Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

On individual applications, local people will again have a legal right, whatever site is involved; that is, the developer has to show that he has consulted local people. If the commission is not satisfied, it will be able to reject the application at that point. The independent commission can, of course, reject any application. That is the relationship between the statement of policy and the role of the commission. The local authority responds to the commission but continues to act as a local planning authority for everything else, including, we hope, in developing renewable energy in the way that I suggested.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, right at the end of the Statement, my noble friend included a sentence that I thought was remarkable and very welcome. She said that our reforms will put climate change and sustainable development where they belong, right at the heart of the planning system. Can she confirm that that objective takes precedence over other planning objectives? The achievement of faster planning permission could directly contradict that objective. Given the contribution that the unrestrained growth of aviation is making to climate change and CO2 emissions, it would surely be wholly inconsistent if the Government were committed to putting climate change and sustainable development at the heart of the planning system if at the same time they agreed to a third runway at Heathrow or a second at Stansted.

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, the foundation of our current planning system is governed by Planning Policy Statement 1, at the heart of which is sustainable development. That remains the most important statement we have of the need to make that a paramount consideration. For the first time, the national policy statement will integrate the range of issues that we need to address. Certainly, sustainability is primary to that. For the first time, we will have a mechanism for weighing up the benefits across the range of considerations, including economic sustainability in terms of the environment. As I say, we shall have, for the first time, a mechanism for doing that. However, sustainability remains at the heart of everything that we plan to do.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: My Lords, following on from the question of my noble friend Lord Faulkner, in view of the speed with which the evidence in relation to climate change is evolving and developing, will the Government apply a more precautionary principle in respect of development where climate change may be an issue when determining whether that development should go forward, because past evidence has tended to demonstrate that that principle has not been applied? I am not aware that it has at any time, but certainly climate change was still being debated very recently.

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, the national policy statements are intended to be living documents that can be updated as and when appropriate. My noble friend is right that the science is moving fast and we need to be on top of it. A whole range of things in the paper makes it possible to take climate change into account more quickly. We have a draft climate change planning policy statement, which is a new tool in our armoury of how we plan to cope with climate change. The process that we shall put in place will be speedier because the national debate on the role of renewables will have taken place. That means that, by the time a matter reaches the independent planning commission, it can be dealt with faster. That will make it easier to put renewables in place, if that is what is decided. A whole range of things is contained in the paper and applies in the context in which we are working, which will make us able to respond more quickly and more effectively.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we understand the advantages of speed in this process, but can the noble Baroness clarify whether there will be a right of appeal against a refusal from the independent planning commission?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, there will in the sense that the independent planning commission will be able to be challenged in the courts, but this planning system will have an integrity of its own. That is how I understand it. If I am wrong, I shall certainly write to the noble Lord.

Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, retuning to the free-for-all to which my noble friend Lord Howarth referred earlier, a considerable number of people live in listed buildings in conservation areas, as the Minister will be aware. Will the free-for-all extend as far as them, or will they continue to be bound by what are sometimes tedious and unnecessary restrictions?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, there are many defenders of the listed building system who are as vociferous in their defence of it as the noble Lord is critical. When it comes to looking at household development consent, we will have to have different regimes for different types of properties, because clearly we want to preserve the quality and integrity of our communities. We will be looking in our consultation document at how to deal with all types of properties.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I am still not clear about what will happen if the Government come forward with a new nuclear power programme and how that will fit in with the new national planning permission. Nuclear power stations are completely different; they have more implications for areas than normal power stations that are powered by gas or even coal. Bearing in mind that Sizewell B had a planning inquiry of about 10 years before it was agreed, I would be interested to know exactly who would be making the decisions. How long would they be likely to take? In particular, would all representations be properly heard by the commission?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, we will have a Statement on energy on Wednesday. Planning is a major issue for all energy sector investments. The noble Lord will also know that we have not taken a decision on whether to allow the private sector to invest in new nuclear power stations, so we will consult on that alongside the White Paper. In response to his question, the policy will be set by the Government, and their decision will be discussed and laid out in the national policy statement. That is where objections to the policy will be heard and challenged and, at some point, if an application from a developer comes forward to build, the process involving the independent planning commission starts. Essentially, it is in the national policy statement that the debate and the challenge will be heard.

Offender Management Bill

4.33 pm

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

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

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 [Meaning of “the probation purposes”]:

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 12:

The noble Baroness said: I will also speak to the other amendments in the group, which are on the same basis. They simply replace “Secretary of State” with “Lord Chancellor”. Two weeks ago, the Government split up the Home Office and transferred part of it to what is now the Ministry of Justice, which was the DCA. We still have a Lord Chancellor at its head, who sits as a Member of this House. Why does the Bill, which has been transferred to the Ministry of Justice for its handling and line of accountability, still refer to the Secretary of State?

I note that earlier this year when the Legal Services Bill was debated in this House, on the first day of Report, the Government conceded the arguments made by noble Lords that the references to “Secretary of State” should be substituted by “Lord Chancellor”. Why should that not be done in this Bill too? Noble Lords will note that I have not overtaxed the use of paper by trying to table an amendment referring to every single use of the phrase “Secretary of State”. If the noble Baroness was minded to accept the amendment, later amendments could be made. She looks as if she is not going to accept the amendment; oh dear, what a surprise. I beg to move.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I am always hesitant to disappoint the noble Baroness, but I hope that I will not disappoint her on this occasion, because she is quite right—I am unable to accede to her amendments. She will know, as I do, the distinction between this Bill and the Legal Services Bill, which looked directly at the role to be played by the Lord Chancellor, as Lord Chancellor, as opposed to as a Secretary of State discharging other duties. It is important that we concentrate on what this Bill is about, although it is fascinating to examine the changes in the machinery of government that occur from time to time.

This start to our discussions may be a helpful opportunity to consider the creation of the Ministry of Justice, which has generated much interest and debate. I remind the House that this debate is about not the Ministry of Justice but the Bill. Perhaps we should not allow ourselves to be distracted from the real issues that we are here to debate concerning the future of the Probation Service.

The Ministry of Justice came into existence on 9 May with one purpose only—to improve the justice system for the public. We will achieve that by bringing together many of the organisations, agencies and stakeholders who have to work together to deliver a successful justice system under the responsibility of one ministry. The Ministry of Justice provides an opportunity for the whole justice system to work together better than ever before. At a national policy level and at a local delivery level the Ministry of Justice will build on the significant improvements that we have seen since 1997 in how agencies work together and will provide clear leadership within government for the justice outcomes that best serve the public.

I turn now to the implications of this change to the Bill. Responsibility for this Bill has now transferred from the Home Office to the Ministry of Justice, as I said it would at Second Reading. I also made it clear that the Government remain fully committed to the policy provisions in the Bill and I am delighted to have the opportunity to continue to oversee the Bill’s passage through your Lordships’ House.

A number of amendments have been tabled in the light of that change. The noble Baroness has rightly raised this issue at this stage, but my noble friend Lord Judd has also referred to this by proposing a change to the commencement clause at Clause 38 which would substitute,

for the current term, “Secretary of State”. I am happy to say that none of these amendments is necessary. There is no legal distinction between the different Secretaries of State and it is a matter of mere administrative convenience that responsibilities are divided as they are, and it is not normal practice to make reference to any particular Secretary of State. So the existing references, though originally drafted with the Secretary of State for the Home Department in mind, can be applied in the same way to the Secretary of State for Justice. The amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Judd is, therefore, unnecessary.

The other amendments in the name of the noble Baroness seek to merge the posts of Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State. Those posts are quite separate and distinct, although they are, at present, both held by my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton. There are numerous references to the Lord Chancellor—

Lord Waddington: My Lords, is the Minister saying that the Secretary of State for Justice may not also be the Lord Chancellor?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am not saying that he may not, but the functions of the Lord Chancellor and those of the Secretary of State for Justice are separate. When we looked at what should remain as the core functions of the Lord Chancellor, we decided that they should not be subject to changes in the machinery of government in the normal way and that if the core functions of the Lord Chancellor were to be changed, one would have to come back to Parliament, which would have to speak.

The noble Lord will remember from his days in government as a Secretary of State that machinery-of-government changes can happen very quickly. Indeed, when the noble Lord’s party was in government, I recall occasions when a department was changed and neither the Ministers nor the officials knew anything about it until they read it in a press release. Of course, those days have changed somewhat, but machinery-of-government changes can still take place in that way.

We made a distinction between the Lord Chancellor’s core functions and an ordinary Secretary of State’s role. For example, before the Ministry of Justice changes, the Lord Chancellor retained certain specific functions as Lord Chancellor but he also had different functions as the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs. At present, those two posts happen to held by one person but at some future date, if another Administration wanted to do things differently, there would be nothing to prevent the two functions becoming separate because they are quite distinct.

There are numerous references to the Lord Chancellor in the statute book but, as I have tried to indicate, they relate primarily to functions associated with the judiciary. The functions with which the Bill is concerned are not judicial and it is therefore appropriate that they are exercised by the Secretary of State for Justice rather than the Lord Chancellor.

I hope that, in the light of that explanation, the noble Baroness will be content not to press her amendments. I invite her to look at the functions that we set out in the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, as that clearly delineated the functions that would be reserved to the Lord Chancellor and would not be subject to machinery-of-government changes.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I was intrigued by the way in which the Minister said that changes used to happen quickly and without consultation and that things are much better now. I recall, not so long ago, the Government scribbling on the back of an envelope and trying to abolish the role of Lord Chancellor overnight. The next morning, they found that—whoops!—they were not allowed to do so constitutionally and they had to go back to square one. So I do not think that the noble Baroness can claim virtue in that respect.

The noble Baroness talked about the distinction between the two posts. I am very grateful for the probing questions put by my noble friend Lord Waddington because it is important for the noble Baroness to put her clarification on the record. I shall ask my noble friend Lord Kingsland to look through that for future reference to see whether we wish to pursue this matter further.

I also noticed that the noble Baroness said that it is not normal practice to refer in legislation to any particular Secretary of State. She said that in relation to Amendment No. 137, which the noble Lord, Lord Judd, who is not with us at the moment, may wish to move when we reach that stage of the Bill—one knows not. I am not sure whether the Minister is aware of recent developments in the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Bill, which purports to be a Private Member’s Bill but has in fact been rewritten by the Government—very effectively in many respects. In that Bill, the Government accepted an amendment proposed by me and put their name to it. That makes it clear that not all Secretaries of State are the same, as some are excluded from having powers under that Bill. So it appears that there can be occasions when it is right to refer to a specific Secretary of State, and that may assist the noble Lord, Lord Judd, later.

I accept entirely what the Minister said was a core point—that is, with regard to this Bill, these are not judicial functions. Certainly, the Lord Chancellor has a variety of titles and it will be interesting to see which ones he continues to use, but I do not intend to press this amendment or to return to it on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 13:

The noble Baroness said: With this amendment, we challenge the Government’s intentions regarding the future use of conditional cautions. The expansion of their use as a punishment could have significant impact on the work of the probation services, which are core to the Bill. The last paragraph of Clause 1 gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations that can extend the purposes listed in subsection (1), which we debated last week. He may extend those purposes to include other purposes relating to persons charged with, or convicted of, offences or persons to whom conditional cautions are given.

4.45 pm

My amendment would prevent the Secretary of State adding extra purposes relating to those who are given conditional cautions. What extra purposes can the Government have in mind? The Minister will recall that, during the passage of the Police and Justice Bill, we expressed our concerns about the Government’s plans to extend widely the use of conditional cautions and in particular to change the purposes for which they can be imposed. I made it clear that we continued to support the provisions launched by the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which introduced conditional cautions intended to facilitate the rehabilitation of the offender or to ensure that the offender makes reparation—note that it provides for rehabilitation and reparation. But in the Police and Justice Act the Government took the power for conditional cautions to be imposed as a punishment. My colleague Nick Herbert expressed our concerns in another place about the extension of the purpose of cautions to include punishment, but at that time, after much consideration, we agreed that the clause should remain in the Bill while we assessed the impact of the new proposals, when implemented, on cautioning.

I also put on the record our concern about the developments in government policy since the clause was debated in another place. Mr Blair had announced the intention dramatically to increase the use of administrative punishment and to avoid the use of the courts. There was no proper public debate on that matter. In March this year the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General sent me a copy of the consultation on the revised code of practice for conditional cautioning, and I am grateful to him for doing so. When are we likely to see the results of that consultation?

Page four of the consultation paper refers to the rolling-out of the pre-Police and Justice Act cautioning—conditions for rehabilitation or reparation. The Attorney-General’s letter stated that a national roll-out was under way and that the Government were on target to have a conditional cautioning scheme operating in one basic command unit in every force area in England and Wales by summer 2007 and that full implementation of the scheme was planned for March 2008. He added that the Government hoped to introduce the new punitive measures on a phased basis from autumn 2007, so all those changes will take place when the Bill comes into effect and they will have an impact on how contestability in the Bill may operate.

What assessment has been made of the impact of the roll-out on probation services’ resources and their dispersal between the different tasks that the services need to fulfil? What extra funds have been needed so far to cover the supervision of those on conditional cautions? What new funds have the Government set aside to cover all the extra work that will follow for probation services when the conditional caution is used widely as a punishment? One assumes that the costs are likely to be heavier since there will be more resistance to fulfilling any directions that are overtly a punishment as opposed to those intended as part of a system of rehabilitation.

How do the Government intend to use the powers in subsection (5) to extend the purposes relating to conditional cautions? What impact will that have on the probation services and the cost of running the associated services? I beg to move.

Lord Hylton: In the Bill,

should not be included with those charged or convicted because they are in a completely different category. I am among those who have supported, and want to continue to support, restorative justice. Conditional cautioning fits in very well with that. On those grounds I support the amendment.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: There is a larger underlying point that we should mark as we go past. If we are introducing contestability, the question of how far private providers of services should provide punishment will come up more and more. If a conditional caution is to be defined as a punishment, it raises some awkward questions about the contestability of services. I firmly hold the view that punishment should be provided by the state and its officers, not private service providers. That is something we must debate each time this arises in the Bill.

Baroness Linklater of Butterstone: I support the amendment. As we all know, and as has been mentioned, conditional cautions were introduced in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and are a form of administrative justice. They offer an alternative to entering the criminal justice system for low-level offending and are greatly to be welcomed as a brake on what can be seen as a recent creeping tendency for sentencing to widen the net and for offenders to become criminalised at an earlier stage.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page