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One may ask why that flexibility would be required. First, it provides flexibility to add new projects where Ministers feel that there is a good case for so doing. That might be by varying the existing thresholds or by adding an entirely new category of project. The safeguard is that a new category of project can be included only if it involves the carrying out of works in one or more of the five fields set out in Clause 14(6): energy, transport, water, waste water and waste. An example might be a project that deals with the geological disposal of higher-activity radioactive waste, should Ministers decide that such a project should be considered nationally significant. The second aspect would be if Ministers wished to remove projects from the new regime if, for instance, circumstances change and there is a good case for taking certain decisions out of the new regime. In such a scenario, the thresholds could be reduced or a category of project removed.

Regardless of the change, this power is subject to an affirmative resolution in both Houses. Unless both Houses agree that such infrastructure should or should not be considered nationally significant, Ministers would be unable to make the proposed changes. That is the essential safeguard against what might be described as a frivolous use of this power to get around a particular problem, say, with a local authority’s decision in relation to a specific planning consent. Taken in the round, first, there are enough safeguards and, secondly, it is self-evident that none of us can say for sure whether the thresholds will continue in the long term

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to meet the purpose or whether there might not be a new development that, although it comes within the categories laid down in this clause, would justify the flexibility inherent in this clause.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, the Minister anticipated—perhaps because I gave him a hint in an e-mail—my concern that the provision could be used to override what the Government could regard as a recalcitrant local authority. There could be matters concerning transport, for instance, which would be the responsibility of a local planning authority and not within the ambit of the IPC. Given our stance on the IPC as a matter of principle, I am not challenging the removal of projects from the IPC regime, although we all know that there are limitations on the use of affirmative resolutions and on the effectiveness of challenging them. I knew that the Government would not agree to vary this in the Bill, so the purpose of the amendment was to elicit clarity. I am grateful to the Minister and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.30 pm

Clause 15 [Generating stations]:

Lord Taylor of Holbeach moved Amendment No. 54:

54: Clause 15, page 8, line 39, leave out “or (3)”

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 54, I shall speak to the other amendments in this group in my name, which share a common and, dare I say, familiar theme. They reflect the long-anticipated marine Bill, which has already been published in draft form and was considered by a committee of both Houses. I and other nobles Lords have talked before of the daisy chain of Bills before us: the Climate Change Bill, the Energy Bill and this Planning Bill. As the Minister has said, they will—I suspect that all noble Lords will agree—shortly be joined by a fourth Bill, the marine Bill.

The principal purpose of the marine Bill is to safeguard the marine environment and ecology. To that end, it will establish the marine management organisation. These amendments anticipate that event by placing the MMO centre stage in the marine environment. The Bill before us gives the Infrastructure Planning Commission the power to determine proposals in the marine environment, notably in Clause 15 offshore generating stations of more than 100 megawatts. My noble friend the Duke of Montrose referred to this when discussing his Amendment No. 52. The marine Bill will provide for a marine planning system under the MMO, so it cannot be right that the IPC overrides the MMO in the marine context. The purpose of Amendments Nos. 54 and 56 is to address this anomaly and to vest decision-making in the MMO rather than in the IPC.

The wider powers of consultation on the pre-application procedure are the reason for Amendment No. 71 to Clause 42, while Amendments Nos. 84 and 85 deal with local impact reports in Clause 59. Amendment No. 102, which by coincidence addresses Clause 102, covers the decisions of the panel or the council. It includes a provision to consider the,

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as a priority element in any such decision. In all other cases, the sole purpose of these amendments is to put the MMO in the Bill as a party to the process. No development adjacent to or approximate to the coast can ignore its impact on the maritime and coastal environment. Who is to speak for this interest, if not the MMO? Which is the authority most capable of delivering an impact assessment of value?

I hope that the Minister will recognise the consistency of my argument. Rightly, local authorities are represented in the processes. The Government’s wish to use the MMO in a key role is clear from the courteous and conscientious briefing and response to our Committee stage from the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, but that response did not explain why the Government are not willing to accept these amendments, not least because there will be a period prior to the enactment of the marine Bill when there will be no MMO; the Government will need a consultee and will have to place on a temporary basis the Marine and Fisheries Agency in this role. However, that is by the by compared with the question of who will speak for the seas and the coasts. I hope that the Minister can assure the House that, by bringing the MMO into being, the marine Bill will be drafted to ensure that the MMO can properly represent at every level of the planning process the interests of our seas and coasts. I beg to move.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, this is the first time that I have spoken on Report so I should declare an interest as a member of a local planning authority and a development control committee. Once again I thank the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, for bringing these issues before the House. He did so in Committee and performed a service, and he is doing so again today.

We are in some difficulty because we think that we know what will be in the marine Bill that we believe will come before the House in the not-too-distant future—indeed, there will be, if not riots on the streets, then riots on the beaches if the Government do not bring it forward this time, having come so far. We have only a few weeks to wait until we get a guarantee that it will come forward, but we do not know exactly what will be in it because the Government may have altered the draft version that some of us have already been scrutinising and discussing.

As the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, put it, the Bill is part of a daisy chain of legislation that will fundamentally change our planning and development systems. Indeed, in addition to the Bills and Acts listed by the noble Lord, the Housing and Regeneration Bill—now an Act—that we considered is a fundamental part of these systems. So we are in some difficulty. The real debates on the issues raised by the noble Lord today may come when we consider the marine Bill and how the marine environment and new marine planning system slot into the system that by then will have been enacted by this Bill.

It is absolutely right that we should consider this issue today and the Liberal Democrats support the noble Lord’s amendments. There will be a completely new planning regime for the marine and coastal

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environment, which will involve new organisations, such as the marine management organisation, new planning documents, such as the new marine plans, and new concepts, such as the marine conservation zones. It is important that the Infrastructure Planning Commission should not be able to ride roughshod over a new system that, although it does not yet exist and there is no Bill before us, is nevertheless casting its shadow over us. It is right that this Bill should recognise what will happen in the general terms described by the noble Lord, which could apply in the interim to existing organisations and systems even if there is not a marine Bill. I add my support to the noble Lord’s remarks.

Lord Woolmer of Leeds: My Lords, I was delighted to hear the Minister express enthusiasm for the power of the tides and waves and so on, and for his visit to Lowestoft. I am pleased that he came back full of enthusiasm because, as he knows, the Carbon Trust estimated some time ago that about 15 to 20 per cent of UK electricity could be generated by wave and tidal power, so it is potentially of enormous importance.

The Bill as framed effectively brings under the IPC only wind farms of 100 megawatts or more. So, given the current state of technology, for some years to come, what is recognised to be strategically important—that is, the power of the wind, waves and tides—will not come under the IPC. Among the few questions that I would like my noble friend to address today—or, if not, to write to me before Report—is whether or not wave and tidal energy will be considered under national policy statements. Clearly, under the Bill it will not fall under the IPC—I assume it will fall under the powers of the marine management organisation—but where will this important technology come in in relation to national infrastructure policy statements?

Given this distinction, perhaps my noble friend will address one or two matters today or, if not, write to me. Under the Bill there is a minimum limit of 100 megawatts for what are, effectively, wind farms. If a wind farm of 100 megawatts was extended but the extension was much less than 100 megawatts, would the IPC deal with such an extension off-site—it would be helpful to have this on record—or would it come under the MMO? The question of extensions is, potentially, quite important.

I turn to my second question. Offshore planning and maritime issues are at present subject to a limited amount of expertise. They were previously under BERR but, I believe, are now under the new Department of Energy and Climate Change. That is a small team, as noble Lords will know; it is certainly in single figures. The future location of that expertise is really quite important because there is not a lot of it. In future there will be the DECC, the IPC and the MMO. The worst of all worlds would be if that expertise were split up in some way and spread around even more thinly. It is important that the expertise is kept in one place, at least until things have settled down and then we can see what the scale of operations is going to be. Has thought been given to this? The IPC will shortly be formed and in operation, and applications will be coming in forthwith. They will have to be dealt with, or they will be outstanding. Will the expertise be kept

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together and put in with the IPC until such time as future expansion and development determine whether a large amount of expertise is needed in the MMO as well?

Earl Cathcart: My Lords, my name is also to these amendments. As the House would expect, I support my noble friend Lord Taylor on them. We have talked a great deal throughout the Bill on the best way to improve the planning system so that the most appropriate decision can be made expeditiously. That is right. We have also debated keenly who should play a part in the planning process, and that is quite right too. The amendments fill a gap that we risk leaving open. By agreeing to them, the Minister will be able to ensure that the most appropriate decisions on marine planning are taken by the right people.

We have mentioned wind farms today. The noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, mentioned wave and tide. There are also cable and pipelines that may have to be laid in the marine environment.

As the Bill stands, as my noble friend has already said, the IPC has the power to determine proposals in the marine environment. That runs contrary to the Government’s stated aim of creating a strategic overview and reducing complexity at sea through marine planning and reformed marine licensing. The proposed marine Bill, we are told, will create a marine management organisation. If that specialised body is to be created, it would be better to leave decisions with the Secretary of State until such time as the MMO is ready to take over.

If the IPC must retain jurisdiction in this area, it is vital, as my noble friend has said, that the expertise of the MMO is put to good use and that it should provide advice on both coastal and offshore applications that impact on the marine environment. The Planning Bill is vital, as I have said, but it is only part of the jigsaw puzzle. The other pieces, as has been said, are the Climate Change Bill, the Energy Bill and, soon, the marine Bill, as well as, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said, the Housing and Regeneration Bill. Those Bills all have to take account of one another, so I support my noble friend on these amendments, which would take account of the marine Bill. It is a simple exercise in joined-up government, as I am sure the Minister will agree. If the Minister does not like the wording of these amendments, I ask him to agree to take them away and come back at Third Reading with his own amendments to ensure that the correct interaction between the Bill and the forthcoming marine Bill takes place.

4.45 pm

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, this has been an extremely interesting debate. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and other noble Lords, who have tabled amendments and have spoken.

I was very interested in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves; noble Lords are keen to see the marine Bill before your Lordships' House. Because of the pre-legislative scrutiny, there has been considerable discussion and debate on what might be in a possible Bill that might be brought at a certain stage in the

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future. That is one of the problems of seeking to draft amendments to this Bill which refer to an organisation that at the moment has no statutory being whatever. None the less, I hope to reassure noble Lords in respect of a couple of the points that have been raised. However, I also understand that when we come to debate the marine Bill, a number of these questions will be debated again. Assuming that these are in its scope, I am sure that we will be able to ensure that noble Lords have undertaken effective scrutiny of the marine management organisation and how it relates to the national planning infrastructure.

The Government have made the decision that while the marine management organisation, if established as we all hope it will be, will have expertise on the marine area and will advise the IPC on challenges and impacts specific to the marine environment, it is the IPC itself which will be best placed to consider the broader significance of national need alongside the impact to the marine environment. There is clearly a difference of view here, but I should make it clear that that is the Government’s firm view on the relationship. Within that, it is important that the views of the MMO are made known to the IPC and that the expertise that is available is clearly brought to the fore.

As the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, suggested, the IPC could be established before the marine management organisation has come into being. If that were to be the case, the intent is that the IPC would draw on the expertise of the Marine and Fisheries Agency. I can assure the noble Lord that the MFA will be classed as a statutory consultee.

My noble friend Lord Woolmer spoke about the existing expertise. He is very anxious to ensure that that expertise is not dissipated, which I well understand.

Consents for offshore renewables are currently considered within two regimes—under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 and under the Marine and Fisheries Agency, which provides consent under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985. Although the two bodies have worked closely together to give a joined-up service to industry and stakeholders, an important benefit of this Bill and the future marine Bill will be to provide for a single point of application and consent.

We are looking very carefully at transitional arrangements, including the need to avoid any loss of existing expertise. Broadly, we expect the MMO to get most of its expertise from the Marine and Fisheries Agency, and the IPC from my department—essentially, from staff who have been transferred to the DECC. That will not necessarily be through permanent transfer of staff; precise arrangements will need to be worked out. It needs to be borne in mind that the Department of Energy and Climate Change will have ongoing responsibilities after the IPC is established, such as the preparation and maintenance of national policy statements. My department will need to have expertise on the books as well as any potential transfer to the MMO.

I reassure my noble friend that we very much recognise the expertise of those currently involved. The last thing that we would want is to dissipate or undermine that expertise in any way. My noble friend asked about

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an extension that might bring a project to over 100 megawatts. My advice is that the IPC would have to consider it at that point.

Lord Woolmer of Leeds: My Lords, that is most helpful, but the Minister answered in relation to an extension that took the wind farm over 100 megawatts. If it was already over 100 megawatts, would a smaller extension still be considered by the IPC?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I assume that my noble friend is talking about a project that is already over that threshold. I would rather write to him about those specifics, because one has perhaps to distinguish between a major expansion and what might be a minor change. Rather than giving him an answer on the hoof, I would like to come back to him on that point.

On whether wave and tidal power can be considered under a national policy statement, I understand that, as technology is already being developed for large projects, the NPS will cover them. Where renewable energy is concerned, I agree with what was said about the general potential of marine and wave technology. The other important point is that the UK has a lead at present in that technology. It is important to do everything that we can to ensure that we take advantage of that lead, so I very much agree with the noble Lord.

Finally, on the question of the MMO being a statutory consultee, I point out that Clause 42 sets out a duty on applicants applying to the IPC for planning consent to,

and prescribes the persons to be consulted. Amendment No. 71 in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, would include “the relevant marine body” among those to be consulted, which is an ingenious way of referring to the marine management organisation. I reassure the noble Earl that certain persons who must be consulted on pre-application consultations will be prescribed in secondary legislation flowing from the Bill. It is our clear intention to prescribe relevant marine bodies in such secondary legislation, including—in due course and subject to all the caveats to which I referred earlier—the marine management organisation, should it be established.

Amendments Nos. 84 and 85 would include the MMO within Clause 59, which makes provision in relation to local impact reports. I well understand that these amendments would then require the IPC to give notice in writing to the “relevant marine body” that it has accepted an application and to invite that body to submit a local impact report for a nationally significant infrastructure project where the application is wholly or partly for a coastal or offshore development. This is not the right place for such a duty to be placed on the IPC. The term “relevant marine body” is not defined and it would be difficult for the IPC to interpret it as it stands. If the intention is to have the IPC notify the marine management organisation, that should properly be a provision in the marine Bill. I well understand that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has already given notice that we will come back to that in due course.

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Moreover, provision for the IPC to consider local impact reports was added to give due prominence to democratically elected local councillors who represent local people affected by the proposed project. The case for the MMO is somewhat different, but I want to reassure noble Lords that the MMO will not be ignored by the IPC. Given that the MMO will be the Government’s strategic delivery body in the marine area, the IPC will be expected to draw on its expertise when assessing proposals for nationally significant infrastructure—for instance, when considering what conditions might be appropriate to mitigate any negative impacts on the marine environment. Detail as to how the IPC will receive advice from the MMO will be covered in guidance under this Bill, and in a Memorandum of Understanding. When taking decisions in relation to marine provisions, the IPC will have to comply with its obligations under the Planning Bill and the marine Bill. The provisions of the marine Bill will, of course, take account of the final form of the Planning Bill.

Amendment No. 102 would amend the decision test of the IPC so that it would have to have regard to marine plans. Again, the national policy statements will be the primary factor for IPC decisions in the new single consent regime, because they will clearly set out our national policy on, and the national need for, infrastructure, but only after they have been consulted on and scrutinised by Parliament.

Clause 102 also provides that national policy statements will not be the only factor, because the IPC must have regard to the local impact reports from local authorities, other matters that may be set out in secondary legislation and any other matter that the commission thinks is important and relevant to its decision. Even when the application is in accordance with the national policy statement, the IPC could well decide that a particular application for a proposed project was not appropriate because it would be unlawful or result in the UK being in breach of any duty imposed on it by or under any enactment. The IPC would still consider issues specific to the application at the local stage, such as detailed layout, siting or access, as well as the environmental impact. If it decides that the adverse impact of the development outweighs its benefits, it can refuse consent.

One matter that we will prescribe is that the IPC must have regard to relevant marine plans and the marine policy statement. We intend that the MMO will provide particular assistance to the IPC during the examination, not least by advising it as to any requirements that should be placed on a deemed marine consent that the IPC is considering granting. At the decision stage, we want the IPC to decide on applications in accordance with the national policy statement, except when certain specified circumstances arise. That principle should apply to projects offshore in the same way as to projects onshore.

We believe that decision-making on nationally significant projects should fall to the IPC, but it will have the advice available of the proposed marine management organisation. We wish the expertise available to go forward into the new organisations and we have order-making powers to ensure that appropriate consultation takes place. We can anticipate lively debate when that Bill comes to your Lordships’ House at some stage in future.

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