Planning Bill

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Clause 174

Expressions relating to the Crown
Dan Rogerson: I beg to move amendment No. 577, in clause 174, page 97, leave out lines 36 and 37.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 578, in clause 174, page 98, line 11, leave out paragraph (e).
No. 579, in clause 174, page 98, line 33, leave out paragraph (b).
Dan Rogerson: I confess that I may be thinking more parochially about this clause than others, as it defines how Crown land is to be interpreted in the Bill. We have already discussed Crown land exemptions and I accept that there are occasions when such land is vital to the nation.
It is no reflection on the present Duke of Cornwall, for whom I have the utmost regard, but the history of the Duchy is that at times it seeks to define itself in terms of its constitutional role. People may not be familiar with the constitutional peculiarities of the Duchy of Cornwall. Various provisions apply to the foreshore, mineral rights and so on, and if one dies intestate in Cornwall the estate goes not to the Crown but to the Duchy of Cornwall. The Duchy has a constitutional significance that it has defended through the courts.
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): The estate goes to the Duchy if a person without relatives dies intestate.
Dan Rogerson: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that piece of legal education as I am obviously sadly lacking in that respect.
The Duchy has a constitutional position that at times it seeks to emphasise and at other times it seeks not to do so and defines itself as a private estate. It cannot have it both ways. If it is a private estate, and I would say that it is because it exists to supply an income for the heir to the throne, why is it exempt from provisions to which other citizens must have regard?
I understand the argument for the Crown’s position in respect of Government land used, for example, by the Ministry of Defence, but I struggle to see why Duchy of Cornwall farms should be treated any differently from other farms, such as county council-tenanted farms. I hastily backtrack and say that the amendment implies no criticism of the current incumbent; it seeks to discover how the Government view the Duchy of Cornwall and why it is included with other Crown land, which is more understandable in this context. What is the Government’s opinion on the matter?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr. Parmjit Dhanda): It is nice to be back and serving under your chairmanship, Mr. Illsley, as we head towards the twilight phase of the Committee sittings.
Mrs. Lait: We are not going that way.
Mr. Dhanda: Who knows?
I will not accuse the hon. Gentleman of tabling a republican amendment, but clause 173, which we skipped over, applies the Bill specifically to the Crown, including the Duchy. He raised concerns about the Duchy of Cornwall receiving special treatment under the Bill, but the clause is consistent with the commitment to remove Crown immunity on planning matters implemented by the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, which amended section 293 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The definition of Crown land, which included land belonging to the Duchy of Cornwall, was unchanged. It is consistent with other legislation that applies to the Crown, as all Crown interests are treated the same. It would be improper to treat one interest—in this case, the Duchy of Cornwall— differently from another, as he suggested we do.
The drafting reflects the special position of the sovereign and her heirs in our constitution. That is the nub of it, which is where the hon. Gentleman’s complications and difficulties arise. That special place within our constitution is written into every measure, and it is difficult to start unpicking it in any Bill, including this one.
As I said, the Bill applies to the Crown, but whereas in part 8 enforcement would refer to an appellant, in this case it would refer to an individual who is appointed by the heirs to the Crown. It is still relevant but at the same time it has to be written in a way that observes our constitution. The Crown, as Head of State, cannot enforce measures on the Crown, which is why the provisions are so drafted. I hope that that helps the hon. Gentleman and that he will withdraw the amendment.
Dan Rogerson: I listened with interest to what the Minister said. There is not much justification for the proposal, except that it is what has always been done, but that is a debate for another time and place so I will not detain the Committee. The answer to my question was not forthcoming, but on the basis that I may wish to pursue the issue elsewhere, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 174 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 175 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 176

Service of notices: general
Dan Rogerson: I beg to move amendment No. 580, in clause 176, page 98, line 44, leave out ‘may’ and insert ‘must’.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 581, in clause 176, page 98, line 44, leave out ‘either’.
No. 582, in clause 176, page 99, line 2, at end insert ‘and’.
No. 583, in clause 176, page 99, line 5, at end insert ‘and’.
No. 584, in clause 176, page 99, line 9, at end insert—
‘(1A) A notice or other document required or authorised to be served or given under this Act may additionally be served by the following methods—’.
Dan Rogerson: My concern is that the clause as drafted refers to notice being given “either” and then lists a number of ways in which that can be done. For example, it mentions service using electronic communications. Notices might be issued solely by that means, and therefore would not reach certain people, as we have discussed. Also, people who have an interest in, or own, land but do not reside there and do not visit it on a frequent basis may not see notices posted there.
The amendment would encourage the Government to ensure that all notices are delivered by as many means as possible so that people have ample opportunity to consider matters that may be relevant to them and to their interests. I hope that they will accept the amendment—I suspect that they will not—or reassure me on the record that the spirit of the Bill is that every opportunity will be taken to contact people to ensure that they have the relevant information and can act accordingly, in full knowledge of what is being proposed.
Mr. Dhanda: The hon. Gentleman wishes to amend the clause to ensure that any person on whom a notice is served will receive it in at least three different ways. That would be excessive and rather inflexible, and we are trying to introduce a quicker and more flexible system. However, I do not disagree that it is important that a notice is received by the person on whom it is served and the clause has been constructed to ensure that there is sufficient flexibility for the person serving the notice to choose the best way of doing so. For instance, a person may be domiciled abroad, but have an interest in a particular parcel of land. That would make hand delivery difficult and expensive. In such situations, it would not be inconceivable that a person would prefer to receive information via e-mail, as he suggests. Requiring a person to serve a notice multiple times would, therefore, make it extremely difficult for such people to comply with the legislative requirement, if, for example, it was difficult to deliver it by hand. That is not to mention the excessive related costs.
11 am
Taking that on board and the fact that, if a person has registered an interest in an application, they would provide an address to which they would wish correspondence to be sent, which could be an electronic or a postal address, whether domestic or abroad, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will consider withdrawing the amendment.
Dan Rogerson: I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. I am slightly suspicious of the words “speed” and flexibility”. It is fairly subjective to talk of something being quick and flexible, and it might be from the point of view of someone who wants an application to go forward.
Mr. Dhanda: I hope that it will reassure the hon. Gentleman when I tell him that, if a person is deliberately excluded, which is probably his underlying concern, they would also be able to challenge the IPC’s decisions under the Bill.
Dan Rogerson: That is a key point, which I am grateful to the Minister for making. As long as regard will be given to some form of proof that every opportunity has been taken to notify an interested person of a relevant application, and that they have the opportunity to participate in that application’s progress at every stage, I am reassured. However, I want to put it on the record once again that if someone is not present in the area, they may not see local advertising or even be aware that something is taking place. It is key that every method is pursued to ensure that everyone with an interest in that application has the opportunity to be consulted.
I will not seek to press the amendment to a vote. But it is an important point, as we are looking to changes in the planning system, that any consultation or interaction with the various interested parties must be opened and done in as thorough a way as possible. I am grateful to the Minister for putting that on the record. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 176 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 177 to 181 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 182

Amendments made: No. 153, in clause 182, page 101, line 20, at end insert—
‘“alteration”, in relation to an airport, must be read in accordance with section 19(5);’.
No. 154, in clause 182, page 101, leave out lines 43 and 44.
No. 155, in clause 182, page 102, line 1, at end insert—
‘“gas reception facility” must be read in accordance with section [gas reception facilities] (2);’.
No. 156, in clause 182, page 102, line 19, at end insert—
‘“LNG facility” must be read in accordance with section [LNG facilities] (3);’.
No. 157, in clause 182, page 102, line 50, at end insert—
‘“standard”, in relation to a volume of gas, means the volume of gas at a pressure of 101.325 kiloPascals and a temperature of 273 Kelvin;’.
No. 158, in clause 182, page 103, line 6, at end insert—
‘“underground gas storage facilities” must be read in accordance with section 16(5);’.—[Mr. Dhanda.]
Clause 182, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 183

Application of Act to Scotland: modifications
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Mrs. Lait: As one of only two Scottish voices on the Committee, I would like to discuss clause 183 and, with your permission, Mr. Illsley, clause 187. If I read the Bill correctly, both clauses refer to powers being handed to Scotland. If we discuss both clauses now, we will not have to reiterate the arguments when we get to clause 187. The clause is entitled “Application of Act to Scotland”. Clause 187 is entitled “Extent”, and lists those provisions that apply to England and Wales and those that apply to Scotland, in a number of areas.
Scotland has devolved power over planning issues, but the UK retains its power over issues such as energy policy. The clause refers to various parts of the Bill under which there are modifications for Scotland. It omits provisions relating to various development consent orders, in particular paragraphs (e) and (f) of clause 105(4), which relate to electricity generation. The question is whether that affects merely the planning implications of the development consent orders or whether it will allow the Scottish Parliament to take authority over the provision and, hence, the policy. By allowing the clauses to pass, will we allow the Scottish Parliament to take power over the policy for the provision of energy, as opposed to the planning?
The Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government and the previous coalition that ran the Scottish Parliament have all set their faces against rebuilding nuclear power stations on the sites in Scotland where there is already planning consent. Scotland has historically been a net exporter of power to England. If those three nuclear power stations are not rebuilt, England and Wales will start being a net exporter of power to Scotland. That would be a shift in policy. Has this UK Parliament agreed that there should be such a shift or are we, under the Bill, allowing that shift in energy policy to be made?
If my reading of clause 187 is correct—as I have always said, I am no lawyer—it leaves only pipelines as an issue that is across Scottish and English borders. We understand the need for that provision, but in essence, are we not potentially handing control over pipelines for gas, electricity and water to Scotland? Are we inadvertently doing that by agreeing to these clauses? If the Minister can reassure me that we are not and that we do not have any constitutional arguments over this matter, I will be quite happy not to press my concerns further. If I am left with any concern about the quiet handing over to Scotland of control of UK policy, I will certainly return to the issue on another occasion.
Mr. Dhanda: Clause 183 requires that when considering the Bill’s extent to Scotland, which is only in relation to cross-border oil and gas country pipelines, certain modifications must be made to particular provisions to ensure that they give the proper effect with regard to Scottish legislation. This is a basic clause to reflect the fact that Scotland is a separate jurisdiction from England and Wales. Clause 187 defines how the Bill extends to England, Scotland and Wales.
Mrs. Lait: Yes, Scotland is a separate jurisdiction for planning. It is not a separate jurisdiction for energy policy. I should have thought that pipelines were part of energy policy.
Mr. Dhanda: Neither clause 183 nor clause 187 refer to powers in Scotland. They are specifically related to planning issues. I hope that that helps to clarify the issue for the hon. Lady. I could not make it any clearer than that. Clause 187 has been drafted in such a way as to ensure that the devolution settlement is respected. I commend both clauses to the Committee.
Mrs. Lait: I accept the Minister’s assurance that the provision applies only to planning. On that basis, I will not press the matter to a vote, although we might have to return to it on Report.
Clause 183 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause s 18 4 and 185 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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