|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, we have certainly learnt from experience, which is why we will not, for example, build housing estates that do not have community facilities and a community spirit and that were such a problem in the 1960s. We can learn from the new towns, but this is the challenge that we will meet in our generation: to build sustainably and to
2 Jun 2008 : Column 8
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, does the Minister accept that there may be a danger of losing the support of the public if eco-town proposals are in essence repackaged projects that were rejected on planning grounds? I am thinking particularly of Pembury. On a more technical point, do the Government have a view about the optimum population size of eco-towns, for instance to ensure a good range of employment to reduce travelling elsewhere?
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, we are not looking at failed or recycled schemes. The schemes must be genuinely innovative. On the noble Baronesss point about size, the important thing is that these are new towns, so they must support the population by providing business, employment, retail, community and leisure. This is critical; that test must be satisfied.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, although I welcome eco-towns generally, will my noble friend assure the House that there will be proper provision of public transport in and to the towns, particularly rail, light rail and trams, which would reduce the carbon footprint significantly?
Baroness Andrews: Yes, my Lords. One of the five key principles is that the towns will be walkable, so by implication we want a high degree of public transport. They will be connected to local settlements. The whole point of them is that they will be sustainable, which means that we must invest in the infrastructure and avoid unnecessary pressure on car ownership and use, not only in the towns but in the surrounding areas.
Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the Government are bypassing the local development framework in PPG12I am sorry to throw another number into the potthereby ignoring the requirement on a local authority to use best evidence to decide the strategic location of a development?
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, we are not bypassing the local development planning processes at all. In most cases, local development plans will be in operation. They are the supreme document. We always take material consideration of other planning documents on funding, sustainability or whatever. These towns will be planned within the framework of the planning system, which is very robust. They will be fully consulted on at each stage. Indeed, they are being consulted on at great level now. Evidence is what the planning system is based on.
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, has the Minister considered the possibility that the eco-towns are conceptually unsound and that the new towns built after the war were arguably one of the great errors as they pre-empted resources that should have gone into developing the city centres, a failure from which we have suffered ever since? Many of them, such as Peterlee, were badly designed and shoddily built. Will she at least take comfort from the fact that the welcome shakeout in housing should enable the Government to come to a more realistic assessment of housing demand?
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, we need a balance in our policy for housing the nation. Certainly, something can be learnt from the new towns experience. These eco-towns are not conceptually flawed. They act as exemplars for what we should all realise is the great challenge of our generation: to meet sustainability in the face of climate change. On what is happening in the housing market, we cannot sacrifice long-term interests to a short-term difficulty. That would not make houses more affordable or reduce the demand for houses, much of which is being driven by an ageing population.
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, PPS25 is clear. Although we cannot say that we will never build on flood plains, because of the state of our country and the needs of the population, we have a robust sequential approach for identifying flood risk. The Environment Agency advises us on this. We are in a very much more sensible and clear position with regard to the judgments that we have to make.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the Home Office published statements of intent setting out the detailed policy for tiers 2 and 5 of the points-based system on 6 May. These were accompanied by full impact assessments. The proposals were developed in close consultation with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and with key stakeholders in the arts and entertainment sector, including those from the performing arts.
Lord Low of Dalston: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Of course he will be aware that stakeholders have welcomed the Home Office statement, but he will also be aware that concerns remain regarding the application of a points system
2 Jun 2008 : Column 10
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I was not aware that top dancers would not have enough points for tier 2 status. However, we keep these matters perpetually under review. We are in close engagement with the arts and culture world, and we are very sensitive to the issue that the noble Lord raises. We would not want to damage in any way the sports and cultural sector. For that reason we made the announcement that we did, and I think it has broadly been welcomed by the cultural and sporting communities.
Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I am delighted to hear the Ministers sympathetic noises, and the exception for festivals also is very welcome. However, the fact is that that will cover only a small proportion of performing artists. Visa costs have risen enormously over the past few years. Will not the new tier 5 proposals for overseas nationals add massively to the costs for production companies and cultural organisations and for the performing artists themselves, not least because of the new requirement for sponsorship certificates?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am not sure that that will be the case, because it will be possible for group certificates to be issued to sponsors. For instance, an orchestra of 100 will need only one sponsorship certificate, at a cost of just £10. So I do not think that the costs will hit the sector in the way in which the noble Lord describes.
Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords, surely my noble friend is aware that, night after night, throughout the year, concerts of superlative quality are performed in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle with many musicians coming in from abroad on visas which have been obtained hitherto through a system that has been manageable for all concerned. In increasing the visa costs for a large orchestra by some £15,000, in requiring that every individual musician attend a British consulate in person to obtain a visa and surrender their passport for some days, and in requiring that visas should be renewed after six months, does the Home Office understand that it risks killing one of the cultural glories of this country? My noble friend referred to consultation between the Home Office and DCMS. What advice did DCMS give to the Home Office, and what notice did the Home Office take of that advice?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am sure that the DCMS advice was listened to very carefully because we, too, are exercised in the way in which the noble Lord describes. As I said, we do not want to undermine the cultural industry in this country or the great benefits of an active sports sector. We carried out a detailed consultation and ensured that we protected
2 Jun 2008 : Column 11
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, is the Minister aware that many young artists need to be in this country for a certain length of time? I refer in particular to Joan Sutherland, who arrived here as an absolute unknown. Under the present system she could not have stayed here long enough to reach the world status that she has achieved. Should this not be taken into account?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am sure that that is the sort of issue that is taken into account. The noble Baroness is right to draw attention to the fantastic contribution made not only by Joan Sutherland but by many other individuals who come to the United Kingdom to ply their trade. They give great pleasure to us all.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for clarifying that such groups will form part of the points-based system. Do we have qualified people who can evaluate such group visa applications made from posts abroad?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the quality of our Immigration Service and border security arrangements has been improving so that judgments and assessments are being made much more rapidly and accurately. The system is working well and is much better managed than it has been for a long time.
Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, we are right in the middle of the festival season and the Edinburgh festival, the largest of them all, will soon be upon us. In view of the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, can the Minister assure the House that festivals will be specifically exempted from the new regulations?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, very detailed negotiations have been going on with the major festivals, and not just with Edinburgh. As the noble Viscount will know, I have a rather strong place in my heart for the Brighton festival. It may not be as big as Edinburgh, but it is certainly moving in that direction. He can rest assured that representations have been made and understood.
Lord Bilimoria: My Lords, the ethnic restaurant industry has contributed a huge amount to this country. Indian food, for example, has become a way of life. However, the industry is seriously concerned about the points-based system, which will make it very difficult to recruit skilled staff. Are the Government aware of this and are they planning to make some exceptions?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the points-based system is designed to benefit migrants with high levels of skill who seek to come to the United Kingdom.
2 Jun 2008 : Column 12
Moved, That, notwithstanding the resolution of this House on 6 May, it be an instruction to the Joint Committee on the Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill that it should report on the draft Bill by 22 July 2008.(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)
(4F) Where the exclusion or expulsion of an individual from a trade union is wholly or mainly attributable to conduct which consists of an individuals being or having been a member of a political party but which by virtue of subsection (4C) is not conduct falling within subsection (4A), the exclusion or expulsion is not permitted by virtue of subsection (2)(d) if any one or more of the conditions in subsection (4G) apply.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, on Report I said that the Government planned to bring forward proposals at Third Reading to implement the approach to the ECHR judgment in the ASLEF v the United Kingdom case which was specified in Option B in last years consultation document. I also said that our proposals would contain texts on the three types of safeguards which, among others, the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, and my noble friend Lord Morris of Handsworth had sought. These proposals are set out in Amendments Nos. 3, 8, 9 and 10. I shall speak also to the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, and the noble Lord, Lord Henley.
I shall first speak to Amendments Nos. 3, 8, 9 and 10. The European Courts judgment in the ASLEF
2 Jun 2008 : Column 14
Many Members have expressed concern that Option A tips the balance too far in favour of the trade unions and so, having listened to the arguments over the months, and in a spirit of compromise, we have decided not to pursue Option A. Through consultation with Peers of all parties and on all sides of the House, we have sought to find a wording which secures the correct balance in response to the courts judgment. Amendment No. 3 therefore restores the provisions relating to protected conduct which the current version of Clause 18 repeals.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|