Planning Bill

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Clause 96

Matters that may be disregarded when deciding application
Amendment made: No. 385, in clause 96, page 44, line 29, after ‘are’ insert ‘vexatious or’.—[John Healey.]
Clause 96, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 97 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 98

When power to intervene arises
John Healey: I beg to move amendment No. 386, in clause 98, page 45, line 16, after ‘effect,’ insert—
‘(aa) the Commission has accepted the application and has received a certificate under section 52(2) in relation to the application,’.
This clause, together with the next two clauses, provides that the Secretary of State can intervene to decide an application in place of the commission, but only in certain circumstances. Amendment No. 386 is designed to add a procedural safeguard in such circumstances. It means that the Secretary of State can intervene in an application only once it has been accepted by the commission in accordance with clause 49, and the applicant has given notice of the application to the appropriate people as required in clause 50. What the amendment will do—I hope hon. Members will understand this—is ensure that even when the Secretary of State decides that they may need to intervene in a case to take the decision, the application will still have gone through the appropriate procedures before that point.
Amendment agreed to.
Dan Rogerson: I beg to move amendment No. 325, in clause 98, page 45, line 30, leave out ‘and’.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 324, in clause 98, page 45, line 32, at end insert ‘and
(f) if the national policy statement was given effect during the course of a previous Parliament.’.
Dan Rogerson: These are probing amendments as this seemed to be a part of the Bill where debate could be had. As I have said before, the Minister has been very careful to make the distinction between the role of Governments in setting policy and the role of the commission in determining applications. One of the benefits of national policy statements is that they provide a framework of which everyone is aware. Once they are in place, they should speed up applications because various issues do not need to be revisited on each occasion if the national policy is clear.
However, the limitation of national policy statements in that context is that they are set by a Government who have been elected. At the next general election, when one of the statements may have become a cause of controversy, an alternative Government may be elected on a mandate to overturn the statement. I am sure that the Minister, and indeed the hon. Member for Beckenham, will have their own views about that contention.
John Healey: Does the hon. Gentleman have any particular policy in mind? Does he have any particular party in mind?
Dan Rogerson: One could think of policies on nuclear energy, for example. A hypothetical party may be opposed to nuclear energy on principle.
John Healey: So is the hon. Gentleman saying that the Liberal Democrats are a hypothetical party?
Dan Rogerson: I did not mention the Liberal Democrats; the Minister did. Various political parties are opposed to nuclear power.
The point I am trying to make is that circumstances may change, and a national policy statement’s virtue is that it should exist for a period of which applicants are aware and within which they can work. The point that provoked the amendments is that, in fact, the statements may be time limited up until the next general election, because there may be changes—even within a party. If the same party stays in power, its balance and views may change based on who leads it following a general election. All sorts of factors may change, and a national policy statement can be guaranteed only until a general election, because if there is a change of Government the statement may change. What view has the Minister taken on that issue? Does he feel that it undermines the concept of the national policy statement? This is really a probing amendment to provoke that discussion.
Robert Neill: An interesting point has been raised, but I shall not add to what has been said. One assumes that the power of intervention will be extremely limited, but I am intrigued, and we return to a previous discussion prompted by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham. If one considers subsection (3), which sets out the second set of conditions for an intervention, it is noteworthy that the test throughout is materiality, as opposed to, let us say, importance or relevance. It seems to me that there is an internal inconsistency in the Bill. It is sensible to use materiality, because it covers all the important issues, and is well known and well established, but the fact that the Government think it appropriate to use materiality in this clause undermines the use of a different test elsewhere.
John Healey: I am not sure that the amendments proposed by the hon. Member for North Cornwall would do what he thinks they might, because if they were agreed to, the Secretary of State, to intervene, would have to be satisfied not only that all the conditions in clause 98(3) had been met, but that the national policy statement in question had been given effect in the previous Parliament. In other words, the amendments would prevent the Secretary of State from intervening in any cases where the relevant national policy statement had been designated during the current Parliament. I am not sure that that is what the hon. Gentleman wants.
There is a good case for intervention when defence or national security matters are involved, and there is also a good case when a national policy statement is out of date and bears on a decision that cannot wait until the review of the statement is complete. Those conditions are set out in the Bill. I am struggling to grasp the hypothetical situation that the hon. Gentleman introduced to the Committee, but—perish the thought—those conditions may meet his concerns rather better than his amendments would.
Robert Neill: Is that a Liberal interpretation?
4.45 pm
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 98, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 99 and 100 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 101

Grant or refusal of development consent
John Healey: I beg to move amendment No. 387, in clause 101, page 47, line 4, leave out from ‘(b)’ to end of line 6 and insert ‘associated development.’.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to consider Government amendments Nos. 388 to 390.
John Healey: The amendments are designed largely to clarify the meaning of “associated development”. First, they clarify the definition of “England” and confirm that it includes territorial waters adjacent to England and the renewable energy zone, except any part of the REZ in relation to which Scottish Ministers have functions. Secondly, they clarify the fact that surface works connected with an underground gas storage facility in Wales will not qualify as associated development. They are designed to preserve the devolution settlement.
While I am clarifying and confirming, may I, with your slight indulgence, Mr. Illsley, confirm to the Committee that the consultation document on the community infrastructure levy is published this afternoon? I have copies with me if hon. Members wish to consult them this evening and over the weekend. I also confirm that, although I have been in the Committee with its other members for four hours this afternoon, it is my intention that amendments on Welsh matters and the community infrastructure levy will be tabled this afternoon, thus meeting the undertaking that I gave the Committee that they would be tabled in good time to aid our proceedings.
In fact, I can confirm not only that I aim to have them tabled this afternoon but that they have been tabled.
Mrs. Lait: I have no intention of holding the Committee up, but I take this opportunity to thank the Minister. I am sure that there was a great deal of rushing around going on, and I am glad that I shall not have to use the word “incompetence” about him, unlike certain ex-members of the Government.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments made: No. 388, in clause 101, page 47, line 6, at end insert—
‘(2A) “Associated development” means development which—
(a) is associated with the development within subsection (2)(a) (or any part of it),
(b) is not the construction or extension of one or more dwellings, and
(c) is within subsection (2B) or (2C).
(2B) Development is within this subsection if it is to be carried out wholly in one or more of the following areas—
(a) England;
(b) waters adjacent to England up to the seaward limits of the territorial sea;
(c) in the case of development in the field of energy, a Renewable Energy Zone, except any part of a Renewable Energy Zone in relation to which the Scottish Ministers have functions.
(2C) Development is within this subsection if—
(a) it is to be carried out wholly in Wales,
(b) it is the carrying out or construction of surface works, boreholes or pipes, and
(c) the development within subsection (2)(a) with which it is associated is development within section 16(3).’.
No. 389, in clause 101, page 47, line 7, leave out ‘development falling within subsection (2)(b)’ and insert ‘associated development’.
No. 390, in clause 101, page 47, line 10, leave out ‘falls within subsection (2)(b)’ and insert ‘is associated development’.—[John Healey.]
Clause 101, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 102 to 104 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. Watts.]
Adjourned accordingly at ten minutes to Five o’clock till Tuesday 29 January at half-past Ten o’clock.
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