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(1A) The provisions are any provision of Part 3 relating to planning permission or applications for planning permission, except sections 56, 62, 65, 69(3) and (4), 71, 91 to 96, 100 and 101 and Schedule 8.
The noble Earl said: Amendments Nos. 434A and 434B have been tabled in the name of my noble friend Lord Glentoran because they relate to the transfer of powers to the Welsh Assembly. That might sound strange, because my noble friend comes from and lives in Northern Ireland, but he is the opposition spokesman not only for Northern Ireland but also for Wales. So, with my Scottish background, I shall move these amendments on Wales on his behalf.
Before I discuss the substance of the amendments, I register a protest that it was necessary to debate them at all. Clause 195 transfers primary legislative competence from this place to a subordinate legislature, the Assembly in Cardiff, yet the clause was not debated on the Floor of the other place. Due to the Governments programme, any debate on this topic was restricted to a small Committee of Members. It should not be acceptable for Parliament to give away its powers without a full and proper debate in both Houses, not least the elected Chamber.
I do not believe for one second that we should be rubber-stamping ... legislation for devolution, because we would not be doing our job as Members of this Parliament. We must scrutinise such matters properly for the purpose of correctness, certainly, but also to establish whether we think that there is a case to be made for the particular powers, whatever they might be, to be devolved to the National Assembly.[Official Report, Commons, Welsh Grand Committee, 12/12/07; col. 27.]
If that was true then, it remains so now. We should not be in the business of handing away powers from this place for the sake of it. A strong case must be made for doing so. Why has the Assembly asked for these powers? What case has it made for needing them?
My amendments would remove those parts of the clause which refer to proposed matters 18.2 and 18.3 under Part 6 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. Part 6 requires Welsh Ministers to produce a national spatial plan for Wales, to which local authorities must have regard when preparing their local development plans. That spatial plan sets out the policies that Welsh Ministers think appropriate in relation to the development and use of land in Wales.
However, the fact that Welsh Ministers have made an application for primary legislative competence does not automatically mean that such competence should be granted. I see no compelling case for the devolution of primary competence in respect of matters 18.2 and 18.3. As my colleague David Jones said in another place in February:
The Welsh Assembly Government have shown themselves over the years to be both acquisitive in terms of power and highly centralising. I am concerned that the powers that they seek under the clause will enable them to operate in an even more highly interventionist manner as far as local planning authorities are concerned. I do not believe that it is a function of this Parliament simply to hand over primary powers to the Welsh Assembly unless a strong and compelling case has been made.[Official Report, Commons, Planning Bill Committee, 5/2/2008; col. 668.]
Lord Livsey of Talgarth: While I agree with the noble Earl that this should be debated, surely the principle involvedthat we now have an elected Assembly in Walesmeans that the Assembly must have the power exercised in this clause. Indeed, I cannot see a case for removing either matter 18.2 or 18.3 from the Bill. It is very important that the Assembly has this power as the primary legislative body in Wales. Contrary to what the noble Earl says, there is good communication between the Assembly and local authorities and between the Assembly and national parks. There is a big case in the area where I live, in my former constituency of Brecon and Radnor, about a planning application, which clearly should not have been passed by the local authority. The Assembly has rightly intervened, much to the agreement of the communities affected, because enforcement was inadequate in that case.
I agree that this needs debate, but surely the principle of devolving power to the Assembly for planning matters in this way must be right, in that we in Wales elect Members of the Welsh Assembly and give them responsibilities. This surely should be one of them.
Baroness Andrews: I am very grateful that we have had an opportunity to debate Wales in this Chamberand grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Livsey of Talgarth. I cannot comment on how the other place organises its time, but we can make up for it this evening in the quality and forensic nature of our debate on why we need this very important clause. I shall not rehearse the whole argument for devolutionI will if noble Lords insist, but time is getting onas I think that the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, has already done so very well.
I would like to pick up on a phrase that the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, used. He said that this is not a question of acquiring power for the sake of it but that Wales needs this for a strong and compelling reason, which is to make sure that the whole of its planning system is functional. I think that was the burden of what the noble Lord, Lord Livsey of Talgarth, said.
Amendments Nos. 434A and 434B were debated at some length in Committee in the other place. They would mean that the National Assembly for Wales could only legislate on plans about the development and use of land in Wales which had been prepared by Welsh Ministers and not those by local planning authorities. The noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, raised concerns that the case had not been made to transfer powers from this place to the National Assembly for Wales in relation to plans prepared by Welsh local authorities.
I think that the phrase used in the other place was that Welsh Ministers were somehow seeking to centralise and hoover up power and thus reduce the discretion of Welsh local planning authorities. The whole point of this is that the Welsh Assembly Government are committed to a plan-led system. Its distinctive development plan system is still in its infancy, with local development plans as introduced in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 forming the cornerstone of the land-use system in Wales.
For that system to work effectively, national level plans, such as the Wales spatial plan and local development plan, need to work coherently with each other, just as they do in England. While local planning authorities must have regard to the Wales spatial plan when preparing their local development plan, the National Assembly for Wales is currently unable to make changes that it feels would best serve the distinctive planning system now being established in Wales. That is of course what the Bill seeks to do.
The noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, proposes that the National Assembly for Wales would have framework powers in relation to plans made by Welsh Ministers but not for this other vital part of the land-use plan systemlocal development plans. Allowing the Assembly to operate in relation to Welsh Ministers but not local planning authorities is a recipe for fragmentation and dysfunction.
These amendments would develop an incoherent and inconsistent approach between the two tiers of plan-making in Wales. Plans made by Welsh Ministers that could be applied at national levels would not flow down to the local level. The priorities would not be reflected through the Welsh planning system. This Chamber would not want that. We are very aware of the importance of a coherent and integrated plan-making system. Certainly, it would not be acceptable for the National Assembly for Wales.
Clause 195 has a compelling purpose. It gives the Assembly the tools necessary to manage and oversee the planning system in Wales, which is, quite rightly, a devolved matter. It would enable the Assembly to prescribe what a local development plan must set out, the matters to which local planning authorities must have regard when preparing local development plans, the preparation requirements, including consultation,
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The Welsh Local Government Association supports these framework powers. I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, will feel that there are indeed compelling reasons why the clause is in the Bill and he will be able to withdraw his amendment.
Earl Cathcart: I thank the Minister for her response. The safest thing for me to do at this stage is to report back to my noble friend Lord Glentoran. No doubt we will need to read the Ministers response and reflect on the issues. At this stage, however, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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