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|©Parliamentary copyright||Prepared 11th March 2011|
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The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Sarah Davies, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee
The Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Greg Clark): If I had kept an eye on the clock, I would have concluded my remarks before we were obliged to adjourn. However, I think I have responded to the constructive points made by my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay.
The Bill will enhance the role of plan making and give local people a far greater ability to have their wishes expressed in plans. When decisions depart from that, which I hope will be rarely, it is right that locally elected people, rather than the inspectorate, make the decision. I shall reflect on the Bill’s provisions to ensure that the primacy of the plan is unambiguous, as we intend. In fact, some weeks ago, when we considered amendments about establishing the importance of plan making over the development control appeals route, I undertook to reflect on whether we could make the provisions even less ambiguous. I will certainly do that, and I hope that that answers the understandable concerns raised by my hon. Friend. I hope that he has been persuaded to withdraw new clause 11, to which I am grateful to have had the chance to respond.
Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): I would like to speak to new clause 19, which is about compensation for compulsory purchases. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Amess, particularly now that we have reached the new clauses in the Committee’s last sitting.
Locally led regeneration is crucial to our communities, but there is a feeling that it is being undermined by the system for compulsory purchase and compensation. As we know, local authorities use compulsory purchase orders to secure the control of land that they need to deliver the regeneration of an area, and that is essential to the delivery of infrastructure such as Crossrail. The statutory provisions that govern the compensation payable for compulsory purchase are now widely thought to be over-complicated and, in some cases, out of date. That can result in extended negotiations and, unfortunately for those involved, litigation. Compensation payments to landowners can be delayed and can become unpredictable, and I will give examples of that.
One area of particular concern is how to ascertain the planning status of land that is being compulsorily acquired. To assess the value of land for compensation purposes, assumptions must be made about what development might have been permitted through the planning system were it not for the compulsory purchase order. For example, could a dilapidated factory that is being acquired have been redeveloped for housing, or must it have remained in industrial use? Clearly, reaching the right answer to that question can have a dramatic effect on the compensation paid for the land.
There is a feeling that the rules governing the statutory planning assumptions are in need of reform. That has been highlighted in the Lands Tribunal, the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords—the Supreme Court will now be the final court of appeal. Two cases in particular have resulted in seemingly perverse outcomes that demonstrate the failings of the existing system. In the case of Greenweb Ltd v . Wandsworth council, the claimant received compensation in the Court of Appeal of £1.6 million for a piece of land that was 0.22 acres, or some 20 yards by 50 yards. It was established to be worth only £15,000 outside the compulsory purchase system, and it had been bought for £30,000. In that case, we had £1.6 million versus £15,000. A little-known law that was intended to compensate victims of German wartime bombing had been invoked during the procedure, which meant the land had to be valued as if it had planning permission for housing, when it had, since 1979, had planning permission only for use as open space. Wandsworth council therefore had to pay £1.6 million for the land, rather than some price between £15,000 and £30,000.
Press reports from that time make interesting comments on the case. The judge who reluctantly ordered Wandsworth council to pay that very large sum described the law as “utterly deplorable”. The council appealed against the valuation by the Lands Tribunal, arguing that the law was absurd, but three Appeal Court judges upheld the decision, while making clear their serious concerns about the fact that the legislation, based on wartime bombing, still existed. Lord Justice Sir Richard Buxton called on councils to lobby the Government for repeal of the law to avoid
Lord Justice Sir John Thomas said it was “highly regrettable” that taxpayers had to fund the purchase of the land for more than 100 times its true value, and Lord Justice Sir Stanley Burnton said that he upheld the law “most reluctantly”.
The second case shows the law working the opposite way. In Spirerose v. Transport for London, the claimant received significantly reduced compensation in the House of Lords, compared with that awarded by the Lands Tribunal and later supported in the Court of Appeal. A legal technicality meant that the land could not be valued as if it had planning permission, although it almost certainly would have got it; it could be valued only according to the hope of getting planning permission, which is a much weaker claim. Transport for London had to pay only £400,000, as opposed to the £608,000 that the land was said to be worth.
“It may be that Parliament should consider whether the present system is fair to landowners or whether the law should be changed. The case will have important implications for compulsory purchase valuations. The difficulty with this decision from the point of view of landowners facing a compulsory purchase is that once a Government body or local council has announced its decision to proceed with a new project by compulsory acquisition, the landowner will not be able to obtain planning permission for an alternative scheme because the land is required for a public purpose. He will therefore”—
The Greenweb v. Wandsworth council case was in 2008, and the Spirerose v. Transport for London case was in 2009, so they are recent cases. In the second case, the constraints of the current law prevented a proper assessment of the planning status of the land at the valuation date.
New clause 19 would prevent the issues involved in those two cases and similar issues from occurring, and the Bill is a suitable place to introduce that new reform. The new clause would replace the statutory planning assumptions in sections 14 to 21 of the Land Compensation Act 1961 with ones based on the recommendations of the Law Commission reports, “Towards a Compulsory Purchase Code”, which were published in 2003 and 2004.
The Minister may tell me that the previous Labour Government could have done something at the time. If he does, I shall say that it was not considered a priority to bring forward a planning Bill, but this Bill, which we have debated for so many weeks, can change that situation; much is already changing in planning legislation, with the localist principles being brought in for neighbourhood planning, and the new policy planning framework.
The new clause would introduce a new alternative development certificate that is more relevant to the modern planning system than the certificate of appropriate alternative development that it would replace, and it would be of more assistance in assessing compensation. The new certificate would reflect the planning situation at the date on which the compensation is assessed, whereas the existing certificate is based on the planning situation when the compulsory purchase order was first made. Clearly, a in compulsory purchase might have been made decades before such a situation arises. The new certificate would be issued by the local planning
The case for reform through the new clause is supported by the Compulsory Purchase Association; the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors; the Law Commission, obviously; the Institute of Revenues Rating and Valuation; and the planning and environment committee of the Law Society. Those who acquire land and those who represent landowners whose land is being acquired recognise the need for reform. Situations do not often arise in which we can see injustice on both sides of a case—for those having to pay for land and for those trying to sell it.
The new clause would not change the basic approach to compensation for compulsory purchase. It would provide the same broad rights within a clearer and fairer system that would allow land required for regeneration and infrastructure to be acquired compulsorily, with a more efficient use of public and private resources. Given everything that we have said in Committee and in the House recently, it is important to help councils that are in situations such as that faced by Wandsworth council. Most importantly, the change would save local authorities much-needed resources and would help to encourage regeneration schemes, which are vital for the growth that the economy needs.
Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): We are in our last sitting, Mr Amess, so I want to say that it has been a privilege to serve under your chairmanship and that of my hon. Friend the Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley).
Like the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay, I am a new boy, albeit an older one. It has been a fascinating experience, and the Committee has done important work, with mature debate. We have had sharp disagreements, but we have found a degree of consensus too, particularly on the planning provisions. We hope that will be carried forward in the next stages, with much-needed changes to the Bill, not least because as it stands, it is a bizarre combination of localism and Leninism. Those with a memory of Soviet history will recall the legend, “All power to the Soviets”—I am not sure that it was all power to the parish councils—which gave way to a determined centralism in the old Soviet Union. The Secretary of State wants to retain 142 powers at the centre, so changes are needed in the Bill. I am not sure that a new legend of “All power to the Pickles” would inspire the people of Britain.
I wish to speak to new clause 15, which is an enabling clause to ensure that the recommendations in the Killian-Pretty and Penfold reviews are implemented as soon as possible. Those reviews were commissioned by the previous Government to simplify the planning system and were widely endorsed across the spectrum. At present, the Bill does not introduce any powers to bring forward the recommendations of Killian-Pretty and Penfold, some of which would require change to existing statute. It would be helpful, therefore, to have an enabling clause that allowed change to be made to statute where it met the crucial test of securing an efficient and effective planning system.
In recent years, a great deal of progress has been made in modernising and simplifying the planning system, even if only in finding common ground on the fact that further changes are necessary. Along with other work, that has included the Barker review of land use planning in 2006, the planning White Paper in 2007, and the subsequent Planning Act 2008.
The Killian-Pretty review, which was published in November 2008, moved the reforms on by making a range of recommendations for further improvement to the planning regime. Those recommendations related to proportionality, process, engagement, culture and complexity. The Penfold review was established later to explore whether the process for obtaining non-planning consent delayed or discouraged businesses from investing. It focused on changing working practices, simplifying the landscape, improving the interaction between planning and non-planning consents, managing the landscape and so on. I stress again that those things commanded substantial consensus across the political spectrum and in the world of planning. Not all of them commanded consensus, but most did. New clause 15 would ensure that the recommendations in the Killian-Pretty and Penfold reviews can be taken forward at the next stages. We would welcome the Minister’s comments.
Greg Clark: I am grateful to the hon. Members for Worsley and Eccles South, and for Birmingham, Erdington, for raising the issues. The hon. Lady proves herself an accomplished parliamentarian when she anticipates the arguments that I will deploy against her and effectively rebuts them, so I will not say that the situation reflects badly on the previous Government because they did not take up the chance to deal with a very real set of concerns. She is right to draw our attention to the courts’ determinations over a period of time.
Our reason for not including the measures in the Bill—as every Member of the Committee knows, it is already pretty full with 207 clauses—is, I am sure, the same as the previous Government’s reason: in legislation, we have to draw a line somewhere, and the matters are quite technical and complex. We judged, perhaps incorrectly, that the appetite of the Committee to take on more than 207 clauses might be limited, but that is clearly not the case. Such is the enthusiasm under your chairmanship, Mr Amess, that there is clearly appetite for more.
I will reflect seriously on what the hon. Lady, who has been expertly advised, has said. We will sit down with those experts to consider whether, if we were to find space, it would not open up a whole set of other concomitant changes and amendments to the law that might seriously overburden our work. I cannot give a commitment that we will be able to include the measures, but I will certainly, with an open mind, consider the representations that she and others have made to see whether we can do so.
Greg Clark: It is clearly the hand of history. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington, referred to the Soviet Union; the new clause establishes powers for a Tsar to exercise. The hon. Gentleman was described to me as the power behind the throne in the Labour party these days. Perhaps he is the Rasputin of the Labour party. Perhaps he has had a conversion during the Committee and has reflected on the use to which he could put the clause if ever he were in office; he might find such clauses convenient.
Greg Clark: The hon. Gentleman takes an ingenious approach. All I can say is that I am very glad that the sensibilities of the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich are not offended. He is not with us this afternoon, but his blood pressure would have risen again and the words “constitutional outrage” would no doubt have been on his lips.
We endorse the conclusions of the Killian-Pretty and Penfold reviews. They were both excellent reports, and all three authors have done a service to the country through the work that they put into their reports and the recommendations that they made. Of course, in the Bill, we are taking into account many of their recommendations. The simplifying of national planning policy, acknowledging the crucial importance of pre-application discussions, and community engagement are very much part of the Bill. There is a lot in the Bill. We found, on reflection, that we did not need the power to introduce the other measures that are necessary. There is other statute, including the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2010, that can, I am advised, be used to that effect.
If the hon. Gentleman looks at the drafting of the Bill, I am sure that he would not consider that we have been reluctant to recommend procedures for simplifying things, with the best of intentions, when necessary. I daresay he will be comforted to hear that we do not consider the new clause necessary to implement the useful and important measures in the Bill. If he is looking forward to a future role for himself, I fear that we are going to deprive him of having this particular power if our positions are ever reversed. With that reassurance that the measure is not necessary to achieve what is aimed at, I hope that he will not press new clause 15 to a Division.
Barbara Keeley: We will not press new clause 15 or new clause 19 to a Division, which will save a bit of time and will be popular with the Committee. I thank the Minister for his assurances on new clause 19. There is an important issue there, and much as the Government always seem to have other opportunities to bring forward legislation, the Bill seems the right place for the measure, so I hope that the Minister will look seriously at it. We have urged that many other clauses be withdrawn, so if he is keen to keep his Bill to 207 clauses, I can suggest a few others that he might leave out.
Of course, the local authority already makes the decision when planning consent is a departure from the local plan, and it must advertise that when it occurs. Under the reforms, local authorities are meant to draw up plans in close consultation with local communities. In those circumstances, if the local authority agrees on a departure from the plan, it is fair for the community to have a further right of appeal. It is an important check, so that if a community decides to challenge a departure, the matter can be looked at again by an independent body—in this case, the Planning Inspectorate. If the Planning Inspectorate is the right body for developers to appeal to—there is nothing in the Bill that restricts or removes those provisions—why is it not also the correct body for local communities to have recourse to in limited circumstances?
It is still my contention, and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford East, who sadly cannot be with us today, that a limited community right of appeal would be an important check and balance in the Bill. It would add to the suite of community rights and would be an important check against the ability of developers to steamroller unwanted applications through. I must say that new clause 11 is supported by several well-respected organisations, including Friends of the Earth, the National Trust, the Open Spaces Society, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Woodland Trust, the World Wildlife Fund, the Campaign for National Parks, Buglife and Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. I am particularly grateful for the support that the Campaign to Protect Rural England gave in researching the new clause.
My right hon. Friend the Minister has brought another red herring—if I may put it that way, Mr Amess—to the Committee’s attention, which is the question of cost. At the moment, a planning application can ultimately be appealed through judicial review, which is hugely expensive, complicated and time-consuming for local communities that go down that route. New clause 11 simply says that we need a level playing field when it comes to the rights of the developer and the rights of the community. I welcome the Minister’s commitment to reflecting on the matter. With that in mind, I am happy to withdraw the new clause for now, although I signal my intention to return to the matter on Report. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
I shall not detain the Committee for long. New clause 12 would simply improve existing tenancy deposit schemes so that legislation works better for tenants and landlords. It would clarify the circumstances in which landlords must protect deposits, and give judges greater discretion over the size of the penalty for landlords’ non-compliance to ensure that it is proportionate.
As the Committee probably knows, Government-backed tenancy deposit protection schemes were introduced in April 2007. The legislation was designed to set out clear responsibilities and time scales for landlords to protect tenants’ deposits, and to provide a quick, efficient way of resolving deposit disputes. Such schemes benefit more than 2 million households in the private rented sector. Those 2 million households’ deposits have been protected, and that includes my own, so I probably need to declare an interest.
Ambiguities in the existing legislation have meant that it is failing some private tenants because they do not have their hard-earned deposits protected. It is also failing landlords, who struggle to find accurate information, and the process is wasting the time of the courts and the advice services. In the past year, for example, citizens advice bureaux dealt with almost 15,000 inquiries relating to tenancy deposit protection. Almost 4,000 people went to the housing charity Shelter for advice relating to their rent deposit, three in four of whom did not have their deposits protected. Despite the best efforts of the previous Government to introduce much-needed protection in this area, the system is not quite working as the House intended. Each of the individual schemes that provide tenancy deposit protection, as well as national landlord and property organisations, has given strong support to improving the schemes and, indeed, to new clause 12. The broad support for such change is a clear sign of the need for reform to ensure that legislation works better.
The first provisions of new clause 12 are designed to clarify the circumstances in which landlords must protect deposits. It removes the “initial requirements” wording in the original legislation and instead requires landlords to protect their tenants’ deposits by complying with the requirements of one of the authorised schemes. The original wording implied compliance with the initial requirements of the individual schemes, but the courts have found that particularly difficult to enforce and landlords have been unclear about which requirements they were supposed to follow. The amended wording
The new clause clarifies specific grey areas in existing legislation. First, ex-tenants, as well as current tenants, would have access to recourse if their landlord failed to protect their deposit. Secondly, if a tenancy that began before the introduction of tenancy deposit protection schemes was subsequently renewed, the landlord would be required to protect the deposit. Finally, if a property changed hands, the new landlord would also be under an obligation to protect the deposit.
The second aspect of new clause 12 would give judges greater discretion over the penalty for a landlord’s non-compliance. The new wording would remove the all-or-nothing sanction of three times the deposit, and it would enable judges to make a discretionary judgment as to whether the landlord should pay a penalty of between one and three times the amount. As hon. Members are aware, judges have been reluctant to impose the full penalty of three times the deposit, particularly when the landlord had protected the deposit but outside the strict 14-day limit. A Court of Appeal judgment of 11 November 2010 concluded that the sanction of three times the deposit does not apply if the landlord belatedly protects the deposit at any time up to and including
By giving judges discretion on the level of sanction that they can apply, new clause 12 would ensure that they would be better able to take into account the range of factors that contributed to a landlord’s non-compliance on protecting a tenant’s deposit. That would enable them to impose lower penalties on landlords who were evidently ignorant of their responsibilities, and higher penalties on landlords who wilfully failed to protect their tenants’ deposits. I believe that the change would lead to more proportionate sanctions for landlords, while offering a clear incentive for them to comply with the will of the House. I have no intention of pressing the new clause to a Division, but I shall be grateful if the Minister will respond to some of these issues.
Andrew Stunell : I thank my hon. Friend for tabling the new clause. It addresses a relevant and topical issue, and I am sympathetic to its main thrust, which is to clarify the issues raised in the recent court hearings to which he referred.
Like the dissenting judge in such cases, we think it right that sanctions for non-compliance with tenancy deposit obligations should be robust and a disincentive to bad practice. The ambiguity in the present wording should certainly be put right, and I congratulate my hon. Friend, and my absent hon. Friend the Member for Bradford East, on their attempt to do that.
Unfortunately, new clause 12 goes beyond that basic aim because it would make changes that do not flow from the Court of Appeal decision. Sadly, it also misses one of the issues that did arise in the Court of Appeal, and I will deal with that omission first. The key finding
As the Court of Appeal pointed out, under the tenancy deposit protection legislation as currently drafted, it could be argued that once a landlord has failed to protect a deposit, they would be unable to use section 21 in connection with that tenancy, even when they had subsequently protected the deposit and, where appropriate, paid the fine imposed by the court. That outcome is not the intention of the legislation, and we are therefore clear that any amendments aimed at tightening up the requirement to protect tenants within 14 days must also address that point.
The Government’s view is that to address fully the concerns underlying the Court of Appeal’s decision, it is important to allow the courts greater discretion than currently available when setting the financial penalty. My hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay relayed the current regime to the Committee. However, subsection (11) of the new clause does not offer sufficient flexibility, because as well as allowing flexibility up to a maximum tariff, it still leaves the minimum of one times the deposit. We think that there should be no lower limit. If the objective of such legislation is to encourage landlords to comply and to protect the deposits they take, it cannot be right to levy a substantial penalty when a well-intentioned landlord had made a mistake that, for instance, could result in the deadline for protection being missed by only one day. It is essential that the courts have the discretion to do justice in those de minimis cases, but that would not be possible if the minimum sanction were to be the payment of a penalty equal to the full amount of the deposit.
As I mentioned, the new clause also contains measures that, although they seek to clarify legislation, go beyond issues considered by the Court of Appeal. Proposed new subsection (8A) of the Housing Act 2004, which the new clause would insert, is particular example of that. I understand the wish to clarify what happens when a landlord acquires a property with an existing tenancy in place, and it turns out that the associated deposit has not been protected, but my hon. Friend’s proposal would place all the responsibility and cost for rectifying that on the incoming landlord, regardless of the facts and regardless of who was responsible. That cannot be right in cases when, for whatever reason, the
I am grateful to my hon. Friends the Members for St Austell and Newquay and for Bradford East for tabling the new clause, which has drawn attention to the Court of Appeal’s decision. I welcome the fact that it will not be pressed to a Division, and I assure them that I shall reflect further on how the matter might best be addressed in the future.
Stephen Gilbert: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Rarely am I told that I am going too far and not far enough at the same time, but before I exhaust the Committee’s patience and the Government Whip sends me to Shanghai, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.“Chapter 2A General Powers 98A General powers of Integrated Transport Authority‘(1) An ITA may do—(a) anything it considers appropriate for the purposes of the carrying-out of any of its functions, or otherwise for the purpose of improving the effectiveness and efficiency of transport in, through, to or from any part of the integrated transport area (its “functional purposes”),(b) anything it considers appropriate for the purposes incidental to its functional purposes,(c) anything it considers appropriate for purposes indirectly incidental to its functional purposes through any number of removes,(d) anything it considers to be connected with—(i) any of its functions, or(ii) anything it may do under paragraph (a), (b) or (c), and(e) for a commercial purpose or otherwise anything which it may do under any of paragraphs (a) to (d) otherwise than for a commercial purpose and to do it anywhere in the United Kingdom or elsewhere.(2) An ITA’s power under subsection (1) is in addition to, and is not limited by, the other powers of the ITA.98B Boundaries of the general power‘(1) Section 98A(1) does not enable an ITA to do—(a) anything which the ITA is unable to do by virtue of a pre-commencement limitation, or(b) anything which the ITA is unable to do by virtue of a post-commencement limitation which is expressed to apply—(i) to its power under section 98A(1),
The new clause would give the six integrated transport authorities a general power, similar to that of the fire and rescue authorities, in recognition that integrated transport authorities are single purpose authorities. The provisions have been drafted using the same structure as those setting out the general powers for fire and rescue authorities, but with changes to reflect the differences between integrated transport authorities and fire and rescue authorities.
The six integrated transported authorities and their passenger transport executives represent the six largest city regions outside London, which are home to 11 million people. They contain core cities that are major drivers of our economy—such as Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Sheffield and Birmingham—and cover larger areas such as Greater Manchester. The integrated transport authorities and passenger transport executives are the strategic bodies that plan, promote, procure and provide the public transport networks that these conurbations rely on to keep them moving and that underpin their development.
“Stand alone fire and rescue authorities will need a similar power (to that of local authorities) to address the lack of sufficient freedoms and flexibilities to do things that they might properly wish to do which benefit or contribute to their purposes. Freeing up fire and rescue authorities by providing general powers in the same vein as for local authorities, will therefore...promote radical devolution of power away from Westminster and Whitehall”.
It would seem perverse, having discussed those powers, that integrated transport authorities were not seen to need a similar power to address the lack of freedoms and flexibilities that may affect what they might properly wish to do. I shall set out some examples of those.
The major reason why integrated transport authorities require a general power is the straightforward fact that they want to deliver better services more efficiently through collaborative working, which will become increasingly important in these times. Without a general power, the integrated transport authorities and their passenger transport executives will not have the legal comfort that local authorities will enjoy, which we debated extensively in our earlier sittings.
Services in the public sector are being challenged to do more with fewer resources, and to work in different ways to deliver services. Transport authorities should be able to support growth through local enterprise partnerships, so their ability to work collaboratively across partners will be increasingly important as these new structures develop. A functional general power would facilitate working in that way much more readily. It would put beyond doubt the legal uncertainty that might hold back innovative initiatives in metropolitan areas. In non-metropolitan areas, the transport function sits with the local authority, which will have a general power of competence, so this starts to be a divide between transport authorities that have that general power, and ones that do not.
A general power for the integrated transport authorities and their passenger transport executives would assist them in joint procurement, partnership working and innovative service provision. For example, the Government have said that they want the majority of public transport journeys to be made using smart ticketing by 2014, and they have provided passenger transport executives and Bristol, Nottingham and Leicester local authorities with funding to achieve this. The PTEs are working with Bristol, Nottingham and Leicester authorities on issues such as systems testing, data analysis and ticketing equipment to ensure that that Government objective is met in a timely and cost-effective way. However, if, as we imagine, the Bill completes its passage through Parliament without any change to the general power of competence, local authorities in Nottingham, Leicester and Bristol will have that power to engage in joint enterprises and deliver such programmes, but passenger transport executives will not.
There are a few other areas in which a general power might offer improvement, such as in the provision of real-time information and other technologies, for which joint service provision and shared back offices would deliver efficiencies and help to reduce costs. It will become increasingly important to facilitate joined-up service delivery, and a general power would help to permit that. Passenger transport executives would then be able to take a bigger role in joining up services across districts and help realise efficiencies, which would be important in the metropolitan areas that I have talked about. Allowing greater innovation in how transport authorities procure services will be key. For example, individual areas could deliver unique services and look at commercial opportunities, such as supporting visitor attractions. I have not yet managed to get in a plug for the fact that Salford will become the host of Media City and for the BBC’s move to Salford. That will be a major visitor attraction, so transport to and from that part of Salford will be important.
The ability of transport authorities and their executives to work closely with the new local enterprise partnerships would be enhanced by a general power, as they might need an opportunity to work across boundaries that might not be the same as a transport authority’s. That would help to establish suitable governance arrangements and help the bodies to join initiatives started by local authorities.
The integration of transport is key. It is frustrating for our constituents if they can make a journey by one method—for example, by bus or by tram in Greater Manchester—but not get a joined-up service that takes them to where they want to go. A general power would allow passenger transport executives to do anything reasonable to pursue that aim. For example, passenger transport executives might adopt a greater role on rail stations, and a general power would help them to integrate better, such as by assuming responsibility for railway land and non-railway land. The ownership of land around transport facilities might be unclear, and the acquisition of that land might help. A general power would assist integrated transport authorities to secure transport provision into and out of their areas, such as through increments to long-distance rail franchises linking to London or other cities—I hesitate to mention High Speed 2 at this point.
I hope that those examples have helped the Committee to understand that a general power would give integrated transport authorities and passenger transport executives the legal comfort to pursue some of the things that I have talked about, which well-being powers are not able to give. The general power of competence is important, because it will allow that for local authorities and fire and rescue authorities.
Finally, I would like to touch on an anomaly. On Monday, a Delegated Legislation Committee will consider the draft Greater Manchester Combined Authority Order 2011. I think the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, will be a member of the Committee, as will I. The order aims to establish a combined authority for Greater Manchester. If Parliament agrees to the order, it will dissolve the transport authority and transfer its functions to the new Greater Manchester combined authority. This Bill would give a general power of competence to those 10 local authorities, so the Greater Manchester combined authority, as the transport authority, will have a general power. It will be the only one to have that; other transport authorities will not. It is important that the Committee supports the new clause so that all our transport authorities are put on the same footing.
Andrew Stunell: As this might be the last time that I speak in this Committee, even though one can never tell with these things, I would like to add my thanks and congratulations to you, Mr Amess, and other members of the Committee on the hard work that has been put in on this landmark Bill, in which we have all enjoyed participating.
I can make some common cause with the hon. Lady on new clause 17 because she and I share an integrated transport authority. From Monday onwards, if things go to plan, we will share a combined authority. The hon. Lady has rightly pointed out that there are some ambiguous or anomalous consequences of the different
Integrated transport authorities and passenger transport executives are the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Transport. I am sure that he will be interested in the points that have been made, so I will ensure that the relevant parts of Hansard are drawn to his attention. I am sure that the appropriateness of the available powers is something that he will want to consider in light of the views of the sector and, more widely, of the local government community. With those reassurances, I hope that the hon. Lady will feel that she does not need to press the new clause to a Division.
Barbara Keeley: I thank the Minister for offering to pass on our comments in the debate, as well as the substance of the new clause, to the Secretary of State for Transport. I will also write to him, so I hope that we will have a response on Report. I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
I join other Committee members in expressing my gratitude to you, Mr Amess, and Mr Bayley for the way in which you have chaired the proceedings. I thank the Clerks for their support, and also the hon. Member for North Herefordshire for his patience with my occasional desire to delay the proceedings.
I want to reassure Labour Members—particularly the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington, who may be worried that I seek to add to his count of Henry VIII clauses with the new clause’s wording. First, I do not intend to press the new clause to a Division, and secondly, my desire is to focus on a specific issue that affects my constituency. I suspect that it also affects other parts of south London, and it has been noted that a number of Members from south London constituencies are on the Committee, but it is a shame not to see the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich here
As Members know, I represent Croydon Central. I have lived there all my life, and I do not see myself living anywhere other than south London. It is a great privilege to represent my home town in Parliament, which is only slightly blighted by the fact that this building was built on the wrong side of the River Thames. That is mitigated a little, however, by the correct location of City Hall.
In a number of ways, my constituents feel that they are being asked to pay for things that they do not benefit from. People write to me about the Olympics, questioning why there is a council tax levy for it in Croydon when in Essex districts, much closer to the Olympic park, there is not. I also get businesses asking why they are being asked to pay a supplementary business rate for the Crossrail scheme, when my constituency does not benefit directly. In those two cases, I give fairly robust replies that such projects benefit Greater London as a whole, and it is right that all Londoners contribute.
The particular example that I wish to raise, however, is the Lee valley regional park levy, which council tax payers right across London have to contribute to. For Members who are not aware of that issue, the Lee valley regional park authority was created by the Lee Valley Regional Park Act 1966. That was a piece of private legislation, so a specific amendment to that legislation could not be added to the Bill because it would have made the Bill hybrid. If that makes me sound as if I, as a new Member, am familiar with the detailed intricacies of this matter, I would like to clarify immediately that it is only thanks to the advice of the Clerks that I managed to avoid submitting a defective amendment and I am grateful to them for their advice.
The governance arrangements of the authority demonstrate how certain parts of Greater London, Essex and Hertfordshire have a very distinct interest in that authority and other parts of Greater London much less so. There are 28 members of the authority, of which 20 come from what are referred to as the riparian authorities—those councils that have a bit of the park in their area—the county councils of Essex and Hertfordshire, the Hertfordshire districts of Broxbourne and East Hertfordshire, the Essex district of Epping Forest and the London boroughs of Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest. There are just eight members of the authority from the other 26 London boroughs and the City of London.
The authority has the power to place a levy on council tax payers right across Essex, Hertfordshire and Greater London, so that, wherever one lives within Essex, Hertfordshire and Greater London, one is asked to pay the same contribution towards the costs of the authority. We are not, I should make it clear, talking about huge sums of money—it is about £3 for a band D council tax payer for the financial year 2010-11—but obviously, when those sums are multiplied, they are actually quite significant. For the London borough of Croydon, the contribution is about £400,000. At a time when local authorities across the country, for reasons that we will not go into today, are facing significant reductions, that is a significant sum of money that could be spent on the upkeep of parks and open spaces in the London borough of Croydon.
The hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden will know that the London boroughs of Croydon, Merton,
Members on the Front Bench have demonstrated throughout our proceedings on the Bill a willingness to listen to the arguments that have been made. With due respect to the hon. Member for Hazel Grove, whom I have not known for so long, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells and my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, whom I have known for a long time, all of whose commitment to the principles of localism has been of very long standing, the case I want to put to the Front Bench today and ask them to go away and consider is that it is surely not consistent with the principles of localism that the people of Croydon are asked to pay for something that they do not use and have never asked to be provided with. It would be much more consistent with those principles if the resources that are currently devoted to the Lee valley regional park could be spent on local parks and facilities in south London. Having made that argument, I will not detain the Committee further.
Robert Neill: Since this is, hopefully, my last foray into the Committee’s business, I join in paying tribute to the fantastic way in which you and Mr Bayley have chaired the Committee, Mr Amess. It is always a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. I am sorry that we have not managed to stray into debating Southend-on-Sea, as we sometimes do from time to time, but we all appreciate the good humour that you and Mr Bayley have shown and also the support we have had from the Committee Clerks. I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells will be saying more about that in due course.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central for raising this point. I want to put it on the record at once that the suggestion that Croydon is the South Carolina of Greater London and will be the first to secede is not entirely well-founded. We are doing our best to avoid any repeat of Fort Sumter at Crystal Palace.
However, it demonstrates a legitimate concern and perhaps something of the history of the matter, so I understand the point. My hon. Friend is quite right. The specific issue that arises comes from a localised and local Bill that was passed—hence the way in which the amendment is drafted. You will know, Mr Amess, that I am in a slightly hybrid position myself as far as this issue is concerned, being an Essex man who, I hasten to
We should bear in mind that, at the time when the 1966 Act was passed, it was not intended that the people of Croydon or Bromley would contribute to the regional park, but it was intended that those of London, Hertfordshire and Essex would, since they were the three promoting authorities of the private Bill. It was simply the case that, in those days, the Greater London council had a parks function. And there were other Greater London-run parks. Crystal Palace park was one of them, which, upon abolition of the GLC, ironically and interestingly transferred to Bromley, which was responsible for its upkeep, although the park was in closer physical proximity to Croydon and, I suspect, probably more people from there used it than those from Bromley. That is just one of those anomalies. Brockwell park in south London is another example.
Therefore, the Act reflected functions at the time. The difference was that when the GLC was abolished and the responsibility for the funding transferred to the boroughs as its successor authorities in relation to the parks, and the Greater London authority was created—I am sure, if he was here, the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich would be able to explain the exact process by which that was arrived at—it was thought, precisely because the GLA was not intended to be a service delivery body, that it was best to leave with the London boroughs the responsibility for this particular body. There was, therefore, no magic in the way this has arisen. But it is an event of history. And it is, of course, worth knowing—I want to make sure that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington, is not left out of this—that the Lea valley has been a highway for commerce and the transport of people since, it is believed, pre-Roman times. There are significant archaeological finds, including Greek coins, which indicate the extent of trade and commerce between the Lea valley and other parts of Europe.
The nub of the point is that the Lee valley regional park authority has a particular function and the sums involved are not large, although I understand why they are sensitive in the current circumstances. The provision for the payment comes under a broader power—the Levying Bodies (General) Regulations 1992—and it would be difficult to unscramble this particular levying arrangement in isolation, without looking at the wider implications of other bodies that might be subject to that levying power.
Secondly, the Lee valley regional park authority has some quite significant functions. I have visited the park and had done so before I was a Minister. There is a balance between those facilities which are local and those which are regional. It was conceived as regional in the Greater London sense. We should bear it in mind that the body delivers important functions which I do not think the Government or indeed my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central would wish to prejudice. It manages a very substantial linear park running through that part of London—some 10,000 acres of green space in an area that is in parts not well served with green spaces, as you and I are aware, Mr Amess, knowing that
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for saying that he will not press the new clause to a Division. I am more than happy to meet him to see what we can do, but I suspect that there would have to be a consensus among the participating bodies that currently fund the park for a change to be made, and I do not hold out great hope that such a provision is likely to be deliverable. Nevertheless he has drawn attention to an anomaly in history, which it is reasonable to explore in order to explain what benefits might or might not be achieved. If funding goes in that direction, we can make sure that people from our boroughs in that part of London receive the benefits that, I imagine, the promoters of the 1966 Act intended they should from receive a broader regional facility.
Gavin Barwell: I will certainly leave our proceedings better educated in the history of Greater London governance and wider western European culture than when we started. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for recognising the anomalous nature of the park. As he said, it was one of several parks that the Greater London council had responsibility for, and its status was different from that of some other parks, such as Crystal Palace park on the border of my constituency, when the GLC was abolished. Given the nature of this morning’s debate on the royal parks, and when the Government are clearly looking at transfer to the Greater London authority or perhaps to the boroughs, the anomalous status of the park could be further accentuated. I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s offer to have further discussions about it, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Greg Clark: On a point of order, Mr Amess. Thank you for your guidance and advice, which have seen us through the Committee. On behalf of the Committee, I pay tribute to the way you have conducted proceedings, which has been firm and expert, but always genial. We have enjoyed hugely your presence in the Chair. I hope that you will convey to your colleague, Mr Bayley, our thanks for his equal diligence, expertise and patience with us. We are very grateful.
On behalf of my colleagues, I extend thanks to the Clerks who have served on the Committee. I do not know whether they consider that they drew the short straw, because this is one the longest Bills before Parliament. We are grateful for their expert handling of the many clauses and complex amendments. They have served us extremely well.
I am grateful, too, to the Doorkeepers. Perhaps the Doorkeeper who is present might thank his colleagues. Consideration of a large number of clauses and amendments involves many shouts and jumps up and down for the Doorkeepers to ensure that we are present and correct. We have been well served, for which I am grateful.
I also thank my officials who, as members of the Committee will have seen, have been dispensing inspiration from the first day of our proceedings. They have had the frustration of not always seeing their words of inspiration necessarily being translated into words that made it into
I am sure that all the Committee will want to extend thanks to our Whips, on both sides, who have got us through this far. In fact, rather like our performance in the Ashes this summer, we have had almost an innings to spare to complete our proceedings. They have done that with only one of our number having to be transported to eastern China to keep us in order.
I think we all would agree that the Bill has had a thorough airing, which is a remarkable achievement. We have had time to consider each of the clauses, and have a little time at the end—I do not propose to use it all. The judgment and pace that the two Whips have reflected have ensured that, in the best traditions of Public Bill Committees, we have had the chance to consider, at the appropriate length, each of the clauses before the Committee. I have certainly enjoyed serving under the guidance of them both, for which I am grateful.
I thank all members of the Committee, who have been remarkable. The Bill has been wide-ranging in content, and detailed and expert in some of its particulars. When we began, I mentioned that the Committee was over-subscribed. Usually, the Whips have to threaten consequences to hon. Members for not serving on Committees, but on this one we had to let people down gently. All hon. Members have taken a determined approach to give the Bill proper scrutiny. We have heard speeches from both sides that have been passionate and committed, and have reflected individual experience of all the matters in hand. We have benefited greatly from the contributions of hon. Members from both sides of the Committee.
Our proceedings have been noticed elsewhere. Some of the conversations that I have had with some of the groups that follow these proceedings suggest that they have been impressed at the degree of scrutiny and the seriousness with which these matters have been approached. That is, in large part, a tribute to my fellow Ministers, who are experts in the area of which they have been speaking, and at the end of it, they are the world’s living experts on the areas that they have been leading on.
I would also like to extend my thanks to the Opposition Front Benchers. One thing that has been clear is that this has not been a ritual exchange of preconceived ideas, merely as an opportunity to read into the record party political and partisan views—quite the opposite. We have made progress; we have deepened our understanding. As the Bill progresses through Parliament, every member of the Committee will see reflected in it the improvements that the Committee, comprised of Members from all parts of the House, has suggested. I am particularly grateful for the manner in which the Opposition Front Benchers have conducted proceedings. It has made for a better Bill.
Finally, I thank Members and organisations outside the Committee Room for their advice. This is an important Bill for many organisations, whether they are voluntary groups or members of the planning profession. They have spent a lot of time and attention on helping to guide our discussions. I hope that they feel that we have
Barbara Keeley: Further to that point of order, Mr Amess. On behalf of my colleagues, I would like to add our thanks to you and Mr Bayley. I think he is in an interesting place today. I forget where he said he was going—India, I think. Is that far enough for the Government Whip? You have both really helped us, particularly those Members and shadow Ministers who are new to their role. I remember speaking to you on the first day and saying, “You do realise that we are all new to this.” You have helped us—I am grateful for that—as have Mrs Davies and her team. The advice that they give is invaluable to those of us without parliamentary draftsmen and civil servants to back us.
I am always in awe of Hansard and its ability to turn what we say into a coherent debate. That is a great thing. I want to thank all the officials, if you can pass on the thanks to all the people who have been here, Mr Amess. We had at least one late night. I also want to thank the Doorkeepers, who are having to adjust to the new role of having two doors to deal with at once when there is a Division. I know that there are some anxious moments then.
I agree with the Minister that when we have argued in the Committee it has been on questions of principle. There have been some heated debates, as they are often called, but if it is about principle, rather than about personalities, that is as it should be. It has been welcome to have Liberal Democrat Members trying out the context of arguing within the coalition, even if it was only the hon. Member for Bradford East, who for ever dubbed Mr Amess as Mr Bradford, who followed through with his vote. I look forward to reports of more courageous stands at the Liberal Democrat spring conference this weekend. Let us hope that it does not lead to too much foreign travel.
I thank my hon. and right hon. Friends on the Committee. I particularly thank my fellow shadow Ministers. It is a lot of work to be the Opposition on a Bill. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Moor View cannot be here, as she had to attend a family funeral. The passion that she brings on housing has enlivened our debate and I thank her for that. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington has brought wisdom, historical knowledge and humour to our proceedings. I hope that all the Dog and Duck pubs in the country are grateful for all the mentions they have had. Members will be saddened to learn that I checked and found that we do not have a Dog and Duck in Salford. We have a Dog and Partridge pub in my constituency, however. That is the closest we will get, I think.
I also want to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich, who has been delayed—I think he will miss this final sitting as well. He has the benefit of layers of experience of previous legislation, which I have found helpful. I thank him for his contributions. I thank all members of the Committee, particularly Labour Members, as they have brought to the Committee the wisdom and insight gained from experience. I feel that I know a lot more about Lewisham, Mitcham and Morden, Gateshead, Sunderland and
It is unusual to thank the Whips, is it not? I would particularly like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde, who stepped in at the last minute. That is a good thing to do, and I thank him for his work and patience. To the hon. Member for North Herefordshire I say that we have reached where we said we would reach.
I hope that Ministers, who have been very pleasant to work with, get lots of time to do all the reflecting and thinking that they have promised to do. I look forward to returning to our consideration on Report, because we have a bit of work to do to finish the Bill.
The Chair: Cynical observers might regard the words that we have just heard as flattery, soft soap or flannel, but I do not. I greatly appreciate all the kind remarks that have been made, and I know that Mr Bayley would appreciate them if he were here. For us both, it has been an absolute pleasure to chair the Committee, not least because of the way hon. Members have conducted themselves.
At all times, our proceedings, which have been well informed, have been conducted with good humour and,
I would also like to thank the Doorkeepers—or Doorkeeper—for looking after us throughout our proceedings and when we have had Divisions. I would like to thank the Hansard Reporters for the way they have served the Committee. Although it is none of my business, I would like to thank the officials for the way they have gently moved to their seats as we have gone from clause to clause.
Most importantly, I would like to thank the Clerk to our Committee. Without her wise counsel, the Committee would not have functioned in the way it has. I want to pay particular thanks to her for her encouragement throughout proceedings that I was not losing the plot.
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