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On Amendment No. 32, in my name, I am concerned that the five transport-related infrastructure projects under Clause 14(1)(g), (h), (i), (j) and (k) could end up with different national policy statements that possibly do not bear as much relation to each other as they might. For example, we still have our airport policy, which could convert into a national policy statement requiring a third runway to be built at Heathrow. But I suspect that quite soon Ministers may decide they have to catch up with the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats and propose a high-speed line, which would go through Heathrow to Scotland and London. Whether both are needed is a debate that should be had, but it is no good having one policy statement for air, another for rail and another for road.
I declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group. I am very pleased that rail freight interchanges are included in the Bill. Rail freight interchanges could happen at airports as well. Air freight could easily be transferred from air to rail, which could save a lot of the traffic around airports that causes the traffic jams we see today. There is an enormous benefit in the Government agreeing that the five transport-related
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On Amendment No. 43, there is an inconsistency in whether national policy statements, under Clause 5, will be site specific. In the past, I have discussed that with my noble friend and officials, but I do not have a logical answer. To be site specific, you presumably would produce a national policy statement on nuclear power stations; for example, one will be next to Sizewell, one will be at Dungeness, whether or not there are floods, and another one will be somewhere else. We could debate the point of producing a national policy statement which specifies the exact site.
On the other hand, if that is done for ports, Ministers will find that port owners and operators will get extremely angry. They see the importance of the private sector being able to compete on equal terms between, say, Southampton ABP, Felixstowe and anywhere else. With some justification they would complain bitterly if the Government were to say, Well have a port at Felixstowe and we wont have one at Southampton, but we might have one in Romney Marsh. I urge my noble friend to look at subsection (5) and indicate in her response how site-specific these policy statements are going to be. They may be route-specific or site-specific, or they may not be specific at all. There is a serious inconsistency here, and I think it would be better to change the reference in paragraph (a) from specified area to a region. If this is a series of national policy statements, a region is probably a better area to look at than, say, an area down the field and turning left at the signpost.
Baroness Hamwee: I have a number of amendments in this group, but first I should like to say how strongly I agree with the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, particularly on his Amendment No. 32. My Amendments Nos. 38 and 54, to which we shall come later, also express anxiety about the integration of national policy statements as a whole raft because, like the noble Lord, I am concerned about little groups drafting worthy documents that do not work as a whole. We shall come to the parliamentary processes which ought to tease out problems in this area, but it is best to start by accepting that while the noble Lord has picked on transport as the most vivid example, almost no item in the list is not affected by policy on other items.
Lord Berkeley: Before the noble Baroness moves on to her next issue, does she agree that the discussion we shall have in the next day or so on the parliamentary process will not solve the problem of having a series of different policy statements? That is because if you have one, but the next is not due for two years, there is no solution.
Baroness Hamwee: I agree absolutely with the noble Lord, and I may have given him the wrong impression with my words. What I meant was that the parliamentary process should tease out through comments by parliamentarians and by those who make representations to them whether this problem exists.
The preceding paragraph, paragraph (a), refers to development and uses the words amount, type and size. I have simply repeated the formula in order to obtain what I hope will be the Ministers confirmation that that is what is in fact intended.
I find the words potentially suitable very difficult. I have been struggling with the concept of site-specific or location-specific, but how can a location ever be more than potentially suitable if the IPC is to have a job to do and a decision to make? I look forward to the Ministers response. It is not a frivolous amendment. Amendment No. 47 is similar to Amendment No. 44.
Amendment No. 48 would leave out the paragraph providing for the policy to identify particular statutory undertakers as the appropriate persons to carry out certain developments. I query whether it is appropriate for a policy statement to identify particular undertakers. This is crossing the line and is beyond policy. If we are going to stick to the hierarchy to which we are all signing up and we need to get the policy right, we should not be distracted by who should do it. You then start thinking whether they are in a position to do it, whether they will have the funds and what the relationship is between government and the particular undertaker. That is out of place at this point.
That is the wrong way round because it seems to accept that mitigation will sort out the problem. One should identify the problem first and then consider whether it is possible to mitigate the impact. My wording is an attempt to put things the other way about and to change the order.
Lord Boyd of Duncansby: I have some sympathy with the sentiments behind Amendments Nos. 32 and 38. It is important that we should have an overarching view of various types of infrastructure development. My understanding is that, on energy at least, the Governments intention is that there should be one overarching national policy statement. That would then be supported by individual NPSs in relation to, for example, renewables, nuclear energy and so on. As to the concern of my noble friend Lord Berkeley, it should also be possible, and desirable, to group the transport infrastructure in such a way. It will be interesting to hear from the Minister what intentions, if any, the Government have on that at this point.
I wonder whether it is right, however, to set this in stone on the face of the Bill. That would make the policy inflexible. At some stage in the future the Government may wish to bring forward proposals for national policy statements that depart in some way from it and setting it in stone might cause more difficulty. For example, the generation of electricity may well have a greater importance in future in relation to certain forms of transport infrastructure, particularly railways.
Amendment No. 51 relates to flood risk. The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, referred to nuclear power in relation to that. My understanding from the consultation on the strategic siting assessment is that there are two forms of criteriaexclusionary criteria and discretionary criteria. Those that are exclusionary, at least in the consultation document at the moment, relate almost exclusively to geological and other issues. The risk of flooding is identified within the strategic siting assessment but it is discretionary because, as engineers will tell you, there is virtually nothing that cannot be engineered outthe question is whether it can be done in a cost-effective way. I mention that merely because, from my knowledge, at least, it is not something that the Government are not aware of, particularly in relation to nuclear power. I would think that that will be one of the fundamental issues that Parliament will look at when the Secretary of State brings forward the national policy statement for parliamentary approval. Again, the question might be whether it is necessary to set this out in the Bill or whether it can be dealt with through the national policy statement.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: I should like to add to what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Boyd, has said, particularly with reference to nuclear stations. Last year there was a report by Jackson Consulting, at the request of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, on the best potential sites for new nuclear power stations. By that time it was clearly going to be the Governments policy that there should be new nuclear build.
I shall not go into great detail, but that report listed three categories of site that would be suitable for new stations. Not surprisingly, most of them were existing power stations, on sites either of the existing one or immediately adjacent to it. That is for two very good reasons. The first is that at those sites the infrastructure for transmission is already in beingeven though some of it may have to be upgraded, as I think is becoming apparent. Secondly, there is likely to be far less popular opposition to a nuclear power station if a lot of jobs depend on it. If the existing stationsall of them Magnox at present, but eventually some of the AGR stations will be includedare going to be closed down and decommissioned, the local community will want the continuity of jobs. The report recently presented by Professor Pidgeon and his colleagues from Cardiff and East Anglia universities has also emphasised that there is a considerably greater appeal for new nuclear build in the areas where there are existing nuclear power stations.
The third category in the Jackson Consulting report is one or two formeras they will becoal power stations. Under the European large plant directive,
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In relation to that, and in relation to this clause, it seems highly appropriate that the national policy statement should be, in that sense, site specific. It may not want to mention all the sites by name; I do not know. Nevertheless, I would have thought that the Government, in putting forward their national policy statement, would say that there was clearly a preference for building any nuclear power stations on sites where they can have the benefit of the existing transmission infrastructure and are likely to have the support of local populations. I do not know how this is going to be done, but here is a case where it would be perfectly appropriate for the national policy statement to give some indication of what would be the preferred location of the infrastructure that it is referring to. I understand the points that were made about wanting to take that out, but this is an example of where, on the basis of existing knowledge and existing reports, I am sure BERR would be able to produce a national policy statement that would, to that extent, indicate the preferred location.
Of course, as I am sure the noble Baroness will want to reaffirm once again, the actual decision on where applications will be made will be for the private sector companies that will be doing the investing. A number of them are already negotiating. There is the merger currently going ahead between British Energy and EDFÉlectricité de France. Energy Solutions, a company that I have mentioned in the House on previous occasions, is currently decommissioning nuclear power stations in the south of England; it is very anxious to get consideration regarding building a new one at Wylfa, one possibly at Oldbury and another in Essexsomewhere that begins with a B
Lord Jenkin of Roding: I am most grateful to my noble friend. At this hour of the night, my brain ceases to function properly. Those are projects that are actually going ahead. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is seeking to attract interest in the sites where it is decommissioning nuclear power stations because it has the sites. As everyone has said about British Energy and the NDA, they have the sites. In those circumstances, it seems entirely appropriate that the national policy statements should clearly include that policy. In that way, we would be encouraging the local communities and removing any anxieties that other communities, which may not want a nuclear power station at all, may have one foisted on them.
This is an important issue and, as other noble Lords have often said, there is a need to get ahead with this. We will be in considerable difficulties in five or six years time if we close power stations when there are no new ones to replace them. A recent book by Professor Fells emphasised thishe believes that the lights will go out in the middle of the next decade and that there is not much we can do about it now. The trouble is that
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I know that BERR is drafting a national policy statement on gas storage which it hopes will be ready by the middle of next year. But it is a little difficult for us to debate these matters when we do not have any examples in front of us, even in draft, of what the thing might be. We have to give the Government the maximum amount of freedom to decide how this will be done. I have a great deal of sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said about transport. Like him, I shall wait to see how the Minister responds. We must not be too specific about this. It is the heart of the new planning policy and it must be allowed to work properly.
Lord Berkeley: I remind the noble Lord of what the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said when she spoke to Amendment No. 48. In the scenario that the noble Lord is painting, the national policy statement for nuclear power would propose six sites around the countrythe number does not really matter. He then said that EDF has two, somebody else has the other one and somebody else has the last one. That is coming very close to the worry expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, which I share, that by producing such statements the Government are giving these companies an enormous start-up present because they have monopolies and no one else can build a nuclear power station anywhere else. That, of course, assumes that these stations will get built in the private sector. There is some debate about that but, if they are, I would be very careful about specifying the number because, as the companies will then own them all, they will be sitting pretty.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: It is obvious that this is a matter to which the Government are giving great thought, as are a number of us. They are talking to the companies about this and saying that it is important that it should not be just one group with one design. There has been a lot of rather ill informed comment in the press following the announcement of the British Energy/EDF merger that a monopoly run by the French will be created, which is not the case at all. There are other companies: the German company E.ON, the American company EnergySolutions, and still lurking in the wings is General Electric, whose man I was talking to the other day in London. It has not gone awaythe department is not sure, but I can tell it that it has not. It is still interested. There are at least two different designs. Therefore, if we have, as I suspect, 10 or thereabouts new nuclear power stations within the next 20 or 25 years, there will be at least two designs and there will not be a monopoly. The Government are absolutely right to try to create the conditions where there is not a monopoly.
Lord Woolmer of Leeds: I refer to Amendment No. 32, proposed by my noble friend Lord Berkeley. As he knows, I share his enthusiasm for rail and freight. I apologise for not repeating earlier the declaration of interest that I made at Second Reading that I am a
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Years ago, the most vociferous lobby for a single, overarching view of policy was the transport lobby. People thought that you could have a single policy that brought together rail, road, buses, air and ports. If my noble friends amendment means that there should be a sole policy statement in the transport area which brings everything together, I would be extremely dubious, because, as he vigorously pointed out, ports and other parts want to compete. Shipping changes over time. If one bit changes, you need a whole new national transport policy statement that goes through everything again. A change in a port must be reflected in a change in highway policy and airport policy, leading to a clogging-up of the arteries. The notion often promoted by transport enthusiasts of a great scheme of things that brings everything together is always doomed to disaster. It finishes up in a meaningless, broad-brush statement. I ask my noble friend to reflect carefully on whether he should press his amendment. It is far better to have clear statements in individual areas. One should by all means seek at all times to show where the intersections of different elements occur and where the flexibility for development over time lies.
That raises timescales. The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, has said eloquently on a number of occasions that we should think where we will be in 2050. The timescales of national policy statements also have to be handled with great care, because the longer you go out, the more flexibility you have to build in. Then it becomes more opaque and meaningless at the edges. It would therefore be extremely helpful to hear from my noble friend on a future occasionnot tonight, because time is pushingthe thinking about timescales, which will differ depending on the national policy statement. I ask my noble friend Lord Berkeley not to become too enthusiastic for the overarching, big-bang solution for all time for all transport. I am very dubious about that as a proposition.
Baroness Andrews: That was a very interesting series of debates, because this group of amendments covers a number of different sorts of issues. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, for his excellent exposition of locationally specific decisions on nuclear energy and to my noble friend Lord Woolmer for putting, far better than I shall be able to, the problems of having a single transport NPS.
I shall be as quick as possible because I know that time is getting on. This group of amendments addresses a number of goals. The amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, Amendments Nos. 44, 46, 47, 49, 50 and 55, would mean that when setting out criteria for deciding suitability of a location, or identifying suitable locations for particular development, NPSs can identify the amount, type and size of proposed development. Amendment No. 48 would also remove the discretion to identify an individual statutory undertaker as appropriate to carry out a specified description of development. Amendment No. 46 was about the definition
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On why we have identified a particular statutory undertaker as appropriate to carrying out a development, the amendment probes the relevance to decision-making of doing that and identifying the particular promoter. In some cases, such as with highways or rail, only certain developersthe Highways Agency or Network Railmay provide infrastructure. Clause 5(5)(e) simply allows organisations in such circumstances to be identified, where appropriate. Clause 5(8) defines what is meant by statutory undertakers in this clause. The amendment would remove the ability to ensure that only suitable organisations were able to undertake development. We do not envisage that it would be used by any means in every national policy statement, especially where applications come forward through the market, but we need to retain that ability to specify.
Baroness Hamwee: I imagine the Minister will want to move on moderately rapidly through the amendments but, on that point, if only certain bodies are in a position to act as developers, I do not see that it is necessary to say that at all. It raises the sorts of questions that we have debated.
Baroness Andrews: Part of the problem with the amendment, however, is that it would also have an adverse impact on the blight provisions set out in Clause 168(6), which define appropriate authority for the purposes of Chapter 2 of Part VI of the Town and Country Planning Act. The amendments would create some confusion about the responsibility for any blight caused by the national policy statement. That is one reason why we have the provision. The amendment would have the unintended consequence that responsibility for any blight caused by the NPS would fall upon the Secretary of State, rather than upon the statutory undertaker, who would provide the infrastructure and would therefore be expected to purchase the land in due course. This is clearly very technical, and I would prefer the security of being able to write and pursue this in some detail, if that is acceptable.
Amendments Nos. 44 and 47 seek to specify that when setting out criteria for deciding suitability of a location or identifying suitable locations for particular development, NPSs may take into account amount, type and size of proposed development. I think that the noble Baroness was seeking to tighten the definition of what should be taken into account and she asked me whether that was, indeed, the burden of this.
Clause 5(5) is permissive. Although it is not explicitly set out in the Bill, NPSs may already take account of such detail when setting out criteria for deciding suitability of location or identifying suitable locations for particular development. Actually setting out those sorts of criteria will meet the noble Baronesss concerns there.
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