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Lord Hanningfield rose to move Amendment No. 3B, as an amendment to the Motion that the House do not insist on its Amendment No. 3 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 3A, leave out "not".

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hear and thank the Minister for what he has said and we thank the Government for the discussions and the concessions that have been made. Many of those were a result of our discussions in this House. I feel strongly about the amendment and I shall go into the reasons why. Throughout the Bill, I have felt that the Government have got it wrong.

I accept, as do Members on these Benches, that the Government will have a new planning system and ultimately new spatial strategies. Indeed, we are working on them in the eastern region. I am a Member of this House and, as everyone knows, I am the leader of a large local authority. As such, I like to make things

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happen. As a Member of this House, I am debating legislation, which is different, but locally I am an action man. I sincerely believe that my amendment is more likely to make things happen than the Government's system of enormous regional spatial strategies and a local council delivery plan in most of the country through the counties and districts.

I will go so far as to say that if we do not look at the provision again, we shall be able to say, "We told you so". The previous Minister for local government, Hilary Armstrong, wanted a standards board but I argued that it was better to act locally. The Government have reverted to that idea. We made the same point in respect of best value, for instance, and the Government have accepted our suggestion that the procedure should not be so complicated. I am now moving an amendment which will help the Government to deliver what they want to deliver.

My county is in the midst of a great deal of development and we are working in conjunction with that—no one has said that it will work independently. The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, referred to Milton Keynes, which is my example of the Government creating a precedent. They are looking at a sub-regional spatial strategy which will take over the regional spatial strategies.

Turning to my own county again, we have the M11 corridor, which is obviously very dear to the Government in development policies. We have the A12 corridor, along which tens of thousands of houses and businesses are still being built. We have the Haven Gateway, which, in conjunction with parts of Suffolk, we hope will regenerate a deprived part of the eastern region. We also have the Thames Gateway, in which I am very much involved. That work is already going on at a sub-regional level. It cannot be done by a vast regional board. I have quoted statistics about the south-east on previous occasions. The south-east region is bigger than Austria. The eastern region is bigger than several European countries. My own county is bigger than four countries that are just about to join the European Union.

I know a lot about European and American systems. I have studied local government and planning systems in both those continents. No other country would create a body that is so vast and approach matters from that end. I know that it is not going to work. I have been an action person in local government for 34 years and I know what works and what does not. I am helping in Basildon, where we are taking an initiative. I believe in the regeneration of Basildon. We are investing 20 million of county council money in it. If the county council is taken out of the equation, it will not help with the regeneration of Basildon because it will not be involved in it.

The Government are shooting themselves in the foot by not looking at the matter again. It is all very well to sit in offices in Whitehall and think that it might work. I know how it can work on the ground and I am suggesting ways of making it do so; that is, by making sub-regional spatial strategies part of the regional spatial strategy, involving local members at local levels

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and often putting money and resources into it. We have a superb person in Essex County Council who is helping to redesign Basildon. We are loaning him to Basildon. That kind of initiative will just not happen under the Government's legislation. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, will know what I am talking about, because he has been the leader of a local authority as well. If we are to have a new system, let us make it work.

I hope that the Government will think again about the amendment because it is important that we develop sub-regional plans to complement the regional plan, given the size of the regions in question. I beg to move.

Moved, as an amendment to the Motion that the House do not insist on its Amendment No.3 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 3A, leave out "not".—(Lord Hanningfield.)

4 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, the formal reason that has been given for the Commons' disagreement to the original amendment is:


    "Because it is not appropriate to create more than one tier of regional spatial strategy".

The amendment would not do that. It would create not another regional spatial strategy, but a sub-regional one. I do not need to repeat all the good examples that have been provided by both sides of the House of the importance of partnership and of working across boundaries.

I noted how keen the Government themselves were on a sub-regional approach in, among other things, sustainable communities work. The Government recognised the need for action at a sub-regional level. Sub-regions come in a number of shapes and sizes, so it must be important for the regional spatial strategy to be transparent in identifying and explaining its relationship with the sub-regions.

Reference was again made to the Local Government Association and the County Councils Network. We on these Benches often agree with their views and aims, but we do not regard ourselves as their delegates. We regard ourselves as legislators as part of Parliament. We are not at their or anybody's beck and call. Although we often support them in their aims, our position is quite distinct. It is important to put that on the record in light of some comments that have been made. We support the amendment.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, the noble Baroness can put all she likes on the record about those two organisations. I stand by everything that I have said.

I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, said about Basildon and what Essex County Council is doing there. That is absolutely right. I raised the example of Milton Keynes myself. It is a question of horses for courses. Part of the problem with the amendment is that it would require sub-regional spatial strategies for all parts of the region. In some ways, we need a horses-for-courses approach. Where a need is perceived, we should go ahead with a

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sub-regional strategy. It may be that local authority boundaries cross over regional boundaries—that is part of the problem in a way. It is important that we are able to do that; otherwise, we would be bound by lines on a map, which would be ridiculous. Co-operation is taking place now in sub-regional work, but the results are more difficult to deliver than they should be. That is because when sub-regions become part of regional planning guidance, they are not part of the development plan. To become so, they must first be incorporated into the structure plans and then into local plans. That takes a lot of time. Until the process is complete, the results lack clarity.

The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, quoted various examples of areas that are sub-regions, but that are not necessarily coterminous with local government boundaries. Under the system that we are proposing in the Bill and in all the guidance that would flow from it, where sub-regional strategies are necessary or beneficial—for that is clearly what we want—they will be prepared as part of the regional spatial strategy. There will be no need for that to be done in a convoluted fashion as it is now. We are not against sub-regional strategies. I hope that I have made that absolutely clear. That is self-evident from the way in which we are implementing the sustainable communities plan in the Milton Keynes and south Midlands areas, as well as in the Peterborough-Cambridge-Stansted-London corridor, which has grown slightly since we extended it. Those areas cross over many local authorities and some issues necessitate sub-regional strategies. Nobody is denying that. Our objection is to the idea that we should cover the whole country with sub-regional strategies. Surely they should occur only where there is a perceived need for a sub-regional strategy, based on history or whatever is proposed. It may not necessarily be based on history. At the moment, sub-regional strategies are being formed because of what the Government are proposing through the communities plan. There would have been no need for the sub-regional strategy in Milton Keynes and the south Midlands, for example, if it were not for the proposals in the communities plan. Therefore, where there is a perceived need for a sub-regional strategy, one should go ahead and do it, but the idea that every square inch of England should be covered by a sub-regional strategy makes no sense.

Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, obviously, some sub-regional spatial strategies would be very active; others would require more time. Due to the communities plan and other initiatives in the eastern region—Stansted airport, for example—the whole of that region requires a sub-regional spatial strategy at this moment.

I repeat that nobody wants ultimately to deny the Government their regional spatial strategies. The sub-regional spatial strategies are a component of them and work in conjunction with them, as the Government have just admitted in the case of Milton Keynes. They would work in conjunction with

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regional spatial strategies. I repeat that I want to see a system that works for the benefit of our communities that we represent. Essex has 12 district councils. They get on better with the county council than with each other. If anyone is going to make something happen, it has be the county council acting in co-operation with two or three district councils. I am there and I know how that works. Unfortunately, it does not work in an office in Whitehall as it works at local level. If the Government want to make the system work on the ground, they should pay heed to what I am suggesting. If the Bill were passed as the Government require, we would be back at it from a sub-regional angle before we know where we are. That is the only way in which places can be designed and developed and in which the support of local people can be won. If somebody is deciding what will happen from a remote office, without the real involvement of local politicians, the system will just not work.


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