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On the tribal belt, too, we applaud President Zardari’s recognition of the problems there and the recognition that the threat from extremism, reflected by the grim and tragic attack on the Marriott Hotel, needs to be tackled by a process that combines the extending of Pakistani military action into the tribal belt to deal with terrorist groups with an attention to political reconciliation and to development. It is that balanced approach, which the President has supported and promoted, that allows us to support him strongly in that.

With regard to the point about air strikes, there are obviously enormous security problems there, and it would be wrong to blame just the recent air strikes as somehow being the cause for terrorist attacks in Islamabad and elsewhere. The fact is that there have been some 30 terrorist attacks over the past month so. Tragically, this is not new—I wish I could say it were. That said, I think we all agree that it is much better that Pakistan itself, through its own military and its own democratic Government, takes responsibility for security, for development and for any actions within its own territory.

The noble Baroness, Lady Falkner of Margravine, and others raised the issue of development assistance. She is right that poverty in Pakistan remains substantial, with one in 10 children dying before their fifth birthday and more than half of the adult population still unable to read and write—indeed, the figure may be even higher, as the noble Baroness suggests. She has beaten me to it—we are doubling our development assistance over the next three years. We are focusing that on better health and education, to make government more effective and to make economic growth work for everybody. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Astor, that the controls are in place to make sure that those moneys are effectively spent and deliver the kind of reduction in poverty that we want to see.

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There has already been a striking improvement in Pakistan’s development performance. It may surprise people to know that whatever the current difficulties, the number of people living in poverty has declined over the past five years from 35 per cent of the population to 22.5 per cent. The UK development assistance has helped save 200,000 children’s lives, stopped 800,000 children from becoming malnourished and increased from 53 per cent to 76 per cent the percentage of children being immunised. All this is because of something that is getting forgotten, given everything that has happened since. Whatever else one might criticise the previous Government for, they put in a sound economic management performance with a focus on poverty reduction under both the President and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

As we have all agreed tonight, Pakistan is at a crossroads. It needs all our support, not just the UK, the US, this House and others, but the international community more broadly. Above all, we must build on this democratic opening to build a kind of strong, accountable, legitimate Government who can steer Pakistan through the difficult months and years ahead. That is something that Pakistanis can only do for themselves but, to the extent that friends can help, the UK will be there for them.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do adjourn during pleasure until 8.30 pm.

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

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.26 to 8.30 pm.]

Planning Bill

House again in Committee on Schedule 1.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 11:

11: Schedule 1, page 142, line 18, leave out sub-paragraphs (4) and (5)

The noble Baroness said: I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 15 and 16. I have put my name to Amendment No. 21, of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, but I shall leave him to make the argument. Amendment No. 26 is also in the group.

Amendment No. 11 would leave out sub-paragraphs (4) and (5) of paragraph 5 in Schedule 1. They provide that the commission should pay an amount of compensation determined by the Secretary of State to a commissioner who ceases to hold office if the Secretary of State thinks that there are special circumstances.

I will not be surprised if I am told that this is a form of words to be found in every such schedule setting up every quango. It is perhaps my fault that I had not noticed it previously, but it suggests to me that the Government are already thinking about golden goodbyes and parachutes, providing for compensation to a departing commissioner if the Secretary of State says so. That raises also the Secretary of State’s relationship with the IPC, but that is not so much the thrust of my concern.

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I assume that the office of commissioner will be either employment carrying the usual employment rights or a contract of appointment for the fixed term that we have heard about, which I assume will be with the commission and not the Government. If the IPC is to be independent, as we keep hearing, it should take the decisions and do so on the basis of what is right in the circumstances of employment or some kind of contract of engagement, which will not be employment. A contract of services will carry the usual rights with it if it is breached. I therefore had a knee-jerk reaction to what we saw as anticipating golden goodbyes before anybody had even been appointed.

Amendment No. 15 would leave out sub-paragraphs (3) and (4) from paragraph 12. They require the commission to obtain the approval of the Secretary of State to the number of staff that it proposes to appoint and to the terms and conditions of service. I entirely accept that the commission will have to function on the budget that it is given by government, but once that decision has been made by the Treasury, in conjunction, I would hope, with the relevant Secretary of State, it should be up to the Infrastructure Planning Commission to sort out what it does with its budget. It should be able to deploy it at its own discretion. This is excessive control.

Amendment No. 16 is—to mangle the English language—consequential on later amendments, questioning the IPC’s role in compulsory acquisition. I should perhaps have said this to the Minister before, but it might be better to take the debate on the substance of the matter, rather than where it pops up in the schedule. I thought that I should say why I tabled the amendment, but it would not be appropriate to have the debate on the commission’s powers at this point, on the basis of the schedule. I beg to move.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: I have one of the amendments grouped with this, Amendment No. 21. Noble Lords will be aware that there are four paragraphs at the end of the schedule that refer to other legislation and apply them to the IPC. Paragraph 24 refers to the Parliamentary Commissioner, paragraph 25 to the disqualification of Members of the House of Commons, and so on, while paragraph 26 refers to public records. I propose to add a new paragraph which refers to the Disability Discrimination Act.

The amendment intends that the Disability Discrimination Act should be amended to include the commission as a public authority for the purposes of subsection (1). As the amendment points out, Section 49D of the Disability Discrimination Act refers to the power to impose specific duties. We intend not only that the IPC should be subject to the normal laws against discrimination but that there should be specific duties on the IPC to promote disability equality and establish when it will happen.

The background to this, although I will not go into it at great length at this hour of the night, is that there is widespread evidence that disabled people—I refer particularly to blind people, as this was suggested to me by the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association; I served for some years on its council—feel uniquely disadvantaged under the planning system. On the whole, the system does not listen to their representations.

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I have a number of quotes here, with which I shall not weary the Committee; but they are enough to convince me that there needs to be a continuing change of culture on this.

Great strides have been made in recent years to promote access for the disabled, which is very important when one is dealing with buildings, as well as a greater sense of equality for the disabled, to persuade them that they are listened to as much as anybody else. Yet there is still quite a strong feeling in the disabled community that, in the case of planning inquiries and investigations, they are not listened to. It will be important for the commission to lead on a positive promotion of listening to the disabled.

We come later to amendments on consultation and on how it should be done in such a way that disabled people have as much access to it as anybody else. At this point, the amendment that we seek to put into the Disability Discrimination Act simply says:

“A public authority for the purposes of subsection (1) includes the Infrastructure Planning Commission”.

I hope that the Minister will be able to give us a reassuring reply on that.

Earl Cathcart: I remind the Committee of the declarations of interest that I made at Second Reading—namely, that for the past 10 years I have been on the planning committee of my local council and that I am a landlord and a landowner.

I will offer a few words in support of this group of amendments. The first three, Amendments Nos. 11, 15 and 16, which are Liberal Democrat amendments, and Amendment No. 20, which was tabled by my noble friend Lord Jenkin, are neatly complemented by Amendment No. 26, which was tabled in the name of my noble friend Lord Caithness and which I would like to speak to on his behalf. His amendment proposes that an annual report on the business of the IPC should be laid before Parliament for approval. I echo what has been so ably and succinctly said on the Liberal Democrat amendments, and am interested to hear what the Minister has to say on those and, indeed, on that of my noble friend Lord Jenkin.

The commission that the Government wish to create is a major new organisation. It is right that we in this House and those in another place should be kept informed about what it is getting up to and how it is conducting its affairs. It is perfectly normal practice to have this kind of parliamentary overview to request an annual report for parliamentary approval. I am sure that the Minister will agree with me that the commission should be trusted with a little bit of competence in appointing its own employees, as long as its business is detailed in the report, which can be examined by Parliament in a perfectly routine manner.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): These amendments offer us a good opportunity to address some detailed issues. I start with the noble Baroness’s amendment on compensation. She has anticipated what I have to say. Essentially, this is a standard provision to deal with a

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case where a public servant ceases to hold office in unusual circumstances—for instance, to settle an employment dispute. The provision is nothing new. It is replicated in existing legislation—for example, in paragraph 7 of Schedule 7 to the Competition Act 1998 in relation to members of the Competition Commission.

The noble Baroness referred to planning golden handshakes, golden goodbyes and so on. Before we broke for dinner, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, congratulated the Government on having the foresight to get things moving in anticipation, as we all hope, that the Bill will pass. This is part of the preparation for sound governance, about which, as an ex-member of the GLA, the noble Baroness is only too well aware.

Amendment No. 15 would remove certain provisions which require the commission to obtain the approval of the Secretary of State on the overall number of staff it proposes to appoint and the terms and conditions of such staff. Clearly the commission secretariat will be responsible for the internal running of the IPC’s resource-planning, finance and expenditure, and it will be headed by a chief executive.

We are absolutely of the opinion that the chief executive must have the freedom to plan and manage his or her resources, but it is still important that Ministers have some financial control because of the involvement of public money. This is a very well worn principle. Among the public bodies that it applies to—and I do not think that the noble Baroness would argue that it compromises the independence of these bodies—is the Competition Commission, as I have said, and the Greater London Authority. Section 67(2) of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 requires the Assembly to consult the mayor in connection with the appointment of Assembly staff, and so on. It also applies to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Being sensible noble Lords, we would probably agree that this is hardly likely to compromise the IPC’s independence while providing a feature of control over the whole budget in terms of public policy. The controls do not go into detail; they only relate to the overall number of staff and their terms and conditions, and, as I have said, it is not a precedent.

I understand why the noble Baroness tabled Amendment No. 16. It clearly is important; it refers to the making of orders, what is included in the orders and some parliamentary controls over some form of orders. If she is content to leave that until later in the debate I am very happy to turn swiftly to the next set of amendments.

The next amendment, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, would introduce a new paragraph into Schedule 1, inserting a reference to the IPC into the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, amended in 2005. Its effect, as he says, is to specify that the term “public authorities” includes the IPC in the Secretary of State’s ability to impose specific disability equality duties on a public authority. The noble Lord will know that the IPC will be bound by the general duty; I do not need to reinforce that point. However, I am absolutely happy to assure him that the Government will give

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proper consideration to what specific equality duties should apply to the IPC, whether on disability or other public sector duties.

8.45 pm

I cannot go further than that at this point. As the noble Lord will know, the considerations that govern the application of specific duties are rather legalistic. We are still taking advice on exactly what sort of judgments will be covered. If the noble Lord will leave that with me, I will keep him informed. As soon as I have complete advice, I will ensure that both he and the House of Lords also have it. We are still considering the primary legislation, and the commission is a new body. I reassure the noble Lord that any specific duties appropriate to the IPC will be considered as part of the implementation process.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for that undertaking. Perhaps she can come back to me before Report, so that we can explore it then if necessary.

Baroness Andrews: I will do my best to ensure that that happens.

The amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, is about accountability and Parliament being kept informed of the operation of the IPC. It would require the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament an annual report covering all matters referred to in Part 1, on which Parliament would have a vote. The Secretary of State made a commitment in the other place to strengthen accountability, and Clause 9 lays out how the Select Committee will have a role in doing so. We will require the IPC to provide the Select Committee with reports on subjects that concern it. Relevant Select Committees should be able to call the chair of the IPC before them to explain not just the overall performance of the organisation, but particular aspects of decisions. The chair and deputy chair of the commission will be subject to pre-appointment scrutiny by the Select Committee. This is a new, powerful way of doing things.

In addition, the Bill requires the IPC to prepare annual accounts, which will be scrutinised, and an annual report on the performance of its functions during the year. That will include specific detail about where the commissioner has exercised his powers on, for example, compulsory acquisition. That report will be laid before Parliament. The commission will also be subject to the Freedom of Information Act and, of course, investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration should there be maladministration. That goes further than most analogous bodies.

However, the noble Earl has asked that each House should vote on the report. We must draw the line at that. I cannot think of any other instance where Parliament votes in favour of or against a report provided to it by an external body. The provisions we are making for accountability should serve the noble Earl’s purpose well and, frankly, I do not see what the purpose of such a vote would be. It would be essentially retrospective: the report would be on activities that the

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IPC had completed in the preceding year. There are procedural issues here, and we need a bit of a reality check.

We have tried hard to strengthen the system so that Parliament is not only informed, but has the ability to scrutinise in quite novel ways. It is a strong package, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, will be able to advise his noble friend not to press the amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: The fact that Amendments Nos. 11 and 15 do not constitute new provisions does not mean that I think those provisions were necessarily right in the first place. The GLA is sui generis. I do not want to draw on experience there, particularly not as regards departing staff and compensation packages. Therefore, I shall not go there. I hear what the noble Baroness has to say. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Cobbold moved Amendment No. 12:

12: Schedule 1, page 142, line 25, leave out paragraph 6

The noble Lord said: My group of amendments has one objective and that is to get rid of the concept of the council, which seems to me to be superfluous and an expensive and unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. The Bill starts by defining the Infrastructure Planning Commission and nationally significant infrastructure projects. Clause 36(2) states on page 22:

“An application for an order granting development consent must be made to the Commission”.

It then goes into pre-application procedures and states in Clause 59(2) on page 35 that the commission must decide whether the application,

which is, in effect, a sub-committee of the commission, or by a single commissioner, depending, one imagines, on the importance of the application. Clause 59(4) states that the commissioners responsible for making the decision must be members of the council. This is the first mention of the word “council” and you have to go to paragraph 6 of Schedule 1 on page 142 to discover what is meant by the council. Paragraph 6(2) of Schedule 1 states:

“The members of the Council may be different for different purposes”.

Sub-paragraph (3) states:

“Those purposes include (in particular)—

(a) the purpose of deciding a particular application referred under section 82;

(b) the purpose of responding to consultation about a matter”.

Behind this helpful definition the council is effectively a sub-committee of the commission, falling between the commission, the panels and individual commissioners. It seems to me that the function could just as well be performed by a sub-committee of the commission or by one of the panels.

I believe that the council represents an unnecessary and expensive extra layer of bureaucracy. My Amendments Nos. 12 and 13 and all the rest are designed to remove the concept of the council from the Bill. I beg to move.

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Earl Cathcart: These amendments concern the council that is to be created within the commission. I listened with great interest to the argument which the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, put forward in support of his amendments. I shall be equally interested to hear the Minister’s response. For my part, I find the role of the council a useful one as the Bill stands.

Under Clause 82, referred to in paragraph 6 of Schedule 1, a single commissioner may report on an application with the final decision being taken by the council. If I understand the role of the council correctly, it will act, in effect, as a peer review of the single commissioner’s report. It seems to me that if the council does its job well, it could be seen as a system of inbuilt checks and balances within the commission.

When responding to the first group of amendments the Minister said that no single commissioner would make the final decision, which means that it must be made by a bigger group within the commission. Obviously, you cannot have the whole commission making the decision as that would be very unwieldy. Therefore, the council constitutes an effort to get a smaller group to make this decision. With that in mind I think it is appropriate that the chairman of the council should be able to exercise their powers of appointment and delegation after due consultation with the commissioners under paragraphs 7, 8 and 9.

For those reasons, as the Bill stands, I regret that I do not support the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold. However, if the IPC were to only make recommendations, as is suggested in other amendments and as discussed in the first amendment, I can understand why the noble Lord tabled the amendments. The council within the commission may not be so necessary, as the final decision would be taken outside the IPC.

I want to go slightly off script, because thinking about where the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, was coming from provoked me to ask, “Why not scrap the council? What is the council for?”. There are other things, but predominantly it is to make the decision when there is a single commissioner. Then you ask why there is going to be a single commissioner. What is the IPC going to be hearing that requires only a single commissioner? The big infrastructures will be heard by a panel. Therefore, by their very nature, the smaller, more insignificant applications will be heard by a single commissioner.

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