Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Amendment No. 116A introduces a specific requirement for intent to be demonstrated in using another person to look after a weapon. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his support, in general terms, for our approach on this. The amendment does not add to the offence as drafted, as the word "uses" requires the offender to intend the other person to act in a particular way. It is not possible to "use" someone unintentionally. There is therefore already a mental element of intention as a central part of the offence.

Amendments Nos. 117A and 117B would make a successful prosecution of offenders who use other people to mind their weapons for them far more difficult. The clause requires that the minding of a weapon would facilitate its being available to the offender for "an unlawful purpose". In many cases, this could be simple possession of the weapon by the offender. Therefore, in any circumstances in which it would be unlawful for the offender to possess the weapon, it will also be an offence if he gives it to another person to mind.

The amendments would have the effect that, in cases where the unlawful purpose is not the mere possession but the future use of the weapon, the offence would not be committed if possession of a weapon by the offender would be likely to involve or lead to an offence, but instead would be committed only if the weapon were specifically intended to be used in an offence. Given the difficulty of proving intent, this would dilute the effectiveness of a provision that has been generally welcomed by members of the community, who see and suffer the terrible effect that gun and knife crime has on their lives and communities and who believe that passing weapons to others in an attempt to avoid prosecution is commonplace. In our fight against violent crime, we need to cover a broad range of situations to make sure that those offenders who use dangerous weapons, and use other people to look after them, do not escape the full effect of justice.

I welcome the noble Lord's general support, but his amendments would have a powerful undermining effect on a measure that is not just beneficial, but carries the broad support of many of the communities which have suffered the unpleasant impact of gun and knife crime.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: I am grateful to the Minister for his response. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I beg to move that the House do now resume. In moving this Motion, I suggest that Committee stage begin again not before 8.30 pm.

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

House resumed.
17 May 2006 : Column 337

Planning (Application to the Houses of Parliament) Order 2006

7.30 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 19 April be approved [24th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the Planning (Application to the Houses of Parliament) Order 2006 which is before us today is a small, but nevertheless essential, part of the package of subordinate legislation that is necessary to bring Part 7 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 into force. Noble Lords will be aware that this order was agreed to by the other place on 9 May.

The order is a technical provision which is required to regularise the position of Parliament once the planning Acts are applied to the Crown and, by extension, to Parliament. The planning Acts are the Town and Country Planning Act 1990—which I shall refer to as the "principal Act"—the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 and the Planning (Hazardous Substances) Act 1990.

I am sure noble Lords will want to know that the order does not extend planning regulation in a way that interferes with the rights and privileges of either House. We are aiming for a smooth transition from the current non-statutory system to the statutory system. This order therefore places the Palace of Westminster within the system and avoids the state of limbo which would occur without it.

Perhaps I should explain what happens at the moment. Currently, and until Part 7 of the 2004 Act is enacted, approval for development or listed building consent is applied for on a voluntary basis, following the non-statutory procedures set out in DoE circular 18/84 entitled Crown Land and Crown Development. The Crown, and Parliament, would submit a notice of proposed development, or NoPD, instead of a planning application or application for listed building consent. The NoPD is publicised in the same way as a normal application and is put on the planning register. The local planning authority has eight weeks to consider it. If they do not agree, and differences cannot be resolved by negotiation, the dispute is referred to the Secretary of State for determination. This may be done by written representations or by a non-statutory public inquiry, similar to a recovered appeal. The inspector reports to the Secretary of State and a decision letter is issued in the normal way.

I am sure noble Lords will be glad to know that the Parliamentary Works Directorate maintains good relations with both Westminster City Council and English Heritage. That has allowed applications for projects such as Portcullis House and the security screen for the Gallery in the other place to progress smoothly under the circular 18/84 procedure.
17 May 2006 : Column 338

It might also be helpful if I remind the House of the background to Part 7 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, which is entitled "Crown Application of Planning Acts". When brought into force, it will end the Crown's immunity from the planning system by applying the planning Acts to the Crown. There is a long-standing policy to end the Crown's immunity where this is no longer necessary: for example, the NHS lost its immunity in 1991. The Crown includes government departments but also Her Majesty's private estates, the Crown Estate and the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall.

There is a second compelling reason as a result of infraction proceedings taken by the European Commission against the United Kingdom. The UK has now received an adverse judgment from the European Court of Justice for failing to transpose the environmental impact assessment directive completely. Although the directive has been transposed through planning regulations, these do not apply to the Crown because of the Crown's immunity. So there is no transposition for Crown land. Hence the UK, in this respect, is in breach of its obligations and has had to legislate to remedy this.

The main package of subordinate legislation required to bring Part 7 into force was laid before Parliament today and is due to come into force on 7 June. This consists of a commencement order and three other statutory instruments subject to the negative resolution procedure. These will apply existing planning subordinate legislation to the Crown with modifications where necessary. It will also amend the listed buildings and hazardous substances regulations, and provide rules covering the role of special advocates for planning cases with national security implications.

The Planning (Application to the Houses of Parliament) Order and its companion Order in Council, which contains consequential amendments, are instruments which we need in order to accommodate the unique position of this wonderful building and its precincts within the statutory planning system and, in particular, to ensure that the planning Acts and subordinate legislation made under them apply to Parliament. This order and the companion Order in Council will not come into force until about 29 June, as it would not be proper to put the consequential order before the Privy Council until this planning order had completed its progress through Parliament. The next Privy Council meeting is on 7 June. This means that there will be a short gap between the main Crown provisions coming into force and Parliament catching up, but we do not expect this to cause any difficulties in practice.

It might help noble Lords if I remind the House briefly why the Government are promoting this order. As I have said, the Crown's immunity from the planning system must end, both for general policy reasons and as a result of European Union infraction proceedings. The planning Acts will apply to Parliament as well as to the Crown and we need this order and the companion Order in Council to bring Parliament into the statutory system.
17 May 2006 : Column 339

In order for the Crown to be properly integrated into the statutory planning system, all categories of Crown land must be identified. Each category must have an "appropriate authority" that is able to interact with the local planning authority. Typically, this would be the government department owning or managing the land. "Crown land" is defined in the planning Acts as land in which there is a Crown interest or a Duchy interest. A "Crown interest" is defined to include an interest belonging to Her Majesty in right of the Crown or in right of her private estates, an interest belonging to a government department and such other interest as the Secretary of State specifies by order.

The Palace of Westminster is therefore Crown land because it is land in which there is a Crown interest, in this case an interest belonging to Her Majesty in right of the Crown. However, as I am sure noble Lords will know, in 1965 control of certain parts of the Palace passed from the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Queen's representative, to the Speaker, for the House of Commons' part of the building, and to the Lord Chancellor, for the Lords' part. The Lord Chamberlain retained responsibility for Her Majesty's Robing Room, the adjoining staircase and ante-room and the Royal Gallery, and retained responsibility for Westminster Hall and the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft jointly with the Speaker and Lord Chancellor.

The parts for which the Lord Chamberlain retains responsibility, and for which he is the appropriate authority, are set out in Section 293(2)(f) and (g) of the principal Act, as inserted by paragraph 6(4) of Schedule 3 to the 2004 Act. Similar provisions have been made in paragraphs 7 and 8 of Schedule 3 for the listed buildings Act and the hazardous substances Act respectively. I shall not mention these two Acts again to avoid over-complication. References to the "principal Act" therefore should be taken to refer to the equivalent provisions of the other two Acts.

Following the passage of the Parliamentary Corporate Bodies Act 1992, title to various buildings forming part of the parliamentary estate, but outside the Palace of Westminster, was transferred to the corporate officers. Notwithstanding that the Palace of Westminster as a whole is Crown land, the interests of the Houses of Parliament in the Palace are not Crown interests. To date, however, for the purposes of planning legislation the interests of the corporate officers have been treated as if they were Crown interests, and any development carried out by or on behalf of a corporate officer has been regarded as development carried out by or on behalf of the Crown. This is set out in the Parliamentary Corporate Bodies (Crown Immunities etc.) Order 1992 and brings us to the purpose of the order we are debating.

Because of the unique position of Parliament, express legislative provision has been made in the 2004 Act to provide that the planning Acts apply in relation to the Houses of Parliament and their interests in the Palace of Westminster and other land. That is provided partly in Section 112 of the Act—
17 May 2006 : Column 340
which says that the planning Acts and the 2004 Act have effect despite any rule of law relating to Parliament or the law and practice of Parliament—and partly through the order we are debating. In order for the Houses of Parliament to avoid being left in legislative limbo once the planning Acts apply to the Crown, it is necessary to define Parliament's interests as Crown interests. This is the purpose of Article 2(2) of the order. Once an interest has been defined, it is necessary to designate an appropriate authority, and this is the purpose of Article 3. For the purposes of the planning Acts, the appropriate authority has the power to make planning applications, give permission for enforcement action and act generally as the point of contact with the local planning authority. The effect of the order, when taken with Part 7 of the 2004 Act, will be that the Houses of Parliament and the corporate officers will be subject to planning Acts in relation to any development or works that they wish to carry out.

It might help the House if I clear up some potential technical queries at this stage. The significance of 23 March 1965 in Article 2(2) is that it is the date of a Statement on the management of the Houses of Parliament by the then Prime Minister, the late Harold Wilson—later a Member of this House—which transferred control of the Lords and the Commons to the respective Speakers of those Houses, to which I have already referred.

I am sure that noble Lords will know that, in Article 3, the corporate officers are the Clerk of the Parliaments for the House of Lords and the Under Clerk of the Parliaments for the House of Commons. Those officers were designated by Sections 1 and 2 of the Parliamentary Corporate Bodies Act 1992.

Some noble Lords might be wondering why all this is not in the 2004 Act, when we were able to specify part of the Palace of Westminster. The principle that the planning Acts and the 2004 Act apply to Parliament was confirmed by Section 112 of the 2004 Act. The details, however, were left to secondary legislation, given the undoubted complexity of the ownership and management arrangements of this place. That is why we have provided the enabling powers for this order in paragraph (c) of the definition of "Crown interest" in Section 293(1) of the principal Act and equivalents.

I hope that I have been able to explain adequately to the House why this order is needed and the context in which it is being made. It might also help to reassure the House that the order was prepared in consultation with the House authorities. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 19 April be approved [24th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Baroness Andrews.)

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page