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Sixty years on, we are asking the same questions, and with the same intensity, that characterised the debate on the Town and Country Planning Act 1947. David Kynaston’s book Austerity Britain describes the ferment of activity and ideas in the debate on planning at the end of the war, and what came to fruition and what did not. We have had a catalogue of failures in many respects, judging by what noble Lords have said—not least the noble Lord, Lord Low, and the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker. We know the price of dysfunctional buildings and monolithic estates. I welcome this debate because it gives me a chance to set out why I know that the future can and will be different.

We have to recognise that things have changed. Since 2004, there has been a cultural change in the climate of planning—not least with spatial planning. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that we want to see planning become part of the proactive

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stage of design and thinking, rather than the reactive stage of mitigation. Planning must go to the heart of policy-making in local government, not stay on the periphery. We can only make friends—and this is crucial—for the sort of housing and community growth that we need if we put such high and irresistible importance on design and quality that people see housing growth as an opportunity for building to the best and most desirable standards. We must create places where people want both to live and to be, so it covers private and public spaces.

Let me take as my text the housing Green Paper published in 2007, which set out key actions that recognise and harness the inspirational power of the very best to make good and very good development the norm, ensure that new homes and places meet everyone’s needs by embedding principles of inclusive design, and work to speed up the system. The noble Lord, Lord Patten, along with the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, was absolutely right to put domestic architecture at the centre of the challenge we face. All these principles will be tested on whether they work in relation to our domestic buildings.

It is easy to celebrate the best. The noble Lords, Lord Rogers of Riverside, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank and Lord Carlile, celebrated the work of our most inspirational architects and our best places. My noble friend Lord Sawyer spoke powerfully about the changes in Teesside. Recognising and harnessing the inspirational power of the very best is actually relatively easy to do because, however we describe the value of design and the passage from aesthetics to functionality, there is a simple test. They create places where people want to be, whether it is the forecourt of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Sheffield Peace Gardens or Cardiff Bay. All these are places which people colonise.

However, this is also about shaping less glamorous places. As the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and my noble friend Lord Sawyer pointed out, there are areas in the north of England and the east Midlands where we need to encourage character and memory as well as providing more choice and quality for a new generation. Achieving that will mean that people will want to live in these places again. This is one of the many ways in which the partnership between English Heritage and CABE can help. Master-planning and advising on procurement and preferred developers are crucial, but the most critical challenge lies in shaping the places where people will live in the future. This was alluded to by many noble Lords, but particularly the noble Lord, Lord Patten. I refer here to urban extensions and settlements in the Thames Gateway, growth areas such as in Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Corby, Portsmouth and Southampton, and developments such as Northstowe. These are brownfield and greenfield sites with settlements to build around, but which allow us to imagine the future. It is in these places that volume builders, local authorities and delivery agents are under the most intense scrutiny because they know that the past will not serve the future. The message is loud and clear: no more monolithic housing estates and no more “character” of the kind described by the noble Lord, Lord Patten.

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We want well designed, diverse, mixed housing for people who may both live and work at home in the future.

This is not just about architecture. The signals we are sending represent a leap of faith because much of this is in development, but it is clear that people have definitely got the message. I shall return to that when I come to talk about local authorities. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Rogers, that the Thames Gateway is not an empty brownfield site; it is a place with a wonderfully diverse history. By bringing in CABE, developing design pacts with local authorities and setting targets for design, we are in with a chance of creating a very good site.

One of the privileges of my job is to visit the best and the worst in terms of housing development. Recently I have seen three examples where building for the future has come alive for me in extremely powerful ways. The first is the Sherwood Energy Village. It has been built on an old coalfield site by people from the community who have designed the housing and new industrial site in such a way that it is completely eco-efficient. It is a splendid example of what the community itself can achieve when it has a mind to do so. Returning to our debate and the discussion about design review panels, of course there is a case for not leaving all this in the hands of experts; we do not need to do that. Community involvement is a mark of the way we have changed our approach to planning, and it is an extremely powerful and effective development.

Next week I will be visiting a 2,500-acre site near Peterborough originally owned by Hanson plc and now with O&H Hampton. What is important about this site is the extraordinary way in which green space and water resources are at the heart of the whole community. Water will be recycled in many different ways and there is enormous potential for open parkland as well as developing a dense site.

Last week I visited Southampton, a Living Places priority—one of five sites—which is building regeneration through culture. Its arts centres and visual art commitment will be driving much of the connection between its old estates and its new city centre development. These are inspirational, leading-edge sites. We are good at competitions and awards; we can do things to inspire competition. The challenge is making good and very good development the norm. The Government have to shape a vision, articulate an ambition and create a framework, incentives and conditions.

Some noble Lords, not least my noble friend Lord Howarth, invited us to think about more statutory duties to ensure that local authorities consider design quality when assessing planning applications, but other noble Lords, by reference to PPS 1, PPS 3 or statutory guidance, demonstrated the case better than I can that we do not need more statutory powers; that is not what will guarantee that local authorities are encouraged and enabled.

We have to make the best of what we have, particularly following on from the Urban Task Force and the creation of CABE, for which I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Howarth, who was its midwife,

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using the partnerships and the tools that we have, which are relatively recent but which make some powerful levers. CABE inspires, assists, guides and demonstrates the value of design, not least in some of the public buildings that the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, spoke about, particularly in relation to health. There is some extraordinarily good work going on in public health design. We are talking about well-being—better people and better places. We are working closely with CABE. We fund it to the tune of about £11 million to £12 million, which along with the sustainable communities fund has, I think, made the single most important difference.

There is a raft of good advice in relation to housing, as the noble Lord, Lord Best, knows. We have design and access statements and a whole raft of design guidance, which enables people to plan more effectively for better town centres—we can design out crime. We take extremely seriously the status and capacity of training in local authorities. A great deal of research is in place to scope the nature of the problem. A lot of that has come from the Egan review, but I cannot answer the noble Lord’s question despite the fact that he gave me infinitely generous warning; I will have to write. I will say something more about skills in a moment.

This is about dissemination on the ground, whether through the Millennium Communities programme or Design for Manufacture. What excites me is the possibility of demonstrating how best design can work for the future. I am thinking of the opportunities for sustainability in our ecotowns and our need, as the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, said, to address the problems of reducing energy consumption, as we have already begun to do through building regulations. Our ageing strategy will give us the enormous opportunity to place both economic and social sustainability together in inclusive design.

As to what we should do, I will start by saying that no one should be in any doubt about what we as a Government want. There is no shortage of leadership or confusion over the statutory framework. There is no excuse for any local authority not to know how and where to obtain help, to plan creatively from the start of development and to get local people involved in planning for community involvement. The challenge is to remove some of the cultural and practical barriers in order to give quality the priority that we have spoken about, to build confidence that people can understand what design is, to address the skills shortage, to put more champions in place and to create advocacy throughout the system. We are on the way.

CABE is critical to all this: Building for Life, the document that it put together with the Home Builders Federation, asks 20 questions to assess design quality in new homes. It helps developers and local authorities to understand what makes a high-quality scheme. We have design reviews, the CABE enabling service and CABE Space. There is no way that a local authority can hide behind an assertion that it does not know where to go for advice. As confidence and discrimination grow, so will the ability to turn down poorly designed proposals.

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Design review panels are in seven out of nine regions at the moment. Of course there should be nine—that is what we want—and I will think hard about the arguments that have been made about expanding their scope. We are tackling the lack of design through the use of regional centres of excellence. We are asking regional and local partners—higher education institutes, architecture and design centres, professional bodies—to work with the RDAs to determine the best approach to improving skills and training in each area. That is critical and it is why, following the Egan review, we created the admirable Academy for Sustainable Communities, which promotes not just design and architectural skills in the community but social skills—how to build the sort of communities that we want to see in the future. It is identifying gaps in the provision and how to fill them. CLG itself has grown another 513 high-calibre graduate students across the planning profession. In the future, planning must not be the preserve of planners or geographers; we need the social scientists, the linguists and the critical thinkers to come into planning and be creative. Ultimately, we need more incentives.

With specific regard to the title of the debate, we asked, in a recent consultation on the housing and planning delivery grant, how we might provide incentives to encourage better design through that grant. We are looking now at the responses; I hope that that will be very powerful. The housing Green Paper also set out how we would examine options for a quality assurance scheme. Working on that with CABE will take us forward into a possibility of incentivising local authorities. We have the Bill on the Homes and Communities Agency, which will give us the opportunity to bring all this together.

The Planning Bill gives us another opportunity. I look forward to the debates that I will have with the noble Lord, Lord Best, and with my noble friends Lady Whitaker and Lord Howarth on how we use that Bill to promote design. In that Bill—I say this in response to the noble Lord, Lord Rogers of Riverside—we are streamlining the infrastructure so that, if we have to have an inquiry on another terminal or runway at Heathrow, it will not, we hope, take seven years. That can only be good.

I shall conclude not with a reiteration of the quotation from Bevan because we heard that resonant call earlier—although I am tempted—but with a quotation from Churchill, who said:

He might have added, “We shape places; thereafter they shape us, too”. I would like to see people from Barcelona coming to visit places such as Middlesbrough, Birmingham, Newcastle and Liverpool and saying, “This is the best that can be done. We want something of this”. I am grateful to my noble friend for giving us the opportunity to have this debate.

Lord Low of Dalston: My Lords, the Minister has outlined the vision and the aspiration quite admirably, but does she agree with me that the trick will be to make the leap from aspiration to implementation and to ensure that there is no disconnect between the two? I agree with her that CABE will be critical to doing that.

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Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord but this is not quite the procedure that takes place. However, I am sure that my noble friend has taken the noble Lord’s message on board.

4.29 pm

Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to every noble Lord who spoke for the quality of their speeches. They spoke with knowledge, insight and feeling. It is a vast subject and no doubt we would all like to have been able to talk about aspects of it other than those that we covered. I would have liked to have been able to say something about the architects and the buildings that I personally admire but it is invidious to pick out individual architects, as it is invidious to pick out individual speeches. I will, however, take that risk and just mention that I am a great admirer of the architecture of my noble friend Lord Rogers of Riverside. His participation in this debate as one of the leading architects of our times added yet further distinction to it.

There has been much unanimity. It can be dull if there is excessive agreement in a debate so, prompted by something that the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said, I will court controversy by suggesting that this is not a debate that could have taken place in an elected House. The depth of expertise in this Chamber is such that that is unimaginable. But let us return to that upon which we more easily agree around the House. Every noble Lord who spoke expressed a deep conviction about the value of good architecture and design. We were all happy to acknowledge the abundance of excellent architecture and design in this country. But at the same time we know that iconic buildings are not enough and every speaker expressed deep frustration and, indeed, anger at the poverty and inadequacy of too much of the design around us.

We will very shortly scrutinise the Housing and Regeneration Bill and the Planning Bill in this House. That will give us an opportunity to return to these issues. In the mean time I particularly thank the Minister. We can all take satisfaction from her personal commitment to the cause of good architecture and good design. I know that she will be ready to engage in debate with those of us who may wish to revert to the issue of whether guidance is sufficient or whether we will need to strengthen legislation to lay statutory duties upon those who have responsibility to ensure that we do better. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Early Removal of Fixed-Term Prisoners (Amendment of Eligibility Period) Order 2008

4.32 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 12 March be approved.

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, I also wish to speak to the Early Removal of Short-Term and Long-Term Prisoners (Amendment of Requisite Period) Order 2008. My purpose today is to discuss amendments to the early removal scheme for determinate sentence prisoners who are liable to deportation or administrative removal from the United Kingdom. These orders set out the Government’s proposals to extend the early removal scheme to enable prisoners to be removed up to a maximum of 270 days early rather than the current 135. This is the first time these specific order-making powers have been used.

The early removal scheme in respect of foreign national prisoners has been successfully in operation since 2004 and more than 3,000 prisoners have been removed to their country of origin under the scheme. The scheme applies only to those foreign national prisoners who are able to be removed to their country of origin. Such prisoners benefit from the scheme only if their removal from the UK can be given immediate effect. We have been working to ensure that arrangements are in place to enable us to remove prisoners to their country of origin.

Prisoners serving a life or indeterminate sentence are not eligible to be considered for removal under the scheme. Determinate sentence prisoners serving a sentence of four years and over under the Criminal Justice Act 1991 for a sexual or violent offence are removed under the scheme only if the Parole Board considers that they would present an acceptable risk to the community. Details of prisoners removed under the scheme are placed on the Home Office’s warnings index. Should they seek to return to the UK during their sentence they can be detected by the border control officer on arrival at the UK border, and returned to prison custody until the point at which they would have been released had they not otherwise been removed.

Based on the successful experience of the last three and a half years, and in particular our increasing experience of and success in securing travel documents from overseas countries and making other arrangements with them that enable us to remove prisoners, we believe the scheme can make an even greater contribution to removing criminals from our shores.

As of December 2007, there were 11,310 foreign national prisoners in the prison system, representing 14 per cent of the total prison population. Foreign national prisoners represent a significant proportion of the prison population, although it is low in comparison to many other European countries. The early removal scheme has a positive impact on the prison population. Moreover, we have made it clear that our objective is that foreign national prisoners should face deportation when they meet the relevant criteria and that deportation should happen as early as possible in their sentence. These proposals are entirely consistent with overall government policy.

The Criminal Justice Act 1991 and the Criminal Justice Act 2003 empower the Secretary of State to remove foreign national prisoners from prison early for the purpose of removing them from the United Kingdom. This is formally known as the early

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removal scheme. To qualify for the scheme, a prisoner must be liable to deportation or administrative removal, in accordance with immigration legislation. The statutory instruments amend the relevant provisions in both Acts to expand the early removal scheme to enable foreign national prisoners liable to deportation or removal from the UK to be removed from prison, and hence from the UK, at an earlier point in their sentence than is currently the case. The instruments double the maximum number of days from which a prisoner may be removed from prison under the scheme from 135 days before the halfway point of the sentence to 270 days before the halfway point of the sentence.

The ERS provisions under the Criminal Justice Act 1991 apply to those prisoners who are liable to removal and are serving a sentence of less than 12 months or a determinate sentence in respect of an offence committed before 4 April 2005. The statutory instrument amends Section 46A of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, which enables the Secretary of State to remove from prison early short-term and long-term foreign national prisoners who are liable to deportation or administrative removal and are subject to the release provisions of the 1991 Act. Section 46A(6) provides the Secretary of State with the power to amend the definition of “requisite period”, being the period prisoners must serve before becoming eligible for removal from prison under the ERS. There is a tapering mechanism, which means that the requisite period that must be served will be dependent on the length of the sentence.

The order provides that a prisoner liable to removal and serving less than three years must serve one-quarter of the term before they can be removed from prison. The effect is that prisoners serving less than three months will now be eligible for the ERS, whereas under the current provisions they are not so eligible. Those prisoners serving more than three months but less than four months will be required to serve a quarter of the term. Currently, they must serve 30 days. This means that they will be eligible for removal earlier then they are currently. Prisoners serving 18 months or more, but less than three years, will be required to serve one-quarter of the term. Currently, they can be removed up to 135 days before the halfway point of their sentence. This means that they will be eligible for removal earlier than they are currently. Prisoners serving three years or more will be able to benefit by up to the maximum period of 270 days. Prisoners serving four months or more, but less than 18 months, will not be affected by this draft order.

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 applies to prisoners who are liable to removal and are serving a sentence of 12 months or more in respect of an offence committed after 3 April 2005. Section 260 of that Act contains the relevant early removal scheme provisions. The provisions are very similar to those of the Criminal Justice Act 1991. The draft Early Removal of Fixed-Term Prisoners (Amendment of Eligibility Period) Order amends the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to expand the ERS to enable foreign national prisoners to be removed from prison up to a

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maximum of 270 days before the end of the custodial period. Again, this is the first time that this order-making power has been used.

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