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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we do not see the rearrangement as a cost-cutting exercise. The independence of the inspectorates will remain and it is paramount that it should do so. The chief inspectors will retain their direct accountability to Ministers and will be free to report as they find. We will retain their independence and professionalism and provide Ministers, their departments and the public with the information and assurance they need about the quality and integrity of the criminal justice system. We will also allow inspectorates the freedom to focus on additional areas of concern. All those issues will be fundamental to any reorganisation. There has been consultation and that will continue to be the case. As I said to the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, if legislation is necessary it will be fully discussed and everyone will have an opportunity to have their say. However, it is important at this stage to continue the consultation

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process that we have with the inspectors and others directly involved in order that we can make a proper, informed judgment.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for her proper praise for the work of Her Majesty's Inspector of Prisons. While she is contemplating change, will she allow that inspectorate now to inspect the Prison Service as well as the prison estate?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, one of the changes that we are considering is to enable the inspectorates to look at the new criminal justice system we are establishing by taking parts of the system from working in silos to working together in a more joined-up way. The whole point of change is to enable the inspection of that process to be more robust and comprehensive and to consider matters about which we need to be assured. It will enable us to be clear that the system is working well.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, will the inspectorate consider the issue of the training of prison officers? Given that the initial training is nine weeks, this might be a way of improving the whole culture within the prison system.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we will review the issues that need to be dealt with. Anne Owers, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, is leading a team at the moment, which includes the Acting Chief Inspector of Probation. They are reviewing the future inspections of the National Offender Management Service and its wider responsibilities, including immigration detention centres and youth offending areas. We are not relying on structural change alone; we are simultaneously changing how we, as the Government, lead in setting an inspection strategy and we will create a machinery to prioritise and follow through criminal justice inspections. All these issues are matters of review now, and we want to get them right.

Iraq: Troop Deployments

2.59 p.m.

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether Britain will provide a new headquarters unit in Najaf to take the place of Spain, and what discussions they have had on this with the American authorities.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, this matter is under active consideration with coalition partners including, of course, the United States of America.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for that response. We fully support the continued deployment of British troops in

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Iraq and agree with the Government that it is essential that we see this through. But does the noble Baroness recognise that, if extra troops are deployed outside the British-controlled south of Iraq, our influence on how security is managed must be in proportion to our contribution? Can she confirm that in the event that extra troops are deployed, they will have had sufficient training in high-intensity operations and will be properly equipped and supported?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as the noble Lord will know, that sort of decision, where it is taken, is not just a political decision by Ministers. It would also involve thorough consultation with the Chiefs of the Defence Staff. Therefore, we can rest assured that if there is a decision—I stress the word "if"—for further deployment, it will be done on the basis that those going are properly trained. I absolutely understand the noble Lord's point in relation to influence. We have touched upon it already in your Lordships' House. Of course we would want there to be proper arrangements for the lines of communication, the chain of command, over any such deployment.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, the Minister said "if", but if we are to replace other coalition forces, it is unlikely that other coalition forces will, in the short term, come to replace the troops that we are sending to Iraq. If that is the case, we are sending troops into a very long-term commitment. Considering how stretched our forces are at the moment, will the Minister comment on whether it is an open-ended commitment or whether it would be undertaken for the short term?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, Spanish coalition troops are withdrawing from Najaf and Qadisiyah. Troops from Honduras and Dominican Republic are also being withdrawn. The noble Lord should know that those troops amount to something less than 2,000. South Korea, for example, has indicated that it will send in 3,000 more troops, so your Lordships should not simply look at the negative side—there are also some very positive aspects.

The noble Lord asked about the length of the commitment. These troops would be in no different a position, if they were to be sent, from the troops already there. They will be there for as long as there is a necessity for them to be there.

Lord Hurd of Westwell: My Lords, may I press the noble Baroness on the point that my noble friend put to her about the link between contributing troops and influencing policy? It seems to many of us that crucial decisions are coming up that will be taken, sometimes at short notice, in Baghdad—for example, whether to attack Fallujah, how to deal with Najaf, and, at a slightly longer distance, what powers will be transferred to the sovereign government on 30 June. All those decisions will affect us and our troops closely.

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How are such decisions are taken and how can we contribute our ideas and views to those who take them?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, how are these decisions taken? Let us take the position in Iraq itself, where there are exchanges not just on a daily basis but several times a day between Ambassador Bremer and our representative, David Richmond. The two representatives sit in an office at either end of, what it turns out, is more or less a shared private office. So there are those opportunities for influence not just on a daily basis but several times a day. We then go through the exchanges between the political directors such as Condoleezza Rice on the American side and Sir Nigel Sheinwald on our own side. There are ministerial exchanges as well, going through the lower ranks of Ministers right the way up to the regular exchanges that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has with the President of the United States. So there is a wide variety of opportunity for influence over what is happening in Iraq—probably more than over most of our international relationships.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, if the interim authority, post-June, were to ask that the British troops be not involved in a operation in Najaf, would we comply or would we overrule, with American compliance, the request of the interim authority, post-June?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, that is an enormously important question, and it is not one to which I can readily give your Lordships an answer. Much of it depends on the terms of the discussions that are taking place between the representatives of the United Nations, the CPA and the Iraqi Governing Council. The whole question of what we mean by sovereignty—which is really the question that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, is asking me—is still under active discussion. It is obviously crucial to the terms of the hand-over, and I hope we will be able to answer it before 30 June.

Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill

3.6 p.m.

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons amendments and reasons be now considered.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.


[The page and line references are to HL Bill 10, the Bill as first printed for the Lords.]

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1Before Clause 1, insert the following new clause—

"Application of Part 1
Part 1 shall apply only if an elected assembly for the region has been established."
The Commons disagree to this Amendment for the following Reason—

1ABecause it is not appropriate to restrict the application of a regional spatial strategy only to regions which have elected assemblies.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on its Amendment No. 1 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 1A.

For the sixth or seventh time, I want to make it absolutely clear that the Government are committed to the reform of plan-making in England, including a two-tier development plan, with strategic planning at the regional level.

These amendments would deny our regions strong and effective strategic plans. I find it difficult to believe that they would therefore be accepted. Those in favour of strong regional government, be it elected or otherwise, surely must want the regions to be strong enough to have effective strategic planning. The amendments would also prevent the streamlined two-tier planning system where the most up-to-date level—strategic or local—prevails when there is a conflict. That has to be taken into account.

The amendments would also have far-reaching knock-on effects. On the one hand, they anticipate arrangements for planning by elected regional assemblies but, rather than real devolution, they would leave those bodies only with responsibility for preparing draft revisions. The Secretary of State would still publish the final regional spatial strategy, including his proposed changes, and would still have regional planning policies of his own.

On the other hand, the amendments would leave uncertainty and muddle. The law would say that there would be regional planning bodies, consultation in line with published statements and an examination in public only where there was an elected regional assembly. We have to ask ourselves what this would mean for our existing regional planning bodies and the comprehensive arrangements we have now, which include an examination in public, for regional planning guidance. The amendments agreed by this House do not retain structure plans, but county councils would advise on strategic plans only if there were an elected regional assembly.

We can all understand the attraction the amendments have for those Members of this House who do not want to see any regional planning under any circumstances—indeed, any regional government under any circumstances—even though they were responsible for setting up regional government offices. In due course, they hope to persuade the regional electorates to vote no in the referendum on the elected regional assemblies. That is their choice. But for those

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who recognise that many planning issues need to be tackled at regional level as well as at local level, this is a recipe for inaction and failure. It flies in the face of the many examples of regional planning bodies coming forward with solutions to cross-boundary problems that have bedevilled us for many years. It is quite frankly farcical to suggest that we should abandon all that and rely instead on county-based structure plans.

I hope noble Lords accept that the Government have listened very carefully to the arguments put forward during the passage of this Bill. Indeed, I have come to the Chamber today supported by a list of all the concessions that the Government have made. We are a listening Government and we want to get consensus on this matter. However, there are some issues on which we believe that it would be a major mistake to depart from the provisions in the Bill.

There has been concern that there would be too little democratic input, particularly by county councils with their strategic planning expertise. We accept that; I believe that I said, way back at Second Reading, that it was probably the thorniest issue we had to deal with when we were planning the Bill in detail at the time when I was the Minister responsible for it. We have responded to that concern by giving county councils a statutory advisory role. I still take the view that that has been found acceptable outside this House; I have not seen anything to contradict that.

There has been concern that people and interests in each region would not have sufficient say in the process. That was a genuine concern, raised at many stages of our debate. I accept that the concern is absolutely genuine and sincere. We have responded by requiring the regional planning bodies to prepare, publish and comply with a statement of their policies for the involvement of the community and the public. However, we cannot accept the other arguments that have been put forward.

We have heard that strategic planning should continue to be with county councils through their structure plans. That is despite support from the Local Government Association and the County Councils Network for our regional planning arrangements with a guaranteed role for counties, unitary authorities and other authorities with strategic planning expertise, and despite the mismatch in many cases between county boundaries and areas that are interdependent in strategic planning terms.

We do not agree that it is wrong for regional planning bodies to have a lead role in regional planning because they include representatives from stakeholders in the region as well as local authorities. Those social and economic partners bring an important dimension to the regional planning bodies' work and are particularly well placed to foster a true region-wide perspective. Local authorities are in the majority on regional assemblies, which will continue to be the regional planning bodies. There is a view out there, which is not shared by everybody, that only the elected councillors should take the key decisions, whatever level they are elected at. That is not the

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reality, however. Local strategic partnerships and the regional assemblies are involving a much wider spread of opinion and achieving greater consensus about the way in which government takes place.

Where there is considerable consensus on what the plans for the region should be, we can expect that consensus to hold sway. That is quite legitimate; we do not take the view that it is wrong that the stakeholders should be involved. We also do not agree that it is wrong that, until we have elected assemblies, the Secretary of State should be ultimately accountable for the policies in each regional spatial strategy. That is the best democratic safeguard consistent with our current governance arrangements. If an elected regional assembly were in place, the Secretary of State would not need any spatial policies for that region. I have repeatedly made that clear; there will not be any need for the Secretary of State to have any policies for that region. That will be the job of the elected regional assembly. We are not seeking to second guess those bodies. It would be contrary to the spirit of devolution for the Secretary of State to have his own planning policies for the region which the elected assembly had to have regard to in formulating its policies for the region, as proposed by noble Lords. It would also be thoroughly confusing to have two sets of planning policies for the same region. That is a barmy idea by any stretch of the imagination.

We do not agree that we should delay the reforms in Part 1 until the elected regional assemblies are in place. That takes us back to the regional assemblies elections preparations legislation. As is well known, referendums are due in three regions; I believe that I gave July 2006 as the earliest possible date by which an elected regional assembly could be set up if there was a "yes" vote. If other regions were to be brought in, there would need to be a process and a mechanism for that. It would be bad public administration, to put it at its mildest, to seek to delay Part 1 until elected regional assemblies were in place. There may be some regions that do not want elected regional assemblies and never have them; one must consider that as a possibility because it is the people's choice. We are not imposing elected regional assemblies on the regions. The people will always be given a choice in the regional referendums beforehand. The effective strategic plans at regional level and a full part of the development plan are needed now, and need to be endorsed by the Secretary of State. Without that endorsement there is neither democratic accountability nor the assurance that central government will play their part in the delivery of regional plans. That is fairly fundamental at present.

We are not taking away democracy, which is another argument that has been trotted out—although not necessarily in your Lordships' House. Noble Lords are much more in touch in some ways with what is happening than is sometimes the case elsewhere in this building. What really matters is that people should have their say and have their views listened to in the planning process. I do not believe that anyone could now argue, as the Bill stands, that it is not a vast improvement on the present process in allowing

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people a say at the earliest possible stages of the planning process. Central to our reforms, both at a regional and a local level, is greater and earlier community involvement.

Our amendment—that is, the amendment that the Government wish to place in the Bill—will require the regional planning body to prepare, publish and comply with a statement of its policies for involving interested parties in preparing draft revisions of the regional spatial strategy. Draft regulations will require the regional planning body to consult a wide range of bodies while the draft revision of the regional spatial strategy is being prepared and after it has been published.

There are many aspects on which it could be argued that we are not squeezing democracy out of the system. There is a much greater involvement of the public and the wider communities in regional planning in this Bill. We have come to a make-or-break point. There is a limit to the amount of time that we can devote in this place to this issue. I do not know how many times we have now dealt with it—I have lost count. I sincerely hope that my argument will find favour with your Lordships at this stage of our deliberations on this important Bill.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 1 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 1A.—(Lord Rooker.)

3.15 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee rose to move Amendment No. 1B, as an amendment to the Motion that the House do not insist on its Amendment 1 to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 1A, leave out "not".

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 4B and 5B.

I agree very much with one thing that the Minister said, about the concessions that the Government have given on much of the Bill and in this part of the Bill, dealing with regional spatial strategies. In fact, I believe we debated this matter only once, because it was, unusually, agreed at Committee stage. But—there had to be a "but"—the reason that we have from the Commons is that the amendment to which your Lordships agreed,

    "is not appropriate to restrict the application of a regional spatial strategy only to regions which have elected assemblies".

That could be expressed differently. It could be said that it was not appropriate to remove powers to make such strategies from the only bodies directly elected by the people directly affected by them.

We acknowledge the advisory role that has been given to the counties, but it is advisory only. The Minister said that he had not had complaints from the County Councils Network or the Local Government Association. He has raised that matter before. The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, who is a part of the County Councils Network answered the point quite

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clearly. The advisory role is better than nothing, but it does not amount to agreement that this is the right way to go ahead.

We have all, I think, throughout this Bill been conscious of the role of planning in the wider governmental and political context and especially of the need to restore trust in government at all levels and reverse the alienation from the political process, which I know distresses all of us.

I acknowledge that speeding things up and tackling inefficiencies has a major role in that, and that is why we have supported the proposals in the Bill for local development. But this amendment is about a democratic deficit—about the deficit that there will be if regional spatial strategies are the creation of the Secretary of State through his agent, the regional planning body. I dare say that the Minister will object to that description, but without Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 the Secretary of State will give directions to recognise regional planning bodies or, indeed, withdraw their recognition and exercise their functions himself.

We have draft regulations that explain how the regional planning bodies will be created and who they will consist of, but regulations, as we all know, are not primary legislation. Indeed, the current draft regulations do not wholeheartedly inject democracy into the regional planning bodies. Thirty per cent or more of their members must not be members of local authorities, so even a public-spirited businessman or woman who is a member of a parish Council is disqualified.

Stakeholders in a region of course have a role, but to suggest that that is equal to the role of elected councillors or elected representatives diminishes the validity of elections. Of course, all the members of the regional planning bodies, including the 30 per cent plus, are entitled to vote, and their votes carry equal weight.

Those who come from an elected base are not directly elected under this model. So who do they represent for this purpose? We have talked—at any rate I have—about the less than complete adequacy of indirect election. There is confusion and a difficulty about the mandate, and a genuine difficulty in the mind of people who are elected to one body and find themselves on another where their primary responsibility is to the perhaps small group of people who elected them in the first place.

I think that the Minister referred to our all being good democrats, as, indeed, we are in this place, despite being the objects of patronage. I hope he will take the message back that, without proper devolved regional government, this model for designing regional spatial strategies will not do. In Committee, we heard from those whose faith in the counties was greater than the Government's and who raised some important practical problems: the haemorrhaging of staff who see their role disappearing and the lowering of resources which the counties will apply because they have merely an advisory role.

I would never suggest that we should lightly dismiss the views of another place, but severing the link between the electorate affected and those responsible for strategic plans would be serious—serious for effective planning and as another brick in the wall between politicians and

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citizens. I do not myself—as I am sure do none of your Lordships—want to contribute to building up that wall. We want to pull it down. I beg to move.

Moved, as an amendment to the Motion that this House do not insist on its Amendment No. 1 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 1A, leave out "not".—(Baroness Hamwee.)

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