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The Lord Bishop of Ely: I rise to offer brief support for the amendments. My support is based on conversations which I have had with Cambridgeshire County Council and Cambridge Community Council. In such bodies, I am very conscious that there is always something of a tension between those who take a very narrow view of regeneration and development and who see it solely in economic terms and those who take what I would call a more communitarian view of such development and certainly want to see the inclusion of social and community matters in such concepts of regeneration.
I merely wish to invite the noble Baroness to say how broad or narrow a view is being taken of the word "regeneration". Among the core functions of RDAs in the Government's White Paper were the social, physical and economic regeneration of the region. If one looks at the precise wording of the Bill, it will be seen in Clause 4(1)(a) that a separation has been made between those terms; namely,
What I seek is confirmation that, by the word "regeneration", some very important social matters are also being considered. I warmly support the noble Baroness in her insistence that this is an opportunity for the Government to demonstrate that they do take an integrated view of such matters and that all their admirable intentions and expectations in relation to social exclusion, as well as the Prime Minister's intentions in relation to the development and support of local communities--which, I have to say, in my experience are in an amazingly fragile state in many parts of my diocese--can be delivered by requiring the RDAs to undertake not merely economic development and economic regeneration but also social development. At the same time, I should like to offer my modest support for the intention that the physical environment will also be the subject of careful thought and concern on the part of the RDAs. I hope that this will be an opportunity for receiving such assurances.
Lord Wade of Chorlton: Although the amendments we are discussing are grouped together they are quite different and I shall therefore discuss them separately. As regards the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, although I accept entirely the need for a whole range of activities to be covered I am nervous about placing further responsibilities, other than economic and regenerative ones, on the regional development agencies. Many existing agencies already study a wide range of responsibilities such as the responsibilities of government bodies and of local authorities. I refer to the Environment Agency in this regard. I welcome the fact that the regional development agencies will seek to develop the economy of their
My noble friends Lord Arran and Lord Stanley drew attention to some important aspects of economic development and regeneration. However, in any region there are certain pockets which are not as prosperous as others. They may constitute geographical pockets or certain sectors within an area. My noble friend Lord Stanley is right to say that certain quarters of the agricultural industry are facing hardship. However, the urban economy is also facing hardship in many quarters. The amendments seek to promote greater economic convergence within areas and state that the RDAs should consider those sectors which are facing hardship. The movers of the amendments wish the RDAs to consider what decisions must be taken as regards restructuring the economies of such regions or introducing new industries to replace those which are clearly dying. We cannot always support industries that are dying. Perhaps certain quarters of the agricultural industry are in decline and need to be restructured, as has happened in other industries. I agree with my noble friends that the RDAs need to be aware of these issues and of their responsibility to co-ordinate economic effort in order to increase the prosperity of their areas.
The Lord Bishop of Hereford: I hesitate to trespass again on the time of the Committee but I believe that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Wade, is in serious conflict with the amendment that has been moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. Is the RDA supposed simply to affirm economic regeneration--is that what it is really all about?--or have we an opportunity here in the creation of RDAs to bring together the different interests which in the past have sometimes been in conflict?
It seems to me that the history of agriculture is one of creating wealth at one point in time by one particular method; for example, intensification, which has caused serious environmental degradation and damage. That situation is now having to be addressed by other agencies. Have we not here an opportunity to take these two things together and to entrust one significant agency with the task of development and economic regeneration, but having proper regard for the environmental effect of what is being done? I am concerned about the effect of following the philosophy of the RDAs that has just been expounded by the noble Lord, Lord Wade.
I hope that the Government will take seriously the desirability of fostering development and regeneration while taking into account the environmental consequences of what we are doing in that regard. If we are talking about the regeneration of agriculture we must consider seriously extensification. That may create more jobs and will certainly better protect the environment than the kind of agricultural advances we have seen in
Lord Whitty: Many of the concerns as regards how the RDAs conduct their business are shared by the Government. However, in respect of all of these amendments most of the concerns are met by provisions which are already in the Bill or by declared government policy.
I absolutely concur with what the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely indicated; namely, that we cannot separate the social, economic and environmental issues. The statutory purposes of the RDAs cover a broad spectrum. They are expected to take an integrated approach. An important aim of their regional strategy will be to develop links between the social, environmental and economic aspects of that strategy to ensure an integrated and cohesive approach to the regions' problems. That perhaps is best summarised in the objective of sustainable development. The Bill is drafted to achieve sustainable development. Our aim is that the RDAs promote sustainable economic and social development and that they consider the implications of sustainable development in everything that they do. This is itself an example of joined-up thinking in government. We need RDAs to have these broader objectives.
Amendment No. 15 seeks to add social and environmental elements to the economic development purposes of RDAs. I suggest the amendment is unnecessary and could in certain circumstances be misleading. We have already proposed in our consultation paper on sustainable development four key objectives: social progress, which recognises the needs of everyone; effective protection of the environment; prudent use of natural resources; and high and stable levels of economic growth and employment. The sustainable development purpose of the RDAs therefore encompasses the need for environmental and social considerations to be taken into account.
To a large extent I adhere to the philosophical approach of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford rather than to the approach of the noble Lord, Lord Wade. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wade, that economic regeneration is a central purpose of the RDAs but it must be carried out on a sustainable basis not only in economic and environmental terms but in terms of sustainable communities. In the objectives set out in the Bill and in statements of government policy we have already met the main purpose of Amendment No. 15.
Amendments Nos. 19 and 20 in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Arran, raise rather different points. They seek to ensure that the purposes of the RDAs should apply as much in relation to prosperous areas as to less prosperous ones. I assure the noble Earl that we intend that the purposes and activities of the RDAs will apply equally to all parts of their areas. Indeed, one of the main reasons for establishing RDAs is to ensure that regeneration takes place throughout the regions. English Partnerships historically concentrated mainly, although
Amendment No. 20 seeks to make it a requirement that RDAs should bring about greater economic convergence within their areas. That is indeed one of their objectives. We wish them to address the economic deficit between regions but also within regions. We want them to help the regions realise their full economic potential. We also want them to take a region-wide strategic perspective and not just concentrate on the more prosperous parts of their region where they can get the maximum immediate productivity return, or act solely to rescue the least prosperous parts. They must serve the whole of the region and adopt a strategy which addresses the interests of the region as a whole. We know that many regions have underperforming areas. The noble Earl spelt out the situation in the south-west. It is true also in terms of an earlier debate about the Isle of Wight in the south-east, and indeed parts of south London. We need to ensure that the prosperity to which RDAs will contribute is spread to the poorer performing areas but at the same time build on what is good within, for example, the northern part of the south-west as well as spreading prosperity to the southernmost and westernmost parts of the south-west region. No one would want to prevent the better-performing regions from benefiting from the RDAs; on the other hand, we need to ensure that the RDAs address the problems of their under-performing areas.
Some of the instruments which will be at the disposal of the RDAs specifically address that point. The single regeneration budget which the RDAs will administer on behalf of the Government on the one hand and the rural regeneration programmes which they will inherit from the Rural Development Commission are specifically and explicitly targeted at the most deprived areas of their region. I therefore believe that the noble Earl will see, both strategically and in terms of the instruments that we are giving to the RDAs, that they will meet the needs for convergence and for addressing the differential needs of the regions.
I now turn to Amendment No. 20A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley. It deals with the requirements of agriculture and efficient land management. In approaching this new institution we recognise the importance of those factors and the particular and immediate problems of the agriculture industry. I am grateful that the noble Lord has drawn them into this debate.
We propose shortly to issue guidance to the RDAs about the strategies they are required to produce under Clause 7 of the Bill. We shall shortly conduct a public consultation on that draft. As I indicated, that should be available before we reach Report stage of the Bill. Among other matters that RDAs will have to address will be the particular feature of the region's rural areas, including, importantly, the role of land-based industries such as agriculture. The land-use planning framework for the region is set out in regional planning guidance and in local authorities' development plans, as now.
As my noble friend Lady Farrington indicated, we also intend that supplementary guidance to the RDAs will ensure that they take account of the development pressures specifically facing the rural environment. It will also highlight the point that agricultural use, land-use and conservation issues are all important in their own right, but are also fundamental to achieving sustainable development in rural areas. We will remind RDAs that much of our landscape depends on efficient agriculture which can also support sustainable communities. The condition of the local environment may often be a significant factor in attracting new investment and other employment. RDAs will design rural development programmes which build on those factors. Furthermore, they will monitor, consult and report on the rural perspective as a whole and how they are tackling related problems.
For those reasons, I hope that the noble Lord will recognise that we have already taken on board many of his concerns and that they will be central to the development of RDA strategies. I hope therefore that noble Lords who have contributed to this rather wide-ranging debate on the amendments in this group will not feel it necessary to press amendments to the face of the Bill, given the Government's assurances that both the Bill and the strategic guidance that will follow meet most of those concerns.
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