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Lord Rooker: My Lords, so would I. Amendment No. 40 would remove the Secretary of State's power to withdraw a draft revision of the regional spatial strategy at any time before he publishes the final version. That would prevent the revision process being rewound if that is the best option. Even if everyone

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could see that the current draft revision should not be pursued, that would have to happen in any case. Therefore, a real problem arises there.

Clause 9(7) is a pragmatic provision to prevent the revision process grinding on when, for reasons such as those that I have just mentioned, it needs to go back a stage or, indeed, several stages. Clause 6(7) similarly allows the regional planning body to withdraw a draft revision at any stage before it submits it to the Secretary of State for the same reasons.

Therefore, with regard to the first question concerning who owns the regional spatial strategy, the answer is the regional planning body because, as we said in our debates before the dinner break, the RPB is the initiator. It is true that, ultimately, the Secretary of State gives the imprimatur promulgation but, of course, that is only after the examination has taken place in public.

Clause 9(7) states:


    "But the Secretary of State may withdraw a draft revision . . . at any time before he publishes the revision".

However, the point is that he will only be able to do that after it has been given to him by the regional planning body. He will not have seen it before it is submitted to him and therefore it would be unreasonable to withdraw it. Thus, he could take that action only when the draft revision had been given to him by the regional planning body, when, presumably, it would have gone through all its processes. According to the answer that I have just given, he could not step back in the process while it was going on and stop something that he had not seen or had submitted to him. The Secretary of State cannot direct a withdrawal before the draft regional spatial strategy is submitted to him.

Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, perhaps I may ask a question which goes back to my own example. The Government have announced that they want another runway and a big extension at Stansted airport in Essex. Therefore, if we were in the new world of regional spatial policies and other planning policies, obviously there would have to be a revision which the Government would have initiated because they had announced that they wanted a runway. Surely the Secretary of State would have to ask for a revision of the planning policies because another Minister—in this case, the Secretary of State for Transport—had suggested a runway. That does not really cover the issue. The Minister is saying that the policy would come from the region but, if the Government had initiated such a major change, surely they would then have to ask for a revision of the strategy.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Rooker: Yes, my Lords. That is on the assumption that there is a procedure under way. There may not be. There may be a regional spatial strategy. There is no revision, there is no review going on. In other words, there is no process. Obviously, looking at the Secretary of State's powers in Clause 9, which is headed "RSS: further procedure", that would arise only in those circumstances.

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However, I am not so sure because the airport must come under major infrastructure projects. I am not using this as a defensive answer, although it is the reasonable one because it is a big example. In terms of proposals, a new motorway, airport or, dare I say it, a nuclear power station would probably be classed as a major project to be dealt with under the procedures set out much later the Bill. I am not sure whether simply proposing, in the case that the noble Lord gives, an expansion of an existing airport—there is already an airport there in the example that he used—would be covered by that. I do not know at the moment. It is certainly a major infrastructure project; that I can clearly understand. Whether that would amount to having to redraw the whole of the regional spatial strategy, I cannot say off the top of my head. It is something that I shall get advice on beforehand. I understand the concern.

In fact, I am a bit surprised that the proposals for Stansted have not figured more in our deliberations. It is due to the incredible professionalism of the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, in not pushing his own local backyard issues from the Dispatch Box. That is a tribute.

Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that. We shall read his answers very carefully and he has indicated that he will look at the matter again before we discuss these issues again. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 10 [Secretary of State: additional powers]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 41:


    Page 5, line 31, at end insert—


"( ) Before taking any step under subsection (1), (3) or (5) the Secretary of State shall consult the RPB and shall seek the advice of each authority in the region which is an authority falling within section 5(3)."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 41 provides that before the Secretary of State directs an RPB to prepare a draft revision or prepares it, if the RPB fails to comply with various matters, including that direction, or revokes an RSS or part of it he,


    "shall consult the RPB and shall seek the advice of each authority in the region",

which is essentially a county or unitary district, as already identified in the earlier clause as amended.

So, if the Secretary of State decides that he wants five runways at Stansted and wants to change the RSS to provide for it, he has to come and talk to the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield. I think that the Minister underestimates the forcefulness of his refusal to get dragged into any current issues when Stansted was last mentioned. The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, probably feels that he has come to the end of the runway on that one.

When we were debating Clause 10 in Committee, the Minister stressed that these overarching powers were only reserve powers and that the Government would

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not expect that the Secretary of State would ever need to give a direction to a regional planning body to prepare a draft revision. He said twice that,


    "revisions . . . are not something that will be governed by central diktat".—[Official Report, 22/1/04; col. 1172.]

He also said that this was a sensible safeguard, that a reserve power was the best way of dealing with it and that he would use the powers of direction only in exceptional circumstances.

As I said earlier, unwillingly acknowledging —I was about to say accepting, but acknowledging is closer to the mark—that the role of the Secretary of State was written for him by the Government in all this, I am seeking to insert a degree of consultation and communication with both the regional planning body that the Secretary of State will have judged not to be doing the job and with relevant authorities before he takes the step.

We may hear that the Secretary of State would do that without being told to do so by the legislation. I simply make the point I made on an earlier amendment; that is, that if the Minister can get out of his mind the image of his right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister as being the current Secretary of State and think of the worst possible example, that is why we tabled the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, this is almost a case of deja vu. I shall make clear for the record that we would not expect the Secretary of State ever to have to direct a regional planning body to prepare a draft revision of the regional spatial strategy or to prepare one himself. As I have said before, these provisions are in the Bill simply as a safeguard. What happens now and will continue to happen in the future is that the regional planning body will discuss with the government office when a revision is needed and the kind of topics it should cover and take the revision forward on that basis. That goes back to our discussion on an earlier amendment: why should they tell anyone that they are going to do it? First there will be an examination in public. Someone has to organise the planning inspectorate. They have to be aware of providing staff and resources to do that, so there is good reason to discuss it with the government office.

Similarly, the power to revoke all or part of the regional spatial strategy is a procedural safeguard. There might be occasions when part of the regional spatial strategy had become seriously out of date before a new revision could be completed and it would be helpful in the interests of clarity if it was revoked. Any revocation is something that would be done in discussion with the regional planning body and as a matter of good practice the Government would always give reasons for the action taken.

To impose a requirement to seek advice and consult before exercising powers that are included in the Bill as a safeguard, frankly is unreasonable. Nor do we see any case for this in principle. The powers are there as a safeguard. If they ever have to be used it would be in the most exceptional circumstances and reasons would

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be given. I do not think that one can ask for more than that. I shall stop singing my right honourable friend's praises in case he gets the wrong idea.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, if the powers are there as a procedural safeguard, why do we not put in a procedural safeguard that the Secretary of State will do what the Minister says he will do? It is another case where the parliamentary draftsmen might put their drafting where the Minister's mouth is. I recognise that we are not going to make progress on this and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 42 and 43 not moved.]

Clause 12 [Supplementary]:


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