planning gain supplement. This is certainly an issue of concern. Earlier you said that local concerns should be heard and this is certainly a local concern—residents invariably say that infrastructure is not being provided as well as businesses and the whole range. Just talking, then, about the way that that should be calculated, do you want to expand further on what you have said briefly in your documentation about how you think the Government should be putting that basis of charge in place?
John Cridland: That is a much more difficult area for us than the previous areas, in the sense that the Bill is largely permissive. There is very little detail yet from the Government, and we are keen to see the draft regulations that would underpin the powers you are being asked to approve. In principle, however, we feel that the long and very healthy and productive debate between business, the property industry and the Government over the proposed planning gain supplement showed the very great difficulties—which we feel are insurmountable difficulties—of coming up with a practicable approach which is based on land value. So we look at the Bill and we ask ourselves: does the Bill clearly say that this is going to be a levy in relation to infrastructure costs? At present, that is not entirely clear to us. To directly answer your question, our principal advice to you would be that we believe the community infrastructure levy is a much more sensible approach than the planning gain supplement. It is one which will command the broad support of business and the property industry, but it should identify a levy cost that relates to infrastructure need, and not one which is drawn from additional value from development.
Q 21 Paul Clark: Fine. Let me just take that further, then, in terms of the demands that come from a regional or sub-regional level. Do you broadly support contribution on a wider scale at regional and sub-regional level? How far should that go, and what should be the guidelines on that? Are there any particular safeguards that should be in the legislation in terms of the charging principles?
John Cridland: Let me give a broad comment on that and ask my colleague to go into a little more detail. It is clear that there will be a variety of situations to which the community infrastructure levy will apply. Some of those will be regional or even cross-regional, and there will be a necessity for real collaboration between public authorities to facilitate that. We recognise that. So far, however, business is not persuaded that there is a case for the levy to be charged at that regional or higher level. We believe that the appropriate level for the levy to be charged is at local authority level, and then for the collaboration to be behind that.
Karen Dee: The only thing I would add to that is that we expect and imagine there would be a role for regional bodies as planning authorities in having a view on the sorts of regional infrastructure that may or may not be needed, and to work with those—probably more than one—local authorities that would be implementing it, and, in effect, to act as a broker to bring the authorities together. We do not take that necessarily to mean that the regional body is the body that sets the charge. We would see it more in terms of the relevant local authorities pooling the moneys they get from the CIL, to be able to use them for the region.
Q 22 James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): Are your members happy with the compulsory purchase arrangements for businesses? The land associated with those businesses would certainly increase with this type of Bill, if it does indeed speed up infrastructure projects.
Karen Dee: I will have to give you an answer on that. It is not something that businesses have raised specifically with us. I know there is a concern about how the charges might relate where land has been compulsorily purchased—because it changes the economics of a project and there might be concerns then about its viability—but I have not looked specifically at the compulsory purchase powers.
Q 23 James Duddridge: Has the CBI considered paying businesses, individuals, or indeed communities, as a way of sharing the global benefit to the greater good, but bringing it down to that individual business that might be affected by reduced traffic because of a larger motorway, or that house that might reduce in value because there is a nuclear power station next door, or a community that might have concerns about a substation coming off a wind farm?
Karen Dee: We have not taken a view on changing the compulsory purchase arrangements. Certainly, we remain committed to section 106 agreements being there to mitigate and make a contribution towards the direct impacts from a project, but we have not taken a view on changing compulsory purchase or having the ability to pay one way or another as a result of the project.
Q 24 Chris Mole (Ipswich) (Lab): Sorry to jump subjects, but I have just one question. Do you have a view on whether the definitions in part 3 on what constitutes the nationally significant, such as the 50 MW limit for onshore power, are appropriate across all of the areas that have been suggested?
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John Cridland: We are broadly supportive of the definitions in the Bill. We believe that very few port developments would come forward with the current thresholds and that there is a case for lowering them to facilitate more port developments within the national criteria. Beyond that, our general view is that the provisions are appropriate. We have made a specific comment about air freight. We believe that air freight is an important part of our national infrastructure and that a definition which uses only air passenger numbers would not properly facilitate air freight, but these are quite technical comments. In principle, we believe that the definitions are appropriate.
Q 25 Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe) (Lab): May I take you back to the question asked by my colleague, Paul Clark, about the community infrastructure levy? My understanding is that along with most of the business organisations, you are concerned about the proposals on the planning gain supplement because of the complications and difficulties of doing the calculations on uplift of value. You have referred to concerns about reference in clause 166 to the fact that the charge could be varied according to increases in value arising. What is your position if that aspect of the Bill remains? Do you think that it could undermine the basis on which the proposed charge, which you supported, would go ahead?
John Cridland: We will seek clarification from Government as to what the intent of that clause is. In building the consensus that we have now reached—that the community infrastructure levy is a sensible way forward—we felt that we had dealt with the impracticality of a value-based approach to charging the levy. If the clause reopens that issue, in a sense it will weaken the consensus that has existed.
Karen Dee: There is not much more to say other than that John is quite right that we do not support the CIL being based on value. We need clarification on whether there is a technical reason why that needs to be there. We believe that there could be a case, in certain circumstances, to consider viability and that the CIL might need to be waived if there are viability issues. Whether you need the clause to facilitate that, we are not sure and need some clarification. Otherwise, land value uplift should not be the basis for the calculation.
Q 26 Mr. Betts: But you are arguing that there should be an ability at local level to have some variability in the charge, according to particular circumstances. I think that you talk about the problem of inner-city redevelopment sites, where you might want to lower the charge. Is that not covered in the Bill by reference to variability according to descriptions or purposes of development, or would you like to see something added that refers to locality? Locality was referred to in the charter proposal that you put forward to the Government in the first place.
John Cridland: For us, there is a debate that is probably beyond our locus as to what should be in the Bill and what should be in the draft regulations. We are still at an early stage of discussing the details of the proposals with relevant Departments. At the end of the day, we need the clarity that you are identifying. We have not suggested that the Bill should be changed significantly to add more proposals, but we believe it to be critical that this valuation issue is understood and that the draft regulations are published as quickly as possible to address these further questions.
Q 27 Dan Rogerson (North Cornwall) (LD): Coming back to the list of national interest infrastructure projects and the categories in the Bill, there is provision in the Bill for further categories to be added, as long as they fall within the fields of energy, transport, water, waste water or waste. Do you feel that provisions should be added so that those categories can be expanded in the future?
Karen Dee: At this stage, we feel that the categories and the sectors are adequate and that the thresholds are broadly speaking correct. Therefore, there is nothing that we are seeking to add at this stage. We believe that this process should be reserved for those projects that are genuinely of national significance and feel that the project thresholds are about right at the moment.
The Chairman: A number of Members want to ask about the role of the commission and its appointment.
Q 28 Mrs. Lait: You are referring to the number of commissioners, Sir John. Karen Dee, you referred in your early remarks to expecting few projects to come forward for consideration. The White Paper referred to there being five to 10 a year, although I think the current estimate is 45. Given the time scales set out in the Bill, which you also support, how many commissioners do you think will be needed to get through all of those inquiries at the speed at which you wish to see them done and what variety of expertise do you expect those commissioners to have? For instance, if they are talking about nuclear power, should there be a nuclear power engineer among those commissioners, should that person be in employment or retired, and, if so, for how long?
Karen Dee: We have not taken a detailed view and, as we have said before, the White Paper revised the estimates up to about 40. How many we will actually see depends on the time that elapses before the Bill and the procedures are enacted. We have not taken a view on the numbers but have said that, if we are to achieve the sort of certainty that the business community is looking for, the IPC will have to be well resourced to enable it to meet those deadlines. We have not taken a view on the exact skills that would be necessary for the commissioners, other than that in appointing them there should be a broad range so that the commission commands the sort of respect from all sectors of the community involved, not just the business community, so that the decisions get the sort of buy-in that we are looking for.
Q 29 Mrs. Lait: Where will we find these creatures that have the skills to analyse evidence in areas that do not necessarily relate to their own expertise? You want it to be an inquisitorial system with cross-examination-type questions, whereby the commissioner will ask the questions rather than representatives of the various groups, which would have allowed everyone to feel that they had the proper right to be heard, as was established under mediaeval law in this country. They will have expertise in a range of subjects, but I am not sure where you think those paragons will come from and whether we will get them in sufficient numbers so that, if we agree on the 40 issues and the time scales, we will get considerably more than are set out in the Bill. Is the taxpayer going to be thrilled at having to pay for those people?
John Cridland: The cost of the IPC will be very modest in comparison with the considerable benefits that will be achieved if it is successful. Clearly, this is a new development and one can imagine that a mix of individuals from professional bodies, legal backgrounds and academe would have the relevant skills.
I shall dare to use an analogy. The Central Arbitration Committee, which was established some years ago to implement the Employment Relations Act 1999, had to bring together a panel or, as is referred to in the Bill, a council of commissioners from a range of different backgrounds and with a range of different skills—some with more practical workplace experience, some recently retired directors and some with a legal background—in order to form panels to deal with complex and sometimes controversial applications between different parties that would otherwise have been dealt with in an adversarial context. They have had time to expand the number of committee members and deputy chairs in order to get the right balance of experience to form the panels and deal with differing amounts of demand. Although in some ways they are dealing with less demand than anticipated, they have managed to do it.
Exactly the same questions were asked. If a body, on behalf of Ministers, is making determinations which affect trade union recognition or other employee relations issues that are binding on a company or work force, who will those people be and will they have credibility? In fact, a number of recently retired people with highly relevant experience but no conflicts of interest—academics, lawyers, people with professional body experience—have shown that they were able to do it. I am not saying that that is a direct analogy, but I think that it is relevant, and I would hope that we would be able to do that. It is clear that the members of the IPC should not be representative. It is not a situation in which you want a CBI IPC member. We are talking about people who carry credibility because of their career experience and professional success.
The Chairman: I am afraid that that brings us to the end of the time allocated for this witness. I thank you, Mr. Cridland, and your colleague, Karen Dee, for answering the questions so clearly and helpfully. I ask the next witness to take his place.
Good morning. I introduce David Green, the chief executive for the UK Business Council for Sustainable Energy. Welcome, Mr. Green, would you please introduce your colleague?
David Green: Yes, I am delighted to be able to introduce my colleague, Nick Winser. Mr. Winser is the executive director for transmission for the UK and the US in the National Grid and is a member of the National Grid board. Nick has kindly been leading much of our work on planning and engagement with the Government on behalf of the energy industry.
The Chairman: Thank you. A number of people have indicated that they would like to ask questions on your particular area. I will start with Clive Betts.
Q 30 Mr. Betts: On the exemption that you are proposing for energy projects from the community infrastructure levy, why do you feel that the energy industry is so specific and different from other industries? Similar proposals will be put forward by the minerals extraction industry and the transport industry, both of whom feel that when they develop they add value rather than detract from it, and, therefore, should not have to pay a levy towards any other development issues.
David Green: I should say first, to echo John Cridland’s remarks, that we welcome the direction of travel that the Government have gone in by introducing the community infrastructure levy. But, bearing in mind that a lot of the energy infrastructure is what we say it is and designed to support the operation of other parts of the market or other industrial players, and it is, by its very nature, infrastructure—it is largely pipes and wires in the ground—it seemed a little perverse for the levy to be applied to those providers who are seeking to do what they have done for many years in providing the underpinning infrastructure that enables development to take place beyond inner-city sites or greenfield sites. There seems to be a slight perversity in the process. That is why we are suggesting that it would be appropriate to consider exempting various forms of energy infrastructure from the proposed levy arrangements.
Q 31 Mr. Betts: Would it be reasonable to assume, though, that if a major energy site of whatever kind is developed, there probably will be infrastructure costs in accessing that site, for example, which the local authorities may have to pay for? If it was to be a site which employed quite a large number of people in an area where such occupation did not already exist, there could be additional requirements for schools, for example, for the children of people who work on the site. Again, those would be costs to the local authority. You are saying that projects of this kind, which bring those costs with them, should not make any contribution towards the development costs in the area?
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As we pointed out in our evidence, there is an awful lot of infrastructure investment going to be needed in the UK. Clearly, you might get particular examples where, as you rightly say, there is a need for new social investment in the area, to provide for large employment. We would argue that there are existing arrangements that can already cater for that. The specifics that we pointed to are where you need to improve site access and coming to other arrangements. We believe that the existing arrangements are more adequate in catering for that.
The Chairman: A number of colleagues have indicated that they particularly want to ask questions on the energy issue, but if others wish to do so, perhaps they might seek to catch my eye in the next few minutes.
Q 32 Mrs. Lait: Thank you, Sir John, and thank you for coming in. We are probably going to take most of it as read that you agree with most of what the CBI has already said. I will just ask you about the particular issue of the interaction between the proposed announcement that we are expecting this week on nuclear power stations and what would be a potential national policy statement on nuclear power, and the timescales required for the building of nuclear power stations, in order to move towards meeting renewal energy commitments. Are you expecting that, from an announcement this week on nuclear power stations, there would be a challenge to those power stations that would play into the implementation of any legislation that comes out of this Bill? Hence there might be appeals for the nuclear power stations build to be delayed until there is a national policy statement.
David Green: To unpick that a little, first of all we do not know what the Government are going to say, although there has been extensive trailing of what they are likely to say on Thursday. The general point that we would want to make—I am sure that Nick might wish to come in on that—is that the changes proposed for the Planning Bill are not necessarily technology-specific, because there is a lot of other infrastructure in the energy market that is influenced by planning, not just whether or not there are new nuclear or indeed other stations in the system. As we are in the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, we place particular emphasis on the planning barriers faced by onshore and offshore renewables, for example. They are very real challenges that are being faced. Whether or not there would be a challenge to the Government’s announcement on Thursday, I have no idea. Everyone is assuming that there may well be, but that would depend on what the announcement says, how it is cast and whether or not those who successfully challenged the Government last time choose to do it again this time and are successful.
We think that the planning reforms are important in their own right, because of the need to renew the nation’s energy infrastructure. It is not specifically about particular technologies or particular power stations—there is a general need to renew the infrastructure and, also, to make it fit for purpose for a more carbon-constrained economy. Nick is much more centrally involved in this—do you want to comment on any views you might have on any impending announcements from the Government?
Nick Winser: Yes, any announcement on nuclear will raise the same raft of issues that we experience today on other technologies and that we have experienced in the past. We have experience of trying to build transmission lines to connect up gas-fired power stations, which took 13 years. There were major difficulties getting through planning with the building of new gas pipelines, so clearly this is not about nuclear. We currently have about 70 per cent. of the applications for wind power stations held up in planning in one form or another, so we have a present issue with the planning system in getting to the low-carbon economy that we all seek.
If, as part of the overall solution, nuclear power came forward in the context of new build, then the provisions proposed in the Bill would have a significant impact. It is clearly not just about consent for a nuclear power station or a wind turbine, but about connecting that up to centres of demand. Both nuclear and wind energy are generally remote from the main centres of demand. So that single consenting process that John talked about previously will be pertinent to nuclear, as it is today to the issues that we face on connecting up wind power.
Q 33 Mrs. Lait: Do you, then, expect one national policy statement for the whole of the energy infrastructure, whatever the source of the energy and whatever its delivery, or would you expect a separate policy statement on each aspect—in other words on nuclear, on wind, on coal-fired and on your transmission routes?
David Green: Our expectation is that there will be a number of policy statements. There are one or two already. There is the new guidance note from the Department for Communities and Local Government on climate change generally and there is an earlier one on renewables. One of the issues that we want to tease out is what the exact status of those will be in the new regime. Our expectation is that you will not get one for every single bit of technology, but for broad areas of policy there will probably be a specific one. We have every expectation that there will be a specific one, for example, on renewables, which will then cover a whole range of different technologies. There may well be a specific one on nuclear energy because of the particular focus there is on that. We imagine that there will be others dealing with other aspects of energy policy, so you will end up with a family of them, hopefully with some interrelationship.
Q 34 Mrs. Lait: Have you worked out how long it will take under the consultation process—you emphasise that you want a full consultation process—to get the whole of your national policy statements infrastructure in place if there are half a dozen of them? How many years will it take before you know what you will be doing?
David Green: We have not given a specific feel for the timetable that is likely to result. Our main expectation and hope from the proposed changes is that they will not take as long as some of the major infrastructures have taken already. Nick has already referred to the 13 years it took to get the system sorted out in the north-east of England with the grid reinforcement there. National Grid and these other companies have particular experience of the length of time that it is currently taking to reinforce gas infrastructure in the UK and the perversities that can occur with that.
Our expectation is that these reforms will bring about a specific speeding up. An important aspect of this is the integration that can be achieved so that everything on a large infrastructure project is dealt with in one place. For example, if you are going for new pipeline approvals, which are quite important for improving the security supply for gas in the UK, they can be dealt with on an integrated basis and not split up in different parcels as they are at present. That is where the savings will come.
Q 35 Mrs. Lait: I am sorry, but we may be talking past one another. I am talking about the sheer practicality of putting in place six or seven separate national policy statements that are fully consulted and acceptable to all organisations through full parliamentary scrutiny, just on energy. How long do you think that will take?
David Green: I am not in a position to judge how long the parliamentary timetable would take. Clearly it would take some time, but it is particularly important as a way of building up national consensus on the direction we are taking on energy policy and also to get sufficient national buy-in from a wide range of stakeholders on key areas that could well be subject to public controversy. It is particularly important to have national consensus on the direction we are taking with the national policy statements, bearing in mind the changes that will be needed in society to accommodate 60 per cent. or larger carbon reductions over the next 10 or 15 years as we move towards a much more carbon-constrained society. So, yes, it will not be a quick process, but we believe it is important to get national consensus and national buy-in to these statements, because they will be influential and they will have an impact. Indeed, we want them to have an impact.
Q 36 Tom Brake: Following on your comment about carbon constraint—you also mentioned climate change—there seems to be an area of slight difference between you and the CBI. The CBI said that it was happy with what the Bill said in relation to sustainability. You, however, are seeking clarification from the Government on the relationship between the Climate Change Bill and the Planning Bill. What would you, as energy industry representatives, like that relationship to be?
Q 37 Tom Brake: Does that mean you would expect, for instance, the infrastructure planning commission and the national policy statements to have regard for the reduction targets in the Climate Change Bill, so that they would actually take that into account and try to judge whether the national policy statements met those, and whether the IPC was only authorising projects that delivered on the Climate Change Bill?
David Green: I would find it very difficult to conceive of a situation in which the national policy statements did not take account of the statutory objectives that the Climate Change Bill sets—assuming the Bill gets a fair wind in Parliament—because they are going to be statutory, and their whole purpose is to reframe the public policy process to make it much more focused on climate change. Our expectation is that the planning guidance notes that come out will be written in light of the Climate Change Bill, and that the functions created for the IPC will also reflect the imperative that the Government set, hopefully on a cross-party basis, with the Climate Change Bill.
Q 38 Jim Sheridan: This question is to either or both of our guests. You will be aware that the Scottish Administration in Holyrood have challenged, and would deny, any new build nuclear power stations in Scotland. Could you advise the Committee what impact that would have on the rest of the UK in terms of energy policy, and whether this Bill contains, or should contain, any provisions that could perhaps overcome that situation?
David Green: Do you want to take that?
Nick Winser: I am happy to. It really depends on whether there is new nuclear build proposed by companies, and whether alternative sites are identified—sites that are not in Scotland, clearly. I do not mean that in a facetious way. It would not necessarily affect the volume of nuclear that comes forward if other sites can be found in England and Wales that seem to be, economically, a good solution for the companies seeking to develop. The bigger interaction I see is that trying to hit very substantial renewables targets with different planning regimes in England, Wales and Scotland seems to me a significant issue which needs to be addressed. In particular, the national planning framework under the Scottish Administration does very different things, in my view, from the proposals that are in this Bill. It gives an assessment of overall need in a single place, but does not bring forward a single consenting process. So you might have a single consenting process here in England and Wales, and not have that regime in Scotland. Given that so much of the proposed renewable build is in Scotland, that must raise significant concerns about how we can hit the renewables targets if the planning regime in Scotland turns out to be less streamlined and certain than that proposed here.
Q 39 Jim Sheridan: If there is no new nuclear build in Scotland and in the future we have to buy our energy from England, could the scenario be that people in Scotland will have to pay higher fuel bills?
Nick Winser: That is possible.
David Green: It would largely depend, obviously, on what the prevailing market situation is in England, Wales and Scotland—in the GB market. That is difficult to predict at the moment. There has already been talk in the media, this morning and yesterday, about increasing regional spreads of pricing for a variety of reasons. As you move more towards a disaggregated market, that possibility always exists.
Nick Winser: And currently Scottish customers pay cheaper bills, albeit by a small amount, by virtue of the fact that Scotland is an exporting zone. If it is not an exporting energy zone, the locational tariffs will reflect that and Scottish customers will pay more.
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Q 40 Robert Neill: Your written submission—I am looking at paragraphs 6.7 and 6.8—talks in particular about the importance of there being public acceptance and credibility. That is why you refer to the need for a specific requirement for the NPSs to be dealt with by affirmative resolution procedure. Is that something you would like to see specifically in the Bill?
David Green: Yes. It is a debate we have had with officials in Government. We think it is important that there is good cross-party political weight behind these statements, given their significance. To have provision in the Bill that they can be subject to affirmative resolutions is something we would positively support.
Q 41 Robert Neill: Following your other point in those paragraphs about the importance of a clear hierarchy in relation to the rest of the planning regimes, and no doubt also other NPSs, would you expect there to be a minimum core of information, of topics covered, in each national policy statement? What would you expect to see in a national policy statement? Would you expect to see at least a core of it common to each field for which there has to be a national policy statement, to permit integration and clarity in the hierarchy?
Q 42 Robert Neill: Are you assured that those expectations are met at the moment?
David Green: We do not know. We are having discussions with officials at the moment and we, and they, are keen to see that they are on a consistent basis. It will be a matter of ensuring that the proposals are drafted and brought forward on a consistent basis. I am confident that we will achieve that in the energy field; it is difficult to say in respect of a field in which we do not have much involvement.
Q 43 Jeff Ennis (Barnsley, East and Mexborough) (Lab): In your memorandum in paragraphs 5 and 6, you seem to be very strongly supportive of the establishment of the IPC. In the previous witnesses session—I think it was in response to a question from the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon about the Government setting up another quango—John Cridland seemed to be very supportive of the establishment of the IPC. He said that the IPC costs will be minuscule if the new system works properly. Is that your view, too? Obviously, we need to shake up the current machine to make it more streamlined and the IPC is an integral part in streamlining the current machine.
David Green: The expectation, as John said in his evidence—I was listening very carefully when he said it—is that we will achieve a more beneficial system through the IPC. I think John was talking about the costs; what he, and indeed we, are looking at is that if you compare the costs of the IPC to the huge investment that Nick’s company and others will be making in infrastructure, the net cost of the IPC is a very small part of that in terms of the total national expenditure on infrastructure.
In the way the IPC is formed I imagine that there will be some shifting of staff. For example, some who are currently dealing with consents in the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform may move across to the new commission. I would imagine that the net additional costs will be relatively small, as John said, because some people will move from one bit of Government to another. No doubt some people will move from the Department for Communities and Local Government or the Department for Transport into the commission because they have the expertise and the experience of dealing with infrastructure issues.
Nick Winser: I think it is worth putting it into context: we are anticipating a spend on energy infrastructure probably north of £50 billion over the next few decades. If you get delayed in planning, as we often do, £100 million disappears pretty quickly in that sort of context, so this is a very big Bill. With speed and certainty of getting through planning, you can easily save hundreds of millions of pounds.
Q 44 Dan Rogerson: Just to clarify who you represent: do you represent those looking at more devolved energy networks as well, or specifically the big infrastructure projects and larger investment?
David Green: I would have said at the outset a bit about who the Business Council represents. As you can see from the footnote in our submission, our members are the major energy companies in the UK. But all those major energy companies have interests in developing what are referred to as much more distributed or decentralised energy systems, some to a greater extent than others, so I would not want to typify by saying that they are all just focusing on large generation and large infrastructure—it varies depending on the market position they take.
Q 45 Dan Rogerson: That is helpful. In terms of the thresholds that are therefore in the Bill, in terms of when a project becomes subject to the new procedure, would you not agree that that provides an incentive to go towards single bigger schemes rather than looking at multiple smaller ways of generating and distributing energy?
David Green: Clearly, there has to be a threshold somewhere, and we think that the thresholds currently in place have served well for a period of time, and that it is quite fair to keep them as they are and import them into the Bill. In our wider work on planning, hence the discussions we have been having with the Local Government Association, and with Natural England as well, we think that there is still a lot of work to be done on how you can refresh the town and country planning system, because quite a lot of the new renewable developments are still likely to sit at the smaller end of the scale. It is therefore important to make sure that those people who are dealing with them in local communities, particularly elected members, have a deeper understanding of why particular schemes are coming forward at a particular time, and the policy and political context in which they are happening.
The other thing that has changed significantly since the Planning Bill was introduced is the UK’s commitment to signing up to its share of the EU’s 20 per cent. renewable target. I suspect that a lot of that new capacity will be quite large plant, be it onshore or offshore, be it wind or other technologies; we will have to wait and see how that pans out. But in grid terms, or in distribution network terms, they could well have a similar characteristic, in terms of planning requirements, to any large conventional power station, because you could be talking about quite large bits of development in order to achieve, in a timely manner, the target for 2020, which after all is only 12 years off. As colleagues in the industry would tell you, 12 years is not a long time when it comes to, quite apart from the planning regime, just physically getting assets in place.
David Green: I can only imagine that some of it will be to do with transition arrangements. But in terms of why we think there is a need to improve existing arrangements, I am glad that you share our view that there is a need for more integration. Perhaps this might be a position for Nick to comment on, as he has had some particular difficulties with lack of integration between the different aspects of the planning system, and he could emphasise why we think that integration is particularly important.
Nick Winser: I cannot comment technically on whether bits of other Acts need to be repealed, but certainly our recent experience is that for a major piece of infrastructure we quite often need to get consent of some form from the Secretary of State, and we may also need to go to five or six different local planning authorities that will each consider a different part of a project. So bringing all that together in one place and making it contemporaneous would be a big step forward.
Q 47 Mrs. Lait: May I go back to your very sensible point that the national planning statements need to be fully consulted on and that everybody should have the right to be heard? You will have heard Mr. Cridland from the CBI talking about an inquisitorial as opposed to an adversarial system. Would you like to comment on whether the inquisitorial system would be sufficient for your members if they were put in a position where they wished to be heard or to challenge the evidence? Would an inquisitorial system be strong enough for that or would they in extremis wish to revert to an adversarial system?
David Green: That is an interesting question because there are two very different concepts of public policy behind this. In general, support in the industry has been for moving towards the inquisitorial system because they feel that it is a better way of producing a good consensus to move forward on. The advantage of the adversarial system is that you can sometimes tease out issues. There is a strong sense in the industry that, because of the length of time some of the investments take, the more we can build a consensus and therefore the benefits of an inquisitorial system are greater. That is the general view. It does have the disadvantage that you cannot always tease out the issues.
In my personal experience there is often a very thin dividing line between one and the other. An inquisitorial session can often involve probing which brings out fresh information which can be helpful in considerations.
Q 48 Mrs. Lait: But under the inquisitorial system would you able to pick up on the fresh information or would it just lie there?
The Chairman: We have a few minutes left and I am happy to take any supplementary questions that make up the time.
Q 49 Chris Mole (Ipswich): Are you happy about the arrangements in this Bill for the consent regimes between onshore and offshore energy infrastructure, and what are your particular concerns about the interaction with any proposed draft marine Bill?
David Green: Given that the marine Bill is still in draft and has been a little while in coming—it is still some way off and the Government say that they will consult now on a draft Bill—it is a little difficult to say, but in principle what we have always thought is that you need to have a planning regime that works effectively both onshore and offshore. What many colleagues who are looking at offshore developments are concerned about is that, in the absence of the marine Bill, there will potentially be a slight vacuum.
The area we focused on particularly in this Bill is that, even when you do get a clear regime for offshore investment, a lot of that is going to have an impact onshore because the electricity that is generated offshore must still come in somewhere. It will still be picked up by Nick and his colleagues somewhere in the transmission system. As far as we are concerned, the sooner that we can get that kind of integrated package the better, particularly bearing in mind the imperative of achieving the new EU targets that are currently being negotiated and that are likely to be quite tight for the UK.
Q 50 Chris Mole: So there are no problems internally within this Bill; the problem is the uncertainty of where we are with the UK marine Bill?
David Green: It would be easier to answer your question fully—and I am quite happy to come back to you in a separate note if that would be helpful—if we knew in detail what was going to be in the marine Bill. The expectation is that, through a combination of this, which deals with land-based developments, and the marine Bill, we will hopefully get—and this is what we will be lobbying for—an integrated approach.
If it would be helpful, Mr. Chairman, I would be happy to send the Committee a separate note.
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Q 51 Robert Neill: To come back to your comments on the adversarial versus inquisitorial systems, you seemed to say to Mrs. Lait that, at the end of the day, you would not be unhappy for fresh information to come back to the Secretary of State.
David Green: No, what I was saying is that it is interesting that the Secretary of State is planning to take that power because it is an indication that fresh information may well come into consideration.
Q 52 Robert Neill: That is the change of circumstances that is in the Bill.
David Green: Yes.
Q 53 Robert Neill: The problem, I suppose, is that no one will have had the opportunity to test that further information, either through an adversarial or inquisitorial form, will they? You would have to take the Secretary of State’s assessment of that press information as read, in effect, would you not? Is that entirely satisfactory, given your desire to achieve consensus? Otherwise, you would have to reopen the inquiry, would you not?
David Green: We desire consensus and consistency. We would hope that all the powers that the Secretary of State is retaining would be used sparingly and only where there is a clear national interest to reopen something because of a clear change of circumstances—which does happen, particularly in the energy sector, as we are moving to greater dependence on the wider European and global market.
Q 54 Robert Neill: It is your desire for consensus, I take it, which leads you to welcome the inclusion of a right to be heard?
David Green: Yes.
Q 55 Robert Neill: So, you would not want to see anything which diminished the opportunity for legitimately interested parties to put their case?
David Green: We think that it would be vital, particularly in the work that the IPC will be doing, to have those open hearings. There will be an issue to be teased out as to the circumstances in which the Secretary of State would exercise his or her powers, and what you would do to handle that new information. We would hope that it would be used very sparingly, because people are looking to create a situation that will build investor confidence. The investment then flows. We think that, both in the area of national security that has been referred to, and in the area of new information, those powers will be used sparingly, but, given that the Government want to ensure that the UK has a secure energy supply, it will be important that Governments can take a rounded view of how progress will be made.
Nick Winser: Careful crafting of the national policy statements should remove that potential problem to a great degree. They need to be crafted to give some flexibility for changing circumstances in energy markets in Europe and globally.
Q 56 Robert Neill: So, while you welcome the separation of the national policy decisions, where you can hopefully get some consensus, and parliamentary approval in the way that you have accepted, you also accept, in the case of the individual location-specific application, the need for there not to be anything that undermines the ability of interested parties to put their case? Is that right?
As we have pointed out in our evidence, for base load generation we are moving to a situation of more or less national self-sufficiency in gas, at a very high import dependency. We will see many changes occurring in the energy market over the next few years, many of which we probably cannot foresee at the moment, but which will need some flexibility from the Government and their planning procedures to accommodate them, subject to the fact that we must ensure that there is an adequate process which carries people with them. So, we are trying to strike a balance between wanting to ensure that people are fully and actively involved in the direction of travel, and ensuring that we maintain the nation’s security of supply so that, at the end of the day, the lights and other vital national infrastructure are maintained effectively.
Q 57 Robert Neill: So the key test, however you put it, is to speed up the process but not to leave people feeling alienated either.
David Green: Absolutely.
The Chairman: We have one minute left. Is there anything that you would like to say to the Committee, Mr. Green, by way of getting evidence on the record that has not been teased out by the questions?
David Green: I think that we have covered most points. In our evidence paper we covered a wide range of points. The questions have teased out the areas that are clearly on the Committee’s mind. I do not particularly want to add anything further. I would just say that we welcome the fact that the Committee has chosen to take this route, which is quite an innovation in parliamentary procedure, of having organisations in to give evidence for a public Bill. We hope that that process will be carried through to build the consensus that we are looking for to get the investment flowing, which companies are prepared to make, not only to improve security of supply, but to reduce carbon emissions.
The Chairman: I thank you and your colleague, Mr. Winser, for coming along. We now have the next witness, Mr. Bird, executive director of the UK Major Ports Group.
Q 58 Robert Neill: On a point of order, Sir John. I have a written submission from the next witness, although it does not appear on the list. It is a very useful submission, but it does not appear that the rest of the Committee has it. My researcher got it somehow, by means of an e-mail. He is very good, but I did not realise that he had pre-empted everybody else.
The Chairman: The submission is on the table if hon. Members would like to collect it.
It is Mr. Everitt that I welcome, I am sorry. It is very good of you to come along and give evidence. Will you introduce your colleagues?
Richard Everitt: I am Richard Everitt, chairman of the United Kingdom Major Ports Group and chief executive of the Port of London Authority. Mr. Bird was going to come along, but is in New Zealand, so I am substituting for him. On my left is Andrew Harston from Hutchison Ports, which is responsible for Felixstowe and the container port at Thamesport on the Medway. Additionally, it has secured planning consent, subject to conditions, for a container development at Bathside bay in Harwich. On my right is Ken Bell from Associated British Ports, which operates 21 ports in the UK including Southampton port and ports on the Humber. We have tried to bring before the Committee quite a broad range of port experience to discuss the Bill. The port industry has gone through a number of applications recently under the planning system, primarily for container port developments.
The Chairman: Thank you. Is there an opening statement that you would like to make briefly, before we move to questions?
Richard Everitt: I will do so briefly, if I may, Mr. Chairman. I apologise that our submission got to the Committee late yesterday, but it was caught up in Christmas to-ing and fro-ing. In effect, the industry is supportive of the general approach of the Bill. We believe that the national policy statement approach is sound. We are very pleased that ports will come within it, but ports are part of the logistics system and it will be very important that the national statement for ports is well co-ordinated with the statements for roads and rail. Clearly, there is a strong dependency on those modes.
We are also concerned to ensure that the processes under the marine Bill, when finally published, are consistent with the approaches being taken in the Planning Bill. Ports, by their nature, are linked to the marine environment, and what happens in the marine environment is equally as important as what happens in the terrestrial environment.
We believe that the proposed consolidation of consents is also a very sound move forward. Indeed, the applications that are currently going through for container developments in many cases have not yet been implemented because of dependence on other consents coming through. To deal with those proposals in a holistic way would clearly be beneficial in terms of securing the capacity that is needed, and the greater certainty over the inquiry process and decision timing is also to be welcomed. Inquiries in the port sector have generally been quite short, but the decision processes subsequent to inquiries have been very long and, indeed, the dependencies that have been created when those decisions have finally been made have extended the time frame for those developments even further.
Although the ports industry might be seen as low-technology, the reality is very different. Technology is changing rapidly in the port scene, ships are getting larger by the year and the industry needs to be able to respond in a timely way, not least because we have an economy that is highly international and heavily dependent on imports and exports: ports are obviously the key node in driving those changes to our economy.
Therefore, joined-up thinking between the agencies to get the capacity is critically important. With regard to containers, we have not seen new capacity since 2003—an extension at Felixstowe—and new capacity is certainly overdue. Essentially, we welcome the Bill because we believe it will create a more certain environment in which to promote the port developments that are necessary in the type of economy that we operate.
The Chairman: Thank you.
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Q 59 Mrs. Lait: Thank you for coming in, gentlemen.
In the time that I have managed to speed-read your submission, I got the impression that you wish to see the inclusion of the associated transport infrastructure in your national policy statement about ports. I wonder if I am reading that correctly and, given that you support the CBI’s position on the creation of the national policy statements and the full consultation and parliamentary scrutiny, how you see a national policy statement on ports that included the associated infrastructure and the related other transport national policy statements. We teased out from previous witnesses that they would expect a separate national policy statement on each form of energy and therefore one would assume that there would be a national policy statement for each form of transport.
Richard Everitt: It would possibly be too ambitious to think that the ports policy statement would include road and rail, but we think that the road and rail national policy statements should take full account of the current and prospective needs of ports. Clearly, ports act as nodes for distributing imports and gathering exports, and one of the big issues that we have found in all of the developments that have been proposed in the last few years is the need to ensure that the road and rail systems serving ports are developed in a way that is consistent with the proposed development of the port. So I think that it will be in those statements that we will be looking for consistency. I think that that is what the Eddington report was really saying in one of its three big priorities: that gateways—and ports are gateways—should be well linked into the key markets that they serve.
Q 60 Mrs. Lait: You refer to the single consent regime, and I will ask you the same question I put to previous witnesses. Do you think that currently existing legislation—which, as I understand it, is being transferred into this Bill—should be repealed from the relevant Acts of which it is currently part?
Richard Everitt: That is probably unnecessary, if I have read the Bill correctly. I think what the Bill is, in effect, saying is that if you get development consent from the IPC, it will cover a number of other consents: ancient monument consent, listed building consent, footpath changes, and so on. Given that for projects of non-national importance we are still going to be living under the current regime, it is probably unnecessary in the way that the Bill is drafted. However, we would certainly want to maximise the number of consents being granted by a development consent from the IPC.
Q 61 Mrs. Lait: You cannot, for instance, see an appeal being made under separate legislation, to run in parallel with an IPC investigation, which could have an impact, malign or otherwise?
Richard Everitt: I could not see that in reading the Bill. I think the Bill is pretty clear that, if an application were made, the Secretary of State could refer it—I am trying to recall my reading, but there seemed to be sufficient provision so that any scheme being considered by the IPC would have to be handled through the IPC, and you could not make another application while that process was under way.
Q 62 Tom Brake: Would it be fair to say that the industry view is that birds, flora and fauna, and the environment generally, get in the way of port development?
Richard Everitt: Unequivocally not. We work in some of the most sensitive coastal environments in the United Kingdom. Huge amounts of work and effort are put into balancing the need to expand ports with protecting some of the most sensitive sites in Europe. Andrew, you have had a lot of experience of that in Felixstowe, as I have in London.
Andrew Harston: In terms of the habitat site relating to our application for the Bathside Bay development—which is also known as Harwich International Port Container Terminal, and which was an application made under overriding public interest—we found that by engaging positively with the agencies, and particularly the non-governmental ones such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, we were able to work very constructively with the birds’ interests, as well as those of the rest of the flora and fauna, in identifying what we could do in terms of compensatory habitat. I would rather refer to it as part of the process that one has to go through in developing a port, and one in which the agencies and English Nature—and we ourselves as port developers—would acknowledge that the game has changed very much over the last five years, with the major schemes advanced by Associated British Ports in Dibden, ourselves in Bathside and Felixstowe, and the then P&O scheme in London Gateway. We have reached an accommodation in how those interests worked together to provide beneficial gain for the future.
Ken Bell: Could I add to that? The RSPB has stated publicly, quite recently, that it commends the UK port industry for, frankly, having got its act together on this and actually working with them to ensure an acceptable solution for all concerned. The RSPB is commending the UK ports industry as a model for how this should be done.
Q 63 Tom Brake: Is your reading of the Bill that the safeguards in terms of sustainability, as they apply either to the national policy statement or the IPC, are just as strong as the safeguards in existing planning legislation?
Richard Everitt: Yes, certainly, because a lot of this is now driven by European legislation—the habitats directive, the birds directive—and they are as applicable under this regime as under any other, and we do not see any watering-down of that. We will have to satisfy the same criteria as we have had to satisfy until now, hopefully within a more streamlined process.
Q 64 Robert Neill: To join together the threads of your helpful submission, gentlemen, it seems to me that what you are seeking is, first, greater speed, for the reasons that you set out; secondly, greater integration of the single consent regime with the other strategies; and, thirdly, greater clarity in terms of the operation. That seems to be it, in a nutshell. I am interested that you look at the delays from that point of view. I suspect that your experience has been how the proliferation of issues can sometimes make an inquiry run on, create repetition and cause delay after the hearing. That is your most striking point.
Richard Everitt: Indeed. In the case of London Gateway, for example, it took nearly four years to come to a decision. Andrew’s experience at Felixstowe South, which is a pretty simple development, is that it has become dependent upon other applications, as has Bathside Bay. Resolving those issues will very much depend on the capability of the IPC to get the applications process to a very high level of consistency between the various issues before they go into the inquiry. At the moment we seem to have a sequential approach. Somehow or other we have to get an approach in which everything is brought together.
Q 65 Robert Neill: The other thing you flag up in paragraph 11 is the example of how that is being done by adapting existing structures, but in the High Court, particularly in relation to commercial litigation, there is much tighter judge-management of the cases, binding preliminary decisions, binding time frames and penalties in terms of costs for going beyond them.
Richard Everitt: If you don’t meet your deadline there is a penalty.
Q 66 Robert Neill: Exactly. There are binding decisions at the beginning as to what the relevant issues are. Therefore, you simply rule out repetitious cross-examination if that issue has already been ventilated or if it is irrelevant.
Richard Everitt: I flew this idea because it seemed to me to have some resonance from my experience in another field of planning inquiries that an IPC-type body has a real management function to get the thing into shape so that decent decisions can be taken and the wider population has an opportunity to give their views on the totality of what is being proposed.
Q 67 Robert Neill: Then you still have the parties able to cross-examine and so on, but they are strictly controlled as to what they do; that is the essence of it.
Andrew Harston: The current lack of certainty about the overall timetable means that very large parts of the UK port industry are now owned by non-UK parent companies, which sounds very similar to the arguments we heard earlier in respect of energy. One of the problems we have had with our own shareholders is that Hutchison Port Holdings operates globally in the same way as Dubai Ports, the company that purchased P&O, and it is making investment decisions all around the world. As Richard pointed out, we are the end of a global supply chain, which in large part starts in the far east, where these organisations are able to deliver large port complexes and other transport businesses with much shorter time frames but, importantly, a high degree of certainty about what the time frame is. It has been very difficult under the current process.
We appreciate that the Government were trying to decide on a number of broadly competing applications for deep-sea container ports from three separate companies. However, it is very difficult to continue to justify to a non-UK shareholder that you cannot get any indication of when a decision might be taken on whether you can go ahead. Frankly, it does not matter whether the answer is yes or no. It is about the certainty in being able to plan and to plan within a global treasury operation, where you are seeking funds to develop on a global basis. The danger is that we will get left behind.
Q 68 Mrs. Ellman: You state in your written submission that national policy statements should be integrated into regional spatial strategies and local development plans. Will you say how important you think that is? Do you have any ideas about how it could be done?
Richard Everitt: We think that it is very important because if Government and Parliament—because Parliament is heavily involved in that process—decide that national infrastructure should be created or developed in a particular way, it is important that that is translated down to the regional and local levels. Ports, by their nature, are big employers and big sources of economic activity. They are dependent, as far as terrestrial planning is concerned, on road and rail, hence the reason that we asked that the NPS for those two modes should take full account of ports. However, there are many other issues.
I am not as well versed as perhaps I ought to be on how the parameters for regional spatial strategies and local planning frameworks are handed down from Government, but there needs to be a mechanism that ensures that it is joined up. Otherwise, we will get a situation in which there is a national policy that we should do certain things, which is frustrated at a regional or local level.
Q 69 Mrs. Ellman: You also referred to the criteria on designating nationally significant infrastructure projects. You referred to clause 20. Are there any other areas of the Bill where the definitions impede the objectives?
Richard Everitt: We felt, as an industry, that the thresholds were quite high for us. In our submission, we asked for some clarity between new ports and extensions to ports. That did not come through very clearly in clause 20 and needs to be looked at to ensure that the objective is stated clearly on extensions. Normally, in container port development one talks about containers, but we should also talk about energy because ports are important in terms of energy importation. There needs to be some clarity on what is major infrastructure as far as extensions are concerned. There are a number of small, detailed points on the Bill that Ken wished to raise. This might be an appropriate time to do so.
Ken Bell: In addition to the point that Richard is making about clarity and whether this measure relates to the extension or the totality is the question of the thresholds themselves, which seem extremely high for ports. We would suggest rather lower figures.
The two additional points that I would like to mention relate to general permitted development rights with regard to statutory undertakings. First, having taken legal advice on this matter, there is an opinion that an effect of the Bill, which we suspect is unintended, will remove those rights when an application is made to the commission. That does not seem to make any great sense. We suspect that it is unintended and we ask that the relevant wording in clause 27 be examined so that confirmation can be given that there is no intent to remove general permitted development order powers from ports.
My second point relates to the compulsory purchase provisions in the Bill, again with respect to statutory undertakers. The decision-making process appears to be broadly similar to what now exists: the Secretary of State would review that and its consequences. However, the Bill is silent about the process that would follow. This is quite an important issue for ports and other statutory bodies. If we could have clarification on the process it would be appreciated. It would be helpful to know whether the intention is to replicate the system that now prevails. At the moment we are unclear about how this would work.
Q 70 James Duddridge: Given that you are looking to change the threshold and clear up the ambiguity about construction and extension which you described, could you give us some perspective? As a layman, it is difficult to understand how many ports over the next 10 years will have to go through a process as a national infrastructure project under current Government proposals and how many would go through that process under your reduced criteria.
12.45 pm
Richard Everitt: I looked at this essentially from the perspective of what sort of throughput there would be for a berth, whether a ro-ro berth, a container berth, or a facility to handle general cargo which could be coal or gas. As you can see from paragraph 3 of our submission, we have proposed that it would be 250,000 TEU, which is 20 ft equivalent units of containers—sorry for using jargon—or 150,000 units for ro-ro. When you think about the next 10 years and what we would be likely to see, ro-ro is projected to more than double in the next 20 years and we could certainly expect two or three applications on the ro-ro front, if not more.
Q 71 James Duddridge: For clarity’s sake, is that new applications for new ports or applications for extensions on existing ports?
Richard Everitt: It would almost certainly be for extensions on existing ports. It would be quite rare to see new applications for new ports. At the moment the nearest new port, although it might say that it is an extension, would be Yarmouth, which is a big change of port. We would be very surprised if there were new port applications. It would be essentially new infrastructure at existing ports. On containers, there are a number of consents to be implemented which will probably carry us through for a number of years. We may see one or two in the next 10 years.
Andrew Harston: I think that part of your original question was to try to get some sense of scale. In terms of a national policy statement—and I am looking at Jim Fitzpatrick—the Department has taken some initiative in the ports policy review to look at long-term forecasts to 2030 for a variety of imported and exported goods through the UK. My primary interest is the container port business. That is what Hutchison does in the UK. The independent forecasts that the Department for Transport has commissioned from MDS Transmodal look at about 250,000 TEUs, which is about 80,000 additional containers every year, or 4.3 per cent. long-term growth from now to 2030.
In essence, and in very practical terms, that is 500 more containers coming into the UK every day of every year until 2030. Those 500 containers in practice—250,000 TEUs annualised—are roughly what Richard describes as one berth. In a linear sense, if it was possible to do that, you would add an extra berth to existing UK container capacity every year until 2030. The two schemes for which we have consents in Felixstowe and Harwich provide for up to eight berths. You could say that that is eight years’ worth of stored consent capacity when we can fulfil all our remaining consents and are able to start constructing them.
To pick up the point that Mr. Bell raised earlier, and to give some context, we received final consent for Felixstowe on 1 February 2006. I have no idea what the time frame is for getting those consents in order to start the construction, despite the fact that everything else has been dealt with.
Q 72 James Duddridge: May I just probe that? As someone from Southend, ports are particularly interesting to me. Is it possible that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will not give you those consents and say that, for ecological reasons, it is inappropriate for it to go ahead, full stop?
Andrew Harston: It would be a surprise, to the extent that the public inquiry process to date is the best thing that we can consider as a mini-IPC, because of the public scrutiny and hearings that took place and the agreements that were reached. Frankly, I do not know the answer, because it has been very difficult to engage with DEFRA in dialogue. However, there is the question of scale: there will be 250,000 TEUs and 500 containers a day. On roll-on/roll-off, which is trailer traffic that goes on and off ferries, principally to the EU, which as we know, is our greatest trading partner, there will be more than 100 per cent. growth in the same time frame.
Ken Bell: I have a supplementary point on scale. If the thresholds for electricity were applied pro rata to the ports industry, there would be port developments of some 5,000 to 10,000 tonnes. The thresholds for electricity are extremely low and a tiny proportion of the entire capacity will be represented by one scheme. Ports are completely at the other end of the spectrum, so it seems that there is a complete disparity between how thresholds have been chosen for the ports industry and how they have been chosen for other sectors, particularly electricity.
James Duddridge: Does—
The Chairman: Order. I will come back to the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East, when everybody who wants to have a go has done so. I know that others want to ask supplementaries.
Q 73 Jim Sheridan: Gentlemen, in your submission you make no mention of the growing concerns of local communities who live in and around ports, or of environmental agencies, about the potential for a disaster with the ship-to-ship transfer of oil. I know that representations have been made by many parliamentarians on that. Do you not agree with the environmental groups and local communities that the Bill would be an ideal opportunity to address the concerns about a potential environmental disaster should a ship-to-ship transfer go wrong?
Richard Everitt: With respect, I do not think that this is the right Bill to deal with that issue, which is comprehensively regulated through the harbour authorities. I know that there are concerns, and they are being addressed, but I do not think that this would be the right Bill to do it.
Q 74 Jim Sheridan: Could you explain why?
Richard Everitt: It is not fundamentally a planning issue. It is an environmental issue and one that is regulated. The debate is whether people are satisfied with the degree of regulation or how regulation works.
Q 75 Jim Sheridan: Up to now, you have mentioned container ships and other types of ships that come into port, but you have not mentioned the oil ships that come into ports. There is a major problem there, and it is an issue that is affecting local communities living in and around ports throughout the UK.
Richard Everitt: Indeed. My port is a major importer of oil, and we have comprehensive plans in place.
Q 76 Jim Sheridan: In your opinion.
Richard Everitt: Well, the adequacy of those plans is open to scrutiny by all sorts of agencies, not least the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. They are tested plans, not just plans that sit on paper. We have boats on the water with crews standing by to operate them, and our record on how frequently they are deployed is published. I am pleased to say that they are deployed very infrequently, and normally on minor issues. There is a comprehensive scheme in place. I agree that, helping people to understand the processes that are in place is important in addressing the concerns that people continue to express, but I am not sure that the Bill could properly address the issue, because it is about planning new developments.
The Chairman: Mr. Duddridge, did you want to come back?
Q 77 James Duddridge: Yes, I just I wanted to probe Mr. Bell further on how he would like clause 20 to be amended in relation to construction and extension. I am not sure whether it is ambiguous, or whether it is clear. However, I suspect that it does not make sense to you and that that the legislation is flawed. What would you like Government Ministers to go away and look at and what form of wording would be more helpful to you?
Ken Bell: To the extent that the IPC is considering port developments, our assumption is that the capacity being measured is the development. We suggest that the current wording is unclear and can be read both ways. First, we need clarity on what the words mean. Our assumption is that the intent, as with airports, is to refer to the capacity of the extension, not that of the pre-existing port including the extension.
Q 78 James Duddridge: So your second preference would be absolute clarity.
Ken Bell: The first absolute need is clarity: at the moment the words are not clear and therefore we suggest that they be revisited.
Richard Everitt: Our concern was, to put it in simple terms, that if we had a port handling 500,000 TEU and applied for a 100,000 TEU extension, common sense says that 100,000 TEU would not be considered a nationally important infrastructure. However, the port as built would be 600,000 TEU, so does that bring it in? I do not think that that was the intention. Perhaps that is just my lack of understanding of how the provision is drafted, but it should be compared to clause 19(3), which relates to airports and says clearly that if you bring 10 million passengers in or your extension brings 10 million passengers in, it is considered nationally important.
James Duddridge: I am sure that the Committee will want to seek that clarity on your behalf later in the process.
Q 79 Paul Clark: I know what you are saying is sufficient about the community infrastructure levy and accept what you are saying, to a certain extent, about the major benefits that you bring—and will continue to bring—to local communities in a raft of ways. In relation to clause 20, its implications and the numbers that you are talking about, when you say that the community infrastructure levy should not apply to port developments, does that refer to not only the new ports, but to extensions also?
Richard Everitt: Indeed.
Q 80 Paul Clark: I can think of an example where a port wants to extend its operation, and the local community and businesses clearly want to see it develop for all the good reasons that you have pointed out, but the development of that port may be hampered by the need to find the money to develop road or rail links. If you were involved in the community infrastructure levy, however, would not that help to speed forward what you and all the local community want? I suspect that Joe Bloggs, living on the edge of the road, does not necessarily see the benefits of a port expansion because of lorries trundling down a small, minor road.
Richard Everitt: You will not be surprised to hear that that has been quite a big issue in relation to the port applications that have been going through recently. My organisation’s view on the degree to which contributions should be made for the provision of infrastructure is that it is perhaps right to fund a road running down to a port off a main road. However, trying to sort the rail system out in Peterborough for a London or Felixstowe operation should be dealt with nationally, not least because you cannot see the direct benefit and secure your train paths against your investment. I think that is right, Andrew.
Andrew Harston: To put it more simply, my concern from a developer’s perspective is that you would not want to pay twice. For instance, we are currently funding railway improvements, as Richard suggested, as far afield as Doncaster, having agreed with the then Strategic Rail Authority that that was necessary to deal with the wider impact of the developments at Felixstowe and Harwich. However, that quite clearly relates to the wider national railway network at a time when applicants for other, similarly sized schemes are not making any contribution at all to the railway network. From our point of view, provided there was consistency and the measure applied in such a way that you paid only once, we would be happy to look at either approach.
Our concern is that we do not yet understand what agreements we would still be required to reach before an application went to the IPC, and therefore to what extent a developer might still be required to enter into section 106 agreements to fund elements of infrastructure and to fund the CIL as well. Frankly, if it were clear what was being paid for—it must be one or the other—I would be indifferent. The opportunity for that cost, for much of the road and rail network, to be distributed over many of the beneficiaries, as widely as possible, would be welcome.
The Chairman: Order. I am afraid that time is up. Mr. Everitt, may I thank you and your colleagues, Mr. Bell and Mr. Harston, for giving evidence this morning? It has been interesting and helpful for us. I remind the Committee that we will resume at 4 o’clock in this room. In the meantime, the room will be locked so you may leave your papers here.
It being One o’clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
Adjourned till this day at Four o’clock.

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