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I shall say again how much I appreciate not only the detailed, full and forthcoming way in which my noble friend always treats observation in Committee, but also deeply appreciate the thorough correspondence which she conducts with us outside. I have noted the reassurance offered by my noble friend in her letter to me that national policy statements mayI emphasise the word mayalso need to be reflected in planning policy statements and guidance where relevant and appropriate.
I hope my noble friend will forgive me if I say that I am not altogether reassured by what she said in her letter. It seems to be the wrong way around. My intention is to ensure that the Infrastructure Planning Commission takes into consideration these other important documents, which I do not believe is required under Clause 101. I suggest that by adopting my amendment the Government will ensure that the IPC considers all relevant planning documentation and not just the national policy statements in isolation.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Amendment No. 302 takes a little further some arguments that I expressed in earlier debates in Committee. It tries to sharpen up
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Other policies should also be considered and could form quite an important aspect of the utility of this Bill. Indeed, some of what Governments will seek to achieve in the use of the new authority will contribute to the,
The other amendments refer specifically to national policy in terms of land-based development plans and to marine policy and marine plans which are consequent on the forthcoming Marine Billand here I am back on the track which I have bored the Committee with before. However, I hope that I am being consistent in trying to bring these aspects together for the usefulness of the Bill in achieving the Governments objectives and in order to ensure that the rather nebulous statement set out in paragraph (c) is replaced with something a little more specific.
Baroness Andrews: I am grateful for the way in which noble Lords have introduced these very specific amendments. Noble Lords are essentially seeking various assurances. My noble friend Lord Judd seeks assurance on the primacy of the NPS. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, seeks reassurance that the NSIPs processes will be consistent with local planning provisions and other aspects of wider policy such as marine plans and will contribute to the,
It is an interesting group of amendments. Perhaps I may deal first with Amendment No. 306A, which seeks to remove the requirement that the commission should decide an application in accordance with any NPS. This goes to the heart of what we are trying to do in the NPS. It would remove the ground for the commission to take a decision that is not in accord with the NPS. I do not want to have a rerun of the long debate we had at the start of Committee. Instead, I can reiterate the fact that this is not acceptable because NPSs will be the primary factor for IPC decisions in the new single consent regime. They will set out clearly our national policy on and national need for infrastructure, but only after they have been consulted on and scrutinised by Parliament.
However, it is clear that Clause 101 also provides that the NPS will not be the only factor. Earlier today we talked about how the IPC must also have regard to
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I should tell the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, that we intend that among the matters we will prescribe is that the IPC would need to have regard to relevant marine plans and the marine policy statement. He has indeed been extremely consistent and relentless on this matter. I hope that by answering him in this context, he will take what I said earlier as a fuller explanation of how we intend to respond.
I turn now to the other amendments to Clauses 101 and 102 which would add further factors for the IPC to consider in determining applications, an example of which would be climate change. Clause 10 requires the relevant Secretary of State when preparing national policy statements to do so with the objective of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development, which of course would include climate change objectives. The NPS stage is the right place to do that job. It should not be for the IPC to reach those judgments, for the reasons that we set out in our earlier debates.
On Amendment No. 301A, in the name of my noble friend Lord Judd, I take the point entirely. I understand exactly what he is aiming at. However, I cannot say more than I said in my letter to himwhich is that national policy statements will also incorporate planning policy where it is relevant. If we were to do what he wants and add them into the decision framework in the way proposed, we would essentially be duplicating their role. We would be confusing matters rather than clarifying what we expect the NPS to deliver in the way it relates to the planning framework as a whole. We are trying to achieve clarity and comprehensiveness in the NPSs, and this is the way to do it.
Lord Greaves: I listened to what the Minister said a few hours ago on a similar subject that I had raised and I thought that we were getting somewhere; she now seems to be retreating back to prepared positions. Are we not in a situation where the national policy statement will define broad national strategies and some other matters, but many other peripheral, detailed and consequential matters will have to derive from the local development plan and from the other planning policy statements? I thought we had established earlier that it was an interesting issue and that the Minister would write to us to clarify it.
Baroness Andrews: I am certainly going to write to the noble Lord about it. But, as he knows, the national policy statement is the prime point. It will take into account the planning policy statements that are relevant to a particular NPS, and the rest of the planning framework for regional and spatial plansthe local
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Lord Greaves: I do not want it thought that I am trying to cross-examine the Minister. We all understand that the national policy statements and the planning policy statements at national level will have to be in accordance with each other, and the ones at regional and local levels will have to be in accordance with the national statements. Whether or not we agree with it, we all understand how the system will work. But many other issues will be dealt with when the applications for development consent are made but are not in the national policy statement because they are not relevant there, because they are too detailed or too local. I do not know how big the national policy statements will be, but if they are going to cover everything on development, they will be a foot thick. Presumably they will be as concise and understandable as possible while putting forward the overall national strategies, and a great deal of the rest of a planning application will be based on regional and local issues and the local development plan. That is the point that I am making. I cannot speak for the noble Lord, Lord Judd.
Baroness Andrews: Nothing divides us on thisthe noble Lord is absolutely right. That is one of the reasons for having a local impact policy. It helps to explain how the local development framework will be reflected in the effects of the planning application. I am beginning to be rather incoherent at this time of night, but I shall look in the report to see whether what I have said makes sense. However, I promise to write a letter that will leave no one in any doubt about how this will all fit together.
As to local development documents, relevant local authorities and other planning authorities will be consulted by the promoter of a project under the provisions of Part 5, which we have already debated. There is no way that that will not have made it clear how the proposal relates to the local development plan. In addition, we have talked about the promoter consulting local communities and demonstrating how he has made responses to the consultation. I have referred again to the local impact report, which will evaluate how the proposal fits in with their development plans and the views of their residents.
I have addressed the point about marine policy and plans, albeit rather briefly. I turn to the tiny raft of amendments covering health and well-being, and the environment, including biodiversity and natural resources. I have sympathy with what noble Lords are trying to achieve through the second part of Amendment No. 313A. All the elements are identified as important factors that need to be taken into account. I hope that what I have said so far reassures noble Lords that in the alignment of policy, these issues will be given proper consideration. The NPSs will take into account all relevant policy and set out the particular impacts that it is important for the IPC to take into account. That will ensure that the issues are given proper weight.
Let me turn to the issue of material considerations versus important and relevant. I take the noble Baronesss point that the wording should read relevant and important and I will consider that. Amendment No. 302 seeks to introduce the concept of material consideration, which comes from town and country planning, into the decision test. I should like to consider that, along with Amendments Nos. 306 and 316, which seek to remove the requirement that in order for a relevant matter to be something to which the decision maker should have regard, it must also be thought to be important. There is a considerable amount of case law on the meaning of material consideration because the term has often been misunderstood and has hindered rather than assisted effective decision-taking. It is precisely because we have tried in the decision test not to import that sort of confusing legalistic language that we have replaced it with clearer language about importance and relevance. I think it is better that we do not simply replicate the existing language.
On Amendments Nos. 303 and 315 dealing with written and oral representations, a distinction needs to be made between ensuring that the commission examines and considers all the evidence before it and taking into account what is relevant to the decision. That is a basic distinction and a basic function, and it is what we have tried to achieve. The commission will have to examine and give proper consideration to all the evidence it receives by way of both written and oral representation, obviously excepting representations that it thinks are vexatious or frivolous. But the decision test is a different issue. We want to ensure that it is indeed based on criteria of importance and relevance. I hope that noble Lords will accept that justification.
Finally, Amendments Nos. 317 and 319 seek to reduce the timetable. We all share the noble Lords concern that these very important and complex decisions are taken in a timely and efficient manner and think that three months is an appropriate period of time in which to secure that outcome. The other amendments are consequential on that. I know that that is a disappointing response, but I think we have allowed for an appropriate length of time.
Lord Dixon-Smith: I am not at all sure, given our behaviour on this Bill, that we are in a position to advise anybody on timetables. I am extremely grateful to the noble Baroness for the detail of her reply. Once again, all those who tabled amendments in this groupI had a very small part in the proceedingswill study what the noble Baroness said and what it means, in addition to the first impression we take away with us. When we have done that, we may want to pursue some of these matters further. For now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: I cannot speak as fast as others in this Chamber, but I shall endeavour to be brief. Amendment No. 327 deals with the provision in Clause 105 whereby, if the Secretary of State thinks that circumstances have changed since the publication of a national policy statement and that the statement should be reviewed, he can direct suspension of examination or decision. The amendment questions whether this is relevant to a change of government, to which my noble friend referred on our last day in Committee. Circumstances that might have changed include a change of government. The Bill should state simply that,
Amendments Nos. 331 and 332 are to the provision whereby the Secretary of State must have regard to the views of the commission in deciding certain tests for intervention, one of which, in Clause 106(2)(e), is,
I question whether the commission should have a role in that. The Government might want to hear the views of the commission, but requiring them in statute to do sothis is probably opposite to the way in which I often arguegives the commission inappropriate status in the process. I beg to move.
Earl Cathcart: We oppose the clause standing part of the Bill, but only, I hasten to add, in a probing way. The clause raises a number of questions and I would be grateful if the Minister could develop how it would work in practice.
I have four points. First, presumably work in progress for all other applications using the same national policy statement would also stop during this suspension. Secondly, how does this review take place? I looked back to our earlier discussions on Clause 6, which deals with review. Clause 6 describes what happens and how the review is conducted, but only when the national policy statement is being amended, not withdrawn. Clause 105 seems to be talking about withdrawing the statement for some period because there has been a change of circumstance. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, gave the example of a change of government, which may well mean that there is a fundamental policy change. Presumably the whole
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Baroness Andrews: This is a good point at which to finish our deliberations today. I am grateful for the support of the whole Committee in helping us to reach this point. The group contains important government amendments. I will speak to government Amendments Nos. 333, 335 and 452 and the opposition amendments at the same time.
In the Bill, the Government have made every effort to listen to concerns that have been put to us and to accommodate other views where we can. Throughout this process, there has been strong public engagement. I am sure that noble Lords know that the Bill has been substantially changed since it was introduced into the other place in November. There are strong concerns in both Houses about the fact that decisions about nationally significant infrastructure projects should be taken by an independent bodythe IPC.
The Government held extensive discussions on these concerns and took various steps to address them. One of the main concerns was that the Bill did not provide for a safety valve if the system was not working. As such, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State made a commitment at Report stage in the other place that the Government would carry out a review of how the IPC was working two years after it accepted its first application. That is a sensible benchmark. The Government also agreed to table amendments to the Bill in this House so that, if the review revealed problems, the grounds on which Ministers can intervene in applications made to the IPC and take the decisions themselves could be extended. My Amendments Nos. 333, 335 and 452 meet that commitment.
Noble Lords will know from our debates that the Bill already provides Ministers with a power of intervention at Clause 108. As set out in detail at Clause 106, the Secretary of State may intervene to decide an application in place of the commission if she considers that there has been a significant change in the circumstances on the basis of which the policy in a relevant national policy statement was decided.
There follows in that clause a logical sequence of tests to be met in determining whether something constitutes a significant change. The change must not have been anticipated at that time; it must be such that, had it been anticipated it would have meant that the policy would have been materially different and therefore the difference would have been likely to have a material effect on the commissions decision on the application. In addition, there must be an urgent need, in the national interest, for the application to be decided before the national policy statement can be reviewed. Clause 107 also allows Ministers to use the power of intervention where they consider that it
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Where the tests are met, Ministers can intervene in cases and take decisions themselves. That means that there is already limited provision for a safety valve in the Bill, allowing Ministers to intervene in applications made to the IPC to take decisions themselves. Our Amendment No. 333 provides the Secretary of State with a power to prescribe further grounds on which the Secretary of State can intervene under Clause 108. Amendment No. 335 is consequential on this, to ensure that the link between the new clause and Clause 108 is more explicit, and Amendment No. 452 provides that the use of that power must be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. I am sure that the Committee will welcome that.
The use of this power will be considered only if, after the two-year review has been completed, there is evidence that the IPC is not working as intended. We believe that, because of the robust framework provided by the Bill and the policy framework, the IPC will work well. However, if the review were to reveal problems and the Government decided that it was necessary to prescribe further grounds on which the Secretary of State could intervene under Clause 108, this power would enable us to act.
Were the Government to prescribe further grounds on which the Secretary of State could intervene, the effect of an intervention would be the same as for interventions made pursuant to Clauses 106 or 107. The Secretary of State would be able to direct that the application in question is referred to them. Under Clause 109, the Secretary of State would have the function of examining and deciding the application and would have the ability to direct the IPC to examine specified matters. It would also continue to be subject to the same requirements as interventions made on the basis of Clauses 106 or 107. It will need to be made within four weeks from the date of the preliminary meeting, unless there are exceptional circumstances justifying a later intervention.
Should the proposed review of the IPC reveal problems with the way it is working, these amendments will provide the safety valve sought by some noble Lords and others; I therefore commend them to the House.
The noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, asked whether all work on related policy would stop because the review was carrying on. The answer is no. I am limited in what I can say because, by definition, it is a hypothetical situation. A review would take as long as it does now, but obviously we would try to do it as expeditiously as possible.
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