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We know, too, that under the householder development consents review consideration has been given to taking decisions on small-scale planning applications out of the hands of local elected members. That would involve “approved agents” certifying the lawfulness of proposals after only limited consultation with affected parties. Whether the Government intend to move in this direction in the Bill we cannot know until we see it, but I hope that the Minister will be wise enough to leave that alone and to leave planning development control in the hands of elected councillors.



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There is a lot to come and we look forward to the discussions that will take place. Again, I congratulate noble Lords who have made their maiden speeches. We look forward to the future.

4.11 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My Lords, this has been a worthy debate on the gracious Speech. It has been passionate and informed, and has been greatly enhanced by the four maiden speeches made by my two noble friends, the noble Lord, Lord Bruce-Lockhart, who is a noble friend to the front line of local government—who I am sure will read his speech with great interest—and the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, who showed that passion and expertise cross all boundaries. I know that the cause of local government and democracy, which I will talk about if my voice holds out—I sound like Marlon Brandon, I think—could have no more authoritative champion than the noble Lord, Lord Bruce-Lockhart, to whom we do and will listen closely. Later, I shall respond to some of the things that he has said.

Of course, I am extraordinarily delighted to have my noble friends Lady Ford and Lady Jones behind me on these Benches: they have an enormous wealth of expertise. My noble friend Lady Ford spoke with more authority than I could about the power of regeneration and the extent of the transformation that is taking place in building new and reclaiming old communities in our country. It was led by English Partnerships and, in many ways, by my noble friend Lady Ford. I look forward, as she does, to the publication of the review on housing regeneration. As regards my noble friend Lady Jones, in this House we are building up a very nice component of the Welsh non-conformist mafia—boots or not. I am delighted that she gave a tour d’horizon of the Government’s achievement in housing, but not only from a personal perspective, which was incredibly influential over the years; she also reminded us that it is the 40th anniversary of Shelter. We in government will not forget that or our commitment to provide more social homes.

The noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, set out the global dimensions of climate change in very powerful, as well as personal, detail. I would not say that climate change has dominated this debate, but it has been a recurrent theme. I assure the noble Lord that we are of one mind on responsibility for reducing climate change—it rests not just with government but with every one of us. My noble friend Lord Soley and the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, provided outstanding examples of how that can be achieved. I also assure the noble Lord that the search for a global solution to climate change is why David Miliband has been in Kenya this week for the twelfth round of the UN climate change negotiations. Talks have focused on help for developing countries, particularly the poorest countries, Africa and how we might adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change. Each of our maiden speakers suggested the contribution that they

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will make. This House is greatly enhanced by their presence and I very much look forward to debating and working with them.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, said that this has been a relatively coherent debate, and indeed that is so. Sometimes when we debate the gracious Speech we search for connectivity between topics, but what we have been addressing today is perfectly obvious: it is all about sustainability, communities and the relationship between them. We have discussed local government, transport, agriculture and the environment, all matters which go to the heart of the way we live, how we behave and how we will have to change in the future. The common thread has been to ask how we can live more successfully as a community, whether it be local or global, and how to sustain communities so that they are resilient, prosperous, kind and inclusive in a world where we face an unprecedented set of challenges ranging from the impact of globalisation on our economies to maintaining the vitality and veracity of democracy. If how to do that was not insufficient in itself, it must be done in the uncomfortable knowledge that our behaviour, aspirations and activities are changing and damaging the world. Unlike previous generations we have the scientific knowledge to predict change, let alone the rather ghastly example cited by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, but we have to show that we have the wisdom to anticipate and manage it.

These are profound issues and it was evident that today we have crossed geographical and political boundaries. This is a common search and probably the greatest challenge any government have ever had to face. Earlier my noble friend Lord Rooker set out how we are addressing these challenges in different ways. We are committed to strong and prosperous communities, to giving local people and communities more influence and power to improve their lives, to devolving decision-making, to transforming public services and to creating the conditions in which communities can thrive with strong economies that are provided with the infrastructure they need, as well as protecting and enhancing the environment by creating places that are well designed and well run. These are major challenges and at their heart, as the Prime Minister has said, is local government, which,

Here I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bruce-Lockhart. This is not something about which people are apathetic. They are not apathetic about the quality of services. Local government shapes the places we live in, ensures our security and the education our children receive, as well as the healthcare we rely on. It also manages public transport and decent neighbourhoods. We are very ambitious for reform. When we set our White Paper before the House some weeks ago, we proposed no less than a new settlement with local government, communities and citizens. That is reflected in the legislation we are bringing forward. It is our ambition and our intention to revive democracy through the support we give local government, and it has been described, again by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce-Lockhart—this is the last time I shall quote him—as a “wonderful opportunity” for it.



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I have listened closely to noble Lords today and I have picked up signs of support for the White Paper. I am delighted that we shall be able to join in common cause on so many values and processes. Yes, there will be differences perhaps about the nature of leadership, but there will not be differences about our commitment to what we want local government to be able to do and the strength of partnership. This is greater devolution, and within that concept we include deregulation: far fewer targets, far more scope for local decision-making; far more visibility and therefore far more trust and accountability between the community and the citizen, the leadership and the council.

We want local authorities to have a stronger role in leading their communities, and the point is that we are doing this not just with the blessing of the entire Government—every department has a relationship with local government—but with the support and blessing in large measure of local government itself. So I did react strongly when the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, used the term “fascist”. I despair that he read the White Paper for a second time and found no clues to the seriousness with which we are putting councillors and the community at its heart, and how we intend to ensure delivery on that. It is the sound of the bigger voice of the community and extended powers of scrutiny, the ability to pass by-laws, have single member wards and to create parish councils. It will improve the conduct regime and reduce targets and inspection. These are all practical and effective ways not only to bring about deregulation, but to create devolution.

But it does not stop there. That is only the first step; we will go on. The Leitch review on skills, the Barker review on planning and the housing of a generation review are all coming forward in ways which will build up local accountability and responsibility.

As to council tax, I will repeat what the noble Baroness has heard me say many times before, probably to the point of boring her: we are working very closely with Sir Michael Lyons. These are not separate streams; they are very much convergent. We are working together with him and he will report at the end of the year. I say again, it is wrong to suggest that the current revaluation in Northern Ireland is a testing ground for England. It is equally wrong to think that the Burt report from Scotland has anything to do with council tax or any other aspect of local government funds. We wait to see what Sir Michael Lyons says.

As regards the GLA Bill, London is an extraordinarily complex city which is growing at a greater rate than many of our European competitors. I agree that we are not competitive enough and that we have to make ourselves so. The GLA Bill will deliver a set of robust powers for the Mayor of London and the London Assembly to improve the health and well-being of those who live in the capital and I look forward to discussing it in due course.

My second theme is that of building communities that are sustainable and cohesive because they are prosperous. Whether we are talking about the

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renaissance of our great cities, our rural economy or bringing new life and hope to the most disadvantaged, we have to make sure that the economic and social infrastructure is in place. We have a very stable macroeconomic framework with low inflation and low interest rates, but we are ambitious for our cities in particular to become more competitive so that new life flows into the peripheral estates and brings jobs and skills.

We have spoken in passing about land use, planning and housing. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, took us through many of the different aspects of housing and regeneration; the decent homes, the reduction in the amount of homelessness and the increasing housing supply that we have been able to achieve in government. We want to go further in each of those areas. We have to manage not only the decline of our northern cities to bring new life and hope, but also to manage the aspirations of those who want to live in the south-east where households are outstripping housing supply.

Turning briefly to planning reform, there is no planning Bill. We anticipate a White Paper on planning which, despite the many improvements and achievements in recent years of which the planning authorities and the professions should be proud, will bring together the three strands of reform in the planning system which are being considered by Kate Barker, Rod Eddington and the Energy Challenge. This includes the infrastructure and the White Paper will look at how we can best manage, for example, major projects. I am afraid that I can say no more than that; the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, will have to be a little more patient. We are still looking at some of the options for the planning-gain supplement.

Decent and affordable transport is absolutely fundamental to sustainability and social inclusion. We heard three magnificent erudite speeches about transport. Indeed, I am not entirely sure that I shall be able to answer many of the issues that were raised, but I shall certainly write to noble Lords. That debate has taken place in the context of considerable investment in recent years and we have seen the difference in better punctuality and better trains; I have seen it for myself as a commuter. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, who pointed out what we inherited when we took over Network Rail, for example—a legacy of bankruptcy and chaos.

As to the legislation we are bringing forward, the Crossrail Bill will pave the way for a very important project to tackle congestion in London. It will provide an incredible opportunity for growth. I shall write to my noble friend about the funding. I can tell the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that the Secretary of State has said that decisions about funding will not be taken until after the Lyons review because of the need to establish the appropriate balance of funding between London and the national taxpayer for Crossrail.

The noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, asked about devolution. The Concessionary Bus Travel Bill will be an England-only scheme. He is well aware, I am sure,

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that travel is a devolved matter. We have been discussing the desirability and practicality of reciprocal arrangements, and I shall write to him with more detail.

We are travelling more, and we intend to travel more. On rail franchises, the current system is delivering—1 billion passenger journeys were made last year, 40 per cent more than 10 years ago. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, knows this, but he will also know that the Government have yet to provide their response to the recent Select Committee report. If he will be patient, some of his questions may be answered in the response, as others may be answered next summer when we put out our high-level output specification for 2009-10.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, mentioned the marine Bill. I sympathise with her frustration. It will be an extremely complex Bill covering every aspect of our coastal and marine life. We have had extensive consultation, have received many serious responses and are talking to experts in the field. We wish to move quickly to put more detailed proposals in the public domain and are working to publish a further consultation on the marine Bill in the new year. So it is work in progress. We have to get it right because it will be too difficult and too problematic if we get it wrong.

On agriculture and the rural economy, I was particularly pleased that my noble friend Lord Bach took part in the debate, because he was such a champion of strong and sustainable rural communities. I was glad that so many people recognised that there was a reason to be cheerful about parts of the farming industry. I took the points made by the noble Lords, Lord Inglewood, Lord Plumb and Lord Mackie, about the state of the dairy industry. I cannot be too categorical because I am no expert, but we are aware of concerns and of the work done by the Competition Commission. I am so sorry to disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, but I will have to write to him about Milk Marque. He deserves a proper answer, and I do not think I can give him one from the Dispatch Box. However, the industry is starting to respond. We are seeing increasing signs of innovation. We are supporting the efforts to make this industry flourish in a way that it has been unable to do. We have put in £1.6 billion of EU and Government money into the England Rural Development Programme.

Funding for flooding, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, has gone up by 35 per cent in real terms since 1996. We have certainly not cut the capital budget. In our planning statement PPS25, we will be looking at sustainability in relation to flooding.

On post offices, my ministerial colleagues are working very closely with the Post Office on the future of the network.

Let me reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, that Defra has protected the start-up costs of Natural England. They have not been cut. I refer to what my noble friend said earlier.

On the Climate Change Bill, we are the first generation to have to face the fact that human activity is changing the climate, but we have predictive

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capacity, evidence and organisational capacity. The Stern report, so widely quoted, has made it clear that if we carry on as we are, there is a 50:50 risk of an increase of 5 per cent in the temperature of the planet. Sir Nicholas says in a report that is the opposite of alarmist that that would take humans into unknown territory. We have already proved part of his thesis; mitigation is an investment. We have shown in the past decade that it is possible to reduce emissions and nurture growth. It is true that while we produce only 2 per cent of the world’s total emissions, we are among the most intensive users of energy and we have a practical as well as a moral obligation to show leadership. We showed that leadership in the G8, in Europe and in the way in which we have worked with the World Bank to develop a clean energy investment framework. We have shown it in the range of instruments that we already have in place, including the climate change levy, to change behaviour. We are well on target to meet our Kyoto obligations. We are improving the energy efficiency of our new homes by 40 per cent compared to 2002. We have the intelligence and the technology to ensure that all our new building meets those standards.

The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, made a very good case for the way in which we must balance economic and environmental considerations. Under our presidency of the EU and the EU Emissions Council, we pushed the idea that aviation must be included in the emissions trading scheme. We are very conscious that this is our best and first choice—and we shall continue to address the issue. The Commission aims to bring forward legislative proposals by the end of 2006, and we hope that that will include aviation emissions.

Our Climate Change Bill is at the heart of the obligation to produce a clear and credible framework for action. That action will be through enabling and setting targets, which we are determined to meet—and we are well on good track with regard to Kyoto. We have set up the independent carbon committee to help us to do that. We have not gone for annual targets because they are simply impractical. To give one example, our own scientists and the Met Office show that annual fluctuations in the weather can cause big impacts on emissions, as people turn up their heating. It is far more sensible to set in place a long-term framework which meets our goals of steady and continuous emissions reductions towards our 2050 target.

We could have had a debate on each part of the Queen’s Speech and the core areas that we have discussed today. It has not been possible, but it has been a most thoughtful and constructive debate. Creating strong and prosperous communities should be central to the mission of any Government—it certainly is to ours. I am sorry that I have not been able to address all the questions raised by noble Lords, but I promise to read Hansard carefully and ensure that questions are answered in the coming days. I am grateful to the House for the contributions made today.



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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I beg to move that the debate be now adjourned until Monday 20 November.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly until Monday 20 November.

Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill [HL]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to make provision about tribunals and inquiries, to establish an administrative, justice and tribunals council; to amend the law relating to judicial appointments; to amend the law relating to the enforcement of judgments and debts; to make further provision about the management and relief of debt; to make provision protecting cultural objects from seizure or forfeiture in certain circumstances; to amend the law relating to the taking of possession of land affected by compulsory purchase; to alter the powers of the High Court in judicial review applications; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.—(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

London Local Authorities Bill [HL]

The Chairman of Committees informed the House that, in accordance with SO 150A (Suspension of Bills), the bill had been deposited in the Office of the Clerk of the Parliaments together with the declaration of the agent. The bill was presented and read a first time. It was then deemed to have been read a second time, reported from the Select Committee and from the Unopposed Bill Committee.

Transport for London Bill [HL]

The Chairman of Committees informed the House that, in accordance with SO 150A (Suspension of Bills), the bill had been deposited in the Office of the Clerk of the Parliaments together with the declaration of the agent. The bill was presented and read a first time. It was then deemed to have been read a second time, reported from the Select Committee and re-committed to an Unopposed Bill Committee.

Whitehaven Harbour Bill [HL]

The Chairman of Committees informed the House that, in accordance with SO 150A (Suspension of Bills), the bill had been deposited in the Office of the Clerk of the Parliaments together with the declaration of the agent. The bill was presented and read a first time. It was then deemed to have been read a second time and committed to an Unopposed Bill Committee.


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