Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, in his comments on Amendment No. 15, the Minister referred to the reimbursement subsection (5) in terms of the arrangements that are the subject of subsection (4), immediately above it. There is a difference between us because since subsection (5) was drafted we have added subsections (1) and (2) to the clause. When I was talking about the legal basis on which an authority could say, "Get lost until you make me a reasonable offer", I was referring to that part of the clause. The Minister may have been referring only to what was there originally when this part of the Bill was drafted.

24 Feb 2004 : Column 179

It is worth making that point now, because it may at least be worth considering whether it needs to be tweaked.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I will take further advice on that, and if need be I will write to the noble Baroness.

Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, we have been over some of this ground before, but I want to go back to it again. We have now changed the Bill considerably since its original inception, and we hope that it will stay somewhat changed when it becomes ultimate planning policy. No one is disputing the ownership of the RSS. The policies will belong to the regional planning board. We need total clarity about payment as we complete the stages of the Bill.

Obviously, the regional planning body will need other bodies to help it in its work. The Minister has accepted that. It will need other local authorities in the region—the regions are all very big—unless it is going to have vast empires of staff. There are not enough planners in the country to do that. Therefore, there will need to be collaborative systems of drawing up the regional planning strategies. There will need to be clarity about payment, not just taking the best offer that comes along, which was rather jokingly talked about in the early stages. We will listen, and we will read what the Minister says. Perhaps he would like to clarify the situation before Third Reading. We will read what has been said in Hansard. No doubt we will come back to these issues at the Bill's next stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 14 to 20 not moved.]

Clause 6 [RSS: revision]:

[Amendment No. 21 not moved.]

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 22:


    Page 3, line 17, at end insert "which shall be not more than three years after the commencement of Part 1"

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 24. Grouped with the amendment are Amendments Nos. 23 and 25, which stand in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield.

Amendment No. 22 requires the regional planning body to get on with revising the RSS to make it its own, not more than three years after the commencement of Part 1. Amendment No. 23, which we also debated in Committee, proposes a five-year period. I am not sure whether that means every five years, although that seems to be the basis on which the Minister responded to the amendment the last time around. I am not clear that that is what is intended.

This is another way of seeking to tackle the issue of who owns the regional spatial strategy and to move smartly towards it being the work of the regional planning body. However, I take the point made earlier this afternoon that the regional planning guidance was by no means divorced from the regional planning

24 Feb 2004 : Column 180

bodies, as they exist at the moment. As I understand it, despite what the Minister said, they are not "Regional Planning Bodies" under the terms of the Bill; they are regional assemblies that have had that job given to them. They are not regional planning bodies as designated by the Bill; the Bill has not been enacted, so they cannot be.

We identified the three-year period because the Minister said on the previous occasion and repeated today that it would take at least two years for a revision. I am not seeking to knock out the regional planning guidance, but I am saying that we should get on with the successor work within a time frame that the Minister seems to think reasonable.

The second of our amendments would delete Clause 6(2). I cannot for the life of me understand why the regional planning body has to give notice to the Secretary of State that it intends to prepare a draft revision. That seems to be prescription of the highest order. We have been exhorted so many times to think about what things would be like in reality, and it seems unreal to think that the regional planning body might operate in such privacy that it would tell nobody—certainly not the Secretary of State—that it was dealing with a draft revision. We want to get the situation on an even keel with the other things that we have been talking about. I do not see why the Bill needs to be so prescriptive here, so I thought that I would indulge in a whinge about the Secretary of State's overweening and unnecessary role in some cases, of which this is an example. I beg to move.

7 p.m.

Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, I shall not move Amendments Nos. 23 and 25 today. There were substantial answers on the previous occasion. I shall be interested to hear the Minister's reply to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, today, and we can reflect on the issues before the final stage.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I shall also try to keep it brief. Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 fish in essentially the same pool. No doubt, the noble Lord will listen to what I have to say about them. The amendments tackle the same issue.

We want to move as quickly as possible to put in place regional plans that are genuinely spatial and provide an effective statutory framework for delivery through local plans and ensure that they are kept up to date and timely. The issue is whether it is necessary or helpful to legislate for that. In my view, it is not essential to put that into the Bill. We already have in place a system that means that regional planning guidance now and regional spatial strategies in the future are regularly revised as needed by regional planning bodies. We do not need to prescribe a fixed timetable in legislation.

In aid of that view, I cite something that my noble friend Lord Rooker referred to earlier, when talking about revision. The west Midlands has the oldest current regional planning guidance. Believe it or not, it dates back only to 1998. As, I think, my noble friend

24 Feb 2004 : Column 181

Lord Rooker suggested, a revision is in process and will be issued shortly. In every region, full or partial revisions are already under way or are being planned. We simply do not have a problem with out-of-date regional plans being allowed to gather dust that might make such an amendment necessary.

Requiring a revision of the regional spatial strategy—I assume that the amendment refers to a comprehensive revision—at least every five years is too prescriptive and would be unhelpful. The regional spatial strategy looks at least 15 years ahead and addresses a wide range of issues and policy areas. A comprehensive revision is therefore a major exercise in terms of time, money, expertise and other resources. It is a major commitment. We would expect a comprehensive revision to take nearly two years from the process kicking off to the end of the examination in public. We do not want, by prescribing a fixed five-year revision cycle, to compel the regional planning body to spend what we might say is half its time revising the whole regional spatial strategy. A fixed review cycle would reduce flexibility and potentially create unnecessary work.

Amendment No. 24 would remove the requirement on the regional planning body to give notice to the Secretary of State of its intention to prepare a draft revision of the regional spatial strategy. The noble Baroness was honest enough to say that it was a whinge, and I reckon that I recognise a whinge when I see it. Fair dos to the noble Baroness: I understand where she is coming from. It is not an over-onerous requirement. The regional planning body and the Government Office will, in any case, discuss when revisions need to be prepared and the sort of topics that they should cover. Although the final revision of the regional spatial strategy remains the Secretary of State's document, it is right in principle that he should be notified when the regional planning body intends to prepare a revision. My guess is that that would help in the planning of workloads, and so on, and enable the Government Office and the Secretary of State to understand where the process is at a given time, which is probably useful. I can understand the whinge, but it is not an over-burdensome issue, and we should not detain ourselves with it at this level.

I hope that the noble Baroness will be happy to leave things as they are. I think that I have covered the points that were raised, and I hope that my responses will find favour.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, what I said on Amendment No. 24 was a whinge, but it was a question as well. I suspect that, were the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, in opposition, he might think that this was a good point to ask Members of the House to take a little exercise, just to make the point. I shall not do so. The Minister made the best of a bad job, but those two lines should not be in the Bill. They are nonsense.

24 Feb 2004 : Column 182

I hope that the Minister will understand that, with Amendment No. 22, I was not proposing that there should be a triennial revision. The confusion about the quinquennial revision arose from one of the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, which was not spoken to.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page