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Lord Cobbold: I support the amendment. If these unnecessary words are excluded, they should be deleted also from Clause 11(3) on page 6 of the Bill.

Lord Rooker: They also appear in former Tory legislation which I presume Conservative Peers voted for in this House. Perhaps the noble Lord was not present then.

I give an example. While I fully respect the example given by the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, it is not legislation by mouth. I understand the reaction—shock and abomination—on first seeing such words in legislation. It is not quite as bad as it seems. The amendment deletes the words. However, I hope to demonstrate that that would undermine our intention for a more integrated spatial dimension to policies. That is true: it is not just because it is stated here. The words are important.

We have used the word "spatial" a great deal. It is not a new idea. The concept of a "spatial strategy" is already on the statute book in the form of the Greater London Authority Act provision for the Mayor's spatial development strategy. Therefore, it is time to remind ourselves of what we mean by spatial planning and why it matters.

Spatial planning goes beyond traditional land use planning to bring together and integrate policies for the development and use of land with other policies and programmes which influence the nature of places and how they function. That includes policies which impact on land use, for example by influencing the demands on or need for development but which are not capable of being delivered solely or mainly through the granting or refusal of planning permission and which may be implemented by other means.

The current wording of Clause 1(2) makes it clear that the regional spatial strategies can contain such policies—that is, not those exclusively for land use. To delete the phrase "however expressed" potentially limits the scope of the regional spatial strategy to be what its title says it should be: that is, a spatial strategy for the region.

There is a good precedent. The words "however expressed" can be found in a number of Acts of Parliament, including relevantly—if I were to quote an Act which was not relevant to the Bill it would probably undermine the point—in paragraph 17(3) of

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Part II of Schedule 2 to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. This provision is not unique. It is not designed to allow the Secretary of State to operate "policy by mouth" in a radio interview; far from it.

The inclusion of the phrase absolutely does not mean that the Secretary of State can create regional planning policy outside the regional spatial strategy. He can issue national policy statements. They would affect the region. What it does mean is that those policies within the regional spatial strategy can properly be spatial, as I outlined earlier, and not within narrow confines. So the words have an important legal meaning with regard to the Bill and a genuine spatial strategy. There is a precedent in the Town and Country Planning Act which I suspect was not debated in this House when it went through Parliament in 1990.

Baroness Hamwee: I wish my noble friend Lord Greaves was present. This discussion is closely linked to the question he raised about what is a regional spatial strategy. The Minister's remarks will repay careful reading.

Although this point may not be right having heard his last sentence or two, what may be meant is "wherever expressed". It is about spatial strategy but it might not have the heading of regional spatial strategy. That is why I link it with the point raised by my noble friend Lord Greaves. I am so ashamed of myself. Schedule 2 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 has not formed part of my bedtime reading. The fact that terminology is already in legislation does not mean that it is unchangeable. It means that one should hesitate to change it. But if it is causing the confusion which still reigns in my mind, despite the answer, it bears closer examination.

Lord Avebury: I do not wish to prolong the proceedings. However, what the Minister has just said will confuse readers of the proceedings today when they look back to what has been said on previous amendments.

The noble Lord made clear that the initial RSS would contain nothing which was not in the regional planning guidance. Certain exceptions which are at present in the regional planning guidance—the Minister helpfully outlined what those are—may not appear in the RSS. How can one express something in addition to what is in the RPG? The words "however expressed" mean that at some point between the passage of the Bill and the first revision, dealt with under Clause 5, an idea might occur to the Secretary of State. He expresses it in whichever form he chooses. It may be an order or a speech in Parliament. It appears to give him a discretion and latitude which the Minister's previous remarks did not claim. He sought to tell the Committee—I found it reassuring—that there was no intention by the Secretary of State to lay down in an RSS anything which was not already contained in the RPG; and even that was not the totality of it because there were certain exceptions which the noble Lord outlined.

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The words "however expressed" seem to indicate that the Secretary of State is giving himself the right, at some point in the future, to put things in which are not in the RPG, because otherwise there would be no purpose in having the words. The reference back to the 1990 Act, with great respect to the Minister, is not relevant in this context.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: Contrary to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, I am profoundly reassured, for personal reasons, by what the Minister said in response to the debate. I am genuinely fond and admiring of the Deputy Prime Minister, but even his closest friends would not deny that he has certain stylistic idiosyncrasies of personal expression. The fact that the Minister has been able to quote legislation, and particularly copper-bottomed legislation brought in by a Conservative government, indicates that there was no such consideration in those words in parentheses. I am greatly reassured that that is so.

Lord Bridges: I am grateful for the Minister's reply to my question. As I listened to the comments on my amendment, it seemed to me that the nature of the communication between the Secretary of State and the region will be of fundamental importance. Will it simply be an anthology of the existing guidance that he wishes to see reproduced—we were given that impression earlier this afternoon—or will he issue some more binding instruction? It is not altogether clear where we shall end up. I suspect that there will be further debates on this subject as the Bill proceeds. Therefore, I do not intend to pursue the matter further this evening.

However, there is another way of doing this. There is something to be said for a degree of formality in the communication between the Secretary of State and the regional planning authority. Indeed, one might go so far as to suggest that this should take the form of an order under a statutory instrument and that the Select Committee of the House that studies these matters might be able to give him some helpful advice on how that should be formulated. That degree of formality would not be very much in accord with the discussions that we have heard this afternoon, but the nature of this communication is, in itself, fundamental. We shall have to return to the matter at a later stage. For the present, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 7 not moved.]

7.15 p.m.

Lord Avebury moved Amendment No. 8:


    Page 1, line 8, at end insert—


"( ) The RSS shall specify the area of land to be provided for caravan sites and group housing schemes for travellers residing in or resorting to the region."

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 8 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 95 and 103. Like the noble Lords, Lord Hanningfield and Lord Bridges, I have every intention of helping the Government. In these amendments I want to assist them in solving a planning

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problem that has plagued the country for more than 40 years. It is the problem of where Travellers and Gypsies can find to live in a countryside that is increasingly used for other purposes, where many of the stopping places which the travellers used to frequent have now become overrun by buildings, roads or other structures.

The number of Traveller caravans on unauthorised sites increased by about 600 between January 2001 and January 2003, according to the count which was made by the local authorities and published by the ODPM. This is the direct result of the repeal by the Conservative government in 1994 of the Caravan Sites Act 1968, which placed an obligation on local authorities to provide accommodation for Gypsies residing in, or resorting to, their area. Up to that point, and for the next few years after repeal, the local authorities had been getting on top of the problem. If they had continued to develop new sites after 1997 at the same rate as in the years before that date, then, as a matter of simple arithmetic, we would have 1,000 more pitches now than there actually are. It was impossible for the private sector to make up for this loss. We told the government then that a time would come when the losses would begin to show up in increased numbers of unauthorised sites. The then Labour opposition, led by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg, agreed with us.

One way of remedying that deficiency and preventing an indefinite increase in the number of homeless Travellers year on year in the future would be simply to restore the duty on local authorities to provide sites. That was, in effect, one of the main recommendations of the Birmingham University report by Pat Niner to the ODPM on which Ministers have said that they will comment in April. My impression is that they had already ruled this out before they brought in Mr Bill Forrester from Kent County Council to look at these issues. It would be very helpful if the Minister would tell us exactly what his terms of reference were.

But if local authorities are not to provide sites then they must at any rate grant planning permission for sites in the places where the Travellers are at present having to camp on the roadside, on somebody else's land, or on their own land without planning permission. That is a phenomenon that has caused a great deal of complaint. This morning, I was talking to officials of the Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council who are currently having difficulty with an unauthorised site that is occupied by about 21 Gypsy families, on which the local authority has obtained a court order for possession. The point there is that there is nowhere for these people to go. If they are driven off that site, the local authority is not making alternative provision for them but has told them that they have to seek land on which planning permission might be granted. We all know how difficult that is.

I am sure that it is not necessary to persuade the Government that circular 194 has been a failure. That was the Tory government's feeble attempt to persuade local authorities to have regard to the needs of Travellers in their development plans. Of course, hardly any of

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them did so. As a general rule, Travellers have been able to make only insufficient provision for themselves by purchasing land, applying for permission and then going to appeal when they meet the inevitable refusal. In spite of the clear evidence of the January counts, which show that this haphazard process is not delivering, the Government have been deaf to the suggestion, made to several Ministers since Labour took office in 1997, that we should monitor the rate of success of Traveller applications for planning permission and of appeals. Ministers have told me that the planning inspectorate has the figures—the Minister will recognise that phrase—but Donald Kenrick has shown that they are seriously inaccurate.

In the debate that we had last June on Gypsies and social deprivation, the Minister who replied, the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Temple Guiting, offered some encouragement. He said,


    "the Government are reviewing planning procedures, and gypsy and traveller provision will be looked at as part of that review".—[Official Report, 5/6/03; col. 1581.]

So this is the moment when the Government can deliver on that undertaking and also take into consideration what the Minister said on an earlier amendment; that is, that this is a once in a double decade opportunity. He is absolutely correct, because the last occasion when we had the opportunity of solving the problem of Gypsies at a single stroke, as it were, was after the report of Sir John Cripps in 1977. So 26 years have elapsed since then and if we do not take this chance that we have under the planning legislation, we may wait another 25 or so years for a solution.

The first of these amendments requires the Secretary of State to set targets for the regional spatial strategy in each of the regions for the amount of land which is to be allocated to Traveller caravan sites and group housing schemes in the same way as the Minister has described on an earlier amendment that there will be a numerical target set for the regions for the amount of housing that they will contain. I should perhaps explain that the phrase "group housing" refers to schemes that have been developed in the Republic of Ireland and which have since been extended to Northern Ireland. They have proved very popular with Travellers because they allow extended families to remain together, as their culture demands, while at the same time putting down some roots. Although many travellers still aspire to a nomadic way of life, or at least to be able to go to festivals up and down the country and family occasions, some are happy to settle down as long as it does not mean their separation from the extended family. We have not tried group housing in Britain, but it is an idea that I have been pressing on Ministers for some years. It was among the recommendations made by Pat Niner.

The Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Evans, also said in the June debate:


    "The ultimate answer to homelessness is to have an adequate number of authorised sites for gypsies and travellers in which to camp".—[Official Report, 5/6/03; col. 1582.]

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I suggest that in order to do that we need to look at the numbers who are at present homeless, and that means the number living on unauthorised sites who are by definition homeless according to the definition in the Housing Act 1996. It should be a simple matter of arithmetic to calculate how much land would be required to accommodate all the gypsies in a particular region just by taking the number on unauthorised sites and applying to them a density which we know is appropriate from the provision that has already been made.

The next question is how responsibility is to be divided among the local authorities in the region. That has always been the major difficulty because, even when the local authorities have a duty, every time that there was a proposal for a site there would be objections and councillors were reluctant to get into arguments with vociferous groups of their own constituents. It was always difficult to persuade residents within a particular locality where a traveller site was planned that a well designed and well managed site would be a much better alternative than an unauthorised site where there was no rubbish collection or proper sanitation, inhabited by people without a stake in the neighbourhood and that cause trouble.

In the planning system now being created by the Bill, as I understand it and as I think the Minister made clear earlier, the provision of housing in each local authority will be decided initially by the Secretary of State, no doubt after consultation, as the Minister has explained, with all the local authorities in the region. Since travellers normally live in caravans, I suggest that it would be a breach of the ODPM's obligations under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act if, in carrying out the function of preparing instructions for counsel for the drafting of this legislation, the department had not paid due regard to the need to promote equality between travellers and the rest of the population in terms of housing accommodation. That means that whatever provision they make for housing should be accompanied by an equivalent traveller site.

I should say at this point that although gypsies were defined in non-ethnic terms under the Caravan Sites Act 1968 there are now recognised groups of travellers who are defined in ethnic terms; those are the Romanies and the Irish travellers. It is considered by many that Scottish travellers are also a separate group, although that has yet to be clarified by the Scottish courts or the Scottish Parliament. It also follows that the descendants of marriages between members of these groups and the settled population are entitled to the same consideration under the RRA. Since there has been a great deal of intermarriage over the generations, it is best to assume that people claiming the status of travellers possess it. That would be in compliance with the OSCE's principle that to belong to a national minority is a matter of personal individual choice.

Therefore, if there is to be a development plan document for housing, then either it must detail the provisions that are to be made for traveller accommodation so that travellers are not disadvantaged by the travelling system, or better still, as the second of these amendments suggests, there should be a separate

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DPD spelling out the provisions to be made for travellers in each planning authority. That, as I say, is the purpose of the second of these amendments.

The development plan document is defined in Clause 36(3)as,


    "a document which . . . is a local development document, and . . . forms part of the development plan".

The DPDs taken as a whole, plus the RSS—or in the case of London the Mayor's spatial development strategy—form the development plan as defined in Clause 37. I have to acknowledge that my scheme is incomplete because it does not require the SDS to contain a target for the amount of land to be allocated to traveller sites in London. That is because it may be appropriate for the Mayor to set that target rather than for Parliament to do it for him, though I have to say that I am uneasy about giving Mr Livingstone that discretion considering the lack of interest that he has displayed in traveller issues in the past.

The ideal would be for local authorities in each region to consult among themselves and decide what provision each of them will make in its DPD for traveller accommodation. If they do that, and if at the end of the process the contribution that they make collectively adds up to the target set in the RSS, then the shortage of traveller accommodation will be on the way to a solution. If there is any shortfall then my third amendment gives the Secretary of State the power to issue directions to any local authority requiring it to provide land for extra sites. Of course the Secretary of State already has a power of direction, but I am spelling it out in this amendment.

The power is modelled on a similar power that exists in the Caravan Sites Act, and that proved most effective when it was used sparingly in the last few years of the Act's existence. There, of course, the requirement was for the local authority to construct and to run the site. Here it is to allocate the land in a DPD and it would still be for private enterprise of an RSL or for the gypsies themselves to undertake the construction work and to operate the site.

In view of the fact that the Minister has been very sympathetic, and that we know that Miss Yvette Cooper, the Minister responsible in the ODPM for gypsies, has herself been touring the sites and seeing for herself at first hand the effects of the lack of provision, I hope that the Government will seize this opportunity and either accept my amendments or come forward with alternatives themselves to solve this problem once and for all. I beg to move.


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