Select Committee on Liaison Fourth Special Report

1  Parliamentary Scrutiny of National Policy Statements

1.  The Planning Bill proposes radical reform to the planning system. Decisions on nationally significant infrastructure projects will be made by a new independent body, the Infrastructure Planning Commission. In taking these decisions the Commission will be informed by national policy statements, which will be designated as such by the responsible Secretary of State. When the Bill was introduced into this House on 27 November 2007, the Secretary of State for Local Government and the Regions made it clear that the Government wanted parliamentary scrutiny of the national policy statements on planning. While this was generally welcomed, there was concern about the mechanism the Government proposed, which was to be a new committee drawn from the membership of the Business and Enterprise Committee, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and the Transport Committee. This immediately raised concerns that the Communities and Local Government Committee had been omitted, and that the work of the committees concerned could be severely disrupted.

2.  The Chairmen of the Committees concerned have spent some time discussing with Ministers how scrutiny could best be handled. They have kept us informed about their discussions, most recently in a letter from Mr Peter Luff, the Chairman of the Business and Enterprise Committee to the Chairman of the Liaison Committee. Any scrutiny mechanism will depend on the final form of the Bill on enactment, and on the detailed proposals the Government puts forward in motions for Standing Orders. The House will have the opportunity to consider the scrutiny mechanism more thoroughly at that stage. However, we thought it would assist further Parliamentary proceedings on the Bill itself, and on any Standing Orders proposed by the Government, if we published the summary of the discussions sent to our Chairman by Mr Luff. This, and related correspondence, is accordingly appended to this report.

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Prepared 23 October 2008